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Leather Notebook Cover For Clairefontaine - Review


Shuggy
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Like probably most newbie FPN members, I had initially tried and been disappointed with the paper quality on Moleskine notebooks when used with a fountain pen. Through this forum I had learnt about Clairefontaine paper and soon obtained one of their excellent A5 stapled exercise books to try. What a difference! The paper is lovely and smooth, with no feathering and hardly any show through, even with the fairly wet nib on my Parker 51.

 

In the UK, the Clairefontaine products are readily available from Bureau Direct. The A5 stapled exercise books with 48 sheets are amazing value at just £1.50. However, it was the A5 cloth bound exercise book with 96 sheets at £3.75 that particularly caught my attention to use as a work notebook.

 

What I wanted to find was a smart leather notebook cover to use with these notebooks in the office. However there is a problem with these particular Clairefontaine notebook covers. They are a ‘non-standard’ A5 size of 165 x 210mm (6.5” x 8.25”) so won’t fit into off-the-shelf A5 notebook covers. Yes, I could go for the A5 1951 Vintage-style or the Age Bag exercise books which are the normal ISO size of 148 x 210mm, but these only have 48 sheets.

 

Some research on the forum had shown up a couple of options for custom leather covers. I could go with Renaissance Art in the US, or there was Billygoat Designs in Australia. However, the thought of the extra postage, tax and customs charges put me off a bit. What I really wanted to find was a UK maker of leather goods who could make me a custom size cover.

 

A few months ago I had discovered Etsy. For those not familiar with Etsy, it’s an online marketplace that specialises in handmade craft items. A search for ‘leather notebook cover’ with the UK filter applied turned up a number of options; but it was this listing for a Bridle Leather Large Moleskine Cover for £39.50 that particularly caught my eye.

 

The maker is a chap called Ray Clark and I made contact with him through the site. Ray responded rapidly and said that yes, he would be happy to supply me with a custom-size cover for £10 more that the standard item and I quickly decided to place an order. Ray went on to say that he would need to make a custom pattern, but would purchase a cloth bound notebook himself to make sure that it would fit perfectly. The standard item has a cut-out for the Moleskine elastic strap, but this would be unnecessary on the custom cover.

 

Ray’s communication was excellent, with a steady stream of messages about the build process, options, care of the leather etc. I was initially concerned about the robustness of the closure stud, but Ray assured me that he had used these particular ones for many years without problems when working for Swaine Adney Brigg (a famous London custom leather maker - they made Indiana Jones’ hat!). Ray even checked on the dimensions of my pen, just in case I had one with a particularly wide barrel.

 

In a very short period of time I had my cover and I’m really pleased with it. It’s made of beautiful vegetable tanned bridle leather and has that fantastic tack smell. The stitching is done by hand and is very neatly done. My fears about the press stud were completely unfounded. It’s made of solid brass and feels absolutely bulletproof.

 

At first I thought that he had got it wrong with the pen loop. When I tried to slide in My Parker 51, the pen only went in a third of the way. But I soon realised that the design is really rather clever. With the stud undone, the pen is an easy, sliding fit into the loop. Closing the stud tightens the loop firmly around the pen, keeping it absolutely secure for carrying around. When you pop the stud, the pen is positioned straight into your thumb and forefinger, ready to be withdrawn.

 

Anyway enough chat - here are the pictures. Please excuse the quality as I only have an iPhone camera.

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0996_zps6efd6f49.jpg

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0990_zpsa5778f75.jpg

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0998_zps98d5ab16.jpg

 

Cover holding the Clairefontaine A5 stapled exercise book. It lies nice and flat.

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0993_zps84b2896e.jpg

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0991_zpsfa2dbb75.jpg

 

Simple, but clever pen loop design releases the pen easily in to your hand when you pop the brass stud. The stud itself is a robust, quality fitting.

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0995_zpsd32b83da.jpg

 

Pen held tightly and securely when the stud is fastened.

 

Any cons? Only one really and it’s pretty minor. The Clairefontaine A5 stapled exercise book is very flexible. That’s not a problem in itself, but the covered notebook is too bendy to write on unless you use a firm surface. The solution is pretty simple. I sacrificed the cover of an old diary to make a couple of stiffeners for the cover, leaving it nice and rigid without adding any noticeable bulk. I have a couple of the cloth bound notebooks inbound (which is what the cover was designed for), so we will see if they are rigid enough to do without the stiffeners.

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/IMG_0992_zps3fc77fbd.jpg

 

Overall, I’m really pleased with the item. Ray Clark was a pleasure to do business with and I think that the price was good value. He now has the pattern, so I’m sure that he’d be happy to supply more of the covers.

 

As seems usual for these sorts of reviews, it’s probably worth adding the usual disclaimer that I have no affiliation with any of the suppliers mentioned - just a satisfied customer.

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This looks pretty much what I'm after, for the Age Bag 9 x 14cm 96 page books. However, I'm hoping to go and see a local 'leathersmith' pretty soon and see what he can come up with. At least it's worth a shot. I'll keep you all posted.

The Good Captain

"Meddler's 'Salamander' - almost as good as the real thing!"

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Update:

 

The cloth bound notebooks arrived today and they fit into the cover perfectly. The cover is less flexible than the staple bound notebooks, but still flexible enough that I have kept the diary cover stiffeners fitted.

 

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q503/shuggyman/49126158-077E-45D7-A84D-3485A552CDAF-2428-000004005BAD6456_zpsd5f320f4.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

yeah I have just bought quite a few of them - doing a maths degree with the OU so these are ideal (I get through tons of paper lol)!

 

Ooh may ask if he can make another one then - thanks!!

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Wow ... I really like that leather cover. I like the brown you have, and would like a cognac version. One modification I would make is making the inside flaps deeper to eliminate page bump. Thank you for sharing this.

CFTPM

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Just sent Ray an email to see if he can make another one.... After customs costs etc are taken into account it is cheaper to purchase off him :)

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  • 5 months later...

Update! I've ordered one of the Moleskine pocket notebook covers from Ray, without stud flap BUT he's going to increase the height of it for me so I can use it with the Leuchtturm notebooks I prefer. As you know, they are 9 x 15cm not 9 x 14cm. I'll post some pictures when it arrives.

As the OP mentioned, Ray's been great throughout the short process with plenty of communication.

I can't wait!

The Good Captain

"Meddler's 'Salamander' - almost as good as the real thing!"

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