Thursday, 10 May 2018

Zhi Jin B5 notebook - review

Having renovated a battered old Deskfax into a beautiful B5 Traveller's Notebook, to use for writing, I was in search of some slightly thicker B5 notebooks. I have some slim ones (60-80 pages - Penco and Stalogy for example) but I'm getting to the stage with the new novel, where I'm going to need a chunkier book to hold more notes.

B5 isn't the easiest size to buy in the UK, which is largely wedded to the A-sizes (A4, A5, A6 etc) but I love B5 as a notebook size (and B6 as a smaller notebook size, to be honest). Leuchtturm do a B5 dot matrix book (and I've just snaffled a couple of those from Bureau Direct. They were reduced as they were discontinuing stocking them, so I don't know how long they will available). There is a Moleskine notebook which is approximately the right size, but hell hasn't frozen over yet, so I won't be buying it.

On Amazon, there are a couple of B5 books that I've been looking at, but this Zhi Jin one caught my eye as it had colourful covers and a rainbow edge.
I bought the blue cover and it's a fabulous, vibrant blue - Mediterranean sea colour on a sunny day. But what's it actually like as a notebook?

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Battered Deskfax to B5 Travelers Notebook

I love the B paper sizes - from B6 which is just a brilliant TN size (bigger than A6, but not quite so big as A5) and B5 which is the perfect size for notebooks (again, bigger than A5, but not so big as A4).

I have a number of B5 books that I use for writing notebooks. I usually have smallish (60-80 page) ones as general ideas/initial notes on stories with one for each idea, and wanted to have a way of keeping them together. To buy a B5 Travellers Notebook would be expensive, but...

... an old Filofax Deskfax is exactly the right size! I spotted a pretty battered Richmond Deskfax on eBay, put in the minimum bid and waited to see... and I won it!

I actually have a Richmond Deskfax, given to me by my wonderful friend Gerard, which does indeed make a great notebook size. But I wanted one to remove the rings from and then punch holes in it, so the lovely, perfect condition one from Gerard was altogether far too nice to be treated like this!

This is what the one from eBay looked like, before I started on it...
[click on any picture to enlarge]

Front cover

Back cover (apologies it's a bit blurred)

I got my hubby to drill out the rivets holding in the ring mechanism (as he isn't likely to drill through an artery in the process, whereas I am), then he carefully cut the lining, removed the backing plate and glued the edge of the leather back down over the slit with superglue. You can barely see the cuts!

So this is what the inside looked like after the removal of the rings...

Interior, no rings!

The rings removed, the cover still looked battered and pretty horrible. But black shoe polish works wonders! I know some purists out there will be grinding their teeth at the thought, but I wanted a nice looking notebook and don't care.

So, here we go, rings removed and the leather cleaned up with a leather wipe and then covered in black shoe polish...

Rings removed and cleaned up, all that was left was to punch the holes in it and thread the elastics.

Three tips for you:
1. Use a leather punch. You need to get through the leather cover, a card inner and the lining fabric. I used a 1.5mm punch, bought pretty cheaply from eBay. Remember to protect the surface you have the Filofax on before walloping the punch with a hammer. I had a chopping board underneath.

2. Use a bit of masking tape/washi tape to mark up where the holes need to go as it's easier to write on that than on the leather.

Washi tape on the leather ready to mark up
where the holes need to be punched

3. Use a wool needle to help thread the elastics through the holes - it's a lot easier than trying to poke the elastic through the holes, especially from the inside.


The Richmond is a great layout for a TN - there's a set of 8 card slots on the left, with what was a floppy disk holder (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!) at the bottom, but which could be used for stickers/Post-Its etc. Behind that is a full-height slip pocket. Behind that is a zipped pocket and behind that is another full height slip pocket.

The right hand side (inside back cover) has a full height slip pocket and a slot so you could put a notebook in it if it had the backing attached along the top edge, rather than the side.

There are two pen loops and it fastens with a clasp (so no need for an elastic round the middle).

Perfect B5 TN ! Here it is, loaded up with some notebooks, ready to go. I do admit, you might need a large handbag/briefcase to carry it around, but I want it mostly for train journeys (and have a huge bag...). All in all, I'm really pleased. For less than £14, I have a B5 TN that has all the features I want.

A Penco book on the left and a Stalogy 016 on the right

Not perfect, but less 'lived in' looking that at the start!

What do people think?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

"From Me to You"

As the title of the blog implies, I am a stationery fiend. I supply my habit in a number of ways, including getting an occasional subscription to Spotlight Stationery.

Part of the cost of each subscription is donated to charity and this year, the charity that has been chosen is "From Me To You". From Me To You encourages people to write letters to friends or family members who are suffering from cancer. It also has a "Donate a Letter" scheme where people can write to cancer patients who have requested a letter. I have joined the "Donate a Letter" scheme and last week, wrote several letters to be given to cancer patients, to show them that there are people (even strangers) who are thinking of them. You don't have to send long letters - even a card or a postcard will be welcomed.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Planner Peace

I've realised that the reason I've hardly been posting on here (apart from being ludicrously busy all the time, naturally) is that I'm not angsting or fretting over my planner. When I used a Filofax, either the size was all wrong, or the inserts were. I flipped back and forth from A5 to personal to pocket and back.

I've been using a Travellers' Notebook system for yonks now! I blogged about being in a TN way back in 2015. Then, I'd been in my Stamford Notebook Company red TN for six months (and thought that was a record!). I blogged about it here. Since I moved into the red TN, my system hasn't changed at all, though the actual TN being used has.

What I'm using at the moment:

Friday, 8 December 2017

What I'm using in 2018... part 2

I posted about which planner I would be using in my last post. In this post, I'm going to talk about which diary I'll be using (by diary, I mean the thing I would journal in/reflect about my day, not something used for planning).

I'm quite picky about what I want to journal in/write my diary in. It has to have a page per day - none of this nonsense with Saturday and Sunday sharing a page. It has to be A5 or thereabouts. By preference it should have a horizontal elastic closure (so I can tuck a pen in it) and a ribbon marker.

I don't really care whether there are monthly pages at the start or information pages, or maps or any of that... but I do like to have a few pages for notes at the back to record what I've been reading, plus log a few other things.

After much searching, I finally bought next year's diary a couple of weeks ago.

And... it's not a Ciak (unlike the last umpteen years).

Oh, and it's definitely not a Moleskine (been there, done that, never doing it again).

So, what is it?

Monday, 20 November 2017

What I'm using in 2018... part 1

Hello all! Remember me?? I'm the blogger who used to post a LOT more regularly about stationery...

Where have I been?

Publishing another book for a start... "Lies That Poison" came out in September and I was super-busy getting that ready... then The Wrong Kind of Clouds got re-published as "The Call" this week and I was super-busy with that too!

But, back to stationery... I've just about got sorted with what I'm using next year! This post will be about what I'm using as my planner in 2018.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

New Traveller's Notebook from Meadowgate Leather

new TN!! Undyed leather
I already had a Traveller's Notebook by Meadowgate Leather - my everyday carry (EDC). It has extra card slots, my diary, a notebook and a wallet insert and is just glorious! I blogged about it here. Now I have two!

As many of you know, as well as my EDC, I also use a small notebook for everyday planning/bullet-journalling (of a fashion) that's just under A6 size. I use Clairefontaine notebooks, which are the same size as Field Notes (but made of nice paper and there are lots of pages in them). I use a page per day and down the left-hand side of the page, I have timed slots and on the right, I jot down tasks I'd like to get done and any notes that crop up in the day. The timed slots are used for appointments and for time-boxing. I also have a Word. notebook with lists of people to write to, emails to send and general stuff that doesn't need doing on a specific day. Until now, these books have sat naked on my desk. In all honesty, they probably didn't need any protection as they just sat on my desk, but, you know me and stationery... why should I not buy things, when they're lovely and I could just buy them?

I've been tempted by undyed leather for a while. My good friend Stuart (writing buddy, and he of Pocket Notebooks) had an undyed A6 TN from Meadowgate Leather last year and it's steadily been turning a gorgeous caramel colour. So, I finally got round to getting my own undyed Field Notes size (plus good overhang) cover from Meadowgate, with red elastics. This is the listing here.

Ordering from Meadowgate Leather is easy-peasy and there are so many ways to tailor your order - colour of stitching (if you have a TN that has stitching), colour of elastics, pen-loop/no pen-loop, position of pen-loop, size of pen-loop, amount of overhang, name tag... LOTS of options. I went for: undyed leather, Field Notes size, medium pen-loop stitched facing outwards and 3/4 up the back cover, red elastics, bigger overhang than standard and... I asked if Mike (the owner) had any especially scarred or interesting leather and if so, could he use it on my TN.

The TN arrived very swiftly and is beyond gorgeous. It was nigh on impossible to photograph and get an accurate representation of the colour, given that it's Scotland and 5 inches of rain fell the day I was trying to take pictures. The pictures with flash are too pale and those without are too dark... click on any to enlarge.

Front cover - reasonably accurate colour
Back cover (more on the marks soon)
Interior - I'll explain the R in a moment!

You remember that I'd asked for scarred/interesting leather? It just happened that Mike had had some leather arrive with a big branding mark on it. Perfect timing! I don't especially like the fact that any animal gets branded, if I'm honest, but it didn't get branded on my behalf. Anyway, that's what the R in a circle is - it's much more prominent on the interior, but if you look closely at the picture of the back of the TN, you can see it.

Mike's undyed leather comes with no treatment at all - no wax or protection. I decided that I would put some leather cream on it as protection as it might not get a lot of oils from my hands given that it mostly sits on my desk. Naturally, any treatment will cause some colour changes to the leather. All of the above pictures were taken before treatment. The next was taken with just the RHS (front) cover with leather cream on:

This is with all of the cover (minus the pen loop) treated (cream on, not yet buffed):

And this is after the cream has been buffed:

It's been on my desk for 2 days and I left it out yesterday, closed. Here's a picture of the front cover now...

front cover 2 days later

Can you see the faint paler horizontal line? That's where the elastic was fastened. I suspect this TN is going to turn an even more fabulous colour with time!

So, what's in it? Currently, only two of the elastics are used - one with my Clairefontaine day book, one with the Mist Word. notebook. If I'm honest, the interior elastic feels a bit too big/tight for small notebooks and I may swap it out for 1mm elastic instead. I'll see.

Anyway, just as I was the first time I ordered from Meadowgate Leather, I am absolutely thrilled with the product. Mike is a treasure to deal with and his products are incredibly well made. If you can't see quite what you're after on the site, just send him a message and ask. That's what I did with my first TN, to get card slots in the back and the front. He will do his best to make you just what you're after. His prices are very reasonable and the craftsmanship is superb. Go on... go and check him out!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Inky Fingers Currently Inked - Review

This is a notebook I should have bought years ago! I got it from Pocket Notebooks and this is how it's described in the listing:
Keep track of what pens you have inked, when you inked them, and with what you inked them. The Inky Fingers Currently Inked Log will allow you stay on top of your pen rotate and maintenance by providing a simple, unified place to keep track of how you use your collection.

Inky Fingers notebooks feature 44 sheets of environmentally-friendly and sustainable wheat straw paper, which is made from the agricultural byproducts of wheat farming. Our 80gsm paper has a bit more texture than other fountain pen friendly papers, for those who enjoy feeling the pen on the paper. It is also more absorbent, resulting in shorter dry times without feathering or bleeding through.
  • Pocket Notebook Size
  • 3.5″ wide by 5.5″ high. (89x140mm)
  • 44 Pages
  • Slots for keeping track of up to 132 inkings
  • Fountain pen friendly and environmentally sustainable 80 gsm wheat straw paper
  • Rounded corners
  • Glossy cardstock cover
As you'll have seen from my notebook reviews, half the time when I do a pen test, I can't remember exactly what is inked in a pen and also, when I'm refilling pens, I can't quite remember what an ink looks like in writing (rather than in the bottle). Many inks dry to a very different colour than their wet colour!

Hence, I bought myself this logbook.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Word. notebooks - Review

I had a bit of stationery splurge recently (as you do) and bought myself a set of Word. notebooks, an Inky Fingers Currently Inked notebook (both from Pocket Notebooks) and (from The Journal Shop) an A6 Midori 2017 diary (bought in their recent half price sale).

More on the Inky Fingers notebook and the Midori diary another day. Today I want to review the Word. notebooks.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Stationery box from Pocket Notebooks

Stuart, from Pocket Notebooks very kindly sent me the April box of stationery to play with. You can get these specially curated stationery boxes monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly for £21/box. This is what it says on the site:
Personally curated by Stuart, this is a blend of category leading brands and outliers. Each edition will be different and designed to delight. All packed into a letterbox-friendly box and sent through the post.
A box might contain two three-packs of pocket notebooks. It might contain a three pack and larger format book. It might contain all sort of stationery related 'extras'.
Limited Editions will be included in some of the subscription boxes.
Second payments and beyond are all taken on the 5th of each month, and boxes sent on or around the 15th. Normal shipping policies apply.
For every curated subscription box shipped, £1 will be donated to The National Literacy Trust.
 You can also buy the box as a one-off, which takes the price up to £22.50.

So, what's in the box? Is it worth it? Should you sign up for the box immediately? (the short answers are lots of goodies; absolutely; and absolutely!)