Saturday, 7 July 2018

6 for £6 from Nero's Notes

Loving the new logo!
(Another book as well as the 6 for £6 is in this wrapped selection)
6 for £6 (or, as it appears on the website, "six 4 six") does what it says on the tin! For £6 you get a random selection of 6 notebooks. As Stu describes it on the site:
Discount Sales are few and far between at Nero's Notes. We do our best to keep prices fair all the time. This is our lucky dip box. As the name suggests, there will be at least six books for six pounds. That might be two three packs, or it might be six singles or any other combination.

Great value for money, perfect as a stocking filler or just for a little treat. Who knows what extras Nero might throw in...
Despite having more small notebooks than I will possibly ever use in a lifetime, I decided to check this out. After all, I'm not sure that any of the books on the site are only a pound to buy!

As ever, the parcel arrived with everything beautifully wrapped. I love the logo for Nero's Notes on the stickers. In the picture above, there's also a Nero's Notes leather notebook which I'll be reviewing soon.

So, what were the six books that were in the "six 4 six"? Well, either Stu can't count, or Nero sneaked in an extra, because I had seven books! There are no pen tests for any of the notebooks - partly because I haven't had time to do them and partly because the post is more to show you the kind of contents you might get.

The seven books were:
[tl;dr An absolutely brilliant bargain. Now read all of the post!]

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Rosaliny Green World 4 Assorted Softcover B5 Composition Notebooks

I've been on a bit of notebook-buying spree. After renovating an old Filofax Deskfax to create a B5 sized Traveller's Notebook, I (naturally) needed to buy lots of B5 notebooks!

B5 is just about the perfect size for me, I think. I find A5 a little on the small side, but A4 a bit too large sometimes. B5 sits between those two sizes at 176mm x 250mm (c.f. A5 at 148mm x 210mm and A4 at 210mm x 297mm). And of course, it's the perfect size for my renovated Deskfax.

I use my Deskfax as a writing TN - if I'm travelling, it has enough cards and pockets and so on, that I don't really need to have anything else in my bag, and the covers are sturdy enough to lean on if there isn't a table. (You can see what features the writing TN has here.)

In the early stages of writing a book, I use small, slim notebooks to bounce ideas around. Some (most!) of these ideas may never make it to a full book, but I like to keep them anyway. Once I think an idea has enough legs to make it to being a full novel, I need a thicker book (like the Zhi Jin notebook, reviewed here). I quite like the slim books made by Penco or Stalogy but saw some slightly more attractive slim notebooks on Amazon, while I was looking at the Zhi Jin.

The Rosaliny Green World notebooks were £8.99 from Amazon with free delivery and looked like a nice set of notebooks, so I ordered a pack. They took forever to arrive, not helped by the first order getting lost. Once the seller sent a new set, they took about 10 days to get here and there were some very sweet post-it notes in the parcel too (which I forgot to take pictures of and have now given away).

The notebooks have a reasonably sturdy card cover with quite sweet designs of trees/leaves and cats.





Inside, there are 38 pages (76 sides) and they are sewn rather than stapled. 37 (74) of these are lined; the first/last sheet is plain.


On the lined pages, there is space at the top to note the date and also the day of the week. The very top and bottom lines also have small marks on them to facilitate drawing in columns, should you so desire. The spacing of the small marks is a slightly random 10.8mm (which doesn't seem to relate to a sensible fraction of an inch either). Line spacing is 8mm, with a top margin of 15.5mm and a bottom margin of 14.5mm. There are 28 lines (if you're happy enough to use the bottom line; it would be fine - the small marks are unobtrusive).


How well did they stand up to fountain pen? The paper is described as "100gsm acid-free high quality recyclable ivory paper". I'm not sure if they mean "recyclable" (which surely, all paper is?) or "recycled". The paper does feel as if it is 100gsm and is very smooth.

Amazingly, I don't have a zillion fountain pens inked up at the moment, but I tested the paper with what I had, and with a few other pens I had to hand. I used one of the plain pages at the back of the book to test the pages. I don't imagine the lined paper will perform differently.

The results are a bit mixed...
I tried a 1.1mm stub nib and wet ink combo (usually a bit of a killer in pen tests), plus another italic nib, a standard m nib and then some Pilot Hi-tecpoints and a ballpoint.

The good news...
There's no feathering of the fountain pen ink at all and the paper is smooth to write on.
There's no bleed-through of the stub nib or the italic.

The bad news...
There is bleed-through with almost all the other pens except the ballpoint. The Tombow Object nib was the worst; the Hi-tecpoints were a bit better.
There is show-through for everything. Depending on how much that bugs you, this might be the deal-breaker. For me, the pens I use the most are 1.1mm stub nibs, so the fact these worked so well and show-through isn't too dire, means that I'm happy enough to use them, but might not buy them again to be honest.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Pen tests
reverse, showing bleed- and show-through
zoom in on the reverse
Overall:
These are sweet little books which will definitely get used for initial notes on books or ideas. As for value for money, compared to the Penco notebooks, you get more pages (74 lined in this c.f. 60 in the Penco) for less money (£2.25 per book here, c.f. The Journal Shop selling Penco at £3.99). But... paper quality is significantly lower than the Penco.

As for comparing to Stalogy, the only UK seller I can find is Tokyo Bike (the listing for the Stalogy is here). They have 68 pages and are £5.50 (I originally got mine from somewhere else and they were £2.50. I wish now I'd bought more!). Again, paper quality on the Stalogy is better, but they are a lot more money per notebook. If you're US based, I think there are more options for purchasing them.

The covers are attractive and sturdy and I like that the pages are sewn rather than stapled. Paper quality lets them down, but at £2.25 each, I shouldn't really complain (I mean, Moleskine get away with charging a lot more money for notebooks and the paper is much worse!). I like the headers with the space for the date (and day), plus the marks to facilitate drawing columns. Line spacing suits me, though those with small writing or a penchant for fine nibs may find it a bit wide.

Overall, I quite like them!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Leuchtturm B5 dot matrix book

Following on from converting an old Deskfax Filofax into a B5 TN and getting a great new B5 notebook for it (review here), I also took advantage of the fact that Bureau Direct were selling off their Leuchtturm B5 dot grid notebooks. I just looked at the Bureau Direct site and they were out of stock and I suspect they aren't going to get them back in. But... Amazon do sell them (though not at 20% off like the Bureau Direct ones were...). If the price of them on Amazon is a bit rich (it seems to be going up and down), then there are also ZenArt's Bullet Journal Notebooks available on Amazon (but I don't know what they are like as I've never bought one).

But... back to the ones I do have! Given that Bureau Direct said that they were discontinuing stocking them and because delivery is free over £20, I grabbed a couple - a raspberry pink (berry) coloured cover and a sea-green (emerald) coloured cover.

Front
Back
There are 121 numbered pages, a blank table of contents, 8 perforated (detachable) sheets, an expandable pocket, and a page marker. The pages are thread bound so the book opens flat and paper is cited as ink-proof and acid-free. I've found other Leuchtturm paper a bit iffy with fountain pen ink (see a review from a few years ago here) and I haven't yet tested these ones. I suspect I will find them a bit iffy too, but I'll use them nonetheless.

Dot spacing is 5mm and the dots are fairly unobtrusive. Although the notebooks are described as soft-cover, the cover is nonetheless pretty sturdy and certainly withstands being slotted into the slip pocket in the cover of my Deskfax TN.

These would probably make a great bullet journal. I wouldn't know... I've tried to bullet journal and it doesn't work with my brain. For me, these are notebooks to go in my renovated Deskfax-TN as writing books - books to plan out new novels etc. I did a post over on my author blog about my "writing Deskfax" - see here.

I tend to use slim notebooks when I'm starting out on a novel - when I'm just noodling around, trying to work out if the initial thoughts will ever grow enough legs to make it to a full book (sometimes they do; sometimes they don't, but I keep them all, just in case!). But once I genuinely think a book will emerge from all the noodling about, I need a decent sized book to write in. I'm looking forward to using these for that.

For bullet journallers out there, these may be the missing size between A5 being a smidgen too small, but A4 being a bit too big to be portable. Page size is good, but the overall thickness of the book is manageable if you have a decent sized bag (or use a briefcase). If I could get my brain to work with bullet journalling, I might contemplate using these with a week to view layout including enough space for tasks for each day (though I do already have a B5 diary that would do just that, by United Bees. I've not reviewed it yet, but it's available here if you want to check it out).

Since I went on a bit of notebook-buying splurge, I 'm hoping to have more blog posts coming soon.

Still to review:
Ya Jin Classic Lined Casebound Hardcover Notebook
Rosaliny Green World 4 Assorted Softcover B5 Composition Notebooks
Nero's Notes Leather Notebook
Nero's Notes 6 for £6

B5 books at Amazon:

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!