Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Review of the compact Holborn Filofax

With all these posts about the Traveller's Journal, you may have been thinking I had lost my love for Filofax. Not quite, though I really am itching to use the TJ sooner than 2016!

I'm still in my wine Holborn Filofax, having moved up a size after the compact de Villiers started to show signs of wear and tear (see here for details). At the start of April I was humming and hawwing about the wine Holborn and was still looking for a compact. I tried a compact Cavendish and although it was good, it wasn't quite right because it wouldn't lie flat. I tried a compact Belgravia and it wasn't really right at all. In this post, Steve (from Philofaxy) suggested a compact Holborn. At the time, I had just bought the Belgravia but now I've got a black compact Holborn and he may well have been right.

I bought the compact Holborn from Nigel O'Hara. I knew nothing about the company, but having waited so long from ordering to delivery, I cannot recommend this seller at all. From ordering to arrival was about 5 weeks and had I not been on to their customer services, I would have had no information about the order at all. Even them giving me a £5 voucher will not make me use them again. Anyway, it finally arrived at the end of last week.

First impressions
  1. it's not really black and the matte finish is nowhere near as nice as the shinier wine leather
  2. it has (had!) a flattability of 0/10

It's not really black. It's more matte dark charcoal grey and with the graining of the leather this is quite noticeable. It may respond well to a good dose of black leather polish but I've not done that yet. The contrast stitching is in grey and the leather polish might sort that out too. If you've followed my story with the Holborns, you'll know how much I dislike contrast stitching! That said, the wine Holborn is growing on me even with the contrast stitching.


It has had a flattability of about 0/10 i.e. it would not lie flat at all. Even with weights I was struggling to keep it open. I know how much that annoys me. I need my binder to lie open at my side without assistance or I won't use it. Feeling the cover, I can feel a thick card between the covers which seems to extend all the way around the binder. I've had the same feel of my wine Holborn (which lies absolutely flat as a bat but didn't quite when I got it) and although it feels the same, it will lie flat, even with all the contents on one side or the other.
Knowing that there is no way I will use the compact Holborn if it won't lie flat, I bent the covers back on themselves as much as I could. Repeatedly. It now (mostly) lies flat, though needs a few 'reminders' if it's been closed for a while. I know that sounds brutal, but I really can't be doing with a binder that won't lie flat! Tough love here!

Internal layout
This is similar to the wine Holborn but with a few important differences.
While the wine Holborn has six credit card slots and one big pocket, with the cards sitting horizontally, the compact has six vertical card slots and no bigger pocket. Behind the card slots there are both inward and outward facing pockets in both the compact and the regular sized versions.

In the back cover, there are inward and outward facing pockets in the compact, but no zipped pocket inside the outward facing one. The pen-loop in the compact is tucked into the outward facing pocket, but that might just have been how it ended up before being packed. The loop is about the same size as in the wine Holborn - i.e. it will take my Zebra diary pen (diameter 8mm) no problem but would struggle with anything bigger. The pen loop is also higher up - just above the closure strap in the compact, whereas in the regular sized version it is exactly where the closure strap is.

Slips of paper to indicate the pockets
Interior of wine Holborn for comparison

It came supplied with a regular, multi-language WO2P 2015 diary. Give me a shout if you want it! It looks like the cotton cream layout but on their normal, shoddy paper (actually, the cotton cream paper is just as shite) - 4 spaces per side, one for 'this week' and equal sizes for the days of the week. The irritating mini month diary (what is that for???) is in the 'this week' rather than in Sunday's slot, making Sunday's slot far more usable than normal.

Diary layout

After the diary came A-Z dividers. Again, free to a good home - just let me know if you want them. Then 4 sheets of to-do and 3 sheets each of lined paper (white), lined paper (blue), lined paper (lilac).

Like all my Filofax compacts, the rings are oval; 15mm x 11mm. Naturally, as it is a Filofax, one of the rings doesn't close perfectly, but none of them catch the paper in any way so perhaps I'm just being picky.

In use
I've transferred things across and will use it until the end of May. After that, I'll see! The card slots were very tight but they'll hopefully ease up a bit with use. I tried transferring everything from the rings of the personal Holborn, but unsurprisingly, the rings were a bit too full, so I've taken a few months of diary out and the dividers. I have paper money in the outward facing pocket at the front, stamps in the inward-facing pocket at the front and a couple of loyalty cards tucked into the inward facing pocket at the back. I have my Zebra diary pen in the pen loop (which has effectively stopped me using the outward-facing pocket at the back). It might be easier to close once I get rid of all the change I have in the zipped pencil case I have on the back rings - it is currently full of pound coins which are pretty bulky!

At the moment I'm a bit 'meh' about it but then, I was about the wine Holborn when I first moved into that. I would have liked it to be less matte and have better flattability but I may have sorted one with the bending of the covers and could probably sort the other with some black leather polish! It's lying flat at the moment (though is reluctant to close) - repeated use should make it easier, hopefully.

Keep you posted!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

(Brief) review of the sketch insert from Stamford Notebook Co.

When I bought my Stamford Traveller’s Journal, the company also sent me one of their sketch inserts for me to review. I’m absolutely sure I won’t do it justice, because I don’t really draw! What I’ve decided to do though, is to do a quick overview of it and then give the insert to a friend who is much more likely to draw than me and see if they will do a review of it from a drawing/sketching perspective.

The insert is the same size as the other booklets in the Stamford Notebook Co. range: 21cm tall x 12.5 cm wide, with a card cover (made from recycled coffee cups) and rounded corners. The Stamford Notebook Co. logo is embossed in gold at the bottom of the front cover; the back cover is completely blank.

Like the lined or grid booklets, the sketch inserts have 60 pages (despite the website saying they have 64). One side of the paper has a slightly rougher feel to it than the other and the paper is very thick.

Close-up of the texture of the paper

From the days when I did draw, I would say that the paper would be good for most types of art – pencil, charcoal, inks and watercolours. I’m not sure I would use it for pastels as it is smoother than the pastel papers I used to use and anyway, pastels in a notebook would smudge. Charcoal would probably smudge too. Anyway, I am no watercolourist and although I could do pencil sketching in it, I would prefer to give it to my friend in a pristine state and let him play with it!

More, as and when I get a review from my friend.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Supplies for the Stamford Traveller's Journal 2: Rhodia cahiers

I've already blogged about the hateful Moleskine cahiers and how they will never make it into the glory that is my Stamford Traveller's Journal, but what else might go in there? (I was especially alarmed when I checked the Stamford Notebook Co. site and saw that they were only listing grid refills, and I know that the paper mill where they get their fabulous paper from has gone into receivership - very sad as it is fairly local to me! Are Stamford Notebook Company going to be short of fabulous paper????)

Anyway, in my last post, I said that I had bought some Rhodia cahiers for the TJ so let me review them with no further delay.

I bought both lined and squared versions and I got them from Cult Pens (no affiliation, just always had great service). At £1.63 they are even cheaper than the hateful Moleskines and much, much better!

The notebooks are simple stapled books with 48 sheets (96 pages). The size is 14.8cm x 21cm. The cover is vinyl and quite sturdy. I bought black covers but they also come in orange. The front has the Rhodia logo printed on it. On the back there is the logo again with underneath a description of the size and pages and at the bottom right, a bar-code. The outer corners are rounded and the paper is smooth, 80gsm glory. None of the pages are perforated, there is no envelope in the back and no page marker.

Front. It's actually black not grey!
Back. Again, black not grey

Line spacing is 8mm with a 19mm top margin and a 15mm bottom margin. There are no side margins. The paper is crisp white and the lines are purple-grey. With a little persuasion, the books lie flat.

Grid spacing is 5mm. The paper is crisp white and the lines are purple-grey. Again, with a little persuasion, the books lie flat.

Ink tests:
As ever, I tested how well the paper stood up to fountain pen. Read this and WEEP Moleskine. THIS is what paper should be like.
I only tested the lined paper and have assumed that the grid paper will have similar (if not identical) results.
The paper was very smooth to write on, there was no feathering, no bleed-through and almost no show-through/ghosting to the other side. My only criticism was that it was a bit too shiny/smooth for some of my pens that prefer the paper to be a bit more 'grabby' but generally, it was an absolute dream to write on.

Pen tests: front

Pen tests: reverse

Now, the observant amongst you will have spotted that the Stamford refills are 12.5cm x 21cm; the Moleskine cahiers are 13cm x 21cm and that these are 14.8cm x 21cm. The Stamford TJ is 14cm wide and so these hang out as they stand. However, following the advice given by Ray about cutting up Moleskine cahiers to fit in a Midori TN, I sliced up a Rhodia with a rotary cutter so that it was 12.5cm wide. My advice would be similar to his: take it slow and steady and do not move the hand holding the ruler over the book!

Here's the result with the grid booklet:

Original (L); trimmed (R) (clip is just to hold it closed)

All in all, these make excellent replacement booklets for the Traveller's Journal (and sliced a little narrower, would be excellent in a Midori TN too).

Monday, 11 May 2015

Supplies for the Stamford Traveller's Journal 1: Midori 007 and 008

I am well on my way to pimping my Stamford Traveller's Journal! So far I have bought for it:
  • Midori 013 insert (128 pages, extra thin paper; see review here)
  • Midori 007 refill (card holder)
  • Midori 008 refill (zipper pocket)
  • Rhodia cahier grid notebooks
  • Rhodia cahier lined notebooks
[I also bought Moleskine cahiers but they are too shite to go on about and will never make it into the STJ! See here for details!]

I realise of all the extras, I have only reviewed the Midori 013 refill. Let me make amends!

Midori 007 refill (card holder)
This only arrived today and was bought in case I start to use my Stamford TJ as a wallet and carry-around planner (which I will... let me get 2015 out of the way!). I bought it from a Japanese store, via Amazon and although the delivery was a little slow it was free, the price of the refill was reasonable and they sent me an origami crane as a present!

Origami crane

The card holder holds 12 cards in total: each half of the insert holds 6 (3 in each side of the insert). The slots are a little bigger than the slots in a Filofax card holder insert but are not so roomy that the cards will fall out. The openings also face inwards so there is no chance of the cards falling out.

Still in wrapper
Opened out

As with all the Midori Traveller's inserts, they are designed to be held in place by elastic though they could also be put in so that they wrapped around a notebook and not need an elastic loop of their own. I've chosen not to do that as I would rather have all my cards together so I have replaced the leather thongs in the Stamford TJ with elastic and put 4 loops in - 1 for the zipped insert, 1 for the card holder and 2 for notebooks.

In situ at the back of the Traveller's Journal

There are no pictures of my cards in the holder as I would have to redact everything, but rest assured that they fit in easily. Top opening slots might be easier to access than the inward-facing openings but would be less secure. Get organised as you're standing in line to pay for things so you don't end up in a flap!

Midori 008 (zipped pocket)
I ordered this from The Journal Shop (no affiliation, just a happy customer). One side of it has a zipped pocket and the other has slip pockets.

Still in wrapper
Zipped pocket (L); slip pockets (R)
Slip pocket on each side of the RHS

It could be slipped into a Traveller's Journal so that it wrapped around a notebook, but again, I have put mine in on its own elastic so that it is at the front, rather than the slip pockets coming between the notebooks or having the slip pockets and the card slots all at the back.

In situ
In situ showing both sides of the insert

Both of these inserts are made of fairly sturdy plastic (polyethylene?). I haven't used them yet but they feel as if they will stand up to the rigours of use very well. I'll report back on their durability (and usefulness) after I've used the TJ more extensively.

I'm still LOVING the look of the TJ and itching to get into it. I love the fact that the cover is sturdy rather than floppy. The floppiness of Midori (and most 'fauxdori') put me off getting one but this one is pretty rigid. That, the colour and the fact that it is closer to A5 (and less tall and narrow looking than a Midori) are what made me buy this rather than any other brand and I'm not regretting the decision!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Stamford Traveller's Journal thoughts

I know, I know. I'm already all set up for 2015 with the Holborn filofax, but I'm thinking about how to use the Stamford Traveller's Journal instead... 2016 at the earliest though! I am all set for 2015.

For it to work, it would have to be able to function as both a planner and a wallet.

The page size is big enough to have a good-sized week plus notes and I've been playing around with the squared Moleskine cahier, not because I will use it for this, but to get some ideas about a possible layout, to then use in a booklet with proper paper.
After a bit of playing, I think a 16-block spread would work - 8 blocks on each side.

Week to view
effectively week + notes

The left hand side would use 7 blocks for Monday - Sunday and use the 8th block for a tracking block.

Left hand side - weekdays + tracking

The right-hand side would use two of the blocks for 1) key things this week and 2) key things next week. The other six blocks would be to note the next-actions/to-do in 5 life-areas, plus one labelled 'other'. I've just put 'Life area #1' etc. because my life areas are my life areas!

Right hand side
to-do/next actions split into life areas

I don't know which notebooks I would use - possibly a Rhodia cahier (though I've not road-tested them yet). Almost no potential books would have the right number of pages to be able to have the whole year in, so I would probably remove the staples, add in enough extra pages to be able to do the full year, replace the cover with some nice card, sew the pages back in (rather than re-staple probably) and then trim the whole lot up to 12.5cm width.

I am also still doing well using a 'day-page' with time-blocking down the left side and the right side as a list/scratch-pad area. This has morphed from a reporter's notebook and A5 filofax diary (see here for details) into just a reporter's notebook, one page per day, divided vertically. The reporter's notebook is about the same page size as the Traveller's Journal booklets, so a simple lined booklet would suffice for these and I could therefore have my week+notes booklet and a day-book in the TJ very easily.

So, that would sort out the planner side okay, but I also carry an address book and a few information pages. These could fairly easily be moved into another booklet if I thought I needed them with me, but to be honest, I'm questioning that. If I need contact details I have them on my phone which is always out and about, and if I'm at home, then my filofax will be nearby (even if it's on a shelf rather than open on my desk) and easy to refer to.

As well as being my planner, my filofax is my wallet and a shift to any other system would have to encompass that too. The all-in-one aspect is too ingrained in me now to think about having to grab more than one thing when I leave the house! I wouldn't cope with having to find planner and wallet.

Obviously, filofaxes come with zipped pockets and card slots and what have you, which the Traveller's Journal doesn't. I would need to be able to carry cards with me and also money in a zipped pocket. Thankfully, Midori do inserts that allow both of these. Sadly, The Journal Shop was out of stock of the credit card insert, but I did order a couple of zipped pockets to try out and I found an alternative source for the card inserts. I'll review both of these when they arrive.

Overall, depending on a) finding notebooks I want to use in the cover at a reasonable price and b) the card insert and zipper pocket being okay, I think this could work pretty well as planner + wallet. How many others do this? And how have you set your Traveller's Journal/Traveler's Notebook up?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Compare and contrast: notebooks for the Stamford Traveller's Journal

I bought a gorgeous Stamford Traveller's Journal the other week (see here for my review) and have also looked at a couple of other potential notebooks to use as refills: Midori 013 refill (reviewed here) and the Moleskine large cahiers (see review here).

Today I'm going to do a compare and contrast with the notebooks that came with the Traveller's Journal (and which can be bought from Stamford Notebook Co.). I'll compare the size of the notebooks, how well they fit in the cover, the paper quality and value for money.

Size and how well they fit in the cover:
The original notebooks are 12.5cm x 21cm. The Midori 013 is narrower at 11cm x 21cm. The Moleskine large cahiers are a smidgen wider at 13cm x 21cm.

L-R Moleskine cahier, Stamford Notebook Co., Midori
(the Stamford is clipped shut for the photo!)

How well do they fit in the cover?


Two notebooks side by side
Both notebooks in

The Midori notebooks are narrower and I was worried that even though it's only 15mm difference, it was enough that they would look swamped by the cover.

Midori on top of the Stamford

Two notebooks side by side
Both notebooks in

It certainly feels smaller. I would have to road-test for longer to see how much it would bug me.

The Moleskine are only 5mm wider and to be honest, it's hardly noticeable.

Moleskine top; Stamford bottom
Stamford on top of Moleskine (honest!)
Two notebooks side by side
Both notebooks in

Size-wise, I don't think there's much in it. The Midori might be a shade too narrow.

Paper quality:
Well, the Stamford wins hands-down. No feathering, silky smooth, no bleed-through, no show-through.
The Midori is second. Silky smooth, no feathering, no bleed-through but significant show-through with most pen/ink combinations.
The Moleskine would be good for ripping up and using to make papier-mache models. Not all that smooth, significant feathering, significant bleed-through, significant show-through. Horrible.

Stamford, front
Midori, front
Moleskine, front
Stamford, reverse
Midori, reverse
Moleskine, reverse

Value for money:
The Stamford notebooks are £4.95 for 60 sides (8.25p/side)
The Midori notebooks are £5.95 for 128 sides (4.65p/side)
Moleskine cahiers are £6.20 for three; £2.07 per cahier; 80 sides per cahier (2.59p/side)

Yeah - there's a reason the Moleskines are that cheap!

Depending on how much the narrowness of the Midori notebooks bugged me, I would think strongly about using them as replacements when the originals run out. If the narrowness bugs me too much (or I want to be able to use a wider range of pens) I would buy the Stamford notebooks. The Moleskines could have been an option if I just wanted to use them as a scrapbook and not for any writing whatsoever.
I'll also be road-testing some Clairefontaine notebooks and Rhodia cahiers soon. They're A5 but can easily be cut down to fit.