Friday, 17 February 2017

Darkstar Collection - Review

Stuart from PocketNotebooks kindly sent me a sample from a pack of Darkstar Collection Handcrafted Traveler's Notebooks to review. The company is UK based and the notebooks are made in the UK. They come as a set of three notebooks in a pack, currently priced £10. I got one from a pack to try.
[click on any picture to enlarge]

As before with deliveries from PocketNotebooks, the attention to detail was great. I was addressed this time as "The Fantabulous Amanda Fleet" and there was the PocketNotebooks slogan stamped on the back of the parcel: Forget the app, there's a pocket notebook for that. Inside, the notebook was wrapped in purple tissue paper with a branded sticker, plus there were two freebies - a small packet of sweeties (that took me back to childhood) and a pencil (you can never have too many pencils), and a hand-written card from Stuart.


So, where do these notebooks sit on the "Pretty-Functional" grid? I don't find them especially 'pretty' but they do have an understated class to them. The cover is a matte black and the only branding on the cover is a small, satin-finish black star on the front. Inside, the first page has the same information as the banding.

Cover with the black star
First page with same info as on the banding

The finish of the book is a little untidy - the books are staple-bound and could have done with using slightly larger staples as the ones used only just fold over the paper at the centre. Also, the trim is a little untidy with the central pages sticking out beyond the cover a smidgen. Neither of those aspects are especially significant and wouldn't be a deal breaker for me.

Staples could have been a bit bigger

There are 38 pages (76 sides) of lined paper (plus the plain fly-leaves making it up to the 40 stated on the wrapper) on a reasonably heavyweight paper for a notebook - 100gsm. Page size is 10.2cm x 14.8 cm with the page corners rounded. Line spacing is fairly narrow, at 5.6mm and 24 lines per page. The top margin is 7mm, bottom margin is 2mm. Some may find the line spacing a bit tight for their writing.

Quite narrow line-spacing

As you all know, the deal-breaker for me is how they perform with fountain pens. I removed the central fold of paper to do the pen tests (mostly because almost all of my notebooks have the first page taken up with pen tests and it's harder to remove the first page than the central pages).

General writing feel:
Depending on which pen I used (or maybe it was ink-related), the paper was either fairly toothy or quite smooth to write on. With my Tombow Object pen (with Diamine ink), it felt a lot toothier than many papers. However, with the broader nibs (calligraphy and stub) and Iroshizuku ink, the pen glided across the paper much more smoothly. I didn't have enough different pen/nib/ink combos inked up to work out whether it was the nib or the ink that was causing the Tombow/Diamine combination to be more 'grabby' - maybe if others have Diamine in broader nibs or Iroshizuku in finer nibs you can drop an assessment in the comments? I would be happy with the smoother feel; the Tombow was less fun to write with to be honest - I didn't feel I could write quite as quickly.
5*/5 for the smoother feel; 3*/5 for the Tombow

I couldn't see any at all with any ink/nib combo.

There was the smallest amount of ghosting through to the other side but the reverse of the page was perfectly usable.

Reverse - no bleed-through; minimal show-through

There was none at all, not even with the Pilot V5 pens. There was a bit of embossing with the biro, but that's to be expected.

Staple-bound books are generally a lot less likely to lie 'flat as a bat' and this was no exception. However, it took little persuasion to lie flat - a couple of quick bends worked a treat. My only worry is the small staples and repeated bending back of the notebook might (might) result in pages coming out.

I liked the notebook. Granted, it's not as pretty as the Papio books, but not everyone will want that. There's a classic, understated feel to the cover that makes it suitable both for business as well as casual use. The paper stood up incredibly well to pen tests although the feel of the Tombow/Diamine combination wasn't brilliant. The other inks/nibs were all a good experience though, so maybe you need to experiment with some of your favourite pens and inks.
4*/5 for the paper quality; less for the finish and style.

My thanks to Stuart at Pocketnotebooks for sending them to me to review.

I was given this notebook free to review. However, this is an honest review and not influenced by it being a gift. If it had been terrible, I would have said so! (see the posts on the Monologue range if you don't believe me!) 

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