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?