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Monsieur Notebook 13

This week: another topic1 that has been covered by Stationery Traffic before – The Monsieur notebook. After leaving a comment at Stationery Traffic’s Monsieur Notebooks post, the founder of Hide Stationery, Tom, contacted me and offered to send me a sample.

Notebook

Monsieur looks a bit like Mr. Peanut

I was very sure that I wanted a tan coloured notebook2, not the brown or black one. Deciding on the size was easy, too. A6 is a bit small unless you want to carry the notebook around, A4 is a bit big – so I chose A5. But what paper to choose? I didn’t want the plain 90 g/m² paper …but the 140 g/m² paper from Star Paper Mills was certainly tempting. In the end Vulcan logic won over Romulan passion and I chose the more practical, ruled version with 90 g/m² paper from BILT industries, a company which traces its roots back to 1945 when Ballarpur Straw Board Mills was established in India. BILT industries is not only making paper, they also manufacture other stationery. One of their pencils has been reviewed at pencil talk. In the future there will also be a version of the Monsieur notebook with 100 g/m² paper from the Finnish paper manufacturer Stora Enso.

Leather

Let’s look at the leather used. The leather is vegetable tanned, which means the environmental impact is not as high as it is with many other types of leather. The leather looks more red than other vegetable leathers I have seen in the past and it certainly didn’t have an artificial grain applied to its surface – you can see blemishes and marks. Personally, I like this natural, slightly rough look very much. It gives the leather a handmade and traditional look. Despite the look, the surface of the leather has a very even feel to it. So nice, that my wife first thought it’s not real leather as the surface is quite hard, but still feels smooth the same time. I have to say that she wasn’t too keen on it, maybe because of the natural look. Not that the leather is like “saddleback” leather in any way, but I would say that if you like matte, raw finished leather, like saddleback leather, and a natural look you will like this notebook – I certainly do. If you like perfectly looking leather with artificial grain, the one you see so often these days, you might not be too happy with the “naturalness” of this notebook.

Paper

Nick using a Lamy Joy (Image © BBC)

The paper performed really well. Even though it seemed to be sucking ink of very wet pens in, the picture shows this effect from a Pelikan M250, the ink didn’t bleed through the page and even though there was slight feathering with very wet pens the paper behaved well with pens that have a normal ink-flow, like the Hero 616 or the Lamy joy. Uncareful erasing of graphite with a Sanford Artgum Eraser did roughen the surface of the paper slightly, but gentle erasing was problem-free.

 

Conclusion

Overall, a great notebook. If you like leather and don’t reject it for ethical reasons3 this is a great notebook. Similarly priced as other notebooks with PVC or plastic covers, the notebook I reviewed here sells for £12.99 (~ $20.70; €14.50), but has a classic, much better feel to it.


Price and exchange rates: July 2011

I started using a new image plug-in. The old one didn’t really work well. From now on you should be able to get a close-up of most images by clicking on them. I would be happy if you could let me know, e.g. as a comment on this blog post, whether this function works well on your computer.

I would like to thank

  • Tom from Hide stationery for the Monsieur notebook, who sent me the notebook free of charge
  • Henrik for the Hero 616 and
  • Kent for the Dixon Ticonderoga.

The photo of Nick Hewer using a Lamy Joy has been taken from series 7 episode 8 of The Apprentice UK. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. after last week’s Staedtler UK / Tradition 110 post []
  2. which might fit well with my Sonnenleder pencil cases []
  3. Most vegetarians I know don’t mind buying leather []

Lamy’s Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean pens 4

Sticking to the Lamy theme from the recent blog post about blue Lamy Safari fountain pens from the 1990s and now we’ve got another Lamy blog post today: Their special edition pens you normally don’t see in the West: the Pirates of the Caribbean (Dead Men Tell no Tales) and the Star Wars pens.

Lamy’s Special Editions

Lady’s special editions follow a similar recipe: Take Lamy’s Line Friends Safari, for example. It’s a Safari with a different colour and a clip attachment. The colour of the special editions isn’t always different and the main difference of these special editions to their ‘normal’ counterparts is the clip attachment. They also often have extras (converter, special packaging) and a higher price.

I’ve shown a few different Lamy shops in Shanghai. Here’s one I haven’t shown yet: The one in the Jing An Kerry Centre1.

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Pirates of the Carribean themed pen looks like a Safari in the current Petrol colour with clip attachement in the shape of a jolly roger skull. You also get a converter and a leather roll as part of your set.

The Pirates pen on the left and the leather roll in the background. Excuse the reflections in the photo. The pen was behind glass.

Star Wars

The Star Wars themed pens are Lamy joy2 fountain pens. If you are not familiar with the joy: the front section is the same as the Safari’s, but the main body is much longer. It is kind of a desk only version of the Safari. Desk only because the long body makes it unsuitable for easy transport3.

The Star Wars joys have ‘normal’ nibs. I mention this because the joy is also available as a calligraphy set with italic nibs of different widths.

The black joy comes with a Vader clip attachment. The white joy comes with a Stormtrooper themed clip attachment.

The price is only slightly higher than the price of a normal Lamy joy in Shanghai: A normal joy is ¥380 (~$56; £44; €50). The Star Wars set is ¥4184 (~$$62; £48; €55). It comes with a converter.

 

You pay more, you get more

The price of the Lamy pens in Shanghai is a bit higher than in the West, but you also get more. The pens I’ve seen in Shanghai often come in nice boxes I haven’t seen in Europe. They also often seem to include converters that would be charged extra in the West.

The special edition pens are only slightly more expensive than the normal editions5.

The Safari Petrol. I believe this version is also available in the West. Excuse the reflections in the photo. The pen was behind glass.

Not in the West

I assume the reason why you normally don’t see these special editions in the West has more to do with licensing than with demand, especially since they are not much more expensive than the normal versions of these pens, so they should sell well anywhere – but that’s just a guess.

As I know most of the readers of my blog I might as well write this publicly: If you want one of these pens let me know and I’ll try to get one for you.

 


Prices and exchange rates: June 2017

If you want to know more about Shanghai’s Lamy stores have a look at this blog post about the store in Raffles City, the stores in this comment or  the one in this blog post.

  1. Fun fact: many years ago Jing An was the only place in Shanghai with a Burger King, but now Burger King is ubiquitous. []
  2. Lamy spells joy lower-case so I’ll stick to that in this this blog post []
  3. You can see one in this Bleistift blog post from 2011. []
  4. This number sounds good in Chinese, a bit like ‘will be fortunate, for sure’. []
  5. Exactly 10% in the case of the Star Wars joy. []

The Confidant’s Secret

Today: a quick look at Baron Fig’s Confidant.

The Confidant and the Bleistiftverlängerer

Background

Like many people, I found out about Baron Fig’s 2013 Kickstarter from The Pen Addict podcast (it was episode 71). Back then the notebook didn’t have a name yet.

After the Kickstarter goal was reached the notebooks were sent out, got very good reviews and luckily Baron Fig kept making them post-Kickstarter and even created more products, becoming the Baron Fig company you see today.

Some of the early good reviews can be found at The Pen Addict (2014), Woodclinched (2014)The Well-Appointed Desk (2015) and even Cult of Mac (2014).

The European Perspective

I don’t think there’s is much I can add to the existing reviews in terms of new information, so instead I want to give you the European perspective on this notebook.

Importing and Shipping

The Baron Fig is difficult to get on this side of the pond. I haven’t found a shop selling it in the UK, but luckily shipping from the States is actually quite cheap. Postage for the $12 Confidant Pocket, for example, is only $2.95. This seems to be achieved by sending the notebooks through Germany (Field Notes send their notebooks through Sweden). The problem in the UK is that the moment you spend more than £15 you have to pay VAT1, which usually goes hand in hand with a hefty surcharge, how expensive depends on the carrier. When I was still living in Germany I was less often hit by these charges, but I don’t know whether this is still the case. The point here is that depending on which country you live in there might be unwanted extra charges if you order from the States.

The Count in Disguise

$12 (+$2.95) for a notebook, roughly A6 size2,3 is not cheap, but once you look at this notebook’s competitors the price seems quite reasonable.

The Confidant on previous cloth bound notebooks

Cloth bound notebooks sell for a premium. They’re somehow even more expensive than leather bound notebooks. The closest competitor for the Confidant is probably the Linen Bound Notebook from the late Count’s4 Graf von Faber-Castell5 series, which you can see in this previous blog post.

The GvFC notebook and the Confidant

In fact, they are so similar, the Confidant is basically a version of the linen bound GvFC notebook with rounded edges and perforated pages (that’s where the title of this blog post comes in). I’m not sure whether this is accidental or a result of Baron Fig’s Kickstarter approach of  ‘asking people all over the world what they like in a notebook’. The GvFC notebook has been around for a while6, so some of the people asked might have suggested features based on the GvFC item.

In terms of similarities: both, the Confidant and the GvFC notebook are cloth bound and probably7 use 100g/m2 paper. I have mentioned two of the differences already: the Confidant has rounded edges and perforated edges. Other differences are: the Confidant has more paper to choose from (dot grid, blank, ruled), the GvFC notebook has more colours to choose from (five different linen colours), the bookmark is different (width and colour) and most importantly: the price is different – quite different.

 ConfidantGvFC
A4 / plus$22£30 (~$39)
A5 / flagship$18£25 (~$32)
A6 7 pocket$12£20 (~$26)

My experience

My Confidant is well made, but not as well made as the Graf von Faber-Castell notebook. Inside: mine has some materials/bubbles under the paper inside the lid, making it uneven. Outside: the cloth isn’t tight around the spine and some pages were not separated properly, as you can see in the video below. Stephen from Pencil Talk had the same problem with his Flagship (A5) Confidant8.

One way of looking at his would be to say that it shouldn’t happen to a small notebook that costs $12, but on the other hand, the similar GvFC notebook costs more than twice that amount, so the Confidant still seems good value for money.

First I thought my notebook doesn’t lie flat, a problem also described by Discover Analog, but then I realised that the Baron Fig description of ‘Opens Flat’9 refers to the pages being flat enough to write on, it doesn’t mean that the covers should lie flat on the table.

One more thing to mention about the paper: Andi Talarico from Baron Fig told me that the Vanguard and the Work/Play II use Baron Fig’s new upgraded paper, while the Confidant is still using the previous paper.

The Paper

Graphite Performance

Let’s have a look at the paper in terms of graphite performance.

As part of this comparison I have only compared the paper to Field Notes paper10.

To find more about how the paper is tested, please check the Ingersoll post.

The violin plots show that this is a great paper: It produces very dark lines of graphite (the violin plot for the Confidant’s paper ends very low) while the paper is quite light and bright (the violin plot starts quite high).

The confidant sample used for the violin plot

Violin plots, Confidant on the left

Ink Performance

Most of my inks are quite well behaved. Not surprisingly the paper dealt well with ink.

So I thought I take some of my slightly less well-behaved inks out, in this case, a waterproof ink, just because waterproof ink often goes deeper into the paper. The images below show that the waterproof ink didn’t bleed through and the reverse side of the paper was unaffected (open images in a new tab to see the high-res version).

Conclusion

To sum this blog post up in a few words: Quality control could be better. The paper is excellent. The notebook isn’t cheap, but good value for money compared to similar notebooks.

 

 


Price and exchange rates: June 2017

I would like to thank Andi Talarico from Baron Fig for the review sample I used for this boig post.

  1. ..but sometimes customs forget to charge you []
  2. The Confidants are all a bit smaller than the equivalent A paper size []
  3. ..reminds me of the Lichtenberg drawing from this blog post. []
  4. Usual disclaimer as mentioned in previous blog posts: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of nobility were abolished in the Weimar Republic in 1919. Graf (Count) is just part of his surname. In reality no one seems to care about this rule though. []
  5. Abbreviated: GvFC for easier reading. []
  6. I am not sure when it came out. I got my first one in 2010 []
  7. I am not 100% sure. The Baron Fig Kickstarter mentioned 100g/m2 paper, but in an email I got from Baron Fig they mention 90g/m2 paper. []
  8. Mine is the Pocket one (A6). []
  9. Found at the bottom of this page. []
  10. ..as they are the paper samples I have redone after discovering the colour base paper shift issue discussed in the Black Ice post. []

Book Block

Another blog post about a Kickstarter.

This time it’s a Kickstarter to launch a customisable notebook. They have been contacting several stationery blogs, so I am sure you will read more about them soon.

To customise your notebook you basically create a file containing what should be printed on the cover (front, side and back) and Book Block will then print this on the cover of the notebook for you.

The whole idea sounds very tempting to me, especially since for what it is the price for one of the notebooks seems very reasonable – or should I say almost ridiculously modest.

Remember Monsieur Notebooks, from a previous blog post? It looks as if the notebooks will be done in cooperation with them. Back in 2011 when I reviewed the Monsieur Notebook they were made in India, but according to the Book Block Kickstarter  page they are now manufacturing in the UK and you can chose from five different types of paper provided by Monsieur Notebooks. The covers used for the notebooks are from Europe, too, they are sourced from the Netherlands.

Some sample Book Block notebooks (Image © Book Block)

Some sample Book Block notebooks (Image © Book Block)

The whole Kickstarter sounds really exciting. I hope Book Block will get enough funding.


Book Block have offered many blogs, including Bleistift, a free notebook if their Kickstarter is successful. I don’t believe this has influenced me when writing this blog post. I have written about other Kickstarter projects in the past, some were successful, some were unsuccessful, and I have not received any good or money from the other Kickstarter projects I wrote about in the past.


Sharpening a Wopex 11

You might have already noticed that the Wopex is one of my favourite pencils. It is the pencil I use most often when writing on paper where ghosting/graphite transfer might be a problem. There is however one problem that makes using a Wopex an experience less exciting than it could be: sharpening this pencil.

Wopex, presharpened

Desktop sharpeners are not good at sharpening pencils with such a hard casing. They won’t stop automatically, too, which means that you might shorten the pencil too much when using a desktop sharpener and you’ll got a less than exciting finish where the blade cylinder stopped.

Wopex, prism sharpener sharpened

Click to enlarge

A normal prism sharpener does a better job when it comes to sharpening a Wopex, but the lead tends to look rather porous after sharpening and the fine point created will break much easier on a Wopex than on a pencil with a traditional lead.The special Wopex sharpeners don’t seem to do a better job than any other prism sharpeners. At least they don’t do for me, maybe I don’t use them the way they should be used. One example is shown here, but the point doesn’t always look that bad. A better looking point, made using a prism sharpener, has been shown in a previous blog post.

Wopex, knife sharpened

The presharpened Wopexes1 are looking and performing best. They are sharpened on an abrasive surface, something that is not necessarily practical for home use because of the time and dust involved. Searching for an alternative, better than a normal prism sharpener, I thought of using a knife to achieve a point similar to the one of presharpened Wopexes.

Unlike most other sharpening techniques, in which blades engage the pencil’s wood (and later, graphite) at an angle more or less parallel to the shaft, the pocketknife’s blade is applied perpendicular to the pencil’s shaft.” (Rees 2012, p.46)2

There is a special pencil knife for sharpening and erasing, but I used a normal knife. In this case one with a high carbon steel blade, but stainless steel blades work just as well. The results are good, better than what I get from a prism sharpener, including the Wopex sharpener, but are slightly worse when compared to a presharpened Wopex.

 


I would like to thank

  1. Wopeges, Wopeces? or whatever the plural may be []
  2. Rees, D., 2012. How to sharpen pencils. Brooklyn, New York: Melville House. []