Paper & Notebooks


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. []

Field Notes Bonus Subscriber Shipment 2017 Surprise

I just got my Field Notes Bonus Subscriber Shipment.
Funnily enough1 it is very much linked to my blog post from earlier this month – but see for yourself.

It’s an essay writing exam, or competition ?, You have until end of June to submit your essay about an event that happened to you in elementary or high school. Prizes are 2x 250 customised FN memo books, 2x the Pretty Much Everything book, 2x a year’s subscription to the Quarterly Edition.

For comparison, here’s the exam book my employer is using, photo from my previous blog post.

Treasury tags are usually much longer than needed, so the connection is quite loose, but the length of the bars mean that the tag won’t fall out unexpectetdly

  1. ..but of course it’s no coincidence, it’s the time of the year []

How I use notebooks 8

After listening to last week’s Pen Addict podcast I thought I should really spend some time finding out more about bullet journalling. I have of course heard about it in the past, but never spend the time to learn about it.

The podcast made me think about how I use notebooks now and how I used to use them.

The Kompagnon image from my 2011 blog post

The index in a Field Notes Lunacy memo book

I used to think that I use them like everyone else, but I remember that the post about my Brunnen Kompagnon once had a pingback from a Russian website and when I used Google Translate back then, to see what it is about I saw that they commented that I use a specific system1. I just checked the pingback again, it’s mentioning a system called ‘superfocus’ – well, something else to read up on another day.

Well, here is how I used notebooks today

I usually leave the first page blank so that I can then create an index – I don’t always create the index,though. The picture on the right shows an example. I write what’s on the page and draw a line to the right. I will then mark the corresponding page at that spot to make it easy to access.

 

In terms of Hobonichi use: I will tick off tasks I have done. If I haven’t done a task I won’t tick it off or I will put a cross in the box. I only cross the date out (in the image below the 10 for 10th January) once all tasks are dealt with, but I do sometimes move tasks to a future date, indicated by putting an arrow to the right in the box.

By the way, I never got an English Hobonichi explanation with my orders, probably because I ordered the ‘avec’ version, which is only available in Japanese. When I ordered the Hobonichi cover on discount, mentioned in my last blog post, I got an English language explanation. Turns out their system is so well designed and intuitive that I used it the right way, i.e. using the space left of the vertical line on a page for appointments and the space on the right for notes (unless the appointments need too much space).

 

  1. which I wasn’t aware of []

Paper Made the Modern Economy

If you’ve got 9 minutes to spare, why not listen to the episode about Paper from the radio series 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy?1 It is narrated by the pop star of economists Tim Harford.2

The image has been taken from a previous blog post about stationery stores in Shanghai.

  1. Don’t answer that. It’s a rhetorical question. []
  2. This is not the first appearance of his name in this blog. Can you find the other appearance? []

The Field Notes x Ingersoll notebooks 1

I think I read about the Ingersoll version of the Field Notes notebooks in the past, but I only really paid attention to them after Jinnie retweeted a tweet from ROY . Tempting. I had a quick look on the web, but wasn’t  able to find out what paper is being used for these ..and ordered anyway. BTW, Ingersoll is a watch company.

£9.95 or $9.95?

I can’t tell you what I paid yet. I’ll need to wait for the credit card bill. When I ordered it first said £9.95, then $9.95. the price has since been raised to £10. I then got an email telling me I got charged £8.29. I guess there’s a glitch in their online system.

£8.29?

The notebooks only took a few days to arrive. Here’s a little video.

Well, it turns out the paper in the Ingersoll is nearly the same as the paper in the original Field Notes: Finch Paper Opaque, but instead of 50#T “Bright White” it’s 60#T “Bright White” (Update: Mark Cohen let me know that this is the same paper as used in the Shenandoah notebooks). I think I like all other Field Notes papers I know more than the Finch Opaque, so this came as a bit of a disappointment.

Overall this is more or less a black version of the Original Field Notes, but the staples are white, the paper is thicker and also seems whiter and less yellow than Original. I am not sure whether I am imagining this, whether this is down to age, whether the paper change over time or whether this is down to ‘natural’ tolerances (both papers are called “Bright White” after all, so the same name implies they are the same colour.

There’s one way to find out: Check and compare the papers. As usual, I use R to do that (R is free). For a change I show you the commands I use.

To test it I followed the usual procedure explained here: The pencil lead used has a nominal diameter of 0.7mm and an actual diameter of 0.68mm (more info about nominal vs actual diameters can be found here). This is equivalent to a surface area of 0.36mm². A force of 1.5N is used, which, in this case, is equivalent to 4.17 MegaPascals for this surface area.

I convert the sample to numbers using this function.

greylist <- function(filename) {
 coloursample <- readTIFF(filename)
 greysample <- coloursample[,,1]+coloursample[,,2]+coloursample[,,3]
 greysample <- matrix(greysample, nrow = 1)
 #listsample <- as.list(greysample)
 #csvfilename = paste (filename, ".csv")
 #write.table(greysample, file = csvfilename, row.names=FALSE, col.names=FALSE, sep=)
 return(greysample)
}

I then put them together

data <- do.call(rbind, Map(data.frame, Mohawk=fnmohawk, Boise=fnboise, Finch_Fine=fnfinchfs, Finch_Opaque=fnfinchos,Finch_Inger=fnfinchinger, Domtar=fndomtar ))

and produce a violinplot

 vioplot2(data, names=c(  "Mohawk", "Boise", "Finch Fine",  "Finch Opaque", "F. Opaque Ing.", "Domtar"), col = "green")

vioplot is like the original violplot, but is not so demanding when it comes to how data is formatted1.

As you can see the 60#T Ingersoll paper is whiter as the violin plot starts higher (Y axis top is white, bottom is black), but lead leaves a darker line. This is so different for a paper that you’d expect to be more similar that I wanted to take a new sample in an old Original Field Notes with 50#T Finch Opaque paper. In the plot labelled as “Opaque 2”.

In the next plot this new sample is labelled “Opaque 2”.

Mean and quartiles of the new sample on old 50#T paper were more similar to the original sample than to the Ingersoll 60#T paper sample, but the tails are much longer, meaning that there is a small number of lighter and darker values at the extreme ends of the sample.

Top to Bottom (all Finch): Ingersoll 60#T, Original 50#T, Fine (Left is dark, right is light)

Why is that? I could think of many reasons. Hot candidates for the inconsistency (other than the paper) are the scanner (the bulb’s performance, differences after software updates), the way the pressure is applied or the consistency of the lead.

In the end, independent of which 50#T sample you look at, the 60#T paper used in the Ingersoll notebook still seems to be able to produce a darker line.

Let’s check whether there is a statistically significant difference between the different samples.

> TukeyHSD(results, conf.level = 0.95)
 Tukey multiple comparisons of means
 95% family-wise confidence level

Fit: aov(formula = darkness ~ paper, data = opaquecomparison)

$paper
                    diff        lwr         upr         p adj
 Opaque 1-Ingersoll  0.13578841  0.13236496  0.13921186  0
 Opaque 2-Ingersoll  0.10241369  0.09899024  0.10583715  0
 Opaque 2-Opaque 1  -0.03337472 -0.03679817 -0.02995127  0

The Tukey test puts into numbers what could already be seen earlier: the difference between the two 50#T samples’ means is quite small, even though they look different. The difference when comparing the Opaque 1 and the Opaque 2 sample to the Ingersoll sample is bigger (diff > 0.1).

When comparing the different papers with each other p is always so small that it is displayed as 0, so the differences between the different papers are significant. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the are different samples after all and as far as I understand Tukey isn’t really made to check whether the similarity between samples is coincidence or not.

A colleague (thanks Tatjana) showed me this way of visualising the difference:

> pl <- TukeyHSD(results, conf.level = 0.95)
> plot (pl)

Plot of the Tukey difference

 

The big question is: Can you create closer samples from the same paper if you have good enough equipment? …or is that just impossible, because the lead is not consistent and each sheet of paper is slightly different. I guess there is room to improve, but not with my simple means.

White staples

I don’t really know much about statistics. I normally don’t use statistics for my job, but have tried to learn R in the last years. If you have found any mistakes I would be happy if you let me know so that I can improve.

  1. After comments on Facebook from Logan Lay and others I have changed to colour of the violin plots from the default magenta to green. []