Made in India


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 []

Reynolds 432 7

Like the Nataraj 621, reviewed at pencil talk, the Reynolds 432 is a pencil from India with a design very similar to the Staedtler tradition. The differences in appearance are minor.

  • All three pencils are red with dark coloured stripes. While the Staedtler tradition and the Nataraj 621 have black stripes, the Reynolds 432 has blue stripes.
  • All three pencils are hexagonal, but the Staedtler tradition and the Reynolds 432 have the stripes on the edges, the Nataraj has the stripes on the faces.
  • All three are eraserless with different finished caps. The quality of the finished cap of the Nataraj is rather poor.

Reynolds 432

Reynolds 432

Reynolds:

The history of Reynolds is a bit complicated.

Milton Reynolds from Chicago established the Reynolds pen company in 1945, but the company was later bought by Edmond Regnault who was running a successful pen company in France since 1927. Since 1974 the company was run by Edmond Regnault’s sons until it was sold to investors in 1993.

Reynolds 432 point

Reynolds 432 point

The company behind the Reynolds 432 pencil, G. M. Pens International Pvt. Ltd., introduced the Reynolds brand to India in 1986 and is the exclusive Licensee of Reynolds, France. Newell Rubbermaid bought Reynolds in 1999/2000, which is now part of Sanford Reynolds SA, and closed the factory in France in 2007, sparking a boycott of products from Reynolds and Newell Rubbermaid.

Today Reynolds India produces all kinds of pens, including two different types of wooden pencils and two different types of mechanical pencils.

Reynolds 432 and Nataraj 621

Reynolds 432 and Nataraj 621

The pencil:

Reynold’s website highlights the following features of this pencil, available only in HB

  • Specially bonded lead for extra strength
  • Special quality lead for clean, fine impressions
  • Conforms to European standards of child safety
  • Soft wood for easy sharpening

The fact that there are paws printed on the 432 and the child safety standards mentioned on the web site seem to suggest that this pencil is aimed at children, but the “conservative look” of the pencil would suggest otherwise.

The wood used for the Reynolds 432 seems to be the similar to the wood used for the Nataraj 621. In a comment to the Nataraj 621 review at pencil talk Harshad Raveshia identified the wood used for the 621 as Vatta wood (Macaranga Peltata). The wood used for the 432 has a similar appearance, but is not red. Instead I would describe the colour as slightly yellow.  It could of course still be the Vatta tree, just coloured differently, or it could be a normal deviation expected for this type of wood.

(L-R) Nataraj 621, Reynolds 432, Staedtler tradition

(L-R) Nataraj 621, Reynolds 432, Staedtler tradition

A few other observations:

  • The diameter of the Reynolds 432 is a bit bigger than that of a Staedtler tradition.
  • The lead of the Reynolds 432 seems to be slightly harder than that of the Nataraj 621.
  • I did not have any lead breakage with the Reynolds 432, but I did encounter this problem with the Nataraj 621.
  • The hardness of the 432 HB’s lead can be roughly compared to the hardness of a Mars Lumograph 2B or a Faber-Castell 9000 3B.
Cap comparison (L-R) Staedtler tradition, Reynolds 432, Nataraj 621

Cap comparison (L-R) Staedtler tradition, Reynolds 432, Nataraj 621

Conclusion:

The wood is a bit harder than the wood typically used for pencils in Europe. This might have implications for the blade of your sharpener, but other attributes of the wood, like the texture and appearance are very pleasant. Writing with the Reynolds 432 is fairly smooth and overall this is a very nice pencil.

I would like to thank Sameer Khanna who agreed to swap the Reynolds 432 and the Nataraj 621 for two Staedtler Noris pencils.