Review: Federal Supply Service Notebooks

A reader named Lisa kindly sent me these Federal Supply Service notebooks after seeing my post about them having been featured on A Continuous Lean. It was very cool to get my hands on these, as I myself am not a federal employee, and therefore can’t buy them (at least, theoretically. There are places online where you seem to be able to get around that).

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I’d love to know the full history behind these notebooks. They’ve obviously been the standard notebooks for military personal and other government workers for quite a while, though the design has evolved over time. I guess it makes sense for the military to have standard notebooks that fit in their uniform pockets, but what about other government workers? Are these the only notebooks that federal employees are authorized to purchase? Who actually has the contract to manufacture them? Are they made in the USA, despite their extremely low price?

As for the notebooks themselves, they have a nice, no-frills look to them. The green colors are quite nice. The quality of the construction seems solid, but it’s nothing fancy or fussy– don’t expect perfect edges and corners that line up 100% square. But that’s not the point: these aren’t meant to be design objects, they’re meant to be functional, and they’re meant not to cost taxpayers a fortune.

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The pocket size notebook is taller and narrower than the standard pocket Moleskine format. It’s extremely flexible and forgiving– you can roll it up and then roll it back the other way, and it will end up pretty flat again. The pages have a bright blue line, heavier than what you’d find in most lined notebooks. The paper feels very soft and thirsty, and soaks up ink quite readily. I love the logo on the front cover– they’ve changed these pocket notebooks from hardcover to paperback over the years, but they have kept that old-fashioned “Memoranda.” On the back, you have the product number.

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 The hardcover has sharp, square corners and the boards overhang the pages by quite a lot. On the back, there’s a barcode and the product number. The paper has the same soft feel to it, but the blue lines are much thinner than in the pocket notebook. If you’re a prolific journaler, these notebooks would be a good choice– they’re cheap and they’d look great all lined up on a shelf together. But you’d probably want to use a fine pen that would bleed through less.

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Thanks again to Lisa for giving me the opportunity to review these!

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12 Responses to “Review: Federal Supply Service Notebooks”

  1. Thanks for this review. I purchased both the pocket Memoranda notebook and the larger version of the record book (they’re about an 8×10 size, same color, with the word RECORD on the front cover). I’ve been using the Memoranda book for the past six weeks or so as my everyday carry pocket notebook. As you say, it’s a no-frills beast, but quite the workhorse. I like it about as well or better than any other pocket notebook I’ve used. I too love the retro chic of the dark green cover and script “Memoranda.”

    I purchased the pocket notebook from the following site. They also sell the hardcover notebooks in both the large and small sizes. You can only order them in packs of a dozen, however:

    http://store.armyproperty.com/categories/Unit-Supplies-%7B47%7D-Other-NSN-Items/Office-Supplies%2C-Memorandum-Books/

    The following site sells the hardcover notebooks, and at this site you can order individual books. Enter the keyword “log book” in the Search field on the home page and they will come up:

    http://www.empiremachinery.com/default.aspx

    You do not have to be a military or government employee to buy from either of these sites.

  2. Great website! This looks like the journal for me, I’m just wondering if it’s a real pain to get it to lie flat?

  3. The large journal lies flat easily. Can’t speak to the smaller version. The pocket notebook can be held flat easily and without damage (and even folded back on itself if you have to hold it in one hand and write with the other), but it doesn’t really lie flat of its own accord.

  4. I have two green ones that a friend gave me when he retired. One has browned pages and says “Record, U.S. Government Printing Office Property No. 50 [scraped, unredable]” on the cover. it’s got to be 40 years old at least. The other is Federal Service 7530-00-222-3525 and probably 20-25 years old.

    I have a grid-ruled book with a paper/cardboard cover. Don’t know for sure if it’s Fed but probably is.

    I also have an 8×10.5 guillotine cutter from the Feds in the 1950s (1940s?) (still works) and some paper from when they used 8.10.5.

  5. Thanks for this review. I’ve been curious about those ever since seeing the ACL post.

  6. I’ve been a contractor for DoD (engineer) for almost 25 years, and I’ve used many of these. I especially like the larger textile-covered green notebook. It comes in two sizes: Journal (5.5″x8″) and Record (8″x10.5″). They are truly a workhorse. I have some that I’ve had since the late 80s, and, other than the pages yellowing, they are still in really good condition. Another benefit to them (as with a lot of Federal office supplies like the Skilcraft pens) is that they are produced by organizations for the disabled. (I had several older notebooks with “Made by XXXXX Association for the Blind” printed in the back.) My only wish is that these notebooks were produced with grid lines, instead of ruled. I write small and frequently make network diagrams in my notebook, so, grid lines would be great.

  7. I absolutely love my green textile covered book. My ex husband (military) gave it to me several years ago and i use it as a recipe book. It is such a wonderful book that i plan on passing it down to one of my daughter when they get older!

    Mine has this on the back:
    7530-00-222-3521
    FEDERAL SUPPLY SERVICE
    (GPO)

    I’d love to have more of these!!

  8. I am a soldier and I go to the PX all the time to get these things! Soldiers go through them like crazy! Now most soldiers only use them for journals or taking notes in classes, most soldiers are swichting to the water proof/ weather proof notebooks. Those are pretty cool, ink stays and paper is always dried, even after a swim.

  9. Ah, a blast from the past! These are the very books that may have instilled within me a passion for notebooks as a young Marine (and aspiring poet) in the mid-90s. I wish I would have had the presence of mind, back then, to stock up on them! I think, to this day, they remain my favorite, as I was able to modify the textile covers (with the aide of Staedtler felt-tipped pens) to fit my personality.

  10. Those Who Wish To Know More Of The History Of These Little Green Notebooks Will Be Happy To Know That They Were First Produced On The 1st Of January 1963 With Similar Construction As They Are Now With A Few Differences. The Original Notebooks Were Semi Hard Covered With Covers Similar In Construction As The Covers Of The Gideon New Testament Books. They Were A Shade Darker And Had “Manufactured In The United States Of America” Printed On Them. And With Few Changes In Design Have Pushed On Through The Years As Dependable As They Were When They Were First Used On The 1st Of January 1963. I Hope This Has Helped Those Who Wished To Know More Of The History Of These Notebooks.

  11. There are Federal Supply Service Ledger Notebooks available on eBay, if anyone is interested.

    http://bit.ly/13vFvt4

  12. […] Notebook Stories […]

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