Korean Notebook Set

A old friend of mine lives in South Korea. Whenever she visits the US, she brings me some little gift, usually cute Korean stationery! This little notebook set was from her last visit. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen notebooks clipped into a carabiner before!

colorful three notebook set with carabiner

The notebooks are all blank inside, and each has a different colorful design on the exterior. The construction is a single stitched signature, and the covers are nice and sturdy. At 3 7/8 x 5 1/2″ , the size is a little wider than a Field Notes or most other single-signature notebooks, but it’s still good for tucking in a pocket if you unhook them from the carabiner.

3 notebooks from korea with carabiner

I don’t think I would ever buy a set of notebooks hole-punched for a single ring or carabiner like this, but I can’t deny that it has a certain practicality. You could clip one notebook or all three to a bag to keep then handy for jotting quick notes. Maybe they could be clipped to a reuseable bag to keep a shopping list at hand when you go grocery shopping. A kid could clip them to a school backpack… though I can see how that would backfire, at least if you went to school with some of the wiseass kids I did!

korean notebook set

There’s no branding on the outside, so I have no idea who makes this notebook set. A quick google search didn’t turn up any similar products, so they are a bit of a mystery! They’ll never be something I use daily, but they’re a fun curiosity, and a pleasant reminder of my thoughtful friend.

Email Subscription

Hi all! A reader recently pointed out to me that my email notifications for new blog posts were no longer working. I had to do some behind the scenes work and delete various WordPress plugins and lost that functionality. But I think I’ve now added it back!
In the menu below the header, there is now a “Subscribe” link to a page where you can enter your email address to receive blog updates. This is very much in testing mode! But hopefully I’ll get it working so new blog posts trigger a notification to anyone who wants it. My apologies to anyone who has been missing the updates!

My Pen Collection, 2022

Fans of writing tools seem to fall into two groups: the pen/pencil people and the paper people. But for most of us, both are important, as the combination of pen and paper is sometimes more important then each thing on its own. My focus has always been on paper, in the form of notebooks, but I do have a soft spot for pens too. I last wrote about my pen collection in 2017, so I thought it was time for an update on some of my more recent acquisitions.

I’ve always loved a nice fine-point rollerball or gel ink pen, and for many years, the Uniball Signo RT 0.38 retractable pens have been my favorite daily use pen– and in fact almost my ONLY daily use pen. These days I just buy the refills and insert them in a TI Click EDC Pen from Big Idea Design. I also have one of their TI Pocket Pro pens. From what I’ve been able to discover online, these are the lightest weight metal pens that hold my Uniball refills. I also like the Uniball Style Fit multi-pens, and always have one in my bag, along with a Caran d’Ache pencil.

Big Idea TI Click pen and Pocket Pro pen with Uniball Signo UMR-83 refill

I’ve talked before about how my notebook preferences are not necessarily driven by fountain pen friendliness. My favorite notebooks for daily use have been pocket size Moleskine notebooks in the squared and sketchbook versions, which are great with most gel ink pens and pencils, but not so great with fountain pens. (Some fountain pens can be ok on the heavy sketchbook paper, but not reliably. On the old-stock squared Moleskine notebooks, some fine nibs and certain inks work ok, but might bleed in spots.)

moleskine with fountain pens front of page
moleskine with fountain pens back of page showing bleed-through

As I’ve reviewed more and more Moleskine alternative notebooks with fountain pen friendly paper, I’ve gotten to enjoy using fountain pens and bottled inks. (Though I still use the same 13 year old disposable Pilot Varsity fountain pen I bought just for my reviews. It’s amazing that it’s still going strong!) The Nolty planner I use daily has great paper for fountain pens, as do the Bindewerk notebooks that are often part of my rotation, so I find myself using fountain pens more and more frequently, and wanting more and more varieties of inks and nib widths. Perhaps you’re familiar with this concept of the “rabbit hole?” Anyway, I now have a nice little collection of fountain pens and inks. Nothing that would be all that exciting by true pen collector standards, but I’ll show them off anyway!

Lamy Safari & Vista: I’ve had some of these for several years, but I’ve added more Lamys to my collection. They’re not too expensive, they’re comfortable and light, and I like knowing the nibs can be swapped out easily. I have 2 Fs, one EF, and recently added M and B. I have small handwriting so wider nibs aren’t usually my preference, but sometimes you want a fatter, wetter line to show off the shading of a colorful ink! I just wish the converters held more ink. [Buy]

Lamy Safari and Vista fountain pens

Platinum Preppy: I have 3 of these, but only one, a medium nib, is currently inked. There’s nothing particularly special about them, but for such inexpensive pens, they are a pretty good value. I found the fine and extra-fine nibs a little scratchy, though. [Buy]

Platinum Preppy fountain pen

Pilot Metropolitan: for a long time, my silver metallic Metropolitan was my favorite fountain pen. The nib is very fine and it usually wrote well. But the converter is a rubber bulb that seems to dry out more quickly than other pens, and it kept clogging up on me. I recently gave it a thorough cleaning and might ink it up again soon to see how it goes. I have a second Metropolitan that always had a slightly scratchy nib and is no longer inked. [Buy]

TWSBI Eco: this was my first step up to a higher price tier. (The list price isn’t much more than a Lamy but I think I’d gotten my first Lamy at a discounted price on Amazon, so it seemed like a bit of a leap at the time.) It’s just a great pen, one of my all time favorites. The nib is nice and smooth, it holds a lot of ink, the refilling mechanism is easy to use and it’s an attractive, functional, reliable pen for everyday use. I’ve never once cleaned it in the 4 1/2 years I’ve had it but it always writes perfectly. [Buy]

TWSBI Eco fountain pen clear demonstrator

Pilot Falcon: this was my first big step up into the next price tier of $100+ pens. The way it writes is worth it. The SF (soft fine) nib is very fine and smooth, but soft enough to allow a nice bit of line width variation with a little pressure. I only wish the converter held more ink. I’ve always had this filled with Diamine Sepia. Every once in a while I think about swapping it out, but I still like this combo. [Buy]

Pilot Falcon fountain pen with SF nib

Pilot Justus: I was so mad at myself when I bought this. I was traveling and went into a pen shop, intending only to buy a cheapo disposable mechanical pencil. I asked the proprietor a question about fountain pens, started looking at various things, and when he let me try the Justus, I just fell in love with it. It seemed bigger and heavier than any of my other pens, but I loved the idea of a very fine but adjustable nib that could go from softer to harder and back again with a just quick twist. But it was a BIG leap in price: over $300. I was so flustered deciding to buy it that I didn’t even ask the price of the “cheap” mechanical pencil I was also buying. Afterwards, I was even more mad at myself for spending something like $27 on the Caran d’Ache pencil than spending $319 on the pen. I’ve now had the Justus for almost 4 years, and actually use it quite often, so I’m feeling more reconciled to the price per use! And it really is a great pen– the converter is a nice push-button mechanism that makes it very easy to fill and it holds quite a lot of ink. And it’s another one that always works well even though I’ve never cleaned it. [Buy]

Pilot Justus fountain pen with adjustable nib

Sailor Pro Gear: this is a recent purchase, the only pen I’ve really bought primarily for its sexy looks. I tried a different Sailor pen in the store (the wonderful Yoseka Stationery) and liked the feel of the nib, but I preferred the look of the Pro Gear body. When I saw the full array of colors for the Pro Gear bodies, I fell in love with this deep orange. I don’t have much interest in fancy pen bodies, but the right combo of shape and color does attract me. I guess I was just in the mood to splash out that day, as it was my first in-person visit to a stationery store in quite a long time! This one was also over $300. The nib gives more feedback than I’m used to with fountain pens, but it’s not at all scratchy. I love the look and feel of this pen, and having my favorite turquoise ink in an orange body is a fun combo. [Buy]

Sailor Pro Gear fountain pen

As for my collection of inks, here’s what I’ve accumulated over the years:

J. Herbin Bleu Nuit [Buy]

Diamine Oxblood and Sepia [Buy]

Sailor Jentle Seaweed Indigo [Buy]

Sailor Ink Studio #873 [Buy]

Kobe Shinkaichi Gold [Buy]

Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku and Chiku-Rin [Buy]

Noodlers Apache Sunset and 54th Massachusetts [Buy]

collection of fountain pen inks

I really enjoy seeing a lot of lively colors on the pages of my Nolty planner and journals. The shading you can get with fountain pen inks adds a touch of beauty that you can’t replicate with any other kind of pen. I recently finished a Bindewerk notebook and felt a little sad about going back to a squared Moleskine, but I still sometimes use the fountain pens in it despite some bleed-through spots. If I ever found a notebook that was exactly like my beloved old-stock Moleskines on the outside but with truly fountain pen friendly paper, it would be a tough call on what to do with the enormous stash of spare Moleskines I’ve accumulated!

Speaking of stashes, I’m feeling like I probably have enough pens for now. Maayyyybe I could use a couple more ink colors, like a nice dark forest green or a brown that’s darker than sepia. I wouldn’t mind having another TWSBI Eco, as it’s such great value for the price. I definitely won’t buy any more low-end pens like the Metropolitans or Preppies, as I feel like paying a little more for a Lamy or TWSBI is worth it. But I could see myself getting one more higher-end pen with a nice flexy nib– maybe the Pilot Custom 912 with the FA nib.

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying all my current pens by journaling, practicing my handwriting, doodling, sketching and jotting random notes just for the fun of it!

I purchased all the products discussed here with my own money and did not receive any discounts or compensation for this post. Buy links to Amazon are affiliate links through which I earn a small commission.

Chris W. / Mairtini Watercolor Notebook Review

The first question about this watercolor notebook is what its brand name actually is. The Amazon listing and the label on the shrinkwrap list the brand as “Chris W.” But the paper band and the stamp on the notebook itself say “Mairtini.” I guess I’ll call it the Mairtini Watercolor notebook, since that’s what’s on it.

This is a pretty typical sketchbook similar to Moleskine and other brands: black faux-leather cover with an elastic closure. There is a back pocket, but no ribbon marker.

Cover overhang is on the larger side, but everything is square and symmetrical. The Mairtini brand name is stamped on the front cover, aligned as if this was meant to be used vertically like a reporter notebook.

But when you open to the inside front cover, there is a Cezanne quote printed in landscape orientation, which is how most people use watercolor sketchbooks.

Inside the Mairtini Watercolor notebook, there are 24 sheets of very thick 300 GSM watercolor paper, all of which are perforated except the first and last pages, which are glued to the end sheets. The spine is a bit stiff and needs some breaking in so that the notebook can open fully flat.

I fiddled around with some water soluble markers and watercolor paints using a mop brush and a water brush, and also tried my Platinum Carbon Ink pen. The paper seemed to hold up well, not warping too much or disintegrating with lots of wet overlapping brush strokes. For my purposes, I’d say this paper is great, but I’m not an expert watercolor user. The reviews on Amazon are mostly positive, though a few users seemed to have issues with the paper for certain kinds of watercolor techniques. There wasn’t the least bit of show-through from any of these materials.

The current price for the Mairtini watercolor notebook is $11.99 on Amazon, significantly less than comparable products from Moleskine or Stillman & Birn, but not necessarily the cheapest watercolor sketchbook available on Amazon. I’ve seen other watercolor notebooks with 300 GSM paper listed at $9.99 or $10.99 (I haven’t tried them, but you can see some other watercolor sketchbooks I’ve reviewed here and here if you are interested in portrait format watercolor sketchbooks).

So what is the verdict on this notebook? I’ll probably end up using it someday as it seems to work fine and nothing about it really bothers me too much. It’s not the best or the worst. It’s not the cheapest or the most expensive. I can’t say there is anything about the Mairtini / Chris W Watercolor notebook that is really special or unique or distinctive, to be honest! I bought it out of curiosity so if you are curious too, go ahead and try one! Or maybe I’ve saved you the trouble…

Joan Didion’s Notebooks

It looks like Joan Didion would qualify as a Notebook Addict of the Week— she left behind at least 38 blank notebooks when she died. Joan Didion’s notebooks are being sold as part of an auction of many of her belongings, including books, artwork, furniture, sunglasses and more.

I’ve written about Joan Didion before– her essay “On Keeping a Notebook” is an essential read, and The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem are books that I’ve revisited many times over the years.

I had no idea what sort of notebooks Joan Didion used– she’s been famously photographed with cigarettes and her Corvette, but I don’t recall ever seeing an image of her holding or using a notebook. But from the auction catalog, it looks like she used Clairefontaine, Moleskine, and some other brands I couldn’t identify. I think I spotted an Emilio Braga notebook in one photo, and some notebooks with blue page edges that could have been made by Alwych.

NY Times, Oct. 28, 2022

It will be interesting to see what Joan Didion’s notebooks end up selling for. On the one hand, they are just ordinary blank notebooks, to which “from the library of Joan Didion” bookplates have been affixed– in some cases the bookplate is just stuck on to the shrinkwrap of unopened notebooks. But on the other hand, people are obsessed with Joan Didion and some of her fans would apparently pay money for even a paper clip that she’d touched. And the website for the auction seems to be crashing a bit today, perhaps from an overload of interested shoppers! Can’t say I’m not tempted myself…

Read more about Joan Didion’s notebooks and the rest of the estate sale in this weekend’s New York Times: Joan Didion’s Life in Objects

Nicolas V. Sanchez Sketchbooks

Nicolas V. Sanchez does amazing drawings in sketchbooks, using ballpoint pens with stunning skill and delicacy. I love the section of his website where he presents a series of notebooks he’s filled with his incredibly vibrant drawings:

See more at Nicolas V. Sanchez– Books and on Instagram at @nicolasvsanchez .

Notebook Addict of the Week: John Rogers

I found this week’s notebook addict via a blog post by our previous addict, Warren Ellis.

He linked to this Twitter thread , where screenwriter John Rogers talks about methods for notebook-keeping, and shared the photo below:

It accompanies his first principle of notebook-keeping:

First, a dedicated notebook for every project. This notenbook is creative — questions, rebreaks, notes from the room that require in-depth consideration, etc. This is the creative/thinking space.

In addition to the project notebooks, he has a notebook where he tracks “EVERYTHING,” across all projects. His system seems to have elements of Bullet Journaling and GTD, but he’s added and changed things to come up with his own workflow for his own unique needs. He’s obviously given it a lot of thought, as he also has a notebook dedicated to ideas about his workflow! A notebook for ideas about notebooks… now why didn’t I think of that?!

Vintage Looseleaf Notebook Made by Wilson Jones

This looseleaf notebook was a recent eBay purchase. I bought it because it was a pocket size looseleaf from the 1950s, described as being 3×5″, and the brand name was unfamiliar. That was interesting enough to me, and the notebook wasn’t expensive, so I thought it would be nice to have it in my collection of very similar looseleaf notebooks from different brands/eras. But when I received the notebook in the mail, it was a surprise to see that it was actually quite different from any of my other refillable notebooks.

This is the smallest 6-ring pocket binder I’ve ever seen. (There are similarly sized Japanese binders like Plotter‘s Mini 5 size, but they only have 5 rings.) I thought my DaVinci binder was pretty small, but this is smaller. Though the ring spacing is standard, it’s the binder that is 3×5″ (actually more like 3 1/16 x 4 13/16″) not the paper, which is only 2 1/2 x 4 1/2″. I haven’t been able to find any listings for paper this size being sold today.

Wilson Jones looseleaf between pocket Moleskine and Nolty diary

It was made by Wilson-Jones, as you can see from the brand mark inside the cover, which shows the model #310-02. Inside, there are textured black end pages, then a 1958-1959 calendar page, and blue lined paper.

Wilson-Jones made various kinds of binders and office supplies. I found a listing for a similar, larger binder on Etsy.

It looks like Wilson Jones still exists as a brand name, as part of the Acco conglomerate (which also owns Mead, Esselte, At-a-Glance, Derwent, Daytimer, Hilroy, Five-Star, Swingline and other office and craft supply brands). According to the company history on Acco’s website, Wilson-Jones was founded in 1893 and was the inventor of the three-ring binder. (This is disputed by a history of the company at the Made in Chicago Museum.)

A few pages of my notebook turned out to have been written on in pencil. The writing is a bit hard to read, but from what I can make out, the original owner of this notebook must have been a farmer, as there are references to a “John deer” seeder, grass seed, a pasture, oats, and a pig barn. Some of the notes are dated in the 1960s. Maybe there used to be more notes that were torn out before the notebook was sold, or else the farmer wasn’t very consistent about writing things down. The notebook does show signs of wear and tear from being used, but doesn’t seem as grubby and beaten up as you’d expect it to be if it had been in a farmer’s pocket all the time.

I’m glad I stumbled across this little notebook. I love vintage notebooks as an excuse to explore the history of the many independent office supply companies that are now long gone, and I’m always happy to have an unusual one in my collection.

Marlon Brando’s Notebook

You’d think a headline like “Marlon Brando’s Little Black Book” would have caught my eye, but I missed this article on Slate when it was published in 2013.

Marlon Brando dropped this battered address book on the stage of New York’s Barrymore Theatre while appearing in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1949.

The loss of the book must have been significant to the young actor. Brando scrawled on the flyleaf: “On bended knee I beg you to return this. I lost eight others already and if I lose this I’ll just drop dead!”

Slate, “Marlon Brando’s Little Black Book,” by Rebecca Onion

I’d love to see more of this little address book, or the eight others that Brando says he lost! It is part of the collection at the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, which sounds like an amazing collection that must include a lot of other interesting notebooks.

Notebooks, journals, sketchbooks, diaries: in search of the perfect page…