Category Archives: Grandluxe

What I Am Using Now

A commenter on a recent post asked what notebooks I was using for my business and personal notes. The notebook I was referring to in that post was a pocket-sized squared Moleskine, one of my hoard of old ones from before their quality declined so much. That is my daily catch-all notebook for journal entries, lists and assorted jottings. I don’t always put a lot of work-related notes there– usually just the kinds of long term, big picture things that are causing me enough anxiety that I am thinking about them outside the office!

For my day-to-day work notes, I keep a larger size notebook on my office desk. I write to-do items on the front of the page, and meeting notes on the back of the page, mostly. This has been a pretty good system in terms of being able to find notes by the date when I wrote them. I supplement my list-keeping with an app (on my phone and web-based on my desktop) called TickTick, where I store longer-term notes and to-do items. The work notebooks tend to last me a while so over the last couple of years, I have only gone through 3: a Doane Paper notebook, a Grandluxe A4 size Earth Care Note Folder, and currently, I am using the Appointed notebook I reviewed here.

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I always like to use something with a wire-o binding, so I can fold the cover to the back neatly. And it is ideally letter-sized, so I can tuck other papers into it. The Appointed one is a bit small for that, but I like the paper and am enjoying using it. The smaller grid pattern makes me tend to write very small, as I also did in the Doane Paper notebook. I love the way this ends up looking– the pages are densely covered with print and doodles, so there’s a lot of texture in a way that I find satisfying. The Grandluxe notebook was lined in a wider rule, so it didn’t encourage the same kind of density.

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My other frequently used notebooks right now are a Moleskine sketchbook (again an old Modo e Modo one) for daily drawings, a pocket-sized landscape format watercolor notebook from Pentalic for occasional painting, and a Field Notes for jotting down words and assignments in my French class. I also have a HandBook Journal in progress with occasional sketches but I haven’t been using it very often. Here’s a few random recent pages from my Moleskine sketchbook and squared notebooks:

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I am about to finish my squared Moleskine, so I have to think about what to use next– I have a few other options that I have in a pile as possible daily drivers. Many are softcover and I am not sure if they’ll hold up as well. I do still love my old Moleskines, but I try to force myself to rotate in other brands, if only to extend the lifespan of my stash!




Review and Giveaway: New Monologue Notebooks

I’ve reviewed Monologue notebooks from Grandluxe a couple of times on this site, and I’m always happy to receive samples of their new products. These arrived recently, and while they are not at first glance drastically different from other Monologue products, they offer some neat new features.
These first two journals are pretty close to others that I’ve reviewed before, but they add an elastic pen loop. The cover overhang on the side is a little bigger than usual to help keep your pen or pencil neatly tucked in. They also have 100 gsm blank pages, instead of the 80 gsm lined pages that most Monologue notebooks have.

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Then there is the Contrast Ruled Notebook. I think the “contrast” just refers to the color of the elastic closure and the ribbon marker vs. the cover– in this case you get a bright orange and a rich brown. The cover is not real leather but almost has the look of a smooth leather. Inside, it has ruled pages, and is basically just like a lot of other journals except for this one brilliant detail: the elastic closure wraps around horizontally!

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I’ve tested out a couple of other notebooks where the elastic diverged from the usual vertical approach– there’s the Piccadilly Primo journal where it is a loop that attaches to the spine, and the Art Alternatives Sketch & Draw sketchbook, where it wraps diagonally around the top corner. Then there’s the Makr notebook, which has two diagonal elastics. All of these look nice, but seem a bit awkward. But the Monologue method of wrapping it around from a mid-point on the two covers works perfectly! You can tuck a pen in under in, but more importantly to me, you can wrap it around the spine of the notebook and it stays completely out of the way.

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It’s just the right length so it doesn’t flop around. It probably even helps the notebook lie flat and stay open. And the off-center placement looks quite nice, I think. 4 sizes and 8 color combinations are available.

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It is so clever and practical, I’m amazed that all notebooks aren’t made this way, and that I’ve never seen one like it before. I love it, love it, love it.

The rest of the notebook is nicely made too– my only beef with it is that the cover overhang is quite pronounced, and I always prefer the pages to come right up to the edges of the cover. But that is my personal quirk that I know a lot of people don’t share.

This is just a quick review so I haven’t done full pen tests on these notebooks. The paper in the Contrast Ruled notebook seems similar to that used in the other Grandluxe products I’ve reviewed. So all 3 of these notebooks are in pristine condition and ripe for a giveaway!

I’ll select 3 winners, chosen randomly from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Monologue Notebooks @ilovemonologue @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @ilovemonologue.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Monologue page and post something containing the words “Monologue Notebooks” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Monologue Notebooks” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday July 24, 2015 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

A Family Notebook Business

A neat story about Winnie Chan, a member of the family who owns Grandluxe (some of whose products I’ve reviewed.)

“Some children shun their family business or become reluctant successors.

Not Ms Winnie Chan. In fact, her childhood dream was to join her family’s bookbinding business, Grandluxe.

“Growing up, my ambition was to be my dad’s secretary,” Ms Chan, who is in her 40s, tells SundayLife! with a laugh. Her father, Mr Percy Chan, 68, is chairman of Grandluxe.

Her dream even had an impact on her education. Her computing science project for the A levels was based on a study of Grandluxe’s payroll system and she opted to read economics at the University of California as it seemed most practical for when she returned to the company.

Her elder sister is a piano teacher and is not involved in the business.

Grandluxe is a traditional bookbinding business started in 1945 by her grandfather in a small shophouse at Mohamed Sultan Road.

Over the past 70 years, the business has grown from a tiny outfit producing hand- sewn paper stationery to a company that has five brands under its belt and manufactures paper and leather goods for companies in more than 30 countries worldwide.

Still, despite her bushy-tailed enthusiasm, the journey to become general manager was not a bed of roses for Ms Chan, who joined as a sales executive in 1994….”

Read more at  Taking over family’s bookbinding business a childhood dream come true – More Lifestyle Stories News & Top Stories – The Straits Times.

Some Notebooks on Kickstarter

Here’s a few recent and in some cases still active Kickstarter notebook projects you might want to check out:


Stateside Co. Notebooks

Attractive design, but those intricate cut-outs on the cover will be trashed the first time you put the notebook in a bag or pocket. Deadline for funding is August 14, 2014. They’re already past their goal.


The Perfect Sketchbook for Travel Artists and Art Enthusiasts

“Perfect” is a big word to live up to, but this looks interesting. High quality paper and a few extra features not seen in other notebooks, such as a value chart. Grandluxe, whose notebooks I’ve reviewed before, will be a partner in manufacturing. I was intrigued enough to pledge $20. Deadline for funding is Thursday August 21, 2014. As of this writing, they’re at about $15,000 pledged towards a $50,000 goal.

The Sketchy Notebook

This was already successfully funded, well exceeding the initial goal. Nice concept– a notebook with plain paper that comes with a set of templates for different line and grid patterns. You slide them behind the page you’re using and the pattern shows through as a guideline. Does that mean the paper is too thin for a lot of pens? Perhaps, but this should appeal to a lot of people anyway.


Other past notebook projects I’ve funded:

LatLon Notebooks

Furrow Books

Both of these successfully exceeded their funding goals, but I haven’t yet received any notebooks to actually review. I hope they’ll be shipping soon!


Grandluxe Notebooks Review and Big Giveaway!

My jaw dropped when I opened the box of samples sent to me by the folks at Grandluxe— it was huge and heavy and full of tons of notebooks! Let’s take a look at the wide variety of products Grandluxe so generously shared, many of which I had never seen in stores. (If you don’t see these stocked at your local retailers, you can order via Grandluxe’s online store.)

First we have these Monologue notebooks, which come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Take note, those who have asked about super-tiny notebooks!


Next we have the Platinum collection. They are the same standard format as the Monologue notebooks above, ruled paper with elastic closure, ribbon markers and inside pockets, but with the fun twist of a metallic look to the cover and page edges:


Next up, the Monologue Jotter, in two sizes. A ballpoint pen is included in its own loop within the cover. It’s nice that they do it this way, as it keeps the exterior looking nice and neat. On the small notebook, it means the pages are narrower within the cover. In the larger size, the pages have a notch cut out of them for the pen. I think this works better in the small size, as there is something weird about the page having that cut-out. The pages seem to be a mix of formats, either lined or a framed blank space.


The Deja Vu notebooks have a square-cornered design, with no elastic closure, ribbon or pocket. The cover is said to be “jersey soft fabric,” and it does have a similar look to an old weathered t-shirt, though I’d describe the feel as a bit more like velour. The pages are lined on one side, blank on the other, another feature that many people seem to look for.


The Ideology notebooks are spiral bound, but glued into a snap-close leatherette cover. Again pages are blank on one side, ruled on the other. I did a pen test on this one. The paper is nice and smooth, and bright white. Show through is a bit worse than average, as is bleed-through. The Super Sharpie even marked the following page a bit.



Then we have the Monologue Sketchpad. This is an unusual format, with a block of sketch paper on one side of the cover, rather than bound into the spine. The outside cover is a sort of nubuck texture with an attractive embossed design. The first page has the cloth tape wrapping around onto it, but the other pages are just glued in, so they can be easily removed. Perhaps a little too easily, as the one I tested my pens on came loose while I was taking photos. The pages can be opened quite flat until you get further towards the back of the sketchbook, when the binding makes it difficult to open all the way. The paper is said to be 140 GSM and suitable for charcoal, chalk, graphite, pencil, pastel, oil pastel, wax crayon, red chalk, acrylic, collage, oil, marker, spray, tempera. They didn’t mention ink pens or watercolors, so that’s what I tested! The paper has a bit of tooth so is not ideal for fine gel ink pens but worked well with everything else. Very good on show-through and bleed-through. Watercolors seemed fine too, and the page where I laid down a wet wash didn’t buckle too much.


Grandluxe is also getting into the game of city notebooks, similar to Moleskine’s. They are smaller and thinner than the Moleskine ones, and have a textured cover with the city name in metallic ink. It’s on the spine in metallic ink too, which is nice– the Moleskine City Notebooks have such a subtle stamped city name on the spine, you have to look really closely to see which city they’re for. Inside you get some maps and city info– less extensive maps than Moleskine, but they do add some narrative about top attractions and how to get around, which Moleskine doesn’t have. For the write-in section, there are useful pages such as a pre-departure checklist, which reminds you to have your mail diverted and leave extra keys with friends, etc, as well as a separate packing checklist. There are other pages for things like a listing of your traveller’s checks, which I don’t know how many people would actually use, expenses, recommended things to see, calendar pages, notes pages, address pages, and blank pages. There is a ribbon marker, back pocket and elastic closure. I personally prefer the format of the Moleskine books as they offer more ability to customize sections of pages, better maps, 3 ribbon markers and extras such as stickers and translucent overlays so you can write on maps without ruining them. But the Grandluxe offers some cities Moleskine doesn’t. (Moleskine seems to have discontinued producing most cities other than London, Paris, New York and Berlin, but I don’t think they ever offered Bangkok, Sydney, Shanghai or Singapore.)


The rest of the samples are other assorted notebook and sketchbook styles that I won’t go into detail on, except for one, which was my absolute favorite of this whole bunch. Knowing my tastes, you’d think my favorite would be a pocket-sized perfect-bound notebook or sketchbook with a black cover and blank or squared pages and no cover overhang, blah blah blah… but actually, it is none of those things!


Here’s my favorite: the A4 size Earth Care Recycled Note Folder. It has a partially covered wire-o binding. The outside cover is a green cardboard, not too heavy. The front cover has an extra fold, with a pocket on the inside. The paper is lined, with a box at the top for the date or subject. The paper is nice and smooth and feels great with gel ink pens. And though it feels quite thin and fine, it’s actually great on show-through and bleed-through, with barely a trace of anything but the dreaded Super Sharpie. For me, this will be the perfect notebook to use at work– I like having a big page for lists and notes from meetings, and it will be great to be able to tuck some extra pages in the front pocket. I’ll use the front flap to tuck around the pages I’ve already used and mark my current page. This will live on my desk and get a ton of everyday use as soon as I finish the large Doane Paper Idea Journal I’m currently using.


Now it’s time to give away some of these lovely samples, and with so many of them, it’s going to be a massive giveaway! A prize pack of at least 3 assorted notebooks each will go to 6 lucky winners randomly selected from entries received in any of the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Grandluxe,” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow “@NotebookStories.”

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Grandluxe page, and post something containing the words “Grandluxe” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Grandluxe” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday Feb. 7, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.


Questions from Readers

Once again, I’m rounding up some questions from various readers who are in search of their perfect notebook. Help them if you can by leaving a comment!
From Landon: I really like the filofax pocket cover you showed a couple of years ago. I have been looking for something exactly like that for a long time. Do you know anyone who makes them similar to the one you have pictured?

I think he means this one below (details in this post), and I wish I did know where you could buy one like it today! I haven’t seen anything even close in years. Filofax made an extra-slim notebook a few years ago, but the leather wasn’t as nice, and they no longer seem to produce it.

From Diana: Looking for an old steno notebook with Gregg shorthand symbols on it

Not sure about this, eBay might be the best source. None of the current steno notebooks I’ve seen seem to include a reference chart of symbols.

From Jane: I was wondering if you happen to know of a cheaper alternative to an Xtra Small Moleskine.
Grandluxe and Leuchtturm both make extra small notebooks. Leuchtturm’s seem to have the same $9.95 suggested retail price as Moleskine. The Grandluxe Monologue notebook prices vary on Amazon– sometimes more, sometimes slightly less. They are harder to find in stores in the US. Coincidentally, a reader named Todd recently wrote to me with some tips on finding smaller notebooks, recommending this EDC Forum thread, which led him to the Scully Planner. It’s not cheap, but it’s refillable.
From Sarah: I’m looking for an A5 notebook with blank or dotted pages that are numbered. I know the Leuchtturm pages are numbered, but I’m wondering if they work with Micron Pigma pens (my preferred pen). I’ve seen various reviews. I want a notebook I can use with the Micron pen and not worry about drying times or using both sides of the paper. Any idea if Leuchtturm would work? Or an alternative?
I haven’t tested a Leuchtturm recently, and when I reviewed one a few years ago, I only tested a Pigma brush pen. The notebook I reviewed had a lot of show-through, but I’d heard they upgraded the paper since then. Maybe other Leuchtturm  users can chime in here?
From Edward: A few years ago I bought a simple black notebook. I am about to fill mine up, and can’t recall where I purchased it. I have been searching the internet, which is how I found your site, and was hoping you might have an idea of where it is from.
Description: Hard Smooth Cover
Color: Black
Paper: Unruled, Very White, and the paper is high quality & thick
Cover Size: 8 1/2″ x5 5/8″
Page size: Roughly, 8 1/4″ x5″
 I think the most unique thing about this notebook is that it came with a single page of glossy, lined paper, which can be inserted behind a page in the notebook, as a guide for writing clean, straight lines.
The only notebook I can think of that comes with an extra sheet of paper like that is the Emilio Braga notebook I bought in Portugal, reviewed here. I feel like I’ve seen others that had it, but I can’t remember where!
From Drew: I was looking to get a recommendation for a notebook. I’m hoping for something with a significant number of pages, rather large, ruled or gridded, with either a spiral spine or a spine that allows the book to stay open on a given page. I was thinking about getting an XL Rollbahn notebook (10.25 x 8; 180 pages). Do you have any ideas?
This is another tricky one, as most of the notebooks I can think of are smaller and thicker, or larger but with fewer pages, or they are sketchbooks with unlined pages. Maybe some of Miquelrius’s notebooks would fit the bill, though? They have an academic notebook with 250 sheets, among other MR Evolution notebooks that all seem to have over 200 sheets. The Doane Paper Large Idea Journal is also worth checking out– it’s only got 100 sheets, but it feels very substantial and has a nice wire-o binding. I use one at the office and love it!
From Alex: I have a question about a seemingly hard to find sketchbook. As an architect and furniture designer, I am looking for a dot grid sketchbook with heavy weight paper that will prevent showthrough. I use the Leuchtturm large size (5.75” x 8.25”; 80 gsm) but my ink drawings show through so I have to skip every other page for the drawings to be legible. It’s also too small for large drawings. I am considering the Leuchtturm master size which has a dot grid and 100 gsm paper. I am not sure if that is heavy enough. Do you know of a large format (bigger is better) sketchbook with dot grid paper in the 125-150 gsm range?
The only thing I can think of to recommend are Rhodia pads and webnotebooks, as they have dot grid options and the paper is usually good for showthrough. You can’t always judge by gsm alone, as other factors about the paper can affect showthrough and bleedthrough.
Thanks for all your emails and sorry I can’t always answer them. Let’s hope our readers can help!

New Homes

… for me and my notebooks! I’ve been posting a little less frequently lately because I’ve been very busy preparing for a move to a new home. My notebooks, of course, are all coming with me, and I’ve been trying to organize them better in the process. For years, I’ve stored them all in shoeboxes, some of which were starting to break down a bit, so I decided to try using larger under-bed plastic boxes. Here’s one of them:

I also got a larger wheeled box for bigger sketchbooks. I’m not sure I’ll stick with this approach– for one thing, all these plastic boxes have angled sides, so they aren’t as efficient as I’d like for storing notebooks. A larger box like this also gets really heavy when it’s stuffed with notebooks! I am always saving shoeboxes so I may end up transferring some notebooks back into newer, sturdier ones, we’ll see… My old apartment had more closet shelves where I could store all my boxes of notebooks, but in my new space, I have to spread them around a bit more– some in a cabinet, some on a shelf, and some under the bed.

Where do you store your notebooks?

Reader Questions

It’s time yet again to crowdsource some of the “help me find this notebook” pleas I get, as well as some other tidbits from the mailbag:

Zachary wonders “is it wrong that I saw the movie Thor over the weekend and left realizing I really wanted to find out what type of notebook Natalie Portman’s character was using?”

Rebecca is “hoping you may be able to help me with a search for grandluxe’s Urban Jello notepad? I bought this pad on holiday in Kinokuniya in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, and then realized it’s the perfect notepad…. And I really want to buy several but can’t find any stockist anywhere! The notepad is A4 size, spiral bound with a clear plastic spiral rather than wire, and the paper is lined on one side and blank on the other which is perfect as I often have to draw pictures and take notes at the same time. Do you have any ideas on how to get hold of them? I’m based in the UK but happy to pay shipping.” Has anyone seen these anywhere?

Dave sends a link to an interesting leather-bound journal.

Andres shares his Moleskine art on his blog.

Mo points out a link to a book called “I Draw Cars,” which has a cool moleskine-ish look to it, and raised a ton of money on Kickstarter!

Laiameg shares a link to her handmade notebooks.

 And John shared a link to this beautiful map in a notebook:

“On July 15, 1806, Zebulon Pike began his expedition to expore the
southwest region of the Louisiana Purchase. Shown here is a map from
one of his notebooks.”

Thanks for all the questions, tips and suggestions everyone!

Questions from Readers

Here’s a few questions that have come in lately– I need help from all you other notebook lovers!

From Zack:

I really like taking notes when learning. It helps me map out math in my head a lot better than just thinking about it. I’ve been looking for a good large-sized notebook to write in, maybe around A4 sized paper. Can you suggest some? Cost might be an issue, due to being a student.

There are certainly lots of good options for a notebook this size–Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Doane Paper’s large Idea Journal, Whitelines— but they might be a little pricey for a student budget. What’s your favorite lower-priced notebook?

From Park, a similar question:

Hi do you know of any notebooks that WILL NOT BLEED?  I am an excessive notetaker for school and it is extremely vexing when the paper I am using bleeds… Do you have any recommendations of standard sized notebooks that will not bleed? Thanks!

I’m guessing this means an A4 or 8.5×11″ size notebook since this is for school use. Again, Rhodia or Clairefontaine would be good bets, though a bit more expensive than what most students probably want to pay. If you can use something smaller and aren’t worried about price, I’m sure the Hitlist notebook I reviewed recently wouldn’t disappoint!

From Rowland:

I read something a while ago about a ‘notebook’ which opened out sort of Japanese fashion – but into an A3 size – I think they were made and distributed in Singapore.
Any ideas?

I can’t think of any Japanese (accordion fold-out) notebooks other than Moleskine’s, so I’m stumped… below are some more tough ones!

From Rick:

I use a leather-refillable journal for notes, etc, and I tear out used pages, so I am looking for one that has perforated pages to make a clean tear. Do you know of any that are like that?

From Paige:

Hello! I am a high school science teachers, and I want to recommend a notebook for my students for the upcoming year. I would ideally like something like a composition book (where pages aren’t easily removable) that has lined AND blank pages- maybe lined on the front, blank on the back. I will be teaching Astronomy and Earth science, and the notes will be heavy on drawings and sketches, so I want my students to not feel limited by the lines on the page.

TeNeues CoolNotes and Grandluxe Dialogue notebooks have pages that are lined on only one side, but I doubt these are easy enough to find or cheap enough for most high school students, and they’re smaller than a composition book.


Thanks to all my lovely readers for any help or advice you can provide!

Ryman Notebook

Yet another proprietary brand notebooks, this time from UK office supply store Ryman’s. I keep thinking there must be just a few factories in China that churn out identical notebooks and people just slap their own branding on them! This one looks like it has a soft, smooth cover similar to the Monologue notebook I reviewed. But here it’s in a nice brown color.

Anyway, I’m not complaining– the more brands of notebooks, the better, even if some of them are the same underneath the wrapper!

More details here: Ryman Notebook A6 Ruled Soft Feel 192 Pages 96 Sheets.