Saturday, September 5, 2015

Notebook Review: Papernotes Classic Notebooks

Imagine stumbling upon an Inbox that has not been opened or checked in the last three years. Imagine a thousand of unread email messages. Imagine rushing to reply to each of those thousand email messages. That happened to me when I mistakenly and unknowingly cancelled the forwarding feature for my blog's email address three years ago. I completely forgot about it for a long time, and when I remembered to check the email account, I had more than a thousand email messages!

I was unaware that people were sending me comments and questions, and also offering to send new products to review here. One of those who offered to send products for review is Papernotes, a startup company in Manila, Philippines that makes quality notebooks at affordable prices. 

When I learned that I could get two incredible notebooks, I chose orange and blue.

Papernotes makes the Classic Notebook Series, available in six different colors of black, white, grey, red, blue, and orange. A Classic notebook has 160 lined pages, and measures ~5.25 in × 8.25 in, shorter than a large Moleskine, but just as wide.

Papernotes uses soft, textured polyurethane (PU) as cover for their Classic notebooks. PU is described as 'synthetic leather,' and while it is soft and can be folded, it is sturdy enough like real leather.

The Classic notebook has a pen loop attached to the back cover. A nice feature, the loop can hold a slim to medium sized pen. People who tuck their pens in their notebooks can now easily slide them into their notebooks' loops. I tried putting a Lamy Al Star in the pen loop, but stopped because the elastic is a little tight and I thought it might scratch my pen.

The notebook's elastic closure is firm, but not too tight that it will cramp the soft cover. It's just right to hold the pages together, and notches on the covers keep the elastic closure in place.

The Papernotes team's thoughtful touch: notches to keep the elastic closure in place.
The Classic notebook's elastic closure is just as wide and thick as that of a Rhodia Webbie (orange notebook at the bottom) or a Moleskine (top of the Webbie). The other notebook in this pile is a TWSBI.

Each Classic notebook has a single color theme for its cover, pen loop, elastic band, and page marker. The long page marker is silk ribbon and has a width of 0.25 in.

I'm happy that these notebooks have round page corners. Notebooks with pointed corners are sharp and fray easily.

The pages of the Classic notebooks are smyth sewn, to ensure page security and flexibility. Sewn pages open completely flat, and they also look tidier. 

The inside cover page of the Classic notebook.

Papernotes also included a back pocket to their notebooks. Back pockets are useful to some, but I rarely use them because their contents create bulges and make it uncomfortable to write on the notebook's pages.

The Classic notebooks have 100gsm wood-free paper. Wood-free paper went through a chemical process where most of the wood pulp is removed. It is not an environmentally sound process, but wood-free paper lasts longer and is not susceptible to yellowing and discoloration.

Classic notebooks are all ruled, and use the college (medium) ruling of 0.7mm. 

I was really excited to try this notebook's 100gsm paper and filled a page with different fountain pen and ink combinations. I also included some of my gel pens. After the inks have dried, I was surprised to see that ink from most of my broad-nibbed pens did not bleed on the Papernotes Classic notebook. Some pens and ink bled, though, but they are only minimal. I am happy to see that most of my daily carry pens are drying well in this notebook.

I was not able to do a proper test for inks' drying times, but I did not have any problems with drying when I did the pen and ink tests.

I tested 11 fountain pens + inks combinations in this 100gsm paper.
Three out of the 11 combinations showed minimal bleed, but that's alright. 
The Classic notebook is a beautiful notebook. Thank you, Papernotes!

Overall, the Classic Notebooks by Papernotes are of good quality and suitable for fountain pen use. They are simple, attractive, and elegant. They have soft flexible covers, an elastic closure to keep the pages together, the pages have round corners, and the paper is suitable for many pen types. These notebooks are perfect for note taking and journaling, and they are very affordable at only PhP225 each! (That's roughly US$4.80.)

To get these notebooks you place your orders through the Papernotes Facebook page at They ship to anywhere in the Philippines and outside the country.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Notebook Review: Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition

I've been using my regular-sized Traveler's Notebook since 2011, and I am happy with the customization I have done with it. A brown TN looks nice, but I kept to my black notebook because it looked better and better as I used it. In February, I read Midori's announcement of a new TN in blue leather, and I was smitten.

The announcement said that the Limited Edition Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition will be available in April. After a number of delays due to limited stocks, I finally got my Blue TN from Scribe Writing Essentials in June. The Blue TN is beautiful, and because I have not written a notebook review in two years, it seemed the perfect notebook for a new review.

The release of the limited edition Blue TN marks the transition of the Traveler's Notebook gradually dropping off the Midori name from its branding. Instead of the old brand Midori Traveler's Notebook, it is now called the 'Traveler's Notebook'.

The Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition is available for a limited time in 2015, according to the Traveler's Notebook and Company. It comes only in regular size (5.12 x 8.27 inches).

Like other TNs, the Blue Edition is packaged in a neatly folded box, held together by a blue elastic band. Flyers about the notebook and leather care are included in the packaging.

Inside the folded box are the following: a cotton case for the notebook, genuine cowhide leather notebook cover, notebook refill, and a spare blue elastic band.

This limited edition Traveler's Notebook features a uniquely beautiful leather cover in deep, dark blue. Why blue for the 2015 TN? The Traveler's Notebook and Company gave several reasons for coming up with a Blue TN, citing artists such as Picasso and Yves Klein whose signature color is blue. The news release said that the company's inspiration came from the indigo sky right before dawn, when the first beam of sunlight peeks into the horizon.

The leather cover of TNs is all hand-made in Chiangmai, Thailand. The genuine cowhide leather cover has a lovely texture and will develop character the more it gets used. The TN has a simple and elegant design with an elastic band along the spine inside the leather cover, secured with a tin clasp/fastener outside the cover. The band holds the notebook in place inside, while another band holds the notebook cover closed. 

The genuine cowhide leather of the Blue TN is smoother and softer than the leather in my older TN. I noticed though, that the Blue TN leather is easily scratched and scuffed.

A tin fastener holds both the TN's page marker, and the elastic band that holds the notebook refill inside.
The elastic band that holds the notebook refill inside is threaded in either ends of the leather cover.
The elastic band that holds the notebook covers together is thick and sturdy.

The regular notebook refill that comes with the Blue TN has Midori Diary (MD) paper. Made at the MD factory in Nagareyama, Northern Chiba, Japan, MD paper is one of the best fountain pen friendly paper in the market. The refill has 32 sheets (64 pages) of bleed-resistant and feather-resistant paper.

The TN's inside back cover. I will add more notebook inserts here.
The back cover holds the elastic band that keeps the notebook covers together.
At the back cover of the TN is the Traveler's Notebook logo.
New and old TNs. The new TN without the Midori name, which is in my old TN.

I have been closely following the blog and social media accounts of fellow TN enthusiast Patrick Ng. He was at the Global Gathering at the recent International Stationery and Products Fair in Tokyo, Japan, and he reported that the Traveler's Notebook brand is gradually dropping off the Midori name and will be called Traveler's Company. Traveler's Company will be an independent global brand from Midori.

Aside from the Blue Edition TN, Midori Japan also released a series of new products created in collaboration with the historic US national flag carrier Pan Am. During its operation, the airliner used blue as its corporate color, and the Pan Am items are the perfect accessories for the Blue Edition TN.

The complete set of Pan Am products includes two notebooks (blank and grid), zipper pocket, two sets of stickers, brass ballpoint pen, and pen holder. I wasn't able to get all of the accessories, but I got a blank notebook, a zipper pocket, and a set of stickers from Scribe Writing Essentials. 

The Pan Am logo is printed on the covers of the blue zipper pocket (left) and blank notebook refill (right).
Details of notebook refill and zipper pocket inserts.

The blank notebook refill has Pan Am images, including the logo used by the airline during their time of operation. The images are printed in sepia, instead of the usual dark gray, and I noticed that the Midori logo which used to be at the bottom of the inside cover page of previous TN refills has been taken out.

The inside of the zipper pocket is also printed with Pan Am logos. It can hold stuff in the left part, and various cards on the right. At the bottom is a space for the TN's owner's contact details.
The contents of the sticker set. I'd like to get the other set, too.

The Blue Edition TN and Pan Am accessories were released in Japan in April, and stocks have been sold out in the Traveler's Notebook and Company and in reseller stores, including Scribe Writing Essentials. A lot of people are still looking forward to owning a Blue TN, hopefully more stocks will come around.
Blockbuster hit: the Blue TN and Pan Am items are now mostly out of stock.

The Blue TN is a blockbuster hit! Watch out for when stocks get back in stores and get one for yourself. This special notebook is a must have for any TN enthusiast.

The Blue Traveler's Notebook used in this review is courtesy of Scribe Writing Essentials. The Limited Edition Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition, Pan Am accessories, and other TN accessories are available in Scribe's stores in Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, and SM Megamall. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fountain Pen Review: 2015 Lamy Safari Special Edition Neon Lime

The Lamy Safari fountain pen for 2015 is here, and no, it's not purple, but an intensely vivid and bright neon lime. Despite the disappointment of many Lamy followers over this Safari color, I still wanted one for my collection. When I saw the photos of the Neon Lime Safari, I knew that I had to get one, even if they say it's just another 'green Lamy' fountain pen.

Neon Lime is Lamy's Special Edition Safari pen for 2015. My Safari is a fountain pen, but the line also includes a rollerball and a ballpoint pen. Note that Lamy is marketing Neon Lime not as a 'limited edition' pen like the former ones, but as a  'special edition' Safari. I received the fountain pen in this review at no cost from Lamy's authorized and exclusive distributor in the Philippines, Times Trading Company

Neon Lime Safari pen box.

Lamy released the Neon Lime Safari fountain pen in a new packaging. Instead of the old plastic pen box, Lamy is now using laminated cardboard boxes for their special and limited edition pens. Neon Lime and the 2014 Neon Coral fountain pens came in two different cardboard boxes: the Neon Lime has a pullout inner box which slides out of the outer box, while the Neon Coral box has a removable top cover. The pen slot in the Neon Lime box ensures that the pen does not roll around inside the box.

Neon Coral Safari (2014) pen box.

The Neon Lime Safari fountain pen is very bright! I had to shoot photos a number of times to ensure that I will get one where the pen doesn't appear to be glowing, or washed out. It is as bright as the 2013 Neon, but a hint of green is noticeable when the two pens are side-by-side.

Lamy Safaris are student pens, and many fountain pen users have Safaris as their starter pens. These pens are made from the sturdy ABS plastic – the same material used in Lego blocks, gold club heads, keyboard keycaps, and inner walls of refrigerators. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian, this pen was first presented during the 1980 Frankfurt exhibition, and has been in Lamy's regular production since then. 

The Neon Lime Lamy Safari's parts are: barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), converter, and cap. Safari fountain pens measure 5.5 inches while capped, 5 inches uncapped, and 6.5 inches when posted. It's a light pen, and anyone can use it for extended periods of writing. The cap with the oversized chrome-coated stainless steel clip is 2.5 inches long, the length from the nib to converter is 4.6 inches, while the barrel measures about 3 inches. 

Lamy's proprietary piston operated Z24 converters are used to fill the Safari fountain pen with ink from a bottle, but T10 ink cartridges are also available. 

Lamy used a black top cap (others call the top cap a finial) for Neon Lime, which is similar to the top caps of previous limited edition Safaris: Lime Green (2008), Neon (2013) and Neon Coral (2014).

The photo below shows how Lamy used different styles of top caps in their limited and special edition Safari fountain pens. Some pens have 'X' (or '+') top caps, while others have a round button with a hole in the middle. Also notice that while the most common top cap is black, some pens have top caps in the same color as their bodies (barrel + cap), and others come with a different color top cap (e.g. Special Edition Lamy Safari for China, extreme right in the photo).

Some users find the Safari's triangular grip uncomfortable and annoying. This feature, however, is designed to make writing easier – it is meant for users to have a firm and secure grip on the pen. An anti-slipping brake near the end of the section prevents a user’s fingers from slipping into the nib while writing. I do not find the triangular grip uncomfortable at all. I actually do not notice it when I'm using my Safari pens.

The great thing about the Lamy Safari fountain pens is the interchangeability of their nibs. A Safari fountain pen uses the same feed and nib as those on the Vista, Al-Star, Joy, Nexx, and Studio. The Safari fountain pens bought in the Philippines have medium nibs, but other nib sizes are available: extra-fine, fine, broad, and left-handed. The Safari can also be fitted with an italic nib ranging from 1.1mm to 1.9mm. My Neon (2013) Safari is fitted with a 1.9mm nib and I use it as a highlighter pen. I think I will do the same conversion with my Neon Lime Safari.

The Safari fountain pen’s barrel has an ink window that allows me to check on my pen’s ink level without having to screw out the barrel from the section. Towards the top part of the barrel, neatly etched in clean, sharp lines is the Lamy logo.

In the last three or four years, Lamy has been badly criticized, mainly for the color theme that they opted for the limited edition Safari and Al Star pens. It is puzzling to many, particularly to collectors such as I am, that despite the great clamor for a purple Safari, Lamy repeatedly used green in different tints and shades: Lime Green, Green, Neon, and Neon Lime for the Safari; and Silver Green and Blue Green for the Al Star. While there is a Black Purple Al Star, no one really knows if a purple Safari will ever become a reality.

When Times Trading sent the Neon Lime Safari pen to me, they kindly included a bottle of Neon Lime ink, a matching ink color with the 2015 special edition pen.

The 50ml Neon Lime ink is in a Lamy T52 bottle that comes with a roll of blotter that can be used to clean the pen after filling, or to blot writing. The bottle has a small basin at the bottom, to allow filling when the ink level is low.

The T52 bottle can be removed from its base, which holds the roll of blotter tape.

If the Neon Lime pen is bright, the matching Neon Lime ink is even brighter! It's so bright that it seems to be glowing when I look at it. Perhaps Lamy created the Neon Lime fountain + ink matchup to launch a new highlighter pen!

Neon Lime ink in converter. It looks like something radioactive.

I tried to use the Neon Lime ink, but realized that it is not for regular, everyday writing. It will be more useful as a highlighter ink.

To test if the Neon Lime ink can be used for highlighting, I swapped the medium nib with a 1.9mm italic nib and used the pen to highlight some text in a book. It's a perfect highlighter ink! It's even better than the ink from a real highlighter because it is light and has more transparency.

Comparison of Neon Lime ink (left) vs. a real highlighter (right).

This Neon Lime Safari fountain pen and ink matchup is an awesome addition to my growing collection. I love using Safari fountain pens because they feel good in my hand as I write. They are light, but also very sturdy. And they come in many different colors! My Neon Coral fountain pen from last year still looks new and now I have the 2015 Safari in my hands. I'm still dreaming of a purple Safari, though, but don't let that keep anyone from getting one of this bright, happy pens. Go get yours now!  

Lamy Safari pens are widely available from pen sellers worldwide. For a global search of Lamy retailers, visit:

In the Philippines, the Neon Lime Lamy Safari (and other Lamy products) is made available by Times Trading Company, through their kiosks at National Bookstore branches around Metro Manila. Lamy pens are also available at Scribe Writing Essentials, a specialty store offering fountain pens, inks, and paper products, Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, and SM Megamall. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, visit
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