Monday, September 14, 2020

Notebook Review: Buke Owl Dot Grid Journal

It's always a joy finding beautiful notebooks with good quality paper that takes fountain pen writing really well. Getting them from local sellers? That's a godsend! I first heard about Owl Dot Grid Journals in our local fountain pen group, and later read good reviews from bullet journal enthusiasts. As I'm a broad and stub nib user, I got very curious about the notebook's 160gsm paper. I connected with Calligraphy Source, the local sellers of Owl Journals in the Philippines, and I got a yellow notebook to review a few days later.

Owl Bullet Journals are made by Buke Notebook, and they are available in the Philippines through Calligraphy Source in black, peach, turquoise, and yellow covers.  I was surprised by the yellow Owl Journal when I received it, but I like the lemon yellow cover and it makes me think of happy things to write on it.

The lemon yellow Owl Dot Grid Journal by Buke Notebook.

The Owl Journal's band has a surprise! The backside of the band has some handy tools that one can easily stash in the notebook's back pocket. There is a line weight guide, a protractor (measuring instrument for angles), and a paper compass.   

The Owl Dot Grid Journal is available in A5 size with a supple, silky, fine PU hardcover. Each notebook has 160 pages (80 sheets) of 160gsm ultra-thick bamboo paper and an expandable inner pocket in the inside back cover. It also has a matching elastic band, ribbon pagemarker, and pen loop. This notebook's pages are Smyth sewn (thread-stitched) and lays flat when open for easy writing. 

I love the lemon yellow cover of my Owl notebook. I can't remember having a yellow notebook before.
The Owl logo/branding is embossed in gold on the front cover. I hope it won't be scratched off later.
The logo of Buke Notebook is imprinted on the back cover.
The Owl Journal is thicker than most A5 notebooks because of its 160gsm paper. But the PU hardcover is supple so the notebook still lays flat when open.
The matching elastic closure of the Owl notebook is firm and strong to hold the covers and pages together.
The Owl Journal has round page corners. No sharp, pointed corners that get frayed and worn down easily.
The pages of this notebook are thread-stitched so they are secure and will not fall off the binding easily due to use.
The yellow Owl Journal has a matching ribbon pagemarker, just like its matching elastic band and pen loop.
The pen loop in this notebook is a nice touch. It keeps a pen handy all the time.
The inside cover page of the Owl Journal is blank. I was looking for the usual space to write my name and contact details. This is perfect for sketches and some ink art, though.
The Owl Journal has an expandable inner pocket attached to the back cover. 

Buke Notebook's Owl Dot Grid Journal has 160 pages (80 sheets) of 160gsm Ultra paper. Buke Notebook claims that the Ultra paper is excellent for fountains pens and ink, and does not show any feathering and bleeding. The dot grid in this notebook's pages is the standard 0.5x0.5mm spacing. The dots are printed in light gray so they are unobtrusive on the page while writing.

The Ultra paper used in Buke journals is excellent! To test the paper, I tried writing on it using my inked fountain pens, some gel pens, and a ballpoint. I learned the 160gsm paper is smooth but it's not too shiny, and it tolerates most of my fountain pens which all wrote beautifully. I did not see any feathering, and only minimal ghosting and bleeding. I also noticed that when I tried the paper in this notebook, all of my pens wrote smoothly, even the scratchy ones. 

Is the 160gsm paper in the Owl Notebook really good? It is!
I also tried a combination of ink art and text and I did not see any feathering or bleeding.

Buke Notebook's Owl Dot Grid Journal is a well-made notebook. It has a sturdy cover to withstand daily use, and strong binding to keep the pages together and avoid falling out. The matching cover, elastic band, page bookmarker, and pen loop is a nice touch, but this notebook's paper is the winner. The 160gsm Ultra paper is smooth, and perfect for journaling, calligraphy, note-taking, sketching, drawing, and painting. Get one for your pens!

The Owl Dot Grid Journal in this review has been provided by Calligraphy Source for review purposes, where it retails for PhP495.00. To purchase one for yourself, visit their online store:

Monday, August 31, 2020

Fountain Pen Review: Laban 325 Wisteria

In 2009, barely a year into full fountain pen use, I witnessed for the first time how fountain pen enthusiasts go crazy when they see notable personalities use fountain pens. On a world tour, then Pope Benedict XVI was seen signing a book using a Laban fountain pen, and many people just raved about it! Since then, I have learned that many personalities I admire use fountain pens: Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel, Princess Maha, to name a few. Seeing them using fountain pens helped me learn about these writing tools—brand, origin, material. After seeing Laban with the Pope, and for a very long time, I believed Laban is an Italian product. Until COVID-19 came along and the brand launched Write to Heal last May. It was only then that I realized Laban is not an Italian brand, but from a neighboring country to the Philippines – Taiwan!

Many of my friends at Fountain Pen Network Philippines joined Laban's Write to Heal, a fountain pen grab bag project to help frontline health workers. I missed joining the two campaigns, so I had to get a Laban pen to really know more about the brand and their products. I saw that my friends got different pens from the Laban 325 Collection, so I chose the newest pen from the series: Wisteria, an exquisite fountain pen in ivory and purple acrylic resin inspired by the purple Wisteria flower.

Laban 325 Wisteria

Reading about the company, I learned that Taipei-based Laban Pen Corporation is a young pen brand, founded in 1981 by John Hu and his brother Charles. John started the company by exporting paper products, gifts, and writing instruments. The brothers then built their own manufacturing plant with the goal of producing the highest quality Silver and Rhodium-plated writing instruments. Laban's initial releases were high-end pens such as the 1993 Filigree line of metal overlay pens using a specialized etching process.

Through the years, Laban has successfully established itself as a major pen brand. From 1997 to 1999, the brand was the exclusive manufacturer of the Vatican Museum line of pens and received the Best Writing Instrument of 2004 from the Royal Academy of Arts of the United Kingdom. In 2011, Laban was the Reader’s Choice Award in Pen World Magazine. But the most notable personality to use a Laban pen is probably Pope Benedict XVI when he signed that book in 2009!

The Wisteria comes in a classy blue pull-out box lined with soft white satin. An orange ribbon and two overlapping elastic bands hold the pen in place inside the box. Together with the fountain pen, the box also contains an ink converter, a warranty booklet, and Laban logo and Wisteria stickers.

Inside the box: fountain pen, warranty booklet, bookmark, Laban logo, and Wisteria stickers.

The Laban Wisteria pen is inspired by the elegant purple Wisteria flowers, the noblest color in Japan's  Heian period when the color purple was associated with the ruling class. The Wisteria flower clusters also symbolize "predetermined driving force between people." 

Aside from the purple Wisteria, Laban's 325 Collection offers other beautiful finishes with the signature ivory acrylic and gold trims: Black Cambridge, Burgundy Cambridge, Flame (red), Ocean (blue), Sun (orange), and Forest (green). All of the 325 finishes are also available as rollerball pens.

Laban Wisteria is a beautiful fountain pen. The combination of purple marble, ivory resin, and gold trims is classy. It shows sophistication and elegance. I am glad I chose this finish over the Sun (orange) pen because it has given me a better appreciation of the color purple.

The 325 Wisteria fountain pen has the following measurements:
  • Length, capped: 5.9 in | 15 cm
  • Length, uncapped: 5.15 in | 13 cm
  • Length, cap posted: 6.8 in | 17.2 cm
  • Length, barrel only: 3.6 in | 9.14 cm
  • Length, section to nib: 2.15 in | 5.5 cm 
  • Length, cap: 2.7 inches | 6.9 cm
  • Diameter, barrel: 0.51 in | 1.29 cm
  • Diameter, section: 0.41 in | 1.04 cm
  • Weight, capped: 34 g | 1.2 oz
  • Weight, uncapped: 13.5 g | 0.48 oz
  • Weight, cap only: 22.5 g | 0.78 oz

The Wisteria is a heavy pen especially with the cap on. It's heavier than a Mont Blanc 149 (32 g), Tibaldi N°60 (28 g), or a Lamy 2000 (18 g). It can be used for writing with the cap posted, but it will be top-heavy and that may affect one's writing comfort. Usually, posting makes pens uncomfortably long and top-heavy. Thankfully, the Wisteria can be used comfortably without the need to post the cap.

The Wisteria's cap, section + converter, and barrel.

The Laban 325's cap bears all the branding for this pen. The gold-plated clip is firm, sturdy, and holds the pen securely in place. Two slim gold bands sit on top of the clip, and a gold Laban medallion adorns the finial. Laban's logo is etched on the wide gold cap band. It is true that there's a lot of gold in this pen's cap, but that's fine with me, I actually love it!

This cap bears most of this pen's branding in gold. 
Laban's logo is etched on the wide cap band.
Laban's logo is etched on the wide cap band.
The Laban 325 Wisteria has a threaded metal section and threaded metal insert in the barrel, which adds to its durability and stability.
The Wisteria fountain pen can be filled with ink using cartridges or converters. A converter is included with each pen purchase, and their logo is printed on the converter.

Laban offers the 325 Wisteria with a size 6 nib made from gold-plated stainless steel manufactured by Jowo in Germany. The nib widths available are the following: EF, F, M, B, 1.5 stub, 14K flex EF, and 14K flex F. The markings on the nib includes "3952," Laban, "Germany" (place of nib manufacture) and "B" (nid width).

It took me a long time to figure out the meaning of "3952" on this pen's nib. Laban doesn't provide anything about it on their website, and I know it couldn't be the series name. Then I remembered that Platinum's use of 3776  refers to the elevation of Mount Fuji. So I did some research and looked for mountains in Taiwan that could have an elevation of 3,952 meters. I found it! 3952 comes from the elevation of Mount Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan, and the highest point in the western Pacific region outside of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The No. 6 Broad nib on the Wisteria wrote smoothly out of the box.

The 325 Wisteria is a standard full-length fountain pen, sharing almost the same length as a Bexley Intrepid or Edison Collier, though it is heavier. Its middle section is as thick as the Intrepid and Collier, but it's a well-balanced pen that is comfortable to use.

The Laban 325 Wisteria shares the same length as a Bexley Intrepid or Edison Collier.
Uncapped, the Wisteria is shorter than the Intrepid, and shares almost the same length as the Collier, TWSBI ECO, and Lamy Al-Star.
Gold-plated and two-toned gold nibs. From left: Bexley Intrepid (B), Edison Collier (B), Laban Wisteria (B), Dryad Pen (B), Platinum 3776 (B), and Conklin Duragraph™ (M).

To test how this beautiful purple fountain pen writes, I filled it with Lamy Dark Lilac, a matching purple ink. The pen wrote okay out of the box and I did not experience any hard starts, but I was not happy with it. I cleaned the pen and filled it with an old-time favorite purple ink, J. Herbin Poussière de Lune. It was a perfect match! I was in fountain pen writing heaven! With Poussière de Lune, the No. 6 broad nib wrote smoothly, there were no writing skips, no inky blobs, I had no trouble writing at all. I tested the pen and ink combination on several paper brands, and the best writing experience is (still) on Tomoe River paper. The Laban 325 Wisteria is such an enjoyable pen. It's elegant, classy, and one that can be used for long periods of writing without any discomfort.

The stainless steel Jowo Broad nib in Laban Wisteria fountain pen is a joy to write with, especially if it's paired with a wet ink such as J. Herbin Poussière de Lune. The nib just glides on the smooth Tomoe River paper. 

The Wisteria fountain pen can also be used to do ink art and simple shapes. I enjoyed doing the ink art on this page, along with this beautiful wedding poem by the English poet Wilfred Owen. I can't seem to explain it, but the moment I opened the box and saw the Wisteria fountain pen, I thought of a beautiful, romantic wedding. I felt like it's the perfect wedding pen! And for the review, I found the perfect wedding poem! Beautiful pen, lovely purple ink, meaningful love poem — it's a perfect combination!

I am very happy with the Laban 325 Wisteria fountain pen, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to explore and know this excellent brand from Taiwan. It's a beautiful pen and well-built for long-term use. Laban is dedicated to crafting excellent pens using only the best materials. Get one for your collection.

The Laban 325 Wisteria fountain pen is available at where it retails for around US$140 (EF to 1.5 stub) to US$280 (14K Flex EF and 14K Flex F). Aside from the 325 Collection, Laban also offers the following collections: Abalone, Antique, Antique'II, Canyon, Flora, Galileo, Mento, Mother of Pearl, Pocket Pen, Rosa, Skeleton, Solar, and Taroko. Laban offers pens in different materials including aluminum, brass, abalone, mother of pearl, resin, and silver.

To learn more about Laban, where to buy their pens, and for other details on purchasing their pens, visit their website at or follow them on social media:

Monday, August 17, 2020

Notebook Review: Endless Works Recorder Notebook

Not everybody shares the joy of writing with a fountain pen, and surely not everyone understands the happiness of finding paper products and notebooks that take fountain pens really well. When I shifted to full fountain pen use in 2008, finding suitable paper for pens and fountain pen inks became a challenge. Most of the local stationers did not carry such products, and some Pinoy fountain pen users had to import their notebooks. Since then, I have found paper products and notebooks that are friendlier to my fountain pens as more brands and manufacturers produced them and local stores made them available in the country.

As a broad and stub nib user, I have tried many notebooks with different paper types from various manufacturers. Some are local and others come from overseas. While some notebooks are well-crafted with excellent paper, most are not so. Through years of using fountain pens, I have selected a set of paper types and brands that are suitable for my nib preference, and one of them is Tomoe River, a high-quality paper resistant to bleeding and feathering. While on quarantine, I came across Endless Works, a premium stationery brand from India that uses Tomoe River paper in their Recorder notebooks. 

Packaged with love. Every Recorder notebook is shipped inside this lovely handmade cotton pouch. 

Endless Works sent a package that includes a cotton pouch, the Recorder, an Endless catalog, ToolKit, and Recorder ID. I read the story of Endless Works in the catalog, and it is as unique as their notebooks are. Endless Works started as two notebook loving people, Dheeraj and Aditya, management consultant and automobile engineer, tried to solve a simple problem: how to make a notebook that will be a place for ideas, dreams, sketches, or thoughts. Dheeraj and Aditya always use a notebook to record their thoughts, designs, and ideas. With their mutual passion for design and building products, they left their corporate careers to write a new page in their life—to build and design stationery with the user at the heart of it. Now let's meet the Recorder!

Meet the Recorder, designed to be the world's most ink-friendly notebook. 

Dheeraj and Aditya designed the Recorder to be the world's most ink-friendly notebook. Available in A5 size (8.3 × 5.6 inches), it has 187 numbered pages of white 68gsm Tomoe River paper suitable for fountain pens, inks, micron, and sketch pens. Tomoe River guarantees fountain pen writing with no bleeding and feathering, and its acid-free paper ensures the notebook's contents will last a long time. 

I received the Infinite Space dotted Recorder and the black leatherette cover looks classy and elegant.  It has a blank Table of Contents that one can easily fill out so it's easy to keep track of notes and ideas inside the notebook. The bright turquoise page marker would surely help anyone find their way through their Recorders. And if anyone needs a sheet of paper, there are 16 perforated sheets at the back of the notebook to tear without affecting the rest of the pages in the particular signature. Each notebook has an expandable inner pocket in the back cover to hold ephemera, receipts, tickets, and other bits of paper. It is also meant to store guide sheets from the ToolKit.

Endless Works offers the Recorder in four colors: "take anywhere" Infinite Space (black), "dense and subtle" Deep Ocean (dark blue), "head turner" Crimson Sky (red), and "wild" Forest Canopy (green). All four colors are available with ruled, dotted, squared, and blank pages. The dotted and squared layouts have 5mm spacing, and the ruled at 7mm.

The black leatherette cover of Infinite Space looks classy and elegant. Goes with anything, anywhere.
Imprinted on the leatherette of each Recorder's front cover is half of the Endless logo. The long line signifies content and the ellipsis (three dots) "proceeds to infinity."
The back of the Recorder is imprinted with the other half of the Endless logo.
The Recorder's leatherette cover is firm, but the spine folds comfortably so the notebook lays flat when open.
The elastic closure is firm, but not too tight. It's just right to hold the cover and pages together.
Happy to find the Recorder has round page corners. No sharp, pointed corners to bite into my hand and arm while writing. Also, rounded corners are less prone to fraying, so the cover and inside pages won't be worn down easily.
The pages of the Recorder are sewn so they are secure and lay flat when open. 
The bright turquoise silk ribbon page marker is used in all four versions of the Recorder. It helps you find your last spot in the notebook, or mark an important page. 
The inside cover page of the Recorder has space where you can write your contact details.
The Recorder has an expandable inner pocket in its back cover. I rarely use these pockets because their contents create bulges and make it uncomfortable to write on the notebook's pages, but I realized that this notebook's back pocket is also meant to hold the Recorder's ToolKit.
Dheeraj and Aditya thoughtfully built this notebook. It has a blank Table of Contents so it's easier to keep track of the notebook's contents.
Dotted Recorder notebooks have the standard 0.5 mm grid, a comfortable spacing for writing, calligraphy, or sketching. The dots are printed in medium gray so they are neat and unobtrusive.
The Recorder's pages are numbered and this is helpful in creating a directory for the notebook's contents.

I was really excited to try writing on the Recorder because of the Tomoe River paper. I filled the last page with a set of fountain pen and ink combinations and also included some Pilot, Zebra, and Fast Writer gel pens, a ballpoint, pencils, and a Sharpie to test the paper. I'm glad to see that Tomoe River paper stood up to my pens' medium, broad, and stub nibs and their inks, except for Manila Copper, a notorious featherer and bleeder. The three Fast Writer gel pens also showed some bleeding due to the high water content of the gel inks, but that's fine because I'm not planning to go back to using gel pens any time soon.

I also tried a whole page of the 68gsm Tomoe River paper and it was a joy to write on. I used my Wality 69T with a (very) wet medium nib filled with Krishna Christmas Eve to do the test. The Wality wrote smoothly and simply glided on Tomoe River paper. 

On Tomoe River paper, fountain pen inks look more vivid and intense and it is known to allow inks to show their beautiful properties: shimmer, sheen, and halo. On 90gsm sketchpad paper, Krishna Inks Christmas Eve is already a beautiful dark blue ink with subtle red sheen. On Tomoe River, the color is more intense, and the sheen is just amazing.

The subtle red sheen on the dark blue of Krishna Inks Christmas Eve is beautiful. 
More of that beautiful red sheen.
I also tried doing an ink art on the Recorder's Tomoe River paper using a BENU pen with a sharp cursive italic nib filled with Krishna Inks Christmas Eve. The color in this ink art is amazing!

The Recorder was shipped with the Endless ToolKit, a unique feature I have not seen in other notebooks. The ToolKit is a set of journaling guide sheets to help users organize their notebook pages. These guide sheets were developed by Endless together with Recorder users and they are sized to fit the notebook's expandable pocket. They are available in different sets: Planner ToolKit, Geometry ToolKit, Page Layouts ToolKit, Calligraphy ToolKit, Architecture ToolKit, Ink testing ToolKit, Ruler, Paper Games ToolKit, and For The Year ToolKit. 

The ToolKit sets can be downloaded from the Endless website. A blank Recorder, however, is shipped with complimentary ruled and graph Guider Sheet. 

I received a combination of 10 sheets from the different ToolKits including the following: 2 column divider, 3 column divider, planner layout, 2 column page splitter, 3 column page splitter, common shapes (2 sheets), polygon shape finder, ellipse shape finder, 5mm dot grid, and 7mm dot grid.

Made by Endless, the set includes a cotton pouch, Recorder notebook, ToolKit, Catalogue, and Recorder ID for registering the notebook.
This sticker was designed by Sanjana Chatlani of the Bombay Lettering Co. It's inside the Recorder ID card that includes the notebook's ID and a QR code for its registration.

Endless Works' Recorder is an excellent, well-made notebook, with one of the most ink-friendly paper available in the world today. I like that it has a Table of Contents and numbered pages. The Tomoe River paper is friendly to most writing instruments, and it has that simple, "classic black notebook" elegant look. The leatherette cover is durable, the elastic strap keeps the pages together, and the round page corners prevent fraying. You can also get the Endless ToolKit and enjoy a selection of different guide sheets for specific uses. This notebook is perfect for journaling, calligraphy, note-taking, or for simply writing down thoughts and ideas. With the Recorder, ideas are endless! Get one for your pens!

The Recorder notebook in this review is provided by Endless Works for review purposes, but it is also available for purchase in a number of online and physical stores worldwide, retailing for US$22.95. To purchase one for yourself, check the Endless Store Locator: