Sunday, June 10, 2012

Notebook Review: Black Ocean 1.2 by Whitelines

I'm still here! And I'm back after three months with a notebook from Sweden - Whitelines! When I started using fountain pens and writing reviews here, I read a lot about Whiteline's products and I have always wanted to try them. A Twitter DM finally helped, and after an exchange of emails with Whitelines CEO Johanna Ragnartz and Product and Brand Manager Anna Scherp, a package was on its way to me.

The notebook I am reviewing is the A5 Black Ocean 1.2, one of Whitelines' top of the line notebooks. The Black Ocean's front and back covers are made of sturdy board encased in a smooth, rich, rubber-like black material. It is soft to touch, like velvet, but delicate, too. If you are as fussy and finicky with your stuff like I am, the fingerprints and lint you will leave on the notebook covers will surely bother you. The cover also bears a debossed, unobtrusive Whitelines logo on its lower left portion.

Whitelines offers the Black Ocean notebook with either lined/lined or isometric/lined pages. Notebooks with lined/lined pages have the signature Whitelines orange for their inside covers and ribbon markers. The orange inside front cover is bright and happy, and has a single line of text that says, "Push it forward."

The inside back cover still has the happy orange theme, with a full page of text about creativity and how one can "push it forward". Notice something missing? Yes, the Black Ocean does not have a pocket in its back cover, a feature that I am happy not to be seeing because I do not like the bumps that these back pockets create in my notebooks' pages.

Black Ocean has 80 sheets of A5 (5.8 x 8.3 inches) white-lined 80g paper in Flexo binding. This binding keeps the pages secure and allows the notebook to easily lay flat when open.

A black elastic strap keeps the Black Ocean's pages tidy. The notebook covers and its pages have pointed corners, a feature that I do not like very much because these sharp corners sometimes cut into my fingers and palm when I write. But this minor issue can be easily remedied by my mini corner cutter, a nifty tool that easily makes pointed page corners round.

Did I say this notebook lies flat when you open it? It does. And I like that feature in any hard bound notebook. The Black Ocean's 80g paper is not the usual bright white or cream, or beige, but light gray. I think Whitelines used gray so the white lines in their notebooks' pages stand out. Field Notes did the same thing in their Northerly notebooks last year. Whitelines said this about the unique lines in their notebooks: "The lines support your writing and drawing without the distractions from conventional dark  lines and the background disappears when you copy, scan or fax." I tried to copy a sample page, and true enough, the white lines disappeared! They should have included photograph in there, too! I had such a hard time shooting photos of the notebook pages because the white lines disappear in them! The photos below of my pen and ink test pages do not show the white lines. I needed to adjust lighting to get a photo that will at least show the white lines, such as below.

See? I told you the white lines disappear in the photos! I excitedly tried a page to test its friendliness to fountain pens that I regularly use. Most of my pens have medium to broad nibs, and I usually see them bleed and feather on a lot of paper types most of the time.

And the results? All pen and ink combinations bled, except for the Esterbrook and Pelikan Blue Black duo. This broke my heart, really. Through the years, I have accumulated dozens of notebooks, in my search for  fountain pen friendly ones. I like the Black Ocean and would have been very proud to carry it around with me, but I have already established a rule (to avoid accumulating more!) that if a notebook cannot take fountain pens, then it goes to one of my nieces, or to my friends. But I was not letting go. Not yet.

I kept the Black Ocean for future review because I did not know what to do with it. Then an interesting discussion about iron gall ink in my local fountain pen collectors' board caught me. Interesting to me, but frightening for my pens. But what the heck, I want one! There are two available iron gall inks in the Philippines: Lamy Blue Black (Lamy BB, as I love to call it) and Mont Blanc Midnight Blue (MB MB, playfully). A search through all of Lamy's kiosks in Metro Manila for this 'endangered' ink (Lamy has changed the formula for the bottled blue black ink since last year) yielded a bottle, and my first test for the ink was on the Black Ocean! After writing my first sentence, I checked the back of the page. Now, could I just take back all the notebooks that I have given away?

After almost giving up on this notebook, I was given the chance to keep and use it. Now I am thinking of how I can make use of it. Probably in school, or at the office. I am always thrilled to see people taking second (and third) glances at my notebooks. 

Part of the Whitelines Black Ocean that I received was a request from  Anna that I take a photograph of the package when I receive it. Here it is, Anna. It got through quite a lot from Sweden to the Philippines, but it made through! Thank you, Anna! Thank you, Johanna!

(Don't you just love the stamps in this envelope?)

To buy a Black Ocean, and see the rest of Whitelines' products, visit the Whitelines Shop at

The Black Ocean 1.2 used in this review is from Whitelines, through Anna Scherp and Johanna Ragnartz. The pens and inks are from my personal collection.


  1. You had my interest in what seems to be a fine notebook until the bleed part. No better than over priced Moleskines.

  2. Very nice! My wife has a white lines journal too except it does not have the elastic. I think it's very creative and that the lines do blur from your view after a few written lines.

  3. I think the concept of whitelines is great but the execution is flawed. They really need to invest a little more and make the paper fountain pen friendly. Really, we are the most intensely interested in stationary and if they don't cater a bit to fountain pen users they are losing out on business. It makes me wonder if they know their customers.

  4. I liked the idea! Because I always want to use plain notebooks but my handwriting is better with a ruled one. That is the perfect combination of it.

  5. I'm from Sweden myself, and I really like Whitelines' products, especially for math, where sharp lines (or squares) distract me and make my work look ugly. So far I haven't tried my fountain pen on their paper (since I'm currently out of it). I'm considering giving Rhodia a try, but I haven't seen any of their paper in Sweden.