Review: Field Notes Byline

Field Notes is a popular notebook brand favoured by many in the fountain pen community. Every quarter, they release a set of limited edition notebooks to their subscribers. The latest one is an interesting tall reporter style spiral note book. It’s also appropriately named Byline. The Field Notes Byline is created in collaboration John Dickerson) of Face the Nation on CBS. Field Notes also creates wonderful videos to go along with their quarterly releases. Check out the Byline video here.

Personally I am not a regular user of Field Notes notebooks. I do not enjoy the paper that comes in their regular kraft cover notebooks. However, I was especially intrigued when I saw a friend posted on the Midori Traveler’s Notebook Resources Facebook group combining the Traveler’s Notebook with the Field Notes Byline. What sealed the deal was Brad’s mini review of the Byline on the Pen Addict podcast and they mentioned the paper is good for fountain pens. Without a moment’s delay, I placed on order with Blank and Write for a set.

The Field Notes Byline is long and skinny making it prefect for the Traveler’s Notebook. Normally I am not a fan of spiral bound notebooks but the Byline was bound on the top that makes life easier for a lefty. The grey stock cover feels nice. When closed the cover encloses the spiral wiring underneath the cover. However, when you flip over you will find the cover protrudes from the bottom by slightly less than 3cm. It’s not really a problem but it is slightly inelegant. On the back of the notebook, you can find a pocket and inside is a mock 1803 news paper in miniature form.

The Field Notes Byline has 70 pages of slightly cream colour paper. The paper works reasonably well with all my fountain pens. The ink do feather but only on my wetter nibs. The feathering isn’t very bad so I am not bothered by it. On the back of the page, you can see some ghosting and borderline bleed through. Similarly, those also only affect the wetter nibs. I don’t intend to hang onto the notebook once it is done so I am not fussy about the paper quality too much. However I must say it is performing much better than the standard kraft notebooks.

Now, fitting the Byline into the Traveler’s Notebook isn’t hard especially if you use the kraft folder. Simply slip the back of the notebook into the kraft folder pocket. Remove the entire notebook if you want to use it, or just leave it where it is to use. Personally I prefer to remove it from the Traveler’s Notebook to use it as a break away notebook. On the whole I enjoy this form factor a whole lot but I don’t think Field Note would be inclined to make this a regular edition so get yours while they are available.

Posted on July 26, 2016 and filed under paper, review.

Review: Astrida A5 Midori-Style Leather Cover

Astrida Leather is a local leather worker. My friend had discovered her on Carousell. She makes bespoke leather goods from keychains to wallets to journal covers. Way back in early April, I had commissioned a customised A5 Midori styled leather notebook cover from her.

There were a number of leather choices including some beautiful Horween leather. I went with the Sunset Oil leather because I enjoyed the change in colour when the leather pulled. I had asked for a slot at the back to hold a Rhodia dot pad and Midori Traveler’s Notebook style straps to hold 3 notebooks. This custom leather notebook cover costs SGD$100. It is a reasonable price and she worked quite fast. The item was ready for pick up within a week. There was a flaw in the leather she had and it was communicated quickly. The collaboration process was quick and easy done mostly via texts.

The dark brown leather feels soft and slightly cool to the touch. It picks up scars and scratches quite easily so if you prefer your leather in a pristine condition, the Sunset Oil leather isn’t for you. Personally, I didn’t mind it. Most of its scratches was due to being moved in and out of my bag. If you handle the leather notebook cover daily, it has a self healing property when it comes in contact with your hand oils. The leather isn’t extremely thick like how it is on the Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter. Plus the edges are burnished which I appreciate. I picked orange threads for the stitching. The stitching are neat and very well done. I found the workmanship to be top notch.

There wasn’t any options for neither the straps that holds the leather cover close nor the strings that holds notebook in the leather cover. Unlike a traditional Traveler’s Notebook, the closure originates from the spine instead of the back. I like that the strap comes out from the spine. It makes the entire leather cover look neater that way. The leather cover also came with a leather tab on the closure strap to protect the leather from being damaged by the strap. I didn’t thought the strap would have damaged the leather since the straps used are rather thick. However, I found it weird that the straps that hold the notebook in are being threading to the outside of the leather cover. As far as I have seen online, other faux-dori in other sizes are not made with the straps on the outside of the leather cover.

The straps holds my Hobonichi Cousin without any problems so it goes without saying that slimmer notebooks are not problems for the leather cover. The Sunset Oil Leather isn’t a very stiff leather so it would lay flat without any trouble so my Hobonichi Cousin was able to lay flat on the table. Adding and removing a notebook into the leather cover is easy and quick. Depending on how you setup your leather cover, it might get a little bulky. I only have a Hobonichi Cousin, a Muji notebook and a Rhodia dot pad setup inside as my regular everyday carry.

Overall, I found that the Astrida A5 Midori Style leather notebook cover performs its duties well. It is rather reasonably priced for a customised leather notebook cover in this size. Do check out her Carousell page if you are keen to one for yourself.

Update: I have since sold this leather cover. It isn’t due to any misgivings towards the leather cover but more towards the Hobonichi Cousin just being too large for daily carrying around. I didn’t want to keep the leather cover around unused so it’s better for it to go onto a better home. You’d read more of my thoughts on that in a review of the Hobonichi Cousin in a later post soon.

Posted on July 22, 2016 and filed under review, Stationary.

Review: OMAS Green

OMAS Green is a rather dry ink. When I’ve inked it in a Graf von Faber-Castell pen, the nib squeaked slightly as I write and there is feedback in a pen that doesn’t usually have. OMAS Green is a bright green that shades even in a fine nib. It goes from a dark forest green to a light pastel green. OMAS Green definitely has some yellow undertones.

Similar Inks:

Posted on July 19, 2016 and filed under Ink, review.

Guest Review: Traveler's Notebook

This review is written by Louisa. She is a good friend and she is who I consider one of the local Midori Traveler’s Notebook advocates. This is the first guest post on Althaven.com

Traveler’s Notebook formerly known as Midori Traveler’s Notebook is a leather notebook cover system. The Traveler’s Notebook comes in two sizes namely the Regular and Passport. Each size comes in brown, black or camel. There is also a limited edition Blue Traveler’s Notebook released recently as a collaboration with Pan-Am Airline. There are also other variations such as the 10th Anniversary Limited Mini Size Notebook.

I am currently using the Regular size. It is a good size but not the standard A and B paper sizes. If you are looking to fit a Field Notes or Rhodia in it, it will not fit nicely. On the bright side, Midori have a really nice selection of notebooks with fountain pen friendly paper. Traveler’s Notebook’s leather is made using vegetable tanned leather. Brand new, the leather have a chemical smell to it. Some do love the smell but I don’t. Personally, I air the Traveler’s Notebook for a day or two before using.

I love the flexibility of the Traveler’s Notebook. It allows the user to customise the notebook according to their needs. The standard Traveler’s Notebook comes with a blank notebook. Various inserts are available for purchase such as kraft files, different types of notebooks, sticker sets, pen clips to go along with the notebook. Elastic bands are available to increase the number of inserts you can add to the book.

For my current setup, I have a Zipper Case (No.008), Kraft Paper Folder (No.020), 2016 Monthly Calender and a Lightweight Paper Notebook (No.013). This have been my setup for the past 3 years for I am one that prefers to carry it light. There are users who stuff in 4 notebooks, making it one chunky beast. The more notebooks you attach, the more the edge of the notebookss will be sticking out at different lengths. This will get more noticeable as you fit more notebooks into the Traveler’s Notebook. Do note that if you place the zipper in the front like I do, the plastic zipper will leave a mark on the interior top corner of the leather.

My favourite insert is the Lightweight Paper. The paper is really thin so each notebook holds 128 pages. It is very similar to the Tomoe River Paper. Despite the low GSM, the paper is very good at holding fountain pen inks. So far I have been flexing my fountain pens with no worries of any bleedthrough. It is also very smooth paper which makes it a joy to write in. One drawback of this notebook is the thinness, ghosting is very obvious regardless of the ink I use. If you can’t stand ghosting, Blank Notebook (No.003) would be a better option. Of course, there are other options such as Lined (No.001), Grid (No.002), Kraft Paper (No.014) etc.

Traveler’s Notebook is made of vegetable tanned leather. The leather will develop scratches overtime. Some might not like it but I love this aspect of it. I find that it adds character and gives the leather a vintage feel. I neither baby my Traveler’s Notebook nor do I apply conditioner onto the leather. Being easy to maintain and able to take hard knocks of daily usage is a plus for me.

There is a tin charm at the top of the spine of the Traveler’s Notebook. This prevents the inserts from being able to lay completely flat. It does not bother me, I do not even notice the charm when I am using it. It only became an issue when I place the notebook on top of a keyboard. It will depress a key when I am writing in it. For those that prefer to have it removed, there is a Repair Kit (No.009) that you can purchase to remove it and replace the strings.

At the bottom of the spine, there is a slit which can be used to secure the bookmark string. It’s a tiny detail but I like it. It prevents the bookmark string moving around and still allows me to get to the bookmarked page easily.

The centre band that holds the book close is hinged at the back of the book. The knob causes a little bump. As usual, this does not bother me but some may not like it. You can change the bands to other colours from the Repair Kit or add charms to it to personalise your Traveler’s Notebook.

Various accessories that can be purchased to personalise the Traveler’s Notebook. I love the sticker packs. There are leather pen holders that comes in small (No.15) and medium (No.16) sizes. The small pen holder is more of a loop for your pen to clip onto. I would recommend going for the medium if you really want fit your pen inside the loop. It can fit in my thickest pens such as Pilot Custom 823 and Omas Milord. This is based on well seasoned leather pen loop, the leather might have stretched a little over time. However, the leather makes it hard to remove the pen easily so it is more of two hand action if you use wider pens like the Pilot Custom 823. Do note that by using the clip on the leather, it will leave a permanent mark on the leather. One way to avoid this is to attach the clip to a cover of a notebook together with a thick cardboard. This allows me to shift and remove the clip whenever I want without damaging the leather. And by attaching it in the center of the Traveler’s Notebook allows more protection of the pen. I do not use the clip often as I carry my pens in my pen pouch.

Overall, I love the Traveler’s Notebook for its flexibility and the availability of good papers. There are also many online resources for calendar formats and beautiful pictures of how other users and artists uses their Traveler’s Notebook. However, it is expensive to get it set up the way you want it. All accessories have to be purchased separately but it is a good investment as the leather cover can last a few years. I have been using my Traveler’s Notebook for 3 years and it became my daily planner and companion.

Posted on July 15, 2016 and filed under review.