Stationery Shopping: Kingdom Note

My first stop of the day was at Kingdom Note! I’ve heard so much about this place. It’s a store that stocks pens, inks and notebooks. It has an exclusive line of inks that are inspired by animals and plants. Kingdom Note also collaborates with the Sailor company to make veggie themed pens! These store-exclusive products are not available in the U.S. I’ve seen them on Ebay for exorbitant amounts of money but I’d rather not pay those prices.

The store is on the 6th floor of a building in Shinjuku and is hard to see from the street. You will see a sign for KN and a camera shop. Luckily, its 5 minutes from my hotel!

The store was smaller than I thought it would be. Only a few people work there. The attendant helping me was really nice and he knew enough English for us to communicate. The store was filled with a wide variety of fountain pens, many of them European. The small selection of Nakayas dazzled me. There was a rack of notebooks, but nothing very special. My eyes were immediately drawn to the vegetable themed pens and the giant wall of ink. I bought a “green pepper” fountain pen in a broad nib but there was also a pumpkin themed one. You could buy matching 20ml inks for it. I certainly did! There were also demonstrators in bright colors but I already spent all my money for the day. 😛

I also tested a variety of inks. There’s a whole wall of them, both European and Japanese! I was given a binder full of ink sample cards then I chose which one to try. The attendant let me test them with a glass pen. I bought three inks, two of them in 50 ml bottles and the other in a tiny 20ml one. I bought the Mycena pura, a dusty pink color based on mushrooms. I first heard about it from a post on Reddit, but I thought I would never buy it! I also got Thysanostoma thysanura, a pinkish purple like a jellyfish. And I bought the matching green pepper ink to go with my pen. When I get back from Japan, I hope to have ink reviews up for them.

Make sure to get the tax refund taken care of! Foreigners have to pay an 8% tax rate for some purchases, but you can get it refunded in kiosks and at the airport. I got a slip of paper with my purchase that I can turn in later.

The people working there were really kind and I felt welcomed inside the store. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to a small boutique style store.

Tomorrow I’m going to Mt. Fuji on a tour but hopefully I’ll get to Itoya Ginza and Maruzen Nihombashi soon. I also added the Tools art supply store and Smiths to my list. It’s in the Lumine Est department store underneath the Shinjuku train station. I’m going to get Copic markers there. I will post more about the pen stores I visit!

What Type of Page Ruling Should You Use?

The ruling of notebooks is a serious consideration for any stationery addict. Gone are the days of college or wide ruled. Now there are so many choices! For some people, the ruling can make or break a purchase. But for others, they are more flexible or have specific uses for unusual rulings. I used to be a rigid, “lined only”, person. Maybe it was conditioned into me after years of using only lined notebooks, for schoolwork and creative writing. I remember scoffing at dot grid thinking it was silly. Now I use a mixture of lined, dot grid and blank paper, depending on my usage. Though I still like lined paper for long note-taking, I used a dot grid Baron Fig notebook for my last story journal. And I always carry a grid Field Notes in my backpack!

Lined

This is the classic ruling, the one you used in school and work and likely everywhere. It comes in many sizes, from 5mm to 8mm. It can be boring or constricting to some, but for me I appreciate its structure. It keeps my handwriting from tilting downwards and looking sloppy. However, some brands have too-dark lines or have too wide or too narrow ruling. Lines are harder to ignore and if they are dark they can distract from your words. If you like structure, tradition or easy accessibility, you should use lined.

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Ex: Lined can be found with almost every notebook, but I enjoy paper with light, easily ignored lines, like Clairefontaine My Essentials and the Nanami Seven Seas Writer (currently out of stock)

Dot Grid

Many stationery users love dot grid. It has become massively popular because of bullet journaling for its flexible structure and ability to fade behind words. Dots are usually light and inconspicuous. They stop new writers from fearing the blank page or feel smothered by lines. It almost always is in 5mm spacing but I have seen templates online that are 7mm. If you like doodling, are interested in bullet-journaling, and want to have even words without bold lines, dot grid is good to try out.

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Ex: Since dot grid is becoming so popular, it’s becoming easier to find it. The Baron Fig Confidant, Rhodia Webbie and Leuchtturm1917 have dotted paper.

Grid

I used to use grid only for math homework, but then found out they were perfect for making lists and charts. I carry around a Field Notes in my backpack to jot down notes, ideas, to-do lists, songs I heard, etc. They are too busy looking for me to use in my larger notebooks, but many people appreciate this ruling in A5. It’s usually in 5mm, but Write Notepads used 4mm in its latest limited edition, Sakura. If you like precise lines, order, making lists and diagrams then you should try out square grid.

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Ex: Most of my Field Notes are gridded and are good for jotting down to-do lists. I don’t use them in larger notebooks. The paper here is from the Field Notes Campfire, not available anymore. But the Original Kraft Field Notes come in grid and many of the limited editions have grids too.

Reticle

This is an unusual ruling, one I haven’t seen very often. It is more substantial than dot grid, with tiny crosses each spaced at 5mm. It’s basically the same as dot grid, to be honest. I like it for the aesthetics, mostly. 😉

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Ex: The paper shown here is from the Nanami Seven Seas Crossfield notebook (just went out of stock). I haven’t seen many reticle grid paper besides that, except for Field Notes Lunacy and the recent Coastal edition. I hope creators make more notebooks with reticle grid!

Blank

Blank paper is a canvas for you to put anything onto, whether its writing or doodles or full illustrations. It is fun to use but can be intimidating if your handwriting tilts downwards like mine. I use blank only in my sketchbooks because I like having a line of some sort. However, Ana at the Well-Appointed desk, made wonderful templates for any ruling you could imagine. Just print out the template size you want and slip the paper behind your page to give it the allusion of lines so your writing is neater.

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Ex: Baron Fig Vanguard has creamy thick paper perfect for both fountain pens and pencils. I like sketching with it because the Vanguard is light and portable. Story Supply Co. also has fountain pen friendly paper with less tooth than BF.

Conclusion:

Don’t be afraid to try a different type of ruling. You may become more productive with a grid, or the order of lines. What is your favorite paper ruling? Are there any you like that I haven’t posted here?

Write Notepads “The Lawn” Review

I live in a suburbia of rolling green lawns, as far as the eye can see. Even in the summer, the grass is trimmed to perfection. Well-kept lawns are always in my summertime memories. I remember getting green stains on my knees, running through sprinklers and tall grass, swimming and roasting smores on a campfire. Maybe that’s why Write Notepads’ “The Lawn” edition touched me so much. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling.

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Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 6.35 mm lines
  • three gold staples
  • 3 pack for $12.99

I reviewed the “Sakura” pocket notebook edition in a previous review. I enjoy this edition even more! However, I’m a bit late to the show. Johnny from Pencil Revolution also reviewed it here. Once again, Write Notepads came up with a simple yet creative theme. The notebook is slightly wider than the usual Field Notes 3.5 x 5.5 size. It gives me more space to write and it’s not like I actually put my pocket notebook in my pocket. 😛 The notebook is a deep green, more olive than emerald. Tiny blades of grass are letterpressed on the cover. They seem slightly raised, giving it a texture when I run a hand over it. The Lawn is staple bound, with three sturdy golden staples. My three-pack was held together with a checkered red and white belly band, like a picnic blanket! My pack also came with a sheet of STICKERS!!! I love the whimsical art of garden gnomes, lawn chairs and flamingoes. They blend into the grassy cover perfectly. I hid the beer cans sticker on the back. 😉 I forgot to take a pic before I used them, sorry about that!

Inside is a luscious white paper perfect for fountain pens. It has 6.35 mm green lines that fit my writing perfectly. Write Notepads must have changed their paper formula because this and the Sakura is much better than the old stock. The paper is smooth but not slippery like Field Notes. It has enough tooth for pencil and feels great with my felt and gel pens. It handles literally every fountain pen I throw at it, even my juicy Pelikan and Faber-Castell nibs. There is only some feathering with my F-C nib. There is no bleed through and barely any show through. The only other paper I’ve found like this was Baron Fig and Rhodia/Clairefontaine. My nib doesn’t catch on the paper fibers nor does it feel scratchy.

For research, I bought a pack of “Samuel Morse” notebooks, a previous Write Notepads limited edition. Though they share the same attention to detail, the “Morse” notebooks are perfect bound, meaning the spine is glued. This makes it much harder for pages to lay flat. The paper is also not good for fountain pens. It feathers and bleeds to the other side. Ink colors look flat and lifeless. In comparison, “The Lawn” has crisp lines and shows shading, though not sheen.

In the past, I didn’t buy Write Notepads limited editions because of the perfect binding and paper. But staple-bound, fountain pen friendly notebooks are always welcome in my horde. I hope Write Notepads makes more editions like “The Lawn” and “Sakura”. Hopefully they have a table at the D.C. Pen Show so I can come and visit!

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Return from hiatus and pen meet ups!

Sorry for the hiatus! I was super busy this summer. Now, I finally have time to spend on my blog. Here’s what I hope to blog/review in the next weeks:

Currently, I’m using a Hippo Noto, a Rhodia Webbie and a Write Notepads Lawn pocket notebook, as my daily carries.

Onto the topic of meet ups. I first heard of a pen meet up in the D.C. area when I was browsing Facebook. At first, I was nervous to go. Pen shows had been my only outlet for my hobby but I was more interested in purchasing than talking to others. But when I went to the May meeting, everyone was so welcoming!

It’s so strange talking to people that understand your obsession of pens and paper! They know all about the latest inks and trends. I don’t have many people to talk to about my hobby, though I found one fellow fountain pen addict at my college.

Everyone brought inks to sample and let me handle their expensive pens. It was a great way to try out pens in person and see if I liked them. I dodged a bullet with some, now I know the Pilot Vanishing Point and Pelikan M805 Ocean Swirl isn’t for me! Ages ranged from mid 20’s onwards. I was the only college-aged student so I felt awkward at first, but it quickly faded away.

I finally was able to go to a second meeting, this time at Fahrney’s Pens in D.C. This is a great store for buying high-end pens and some stationery. They were kind enough to host  our group and even offered Montblanc and Sailor nibs to test. We got little gift bags too! I definitely will visit Fahrney’s more often. There was a table for ink testing and I tried some fun new colors.

Everyone should go to a pen meet up if they can! I had so much fun talking to fellow fans. The fountain pen “fandom” is the nicest community I’ve been in and I can’t wait to meet more people at the D.C. Pen Show.

 

 

Mini Review: Notebooks from Italy

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing long blog posts for notebooks. So here’s the first of my mini reviews, for products that warrant testing but don’t need a full review.

I got these two notebooks on my trip to Rome last week. The yellow notebook was from the Massimo Palazzo alle Terme store and the black one was from the Ostia Antica gift shop.

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Let’s start with the yellow journal! It’s slightly shorter and wider than a B5 notebook, making it compact and easy to carry. It has 60 blank creamy pages. It’s nice to run my hand over the paper. The sunny yellow cover is a bit thin but held up well in my suitcase. There’s a beautiful design on the front that use the letters mnr. It stands for the Museo Nazionale Romano, the name of the larger museum complex the Palazzo belongs to. This name is repeated on the back in bold black letters. The word Electa is on the bottom right, possibly the maker of the notebook? I couldn’t find any more information online.

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The paper is thick and a smooth ivory color. When I did my pen test, pencil did wonderfully on this paper. There wasn’t much show through with gel and fountain pens. The paper was fountain pen friendly. Slight pink sheen from Sailor Sky High showed up in my test. There was no bleed through except with a sharpie. The only downside is that there were glue bubbles on the first page. Overall, this notebook exceeded my expectations and will be put to use as a sketchbook.

The black Ostia Antica notebook was not as great. When I bought it, it was in a display saying it was made by Paperblanks. I’ve heard of the company before and expected good paper. It has a nice cover, with the words Ostia Antica and below it, an illustration of one of the mosaics at the site. It’s A6 size and has 96 pages. It also has a black bookmark and elastic band.

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Unfortunately, the paper was scratchy and thin as tissue. Pencil was okay, but every other pen showed or bled through to the other side. Fountain pen ink looked dull, with no sheen or shading. At least I bought it with blank paper so I can use it for quick pencil sketches.

Hope you enjoyed this quick review! I’m busy working at an archaelogical dig but I hope to post more soon.

I’m Back From Rome!

Hey, I just returned from my study abroad trip to Rome! It was such an amazing experience. I geeked out over all the Roman ruins and museums I saw. My favorite places included Ostia Antica, an ancient port town outside of Rome, the Forum, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Capitoline Museum. There was also a set of tenement apartments from the 100-400s C.E. that had cool fresco paintings and was underneath a medieval church. As an anthropology and art history double major, I was so happy to see the objects I studied in class. Stationery-wise, I didn’t see many high-quality notebooks. I found two nice ones in gift shops but I forgot to take pictures of them. I’ll try to upload them this weekend and do a quick review.

I saw some notebooks in the local pharmacy but I didn’t buy them. The paper seemed thin and floppy.

Here are some of my favorite pictures I took in Rome!

What Notebooks I’m Bringing on My International Trip

I’m going on a study abroad trip to Rome! Of course, my favorite part of packing is deciding what notebooks I will bring with me! Since this is a short overseas trip I don’t want to risk flying with fountain pens. So here’s my list:

  • Rhodia webbie notebook for journaling about my trip
  • Baron Fig vanguard just in case I have any time to write stories
  • Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Journal for writing down lists and random story ideas
  • Papermate ink joy pens
  • Roll of washi tape to paste in memorabilia
  • Regular spiral bound notebook for schoolwork

And that’s it! I’m not staying for too long otherwise I would bring more. I’ll try to look out for any cool notebooks in Italy!

In other news, I’m going to be super busy after this trip. After my return flight, I’m working on an archaeological dig for six weeks. I probably won’t be posting that much. I hope my few readers understand this hiatus! I should be back to more regular posting by July 10. Have a great summer!

Write Notepads Sakura Review

This post is a little late, but I’d like to review the newest limited edition from Write Notepads: the Sakura edition!

Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 4mm grid
  • stapled!
  • 3 pack for $12.99

This is my first time trying Write Notepads. They make very nice pocket notebooks among other offerings. However, their editions usually have perfect binding, which is a type of binding that makes the notebook harder to keep open and lay flat. They also don’t have the best paper for fountain pens. But I saw the new Sakura edition and fell in love! I live near a place with many cherry blossom trees and I love seeing them bloom in the spring. They also are staple bound which is more my style.

I bought two packs, each set being $12.99 . I ordered the bundle which came with a special surprise. 🙂 The Sakura is a little shorter than Field Notes, another popular notebook brand.

The covers are absolutely gorgeous. They’re a speckled cream color with cherry tree branches letter pressed onto the surface. Even the band holding the notebooks together is beautiful. It’s black with silver blossoms decorating it. So pretty!

The paper inside is very nice. It’s not as smooth as the Field Notes or Story Supply paper but it’s not rough like Baron Fig. It has a minuscule 4mm grid printed in light green. I definitely can’t fit my writing in the squares, so I just use it as a guide for my writing. Here is the grid in comparison to the one in my field notes:

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The paper is great! It has enough tooth for pencil but feels great with gel, felt and even fountain pens. I was expecting a lot of show through or bleed through but didn’t have any! Only a tiny bit of show through and bleeding. I wonder if they changed the paper or I happened to choose well-behaved ink for my pen test. In reviews of previous editions, bloggers have found the paper to not be fountain pen friendly. So this is a pleasant surprise!

And the add on was a letter pressed packet of cherry blossom seeds. It was a very thoughtful extra and I’ll have to find a place to plant them. These notebooks were also a good match with the pink Blackwing Volume 54 pencils. I love this limited edition and I am excited to see more from this company!

 

 

Maruman Spiral Note Basic Review

The Maruman Spiral Note Basic has been recommended as the best fountain pen friendly spiral notebook for students. I mostly agree! However, there are some caveats that make it hard for me to use it with fountain pens. Warning: I am a side-writing leftie, so what bothered me about this notebook may not apply to you! I just wanted to show a left-handed perspective in my review, especially for students who take notes quickly.

I am on a neverending quest to find fountain pen friendly notebooks for taking notes in lecture! The triumvirate of cheap, light and fountain pen friendly has defeated many contenders. Brad from the Pen Addict suggested the Spiral Note Basic was good for students. So I waited for them to restock on Jetpens and ordered five for the spring semester. After several months, I have finally collected my thoughts.

Specs:

  • comes in lined, graph, or blank
  • B5 size
  • $5.70 on Jetpens
  • 70 gsm
  • Perforated pages!

Appearance:

The cover looks rather plain, a brown cardboard cover with space to write down your class. It’s B5 size, which is 6.9 x 9.8 inches. For those who haven’t seen that size before, it’s like a taller, slimmer composition book. The cover has held up for months in my cavernous backpack. Only the edges are rumpled, but no pages have ripped. It is spiral bound with strong metal rings that haven’t bent out of place yet. The Spiral Note lays completely flat and folds back, essential for students who are forced to use tiny desks. The pages are all perforated. None of them became loose but they could be removed cleanly without any damage.

Paper:

The paper is the star of the show. It is 70 gsm and an off-white color. Its light gray lines are 6.5mm, which fits more writing. It has 32 lines on each page. There are margins at the top and a space to number your notes and write the date! The paper is the smoothest I have ever felt, even more so than Tomoe River! It’s relaxing to run my hand over a blank page. The paper is thin but has less show through than the Kokuyo Campus. Once I write on the back, the show through doesn’t bother me.

For my purposes, the paper is too smooth. Softer pencils like the Blackwing 602 feel slippery on the paper. My Papermate Flairs, especially the Black, looked faded and washed out. I liked my gel pens, like the Uniball Signo 207, on this paper the most. The tip is slightly scratchy, so it slides on the paper less. Papermate Ink Joys were bright and vibrant but did take some time to dry. Fountain pens feel amazing on the paper! It was pleasant to write on, with no feedback or fibers catching the nib. I saw hidden sheen on this paper I couldn’t see on Tomoe River! Robert Oster Frankly Blue had a reddish halo, while Kyo no Oto Adzukiiro gained golden sheen. Monteverde Ruby looked vivid and the shading was beautiful. This can easily compete with Tomoe River as the smoothest, highest-quality paper I’ve used.

However, there were some problems for me.  When I could slow down, like to write this review, my Pelikan M605 felt pleasant. But usually, I write fast, using a Lamy Safari M nib or Pilot Metropolitan M nib. I write 5-8 pages per lecture, and quickly! I felt my nib was out of control when I wrote at my normal speed like it might fly off the page. I want to keep on using fountain pens and see if I get used to the slickness.

It took longer than I hoped to dry. As a student who takes copious amounts of notes, this is a downside for me. I’m a left-handed side writer so my hand drags across newly written words. I try to avoid smearing the ink, but on this paper it’s inevitable. Fountain pens, Uniball Signos and Papermate Ink Joys were more likely to smear. However, if you’re right-handed the long dry times may not bother you. This is another leftie thing, but the spiral binding annoys me. The metal digs into my hand when I write, making note-taking a somewhat painful experience. I forgot how much I loved the sturdy glue binding of the Kokuyo Campus.

Spiral Note Basic vs. Kokuyo Campus:

Now how do they compare to my favorite, the glue bound Kokuyo Campus B5? Kokuyo Campus paper absorbs ink quickly, but it doesn’t show off the qualities of the ink as well. They are much lighter, with only 30 pages. I can carry 3 of them without my backpack feeling heavy. I go through 2-3 of them for my more intensive classes, which is both nice and annoying. Nice in that I feel accomplished for finishing a notebook and annoying because I have to search for my other notebooks when I’m studying for exams! I’ve been using the same Spiral Notes the whole semester, instead of going through 2-3 thinner notebooks. But carrying 2-3 Spiral Notes is heavy! My campus is huge and getting from my dorm to class takes 15+ minutes. I pack lightly to avoid back pain, but Spiral Notes always add too much weight to my bag.

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The contenders…

Using Spiral Notes is a better deal for me because it has 80 pages, so 160 pages front and back. They are heavier but quite compact. I bought five Spiral Notes for $28.50 and free shipping. On Amazon, 5-packs of Kokuyo Campus fluctuate from $10-12. I bought three packs. So I guess Spiral Notes are the better deal?

The Maruman Spiral Note Basic is great for high school and college students who want to use their fountain pens for taking notes! However, for lefties and people who are particular about paper, be more cautious. I’m going to keep using them because they’re the best student-friendly notebooks out there.

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