Note: For reviews on other Commercially Bound Journals please see the "page" so titled, in the left-hand column of this blog under "Pages." There you'll find reviews and links to reviews of other commercially bound journals I've used. Today I've also started a category "Commercially Bound Journals" because I didn't realize I didn't have one, though you could have always checked under "Reviews."
Update May 2, 2013: For images of this book after it was subjected to extreme mixed media abuse please see "Starting My 2013 Fake Journal—Before and After Photos."
How I found this journal is a weird series of happy accidents. I was looking for custom made journals that were commercially available. (Books with writing paper that Dick could use for his engineering design books—for patent record keeping reasons he needs something that is durable and sewn and of course he has he own criteria for his fountain pens; he doesn't need the art papers that I use. And it's difficult to find paper that he likes to write on for me to then make into an economical book…)
Somehow I found a link in a Google search that led me to a comment in a blog that led me to this commercially bound journal.
After some more poking around I found a blog where someone was writing about this journal and it seemed like something I might be interested in as well as Dick. I clicked away from the blog without keeping a note of it, but I got to Kikkerland's page for selling the book here.
I ordered one and waited with great anticipation for its arrival.
And after testing one of the 8 tear out sheets at the back of the book (which you see here) it is definitely going to be my book for my 2013 fake journal!
And Dick tested a tearout page as well and he loved the paper for writing on with his fountain pens. He has several that he carries everyday—different colors and brands, from Noodlers to Namiki and so on. Dick doesn't need to wash over his writing with watercolor. He does need permanency and he does want a certain paper feel. When he writes he keeps his pen moving and he had none of the problems you'll see I had in just a moment.
To sum up from Dick's perspective as a writer and sketcher of diagrams and devices this is a great notebook for use with his fountain pens and if he had not just ordered a bunch of books from someone else (without mentioning it to me) he'd be ordering some of these.
Now that little miscommunication (he thought he'd save me time and trouble) is a good thing because it meant that I ordered one of these books, and because of that I found out the following about the book.
First, I love it. I love the way it is made. It's like a giant (I got the 9 x 12.5 inch Slim) Moleskine—WITHOUT the funky smells!!!! It has a similar black cover, the standard elastic band and round corners. There is an inside back cover pocket that is better made and more useable. The paper seems heftier than the writer paper versions of the Moleskines, but I haven't used one of those in a long time except in the soft covered versions. It is not stiff paper like the Moleskine sketch.
The paper is fantastically fun, with a light dot-grid pattern (you can also get blank, gridded, or lined sheets).
It is also a complete dream for sketching on with graphite pencil.
But because it is a lighter weight paper for writing and not sketching it may not be suitable for the mixed media work that many of you who read this blog do.
For instance if you paint on the paper it will buckle.
Now a little bit of buckling doesn't bother me (especially if the paper doesn't smell and it retains its integrity and doesn't pill). This paper does just that—the watercolor didn't seep through and I could stroke repeatedly on the surface and the paper didn't pill—unlike many so-called watercolor papers in commercially bound books these days.
However, when I worked on the paper with the pens I normally use like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, the Staedtler Pigment Liner, the Aquash with light black ink, and such the pen lines often were visible on the reverse side of the sheet.
Is this a deal breaker for me. Nope, I use Arches Text Wove (Velin) in books I make all the time and the heavy blacks of the PPBP show through when I turn the page. I love working on that paper so much that I keep using it despite that.
What is a problem however is that as I'm sketching I often rest the tip of my pen on the page, while I decide where next I'll go with my line—I'm looking at the model and not the paper. I found that when I did this often the ink pen in would bleed through the page.
Since you don't do that when you write like Dick when he's working it's not going to be a problem for writers. If you work with ink pens and sketch like I do it may be something beyond which you're willing to deal with.
Left: Flip side of my test sheet. Note that this was scanned without any black backing sheet which is a standard approach for minimizing the see-through properties of some sheets. It's not a practice I use for my other journals so I didn't use it for this test journal. Please read the text to learn what's happening here. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
What will be obvious immediately to the viewer of the second image is that when the paper gets wet there is buckling. You can see this in the scan shadows. The buckling is not so severe that you cannot work on the next page so I don't find it impossible. If you like a flat surface this is not the book for wet media.
Next you'll be able to see that all rich ink lines will show through, but that also where I rest my pen (on the man's nose bridge and eyebrow for instance) the ink will actually bleed through.
I wondered why the paint I was using didn't bleed through and Dick suggested that the pigments in my paints were too thick to do so, whereas the inks, even pigmented, are more finely ground to flow through a pen and therefore can seep into the paper.
But that is speculation.
I was totally surprised when I went to smear gouache on the page and found that I could hit the paper again and again, especially when the paper was wet, and it would take the reworking.
So I looked at the back of the worksheet and had a long talk with myself and slept on it.
Something that helped me decide to adopt this as my 2013 Fake Journal is the way it took the acrylic ink from the marker pens I use. It doesn't seep through at all and gives a nice effect. Also the acrylic ink, when applied in a large area like the light blue is in this example, provides a wonderful surface for another layer of ink or paint.
I'm going ahead with this journal for exactly that purpose in April.
Will I use another of these for a mixed media visual arts journal? Probably only rarely (let's see how the 2013 Fake Journal pans out).
I would DEFINITELY USE this journal for a DRY MEDIA SKETCHING Journal.
Dick would use it for a written lab journal when writing with fountain pens.
I would use it for writing with only some pens—my gel pens and other writing pens, not some of my art pens.
If you're accustomed to using any of the paperback Japanese notebooks you'll find this paper a bit thicker and about the same or better opacity.
If you decide to give this journal a try because you use dry media, or want to keep a written journal I can recommend it as a sturdily made journal. (I've done some other pre-Fake journal tests and it has really held up well). The journal opens completely flat, and as I've written above, has no offensive or off odors.
In a perfect world the paper would be just a tad thicker and I would use it for all my mixed media journals because I really love this journal.
But it isn't a perfect world. This journal deserves to be judged for what it was made for and that's to be a notebook. It's a finely made notebook. I'm glad for the chain of events that led me to it and I'm looking forward to using several more of these in the years to come—for special purposes as delineated above.
If you would like to see how my use of this journal unfolds you'll be able to see pages from my 2013 Fake Journal posted over on the Official International Fake Journal Blog after April gets underway (which is international Fake Journal Month). My journal is too large for my scanner (something I told myself I wouldn't keep doing to myself, but hey I like to work big these days), so I won't probably start posting pages from the journal more than one time a week, or maybe with a week delay, until I can find a block of time to do some scanning and "joining" of the page spreads. You get the idea, you'll be able to find more about this book and what I do to it over on the other blog. I'm feeling very good about 2013 International Fake Journal Month—this journal is just what my character wanted and needed.
Did I tell you the pages were numbered? They are—sweet little numbers at the bottom of each page. It's an elegant and well-designed product.