A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't throw away that old pen yet! (Corrected. Again.)

Make sure you take a picture of it first. Australian stationer NoteMaker is sponsoring a "Pen Amnesty" through June 30 July 30 July 15. Send them a picture of your old, beat up pen and get your choice of a free Delfonics ballpoint or a voucher for 25% off your next pen from NoteMaker, plus a free Rhodia notepad with your next order.

But, Booker, NoteMaker is in Australia. Aren't those deals usually only good for Aussies? That was my first thought, too, but this particular deal is good for individuals worldwide (workplace entries are limited to Australia and New Zealand).

Don't take my word for it. (Seriously, don't take my word for it. I could be screwing this up.) Instead, read the full terms and conditions, then go to the photo upload page to invoke amnesty.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review (and Giveaway!): Large Quo Vadis Habana Lined Notebook

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0UPDATE: Giveaway Entries are Closed. Winners will be posted and contacted on June 30.

This is "version 2.0" of the Habana that I reviewed here. All the great quality remains, but fans of the old Habana need to be aware of changes in the color, ruling, and weight of the paper.

Instructions for entering the giveaway are at the end of this post, and there's even a consolation prize!

The Review

The old and new versions both have 80 sheets of Clairefontaine's legendary paper. As always, it is silky smooth to the touch and a dream to write on. So smooth, in fact, that I've read complaints from some Fountain Pen Network members that the paper is too smooth and makes them lose control of their pen! I love the smooth writing feel, but there is a price to pay for it: ink drying times tend to be slow. If you write with a fountain pen, you're going to wind up with lots of ink transfer to the opposite page unless you give time for the ink to dry (which could be 30 seconds or more, depending on the ink and nib combination) before closing the notebook or you use a sheet of blotting paper as a bookmark.

But the paper is otherwise quite different from the original version of the Habana:

Original U.S. Version
New Version 
(reviewed in this post)
Paper Weight
90 gsm
85 gsm
Paper Color
bright white
Ruling width
8 mm
5.5 mm
Lines per page
Distance from top of page to first rule
24 mm
9 mm
Distance from bottom of page to last rule
14 mm
9 mm
light gray solid lines
light gray dotted lines

Unfortunately, none of my photos accurately captured the color of the pages. The closest would probably be this one. When you see "ivory," you shouldn't confuse it with "off-white." I've seen this paper described as "off-white," but the paper is far darker than that. From what I can tell, it is about the same color as the paper in my Rhodia webnotebook.

The 5.5 mm ruling is very narrow. People who typically write with finer points and tend to write small anyway will love it. But if you like to write big and bold, this notebook probably only makes sense for you if you're going to write on every other line. Large writing would bunch lines much too closely to read comfortably. Fans of the old ruled Habana are going to have a hard time adjusting to this one.

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - ruling comparison
What a difference in ruling! Old version on left, new version on right.
Top-most group of lines on rights is same as number of lines on left.
Provided you use every line, the new ruling is going to save you money over the older version. By narrowing the ruling and leaving less blank space above and below the ruling at the top and bottom of the page, each page now has 40 lines for writing instead of the 26 on the previous version. That's more than 50% more lines on the same size page, or the equivalent of adding 40 sheets to the notebook!

Another nice plus to the changes is that between the color of the paper and the dotted lines, the the light gray dotted rules are virtually unnoticeable on the written page. There's just enough there to guide your writing as you go, and it is almost invisible once you've written on it.

Another change in the ruling is that unlike the older version, the ruling does not extend the entire width of the page from the binding to the edge. Instead, there is a border of "white space" a few mm wide at both the binding and page edge.

The paper in this generation of Habana is a slightly lighter weight than in the first generation U.S. version. This apparently was a compromise between the weight in the U.S. version and non-U.S. version of the first generation Habana so that a single version of the second-generation Habana could ship everywhere.

The lighter weight is not really noticeable to the touch, nor does it result in a noticeably thinner notebook, but the lighter paper did allow some ever-so-slight and occasional bleed-through with two of the fountain pen inks I tried. Show-through actually seemed about the same or slightly better on the lighter ivory paper than on the heavier white paper of the first generation, probably on account of the color. Needle-point pens seemed to leave a significantly deeper impression in the lighter paper (though I can't guarantee I wrote with the same pressure in both versions, so this observation may be a result of writing with different pressure in each notebook). A light touch may be needed with those pens to keep from introducing too much texture to the reverse side of the page. There was no noticeable feathering with any of the fountain pen, gel, or rollerball inks I tried.

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - rear pocket
Sturdy, fabric-like gusset on the large
back pocket suggests durability
Other than changes in available colors, everything else about the Habana seems pretty much the same as the original. The cover is still a "hard flexible" cover that's firm enough for writing when away from your desk but has some give that might let you stuff it in a bag that has no room for a stiffer cover. The cloth bookmark is still there, as is the back pocket, complete with the fabric-like gussets that suggest to me that this pocket can put up with heavier use than most.

Which is a good thing, because this pocket will see more use if I use a Habana for work. Because the dimensions of the large Habana (6.25 in x 9.25 in.) are larger than the typical A5-sized notebook, it will accommodate a letter-size sheet folded in half, which the pockets of A5-size notebooks simply can't.

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - size comparison - 3 views
Three views comparing the large Habana to a typical "large" notebook. The smaller notebook I used here, however, is about 1/4 inch narrower (when closed) than a large Moleskine.
As usual, you can view more photos at my Flickr photo set for this review.

The Giveaway

Quo Vadis Habana Notebook v. 2.0 - rear pocket
Left: New version large Habana. Right: Old version pocket Habana.
I was tempted to keep this as my work notebook, but seeing as how Karen art Exaclair supplied the Habana gratis, I thought it more appropriate to spread the love and give it away.  And, to the runner-up, I will give a small first-generation black Habana with blank pages. I believe the small Habana has 64gsm paper, but I'm not sure. (I bought it long ago and failed to review it.) Both the large and small Habanas will have a page of my test writing in them, but they are otherwise mint.

To enter, do BOTH of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post, AND;

2. Email me at notebookeresqATgmail.com. Your email must give the name you used for commenting and the subject line must read EXACTLY:


I do it this way to be sure I can contact the winners and so I can set up an email filter to group all entries as they come in. I will keep the giveaway open through at least midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, June 27.

The winner will be selected using the random number generator at random.org.

Good luck!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Cross Autocross Double Brown Pebbled Leather Pen Case

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
What the heck am I doing reviewing another product that is no longer in the manufacturer's line-up? Some people might call it procrastination; I prefer to think of it as letting the ideas for the review percolate in my head until they are ready for publication. In any event, I don't think the delay makes much difference in this instance. I bought this case through Amazon in Spring of 2010, and I'm pretty sure that even then it was no longer available through Cross. But you can still find these from time to time if you look around, so I figured I'd do the review before these disappear completely. (Some tips and links for finding them later in this post.)

Anyway, on to the review.

This case appealed to me because it seems relatively unique and an improvement over the typical pen case. Most of the cases I'd run across seemed to have the leather flap that goes over the tops of the pens and then gets tucked under a strap to stay in place. Those cases typically have the pen sleeves visible, almost like the leather had been shrink-wrapped around the pens. You know the ones I'm talking about. (If not, click here for an example.) No offense to anyone that has or sells cases like those, but I find them terribly ugly, and they make me think of cigars more than they make me think of pens. Also, it seems like it would be a pain to thread that leather flap through the strap.

This case, as you can see, has a nice, smooth exterior (i.e., no visible pen sleeves) and a convenient snap closure. The holes in the leather, which cover the inner flap and most of the back, make me think of racing gloves or the leather on a steering wheel in an expensive sports car.

Everything about this design says "sleek" and "fast" to me. Honestly, it gives me a little thrill every time I pull it out of my breast pocket. While it is certainly handsome and likely to get a reaction around a conference table crowded with Bic Stic users, the thrill I get is not from impressing others (I've sworn off pen snobbery, remember?), but from . . . well, it's a really cool pen accessory! Isn't that enough? (Besides, you'll only impress some people; the rest will think you're eccentric for even carrying your pens in a case, and they'll think you're absolutely insane when they find out what they cost. Or they'll just think you're trying to show off.)

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
Levenger Golden Tortoise True Writer and Waterman Expert in the case
There is plenty of function to go with this case's style. The snap closure makes for very fast opening and closing. Only one snap shows when the case is closed. At first, I thought that gave the case a somewhat off-balance look, but it serves a purpose: with the case closed, you still know "which way is up" — the nibs are at the same end of the case as the snap, so it's easy to know that you are placing the pens in your pocket nibs up. There is a flap  that covers the top of the pens to keep them from sliding out. Curiously, almost none of the stock marketing photos I've seen for this case show the flap going over the pens.

Though you wouldn't know it from these pictures, the sleeves are quite tight when the case is new, making it difficult to remove and put away your pens. I try to put only threaded-cap pens in it, because the fit is so snug (even on slim pens) that it's easy to pull a snap-cap off when trying to remove the pen. I imagine the pockets will stretch out over time and be more snap-cap friendly, but I doubt they will ever get so loose that your pens are in danger of scraping against each other.

Presentation is a mixed bag.  The hinged box with elastic strap is utilitarian but lacking elegance. Yet, open the box and you find the case inside a satin-like fabric sleeve, a touch you'd expect to find in a fancier gift box.

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
Presentation: nicer on the inside than the outside

My only beef about the case is that the leather seems to wear rather quickly. I know bright shiny leather never stays that way (at least, not without a lot of tender loving care), but I am already seeing some significant cracking, and I don't think I've had this case out of the box more than half a dozen times. (I only use it when I'm wearing a suit.)

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
Close-ups of leather wear
This is quite a handsome and functional case. I paid only $25 for it new through a seller on Amazon, which I consider to be quite a deal, but I typically see it listed for $35-$40. Amazon had one of these left in "red" (burgundy), one in silver, a single-pen version and a 3-pen version. (It appears the 3-pen version only has loops inside, rather than sleeves.) Try this Google search, and you'll find eBay listings, too. Or, you could just go with Cross's current line-up, in which the cases are not quite as sleek as this one but still feature the holes (I know there's got to be a better name for that race-car leather look) and an easier closing mechanism than most other cases (magnetic flap rather than a tuck-in flap).

As usual, more pictures at the Flickr photo set for this review.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The June Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper

All these posts can make a person dizzy! (Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net)
Welcome to the June 7, 2011 edition of the Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper. I'm both excited and embarrassed to be hosting this month. Excited because, well, it the Carnival, which means lots of cool posts and probably means higher traffic than usual for me. Embarrassed because all that traffic is going to hit after several months of very little posting here. Nonetheless, feel free to poke around while you're here. Let's hope this kick-starts my posting motor.

And, we're off!

editor's picks

Science or art? 

Two regular ink reviewers consistently put an unusual amount of artistry into their reviews, and this month is no exception: David Garrett presents ink review - sailor jentle blue black posted at seize the dave, the best-named blog on the net! Clement Dionglay presents Ink Review: J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe at Rants of the Archer.


DIY enthusiasts will enjoy Nrepose's write-up of the Noodler's Friction Fit Pen at Unposted. (Not quite a Noodler's pen, but you'll understand the name of the post soon enough.) And, take a moment to get in on the ground floor of Alex Witte's Nib Grinding Project on $3 Pilot Varsity pens at Economy Pens.

Decisions, decisions:

Most people wouldn't call this a brain-teaser, but we're not most people, are we? Snarky's Machine challenges us to choose favorites in Desert Island Pens: Which 10 Pens Would You Take? at Does this Pen Write? That might have some of us thinking for a few hours . . . or maybe days. Whatever you choose, don't forget the paper. That tree bark will wear your pens down something awful.

Ink. It's not just for pens anymore:

Ink Nouveau guest blogger Jamie Williams Grossman explains that the artistic use of ink isn't limited to pens in Beyond the Pen: Fountain Pen Ink as Watercolor Wash, while Ink Nouveau's founder Brian Goulet goes his guest blogger one better, skipping the pen and the brush altogether and taking the ink straight to the water: Ink in Water Pictures at Ink Nouveau.  (I share Brian's fascination with this, especially when the ink looks like an entirely different color outside the pen than it looks when flowing from the pen.)


Whodaman presents 4 Steps to Improving Your Handwriting - However Bad it is posted at Smarter to Smartest.

Cheryl from Writer's Bloc presents Do I need a left-handed nib on my fountain pen if I’m a left-handed writer? at the Writer's Bloc Blog.

notebooks, paper, and journaling

Moleskine Releases New Cahier Planners for 2012 posted at Journaling Arts.

Dolly once again offers help for the journalist struck with writer's block, with Journal Writing Prompt #21 — Right Now at Journal Addict.

Father's Day is coming, and Nole has some card suggestions for you in Father's Day Card Round-Up and Father's Day Card Round-Up, Part 2 at Oh So Beautiful Paper.

Last week, yours truly introduced you to Unquestionably the coolest notebook I've ever seen, right here at Note Booker, Esq.

office supplies

Nrepose presents The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at Unposted.

ink and art

Oh, how I envy artists!

Inkophile helpfully leads us to several examples of pen art in Links to Artists Who Put Pens to Good Use at An Inkophile's Blog.

Carnival founder Nifty shows us a recent favorite piece in Moleskine Monday: “Weekly Moleskine” at Notebook Stories.

AK lets us in on the Inside: A Ukranian Sketchbook at Notebook Loves Pen (next month's Carnival host).

The Trone presents Trone Art posted at The Trone blog, saying, "My own art! Only five pieces now but I have many others that I will post on a regular basis (daily or bi-daily). I hope you enjoy and browse my blog!"

You might think that carving up a Moleskine with a razor blade should be punishable by prison time, but you'll probably change your mind when you read The Book Surgeon at Moleskinerie.

Heather at A Penchant for Paper provides some interesting Art Journal Prompts, Part 1.

ink reviews

Peninkcillin presents Noodler's Burma Road Brown (V-Mail) Ink Review at Peninkcillin.

The Classicist reviews Waterman Black at Penned House.


M. Meckel wonders if yesteryear's factory seconds are better than some of the cheap pencils that pass quality control today, in Seconds at Bleistift.

Thinking pencils? That's what Palimpsest writes about in Brainstorming with Pencils at Palimpsest


Multi-pens, anyone? Diane B presents Uni-ball Jetstream 3 Color Multi-Pen posted at Pocket Blonde, and Yochanan introduces his new blog, Multi Pen Dimensions, with Why multi pens? Welcom aboard, Yochanan!

Here's a "two-fer" from Alex Witte at Economy PensZebra AR7 Blue and Kaweco Sport Classic.

Millie presents Product review: a new Lamy and a new ink posted at Planet Millie, saying, "The new aquamarine Lamy and a review of Caran d'Ache Caribbean Sea ink. It's all very aquamarine!"

Maria Fallas presents Moleskine Rollerball Pen posted at Pen and Paper Hoarder, another very young blog.

Julie (O-kami) presents Edison Pearl at Whatever.

Some of us are constantly on the quest for the "perfect" pen. Dowdyism reminds us that sometimes the search involves more than shopping, with Pen Hack: Zebra Sarasa Clip to Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier at The Pen Addict.


Julie at Peaceable Writer presents more samples of her too many inks in Writing Down the Ink #6. I'm having a little cognitive dissonance trying to process the concept of "too many inks." Who knew that was possible?

Another year, another National Stationery Show missed. Rats! But Office Supply Geek was there, and brings us his 2011 National Stationery Show Highlights.

next month

That concludes this edition. Next month's carnival will be hosted by Notebook Loves Pen.

Submit your blog articles for the next edition of carnival of pen, pencil and paper using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found at the blog carnival index page, and you can read about the Carnival's origins at Notebook Stories.

Don't be strangers!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Unquestionably the coolest notebook I've ever seen

Cool Indian Notebook - Close-Up
Close-up: top right of cover
Granted, I've only got about 18 months of the notebook bug under my belt, so I've seen a lot fewer notebooks in my time than Nifty has. But I find the coolness factor of this notebook is off the charts.

I bought it at Flax in L.A. last month. Joan, the proprietor at Flax, said once the salesman showed then to her she bought all they had —and she only had 5 left when I bought this one.

The notebook is from India and appears handmade. Joan didn't know what language that is on the cover, and I don't, either. Hindi? Punjabi? Bengali?

Let's start with the cover: part leather, part canvas, with a rough-hewn interface between the two and around the edges.
Cool Indian Notebook - Front and Back
Front and back views
The pages are heavily textured, and likewise finished roughly around the edges, and it has a very narrow leather bookmark. It seems like this notebook should be used only for important things. Forget about daily to-do lists. That just wouldn't seem right.

Cool Indian Notebook - Edge Views

Everything about this notebook — the rough edges of the paper, it's texture, the materials (the cover is part leather and part canvas, the bookmark is leather), the stamp and writing on the cover — screams "Old World." Sitting down with it, I feel like a British Lieutenant leading an expedition or manning a remote outpost in colonial India or South Africa, keeping my log in this notebook, writing in the heat as I sweat under my heavy red tunic.

But, that's just me.