Central Crafts Bellagio Journal Review

Bellagio JournalI spend a lot of time in the United States, ok all my life, all the time, but I really do appreciate the products from other countries that are passionate about their quality and reputation. Germany has their cars, Switzerland has their watches and I’m sure there are many other examples. From Italy I enjoy what I know as Italian food, Italian cars are some of the most beautiful in the world and Italian wearables have a reputation for fine quality. Recently I got the chance to review a handmade Italian leather journal from Central Crafts called the Bellagio.

Central Crafts is based out of the UK and has been building relationships with small artisan product makers since 1999. The journal I spent time with is from a small family run leather workshop in Florence Italy. The Bellagio is one of many variations on the classic A5 size journal that Central Crafts offers on their website.

  • Material: Italian Calf Leather
  • Price: $33 US – dependent upon exchange rate
  • Size: 6” x 8 ½” x ¾”Length Overall
  • Colors available: Aubergine (Dark Purple), Black, Chocolate, Fuchsia and Red
  • Paper: Blank cream colored acid free paper

140 Character Review – Italian leather cover in rich chocolate brown with a cool paisley pattern and great paper makes for an enjoyable holder of ink and words.

Construction Fit & Finish
A well-made journal with a little bit of cover flex and corners that are tastefully unadorned. The paper binding is tightly sewn so when using about the first 25% of the pages you get a slight spine hump to work around when writing on the back of the pages. I did not experience the annoyance of any pages flopping over on their own, regardless of where I open the journal up to. A good balance.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Bellagio JournalCover

The cover is a beautiful chocolate brown with an embossed paisley design on the front and back. The calf leather texture is quite grippy which helps me carry the journal safely and a side benefit this surface texture is it doesn’t slide around on the desk at all.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal


The paper is cream colored, acid free and Italian sourced. I am not sure of the actual GSM weight but it feels heavy enough, maybe 90 gsm if I had to guess. My broad wet nib fountain pens performed very well with no feathering or bleed. There is some slight ghosting but I’m not a both sides of the paper person so I was ok with it. My gel, rollerballs, ballpoints and pencils worked fine with similar ghosting.

My experience says when a maker thickens the paper up much more to help remove all ghosting then they usually reduce the page count quite a bit for weight and thickness targets. Which speaking of page count I don’t know exactly how many pages there are and I tried to count a couple of times but my fat fingers kept slipping up so I’m going with ALOT of pages. The Bellagio comes in at just over ¾” thick.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Bellagio Journal

What I would like to see in the Bellagio

  • More paper options across Central Crafts’ entire journal lineup. The Bellagio only comes with blank paper. A choice of blank, ruled or dot grid would be nice.
  • A ribbon page marker, some use them some don’t, I’m a user and I miss it. A sticky note is just out of character for this journal.
  • A maker’s mark or some other ornamentation on the front or the back so I can quickly orientate the journal when I take it from my briefcase to take down a few lines or notes
  • A few more technical specifications on the website for the various models. Paper weight and page count come to mind.


None of above nit-picks take away from the quality of the paper or this journal overall. At $33 US you get genuine Italian leather, wonderful paper and a very high quality build that is a pleasure to write in.

Thanks to Alma over at Central Crafts for sending me over a Bellagio to try out.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Shinola Notebook Journal Review

Cover Shot2My product review today is not from a pen or stationery company. It’s a product from a company I just wanted to buy from and support. I love what Shinola is doing for the Detroit community and the economy as a whole. I first become interested in the company and their products through another hobby of mine, watches. After their watches came some really cool bicycles and I think they have expanded even more now. Wanting to support their growth and ambition, even in a small way, I purchased one of their journals. A green 5 x 8.

Shinola Medium Hard Linen Journal

    • Forest Pine (also available in other colors)
    • 192 Ruled Pages (also available in grid and plain)
    • 60 lb / 90 GSM Acide Free Paper
    • Black elastic closure band and black page marker ribbon
    • 8.25″ x 5.25″
    • $17.95


The user experience with their website, order fulfillment and shipping speed were all top shelf. My journal came quickly and packaged well. The clear shrink wrap is a good protector and it’s well executed with a nice marketing wrap inside the shrink wrap. Popular today is the user experience and companies trying to connect with their customers on a personal level by sharing and bringing you in on their story. I may not be part of the family yet but I feel good about supporting them


The cover is a warm, dark, almost evergreen in color. The texture is more fabric than smooth vinyl or leather, with a grippy feel and a classy look. Drawing no real attention at the board meeting or on the soccer field.

Plain CoverFront With Shrink WrapBack with shrink WrapBranding is attractive without being obtrusive on the bottom of the back cover. The front cover is completely blank.

Brandong on back coverStandard for this genre of notebooks is the manila pocket on the inside back cover. I have never been a user of them but this one looks typical.

Inside Made in Michigan CardBINDING

The binding is unique. Ok maybe the actual binding is not unique but how the spine of the notebook behaves is unusual to me, in a good way. I have lamented in many posts that a notebook that doesn’t lay flat is a deal breaker for me. I have renegotiated that deal a little bit but not in a way I ever expected to. Barring a lot of brute force the Shinola spine does not waver from perfectly vertical when you’re in the beginning pages of the notebook. The pages lay flat on their respective side of the notebook with the left side (the backs) being at a slight angle due to the vertical spine. After unsuccessfully trying to make the notebook go traditional flat for me I was annoyed for a moment that the writing experience would be unpleasant but I gave it a try and learned it’s perfectly fine. About a quarter of the way through the notebook I am seeing a slight tilt to the spine and moving to the center of the notebook I see the more traditional laying flay behavior. Writing on the back (left side) of the pages is different but the slight downward angle of the paper for this rightie didn’t distract from my writing at all.

I’m not sure if all of this was part of the design process but it was a new experience for me and I certainly wouldn’t shy away from another Shinola because of it, it’s just different.

SpineOpen Book


The paper Shinola chose is good quality. The lined format is a pleasant beige with grey lines printed front and back with a slightly larger header at the top of each page and a tiny blank footer at the bottom. Lines go full bleed all the way across the pages, front and back, and meet in the middle through the binding. Line spacing is ¼” or about 6.5 mm. Fine with me.

With my fine nib fountain pens and all the rollerball / ballpoints I could throw at it the paper performed very well. The paper has excellent drying times but with the bigger nibs the feathering and show through was more than I like. One could argue that ¼” line spacing is a little tight for broad nibs anyway. You can still get away with using one side of the paper if you like the fatties laying down rivers of ink. Again, fine nibs and rollerball / ballpoints were a wonderful experience and dry quickly if you’re a multi pager at one sitting.

You have to look close for any ghosting with fine nibs and gel inks.

Show ThroughSome spread and feathering with the broad nibs

Broad Nib WritingBleed and show through with the fatties

Bleed Through BroadCONCLUSION

I love the Shinola brand and the company. My dream is to own one of their bicycles but for now my Shinola notebook is serving me well as a daily life events diary. After about a month it still looks like new and after I fill this one up I strongly suspect there will be another one in my future.

Check out what Shinola is doing, even if you don’t buy anything or you’re happy with your current notebook, their story and their passion is inspiring.

Remember: Write something nice……

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