Darkstar Collection Pocket Notebook Review

The pocket notebook appears to me, like a simple engineering product. I’m sure there is more to it than I know. Just by the brands that have passed under my nibs, ballpoints and gels I have enjoyed many well thought out features. Some of these features help us gravitate to one brand or the other. The latest to pass over my desk is from the team over at Darkstar Collection in the UK.

Darkstar’s contribution to our community comes in two formats, Pocket Notebooks and a larger Adventure Notebook. I am even seeing some rumors and IG spy photos of a hard cover.

  • 100GSM paper
  • Flexible covers available in yellow, black, orange and red
  • Printing available in Grid, Crosshair, Dot Grid and Lined at 5 mm ruling
  • Price: $9.22 US / Pack
  • Pocket Notebooks
  • – 4 x 5 ½”
  • – Pack of 3
  • – 54 pages
  • Adventure Notebooks
  • – 5 ¾ x 7 7/8”
  • – Pack of 2
  • – 72 pages

Overall Construction Fit & Finish

The version I tried out was the lined black pocket notebook. Packaging is minimal with a branding description band for point of sale. A foiled Darkstar logo is inconspicuous on the front cover which helps me orient the notebook quickly when I’m picking it up. Page one is an owner’s page and 2 staples hold it all together.

Paper and covers are cut well and clean with flawless rounded corners. The cover seems heavy enough and after a couple weeks in and out of my pocket it has held up well. I’m sure one would fill the pages before wearing anything out.

The printing is straight and fully flooded all the way to the edges. The lines appear to be a greenish gray. The lines stay out of the way but still guide my writing. Looking at it under a loupe it’s two lines of dashes right next to each other with the squares alternating in a checkerboard pattern. It’s a good look that works and a small detail that harkens to my opening paragraph and proving I really don’t have a clue what it takes to design a good pocket notebook.

Paper

At 100GSM the paper works great with any pen I use in pocket notebooks. From my broad wet Ondoro, to my gels that I usually have with me on the go and I even threw in an Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush pen and it worked great. Impressive.

No feathering, no bleed-through and if you look hard you can see some faint ghosting from the broader lines but I wouldn’t hesitate at all to use both sides of the page.

Drying time is good at 6-8 seconds with a wet broad fountain pen. The writing is smooth but with this dry time performance I suspect this is not a coated paper.

Darkstar Ink

This is cool. Darkstar has teamed up with Robert Oster, who is on a big popularity run right now with their ink colors. Both companies collaborated on a Blue-Back ink shade they call, of course, Darkstar Blue. I love the other RO inks I have so this just got added to my want list. Robert Oster Darkstar Blue Ink.

Conclusion

Darkstar offers a great selection of configurations for your small notebook needs. 4 printing options, 4 colors and 2 sizes. There are even some special editions they call Shine Stars. I wouldn’t change a thing about the basics of the notebook. The 100 gsm paper is wonderful and the covers are tough. If I could reach for more I would offer three suggestions to Darkstar:

  • A blank page option
  • A wider rule lined option
  • A blue cover that matches their signature ink

If implemented, none of these things make the Darkstar a better notebook, they already hit that out of the park. These would only broaden their market appeal but I understand adding a new sku is expensive and only Darkstar can determine if the cost makes sense.

Thanks again to Craig and the Darkstar team for sending these over, I am enjoying them.

The Gentleman Stationer had some good things to say about the Darkstar as well. Check out his comments here.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Scout Books Notebook Review

I have begun to use more and more pocket notebooks. I have taken on a fundamental shift is my use pattern. For several years I held a strict discipline of a single notebook dedicated to my To Do List. Most of these tasks are personal in nature and I rarely have to refer back to them after I cross them off. This strict discipline frequently left me scrambling to look for a piece of paper to leave a note on somebody’s car or at their door even if I had my pocket To Do list notebook with me. The logical sensible thing to do was just tear a page out of that and BAM there was the paper I needed.

I tried carrying two notebooks for a very short while. One for my formal to do list and the other one for everything else. That didn’t work so I’m getting better at using my notebook for what it is. A bunch of blank paper stapled together to write on. If I need a quick list for shopping at the home center, I got it covered, missed mom at home and need to leave her a note, I got it covered. And I don’t carry anymore stuff than I have to. How hard is this right? The only drawback is I go through notebooks faster. I was going through the same amount of paper just not a single notebook as fast. This is a better system by far.

My increased usage had me doing a little shopping recently to see if there was a brand in the marketplace that I was overlooking. Fountain pens get the most use from me and most of those have a fat wet broad nib so wide lines and good paper are a must. Rowan over at Scout Books was kind enough to send me some of their notebooks to try out. A great experience and a great product.

  • Price: $24.95 pack of 10
  • Size: 3 ½” x 5” Is there a standard pocket notebook size anymore?
  • Lots of stock colors available
  • Paper: 32 white pages of 70# recycled paper. Hold on though don’t worry about the sometimes feared R word
  • Available with lined, blank or dot grid paper
  • Line Spacing: ¼” or 6.5 mm
  • Lines: Faint gray dots give a good lined page effect

Construction Fit & Finish – I was very pleased with the Scout Books and how well they are constructed. Folds were straight, printing was consistent and the edges were crisp. They are two staple affairs and all in fine order with the binding. The slip case for 10 books was sturdy enough without be overbuilt and taking away from the money invested in making the notebooks.

Cover – Scout Books offer many different fun styles of covers, the one I spent time with for this review is an all black variant. They carry several cool print patterns and also offer a custom line where you can use your own artwork and have it transferred to the covers using silkscreen, letter press, painting or stamping. Stock offerings come in packages of 10 with a nice slip cover. Custom orders require a larger quanity purchase.

Paper – Scout Books is using 70# paper that I found has very good performance, an added bonus is it’s a recycled paper product. There is some feathering with the wetter nibs but for a utility notebook it’s very acceptable and usually that means extremely fast dry times. Under 8 seconds in my test produced no finger smudges. The line spacing is good for me at ¼”. I like broad nibs and line spacing that is too tight jumbles up my writing too much. Ghosting was minimal and the only bleed through I got was with a Sharpie marker using a heavy slow hand with a lot of ink transferred. Impressive.

Conclusion – Nothing I would add, at $2.50 a notebook the price is competitive for a quality pocket notebook. The recycled paper, if that is important to you, takes just about any ink and wet fountain pens reasonable well. If I had the marketing reach I would love to do a My Pen Needs Ink custom notebook.

Thanks to Rowan and the team over at Scout Books for sending these along and creating a great choice in the pocket notebook sector.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Baron Fig Apprentice Pocket Notebook Review

I collect a lot of things. I have not converted any rooms in my house to a collection as most of my collections are things I can, and do, use. I lot of the usual suspects that many would call boring. Pocket Knives, flashlights, pens, spinning tops, etc. Pocket notebooks is not one of those. Now I can certainly understand how the variety and usefulness of pocket notebooks could consume one into collecting but I can’t seem to wrap my head around collecting something that is consumable and is designed to be used up. Admittedly my search for the perfect pocket notebook has yielded enough accumulation and variety to qualify as a collection.

Seven VarietiesMy latest entry is from the fine people at Baron Fig. On a follow up of their successful and classy Confidant Journal they bring us their version of the pocket notebook, the Apprentice. I offer you my review.

  • 48 Pages
  • 6 Perforated pages
  • Gray cover
  • Yellow stitched binding
  • Blank Ruled or Dot Grid
  • Light gray line ruling spaced 9/32” apart
  • $9.00 for a 3 Pack

OVERALL DESIGN

Baron Fig once again took the minimalist approach with their design. With only two small lines of branding on the bottom of the inside back cover the clean unadorned look is set off nicely with the gray tone cover and yellow stitching. The yellow is quickly becoming a common brand hue shared with the Confidant’s page marker ribbon.

The cover is a gray leather look pebble grain that is thin, attractive and sturdy even with some intentional abuse from my fingernail on the corners I found it well put together.

SpineSIZE

I was taken aback by the smaller size and wondered why. After some thought I admitted I’m overly conformist and supportive of standards just for the sake of conformity and sameness, even when there is no real value in such consistency. I openly acknowledge that is a short sighted approach on my part. The Apprentice is slightly smaller than the traditional 3.5” x 5.5” notebook in this genre. Not by much coming in at 3 3/8” x 4 15/16” close enough to be called 3.5 x 5”. You really don’t lose a lot of writing space and most uses for these type notebooks are lists, scribbles and drawings so I don’t think the size would ever make one stop and take notice that they are burning through more with that ½” less in height. I did find the slightly shorter stance makes it more comfortable for front pocket use storage as well.

Overall SizePAPER

The most important part to me of any notebook is the paper quality. Apprentice does not disappoint. Not the best fountain pen paper I have ever tried but very well behaved until you get to really fat lines that deposit lots of ink and then you do get some feathering. The positive tradeoff is better fountain pen paper tends to get really thick or require a coating. Baron Fig has found a nice balance that acts well with fine to medium nib fountain pens, rollerballs, ballpoint and pencils. Thicker paper typically yields fewer pages that end up costing you more and the coated paper delays drying time which can be a smeared mess when you’re jotting down a quick note on the run.

Ruling is a nice shade of gray with consistent printing edge to edge front and back with no margins on the top and bottom. Good design to use the whole page. Spacing comes in at 9/32”.

Ink Test2rulingLAY FLAT

There is not a lot of weight or paper in pocket notebooks so lying flat is typically not a strong point or a requirement for me. The stitched binding allows me to reverse fold from anywhere in the notebook and it stays open well enough for a few sentences of writing which is usually the longest I pen in this style notebook. The Apprentice bends right back into it original folds and behaves nicely in doing so.

Inside Full PageCONCLUSION

I really like the minimalist design of the Apprentice. Baron Fig has a great company culture and they have built a fine pocket notebook. It holds up well, is priced right and many will find the smaller size a distinct advantage. Thanks Baron Fig! Well done.

Back Pakaged

Have you been stricken with the dizzying array of pocket notebooks?

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