Have you ever wanted a notebook that was completely unique to you? Are you a large company that can afford to order dozens of these things? If your answers were "YES!" and then "No..." then your time has come. Book Block Original is a service that allows you create one-off custom notebooks. You can actually find some more details about the process here, on the page from their Kickstarter.
Things I like:
- Finally we can get customized notebooks on a small scale! These things were formerly reserved for companies willing to place orders in the hundreds, but no more! For a very reasonable price ($18 US), you can get an A5 hardcover book with whatever you want printed on the cover.
- The notebooks feel nice. The cover is some sort of "soft touch" paper and there is no tactile difference on different parts of the design. The colors are saturated and crisp and there is a fairly good rainbow available for the ribbon and elastic so that you can match it all up. The lines on the design are crisp and clear, but as you can see my cover is pretty basic so I can't speak to incredibly detailed photographs.
- The paper is decent. It can handle porous point pens, gel pens, and fountain pens on the fine end of the spectrum. Pencils softer than HB are also great performers as the paper has just a bit of tooth so they don't smear much. But this is not a super glossy, ink-resistant paper so triple-B nibs just won't work. For most people, this paper will be as luxurious as they could ever want.
- Note - the paper used in these books is from Monsieur and it is my first time using paper from that company.
Things I don't like:
- This is 100% on me, but I am a little bummed that I did not get to experience the full order process. At the time I was contacted by the lovely folks at BBO, I was still struggling to keep my head above water at my new job and I did not have time to come up with a super awesome cover design. So I had them pick a design for me and I do quite like the result.
I have poked around on the website and the ordering process does not seem like it could be simpler. You just upload your artwork, size and position it, and then pick your elastic and ribbon cover and paper ruling. (And then pay, of course, the difficulty of which depends on where you keep your credit cards.)
I really like that now regular people like you and I can order a well-made custom notebook. And we don't have to jump through a bunch of hoops or sell an organ for one. As an everyday notebook or even an extra special bullet journal, I don't think BBO is a bad choice at all. Here's some other ideas I just came up with for how to use a customized notebook:
- for a once-in-a-lifetime trip
- as a journal for a special time in your life, like a pregnancy or first year of college or wedding planning
- to help promote a small business
- for a long term learning project
This product was sent to me free of charge to try out. All opinions above are my own and you are free to disagree with them if you like. I am not being additionally compensated in any way for this review.
There has been some chatter lately about the Bic Cristal, from Brad at The Pen Addict to the Erasable Podcast (I can't remember which episode, so if you know it, let me know!) to a Facebook group entirely devoted to this modest ballpoint pen. And, at $1.59 for a pack of ten, I didn't have a good excuse to not see what all the fuss was about.
I hate to say it, but I just don't love the Cristal. Don't get me wrong, I want to soooo bad. The Cristal has been described as "the pencil of pens" and I 100% agree. It's simple, it's cheap, it works without being fiddly.
But for me, the Cristal has no joy. The colors are a bit washed out and sad and the body feels cheap (hey, it is cheap!). While I am pretty sure that the Cristal is water resistant, my prior ink testing experience showed that a Bic Roundstic did not hold up well to sunlight, so I hesitate to use something like this for anything where permanence is key.
If you are looking for a way to spend less than $2, have a handful of pens that will be really reliable and not require further thought, go get you some Cristals. But for me, I need a bit more joy in my writing than this pen can provide.
I have recently discovered a strong fondness for felt tipped pens. They seem to give me a lot of the things I like about pencils in terms of how they feel on paper, but with the convenience of a pen (no sharpening or smearing, consistent tip size, and an array of color options). I have the luxury of an art supply store on campus that sells singles of a wide variety of pens, so I thought that I would do some comparisons and start off with two of my favorites - the Sharpie Pen and the Sakura Pigma Micron. These are two great pens that really set the bar for what a felt tipped pen should be.
Things I like:
- Pretty inexpensive
- Very water and light resistant (see tests here for light resistance)
- Of the two, this pen is the more comfortable to hold
- Tip seems finer/able to resist mushing better
- Dries quickly
- Fairly mainstream
Things I don't like:
- Ink seems like a "light black"
Things I like:
- Truly black ink
- Color variety is better
- Wide range of tip sizes
- Metal clip can be adjusted, to a point
- Water resistant and would assume light resistant as well
Things I don't like:
- Slightly harder to find in normal stores and slightly more expensive
- Lots of sharp edges and short section
- Body color scheme is drab
I have a really hard time picking a clear winner between these two. I wish I could mix the body of the Sharpie with the ink of the Micron - that would probably be my perfect felt pen. Until then, I reach for them both equally and the difference in cost is so slight that it will not affect my purchasing habits. If all you have available is big-box retailers, I would highly recommend the Sharpie and I doubt you will find yourself unhappy with it. But, if you have an art supplier nearby, give a Micron a try - maybe for you there will be a clear winner but for me, there's room at the top for two.
Sometimes gimmicks turn me off a product before it even has a chance. Sometimes an especially cute gimmick can get me to try a product that I would otherwise pass over. This is the case with the Ten KM Pencil.
Visual appeal is where this pencil wins. It is a comfortable semi-hex painted a cheerful, lemony yellow that does not immediately make me feel childish (as is often the case with yellow pencils). The finish is smooth but not glossy and carries a bit more "rustic" feel compared to many other pencils. But what I love the most are the little tick marks along the barrel that supposedly mark off each kilometer worth of writing you do. This painting is very crisp and only along one side, so nothing feels overdone. On the opposite side is the branding, with "THE TEN KM PENCIL" on the dip end and "MADE IN ENGLAND" on the point end.
I am pretty sure that this is billed as an HB pencil, and that seems like a fair grading. I typically prefer a softer core in pencils, but will use an HB if I want better point retention. Sadly, I don't feel like this pencil holds a point for an especially long time either. The core is also scratchy, which I don't enjoy when writing more than a few words. On the plus side, I don't find it to be especially smeary and it does erase easily with a quality eraser.
Besides the sub-par core, this pencil is pleasant to use. It is very light, due to the fact that it does not have an eraser. I will sometimes put on an eraser cap if I expect to do a lot of erasing but the balance is definitely improved when left naked.
At $1.50 each, this pencil's price surpasses its quality. It is nice, but I don't reach for it "just because" and I will probably not use it extensively now that the review is done. It will probably live on the workbench in my office, which is seems perfectly suited for based on the ruler theme.
This pencil was purchased with my own money. If you want one for yourself, you can get it here (no affiliation).