Notebook review - Book Block Original

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. 

Pen testing, on the front side of the sheet.  The big blob of grey at the bottom is from a waterbrush.

The back of the testing page.  

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

I really enjoy minimal branding on products, and it's nice to have it color coordinated with my design.

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.

Pencil review - Ten KM Pencil

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.

Writing experience

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).