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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Notebook Review - CTF's Hit List!

Before reading this review you should get a general idea of what this notebook is about. Read this topic here on Fountain Pen Network.  It's a custom made notebook by a great guy on the Fountain Pen Network. His username is CTF and his notebook is called Hit List. I was generously given a free trial-copy of the notebook for reviewing purposes. So that's what this review is about. These notebooks will be available soon on Fountain Pen Network so keep watch for them!

Note: remember, just click any picture for a super sized view of it!

Here goes the review. First of all, I must say I really like these notebooks! They're very unique, very simple, and very well put together. For around six months now I've been using Clairefontaine exclusively for my pocket notebooks but I'm beginning to look for something else. My main gripe with the CF notebooks was such: They had to glossy of paper for me. It made some of my pens skip and took forever to dry. I still like them but I actually prefer rougher paper. This notebook has just the kind of paper I like!

I'll start with dimensions and specs:
- Notebook height: 5 3/4 inches - 14.7cm
- Notebook width: 3 1/2 inches - 9cm
- Page count: 16 sheets - 32 pages
- Binding: Staplebound with saddle-stitching.

As far as dimensions go I like them. They are very close to the "standard" pocket notebook design. I have no problems at all with the sizing. The page count could potentially be a problem for some others. I don't mind but at 16 sheets/32pages that's a little on the small side. Like I said, I personally prefer the smaller notebooks so I was very pleased! It all depends on what an individual is looking for in a pocket notebook...

Here's the notebook in all it's glory!

Back view showing only the words MADE IN CANADA on the bottom.


On to design aspects!
I love the design of the notebook! The only thing I could ever want different about it is an unfinished, plain cardboard look. Like the tabacco color in the CF notebooks. Also, the book is saddle-stitched. This makes it very durable but it will never lay completely flat on a table. That's a good trade of though.

I love the CTF dock! Just look at the photos. It's a neat little feature for keeping your pen "at-bay" while not using it. It's one of those features that makes you say: "duh! Why haven't I thought of that!?" It's a really nice little thing that makes the notebook unique and sets it apart from other pocket notebooks.

Also, the notebook has a very nice "labeling" section on the cover. See the photos for more on this. It's great for this: After using up the notebook and putting it away with you large stash of used notebooks, it can get difficult when looking back to remember which notebook has what in it. This labeling system keeps this information right at your fingertips! It's a great feature. The info section has the following labels:

The design really is simplicity, which I love by the way. Less is more I always say! It's just black and white, minimal text, a simple yet good looking logo. It all adds up to a great design. Good job there CTF!

Here's a cool shot I took mainly for fun. It shows the info section on the side of the notebook.

here's the notebook next to my Parker 51. It's quite a pair!

Here's the CTF Dock up close. It's a great feature! You clip your pen right onto that little cut-out and it keeps it form sliding around.

Here's my "51" clipped onto the CTF Dock. It really works!

Another artsy shot of the pen and notebook. I really like the looks of it.

Here's the back of the notebook showing both sides. This picture shows of the info section on the cover.


Now for the real test: The paper!
This paper is what I've really been longing for while I was using the CF notebooks. It's perfect for me. Here are th epros and cons:

- It's pure white, but not shiny like the CF notebooks. I love this!
- It's smooth, but has just a bit of texture to it so it's not to "waxy" like my other paper. I really like the little bit of texture to it! It makes for a more tactile writing experience.
- My ink dries much quicker on here than Clairefontaine! CF paper takes ages to dry and it's really bothersome when I need to write a quick note, and then close the notebook right away. With this notebook my ink dries about twice as quick!

- My big pens (1.3mm wet stub) do show extremely light bleedthrough. It's so light it can almost be called showthrough instead of bleed through.
- It exhibits a very slight amount of feathering. For me, this is fine as a trade off. You can pick either slow dry time, or slight feathering and faster dry times. I choose the latter.
- Here's a big one for me. Your only ruling option is blank. Yup, no lined, graph, nothing. Just blank. This is my first blank notebook and I must say I kinda' like it but I wish there was at least a lined option. I personally love graph but lined would be more acceptable than nothing. This is probably something that will be implemented in future versions of the notebook.

That's really about it for the cons. This paper is just what I wanted in a personal pocket notebook.

Here's the notebook open with some of my writing in it.

Here's an up-close shot of my writing on the paper. The top line is Iroshizuku Kon-Peki ink in a 1.3mm stub nib. Just click on this picture for a super-sized view of it. That'll help you to see the micro-feathering of the paper.

Here's the inside of the notebook paper. The left side page is the back of the one in the above picture. You can see the light show-through here. Mainly with that 1.3mm stub nib!

Here's a close-up of the show-through. Not to bad for a huge wet nib like I was using.


Main critiques for the notebook:
- It does have somewhat of a small amount of pages. This may or may-not be an issue for you.
- The ink used to print the inside the of the covers with text actually tansfered just a bit onto the pages of the notebook. This is sometihng that could probably be changed in the next version of the notebook. It's not a big deal but I would like it if it was fixed.
- There's only one color option and though it's not a problem I would love to see a plain un-colored version.
- No paper choices other than blank. No lined, graph, etc. Just blank...

All that aside this is an outstanding notebook that I will definitely be getting more of! Thank you CTF for letting my try one of these and review it! The notebooks should be available for purchase in approx. three weeks (around the end of May). I know I'll be stocking up!

One last artsy shot! This is a great notebook!

Please, drop me a comment below and let me know what you think of this review!



  1. Thanks for the great review, Tyler. While I think the dock is a brilliant, "Why didn't I think of that?" idea and the pocket size seems perfect, there are too many negatives for me, based on your review. I actually like the ultra bright white of Clairefontaine paper as well as the smooth feel of nib on paper. For me, many inks that don't do well on other papers write just fine on the Clairefontaine. While you would prefer fast drying and a bit of feathering as a trade-off, I like just the opposite, a bit of drying time and no feathering.

    Also, based on your excellent photos, I found the bleed through less than acceptable and would probably only use one side of a page. At only 16 pages per notebook, that becomes somewhat impractical, at least for me.

    Of course, this is only based on the review and I would have to actually use one before making a final decision. Again, thanks for the review.

  2. Hello Freddy! Glad you liked the review. Do keep in mind a few things - The "bleed-through" you see is from a very wet 1.3mm (larger than 3B) nib. It doesn't bleed at all with mediums, fines, basically the normal nibs.

    Also, the paper does feel smooth when writing. I guess it's more like a Rhodia than a CF. There are certainly ups and down to both. I do love my CF journals also.

    I just did another test yesterday with PR Sherwood Green. My CF journal takes about 20 - 30 seconds (ouch!) to dry with my ultra-wet 1.3mm stub. The Hit List took about 5 seconds! When I need to take a quick note and then throw my notebook in my bag it's very annoying to have to wait half a minute before putting it away or turning the page.

    Anyhow, both are excellent notebooks and it really depends on what you want. Enjoy your CF's!

    777 - Tyler Dahl

    P.S. - I'm thinking of doing a head-on comparison of Hit List VS. a Clairefontaine pocket duo-notebook.