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Friday, August 12, 2011

Notebook review - Clairefontaine Crok Book!

Here's a review of a really fun new notebook by Clairefontaine! As with all my reviews, they tend to get really long. This was supposed to be  a mini-review, but...  So anyway, prepare yourself for a good read - relax, and enjoy!


I'll start with some background - This notebook was generously given to me by a member of the Fountain Pen Network. The reason for the gifting has a story behind it, which I will tell.

A loooong while ago (it's only really a little over a year, but it seems so long ago!), I was given my first Clairefontaine (CF for short. It's easier to type...) notebook. It was a pocket staple-bound duo. I eagerly tried it, and fell in love right away. Back then, I was still new to FP's, and really new to paper. So, I thought this stuff was heaven. No bleeding or feathering.

Now zoom ahead 1.2 years or so - to about 2 months ago. I was given another notebook, and a very special notebook at that. It was the CTF Hit-List notebook. I reviewed it here, and reading that review will help explain this story, so I recommend you go do that. You see, I was eager to try out something other than CF. "Why?" Well, the honest truth is that CF was giving me some trouble. I had just made the transition to bigger nibs (from XF to a B's and BB's) and was beginning to play around with different ones. What I discovered along the way was this - CF paper was making my good nibs write all nasty! Please, don't stone me for slamming the FP users favorite notebook. :) I'm just tellin' the truth here!

My specific gripes with CF paper are:
  1. To shiny/bright for me. It looks like plastic, and feels like it too. :|
  2. To slick for me. I like a little resistance, not much, but a little texture to stop my pen from going all over the place...
  3. Expensive. That can't exactly be helped, but a cheaper alternative would be nice.
  4. Makes my pens exhibit baby-bottom (AKA: rounded inner margins) behavior. Yup... "Why?" Well, here's the thing - CF paper is made to resist ink! Oh yes. Some will say - "no it's just the nib". Nope, that doesn't do it for me. I've used my own ground nibs, factory nibs, and even a Richard "Binderized" nib. They all skipped on the down-stroke on CF paper. I've used several CF notebooks too, and with multiple inks! And yes, I know how to hold my pens at the right angle too. Now, this down-stroke skipping was not a "consistent" problem. It was maybe, one letter every other sentence. It was enough to annoy me, that's for sure...
As always YMMV (your mileage may vary)!!! Seriously though, you may have none of these problems. I do, so I sought out a different notebook. I just wanted to let people know what I was having trouble with... :) Now, back to the story!

After all this frustration, I decided to hunt for something new. I posted on FPN my troubles with CF paper, and found that I was not the only one. Shocking indeed, but a relief to me. I turned to this new CTF's Hit-List notebook with much anticipation. I was not disappointed! It met all my new requirements for a notebook, and had none of the problems that the CF paper did. I was very happy. But, there was one problem to my happiness - The CTF notebooks were finally up for sale (I was given a prototype), but they were not in my price range... At all... At around $8.00 a piece for a 15 sheet notebook, I was done with those. Truly sad, as they were fabulous. They were expensive for two reasons:
1 - They were custom made, by one individual, through a small factory.
2 - They were coming from Canada. Shipping was killer...

So, I turned again, on the hunt for something new, but close to the CTF notebook. As if by divine providence, and kind FPN member sent me a message. He said he had a CF notebook I would like. This confidence led to my instant answer of "Sure! I'd love to try one out". It sounded like he had an answer to my problem.

A week later - enter the Clairefontaine Crok Book!

This notebook, has certainly changed my views on CF as a company. A week before I got this notebook I was ready to pitch CF out and never look back. This notebook has redeemed CF, to a small degree, in my eyes. ;)

So, with that background story behind us, let's move on to the review!

The Crok book is new for 2011, and is part of, what seems to me at least, a "series" they have come out with. This notebook can be classed with the semi-new CF graf-it pads. They're the exact same paper, and made for the same basic purpose. These notebooks are designed for pencil drawings. Yes, that's right, for sketches, and other artistic applications, that's what these are all about. I however, have found that they are ideal, for me at least, to use with a fountain pen. 

First, a description of the product. From the exaclair catalog:

Crok’ Book® Sketch Notebooks
An original and colorful notebook with a flexible cover to
write sketch or draw. With a wide range of vibrant colors
and 4 sizes, there is a Crok’ Book® for every mood!

• Stapled sketch notebooks
• 90 g white sketch paper
• Colored cover with 270g card
• 24 sheets, acid-free paper
• Stapled on the side or on top for larger formats
• Round corners, embossed logo
• Sold assorted colors
• 4 sizes available

Here are the sizes/shapes they come in:

Sketch notebook NEW 6 ¾ x 8 ¾
NEW 8 x 12
NEW 12 x 17

Landscape sketch notebook NEW 6 ¾ x 4 ¼

You've got two "shapes" - a landscape and a portrait. The landscape only has one size for now, but I'm guessing that will expand as the years go by. You've got three size options with the normal one, which is a pretty decent selection if you ask me.

The notebooks come in "assorted" colors. Here is, again from the exaclair catalog, the list of colors. They are not named, just shown:

From what I can see here, you've got 30 colors to "choose" from. You don't really get to pick though... This is not really a problem for me, as individual retailers will break them up into colors for those who don't want a  *insert disliked color here* colored one.

Here is my personal Crok Book. I got a green one, in the 8x12 size. I really like the staple-bound, "floppy" design of this notebook. It's like a giant pocket notebook. The soft cover makes it easy to toss around in a bag, and not have sharp edges poking out everywhere. Plus, you can drop it and bend it without damaging it. And! It lays perfectly flat. In fact you can fold it over on itself if you want to do the one page thing.

So, the big question: "How does it hold up to FP ink?" - Well, see for yourself!

It performed fabulously! No feathering, decently quick dry time, and best of all, no problems that my other CF notebooks had. It never makes my pens skip on the down-stroke. I truly think this paper is a superior product to the normal CF paper. But again, YMMV...

Again, check out this performance: Almost no show-through at all. And I was using my biggest, wettest nibs on this paper.

One of the main reasons I love this paper so much is the texture of it. It's textured like cheaper papers, in a good way though - somewhat rough, and not bright-white, but instead a pleasing dull-white. The texture is mainly for pencil users, so the graphite can grab onto the paper and leave a "better" line. I personally love the slight texture and non-brightness of the paper. It's certainly not rough, but it's not plastic-feeling like other CF papers are.

This notebook is a total winner for me. And the price is decent too! They retail for about $3.75 a notebook! Not bad for a 24 sheet (48 page) notebook. In fact, they're cheaper than most pocket-sized Cf notebooks. Now, you might have trouble finding these notebooks right now. They're not widely available yet. They should be soon though. I'm hoping retailers catch on and begin stocking them.

So, as a notebook, I think the new CF Crok Books are simply put: "Fabulous!" I love mine, and I hope they come out soon to more retailers so everybody else can get a hold of one. If you've been disappointed with some of CF's previous offerings, you'll want to give this notebook a try. It may change your view on the company, or at least on their notebooks!

I do hope you've enjoyed this review. Of course, I always hope you enjoy my posts. :) I try to be as informative, honest, and detailed as I can be - to provide you with accurate, up-to-date, and fun/interesting information.

Let me know your thoughts on the review and the notebook - leave me a comment below! We all benefit from discussions in the comment area, so don't be shy about posting there. ;)

Also, do subscribe to my blog if you want to stay updated on the latest posts, reviews, and cool videos! It's super easy, and you can always unsubscribe. I've got a lot of great stuff coming up in the next month or two:

- A review of the staples eco-friendly notebooks
- A pilot VP black matte review!
- A review of the namiki flacon "flex" pen
- A Lamy 2000 review
- Over 10 new ink reviews
- And a whole lot more!

You're not gonna want to miss out on this stuff. Do yourself a favor, and stay informed!

777 - Tyler Dahl


  1. That's interesting that you observe the paper to cause the nib to act like it has baby-bottom. I just recently aquired an Aurora 88 Silver Sterling Cap with a medium nib and it acts like it has baby-bottom on my favorite CF clothbound notebook, but under a 10x loop it looks fine. Perhaps a slight rounded of the inner edge, but not much at all. The nib definitely performs better on some high quality Classic Crest writing paper. No skipping at all. But there still is slight skipping on Kokuyo Campus notepads although not as bad as on the Clairfontaine paper.

  2. One selling point that most Clairefontaine  notebooks of any kind lack is perforated paper.  Very often I want to remove a piece of paper on which I have written but want to do it cleanly.  Perforated paper, near the binding, permits this but Clairefontaine doesn't offer the option on most of its notebooks.

    I haven't noticed the writing problems you have had on my small 90g weight bright white Clairefontaine notebook.

  3. Yup, sounds like you've got the exact same thing as me.

    Here's the thing Rob, when I (or anyone else) grinds a nib there is a part in there where you smooth the inner tines. This part, I have found to be extremely finicky. All nibs have rounded inner tines, to some micro-degree. The more you round the inner-tines, the smoother the nib is. But if you go to far, you get BB syndrome.

    I personally just quit using CF paper instead of changing all my nibs. Mainly because they wrote perfectly fine before I ever used CF.

  4. Yea, perforated paper would be nice. I generally never need to tear out paper, unless I'm writing a letter. In that case, I usually prefer a large spiral-bound notebook.

    As far as noticing - You may not have the problems. Every bodies pens, inks, and papers vary slightly, at the least. I have also found that the harder writing pressure you use, the less you experience this skipping. This is probably my problem. When I began using CF paper, I was new to FP's, and I still had moderate to heavy writing pressure. Nowadays I use light to moderate pressure. The heavier pressure pushes the nib into the paper enough to counteract any slight BB the nib may have...

    At least, that's my observation/theory. :)

  5. I was just talking to my local guy, Tom, at, and he was mentioning carrying CF.  I will tell him of this post.  We both would like to see CF offer the option of an ivory paper.  I think one of the best features of this was that you said it could be folded back on itself and lay flat.  I've often found myself writing or drawing in my lap, and it's hard to do with an extra page 'flappin around' and having the weight of the book that's hanging pulling the page you're working on out of your hands and off of your lap.  Folding it back and under would be like having a clipboard w/o the clip being in the way.  Any word on where your generous benefactor obtained these?

  6. Hey Karen,

    No, I don't were exactly were he got them but I'm guessing directly from exaclair. He's a CF retailer, though he does most of his stuff back-channel on FPN.

    Yea, I love the floppy design of this notebook. It's really fabulous!

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