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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Notebook review - Clairefontaine Staple-bound Duo

Time for a review of a fairly popular notebook by the very popular company Clairefontaine. Most of you probably know by now that I'm not a big fan of CF (Clairefontaine) paper. Nonetheless, this is a solid notebook that performs well, and most people are going to love it.

Read on for the full review of the (this is a mouthful): Clairefontiane "Life-Unplugged" Staple-bound Pocket Duo!
So, this is going to be a rather loose review compared to my usual systematic hyper-detailed ones. More of a mini-review I guess you could say. I'm just going to talk through some strong points, and some week points that this notebook has. By the end of it all, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this notebook.

I think this notebook is a 85/100 for me.

Even though I'm not a big fan of CF, it's hard not to like this notebook. It's small, convenient, extremely sturdy, and the paper is very FP friendly.

This notebook is part of Clairefontaine's "Life Unplugged" line of products. If you want to purchase these no notebooks, or others in this series, I recommend you go to the Goulet Pen Company. I've found it hard to get a hold of these notebooks from anywhere else, and besides, who doesn't love to shop at the Goulets!? :)

The good:
  • Staple-bound - this allows the user to fold the back over itself, making it easier to write on the go.
  • Very sturdy. The notebook is reliably built, and handles wear very well.
  • Good size. Not to big, not to small.
The bad:
  • I would really like to see this notebook offered in graph. I believe CF does make it, but it's definitely not easily available.
  • For me personally I find the paper much to bright and shiny. Almost like plastic. It loses some of the fun of writing with a fountain pen...
The Ugly:
  • The paper tends to collect hand-oils extremely well, leading to skipping when using the lower half of the page.
  • I find the paper tends to make larger nibs (B, stubs, italic, etc.) skip even when they write perfectly fine on normal paper. This problem however, is not applicable to everyone. Many people I've talked report no skipping, but others report the same thing as me. It's sort of a mixed bag of opinions out there...
Now let's jump into all the details!

Clairefontiane did a pretty good job here. I like the design. The shape of the notebook, the texture of the cover, and some of the color choices are very nice.

This notebook definitely looks nice. Below is shown my favorite color oft he four choices you're given. This ones a "tan"/natural looking one.

You're color options are unfortunately limited, and since the notebooks come in two packs, you're usually stuck with a color you don't want. Yup, CF decided to go for multi-colored packs! 0_o

You have your choice of:
  • One red and one green notebook. I find both these colors ugly, personally.
  • One Black and one tan. I love the tan, and the black is ok.
I wish they were sold in single-color packs instead of this arrangement, but oh well.

Not much else to say about the design. It's basic, simple, and (in the right color) looks very good. There's a little CF logo near the front bottom corner, in case you didn't notice it there.

This notebook is very sturdy, and that's one of the things I love about it. It always seems to take a beating with no complaint, and the pens I've used (I'm n my third) have never even come close to falling apart on me.

The construction is basic - paper, cardboard cover, and two staples. :)

Because of the stapled design, the notebook lies completely flat.

Best of all, it can be folded onto itself, which is terribly convenient for on-the-go writing.

One again, not a whole lot to say here. It functions very well, and it really holds up under stress. Here's some photos of my previous notebook. This one had accompanied me riding in my back pocket for months on end. I got it a little wet a few times. It got abused. And it took this all very well.

(Apple sticker was added by me - does not come with the notebook! :)
you can see some wear here. Upper right corner has a bend in it. Edges are very dirty.

It's a tad "wavy" all over too. And the back edge is slightly worn.

Overall though, it looks great for a notebook that traveled with me every day for about 6-7 months. It's still in fully usable condition, and I have no doubt I could easily carry it for another 6 months without it falling apart on me.

The Paper:
As I said earlier - it's no secret that I dislike CF paper. But for the sake of this review, I will push my disdain aside, and refrain from interjecting my personal opinions into this. :)

Pen, nib, and ink - from top to bottom:
- Pilot VP, F nib, Diamine Red Dragon
- TWSBI 540 (smoke), M nib, PR Spearmint
- TWSBI 540 (clear), F nib, Diamine Orange
- Stipula Passporto, 1.1mm italic nib, MB Lavender Purple
- Kaweco Sport, B nib, PR Copper Burst
- Noodlers Ahab flex, F nib, Noodlers BayState Blue

To put it simply: these inks were no match for the CF paper, save one: Noodlers BSB. This is my first time using BSB, and I have to say :WHOAH! Bleeding and feathering heavilyon CF paper? Yikes. That's pretty scary... I'll try it in a drier pen next time around. :)
You can see what BSB did in this picture:

All in all, the CF paper really outshines most other "FP friendly" paper. I'd prefer it in graph, with a little more texture, in a slight of white color.

But, most folks love the bright white, slick gloss of this paper, so I can't judge it for that.

It takes ink very well, and will never feather or blood with normal inks. The bright white also is very good for testing inks, as it tends to really show off the color with 100% accuracy.

I think this is a fine notebook, and I've really enjoyed mine. Heck, I've gone through 2.5 of them now, so I obviously don't hate them. :)

I love how sturdy they are, and while I don't love the paper, it definitely gets the job done.

If you like CF paper, I highly recommend you go grab a few packs of these. you'll love having the famous CF paper in pocket form, always with you. If you've been considering tossing your Moleskine in favor of something better, this is your notebook.

A few last pictures, with my new smoke 540. ;)

A gorgeous pair, aren't they!

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this mini-review. please, do leave me a comment below and let me know what you think. I'd enjoy hearing from you.

Don't forget to share this review with a friend, tweet it, post it to Facebook, and subscribe to the blog! Your participation, enthusiasm, and comments really keep me going!

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