Matt from The Pen Habit has a line of notebooks that he sells, newly branded as Inky Fingers around the time of the Washington DC Pen Show. They were at the Vanness Pens table so I could see and touch them. I decided to try out the Currently Inked version in the Travelers Notebook (TN) size.
The entire notebook line is available in either a standard pocket size (89mm X 140mm) or a Travelers Notebook size (110mm X 210mm). I’d tried a similar notebook in a pocket size in the distant past but it didn’t stick. The TN size seemed more usable, at least for me, so I decided to try one. I probably wouldn’t have added it to my cart if shopping online, but at $8 it was my least expensive purchase at the show.
The short review – it’s worked well for me and all 24 pens inked up since the show have been recorded in the notebook.
I like the TN size because it’s easy to find in the clutter of my desk. It doesn’t get lost in a pile of pocket notebooks. While the TN size is common, if not an actual standard, it’s still unique for me making it easy to identify by either sight or touch. Of course this would change if I had a desk drawer full of Travelers Notebooks rather than pocket notebooks.
The cover is glossy card stock. Each notebook type in the line has a different cover color and the Currently Inked covers are green. There are 44 pages (22 sheets) in the notebook with four inking slots on each page. So as math will prove, there’s room for 176 ink records. Each record has room for the basics – Pen, Nib, Ink, Date Inked and Date Cleaned. There’s also a space for a swab (labeled “swatch”). I’ve never been keen on swabs since they rarely reflect how the ink will look in my typical thin nib. So I use this space for a writing sample. I like how there are labels for the basic information, but they get out of the way if you want to do things a little different. It’s a very clean design.
The paper is 80 gsm wheat straw paper. I’d never heard of wheat straw paper so I hit up google. I’d compare it to sugarcane paper in that both are made from what is typically farm crop waste. But the resemblance to sugarcane paper ends there and this feels like quality paper made from trees. It’s relatively smooth but does have a little texture, which I like. I find the ink dries quickly but does not bleed-through or show-through. It’s not a thick paper so if there is light behind the page it will show through, but not in normal use. Thanks to the lighting the show-through is worse in the photos than in actual use, it’s not noticeable. I haven’t used any ink that is known for bleed-through, such as some quick drying inks designed to be quickly absorbed, so your experience may vary. I’ve begun using a Travelers Notebook and I like this paper enough to consider it for other style notebooks as inserts.
As an ink record I find it quick and easy to use. Unlike previous attempts I’ve been able to stick with it and there’s an excellent chance I will eventually fill the notebook. The paper, notebook size and clean design of the Inky Fingers Currently Inked notebook seem well-suited for me.
I’ve been using a Hobonichi Techo Journal this past year. Well, most of 2015, I did lapse a bit in the middle of the year. I haven’t written about it since I didn’t have anything to say that wasn’t already said in other reviews. That’s still the case so there’s links to other reviews down below. But the Year end is a good time to review the ways I’ve tried using the Techo along with my anticipated use in 2016, since I did buy a 2016 version.
I’ve never been much of a paper paper person, at least not since electronic options have been available. All my attempts at using a paper planner have resulted in quick and complete failure. So I didn’t get the Hobonichi with the intention of using it as a planner. I’d consider it as a planner but I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d use it, and this played out over the year as my usage changed.
I didn’t get a cover or any accessories for the Techo, they can be pricey and I wasn’t confident I would continue using it. I didn’t intend to carry the Hobonichi very often and when I did I thought any cover would add unwanted bulk. I ended up using a large rubber band to keep it closed.
The Techo is an A6 sized planner which is small. The paper is thin so the book isn’t very thick despite having a page per day plus many additional pages. Each daily page is grid ruled which is not my favorite choice. Sunday’s are a light red while other days are a thin black, and I’ve gotten used to it. There’s an area for a timeline down the left with “12” and dinner utensils preprinted. I wish these weren’t preprinted. While I do like recording a time for each entry I rarely match up to the two preprinted times.
As you may know the Hobonichi uses fountain pen friendly Tomoeo River paper. I used fountain pen exclusively. The paper is thin and while bleed through isn’t a problem there’s some show-through. In general show-through never bothers me and I regularly use both sides of any paper. With my thin nibs the show-through is there but minimal with the Hobionichi. What does bother me is the time it takes for ink to dry on this paper. I cut a piece of blotter paper to fit the Techo and place between the pages. In addition to making my current page easy to fine it keeps the ink from transferring to the facing page when I close the book. Sure, I could wait for the ink to dry but that would require patience. Plus, it provides a bit of a cushion to write on if I’m using a hard thin nib that might leave an imprint on the page below the one I’m writing on.
The Hobonichi contains a monthly section, with each month covering a two page spread. I started the year using this section to plan longer term projects and themes for a week. I never referred back to this information so this section died out in March. This was also my only attempt to use the Techo to actually plan more than a week ahead.
It was the daily pages that I used regularly, although in different ways throughout the year. It ended up being more of a journal than a planner. Regular use through the year included tracking goals such as weight and how far I walk each day. I would also track other things for short periods of time, such as my home bandwidth usage when it seemed higher than normal for the month.
One habit that I did develop, and plan to continue, is to start each day with a short entry about what time I woke up, how motivated I’m feeling and what the weather is like. At various times I’ve tried listing accomplishments during the day and a summary at the end of the day, but these never stuck as habits.
Lately I’ve returned to using it as a short term planning. On Sunday night I usually plan my week ahead. As part of this I copy any appointments from my electronic calendar to the Hobonichi. I don’t have many these days so it’s quick to do. Then I pick a theme, project, or client that I’ll concentrate on for each day of the week. This kind of works for me but I won’t be continuing this next year. It helps because I see the info as I make my morning entry first thing, but I never refer to it during the day. If I have the book out near the end of the day I can quickly see what’s on tap for the next day. That’s a big “if” so I’m still in the habit of checking my electronic calendar and OmniFocus to see what’s on tap for the next day.
I never did get into the quotes on each two day spread or any of the other specialized pages. I’d prefer more space to write instead of the quotes but I suppose they are part of the Hobo charm. I might use some of the other pages this year, but probably not.
I did get a Hobonichi Techo for 2016 but I’ll be using it a bit diffently. I bought a Agendio that I intend to use as a traditional planner. Having the Techo for a year helped me work out if I could use a paper planner (yes), and if so what I would want in one (not the Hobo). For me, the drawback of the Techo is that there’s either a month view or a day view. I like to see a week at a time and I don’t need a lot of room for each day. In 2016 I’ll be using the Techo as a journal rather than a planner. I’ll keep doing my morning entries and tracking diet and other health related metrics since I find this is a good incentive to keep me on track and stick to good habits. Despite past failures I plan to end each day with an entry about the day along with anything interesting that I saw or did.
The Pen Addict – Susan mainly reviews the larger Hobonichi Cousin but there is a comparison. She did not like the Techo for several reasons, so it’s worth reading if you want to avoid surprises.
The Newsprint – Good review with lots of details about the book itself. Great photos.
Gourmet Pens – Azizah was a bit overwelmed by everything in the Hobo (as was I but I just ignored much of it). This review comes after it “clicked” and she’s used it awhile.
There’s a large fan community around Hobonichi planner. Use Ian Hedley’s Pennaquod pen blog searcher or Google to search for enough reading to consume a day (or week).
Field Notes & fountain pens have been the subject of some recent internet discussion and some recent Pen Addict podcasts. I have to admit I can’t get worked up one way or the other on the topic. But it did get me thinking about what I like in my pocket notebooks. Especially since some of what other people mentioned as a negative I consider a feature.
I rarely use the notebook that’s actually in my back pocket. It’s often faster for me to use my phone for a quick note (usually using Drafts). It’s so rare for me to pull the notebook from my pocket I have considered not carrying it, but inertia and habit keeps it in my pocket. So when I say pocket notebook I mean a notebook that is about 3.5“ x 5.5” in size so it does fit in a pocket, although I don’t have to pull it from a pocket to use it.
I wrote about my Nock Co. Fodderstack XL and I do carry a pocket notebook in there. Since the pen and notebook are together I’m more likely to use this instead of the notebook from my back pocket. Currently I have the Nock Co. DotDash Black Notebook in this. When the notebook is full I’ll replace it with a different type. More on why when I discuss paper later. I typically use this for quick notes so this notebook’s biggest competitor is my phone. I will occasionally pull this notebook out and carry just the notebook and a pen in my shirt pocket.
These days my pocket notebooks are mostly carried in a Pelle Leather Journal cover that I purchased years ago. The cover is slightly smaller than a pocket notebook, with a height of about 5.25″. I rather like being able to see the edges of the notebooks that are inside. I tend to pick notebooks that match up aesthetically. The Pelle holds three notebooks. I suppose more could be squeezed in with some creativity, but three is enough for me. The Pelle cover is no longer available although it is similar to the smaller Midori Traveler Notebook.
The Pelle is too bulky to be carried in my pocket, at least during the summer. There are some where it will fit, but it’s just not convenient. So I usually carry it in my bag, or just in my hand from place to place. I have gotten into the habit of just making sure it’s with me.
My use of the Pelle cover has ebbed and flowed since I got it years ago. I started using it again at the start of this year when I filled it with a set of three Field Notes Ambition notebooks. I’m in the seventh month of nearly constant use.
I use the ledger book for lists, usually that I will refer to more than once or over a long(ish) period of time. This notebook is less than a third full after nearly seven months.
The second notebook is the weekly planner. This is a 56 week planner so it’s still going. Each night I use this to record three, sometimes four tasks that I want to accomplish the next day. I don’t use it as a typical planner, only updating it at night for the next day and checking off what I accomplished.
The third notebook started off as the grid ruled ambition but has since been filled and replaced. Currently it is a Field Notes Workshop series notebook although I will probably replace it before it’s filled. (Again, the reasons will be under paper types I like.) I use this for longer notes when I’m sitting at a desk or table. It’s often things I’ll want to refer back to, at least during the next week or two. This notebook does get used a lot so it’s been filled a few times. Between the Ambition and the Workshop notebooks I used a Field Notes Pitch Black edition and a couple Doane Notebooks.
I am terrible at organizing and tracking multiple notebooks. At one time I thought it would be good to have notebooks dedicated to certain topics. This quickly devolved into a hot mess. The notebook I wanted was never handy and I had notes scattered all over the place. That’s when the Pelle Journal returned to use. My active pocket notebooks are now either in it or my Fodderstack.
I also found that keeping multiple notebooks, each dedicated to a topic, in the Pelle didn’t work for me. This is one reason I had stopped using it before this year, I just didn’t need three notebooks at once. The lists and day planner notebooks, along with the general notebook, does seem to be working for me. I could incorporate them into the same single notebook but I find that the three notebooks works well for me. The lists and planner allow me to swap out the general notebook once it’s full and not have to worry about needing it for reference or transferring information.
I don’t scan my notebooks when they are full or otherwise index them. I will occasionally scan a page or two with my phone or copy some info into a more permanent notebook or computer document. I used to save all my pocket notebooks by throwing it in a box. But after never referring back to them I now destroy them when they are full. Even the planner really only has info that’s fresh for a day. I have a full fledged electronic task list but I find the written list of top tasks helps me avoid the distraction of seeing other tasks and allows me to focus.
I hate fountain pen friendly pocket notebooks! There, I said it. Ok, hate is too strong a word, but it makes my point. The reason the Field Notes Workplace Edition and the Nock Co. DotDash black notebook will be replaced is because they are too “fountain pen friendly”. I’m using them because I decided to force myself to try to adjust to the paper. It doesn’t seem to be working although I still hate to remove the notebook before it is full.
No doubt the paper is nice to write on. So why the hate? Smudges! Being fountain pen friendly extends the ink drying time since the ink is absorbed into the paper more slowly. I don’t want to carry blotter paper and I don’t want to wait before closing the notebook or turning the page. I also don’t want to rely on ink specially formulated as fast drying. I get smudges when I carelessly put my hand on the written word when holding the notebook. Less fountain pen friendly paper absorbs the ink faster so it dries faster. I have fewer problems with the the regular paper, such as with the Field Notes Ambition series. I can concentrate on the writing, not how I hold the notebook or if I can turn the page.
I use thin nibs so the less friendly paper is not a problem for me. There is often show through but I actually like that and I can still easily read what I wrote. I am destroying the book in the end so as long as I can read what I wrote before it is destroyed I am happy with it. Smudges bug me, show through does not. I rarely encounter bleed through and it’s usually when a pen burps ink. Honestly, show-through and even some incidental bleed-through gives me the impression of a well used notebook. Smudges make me feel like I’ve been careless.
Doane Paper Grids+Lines is my favorite paper ruling on any paper size, including pocket notebooks. This is interesting and was a surprise to me because the traditional grid ruling is my least favorite overall, although in a pocket notebook I would pick grid over a standard line ruled paper. A dot grid ruling is a close second to Grids+Lines and it is more readily available.
The paper type in Field Notes can vary widely although I’ve never encountered one where it’s been so bad with my fountain pens that I can’t use it. I can see where others wouldn’t like them with fountain pens but in my pocket notebook I value quick drying over everything else. Plus I like the “I’m being used” look of show through. I don’t like the “Hah! Now try to remember what you wrote” look of smudges.
Because of past Field Notes subscriptions and my hoarding of Doane pocket notebooks (from when they are on sale) I have a lot of these pocket notebooks waiting to be used. I don’t typically try other pocket notebooks and I don’t feel compelled to find a better notebook. I’m very happy with my current options. While I like the Doane Grids+Lines better than all the other options I do like the variety and design of Field Notes so I do switch between the notebooks. That said, I have to admit to buying the odd pocket notebook here and these.
The Pelle Journal cover has made my pocket notebook harder to carry since they no longer fit into a pocket with ease. This wasn’t a problem in the winter since a winter jacket always had a big enough pocket. But even know that summer is here I’ve still kept the habit of making sure the notebooks are with me. So the reality is I’ve gone through pocket notebooks faster since switching to the cumbersome three notebook Pelle Journal cover.
Knowing that the notebook will eventually be destroyed keeps me more diligent in moving those important notes to where they belong. In the past I’d procrastinate, knowing the book will always be available. Yet I’d sometimes have to go mining through old notebooks looking for something I knew I wrote down. Now I’m diligent in reviewing my notes at least at the end of the week if not sooner. Anything that was possibly important enough to exist longer than the notebook was move someplace where it could be searched from electronically. There’s actually very little that I need to copy from the pocket notebook so it’s note time consuming. Scanning entire notebooks prior to destruction would take longer and not be any more useful.