Baron Fig Askew Confidant Notebook Review

It's no secret that Baron Fig makes a great notebook. It's also no secret that, at times, their minimalist design can be, well, boring. Special releases aside, you have 2 choices: light gray or dark gray. Everything is well thought out and meticulously designed, but can be overly simple if you're looking to spice things up a bit.

Can you smell the ink?

The back of the box.

Just a simple color change? You wish!

The new Askew notebook is part of their Confidant series of hardcover notebooks...and it is unlike anything they've done before. Available to subscribers and in limited quantities to non-subscribers, the Askew is Baron Fig with no rules. Debbie Millman, New York designer and host of the Design Matters podcast, is the brains behind this project. It's inspired by a project she had done in the past, a series of illustrated essays called Look Both Ways, one of which is a story written on hand-drawn ruling...now that I've mentioned it, might as well get to the elephant in the room...the ruling.

Usually, I talk about covers and packaging first, but the ruling is the "star" here. Every page is different, hand-drawn line ruling that is sometimes straight, and is at other times a giant mess. But more often than not, they are lines that look like they've been written with a blue-ink Bic with a red line margin down the side, similar to standard Mead paper. About every sixth page is drawn to an extreme ruling, sometimes somewhat usable, most times not at all. There are pages where the lines are super thin, pages where they slant. There's a Gregg Ruled page. A page that has no blue lines, but still has the red margin line. A page where the colors are inverted. And then there are pages that just have a giant ink scribble right smack dab in the middle.

The book is built beautifully, like all their Confidant releases. It lays flat, has quality paper, perforated pages in the back. 192 pages, the standard "Flagship" size of 5.4" x 7.7". The cover is the blue-violet color of a blue ballpoint pen, which Baron Fig calls "Blue Pen Blue". The fabric book mark is a straight red that goes wonderfully with the blue. Hell, they could have sat on this color combination until summer and called it an "America" edition, and people would've flipped for it.

The bookmark.

In my mind, they're all Unruly.

The box and cover pages are drawn like someone who was trying to fill out and cover a whole page in pen...who here hasn't done that when they were bored? There's a smell that happens when you do that, and I'll be damned if I didn't remember that smell when I first saw the box.


Those are the facts...here comes the opinion, stream-of-consciousness style:

This is a beautiful book.

Man, I wish the pages weren't like this. I would actually use the hell out of this if it was ruled normally.

Is it April 1st?

How did they think this was a good idea?

What the hell is this scribble in the middle of the page?

Is this art or a notebook?

It's cool to look at, but totally unusable.

Brad Dowdy's tiny handwriting would probably fit in there, but mine won't.

This shouldn't have been a part of the subscription, they should have sold it separately. I subscribed so I would get a usable notebook every 3 months. I didn't subscribe to quarterly concept art.

Baron Fig is responding to all the people who said everything they're doing is the same old, same old.

Baron Fig knows that this will cause a stir within our little notebook nerd community, and will get people talking about them again.


Video Review

I showed this book to my girlfriend, who doesn't care about stationery too much, only wanting something if it's the right color. She doesn't really know about these things. Her art criticism consists of thinking abstract art is stupid. She liked the outside of the book, but I can't reprint the stuff that came out of her mouth when looking at the pages...it wasn't very nice. Unfortunately, that's how I think a lot of people will think about this book. Overall, this was a cool idea that just was over-executed. The line between branching out into something different and staying with the same old stuff wasn't just crossed, but crossed the ocean and gave the natives smallpox.

We buy art when it speaks to us. We refuse art that doesn't speak to us if it is forced on us. It is unfortunate that this was a subscriber edition. I liken it to something like the Field Notes Flight Plan: that could have been a quarterly edition that just fulfilled another shipment, and people would have went apeshit about not being able to use it. It fills a very specific need, and I think this book does as well. I can't say this enough: this should have been a separate release.

I can't in good conscience recommend this book if you want to use it in any normal way. This isn't one of those limited editions that people will be clamoring over when they're gone, either, so I can't say to buy it as an investment. Ultimately, you know yourself, and if you think this is cool and something you'd like to have, go for it.

Available from Baron Fig, $20.

Favorites of 2016

In a lot of ways, 2016 was a strange year for me. I started the year in one town, moved to another for work, bought a house, then promptly changed careers. Scary, all this change. One constant has been my girlfriend by my side, supporting me the whole way. I can’t thank her enough. It seemed like every time 2016 took one step forward, it took two steps back. But the Cubs finally won the World Series, so I can’t be too upset.

2016 was also the year that I found an outlet for my obsession with stationery. I found communities online that contained people who are just as crazy about this stuff as I am, and those people helped guide me to find things I never would’ve found otherwise. The people I’ve made trades with this year in the Field Nuts and Erasable Facebook groups have been nothing but generous, helping me jump-start some collecting at little to no cost to me, out of the kindness of their hearts. I’ve loved this stuff for a long time, but never knew quite where to look and what was worth the spend. The reviews, conversation, and trading with these lovely people have been the highlight of my year.

This is NOT a recap of all the things that came out in 2016, as I can’t have possibly used or purchased everything out there. I can save that for the big boys. What I am going to review are my favorite things I used and/or discovered in 2016. Most will have been released in this year, but not all. I’m going over Pocket Notebooks, Standard Notebooks, Pencils, Pens, and other accessories. I’m looking for things that brought me joy…those beautiful, useful, well-designed items that I just couldn’t put down.

Pocket Notebook

Seriously...what's better than Charcoal Bookettes?

There were a ton of new pocket notebooks that came out this year. A couple companies got into the subscription model, some others just put out a ton of limited editions with new cover art, and Field Notes collaborated with a lot of brands this year. But my favorite of the bunch was the Write Notepads Kindred Spirit edition. This was the second in their membership series, and it was a home run. It was the book that sold me on Write Notepads and made me buy a membership. The member package was amazing: it came wrapped in a mini charcoal briquette bag, which had to be torn to get what was inside. There were pencils made to look like matchsticks and a cool trade token. But what I loved most about it was it was all Butcher Orange. 80# cover with 70# text paper that was amazing with pencil, with a cool little flame logo on the cover. It was lined (my fav!) with light orange ink. Instead of doing belly bands, Write makes these little boxes that are badass and look cool as hell. Also, to annoy the collectors and reward the users, they stuffed some of the boxes with Butcher Blue versions of the books, and gave out something special to those who reported they got one…which would force people to open their bags and boxes to check to get the cool thing, but if they decided not to, they wouldn’t know if they had a rare book or would qualify for the cool thing. Clever, and a good way to say these books are for using, not gouging people on eBay.

Honorable Mention: Field Notes x Carhartt

 

Standard Notebook

If you want spoilers about the innards, check out the review.

I’ve just discovered Baron Fig this year, after hearing them on a podcast that I was catching up on…I do that a lot, so I don’t remember from what year, episode, or really even what podcast it was. But I did remember the name, and I downloaded their note taking app to try out. Turns out, I don’t really need another place for notes on my phone. But when I found myself with a need for bigger notebooks with softcovers, they were really getting some props on their subscription service that had just launched. I decided to go for it and for my money, the Baron Fig Mystery Black Box is pretty cool. I just got it, but in initial use, it has already become my favorite softcover notebook this year. Here's my review.

For hardcover, you can’t go wrong with the Write Notepads Traditional Brass Ruled Notebook.  As a righty, I don’t mind the Wire-O binding, and the paper is killer, as all Write Notepads paper is. I have an expanded thought on these in my Write Notepads Starter Kit review.

Pencil

Black on Black on Black...awesome core.

This was the year of the pencil for me. I found so many new pencil brands to fall in love with. This was probably the hardest pick I had to make. I ended up choosing the Palomino Blackwing Vol. 24, the black “John Steinbeck” edition. I don’t ever wear black (more of an earth tones guy) and I rarely buy black products (more of a wood grain guy), so for something completely blacked out to win me over is no small feat. Black lacquer, black ferrule, black eraser, and an imprint, but no foil. The real star, however, is the core. The first “extra firm” core from Blackwing, these keep a point better than any Blackwing before it, but don’t give up any of their trademark darkness or smoothness. This core hasn’t yet been made available for the standard Blackwing line yet, but they have released it again in a second Volumes series pencil, the Winter 2016 Vol. 530…so there’s some hope that this core will stick around. If you’re listening, Palomino…let’s have a year-round natural finish, extra firm core pencil. It will become your best seller.

 

Sharpener

My precious...

There were a couple cool sharpeners that became available this year, but two stand out for me: the KUM Masterpiece and the M+R Pollux. Out of the two, I have to give the Pollux the edge because it give you an equally long point as the Masterpiece without the need for 2-stage sharpening. The Pollux is a single-hole, brass pocket sharpener that gives a concave long point. It’s expensive and hard to come by, but if you find one, do yourself a favor and grab it if you’re into pencils and love a long point.

 

 

Pen

A lot of ink for something I rarely use.

I didn’t have much pen activity this year. I did buy my first fountain pen, however…the Lamy Al-Star. With the Lamy green ink cartridge, it’s taken over as my main pen for writing letters and cards. I’ll always be a pencil-pusher first, but I do love this pen and will be exploring other things in the new year.

 

 

Subscription Extras

In my opinion, there is a tie for best subscription extra: Write Notepads Motel Keychain and the Field Notes Subscriber Personalized Reprint Set. The Write keychain is chock-full of retro-y goodness. This thing isn't a facsimile of those old motel keychains, it's like they found the one person left in the US still making these things and got them made. It's amazing. The Field Notes reprints are great. The were a surprise shipment to subscribers. When I had Draplin sign my blue single at the FNHQ Pop-up Shop, it even fooled him. He said "Is this what I think it is??" and started to flip to the back to look for the edition. I told him it was just the reprint and he said "Man, these things are close!" They also did give away these with a "Commemorative Reprint" belly band at FNHQ if you spent $20 or more in the retail shop...so that made the surprise shipment a little less special, but not by much. People close to FNHQ are going to the shop and buying these up to use as trade bait...I've gotten enough in trades to make my own Butcher Orange and Blue 3 packs if I wanted to.

This is retro-cool overload.

I had to use the orange because when would I ever get to? And why wouldn't I have Draplin sign the blue?


Some other things I loved this year:

Come back, little guy...I need more of you.

This thing got me through a stressful Cubs playoff run.

Seed “Radar” Eraser: I got this in a trade and saw it on CW Pencils, but didn't buy more when they had them in stock. This is my favorite handheld eraser, bar-none.

Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook: check out my review. If you love baseball, get this.

For a lot of people, 2017 can’t get here fast enough. Baron Fig just launched a subscription service, so I look forward to what they have in store. Word. is always good for some cool covers. Field Notes has been experimenting with different sizes and bindings. Write Notepads KILLED IT this year with their first year of subscriptions, so they’ve set a high bar and are surely up to the task. On the pencil front, Blackwing was been the only people really doing anything different, but sticking the 602 core in a new color lacquer pencil is going to get old, they’ll have to keep innovating. Baron Fig’s pencil sub looks interesting. The pencil space is due for some disruption, as much as a pencil can be “disrupted” and still remain a pencil. I plan on scouring the Kickstarter scene a little more, looking for new ideas, particularly with pens and notebooks…that being said, you can’t beat the classics.

More than anything, I hope to continue to be part of this great stationery nerd community, and to the great writing and photos in the little corner of the internet that we’ve seemed to carve out for ourselves.

Field Notes + Lead Fast

I was doing a little bit of Field Notes hacking today, trying to put some Kraft graph paper into an Expedition cover, because I hate the paper that comes with it. But I got a wild hair and decided to throw the cover in the printer and put my logo on it. Turned out pretty good! It's a laser printer, so we'll see if the toner flakes off during use...

IMG_0498.JPG

Field Notes Winter '16 Black Ice Review

Let's start with the elephant in the room: the Perfect binding on these books is just fine and the binding does NOT prevent it from laying flat. If you can't get yours to lay flat, then you're just being too dainty with your books. Fold it over, break the spine, and go. If you don't believe it can happen, you haven't tried it. Here's a video.

“Black Ice”, should be the last big release of the year for Field Notes, barring some yet-unannounced collaboration. The Winter 2016 Colors release taking another step forward in changing up their style, somewhat a trend for them this year. These are the first books to use PUR binding, a form of Perfect binding. They also feature an embossed foil cover that is a mirror-like finish.

With the shiny wrapping paper.

Like a (em)boss!

Perfect-ly PUR

Dunno where this is gonna go.

If you’re a subscriber, the extra is a 2017 year-at-a-glance calendar on kraft paper. They went a little light on the subscriber extra this time around because everyone who buys a pack of Black Ice gets a square of Draplin-designed wrapping paper and corresponding gift tag. It’s neat, and pretty, but fairly un-useful when compared to something like a sticker or pin or an extra book. The extras this year have been decent, I’m not saying they aren’t, but with competitors like Write Notepads out-innovating you and going all out with the membership perks, I think a kraft paper calendar is weak. It’d be different if every pack of Black Ice didn’t get the wrapping paper, if the wrapping paper was the subscriber extra. But I digress...shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth during this holiday season.

Ruled...again!

The cover is 100# Cover with DDC Orange printed on it. My review book’s back cover bled a little into the last page on the top and bottom corner. Then it’s covered in foil and embossed with the Field Notes word mark and all the other writing that is traditionally on one of their books.

Paper-wise, this is 70# text paper, similar in weight to the Workshop Companion edition. But it is smooth instead of pulpy. And bright white. And FUCKING RULED.

That’s right! Lined ruling, with a DDC Orange double rule on the top margin and light gray lines underneath. I LOVE lined books. I do not write super small. I can sketch and draw without needing a grid. It always upsets me that the default seems to be Graph, so I’m happy to see line-ruled getting some love here in a limited release.

First Carhartt, now this? It definitely DOES feel like Christmas! Maybe people are finally starting to see the light? One can only dream.

 

The Practical Applications are winter-based, with clever lines like Bruised Tailbone Count and Yeti Spottings, with some sports references thrown in, like Penalty Box Ponderings and Curling Rosters. There’s even a reference to Ice Castles in there…see if you can find it.

Pencils work great in the book, barely any smudging by any except the darkest pencils. Erasing is another tale…B and lighter erases fine, but 2B and darker sticks around pretty well. Not nearly as bad a Workshop Companion, but it’s not gone either. Pens on the other hand, especially fountain pens, are not very friendly. Fine tip rollerballs or ballpoints work just fine, but fountain pens feather pretty bad, especially the wider nibs. I was happiest with the Pilot Precise V7 Fine Tip in this book.

Practical Applications.

Ghosting from darker pencils on the opposite page. 602 and darker smudged.

Not too fountain pen friendly. Feathering and some acceptable near bleed-through.

I was skeptical about this release when I first saw it, especially with the Perfect binding. I knew I’d love the ruled pages and loved that it was a normal paper and a normal size. I honestly believe that the lower page count helps them lay flat better than something like a Write Notepads pocket notebook. (Field Notes are 48 like usual and Write is 64). It took getting these in my hands to truly appreciate them. I suggest that if you’re on the fence, check it out and unless you find something horrible I didn’t find, you won’t be disappointed. Check out the full video review.

Available from Field Notes, $12.95

Carhartt x Field Notes

Field Notes has once again partnered with a heritage clothing brand, this time iconic workwear brand Carhartt of Dearborn, Michigan. 

Earlier this year, Field Notes did a collaboration with L.L. Bean. These books with Carhartt are a step up from those books. The Bean books were essentially kraft books with a couple different cover designs. These Carhartt books are heavier and heartier, with a full complement of retro-y goodness on the back covers.

Starting with the front covers, each one is a different color and utilizes the Carhartt "C" logo in an interesting way. It reminds me of the start of the Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz.

Red with orange logo. 

Blue with yellow logo. 

Dark green with light green logo. 

Each back cover has a different outdoor theme on it. Red has hunting, blue has fishing, and green has camping. This seems odd to me that something similar wasn't done to the L. L. Bean books, because providing clothing for these 3 things are what they have built their company on. This is not to say people don't wear Carhartt to hunt, fish, or camp in...but they bill themselves as tough clothing for workers.

Hunting info on the Red book. 

Fishing info on the Blue book.

Camping info on the Green book. 

The covers are 100# cover stock. This heavier weight along with the 60# paper they're now using in the kraft books make for a heavier book built to stand up to some outdoor beating. It remains to be seen if they hold up like the Shenandoah-level heavy books, but they are beefier than a kraft book in every way. Also, cheers to FN for changing the standard kraft books from 50# to 60# paper. Now if they would change the covers to 100# from 80#, we might have a durable pocket notebook.

Practical Applications

I hate rules. I love ruled.

No one is happier than I am to see an all-lined edition. I love line ruled paper in my pocket notebooks, so seeing that all three are lined was a great surprise. Seems to me that graph is king in the pocket notebook world, but I always gravitate towards lined books when I'm trying out a new brand. For the way I write and the way I like to use these, ruled rules.

I didn't do a pen or pencil test for this edition. It is the same 60# paper that is currently in the kraft books, so you should have an idea how your favorite writing tool performs.  

Sealed pack of Midwest goodness.

A quick note about the shipping: I don't think Carhartt knew what it was getting into when they launched these books. Over at the Field Nuts FB group, a lot of people have been complaining about the way these are being shipped to them. Some coming in a plastic bag that clothes normally ship in, others coming in boxes way too big for the books with nothing to hold them in place. Essentially, people are worried about the corners being bent/beat up and using them for collecting and later trading. Carhartt's shipping methods aren't really conducive to that. There have been quite a few people in the group either get their money back or get new books as a result. Mine were shipped in the plastic bag. While I was not pleased with this method of shipping, the 3 packs I ordered were just fine. I had to really study each pack to see which one was the "worst" for opening and using. But I understand why people were upset: the shipping was very expensive for these books. It seemed different across the board for most people, but on an average about double what they'd expected. When I ordered mine, the shipping was going to be $7, regardless of quantity, unless I spent over $100, then shipping was free. I did not get sucked in there. Regardless, these shipped very fast and I was surprised I see them in the mail the same day I got the shipping notice. I basically received them less than 48 hours after I ordered them. I live 90 miles away from FNHQ and that's never happened with them! These books are only available in Carhartt retail shops or on their website.

Available at Carhartt.com. $12.95

Field Notes Fall '16 Lunacy Review

The Field Notes quarterly release for fall 2016 is a love letter to the moon. This edition is chock full of lunar lore and facts about our friend in the sky. It came out very close to the end of the quarter, so as I write this review, the winter 2016 edition, Black Ice, has been announced yet none are in the wild that I've seen, unless someone did a local pickup at FNHQ in Chicago. This tends to be the trend for the time between fall and winter releases.

Lunacy is quite normal compared to the rest of the 2016 quarterly releases. It is the standard pocket notebook size and shape (unlike Byline) and uses a somewhat standard paper (unlike Sweet Tooth). It is the standard  folded and 3-staple bound (unlike the brand new Black Ice). But past that, this release is anything but boring.

There's a HOLE lotta cover missing!

The cover features a die-cut in the front to show the moon on the secondary inner cover page behind it in various stages of how we see the moon: full, half, and crescent. The subscriber extra is a fourth book with a plain black cover, with no die-cut. This book still has the secondary inner cover page featuring the moon graphic and facts. Remove this page and you have an embossed version of Raven's Wing. Each of the four books also comes with a letterpress embossed moon on the back cover.

Black Field Notes are very popular. This is the third quarterly release that has featured black prominently, along with the Pitch Black becoming an everyday release. The Winter 2016 release is named Black Ice, but not having seen one, I think this is more chrome mirrored than black in the photos. Letterpress embossed are popular too, and these hit both notes.

I was worried about how the covers would hold up in my pocket, particularly the full moon book. In the end, Field Notes are pocket notebooks, and if they don't stand up to being in a pocket, what good are they? Well, so far, so good. These are 100# covers with a little bit of stippling texture on them. They have been doing nothing except for bending and fuzzing up in the pocket, like they all do. And the secondary cover helps protect the hole left by the die cut.

Just a dust of gray on the paper and a light gray for the grid.

The paper is the faintest of gray with a light gray reticle grid ruling. It is 60#. The inner cover is 70# glossy paper. It has a decent tooth and holds pencil well. It also erases well with no noticeable smudging or removing of ruling. No noticeable feathering or bleed with either of my fountain pens and no smearing with gel ink. I do like this paper, but I am not a fan of reticle grid, or any grid for that matter. My handwriting is big and I attack the page, so having a line-ruled book is always my preference. More on this in a later post. I know I am in the minority here.

I carry and use dark pencils almost exclusively so I tried a few of my favorites.

Pen tests with what little I actually have.

The only thing coming through here is the Sharpie Marker. The fine point on the other side of the marker looks like it shows through in the picture, but the eye test is not nearly that drastic.

Overall, I'm happier with this edition than I was been with the two previous 2016 quarterly editions. I'm glad to get back to normal size and normal paper. I don't mind that there is experimentation going on, but it's nice to get back to a usable, pocketable notebook that will take any writing instrument I give it. We subscribers don't get to enjoy this one very long, however, because the Winter edition had already been announced and should hit our mailboxes any day now. I will try to get a review for it up as quickly as I can, but I also like to have time with these books to know what I think before I write about it.

What are your thoughts? Leave it in the comments below!

Available from Field Notes, $12.95

Write Notepads Starter Kit

These coasters are too beautiful to get coffee mug rings on...

I'm a big time pocket notebook user. I carry one every day, at all times, whether I need one or not. I'm a fan of the usual suspects: Moleskine & Field Notes. As I got more into them, and started actually researching different brands, I started looking for alternatives. We're all always on that search for the "perfect" version of something, aren't we? Whether it's your EDC pen, that paper that takes your favorite fountain pen ink beautifully and without bleeding, or a balanced pencil that is black as night on the page buts holds a great point, we're on the search. And just when you think you've got it, you see something else and wonder if that might just have a slight advantage to your current favorite. Such is life as a stationery nerd.

While listening to the Erasable podcast, I kept hearing Johnny talk about these notebooks made in Baltimore. Then they came out with a special Edgar Allen Poe edition called Lenore. At that point, I figured I had to go ahead and sign up to another stationery quarterly subscription, because those were just SO COOL.

So I got the Lenore, I got the summer edition Kindred Spirit, and the most recent Royal Blue. But I hadn't gotten any of their standard offerings except for the 3 pack of perfect bound pocket notebooks that they give you with your membership. I needed something in the Journal size and since I liked the paper in the pocket notebook I'd been carrying all month, I thought I'd try out some of their standard books. The starter kit was a perfect way to try it all.

Everything in the starter kit...except for the pocket ruler! I missed it...

Included in the set is a Steno with graph paper, a pocket ledger, a ruled Journal, a pencil sampler, a thin metal "Linear Measuring Device" and a set of the perfect-bound pocket notebooks, one each lined, graph, and blank. They also list "assorted paper gifts". Mine were coasters and some of their new pocket flipbooks in white, which as far as I can tell are not available in their store in white.

I was happy as a clam to get these little guys...wait, those are oysters...

The pocket flipbooks are essentially a pocket notebook cut along the equator. They are perfect bound and perforated, so they can work like little business card-sized notes to leave around. They use 100# cover stock and 70# paper stock just like the pocket notebooks.

Red, White, & Blue...made in the USA

The pocket notebooks that come with the starter kit are the standard 3 packs. One red ruled, one white blank, and one blue grid. They are perfect bound and use 100# cover stock and 70# paper. These are the reason I wanted to get the starter kit. I've been using a red ruled for a month now as my daily back-pocket carry, and it has held up better that any back-pocket book I've used. The spine can be broken and laid flat or flipped around and it won't lose a page. The heavy cover has taken a beating in my back pocket and has fuzzed up a bit, but not torn or ripped one bit. Of all the pocket notebooks I've used, I would have to say that it is the toughest of the bunch. The paper takes a pencil as well as a fountain pen. I thought that if the paper on their Journal and Steno was just as good, I could see myself buying a lot of them in the future. One complaint though...the graph in the blue pocket notebook is way too small. They use 1/8" grid lines here, which it over half the size of a Field Notes graph or the graph they use in the Steno. Some people may dig it, but for the way I use a pocket notebook, it's way too small.

Write Notepads Graph (left) vs. Field Notes Graph (right)

The Steno also uses a graph paper, 3/16" graph, which is the same as a pocket Field Notes. It is Double Wire-O top-bound with brass wire. This is strong stuff. The stats are as follows: 60pt board stock on the cover, 70# paper inside. The graph lines are a fairly light blue, vegetable-based ink. It is 5.5" wide and 8.5" tall. What I like about the binding is that it is large enough to let everything move freely when flipping over the pages. Oftentimes that isn't the case with wire-bound books.

The Write Notepads Steno also comes with a sweet rubber band for keeping your shit together.

An even bigger rubber band. Oh the damage that thing could do in the office wars...

The ruled Journal is the same specs as the Steno as far as size and paper weight. Side-bound with their brass Double Wire-O. It is narrow-ruled and perforated on the side for clean tear-out. The lines are a little darker than the graph, and a gray tone instead of the light blue of the Steno graph or the light green of the ruled pocket notebook. It also comes with a rubber band that goes along the side of the book to keep it shut.

It says Write Notepads Co in teensy tiny little letters.

The Pocket Ledger is 3" wide by 6" tall. It uses narrow-ruled, green-lined paper with double margins on both sides of the page. Same weight specs as the Steno and the Journal. Top-bound with brass Double Wire-O. It's a "pocket" notebook, but I wouldn't say "back pocket". This thing is too stiff to live back there. It wouldn't get beat up, you would. It's perfect, however, for a front jacket pocket.

Can pencils be sexy? Yes. absolutely. Especially the hex in my Saluki colors!

The pencil sampler comes with 3 vastly different pencils. One round Jumbo, one round Natural Finish, and one hex with maroon lacquer, which I absolutely love because it is the color of my alma mater. I also received what I believe to be an older promotional pencil of theirs, because it was round and natural-finish looking, but had that clear lacquer on the outside that reeks of Musgrave custom pencils. These pencils are all made by Musgrave as well. You can tell just by holding the hex in your writing grip. It is a full hex, not rounded in the slightest. It leaves an imprint in my ring finger from my pencil grip that I call the "Musgrave Dig". They write well, darker than expected, but not smudgy. They are all left-hand imprinted, so you can read it when lefties are writing with them. Every Write pencil, even the ones that come with the limited edition subscription, is that way, except for that early one. I'm not going to post a pencil test sheet, because there is nothing new here. Grab your favorite Musgrave #2 and you'll get the idea.

If you didn't already know this about Write Notepads, they do a 1-for-1 donation to Baltimore Public Schools for every notebook you purchase. Inside there is a school code that you can enter on their website to find the school that received a notebook based on your purchase. That's pretty awesome.

This one helped Alexander Hamilton Elementary.

Overall, this kit is pretty great. If you bought all these things individually, you'd get it for about $70. So at $55, this thing is a steal. You may surprise yourself on what is your favorite item in this pack. I know I did. I was looking forward to the steno, but the ruled Journal caught me the most. It is the perfect size and weight for my needs in that size range. And if you haven't used one of their pocket notebooks before, you won't be disappointed. I thought I'd miss stapled, with it's ability to lay flat, but really...break the spine on your pocket notebook. This thing will NOT blow up. I've had plenty of Field Notes lose a page or two in the center, and covers come loose. This Write one is a tank. Give it a shot.

Gorgeous!

Available from Write Notepads & Co. $55

Disclaimer: I bought all this shit myself...there is nothing to hide.

Eephus League Halfliner Baseball Scorebook

I am a baseball FANATIC. It’s the only sport I ever wanted to play as a kid. But I fell out of love with baseball (and sports in general) during my high school years. In a small town like the one I grew up in, you get pigeon-holed into cliques and “types” of people. You couldn’t be an art kid and be in sports. You couldn’t love punk rock and baseball stats. So when it came time to choose, I chose rock ’n roll, hanging out with the punks and the nerds. They just spoke more to me. But as I grew up, I came back to baseball.

There is something about baseball that attracts the nerds. The stats are there for the numbers geek. The defensive positioning and lineup creation there for the strategy guy. Each battle between a great pitcher and a great hitter is like a chess match…who is looking 5 steps ahead and tricking who? But a chess move is a decision, it is made and there it is. A pitch has to be executed. You decide on your move, but you can’t know whether it’s gonna hit it’s spot or not. If the ball hits the bat just slightly higher or lower than perfect, that’s the difference between a home run or a pop up out. Slightly left or right determines a strike on the corner of the plate, or a ball…there’s also the human element: you have a person making that decision.

Branch Rickey said “Baseball is a game of inches”…I say it’s more like a game of millimeters.

The Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook is as beautiful as the game itself.

The Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook is a sight to behold for baseball nerds like myself, but also a cool item to have for the stationery and design nerd. Scorebooks are traditionally throw away items. I remember my Dad having a ton of these blue-inked Scoremaster books for his softball teams. Spiral bound, they were never closed, so I couldn’t even tell you what the cover looked like. He just threw them into his bat bag and forgot about them until next game. When looking for a scorebook, I asked him about them, and he said he didn’t even remember why he chose that brand, “probably because that’s what they had”. I looked into one, and they’re just like I remember it: blue and an eye chart. And not updated for the modern game. There are only 3 spots for pitchers and 1 sub spot under each batter in the order. The creators of the Halfliner are obviously fans of the National League: there is space for seven pitchers (one starter and six in relief) and 2 subs under each batter. That’s also different from the Original Scorebook, which is smaller and therefore only uses 1 sub per spot.

The Halfliner allows you to score 81 games, half of the 162-game regular season…hence the name. It is spiral bound with heavy Double Wire-O binding. It has a pitch black cover with their logo blind-embossed on the cover. It is made of heavy cover stock, however the specs are not available on their website or inside the book, so I can’t say exactly how heavy. The back is made of a similar-weight light chip board. Black as well.

After opening the cover, you’re greeted with a blast of butcher orange paper, 6 pages explaining how to score a game, if you’re new to scorekeeping or just need a refresher. Then comes the fun part: the actual score card pages.

The layout is clean and modern. The two pages opposite each other are very similar, except that one has a section for Game Day details, like where you’re at, where you sat, how the weather was, who is home and away, and how you’re viewing the game (tv or at the park). The other page has a section for notes, the umpire list (so you can track who is squeezing your pitchers over the season!), and the final box score.

Clean design allows you to score your way.

The individual boxes are void of any extras, so you can score however you choose. There is no set spot for balls and strikes, no hit indicators to circle. It’s just a clean square with a diamond inside. For me, this is preferable. I have bigger handwriting and I like to use a dark, soft pencil. This allows space for me to make the marks I want to make without having to navigate around someone’s idea of what I should be tracking, instead of what I want to track.

I couldn’t find any paper specs, but it feels like at least 60# paper, though I’m not the best judge of that. It has a decent tooth to it, so it tears into a soft pencil like a Blackwing 602 pretty good. If you’re scoring at home, that’s not a big deal, you can just sharpen the pencil. Out at the game, though, I’d recommend bringing an HB at least, if not an F. Or just take your sharpener of choice along for the ride and leave the shavings next to the peanut shells. Use the back couple pages to get an autograph while you’re there.

If it sounds like I like this thing, you’re right, I do. However, there are a few things that I would improve. The Double Wire-O binding is a little too small for the amount of pages. It would be nice to be a bit bigger to give the pages a little room to move more freely, especially at the front and back of the book. I debated pulling out the first few butcher orange directions and the back autograph pages to give it a little more room to turn, but I just decided to be careful with it instead. Maybe I’m spoiled by Write Notepads, but the Double Wire-O binding feels a little weak to survive half the baseball season without getting bent up, especially if you plan on throwing it in your bag and hauling it to the ballpark on a regular basis.

I think that first icon is for night games, but I can't be totally sure.

The other thing I don’t like is the order of the final stats columns. I wish it followed the stat lines in the official box scores on MLB.com. The MLB order is AB - R - H - RBI - BB - SO - LOB. The Halfliner has AB - R - H - BB - LOB - RBI, with no spot for strikeouts. With strikeouts so prevalent in the modern game, it’s a stat worth tracking. I would even argue more important than the Left On Base stat. The instructions on how to score a game are enough to get you started, but if you are a complete newbie to it, you’re going to want to find an additional reference, as these instructions are very introductory.

Overall, the Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook is a hipster baseball nerd’s wet dream. Its cool retro look is great for the Field Notes crowd, but the design of the actual scoring pages is minimalist enough for the stats-nerd to make it their own.

Available at the Eephus League, $30

Disclaimer: I bought this thing myself, so there is nothing to hide!