Write Notepads puts out consistently great quarterly releases with seemingly little fanfare. This year was no different. They didn't have the barrage of products like Baron Fig or the quality / marketing snafus of Field Notes, so in our little stationery circles there wasn't as much discussion about them. They just kept on making Baltimore and Baltimore-adjacent themed notebooks. That's a good thing.Read More
From 1902 to 1908, Baltimorean Joe Gans was the World Lightweight Champion in boxing. He was the first African-American boxing champ (Canadian George Dixon was the first Black world title holder, 10 years prior to Gans) and a well-known student of the sport. In 1906, he fought Oscar "Battling" Nelson, the "Durable Dane" in Goldfield, Nevada, and beat him in 42 (!) rounds.Read More
The Write Notepads Kindred Spirit came out just before I started the blog. It's the edition I started my subscription on. I really loved this edition and promptly went out and bought the Lenore edition from someone on eBay. I knew these were special books and I needed to have them all.Read More
Unlike previous editions of Write Notepads' limited releases, you'd be hard pressed to determine the story by just looking at these notebooks. The theme isn't on-the-nose like the Telegraph or the Royal Blue. In fact, without the marketing text on the website, I wouldn't have known anything about it. Here's what they say:Read More
Write Notepads has released a pencil that is not attached to any notebook release. The last pencils they did in this way, I believe, were the Maroon #2. Those were a 9 pack. I don't remember the price because they've been expunged from the website and replaced with the current offering. Unfortunately, I did a giant email deleting session a month or so back, so I don't have the email to look at to compare prices. I do still have some of the pencils, however, and I really like them.
The Wood + Graphite (W+G) pencils are made by Musgrave, like all the Write pencils. As we've seen before, having Musgrave make your pencils can be a bit of a shot in the dark. The quality of their production is so hit-or-miss that even though every one of the Write pencils are #2, they're all slightly different.
I pulled all the Write pencils I had out and did a small comparison test on a sheet of WNP Graph Steno paper. Here's my thoughts:
- The hardest of the lot are the Round Natural, The Lenore, and the Telegraph.
- The softest are the Maroon, In the Pines, and Chesapeake.
- Of all the pencils, the In The Pines and Telegraph are the only cedar. They are thinner than the rest and their hex is softer.
- The Round Natural and Royal Blue are the only round "normal" pencils. Jumbo is round.
- Only Telegraph uses the standard pink eraser. The Jumbo uses the big pink eraser. Lenore is black, Quickstrike is red, and Chesapeake is orange. The rest are white. This is important because of my theory on their eraser backlog.
- Lenore uses dyed-black wood.
- All the imprints are left handed except for Chesapeake, which is vertical & left, and the Telegraph, which is all vertical. There is one right handed pencil from long ago. I have one around here somewhere, but I believe I may have buried so I don't use it (it's rare these days).
The W+G doesn't stand out of the pack.
It looks great. Black lacquer, black ferrule. White eraser, white imprint. The design of the wordmark and the pill are great as always. They look modern in a retro way, where most of their pencils look retro in a modern way. Throw a pink eraser and standard ferrule on it and I could see this on Don Draper's desk.
It writes nice enough. I had only one googly-eyed enough to be unusable, another few slightly off-center. The core is standard Musgrave #2, it doesn't have the accidental smoothness of the In The Pines pencil or the slightly harder feel of the Telegraph. It's all basswood and sharp hex. On a few of the pencils, the paint was a bit thin, but I could only tell in the harsh light of my little photo booth. In normal use, the glossy black lacquer looks solid and shiny. It's a little sticky and tacky, like almost-dried paint.
I like when they get the white eraser, because I know they have a shot of being good. The white erasers from Musgrave are always better than the pink. They're still stiff and dry, but they always do a better job than the pink in terms of smearing and wanting to tear paper.
As far as Musgrave-made pencils go, these are better than anything standard from them, like the Ceres or the Harvest. They're prettier. But I'm not sure that's enough to warrant a $12 per dozen price tag, especially when they sell 6 packs of their limited edition pencils for $5, making a dozen $10. I'd probably feel better recommending these if they were $10...but at $12 they're still cheaper than the $15 Franklin-Christoph is charging for their Musgrave pencils.
Available from Write Notepads, $11.99 per dozen.
Mr. Gamber, over on the now dozen-year-old Pencil Revolution, also wrote about these pencils. Check out his review.
Also, while they share the same name, these aren't related to TJ Cosgrove and his popular Wood & Graphite YouTube channel. Go there and run his videos on repeat...your day will instantly improve.
I'm a Write Notepads fanboy. It's no secret. I like everything they do over there in Baltimore. I use their Graph Steno as my pencil testing book for all the Lead Fast reviews. I find it to be the perfect size for a mini review and the perfect paper to test pencils. It has just enough tooth, but doesn't sheer off pencil, like the Baron Fig paper, nor is it too smooth like the standard Finch opaque bright white that Field Notes uses. For me, it's the Goldilocks of paper...just right.
Some people aren't a fan of their pocket notebook offerings because of the binding (it's either Perfect bound or PUR bound, they just say "glue-bound" in their marketing materials). I like the binding, though it does need some breaking in. You just have to be the OPPOSITE of careful with these books. Beat them up, work the spine, crack it. I've used quite a few of their pocket notebooks and I've yet to lose a page...hell, I've even folded them back on themselves, which is always a strike against glue bound books when detractors are coming up with reasons they won't use them.
No one can argue that they don't make a beautiful special edition. The Chesapeake is no different. This is a wonderful book, and like I said in my Telegraph review, they have a knack for being ornate and minimal at the same time. The Chesapeake is no different. However, we aren't given a slice of Baltimore history in the form of an old dude or retired rail car this time, but instead a love letter to a region, the Chesapeake Bay region, of which Write Notepads' hometown of Baltimore is a part. The Chesapeake was a huge part of the region's economy, especially the blue crab, oyster, and fishing industries, but as the region grew in population, so it grew in pollution, and the seafood industry suffered because of it. Efforts to clean up and revitalize the Bay are underway, with mixed results.
The covers of this edition are a deep blue, reminiscent of the deep blue waters of the Chesapeake and the blue crab. It's got a texture to it, like Laid paper stock (link used as an example, not what brand it actually is). It's kind of like finely waled corduroy, but not as uniform. It's stamped in a very dull metallic (bronze?) foil. It's very simple on the front, just saying "Chesapeake". On the back cover there is all the necessary Write Notepads branding, and a picture of a blue crab with the scientific Latin name underneath it. It's all very clean and subtle, with a lot of negative space around it, which is somewhat of a trademark of theirs. The books didn't come in a box this time; instead, there is a Moleskine-esque belly band, which tucks in the front cover of the top book and the back cover of the bottom book. It's a good looking band, and I'd say it's a winner if I wasn't disappointed in missing out on the boxes, because those are just so damn cool! The belly band trumpets the ruling inside which is...
Dot Grid on the left and Lined on the right. They call it their "Hybrid Dot-Ruled Pages" on the band and it's alright. I would've preferred one or the other. You know me, I like lined, but dot grid is swiftly taking second place. My eyes aren't what they used to be, and I imagine more than one of you will have trouble even SEEING the dots on the page; they are THAT faint and small. It could be easily mistaken for a blank page, no question. The dots are perfectly aligned with the lines on the back of the page, so they blend in even more. It's almost as if you're using a blank page that you've tucked a guide sheet under. I liked the In The Pines dot grid. Those dots were smaller and fainter than other popular dot grid books out there, but the Chesapeake takes it to a whole new level. There are flecks and imperfections in the paper that are darker than the dots themselves.
At first I thought the paper was different, just by feel, a little thinner maybe. My testing revealed that it acted the same as previous editions and my subsequent inquiry to Write Notepads themselves confirmed that it was indeed the same. This is good paper, and while you won't be doing any calligraphy practice in it, it will hold up to most fountain pen use, with the occasional show through on medium nibs. The only bleed I had happen was a particularly wet M nib that I stopped on the page for whatever reason.
The Chesapeake pencil is orange (the color of the blue crab cooked!) with white printing. It has the Write logotype in their usual left-handed orientation, but the crab icon and the word "Chesapeake" is vertical, something they started doing with the Telegraph edition. I like it, although this time Musgrave went with basswood and a full hex, and I liked the slimmer cedar pencils that came with In The Pines and Telegraph better. You never know what you're gonna get with them. These have an orange eraser as well. The core is a little darker than the Telegraph, which was significantly lighter than the In The Pines pencil...which is to say, this is about a standard Musgrave HB. Pencils always come with the edition if you're a subscriber.
The subscriber extra is a crab mallet! I'll probably use this for absolutely nothing, although it would make a good gavel. If I ever have to judge a stationery-based kangaroo court, I'll be sure to bring this along. If I ever make a trip to Baltimore to visit, I'll bring it along and make Johnny Gamber take me to a place where I can use it and stuff myself with Old Bay flavored anything, cans of Natty Boh, catch an O's game and all, hon.
Overall, this is a solid edition. Being from the Midwest, I don't get the Chesapeake thing, but we don't really have much of those inspiring land features here, except maybe the Mighty Mississippi River, and I don't really want a shit-brown cover. The cover of the Chesapeake is pretty cool, but I'm really interested to see how I'm going to tackle the new ruling and whether I'll like the 2 different ones or not. I wouldn't put this one in my top 3 from Write, but it's hard to say there's a bottom 3, because they've all been pretty damn good. It's also hard to top the charcoal briquette bag from last year's Kindred Spirit.
Available from Write Notepads. $9.99 for a 3 pack.
The Season 2 premiere of Write Notepads' quest for notebook domination is pretty great. In a similar style of the Lenore release, the Telegraph celebrates another figure from the 1800's, this time Samuel Morse. Morse was the inventor of the Morse telegraph system and one of the early pioneers of telegraphy. His eponymous code is still used today. This wouldn't be a Write Notepads release without some connection to Baltimore; the first official, government-sanctioned telegraph line extended from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore via the B&O Railroad. This is where the famous line "What Hath God Wrought" comes from. While he was not the sole inventor of the telegraph, his name will always be associated with the technology and the code it used to bring the world a little bit closer.
BOX & COVER
These notebooks are beautiful, of course. Write Notepads has a way of making things very ornate but minimal at the same time. The front of the gray box features a picture of Morse* from his later years surrounded by an elaborate frame stamped in gold foil. The foil is also used on the total front frame, the Morse signature, and the Write logo on the top panel. The tab that holds the box together has the quote "What Hath God Wrought" as a little easter egg when you open it. The inner flaps holds another surprise, they have the original patent drawing of Morse's machine.
The cover is where they get minimal. The same gray paper from the box is used, 100# cover. On the front, they foil-stamped the Telegraph word-mark and underneath made a line from Morse code, which also says "telegraph". But here's the best part: on the backs, they have a different quote in Morse code for each book. The word on the street is that there are a lot of sayings, but not every single book they produced has a different quote. The pack I opened had the following quotes:
The inside covers are blank, as usual.
BINDING & PAPER
Back to ruled! Don't get me wrong, the In The Pines dot grid was cool and I'm glad they branched out and added another layout option. However, I am a lined junkie, so I'm happy to see it back. The paper is their usual 70# that's good for most writing tools you can throw at it. The books are 3¾" by 5½" with that extra quarter inch taken up by the Perfect binding. The ruling is a nice soft green with the left side ledger margin like the line-ruled books in their standard offering. There isn't a writing test because these are the same paper as previous pocket editions.
At press time, subscribers have not received their extra. They were shipped separately and behind the notebooks, so they should land any day now. This post will be updated when I receive mine.
Man, I love getting free pencils as part of the subscription. Like the In The Pines pencil, these are made of cedar instead of the basswood from the previous editions. Musgrave makes these, and I tell you, I would use more Musgrave pencils if they were like the ones they make for Write. They are a bit thinner than the standard Musgrave basswood pencils, and feel very similar in thinness to the USA Gold. The core is HB #2 and seems truer to grade than the In The Pines pencils, which were a hair darker and softer than the previous Write pencils. Maybe ITP was an anomaly, but it's one I love and I'm glad I have extras. At any rate, the pencil has a light yellow, almost cream finish. It looks like a faded standard yellow, and it's lovely. There's not another pencil in my collection that looks like it. The imprint runs vertically, so it breaks the Write tradition of having left-handed imprints. I don't have to feel bad about being a righty any more! The ferrule is a gold that looks like it has a bit of patina to it. These are either old ferrules they found in the back room or they were made like this. Either way, it matches the aesthetic of the pencil perfectly. The eraser, as most pencil nerds know, sucks because it's the stock junk pink Musgrave eraser. They're hard when they're new and get worse from there. I swear Musgrave got a deal on erasers at some point back in the 90's and haven't gone through them yet.
Once again, a killer release from Write Notepads. Field Notes are quickly becoming #2 in my usage patterns. When my hand reaches into my singles box for a new daily carry, very often I gravitate towards a Write Notepads book. Maybe it's the consistency in paper weight, size, and quality. Maybe I'm finally learning what I need that works for me in my daily usage. Down at it's core, these limited edition releases from Write are just package changes, but I for one am glad they aren't messing up a good thing. And the books are still $9.99.
Available from Write Notepads, notebooks $9.99, pencils $4.99. While they last.
* The picture was taken by Mathew Brady, who studied under Morse, and is best known for his Civil War photography and portraits of artists and writers from the time.
Write Notepads has released an A5-ish sized PUR bound journal as part of their everyday offerings. The cover is 80# French paper cover stock with their standard 70# text paper. This is basically the same as their pocket notebook in a larger size.
At the moment, the only color you can get is gray and the only ruling available is lined, but they've said it will be available in more options soon. In the package you get two 80 page journals. Being PUR bound, just like their pocket notebooks, they will lay flat and will fold back on themselves, but it takes a little tough love and not being timid about breaking the spine. Check out the gallery below for a few pictures.
I didn't do writing tests because this is the same paper as in the pocket notebooks. I will say I've taken notes in these with pencil and fountain pens, and the paper performs exactly the same as their smaller brethren.
Comparing this book to others in it's similar size category, the Write is the tallest at 8½ inches, or 216mm. The Rhodia Side Stapled sits at the true A5 size, which is a bit wider than the Write Paper Journal, by about 8mm. Moleskine is a little smaller, Baron Fig Vanguard a little smaller than that, the Field Notes Arts & Sciences size bringing up the rear at 121mm x 191mm. Surface area-wise, the true A5, Rhodia, wins. The Write Paper Journal is essentially half of the US standard 8½" x 11" letter size, clocking in at 8½" x 5½".
It's hard to really review these as a new product, because it is just a bigger version of the pocket notebook, and those have gotten plenty of coverage previously on this site and others. Just know that if you like the pocket size, you'll like the Paper Journal.
Available from Write Notepads, $15.99 for a 2-pack.