Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Black N Red Day Per Page Diary (2012)

One of the habits I've tried to sustain this year is writing *something* about my day, each day.  A diary (as in a proper diary sometimes called a daily planner, with printed dates on each page) makes this a bit easier for me - an unprinted book would doubtless lead me into the most terrible backsliding.

So far, I've used Moleskine Daily Planners (2009, 2010, pocket size - they've been surprisingly ok, given how poor the paper is in their notebooks, but are expensive) and a Ciak Daily Planner (2011).  The Ciak was a bit disappointing, with thin paper that had a lot of show & bleedthrough through for some inks.

For 2012, I bought a Black N Red Day to Page diary in the A5 size.  UK readers with decent stationery cupboards will be familiar with Black N Red, who make a series of spiral bound and casebound notebooks that are generally well regarded.  The diaries use a 90gsm "Optik" paper, and come in a range of sizes up to A4 (which seems to me to be massive - even I would struggle to fill an A4 page with my pointless wibbling each day).

The front cover - I think the "Oxford" logo is new, I can't remember seeing it on Black N Red products before.

The rear cover is rather busier, with product information, barcode, and so on.

The diary is casebound, with stitched signatures, and the cover is a nicely textured cloth over board.  The contrasting spine appears taped, although it isn't. A red woven ribbon is glued into the binding for use as a place marker.  All of the pages (save the end papers) have perforated corners, which you can remove to allow quick location of the current day (assuming you remove the corners after each day, of course).

A Sample Page

The diary begins with a page for contact details, followed by a two page year planner for 2012.  After the planner, it's straight into the daily pages, an example of which is above. Note that Black N Red don't put Saturday and Sunday on one page, which some daily planners do to save space. At the end of the diary (the last dated page is 3rd January 2013) is another two page year planner (for 2013), a page of country information, a page of weights and measures and mileages, a page of international telephone codes and time zones and then 6 pages for notes.  It's fairly restrained in this respect, (no tube map, for example) and I quite like that, having never really appreciated the pages and pages of junk I never use that crops up at the beginning and end of some dairies.

The main diary pages have three months of calendar on the top left hand side, showing the previous month, current month and coming month.  The main part of the page has appointment times from 07:00 to 20:00, split into half hours.  Below this are "Quick Note" spaces.  (I should say that I don't use these planning features, I just write on the pages, so can't really comment on how useful it is).  Lines are dark ruled, at a fairly narrow 5mm spacing - the paper is a bright white that ink shows up very nicely on. 

The amount of writing space is slightly larger than my medium Ciak planner (much larger if one writes beyond the lines and into the notes spaces on the Black N Red pages), despite the Black N Red being a larger book.  This is because of the rather busier page layout in the Black N Red diary - I don't think it's fair to criticise that, because the product is, I think, intended to be a planner rather than a journal or personal diary.

I bought my diary from Ryman, for £9.99, although they're fairly widely available, and the price doesn't seem to vary much between stockists.

Note that I've done my ink tests on the "Notes" pages at the back of the diary - I'm assuming the paper quality is consistent throughout.


Showthrough (how visible your writing is with a blank page over it).

On showthrough, I think the diary is slightly less impressive than this scan shows - not terrible, but there is some ghosting through the facing page.

Bleedthrough (how much of the writing is visible on the reverse of the written page).

It's a similar story on bleedthrough, although the scan gives a fairer (possibly *slightly* unfair) picture here.  There's a small amount of ghosting, with the beginnings of bleedthrough at a couple of points from Amazing Amethyst and Pousserie De Lune ink.

The written page.

Close ups - the lower set of inks.

And the top set.

I think the ink tests tell the best story of this paper though - compare inks like Amazing Amethyst, Pousserie De Lune and Havana Brown with their performance in previous reviews, and the superiority of Black N Red's paper is evident.  I can't make out any feathering, even from problem inks in close ups, and for that, I'll put up with the small amount of ghosting on facing and reverse pages.


For the page count, and the cost, I think the Black N Red diary is a great buy - the paper is better than any day per page diary I've used, and it costs less than a lot of premium daily planners/diaries.  If you can live with the slightly utilitarian styling (these books always remind me of being at work, but that could just be an association I have), busy page layout, and lack of premium notebook fripperies (soft cover, rounded corners, elastic closure &c) you'll not regret getting one.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Notebook Review - Staples Eco Notebook, A5


The Staples "Eco Easy" notebook is a spiral bound notebook, with 160 ruled pages (80 sheets), and board covers. Its pages are Bagasse paper, made from 80% recycled sugar cane processing waste, hence the "Eco" title. I bought mine in their Manchester store, for the rrp of £2.49. The cover you see in the picture above is a brown paper foldover cover, that can be removed to reveal a plainer board cover.

For those of you worried about the variability of the paper in these (mentioned in some other reviews) the product code on this notebook is #37537-EU

The front of the book, with a Moleskine pocket notebook on it for scale.

Inside the front cover is a "pocket page" formed from a heavier brown paper page, folded back on itself with a third or so of the lower portion folded up to make a crude pocket. It's not something I'd use, personally, but I rarely use the pockets in other notebooks, so may not be the best judge of the utility of this feature!

The sheets are perforated, and double punched to allow them to be removed and stored in ring binders.

The binding, again with a Moleskine pocket notebook for scale.

The spiral binding is done with what seems to me to be a pretty big coil - my personal feeling is that this makes the book a bit of a pain to carry around, although the pages do turn easily compared to books with more compact spirals (Pukka Pads, for example). The spiral doesn't seem to interfere with writing on the page, so long as you write to the long side of the perforation and margin; you may find it more problematic if you like to use the entire page. The beefiness of the coil does give me some confidence that it wouldn't be damaged by relatively rough treatment - you could throw this pad in the bottom of a bag, and be reasonably confident you could still turn the pages after the rest of your posessions had tried to squash the spiral!

The paper is an orangey sort of cream colour to my eye, and the ruling is a complimentary orangey brown, spaced at 8mm. A margin is ruled on the left of the page, at 14.5 mm from the perforation, and 29mm from the bound side's edge of the page. My feeling is that paper has more "tooth" (the "scratchy" feeling as a nib moves over the page) than the paper in my Rhodia bloc pads, but not to an unpleasant degree.


The paper handles most inks pretty well - there's some feathering from Waterman's Havana Brown, and Diamine Amazing Amethyst, which I'd expect, after tests of these inks on other papers. I detect a small amount of feathering from Quink Black, but only if I look at closeups.

I think the only inks with "unzoomed" noticeable feathering are Diamine Dark Brown, and J. Herbin's Pousserie de Lune - even that doesn't seem too bad compared to their behaviour on the Moleskine & Ryman books I tested previously.

Some closeups;


and the top set;

Note that the lowest green ink is "Diamine Emerald", not "Emerale". That's what you get for writing ink test pages too late in the day, I guess.

The paper feels pretty thin, and that's borne out by the showthrough scan above (how visible the ink is when covered by a single sheet of blank paper).

The reverse of the pages show up the thin paper too, with the inks clearly legible from the reverse side of the page. This is a more controlled, less blotchy reverse page than I saw on either the Ryman or Moleskine though, and I think overall, that's better.


If you like spiral bound pads, this is a good bet at a relatively cheap price, if you can live with a somewhat over engineered coil in the binding, and the relatively thin paper. Do bear in mind that the paper in these pads has been known to vary in quality - the usual advice is to check the product code, and country of origin, and buy pads from the same batch, if you like your sample!

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