Clairefontaine notebook reviewClairefontaine Classic Side Wirebound
Manufacturer: Clairefontaine
Weight: 90g
Size: A4 (8.25” x 11.75”)
Number of Sheets: 50 (100 Pages)
Retail Price: Around $5.00 (USD)

Clairefontaine - 1670 - 1200dpi

Appearance and Construction

The Clairefontaine Classic Side Wirebound notebook pretty much looks like your basic stationery store notebook. They come in a variety of colors, all having a silver double wire spiral binding on the side. The front and back of the notebook are gloss coated heavy cardstock, which can be a bit flimsy. This could easily pass for your basic $1.50 notebook in Staples in the looks department, but it’s what’s inside that makes this notebook shine. It’s a relatively cheaper notebook, so the bells and whistles are at a minimum. It’s a nice looking notebook, and is by no means an eyesore, but I much prefer the look and feel of a black Rhodia.

Clairefontaine Classic Side Wirebound Review - Diamine Grey - 1200dpi
Clairefontaine Classic Side Wirebound Review - Diamine Grey - 1200dpi - Diamine Grey 2 - 1200dpi

Performance and Feel

The paper in this notebook is what I would call extremely fountain pen friendly. Clairefontaine and Rhodia paper are both manufactured by the same parent company, so they use almost the same paper. Rhodia is actually 10g lighter than the Clairefontaine paper used in this notebook, but to me it’s not that noticeable of a difference. Since this paper is slick and smooth, the dry times for the test inks were slightly longer than they would be on standard copy paper. J. Herbin’s 1670 Rouge Hematite took the longest to dry (still not fully dry at 30 seconds) while Sailor’s Kiwa Guro Nano Black had the shortest dry time (around 10 seconds). Every one of the test inks performed as expected on this paper. The nib test showed that nothing feathered, even the 1.5mm stub. There was no feathering across the board and hardly any show through, even in the broader nibs. Overall, the paper performed very well. It provided a nice smooth surface for even the finest nibs. The Lamy extra fine glided effortlessly across the page with minimal drag. In terms of performance and feel, I would rate the Clairefontaine Classic notebook as being fountain pen friendly, even for the widest and wettest nibs.

Clairefontaine Classic Side Wirebound Review - Sailor KG - 1200dpi

Show Through / Bleed Through Test

The Clairefontaine Classic notebook performed very well on both the show through and bleed through tests. With all three of the test inks, the show through started between three and four passes and didn’t bleed through and affect the next page until 5 passes. This paper is highly resistant to showing and bleeding, which is great considering it allows you to use both the front and back of each sheet. These results are much better than the standard 20lb copy paper that I also tested. Realistically, most people will never do 4-5 passes of ink in rapid secession like I did on this test, and won’t have to worry about the showing and bleeding of ink. After my tests, I’m confident that this paper will do a great job at holding up to both wet writers and flex nibs. The Clairefontaine Classic passed the tests in this category with flying colors and the evidence is clear on the test scans.

Overall Thoughts and Recommendation

The Clairefontaine Classic notebook does much more than just get the job done. It performed very well on all of the tests it was put through. The only negative thing worth noting is that dry time is going to be a little longer than standard copy paper due to the smooth finish and ink resistant characteristics of this paper. It’s a relatively cheap notebook filled with great paper for fountain pen users. The only area in which it fell a little short for me was the appearance and construction. For around $3.00 more, you can get a Rhodia notebook in the same size, except it has 30 more sheets of paper and a water resistant front and rear cover. The Clairefontaine is still a great notebook at a great price. It’s an excellent way to try out Clairefontaine paper before committing to a more expensive offering from the brand. It’s a huge plus that both sides of a sheet can be used due to its show through resistance. I would definitely recommend picking up one of these notebooks as an introduction to the brand.

Scans of handwritten review:

Ed Jelley

Ed Jelley lives in Babylon. Babylon, New York, of course. By day, he masquerades as a nerd, but by night, he’s an FPGeek Super Hero. When not reviewing stationery, he’s busy with pens – always under the watchful eye of his dog, Essie B. Mr. Jelley plays bass guitar in a band whose music would surely crack your ink bottles. You can read more of Ed’s reviews at his blog: EDJELLEY

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  • Dan Smith

    One of my favorite papers. Glad to have ya on board, Ed!

    • edjelley

      Mine too. Great to be here!

  • Katie Phillips

    Been using this notebook for college course notes. I can use both sides, and my heavy-bleeder pen/ink combos don’t even have any show-through. I’ll be ordering quite a few more in the coming months!

    • edjelley

      They’re great for notes. I think they’re an ideal size for a semester’s worth of notes. I’ve found that I can only get through around half of a Rhodia even in the most note-heavy classes. Definitely great for college students because of the price too!

  • Will Platt

    I love these ! use them for notes at school every day.

  • Will Platt on Facebook

    i use these for notes at school they’re great!

  • El Esquire

    I’m curious to see what other people’s thoughts are of the Proper Pads that Anderson Pens sell… any chance of an upcoming review of their notebooks?

    • Dan Smith

      We’ll add it to the list.

    • Jay

      The proper pad past feels and acts like 32lb HP paper. It is smooth and works well with thick nibs. Just wished it was thin like the Tamoe river paper.

  • Carol1313

    Outstanding! So good that I forwarded to Agent 86– & everybody at CONTROL is raving about it. Especially your note about the very long drying time. Because tonite we have to sneak into an office building and secretly hand copy a……..uh, never mind. Anyway, great job, Ed!

    • edjelley

      Unfortunately I’m not ex-CIA. Or maybe I am? If I told you, I’d have to kill you…(not really though :) ). Thank you!

  • Tim Hofmann

    A fine review. Welcome to the party, Ed!

    • edjelley

      Thank you!

  • The Ruffled Quill

    Thanks for a fine review! I have been using these for years, discovered them when I worked in Europe…love love love that paper

    PS loved your video

    • edjelley

      Couldn’t agree more, it’s really good stuff.


  • Bob

    I use the A5 version of these great notebooks. I find the A5 size much easier to handle and have 3 separator pouches, but they are hard to get in Australia so I pick up a few every time I’m in Europe.. Great review BTW.

    • edjelley

      Thanks for the kind words! I also like A5 sized notebooks a lot, however, I prefer to use the Maruman Mnemosyne B6 for most of my notes. It’s just a little bit larger than an A5 and fits perfectly on smaller desks seen in most classrooms.

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  • Paul Svendsen

    Thanks for the review, Ed, and I hope you will do more of them. I am using a side staplebound A5 Clairfontaine for my daily list and notes, and also a side cloth bound A5 for a class I am teaching at the local college. I love them both, and that paper is SMOOTH.

    • edjelley

      No, thank you for reading! I definitely plan on doing more. Definitely agree, the paper is all-caps worthy SMOOTH. Great paper at a reasonable price!

  • Syed Ali

    Nice thorough review. I use this A4 notebook all of the time. You get excellent paper for a really good price. What more could you ask for?

    The clairefontaine is the one brand I always keep close at hand, since its pretty close to the best paper and you don’t have the guilt associated with writing on really expensive paper.

    I’m even okay with the glossy cardstock cover. I know Rhodia has the fancy brand name notoriety and you pay for the ownership rights with rhodia somewhat, whereas clairefontaine can do the same job just as well..

    This notebook does have very wide margins though, and on A4 paper (which is less in its breadth than its US cousin, the standard letter size 8.5″x11″) so if you try to honor the margins, you have even less room laterally to write on the paper. I’ve trained myself to simply ignore the margins altogether and write from edge to edge.

    I’m glad to see you doing paper reviews, I know this is a huge area just like inks. I would love for you to beat up on moleskine on one of these reviews. I see them all of the time at barnes and noble and I frown to myself. I don’t own moleskines or have any prior experience with them, simply because I hear so much bad stuff about them. I would like to see it being reviewed subjectively to see how it fares against other papers.

    • snedwos

      Moleskines are nice, just inconsistent. And not really made to cater to fountain pen users. I’m more disappointed by my Leuchtturm, which shows a picture of a fountain pen nib on the label saying “ink-resistant” and then bleeds like crazy with all but fine dryish nibs.

      • edjelley

        I just got my first Leuchtturm, the feathering on that thing is pretty wild. I need to spend some more time with it before forming an opinion. You would think there would be a bit less bleed through for something that is “ink-resistant” though…

    • edjelley

      A4 was definitely a bit weird coming from the standard “college ruled” 8.5″x11″ I was using before. The wider page is definitely a bit better suited for notes. I think the wide margins are good for literary writing, because the wider margins leave more room for notes.

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