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.
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.
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:
- Pen: Pilot Vanishing Point (Matte Black) with “Binderized” Medium Nib, 18k Gold
- Ink: Diamine Oxblood
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