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Thread: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

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    Senior Member Dragonmaster Lou's Avatar
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    Default TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    This whole review can also be found on my blog.

    Background

    First, I'm relatively new to the whole fountain pen thing. I first got into it back in May of 2015 or so, and I didn't really appreciate paper quality at that point either. I mostly just used what I had lying around home or office. Once I started using fountain pens for a bit, however, I started caring more about the types of paper I was using and making sure it was fountain-pen friendly.

    My interest in notebooks kind of takes a separate path, however. Back in school and university, I pretty much used relatively cheap stuff because I didn't care. For notebooks, this either meant a fairly heavy-duty 3-ring binder (as they do tend to wear out over the course of the year) with cheap lined filler paper or, if I decided to use spiral books instead, whatever was on sale at my local discount store -- again, cheap lined paper. Then again, I was also mostly using Erasermate, or, even cheaper, Scripto erasable pens back then, so it's not like I had good taste in writing equipment...

    Getting into fountain pens has broadened my horizons, not just as to paper quality, but also different sorts of rulings. No longer did it just come down college vs. wide-ruled. There was unlined, graph, dot, and even Seyes (AKA "French") ruling to choose from. Given how I was an engineering major at university, I wish I had paid attention and gotten either graph-ruled spiral notebooks or graph-ruled 3-ring filler paper. It certainly would've helped with a lot of the types of notes I took in class.

    This brings me to where I am now. On my first day of work at my current job, I was given a standard, college-ruled, 5-subject Mead spiral notebook as part of my "new hire" set of office supplies waiting for me at my desk. However, as this book was filling up, I noticed some of my co-workers using graph-ruled computation books. Between having pre-numbered pages and graph ruling, I figured this might be a more practical upgrade to the basic lined notebooks I had been using up until that point. So I ended up using it even before I got into fountain pens because of its other advantages. Of course, once I got into fountain pens, I had to see how friendly it was towards them. This review describes my experiences.

    This review will contain a few photos to show the book off, but since this book has work-related stuff in it, I may choose to slightly edit the photos. All edits will be described with the photos so you know exactly what has changed. Fortunately, there are some generic notes that don't involve proprietary information from my job that I can use to show writing samples.

    Statistics

    These statistics are for the TOPS 35061 Computation Book. TOPS also makes a model 22-157 computation book that's often sold under the Ampad brand. These books may look similar, but they are not the same. The 35061 is made in the USA and is what I've personally used. The 22-157 is apparently made in Mexico and uses lower quality and lighter weight paper than the 35061. It also seems to cost a bit more, oddly enough. With that, here are the statistics:
    • Size: 11.75 x 9.5 inches
    • Number of pages: 152 (76 sheets), all numbered.
    • Ruling: Quad (graph) ruled, with 0.25 inch (6.35 mm) spacing
    • Paper color: "buff"
    • Cover material: pressboard
    • Binding: double wire-bound
    • Paper weight: "Heavyweight" (estimated to be 24 lb bond/90 gsm based on the overall weight of the book)
    • Price: Best I found was $15.99 at Amazon and Staples.com.


    Overall Impressions

    Photos were taken using my phone in not the best of light, so please forgive me.

    The notebook itself feels very solidly made. The cover is a pretty heavy-duty pressboard material and the double wire-binding is secure and snag-proof. It won't win any beauty awards, but this is meant to be a utilitarian scientist's / engineer's workhorse notebook, not some cute little journal (not that there's anything wrong with cute journals if that's what you're looking for).


    (My name and company name on the cover were blurred out).

    The paper, described as "buff" colored, seems to be comparable in weight to that in my Rhodia Webnotebook, although I couldn't find an actual specification for its weight (it's officially only listed as "heavyweight"). A post in another forum estimated that it was probably around 24 lb bond based on the overall weight of the entire book. It certainly does not feel flimsy to me. It isn't super-slick like Rhodia or Clairefontaine, but does have a nice texture to it. Ink also seems to dry somewhat quicker on this paper than Rhodia or Clairefontaine.



    The ruling is a very comfortable 0.25", and that extra 1.35 mm over the standard 5mm that seems to be in a lot of other notebooks makes a huge difference, at least to me. With my writing, I feel a little cramped with a 5 mm line height. So cramped that I basically have to use 1.5 or 2 lines of ruling per line of text I write (and then it makes it feel too big). 0.25" feels just big enough for me to comfortably write one line of text per line of ruling.



    Bleed through is non-existent. Show through is barely there and may be as much due to me having a heavy hand as to being a property of the paper.



    Finally, and arguably most importantly, I was unable to discern any feathering at all. Below are two writing samples taken with a Pilot Varsity with purple ink and a Jinhao x750 with a Goulet F nib and Diamine Majestic Blue ink:





    Conclusions

    As far as paper quality, I'd have to say this notebook is top-notch. Again, it won't win any beauty contests, but if you want a solid, workhorse notebook, it's tough to beat this one.

    Value is a bit of a trickier question... With Clairefontaine A4 wire-bound notebooks going for as low as $5 in some places online, you can get three of them for the price of one of these notebooks. However, those prices don't include shipping, whereas you can get these notebooks from Amazon with free shipping. In addition, as I mentioned, the graph ruling in those Clairefontaine notebooks is a little too narrow for my taste at 5 mm. The slightly wider ruling in these notebooks actually allows me to write on more of the page because I'm not going to be doubling up. Doing a few calculations comparing one of these notebooks with a Clairefontaine A4 at $10 ($5 for the book and $5 shipping), we get a cost of about $0.94/1000 square inches for the TOPS vs. $1.03/1000 square inches for the Clairefontaine. If we buy two Clairefontaines, so that the price will be roughly the same for both notebooks, including shipping, we get a price of about $0.78/1000 square inches for the Clairefontaine. At this point, it mostly comes down to how you feel about the ruling size, paper texture, color, and dry times. The ruling size and somewhat quicker dry times does give the TOPS book a bit of an edge, at least to me, but it's a pretty close toss-up between the two.
    Last edited by Dragonmaster Lou; February 8th, 2016 at 06:52 PM.

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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    A comprehensive review.
    I too, start to feel cramped when trying to fit my writings inside the 5mm boundaries.

    I blame it to those nice M and B nibs that my handwriting started to be larger than it used to be.
    - Will
    A new place to shop for restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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    Senior Member Lady Onogaro's Avatar
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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    Great review of the product I was not familiar with. Thank you!
    Lady Onogaro

    "Be yourself--everybody else is already taken." --Oscar Wilde

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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    I have been impressed with Tops paper, especially the Docket series. I have started to use Tops by preference as I get performance like that of the 'premium' papers but at ~1/3 the cost.

    Agree with your latest blog post by the way, and I used to work for what was then called the Foreign Technology Division (USAF).

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    Dragonmaster Lou (March 1st, 2016)

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    Senior Member Dragonmaster Lou's Avatar
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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    Quote Originally Posted by Armstrong View Post
    I have been impressed with Tops paper, especially the Docket series. I have started to use Tops by preference as I get performance like that of the 'premium' papers but at ~1/3 the cost.

    Agree with your latest blog post by the way, and I used to work for what was then called the Foreign Technology Division (USAF).
    Thanks... and thank you for your service (assuming you worked as a serviceman and not a civilian contractor -- though even civilian contractors also do good work). Don't want to get into the politics of my latest blog post here though... but hey, it's my general blog and I post whatever I feel like on it.

    Foreign Technology Division... those are the guys that (presumably among other things) test fly and reverse engineer captured foreign aircraft and the like, right?

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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    Here is what it is called now, and a link to their website.
    http://www.wpafb.af.mil/nasic/
    and the Wikipedia page.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation...ligence_Center

    And no, there are no alien bodies laying around. Every new butter bar goes looking, including this one, back then.

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    Senior Member Dragonmaster Lou's Avatar
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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    Cool, thanks for the links! I'm a bit of a military aviation fanboy, so that stuff is right up my alley.

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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    Your welcome. Surprising what they put out on the public net these days.

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    Dragonmaster Lou (March 7th, 2016)

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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    The yellow TOPS paper is really god for writing with ink, their green paper is made for pencil/ballpoint and with FP feathers like crazy
    I have been using both in Engineering, computation and labnote pads and notebooks for years
    Unix is user-friendly ; it's just picky about who it's friends are -

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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    I am a big fan of the TOPS Docket Gold legal pads.

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    Senior Member datainadequate's Avatar
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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    Wish we could get TOPS in the UK. I'm also a fan of their Docket legal pads, and would love to try the Computation Book.

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    Senior Member Linkinyeah's Avatar
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    Default Re: TOPS 35061 Computation Book

    My local thrift store had a stack of Tops docket pads. I looked at the spiral bound ones, they had a green cover on them. The paper was double sided, but didn't seem like fountain pens would work well on them, given the thickness of the paper. I didn't catch if they were the gold model or not. Any ideas? Also, I did purchase the one they had that was Docket Diamond, it is a Ivory linen style, not spiral bound or double sided, but it works great with my fountain pens. All of these were marked 80. I am getting the feeling that I should have just bought everything they had.

    Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk

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