Saturday, 29 April 2017

Review of New Darkstar Collection Notebooks

Stuart from PocketNotebooks kindly sent me two of the new notebooks in the Darkstar collection. These would make brilliant Bullet Journal notebooks!

So, what's new? I reviewed their original notebook here which was a lined notebook (that came in packs of three). The new notebooks have both a black and a kraft coloured cover and the paper is grid.

Darkstar is a UK based company and the notebooks are made in the UK. They come as a set of three notebooks in a pack, currently priced £8. I got one prototype of the Black Space version and one prototype of the Nomad to try.
[click on any picture to enlarge]

Darkstar cover - Black Space

As before with deliveries from PocketNotebooks, the attention to detail was great. I was addressed this time as "The Awesome Dr Fleet" and there was the PocketNotebooks slogan stamped on the back of the parcel: Forget the app, there's a pocket notebook for that. Inside, the notebooks were wrapped in purple tissue paper with a branded sticker, plus there were two small packets of sweeties (that took me back to childhood).

Nicely wrapped!

So, where do these notebooks sit on the "Pretty-Functional" grid? I don't find them especially 'pretty' but they do have an understated class to them. The black cover is a matte black and the only branding on the cover is a small, satin-finish black star on the front. It's easier to see the branding on the kraft/Nomad cover. Whereas before, the first page of the book also had the Darkstar branding, these open straight into the grid pages on the notebook.

The Nomad notebook, as well as being a lot easier to photograph to show the logo, has a slightly toothier feel to the card. Both the Black Space and the Nomad versions are lovely. In my original review, I commented on the finish being a bit untidy. In these versions, the trim is much better, and the small staples are holding the pages better.

Darkstar Nomad

There are 28 pages (56 sides) in each book in a pretty heavyweight paper (100gsm, same as in the originals). The corners are rounded. Page size is 10cm x 14cm.

The Grid
The grid is actually made up of tiny crosses, though at a distance, to my 40+ year old eyesight, they look like dots:

From a distance
Centre-cross to centre-cross is 4.9mm vertical and 5.6mm horizontal (not sure why it's not 5mm in each direction...):

As you all know, the deal-breaker for me is how they perform with fountain pens. I used the central fold of paper to do the pen tests (mostly because almost all of my notebooks have the first page taken up with pen tests and it's harder to remove the first page than the central pages).

General writing feel:
The paper was pretty much the same feel as the original notebooks. The paper was reasonably toothy though more so for some nibs than others. I actually have a killer/probably unfair collection of fountain pens inked up at the moment - either massively broad/calligraphy/wet nibs or ones that always seem to bleed through on the majority of papers. As a consequence, I also tested some hybrid gel-ink pens and some others. The Jetstream uniball zipped across the paper and felt almost frictionless. (For someone so used to writing with a fountain pen, this came as a surprise!)
4.5* out of 5

Well, the pens I used were an evil test!  The Pelikan Script is inked up because I've been writing certificates for Rotary and I fully expected this to be a no-no! However, I was more surprised to see other pens also having issues, especially as they hadn't (with same ink/nib combos) in the original notebooks. The Pelikan did pretty well, really! None of the uniball pens had any issue. Whereas the Jetstream black zipped over the paper, the light blue (finer ballpoint) didn't.

Zoom-ins on all of the inks

Given that these are grid, rather than lined, I suspect there are many out there who will eye them up for a small bullet journal and they would be excellent for this. To that end, I also tested them with my collection of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, as these appear to be a staple for many bullet-journallers as well as the gel pens I have on my desk.


Fountain pen test (reverse)
Close-up (fountain pen reverse)

Actually, not as bad as I feared! The very wet/broad nibs have shown through but the others aren't too bad. There is more ghosting than with the original paper however.
3.5*/5 for FP

The Fineliners only showed through to the other side a little.

There is some bleed-through, of the wet nibs: Pelikan, Tombow and Conklin all bled at least a smidgen. Not too horrendous.
4*/5 for FP
There was no bleed-through at all from the Fineliners.

The books are pretty much as good as any stapled notebook for flattability. They don't open flat and stay flat without persuasion, but it's easy to make them lie flat!

I liked the notebooks. Granted, they're not as pretty as the Papio books, but not everyone will want that. There's a classic, understated feel to the cover that makes it suitable both for business as well as casual use. The paper stood up better to Fineliners than to fountain pens tests which will make them even more suitable for bullet journals.

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