For quite a while I’ve been planning on having a closer look at how different paper performs for pencil use.
I think it started because I loved the County Fair Field Notes I got from Koralatov, but when I tried the Original Field Notes (FN-01 to FN-04) I didn’t like the paper at all. (According to the text in the back the County Fair edition is using Boise Offset Smooth 50#T paper, while the Original version is using Finch Paper Opaque Smooth 60#T.)
Well, I thought I better have a closer look. Long term, i.e. if this is of interest to readers, I plan on also measuring how abrasive the paper is, but I haven’t found an easily reproducible way of doing that yet that can be measured accurately, so I am focussing on how dark a line the different papers will produce with the same lead.
I try keep it short, but more details are available if there is interest.
Force used: 1.5 Newton (roughly equivalent to 150g)
Lead used: Staedtler lead, 0.7mm, the one that came with the Mars micro. I assume it is HB, but I have added a Staedtler 0.7mm HB lead to a recent order from The Pen Company, so that I can use those leads for future comparisons.
Pressure used: 4.17 MegaPascals
As seen in this blog post a 0.7mm lead has a diameter of 0.68mm, that’s a surface area of 0.36mm2. With a pressure of just over 4 MegaPascals the equivalent force used on an 0.5mm lead to produce this pressure would be 1 Newton.
I found these parameters to be a suitable trade off between force and diameter size. More force means more problems with me providing consistent, reproducible results. The obvious way out would be to reduce the lead size (= more pressure per square mm), but a smaller diameter means measuring the lead’s darkness becomes more difficult and less representative.
Some quick comments on the paper.
Great and extremely dark for pencils. So unusually dark that you can easily switch to a harder pencil grade and get a similar darkness compared to other paper. My wife started using an H lead for writing in Atoma notebooks.
I did a control sample to confirm that the plot shown in the diagram is correct.
As always great paper! This is the latest generation of Banditapple paper: 4G, just released.
Very common in the UK. Most Post Offices will sell Silvine products, but unfortunately the red Memo Books have become a rare sight. Silvine is planning to revive their red notebooks.
Used in County Fair Field Notes. Great paper.
Very light and smooth paper. I expected a smaller standard deviation. The notebook used is a handmade notebook from Shangching, previously seen in this video.
Used in the Original Field Notes. I don’t like it for pencils. I should probably switch to using softer pencils in this notebook, then this paper might be alright. Also not good for fountain pens.
The diagrams show the distribution of dark and light marks left by the lead on he paper.
I first planned on using box plots. I have heard that they even teach box plots in school these days, but I went with violin plots instead. violin plots are basically box plots with a rotated kernel density plot on each side. I thought this provides more information, compared to box plots, in the same space.
I have taken samples of exactly the same size from the mark left by the pencil on all these papers. In the diagram 3.0 represents white, 0.0 represents black, so you can see the distribution of dark and white in the mark left by the lead on the paper. A darker mark, like the one on Atoma paper, will show as a plot further down (closer to 0.0) in the diagram.
Smoother, finer paper should produce less variation, i.e. a more even colour, so the plot should be more condensed. Rougher paper should have more ‘peaks and troughs’ on the surface, so the darkest areas should be darker and the lightest areas should be lighter, resulting in a stretched plot.
There are two control samples, only visible in the box plots. They are taken from the cover of Field Notes Byline edition. They are just used to see whether using different samples in different scans will produce close enough results in the plots.
Where to go from here
If this is of interest I could look at the different types of paper used in different Field Notes. I could put the R code used to produce this on GitHub. I also have a great paper sample pack from Scribble I could have a look at. Long term the darkness could be plotted against the abrasiveness of the paper.
If there is at least one comment on this blog post I will continue exploring paper, if not I will write blog posts about topics other than paper that might be more interesting, e.g. pencils.
Just a quick blog post about the label roll, mentioned previously. Like Post-Its the label roll is very easy to remove, but sticks well, because the whole back is ‘glued’. I’m using it to label all sort of items, but have now started using it to label Field Notes. I think it’s another great purpose for it.
I only have three types of Field Notes, but out of those three two, the County Fair edition and the Cherry Wood edition, are difficult to label, so the label roll comes in quite handy.
Other notebooks are often easier to label. For Banditapple carnets I use a white pencil1.
Because of Kent from Pencilog I got to know Arnie, the guy behind Banditapple, and because of Arnie I got to know Eun Suk Bang, the designer behind ToBe Story.
I really love the Banditapple carnets, I must have used them for more than five years now (just because my first review of them was a bit more than five years ago) and together with Atoma they are definitely one of my two favourite notebooks. Banditapple has the better paper, Atoma is more practical in terms of reorganising/reshuffling things around within the notebook.
My recent Lamy Line Friends and Banditapple carnet order also included a two items from Eun Suk. One of them was the “wooden board”, being described as a little table to write on. The idea came from the fact the carnets are made from a tree, as should the surface be you put them on.
The wooden board is not only designed by her, she is also making them herself. Each board takes three to five days to manufacture, which involves cutting beech plywood with a CNC machine as well as applying three oil coatings before they get to dry.
They were sold in May this year as the Banditapple carnet x ToBe: wooden board. The price was $15. It was one of a number of side projects Banditapple was taking part in, all with low numbers of items being handmade and all of the items sold out very fast. There’s a good chance the wooden board will be available again if there is enough demand.
If have used the board many times when I needed a surface to write on and when the board was nearby. It was always very hand. There are three strings, so you can attach three notebooks if you want, but I usually just used it as a surface to write on.
Despite my admiration for the simple beauty of this board I have to say that there are also drawbacks, mainly that I haven’t figured out whether there’s an easy way of writing on the left pages of your notebooks if you use the woodenboard as a clipboard and that the wooden board is only useful is you have it with you, but for practical reasons you usually wouldn’t have the board with you when you need it, unless you use it as a stationary notebook holder / organiser. In any case, it is a beautiful board!
Just a reminder, since I changed the WordPress Theme a few months ago most images are available in high resolution. Open them in a new tab for the hires version.
Arnie, the guy behind Banditapple, just sent me a message telling me that he wants more people around the world to write at least once on his Banditapple Carnets – so he is currently giving away free samples worldwide to anyone who requests them – for a $3 postage contribution.
If you want to request a sample (limited time only) please fill in this request form.