Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Field Notes Finally Listened!

7/14/15 Diamine Chocolate Brown ink, Sailor fude pen,
Field Notes Workshop Companion edition notebook
You’ve heard me rant before about Field Notes. The form factor of these popular notebooks – thin, small, lightweight – is ideal for carrying around easily in a pocket or bag – but the paper is made for writing, not sketching (at least, not the kind of sketching I do). I’ve tried many variants of these notebooks (as well as those made by competitors), and I’m always disappointed by the buckling that occurs when I apply a tiny wash of water to an ink line and by the bleeding and ghosting that occurs even when I don’t. I realized these notebooks aren’t intended to be sketchbooks, so I can’t blame Field Notes that I’m not their intended audience for an otherwise perfectly acceptable product. But I also knew that people who want to only write in them with ballpoint pen or pencil would probably be perfectly happy with paper that would make fountain pen writers and sketchers happy too, so why couldn’t Field Notes listen to all those whining customers? Anyway, my disgruntlement with these and other similar notebooks is what made me resort to making my own. (I don’t mind making them, but let’s face it – I’d rather be sketching than cutting and folding paper.)

When the latest limited-edition Workshop Companion series of Field Notes came out recently, I began to hear rumblings on social networks that the paper these notebooks contained was different from previous editions – heavier and more fountain-pen friendly. But comments like that generally come from people who are writing with fountain pens, which isn’t quite as demanding as sketching. Disappointed so many times in the past by similar comments, I muttered, “Yeah, right.” Let some other sucker – an actual fountain pen sketcher – test it out first!

Bless his heart, Larry Marshall (who has grumbled about the same issue) did the job – rigorous testing and a thorough review. And surprise, surprise – he found the new edition suitable for his sketching needs! That was good enough for me – I immediately ordered a pack.

As reported by other users, the 70-pound French Kraft-Tone paper is noticeably heavier and slightly toothier than previous Field Notes papers (even the America the Beautiful edition, which heretofore has been the most fountain-pen-friendly paper, though not enough for my needs). It also has more noticeable tiny fibers, which I think give the paper more character. The dot-grid ruling is pale and inobtrusive for sketching.

Yesterday on my bus ride downtown, I gave the Workshop Companion my first test drive in the way I typically use such notebooks: a Sailor fude pen (which puts out a relatively juicy and heavy ink line) with Diamine ink (a relatively “wet” but fast-drying ink) washed lightly with a waterbrush. No bleeding or ghosting (another sketch is on the other side of this page, but it’s not visible at all), not even where I applied water. And the very minor buckling is hardly noticeable. As for the slight tooth, some fountain pen users might object if they prefer glassy paper that their nibs will skate across, but I prefer a paper with a light tooth. In fact, the tooth would probably make the paper pleasant for use with graphite.

The best part? These notebooks are inexpensive enough (six for $19.95 in a slipcase box) that I can use them to scribble shopping lists and other memos as well as sketches without worrying about burning through them at the rate that I often do. Win!

Thanks for finally listening, Field Notes! (I thanked them by telling them my opinion on this paper, and then I thanked them again in the one way that really matters to them: I immediately ordered more.)


  1. I'm so relieved that you like them :-) I'm working in my second one, leaving me only 10 more on the shelf so I ordered a couple more boxes. I have a dream that FN will start using this paper in all their editions, though I suspect it's a dream that won't be realized. It would be nice if they'd produce a permanent edition with this paper, though. I've written them with that suggestion.

    Cheers --- Larry

    1. I wrote to FN, too! Here's the response I got: "It’s possible we might do a thicker paper in the standard packs but right now we don’t have plans for it." Well, even if they used it only in their limited editions, I'd be OK with that, because they come out with a new edition every quarter. In the meantime, I guess I'll just hoard this edition (I have three more boxes coming). ;-)

  2. Just saw your review this morning. I am on my fifth box. It is kind of surprising that these boxes are still available since it was a very small run special edition. I also use these with wet writing combinations (primarily Sailor and Platinum music pens) and I have found that you can draw on both sides, and even more impressively, use a fair amount of water on both sides. Hard to believe Field Notes produced these, and even harder to believe that they will not put this paper into their permanent collection. (Guess that is another part of the curse of ballpoint pens.)

  3. The new Lunar Field Notes have the same paper with a light gray wash. Fall 2016

    1. Hi George! Yes, I'm delighted with Lunacy! Here's my review:


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