Best pens for Moleskine?

by Amanda Fleet

Over the last few years, Moleskines have been getting a rough press over the quality of their paper. I've not been a huge lover, to be honest, but then, I'm also one of the few in the world who wouldn't use Field Notes because of the paper quality.

So, how bad are Moleskine (and Field Notes) with different pens? And if you're not a fountain pen user, do you even care that the paper doesn't cope with a Conklin Durograph laying down a lake of ink with every stroke? (No, probably not!)

Okay, well here are the specs on some Moleskines. The cahier collection is a set of three lined notebooks. There are 32 pages (64 sides), the last 16 of which (32 sides) are detachable. They're 9 x 14 cm, with rounded corners. Binding is stitched (so good flattablity) and there's a flap pocket in the back cover. They come shrink-wrapped in plastic (grrr...). The belly-band has a ruler on the reverse.

Slightly oddly (to me), although the line spacing is 6 mm, the top margin is only 5 mm and the bottom margin is 3 mm. To me, the page looks a little odd, but that may just be me!

Step forth one of the biggest pen tests I've done!

At the back pages, I did a test of all the fountain pens I have inked at the moment on one page. On another, I tested 11 gel pens/rollerballs/biros.

How did the Moleskine hold up?

Um... I have to be honest. Not well. Although the Parker calligraphy wrote with a nice crisp line, the others feathered horribly. In fairness, almost all of my favourite fountain pens (and therefore the ones I have inked most of the time) are absolute gits on many papers. It has to be pretty decent paper to stand up to them.

Here are the pictures of the results: left hand side of each picture is the pen test; right hand side of each picture is the reverse of the page.

My advice, if you want to use Moleskines, is that they play okay with biros and pencils. If you use a fountain pen and want to use a pocket notebook, well, I have recommendations below.

But, how do Moleskines compare with their main brand competitor, Field Notes? Well, I had to have a bit of a rummage in the cupboard for any, and the only ones I found were a set of blue ones which someone must have given me (I don't know when. It must be years ago, to be honest. Scrolling through the Field Notes Ltd Editions page, I think they are 'American Tradition' from 2011!).

Well, they're just as bad! Same pens; same test. Results below.

Why buy either Moleskines or Field Notes then? Well, most people probably don't give a toss about whether they play nicely with fountain pens or not. They use biro or pencil and want a notebook with style and history and cachet, and both Field Notes and Moleskines have that in spades. Field Notes also bring out limited editions, which will get the collectors amongst you happy! Having either a Moleskine or a Field Notes notebook in your hand, says something about you. Additionally, many people like the pocket in the back cover of the Moleskines - it's handy for tucking receipts/notes etc in, and of course, the fact that the last few pages of the book are detachable is incredibly useful.

"But I'm a fountain pen user and I want to be able to use pocket notebooks... what do I do??" I hear you wail (with my bat-like hearing, obviously).

Well, fear not, because Stu has LOADS of great pocket-sized notebooks available, and get this... some of them are cheaper than the Moleskines and the Field notes! There are also some shiny new UK made fountain pen friendly pocket notebooks coming in June!

This post would turn into an absolute monster if I listed them all, so here are my main highlights (links to all notebooks at the end of the post):

1. Clairefontaine

A set of three, for £6. And they have 96 pages. Now, I know the picture below shows squared paper and Stu sells lined, but the paper is the same quality. Trust me. I use a LOT of Clairefontaine paper! I would choose these above all others!  The main disadvantage is that drying time is long, so ink may smudge (and don't close the notebook too quickly after writing).

Same pen tests; results below.

2. Story Supply

A set of 3 is £11.50. Each book has 48 pages. Again, same pens; same test. Results below.

3. Rhodia

This is a pen test done on a Webbie, and Stu's currently sold out of those, but all their notebooks are made with the same paper.

4. Darkstar

(But you'd better be quick... stocks are low, and the creator of them is no longer making them!) A set of three, for £6. They have 54 pages. Slightly quirky in having alternate dot grid and lined pages. Gorgeous paper and fabulous covers.

So, there you have it... some recommendations for you on which pens to use with Moleskines and Field Notes, plus some recommendations on which notebooks to use if you really must use a fountain pen.

Links for purchase!

Moleskine cahiers

Field Notes page

Clairefontaine page

Story Supply page

Rhodia page

Darkstar page