Clairefontaine Clairing Notebooks

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“Clairing” is the name for the Atoma-style disc binding system that Clairefontaine makes (“cahier Clairing”). I got to know of Atoma notebooks through the posts on Bleistift and Lexikaliker, but for the longest time did not realize that my local stationery store (Nota Bene in Montreal) carried them. I finally picked a couple of them up on my last visit.

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(The Linicolor Clairing in green)

The basic Atoma-style notebooks come with cardboard covers. While they are the most reasonable in terms of price and performance, the disc-binding system by its nature is reusable, and manufacturers have been coming up with pricier versions that have sturdier covers. In Clairefontaine parlance, the basic Clairing notebook is classified under the Metric line. The next step up, with white plastic discs and ribbed transparent colored plastic covers, is called Linicolor. The nicest-looking version is called the Kover Book, and comes with transparent rings, a matte plastic cover with front and back flaps, and five section dividers. As far as I could see in the store, Atoma had products corresponding to the Clairefontaine ones that looked very similar and cost about the same (CAD $10 for the Linicolor and $17 for the Kover Book).

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(The Kover Book Clairing in orange, with dividers)

I chose the Clairefontaines because I liked the paper better. I’m used to this sort of Rhodia-style treated vellum paper, which is smooth and takes fountain pen ink well. Atoma paper (as I felt in the store) seemed thinner and a bit more “toothy” (less treated). I wonder if the paper (either Atoma or Clairefontaine) can withstand frequent removals and reinsertments?

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In any case the problem with the Clairing notebooks is that the company does not sell refills. You must buy Atoma refills for these notebooks if you want to keep using them, so the joy that this particular paper brings doesn’t last long. On the other hand you get to try different kinds of paper…

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12 thoughts on “Clairefontaine Clairing Notebooks

  1. Thank you for your review.
    It looks as if the discs are more similar in size to the Atoma discs than to the Staples discs, which is nice. I think the bigger the discs the more annoying to write on the paper left of the discs (if you are right handed).
    I have never seen the Clairefontaine system ‘live’. I hope I’ll come across it to be able to compare it to Atoma.

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    1. I didn’t realize that disc sizes could differ across systems! But in the store I certainly had the impression that the Atomas had very similar dimensions as the Clairings, because the notebooks were stacked together and it was only by looking at the logo on the cover that I was able to tell which was which.

      The historical affinity between France and Quebec may explain why certain French brands such as Clairefontaine, J. Herbin and Waterman are more widely available here. (I’ve been able to snag some very good deals on Waterman pens.) And of course Nota Bene is a very good stationer :)

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    1. Actually, I wasn’t that impressed with them at first – maybe because I’m past the stage where I might use them daily? It’s just interesting to see how they tried to propose a quirky solution to a problem. BTW the Japanese approach is to make the usual plastic spirals open and shut more easily, as with Lihit Lab’s Aqua Drops Twist Spring Note

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  2. Thank you for the review. – I enjoy the Atoma notebooks very much. In the past I have tried one or two alternatives but found the original to be the most appealing because of the disc size. The Atoma books have the smallest discs, and this does not only look better but makes writing on the opposite side easier (just like Matthias said).

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    1. Gunther, thank you for the clarification on the size of the discs. I actually thought you might prefer the original Atoma, but for different reasons – Atoma paper seems more pencil-friendly than Clairefontaine’s (this being a purely personal opinion). I like Clairefontaine because I use fountain pens, but I have found on certain occasions that heavily treated/coated paper such as Clairefontaine or Maruman Mnemosyne can feel a bit slippery when writing with pencils.

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    1. 같은 문제를 접근하는 방식의 차이점이 재미있어요. 기존의 loose leaf binder 시스템을 개량하는 일본과, 전혀 다른 시스템을 고안하는 유럽. 저 링이 빠질 듯 불안불안한데 빠지진 않더라고요^^

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    1. 유럽에서도 프랑스나 벨기에 등 몇몇 나라에서만 쉽게 구할 수 있는 것 같아요. 북미도 어렵구요. 제가 산 문구점은 이메일로 문의하면 mail order는 받아주는데 캐나다가 워낙 배송비가 비싼 나라라서 아마존 계열이 더 저렴할 것 같긴 하네요.

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      1. 아. 그렇군요. 다시 검색해보니 프랑스 아마존에도 있긴 하더라구요. 가끔 독일 아마존에서 문구류 구매하는데 같이 이용해봐야겠습니다. 좋은 노트 소개 감사합니다. ^^

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