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…

Pilot Namiki Falcon Meets (Basic) Spencerian

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The Pilot Namiki Falcon (called “Elabo” in Japan) is a pen that should be of more than passing interest to pencil people. The way Pilot introduces this pen is almost exactly the same as the way Mitsubishi promotes its Penmanship Pencil – that is to say, both are said to be capable of producing the finely nuanced strokes that make up the Japanese writing system. However, the Falcon operates on a lot less pressure, and produces beautiful fine lines on Clairefontaine Seyes-ruled paper, whose 2mm lines defy most pens and pencils.

The Falcon became the subject of intense interest a few years back with this video, which showed a specially customized version performing all manner of flexible-nib acrobatics. The model quickly sold out, including vintage stock, and somehow the impression was created that the Falcon could stand in for a vintage flex-nibbed pen. It is interesting to note, though, that Pilot doesn’t seem to think so. It reportedly sent out “directives” to major retailers in Tokyo (to warn novice consumers of hazardous practices?) at the height of the craze, and in any case Japanese pen users are a conservative lot and seem to be wary of anything that might wear their precious pens out.

The most that can be reasonably expected of the Falcon is probably the slight variations in thickness and shading in the strokes, as in this review. As for myself, I’m willing to use it as an extra-fine-tipped pen that has a bit of a spring to it. If I need line variation, I’ll go back to my Tachikawa G nib.