Considering all the blogs I read about pens, pencils, paper, and other analog tools, I like to think that I stay current on new things in the stationery world. Somehow, a company releasing some high-quality and unique notebooks got by me. That company is Paper-Oh. While there are a ton of excellent notebook, journal, and paper options out there, in my opinion Paper-Oh is in league with the best of them.
I owe Gary Varner from Notegeist a special thanks for introducing me to this wonderful brand. Notegeist is a small online business that sells paper products, pencils, and other very cool analog stuff. I’m a happy customer, and Gary (who is the sole employee) provides an excellent experience. I give it my highest recommendation. He recently added Paper-Oh notebooks to his store, and he contacted me to try a couple and give my thoughts.
At this stage of my stationery addiction, I didn’t think I could still have my socks knocked off by a notebook. I was very wrong.
A Little About Paper-Oh
Paper-Oh, which is owned by the same parent company as Paperblanks, is a relative newcomer to the stationery scene. The more I read about and researched the company, the more of a fan I became. The company is the most innovative notebook company I’ve ever encountered— they take what is essentially a quite basic item and elevate it to a level that is refreshing and bold. While some notebook companies rest on their laurels of name recognition and availability, Paper-Oh invested in talented bookbinders and designers to create notebooks that are functional works of art.
Gary sent me two of their notebooks— the Cahier Ondulo (B7) and Quadro (B6). Both of them are wonderful, reasonably-priced notebooks. I’ll discuss them separately until I get to the fantastic paper inside, which is the same for both.
Appearance & Design
Cahier Ondulo (B7)
This is the Field Notes-style pocket notebook, but it’s actually a little shorter. It’s the same size at the Baron Fig Apprentice pocket notebooks. I’m a huge Field Notes fan and user, but I don’t mind the smaller size at all.
The version I have has a black cover that looks like it’s made from a corrugated heavy stock paper. The inside cover is a dark red. They complement each other and the cream-colored paper perfectly. A small cutout in the cover shows the red interior paper used for the end pages. The hole doesn’t really provide much functionality, but it looks super cool. It’s a nice touch.
The inside back cover has a removable label with a bunch of relevant specifications about the notebook. I think this was a great decision. It keeps the covers free of text, and being able to take it off without damaging the notebook leaves it up to the owner to keep it or not. I kind of like having it there. . . just to remind me it’s a B7.
Unlike most pocket notebooks, there is no presence of any sort of binding material when looking at the exterior of the notebook. No staples. No threads. However, if you turn to the center of the book, you can see how well this thing was put together. I’m not a bookbinder, so I don’t know the precise terms, but there are three pinholes towards the top and bottom of the spine, as well as eight more in the center. There is a thin thread woven through the holes holding the whole unit together. It’s impressive, and quite a bit different than what I usually see.
The Cahier Ondulo is a fantastic looking pocket notebook. I would prefer it to be Field Notes size, but it’s a very small compromise for such a beautiful notebook.
Ok, now for something completely different. The Quadro is very different than the Ondulo. The variety in the Paper-Oh line is amazing, and I think they’ve made some bold design decisions.
When I first pulled the Quadro from the package I received, I was taken aback. I wasn’t expecting the gray on orange color scheme and grid pattern for the exterior of the notebook. It’s striking but looks great. If I had seen a photo of it on Notegeist, I’m not sure I would have made a purchase. At first glance, it’s a little out of my comfort zone. However, after seeing it in person, I love the style.
The combination of the B6 (12.5 cm x 17.6 cm) size and 112 pages makes for a compact notebook that can contain lots of writing, or whatever else you choose to record.
The exterior of the notebook has a subtle 3D effect. The gray cover stock with its small square cutouts is adhered to an orange paper which results in awesome covers (and spine) with two colors that go very well together. Just to give you some extraneous details you probably don’t really need, there are 234 3.5 mm x 3.5 mm squares separated from each other by 5 mm (vertically and horizontally) on the front and back covers. The same orange paper the gray cover stock is adhered to is used for the end pages.
As with the Ondulo, the inside back cover has a removable label with details about the notebook. Again, I think this is an excellent feature. Since I’m still trying to master the international sizing of notebooks and paper, I find having the information useful.
A highlight of the Quadro is the magnetic enclosure of the fold-over flap. It couldn’t look better. The flap has the same gray on orange 3D effect as the rest of the cover, so it blends right in and looks like a natural part of the notebook. The Paper-Oh team also found some magnets that are darn near the thickness of the cover, so you don’t even know they’re there until you open the cover flap. Opening the cover flap reveals four silver discs 1 cm in diameter at the top and bottom of the notebook. The magnetic flap looks great, keeps the notebook closed, and protects the page edges. . . so well done.
There is also a bookmark included with the Quadro. Paper-Oh calls it a “multi-purpose” bookmark since it can be used in a variety of ways. It’s novel, and I prefer it to the usual ribbon bookmark seen in many notebooks. I like the option of not using it at all if I so choose1.
Fit & Finish
Cahier Ondulo (B7)
Honestly, I’m kind of blown away by how well this notebook is constructed. Pictures just don’t convey how sturdy and durable it feels.
The thickness and corrugation of the cover paper makes for a strong exterior. The combined thickness of the cover, dark red end pages, and 80 interior pages make the Cahier Ondulo thicker than other pocket notebooks, but I don’t find it too thick. If anything, it enhances its durability resulting in a pocket notebook that could take a serious beating. The corrugation runs the vertical length of the covers, so I imagine it would conform well to a pocket.
One trade-off with this notebook is that the cover will not stay closed on its own. I personally don’t care, but some of you may. The cover stays open at a fairly wide angle. Personally, I think it’s a small trade off for the quality of this notebook.
The binding of this notebook is done in such a way that it almost seems invisible. The thread used is thin, and unless you go looking for it in the center spread of the notebook, you’ll be hard pressed to notice it anywhere else. It’s so well done. It looks like it was completed with surgical precision. During my use of the notebook, the binding never showed any weakness. It’s not the kind of binding I would ever expect to see in a pocket notebook.
Could this be a more positive review? Maybe not, but it’s well deserved. While the Ondulo blew me away, the Quadro confirmed that Paper-Oh is producing some special stuff. The Quadro rocks.
The spine has some careful “scoring” that enables the notebook to lie flat. Whatever magic the Paper-Oh folks conjured up, it works.
The binding method is different than the Ondulo, but equally as impressive. I’d say it’s even more of a technical achievement since the book truly lies flat, and the binding is so “behind-the-scenes” that I used the notebook without any thought to how the pages were attached. The book doesn’t come across as the sum of its parts— just as one cohesive unit.
The interior pages are divided in into seven sections of 16 pages each, and woven together with the same thin white thread as used in the Ondulo. I can’t get over how sturdy the binding seems for such thin thread.
The magnetic enclosure works as good as it looks. The cover flap closes with a satisfying “snap” that has caused me to open and close the Quadro for no other reason than to just hear it and see it in action. It’s clear that much thought was put into the magnetic closure. The exterior papers are cut and folded in such a way that when the notebook is closed, it barely looks like there is a cover flap at all. It perfectly blends in with the rest of the notebook. The workmanship is evident when looking at the notebook from the bottom edge— it’s a perfect tight rectangle with only an extra tiny (1 mm) thickness from the 5 cm flap.
Oh, The Paper
Come on, you saw that one coming right?
Paper-Oh uses some wonderful paper. I’ve used lots of different and first-rate papers, and Paper-Oh paper is right up there with Rhodia and Clairefontaine. It’s super smooth and a joy to write on using pens or pencils. Show through was minimal and only happened with fountain pens.
Here’s what Paper-Oh has to say about their paper (from their website):
Our writing paper is sourced 100% from sustainable forests and is uncoated, meaning it is left natural with no added veneer. The unbleached paper is a cream colour and we run it through an additional press to make it satisfyingly smooth and ideal for writing, drawing or sketching. We offer lined or unlined formats for all our notebooks. For our Cahiers we also offer a grid pattern.
The paper is a pleasing cream color, and to me, it’s much easier on the eyes than typical white paper. The line spacing (7mm) for the ruled version may be a bit wide for some, but I find it to be great for my writing style.
Considering the very high quality nature of the rest of the notebook, and it’s price point, Paper-Oh selected a superb paper. The heart of any notebook is its paper, and Paper-Oh went with a paper that lives up to the rest of the wonderful materials they chose to use. They have produced a very complete package of awesome.
Cahier Ondulo (B7)
If you’re into notebooks (which I assume you are), like writing or drawing on nice paper (which I also assume you do), and appreciate a well-designed product, you really need to try a Paper-Oh notebook. They are relatively a little more expensive than their peers, but in my opinion, well worth it.
The research and care taken in building these notebooks is obvious. Both of these notebooks make me want to research bookbinding. I’m fascinated by how these notebooks are put together.
I’m very aware of how positive I’ve been in this review, but I want to emphasize it’s not hype or anything else of the sort. These notebooks are worth every bit of praise they get by me or anyone else. I really tried to find some negatives to share with you. Besides their price being a little on the high side, there aren’t any.
I think Paper-Oh has a bright future, and I know I’ll be following them to see what else they put on the market.
- Which is most likely what I would choose. ↩