This is Part 6 of my Mega Monster Review series on pocket notebooks. You can visit the main Mega Monster Review page for a listing of all the notebooks reviewed in this series. You can also open the massive Master Spreadsheet to see all the aggregated data on these notebooks. Note: This is a work in progress and will take several weeks to complete.
Scout Books Pocket Notebook
This series is all about the collision between the Fountain Pen and EDC worlds, and finding the notebooks that are most appropriate for fountain pen users who want to write on the go. The perfect pocket notebook handles ink well, never feathers or spreads, showcases shading and sheen, dries immediately, and is durable. That notebook is hanging out in Imaginary Land with Sasquatch and Nessie. Generally speaking, “handles ink well” and “dries fast” don’t go hand-in-hand. Most notebooks fall somewhere in between, leaving us to weigh which side of the spectrum is more important to us (and honestly, that probably changes, too, depending on the situation we’re in at the time).
About Scout Books:
It took a while for me to get my hands on some Scout Books notebooks. I’ve seen the brand name a lot over the last few years when I search the Googles, but I’ve never run across them in any physical store or online shops I frequent. Typically, with pocket notebooks, I toss a pack or two in my cart when I’m buying other things. But with Scout Books, I had to intentionally go and find/buy them.
Although Scout Books sell a few “stock” notebooks for retail (including occasional collaborations with artists), their bread and butter is in printing customized notebooks. They consider themselves a “tool for sharing your own story or brand through custom designs.” You can see some pretty spectacular examples on their site. They also sell some with completely blank craft covers that you can customize yourself with markers, ink, paint, stickers, or whatever else you fancy.
One of the hallmarks of the company is sustainability:
Sustainability is a true core value of Scout Books. As a recently certified B Corporation, we’re committed to a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. All our books are made with 100% recycled paper and vegetable-based inks, all sourced in the U.S., and our shop runs on renewable energy.
I have to admit, I went into this excursion somewhat skeptical that their recycled paper would work well with fountain pens. I’ve often found recycled paper to be porous and not very uniform, leading to some pretty brutal feathering and spread. But the paper used in Scout Books notebooks is pretty hearty and surprisingly kind to liquid inks, as long as they’re not too wet.
The paper they use feels thicker and stiffer than Clairefontaine, but not as thick (or as smooth) as the paper used in the Story Supply Pocket Staple Edition 407. In these reviews, I’m using three pens that seriously put paper to the test: Uniball Vision Elite 0.8 (a feather monster), Platinum Cool in medium (juuuuuuuuuicy), and the Conklin Duragraph with a 1.1mm stub (lays down a lot of ink). All three pens suffered some spread, yielding lumpy lines on the Scout Books paper, but honestly, they all performed better than I expected. I still wouldn’t pair those pens up with this notebook (especially the Cool), but they didn’t really make a mess, either.
In addition to being recycled, the paper in the Scout Books notebooks doesn’t appear to have any sizing/coating, so it’s pretty absorbent. The downside to that is that fountain pen ink doesn’t get much of a chance to show off it’s goods. But this paper really shines on the other end of the spectrum: dry times. I had one tiny speck of wet ink from my Safari (fine), but everything else was completely dry within 10 seconds. A big win for those “write it and run” type of people.
One surprise is that it shows a little shading.Shading typically gets lost with absorbent paper, but I got a bit from my Nemosine Singularity and KWZ Turquoise. It’s not what you’d see from Tomoe River, but it was a nice surprise, nonetheless.
In addition to shading, that last image also shows the bumpy/mushy spread from the Platinum Cool (top of the image). There’s too much spread for me to use this pen with this paper, but feathering is minimal and the dry time is excellent.
In typical pocket notebook fashion, Scout Books pocket notebooks are folded in half and staple-bound with rounded outside corners and hearty cardstock covers. The off-the-shelf offerings come in a few colors/patterns and you can get them in blank, ruled, or DotGrid versions.
Typical pocket notebook size is 3.5 x 5.5 inches (9 by 14 cm). Scout Books pocket notebooks are a little shorter at 3.5 x 5.0 inches (9 x 12.7 cm). I’m not sure that makes any real difference in usage; however, if you’re the type of person who hates it when a sliver of notebook peeks out of your shirt pocket, then this more compact size may be right up your alley.
There is very little branding on these notebooks. In fact, the only branding on the outside covers is a tiny, nondescript logo on the bottom of the back cover, although you’ll find another logo and a little more info inside the back cover.
The one area where Scout Books pocket notebooks really fall short is in their number of pages. While most pocket notebooks include 48 pages, Scout Books only have 32. If you’re looking at buying a three-pack, that works out to 48 fewer pages per pack than most of their competitors. If you’re someone who blows through pocket notebooks fast, this is a significant difference.
Pencils work well on the Scout Books paper. The paper is a bit toothy, though, so the soft graphite in my Blackwing did wear down a little quicker than with smoother papers.
- Palomino Blackwing: Works just fine. As I just mentioned, the toothy paper wore down the graphite, making my lines a little fuzzy (you probably wouldn’t notice if you have larger handwriting). The line is dark, though. Erasing took a few swipes to get going and some graphite was still left behind.
- Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil (0.5): Perfect. Nice and dark; slightly less so than the Blackwing. It’s definitely a crisper line, though. The graphite erases faster and more fully with the Kuru Toga.
I often joke that ballpoint pens should be outlawed. But seriously, as unenjoyable as they are, they really do work just about everywhere. Can’t argue with their success.
- Uniball Jetstream (0.7): Works great. Dark and consistent. No complaints.
- Fisher Space Pen (0.7): Surprisingly smoother than the Jetstream, but also a bit “sludgier” in that the pasty ink causes some drag on the paper. Works fine, if unremarkable.
I expected the gel pens to perform perfectly. My expectations were largely met, although the wet-ass Sarasa caused some spread.
- Uniball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (0.38): Wonderful, as expected. Fine and consistent line. And for as fine as the line is, it comes out really dark, especially against the bright white paper.
- Pilot G2 (0.5): Solid. Very dark. I’m finding that some of my tighter loopy letters are filling in, which I haven’t seen on other papers. Otherwise it’s excellent.
- Zebra Sarasa (0.7): Does okay. Very dark black. I am seeing some spread, even without a loupe. But it is a super wet pen, so I’m not surprised. With a loupe, I can see a bit of short, blobby feathering.
Liquid Ink Rollerball Results:
I had super low hopes for how the rollerball pens would perform on this recycled paper, but they were better than I expected.
- Pilot Precise V5 RT (0.5): Very good. There’s a minimal amount of spread and a few random feathers, but you have to look under a loupe to see them. Very smooth writing experience.
- Uniball Vision Elite (0.8): Not quite as good as the Precise, but still better than I expected. There’s some spread and a bit of tiny feathering, but it performs about as well as the Sarasa gel. And although it’s not as black as the Sarasa, it’s still dries darker than it usually does.
Fountain Pen Results:
I really anticipated that this paper wouldn’t like fountain pens. The paper is recycled and not coated. I was pretty surprised, though. Fine/dry pens worked well, and the dry times for all pens were beautiful.
- (EF) Platinum Preppy with Noodlers Midnight Blue ink: Lots of feedback on this paper. Although not consistently scratchy, the nib caught on the paper once or twice. With a loupe, I can see some very minor feathering around all my letters, and I can see some spread around the starting and stopping points of my lines. It’s not enough to notice during normal reading, though. No bleed-through.
- (F) Lamy Safari with Lamy Petrol ink: Way smoother than the Preppy. Can still feel the texture of the paper, but it’s negligible. Some spread is visible, along with a few tiny feathers. But again, it’s better than I thought it would be. One or two specks still wet during the dry test.
- (M) Platinum Cool with Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo ink: Quite a bit of spread and feathering. Strangely enough, though, it does retain a bit of shading…but just a bit. This is one of the wettest pens I have, and the dry test was flawless. Significant bleed-through to the other side of the paper.
- (0.6) Nemosine Singularity with KWZ Standard Turquoise ink: Tiny bit of spread that you can see with the naked eye, and a tiny amount of feathering. The ends of strokes are especially rough. Dry test was perfect and I even got some nice shading with this combo. Small amount of bleed-through, but nothing that would prevent you from using the other side of the paper.
- (1.1) Conklin Duragraph with Robert Oster Midnight Sapphire ink: Lots of noticeable spread, feathering, and bleed-through. There were a few random tendrils extending out from the letters, but you have to look hard to see them. There is some shading, but the edges of my letters are pretty mushy. Interestingly enough, the dry test was again perfect…a big surprise for as wet as this pen is.
|Size||3.5 inch x 5.0 inch|
|Price||$9.99 for 3 Notebooks|
|# of Pages||32|
|Cover Material||18 pt Chipboard|
|Stiff Cover?||Yes, mostly|
|Paper Weight||70# (~100 gsm)|
|Ruling Type||Ruled, DotGrid, or Blank|
|Rule Spacing||7 mm Rule; 5 mm Dot|
|FP: Feathering||Some (with wet pens)|
|FP: Ghosting||Some (with wet pens)|
|FP: Bleedthrough||Yes (with wettest pens)|
|FP: 10-Sec Dry?||PERFECT|
|Liquid Ink RB||Very Good|
As I was unwrapping these notebooks, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t like my fountain pens. While liquid inks do creep a bit on this absorbent paper (especially with very wet pens), the dry times are fantastic. Even if you use a sloppy, wet stub nib, you can write and go without having to decipher a Rorschach Test the next time you open your notebook.
If you mostly use fine/dry fountain pens and you need a durable notebook with fast dry times—or if you’re in the market for custom notebooks made with your own designs—then you should definitely check out Scout Books.