Sturdily constructed spiral notebooks or pads with high-quality gridded paper: do they exist?
November 13, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

I find myself perpetually unsatisfied with all the notebooks and pads I have tried for general note-taking/writing/sketching/brainstorming. Please help me find the perfect brand of pad or notebook.

I have tried any number of different brands notebooks and pads over the years, including Moleskine, Miquel-Rius, and Rhodia, and dozens of non-name brands. Rhodia is the closest I've come to perfection but they don't quite have what I'm looking for. At the moment, what I use is whatever brand of plain yellow legal pad is convenient, but this is less than satisfactory.

Mandatory criteria:
- Roughly letter-sized. Somewhat smaller is okay, but the ability to draw charts/graphs/sketches is key, so anything shorter than 8 inches will not cut it.
- Spiral-bound, either at the side or the top, so I can fold the cover and pages back easily without having an enormous curl of paper over the top.
- Solid construction, so that the rings will not get smooshed and misaligned after a few days of being smooshed under books, etc.
- Decent quality paper, such that ink or coffee stains won't bleed through more than a few sheets
- Lined paper, although spacing does not matter; I'm good for actual sketchbooks, this is for writing and drawing and my handwriting does not go well with unlined paper.

Optional, but would be nice:
- Gridded paper
- Tearaway sheets, so I don't have to wrestle with ripping sheets out, or have that awful "fringe" of torn holes for the spirals at one edge.
- Small box at the top or bottom margin of each sheet for the date/subject

Does something like this exist?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix to Shopping (21 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like Five Star brand except for the heavy quality paper requirement. I'm pretty sure the paper is fine but it won't really stop a coffee spill.
posted by bleep at 5:29 PM on November 13, 2011

Have you tried Whitelines? It's my favorite at the moment. They make conventionally lined paper but this one is gridded. The grey background with white lines is subtle but works great for me.
posted by mmoncur at 5:31 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Doane Paper.
posted by ooklala at 5:32 PM on November 13, 2011

Seconding Doane, it's my second favorite. Their wire bound notebooks are heavy but solid as a rock.
posted by mmoncur at 5:36 PM on November 13, 2011

Ampad Gold Fibre might fit the bill.
posted by jgirl at 5:40 PM on November 13, 2011

I love Black n' Red spiral bound notebooks. Sturdy covers, elastic band to mark your page, tears out cleanly, and the paper is very nice -- a smooth, tight, strong paper. Particularly nice with an inky rollerball or fountain pen.
posted by SampleSize at 5:50 PM on November 13, 2011

(They make Rhodia, but have a ton of other bindings.)
posted by scruss at 6:22 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm addicted to Levenger's Circa notebooks, and their cheaper copycats, the Arc system from Staples.

You get the advantages of binders and spiral notebooks, all in one. The discs let you fold the notebook back perfectly, like a spiral, but discs are very sturdy (I haven't managed to destroy one yet, anyway) and don't get mushed like a spiral.

You can get all different kinds of paper (gridded, lined, blank) and both have good heavy paper (though Circa is higher quality than Arc, obviously) and they both feature the box at the top for topic/date or whatever. I heart them enough that I investigated in the (expensive) punch, from Levenger (Arc doesn't seem to offer a punch, yet) which gives me even more paper options.
posted by BrashTech at 7:01 PM on November 13, 2011

I rather like Pukka Pads.
posted by needled at 7:15 PM on November 13, 2011

Another vote for Ampad ... I always carry around a #22-157.

They survive my highly abusive backpack for months, and the paper is thick enough to write on both sides with a fountain pen and have it be easily legible (no bleed through, but I can see the letters from the other side)

My particular model doesn't match #2&3 from your optional list, but another one might ...

I have tried Circa, but pages coming out eventually drove me crazy and I didn't use the ability to rearrange the ordering as much as I thought I might. I think they're brilliant, but not for somebody who is as abusive towards their notepads as I am. The paper is awesome quality, and I think they even have some perforated options in addition to a grid with a header box.
posted by Metasyntactic at 7:15 PM on November 13, 2011

This Mnemosyne might fit your needs. I adore these notebooks and buy them in several sizes. Sam Flax also carries them.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:25 PM on November 13, 2011

Actually Arc does offer a punch now. It's only available in Staples stores, not online. About ~$40.
posted by SampleSize at 7:33 PM on November 13, 2011

I use mead cambridge business notebooks. which I think fit all the criteria you list. The once I use are 9-1/2" x 6-5/8", but they also have legal size. Very solid coil and back cover. Fairly heavy paper for the pages. Tearaway sheets. I love them: They lie flat. I've never hard the spiral binding get crushed or come apart. The back cover is super-sold. This is the one I use (which has slightly off-white paper, which you may or may not like). If you look around, I think they have similar ones in larger formats, and with white paper, if you prefer that.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:54 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Meads. I buy them by the case.
posted by bz at 10:22 PM on November 13, 2011

I heart Office Supply Pr0n!

The Levenger notepads are nice too, if the whole Circa idea is too much.

I adore the Clairefontaine notebooks and pads. They come in tons of different models and various kinds of lined paper. The heavyweight paper is luscious, but terrible if you're a lefty.

Finally, the Whitelines notepads are so awesome. The subtle grid is just clear enough to be useful, but not overly busy like dark lines on white paper.

Levenger-Rhodia combo looks nice too.
posted by barnone at 10:35 PM on November 13, 2011

Thirding Clairefontaine. I discovered them in France and have been using them ever since.

The paper has a "sheen" unlike anything I've found in the States. It's coated with something that makes the pen glide more easily. (Seriously.)
posted by vecchio at 1:23 AM on November 14, 2011

Blueline has the NotePro (from the link: Note Taking Products > NotePro) in various formats. I use NotePro A44C, which is a side-spiral notebook enclosed in a hard cover, with paper that is lined on one side and a grid on the other. Slightly smaller than letter sized (9 1/4" x 7 1/4") but I find it fits perfectly in my briefcase. They have letter sized notebooks but not with the grid/lined paper combo. I order usually from Amazon.

I've used the Levenger Circa/Staples Arc system with custom paper (need to purchase the paper punch). Not as sturdy as the NotePro but I like the flexibility of using my own paper.
posted by bCat at 3:48 AM on November 14, 2011

Seconding Clairefontaine! I wrote my entire dissertation on a series of roughly legal sized notebooks. I can't find a link to them, but they had plain brown covers, spiral binding, and graph paper inside. The paper was satiny. It was lovely! I almost (almost) want to write another dissertation on them.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 4:36 AM on November 14, 2011

Not quite as nice as Clairefontaine, but tough and nicely designed (and local for me) are Ecojot.
posted by scruss at 5:22 AM on November 14, 2011

Nthing Clairefontaine. Rhodia uses a thinner/cheaper version of their paper. I like the grid, spiral bound, multi color notebooks, personally.
posted by LittleMy at 6:08 AM on November 14, 2011

Came in to say Levenger Circa notebooks. They are awesome. The rings are rigid, so there's no thin wire spiral to get squashed, there is a spot for the date, the pages are removable and repositionable, the paper is a major pleasure to write on, and they have lots of paper options (including graph). My favorite paper is lined, with a narrow vertical unlined box on one side for making extra-important notes, or stand-out notes, questions you want to refer back to, etc. Also, they have all the benefits of a spiral notebook, but you can reposition pages if you want to, and insert index dividers wherever you want to. Okay, enough gushing.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2011

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