Aug 26, 20161576 views

The Book of Ra, a Review

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This is my review of The Book of Ra, a notebook by Sirius's Domain from Taiwan. A seriously small business, if you can call it that; as far as I can tell it's a single individual. Their Etsy store boasts a combined total of 7 sales. The seller/maker claims that their "wolf paper" is superior to all other fountain pen-friendly paper out there.
The specs:
Size: B5-ish (250x175mm)
Count: 96 sheets, 192 pages
Weight: 140gsm, yes 140!
Ruling: 5mm grid (also available in 6mm lines and blank)
Binding: Smyth-sewn, with cardboard covers
The notebook is hand made, and it shows. Not entirely in a good way, though. The cardboard covers (a rather ugly affair) are somewhat warped and the spine is duct tape. The design, I guess, aims to be simple and plain like the Midori MD. The Midori, however, comes out looking refined and elegant. tBoR comes out looking cheap.
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That being said, the binding is strong, the notebook opens completely flat, almost too flat (courtesy of DuctSpine), and the sheets are even, do not warp and are neatly ruled.
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Anyway, mine is getting its own custom cover, and the only thing that really matters is the paper...
The paper looks very smooth, no apparent texturing visible to the naked eye. However, it is not glossy by any means and its not smooth to the touch. Probably the highest feedback I got from any FP-friendly paper ever. This one will make your fountain pens sing.
So how does it fare against the likes of Clairefontaine and Tomoe River?
To find out I used
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1- a Lamy Al-Star, EF nib, filled with Rohrer & Klinger Königsblau;
2- a Pelikan no.mistake to test erase and overwrite;
3- a Levenger L-Tech, F nib, filled with Diamine Onyx black, an offensively juicy combination;
4- a Pilot Prera, M nib, filled with Seitz-Kreuznach Tomatenrot;
5- a Sharpie | pen;
6- a document-grade Schneider One Business with a nasty habit of feathering and bleeding through most paper;
7- a Schneider Slider Rave XB, because every test needs a ballpoint;
and
X- Inkzilla.
Inkzilla may look like a run-of-the-mill 6mm Pilot Parallel pen, cocooned within it, however, is an ancient cartridge that, even though it has never been used, is less than a third full. Pilot Parallel ink is already dense as it is, concentrated like this... its paper cryptonite. And yet the pen started writing right away. Well, it spoke first, something about becoming death and destroying paper worlds, but then it just kept on writing. Pilot, right?
For comparison I tried
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- Clairefontaine 90gsm, blue tint, 5mm grid;
- Taroko 68gsm Tomoe River, 5mm grid;
- Fabriano Ecoqua 85gsm, 5mm grid;
- Transotype Sensebook 80gsm, 5mm grid;
and
- Muji Recycled 80gsm, 5mm grid.
I considered including TWSBI, Stalogy, Leuchturm and Apica Premium too, but I need something to live for. You don't want to uncover the secrets of the universe in one go.
Due to considerations of space and to keep things as uniform as possible I went with a minimal single writing sample (Book of Ra) for all pens on all types of paper. The 2nd line, like the 1st, is written using the Al-Star with "Book" erased and overwritten with the no.mistake (note: forgot to do this for the Taroko).
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Despite my best efforts I could not achieve a high enough resolution without a macro lens or digital microscope (something I am seriously considering now). I therefore inspected each sample with a Carson x50 loupe. (note: the photos are 6000 pixels wide, you may have to download them to get all the details)
For the EF nib of the Al-Star all 6 paper brands are perfectly adequate, even the last three which are not explicitly marketed as FP-friendly. Closer inspection with the loupe reveals some fine feathering for those. What also becomes apparent and what the photos do not show very well is that the lines on wolf paper are noticeably cleaner and better defined than any other paper, even the Clairefontaine and the Tomoe River. In practice, however, that is utterly irrelevant, as you really can't tell with the naked eye. We are approaching audiophile-levels of obsession here. See lines 3 and 4 for a more apparent difference.
The best performer in the overwrite test is easily Clairefontaine, followed closely by Tomoe River (done post-photo). Wolf paper failed the overwrite test, with some significant feathering visible. This may have something to do with the multiple passes the eraser required for it to work on this paper. Maybe I was impatient.
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Wolf, Clairefontaine and Tomoe River stood up really well to the extreme abuse of the One Business and Inkzilla (the last three not so much), with Wolf paper the only one showing practically zero feathering or bleed-through. Clairefontaine and Tomoe River did show some very minor feathering, but it has to be remembered that these are really badly behaved (naughty) pens. Tomoe River was also the only paper (of the six) to fail the Inkzilla smear test. Finally, that Wolf paper wins the show-through and bleed-through contest is no big feat at 140gsm. More impressive, I find, is the Clairefontaine's performance at little more than half the weight. Tomoe River's bleed-through resistance at 68gsm is also noteworthy.
In summary, I can say with some confidence that Wolf paper lives up to Sirius's Domain's claims and that their own sample below matches what I have found.
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It IS legit and should be on every fountain pen user's radar.
Is it better than Clairefontaine? I'd have to say No!
Yes, it does perform better; the lines are cleaner and better defined, even less feathering, zero bleed-through, etc etc. In practice, though, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. You will notice the 140gsm thickness, however, and you will most certainly notice the feedback.
Now... who makes this paper?
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plasticdaffofils, TomaCzar, and 37 others
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The wolf paper seems pretty solid. I think it would be good for practicing my Chinese. Thanks for sharing this @Theroc. I'm going to see if he'll sell me just the paper. I've been wanting to my my own leather bound books. :)
ZacharyBinz
It wouldn't hurt to ask. The seller used to offer loose refills for his binders.
As I have been getting more and more into true flexible nibs I have found deeper appreciation for the Wolf paper used in the Book of Ra. Vintage flex is very demanding paper-wise. The combination of generous ink flow and high nib pressure (especially F & XF nibs) pushes even the best fountain-pen-friendly paper to its limits. This were Wolf paper truly shines. While it exhibits excellent feathering resistance, I felt the 140gsm thickness was overkill. Not for a wet noodle though. This paper is practically made for superflex. I would probably have been put off vintage flex if it wasn't for my Book of Ra. While my Clairefontaines and Tomoe Rivers can manage I wouldn't write on them double-sided with a superflex. I do not have such worries with the Book of Ra. I'll post some photos once I get around to it.
Nice review, great article, I appreciate, thanks.
How well do you think sheening inks would perform on the Wolf paper?
RFeiertag
That's a good question. To get the effect referred to as sheen you need paper that does not soak the ink in. That's why Tomoe River works so well. Wolf paper behaves similarly. Based on some writing samples with pigmented inks, I'd say Wolf paper is comparable to Tomoe River, if not more conducive to sheening. However, this is based only on a limited sample. There is also a huge eye-of-the-beholder factor here. Maybe an occasion for another write-up... sigh.
Theroc
Theroc,
Thanks for the response. I searched both FPN and FPG for reviews of information on where one might but loose sheets of this paper and came up with nothing.
An ink reviewer's work is never done. Stiff upper lip and all that : ). Thank you again for the review and the response!
A very well written review of an off-brand notebook. My preference has always been Rhodia and Clairefontaine for FP paper. I might have to grab one of these to fool around with. Let us know how that spine wears as I am wondering if it would survive in my duffel. I might have to reinforce each page with Washi tape, and use a combination of Gorilla tape and Washi tape on the spine.
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You bet. Just have to make up my mind on where to post it; on this thread or a new one about custom covers.
Here is a photo of the cover. I will post more along with some details in a new thread.
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Getting one of these to rebind sounds like it might be a fun project. Thanks for this thorough review!
jeanines
Rebind, huh? There you go, giving me ideas....
Nice review - thanks for sharing. 140gsm ... super heavy. It looks crisp.. I am glad you noted that the difference wasn't enough to notice vs. Clairefontaine... I think if the mail-lady brought another "pad of paper" for me to try... I might be getting my mail at another address !! LOL Very nice review :)
I am glad you liked my review, makes me want to write another one :D. I have been itching to test every type of paper I have for feathering and bleed-through, under the microscope. Literally. It will be a few weeks before I can snag a reasonably-priced digital microscope, but once I do, I'm going for it.
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As a matter of fact, I did get that microscope. However, I will say no more... for now ;p
Theroc
Nicccccccce ...... so we'll wait for reviews to come ... ?
Very well done and definitely a fun to read review. Thank you mate.
Excellent review! Definitely looking into this brand!
I just found out about these notebooks! Thanks for the awesome review!!!
VERY NICE! Awesome review. I've seen this a couple times pop up on various FP-talk websites, but your extensive write-up makes me really want to try one. I'm going to have to add one of these to the wish list.