The Clarefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook lives up to the name “Basic” in looks alone, but in terms of convenience and performance its anything but basic. The above photo shows the cloth (linen to be specific) binding of the Clarefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook which was generously provided to us for review by our friend Karen from Exaclair. As always though, I offer the standard disclaimer that free products do not influence the actual reviews here.
The Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook measures abbout 8.125″ x 5.75″ and has a somewhat firm elastic closure to keep the notebook shut. This particular version is the blue, and it has a marbled and textured cardboard cover that isn’t too thick and allows for a fair amount off flex in the notebook.
Keeping with the “basic” and low key theme, the Clairefontaine branding is kept to a subtle raised print on the lower right corner of the notebook with no additional coloring, it just blends in with the color of the cover itself.
As you can see in the above photo, the cover does pop open a tiny bit when the elastic closure is not secured around the cover. You will also notice that the first (and last) page of the notebook is a blank unruled sheet of paper.
The 192 pages (or 96 sheets) of 90 gsm ruled paper that you find inside of the Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound notebook is some really amazing paper. It handles plenty of different inks very well with no bleeding or feathering although you will require a slight bit of dry time for most of your inks to completely dry. The other nice part about this paper is that there is no show through on the other side so you can write on both sides of the page with no visual distractions from things you had written previously.
The only real negative aspect that I found with the Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook has to do with the elastic strap that holds it shut. The strap is fastened through the back of the notebook with two metal tabs that keep the strap in place. Even when writing on the very first pages of the notebook you can feel those tabs under the pages when you get to writing towards the bottom of the page. As you work your way though the notebook the situation will get worse are there are less sheets of paper between your hand and the metal tabs, which creates a warped writing surface.
In this photo you can see that by pressing down on the corner of the notebook, it creates a warping of the surface of the pages you are writing on. Although this image was obviously done and exaggerated for the visual effect, you still get a very similar result when you are writing and your wrist or pinkie finger is resting on the surface. Overall this isn’t a deal breaker for me because its easy enough to feed those metal tabs through the holes in the back notebook cover to remove the strap completely, but then you obviously lose the ability to use the strap to close the notebook. It re-attached, but I don’t think that the time spent in continually removing and re-installing the elastic strap would be time well spent. I’d say just commit to going with the strap, or going without the strap instead. Personally, I really like the look and performance regardless of the metal tabs getting in the way on the Clarefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook and would definitely recommend this as an option to someone looking for a simple yet great performing notebook for their every day fountain pen writing needs.