End of journal review: Leather Leuchtturm1917 Master Dots

I received this journal from Leuchtturm1917 free of charge, and it took a while before I got around to using it. At first I was intimidated, and then got into it easily. Since then it’s been a pretty nice book.

Shortly after I got it, it suffered a bit of trauma when it fell of the roof of a car in Florida at ~40 mph, and got run over several times by other cars. I could tell because of the different tire tread patterns left on the pages. I don’t think any other notebook I’ve had would have sustained that damage as well – the leather really is tough.

The covers on the leather book are more flexible than the regular notebook, which I don’t like. Otherwise I prefer the leather. It’s soft, but tough, and feels very luxurious. Boardroom quality.

I’ve become much more of a ballpoint and pencil user, and so while the paper handles fountain pen ink pretty well, that’s not much of an issue for me. It does not handle ballpoint ink well compared to other papers, but one doesn’t use a ballpoint for the beauty of the ink…usually. Pencil works ok, but it needs softer grades. A 4B on Stillman and Birn Alpha paper is like using charcoal. On Leuchtturm1917 paper it’s more like a 2B on Alpha, so a 2B pencil is about as hard as I use on that paper.

I don’t use the pocket. I stuck an expense check back there once and forgot about it until it was past its void date. Never again.

The table of contents has gone mostly unused. In fairness, this notebook had few business ideas or the like, which is what I usually need the TOC for.

Will I buy another leather journal? I don’t know. Cost is part of the issue, but I enjoyed putting stickers on my first Master Dots, which I felt I couldn’t do on the leather one…I kind of miss it. Yes, I know, it’s a bit silly for someone my age but that is the point actually.

220 Days With The Master Dots

On February 19, 2012 I made my first entry in the Leuchtturm1917 Master Dots notebook, and 220 days later I made my last. I’ve written several posts about this notebook, and the last was about its durability.


I’m happy to say the covers didn’t fall off, and no pages fell out, nor did any serious tears develop. I hauled the book daily in my briefcase. I also carried it on vacation and traveling.

The useless perforated pages in the back that I used for a few lists even stayed attached.

The only really serious points of wear were at the corners, especially along the spine – you can see how the corners wore down. At first I was a little disturbed by this, but it’s harmless as far as the book is concerned, and testifies to the journey it has taken


So, did I like it? Would I use another one?

After I finished this book I thought about what I would use next. I made another Poor Man’s Midori, with a nice dyed cover and read place holder ribbons. That lasted about two weeks. I briefly thought about using a BookFactory book I’d received and started using for a dedicated notebook on a specific subject, but the page format was just too dominating and dark.

In the end I pulled out the leather Master Dots the folks at Leuchtturm1917 had sent me and it’s my current notebook.

I’ve written about the benefits of a larger page size before, and I’ve noticed that this last book lasted about 7 months – about the same as the book before that which was A5 size, or about one quarter the page area. In the larger book I did do a bit more drawing, but I still must have written at least three times as much if not more. Truth be told some of it was drivel, and some always will be, but because I had the space I wrote more about everything, which is the point of having a notebook in the first place.

I know I’m past sounding like some kind of brainwashed big-notebook zealot, but if you haven’t tried a big book you should.

Living with the Leuchtturm1917 Master Dots notebook

I did a short review of the Leuchtturm1917 Master Dots a while back.   I’ve been waiting until I filled the 5×8 size Leuchtturm I’d been using. On the 19th of February I wrote my first entry in the larger book. I’ve filled 31 pages so far.

I’ve developed some fairly strong opinions about it:

  1. I’m very surprised to find I love a big book. Yes, it is hard to fit in a pocket, but it fits properly in a briefcase. I haven’t yet traveled with this book, and traveling might change my mind, but I don’t think so. A full size book has so much room I never hesitate to put something in it. I feel like it will hold everything. In a small book I feel like I can’t afford white space. In a big book I don’t worry about it, and it makes a big difference in readability. Diagrams, mind maps, and the like can be the right size. There’s room to breathe.
  2. This is not a book for jotting quick notes while standing in a store, or that quick phone number while meeting someone briefly. I’ve found that the letter-size sheet I have my next-action list on works fine for these items.
  3. The covers are way too thin. The book is floppy, and I fear the covers are going to end up being pretty ratty by the time the book is full.
  4. An elastic band on a full size book is annoying. When sliding the book into a briefcase the band is horizontal, and that means that it either hooks on stuff while sliding the book in, or other things get stuck in it when sliding them in. More than once I’ve pulled the book out to find a file folder suck in the band. On smaller books it’s more of a necessity because they’re more likely to be carried loose in a bag. On a big book it’s just not needed.
  5. The paper is great. Love the dots, of course, but the paper is thicker than the paper used in the smaller books. It is 100gsm vs. 80gsm, and it’s nice and heavy. Little show through, and so far no bleeding, but I’ve been writing mostly in pencil. If you’re happy with regular Moleskine or Leuchtturm paper this will make you happier, if you have problems with bleeding this might help.
  6. The table of contents design is ok. I like BookFactory’s one entry per page design better, but any table of contents is better than no table of contents.
  7. Pages 219 to 232 perforated. I HATE perforated pages in a journal, and it’s even sillier to do it in a book this size. If I really, really need a piece of scrap paper that bad I can just tear out part of a page. There’s no need to ruin perfectly good pages by perforating them. Thankfully Leuchtturm1917 doesn’t get carried away with this nonsense, and only does 8 sheets. They also perforate far enough from the binding that they can be taped to make them permanent.
  8. The pocket in the back doesn’t hold a letter size sheet. It’s about 1/8″ too narrow. Sheets have to be carried outside the pocket. I’m not too upset about this, and after years of using Moleskines I’ve come to see the pocket as a bit of a gimmick. It works for receipts, but more than a few items in there makes the book lumpy.
  9. I can carry letter size sheets without folding them. They don’t fit in the pocket, but that’s ok, and it’s very handy to be able to carry the occasional form or document without having to carry a portfolio.

If you’ve never tried a full size book as a journal, you should. It is a different experience than using a smaller book, and so far I’m finding it to be a much better one. I haven’t actually counted pages yet, but my feeling is that the amount I write is proportional to the size of the book. In general, more writing is more recording, and that’s what it’s about.

The Leuchtturm1917 Master Dots book is NOT easy to find, although the grid, plain, and ruled versions are available. The word from Kikkerland Design, the folks who import Leuchtturm1917 to the US, is that there just wasn’t enough demand so they haven’t been reordering them. They make a slim dots that seemed to be available, but has fewer pages. Personally I’ve come to appreciate books that hold more, and I’d rather go up on the page count than down.

I’m talking to BookFactory.com about a custom version of their large book with a dot pattern instead of a grid or ruling. More to follow!

The Leuchtturm1917 Master Dots Notebook

When I opened the box from Kikkerland Design, the importer of Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, and found this Master Dots Notebook, I was surprised at it’s size even though the rational side of my brain already knew the dimensions. 8.75″ by 12.5″ sounds only a little larger than a letter sized sheet, but that extra inch and a half in height makes a big difference.


Inside the book is identical to their large size – same 5mm dot pattern and same size page numbers. The cover is the same thickness, but the paper is a bit heavier (100gsm vs. 80gsm), which makes the book 1/8″ thicker, and a little floppier than I expected. I’m not sure I’d want heavier covers, as the book is already pretty imposing.


As you can see, the vast acreage waiting to be filled makes the large size seem small. I know what they say about guys who drive really big trucks, and I hope they don’t say the same things about guys who use large notebooks 😎 This is not a book for those who want to carry it in a pocket, but if you need the ability to hold letter (or A4) size sheets without folding, or want to be able to paste them onto pages, this is the book for you.

At the moment I’m suffering ENIS(1), but I’ll get over it soon.

ENIS: Empty Notebook Intimidation Syndrome: A common affliction where the sufferer is intimidated by the pristinity of a brand-new empty notebook. Temptations to use the new notebook are squashed by the fear of rendering the book forever un-new by sullying it with unworthy scribbles.

The Leuchtturm1917 Jottbook

The generous folks at Kikkerland Design sent me some Jottbooks to review. I like the Leuchtturm1917 notebook I have much more than than the Moleskine books I’ve had in the past – more advantages, while keeping everything I liked about Moleskine.

The Jottbooks are to the Moleskine Volant what the Leuctturm1917 notebook is to the Moleskine hardcover. Everything you expect, and a little more.

I got four: two pocket, one large (5×8) and one A4. One of the pocket books went to Ginny, my oldest daughter, who at 6 will happily use and fill any notebook you want to hand her. Unfortunately she’s also fairly good at misplacing things, and we’ve lost track of that book. I can tell you she beat it up pretty good, and it held together. Even tearing out a few pages didn’t cause it any trouble.

The 5×8 book I’m using to record thoughts for this blog. The paper is good, the book seems durable, and it has page numbers and a table of contents.

The grid versions of the book have a nice light gray ruling – the way Moleskines used to be. They have a spot for the date on each page, and a margin at the top and bottom.

The A4 book also has a margin on the outside of each page. These are nice touches – they provide space that is separate form the central, main writing area. This space is handy for making special notations, marking special pages, etc. I haven’t used the A4 yet – it’s actually so big it’s intimidating.

None of the books have that annoying spot to say way reward you’ll offer for the book, which is good.

All of the books have perforated pages, which I consider to be wasted pages. It’s just as bad as on the Moleskine, where about half the book is perfed. That means these books will see limited use for me, as I won’t write on a perforated page unless I intend to tear it out. I don’t need perforated pages – if I need to write something down for someone I use a business card.

If you’re a Volant user and are looking for something better, this would be it. These books are just becoming commercially available. From Laura at Kikkerland Design:

Lovenotebooks.com is going to offer them any day now. Jeroen and his wife Sara are very well versed in notebooks. I’m sure they’d be happy to talk to you…at least let you know when they are going online with the Jotts. jeroen@lovenotebooks.com

Local shops offering the notebooks (or brick and mortar)

Powell’s Books in Portland OR has the largest selection. They bought all 12 skus/styles.

Ideal Stationers in Northern CA.

University Arts – several locations in Northern, CA.

The bookstore at Wisconsin State U in Madison is offering them.

Laywine’s in Toronto. Actually…several Canada stationery shops picked them up right away.

Fibre Arts in Palo Alto.

Bean’s and Barley in Milwaukee.

Living with the Leuchtturm1917

I’ve been using the Leuchtturm1917 (affiliate link) for a while now and I’m happy with it. I still love the dots and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to traditional lines. It’s a Moleskine-killer.

I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t used the table of contents, since it struck me as such a valuable feature. The problem is that my journal entries aren’t usually so specific that it’s clear what to put in a TOC. I don’t know what I’ll be looking for until I find it.

BookFactory.com has a better idea – their table of contents lists each page in the book, with a space to write what is on the page. This would be very useful because at a minimum I could jot the dates on each page, along with a word or two on subject. Since the space is there anyway, I would feel like was wasting it by not filling it in. With a space for each page there’s no obligation to prioritize what entries are TOC-worthy.

I’ve contacted them to see if they do dots. It’s not on their site, but hopefully it’s available.

In the mean time I think I’ll try recording each journal entry by date in the LT1917, and see how that goes.

[UPDATE] BookFactory got back to me, and they don’t offer their books with a dot grid. It’s a shame because they also make their books in the US, which makes them nearly unique among notebook companies.

Hello Leuchtturm1917, goodbye Moleskine!

Sometimes something good comes out of an unpleasant surprise.

Yesterday I filled a Moleskine large squared notebook, and opened up the spare I’d been carrying. I opened the book and realized something was wrong. The grid lines were really thick and dark. Not the unobtrusive light gray they used to be, but a very dark gray that will compete with most of the pens I use, and would overwhelm a pencil. See the picture below (the new style is on top, old style is on the bottom):



I filled out a quality control form at Moleskine and have requested a replacement. We’ll see what happens. Ever since Moleskine moved their production to China [Actually, they didn’t. See below.] every book is a little different than the previous one. The cover feels different, or the binding is tight, or it smells funny, or something. That they added QC stickers to the books so they can track them suggests they know they have quality control issues.

With no new notebooks to continue my journalling, and feeling a little burnt by Moleskine, I went looking for an alternative. While I was looking I found Leuchtturm1917 on the Fountain Pen Network.

I remember the first time I saw a Moleskine notebook. It was in 2001 in the Atlanta airport, and there was a little store in the middle that sold pens and paper. I bought a few of the pocket size and was so impressed with them I almost couldn’t write in them. The design, the placeholder, band, pocket and the rest that we now all take for granted were not very common then and it seemed so incredibly high quality. With this change in the ruling I decided to try something new and ordered the Leuchtturm1917.

I have the same feeling about the Leuchtturm1917 that I had with my first Moleskine. It’s everything a Moleskine is and more. It has a nicer ribbon, is available in dot ruling (in the same 5mm spacing as the Moleskine grid) as well as normal and grid ruling. It has page numbers, and even a table of contents. I’m not crazy about the eight detachable sheets in the back, but they may come in handy. The book is slightly larger – 15mm wider. Another nice touch is that it DOESN’T assume you will offer a reward for the book. It even comes with stickers to label the book with.

The Moleskine has 240 pages, where the Leuchtturm has 249 numbered pages. The perforations start on page 235, so 234 pages are not perforated and that’s not counting the table of contents. The Leuchtturm has 38 writing lines per page, versus 40 on the Moleskine. The Leuchtturm is about 15mm wider on each page than the Moleskine, which means the Leuchtturm has about 1,289 meters of writing lines on non-perfed pages, the Moleskine has 1,248. The Leuchtturm has an extra un-numbered page at each end of the book, that joins the cover to the body of the book. In the Moleskine these are counted in the 240, but they are hard to write on because they’re glued to the cover pages. So the Leuchtturm not only has more space but it’s all normal pages.

The registration of the ruling on the page is very consistent on the one I have, which is another area where Moleskine is now falling short – see the comparison of old and new Moleskine grid below. On the new Moleskine on top you can see the ruling jumps all over, where the old style on the bottom has nice consistent lines.


Last but not least the Leuchtturm1917 is about the same price on Amazon – about forty cents more. The Leuchtturm1917 is better in every way, with negligible additional cost.

So I discovered Moleskine’s quality had taken another slip downward, and in the process found a replacement that is better than the original. Hello Leuchtturm1917, goodbye Moleskine!

[Update 10/11/2011 – I received a great email from the folks at Kikkerland Design, who brought Moleskines into the US back in 1999. It turns out the Moleskines were always made in China, so they never moved their production there. I know I’m not the only person to think they had, and I’m not sure how it got started, but I felt it important to correct it. I do know their quality/consistency has slipped over the years.

The Leuchtturm1917 is made in Taiwan, which is arguably a better environment than China. However, I’d be willing to pay a few dollars more for one made here. Crane’s paper, 100% cotton, in about 18lb grade, with the Leuchtturm design…maybe a joint venture…]