PaperStax CanvasThe marketplace probably has never had so many notebooks, journals and notepads available to a growing analog-minded buying public as it does now. And yet new notebooks keep popping up despite a seemingly endless supply of variety available. And yet, now and then, one shows up to shine above the others.

To evaluate the PaperStax Canvas Edition pocket notebooks without understanding the mission and drivers behind it does a little disservice to what the PaperStax Project is all about. Still, this notebook could thrive and survive based on its own merits.

The PaperStax project’s mission from their Web site:

The Paperstax Project is committed to inspiring self-actualization through journaling. We do this by designing and manufacturing pocket notebooks, then donating those notebooks to—and creating curriculum for—organizations working with young people to achieve measurable success—especially in the arts.

Based on their story at the site, they’re doing great things to help young people rise up above the challenges of growing up, especially in underprivileged areas.

PaperStax Canvas Inside Front CoverThe PaperStax Canvas notebook is, on first glance, quite different from most notebooks. Sure, it’s the typical pocket notebook size and holds 48 pages, but from there it goes in some new directions. For starters, it’s a beefy notebook, which I’m happy to see as most pocket notebooks I carry around rarely last until I’ve finished the last page. These stand a good chance of hip-pocket survival, due in part to their 100# covers and 70# inside papers, but also due to the choice of paper stock. Time will tell, but they feel much more substantial than the typical pocket notebook.

PaperStax Canvas Inside Back CoverI find their off-white cover and darker cream inside papers a striking combination that helps differentiate them, and I absolutely love the paper stock with its bits and flecks of stuff scattered. It’s the French Speckletone line of papers and I’ve always thought those had character and a slight earthiness that I feel in using these PaperStax Canvas notebooks. They are elegant and yet down-to-earth. I’d feel good using my best fountain pen in them or my grungiest pencil stub. As for how they write? Anything you throw at these papers writes well. Fountain pens show no feathering, no bleeding, no show-through. There is some tooth to the paper, so graphite and fountain pen both feel good but there is some feedback from the paper (in a good way). FP ink flows smoothly, and works really well, but it’s not the smoothness you’ll find on Tomoe River paper; more a workmanlike smoothness that befits an every-day-carry pocket notebook. I so often have to match my tool to the notebook I carry, but that’s not necessary with the PaperStax: all the tools I tested worked very well.

PaperStax Canvas LayoutI really only found one thing to point out that I found slightly odd, but would not call it a negative. Some will love the innovative page spread in this notebook that offers ruled lines on the left page and blank on the facing right page. If you write, then sketch, this may be perfect for you. Those who only write may find this quirky yet interesting. For me, my brain wants to write on the right side and sketch on the left, which is the opposite of what the layout provides (assuming I choose to write on the ruled side which I normally would). I am right-handed, so perhaps that’s why my thinking led me to the right side. I think I could overcome that initial preference by being captivated by the paper type, color and weight. I plan to get a pack and use them for work where I tend to note or list, then add sketches or visuals, and the ruled/blank layout really makes this work well.

These are available in limited quantities at the PaperStax site, but as expected with quality paper and what’s probably not a huge production run, the per-notebook cost is higher than average at $15 per three-pack. Worth it if you’re someone like me who works between gels, graphite and fountain pen regularly to have a hefty go-to pocket notebook that handles them all well. And worth it to help support the great work and cause that’s behind the PaperStax Project.