If there's one thing I can never have too many of, it's nicely bound notebooks and leather notebook covers. Even if it's impossible for me to use them all myself, if I see a nice one, I pick it up regardless of the time of year, because notebooks make excellent holiday gifts and hardly ever go unappreciated. When the folks at Portland Leather Goods reached out and asked if I'd like to review some of their Triple Wrap and Snap leather journals, I jumped at the chance. They were generous enough to send over three different samples of various models, and they're all exceptionally well made.
Specs and Construction
Portland Leather Goods journals are handmade in Portland, Oregon from full grain cow leather. The covers have been nicely finished; they aren't roughly cut like a lot of cheaper options out there. At the same time, the leather is not over-finished. It has a rugged and rustic look that I like, leaving some marks such as small scratches, blemishes, freckles, and brands. This isn't a notebook that you should be afraid to get scuffed or dirty or toss in your bag unprotected. It's going to look even better as it shows its age. Portland Leather appreciates having a lot of character in the leather, reminiscent of a good leather travel bag or a pair of leather work boots.
As I mentioned, Portland Leather Goods sent me three products: two medium journals in both the "Triple Wrap" and "Snap" styles, as well as a small notebook/wallet that has two credit/business card slots. All three turned out absolutely gorgeous. My personal favorite is the "Snap" style, and I've gotten the most use out of the smaller notebook, which could easily double as a travel wallet. While the Triple Wrap journal is attractive and well made, I open and close my notebooks a lot through the day, and the leather strap that holds the journal closed ends up being just a touch too fussy for regular use. That said, it would make a great travel journal or sketchbook, for more leisurely writing or drawing sessions where quick deployment isn't an issue.
You can also choose from a wide variety of custom brands for your notebooks. I chose my three favorites: the "Tree of Life," "Golden Mean," and "Stormtrooper" options. The marks are fire branded into the leather, so yes, they're there to stay. All three are very well-defined and look very nice on the journals - understated and not overly ostentatious.
Fountain-Pen Friendly Paper
Portland Leather Goods markets its products as journals, not journal/notebook covers, so each notebook comes with a lined or blank notebook insert. They haven't cut corners here - this is quality paper. These notebooks are made from heavy stock that handles most ink fairly well, and the Kraft paper cover and stitched binding should hold up well. The notebooks contain 44 sheets (88 pages front and back), and you can purchase refills directly from Portland Leather Goods in their online shop.
My one quibble is that the ruling on the lined version is a touch wide for my taste. While a plain/blank notebook is available, Portland Leather Goods does not offer a graph or dot-grid option, which is my preferred paper stock. That said, I was able to test out the small and medium notebooks with some other refill options I had lying around. Here's what works:
- The "Small" journals are compatible with a Field Notes-size pocket notebook or smaller.
- The "Medium" journals will work with a Large Doane Paper Utility Notebook (5*7), which is probably what I will end up using for everyday purposes since I love Doane's grid paper. The medium-sized Baron Fig Vanguard is just slightly too large to fit.
I'm impressed. Portland Leather Goods makes excellent leather journals at a reasonable price. It all comes down to whether the style fits your personal preference. Many thanks to the folks at Portland Leather for sending over these gorgeous notebooks and journals to try.
You can purchase directly from Portland Leather on their website. Pricing is extremely reasonable given the quality of the craftsmanship. The small journal starts at $28, the medium at $38, and a large (9*6) at $48.
Disclaimer: I was sent these products free of charge for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All views expressed herein are my own.