How do you choose the perfect leather journal without being able to see it, smell it, and touch it?
The best leather journal for you might not be one found in your local stores – after all, they’re incredibly limited by shelf space, their vendors, and a whole array of other factors. Instead of traveling from shop to shop, why not use that traveling time to look at all the online options you have available?
You have discerning tastes, and there are many considerations for your leather journal that need to be made. For those of you out there who haven’t purchased a leather journal online before, we want to take some of the mystery out of the process. You’ve definitely come to the right place. We’ll be discussing all the factors which go into buying a leather journal online including paper, leather, warranties, and more.
Buying from a Retailer
Online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble carry much wider selections than a manufacturer of a specific journal. Office Max, Sam’s Club and Costco also carry leather journals. Look for specific reviews of the leather journals that you’re interested in, as they can provide more insight into what you’ll be ordering.
While you’re going to get a huge variety of journals from some online shops, there are sacrifices made in the quality control department. The retailer will be responsible for making sure that the journal makes it to you on time and in good shape, but they’re not responsible for the quality of the journal itself. These retailers, however, expose you to more choices than you’d see in a brick and mortar store.
Buying Leather Journals Direct from Manufacturer
If you’ve looked through the retail stores or online outlets, you probably have a general idea of what you want. Going directly to the manufacturer gives you the chance to look at more journals in that specific style you enjoy. There may be an additional cost, but you’re also receiving an array of the best that the manufacturer has to offer when it comes to durability and quality of the materials.
When you think manufacturer, we’re not necessarily talking about a nameless, faceless corporation who produces hundreds of millions of journals on a yearly basis. The term ‘manufacturer’ can include those, but they can also include the small Etsy craftsperson who’s putting their all into each leather journal they create.
Ordering from these vendors means that you have input into what you’re buying. That attention to detail becomes a unique selling point. Rustico offers hand stitched leather journals, notebooks, binders and portfolios in a wide range of sizes, styles and configurations. We’ve reviewed Rustico’s Switchback Journal right here on our site.
Rogue Journals is an excellent place to look for a mixture of old world charm and durability. Rogue Journals lets you choose what type of paper you want to fill your journal with. Choices range from white handmade paper to natural parchment, in plain or lined papers. Another fantastic feature that Rogue Journals offers along with their luxurious selection of leather journals are those which can be rebound for a very small rebinding fee.
Bigelow Leathers has a multipurpose leather journal with a decidedly rustic feel that uses a 24 bond archival paper that works for a number of uses including scrapbooking, painting, drawing or writing.
What animal is the leather from?
While cowhide is the most popular type of leather used to make leather journals today, there are other leather types which can be used. The one you choose depends on the look, feel, and durability that you want in a cover. We’ve covered this a bit more in depth in our article on understanding the types of leather used in notebooks.
Animal hides used for making leather journals include:
If you check with the manufacturer (or crafter) and discover that other types of leather were used in the process of making your leather journal, it’s important to check the laws and restrictions in place regarding the import of products made from that type of skin and its import to the country where you live. A very detailed list of these products and restrictions can be found at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora website.
Just as there are different qualities of animal hide, there are different qualities of leather. Each of them can be used for different purposes, and for the discerning journalist, the distinctions are extremely important.
Full grain leather is the highest quality leather and is made of hides that are not sanded or buffed to remove imperfections that appear on the hide. Full grain leathers tend to enjoy a greater durability and longer life than other types of leathers and develop a beautiful patina over time and use. It is this patina that is most desirable in leather products.
This type of leather is most commonly used for furniture and other products that need a high degree of durability. Top grain leather is split into various thicknesses, depending on the use. These thicknesses are measured in ounces or millimeters (mm). An ounce is equivalent to 0.4 mm. Like full grain leather, top grain leather tends to age well, have high durability and develop a warm patina over time.
When a hide has an artificial grain applied to its surface, it’s considered to be corrected grain leather. Corrected grain leathers are usually of lesser quality and any imperfections are sanded or buffed off. The embossing of an artificial or corrected grain can be hidden by the dying process.
This is the part of a leather hide that is the most fibrous and is the part left over after the top grain is separated from it. It can be further split to various thicknesses. Very thick hides can be further split into middle split and flesh split.
Some synthetic leathers are easier to spot than others. Most are made from plastics, or some leather byproducts can be by using leftover leather that is shredded and then bound together with polyurethane or latex onto a fiber sheet that is made of nylon or thin cardboard.
If you want to determine whether the leather is real, note that genuine leather is warmer to the touch. In gently pressing a fingernail into the leather, if it’s real, it will take the mark, while imitation leather doesn’t. Of course, there’s always the smell test. Even that can’t be an absolute guarantee today. In recent years there are some very good imitations on the market that even incorporate the scent of leather into them.
There are several ways for leather to be tanned. The most common way is thorough chemical tanning which includes either chromium or aldehyde. Chromium tanned leather is done quickly and can offer a wider variety of colors. Because of environmental concerns with this type of leather, some journalers and manufacturers will stay away from chromium tanned leather.
Aldehyde leathers are mostly white or cream in color and used in clothing, shoes and accessories, leather furniture, and automobile interiors. Both aldehyde and chromium processes can aggravate allergies.
Vegetable tanning processes involve vegetable matter derived from roots, leaves, fruits and even tree bark. Because of the process of immersing the hide in hot water, this leather can be more rigid than chromium tanned leather. The leather journals offered by Noise Goods that we reviewed, for example, use vegetable tanned leather.
Brain tanning leather involves using emulsified oils and the brains of cattle, deer, elk, or buffalo and are incredibly soft and durable. Brain tanned leather can be found in specialty stores or directly from craftsmen. This type of tanning is the most labor intensive and tends to be very expensive but can definitely can be worth the price.
The paper within a journal will greatly determine what you can do with it. Consider the primary use of your journal and what you are planning to put into it. Journals can have a specific use such as an appointment book or one meant to track ongoing projects, or helping keep track of your goals, dreams and all of the things you are grateful for.
A multipurpose journal can be a great place to address all of your needs. Many leather journal sites, particularly those offering custom journals to your specifications, can create a journal just for you. Franklin leather ring bound journals and day planners have been around for decades and are used by a wide range of journalers and professionals to keep track of their day-to-days schedule, goals, project planning and expenses.
Just as all leather is not alike, neither are all papers used in leather journals. The weight of the paper, the amount of rag or fiber content, its weight and even its ‘tooth’, can greatly affect price and determine how you use your journal.
Deckled edge – This type of edging on paper is wavy on one or more sides. You will find deckled edges on all four sides of handmade paper. These types of edged papers are often used in many fine journals.
Handmade paper – Can be made from a wide variety of materials including recycled paper, rags, grass or other organic materials.
Pound – Is the term that refers to the weight and density of paper. Also referred to as the basis weight. This number is calculated by what 500 sheets of paper weigh in that paper’s sheet size.
Recycled – Term describing how much of the paper is made up of post-consumer waste. This paper uses discarded consumer paper and paper products in an effort to help conserve natural resources and to lessen the amount of waste ending up in the landfill.
Text weight – A type of paper which is uncoated or has no sheen or waxy finish in it and is used for book or journal pages.
Tooth – The term used to describe the roughness of a paper’s surface. Many art journals have different levels of tooth, depending on the materials that the artist uses. Some types of paper require specific types of nibs or writing instruments in order to keep the ink, paint, or other medium from bleeding over or through the page. Choosing the wrong kind of paper can cause smearing or degradation or make what you write in your journal illegible.
When looking at the reviews for journals, how do you determine whether the review you’ve just read is unbiased? Many manufacturers will offer free product in exchange for a review that can be published on their website, or through other online retailers like Amazon. Other less scrupulous manufacturers of products will pay not only in product, but will also compensate a reviewer that touts the product. One way to spot a good review or even a bad one that is genuine is to look for specifics. The more details and specifics which are given within a review, the better the chances are that it is unbiased. If you have specific questions, ask! Most sites will allow you to contact the reviewer through the site so that your questions can be answered.
Most manufacturers and sites which sell leather journals will offer at least a 30 day guarantee and the ability to return items. When making returns, it is assumed that the item is unused and has not been damaged. If something is poorly made and simply falls apart within that time should be brought to the attention of customer service as soon as possible. Other exceptions for returns would likely include items which are custom made or those which have been monogrammed. Before placing your order, be sure to check out the terms and conditions on the website regarding product warranties listed on their website or contact their customer service number.
You’ve made your choice of leather journal and now you just can’t wait to get it! Shipping can be expensive, so it pays to check the different types of shipping options available. In the United States, printed materials or books can be sent via media mail. This is the most inexpensive route to go but it can take a number of weeks for you to receive your item. There is also an increased risk of it becoming lost or damaged in transit.
Some merchants will offer free shipping for orders if the total is more than a certain amount. Others will offer expedited and tracked shipping at an additional charge. Consider how quickly you want your order delivered to you.
Priority or Express Mail can get your journal to you much faster, however, both of these services are generally more expensive. Both Priority and Express mail services have tracking so you can track the progress of your package and know exactly when you can expect it.
If you need to have your journal is going to a military mail drop or is being shipped internationally, there may be some restrictions. It is best to check the policy for delivery in these cases to see if they offer either type of service. When shipping across borders, there may also be duties or tariffs applied. These fees are based on the cost or the type of item. You can contact your local post office for more information.
Whether you are interested in a place to keep your schedule, your stories, poetry, artwork a prayer or as a spiritual journal or a multipurpose journal, such as a botanical journal, scrapbook, or a Zibaldone book, there are journals out there especially designed for your tastes.
Most vendors and manufacturers offer a customer service number or a website where you can find more information about specific products as well as a customer service number to call in case there is a question or any issues with your order. Feel free to use this guide to know what to ask to find the leather journal that is perfect for your needs.