A few years back when everyone was going nuts for the Traveler’s Notebook, I fell for the hype and got one. Since then, I used it maybe three-four times and ended up selling it. Now, I’ve been hearing more and more about Plotter and their binder system. It’s highly reminiscent of the hype for Traveler’s Notebook.
However, where there weren’t any alternatives — that I knew about — for the Traveler’s Notebooks. There are many alternatives to Plotter, most of which are significantly less expensive. Traveler’s Notebook seemed to be a fairly unique system at the time; Plotter isn’t.
Do you like the idea of Plotter, but object to the price? Are you curious about the Plotter binders but don’t want leather? This series of posts will provide you with some of the alternatives available for each size of Plotter binder.
Is it just hype?
I took advantage of the DC Pen Show to talk to Plotter users to find out what the big hoopla is. According to several Plotter enthusiasts, yes, a lot of it is hype. There is enthusiasm for the general binder benefits — being able to rearrange pages, add divider tabs, etc. — but those aren’t specific to Plotter.
However, there seems to be a genuine appreciation for the small, 11mm rings — only 80 sheet capacity — the separated rings in the larger binders — top and bottom, with space between, which can be useful for lefties — the paper, and the leather cover.
If you’re interested in the idea of the Plotter system, you may find this series useful, especially if the Plotter system is outside the price range you are able, or willing, to pay. I will be dedicating a post to each binder size: A5 | Bible / Narrow | Mini | Mini 5, covering the alternatives for each. I also have a guest-written addendum on some background information about these types of binders. You can check back on this post, as I’ll be linking the sizes above to each post, or you can subscribe to my blog to receive post notifications.
To be clear, I’m not saying, “don’t buy the Plotter system,” I just want to provide other options. You should decide that the Plotter system is the best choice for you before getting it.
The rest of this post will provide an overview of Plotter papers and accessories available on their website on November 17, 2023. If that doesn’t interest you, feel free to check out here, but I hope you come back for the rest of the series.
It’s the leather that Plotter itself focuses on. In my research on the Plotter system, the focus of the actual binder — as opposed to the paper and accessories — seems to be appreciation for the way natural leather ages. The descriptions of the different leather options highlight how each will age.
- Liscio: This is the most expensive leather — from the shoulder of the cow — and is slowly infused with oil. The more it’s used, the “more shiny, buttery smooth, and comfortable it becomes.”
- Pueblo: Leather with a brushed/buffed texture that disguises irregularities. With use, the texture lies flat, creating a luster, becoming glossy, and getting darker in color.
- Shrink: Leather dyed in vibrant colors, shrink embossed, and stone polished. It’s more scratch — and stain — resistant than the other leathers. The natural aging process will happen, but more slowly.
- Bridle (Mini 5 only): A smooth leather with a wax bloom on the surface. The bloom recedes over time, revealing a more vibrant color and a glossy appearance.
If you aren’t interested in leather aging — like me — or leather, period, then the Plotter binder isn’t for you.
While I don’t have 100% confirmation, it appears that the Plotter system works with standard 6-ring paper. I overlaid Raymay Decona and Mark’s System paper images over an image of the A5 Plotter binder, and the holes line up with the rings. This means you can likely use any standard 6-ring paper in the Plotter binders, or use Plotter paper in any standard 6-ring binder. Please let me know if you have confirmation or contradiction of this.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that the Plotter system works with standard Japanese A5 (20-hole) paper. So Kokuyo paper, for example isn’t an option.
Plotter’s memo pads are an odd amalgam of notebook and binder. The pads are glue-bound on the left side and hold-punched through the cover, meant to be placed in a binder while still glued together. The glue binding allows the pages to be easily torn out of the memo pad.
- Plain (80 sheets): A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini
- 2mm grid (80 sheets): A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini, Mini 5
- 2mm grid blue paper quadrant graph (80 sheets): A5, Bible, Mini
- 5mm dot grid (80 sheets): A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini, Mini 5
- 6mm lined (80 sheets): A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini
- To do list (50 sheets): A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini, Mini 5
- Drawing paper (30 sheets): A5, Bible
Plotter’s website does not provide any information about what makes the drawing paper different than the plain paper, and I didn’t see any obvious differences other than perforated sheets on the drawing paper.
The A4 memo pads — only compatible with A5 binders — are seemingly meant to be used as desk pads, then, once torn from the pad, folded using guidelines to fit with an A5 footprint. They come in sets of 2 books with 40 sheets each in plain, 2mm grid, 4mm dot gird, and isometric grid.
There is also a “Card Size” memo pad with only three holes which is supposedly compatible with all Plotter binder sizes. However, you are cautioned to “please fold the protruding part inside” when using the paper with the Narrow binder.
Plotter’s notepads are similar to the memo pads. They are glue-bound on the left side, but are only hole-punched through the paper. You have to tear out the paper before using it in a binder. As a trade off, the notepads have copper foiling on the page edges. Notepads are only available in A5 size, and come in 2mm grid, 4mm dot grid, and 6mm lined.
Plotter’s diary paper comes in a monthly layout and a weekly schedule layout, both of which cover a 2-page spread. The monthly layout includes spaces for weekly and monthly tasks. The weekly schedule layout has one side for time planning and one for notes. There are also icons for weather tracking, holidays, moon phases, Rokuyou, and mood.
- Monthly: A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini, Mini 5
- Weekly Schedule: A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini
The world map is exactly what it sounds like. There are six different maps: North America; South America; Europe; Africa and Middle East; Asia North, East, South, Japan map; Southeast Asia and Oceania. Each map is folded to fit in a binder: in half for A5 and in three for Bible, Narrow, and Mini.
I need to add a caveat here that Plotter’s website seems to be having issues at the time of writing. There used to be more accessories (including an odd paper “envelope folder”) that, while still listed in search, only lead to a blank page.
The project manager is a hybrid divider and folder. You’re meant to put paper inside it, like a folder, but everything is in the binder rings and the project manager is meant to make it easier to flip to a section, like a divider. The paper project manager includes printed areas to outline your project, list milestones, and develop a Gantt chart. The project manager is available for all Plotter binder sizes.
The ruler pad has a scale ruler, protractor, character size reference, line width chart, and grid templates on a clear plastic sheet with a tab protrusion. The photos on Plotter’s website don’t show how to use the ruler pad, so I don’t know if you can see the markings through the paper. The ruler pad is available for all Plotter binder sizes.
Lifters are basically writing boards, but can also be used to protect the paper since the cover is soft. You can choose to get a plain lifter, one with a leather penholder — which will fit a pen up to 13mm in diameter — or, one with an elastic band to keep the binder closed.
- Plain: A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini
- With Leather Penholder: A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini, Mini 5
- With Band: A5, Bible, Narrow, Mini, Mini 5
Leather Ring Supporter
The ring supporter is “a simple tool that reduces the impression on the leather caused by the binder ring.” It’s also apparently meant to help protect the rings. You slide it over the rings before adding any paper so that the ring supporter is between the rings and the leather cover. The ring supporter is available for all Plotter binder sizes.
These are interesting. They’re two zippered pouches connected to each other, with holes for the rings. You slide them over the rings, like the ring supporter, bookending your paper and not taking up any of the ring space. The fastener case is available all Plotter binder sizes.
Leather Card Case
The card case is made of black bridle leather and does not specify its capacity. It is only available for the Mini 5 size.
That’s part one down. Come back for part two on the A5 binder.
Are you interested in Plotter? Do you own a Plotter binder? Or are you interested in the alternatives? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.