The Big Rhodia Review Part 1: Bloc Pads

Rhodia Bloc Pads

Rhodia is my brand of choice for almost everything I write on. Not only is the paper of utmost quality, but they come in a variety of sizes and ruling styles whilst also being very affordable. With this perfect blend, Rhodia is often the standard against which other notebooks are measured.

In this review series, I’ll be reviewing three distinct groups of products: notepads, notebooks, and webnotebooks (or “webbies”). Because of the immense range of sizes and rulings available, I’ll be splitting each group into its own post, beginning with…

Rhodia Bloc Pads

When people think of Rhodia, often they think of high quality notepads from France with the trademark orange cover. In fact, I think Rhodia could just stop making notebooks all together and they’d be fine.

Bloc pad sizes are identified by number, ranging from the tiny no. 10 (50mm x 74mm) to the monstrous no. 38 (420mm x 318mm). If you want a certain size pad, chances are Rhodia makes one. It’s a recipe for success, and stationery fans the world over rely on Rhodia paper to record their ideas, designs, notes, and anything else that can go on paper.

But why the fame? People often think that paper is just paper, but I have long argued that your choice of paper decides one third of the writing experience (especially with a fountain pen), and I believe you can do no better than a good Rhodia bloc pad.

The Famous Orange and Black Cover

Rhodia is distinct. Function over form, they always say, but Rhodia delivers function and form in equal, generous amounts.

Let’s start with the outside and work our way in. The cover is constructed from a plastic/paper combination that is both protective and good looking. It bends easily, but is also very tough and waterproof. On the front you’ll find the timeless Rhodia logo, unchanged since the inception of the brand in the 1920s, and the back shows measurements and other information, differing depending on the size of the pad.

Rhodia Bloc Pads

Rhodia pads come in a huge range of sizes to suit any application

Theres a single sheet of sturdy cardboard inside the rear cover, and one or more staples at the top. That’s all that’s needed to keep your pad securely together – I’ve never had one come apart on me.

One of the absolute best things that sets a bloc pad apart from other notepads is the way the cover folds back. Typical notepads have a single fold at the top or have adhesive that come apart after a while, and the only way to fold these covers back is to contort the thing so it will never look or lay down flat quite right again. Rhodia resolves this by having a cover that is a single piece that is cleanly folded square over the top, following the natural shape of the stack of paper. To fold it, you simply crease the cover along the already embossed lines, and it folds cleanly, simply, right over the thing, and doesn’t fight to unfold when you set the notebook down.

Rhodia Bloc Pads How to Fold Rhodia Bloc Pads How to Fold Rhodia Bloc Pads How to Fold Rhodia Bloc Pads How to FoldThree simple folds and you’ve done it

How something so simple can have such a profound effect on the quality perception of a product is interesting; it is actually the one particular thing that turned me on to Rhodia. Charlotte showed me, “Oh you just fold the cover over like this…” and all I could say is, “That’s genius“. I was convinced. Having gone through several bloc pads of various sizes, I can say that using any other notepad feels weird.

The Inside

The ingenuity continues inside the pad. Every sheet is double sided and tears off with such ease you have to think, “Surely it will rip at some point, all perforated paper rip!” and it just doesn’t. One thing I don’t like about Delfonics Rollbahns is the perforations are inadequate such that you have to carefully pop each piece out bit by bit in fear you’ll tear the thing.

Not so on the Rhodia; the perforations are located just clear of the stapled “no write zone” at the top of each page, so you’re not fighting against this cover that’s hanging on to every page for dear life, you’re only fighting against feeble little perforations that don’t put up a fight. This also means you don’t lose valuable writing space because of a stupid margin reserved for perforations!

Rhodia Bloc Pads

The perforations are placed ever so slightly clear of the fold area, so there’s no catching

That’s not to say they tear out willy nilly, no, you have to intentionally tear the page out. I’ve never had a single page come off a bloc pad unless I wanted it to come off. If you want to hand someone some notes and keep the pad, don’t have them sit there for 10 minutes whilst you carefully pull out the page full of valuable notes, just give it a quick tug and the paper comes off!

The Standard to be Measured Against

Onto the paper: it’s amazing. Go buy one of these now.

OK fine, I’ll go crazy a little bit more. This is vellum coated, premium, 80gsm paper. This isn’t your run of the mill paper (pun probably intended), this is bleed-proof, feather-proof, snow white paper that goes well with anything, whether you’re writing with a fountain pen or a bobby pin dipped in paint. It’s like the denim jeans of papers.

If you’ve ever used Clairefontaine paper and loved it, well, Clairefontaine owns Rhodia, so the paper comes from the same mill! CF paper is 90gsm, which is thicker, but almost too thick if you ask me.

It really is the standard that other papers are measured against. It’s not too stiff, not too thick, yet it stands up so well to so many different ink/pen combinations – even those that feather on “lesser” papers (Moleskine, I’m looking at you). You like to write with a fountain pen on both sides of the page? I do, and do frequently. Why waste paper when there’s a clean side waiting to be written on?!

Rhodia Bloc Pads

Bernanke Blue is very feather/bleed prone ink, and as you can see there’s no feathering…

L1002146

…slight showthrough, and no bleeding onto the next page either! (click for a close-up)

The rulings are in a nice violet/purple shade, which looks great and is easily discerned, even in low light situations (for all of you who write next to a single candle).

Basically, it’s the best, the ultimate notepad/notebook paper. If you want something a little more hard wearing, Rhodia has you covered too. Rhodia R pads are their premium line of notepads, with upgraded 90gsm paper. I’ve seen photos of people doing watercolour paints on the R paper, on both sides of the page!

The Bad Points.. Anyone?

OK, so I’ve pretty much just written a love letter to Rhodia and published it as a review, but hey, if a product is this good and is affordable too, why the hell not.

I think the only bad things I can say is that there are a couple of pads I’ve gotten that had the perforations a little underneath the stapled zone, so I had to fold the cover back a bit more to clear them. There have been certain times where you get a pad that doesn’t quite tear as easily, so you can rip a page if you’re not careful. Even if you do get a lemon, it still works a little better than other notepads, so you’ve come out better off anyway!

Recommendations

If you’ve gotten this far and still aren’t convinced, it’s OK, you are un-saveable, and will forever be enslaved by shoddy paper manufacturers.

Maybe not, but even if you aren’t convinced, they say the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and for a few dollars you can pick up a near-A6 size, no. 11 notepad (ideal for to-do lists) that has all of the features of every bloc pad ever. Try it, and you’ll be impressed, trust me!

Rhodia Bloc PadsThe no. 14, no.15, and no. 19 are great, general-use sizes

My personal favourites and ones I would recommend to everyone are the no. 11 (perfect for small notes, reminders, lists, etc.), the no. 15 (a super thick, A5 notepad, ideal for anything and everything), and the no. 18 or 19 (A4 size, fantastic for diagrams, long notes, designs, etc.).

Notemaker (Australia) often has sales on the larger sizes, and I have bought all of my Rhodia products from them. If you spend over a certain amount they throw in shipping for free (even internationally!), so I place a big order every so often.

Conclusion

Absolutely the best paper for any application. It looks great, even in professional settings, and I use my pads at work all the time. I have a shelf full of this stuff, and for good reason – there’s simply no better notepad on the market.

Everyone needs a Rhodia Bloc Pad.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series, Rhodia Notebooks!

  • https://www.facebook.com/chadden1 Charles Hadden

    What does “vellum coated” mean?

    • jono

      Good question Charles.

      Vellum is a type of paper that’s quite “plasticky” and smooth. Traditionally it’s made from calf skin, but modern vellum bought in stores is usually synthetic. Rhodia papers have vellum mixed in so the surface of the paper is very smooth. This makes pens and pencils glide across of the paper with less friction, so the writing experience is lot better.

      The only downside is that vellum is partially water resistant, so inks tend to dry a bit slower. The hidden upside to this is that if an ink dries slower it tends to feather less than really absorbent papers.

      Hope this helps!

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  • http://www.idleexpatter.com The Idle Expatter (Steve B)

    Hi! Quick question. I just watched your TWSBI Vac 700 video. Is that a BLOTTER-SIZED Rhodia desk pad I see in there?! If so, where on earth did you get that from?

    • pentorium

      That is an A3 sized Rhodia, and I picked up a couple of them at a local Notemaker stationery sale a couple of years ago. I have one perpetually on my desk, used for design work and other stuff that needs a huge working space. The other is sitting in the shelf :)

      They’re pretty widely available, their official name is #38. Here is the link to where I bought it from:

      http://www.notemaker.com.au/rhodia-pad-38-42x32cm-squared-orange?default=4178

  • erwinanciano

    Do be careful with Rhodia these days. I got a recent batch of Rhodia jot pads that were of terrible quality compared to the ones I got 5 years ago. The fountain pen ink would bleed into it in a way that I associate with cheap, crappy paper instead of fine Rhodia.
    I don’t know what Rhodia did but the quality of the last batch I bought was terrible.

  • aldentas

    Thank you for the review, Jono. A silly question, perhaps: why would you ever use a bloc pad (or more precisely, an expensive bloc pad). I use Moleskines and Leuchtturms for my long-term notes and project ideas (number the pages and books, leave a few pages for TOC etc.) but scribble throw-away notes on some cheap spiral notebooks (I have plenty of them in the supply room in my office). What do you do with the bloc when there are many filled pages you have not torn off yet? Where do the torn pages go?

    • pentorium

      Good questions actually.

      I’ve bought, maybe, one Rhodia pad that was full price in my life. The rest of my collection was purchased at warehouse sales for 50%+ off retail, so I can treat them as cheaper notepads. I’ve filled a couple of desk drawers with Rhodia, so I have no issue using them for whatever purpose.

      But also, a lot of my notes are with fountain pens, which don’t marry well with cheap paper. The vast majority of my writing is mocking up designs, making quick notes, and so on, on a notepad. I might as well do the majority of my writing on nice paper if I can.

      As for your last question – the bin, or more precisely, the recycling bin. Once I’ve filled a page front and back I just toss it out.