A big, black and beautiful binder from Van der Spek

I finally got around to ordering my first binder from Van der Spek and was lucky enough to have it arrive just in time for Christmas. I’ve used it for a few weeks now and thought I would publish my thoughts on it. I’ve mainly used binders from Gillio for the past few years, so for better and for worse I can’t help comparing this new binder with my Compagnas and my Mia Caras.

I ordered a custom Standard binder with 30 millimeter rings in black Janet leather1 and with Bontex rather than cardboard stiffener. I added a plain leather flyleaf as well. This is my first binder with such large rings and I was fully prepared to find a gargantuan monster when I opened the delivery box. Imagine my relief when I found that those extra five millimeters (as compared with my earlier 25 millimeter rings) didn’t add much bulk at all.

The craftsmanship of this binder is top notch. The new-leather smell is absolute heaven and it actually smells more of “real” leather than my Gillios or items from Hardgraft. The corners on this binder are more rounded than on the Compagnas or Mia Caras, which I think contributes to a more conventional look. The binder also has a squishy feeling to it—more so than I had expected. It seems Van der Spek always adds a little foam padding to their binders, regardless of your choice of stiffening. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this.

While I chose the default layout for the left side of the binder, I added a gusseted full-height pocket on the right side, covered by extra wide ring protectors. This is a design I shamelessly stole from the Filofax Winchester model. The Van der Speks executed the design beautifully, and it really works. The ring protector locks the contents of the pocket in place when the binder is closed, without neither poppers nor zipper. No parts that will break. I considered adding a back pocket too, but in the end opted not to.

The pen loop is excellent, lined with elastic band all the way around, which makes it easy to slide quite large pens in. The pockets are lined with silk, while Gillio uses some kind of synthetic leather-like fabric. I actually prefer Gillio’s solution.

Van der Spek uses Krause rings, which are excellent. These large rings weren’t quite as tight as my previous 25-millimeter Krause rings, but we’re taking gaps of tenths of a millimeter here. It seems plausible that big rings are harder to get just right, since the larger circumference will amplify small imperfections where the tines are welded to the plates.

All in all I love this binder. My only quibble would be the following: On my Gillio Compagnas, the leather flyleaf acts as a page lifter, pushing pages towards the middle of the rings when I close it. Sadly, this doesn’t work at all with this Van der Spek binder. The ring protectors presses the flyleaf against the large rings and catches it, instead of letting it move freely. It’s a real pity and I’m wondering if making the holes on the flyleaf more pill-shaped would help with this. If possible, I might purchase such a custom flyleaf in the future to test this hypothesis.


  1. I’m told the Janet leather is a vegetably tanned leather produced in Italy. 

— January 1st, 2016 · Tagged binder, van der spek, gillio & stationary porn · Comment on this