The Crazy Suburban Mom: Ernest Hemingway: On Filofax

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ernest Hemingway: On Filofax

Ernest Hemingway once said “I'm not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy.”  

Everyone has their own Filofax issues but duking it out with them is pointless so I'm following Ernest's advice about staying out of the ring...

...But not out of the rings...

I noticed a lot of people are having ring issues with brand new binders.  Certain Filofaxes seem prone to this but you know...  I've never read any ring issue posts from people who bought old binders which seems odd because some of the old ones are really, really old. 

 I got out a new one (A5  Malden) and a couple o'few decades old one ( Personal Portand) to see if there were any differences.


I couldn't see a thing so I gutted those puppies.

And yes, it's all different starting with the bar logos.


I checked another old one I have to see if the logos varied by size, they don't.  The old logo is the Filofax script 'f', deeply embossed.

new bar

The new bars have Filofax written out and they look etched.

new rings bottom

The new bars are bolted on.

old rings bottom

There are no visible bolts one the old on, it looks more finished.  I suspect this is more expensive but it holds everything together better. If you look at the bottom of the rings, they're different too;  more finished looking in the older one and possibly reinforced, it's hard to tell.

Here they are together.  Unless you're really looking they look very similar although the old ones look like they might have been chrome plated.


Or a heavier gauge, something's different.  And since binders come full and then get stuffed to busting you might never notice.

old rings8

The old rings (above), after decades look perfectly round to me.  They are harder to open and close, look more solid and meet exactly.


It's all very symmetrical.

The new rings...


Are round(ish) and don't come together with the same precision.  That might be where all the ring problems come from.   I don't know if it's the overall design change or quality control but the whole mechanism doesn't have the same precision.

new rings 6

The bar, end tabs, and how they are put together is all different.  The new ones are flatter and bolted directly.

old rings 5

The old ones, rounder without visible bolts.  The entire mechanism is polished, even the ends.

new rings 2

The new one is polished in areas that are easily visible, so the ends suffered a bit.

new rings 3

As you can see by this picture the bolts are a not as effective at holding the whole shebang together. There is considerable lift and  I don't think Mr. Malden has a chance of seeing a ripe old age.

old rings 5

I can't figure out how they bolted the old ones on but it's very secure without the 'lift'

Bottom line is my new ones appear to be less well made, although they look very similar.  The changes seem to have suffered in the name of cost-cutting which is fine if it produces the same result.

Unfortunately, it doesn't.  I don't have an ultra-high-end Filofax like the $2300 Personal Alligator or the $700 Ostrich model; perhaps they retain the (costlier) older features.  In any case since I won't be dropping two thousand  dollars on a brand new one, I'll never know.  

But this definitively makes me likely to shop for a used Filofax should the spirit move me to buy another... And it will, that Filofax spirit is a hoarder.

I don't know if anyone examines their filofaxes with this kind of insane minutia, it's a bit compulsive, but if you do let me know if you've noticed anything like this.  


Josh 3/19/12, 8:08 PM  

I also noticed these differences in my own small collection of filofaxes. My personal Malden and Domino have the riveted in ring mechanism. The Domino's works *perfectly*. The Malden's was ok but the rings were ever so slightly not perfectly round, so the pages tended to catch slightly as you flipped. Just a small annoyance. My Kendal has the old style ring mechanism, with no visible rivets and the nicely finished ends, as does my Cavendish. Both work very well. Occasionally the Kendal rings fail to meet perfectly but can be pushed together to close the tiny gap. The Cavendish rings work perfectly. They take more effort to snap open and closed but give me not the slightest trouble.

Interestingly, I see in Terri's blog photos that her A5 size Kendal has the riveted rings. Interesting.

I would most certainly be willing to pay more for a really top quality filofax made of proper hide with a nice solid ring mechanism. Um, sorta like what they sold in the 1980s. I know people love their Maldens but I really hated mine, thought it felt cheap and had that already discussed faux leather feel.

Tracy Reinhardt 3/19/12, 8:25 PM  

Josh, they must have changed ring mechanisms at some point - Or maybe some are made in one place and others elsewhere.

After I had everything out I switched to my finchley which is also leather but not like the 'old' leather... and not like the malden either. It has a coated feel too, but matte. Not like the malden

Steph 3/24/12, 9:29 PM  

I have an A5 and pocket domino and the rings are great. The newer riveted kind, but they work well. I also have 2 pocket metropols and the rings were crap. Riveted and gaping and it was horrible, I don't even use them at all. I have a personal finsbury, and it is alright. The rings are not perfect but they are not gaping either.
I check each one I get meticulously. I can't stand it if the rings don't meet proper. I won't use it at all if that is the case, so I have a bit of money (in unusable filos imo) sitting in my closet.
I love the dominoes as I don't like the clasps they use, nor do I like to use zippered binders, the elastic closure is perfect. I do hope they improve some quality control issues soon, or my days with filofax may be limited.

Jotje 3/28/12, 12:28 PM  

Wow, that was very insightful. But most of all I have to compliment you on the quality of these pictures! Who knew that gazing at ring mechanisms could be sooooo satisfying!!!!

Shanananana 4/9/12, 2:44 PM  

I have a Finsbury Personal I bought some time before 2008 in navy blue, it's perfect, despite the fact until late last year i didn't know not to open it by pulling one set of the rings: the Finsbury Personal in black I bought 2 months ago from WH Smith was mis-aligned from the moment I took it out the box, I had to take it back for a refund.

Furthermore, I have an old OLD Fax covered in black nylon, very obviously not one of their top-of-the-range jobs, that I bought 2nd hand in 2008 (the inside says "Filofax School") and the rings on that are still perfect, despite who knows what abuse in the past + me not knowing the "don't buse the rings" thing for ages.

I conswider these conclusive proof that the quality has taken a BIG nose-dive, and I'm pretty darned disappointed about it to be honest, because things like the Malden, Finsbury and so on are hardly cheap.

Tracy Reinhardt 4/11/12, 8:26 AM  

Steph, the dominos come in such pretty colors, and now some are on sale. its hard to resist sometimes

Jotje - the things I find interesting baffles people. My family glazes over when I start on rings...

Shanananana - There are def. quality issues. If I could find a place to buy the in my area it would be so much better

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