Saturday, January 19, 2013

Notebook selection, part two: the continuing saga

Some months ago now, I wrote a piece regarding the ever-continuing quest for a notebook I love. As with so many other things in life, it seems that none are perfect and every choice involves some bit of compromise.

The latest stage of that journey has involved small cahiers for use in the Zenok Leather cover I purchased a month or two ago. I chose the Zenok product over the Midori so I'd have ample choice of notebooks to use - its size lends itself to use with a wider variety of products. And so I've bought a fairly wide variety of 3.5"x5.5" (or so) cahiers to try out. I thought I'd share some comparison information with you and shots of the various papers so you might perhaps benefit from my experimentations.

(as always, all photos are clickable)

In no particular order, then, may I present my purchases to you?

Moleskine cahier

This is a plain cahier with a reddish maroon cover, which has the brand name embossed into the lower back cover. The back cover also has a small slide-in interior pocket that runs the length of the cover and half the width, suitable for holding things like receipts. This is the only one of these notebooks with such a pocket. The cahier is machine stitched together in the center. The back half of the cahier contains pages that are perforated to tear out at the binding. The paper is cream colored with charcoal grey lines.

Clairfontaine 1951

This notebook features a cover with a retro-looking design. The paper is standard Clairfontaine 90g bright white paper with the classic violet lines. Two staples in the center hold the notebook together. No pages are perforated. 48 sheets/96 pages.

Clairfontaine Basics/Life Unplugged

Other than the cover, this notebook is identical to the 1951. The cover is textured cardstock with the Clairfontaine logo embossed in the front cover. (I have one in brown and one in black.) The paper is the same as the 1951; it too is held together with two staples in the center, and no pages are perforated. 48 sheets/96 pages.

Banditapple Carnet

The cover is a plain brown textured paper. The 80g paper is slightly off-white, sort of greyish. I chose the graphed paper which has squares printed in thin, dark blue lines. The paper has a slightly rough finish. The notebook is stitched down the center, no perfs. 32 sheets/64 pages.

Leuchtturm 1917


This notebook is 60 pages of 80g off-white paper. The cover is black cardstock, lined with an inner (second) cover of off-white cardstock. The front inner cover has a printed area to write one's name and address. The first page is printed with a table of contents to be filled in. This is the only one that has numbered pages. This book is stitched down the middle, and the second half of the notebook contains pages that are perforated to tear out.

Field Notes

I bought a set of three of these: graph, line and blank. Other than the difference in lines, the books are identical. The covers are brown cardstock with Field Notes emblazoned across the front, and the same in smaller print on the back, along with the company's website address and information about its origin in the USA. The interior front cover has space to enter a variety of information. The entire interior back cover is covered with information about the company and the notebook, and has a five-inch printed ruler on the outside edge. Each notebook is assembled using three staples. The paper is 50# bright white, with lines in a light brown soy-based ink (thus the inside back cover tells me). No pages are perforated. 48 pages per book.

Pages are in same order as above photo. Both photos are clickable
Paper comparison:

Clairfontaine: As I mentioned above, the paper in both the Clairfontaines is identical. And I love it. Love. It. Bright white, hard finish, no bleedthrough or showthrough. The famous secondary red sheen of the Yama-dori ink shines.

Moleskine: one word: meh. Cream colored. Narrower ruling than the Clairfontaine, which for my larger writing isn't what's called for. Showthrough and bleedthrough is pretty bad.

Leuchtturm: Paper color is in-between the Clairfontaine super-white and the Moleskine cream. Showthrough isn't bad and bleedthrough really only happened with the Mina, which is by far the wettest writer I used for the test. And the notebook itself has a lot of features the others don't - whether they'd be useful to you, only you can say!

Banditapple: This is the sleeper of the bunch to me. I'd read some favorable things about Banditapple, but have had no experience with their products until now; they're apparently just now really making their way into the US from Viet Nam. The paper has a greyish hue to it, and isn't quite as slickly finished as the others, but I didn't find that to be a detriment. Bleedthrough? Showthrough? Zero. Zip. Nada. Very impressive. The notebook itself is pretty basic, but it's nice that it's stitched instead of stapled.

Field Notes: The paper is thinner and clearly more absorbent than the others, bleedthrough and showthrough are the worst - to the point that, for me, only one side of each sheet would be useable. Your mileage may always vary, of course, and if you use pens other than fountain pens you might be okay with these.

My favorite features of all these are: the Clairfontaine paper, the perforated pages of the Moleskine and the Leuchtturm, the stitched construction of the Banditapple and the Leuchtturm. I'd love to find a cahier with these features - and I'd really love it if all the pages were perfed, since I use these for quick jotted notes that end up throwaways.

Ah, well. Can't have everything in this life, and I have a several-month supply of cahiers to go through now!

I hope you find this helpful! Please post any questions you may have and I'd be happy to answer them!

Oh - and for those of you wondering what that thing is that's holding the notebooks, here you go. I tend to wander around the house until I find something to use as a background, and this pedestal table got to take that role on this afternoon.


  1. Really enjoyed reading this! Hope you don't mind, but I've included this post in my latest "Link Roundup" over on my Supply Cabinet Chronicles blog. I, too, seem to be on a "never-ending quest" to find that absolutely perfect notebook. Probably doesn't exist, but I keep looking. Happy hunting!

    1. Do I mind? Oh heavens no, I consider that a compliment! Glad you enjoyed it and I hope you find it helpful!

  2. Hi! My name is Kayte, and I am a fairly new pen blogger! I really like your blog, and please check out mine- . Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

    1. Hi Kayte, and thanks for dropping by! Congrats on the new blog - I'll be sure to take a look!

  3. Have you tried scout notebooks? they're a different size, slightly smaller, but the paper is very thick and sturdy.