Monday, December 12, 2011

Notebook Review: Banditapple Carnet

I first read about Banditapple Carnet notebooks in June when my friend Julie wrote a review in her blog. Out of curiosity, I sent an email to Banditapple's creator and owner, Arnie Kim, to ask for sample products to review on the blog. Three months of waiting and chasing the guys at our Post Office, I received the lovely notebooks that Arnie sent to me. 

Banditapple Carnet notebooks are sold by its creator and owner, Arnie Kim from Seoul, South Korea, though they are all hand-made in Vietnam. Arnie said that his notebooks are now available in stationery stores not only in South Korea, but also in selected stores in Japan.

The notebooks come in three sizes (Peewee, Handy, and Tablet) and two cover colors (Hanoi Red and Saigon Black). All Banditapple Carnet notebook sizes are available in either blank or ruled paper with 64 pages of acid-free, 80gsm off-white paperstock. The cover used on the notebooks is plain cardstock which makes them look very simple, and almost anonymous and unbranded. But I like that. I'm also glad that Arnie sent me samples of all available notebook sizes and covers, and that he sent me notebooks with both blank and ruled pages.

Peewee in Saigon Black cover with my first generation pink Lamy Safari.

Peewee is the smallest among the three available notebook sizes of Banditapple Carnet. It measures 3.5 x 5.5 inches, sized like a pocket Clairefontaine notebook, Venzi, or Field Notes. The photo below shows the Peewee on top, and all the notebooks I mentioned underneath it. All notebooks have the same dimensions, they just differ in either their binding (stapled or stitched) or corner cuts. Since I received the Banditapple Carnet notebooks, I've made the Peewee my 'ink diary'. It's the perfect thin, small, black notebook I can carry with me anywhere because it fits in the plastic zipper pocket of my Midori TN. When I need to see how a certain ink behaves in a particular pen, I just pull out my Peewee.

Handy in Saigon Black cover with my yellow Lamy Safari.

Handy, the 'middle' size, measures 4.25 x 8.25 inches. This notebook made me very happy as soon as I saw it. Why? Because it's the same size as my Midori Traveler's Notebook's refills! And what's better, the Banditapple Handy have round page corners.

Banditapple Handy in Hanoi Red cover on top, Midori Traveler's Notebook refill below.

See? Banditapple's Handy fits my Midori TN perfectly!

Tablet in Hanoi Red cover, with my LE orange Lamy Safari.

Tablet, the biggest Banditapple notebook, measures 5.125 x 8.25 inches. It is sized like a large Moleskine or Rhodia Webbie, or as shown below, a soft cover large Venzi notebook. I got a blank Banditapple Tablet, and I may just turn it into a sketch/doodle/calligraphy notebook later.

Banditapple Tablet in Hanoi Red cover on top, soft cover Venzi below.

The other wonderful feature of Banditapple Carnet notebooks is their binding — the pages are stitched — not stapled, not glued, but stitched. A single signature is stitched to the cover, and the notebooks' stitching match the color of their covers.

Neat stitching on spine...

...and on the notebook's pages.

And now, the best part about these wonderful notebooks: the paper. Banditapple uses 80gsm off-white (read: not-so-white), acid-free paper. Dr. Matthias Meckel, blogger at Bleistift, wrote that Arnie spent more than two years to find the right paper for his notebooks. And his efforts paid off. Banditapple Carnet notebooks have one of the best papers I've ever tried with my fountain pens.

Banditapple uses a .25 inch page ruling; top margin of .75 inch, and bottom margin of .625 inch. Ruling has been printed using soy type ink.

The pages have no side margins, though. The ruling extends to the edges of the page spread.

And I saved the best for last: the pen and ink tests on Banditapple's Handy notebook. Because the Handy is a tall notebook, I was able to test a couple of pens on a page, including fountain pens, a rollerball, gelpens, and a permanent marker. I like using different pen types to test a notebook's paper because it shows me instantly how the pens and inks react to it.

Banditapple uses paper that is not smooth and shiny white. But it is very excellent for fountain pen use, especially to very broad and wet nibs such as those on my Esterbrook pens. The Esterbrook LJ and Trans J pens below both have 9968 (firm broad) nibs and I did not see any feathering or bleed at all. Even the badly notorious bleeder called Noodler's Midnight Blue behaved so well on this paper. I also noticed that some ink types even showed better color in Banditapple's paper, like Edelstein Jade and J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis. Drying takes a longer time compared to other paper types, but that is just fine.

All in a page: 21 fountain pens, 1 rollerball, 9 gelpens, 1 permanent marker.

Banditapple paper up close. Ink is  J. Herbin Café des îles. I love the pure, cottony goodness of paper on a close shot like this. And even at a very close view, I just don't see the ink feathering on paper.

This is how the back of the pen and ink test page looks like. Not one of the 21 fountain pens bled or feathered, but the Sharpie permanent marker just had to bleed very badly. But that's how Sharpie behaves on almost all of the paper types I have ever tested.

Lastly, here is the Peewee notebook that I have made into an 'ink diary'. Very cool. I like keeping an 'ink diary' because it's a way of keeping an informal inventory of my inks and pens. And I am very strict with myself that whenever I fill a pen, I have to write down the date, ink type, and pen used so I have an ink/pen reference.

If you need more information about these wonderful notebooks, Arnie Kim's contact details are on his site, Or you can email him using this email address: if you want to discuss notebook orders. You can place orders for his notebooks in bulk and he will gladly give you a good price and a choice of whether to ship by air (faster), or water/surface (slower by 2 weeks, but then, the package gets to you). This is the best way of ordering from Arnie at the moment.

I am not affiliated with Banditapple Company, I am just a very satisfied owner of these wonderful and amazing notebooks.

The Banditapple Carnet notebooks used in this review are from the Banditapple Company through its creator and owner, Arnie Kim. The other notebooks, pens and inks used in this review all belong to my personal collection.


  1. Great review and pics! :-)

  2. How do you order from the website in English? I must have one of these notebooks. Love your review and it's always great to see your pictures.

  3. An Archer is a very good thing to be. I don't know what country you are in, but I got two really decent graph paper notebooks at Barnes and Noble the other day, $9 ea,spiral, perforated, and six different colors of paper, that held up to a calligraphy pen, med. nib, blue/black Quink, and to Crayola Watercolor brush markers. It is a Spanish firm, Miquelrius. One went to my nephew for Christmas but not without being personalized by the latest in skateboard stickers. My pens are all 30 plus years old, and I can't get the lid off some bottles of ink. I have an engineering background and have always loved graph paper, and the green standard is always easy on the eyes. I always used Dietzen field books as my personal carry with notebooks. The Smaller flip over Rain safe notebooks, I get at Extreme Outfitters, as they supply the Navy Seals and Swat teams here in Tidewater. I use the same size the troops keep in their pockets, one in my purse, one in car and one in my binocular case. I am a birder in cool weather. Anyway, enjoyed your site.

  4. Great review! By the way, do you ink your 21 fountain pens at the same time?