Review of the Flex Book Carnet Vierge, Blank Notebook

February 5, 2016


Above: "Jerry" on "Hawaii Five-0." Sketched with a Pentel pigment brush pen in the Carnet Vierge. On the recto page you can see how wet media on the next page spread caused the paper to buckle. There is the opacity issue, but mostly this paper just doesn't like wet media, as you'll see if you read below.

In December Dick ran out of sewn journals that he uses for his work notes. (For patent reasons he needs to use sewn journals.)

I’m not able to make journals for myself right now, let alone Dick, and while yes, I should probably teach him sometime, there wasn’t time. So off we went to Wet Paint (in St. Paul) to see what was commercially available that would be suitable in size and also suitable for fountain pen. (Dick carries about 9 fountain pens in his pocket, all with different ink colors!)

Darin Rinne, the manager of Wet Paint, happened to be in the store. He helped us in our search. Well he started helping Dick, but then I sort of got involved in looking for possible commercially bound journals for me…let’s just say Darin is used to this. He came up with options for both of us.

Dick ended up going with a small sewn journal by Rhodia. I’ll write something about that at some point, but its paper isn’t really suitable for mixed so we’ll leave Dick to fill that with his fountain pen notes and sketches for now.

I found, tucked away on a spinning shelf, something called a Flex Book. It comes in different styles. I purchased two styles: The Carnet Vierge Notebook Blank, and their sketchbook.

What I am looking at today is the Carnet Vierge Notebook Blank.

I knew at a glance that the paper probably wouldn’t hold up to mixed media, but I fell in love with the size so I had to try it.

151218-reverseSidejerryCRLeft: Here is the flip side of "Jerry." You can see how the dark black of the brush pen ink shows through this thin-ish sheet. There is no bleed through, but the opacity issue will most likely be problematic for most sketchers working with ink. The paper is great for pencil work.

It’s 6-5/8 inches wide x 9-5/16 inches tall. It’s a soft bound journal—meaning that it has overstock for covers not made of board and fabric (or leather and paper) covering making a case. (This is my absolute favorite size of journal in the universe. I think all journals should be this size or really, really big.)

The spine is covered with a narrow fabric strip.

The signatures are sewn.

The back of the label band tells me that there are 192 pages of 85 gms Fabriano Ivory paper. (It really is an ivory paper, not a yellow.)

There is also an elastic band attached to the back cover so that you can wrap it around the book to keep it closed (as you do with a Moleskine and so many other books today).

There’s one other really cool thing about this book. You can bend it back on itself completely.

Yep, you can. I tried it. You really can fold it back just as you would if it had a wire binding and you only wanted to hold half of it in your hand.

It’s very fun.

Of course I like to work across a spread so I think it’s more important that a journal or sketchbook open flat—this one does. It’s pretty easy to scan pages in this book.

Here’s the bad news. The paper really is too thin for wet media. I tested it of course and it buckled. That usually isn’t enough to put me off but with a little bit of scrubbing (a very little bit) the paper actually was scratched in one area and in another it started to pill slightly.

So while you could work in this book with light washes, really controlling your moisture levels, it’s probably not worth it to most people.

If, on the other hand you sketch in pencil or you are a writer, this is the book for you. The paper is lovely to work on with pencil, and it’s just the right size to hold and get some writing done!

Most inks did not bleed through it. But there are some opacity issues with really dark ink as shown in the image in today’s post.

While the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen loves this paper, the flip side of your drawing shows the drawing clearly.

The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen's ink is not seeping through the paper, it’s just visible because the paper is thin.

My disappointment was huge.

But I have a nifty book for a desk notebook now. And it can always be a candidate for International Fake Journal Month one year!

For people who already use a similar notebook from Clairefontaine (Cardstock covers with a fabric covered spine and sewn signatures) I can tell you that the Flex Book paper is toothier. It’s still smooth to write on, but it’s not as slick as the Clairefontaine paper. I’ll continue to use the Clairfontaine notebooks with sewn signatures and fabric spines for my writing journals because I love the way they take the fountain pen ink I like to write with.

Next week I’ll review the sketchbook version which contains a thicker, bright white paper.

Note: You can find the Carnet Vierge here on the Wet Paint website. I would call them if you want to mail order, or if you want to go over—because they can check what they have on hand.

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