Made in Vietnam

The Mono Zero and the Mono One 5

Today: a comparison of different Tombow erasers – the Tombow Mono Zero, available either with a 2.3 mm round tip or broad 2.5 mm * 5 mm rectangular tip, and the Tombow Mono One, an eraser that looks as if it’s supposed to be used on a keyring or as a charm. I wrote this blog post originally for The Pen Company who send me these two erasers free of charge.

Mono Zero (back)

Mono Zero (white version, back)

Mono Zero background

The Mono Zero was originally released on 12 November 2007 and since its release it has won the iF product design award 2010 and the red dot design award 2010. It has also received Japan’s eco mark certification because of its high content of (pre-consumer) recycled plastic. The body of the eraser is made in Japan, while the eraser core itself is made in Korea. The Mono Zero has been designed by Ms. Chisato Takahashi, who  is also responsible for the Mono smart. I got mine as a free sample from The Pen Company where the current retail price is £3.47.

Mono Zero (black version, front)

Mono Zero (black version, front)

Mono Zero body

The Mono Zero is available either with a 2.3 mm round tip or broad 2.5 mm * 5 mm rectangular tip and each of these versions is available in either a black body or a black, white and blue body. There used to be a silver version as well, which – to me – always used to be by far the least attractive looking version. This silver version does not seem to be available anymore.

Mono Zero eraser removed - 2.5mm * 5 mm version

Mono Zero eraser removed – 2.5mm * 5 mm version

Mono Zero eraser removed - 2.3 mm round tip version

Mono Zero eraser removed – 2.3 mm round tip version

Mono Zero eraser

The eraser itself does not fill the whole body. This might come as a surprise when you have used other pen shaped erasers that come in a plastic body, but is not not really a problem. You do get slightly less eraser for your money, but the whole eraser (body plus eraser) itself is not expensive and the eraser core will still last a long time. Just to mention is explicitely, there are also refills available for these erasers, like for most pen shaped erasers. Labelled as an elastomer eraser, the Mono Zero contains an eraser made from ethylene propylene copolymer. When I received the eraser I did try it out and compared it to my favourite kind of eraser, a dust-free  or non-dust eraser (as long as it’s a dust-free eraser I usually like it very much). It’s probably not fair to compare it to my favourite type of eraser, or let’s say not objective – others might not like dust-free erasers, but then this comparison  is a valid approach as I am writing about what I like or dislike about the Mono Zero.

Comparison on Deli paper (A6)

Comparison on Deli paper (A6)

For the pencil to be erased by the Mono Zero – I originally thought what better match could there be for the Tombow Mono erasers than a Tombow pencil, so I picked last year’s 100th anniversary special pencil.

Erasing the soft Tombow 100th anniversary pencil

Erasing the soft Tombow 100th anniversary pencil

Mono Zero performance

To my surprise the two Tombow products, pencil and eraser, didn’t seem to be able to cooperate that well with each other. This was due to the fact that the Tombow pencil is very soft. According to Pencils and other things the 100th anniversary edition has the same lead as the current Mono 100, but my 100th anniversary pencil seems much softer (and smudges easier) than a Mono 100 (both HB). I am not sure whether I’m imagining things here, or I just happened to have a softer than usual 100th anniversary pencil and a harder than usual Mono 100, or whether the lead is the same, but there’s actually a shift in grade (e.g. 100th anniversary HB = Mono 100 B). In any case, the Mono Zero was not able to eraser a strong line, i.e. drawn with some pressure, without a trace. It did however manage to eraser strong lines of harder pencils, in this case a Staedtler Mars Lumograph in HB, without a trace.

Erasing the harder Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB

Erasing the harder Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB

Mono Zero conclusion

My impression of the Mono Zero was that it’s not the greatest performer when it comes to actual erasing (worse than a non-dust / dust-free eraser), but its strong point is precise erasing …because of the tip size and shape (a bit like a Kokuyo eraser). When I was looking for other blog posts to mention in this review I rediscovered Dave’s review of the Mono Zero, which came to the same conclusion regarding eraser performance.

A great eraser, because its fine ‘tip’ allows precise erasing, even though eraser performance itself could be better.

The Monos compared to a dust free eraser

The Monos compared to a dust free eraser


Mono One

The Mono One, designed by Mr Kazunori Katami, who holds a lot of stationery patents, was released slightly earlier than the Mono Zero – on 5 February 2007. The Pen Company is selling this eraser for £2.60. The body of this eraser is also produced in Japan (no eco mark certification for the Mono One, though), while the eraser itself is made in in Vietnam. Labelled as a plastic eraser, the eraser is made from thermoplastic elastomers. Despite the different materials, performance seemed pretty similar between the Mono Zero and the Mono One, with the Mono One maybe performing a little bit better.

The Mono One does not offer as precise erasing as the Mono Zero, the tip is bigger, but it is a nice size, which makes it a great eraser to carry in a pencil case bag or, possibly even on your key ring.


I would like to thank The Pen Company for these erasers, I got them as free samples, and Mrs. Balsewicz from Tombow Europe for all the information she has given me about these erasers.

I would like thank Sean for the Tombow 100th anniversary pencils.

Plywood pencil stands

Muji - three wooden stands

Today I want to show you some wooden pencil stands from Muji: From left to right we have the wooden desk pot (originally £4.95, currently £2.45 (~$4.05; €2.95))1, the wooden pen stand (originally £4.95, currently £2.95 (~$4.85; €3.55)) and the wooden desk rack (originally £6.95, currently £3.45 (~$5.70; €4.15)). These pencil stands have been on offer for more than a month now2. I assume Muji has reduced the price to get rid of these items in order to make space for new stock.

The pen stands are made from plywood in Vietnam (where Banditapple’s carnets are made). I love how they look. It’s definitely an upgrade from the common plastic pen holders.

Muji - wooden desk rack

My favourite is the wooden desk rack. The top rack is great for short pens or pencils, the lower rack is great for longer pens and pencils. If you don’t want the get graphite on the desk rack it’s easy to protect the plywood at the bottom end with a small sheet of paper.

If these pencil stands are not to your liking, what about these pencil stands?

If this isn’t posh enough for you, what about Graf von Faber-Castell pencil holder? There’s also a double compartement / notelet holder version. As expected, there’s a hefty price tag. The full-grain leather is available in brown and black.

Prices: December 2013 and January 2014

Exchange rates: January 2014

  1. It even has two wooden strips as “feet”. []
  2. I bought mine on 13 Dec 2013 in Manchester’s Trafford Centre. []

Banditapple 2G carnets 8

In a previous blog post from 2010 I had a look at Banditapple’s notebooks (carnets). What happened since then? Banditapple released a few limited edition carnets. Another interesting development is that the manufacturing process of the next generation of Banditapple carnets uses less chlorine while VOCs were reduced, too … and the new version of these notebooks is out. The current generation (2G) of notebooks is available in three colours: Gingerbread, Manuka Honey and Finland Pine.

Since I’ve been very happy with the 1G carnets and use them regularly at work I asked Arnie, the man behind Banditapple, whether I can order a few of the 2G carnets directly from him as he does not have an online shop yet. To cut a long story short, in the end he send me four of the new notebooks and I only had to pay the postage (€5, ~$6.65; £4.20). The package he sent to me last year only took a few days to arrive, but unfortunately it wasn’t treated very well by one of the postal services involved. Luckily, after storing the maltreated 2G carnets under some heavy books, they were (nearly) back in shape. I specifically asked for the tablet sized notebooks as I find this to be the most suitable size for daily use, at least for my purposes.

The peewee sized notebooks (9×14 cm) are ₩2500 each (~£1.40; $2.20; €1.70).

The tabled sized notebooks (13×12 cm) are ₩4000 each (~£2.30; $3.60; €2.70).

CdA edelweiss, Stabile LeftRight, Staedtler Wopex, M&G AMP33701 and Pelikan Souverän 605 on a 2G carnet


The new notebooks are still sewn, not stapled and the cover is still made from coloured paper, something I like very much as this enables me to label the notebooks using a white pencil1. The paper quality of the 2G carnets is possibly even better than the quality of the previous generation. It copes very well with ink and I cannot think of a paper that is better in terms of erasing graphite without leaving traces.

1G Hanoi Red (used) and the new 2G colours


A great, but difficult to get notebook.


Prices and exchange rates: February 2012.

Paperandco, an online shop from Paris still has a few of the 1G carnets in Hanoi Red and Saigon Black in stock.

The official Banditapple website and blog can be found here.

This previous Bleistift blog post has more information about the 1G carnets.

You can find a review of the 2G carnets at Okami Whatever.

I would like to thank Arnie Kim for the Banditapple 2G carnets.

  1. Like the Faber-Castell Goldfaber Heft&Tafel 1133 or the Eberhard Faber 1410 in white. []

Banditapple carnets 6

The first time I came across Banditapple carnets was when my friend Kent from Pencilog send me a few to try out. A few weeks later I received another envelope with Banditapple carnets, this time from Arnie Kim, the man behind the Banditapple carnets and an acquaintance of Kent. Kent told me that Arnie quit his job in Korea and went to Vietnam to create the perfect notebook. Vietnam was a French colony and was therefore influenced by French culture with the French-style carnet being no exception. Kent also added that Vietnam is the most suitable place in Asia to produce European-style notebooks. When I asked Arnie about his carnets he told me that he designed and planned the whole project and that he spent more than two years to find the right paper, the right “masters” to produce his carnets and the right location to make the carnets. The carnets currently available are the first edition, but he hopes to produce the second edition in a year or so.

Talking about the current edition he added that the paper is acid free paper and that it works great with a fountain pens, because the ink can dry quickly and because there is no feathering.

His Banditapple carnets are now being sold in the large stationery stores in Seoul and are also available in selected shops in Japan. He is also selling them online (contact if you are interested), with most orders being shipped to the USA and Japan, followed by Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The online sales are however tiny in comparison as Arnie does not have an online shop and these orders are based on word of mouth. The carnets are available in the following sizes:

  • Peewee size, a moleskine pocket size, 9×14 cm
    for 1,800 KRW (~$1.54, ~ €1.21, ~£1.00)
  • Handy Size, a midori traveler’s note size, 11×21 cm
    for 2,800 KRW (~$2.40, ~€1.89, ~£1.56)
  • Tablet size, a moleskine large size, 13×21 cm
    for 3,300 KRW (~$2.83, ~€2.22, ~£1.84)

Banditapple left, Muji right



When I first looked at the Banditapple carnets my first impression was that they are very similar to Muji’s passport sized notebooks I bought in the past. If you have used Muji notepads before or read my previous posts about Muji (about their A5 notebook and their A6 memo pad) you know that Muji products look nice and are great for pencil users, but that their paper is not particularly fountain pen friendly. I use their white lined A6 notebooks to keep QSL logs, but I only use graphite pencils (mainly mechanical pencils) for this purpose. The similarities between the Muji passport notebooks and the Banditapple carnets lend themselves to comparing them. Keeping Kent’s and Arnie’s praise for their ability to cope with ink in mind (“The main partner with this notebook is actually fountain pen”) I decided to have a closer look and see how both cope with graphite and ink.


Banditapple carnet, sewn through the cover

Both notebooks are sewn, not stapled, which adds a nice touch to them. While the Banditapple’s cover feels like normal, coloured paper the Muji’s cover seems to be made from impregnated paper, which will probably keep it looking new and tidy for longer. Another difference is that the Muji notebook was sewn with a white thread before the outer cover was glued on, so the seam is not visible from the outside, while the Banditapple was sewn with a red thread through the cover. The paper used in the notbook is also quite different. While the Banditapple’s paper looks a bit rough, Muji’s paper looks extremely smooth, nearly shiny in comparison and with a more yellowish tint.



Workmanship on both notebooks is very good, but if you are looking hard you can see that the last bit of thread is hanging loose on both notebooks and that the rounded corners of both notebooks could have been cut a bit better.

Texture Banditapple

Texture Muji

Click on the images to see the texture in large.

Writing text using a pencil and erasing is fine in both notebooks, but shading the paper with a pencil does not really work well in the Muji notebook. Shading works much better in the Banditapple carnet, but the rougher paper means that the paper’s texture will be a little bit more obvious than in Muji’s notebook. The suitability for ink was tested with two different fountain pens and inks. I used a Lamy Al-Star with an M nib, filled with Montblanc royal blue ink and a Pelikan Souverän M400 white tortoise with a 14C F nib and Lamy blue-black ink1. This M400 is usually a very wet writer, but since this ink is very dry this combination overall is dryer than the Lamy / Montblanc combination. While the Banditapple carnet copes exceptionally well with both inks, the Muji notebook has some problems which result in the text being clearly visible on the back of the page.

The back of the page, Banditapple left, Muji right


The Banditapple carnet is the clear winner in this comparison, because of the superior paper. The Muji passport notebook paper does not perform well if you use ink or if you draw with pencils. I have to emphasise that the paper of the Muji passport notebook is performing much better than the paper in Muji’s A5 notebook I have reviewed previously. If you only write in notebooks and you only use pencils, then both will be excellent and the Muji will provide you with a cover that is more water and dirt-repelling.

I would like to thank Kent and Arnie for the Banditapple carnets used in for this post.



Arnie is an avid collector of postcards. If you would like to send him a postcard, please send it to:


Young-jo Arnold Kim
CPO Box 1754
Republic of Korea


Prices and exchange rates: September 2010

  1. This is the blue-black ink from the bottle,  not from the cartridge. I emphasise this because the blue-black ink from the bottle is said to be an iron-gall ink, while the blue-black cartridges are said to be just a mix of blue and black ink []