Three Potato Four Penpal Society Notepad

I found a Three Potato Four notepad in Papeterie Nota Bene in Montreal (which is an insanely great stationery shop that June Thomas is also a fan of) and I liked it straight away.

The paper is a good width compared to many notepads or reporter pads which are always too narrow for my liking, and it has a nice and simple vintage look about the font. I also really liked the blue tape holding the notepad together, and the fact that it was about $5. There were three different Three Potato Four notepads to choose from, an “Engineering Department” graph-paper version, a “Field and Nature Study” version which is half ruled and half blank for sketches and annotations, and the ruled Penpal Society version. I gravitated towards the Penpal Society notepad, just because I use ruled paper most often and I enjoy the term “Penpal Society”. It suits us stationery addicts!

The perforations are very good. It’s very frustrating to go to tear something out of a notebook or notepad and to have your page rip halfway through. Luckily this doesn’t seem to be an issue with this notepad.

Branding

Three Potato Four are an American brand founded in 2007 by Janet Morales and Stu Eli who describe themselves as lovers of found objects. There is no branding on the notepad itself but there was this little sticker on the cellophane wrap before I opened it up. This is the only real Three Potato Four giveaway. If you look carefully on each sheet of paper there is a little reference number and a “Printed in U.S.A.” stamp. There isn’t much in the way of Three Potato Four in the UK that I can find at the moment but I have notice on their website that there are collaborations with larger brands such as Urban Outfitters. To that end Three Potato Four aren’t a dedicated stationery offering but have a wide variety of trinkets such as vintage style letterboards and pennant flags – altogether a seemingly modern brand with a vintage and lifestyle focus.

Apologies for the rubbish photo, I snapped this in Montreal before I quickly unwrapped it from the cellophane!

Size

The Penpal Society notepad is slightly bigger than A5 in size. Here are some comparison shots so you can get an idea:

Compared to a pocket notebook
Compared to a pocket notebook
Compared to a Tsubame Fools notebook
Compared to a Tsubame Fools notebook
It's most similar in size to an A5 Rhodia dotpad
It’s most similar in size to an A5 Rhodia dotpad

Performance with ink

The vintage style of this paper and notepad format mean I am unlikely to use this for extended writing, journaling or letter writing, but the fact that it’s easy to tear-out and ruled make it a perfect choice for testing out new pens and pencils and great for short notes to add into a letter. I’ve also used a couple of sheets to stick into my scrapbook – for example I’ve written a summary of a particular day where I have lots of ephemera collected, tickets, maps and the like, and a sheet from this notepad looks good in the scrapbook context surrounded by these tidbits. The simple “to” and “from the desk of” fields at the top of the paper indicate its use as a memo style pad and it suits this purpose very well.

Ink pen tests
Ink pen tests

As you can see the Penpal Society paper actually performs very well with fountain pen ink. I wasn’t really expecting miracles from it with ink but I’m really pleased and I think different sized nibs come out really accurately on the paper. There is also very little feathering to speak of apart from with the Karas Kustoms Fountain K and that is very slight. I don’t think I would use a broader nib on this paper however. The pure white of the paper makes the coloured inks I currently have in my fountain pens look lovely too.

Close up shots to demonstrate there is very little feathering apart from on the Karas Kustoms Fountain K which is an M nib and probably the broadest line I have amongst my fountain pens.
Close up shots to demonstrate there is very little feathering apart from on the Karas Kustoms Fountain K which is an M nib and probably the broadest line I have amongst my fountain pens.

There is bleedthrough however although the reverse of each piece of lined paper is blank, which probably means it isn’t intended for writing on. Still though, it means each sheet of paper is only really good for usage on one side when using ink.

Bleedthrough onto the reverse of the Penpal Society paper
Bleedthrough onto the reverse of the Penpal Society paper

Performance with pencils

I use pencil to jot down notes on the Penpal Society notebook quite often because I usually have it out on my coffee table. It performs well across the board but my particular favourites to use with it are the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood and the Blackwing 24. The General’s Cedar Pointe #333-1 is enjoyable to use with it too. I became aware some time ago that although the paper quality is fantastic, the Rhodia dotpad paper can misrepresent pencils in particular because it’s so smooth, it makes everything appear smudgy! The Penpal Society paper has a slight texture to it not dissimilar to the texture of recycled paper which feels like a true representation of how a pencil performs and you’ll be able to see this texture in close up shots.

A selection of pencil tests on the Penpal Society notepad
A selection of pencil tests on the Penpal Society notepad

Here are a few close ups where you can also see the slight texture of the paper:

Had to get the mighty Viking Element 1 in this post somewhere!

In Summary

I think this is a great notepad. I don’t have many paper products in this style, I usually prefer stapled or bound notebooks, so it’s a good addition to my collection and was very inexpensive. I also think that using it as a test pad is a perfect purpose for it as well because it isn’t premium paper but it’s not intended to be throwaway paper either, so I know when testing on it that if a tool performs well it’s likely to do so overall. If anything I think fountain pens perform slightly better on it than many of the other notebooks I have, which is always a pleasure. I also really love the minimalist, vintage styling of this notepad. I feel like something out of Mad Men! If I had one wider thought on usage by others, I would say is that the line spacing is slightly on the narrow side which isn’t an issue for me because I have fairly small writing and usually use fine line pens, but those of you with bigger, more spaced out writing might find that a constraint. To: Three Potato Four, From the desk of: The London Parchment.

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