Category Archives: The Basics

Waterproof Fountain Pen Inks

Most fountain pen inks are not super water-proof. There are some that are more waterproof than others, but most have some limited resistance. That is, if you spill coffee on your next brilliant idea and wipe it up, it should still be legible. If you are caught in the rain, it won’t disappear completely.

Some inks like Noodler’s Bulletproof inks even protect against bleach and other craziness, but for day to day living and writing, most inks should be fine, especially if you are writing in a notebook or journal, or on papers that most likely will not be taken to the bathroom or outside in a storm.

If you leave your paper under a running tap for several minutes, or even soaked in water for a long time, you may begin to find your ink disappearing beyond legibility.

Not waterproof inks blurring with water

The sample above looks a little more dramatic because I used a flex nib that left a lot of ink on the page and I was too impatient to wait more than a few seconds for it to “dry.” However, if your writing is dry and there’s not too much ink, your writing should generally fare a little better. Often the top layer of ink that hasn’t bonded to the paper will be what washes away, and there will still be writing left.

There are two other major factors in water-resistance-ness. One is how long you’ve left it to dry – the longer, the better. The inks below in the sample were left to try for about 30 seconds. If they were left for a little longer, or even overnight, or best still for a week, some of them may have fared a little better.

The type of paper you use will also be important. If your paper has some coating on it (think greeting cards or postcards), the ink will have a much harder time bonding with the paper fibres below.

However, if you are in the market for a particularly water-resistant or waterproof ink, here are a few to consider.

Sample of water testing with inks - Noodler's, Rohrer & Klingner, Diamine, Platinum

There are iron-gall inks like Rohrer & Klingner’s Salix or Scabiosa, Platinum Blue-Black and Diamine Registrar’s Ink. Really old school iron gall inks can be corrosive in your pens, but most modern day iron galls are fine with a little bit of care (not leaving the inks to sit in your pen for too long, as with all other inks).

Close-up of water-tested waterproof fountain pen inks - Noodler's Black, Platinum Blue-Black, Rohrer & Klingner Salix

There are also Noodler’s “Bulletproof” Inks, including their standard Black and 54th Massachusetts. Some of Noodler’s other inks will be partially waterproof – especially the ones that have a Bulletproof component – for example their Blue-Black will have some of the blue wash away, but the black will remain. Other notable ones include the Bad Blue Heron, Bad Black Moccasin, X-Feather, Lexington Grey and #41 Brown.

Close-up of waterproof fountain pen inks - Sailor Kiwa Guro, Noodler's, Diamine

Last are the carbon inks – made by Sailor in Kiwa-Guro black and Sei-Boku blue-black or Platinum’s Carbon Black. These inks are made from micro fine carbon pigments – fine enough to make it through your feed without clogging, but don’t leave it in there too long!

Many, many other inks show good water-resistance, including J. Herbin Perle Noire, Sailor Jentle Black, Sailor Jentle Blue…the list goes on. If you are interested in particular ink you can always Google to see if it will be water proof, but remember that most inks will be alright with a few drops anyways.

Fountain Pens & Paper

Often when people start using fountain pens, they discover quickly after that not all paper is made equal. When using ballpoints or rollerballs, most paper performs fairly similarly, which has to do with the oil-based greasier ink of these types of pen.

How well your ink does on your paper has to do with your pen, your ink and your paper. The wetter the pen, the more ink goes on the page, and so the more likely you’ll have problems. Certain inks display certain tendencies, and so you’ll have to play around and try a few inks to see how they differ. However, the paper you write on often has the biggest variation in how your pen and ink perform.

Paper weight is an indication of how heavy it is. Most paper is measured according to “gsm” or grams per square meter. American paper weights are in pounds, and it’s very confusing. My reference point is: 20lb paper is around 75 gsm. Rhodia’s standard staplebound pads have 80gsm paper. If you ask me any more questions about paper weight in lbs, I will likely spend a long time on this online conversion tool.

I think the real difference between how paper performs comes down to the sizing of the paper, or how the paper is treated in manufacturing to change the absorbency level of the paper. The basic idea is that the more absorbent the paper is, the more feathering and bleed through you will experience. Paper that has additional surface sizing will have the ink sit on top of the paper and take longer to dry, rather than absorbing into the paper, to dry quickly.

Bad things that can happen with paper:

Show-through: if you’re writing on the other side of the page, show-through or ghosting can make it more difficult to read what you’re writing. This is much more prevalent in thinner paper, such as Tomoe River Paper, and obviously if you hold it up to the light.

Bleedthrough on low quality paper with fountain pen ink

Bleed-through happens with a lot of ink on more absorbent paper.

Bleed-through: when the ink actually makes it way to the other side, bleed through makes it almost impossible to use the back page. Really terrible paper may even have ink on the next page.

Feathering: this is probably the least acceptable characteristic. Many people are willing to forgo the back of the page, but if the writing itself on the page looks terrible, there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Feathering on low-quality paper with fountain pen ink

Feathering makes your letters look a little hairy.

Here are a few ways to think about paper: 1. Regular paper
This is the copy paper at your office, or the lined notebooks for students. This paper often isn’t great for fountain pens, as it was designed for fast consumption and for use with ballpoints. There are a few types of copy paper that are designed for laser printers, and that perform quite well with fountain pens, for example HP Laser Jet 32lb paper.

If you’re stuck using poorer quality paper, you can try either using a thinner nib, like EF or F, or trying an ink that general performs a little better on cheaper papers, like Noodler’s X-Feather, or Rohrer & Klinger’s Iron Gall Salix.

2. French/European paper
Clairefontaine and Rhodia paper are considered two of the top brands in paper. While both companies make a variety of paper formats and sizes and weights, in general, their paper is smoother, slightly thicker and excellent for fountain pens. Most people find they can use broad, stub or flex nibs without problem because this paper is good.

High quality Rhodia paper for fountain pen ink - J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune and Flex Nib

Rhodia 80gsm pad, Noodler’s Nib Creaper Flex, J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune

This paper is more expensive than regular or copy paper, and it also has longer dry times.

3. Japanese paper
Japanese paper is making is beginning to become much more widespread in North America. Japanese paper tends to be thinner, but definitely holds up to fountain pen ink very well. Even though the paper is thinner, the lines you get are often exceptionally crisp.

Flex Nib Writing Sample and Shading Fountain Pen Ink

Life Noble Note paper, Dilli Flex and Sailor Jentle Grenade.

Life Stationery has a lot of ivory and thin paper in a huge variety of formats (notebooks, typing paper, writing paper, bank paper…), and Tomoe River Paper is exceptionally thin, and so has quite a bit of show-through. Japanese paper tends to have very long dry times.

4. Stationery Paper

Textured Laid Correspondence Stationery from G. Lalo Verge de France

G. Lalo Verge de France Stationery

Stationery or correspondence paper is usually A5 or A4 sized (rather than the North American standard sized letter or legal”) and come from Europe. This paper is often used for letter writing or more formal situations.

G. Lalo and Original Crown Mill are two companies that are known for their stationery paper, and in particular for their laid finish. This paper is thicker and much more textured, sometimes with “verge” or grid textured lines (that can be very helpful for writing straight across!).

What’s the deal with Moleskine?

We get asked quite a bit about why we’re not carrying Moleskine, mainly because we’re a stationery shop and we get a lot of people who aren’t using fountain pens but are maybe looking for a notebook. The long and short of it is that Moleskine paper is great for ballpoints and pencils, but not as great for really inky pens, like fountain pens.

There are many, many other paper products out there, some we carry and many more we don’t. You can always read reviews online, and they often also have pictures, so you can see how one paper performs, but it usually comes down to a combination of the pen, the ink and the paper, so your best bet is to try it out yourself.

How to Sharpen a Palomino Blackwing Pencil

or, How to Use your Palomino Long Point Sharpener.

Don’t laugh. There is actually a process to sharpening these beautiful pencils.

The Blackwings have wonderful lead that almost never breaks unless you’ve dropped the pencil and it’s landed on its tip. More likely, you would just be sharpening the tip to a point, but just for you, I have very generously sacrificed a Palomino Blackwing and broken its lead tip.

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Step 1:  Sharpen the wood. Insert the pencil into the left hold and sharpen like a regular pencil sharpener.

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There is actually a gap or trench between the end of the blade and the back of the sharpening area. Sharpen the pencil until it stops on its own – when the lead reaches the back wall.

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Lead just waiting to be sharpened!

Your end result will be a long, cylindrical piece of lead with a blunt tip.

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Sharpening the lead!

Step 2: Sharpen the lead. For this step, I like to be a little bit careful, as you don’t want to break the lead now. You’ll get quite a lot of lead shavings, and may even shape a bit of the wood.

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And your beautiful Palomino is ready to go!

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Trouble-shooting: if your sharpener isn’t giving you these crisp points, try tightening the screws holding in the blades – if they loosen, your points can break as you’re sharpening your pencil, which shouldn’t be happening at all.

Note: there are extra blades! They are tucked away by the hinge.