Tag Archives: Paper

Wonder Pens in The Grid!

The Grid came for another visit to our neck of the woods, this time for a closer look at some of the stuff we have in the shop. It is always exciting when someone comes to ask questions about the differences between paper and inks and pens and who are these crazy folks still using this stuff? Nancy Tong came for the chat, and Reynard Li came for the photos.

Special thanks to Reynard, who had to suffer through taking photos of me and Jon – a situation way too reminiscent of other photo “opportunities” where Jon is too tall and I’m too short and we’re both too awkward to smile properly.

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Hope you can pick up a copy of The Grid and check out what you can browse in store or online!

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.

Original Crown Mill Classic Laid Writing Paper

We’ve just brought in some new things from Original Crown Mill! We have the Classic Laid and the 100% Pure Cotton.

I’m a sucker for the really nice writing paper. The Classic Laid in cream is what I’m talking about today, mainly because I love textured paper and having just a bit of feedback when I write – the sound and feel of the nib against the paper! If you’re going for smoother paper, you will want to look at the 100% Pure Cotton.

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Original Crown Mill Classic Laid Writing Stationery – in cream or white!

We had been thinking about Original Crown Mill Paper and debating back and forth on it for a while now. We had been holding off on it because we had already had G. Lalo stationery in, but the recent delays in getting the A5 G. Lalo papers in spurred us to bring in the new line.

The paper is replicated from the very original handmade sheets made by monks in Belgium, which may be the ultimate in romantic beginnings. It’s now made by Pelletier, a Belgium company, who has expanded the line to include envelopes and cards and other paper things. The Classic Laid Paper is available in cream or white, with corresponding envelopes.

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A sheet with guide lines on it for the neatest writing.

I love that a tablet or pad of this paper comes with a guide sheet of lines! It’s the first page you tear off, and it is very, very useful. You tear it off and place it directly underneath the sheet you’re writing on so you can just see the shadow of the lines underneath. I know school teachers are supposed to be able to write in straight lines, but it never hurts to have some help 🙂

However, you can see the grid of textured lines across the page, which should help you write neater lines even without the guide sheet. It has lines as the Verge de France paper from G. Lalo. They’re not quite as pronounced as the G. Lalo, but it’s still quite evident.

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You can just see the texture of the paper.

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Writing Sample on Original Crown Mill Classic Laid Writing Paper with a Serwex 362 and Sailor Jentle Ultramarine.

The writing sample is done with a Serwex 362 and a fine nib, and the ink is Sailor Jentle Ultramarine. The Serwex is quite a wet writer, and combined with the absorbency of the paper the lines look like a medium –and without any feathering! The paper really is quite absorbent, but handles the ink quite well. You can see the sheen of the ink just on the edges of the letters, where the ink has pooled slightly – nice and crisp.

The absorbency also means pretty good dry time – not that you would want to rush any of those letters. It might not fare so well with drier pens or EF nibs, as it just soaks up the ink. It’s nice and thick 100 gsm paper, so no bleed through at all from this writing.

The “vergeures” or lines are just slightly less than the lines from the G. Lalo Verge de France paper.

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Perfect for a thank you or a note to brighten someone’s day.

In addition to the beautiful paper, the beautiful design of the Original Crown Mill name on the packaging makes me think that a set of paper and envelopes would make a great gift – mailed to a friend or family member, what a wonderful way to begin a correspondence across a distance.

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