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Ink, Paper, and Moleskine

07/28/2008

Recently I was asked about ink performance and brands of paper. Color ranks number one for me but performance matters. After much experimentation and frustration with inferior brands of paper, I settled on a few favorites that work well with virtually any pen or ink. Sticking with the same paper adds consistency to my test results and using good paper eliminates feathering and bleed-through.

The remaining key issue for me is drying time. Generally the higher the color saturation, the slower an ink dries. Using a very fine nib compensates slightly by laying down a smaller amount of ink. So I tend to use more highly saturated inks in fine and extra fine nibs and I know what to expect when I don’t.

The paper that seems to evoke the strongest opinions is made by Moleskine. Love it or hate it Moleskine says “cool” better than anything currently on the market. Admittedly the journals are handy and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The buff paper and pale blue lines make for a very classy, vintage-looking journal.

Moleskine paper is highly unpredictable though and not always friendly to fountain pen ink. Sticking a blotter paper or any absorbent paper between pages reduces smudging but feathering is a given with most inks. However, Noodler’s Black, Legal Lapis (a Pendemonium exclusive) and J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune with a vintage Parker “51” worked well for me during my Moleskine phase. If you’ve discovered good pairings, post a comment. That’s information lots of folks could use.

The sketchbook of Vincent van Gogh (1888–1890)

The sketchbook of Vincent van Gogh (1888–1890)

14 comments

  1. Thank you for responding so well to my question. Generally, I use Waterman Ink in black or blue-black on Moleskine with good results. I haven’t been pleased with Shaeffer black ink with a medium nib – it feathered badly. I wrote about that here: http://austinspub.blogspot.com/2008/07/ink-quality.html

    However, your comments about trying a variety of brands, colors and papers in different combinations inspired me to order more ink. So, I have ordered, Noodler’s Marine Green and Waterman’s brown to compare with the Shaeffer Skrip Brown that I have. By the way, unlike their black ink, I have found the Shaeffer brown to yield very satisfying results on Moleskine and various types of ivory/buff stationary and note cards, using a Pelikan 215 F.P. The combination of brown ink on ivory paper produces a wonderful old world look. I imagine Captain Aubry filling in the log books for the HMS Surprise. I would like to try a brown-black but have not seen that combination. Maybe I’ll try mixing it myself.

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  2. Brown ink ranks very high with me and has taken up a significant portion of my ink shelf. Hard to go wrong with a color that is so versatile.

    One word of caution on mixing your own brew. Sometimes inks don’t play well together even when they are manufactured by the same company. To prevent any damage to a favored pen, mix a small quantity and set your concoction out for a time to see if particles form or anything else happens that could be trouble. No need to deal with a major cleaning issue when what you really want is to put your pen to good use at what it does best.

    For more information about how to mix inks, check out Inky Thoughts at http://www.FountainPenNetwork.com.

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  3. Pilot birdie fine nib works great with Aurora Black or Waterman Florida Blue ink. The pen is a dry writer that lays down a very fine line, so I assume it will work well with most inks.

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  4. My best combination by far is Noodler’s Walnut (a brownish-blackish color which looks great on Mskine paper) with a smooth fine-medium P51 Aerometric. Very reliable. Waterman Green in a fine Sheaffer Lifetime Junior and Pelikan BlueBlack in a medium Caran d’Ache Ecridor is also good. I get bad feathering from these, no matter the nib: Herbin Vert Empire, Vert Olive & P de Lune, YardOLed Sepia (really bad), Rohrer&Klingner Alt-Bordeaux, Sailor RedBrown (beautiful color though!). Conclusion so far: always Noodler’s Walnut until my Mskine is finished and I can finally switch to better notebookpaper.

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  5. Thanks for adding your experience, matje. It certainly proves that performance is unpredictable. Two of my first vintage fountain pens were a P51 Aero and a P51 Vac. Both had fine nibs and worked beautifully with Herbin P de Lune on Moleskine purchased four or five years ago. Some folks think the older paper was better quality. Admittedly the most recent journal that I purchased was not fit for use with any of my usual inks. Great for pencil though.

    What paper do you plan to try next? I’m still looking for a Moleskine replacement with cream colored paper and pale blue or gray lines. Nothing beats the look of it at least for me.

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  6. i should also add the nice experience of Waterman Havana in a fine P51 Aero Demi. Works fine in the Mskine.

    inkophile – in terms of paper I have stocked up with Oxford Office (Optik Paper) A5 at work. Similar quality to Clairefontaine. At home I have a small box stocked with unused Clairefontaine A6 notebooks, and small Rhodia pads. I hear Apica is great as well. In terms of goodlooking notebooks, a la Mskine, I haven’t found my choice yet. Either the colorful Cfontaines or any black cover brand with a good reputation that I haven’t tried. From notebookism and blackcover it seems there are some alternatives. And the German Leuchtturm brand looks like a hot new conservative black notebook kid on the block. I’m certainly not buying overpriced Mskines again.

    By the way – I enjoy your blog, thanks.

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  7. Glad you like my blog. Do come back and comment often.

    Never tried Havana in a Moleskine but will give it a go. Is your P51 a dry writer? Some of my Pilot pocket pens are a bit stingy and might be just right for those feather-prone journals.

    No Oxford Office around here but Clairefontaine and Apica are available online. The former has line spacing that is a bit wider than I like but I am very happy with Apica. The 6A10 is my daily journal and works well with all of my favorite inks. A few feather on it but they feather on other paper as well. The 6A10 has slightly absorbent paper though the CD pads and notebooks do not. Another advantage to Apica is the variety of paper sizes. The smallest ones fit anywhere and are thin enough for a hip pocket.

    Rhodia is my favorite brand when I need a spiral pad. In fact I often use it as lined stationery and hope my correspondents are not offended. The blank pads suit my meager attempts to sketch as well. Never had a problem with feathering or slow drying on Rhodia and it is white enough to show ink colors accurately. Easy to like a product that delivers so well.

    This is the first I’ve heard of Leuchtturm. No U.S. distributor turned up in my search but I did find it at http://www.deskstore.se. They sure look like Moleskine but are more expensive. Numbered pages and side margins should appeal to a lot of users. It even comes in an A4 size for people who have lots to write. Thanks for the tip. I’ll watch for them at my usual stockists.

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  8. well, both my medium P51 Aero and my fine P51 Demi Aero are “just right” or “lagom” (as we say in Swedish) in terms of dryness/wetness. I find that a dry fine nib can be frustrating because it doesn’t “allow” the ink to really show off, but my P51 Demi is lagom, just between wet and dry, if that’s possible to understand…

    Please note that the large Leuchtturm you can see at Deskstore.se is A4+, meaning 225×315 mm. It actually feels HUGE(have seen it live in a different store). And although the price for the pocket version is more than I would like to pay, it seems to be much thicker than ordinary Mskine.

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  9. “Lagom” is a useful word and much more concise than any English equivalent. You’ve inspired me to ink my remaining P51. I used to like it with R&K Verdigris but maybe one of my newer acquisitions would be more interesting…

    Yes, the A4 would be large for my needs. Whilst reading old posts at Blackcover.com, I found a journal from Picadilly (http://piccadillyinc.com/currently_available.htm) that should be easy to acquire here so I’m going to try that one next.

    Thanks for reminding me about the Blackcover site. It’s grown considerably since my last visit. There are lots of good reviews though it would be even more useful if they would test fountain pens along with the rollerballs and BICs. Hard to imagine being into journals as they are without enjoying fountain pens as well but I might be considered a bit biased in that regard. 😉

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  10. i don’t understand their BIC-texting at all. everyone knows how bics behave or can imagine how they behave, on different kinds of paper. no need for testing. if they would at least concentrate on rollerballs and gels i could begin to understand 🙂 but as i think you say, a good site would be great if they include FPs for testing the notebooks.

    How is R&K Verdigris? What color is it? Blue, green, grey or all of the above?

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  11. Your BIC remark made me chuckle. Indeed, who doesn’t know how a BIC behaves.

    Verdigris is a blue-black with a hint of green and fairly saturated. I have what I think is a written sample of Pelikan 4001 BBk that looks quite similar. If you would like a written sample, let me know by email.

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  12. If only I had a buck for each time I came here… Incredible article.

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  13. I’ve found that a Lamy Blue, Black and Blue-Black (bottled, iron-gall) all work well in a Lamy Safari F with Moleskine. The black is not quite as well behaved but still works good. Also, I recently have been using R&K Scabiosa (iron-gall) in a Cross Century Classic EF with stellar results.

    Another plug for Lamy Blue. It’s really under-rated in my opinion. It’s not water-resistant, but it behaves superbly on lesser quality paper. It’s my daily ink for underlining, marginalia and note-jotting. Plus, the bottle is so user-friendly.

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    • One of these days I’ll have to crack open a bottle of Lamy just to see what all the praise is about. Scabiosa is another ink I’d like to try. Thanks for the suggestions.

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