Back to basics – still use my first Safari

with F nib and Noodler's Black, on a squared Moleskine cahier

Even given all of the pens and inks that I own, which is quite a large quantity of both, when I am working (as opposed to messing about swapping pens) the one that I most often find myself picking up is the one pictured – a Safari with an F nib, filled with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black. I’m fairly sure this was the first Safari that I bought; you can tell it’s an old one since they discontinued models with the black clip a little while ago.

Some people dislike Safaris, but apart from not liking the angled grip (which is fair enough) I can’t quite see the reasons.

  • Safaris are cheap. Well, not cheap-cheap but they’re not very expensive.
  • They’re also quite easily available, though if you want different nibs (see below) you’ll likely have to order over the net.
  • They’re light, yet surprisingly durable. This one is several years old and doesn’t have a single crack, and not even many scratches. Plastic construction doesn’t mean fragility – after all, look at Parker 51s, they have plastic bodies and are regularly in working order after 50+ years. This plus the price mean that they’re good for carrying in almost any circumstance – hiking, warzones etc.
  • They’re large enough to feel good in the hand and not get lost, but not so large that they’re silly.
  • They have slip caps, but the caps actually come off less in my bag than most screw cap pens I own. And if you’re working, and you pick up and put down your pen quite a lot, a slip cap is much more convenient and less annoying than a screw cap.
  • You can swap out the nibs with great ease, and new nibs are cheap, and there are many types – not only EF to B, but also italics from 1.1 to 1.9mm, and you can even get such things as broad and medium obliques. They’re also generally good quality – Lamy use the same nibs for Safaris and also some higher-end pens – although I’ve never been hugely impressed by the EFs.
  • They come in a variety of bright and pleasant colours, but aren’t over-ornamented. This makes it easy to have a selection with different nibs and inks and quickly tell which is which.

If it weren’t for the Safari, I probably wouldn’t have revived my interest in fountain pens at all, which does make me well-disposed to them in general, but if it weren’t for the simple “pick-up-and-write” usability of them I’d just be nostalgic and not a continuing user.

Leuchtturm Jottbook

I recently acquired three small softcover A6 notebooks made by Leuchtturm, a Swedish company that I’ve seen more about recently, and already own a few notebooks from. These are called “Jottbooks” – they’re around the same size as, and fit a similar niche to, the pocket Moleskine cahiers, Field Notes, and the Clairefontaine “Life Unplugged” notebooks. So I will write about them.

Construction and design

Like the Moleskines, they are stitched rather than stapled, which makes them easier to open flat(-tish) at any page, rather than just at the middle. (They won’t lie flat, but when you are using them, they don’t try to spring back into shape.) The covers are rather nice – shiny, textured, plasticky, like some sort of leatherette, tough but thin – they come in a good selection of bright colours as well. The feel of the covers as well as the colour selection makes the design feel quite 60s, in a good way, and definitely more durable than the card covers of Moleskines and Field Notes.

Inside, like other Leuchtturm notebooks, they start with a page for your name and address, then have a place for an index. The Jottbooks only have one index page with only 19 rows, so you won’t be writing the contents of every page in it – the larger notebooks have more index pages. (You could always write on the back of the page if you run out of space, as it is blank.)

There are 60 pages in each book, leaving it quite thin but larger than a Field Notes. The last 32 of those are perforated at the sides for you to rip them out. I’ve never really felt the need to tear out more than a few pages in a notebook, and 32 perforated pages is way too many, in my opinion.

It doesn’t have a back pocket. Back pockets are a silly Moleskine feature, particularly in thin notebooks like this. You don’t need a back pocket.

With each Jottbook comes a pair of stickers, one with two lines on it and one blank. Presumably these are to apply to the outside or the inside of the cover and write a title or subject on.


The paper in Leuchtturm notebooks generally is good, and pretty much the same across the whole range. I don’t think the quality is quite as good as the Clairefontaines, but it is proper paper that you can use big fat wet pens with. (See the last image in the gallery above.) On occasion there is some very slight feathering, but no paper is perfect. It’s 100gsm apparently but isn’t thick.

It’s slightly yellowy/cream off-white – lighter than Moleskine, not as white as Field Notes or Clairefontaine.

Each page of the book after the name and index pages has a space for the date at the top and a page number at the bottom. This is slightly redundant for me as, reflexively now, I date every page I write anywhere and timestamp each entry, as well as numbering the pages in any sort of journal or book – I check my watch, write the time down, underline it and then continue with the note. I’ve trained myself to do this and it is incredibly useful and you should do it too – when looking back through notes it’s pretty vital to be able to see what order they came in and when you wrote them.

Anyway, it is good that Leuchtturm are encouraging people in these habits, but their printing doesn’t quite agree with my manual scheme. In my journal:

  • I write the date on the inner side of the top of the page, closest to the centre – the date that I started the page on the left hand one, and the date that I finished the page on the right hand one, so that I can immediately see which dates the two pages span.
  • I write the page number on the outer side of the top of the page, and I continue page numbers between journals. (I am currently 3/4 of the way through page 1349, for your information; I only started continuing page numbers relatively recently too.)

The former dating structure can be continued with the pre-printed date area, but I can’t journal using the printed page numbers, unless I record an “offset” for them at the start. On the other hand, I’m not going to be using these as main journals anyway, more special purpose notebooks or casual jotting things, and for those purposes pre-printed numbers are a bonus. In general, +1 for encouraging people to think about the archiving of notebooks and not just assume they are going to throw them away.

The Jottbooks I have are lined and squared. Leuchtturm do make notebooks with plain and dotted paper as well, but I’m not sure that they put it into the Jottbooks, or if they do you can’t buy them in the UK yet.

Why would one want a Jottbook?

You may or may not feel the need for pocket notebooks like these – I’m not sure that I do, my normal pocket “random thoughts” notebook is a Rhodia pad at the moment and I tend only to use little notebooks for special purposes like dream diaries or work on a specific project) – but I know that a lot of people do, and the Jottbook stands out in a number of areas.

  • The cover is great – tough, waterproof, thin, colourful, feels nice.
  • The book is stitched so durable and opens well at any point – small stapled books irritate me on this point (hello, Field Notes).
  • The paper is good quality and won’t feather and bleed, but it’s not so thick that you only get a dozen pages in the book. There are 60 pages too which is a fair number.
  • The pre-printed numbers save you having to do that yourself, and the structure keeps reminding you to date and index the book.
  • They’re not particularly expensive. I paid £2.99 for each one, and used a 3 for 2 offer. Unless you write vast quantities or use a triple-broad nib that isn’t going to add up to a huge amount of money per unit time.

The Official Chasing Daisies Thin Pocket Notebook Recommendation at the moment is thus either one of the Jottbooks, or a Clairefontaine “Life Unplugged” Duo. The latter have slightly nicer paper but are smaller, are staple-bound and don’t have quite such great covers. Swings and roundabouts really.

Purchased from…

Varuna Gajendra – sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

I recently took possession of what is, basically, the largest pen ever. I’m not entirely sure why I did: I did want to try writing with a really fat pen, as people say that they’re more comfortable, and the Tombow Egg Pen is not available as a fountain pen any more.

I ordered it from Andy’s Pens, which, while it might not look that modern and requires you to email the owner to order rather than having shopping carts and other e-commerce widgets, is a terrific site, with a huge variety of popular and obscure makes at good prices. I got a response to my email (sent in the middle of the night) in the early morning and had completed the transaction within minutes of reading it – the pen arrived the next day. It’s a pity that the design might put off some customers.

I ordered the black model with the “Bakul” finish and the standard Wality nib. I’ve had Wality nibs before, and they’ve been fine, so that didn’t bother me, and I liked the idea of the enormous capacity of the eyedropper chamber to go with the enormous size. The body of the pen is hand-made ebonite, and the Bakul finish is a slightly rough texture that’s given to it which is then polished to be quite smooth to the touch – if you have used a Lamy 2000, it looks and feels a lot like that.

Varuna Gajendra - capped vs some other pens Varuna Gajendra - uncapped vs some other pens

Construction and feel

It really is an enormous pen, mostly due to the huge size of the (screw) cap, which makes up about half the length – it is far larger than it needs to be to protect the nib. This makes it very easy to unscrew the two no matter how cack-handed you are, and very hard to lose the cap, two good aspects as far as I am concerned. It’s very easy to open and close as long as you have two hands free. There is no clip and the only visible feature is a breather hole in the cap – both a minimal and maximal pen.

When open, it isn’t all that much longer than any other largish pen. It is still, of course, a lot fatter. The body is 19mm in diameter, and the finger grip tapers from 14 to 12mm. The size of the body doesn’t matter that much in practice if you have a sensible grip, because all it does is rest against the side of your finger, and I found that the width of the grip was comfortable and probably ergonomic in some sense. (Small hands might have problems with it, I couldn’t say.)

The pen is is surprisingly light in the hand – the site says it is 50g when full, which isn’t much, and that includes the cap, which you won’t have in your hand when writing. It is not easily pocketable unless you have ridiculous clown pockets, but it fits into bags easily enough.

Varuna Gajendra - front section and nib Varuna Gajendra - uncapped, with cap

Nib and performance

This model of the Gajendra is an eyedropper filler, which means that the whole back section is an ink reservoir, which you fill using (traditionally) an eyedropper1, one of which came with the purchase. The reservoir holds 7ml or more of ink. That is a lot of ink and you will not, in practice, run out. For tests I loaded it with good old Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, and have had no trouble with this: the flow is fairly generous but not too wet, I’d say slightly on the wet side of average. It does have a tendency to be a little dryer than normal when starting up after being left for several hours; this is easily dealt with by re-priming the nib (i.e. unscrew it slightly, turn it upside-down and screw it up again – air in the reservoir forces a little bit of ink through the feed) or just by writing with it a bit.

The F Wality nib was smooth out of the “box”, though, being the picky2 sort of person I am, I smoothed it a little with a nail shaper to suit my preferences. It’s the same nib that was in the Airmail 69L that I’ve written about here previously, and that was also good (the one on my Airmail was better actually but stock nibs do vary ever so slightly). Normal people would not have to do this; I didn’t have to with the Airmail at all.

Why would I own this pen?

The most obvious target audience for a pen like this is people who prefer fat pens, either because they just like writing with and holding fat pens, or for some sort of medical reason – and there are a significant number of fountain pen users who fall into the latter category, from arthritis, RSI or whatever. Not only is it a tough and good-sized pen to hold but it is also easy to manipulate in almost every circumstance except filling, and you’d only have to do that every few years.

Even without these reasons, I’ve been using it as a standard writing pen for a few days now and it’s a generally very pleasant thing to write with. It’s much lighter than it looks, it is easy to grab and unscrew even when half asleep, the nib is well balanced in size, it is not going to suddenly run out of ink, and it isn’t going to break if you step on it. You may hurt your foot but the pen will be okay. The whole thing is extremely simple in structure, as is standard for eyedroppers, and there are no fiddly bits which will ever need work; the nib is pretty much all that would ever be likely to need changing.

It isn’t a good pen for people who want to show off, because it’s very subdued in design. At least, the black one I have is; they do come in colours as well, but nothing terribly flashy, and by design there is a complete lack of ornamentation. Despite the size I think it is very elegant. It could be a talking point when used in public, I suppose.

It is also not a terrific pen for people who will want to cap and uncap it to make rapid notes. Not only is it large, the cap screw is quite long. One could certainly use it in a meeting but would not want to fully screw up the cap between periods of writing. This would work. I will try it next time.

Final word because I am awful at finishing blog posts


Addendum (Monday 11 July 2011)

I was wondering whether the large size of this pen would insulate it from Eyedropper Heat-Related Blobbing, which is when heat from your hand or from the sun occasionally causes the air inside the reservoir of any large-capacity pen to expand and force ink out unexpectedly. (This is similar to pens leaking in aeroplanes, though that is caused by the air pressure outside the pen going down rather than the air inside the pen going up.)

The answer to this question is “no”. If you sit in the hot sun writing with it, expect to see the line get wetter and wetter and eventually, some ink blob out onto the page. So don’t do that. I’ve not found it to blob just from the heat of my hand though – the ink level would have to be pretty low for it to do that.

  1. I should really write a page about filling eyedroppers, not that it is hard at all, but it’s not a common mechanism these days and the idea might put people off. 

  2. I am absurdly picky about nibs and the slightest of scratches. This often leads to my ruining nibs because of a tiny imaginary scratching sensation that is probably due to some dust on the paper which I insist on trying to smooth out with unsuitable tools. I don’t advise this as general practice. 

Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen

This speciality fountain pen was released by Pelikan last year, but I hadn’t ordered one until now, when I just gave up trying not to. The concept is that it is (a) a demonstrator – i.e. has a transparent outer casing (b) has a BB (double broad) nib and (c) is to be loaded with highlighter ink. Yes, it is a highlighter fountain pen.

It comes in an absolutely lovely display box. This is the nicest packaging that I have seen for a fountain pen – even the fancier ones I have tend to come in little “jewelry boxes” which could contain anything, well, anything long and thin. In contrast, the M205 Duo’s packaging is very specific to the particular pen and suits it perfectly.

Pelikan M205 Duo box - 1 Pelikan M205 Duo box - 3 Pelikan and ink in display box

The pen itself is a standard M205, except that it is a yellow demonstrator. (If you have an M200, which I do, it’s basically the same pen but with silver trim instead of gold.) It’s smaller than it looks in the pictures, but not too small even for those of us with fat fingers, and extremely lightweight. It seems quite orange in the picture below, but it isn’t, really, that orange – that is the light.

The Duo comes with a 30ml bottle of Pelikan radioactive1 fluorescent highlighter ink, and again, we come up against the limits of photography: it is not as green as it looks in the photograph below. Though it does still have a bit of a green tinge.

Pelikan M205 highlighter fountain pen with ink

Here is a scan of some writing with it, which is heavily adjusted to try to make it a bit more obvious the difference in line widths. It’s basically impossible to scan fluorescent ink and have it look like real life. Let me emphasise that it this is just for nib size comparisons. What does the ink look like in practice? Imagine a particularly bright yellow highlighter that has not had a chance to dry out at all, and has been freshly uncapped. When considering the benefits of this sort of pen for use in practice, imagine that it will continue to be like that indefinitely, rather than drying out a bit and being disappointing (which has always happened with ink highlighters that I’ve used) and if it ever starts to run low you can just top it up. This is the benefit of a fountain pen highlighter, the regular flow.

The pen writes very smoothly, and if you are after a BB nib for other purposes apart from highlighting, an M205 BB nib unit will likely please you. The line is certainly thinner than you would normally get from a normal highlighter, which means that it is best for underlining and circling, but you can colour in larger sections if you really want to, and the size gives the advantage that you can also write short notes with it.

I was asked when showing this off whether you could use another ink and the answer is of course yes – it’s a piston filler and you can load it with any ink you fancy. You can also change the nib for a narrower one; I bought mine from Pelikan Pens, and they offer nib replacements pre-order, or you could buy another nib later on (Pelikans are very easy to change nibs with, the units just screw out and in again).

Why would you buy this?

The question is a fair one. I bought mine because… all right, I can’t really explain it, I just loved the idea. I don’t even do much highlighting, though I will be making an effort to do more.

You might buy it if

  1. you just love the idea;
  2. you do a lot of highlighting, have some disposable income, and want something high-quality to highlight with. This isn’t just a novelty item, it really is a good highlighting pen. The ink flow is regular and the nib, while broad, is still a lot more precise than a squishy felt tip. I couldn’t honestly tell you that it would save any money, but it would be a more effective tool.
  3. you want to buy a present for somebody who does a lot of highlighting, and likes pens. The box really is lovely. Do you have any academics, lawyers, students or other people who review a lot of paper papers in your life? Is it their birthday soon? Are you sure they wouldn’t rather have a case of wine? Bear in mind that you can buy this as well as a case of wine. Go on, they deserve it. It’s only money. You can’t take it with you.

  1. Ink may not actually be radioactive. 

Airmail 69L eyedropper fountain pen

I promised myself that I would not buy any more stationery until I had reviewed all of the items I had already bought, which is to be honest a ridiculous requirement, and the consequence is that I have just ordered some more. Perhaps this will teach me not to set myself such impossible goals to which I know I will not keep. I am therefore modifying the promise to be “at least one-in-one-out”. With this in mind, I have to review two items now, and the first might as well be the Airmail 69L eyedropper which I’ve been using for a couple of weeks now so can reasonably comment on.

Airmail 69L uncapped

The 69L is made in India – I understand that the company has two main lines, the Wality (I have a couple of these too) which is designed for export, and the Airmail, which isn’t, despite the name. I purchased mine from the seller ashishwakhlu via a sales post on Fountain Pen Network for a very reasonable sum, and at time of writing there are three left, but I understand that they are also for sale on eBay.

Airmail 69L eyedropper pen vs cartridges

You’ll see that it is pretty big – it might be a bit much if you have teeny tiny hands, though I didn’t find it too bad even though I mostly prefer smaller pens. You will also see that it holds a lot of ink. Some readers might not be familiar with the “eyedropper” filling mechanism – this is one of the earliest and simplest systems. Instead of inserting cartridges, or putting the nib into a bottle of ink and sucking some up with a piston or a squeezy sac, one just unscrews the top of the pen and pours ink into the reservoir. (The name “eyedropper” refers to the common use of an eyedropper to do this, and some antique ink bottles had integral eyedroppers in the caps. Some – e.g. the 4.5oz bottles of Noodler’s inks – still do, but otherwise you will need your own eyedropper, or syringe, or very small funnel, or miniature squid, or other).

Eyedroppers have their issues – they’re a bit awkward to fill on the move, they can be messy to fill, and when they are low on ink the heat from your hand can make the air in the reservoir expand slightly which results in the odd blob coming out of the nib. They do, however, excel in terms of simplicity (there’s simply nothing to be broken) and capacity. There is no filling mechanism to take up space inside the barrel and so the whole thing can be filled with ink. The Airmail holds about 4.5ml of ink, which is around 3 times as much as a piston-filler or gel pen, and you can easily see how much is left and top it up, say, before a trip or exam.

Airmail 69L writing sample

The nib is a fine one1, and of good quality – smooth and a comfortable writer. Combined with the huge capacity this means that you’re even less likely to run out of ink. I’ve not had any issues with starting or writing; flow seems good and regular. The pen feels tough and secure when held – thick plastic with a screw-on cap – but it is not heavy, and the balance is good, not too biased in any particular direction (I’ve not written with it posted, nor would I want to, but the cap is not too heavy). In terms of looks, I’m not a fan of showy pens, but I find the swirly purple colour attractive and not distracting – in any case it balances the simplicity of the transparent barrel.

Overall, I’m very happy with the Airmail. I have it loaded with Noodler’s Heart Of Darkness and it’s become a general go-to – comfortable and useful for all purposes, very much a “desert island pen”. Certainly for the money it’s of excellent quality, and if you like a fairly fine nib and do not have an issue with largish pens, I would definitely recommend it.

  1. I have four Indian pens in total, and they all seem to have pretty fine nibs, towards the Japanese definitions of “fine” and “medium” rather than the European ones, though somehow I think four pens from two different companies out of X millions produced over the years may not be necessarily representative. 

A Traveler’s Notebook supplier: Glassworks Studios

Fairly quick post, this: previously when I’ve referred to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook and related products, I’ve linked to The Journal Shop, because they were the only people I knew who sold them in the UK. I consider that a decent reason, and I certainly have no complaints about their service.

However, I recently found a link to another shop, Glassworks Studios, which is not specifically a stationery seller and thus probably does not google very highly for notebooks. They do however have an awful lot of Traveler’s Notebook accessories. Supplies of refills and basic products can be a bit erratic with different suppliers, and the Journal Shop has sold out of a lot of refills recently, and hasn’t had updates for months now.

I bought two of the lightweight paper refills from Glassworks and had them delivered very quickly at a good price. There is an important point to make here, though. They have a flat rate for delivery of £6.50 which is based on their general product line – clothes, bags, other heavy sorts of items. Obviously this is a bit much for a couple of items of stationery. I emailed them and they were very happy to send the refills by regular first class post, and refund me the difference. Apparently they are going to update their site with differential postage rates, but until that takes place, you are advised to:

  1. Order and pay as usual, including the delivery charge;
  2. Send them an email saying that you would like to have delivery by Royal Mail instead;
  3. Receive a refund.

(I did enquire whether this would be all right to mention for other people to use, and they said yes.)

Traveler’s Notebook: betrayal and reconciliation

After a while – in fact, on the 18th of October 2010, since I date my journal entries – the Traveler’s Notebook

  1. not lying flat
  2. having the knot at the back
  3. having the metal lump at the top
  4. not having a hard cover

were just a constant annoyance to me. I was looking around at other journals and eventually, after filling five refills (enough for one of their binders) I bought a small Habana notebook and started to use that.

Stopping using the Traveler’s Notebook was quite easily the most emotionally traumatic stationery-related experience that I have ever had. I felt guilty, like I’d betrayed a trust, like I was mistreating a loving and blameless pet. Like in Breakfast At Tiffany’s where she throws the cat out. I had to hide it behind things on the shelf to stop it looking at me with its wide notebook eyes, not quite understanding why it wasn’t being used but still sure that it loved me and I still loved it and soon we would be having happy notebook fun just like before.

Apart from the supremely tactile experience of just picking the thing up, and the way that it gradually molds itself to your hands and habits, the Notebook balances being refillable with being simple enough to feel like an intrinsic part of your writing.

Let’s start with the refillability: there’s a continuity of the physical aspect of your notebook, no matter how long you write in it. In fact, the dual refill structure is quite cunning – I found that I would finish refill #1, have another one behind it, start refill #2 feeling as if it was just a simple continuation of the previous one, then, after a little while, remove refill #1 and put blank refill #3 behind #2. In other words, you’re writing in a notebook with endless pages. I write an awful lot – observations, self-indulgent diarising, work plans, ideas for characters and games and widgets and plots, a lot of testing of pens and inks – and an average A5 notebook lasts me about a month if I am lucky – this is not enough time to really become attached to one, even something otherwise quite characterful (e.g. the Paperchase Noto which I should write about that at some point). I’m afraid that as good as Webnotebooks are they’re really not individually lovable.

Then there’s the simplicity and, er, intrinsicality. A ring binder or a Filofax is refillable, after all, and I could technically carry an A5 ring binder around and top it up with blank paper, but folders just never to me feel like they are all that connected with what they contain. They’re storage mechanisms rather than things to write in. As for Filofaxes, I admit that I’ve never used one so I might be underestimating their level of personal character, but they’ve always seemed like rather fiddly devices, with metal clips and thick covers and teeny tiny refills on thin paper half the size of the cover. The Traveler’s Notebook is so simple in itself that when you put a refill in it, the paper feels as if it has grown there. The word “refill” itself seems inappropriate. (Midori also encourage you to add things to the structure of your notebook and its contents, pen loops and pockets and such, just to tie you cruelly to their product line.)

It doesn’t hurt, incidentally, that the plain refills use the best paper that I’ve ever written on. I cannot think of a single aspect of it that I don’t like – it’s gorgeous. I prefer it even to Rhodia paper, which is saying something.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve gone back to using the Traveler’s Notebook regularly. I find that the leather has softened and become molded to a degree that means the knot is less bothersome, and the soft cover is not bothering me nearly as much as it used to. Also, it loves me. If only I could now ignore the looks coming from my OHTO Tasches.

Rohrer & Klingner Salix

R&K ink bottles - 1 Since I first discovered that there were inks apart from black Quink, blue Quink and red biro, I have been fond of blue black inks, despite the problem of them rarely actually being blue or black. For instance, Waterman Blue Black, which is one of the most used, dries to be a distinct turquoise, which is sort of vaguely blueish I suppose but has no connection to the name at all. (Quink Blue Black is apparently identical to it nowadays, incidentally, due to companies being consolidated – I certainly can’t see any difference.)

I first tried Rohrer & Klingner inks when I saw that they had an purple iron-gall ink called Scabiosa, which is rather an unpleasant name for a nice ink that behaves much like J Herbin Poussière de Lune but with more shading and permanence. I don’t hear an awful lot about R&K inks on the net, but the three that I’ve tried so far seem to be good performers – all fairly dry so you do need a fairly wet pen.

R&K Salix vs some other inks - 1 Anyway, Salix. As you can see from the pictures in this post I tested it first with a Lamy 2000 with a broad nib, which was loaded with Lamy Blue Black when the Salix arrived. It behaves very much like Lamy BB – I’ve read that it is “drier” but I can’t see that myself. It flows well and consistently.

As an iron gall ink, just like Lamy BB, it doesn’t feather or bleed even on this relatively cheap paper, and shades significantly. Drying time is good and fast, there is no smearing and it is extremely waterproof. (Soaking the paper in water and swooshing it around a bit just resulted in the paper tearing rather than the ink.)

R&K Salix vs some other inks - 2 The major difference between it and the Lamy BB is that it’s noticeably more blue, though not really blue in comparison to blue inks. (Lamy BB simply is not blue when it dries, I’m sorry. At least it’s not turquoise.) I prefer either dark or muted blues, myself, so that’s fine for me, but if you’re looking for an iron gall Waterman Blue this is not it. It’s quite similar to Pelikan Blue Black in colour; it reminded me a bit of J Herbin Bleu Nuit, a little greyer.

I then tried it with a glass dip pen, and the results were much less distinct. The dip pen tends to produce a quite thick line of ink, and when thick layers of iron gall ink dry, they go a dark black regardless of what other colours are present, so the comparison is not that useful, but I made it anyway. I also threw in some Pelikan BB and some Diamine Registrar’s Ink too.

So far I’m fond of this ink – respectable colour but with enough shading to stop it being boring, more vibrant on the page than the Lamy BB (which does get a bit dull to look at after a while) and with all the handy qualities of other iron gall inks, waterproofness, no feathering etc. I think I’ll keep it in the 2000 B for a while, or at least until I get some my next bottle of ink.

Diamine Majestic Blue ink

majestic blue nano pagemajestic blue ciak journal I have had some believable recommendations for Diamine Majestic Blue, so I decided to try a bottle. You can see the results to the right, there; the full page is with a Lamy 2000 B nib, as part of my NaNoWriMo effort, and the other is part the same pen and also another Lamy 2000 with an M nib.

The colour of this ink is extremely pleasant – and this is speaking as somebody who doesn’t generally like blue inks. It’s distinguished, vibrant and noticeable without being garish. The ink has a lovely metallic reddish sheen as it dries, too, which shows when the light is at certain angles. It flows extremely well, generously and reliably.

It would be pretty much a perfect ink if it wasn’t for the fact that it smears not only just after it has been written with, but for literally days afterwards, even with a dry finger. For my NaNoWriMo I was writing on 90gsm Oxford paper, which is relatively “shiny” though not amazingly so; no other ink I used had that problem to anywhere near that degree. I did try it on several other papers, for example my Habana journal, with the same result. The ink seems to sit on top of the paper forever instead of properly drying and settling in.

I’m afraid I can’t use an ink that smears to that degree. You can see the smearing on the NaNoWriMo page – that wasn’t due to any sort of effort on my part, just opening and closing the book, moving my hand across it occasionally while counting words perhaps. It’s a shame, since apart from this smeariness it’s pretty much perfect, with a gorgeous colour and a lovely feel when writing. I may experiment in the future with diluting it, which might possibly help the smearing issue.

Paperchase “Creative Book”

I often wander around Paperchase looking for notebooks that:

  1. don’t have animals on them, or any sort of cute Japanese-esque design, or are covered with half an inch of frou-frou ornamentation that doubles the price (hello Paperblanks) but which still don’t look embarrassing;
  2. aren’t lined – I can get lined notebooks anywhere and I don’t want lines;
  3. open reasonably flat;
  4. aren’t too expensive.

Near the back of the shop they do have some practical but still attractive stationery, which will also take fountain pen ink. Here is an example that I picked up today.

Paperchase Creative Book set on Flickr

This is called a “Creative Book”. It is a fat sub-A4 squarish ring-bound notebook with a generous 140 pages of plain paper. This is nice paper – it didn’t bleed or feather when exposed to my most ridiculous fountain pen, a Lamy 2000 with a broad nib. (Edit: after some use, I can say that the paper is relatively absorbent, and spreads quite a bit, so even quite fine-nibbed fountain pens will be wider than normal.) The size is convenient for me as well. I find that ring-bound A4 notebooks tend to get a bit squashed when stuffed in a bag, and be a little too tall, but this fits well into my bag with the rings upwards.

Why would I want such a book? I have pocket notebooks coming out of my ears, but sometimes when coming up with ideas it just isn’t ideal to have to scrawl on a little Rhodia pad or Habana notebook where you flip pages every minute and can’t see what you’ve already written without flipping back. Maybe you want to draw a diagram, or sketch a picture or wireframe, or make a mindmap. I used to have an A4 squared book which was good for this, but the size did result in ring-squashage, and the exact model that I had is now apparently not on sale any more.

Paperchase do also make other types of notebook in this style, which I assume use the same paper. There are 80-page A4 books, lined and plain, as well as A5 and smaller, side-bound or reporter-style. The polypropylene covers are tough and attractively simple in design – they look like something you’d find in Muji, and I mean that as a compliment. They’re also relatively inexpensive as well; the Creative Book above was £4.50, and the A4 books were the same price. It’s very hard to get hold of decent quality plain paper notebooks on the high street these days, and while Paperchase is not on every high street it’s still a relatively common chain, so if you share similar priorities to myself you should take a look. (Even if you’re happy with lined paper, they do have a selection of lined notebooks in this range as well.)