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On Paper.

Posted by Dirck on 25 January, 2011

I have spent a deal of effort in the past speaking of pens and inks, but I haven’t really addressed paper.  I realy oughtn’t address it, either, as I’ve not really made a study of it, but as this is the internet I will adopt the licence in which the urge to comment equates to scholarship.

Most paper the modern person is apt to run up against is, to be blunt, dreadful rubbish.  Loosely composed, it entices ink to feather, which is shorthand for “make a much thicker and fuzzier line than you’d like,” and to bleed through, which is shorthand for “well, I guess I’m only using one side of this page for my notes.”  Part of making paper, in the industrial sense, is running through great rollers to press it flat.  If it’s just lightly pressed, it costs less to make, and the profits can be higher.  Likewise, the less attention the initial fibres get, the cheaper.  The old pulp magazines got their name from the horribly cheap paper they were printed upon– loosely compressed and chunky of fibre.

Modern mass-market paper gets away with being cheap because ball-points don’t particularly mind it that way.  Using goop rather than ink, there’s little worry about feathering or bleedthrough.  In this, I will grudgingly admit that these modern things have a slight advantage over fountain pens, although a pencil is still the better way to approach a crossword or sudoku in the newspaper.  To a fountain pen, there’s not a lot of difference in a cheap paper and a sheet of paper towel.

This is not to say that expensive papers are necessarily the very thing for a fountain pen.  I’ve got some evidently quite nice 100% cotton paper which has been specially prepared for ink-jet printers, the effect of which is to all but stop the flow of ink out of my pens– every stroke is like the very last bit of ink left in the feed.  What got me onto this line was using a Rhodia notebook a couple of nights ago, and discovering that the Wancher ink in today’s pen was sitting atop the paper, not quite drying.  I’ve seen this in some other coated papers, but it was interesting to find it in what is widely considered the best sort of paper for the fountain pen user.

I know I’ve mentioned previously the need to get pens and inks to agree.  Paper is less pivotal, but is none the less an important part of enjoying the writing experience.  I’ll finish with a couple of recommendations, one of which is slightly costly, the other less so.  The former is G. Lalo stationery, some of which is produced by a 400-year old subsidiary, and which is an absolute delight to write upon.  The latter is Fraser Paper’s Magna Carta, although in looking for a link I find they’ve been bought out so this may be a suggestion to seek out the remaining reams in your local Big Box office supply store.  Alas.  For note taking, the bagasse lines at Staples (no link for you, gargantua) is generally quite good, too.

Today’s pen:  Sheaffer Valiant vacuum variant
Today’s ink: Wancher Imari (the blue one)

3 Responses to “On Paper.”

  1. Palimpsest said

    When testing different kinds of nibs (attached to nib holders) I found that most performed appallingly on the Rhodia notebook – either refused to write or dispensed too much ink. Except for the Sergent-Major nib which did not mind what kind of paper it was used on. I also used different types of ink in my tests. I guess it must be the coating on the Rhodia.

    • That’s interesting, because Rhodia products in general are universally cried up as very good for fountain pens, and in most encounters with their paper I’ve been on side. Actually, an earlier entry in the same book went along with less trouble– perhaps Rhodia doesn’t want Moleskine to be the sole holder of a reputation for paper which reacts to fountain pens in an inconsistent manner.

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