Shimmering inks have become very popular in the last year and it’s largely thanks to Stormy Grey. Stormy Grey is part of J. Herbin’s “1670” line of fountain pen inks. 1670 inks are highly saturated and the original formulation of Rouge Hematite (the first ink in the line) was infamous for clogging pens. All four inks in the 1670 line now come with this warning label:
I only use these inks in my cheaper pens and ones that are easy to disassemble and clean.
Stormy Grey contains flecks of gold that tend to settle at the bottom of the bottle and in order to draw them up the bottle must be shaken, otherwise you are left with a much more plain dark grey ink.
Stormy Grey is a very wet ink (perhaps to compensate for the gold flecks?) and this translates to bleeding and feathering on more absorbent papers. The ink worked well on Rhodia but for more porous papers, a thin nib or dry pen is going to be a better match.
I have been using this ink for several weeks now and it performed trouble free in a number of pens until I put some in my TWSBI 580 with a 1.5mm stub nib. In the TWSBI I got spotty performance; sometimes it would write just fine and other times it would choke and skip.
Apart from some gold flecks left behind, Stormy Grey cleaned out of the pens I tested nicely; this was a nice surprise for a highly saturated ink.
Objectively, Stormy Grey is not a good ink but it is attractive and interesting. I can only recommend this ink as a curiosity; it is not a serious every day ink and but putting this stuff in your pen you are risking a clog.
Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks has become incredibly popular in the last couple of years thanks to its agreeable performance and excellent color palette. Despite Iroshizuku’s success Pilot still produces it’s original more affordable ink line that is simply branded as “Pilot” (or “Namiki …or “Pilot/Namiki”).
It is my understanding that these inks have a ph of over 7 making them basic and as such I would caution against putting them in a pen where ink makes direct contact with celluloid.
This line comes in bottle and cartridge formats. The cartridges only fit Pilot and Namiki pens. There are seven colors produced in the cartridge format. In bottle format I have only seen three colors: blue, black, and blue black.
Pilot Blue Black is a bit pale for my tastes but the upshot is some nice subtle shading. The ink provides some good lubrication, making it a great choice for dryer writing pens. I had no issues with bleeding or feathering. I also saw no nib creep (as is common for lubricating inks). I found that this ink was easy to clean out unlike Pilot Blue which has a tendency to stain.
Packs of 12 cartridges go for $7 and 60ml bottles go for $12. The affordable price makes Pilot Blue Black a great workhorse ink that would be appropriate for the office and general correspondence.
Amatruda’s Amalfi paper is the most beautiful handmade paper I have used to date. It is a 100% cotton rag paper with a 100 lb weight (approximately 148 gsm). It is soft and in hand it drapes like a fabric. Needless to say this a very special paper.
Amatruda has been producing paper since 1390, making it one of the oldest paper mills in Europe. The Amalfi paper is a traditional handmade paper.
This paper comes in a various formats and colors and like most wonderful papers is annoyingly difficult to find in the United States. There are some good online retailers who sell this paper but the format and color options are quite limited.
I purchased a stationery set in the ivory color and it contains twenty A4 sheets and envelopes for $38. At this price it definitely will not be my everyday writing paper.
The sheets and envelopes have deckled edges though on the sheets I received the right edge seems to be a bit more deckled than the rest. I am not sure if this is a characteristic of the paper in general or of the batch I received.
The Amalfi Crest watermark is pressed into the paper making it much more visible than a normal watermark. It is very easy to feel with your finger but surprisingly I couldn’t feel it when writing over it. This paper is also available with an angel watermark.
Amalfi has a nice texture to it and I found it provided pleasant feedback.
The only pen that I tested that bled was the Pilot Hi Tec Point 1.0mm gel pen. None of the fountain pens I tried including the 2.4mm Pilot Parallel bled.
I experienced no ghosting and none of the gel ink from the Hi Tec Point came through to the back of the page. I was also able to clearly see my ruled guide sheet underneath this paper, a nice bonus for a thick paper.
Amalfi is my favorite paper to date but I am not happy with the formats available in the USA. I have only been able to find the writing sheets sold in sets and I am too cheap to pay for the envelopes. If anyone knows of a place that sells only the sheets please let me know.
Later this week I will be reviewing another handmade cotton paper, Fabriano’s top-of-the-line Secolo XIII and will provide a comparison to the Amalfi; it will be a battle of the handmade paper titans…
Life Bank Paper is a smooth woven paper that I really like for its high quality and simplicity. They are sold in pad of 100 sheets and packages of 20 envelopes in A4 and A5 sizes. I purchased the A5.
I do not know the weight of this paper but my guess is that it is somewhere between 90 and 100 gsm based on comparisons with other papers. The paper is thin enough that I can use a guide sheet to keep my sentences straight (something I really need help with).
The pad has a nice pink blotter page. The paper handles fountain pen ink with flawless performance.
No bleed-through no feathering. The paper is thin so you do get some ghosting but it’s not enough to bother me.
The envelopes paper lined and have a very faint unusual embossing (?)
Maybe it’s a watermark but it seems pressed into the paper and holding it up to the light makes it harder to see. The other strange thing is that it appears to be printed backwards as if you are to read it from the inside of the envelope but you can’t because they have a paper lining. As a sanity check I looked at the other envelopes and they are all done this same way.
The embossing or whatever it is reads “THREE DIAMONDS”; I don’t know what it refers to. I also am not sure why they call it bank paper. It’s a simple woven paper not something that you would use for bank notes.
…anyways I paid about $7 for the pad and $6 for the envelopes when I was in Japan. I really wish I had bought a lot more of the pads because they cost approximately the same as an A5 Rhodia pad. In the United States the prices I have seen are a lot higher, $20-$22 for the pad only and that price I wouldn’t bother.
I have been informed that this paper is actually manufactured by Mitsubishi, hence the watermark “THREE DIAMONDS”. According to Mr. Taut this paper’s originates from the Mitsubishi Group’s banking activities, the most visible of these being Japan’s largest bank, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.
Smythson of Bond Street is a stationery and luxury goods manufacturer that holds three proper Royal Warrants.
Smythson’s focus these days appears to be on overpriced luxury leather products rather than the stationery that made them famous.
The good news is that Smythson still makes a lot of excellent papers. By my count there are fourteen different writing papers; that is far more than any of their competitors (namely the Wren Press, Dempsey & Caroll, and Crane & Co.).
I will be reviewing twelve different Smythson writing papers in a two three part review.
Per my understanding Smythson papers are all made in the United Kingdom out of 100% wood pulp. The absence of cotton or linen makes these papers highly suitable for use with fountain pens.
Cotton and linen papers are generally considered superior to ones made out of wood because they can last much longer. If you are signing important documents that you expect to be around for 500+ years then cotton is the way to go. If you want to maximize the joy of writing with fountain pens wood papers are far superior (and with some care can last as long as 200 years).
All of Smythson’s papers carry the watermark shown below (with the exception of one special paper that I will cover in Part 2).
Because the paper is produced in a larger format than it is sold, most sheets do not have a complete watermark and this is especially true if you buy the Kings format that I prefer. Kings writing sheets are similar to A5 but are slightly taller and wider measuring W16 x H20.5 cm. Writing sheets are sold in packs of 50 for $15. All of the papers cost the same but most unfortunately most of them are not available in store or online. You will have to call Smythson and specifically request them ( I will discuss which ones these are later on).
Also it should be noted that the sheets I have used here (with the exception of the Featherweight paper) are from a personalized stationery sampler and as such have the name of the paper and weight engraved on the top left corner.
Lastly, before we jump into the individual reviews, I am sorry to say that all twelve of these papers are wonderful and there isn’t one I wouldn’t recommend. It is a bit anticlimactic to read through this two part post to learn that they are all excellent but it is what it.
White Wove (110 gsm / 29lbs)
This paper is lightly textured and handles fountain pen ink very nicely. Feedback on this paper is very minor; pens glide nicely over the surface even though it’s not glass smooth. Minimal feathering and almost not bleed through. The back is ever so slightly smoother than the front and you can write on both sides no problem.
Cream Wove (140 gsm / 37 lbs)
Similar texture as White Wove but thicker. To me the White Wove is a bit more elegant with a more delicate but sturdy feel. The performance is the same as White Wove though I so no bleed through at all.
Mayfair White Linen (135 gsm / 36 lbs)
This paper and the Mayfair Smooth White are the whitest papers in the Smythson line. Despite being called White Linen this paper is 100% wood pulp and as a result it works beautifully with fountain pen ink unlike most papers made out of real linen. The gorgeous linen texture provides more feedback than the other finishes but still works very nicely with my pens.
I do make an effort though to hold the page while writing as nibs can grab. This paper has no bleed through and no feathering that I can see. The back of the page is much smoother than the front and you can write on both sides of the paper.
Mayfair Smooth White (135 gsm / 36 lbs)
Same color and weight as Mayfair White Linen but with a smooth finish. It is smoother than Rhodia’s 80 gsm paper and comparable to Clairefontaine’s 90gsm. In other words, this is on par with the smoothest paper on I own. Performance is excellent. No bleeding nor any noticeable feathering. I highly recommend this paper for finer scratchier nibs.
Ermine White Laid (115 gsm /30 lbs)
This paper is the most off white of the papers that Smythson calls “white”. Laid paper has a ribbed texture to it and is an older form of paper making. In most mills laid paper was superseded by wove paper. This paper is smooth on the back but you can write on both sides. This paper does not feather but because of the ribbed texture lines may look slightly less clean.
I saw no bleed through on this paper and overall it is the best performing laid paper I have ever owned. If you want to see what bad laid paper looks like see my review of Original Crown Mill’s laid paper.
White Matt (150 gsm / 39 lbs)
This is simply a heavier version of White Wove. The finish and color is exactly the same. I saw no bleed through once so ever on this paper where the White Wove had the slightest signs of spotting. This is a nice paper but I prefer the lighter White Wove.
As a general rule, I do not purchase ink while traveling. My reasoning is that if a $15 bottle of ink breaks in my luggage I would be out hundreds of dollars in ruined clothes. Yes, I broke my rule.
On my way out of Itoya in Tokyo (after buying some pens I didn’t need) I saw some well-packaged mini bottles of Iroshizuku in a lovely presentation box and that was that…I picked the three colors I wanted and here we are: The Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo Fountain Pen Ink Review.
Yama-Budo in Japanese means “Crimson Glory Vine” and it is a pinkish burgundy color that I really like. Like all Iroshizuku inks, it performs beautifully, well-behaved with a good flow. This ink has really nice shading to it.
This ink isn’t really appropriate for a professional setting but it is a fun color that looks great in a demonstrator.
I am not sure I could go through a full-size 50ml bottle of this one but I feel confident that I will be able to make my way through 15ml.
Pelikan Fount India ink is an oddball ink. India inks (most often) contain binding agents like shellac that provide permanent and waterproof characteristics and consequently make them unsuitable for use in fountain pens (NEVER put real India ink in a fountain pen).
By making an “India-style” ink for use in a fountain pen you have to forgo the binding agent and you are left with a non-waterproof and non-permanent ink. So, you may be asking, “what’s the point?”
Unlike regular fountain pen ink, Fount India, has a thicker consistency that affords a very smooth lubricated feel on the paper. It is not the blackest fountain pen ink out there but it has a richness to it that few black inks can match.
It should be noted that unlike real India ink, Fount India dries matte and not glossy.
Because of it’s thicker consistency it can take a little bit to get the pen going after it has sat overnight but once it starts flowing the ink performs wonderfully. I have also noticed that this ink is especially prone to “nib creep”.
I really enjoy using this ink but I only use Fount India ink in my more affordable pens that are easy to dissemble as it is a bit harder to fully clean out. I have left the ink in my pens for three weeks without any consequences but I would urge caution when using a hybrid ink like this.
The LIFE Airmail letter set (LIFE L1096 + E26) offers both retro styling and an affordable price. I paid approximately $7 USD for the set which contains 10 “VIA AIR MAIL” envelopes and 50 sheets of onion skin paper. Purchased individually the pad is $5 and the envelope is $2.
For those not familiar with onion skin paper, it is a durable but thin transparent paper that resembles, you guessed it, the skin of an onion.
I wouldn’t dare use a fountain pen on a standard tracing paper but this LIFE onion skin paper is of excellent quality.
There is some very minor feathering with all of the fountain pens and the Pilot Hi-Tec Point gel pen but it is not enough to bother me.
I experienced no bleed through as evidenced by this perfectly clean template I used for the writing sample.
The guide sheet is double sided to accommodate different writing styles.
Because this paper is transparent you aren’t likely going to want to write on both sides.
The envelopes are my favorite part of the set.
They look great.
The envelopes feature self adhesive and have a security pattern on the inside which reads “TOKYO LIFE”.
Like all other LIFE products I have come across, the Airmail letter set is well executed and of a high quality. I would have liked to see a blotter page in the pad but that is a small gripe.
This year’s Montblanc Writer’s Edition celebrates Robinson Crusoe author, Daniel Defoe, with an unfortunately ugly pen. The good news is that the limited edition Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink is beautiful.
Palm Green is a dark yellowy green ink with great shading. The flow is about average and overall it is a well behaved ink. Dry time is on the longer side (though I was using a wetter pen than normal) and the ink is not waterproof.
I couldn’t find an ink that I had that was quite like it…its like a darker more green Alt Goldgrün.
This is my favorite limited edition ink Montblanc has come out with in the last few years. It’s not cheap at $19 per 35ml bottle but it’s such a nice color I think it’s worth it.
Side note: loved the label on the bottle as well as the packaging
Rhodia (and Clairefontaine) products have been a staple at my desk since middle school and there are not many formats I haven’t tried but the Rhodia DotPad # 38 and the Rhodia Clic Bloc mouse pad (review to come) fit the “new-to-me” criterion.
The #38 DotPad is the largest format top staple bound pad that Rhodia offers. It measures 16 ½” x 12 ½ “ and contains 80 sheets of Rhodia’s classic 80 g paper.
I purchased the #38 because I am currently using the end of my dining room table as a makeshift desk while I am in the process of remodeling and I was getting tired of juggling my Rhodia Reverse pad with my keyboard. Now I just sit the keyboard right on the #38 so that I don’t have to move my keyboard when I want to write a quick note.
The dot grid is the standard 5mm interval and Rhodia calls the dots “pale violet” in color but on the Black version that I have they look grey to me and are clearly different than the light purple color I see on my orange cover Reverse pads. The paper is micro perforated so it is very easy to tear out a page.
Using Rhodia’s standard 80 g weight paper, this pad does very well with fountain pen ink. Dry times are slower but tolerable and I use both sides of the paper without problem. I have been using the pad for a while now and I really like it. With a retail price of $16 and a street price closer to $13 it’s an affordable notepad that I plan to make a staple in my new office.