Fast Foxes Finish First: SN^2 Paper


Azizah over at Gourmet Pens recently did a review of Ben Rowley’s paper, and it was thanks to her post that I managed to put in an order and take advantage of his stylus + nib giveaway! Thanks for the hot tip, Azizah. Y’all should check out her review; she goes into excellent detail about the construction of the pads, so I’ll skim over that here.

I’ve been writing a lot about paper recently, but almost exclusively about Tomoe River paper, so my interest was piqued when I saw Azizah’s review of this product. I have a handful of dip pen nibs that I use for playing with new inks, including some sketching nibs which I’ve found to be virtually unusable due to their scratchiness. Ben Rowley’s paper is advertised as “the perfect paper for both smooth nibs and sharp nibs,” and his prices were so reasonable I had to pick up a couple of pads.



The ordering process is so rudimentary it kind of feels like a back alley exchange, in the best way possible: I emailed Ben with my request, he emailed me a PayPal receipt, I paid, and in two or three days the box was at my door. And what did I get? A bound pad of 100 sheets of “standard descender” ruled paper, 8.5″x5.5″, and 100 loose-leaf blank sheets, same size. And a hand-written thank-you note from Ben! That was a nice touch.


This paper is narrower than the Tomoe River correspondence sheets sold by Paper For Fountain Pens, just the right size for a standard A5 envelope, so you don’t have to fold in the sides at all. It’s definitely heavier than TR paper, but most paper is. One side of the paper has a slightly rougher texture, whereas the other side is smooth. I’m not sure which is supposed to be the “front” of the sheet, but I prefer the smooth side for fountain pen usage; the rough side is nice for pencil work.


Ben kindly enclosed a wooden stylus and three Esterbrook dip-pen nibs, which I enjoyed testing on his paper. I’ve used sketching nibs before and was always frustrated by their scratchiness, which was often so extreme that they were unusable on most paper. This paper, however, cooperates beautifully with scratchy nibs. (I will include photos and a review of the nibs and stylus in a separate post.)


For me one of the signs of its effectiveness was the way that ink blobs didn’t feather into the paper, but rather rested on the surface. This indicates that the nib did not break the paper’s fibers, which is the main cause of feathering and makes a scratchy nib practically unusable. (Please note that the blobbing is a result of my ineptitude with a particular nib and NOT with the paper itself!)


I tested all my currently inked fountain pens on an unlined sheet and was very pleased with the results. The only feathering I noticed was with the Pilot Desk Pen, but I think it might have been partly the fault of the ink, De Atramentis’ Johann Sebastian Bach, and the fact that the pen was running a bit dry due to not being used in a while. And I had to peer very close to see the feathering.


I was disappointed that very little sheen showed up in the Iroshizuku Momiji sample on this paper. There may be something about the texture that counteracts the sheen somehow. However, the paper is thick and sturdy, so the back of the flex pen sample looks drastically different from such a sample on TR paper:


Much less of an impression left than with the TR paper! Here’s the back of the sheet below. You’ll notice that the only bleeding was with the Sharpie and the Bic marker, and there’s very faint ghosting otherwise.


And the full front:

If you want to try some of this magnificent paper, drop Ben a line. His pricing is as follows:


When I ordered this paper, I thought I’d be using the standard descender pad a lot for script practice, but so far I’ve gone through quite a bit of the blank sheets in my correspondence. It’s fantastic letter paper! I usually decorate the first page with a stamp of some kind — my letterhead, or some sort of illustration — and there’s no prettier stationery you can get at that price. Like I said above, it fits perfectly into an A5 envelope, and while Ben doesn’t sell envelopes, you could purchase a block of loose-leaf 8.5″x11″ paper and make your own, or go with some simple A5 kraft paper envelopes, which complement the paper beautifully.


Love At First Write: Tomoe River Correspondence Paper

IMG_2664Although I’ve already written quite a bit about Tomoe River paper (or its various forms) before — both in my post on the Seven Seas Writer journal and my Tomoe River master post — I really haven’t gone into the format that I use on an almost daily basis: the humble correspondence pad from Paper For Fountain Pens.

IMG_2662This pad contains 100 sheets of A5-size paper. PFFP sells them in bundles of three for about $20, and is it ever worth it. I have the white version. The sheets are sandwiched between a stiff cardboard back (stamped with the PFFP URL) and a sheet of heavier forest-green paper front. The whole bundle is bound with glue at the top.The sheets are very easy to tear out; I’ve only ever had one corner rip. Once you get toward the bottom of the pad, the cover is likely to fall off. You won’t be toting this pad around with you, unless you don’t mind getting the edges banged up, scuffed, or crumpled.

The paper itself: This is, hands down, the best paper I’ve ever used in my life. It’s extremely thin, translucent even, clocking in at only 52gsm. I’ve described it as feather-light and thin as onion-skin. But despite its apparent fragility, it handles every ink I’ve thrown at it with boundless grace and fortitude.

IMG_2663You can see the delicate golden sheen in the example of the Iroshizuku Momiji ink above. I like Clairefontaine well enough for ink reviews and note-taking, but while its plush surface increases dry time, Tomoe River paper does not. And the only way I’ve ever gotten it to bleed is by pressing too hard with a flex pen.

IMG_2667There is quite a lot of ghosting with TR paper. However, if you’re using letter sheets, it shouldn’t be a problem at all (as one is supposed to write on only one side of a letter sheet). If you’re journaling on it, see my post about ghosting. (Tl;dr: I think that ghosting becomes a non-issue once you write over it.)

Over the past few months, Tomoe River paper has become the ONLY stationery I use for my correspondence. I even carved my own letterhead stamp for it. Because it’s so lightweight, it allows you to write lengthy letters without having to worry about extra postage. It ENCOURAGES you to write lengthy letters, because it’s such a pleasure to write on.

IMG_2665Bottom line: if you use fountain pens, grab yourself some Tomoe River paper. You won’t regret it.

Back-To-School Goodies: Clairefontaine “Back To Basics” 1951 Notebook

IMG_2604I picked up this notebook because I needed some fountain-pen-friendly paper for taking notes in class — the idea being, of course, that a nice pen and good paper will encourage me to actually take thorough notes!

192 pages
14.8x21cm and 9x14cm
+1 Bleed Reduction
+1 Feathering Reduction

I’m used to the cream-colored Clairefontaine paper in my Rhodia webnotebook, so I did not expect how big a difference this white paper makes! It really lets the ink shine! Otherwise, the paper is just as smooth and cushy as that which Rhodia uses. Dry time is a bit slow, as I expected.

IMG_2606I got the cloth-bound version of the notebook — the covers are a heavy paper or cardstock with a texture that reminds me of watercolor paper, and the spine is a matching, heavy-duty canvas fabric into which the 96 sheets are glued.This binding results in a very stiff spine: each page has to be individually trained to lay flat. I’m not enamoured with it, but it’s fine for a notebook.

IMG_2610The corners are beveled, so they’re less likely to get crushed in your bag. It’s a nice touch.

IMG_2611And you have to admit: it’s a pretty notebook! They designed it to be reminiscent of vintage French notebooks. Mine is the coral version, which is a very rich and unique color, accented with a buttery yellow diagonal cross-hatching and blank space to write name, subject, semester, etc. The inverted triangle with the Art Deco-style Clairefontaine logo is emblazoned on both the front and back of the book, but it’s so nicely designed that it doesn’t strike me as obnoxious, like some branding does.

IMG_2607My everyday writers do pretty well with this paper, both my Pilot Precise V5 and my Kaweco Sport EF with Kaweco royal blue ink, which is my primary notetaking pen (as opposed to the AL Sport with medium nib, as most of this review was written with). The Pilot G2 1mm performs well, too. I don’t use it often because the tip is so broad, but it occurred to me I’d never tested gel ink on Clairefontaine paper before. While this ruling is about 2mm too wide for my tastes, it does accommodate broader tips and nibs!

Obviously, I also picked up a pocket sized (9x14cm) version of the notebook. This is staple-bound and much more flexible, though it’s a little weird to have such nice paper in such an informal binding.

IMG_2608I think this will be my next pocket notebook once I finish up my current Field Notes.

Letter Writers Alliance Member Scout Book



Letter Writers Alliance Member Scout Book

The Letter Writers Alliance recently released a limited run of this beautiful pocket book for official L.W.A. members only. It comes packaged in a simple clear plastic slip cover to keep it safe during shipping. It measures 3.5″x5″, contains 32 pages of soft white paper printed in pale grey with a quadrille-grid, and is staple bound within sturdy natural cardstock covers.


The front features the L.W.A. Victory Lady silk-screened in navy blue with the slogan “LETTER WRITING LIVES.” The back is emblazoned with the L.W.A. crest and the motto “YOU HAVE TO SEND A LETTER TO GET A LETTER.” The paper is fairly heavy, so my fountain pen sample didn’t bleed through, but it’s definitely susceptible to feathering even with a fairly dry-writing fountain pen. In the end I stuck with my .4mm Hi-Tec-C, which performed very well and didn’t even ghost.


The scout book is listed at $6 per piece and is limited to a run of fifty. Personally, I’m very glad I grabbed two: the cover design is exquisite and the quadrille is a little different to most of the pocket notebooks I’ve seen. On top of that, sales support the lovely folks over at the L.W.A.!


If you’re not a member, consider joining. It’s only $5 for a lifetime membership, and your welcome package includes, among other things, a patch in maroon and white with the official L.W.A. seal on it. With a membership you get access to their penpal swap, their members-only store, certain members-only stationery and “fauxstage” downloads, and postal adventures such as Initiative Response. I currently maintain correspondence with a couple of penpals I received via the L.W.A.

UPDATE: Seven Seas “Writers” Notebook

Update to my review of the Seven Seas “Writer’s” Notebook:

1. First, put some Fray-Check on the ends of those ribbons first thing when you get it out of the box. Mine frayed pretty badly before I caught it.

2. Most of the reviews I see advocate only writing on one side of Tomoe River paper. But I’ve found that the heavy ghosting becomes a complete non-issue, at least for me, when I write over it.

Writing on page 2 visible through blank page 1.

Writing on page 2 visible through blank page 1.


A couple pages’ worth of ghosting are visible here (follow the criss-crossing slanted lines).


But notice that where there is text (in Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses), the ghosting isn’t a distraction.


3. This paper can handle a lot of ink. Below is an image of some text I did with a dip-pen calligraphy nib that was giving me problems with flow. The ink (De Atramentis’ Myrrh, fyi) flowed so much that it pooled and dried with a darker ring around the edges of each stroke, almost so that it resembled sheen — but it didn’t bleed through. Heavy ghosting, yes, but no bleed. And, miraculously, it dried fast. These lines were written just four or five from the bottom of the page; by the time I used my blotter sheet, it had already dried.


I don’t know what devil’s deal those Tomoe River people took, but this paper is the golden fiddle of stationery.