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.