A Word or Two on Ink Testing Paper

Looking back to all sorts of ink reviews/test I have done on this blog, one element I have noticed is the change in paper.  In the earlier days, most ink testing is done on Rhodia classic N°16/N° 18, either grid or dot ruled.  As time goes on, I shifted to Japanese paper, mostly Maruman, with similar ruling.  This observation prompts me thinking about why I use a certain paper for ink testing.  When I first rekindled interest in fountain pens five

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Prantl Dr. Thomas Mann Schreibblock

I count myself extremely lucky that people around me appreciate my stationery obsession.  Not only I can talk to them about it , but they also think of me whenever they see interesting stationery items.  That is this Schreibblock (notepad) by Fr. Ant. (Franz Anton) Prantl,  one of the oldest printing press in Munich, Germany, since 1797.  Yes, a paper mill with history.  Prantl reached its fame due to its popularity among artists and writers, such as Richard Strauss (composer) and Thomas Mann (writer). In fact, Prantl’s crest was the first Royal Warrant bestowed by King Ludwig I of Bavaria (His son had built the Neuschwanstein Castle, in case you are interested).


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Clairefontaine 1951 Staple-bound Notebook

A couple summers ago, I reached an epiphany one night while studying (obviously, I was not focusing as I should):  I should use notebooks I have acquired over the years for note-taking and so I will not need to ink about 100 pens to do test pages.  Like many other fountain pen lovers, I tend to have more than enough fountain pens in rotation.  In addition, I use color to arrange my notes in different hierarchy.  Two birds killed with one stone, pretty good eh?  Plus, I have this stash of notebooks, either from gifting or purchase that I do not have the heart to write in.  For some reason, I always thought that notebooks are reserved for special purpose; that is, you have to write something nice and use it for special occasions.  Who am I kidding?  Exactly how special is a special occasion?  Forget it, I will use them for notes, which is for a higher purpose (I would like to think so).

I digress again… the notebook we are looking at here is a Clairefontaine 1951 staple-bound notebook.  I have to say that this is probably the thickest paper I have used for writing purpose, and the experience is nothing less than luxurious and wholesome.

The vintage-inspired cover can be quite nostalgic

Here are some basic information on the notebook:

  • Binding Type:  staple
  • Binding orientation:  side
  • Paper weight:  90g
  • Ruling type:  lined
  • Amount:  48 sheets
  • Size:  A5
  • Cover selection:  green, blue, black, red coral (as shown), turquoise, and raspberry
  • Height:  21cm; 5.83 inch
  • Width: 14.8cm; 8.27 inch

This notebook has almost everything that a fountain pen lover asks for.  It is extremely tolerant to all brands of ink and all width of nib (italic, flex, fine and extra fine).  The size is ideal for portability, since the writing surface is big enough for substantial amount of writing, yet portable.  The staple binding has proven to be sturdy and the notebook stays open and flat.

No need to battle the opposing page while writing.  The notebook stays relatively flat, especially after you fold the notebook along the binding outward.

Just like many other things in life, this notebook has small imperfection, depending on users’ idiosyncrasies.  Writing on Clairefontaine paper is similar to gliding your fingers on a piece of satin; the paper is glossy and silky to touch.  The downside of it is when it meets a wet writer or an ink that takes longer to dry, smearing accident can happen.

You would think a cat thief walked on the page!  The drying time prolongs on Clairefontaine paper for wetter nibs.  The ink and pen combination is J. Herbin Poussière de LUne and Noodler’s Ahab

The ruling can be too wide for those with microscopic handwriting; I can fit two lines of writing in one without any problem.  To be fair, my handwriting is pretty scrawny and looks like a line of crawling ants.

The ruling is spacious for those with normal size handwriting and can comfortably fit two lines for smaller size writing.

Despite the heavier paper weight, there is minimal ghosting on the page when you use both sides of the paper.  It does not bother me much, as I do enjoy the overlapping silhouette.

See the “ghosts”?  The one element I adore about Clairefontaine and Rhodia paper is their complementing ability to light shade ink.  J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe is almost ethereal on other paper, but the shading and ink display elegantly on Clairefontaine paper

Clairefontaine 1951 notebook is ideal for students with its ample pages and great paper quality.  If I were going to school all over again, I may use it as THE notebook!

Monologue Notebooks

Exploring new notebooks is probably one of the most fun activities because it means a series of experiment:  what kind of media does the paper take?  How does the paper feel?  What is the notebook range that a given brand offer?

Grandluxe is a company based in Singapore that offer several lines of notebook, stationery goods, as well as lifestyle items.  One of the lines, Monologue, is characterized by notebooks with simple yet attractive design.

This post will cover the following sub-series in the Monologue line:

  • Ruled Notebooks
  • Platinum
  • Basics
All series in the Monologue line shares the following common factors:
  • 80 gsm acid-free cream or white paper
  • Line ruled
  • Rounded corner page
  • Elastic closure
  • Expandable inner pocket on the back cover

Monologue Ruled Notebooks, from A8 to A6

From left to right:  back covers of Basics, Platinum, and Ruled Notebook 
At first glance, Monologue notebooks remind me of Moleskine and even Rhodia Webnotebooks, in that  they have elastic closure in matching color as the cover.  The cover material differs slightly depending the sub-series.  Ruled notebooks have plushy polyurethane covers that are similar to Rhodia Webnotebooks and because how soft the cover material is, the elastic closure does leave a visible indentation on the cover.  In Ruled Notebook line, there are 8 colors to choose from (black, brown, green, purple, red, pink, orange, and yellow), all equally bright and appealing.  The covers for Basic and Platinum are fashioned more similarly to Moleskine, where the cover is made with harder leatherette.  In all series, the “Monologue” word is embossed on the back cover.

Monologue Ruled Notebook on the left, Rhodia Webbie on the right.  Pretty similar, wouldn’t you say?
Regardless of the cover material, the covers provide decent support when writing surface is unavailable. All series of Monologue have a bookmark made with matching color ribbon.  The expandable pocket in the back gives additional portability to the notebooks because small memorabilia can be stashed away easily while on the go.  What is nice about these pockets is that the accordion side is made with polyester with a satin finish, which potentially makes the pocket more durable. This set-up, however, is only available in Ruled Notebooks.  The pockets in Basic and Platinum are entirely made with paper that is in similar weight as card stock.

1.  Inside of a Monologue Ruled Notebook  2.  Ribbon matches the color of the cover  3.  Expandable pocket in the back.  The accordion part is made with a polyester material which makes it more durable  4.  Binding of the notebook

The case binding securely holds paper together, it also means that tearing pages out would be difficult.  The Monologue notebooks share the same problem with similar style notebooks in other brands; they do not open or stay flat, so the opposite page would need to be “fight off” during the process of writing.

Gel and ballpoint ink close up
Monologue Basics (A6) on the left and Ruled Notebook (A5) on the right.  Noticed the extent of feathering on Basics comparing to Ruled Notebook
Bleedthrough comparison.  Ruled Notebook on the left and Basics on the right.

The 80 gsm cream colored paper in Ruled Notebook is easy to the eyes.  The surface is smooth but not satin glossy as in Rhodia.  Even with a gel pen with the finest point, the pen tip writes on surface without resistance.  The same for both ballpoint and felt tip, as well as fountain pens.  The paper is also very absorbent, that means drying time is superb; however, because of the absorbency, there is significant amount of feathering and bleedthrough when it comes in contact with any wetter media.  As seen on the ink testing page, feathering is not limited to fountain pen ink, but also the liquid felt-tip pens.

Monologue Ruled Notebook comparison:  A8 (left) v. A5 (right).  

The point of curiosity is that the only fountain pen ink that did not feather is Sailor Nano black, in this case paired with Pelikan M205 Duo, a definite wet pen.  The curious case becomes even more interesting when paper in the larger format of Ruled Notebook (A5) can take fountain pen ink better than A8.  There is still visible feathering on A5 size Ruled Book, especially when a flex nib is used, but it outperforms its A8 counterpart.  I do not have a sure explanation to the difference in paper performance, given both notebooks consisted of paper of same weight.  Perhaps it is a different batch of paper?  

Though by in large the Monologue notebooks are not entirely fountain pen friendly, it takes gel and ballpoint pens very well, the two types of pens that are most commonly used.

Page Layout/Format
The paper density across the Monologue line is the same, but the page layout, line width, as well as paper color differ depending on the size of the notebook as well as the sub-series. While Monologue Notebooks and Basics have cream color lined pages, Monologue Platinum has white color lined pages.  The line width in Platinum runs slightly narrower (4.5 mm; .18 inch) than Monologue Ruled Notebooks and Basics (6mm; .24 inch) in same notebook size.  Because the line width in Platinum and Basics are narrower than standard college ruled, it would be a challenge for those with larger handwriting. 

Left:  Monologue Platinum  Right:  Monologue Basics.  Platinum’s ruling is a bit narrower than Basics and Ruled Notebook.
  • Monologue Platinum
1.  Monologue Platinum has metallic colored cover, with pebbled leatherette  2.  Comes in gilded edges  3.  This notebook fashioned a bit like an undated planner, since the first page allows user to fill in personal information, in case the notebook is misplaced.  4.  Address book section  5.  A section to record commonly visited websites.

As the name implies, the Platinum line features metallic color covers (black, bronze, gold, and silver).  The notebook is also fashioned in an informal/undated planner because of a variety of page formats it contains.  Besides the lined pages, there are pages for personal information, address book, and a log to record frequented websites.

  • Monologue Basics
1.  Monologue Basics comes with a hard leatherette cover with some design.  2.  Pages are rounded and numbered.  Good for indexing or recordings.  3.  There is a table of content page to help keeping track of everything.

Monologue Basics features a harder leatherette cover.  In addition to lined page, each page is numbered and there is a table of content that will facilitate organization of information. 

Overall, notebooks in the Monologue line are well-made, given that one of them survived my chaotic messenger bag for the past two weeks remaining unscathed.  Though the paper is not 100% fountain pen ink friendly, it is great for daily note-taking or jogging down thoughts with gel and ballpoint pens, especially while you are on the go. 

Interested in exploring these notebooks?  Grandluxe has an online store, as well as an Amazon store front for your purchase convenience.  Want more information?  There is a FaceBook page for the Monologue line and other reviews at Notebook Stories and No Pen Intended.

Hobonichi Techo follow-up

It is planner season again.  How fast has this year passed!  I thought this would be a great time to review on I have used the Hobonichi Techo that I have shared at the beginning of the year.  Does it worth the hype?

Just as a note, I do not use planner in an orthodox way because I am pretty bad at using planner for its intended purpose, such as planning (and pre-planning), jogging down to-do list, and appointment, though I have gotten better with this particular planner.  Instead, I am using it as a quasi practice book, scrapbook, and of course, as a semi-planner.  As I have mentioned before, the paper that is used in Hobonichi planner is the famed Tomoe River paper, hence, extremely tolerant to all types of fountain pen ink.  Because of how much this paper can take, I have been pushing the boundary a bit.  For example, I have tested out a new gouache with a dip nib, as well as watercolor pencils.  Besides minor buckling, there is no bleed through or feathering in any form.  It is good to mention that Tomoe River paper is thin, any pressure placed on writing will leave an imprint.  To mitigate this problem, one can place a plastic sheet or mat underneath to avoid any imprint or carbon transfer, if you would use a pencil.

I copied a recipe in an unused portion of the page.  Can anyone guess which recipe is it?


Adding elegant postage from a thoughtful friend to brighten up the pages.


More the better!


Colorful addition for days spending at a library conference.


I do use planner for serious business, albeit so occasionally.  Here, I was keeping track of viable sources for a research project in Korean.
Keep track of different projects in the monthly planning pages.

I am definitely not a devoted user who plan out every single day; there are times when you are afraid to see how much to need to be finished.  I used those blank pages to practice to do penmanship and calligraphy practices since the paper is too nice to go to waste.

Here, I used the two days of blank pages to lament Cristina Yang leaving Grey’s Anatomy.

Of course, I still utilize some functions of a planner, such as keeping track of due dates and deadlines.  Since each page has a center divider, I often keep personal due dates (school, home) on one side, and work on the other.  To emphasize the due dates for different classes, different styles of page markers are used.

Using these page markers, I keep tracks of due dates and deadline.  At one point, I used three different sets.


This little guy keeps track of all the books I would like to read.. eventually.

I have used several different types of planner before Hobonichi and there is always something about the planner that I am not satisfied with.  If there is one advantage about Hobonichi is its open format/space that is suitable for any types of journaling/planning/lifestyle.  The thin and accommodating paper is fountain pen fans and artists’ dream, but of course, the original intention is to keep the planner portable, light, and laying flat 180 degree.  In my case, I totally destroy that well-intention by stuffing various pieces of memories on these pages.  As a result, the planner has progressively become heavier in the messenger bag.

So what is my planner next year?  Because my hand tends to fall off the pages on Techo, I have elected to try Cousin, which is size A5 (14.8cm x 21cm; 5.83 inch x 8.27 inch).  That is roughly double of Techo, which is in A6.  So far, the larger format has more hand room and my writing becomes ever so minuscule as well.  I have also chosen the two-volume “Avec” version, so I will not need to carry whole year worth of time with me at all time.  I will let you know how it goes!

Present and very near future.

What is your favorite planner this year?  Have a happy new year!

Monk Paper A4 Soft Cover Sketchbook

Lokta paper is a handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal that is made from the fibrous inner barks of two types of Laurel, locally known as Lokta.  Similar to harvesting of sugar cane, Lokta was cut close to the base for paper making, and the tree could regenerate to full maturity in 4 to 5 years; thus Lokta paper is environmentally sustainable.  Because of Lokta paper’s durability, resistance to humidity, insects and mildew, it is the paper of choice for sacred texts and government document.

Due to the recent heightened sense of ecological awareness, Lokta paper begins to gain popularity.  It is popular among artists and crafters who take advantage of the paper’s light weight and durable features and use it for bookbinding, gift wrapping, or sketching.  The paper also has gained a spotlight in the writer’s circle.  Monk Paper A4 Soft Cover Sketchbook is one of the choices in the market.  Despite its hefty appearance, the notebook is almost feather weight and filled with 48 thick, luscious Lokta paper.  By touch, the paper has a tough and toothy surface; on certain pages, Lokta fiber can be spotted.

Lokta paper
See the fiber and texture?

I was reminded before hand that Lokta paper does not take fountain pen or fountain pen ink well, partly due to the textured surface and high absorbency, but for the sake of experimenting, I have tested the sketchbook with fountain pens I have inked.  There is definitely feathering and bleedthrough, but the writing is still legible.  One thing I have noticed is that the nibs will pick up some of the paper fibers as one writes, and this is particularly evident in finer nibs (the finest I have used for the testing purpose are Sailor Clear Candy and Pilot VP).  Finer tipped gel pens, too, can potentially disturb the fiber as well (gel pens such as Hi-Tec-C and other needle points).  Ball point and felt tipped pens perform much better, as well as craft pens with rounder tips.  Surprisingly, an old gel pen that I used to like, Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller, performs exceptionally with the Lokta paper and I speculated that the rounder tip might have something to do with it.

Not horrible feathering, but might be too toothy for fountain pens
Bleedthrough is obvious

Because of how absorbent the paper is, most of the ink “sink” to the surface.  Take Sakura Souffle gel pens for example, instead of risen slightly from the paper surface (hence the name Souffle), there is not visual difference to set apart Souffle from other gel pens I have tried.

Craft pen testing.  No feathering but has obvious bleedthrough


The paper can withstand repetitive stroke without being disturb.  This is done with a Uni-Ball JetStream

Wooden pencils face the least resistance out of all writing utensils, probably because I did not sharpen it razor sharp.  Erasing is entirely another issue since erasing will cause abrasion and disturb the fiber of the paper, as seen below.

Takes sketch in graphite, but erasing will take off a layer of the paper

Because it is a sketchbook, I tested watercolor on it to fulfill my curiosity.  In the photo below, the flower on the left is drawn with Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolor and the blue sphere is drawn with Derwent metallic watercolor pencils.  The Lokta paper can take dryer media far better than the wet in terms of feathering; however, the feathering itself creates yet another effect.


To most fountain pen users, feathering and bleedthrough would be an issue, so this sketchbook might not be ideal for that purpose; however, I can see it being suitable for scrapbooking or general craft because of its texture and rustic appearance.  It can easily be a journal for those who use gel, ballpoint pens, and pencils.  I like the touch of this paper as well as the toothiness because of the rustic feeling the paper conveys.  It would be a unique gift for those who are looking for an ecological alternative.

You may find the item in review at Pen Boutique, as well as other Lokta paper products in other formats.

This Monk Paper A4 Soft Cover Sketchbook is furnished by Pen Boutique,  a Maryland-based vendor who also carry fine writing instrument, stationery, and accessories, for review purpose free of charge.  All opinions expressed in this post are entirely mine.  

Dialogue Too A5 Notebook

A problem with liking nice designs is that many notebooks will involuntarily follow you home.  When I received a hefty box from Grandluxe sometimes last year, Dialogue Too notebook was the one that caught my eyes with its embossed motif on the cover.  Like many GrandLuxe notebooks that I have reviewed1,2 Dialogue Too is made with same paper; hence similar writing performance.  Here is a summary of Dialogue Too’s specification:

  • Available in both A5 (21cm x 14.8cm; 8 1/4 inch x 5 7/8 inch) and A6 (14.8 x 10.5 cm; 5 7/8 x 4 1/8 inches).
  • Italian polyurethane cover with a blind embossed motif.
  • 80 gsm acid-free cream paper.
  • Lined and blank pages.
  • Available in blue, lime green, ivory, pink, and turquoise.
  • Weighs 358 g (12.65 oz)
A pink one is sent for review.  The color reminds me of Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline, a nice and rich magenta.  The embossing on the lower right-hand corner along with the elastic closure adds a degree of finesse to the notebook.


A small notch designed for the elastic band.  Nice addition to an otherwise simple notebook.


Dialogue Too
Writing sample was done on Dialogue Too.  Visible feathering on fountain pen ink
The backside of the same writing sample.  Visible bleed through.  Less show through for gel and ballpoint pens


Binding of the notebook.

Personally I like cream colored paper because it is softer to the eyes; however, the paper color can distort, absorb, as well as sharpen ink color, so certain colors appear more pleasing than others.  Similar to other thick notebooks, one would feel a bit of an “edge” while writing on the last portion of the notebook that feels like an uphill incline.

One feature that stands out from Dialogue Too is the notebook has both lined and blank format.  At first, I am perplexed by the format, but then I realize the benefits of this mixed format.  When one uses Dialogue Too as a journal/diary, one can easily use the lined page to compose the entry and use the opposing page for illustration or collaging.  Since the notebook comes with elastic closure and not entirely snug, it can accommodate other keepsakes that one put on the blank pages.

Cream colored pages with lined and blank format.  Lamy Al-Star with 1.1 italic nib is pictured here.
  • Elastic holds cover and content intact
  • Lines are wide enough to accommodate writings of different sizes
  • Mixed format in one book makes the notebook more versatile
  • Polyurethane cover is durable
  • Smooth writing surface that can improve overall writing experience
  • Notebook does not lay flat
  • Paper is less accommodating to wetter media, such as fountain pen ink and highlighters
  • Polyurethane cover is scuffed easily
Dialogue Too can be purchased on Amazon.
What do you think of notebooks with mixed formats?

1 GrandLuxe Monologue notebooks
2 GrandLuxe Elastiq Journal

This notebook is graciously given to me by GrandLuxe as a sample for reviewing purpose, without any monetary compensation.  All opinions expressed here entirely mine.