I've always been a writer... Since my junior year of high school, I have always carried a notebook and a pen with me. After a few experiments, I began stockpiling my favorite pen, the Uniball Vision Elite Rollerball Micro-Point (.5mm) pen. I used them exclusively for about 20 years until in the summer of 2018, I funded a Kickstarter pen that promised to use a refill of comparable quality. The Studio Neat Mark One pen body would be delivered with a rollerball refill that had rave reviews online, and I felt ready to purchase a pen that would last a lifetime since I could use a refill that would mimic the pen I had used for so long. I felt like I wanted a pen for myself, a pen that would be recognized as "mine" by anyone who knew me. The kind of thing that really represents who I am, and the Mark One would suffice. In the campaign comment thread, someone posted a link to a review on Pen Addict. Brad Dowdy has a great site there, and he does a podcast, which dovetailed perfectly with my other hobby of listening to podcasts obsessively.
After several weeks of listening to this podcast, I became convinced that I wanted to try a fountain pen. I've always been curious, but never felt that I could justify the expense, especially when I already had a pen that I loved. With the Pen Addict site, I felt that it was worth a gamble, and I added some of his recommended starter-level pens to my Christmas wishlist. My wife was gracious enough to purchase 2 of the pens, and I received a 3rd from my mother! I got to work right away trying them out. The Pilot Metropolitan was used Christmas Day, and I loved it. I had to wait to use the TWSBI Eco until I ordered some ink (and my wife had thoughtfully included a gift card to order ink). As soon as the Pilot Iroshizuku ink sampler arrived, I inked the TWSBI with Kon-Peki (Cerulean Blue), and fell in love even more. The demonstrator body allowed me to see the workings of the piston filler, and I was immediately hooked.
My wife and I took a weekend to visit the 2019 Chicago Pen Show, and we were thrilled to do so. My wife was reluctant at first, but came home a Stationery convert. Not only did we spend the weekend learning all about pens, inks, and papers, but we met some wonderful people. We genuinely had a great time exploring items together, discovering new pens, inks, and papers. Sampling everything before we purchased anything while surrounded by people who really are experts at stationery taught us that asking questions is not only okay, but encouraged. Truly, it was a revelation. We came home with a small haul and a new annual tradition.
As my collection grows, I find that my everyday life has been... elevated. Using a fountain pen feels incredibly different than using a standard, off-the-shelf ballpoint or even rollerball pen. Every time I write anything, I'm fully aware and present in the moment, knowing the tool I'm using is intensely personal. I selected that pen to carry in the morning. I selected the ink inside the pen. I care for and clean the pen to keep it functioning properly. The pen is an extension of myself, and that makes even the most mundane writing task come alive with intention. I've even started considering the paper and the notebooks that I use because the regular notebooks don't all take liquid ink very well. Every meeting, every writing task has been transformed into another opportunity for me to be fully present in the moment, and I could not be happier. A touch of personality in my day that pulls me deeper into awareness is incredibly important.
My wife's collection...
Moonman - Wancai Mini
Moonman - Autumn Leaves
Parker - Parkette
Moonman - 80s 80 Mini
Sold, traded, or gifted...
As a new user of fountain pens, I again relied mainly on website recommendations to select inks to use, and I chose sampler-packs whenever possible to help me find inks that I liked in colors and shades that I enjoyed the most. Most online retailers make this very easy with sample vials that contain 2-4ml of ink, just enough for a couple refills of the ink so I can try it out over several days of writing. Goulet Pens even offers a "Random Ink Sample" package that contains 8 randomly selected vials for a low cost. That was a great experience and allowed me to try several inks that I would not have selected myself.
At the Chicago Pen Show, the ink sampler table took a large portion of our time... With 300 inks to test out, I finally got to try all the inks I had thought about for months while my wife dove into color comparisons. This time was well spent and allowed us to find not just the inks that nailed the colors and properties that we wanted but to then find a vendor in the show to purchase it!
At the 2019 Chicago Pen Show, my wife and I fell in love with the Taccia brand pens and inks. The pens were a bit out of our price-range, but the inks were priced to sell, so we grabbed 3 bottles with an eye on some of the other colors for the future. We met a woman representing the brand, and she shared the story of the company's origin and challenges. It was a compelling story, and we're excited to use this fantastic ink in our humble collection of pens. The gorgeous colors are certainly worth it, and the ink behaves beautifully on every paper I use in my classroom and at home.
Tsuchi is a nice medium brown that leans yellow-ish and is a nice contrast to other standard brown inks that tend to lean more reddish. It looks really wonderful on ivory paper and is a nice soft color on standard whites.
Based on the reading that I did, Pilot Iroshizuku ink was the most highly recommended fountain pen ink. It seems to work in every pen with every nib on every paper. That's what intrigued me the most: simple, straight-forward, works immediately... For a beginner, I wanted to just get used to using fountain pens without worrying too much about complicated inks, and everything I could find online pointed towards this line of inks. And with a wide range of colors and shades, I could explore colors to my heart's content while still expecting the ink itself to perform flawlessly.
Take-Sumi (Bamboo Coal) - Black
Take-Sumi is exactly what I would hope for in a black ink. Very simple, very straightforward, an excellent black ink.
Kon-Peki (Cereulean Blue) - Blue
Kon-Peki is a bright shade of blue that leaps off the paper. Eye-catching, yet professional, a great blue for everyday.
Tsuki-Yo (Moonlight) - Blue/Black
Tsuki-Yo is a nice blue ink that really shows the blue characteristics. It looks like an evening sky just before the sunsets.
Tsu-Kushi (Horsetail) - Light Brown
The light brown caresses the page and is easy on the eyes when reading it, yet it is dark enough to be read easily.
Yama-Guri (Wild Chestnut) - Dark Brown
This is a fantastic color, dark and rich like the husk of a chestnut. Almost chocolate on the page.
Yonaga (Long Autumn Evening) - Blue
Yonaga is a rich, deep blue with hints of green. Written with a fine nib, it comes out almost a denim colored blue. It's dark, though not quite blue/black.
Yodaki (Summer Night Bonfire) - Red
Yodaki is a great , brick-red ink with enough variation to keep it interesting. The deep red color is perfect for my purposes, dark enough to be beautiful. On good paper, Yodaki has a nice golden sheen that adds some wonderful character to lettering.
Tokiwa-Matsu - Green
Tokiwa-Matsu is a great green ink. Dark, rich, hints of olive... It looks professional, flows well... Everything one would want in a green ink.
Platinum Carbon Black
Platinum Carbon Black is a workhorse permanent black. Pigmented ink that lets no light through. Rock-solid.
Colorverse Monsoon Storm + Monument Valley
Monsoon Storm is a velvety teal with red sheen. It flows wet and is a joy to write with. Monument Valley is a perfect complement, though dry, with high shading.
BPC - Rachel Carson Silent Spring
Silent Spring is a very wet blue-black. Rather grey-ish, the blue shows up as a nice dark color on any paper.
Monteverde Jade Noir
Jade Noir hits that sweet spot of Forest Green... Like the needles on a pine tree in late fall, this ink is a great, simple, dark green that works in any setting.
Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz
This dark brown has greenish undertones that show through on various paper. A solid brown ink that works well for professional writing.
I'm much less discriminating when it comes to paper, and that's simply due to the nature of my job. Working in a school, I often use whatever paper products are available, from notebooks to legal pads. However, for my personal use, I've taken to selecting products that are exactly right for me. I'm not willing to spend a lot because I would go broke, but discovering that there were companies out there making paper products far superior to the standard stuff was very exciting to me. Today, I have a couple high-quality notebooks that I use for specific purposes, and though I'm quite happy with them, I do use them often enough that I can experiment until I find something that is perfect for my uses.
The 2019 Chicago Pen Show was a revelation for me. Aside from discovering pens and inks that I loved, my wife and I spent some time with the couple from Wild Pages. They were the most wonderful people to meet and talk stationery with, and their passion for their paper was glowing. Trying out a sample was a revelation, and when I asked about loose sheets, they handed me a whole sheet to use throughout the weekend! Their notebooks aren't my style, but I'll be keeping a Navigator Journal in my back pocket for quick notes (especially handy during chess tournaments!).
I loved the paper so much, I sent one of the Navigator Journals from my 3-pack to The Pen Addict as soon as we returned home from the show. The paper is wonderfully smooth and takes fountain pen ink very similarly to Tomoe River, but has a thickness between Tomoe River and Rhodia.
I will follow Wild Pages closely, and I hope to see their paper in more products soon. If it came in an A5 notepad, I would never use anything else!
I read a review of Blank Slate Paper Co. and was immediately intrigued. The idea of designing my own paper ruling gave me chills. I had always wanted to design my own stationery paper, but not with any branding or letterhead, just my own ruling. That might make me weird, and I won't deny that... BUT... Look! I can design notebook paper with BROWN lines! Woohoo! I ordered a sample pack in the dead of winter 2019 and had a ton of fun trying out both paper samples and the various ruling sizes and spacing. Then, after messing around with the design tool for a week or two, I settled in on a standard notebook paper ruling design with light brown horizontal lines and a single dark brown vertical line for the margin. Just for kicks, I added a few reticles to mark the center of the page. I grabbed a 3-pack and now this is my standard paper for writing letters to pen-pals, family, and friends. I look forward to seeing what future options they will offer because I've already got an idea for my perfect personalized A5 notepad!
After trying out several different brands and styles of paper, I landed on a pretty standard Rhodia notepad. The A5 size is perfect for carrying around for meetings, jotting down quick notes, even writing brief notes to my wife! Rhodia paper is well known for being very fountain pen friendly, and I've found it to be exactly that. It's the perfect paper for whichever pen or pencil I happen to have at the ready.
For me, nothing beats the standard Steno pad for my everyday to-do lists. The Gregg, two-column ruling on the page makes it simple to create a to-do list down the left side of the page and to check off each item with notes on the right side of the page. Teaching, in particular has a massive list of tasks on a daily basis, so carrying this Steno with me helps me to keep track of the larger day-to-day tasks. I used a standard memo pad in my back pocket for years, but the problem was that it didn't sit on my desk next to my computer to keep that list in front of me and keep me focused. I still use the memo pad when I'm out of the classroom, like when I work chess tournaments. The Field Notes brand Steno, however, is particularly sturdy in construction which is perfect for dropping it in my backpack and carrying it around from meeting to meeting. The quality paper used by Field Notes also holds up well to my fountain pens whereas the usual steno pads from big box stores tend to have a lot of bleed through and feathering making them less useful and, frankly, less pleasing to look at and use. The simple, hard-board covers used by Field Notes appeal to my sense of minimalism, and the extra information printed on the inside of the covers is handy to have with me wherever I go!
The Field Notes brand notebooks are simply wonderful, from top-to-bottom. However, my specific use of paper lends itself towards very specific notebook designs, and I'm not fond of using side-bound notebooks because they take up more desk space, which is important when I'm crammed into meetings with several adults, all of whom are trying to take notes. That doesn't mean I don't like them, in general! With the Pitch Black notebook, I have the perfect notebook for keeping records, journaling, or anything else that I want to keep for a long period of time. I keep one Pitch Black notebook with my pen collection. Each time I ink a pen with a new ink, I do a quick writing test in the Pitch Black notebook which has a high-quality, yet semi-absorbent, paper which really helps me get a good idea of how the ink will perform on various papers. Other paper, like Rhodia, don't absorb the ink as much, but cheaper notebook paper soaks ink up like water, so the paper contained in the Pitch Black notebook represents a mid-ground, and therefore a perfect testing medium for each new ink. I keep another Pitch Black notebook in my nightstand to use as a dream journal. I'm not sure when I'll use it, but it's there to record the dreams I happen to remember, fittingly enough, in a Pitch Black notebook.
Along with my Studio Neat Mark One Kickstarter pledge, I opted to add-on a Panobook notebook. This was one of their previous Kickstarter campaigns, and it had many positive reviews, so I decided to grab one while I could do so easily. I haven't yet cracked into it because it feels like it's a notebook I should use for a specific project. The dot-grid pages are laid out to assist designers with corner markings set which scale to standard panoramic dimensions. Perfect for web and app designers, but not exactly suited to anything that I do. The longer dimensions of the notebook make it perfect for sitting in front of a computer keyboard or beside it. The packaging is fantastically simple yet lends itself to long-term storage with places to record a beginning and ending date. I feel like several of these stored on a bookshelf would be a great record of a longer-term project. I just don't happen to have anything special enough and that would require its own notebook. So, I'm saving this beautiful notebook for just the right project at the right time.