Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

Category: Pens & Stationery

The Truth About Tomoe River

Recently there have been rumours that Tomoe River paper, prized by fountain pen users because it resists feathering and bleed-through despite being insanely thin, was about to be discontinued. A post at The Well-Appointed Desk seemingly confirmed the rumour, which didn’t help the general panic; but someone contacted the Tomoegawa company directly and got an answer that has clarified things somewhat.

It appears to come down to a confusion between Tomoegawa, which prints the paper, and Sakae Technical Paper, which sells notepads and notebooks under the Tomoe River brand. Tomoegawa discontinued production on the machine that made the paper Sakae used; Sakae declined to use paper from another machine, and announced the discontinuation of their products when their stock of original paper ran out. That doesn’t mean Tomoegawa is getting out of the business: they have plans to keep supplying Tomoe River paper once they work out production issues.

Update: Fudefan has information direct from Tomoegawa that explains what’s going on with the different kinds of Tomoe River paper, and the different machines that produce it. While the machines are being shut down, their plan appears to be to outsource production. [r/fountainpens]

Two Weird Blue Inks

I’ve been using fountain pens on and off since I was in university; about a year ago that interest got a good deal more serious (it was the pandemic and I needed a distraction), and between us Jen and I began accumulating pens and inks at a ridiculous rate. Two of our first bottled inks were blue inks with some unusual qualities; after a year of using them fairly frequently, I have some thoughts about them.

What Is a Grail Pen?

Interesting discussion over at r/fountainpens about the definition of a term bandied about a lot in the fountain pen community: the “grail” pen. For most pen collectors it refers to a singular pen they aspire to but can’t easily buy; the OP argues that “grail” isn’t the right metaphor if it refers to a pen that is slightly outside the buyer’s budget but is readily available. There are some interesting takes in this thread (which is not something you can always say): one points out the absurdity of someone having a “next grail pen,” another that a lot of this depends on how much money you have. It’s possible to spend four figures on a pen, but for most people a $50 pen is the most expensive writing instrument they will ever own—or need to own.

How to Fill a CON-40

Few fountain pen accessories generate more online vituperation than Pilot’s CON-40 converter.1 It’s small and hard to fill completely: it has no capacity. The size complaint is a bit unfair: it’s designed to fit all2 of Pilot’s fountain pens, including the pocket-sized E95s/Elite. Whereas Kaweco and Sailor both make pens that are too small for their standard converters. As for being hard to fill? Between us Jen and I currently have a total of 11 pens with a CON-40 converter, and while they’re not as easy to fill completely as pens with the CON-70 converter3 or piston-filling pens, it can be done. There’s a trick to it, though, and Brian Goulet’s video above shows how to do it.

An Analysis of Fountain Pen Ink Reviews

Adam Santone did a quantitative analysis of 15,000 customer reviews of 500 fountain pen inks sold on the Goulet Pen Company website. Those reviews rated inks by characteristics like drying time, flow, shading and water resistance, and Adam collated those ratings into useful comparative tables. There are some artifacts here and there—I don’t think Iroshizuku Syo-ro is supposed to be water-resistant—and different bottle sizes of the same ink have different entries, because reviews are by the SKU, but this will really help inform my ink buying in the future. [r/fountainpens]

Fountain Pen Nib Size Charts

Fountain pen nibs come in fine, medium and other sizes, but there’s no standard definition for those terms. A Japanese nib is usually a size finer than its European equivalent, for example, but there are exceptions all over the place. There are guides to a nib’s tipping size—the actual writing surface, measured in tenths of a millimetre—from Pen Chalet and Nibs.com, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. According to Pen Chalet, a TWSBI medium nib has the same tipping size as a Pilot medium, but my TWSBI Eco writes much thicker than my Pilot Metropolitan. The TWSBI nib might be wetter, and the ink might be too. And at the moment my Eco is loaded with a quick-drying ink that feathers a little on good paper. So it seems that there are other factors at play. I’ll figure them out as I go.

Using Fountain Pens When You’re Left Handed

Ana Reinert’s Fountain Pen Guide for the Left-handed Writer and Goulet Pens’s Fountain Pens for Lefties set out some of the challenges faced by left-handed fountain pen users like me. Mostly the challenges involve having to push the nib across the page rather than pull it, and smudging your writing with your hand before the ink has time to dry. For my part I’ve had trouble with fine nibs scratching the page, and with smudging ink (particularly on Clairefontaine Triomphe pads; I suspect I’ll have the same trouble with Rhodia, but I haven’t broken into my stash of that stuff yet). Options include avoiding flex and stub nibs and using fast-drying inks. And some pens just work better: the medium-nib Pilot Metropolitan I use right now is the best pen I’ve ever written with.

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