Testing Fountain Pens: Paper Quality

Ideal paper for writing tests -- at least for now.

Ideal paper for writing tests — at least for now.

For the most part, the writing test portion of my fountain pen reviews in Fountain Pen Planet (inexpensive FPs from China) have been chaotic with wildly inconsistent results. So much so that I deleted photos of the writing samples and redid the ratings for the reviews that I’ve completed. I’m sure the ratings will change as I develop a more reliable and valid system.

The biggest flaw was choice of paper. I had assumed that paper wasn’t that big a factor, as long as I used the same paper for all the tests. So I used what I had handy — sheets of 8.5 x 11 printer paper. I also used pages in a cheap tablet that I purchased.

The printer paper was better than the tablet paper, which was thin and bled like crazy, sucking ink out of nearly all the pens and bleeding so badly that the back side of the sheet was useless and I had to use a buffer sheet of paper to keep the front of the next sheet clear. The printer paper, too, rendered nearly all my medium nibs and some of the fine wet.

When even the lines from the fine Chinese nibs looked like wet mediums, I decided to look at other paper stock. At my local department store, I bought a Mead Spell-Write Steno Book tablet (see photo above), with pages 6″ x 9″. These are the familiar stenopads with the spiral binding at the top and green-tinted paper with a vertical line down the middle. I remembered using these with pens years ago before I began composing on a computer.

Anyway, this paper turns out to be ideal for writing tests. The ink doesn’t appear overly wet, and it doesn’t bleed through to the back side even with a medium nib, allowing me to use the back side, too, and dispense with a buffer sheet. This paper seems to have been made for ink pens. At one point, to get a pen flowing, I shook it and a small blob of ink landed on the paper. It retained surface tension and remained a blob, without being absorbed and dispersed by the paper. I dipped the tip of a paper towel into the blob and absorbed much of the ink, but the remaining blob retained surface tension. It finally flattened and bled a little when I pressed the paper towel down on it.

I’ve only been using this tablet for a couple of days, so I may find that it has some drawbacks. But for now, it seems to be just what I need.

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