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Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Ink Journal


Ink journals are a great way to keep a reference of the way different inks look in different pens. They can be especially helpful if you enjoy sampling inks, so you can refer back to them later if you're going for just the right ink for a particular writing project. I had ink scribblings in several different journals before, but never really in one place for me to use for comparisons in the future. At least until last week.



What's my journal of choice? An A4 Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound. I like white paper for my journal because it shows the true color of the ink. The nice paper resists bleedthrough from almost any pen/ink combo, so I can confidently write on both sides of each sheet.

I tend to switch up the pens I use so I can see how the ink varies. I could test all the inks more methodically, but I'm not really such a scientific guy. I kind of just ink up what pen inspires me with whatever ink I want to use, and go for it. I just write a paragraph about my impression of the ink and how it performs in the pen I'm using, nothing too fancy.


Do you keep an ink journal? What's your journal, and how do you use it?

49 comments:

  1. Well, not a journal - because despite my desire to, I don't have a new ink every day - the records I keep and I teach my students to keep involve using several writing methods (quill, glass dip, steel dips, fountain pen), putting a block of colour using a brush and shading. Most importantly in order to compare ink colours and behaviours one must use the same, quality loose leaf paper and keep the sheets in a cardboard file (to prevent damage from light etc).

    Then when you want to compare say....Diamine Syrah and Noodler's Tianamen you simply pull out the two sheets you need and you can lay them side by side and truly compare.

    I do do the scientific thing and I keep test results etc on the same sheet so the information is always to hand. It is also important to update both scientific data and personal views on the ink everytime you get a new bottle. Some ink manufacturers have amazing consistency between batches, some don't.....

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  2. Clairefontaine papers are certainly amongst the best, if not the best to sample inks.

    I find Clairefontaine papers to be remarkably consistent throughout the entire « school » range, and this has been instrumental to their success here in France. (Students know exactly how their pen will write during exams because they use the same paper in their notebooks.)

    I am surprised there is no standard process to keep an ink journal and compare swatches in the ink community, though. One would think a process would have been devised involving widely available papers and writing instruments so that comparisons could be posted and analysed more easily…

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  3. Yes I keep an ink journal on Original crawn mill Laid paper sheets. I hope that soon will use a better scanner and be able to show.

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  4. I've started my own ink journal a while back and I'm using a Rhodia 80g notebook. Maybe I should have used the Clairefontaine 90g notebook but the Rhodia is so much better than regular paper that I don't think it would have made a big difference.

    My ink "tests" are fairly standardized, i.e. I try to write the same thing, including ink swabs with a q-tip. I only use one side of the paper because sometimes the swabs do bleed through.

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  5. I have a small 2x3 spiral bound notebook from Michael Rodgers Press that was a freebie. I write an ink entry on each page, date it and it's a great reference. Funny thing is, this little notebook and MUCH better paper than the journals I ordered.

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  6. I just slip my ink tests into my regular journal (which is currently an A5 70g Miquelrius) with whatever pen I had uninked at the time. But lately I've also written a test sentence on Clairefontaine with a Brause nib, to better see the shading.

    I'm very casual about this. :P

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  7. This is the exact reason I ordered one of the Rhodia planers on clearance. For $2 I get nice CF paper in a compact package. I just made a page for every ink I have and will add information in with whatever pen I chose to ink up.

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  8. I do the same. It's just easier to keep everything in one journal for me. I use 4x6 index cards to test also.

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  9. Right now I have 3 types of looseleaf paper, each of which I would reasonably use on a normal basis (as a student). I have the (I think) 20 lb printer paper I normally use, the filler paper that I typically buy (from walmart), and staples bagasse paper.

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  10. What I keep is more of a "log". I use a Rhodia dotpad, and every time I fill a pen with an ink (unless it is a repeat), I write a line and state the name of the ink a pen, and do a feww scribbles.

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  11. I have been doing this in a Rhodia pad. I record the name of the ink, name of the pen, write a couple of lines to some scribbling and then do a finger swipe test at 5, 10 and 20 seconds. I enjoy doing this and I can see it coming in very handy in the future.

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  12. I keep a 4x6 Quo Vadis journal for testing out and recording my thoughts on each new ink and fountain pen I buy. It's handy to be able to go back and see how each ink performed in various pens/nibs.

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  13. This is a neat process. I do something similar for my ink swabs (which are the ones I post on the GPC site), I store swabs on consistent paper in recipe-type boxes. As for my journal though, I don't do it every day. In fact, I don't even date it (though I may start doing that, in fact I think I will). I do it more just whenever I feel like it.

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  14. CF paper is amazingly consistent, and consistently GOOD is the most important thing! That's why I stand behind it. But that aside, I like having a larger book for my journal. Before, I was writing in a Quo Vadis Habana, which is great paper, sure. But I would write my thoughts on an ink and only get maybe one or two inks on a page, which doesn't make for as good of a 'reference' book. With a larger book, I can start with one ink on the page, it may look similar to something else, so I ink up that similar ink next and use it right after the other one.

    As for a standard process, you're right, there is nothing like that out there. I would love to be the one to spearhead something like that, but honestly I'm not the right one for the job. Part of what I enjoy about these inks is the exploration and never-ending experimentation. If I knew exactly what I'd get, it wouldn't be as fun for me ;) That said, I've also noticed what a difference two different people's writing style makes in the appearance of ink! My wife and I will use the same ink, same pen, on the same paper, and it looks surprisingly different! She holds her pen at a different angle and uses less pressure when she writes than I do. So that's also a factor. I think part of the reason there's no standardization is because writing is sort of like painting....you can use the same materials, do the same techniques and try to do the same thing, but it's going to be just a little different from person to person. And that's something to celebrate!

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  15. I use a CannoScan 9000F (that sounds made up, doesn't it?) and it works really well.

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  16. Yeah, Rhodia paper is going to be a little thinner than the CF paper, but Rhodia is still made by CF so it's good stuff. I think it's great that some standardize their testing. Honestly, I've never been much of a scientist, so standardization to me kind of kills my joy :) I like being kind of a free spirit, especially because my ink journal is just for me. When I do things like make videos, do ink swabs, do ink samples, standardization is very important and I do them 100% that way. But when I'm just doing something for fun like this, I'd rather just 'wing it'! ;)

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  17. Nice, I'm pretty casual about it too. When I'm doing 'regular' journaling, I always write the ink and pen so I can sort of use it as a reference as well. But this new journal I have is set aside specifically to just play with inks.

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  18. What index cards have you found work well? I'm always on the hunt for FP friendly index cards.

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  19. Nice! There you go, I'm glad someone can get use from old academic planners! ;)

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  20. Loose paper can be really good too, especially if you wanted to alphabetize the inks you use down the road!

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  21. Yes! I guess that's technically more what mine is too. It's not so much a journal, as I don't do it every day. Mine is like yours, where I just write in it when I'm using a new ink/pen combo.

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  22. There you go! That will come in handy, I'm sure! Do you keep all the pages in the pad, or do you tear them out after you use each page?

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  23. Nice, the larger Habana is what I was using before. I opted for the larger CF notebook kind of on a whim, I just wanted that full-size notebook. Plus, since the white-paper Habanas are gone now, I'm using mine sparingly!

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  24. That is the thing, I use cheap index cards to see how bad a pen can get. I like to know the limits of my gear. :D I usually do what I call the SLOW test on them. I write really slow to see how bad I can get the ink/pen combo to feather.

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  25. I don't keep a formal ink journal as of yet. I've been using scraps of HP 32lb paper. However, if I do decide to keep an ink and pen journal, I may go with loose leaf or Circa so that I can insert different types of paper on which to test the inks as well as pens and nibs. I would definitely use Clairefontaine as the main paper, because that is my favorite paper!

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  26. I keep two ink books
    - a small Rhodia 7.5x12cm staplebound where I just keep track of what ink I have in what pen - write Pen name and ink name only with the inked pen. This is just for reference as I have Goldfish brain :)
    - a Clairefontaine A-Z cloth bound that I've divided up into colour families (eg Blacks, Browns etc) where I write the ink name pen/nib and "The quick brown fox .... dog" sentence every time I use an ink/pen combination that I haven't used before. So over time, I'm building up a side-by-side comparson of, eg, different browns across different nib types etc. If there's an outstanding problem (eg nib creep) or benefit (wonderful flow) I'll note that as well.

    I also note the pen and ink combo at the top of every practice passage I write for my italic and Copperplate practice books (stapled together myself from sheets with guidelines printed on them).

    It's very interesting going back and looking at inks I wrote with, say a week ago. As the ink ages (?) they often look quite different to the way they look at the time they are written. Also, the overall page impression (ink presence ?) writing with a particular ink gives in the practice books is often different to the impression given by a sentence or two in the logs/journals.

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  27. I'm not sure I'd call it an ink journal per se, but I do keep a notebook to test new inks and pens. I also use it for handwriting practice. There's no scientific method to it, except that I always use Clairefontaine basic clothbound notebooks and I write the date, pen, ink and the "The quick brown fox..." sentence to begin each test or practice session. After that, I do what I feel like. Most times I just write my impressions of the pen or ink, but if I'm specifically practicing my writing, I'll copy out song lyrics or my favourite poetry.

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  28. I hadn't thought about keeping a journal with different types of paper! That's a really neat idea!

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  29. Address book = genius!! Exaclair isn't importing these into the US anymore so they have limited availability, I just snagged one aside for myself :) Wonderful idea!

    You're right, many inks look different after a couple of days on the paper as opposed to laid down fresh. Sometimes it's neat to have a writing sample, let it sit for a few days, then write again with the same pen/ink under it just to see the difference!

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  30. For anyone wondering, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet. Just thought I'd state that since you're the second to mention using that line for writing tests. If sounds like your writing tests are fairly impromptu much like mine.

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  31. I have been kicking this idea around for a few months now since I pick up writing with a FP. I am still trying to decide my approach and exactly how I want to organize it. I like your method Brian. Maybe I am just over thinking it. LOL

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  32. Yes, I have been fir a few months now and it's a black and red A5 as it has white Oxford paper that doesn't bleed through at all. I just record the ink in a particualr pen at the time in case it needs a refil and also my impressions of the pen and the ink.

    Finding it really useful and sort of fun too :)

    Tony

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  33. That's what I ran into. I'm one of those types that will overthink a project until I make it into something impossible to accomplish. I like Colin Powell's approach to decision-making...gather up 2/3 of the knowledge you can, and make your decision. Any less and you don't know enough to make an educated decision, and any more and you've taken too long to make your decision. I find that when it comes to things like journals and all that, the most important thing is just to start.

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  34. Gotcha! Do you find most inks are pretty bad, or have there been some surprises for you?

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  35. There was one ink that surprised me. Diamine Blue Black. It did not feather appreciably and was very shaded. The rest, so far have pretty much no shading and at least a small degree of feathering.

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  36. I think you will find that quite large groups of people do have a "standard" process for testing and comparing inks - it's just that the vast majority of fountain/steel dip/glass dip pen and ink people still actually do the real life meet up thing, or write letters to demonstate an ink. I'm presuming when you say "posted" you don't mean posted - you mean the internet. Just last week I had test results, ink trials etc arrive with me from another pen and ink group a few hundred miles away....in the post. Next time the local pen and ink folks get together we'll take a collective look. A couple of weeks ago we had a group with around 40 inks between us - all for testing (both scientific and personal viewpoints). We collected samples and did test sheets etc and sent these off to the group who have just returned the favour.

    I don't think the internet is a good place for comparing pen and ink - because it is a different kettle of fish altogether. It is the opposite.

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  37. I keep several journals going all the time, but they are sketch journals for the most part. Right now I have three going and most of the ones I prefer are watercolor or mixed media paper since I like to use washes and all paints, too!

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  38. lately there are many pages that are INK TEST pages though. . . :)

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  39. A little off subject, but I was curious what everyone's methods were for sampling multiple inks. I like trying different inks and switching frequently, but I hate how much time it takes to flush out pens and reload inks. Any suggestions on what pen or method is best to switch inks without too much hassle? Thanks.

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  40. Well, you can use a dip pen, but then that's not always so accurate to what the ink will look like in a fountain pen. What I do when doing real quick tests is just use a cartridge/converter pen, and only fill it enough so the feed is saturated, not the converter. Then when I go to clean it, I only have to flush out the feed/nib with a bulb syringe and I'm all set, it takes about 30 seconds: http://www.inknouveau.com/2010/04/ink-nouveau-22-flushing-fountain-pen.html

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  41. Do I keep an ink journal? Yes. Yes, I do.

    Usually it's just a little ol' composition notebook and I've already filled one. But I have these Clairefontaines I ordered from a certain company...;-]

    One of those is up next.

    In addition to inks I log trades from fellow enthusiasts, and test pens, and doodle. So there.

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  42. I keep an ink journal in the A6 or A5 you gave me as a part of the Christmas special. It's a staple bound lined Clairefontaine. A fantastic tool. I write the title, on the top right page, "Noodlers Antietam" for example. Then I write a paragraph off the top of my head as I write and watch the ink and I write based on what I am seeing at the time.
    Then I have a second section of the same page whereas I start keeping up with the time to dry numbers. I write out "Fifteen Second" and hit a timer and at 15 I close the book quickly. I count down and stop where ever it stops bleeding.

    On the left, I will circle where the the hits off of the timing test are at. And at the top of that page I will rate it with a star, 1-5 stars.

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  43. Very cool Wilson, thanks for sharing your process! I too like to write 'as I see it' experiences when I try an ink for the first time. I find that if I'm transcribing something, I focus more on my writing technique, and not necessarily how the ink is performing.

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  44. I don't keep a journal, but I've got scraps of paper all over my house with ink tests written on them. I'm a little more manic that Brian when it comes to trying getting a fresh pen between different inks. I hate the thought that there may be a little water left in the feed that will alter the look or performance of the ink (even though it probably doesn't make any difference), so . . .

    I bought a few extra Lamy AL-Star sections with medium nibs. When I want to compare a few inks, I use a single Lamy AL-Star, don't bother loading the converter, and dip the nib. Then, I just change the section between inks. That way, I don't risk water in the nib and I don't have to flush between inks. When I'm done, I flush all the sections and they're all completely dry by the next time I do an ink comparison.

    Obsessive, I know.

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  45. One tip that speeds things up is to use a paper towel on the nib to draw water out of the feed section after you've cleaned your pen. A 30 second cleaning with a bulb syringe and this paper towel trick (sometimes repeating the process 2 or 3 times, for stubborn inks) gets it as clean as it can get, and doesn't take that long.

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  46. Me too--especially since I do my ink journal (if such it can be called) on index cards.

    There's just enough room to write info on ink, pen, a sentence or two, some numbers and marks, criss-cross, swirls, etc. and the date.

    The decision to use 3x5 cards was largely due to the "just get started already, quit searching for the perfect solution" principle--but I've found I quite like the theory behind it, too.

    It's much easier to sort (by ink, by pen, by color group, etc.) and compare the samples later. Now if Goulet were to stock index cards...

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  47. I started what i'd call an ink sample catalogue... I decided on a standard set of information and a format that would allow me to flip through and immediately identify the color of the ink on paper, and then be able to tell if it bled through (flip to the back of the page). I even have a writing test section where I've been writing a poem I want to memorize, and I duplicate it with a italic nib.


    I chose a Moleskine notebook for two reasons, but am now regretting my decision. First, I love creme-colored paper, so I wanted to see how the inks looked vs the pure white of Rhodia's CF paper. Second, I wanted a "cheap" paper that allowed bleed-through and feathering with some inks. Moleskine seemed to fit that bill well.
    Unfortunately, my most recent entry shows that the paper is wildly inconsistent. With Noodler's Burgundy, I did a dry-time test (smudging with my finger), like I've done for the previous inks. It smeared terribly even at 60 seconds. I thought my fingers were getting sweaty or something, so I left it until the next day, and added another dry-time line under the first; same results. But then I pulled out another small Moleskine notebook, and wrote '5' on a page, waited 5 seconds and attempted to smudge the ink with my finger... and it hardly smudged at all! What the heck is going on?!
    It looks like the notebook's paper quality is changing page-to-page (the previous inks in the journal didn't smudge nearly so badly) in the same notebook, which means it's useless to me in testing for dry time and bleed-through.
    Now I'm considering a Circa Rhodia Annotation notebook from Levenger, with the bonuses of being able to rearrange the pages, add more later, and even punch my own so that I can add in small samples of cheaper paper for feathering and bleed-through tests. It's kind of a big investment (I don't have any circa paraphernalia yet), but this fiasco with Moleskine is frustrating enough to make me "justify" it.

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