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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Using J. Herbin Blotter Paper



Link to YouTube for the vid and more viewing options.

Blotting paper is one of those tools that you'll likely never have heard about unless you're into fountain pens. For many beginners, blotting paper can be one of those tools that can change your writing life, opening up your world!

What is Blotting Paper?

Essentially, blotting paper is just absorbent paper that takes up the excess ink that your fountain pen lays down, so you can continue writing if you need to turn the page or handle what you just wrote with your hands. It saves you time so you don't have to wait until the ink dries on the page.

You can use blotting paper just with your hands, but it can be hard to keep from smearing. It's much easier to use a rocking blotter, like the J. Herbin one (there are others, this is just what I have on hand):



What is a Rocking Blotter?

The rocking blotter is simple, it holds the blotting paper and you just rock it back and forth over your wet writing, which soaks up the excess ink and allows you to then handle the paper without smearing ink.

The concept is straightforward, you have a rounded base with a plate on the back to hold the blotting paper onto it, and a handle with a threaded rod holds the plate onto the base. Like so:



Blotters are something that have been around for a really long time, and were a common tool for anyone writing, say, 150 years ago. But in today's world where most hand writing is done with ballpoint and rollerball pens, the concept of waiting for liquid ink to dry on a page is a foreign concept to new fountain pen users.

If you don't have a blotter, no big deal. Just allow some extra time for your ink to dry on the page and you'll be all set. But if you're writing something thoughtful and you don't want to break the flow of your writing, a blotter can help you to stay 'in the zone' and keep you going without having to wait for your ink to dry.

You don't have to use blotting paper in a rocker blotter, there are other uses for it. One thing I like to do is cut it to fit a small carry-around notebook I use, and when I'm writing something in the notebooks, I can just shut it and know that the ink won't go over to the other page. This works great in planners, too.

J. Herbin Blotting Paper

The J. Herbin blotting paper is good stuff, but there's other blotting paper out there. I have to be honest and say I'm not 100% sure what is the difference between one blotting paper over another. I've heard of people getting some from their local printers (if there is one local to you), but the Herbin stuff is made  and distributed specifically for fountain pen use.

It comes in both pink and white sheets, but there's no difference between the two other than color. Both colors are available in full sheets (7.5"x4.75") in packs of 10. These sheets can be cut down into 4 strips to fit the Herbin Rocking Blotter, giving you 40 sheets for your blotter. The pink ones are available in a pack of 10 pre-cut sheets to fit the Herbin rocking blotter (the same thing that comes already on the blotter), they're more expensive this way, but convenient.


How Long Does It Last?

This is going to depend on your use, so my answer is, until you change it ;) Seriously though, you can use the same piece of blotting paper over and over and over again, well beyond when the sheet becomes covered in ink spots. My rule is, I change it when it no longer absorbs ink, which is a while. Pretty much, a pack of blotting paper will last you until you lose it.

Hopefully, this has helped you educate you a bit on blotting paper. If you have any other questions or things to add, by all means, post in the comments! :)

22 comments:

  1. Cool video, I have just started this past month of so using fountain pens, and this will be a big help to me.

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  2. I've grown exceptionally fond of my rocking blotter over the years.  I find them essential for writing in journals with either dip or fountain pens.  Nice video!  :)

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  3. Excellent video Brian! Love my blotting paper! It happens to be a different brand and a bit thicker than the J Herbin. I use mine as a kind of gauge when writing [a letter, journaling, etc.] on blank sheets to help keep my lines straight, also to protect previous writing on the page as I hold down the paper. (some people's hands are naturally damp or the ink could just be slow to dry). Have prevented many a messy smear this way!

    One can also buy big sheets of blotting paper (about 2 ft x 1 1/2 ft) at art supply stores or some stationers which are usually made to fit desk pads. I cut sheets to fit my various sizes of stationery and journals/notebooks and keep smaller pieces around the house anywhere I might decide to write.

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  4. You read my mind...I just bought a vintage green marble rocker blotter from a local antique shop & had blotting paper on the list for my next order!  I love the idea of using it between journal pages - would not have thought of that.  Thanks for the videos & tips!  They're always such a pleasure to watch & so informative.

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  5. I don't actually have a blotter but I bought a pack of blotting paper.  I cut it down to size for my smaller notebooks and use it as a bookmark/blotter.  Works as a shield for my hand on the notebook too.  Especially useful for Moleskine notebooks.

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  6. RE: ink sample suggestions:   (off this topic, sorry, but twitter's broken)--you've probably already thought of nib-specifics, like shading inks for flex / music/italic nibs; lubricating inks for dry writers---
    ---  maybe also some fun color packs--the 'blackest black' contest;  'not safe for work colors'; 'inks of a feather' (best bets for any paper); and of course, a selection of plaid inks for daily use.  What?  They don't come in plaid?  ;)                                

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  7. Thanks! This is one of those tools that you would never know about unless someone explained it to you, and I'm glad I was able to help. It is really useful.

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  8. Yes, definitely! I forgot to even mention dip pens, since they typically lay down even more ink than fountain pens, blotters are even more essential.

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  9. Awesome, thanks for the tip! 2ftx2ft, holy cow! That would last a lifetime! ;)

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  10. Vintage blotters can be another fragment of writing that are easily addicting to collect! Just type in 'rocker blotter' into Google images and you'll see tons of cool ones! I'm glad you like the vids, I'll surely keep them coming!

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  11. There you go! The rocker blotter is kind of expensive, but the paper is reasonable, especially given how long it lasts. I definitely recommend the notebooks trick ;)

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  12. Haha, thanks Carol! Your suggestions are noted and much appreciated!

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  13. Oh-one more:  Favorite Movie Palettes!  example:  'The Wizard of Oz:  Ruby Slippers Red (sparkly Rouge Hematite); Yellow Brick Road Yellow (shading Ambre de Birmanie); Emerald City Green (Noodlers Hunter Green Eternal); and Wicked Witch of the West Smoke- grey (Sailor SilverGray).   Good luck doing the animated ones!  LOL 

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  14. Nice to see the old meet the new, or the revision of tools I grew to accept as part of a fountain pen life.  I was introduced to the art of the fountain pen, young, at age 4, and sitting next to that pen, my Dad's, was just such a rocker with blotting paper, and under my dirty elbows, was a full sheet of the same paper as a protective cover to his old oak desk.

    Thanks for the post. 

    And, yes, the paper can last nearly forever, that is if forever is not filled with ink splatter, drips or a leaking pen.

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  15. LOL, I always wondered where you placed the tripod when doing the overhead shots.  Now I know. :P

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  16. Really nice video! Rocking blotters seem to be really practical and useful :)

    If you have a writing pad with a rough cardboard cover on the back, you can actually use the cardboard as a blotter.

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  17. I have a pack of Visconti blotting paper I bought a bit ago. I find it handy for using when I'm "out and about," since the sheets are only 2 3/8" x 4 5/16"; and more importantly -- they're plasticized on one side, so if you're using it just with your hands (as opposed to on a rocking blotter), your fingers won't get stained with ink if any were to seep through to the other side (say if you were writing with a very wet pen/ink combo). Their small size also means they fit well in wallets or the back-cover pockets of Moleskine type notebooks and journals. :)

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  18. Yup, it's really a pretty awkward setup! I think you would all be amazed if you saw how primitive my video and photo setup actually was ;) I have great cameras, but the peripherals are pretty bare-bones!

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  19. Very cool! I think you're in a minority of having grown up around fountain pens (and blotting paper!), so that is a precious memory for you to cherish. Yes, I forgot to mention in the video that blotting paper is used to line writing surfaces as well, though in much larger sheets than I have in the video ;)

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  20. Rocking blotters are a pretty specialized tool, but they serve their purpose very well! I've never heard of cardboard for a blotter, but I could see that happening!

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  21. Neat, thanks for sharing that! I can see some advantages to the plasticized blotting paper, the only real disadvantage is that you can't use both sides (at least very well!). I haven't seen a lot of the Visconti stuff around, I'll keep an eye out.

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  22. Just came across this page on blotter paper. Once upon a time, (when I was young), desk sets had (usually) a leather writing area. One would place a large piece of blotting paper (something like 18x30") and place the paper on it. If the paper had wet ink, you just turned it over and rubbed the back. They sold the large sheets in all colors at the stationer's store. It was a standard size.


    The blotter paper gave way to desk calendars that fit in the same space over the years.

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