Friday, January 17, 2014

Goulet Q&A Episode 18, The Trifecta: Fountain Pen, Ink, and Paper

This week I'm back to a themed topic, The Trifecta: Pen, Ink, and Paper. I specifically wanted to discuss how the three interact and influence each other as a part of the overall writing experience. I got a slew of great questions, and was glad to answer as many of them as I could. This is a really rich topic, and I made sure to give it justice by taking as much time to explain my thoughts as I felt I needed. So sit back and get ready for a long one here!

The original video had a processing error about 40 minutes in, so I chopped it up and split it into two separate videos. I embedded a playlist here with both videos so you can watch them back-to-back, just realize the time markers will be for two separate videos.

Video Part 1

1) @PeppWaves03- Twitter (3:14):
Why does paper affect fp pens more so than rollerballs?

2) Myke N.-Facebook (4:44):
Goulet Pens has the package sets from specific employees for sale. What is it about those sets that the individual likes about them to make it their 'Daily Carry"? What are their reason for carrying them? (And if possible, maybe they could tell us in the video?)
  • apology for not bringing anyone in
  • personal experience
    • everyone here gets a pen
    • free samples
    • admins write notes a LOT
    • everyone tests each other's stuff

3) AJ Rosati- YouTube (7:09):
What pen or pens, ink, and notebook do you carry and use daily?  I know I always have a custom 74, lamy 2000, and lamy al star with me.  The only ink I always have is diamine syrah in my al star the other two change a great deal. Notebooks is always a midori passport size.

4) Joshua P.- Facebook (11:23):
I'd like to start a daily journal. What pen/ink/paper should I consider? More specifically, what notebook should I use that will last a long time and doesn't let ink show on the reverse side? What ink should I consider or stay away from? Should I use or stay away from a pen that lays down ink "really wet"?

5) Pascal D.- Facebook (14:27):
Nice Rhodia fp friendly paper is cool for letters and hobbies. Nice feel, no bleed through, etc. you know. Is there an office paper* and ink combo you'd recommend (with minimal bleed/feather and drying time) ? I guess we can just try and with time we'll see.. But if you already have suggestions, it could save time and ink smears/ transfers.. *as we probably won't have access to same paper brands, what weight, brightness, characteristics should we look for?
  • HP 24lb LaserJet
  • Look for 'laser printer' paper, not inkjet
  • you get what you pay for, $10+/ream and up 

6) Carlos Q.- Facebook (17:21):
Why Rhodia Paper is considered “better” than Clairfontaine paper when writing with fountain pens? Both papers are produced by the same company… there is a difference in price and definitely there is a difference when writing. I use the same pen and the same ink (Lamy 2000 with Diamine Forrest Green) and the difference is huge when writing on both notebooks… why is this? Both papers are ink resistant and high quality…
  • Preference
  • Rhodia is 80g, slightly less slick
  • CF dry time is usually a bit longer
  • Dots!!
  • Depends on use, format- Rhodia is better for tablets 

7) Kevin L.- Facebook (20:32):
Here is a mystery for the Goulet Q&A to contemplate. Is there any explanation when using the same paper and ink but different pens, of diferent manufacturers, that the ink color can vary from the color on the bottle to darker shades of the same color?
  • Flow
  • Nib size makes a huge difference
  • All about ink volume
    • Some inks vary more than others, typically called "shading" 

8) John N.- Facebook (23:06):
Why are brown inks more prone to feathering in pens on any paper? Give it a try with Noodler's Polar Brown.
  • Not sure if that's a universal truth
  • Polar Brown, yeah
  • dye components vary from color to color
    • some colors may act differently than others, chemically 

9) Sherah E.- Facebook (25:42):
Pen, paper, ink. In your opinion, which is the most important of the three? Which is the least important of the three? And why?
  • Car- engine, gasoline, tires?
  • Pen- what everyone perceives as the most important
  • Ink- easiest to change, most mystical
  • Paper- most overlooked, like a "road"

10) Jamie M.- Facebook (33:55):
What papers are best for wetter pens/inks in order to have it bleed less and keep it at it's thinnest "line" possible. (Can't think if there's a better word than line there.)
  • Start by looking at weight/gsm
    •  not always a great indicator
  • slick stuff- CF, Rhodia, and others
  • European (French, UK) and Japanese make some of the best
    • look for reviews online
Video Part 2

11) Adam T.- Facebook (0:04):
What trifecta combo would you recommend for small, ultra-portable daily note taking and other ordinary tasks (as opposed to journaling or letter writing, which are usually planned in advance), preferably able to fit in a normal pocket?

12) joaan787- YouTube (4:07):
What's a good combination of pen, paper, ink if I will be mixing drawings with text. The drawings would be towards the technical side like architectural details, maps and so on. Will most decent combos do or are there better or worse combinations?

13) Sarah S.- Facebook (5:22):
I use Clairefontaine paper. I use Noodlers polar blue and sailor sky high. In a fine pilot nib, polar blue feathers, but the sky high doesn't. Why?
  • Permanent dye components
  • Lubrication properties, writes wetter 

14) Chris P.- Facebook (6:22):
When I use stub nibs with Crane (cotton) paper, the ink flow often breaks up. Why is this, and is there a way to keep this from happening?
  • Paper fibers in nib
    • watch for writing pressure
    • floss tines with brass sheet
  • Ink choice? Try different inks, stick with what works better
  • Absorbency- paper might be sucking up more ink than the pen's feed can deliver (try a wetter ink)

15) @gilmour70- Twitter (8:59):
What are some inks that dry quickly (and won't smear when dry) on smooth paper (e.g., Rhodia)?

16) Beatriz F.- Facebook (11:10):
Hi Brian, I would like to know if, when I do my pen maintenance, I should use hot or cold water? I am not saying boiling water (100ºC / 212ºF), but some warm one, like 50ºC / 122ºF. I am asking because I think heated water should be better to dissolve some dried ink, and to do a better cleaning in overall. But, of course, I am worried if the warm water will damage the pen. So, what do you think? Could you enlighten me?
  • Always recommended to use lukewarm water, for warranty's sake
  • warm water will clean better
  • use your own judgement

17) @TheNomadSteve- Twitter (13:16):
Maybe types of paper beyond the typical Claire/Rhodia stuff. Cotton,Sketching paper? How are these w/FPs, inks?

18) Lynnette L.- Facebook (15:12):
I love flex nibs. I love inks that show variance in their color(s). I love paper that doesn't feather/ bleed. Is there are a way to combine these loves?

19) @Aleen- Twitter (16:59):
My ink won't dry on my favorite paper--a Rhodia dot pad, tried Noodler's & Private Reserve Any Rhodia-appropriate recs?
  • dilute it
  • blotter paper
  • switch brands
Thanks to everyone for all of the great questions! I appreciate you watching this week, and be sure to leave me any questions you have in the comments below. Next week I'll open it up again with an Open Forum, so you can ask me whatever you want about the fountain pen hobby. If you've missed any previous Q&A's, be sure to check out my catalog here. Have a great week!

Write On,
Brian Goulet 


  1. There seems to be a problem with the video at 40:12 right after you find the Poquito.

  2. Just had the same thing happen.

  3. Yep - we had a problem today with the YouTube upload hanging up, and I think we'll need to re-upload it. We'll try to get it fixed by Monday. Sorry about that!

  4. I haven't even watched the video yet, just read through the written notes, and already I can tell this is going to be one of my favorite Q and A's! Especially tantalizing is #9, with the wonderful analogy of engine, gas, tires -- and the ink component being described as 'most mystical' -- I happen to agree with that, actually. I have a free Saturday today, am looking forward to settling down in front of my 'puter with pen, ink and paper (to take notes) and pigging out on this very most basic topic. Thanks, Brian!

  5. Inks are formulated with surfactants (chemicals that affect its surface tension on different materials) to make it wet and flow well with pen feeds, nibs, and paper. Paper usually consists of cellulose fibers with or without coatings (e.g. clay) as well as fillers and binders (like starch) to give it certain properties (tear strength). Different inks have different surfactants and thus different surface tensions based on the manufacturer's proprietary formulations to achieve specific ink properties. This is why different inks wet and penetrate different papers in anomalous ways. An ink's viscosity also affects how the ink flows through the nib/feed system to the paper surface and is absorbed into the paper.

  6. I usually use Noodler's Black in my Midori passport Traveler's Notebook. Since it does not dry that quickly on the Midori paper, I cut a piece of J. Herbin blotting paper (http://www.gouletpens.com/J_Herbin_Rocker_Blotters_s/736.htm?searching=Y&sort=7&cat=736&show=15&page=1&brand=J.%20Herbin) and keep it in the notebook so it can be closed quickly without smearing the ink. I also keep one in my large journal and a sheet handy with other notebooks. Works great when you are "on the run".

  7. Dang, Brian, you lookin' GOOD.

  8. What's the dot style (ruling?) paper used for? I imagine it'd be pretty sweet for playing the Dot Game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dots_and_Boxes) but other than I'm not sure what it'd be for.

    And another unrelated question:

    I got a Kaweco Sport for Christmas and I converted it to an eyedropper. It works alright and I love the design and size of it, but it doesn't write nearly as well as the first pen I bought - an Ohto F-Lapa (Forgive me for buying from somewhere else! You don't carry Ohto!), which was about $15. They both have Noodler's Black in them, but the Sport is super scratchy and lays down an inconsistent line. For about half the price you wouldn't think my F-Lapa would write better, but it does. Could this be due to the eyedropper conversion of the Sport?

  9. I bought a converted Kaweco Sport eyeropper pen and kept Noodler's black in it. It wrote very smooth and never skipped. I would take the nib and feed out and make sure they are very clean and that no silicone grease got on them anywhere. If a tiny speck of silicone gets on the nib or feed it will seriously hurt the ink flow. Soak them in pen flush, scrub them with detergent. Then look at the tip with a good eye loupe to see if the tines are both aligned. I have 4 Kaweco Sport pens, two with F nibs, two with M. All write quite smooth. See Brian's video on tuning and tine alignment http://www.gouletpens.com/Goulet_Pen_Tuning_Package_Set_p/gpc-package-tuning.htm.

  10. I'm new to the fountain pen game and am (of course) drawn to super-saturated colors. I have Noodler's Baystate Blue and Private Reserve Purple Mojo. I'll try diluting them and then move on to different colors and brands if needs be.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. Totally not southern, but I can pretend to be ;)

  11. I love the dot grids for note taking, list making, sketching, and doodling. It helps me write in a straight line without overwhelming my eyes and create outlines that line up correctly. The dots are easy to ignore so I can treat the page like it's completely blank.

  12. One of my favorites are the Sustainable Earth 8 /12 x 11 lined pads from Staples. You get 12 pads in a package for $12.99 and the batch I received is terrific. The paper is made from sugar cane waste and though its on the thin side there is no bleed through, the lines are true and very little see through. The lines are nice and wide (about 8.5mm) and are a nice light weight sepia color.

  13. Brian really needs to reply to this to get your question fully answered, but I have used several Kaweco Sport pens with Noodler's Black for most of 10 years at work and never had a problem with them. Why don't you empty the ink out and put in a cartridge filled with Noodler's Black and see if there is any change. Also I suggest you take your nib and feed out and soak them in pen flush well, clean them, and floss the feed groove with a 2 mil brass shim. Maybe floss the tines too. Look at the tines to see if they are out of alignment (http://www.gouletpens.com/Goulet_Pen_Tuning_Package_Set_p/gpc-package-tuning.htm). My Kaweco Sports in F or M write quite smooth, good German nibs, and flow nice and wet with Noodler's Black ink. One was a conversion but I went back to cartridge since I was not using it often enough to need that much ink in the barrel; I fill its empty cartridge with a syringe. Oh, make sure you do not ever touch the back of the feed or anywhere on the nib or feed with your finger when you have silicone grease on it from lubing the O-ring and threads. That will cause a lot of problems like you describe. It would only take a very slight touch.

  14. Brian,

    Nearly unused reams of office paper are wonderful for shoving in front of the kids when they want to color. That's what I do with the disappointing paper I buy! Just a thought.


  15. Rollerballs use liquid ink too, it's gel ink pens that have a gel-type ink, and ballpoints either have the classic oil-based ink or a hybrid gel-oil ink that has the darkness of a gel ink pen but the viscosity of a ballpoint. Rollerballs have quite some bleedthrough like fountain pens, but slightly less due to a less juicy feed.


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