Friday, October 3, 2014

Goulet Q&A Episode 51, Open Forum

I have all kinds of interesting questions this week touching on paper, ultimatum/hypotheticals, pen purchase tradeoffs, and improving handwriting. Enjoy!

1) Jacob W.- Facebook (4:30):
If you had to only use one bottle of ink for the rest of this year what would it be...this ink would have to work with all your pens different needs and wetness (And you can't choose kon Peki)

2) @LILYWHYTELEGS- Twitter (5:56):
i saw lots more bleed through & ghosting w 100 gm/m2 Leuchtturm than Rhodia 80 gm/m2 paper. tested w same pens/inks. What gives?
  • paper weight isn’t the only factor in how well an ink performs
  • some papers (Tomoe River, Midori Light Paper, rice paper) are super thin but perform great 
  • thickness affects show-through/ghosting more than anything
  • but ink bleeding is likely because of the coating
  • Rhodia has higher clay content

3) Ben O’Kane- YouTube (9:00):
Am I better off buying a Lamy 2000/ Pilot Custom 74 or a TWSBI 580AL, 2 Ahabs, a Goulet stub nib and another $50ish pen? I'm a high school student who has to take lots (Seriously lots!) of notes. 
  • either way you win :)
  • it really depends on your goal
  • Lamy 2000/Custom 74 you will definitely enjoy
  • given the fact you’re a student and there’s a HIGH likelihood your pens will be lost/damaged/stolen in your high school/future school I personally recommend your second option
  • TWSBI will be better than Ahab for notes, unless you have really good paper (Ahab is really wet!)
  • Personally, I didn’t buy a gold nib pen for a long time, there’s no shame in steel nibs
4) Ryan G.- Facebook (13:45):
Which brand has the smoothest out-of-the-box Asian extra-fine? I know this is subjective, and EFs are guaranteed to be less smooth than other nibs, but I'm curious anyway. I have a Pilot Falcon in EF, and I love it...but it's certainly "toothy."

  • Sailor has a good reputation, but I honestly just haven’t experienced that firsthand
  • Pilot E95S extra-fine
  • Pilot Vanishing Point extra-fine
  • Falcon isn’t going to be all that smooth, because of the softness

5) Sean K.- Facebook (16:23):
I'm not sure if you've already addressed this in a previous Q&A, but I was wondering if you could do a rundown of the different properties of ink. What causes one ink to dry faster than another? Why does one tend to clog and the other not? How much of a difference is there between one ink company's product and another's? Does each manufacturer's ink has certain characteristics that are present in all their inks (e.g. I've heard the Noodler's tends to have very deep and rich colors)? What are some things to avoid? What's the best way to research inks (I would like to join the ink of the month club at some point, but I can't right now)? Thanks!
  • check out Q&A Episode 5 and 6, all about inks
  • FP101 Bottled Ink
  • some manufacturers make all their inks similar, especially the smaller ones
  • it’s always confusing, because manufacturers don’t often advertise the properties, or only part of them
6) Bcd D.- Facebook (18:30):
I am looking to improve my penmanship, especially in cursive. I have found several resources online and attempt to practice regularly. Do you or your team have any suggestions for resources and/or exercises? What is your favorite letter/character to write?
  • I’d really love to know what you’ve found so far, everyone! Post in the comments
  • I recognize a HUGE need for this in the pen world, haven’t been able to personally fill it yet
  • Best resource I know is FPN Penmanship subforum

7) Cheetarah C.- Facebook (20:30):
My question is about the swab shop: is it correct of me to think that this is linked to your inventory list of inks you currently carry? Is there a chance that you can add them to the swabshop again for reference sake, like on an archives page? 
  • yes, what we have in there is only inks that we currently stock
  • we’ve experimented with putting inks we don’t carry/are discontinued in there
  • has raised so much confusion/frustration in the past we took them down
  • there would be an opportunity to put them back up there, but would need a clear distinction that they’re not available
  • we’ll look into it
  • VERY manual process managing our Swab Shop 

8) Charles C.- Facebook (24:03):
Why are there so few green pens in the $35-$75 range, yet so many great inks. I have found a few but they seem either over-the-top whimsical, or a several year old Limited edition.
  • I agree, and can’t really give you a great answer
  • basically, green pens don’t sell well
  • manufacturers don’t make them because they don’t sell 

9) Brandon M.- Facebook (25:40):
Brian, what is your all time favorite pen? Maybe not one you use a lot, but one you always love using.
  • c’mon, I bet a bunch already know this ;) 
  • my favorite pen was my first gold-nib pen, and though I like a lot of others now, this one is my favorite now more for its history with me than anything else

10) Aaron D.- Facebook (29:03):
Hello Brian, thanks for doing Q&A. It has been very helpful and nice to listen to your feedback on people's question. 
I own two TWSBI's. A 580 and a Vac 700. The medium nib on my 580 does not match the line width on the Vac 700 medium nib. Is this a TWSBI thing?

  • These pens use two different size nibs (#5 on 580 and #6 on Vac-700)
  • Even though they’re same brand, the nibs vary between these two pens
  • Check out the Nib Nook, I did writing samples of both 
  • 580 medium is wetter than 700 medium, so it appears

11) Cotter S.- Facebook (31:31):
Hey! I bought a Lamy Studio pen and a while back the cap stopped clasping to the pen (there is no more audible click sound to signify it is secured and it falls right off if the pen is not pointing up). Is there anyway to fix? This was my favorite pen and I haven't been able to use it since I can't close it securely anymore.

12) Mayra Ruiz- YouTube (34:00):
Which blue, green, or orange inks perform better on cheaper paper like loose leaf or mead paper?
  • most important thing will be the pen/nib (finer the better)
  • expect that with just about any inks, you will have bleed through enough so that you can only use one side of the page
  • this is one reason upgrading paper actually ends up being much more reasonable than the cost would make it seem
  • Blue: all Pilot Iroshizuku inks, stay away from the more permanent blues, less saturated colors tend to do better
  • green: same general rules as blues
  • orange: same general rule as blues, have had good experience with most oranges, but color tends to get really washed out on cheap paper

13) Michael C.- InkNouveau (38:13):
At what point should I refill my Pilot Metropolitan? I can usually tell a page or two before the pen runs out of ink that it's running low. I usually just apply a bit more pressure and continue writing until it's completely out of ink. Is this OK? Or should I refill before it's completely out? 

  • this is tough with pens like the Metropolitan where you can’t see the ink level
  • when you have to press harder is a sign you should refill, as long as pen is acting ’normal’
  • you’ll find after a few weeks of regular use about how long you need to go in between fillings
  • best to get on a regular schedule before you start to run out, if you can (i.e. fill every Sunday night before you start school/work)
  • good to keep a backup pen! or spare ink sample of your ink if not near your bottle
  • ideally, don’t write with more pressure on a regular basis, or the nib will bend over time and write a lot wetter, making your pen run out faster!
  • honestly though, it’s a $15 pen and you don’t have to be too paranoid about it
    • but it’s good to practice good pen use with a less expensive pen rather than wear out a gold nib pen! 

14) James Hart- Ink Nouveau (43:25):
Do you have any ink & pen suggestions for editors, proofreaders & professional writers? A lot of us have to make annotations on cheap printer paper that often feathers and bleeds with wet nibs. Is this something that can be avoided with the right pen/ink combo?

15) @LILYWHYTELEGS- Twitter (45:28):
my 7-year old wants to know how to wash ink off his little fingers. He used lots soap & H2O and we ended up with bubble flood.
  • I can totally see that happening!
  • my 4yo son does the same kind of thing
  • shampoo, hand sanitizer
  • there are other cleaners out there like Ink Nix and Re-du-ran (never used them personally), but not sure how safe they’d be for kids
  • honestly, just wash as best you can, let it be

That's all for this week, thanks to everyone who asked questions whether I answered them or not. Be sure to check out old Q&A episodes here. Have a great week!

Question of the Week: What resources or methods have you found so far to help you improve your handwriting?

Write On,
Brian Goulet


  1. Q for the next open forum: Can you recommend a bottled ink that comes closest to "dollar bill green"? The swab photos on your shop are excellent, but the nature of images on screens makes it hard to see whether an ink has the particular qualities of hue, shade, and saturation I'm looking for.

  2. Method I use to improve my handwriting: 1) Visit http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php/forum/12-penmanship/ 2) daily practice, concentrating on the letters you have most trouble with. Five minutes per day is better than once a week. 3) I created horizontal lines in the computer that are spaced about what my normal lower case character height is (like my "a"), then print out pages with these lines on them (front & back) so I have practice paper (printer paper is just fine). I do not use lined notebook paper, not fp friendly! 5) Concentrate on each single letter until you improve on it then move to next letter. Write sentences too, like "The quick brown fox..." which has all the letters of the alphabet in it. 6) Go SLOW when practicing, don't write fast and expect to improve. Be patient, it is a learned skill. One person who showed beautiful handwriting on a web page was asked how she did it. She said "You have to obsess over each character until you get it right". This is not necessary for practice, but it does help to improve those characters you have trouble with. I hate the cursive capital "G" we were taught in school 50+ years ago, so I have switched to one like Alex Ross uses in her writing in the Monday Matchups on Inknouveau.

  3. The light or dark dollar bill? If you are looking for the light the color I think is closest is OS Gregor Mendel that sadly was just d/c'd while Tyler went to grad school.... the dark green might give you more options

  4. Re: Ben's question about a note-taking pen, now that Goulet Pens is carrying the Kaweco line again I would suggest a Kaweco Sport or Kaweco AlSport as a note-taking pen.

    I carry an AlSport with me everywhere - it's reliable, and it's durable enough to stand up to high school (toss it in your pocket between classes). As a bonus, when it's closed the pen can take quite a beating with the nib safely tucked away.

    The only real downside is that these are cartridge pens (converters won't fit), so you'll probably wind up carrying spare cartridges and/or refilling them.

  5. http://hollywoodhandwriting.tumblr.com - this is a blog I started last week showcasing handwritten letters/notes/ephemera as seen on screen. (a little self-promo can't hurt...!)

    One of the ways I've developed my penmanship and practiced calligraphic script is by spotting a style I like and copying it exactly a few times, until I can easily draw the letters in a reasonable facsimile. Then I expand to practicing the script with other words and shapes, often repeating letters or whatever form that I'm not happy with. French-rule paper is a huge help for getting proportions right. Grid is okay, but the additional horizontal lines of French-rule are much more helpful for me.

    I'm particularly interested in the handwriting that was taught in the early 20th century and therefore shows up in old Hollywood movies, thus my new blog. It's set to post one new sample each week, as I'd like to keep it going for a while and currently only have enough for one year, but I accept submissions if anyone else wants to contribute. :)

  6. Oh, also!

    I DON'T recommend using something like "The quick brown fox..." to practice writing. You'll get too used to always having your letter forms in the same order, which will mess you up when you go to use your new style in another context. Instead, use the Wikipedia random article feature, and sometimes switch it to another Latin-based language. I tend to prefer articles about historical events or people, because of the presence of capital letters.

    Using a language you're not familiar with is nice because it forces you to focus on the letter forms and not the words, but you still get to see the forms joined up in word groups. (If it's a language with diacritics or odd letters you don't want to bother with, just ignore them!)

  7. I started my current obsession/hobby back in March with a book, "Modern Calligraphy" by Molly Suber Thorpe which springboarded me into pointed dip nib calligraphy. (I think I have recommended this book at least a dozen times to people and in forums over the last 7 months!) She explains things simply and outlines a step-by-step method to developing your own style. A few months later, I found the Noodler's Ahab flex nib fountain pen, which has pretty much put my dip nib collection into hibernation!

    But an important part of my handwriting improvement routine is just looking for every opportunity to practice more... which includes taking notes in my bullet journal during your Goulet Q&A's!!!

  8. After spending a lot of time reading the handwriting threads at Fountain Pen Network, I bought the book "Write Now" from Getty & Dubay. Here's a link to their website (http://www.handwritingsuccess.com) - the book isn't available via Amazon, just 3rd party sellers, and you might as well pay the women who wrote the book.

    I practiced every day, using the Sustainable Earth notebooks at Staples - good paper, sturdy binding. The Write Now book has sample pages you can photocopy and use for practice, too; best if you use paper that's 28gsm, not the really lightweight stuff. Copy out poems, books, whatever you like. Practice a lot.

  9. You are right, I've found this works for me too, I love using the 1.5 mm nibs.

  10. Keri, I had not thought of the problems inherent in using the same practice phrase repetitively, probably because I don't do it myself. I vary it with journal like entries, etc. like you suggested. Good points.

  11. When the Kaweco Sport pens first came out (1930's I think), they were popular as pens to keep in your pants pocket and used a lot by golfers for keeping score.

  12. I always have a hard time thinking of things to write, because I'm focused on the act of writing, not the words. Does that make sense? and by using Wikipedia, I get a better variety of "random" words than come to me naturally. When I was learning to touchtype, I used random passages from nearby books or newspapers instead of the standard practice sentences, too, as a better "real world" test. :)

  13. Not resources, per se, but some things that really helped me when practicing cursive have been:

    French-ruled notebooks. I prefer the A4 spiral-bound variety, but the Goulets sell different sizes and bindings. You might want to experiment with graph or dot paper, though, and see if those suit you more.

    A very fine nib to better see what I do in those tiny boxes of French-ruled paper. But also, a very broad nib to practice with on unlined paper, for when I found myself getting too tense and cramped.

    And last but not least, texts I actually enjoyed copying. There's a good reason why lots of people have mentioned this before me—standard panagrams and the like are super boring! Lyrics to songs you love, favorite quotes from books or movies, etc. will hold your interest much longer. Don't hesitate to vary the lengths of your texts, either, and keep a supply of short ones for days when you only have a few minutes. Keri's suggestion of a different language that uses the same alphabet is a great one for days when you have more time.

  14. I'd like to see other ink samples for swab shop comparison. It happened to me many times that I want to compare some sailor inks I have with other inks I'm interested to buy but sadly there are no sailor ink samples :(

  15. I recommend the book "Teach Yourself Better Handwriting" by Rosemary Sassoon and Gunnlaugur se Briem. I have enjoyed using it to continue to improve my handwriting.

  16. The same happened to me, once I started using a fine calligraphy nib many years ago. After I took a one semester calligraphy class at my local community college, I essentially morphed my everyday handwriting naturally into a sort of cursive-italic hybrid that I still use today (30+ years later). I will admit I have always had good, clear handwriting, and that being a bit older than probably many of you writers (I am 65) I learned cursive in elementary school -- which I believe is no longer common practice. Very sad!

  17. Thanks, Brian for answering my 2 questions. My 7yo was sooooo excited to be "on" YouTube. Great tips with the shampoo and hand sanitizer...we'll be sure to give those a try.

  18. I am a big stamper and crafter as well as love fountain pen inks. When the young nieces and nephews visit, I give them a Ranger Scrubbie pad ($4) that I keep in the bathroom to do their hands (and elbows and where ever they get the ink). I use regular soap on it and wet their hands really well. They love scrubbing up with it as it is soft, and it removes the ink very well. I use sanitizer too when the ink is alcohol based as it works like a dream. I keep one of the Scrubbie pads in each bathroom as my hands are often inky. Look for those pads in a Craft store like Michaels etc.

  19. I also picked up Modern Calligraphy and it is wonderful! I picked up Mastering Cooperate Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters. I haven't used it yet, but love the look and the step by step instructions.

  20. #15 I usually give my hands a bit more of a scrub than usual but don't obsess about it because frankly I don't mind being what (apparently) Samuel Johnson called an ink-stained wretch. Wearing a bit of our ink where people can see it is a badge of honour.

  21. I use a Mister Clean white eraser to get ink off my hands. It works like magic, much better than products made to remove ink. Just remember to wet the eraser first.

  22. #3, second the notion of getting an inexpensive pen or two first, especially for school. FWIW, I was a gold nib snob for a long time, until I tried my first steel nib pen. Honestly, there's really nothing to choose between the 2 in my opinion.

  23. I get consistently outstanding results with Noodles Cactus Fruit Eel -- yes, a lubricated, saturated ink -- with Nemosine extra-fine nibs on very cheap paper. I haven't yet been able to determine whether that extends to the rest of the Eel series, and the color isn't quite any of those Mayra asked about, but it's an interesting data point.

  24. Thanks for answering my Q About the SwabShop! Wow had no idea that Rachel maintained that manually! Props and thanks to Rachel for creating that tool!! I understand now that it would be a pain to put in inks you aren't selling at the moment in there beacuse of the reasons you gave. But thanks for keeping your mind open for the option in the future. It would be a great reference tool for an 'ultimate ink catalogue' though!

  25. Adrian, you are absolutely right. Gold nibs came into popularity many
    decades ago because the inks were so corrosive to steel nibs. That is
    not the case any more. High quality steel nibs are just as good as gold
    nibs. However, gold nibs are expensive so they tend to be made to very
    high quality. Not so some cheap steel nibs. But, good steel nibs like
    Jowo (Goulet nibs) for example are superb nibs.


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