Sunday, March 20, 2011

New ink testing method

I have come to the realization that paper does influence and change the way a fountain pen feels and how an ink looks and performs. Until now, I was using two types of paper for my ink reviews.

First, there's plain photocopier paper which I assume is the lowest common denominator when testing an ink. This is certainly true for me because this is the type of paper I use the most, especially at work. Photocopier paper is generally characterized by its low cost, low bleedthrough resistance and high absorption which translates into quick drying times. Some of these papers could also be prone to feathering but I haven't experienced this yet.

Second, I have been using a generic type of Staples journal which looks like a Moleskine notebook so I assumed it was a Moleskine clone. Though I've never used any Moleskine product, I believe I was wrong. Yet, I persisted in using this journal because I had created a testing "standard" and it requires a mental switch of direction in order to move to something else. Note that this journal has yellowish, or off-white paper.

After a few reviews I've started to realize that the Staples journal is, quite simply, crap. While the presentation itself is nice, with its faux-leather cover, the writing experience is bad. I would characterize it as dry. The paper seems very absorbent and since inks seem to dry very fast in it, I've come to believe that the paper is even worse than the photocopier paper I use. Also, because the paper is not white, I don't think it offers a 100% accurate representation of the colors of tested inks.

I've decided to drop the Staples journal. Instead, I'm replacing it with two new and improved papers. Meet the new masters: a Clairefontaine 90g sketch pad with blank paper and a Rhodia 80g notebook with lined paper.

Clairefontaine and Rhodia

I've been using the Clairefontaine sketch pad for a while now, to sketch and draw in it. The paper is thick, white and virtually bleedthrough-proof. I tend to abuse it when I lay thick layers of ink but it never lets that ink go through it. I decided that I could use this for ink swatches containing just the ink name written with the ink itself and a swab of ink drawn with a q-tip. Unfortunately, as I write this, it seems these pads are no longer in stock at Goulet Pens from where I got mine. That makes me sad and I hope they will start selling them again in the future, or else I'll have to change my ink swatch paper to something else.

The ruled Rhodia notebook has been lying around for a while, together with a similar sized notebook from Clairefontaine, which is also ruled but has 90g paper as opposed to the Rhodia's 80g. I decided on a whim to start doing my ink reviews in the Rhodia and I was amazed by how good this paper feels. Writing in it feels smooth as butter. It seems that this paper is coated with something because the inks take forever to dry. This could be a disadvantage but for me it's no problem because I let each page dry before I close the book and each review takes exactly one page.

The Rhodia reviews are shorter versions of the photocopier paper reviews. One difference is that I will be doing 2 swatches with the q-tip: the first is one pass, the second is two passes. This should show off the shading when an additional layer of ink is applied.

So this is my new ink testing methodology. I'm really glad I decided to jump to some good quality paper as opposed to the lousy journal I was using before. I never realized paper could make such a difference but now I know better.

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