The Scale of Paper Absorption: Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series of paper tests. If you would like to read them, here is Part 1 and Part 2.

A blog called Fountain Pen Love had an excellent post last year about the difference between fountain pen friendly, and fountain pen fun paper. In short, fountain pen fun paper helps make your inks look their best and make that paper more enjoyable to use. Paper like Tomoe River is fountain pen fun. Fountain pen friendly may not make your inks look their Sunday-best, but perhaps casual-Friday at the worst. Papers like Mnemosyne and Clairfontaine are fountain pen friendly.

For lefties who hook their hand and rub it all over their handwriting, fountain pen fun paper is great, but not always practical for everyday use. I started to test Tomoe River paper, but certain inks never dried, or took many minutes, so it’s hard to compare to every other paper that had been tested. Tomoe River is in a class by itself, and will be measured and averaged in minutes.

In each test I take 13 pens with varying nib sizes and wetness, along with 13 inks of different properties and wetness, and measure dry-times in seconds. I smudge sets of three lines in five second intervals until the ink is dried. Keep in mind that these tests aren’t super scientific, and that there are a lot of variables like writing angle.

Apica CD Paper:

Apica CD paper had an average dry time of 15.9 seconds. The longest dry-time was Ham #65, which dried within 5 minutes. There was no feathering and moderate show-through with darker inks. Bleed-though is a 1. Most inks had nice shading but no sheen. I’m wondering if Ham #65 took so long to dry because it’s been in that pen for several months now? Once I re-ink that pen I’ll test again to verify the results. With very mild bleed-through, nice shading, and a median dry time Apica CD is a 7 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Maruman Paper:

Maruman paper had an average dry-time of 13.46 seconds. The longest dry-time was Extra-Dimension, which dried within 30 seconds. This paper yielded crisp lines and heavy shading. Inks that are made to sheen did. Extra-Dimension, Fire & Ice, Wild Strawberry, and Pilot Blue-Black all sheened. Bleed-through is a 0, and the show-through was minor enough that I would feel comfortable writing on both sides of the page. With no bleeding, both shading and sheening, and a median to high dry-time, Maruman paper is a 9 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Kokuyo Sketch Book Paper:

Kokuyo Sketch paper also had an average dry-time of 13.46 seconds. The longest dry-times were Schrödinger and Kokeiro with 25 seconds each. Extra Dimension, Navajo Turquoise, and Golden Brown all dried 10 seconds faster on this paper than the Maruman. Corn Poppy Red, Pilot Blue-Black, and Fire & Ice all took 5 seconds longer to dry on Kokuyo paper. Ama-Iro, Wild Strawberry, Ha Ha, Ham #65, and Horizon Blue all had the same dry-times as on Maruman paper. Kokeiro almost completely dried at 15 seconds on Kokuyo, but when I moved down to the next line my writing angle changed and the nib put out more ink and therefore took longer to dry. This has happened with other inks on other papers as well, and is a factor to keep in mind when looking at these results. Bleed-through is a 1; I would not write on both sides of this paper, and some lines are fuzzy looking. There is some sheening; the only ink that sheened more on this paper compared to Maruman is Fire & Ice. With some bleed-through, light sheening and shading, and a median to high dry-time Kokuyo Sketch paper is a 7 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Kokuyo Campus Paper:

Kokuyo Campus paper had an average dry-time of 18.46 seconds. The longest dry-time was Navajo Turquoise at 45 seconds. If you look closely, you can see that my writing still smudged as I moved further down the page. Bleed-through is a 0, I would write on both sides of the page. This paper is great for both sheening and shading. Ama-Iro still dried within 5 seconds, it’s a champ. With a long dry-time, heavy shading and moderate sheening, Kokuyo Campus paper is a 9 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Yamamoto Ro-Biki Paper:

Yamamoto Ro-Biki paper had an average dry time of 11.15 seconds. Extra-Dimension and Kokeiro had the longest dry times, both drying within 20 seconds. Bleed through is a 3. There is enough bleed through on the back of the page that I wouldn’t write on both sides. Despite the bleeding, this paper still shows off shading with every ink except for Golden Brown. Golden Brown had the worst bleeding and looks staticky after drying. With a median low dry-time, shading, and moderate bleed through, Yamamoto Ro-Biki paper is a 6 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Midori Cotton Paper:

Midori Cotton paper had an average dry time of 9.61 seconds! Compare that to regular Midori that had an average dry time of 25 seconds. The longest dry time was Golden Brown at 25 seconds. Bleed through is a 0, with the gentlest show-through. There was also no feathering, beautiful shading, and sheening. This paper is such a joy to write on, and it’s hard to find a paper that has short dry times and high ink performance. With these factors in mind, Midori Cotton is a 10 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Kleid Paper:

Kleid paper had an average dry time of 15 seconds. Bleed-through is a 0, Golden Brown bled through a little bit onto the back of the page, and there was no feathering. There isn’t even any show through besides that little bit of bleed-through. The longest dry time was Extra Dimension at 25 seconds. Extra Dimension, Fire & Ice, and Navajo Turquoise all smudged as I wrote further down the page. This paper shows off shading and sheening quite well, and it feels laminated. With a median dry time, desirable ink properties, and minimal bleed-through, Kleid paper is an 8 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Field Notes Memo Book Paper:

Field Notes memo book paper had an average dry time of 5 seconds. Every ink tested dried within 5 seconds. Bleed-through is a 4. Any broader nibs and wet inks feathered and bled onto the back of the page. All of the inks on the first page did pretty well, and I would consider them useable for writing quick notes. On the second page, all the nibs are pretty wet, and put out a lot of ink. I was surprised that Pilot Blue-Black feathered, because it’s normally so well behaved. Fire & Ice actually sheened a little bit, and Haha shaded a little bit. With the lowest dry time so far, heavy feathering and bleeding, Field Notes Memo paper is a 1 on the Scale of Paper Absorption. While this paper had a lower dry time than Molskine, the paper quality is higher and is more fountain pen friendly.

Tomoe River Paper (52 gsm):

I changed my threshold for Tomoe River paper to 30 seconds rather than 5 seconds, because this paper is so water resistant. This specific paper is over a year old, before the company changed their formula. Tomoe River Paper had an average dry time of 1.69 minutes, the longest so far. This is the most fountain pen fun paper I have; every ink looks its best. The shading and sheening is beautiful, and there is no feathering. Because this paper is so thin, there is a lot of show through, but no bleeding. Bleed through is a 0. I have had inks bleed through all the way to the next page while using a flex nib, but for the pens and inks used in this test, there was no bleeding. Tomoe River is an 11 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

The next (and last) post in this series will be an analysis of these results, with numbers and such all in once place.

The Kaweco Sport (Fountain Pen)

The Kaweco Sport is a favorite among many fountain pen users for its small size and many color options. I’m a fan of pocket pens myself, and enjoy these little guys. The Sport line has many iterations besides the rainbow of standard plastic models; there are AL or aluminum models, carbon fiber, special acrylic, steel, and brass. You can also get the Sports in rollerballs, ballpoints, clutch pencils, and mechanical pencils. When Kaweco went under new ownership in 1994, they updated the design from a piston filler to the standard international cartridge/converter system. Vintage Sports with gold nibs and pistons can be found on eBay, and I hope to acquire one someday.

My navy sport next to a Sheaffer Balance Jr and a TWSBI Mini for size comparison.

The first Sport I owned was a clear one with a medium nib. At first it had some baby’s bottom issues, but Kaweco customer service sent me a new nib, which worked fine. Baby’s bottom is where a nib is over polished so that the inside edges of the tipping material are rounded and don’t touch, inhibiting ink flow. Later, I tried a white Sport with a fine nib, but it had flow issues and only liked very wet inks. My third Sport is navy with an extra-fine nib, and it’s just right. The navy is a lovely deep blue color with gold trimmings. I added a black clip, which compliments the navy nicely. I ordered this pen from St. Louis Art Supply over the summer. They test all fountain pens over $20 USD before sending them off, and this Sport had the best out-of-box writing experience out of all the Sports I’ve tried.

The Sports are a good starter pen for lefties with small hands, or for anyone who wants a pocket pen. These pens are designed to be posted, but my hands are small enough to use the pen unposted if I’m just writing a quick note. Posting really helps keep the pen balanced. My grip happens to fall on the threads above the grip section, which is fine with the plastic models as the threads aren’t sharp.

Sports take short standard international cartridges, or Kaweco’s slide piston converter. Kaweco also makes a tiny squeeze converter, but I’ve found that they don’t work very well and come apart easily. I’ve also found that Kaweco pens write better with non-Kaweco inks, except for their Pearl Black, which wrote great every time. Lubricated inks like Monteverde come in cartridges and seem to flow smoothly. Faber-Castell cartridges also work well. I haven’t tried Herbin or Diamine cartridges, but I know their inks work well out of the bottle.

If you don’t want to use cartridges, or are bothered by Kaweco’s converters, plastic Sports are able to be converted into eyedropper pens by applying silicone grease to the barrel threads. You can add an o-ring as well but the silicone grease works just fine.

Eyedroppering is especially nice with clear barrel models such as the clear classic, and any of the ice series. In the picture above, I’ve filled this pen with Noodlers Blue Nosed Bear. This is a super wet ink, so the fact that I was able to write with this and enjoy it means that this medium nib was a very dry writer. I’ve taken notes with my navy Sport, and it flowed well, but the design of the pen makes it impractical for start/stop applications unless you’re able to use the pen unposted. When I was first trying to write with my clear Sport that had baby’s bottom, the pen wouldn’t flow consistently when I was holding the pen at a high angle. My partner tried using it while holding the pen at a lower angle and they were able to get a consistent flow. I’m not sure how common baby’s bottom is for Kaweco nibs, but it is an issue to look out for. If you’re a lefty over writer beginning their fountain pen journey with a Sport and you encounter baby’s bottom, please don’t be discouraged because there is always another nib.

Here is a writing sample from September. It’s just notes from an online IT course.

I love Kaweco as a brand, and love all of my pens from them, but the quality control on their nibs can be uneven. I once bought a double broad Kaweco nib, and it didn’t have a slit. Fortunately, all of their pens except for the Supra take the same nib, so it’s easy to swap nibs once you’ve found one that you really like. All Kaweco nibs are friction fit inside a plastic housing. On all metal sectioned models, this housing can just be screwed in and out. On all plastic sectioned models, the housing is stuck inside the section and is not able to be removed. To remove a Kaweco nib from its housing, use a rubber grip or jar opener and pull it out by holding the nib at the tapered part of the feed. Kaweco feeds are a lot more durable than (for example) TWSBI feeds, so these pens are good to practice on if you’re a beginner nib swapper. Lamys are good for practice as well, but you can’t play around with other nib brands.

Every version of the Sport will have its own writing experience, which is why the AL-Sport will have its own post. Besides the fountain pen, I’ve also tried the rollerball and the clutch pencil, which are both pleasant to use and will also have their own posts in time. You can purchase your own Sport wherever fine writing instruments are sold. The plastic models generally sell for about $25 to $30 USD.

A Lesson on Ink Hygiene

Back in December, I needed to refill a pen that had run out of ink. The ink; Diamine Wild Strawberry, had been in my pen; a Pilot Legno, for about three months. The nib had some ink dried on it, as well as the feed. I figured that since I was just refilling the pen that I didn’t need to clean it before dipping it in the ink bottle. Two months later, I would find out that I was wrong. Don’t leave dried ink on your nibs kids!

When I was making my chromatography, I decided to get out Wild Strawberry for my next strip. I shook the bottle a bit so that the ink would be mixed. I noticed some solid particles at the bottom of the bottle as well as some kind of floating mass, so I opened the bottle to smell the ink. It smelled like straight mold, but I did the chromatography anyway for some reason. I ended up throwing away the bottle, the chromatography strip, and the pen cleaning towel that the strip was drying on. I thoroughly cleaned the chopsticks, the bag clips, the glass of water, and the pen that had Wild Strawberry in it. My partner and I then went though and smelled every bottle of ink that we own to see if there were any other moldy bottles, and threw away too many bottles. Besides Diamine Wild Strawberry, other effected bottles were: Diamine Polar Glow, Colorverse Extra Dimension, Organics Studio Copper Turquoise, Noodlers American Aristocracy, Lamy Benitoite, Herbin Emeraude de Chivor, and TWSBI Midnight Blue. I learned that many Noodlers Inks smell like almonds, and that all Iroshizuku inks smell like nothing and have great mold protection.

From now on, I won’t be dipping a nib into an ink bottle unless it’s been cleaned. If a piston or vacuum filler pen hasn’t been inked up for very long and it needs to be refilled, I will decant ink into a small jar and refill from there. For cartridge converter pens, I’ll fill the converter with a clean syringe. Eyedroppers are already easy to maintain, but I will pay more attention to making sure that the inside of the eyedropper bulb is clean and dry. If there’s a lot of ink left in a pen and I want to change colors or just clean the pen and put it away, I’ll dump the ink in a sample bottle or tiny jar.

This incident has helped me further appreciate pens and converters that can be easily and completely disassembled. If you stick a pencil (eraser side in) to a TWSBI cap and turn it counterclockwise, you can remove the inner cap and clean any ink out. I wish that Pilot would bring back the Con-50, because those can actually be taken apart without hassle. A Pilot nib and feed can be removed very easily after you’ve done it once. Any feed with a little indent for the nib makes it easier to remove without risk of damaging the nib. Most Pilot feeds are like this, as well as Kaweco. The Lamy nibs just slide onto the feed, but the feed needs to be reinserted just right or it gets stuck in the section.

I’ve now replaced the bottle of Wild Strawberry as well as Polar Glow. We already had a bottle of Extra Dimension that hadn’t been opened to save for later when the original bottle ran out. I feel ashamed about the pen practices (especially early on) that led to so much wasted ink, but the only thing to do is learn from any mistakes and be mindful of potential biohazards.

Fun With Chromatography

After watching some videos by Inky Rocks on YouTube, I really wanted to try doing some chromatography. Chromatography is “the separation of a mixture or solution through a medium in which the components move at different rates.” The medium in this case is water, and the mixture is fountain pen ink. There is special paper available for this on amazon and other sites where scientific equipment is sold, but I already had a bulk box of industrial grade paper towels. The special paper might yield richer results, but the paper towels work pretty darn well. I might try some tests with more absorbent bounty paper towels to see if there’s a difference.

My setup. In the foreground is Robert Oster Fire & Ice, and in the background is Diamine Wild Strawberry.

I cut up the paper towels into strips, swabbed a line of ink at the bottom with a q-tip, and let the towel soak until the ink reached the top. It’s very fun to see what your favorite inks are made of. I dipped the strips by hand at first, but then I clipped them to some plastic chopsticks with bag clips so they could rest on the rim of the glass and be able to soak for a longer period of time. Some inks yielded predictable results while some inks yielded results that blew me away. My favorites so far are Robert Oster Velvet Storm, Colorverse Mariner 4, Diamine Nutcracker, and KWZ Honey.

I was really surprised at how much purple there is in Velvet Storm, since it’s a teal-black ink. The colors separated out so distinctly, and it looks neat. With Mariner 4, the corners of the towel stuck to the side of the glass and ended up separating in a triangular shape. It looks like a purple and blue iceberg. Nutcracker yielded a very nice gradient with a thin line of black at the top. Honey might be my favorite because it looks like some kind of rock formation.

Some results that surprised me were the Sailor Ink Studio dual shading inks. 123, 162, 150, and 224 all look different out of the bottle, but separated in water look very similar. 150 has more a more vibrant pink and purple than the others, and 123 has a more vibrant teal than the others. 224 has the least vibrant results. 162 has a pretty equal amount of teal and purple.

So far only one ink has completely separated out, with a clear white space in between colors, and that’s Iroshizuku Chiku-rin. It’s like blue and yellow polarized each other. I expected there to be some green in this strip, but there isn’t any.

In science class in school, we did chromatography on paper towels with magic markers. I remember being fascinated then, and had a lot of fun making these now. If you have bottles of ink or ink samples, it’s very easy to do chromatography at home with things you might already have. All you need are some paper towels, a glass, some q-tips, and something to hold the paper towel while it soaks up the water.

The Franklin Christoph Model 25 Eclispse

How about that Harris Tweed!

When I was researching this pen, looking for reviews, I could only find ones written for the original iteration of this model. Franklin Christoph changed their design of this pen since then, so I’d like to review the Model 25 in its current, sleek form.

The Franklin Christoph Model 25 Eclipse is one of the most unique pen designs I’ve ever seen. The clip is on the body of the pen, head side, so that the nib is always facing downward when the pen is clipped to a pocket. The cap is short and seals up the nib very nicely. To post the cap, you just slip it under the clip. This makes a very satisfying click, and then an audibly satisfying click when you remove the cap. The cap threads are close to the nib and out of the way of your grip, which means that the rest of the body is one smooth surface. The clip is engraved with a diamond pattern, and the finial is engraved with the Franklin Christoph logo.

When I ordered this pen in mid-December, the color available was vintage green. This resin is slightly translucent, you can see the threads inside and a little bit of the converter. The green is warm and sophisticated, and the build quality is superb. The threads on the body are engineered so that the clip and nib are always aligned. The nib is semi-hooded and cannot be easily removed. If you want to swap out the nib, FC recommends that you send it to them. If you like to live dangerously, you can contact FC for instructions on how to remove the nib.

The Model 25 is my first Franklin Christoph pen, and it lived up to my expectations. I ordered my pen with a high performance steel fine nib. The FC website says that the high performance steel “is more like gold today than most nibs you’ll find through pen history.” This nib definitely feels different than a standard stainless steel nib, it’s delightfully smooth. When I first inked up this pen, I used a Pelikan Aquamarine cartridge. I wanted to make clean-up as easy as possible, since the nib can’t be easily removed. Unfortunately that ink is pretty dry, and the pen kept hard-starting. I took out the cartridge, cleaned the pen and inked up with TWSBI Midnight Blue. Midnight Blue is much wetter, and the Model 25 hard-started much less, but didn’t like writing in short bursts. Next, I tried Iroshizuku Kon-Peki. Kon-Peki is just right, it flows very well. I had hard-starting issues with Midnight Blue before, and wanted to see if maybe that ink would work better in a different pen, but it’s a finicky ink.

The cap thread placement that I mentioned earlier makes the Model 25 very comfortable for those who grip their pen high on the section, like me. The diameter of this pen is wide enough that my thumb doesn’t dig into my index finger while writing, which has been a problem for me with narrower pens. Overall, I really enjoy this pen and feel that it’s worth the investment for those looking to dip their toes in the Franklin Christoph waters. FC releases this pen as a special edition model periodically throughout the year, one color at a time. At this time of my writing this post, the vintage green model is sold out. The Model 25 is $155.00 USD (with a steel nib and no special grinds) on the Franklin Christoph website.

Here is a video of me writing with this pen:

The Scale of Paper Absorption Part Two

This is part two of a series of scientific paper tests to determine the most lefty and fountain pen friendly paper. To read Part One, please click here. I tested each paper with 12 pens with inks of varying degrees of wetness. Dry-times were measured by dragging my finger across three lines after 5 seconds, and then repeating this process with new lines until the ink dried, increasing each time by 5 seconds.

Leuchtturm 1917:

Leuchtturm 1917 had an average dry time of 16.25 seconds. The longest dry time was 30 seconds with Colorverse Extra Dimension. The only ink that feathered at all was Noodlers Golden Brown, and it was mild feathering. Bleed through is a 2. This paper shows off shading but not sheening. With minimal feathering and a surprisingly slow dry time, Leuchtturm 1917 is a 6 on the Scale of Absorption. I say surprisingly slow, as Leuchtturm is one of the papers often recommended for lefties on stationary websites because it’s so absorbent. I think that this paper is best used after finding the right pen and ink combination for you, and if you enjoy toothy paper.

Doane Paper:

Doane Paper had an average dry time of 5.42 seconds. Colorverse Extra Dimension had the longest dry time within 10 seconds. Every other ink just seeped right in. Bleed-through is a 5, but there was no feathering. No inks bled through on to the next page, but quite a few bled to the back. This paper is great if you want to jot something down quickly and immediately put it away, it’s also pretty toothy. With light feathering, moderate bleed-through, and a little bit of shading, Doane Paper is a 2 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Nock Co:

Nock Paper had an average dry time of 5.83 seconds. The longest dry time was Kyo-no-oto Kokeiro with 15 seconds. Every other ink tested dried within 5 seconds, even Extra Dimension. Most inks yielded crisp lines, but Golden Brown was a little bit feathery, as was Schrödinger. You can see a little bit of shading in certain inks like Fire & Ice and Kokeiro, and no sheen. This paper has a little bit of tooth, but not unpleasantly so. Bleed-through is a 2. This paper has a little bit of tooth, but much less than Leuchtturm. With a fast dry time, very light feathering and light bleed-through, Nock Paper is a 4 on the Scale of Absorption.


Blackwing Paper had an average dry-time of 9.16 seconds. The longest dry-times were Extra Dimension and Wild Strawberry with 20 seconds each. Bleed-through is a 1, but Golden Brown and Haha both feathered a little bit, as did Extra Dimension. Extra Dimension shades, as well as every other ink tested except for Golden Brown and Haha. With a median dry-time, light feathering and bleed-through, Blackwing Paper is a 5 on the Scale of Paper Absorption. Considering that this paper is designed to be used with pencils, Blackwing Paper does quite well with fountain pens, and it’s pretty smooth to write on.

Delfonics Rollbahn:

Rollbahn Paper had an average dry-time of 17.5 seconds. The longest dry-time was Colorverse Schrödinger, which dried within 30 seconds. This paper shows off shading quite nicely, but no sheening, and is pleasantly smooth. Bleed-through is a 1. There was no feathering with crisp lines, and some tiny spots that bled to the back of the page. With a slow dry-time, nice shading, no feathering and minimal bleed-through, Rollbahn is an 8 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Midori MD:

Midori paper had an average dry-time of 25 seconds. As you can see in the first photo above, Golden Brown never dried, even after 3 minutes, and is a smudgy mess. Because every other ink dried within 1 minute and 5 seconds, I didn’t factor Golden Brown into my average dry-time for this paper. Because Midori paper is water resistant, super wet inks tend to sit on top of the page. Another day I’ll do a set of tests with really wet inks like Golden Brown and calculate the average in minutes. Bleed-through is a 0, with no feathering and the ability to use both sides of the paper. Inks that previously showed no sheen, like Wild Strawberry, sheen and shade on Midori. With the longest dry-time thus far and wonderful ink performance, Midori MD is a 10 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Field Notes (Steno):

Field Notes paper on their Steno Book had an average dry-time of 11.6 seconds. The longest dry-times were Extra Dimension and Kokeiro, each drying within 20 seconds. Bleed-through is a 4, but with no feathering and decent shading. Even Manyo Ha Ha showed its dual shading. Golden Brown seeped right in the page, but the lines are still pretty crisp. With a moderately low dry-time, moderately high bleed-through, and a respectable amount of shading, Field Notes is a 3 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

After looking at how I graded these results, I’ve updated some of the scores for part one, and added some Amazon affiliate links in case you might want to purchase any of these notebooks. I plan on making one more part, and then turning these posts into one webpage, including an actual scale to see where each paper falls. The links on this post are Amazon affiliate links as well. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

The Hobonichi Techo A6

I bought a Hobonichi planner at the beginning of a pandemic lockdown. Here’s what I did with it:

Back in March of 2020 I ordered a Hobonichi Techo planner as a birthday present to myself. The notebook that I was using as a sort-of-planner was a disorganized mess, and I was looking for something small and low maintenance. My A6 Hobonichi ended up being just right for the rest of 2020.

The front cover got a bit warped from being in my Seed case behind the inside pen slots.

Hobonichi Techo planners come in both A6, A5, and slim wallet sizes, and are available in Japanese and English languages. The English language editions sell out quickly. They can be used as part of a system with a cover and various accessories, but I just got the planner book by itself. At the time of purchase, I was able to get a spring edition that begins in April of 2020 and ends in March of 2021. At the beginning of January I tried starting a fresh new journal, but have since went back to using the Hobonichi because I want to finish it.

Without a job and very few dates to remember, I used the calendar section at the beginning of the book to track when I left the house and where I went. During this age of Covid-19, I’ve been the main person in my household running errands. With this information written down I could go back and look at when the last time I left the house was, and how many times I went out in a month.

For the daily pages, the Hobonichi has a very nice layout. In the top left corner there’s the date and weekday as well as any applicable holidays. In the top right corner there’s a little area with five checkboxes for a to-do list. The rest of the page is gridded with subtle lines that are different colors for each month. At the bottom of the page there is a daily quote. Since my version is in Japanese, I ended up handwriting the day of the week and applicable holiday. I also wrote down what number day of my lockdown it was; the last day I logged was number 281. By the middle of the year it’s gonna be like Blast From The Past when Brendan Fraser’s character first leaves the bunker.

In the to-do list section I wrote down basic household tasks like chores and daily reminders. The five checkboxes were not limiting and helped me to focus on those five or less things. In the blank gridded area I would sometimes doodle or test pens and inks. At the beginning of each month there’s a blank page, and sometimes I would write a quote for the month.

In the back of the planner there are some plain gridded pages that allow more space for notes or sketches. Then there’s a time table where you can write out a weekly schedule. After that, there’s two pages formatted for a graph or chart. There are several pages of literature about Japanese culture. There are also pages to list your top 100 anything, and pages for your favorite restaurants and music or movies. The Hobonichi Techo planners are both fun and practical.

The pages in the back are perfect for writing down timely quotes.

As for the paper, Hobonichi uses Tomoe River. To accommodate the slow dry times I used a Robert Oster blotter card as a bookmark. I usually would just leave the planner open for a few minutes in between writing to give the ink time to dry. When I was done writing, I would put the card over the last thing I wrote and close the case. This worked fine with most inks, except for some very wet Noodlers ones like Golden Brown and Black Swan in Australian Roses. Inks that sheen on most papers, like Organics Studio Nitrogen, really smear on Tomoe River, even after drying. There’s a lot of ghosting because the paper is so thin, but very few inks bled through to the back of the page, and no inks bled onto the next page. Noodlers Blue Nosed Bear bled, as well as J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor.

I kept my planner in a Nock Co. A6 Seed case, which works great. These cases have two pen slots on the inside, a card slot on the other, and an outside pocket. When your notebook is fully in one of these cases, the front cover can get warped because it sits behind the pen slots. This is really only an issue if the notebook you’re using has a cover that you care about, and it can be fixed by leaving the front cover out of the sleeve. I could say more wonderful things about the Seed, but that’s for a different post.

Overall, the Hobonichi A6 Techo has been a nice and low maintenance planner. The one-page-a-day format on smaller paper is perfect for anyone who has anxiety about committing to a larger notebook. It helped me manage daily tasks and keep track of the days. The minimalist aesthetic of the daily pages can be used as intended for to-do lists and short journal entries, or you can just draw all over it. I would definitely use one of these again.

Yama-Budo by Pilot Iroshizuku

A planner doodle on Tomoe River paper.

Iroshizuku is Pilot’s higher end line of inks that are available in all the colors of the rainbow. The ink that I’ve chosen to write about today is Yama-Budo, a lovely burgundy color. This inks shades from fuchsia to plum, and on certain papers it’ll sheen a nice gold. In the photo above, the sheen looks almost chartreuse.

Yama-Budo is very well behaved, like most Iroshizuku inks. It flows well out of every pen that I’ve tried it in, and isn’t too wet. On this Nock Co. paper that I’m writing on it dries very fast. Also, Yama-Budo doesn’t feather or bleed-through. On absorbent papers like Leuchtturm and Nock, this ink is very lefty compatible, especially with finer nibs. On the Tomoe River paper pictured above there’s some smudging, but once this ink dries it doesn’t lift.

As far as inks on the red/purple spectrum go, Yama-Budo is right in the middle. It’s bright enough to draw attention to notations, and dark enough to use as a regular note taking ink. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it’s among the handful of Iroshizuku colors that I keep coming back to.

Yama-Budo next to Lamy Beryl and Colorverse Andromeda

Iroshizuku inks come in these nice sturdy glass bottles, with minimalist labeling and a little dip in the bottom to help get all the ink out. Yama-Budo is an old friend that you can call after a long period of time and pick up right where you left off.

If you would like to purchase this ink, please click here. This is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from the sale. It’s a way to support this blog directly!

Fun with Gel Pens

From left to right: Pilot Hi-tec-C Maica, Zebra Sarasa, Pilot G-Tec-C4, Ohto Rays, Stabilo Bionic Worker, Pentel Energel, Pilot G2, Uni One, Pilot Juice up, Pentel Energel

Sometimes, you may feel like using a pen that isn’t a fountain pen. Situations may arise where you just want to take a note with a retractable pen. You may want a low maintenance change of pace. Sometimes, you just want the pleasant sensation of feeling a tiny gel coated ball rolling against your paper. There are times when you need:

Gel Pens

In grade school, I used Ticonderoga #2 pencils and would come home with the side of my hand a graphite blob. In middle school I discovered the Bic 4 color ballpoint, which I still cherish for its simplicity and design. In high school I started using erasable ballpoint pens. When I was in college the Paper Mate Inkjoy pens came out, and I fell in love with the blue and green ones. They were great for long stretches of note taking, and I didn’t smear. These were the first gel pens that I really enjoyed using consistently. I had some of the Uniball Vision pens, but they didn’t dry fast and tended to bleed on cheap notebook paper. The first non-disposable pen I purchased was a Fisher Space Pen, but I didn’t like how inconsistent the lines were. So, the Inkjoy got me through all 4 years of college.

When I met my partner, they sent me a Pilot Hi-tec C Maica gel pen in blue-black with a 0.4 mm point. I wasn’t used to any point finer than 0.5, so it was nice to be able to write small block letters. The second non-disposable pen I bought was the Ohto Rays. This pen has the vintage look of the space pen, but writes a nice and consistent line.

After using fountain pens almost exclusively, I recently started getting into gel pens again. I made a writing sample of some gel pens that are either recommended for lefties, or are ones that I’ve found work very well for overwriting.

I crossed out the jetstream edge because I remembered while writing that it’s an oil-based ballpoint.

About half of these pens were purchased on Jetpens, and some were found on Yoseka Stationary and St. Louis Art Supply. Jetpens even has a section of different office supplies for lefties, as well as a comprehensive guide. I’ve found this guide to be very helpful while figuring out what you want in a pen. I highly encourage anyone reading this from the United States to purchase from Yoseka Stationary and STL Art Supply, they both offer really warm customer service, and you’d be supporting a small business during a difficult time. Thank you for reading my non-affiliated ad segment.

The first writing sample is a Pentel Energel in navy blue. The Energel feels the most like a fountain pen out of all these samples. The ink is very smooth and consistent. The navy blue refill is in a retractable body with a ribbed silicone grip while the blue refill is in a slim ivory body with a matte grip and snap cap. The snap cap is very robust and satisfying. I recommend the Pentel Energel as a lefty-friendly pen.

Next is the Pilot G-Tec-C4. This is apparently the international version of the Hi-Tec-C gel pen, and unscrews at the tip to refill. If you like the design of the Bic Cristal but want a nicer writing experience, this is the pen for you. The tip writes a very fine and precise line, there’s some feedback but this pen hasn’t felt scratchy for me. The ink dries fast with no smudging or bleeding.

The Zebra Sarasa is on Jetpen’s list of lefty friendly office products, but was my least favorite out of these samples. The clip on these pens is spring loaded, which is neat, but this pen just didn’t write very smoothly for me.

The Pilot G-2 really is as nice as people say. With a 0.7 mm point, it’s the thickest line width in this sampling. This pen gives a smooth, consistent, vibrant line that stands out among the other turquoise gels in this list.

Next is the Uni One. This is a clean and sleek pen with a spring loaded wire clip. With a 0.38 mm tip the One has a slightly thinner point than the Hi-tec-C, but the gel is slightly wetter so the line appears broader and more vibrant. I enjoy writing with this pen and want to try other colors eventually.

The Pilot Juice Up is an upgrade to the regular Juice, which I have not tried. The ink in this pen is water-based pigment ink, which makes it water-resistant. The Juice Up tip is a hybrid between a needlepoint and a conical point, making it a bit more forgiving to use while holding vertically or nearly vertically. A nit-picky drawback of this pen for me is that when the tip is retracted, the clip and push button are one piece, so it tends to jiggle while writing. The grip section is slightly translucent when held up to light, which is neat. I recommend the Pilot Juice Up as a lefty-friendly pen.

The Ohto Rays writes similarly to the Energel, and is on Jetpens lefty-friendly page. The gel is named Flash Dry, and I’ve never smudged with this pen. The body has a classic design similar to a Parker Jotter, making the Rays nice for a professional setting. Personally, I like to use this pen for checks and writing on envelopes. I also carry it in my purse with a Field Notes memo book if I need to write anything down while I’m out. My Mother, who is also left handed, also enjoys using this pen.

The Pilot Hi-tec-C Maica is pretty much the same pen as the G-tec, but the body has a clip less cap and the grip section is bumped rather than ribbed. This particular pen is one that I’ve had a while, so the line starts to fade if I hold the pen a certain way. The same thing happened with the other Maica I used to have, and I wonder if this has something to do with my level of writing pressure.

The last sample in this post is the Stabilo Bionic Worker. This is my most recent gel pen acquisition, and it’s quite nice to write with. The body is covered in grippy orange rubber, and the clip is stiff and wide. The gel is liquid gel and it writes a smooth, wet line. This pen is less precise than an Energel with the same point width, but just as smooth. If you’re a lefty who works in any business requiring a sturdy pen, I recommend it.

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Reverse Writing!


My partner, who is a righty, has been looking for a really fine-nibbed pen to take notes with at work on small pieces of paper. They recently got a Sailor Pro Gear Slim in fine, and a Sailor 1911S with a 21k zoom nib. They got a zoom nib so that it could eventually be ground into an extreme predator nib, which is an extra fine held normally and an architect when flipped over. We both have TWSBI minis in EF, and they always write EF in quotes because it’s not fine enough. So last week, they decided to try and write with that pen with the nib flipped over (or reverse writing) and they had a great experience!

I’ve been afraid to try reverse writing since I ruined my first fountain pen by doing that. Now that I’m more versed in the way of the fountain pen, my partner encouraged me to try it again because the ink will dry faster while writing quick notes.

The photo above is a sample of both my partner and I trying out some currently inked pens while reverse writing. Gold nibs ended up working well across the board, while steel nibs ended up being more finicky. The Pelikan m200 and MontBlanc Monte Rosa are both steel nibs that performed very well reversed. The m200 is normally quite broad for a fine nib, and with Noodler’s Golden Brown it’s extra wet. Reversed though, the nib is more akin to a Japanese fine. In the photo below I tried to get a close-up of the Pelikan nib. The tip is pretty ball shaped, with some raised tipping material on top. Theoretically, any nib with raised tipping material like that should work for reverse writing.


Now the MontBlanc, written in green on the sample page, is an elevated reverse experience. Both me and my partner loved writing with this, it’s great.

The Monte Rosa is a vintage pen by MontBlanc, the model I have is from the late 1950s. The nib is labeled medium on the piston knob but the tip is upturned like a waverly nib. I don’t know if all MontBlanc steel nibs are like this, or if this nib was worked on at some point in its lifetime, but it writes very smoothly. Writing reversed at a high angle you’re using more of the ball at the top of the nib. So, you get a finer line without sacrificing smoothness or ink flow. Writing reverse with this pen is what I imagine writing with a kugel nib feels like. I just found out about that type of nib yesterday and I’m very excited about them.


Using the two zoom nibs was interesting because I didn’t know how versatile they are, or how nice 21k nibs feel. The tips are ground into a triangle shape, so the lower the angle you hold the pen, the broader the line. For me, using my zoom nib at a nearly 90 degree angle gave about a medium line. When reverse writing though, no matter what angle the writer holds the pen, they’re using the pointiest and finest part of the nib. I didn’t try reverse writing with a fude nib but I imagine it would have a similar outcome.

The finest line I was able to get was with a Pilot Custom 98 with a #3 fine nib.

I really need to polish that section ring
My two Pilot #3 fines side by side

This nib doesn’t have much tipping on top, but the nib seems slightly downturned with a round point. With this I was able to write as tiny as I can with a 0.4mm Hi-tec Maica. I also have a Pilot Legno 89s with the same size fine nib, but it writes less smoothly than the Custom 98 no matter what. I took a close-up of them side by side and I think the 98 tip is a little bit rounder and blunter. I did purchase the Custom 98 used and the Legno new, so the older nib is more worn in.

The Pilot Custom 912 with a Waverly nib gave a similar experience to the Monte Rosa but the 912 just has the upturned tip and no ball on top. This nib is fantastic anyway, and is so pleasing to write with for a lefty like me because you’re always writing at the correct position. With reverse writing, it’s like you’re using a posting nib because it ends up being downturned. You get a considerably finer line that could probably be used for writing checks.

The most surprising pen to try with this experiment was a Pilot Falcon, not the most lefty friendly pen. But, it writes really well reversed. I have it inked up with Namiki black right now, which is normally really wet out of this pen, but reversed it’s just the right amount of wetness. While overwriting normally with a Falcon I usually use light pressure so that the tines don’t catch on the paper, but reversed I haven’t had to worry about that.

The Vanishing Point Decimo was another surprise for both my and my partner. This is another pen that is problematic for lefty overwriters because of the clip by the nib. Reverse writing with the Decimo was weird, and I still didn’t find it comfortable to hold.

Overall, this experiment was fun and revealing. Reverse writing doesn’t work with every pen, but Japanese gold nibs had more consistent results. I recommend trying out reverse writing with your pens if you like writing tiny and fast drying ink.