Moderno B5 Charcoal notebook review.

Our local WH Smith stationery shop in Brent Cross shopping centre has had another revamp recently and is looking a bit more inviting and spacious as you enter. Whilst browsing, and after circling the racks of roller-balls and fine-liners to check out the fountain pens (mostly Lamy, Parker and Sheaffer), I ventured on to the shelves of journals.

My eyes were drawn to their Moderno B5 notebook, with 96 ruled ivory sheets (192 pages) of 80gsm paper. It has the ubiquitous inside back pocket and an elastic closure.

Moderno B5 journal, next to an A5 Leuchtturm for size comparison.

I did not have any immediate need of a notebook (an understatement, tbh) but was nevertheless tempted by this one, mainly I think due to the interesting B5 size which sits as a nice compromise between A4 and A5. I had no idea whether the paper would be fountain pen friendly or not (which is partly why I am writing this brief review: spoiler alert – yes it is) but found myself making my way to the self-service checkouts to part with £11.99. The lure of a new journal is a strong one.

The notebook has a pleasing grey plastic leather-look cover. I do not yet know whether this plastic will crack and flake in the long term. The book is stitched. The lyrics of Paul Simon pop into my head – every page is neatly bound, “for a poet and a one-man band”, or something.

Nice strong open-flat binding.

Getting it home, I could examine the features more closely:

  • 96 ruled ivory sheets; (not paginated but I do that myself);
  • 80gsm paper;
  • rounded corners;
  • inside back pocket;
  • elastic closure: (a bit slack but usable);
  • 8mm row height; (Yay! my favourite)
  • 29 rows to the page; (close, but not quite a month’s worth of days);
  • one ribbon bookmark;
  • produced in China.

One of the first things to be done of course when trying a new notebook, is to test the paper for fountain pen ink. I usually select a handful of pens from my “currently inked” pots and write a line or two with each, to see how the pen feels on the paper, whether it feathers, and crucially whether it bleeds through the paper or shows through too much. I am happy to report that with all the inks I tried, these tests were a success. There was no bleed-through with any of them and very little show-through either.

Plastic leather-look cover in smart charcoal colour and neatly rounded page corners.

In terms of usefulness, a B5 journal is rather nice to have. It could be used as a bullet-journal or “bu-jo”. The only caveat is that with 29 rows to the page, you are a couple of days short of a month (or a few sandwiches short of a picnic) but you could add an extra row at the top and another at the bottom of the page, if this is your chosen use. I have done this before on another book, in which I created a three year bu-jo with a double page spread for each month.

I am not one for stickers and washi-tape but do find a bu-jo very useful. For example, unlike a one year diary, you can insert dates for a future year, or even two or three years ahead, such as car insurance renewal dates, MOT expiry dates, or maturity dates for ISAs or fixed term saving accounts.

A double page spread with 29 rows per page.

Then there are the rest of the pages, not allocated to monthly views, which you can use for all sorts of other things. For example I like to make lists of albums from particular artists, and then tick them off after I have listened to them, – which I find so much more satisfying than track-hopping on Spotify.

Above all, I am pleased that I can use fountain pens with the book. The 8mm row height hits the spot for me. I do not think I will use this one for a bu-jo as I am already set up for that, but I shall enjoy having it in stock until a suitable function presents itself. I realise that one should have a NEED of a notebook before buying one, not the other way round, but such is the life of a stationery addict.

My notebooks fall into two broad categories: those which I would want to keep once they are full, and those which I would not (which are typically full of pen and ink samplings and notes of no lasting interest). Having a book which has a durable cover would tend to indicate that it should be used as a “keeper”. In the past I used a Ryman A4 journal as a bu-jo but after several years’ service, the cover material is now flaking off and leaving bits everywhere on my table. If planning to use a notebook for a multi-year bu-jo, then it is wise to consider how the cover might wear.

The B5 size has the advantage of giving you more space on the page than an A5 journal, (of which I use a lot of Leuchtturms) whilst not needing as much space in a bag as an A4 if you wished to take it out and about, to do some writing in a coffee shop, as I like to imagine myself doing, but have not done much of late.

When I next need a B5 journal, which is suitable for fountain pens, I will be ready.

This picture might be more useful, to show the B5 size, in between an A5 and an A4 notebook.

Early thoughts on the Jinhao X159 fountain pen.

Occasionally, something new comes along in the pen world which sets social media buzzing amongst the fountain pen community. Recently, we have had a new offering from Jinhao, named the X159.

The imposing Jinhao X159.

This is not entirely new: there has long been a Jinhao 159 (without the “X” factor), which we might call an homage to the Montblanc Meisterstuck 149, but with a steel nib, cartridge-converter filling and a fraction of the cost. However, it was a heavy beast, being made of metal. I owned one myself. In the event it did not see a lot of use, on the ground that the ink flow in my model proved to be a bit erratic despite my efforts.

However, the new version, the X159 is different in many respects and offers significant improvements. Whilst similar in size and appearance to its forerunner, the main changes are as follows:

  • It is now made of acrylic and is much lighter;
  • It has a larger, number 8 nib;
  • There is new, more subtle pocket clip;
  • The grip section is much less tapered and does not end with a metal ring (colloquially termed a “rust ring”);
  • The threads on the barrel, for the cap are now acrylic instead of metal.
Uncapped. Big girthy pen with number 8 nib.

These cannot be found in our shops but are available online. The prices on Amazon currently range from £7.49 to around £20.00 depending upon which colour, trim finish and nib size you chose. Nib sizes are Fine or Extra Fine. There is an option for gold or silver colour trim, the former having a bicolour nib.

I resisted the temptation to order one for several weeks, happy with my current line-up and convincing myself that the Jinhao could not possibly perform any better than steel nibbed pens that I already owned, such as my Onoto Scholar or the Otto Hutt Design 06 to name but two. Whilst the price was obviously not an issue, I did not want the added clutter.

However the temptation did not go away and I learned that a few friends had ordered one. Still curious to try one for myself, I eventually weakened and pulled the trigger. I opted for a black version, with silver coloured trim and a Fine nib, for a princely sum of £9.99.

The unboxing.

With Amazon Prime, the pen arrived the following day. Inside the cardboard envelope, the pen was packed in a simple polythene sleeve inside a padded envelope. This was just enough to get the pen to me without damage and did not leave me with any unnecessary box.

That’s all the packaging.

In the flesh, first impressions were very favourable. The black acrylic body was smooth and glossy. Fit and finish all seemed good. The number 8 nib, being the first pen I have bought with one, was a good bit larger than the usual number 6 size and looked impressive and perhaps a bit more in keeping with the large girth of the pen.

The nib and feed.

I examined the nib under a loupe. The tines looked to be even, with good symmetrical tipping. There was a nib slit which narrowed down from the breather hole to the tipping at which point the tines were quite tightly together. Viewed from the back, the nib was not quite symmetrical to the feed, but this is easily adjusted.

Disassembled.

I flushed the nib and feed in warm water to remove any residue of grease from manufacturing. The nib is easy to disassemble – a feature that I appreciate very much. You can unscrew the nib housing from the section. Once out, the nib and feed are friction-fit and can be pulled out from the housing, by gripping them together, perhaps with a soft cloth or tissue and pulling in a straight line, being careful not to damage the delicate plastic feed. Once out, you can lift the nib off the feed, and it is more easy to clean and adjust if necessary. I noticed that the ink channel at the top of the feed was cut quite wide and more like a trough than a slit. Good!

I had expected the nib to be a bit dry, having seen a video review by Stephen Brown. As a lefty-overwriter, my preference is for pens which lay down ink with little or no pressure needed. This can usually be achieved by opening up the gap between the tines at the tipping, just a very little until you can see a space, or daylight, between them.

After separating the tines slightly and realigning the nib on the feed.

This is a very useful adjustment. It is often easier with a gold nib than a steel one. There are various tricks to doing this, using brass shims to floss the nib, bending the tines up, or trying to wriggle a blade between the tines – all of which should be attempted with great care and with frequent pauses to inspect the nib under a loupe and to try writing with it again. Eventually, I had the best success by lifting first one tine, with my thumbnail, bouncing it up and down a few times – and then doing the same with the other. I then replaced the nib onto the feed, and pushed them back into the housing, carefully ensuring that the feed’s point was centred with the nib and that the tines were both level and smooth.

Filling:

After flushing and drying the pen, I filled it with Montblanc Royal Blue. The large nib does need quite a full bottle to be able to immerse the nib for filling. My Montblanc bottle has the useful feature that you can tip it to make the filling area deeper. Before doing this, the converter did not draw up any ink leading me to wonder whether it was not pulling a vacuum. Note that the converter is like the Lamy ones, with a flat edge to hold rather than being round. Personally I do not like this feature as it makes the converter harder to twist.

Converter included.

Writing and performance:

Having adjusted my nib I then flushed, cleaned, dried and filled it, all of which took less than an hour. I was thrilled that it wrote superbly, as well as I could wish for. The nib was smooth, with good ink flow and lubrication. It is a firm nib. My fine nib writes a slightly wider line than intended by reason of my tine-widening exercise, but the end result, a medium-fine, is very pleasing. All in all, I was absolutely delighted.

It then just remained to do two further tests. One is to write for about a page of A4, to see how the feed keeps up, once the excess ink from filling the pen and saturating the feed, is used up. This is to check for “ink starvation” if ink is not being replenished from the converter. This (like opening the tine gap) is another tip I picked up from Stephen Brown’s videos. All looked good on this front. The final test was to check for hard starts. Leaving the pen untouched for 8 hours, revealed no issues. Later, when I could bear to leave it alone, I managed some longer intervals and again, there were no hard start issues.

Size and weight.

Jinhao 159Jinhao X159
Weight, total46g28g
Weight without cap27g18g
Weight of cap 19g10g
Length capped148mm148mm
Length open125mm130mm
Length posted165mm162mm
Size and weight (approximate) comparison.
Comparing the X159 with the 159 (right).


Epilogue.

I have been really thrilled with the Jinhao X159. I think it is phenomenally great value. There is nothing else quite like it on the market. It could compete well with some pens in the £100.00 to £200.00 bracket. I hope that it continues to perform as well as it does now, and see no reason why it should not, with usual care and maintenance.

Indeed, so impressed and blown away was I, that I ordered a second one, this time trying a different colour, and with gold coloured fittings with a bi-colour nib and in Extra Fine. I opted for a blue and gold one. This cost just £7.99, firmly within “no-brainer” territory. There is also a Dark Blue version but this was priced around £20 and would come from the US, taking longer.

The blue-teal colour is quite hard to capture in a photo.

Once again, my pen arrived the following day. At first, it looked like I had got Dark Blue as it looked like navy, in artificial light. However, daylight revealed the colour to be a very pleasing blue-teal, which I am very happy with. I was excited to see under the loupe that the EF nib looked to be tuned to my liking, with the slightest of gaps between the tines, promising a good writing experience. After flushing the pen, I filled it with Diamine’s Conway Stewart Tavy, my go-to blue black. Bliss. This feels like its “forever ink.” The extra fine nib performs beautifully. In my notebook I wrote “I am genuinely over the moon at how good this pen looks, feels and writes and all for a £7.99 price tag.”

Writing sample of EF nib.
A big pen with a tiny EF tip.

Early thoughts on the Otto Hutt Design 06 fountain pen.

My relationship with the Otto Hutt Design 06 fountain pen had the best possible start. I bought the pen whilst on a short break in the beautiful city of Porto, in one of the most delightful pen shops I have ever seen, namely Araujo & Sobrinho founded in 1829. So, being abroad, in holiday mood AND being in a pen shop, I was very open to the possibility of finding a new fountain pen to take home.

The Otto Hutt Design 06 fountain pen, glossy black lacquer version.

The brand Otto Hutt, of Germany, was unfamiliar to me. I had heard the name and seen a few reviews of their pens online, notably from Anthony of UK Fountain pens, but had not seen any of their pens in the flesh. I had not come across them in any shops in London although I have since learned that they are available from the online seller Cult Pens. Another excellent review can be found on The Gentleman Stationer.

At the time of my visit, the shop had two glass display cabinets featuring Otto Hutt pens. First, an eye-catching display in the counter as you enter the shop, contained the Otto Hutt Design 08, a stylish metal pen with a grooved barrel and a distinctive black grip section with with rather sharp-looking backward pointing ridges. These looked grippy, if rather uncomfortable, rather like a sharper take on the Lamy Imporium. Next to this was an Otto Hutt Design 07, which I learned is made from sterling silver and a little more conventional in shape than the Design 08.

Next I spotted a range of Otto Hutt pens in various colours, and which I now know to the be the Design 06. I must admit that at first sight, I was not tempted by these by reason of the polished metal grip section and secondly, the step down from barrel to section. I have found that metal sections can be slippery making it difficult to control the pen without it rotating left or right in your hand. Also a step can be sharp and uncomfortable under your fingers. I had a good browse around the shop and its attractive displays but left without buying anything.

The cap ring of the Otto Hutt Design 06.

However, I returned a few days later, being the last day of our mini-break in Porto. This time I met Miguel Araujo the proprietor who kindly allowed me to take a few photos in the shop, which I included in my recent post Travelling with ink: Porto, Portugal. I then asked to take a closer look at the Otto Hutt Design 06, perhaps hoping to convince myself of its unsuitability.

A series of revelations ensued. First, whilst the polished metal section is undoubtedly slippy if you were to grip it there, I found that I naturally held the pen with the section resting on my second finger, my first finger over the cap threads (which are not sharp) and, crucially, with my thumb on the lacquered metal barrel, which was not slippery and which allowed me to anchor the pen and prevent it from turning inwards or outwards. Held in this way, unposted, and with its centre of gravity being located towards the front end, it actually felt strangely comfortable. I say “strangely” as it felt different from my other pens and with it cradled in my hand it almost felt like an extension of my body (if my hand had been designed as a writing tool).

Uncapped. A step down from the barrel to the shiny metal section.

The step down from barrel to cap threads and section, which looks quite pronounced and sharp, was not a problem for me in practice. As I said, my thumb rested on the barrel and my first and second figures were on the section and so my grip was formed either side of the step.

The next revelation occurred when I asked to try the pen. Miguel produced a bottle of ink and some paper. I tentatively dipped the nib, and put pen to paper. There was literally a “Wow” moment as soon as I wrote and noticed the soft springiness of the nib, such as is sometimes found in gold nibs. Yet the Otto Hutt Design 06’s nib is stainless steel. Aside from the softness of the nib, it was also beautifully tuned to write smoothly and with an optimal flow. The bi-colour nib with its imprint also happens to be very pretty.

Cartridge or converter fill.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled with the pen and was keen to buy that very one. Miguel cleaned the nib for me, found the box and the converter, and gave me an Otto Hutt catalogue plus a post card with an old black and white photograph of the shop and a tote bag in which to take it all back to my hotel.

The unboxing. The polishing cloth is a nice bonus.

Having used the pen for almost two months I am pleased to say that I remain just as pleased with it as I was on that first day, if not more so. I have used it so far only with Graf von Faber-Castell cartridges in Cobalt Blue.

Size and Weight

The Design 06 is a medium-sized pen. It measures 139mm capped, 122mm uncapped and 156mm posted. It weighs around 47g in total, comprised as to 32g uncapped and 15g for the cap alone. Personally, I prefer to use it unposted and in this mode it feels nicely front-weighted. However the cap does post, quite deeply and securely if desired, making the pen quite long and shifting the centre of gravity back a bit.

Likes

There is a great deal that I like about the pen. As I write this at home, I have ten fountain pens in my ink cups, plus a further three Delike New Moon pens at hand with inks to match their colours. Of my currently inked pens, the Otto Hutt is the only lacquered metal pen and so its heft does make it stand out from the rest. Here is what I like about it:

  • The nib is the main attraction, being soft, smooth, with a pretty imprint and bi-metal, shiny plated finish. It is a medium but writes a line which is on the fine side of medium.
  • The smooth, flush body, from barrel to cap (achieved at the expense of having the step down from barrel to section mentioned earlier);
  • The stylish, disc finial bearing the initals o|h;
  • Having a serial number, laser etched around the finial, mine being 06-11332;
  • The long, straight, pocket clip, which pivots when the top is pressed;
  • The stylish cap ring, with “ottohutt” on the front and “GERMANY” on the back.
  • The shiny metal barrel ferrule.
  • The surprisingly quick cap threads, needing literally only a half a rotation to remove or replace the cap;
  • The ability to use standard international cartridges, with room for a spare in the barrel.
  • It is, in my humble opinion, great value for a top-quality, steel nibbed fountain with a nib that is amongst the best that I have used. I paid 145 Euros for mine.
  • The clean and smart look of the polished metal section, next to the glossy black of the barrel; the hardwear components, according to the catalogue, are plated with platinum in the black version, whilst some other colours feature rose gold plating. Whilst I tend to avoid metal sections, who doesn’t like platinum?
  • The pen comes in a white cardboard box, (a bit like a mobile phone) with a black outer sleeve. Inside you find, in cardboard inserts, the cartridge converter, a cleaning cloth (a rare luxury) and the user guide and card to note your serial number and date of purchase. The packaging is ideal and makes a good impression but could be easily recycled or used for other things.
  • Overall, the pen is tactile, stylish and attractive, whilst also subtle.
VERY long threads for the barrel. Serial number on the finial!

Dislikes

In two months of ownership, I have genuinely not found anything to dislike about the Design 06. One could perhaps wish that it was slightly longer and/or that the grip section was not of shiny metal plating or tapered the way that it is. But if you take away those features, you would be left with a pen like the Diplomat Excellence, clearly a great pen and one of my favourites but which can look slightly plain next to the Design 06.

Size comparison with the Diplomat Excellence (right)

I would like to visit Pforzheim one day, the city in south west Germany from which the Otto Hutt business had its origins in 1920. Some history can be read in the Otto Hutt website and Pforzheim was famed as the Golden City and jewellery capital of Germany. The city was the target of a notorious and controversial bombing raid by RAF Bomber Command during World War II on 23 February 1945 in which much of the city was destroyed with huge loss of life. When the city was rebuilt, the rubble from the destruction was formed into a hill, or Wallberg, to create a scenic memorial and viewpoint. Today, Otto Hutt is located at the nearby municipality of Konigsbach-Stein.

When asked to name a German fountain pen maker, I suspect that most people here would first think of Montblanc or Lamy or Faber-Castell. Otto Hutt is a much less well-known name here but its distinctive Bauhaus-inspired designs and quality workmanship are deserving of greater attention. Certainly if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in a pen shop which sells Otto Hutt fountain pens, it is well worth taking a close look at one. You may be pleasantly surprised and smitten, as I was.

An attractive sweeping taper to each end and the cap fits perfectly flush with the barrel.

The new year diary, 2023.

I have been in the habit of keeping a diary since I was about 18. For about the last 10 years, I have used A5, page a day diaries and usually write my entry after breakfast the next day.

In recent years, I have bought these from Rymans stationers, which had 23 rows per page, with a row height of 7.9mm. These are still available for £13.99. My new year diary 2022 was reviewed here.

However, for 2023 I have tried something different. I am now using a Moleskine 2022-23 Daily Diary / Planner. Again this has a day per page and is ruled. A big difference is that it covers 18 months, from July 2022 to December 2023.

My Rymans page a day diary for 2022 and the Moleskine 18 months’ diary 2022-23.

This was an impulse buy, on visiting the Moleskine store in London’s Covent Garden, in early November. Admittedly, I was lured by the fact that it was reduced in a sale, from £24.99 to £17.50. I presume that this was due to the fact that it was November and over four of the 18 months covered by the diary had already passed. This did not worry me as I was quite happy to start the diary in January and to have the previous six months’ pages free to use like a notebook, as I wished.

I did have some reservations, first as to the paper quality. My experience of Moleskine A5 notebooks had been that the paper was generally not fountain-pen friendly, as most inks bled through the paper making the other side unusable. However, I thought that I might overcome this by finding an ink which would not bleed. My other concern was as to the line spacing. This Moleskine diary pages have 29 rows, with a row height of 6mm which is much narrower than my preferred spacing of around 8mm. On the other hand, you get more rows per page. Also, I often use balloon diagrams in my diary entries for work days, and so the row height is a bit less important.

Narrower pages and narrow line spacing (6mm) than I would like.

Ultimately, the reduced price, extra notebook pages, as well as the rather pleasing chunky proportions of the diary, sealed in its shrink wrap, made me overcome my reservations and I bought it.

When I got it home and had the opportunity to test the paper, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to find that the paper is not the same as I had seen in Moleskine A5 notebooks. The paper in the diary IS fountain pen friendly and very pleasant to write on! I tried writing a paragraph with five different inks (Waterman Serenity blue, Diamine Tavy, Waterman Harmonious green, Montblanc Velvet Red and Diamine Pelham blue. All performed beautifully on the silky smooth paper with no bleed through and very minimal show through.

Testing the paper for fountain pen friendliness. Success!

As for the line spacing, whilst I still prefer to have a bit more breathing space, I think I can manage with it. I noticed that the Moleskine diary page is quite a bit narrower than the Rymans diaries, (130mm instead of 145mm) but the shorter length actually helps make up for the narrower row height. (I sometimes rule a page into two columns, in notebooks with narrow line spacing).

Three sheets of stickers included.

Other features of the Moleskine diary include neatly sewn binding and so the book lays open flat, without risk of pages falling out. There is a ribbon bookmark, an expanding pocket in the back cover, an elastic closer, and three sheets of sticker symbols which can be used in the diary, or elsewhere. There are plenty of information pages at the beginning, with yearly calendars and monthly planning pages, world time zones, national holidays and dialling codes.

Nice stitched binding.

So, off we go again for another year. Already 2023 looks set to be marked by the awful continuing war in Ukraine, industrial action for pay disputes and the current fall-out of Prince Harry’s tell-all biography, plus challenging times for household finances. We all live in hope for better days ahead.

Crucially, the paper in the Moleskine 18 months’ diary is very fountain pen friendly.

2022: Some of my fountain pen highlights.

As another year end approaches, it is time for a round-up. Against the background of a tumultuous year in national and world events, I had a busy year and took comfort in my fountain pens, whilst trying to curb my temptation to buy more.

In 2022, I had 24 fountain pens incoming. These included five that I bought and gifted, and coincidentally, another five that were given to me. This leaves 14 fountain pens bought for myself over the year. My total spend on these came to around £976.00.

My biggest single purchase was an Aurora Talentum in yellow, with a 14k gold, oblique medium nib. I am delighted with it and consider it one of the best value gold nib pens on the market. Aside from a vintage Parker 17 Lady, a £10.00 impulse buy at a pen show, the Talentum was the only pen that I bought with a gold nib.

Aurora Talentum, with oblique medium 14k gold nib, rhodium plated

I notice that a theme of my 2022 pen purchases, has been in relatively high-end steel nib pens. These included a Tibaldi N.60, an Esterbrook Estie Nouveau bleu, an Onoto Scholar and an Otto Hut Design 06. In each case, the pen was the first and only model that I have of each brand.

Esterbrook Estie, Aurora Talentum, Tibaldi N.60 and Onoto Scholar.

Another theme to note is that I bought myself three Delike New Moon fountain pens, with fude (bent) nibs, in green, blue and finally red acrylic. I am very taken with these. They are inexpensive cartridge-converter fillers, with screw caps and steel nibs, in attractive finishes and with a very versatile smooth nib. This can be used to produce a line from broad to extra fine, depending upon how you hold the pen. I have them filled with matching inks and enjoy them a lot.

Delike New Moon fude nib fountain pens. Great value.

Receiving a surprise parcel in the post with a gift of pens from a friend overseas, is always a thrill. A friend in Australia sent me five fountain pens, namely a Geha 715, Montblanc Carrera, a Montblanc 34, a Lamy 2000 and an old version Waterman Hemisphere in tobacco brown. There were also two Montblanc ballpoint pens (a matching ball pen for the Carrera, plus a Meisterstuck ball pen, both with new refills). It was exciting to try them all out. The Geha 715 was a German, black resin, piston fill pen which had an ink reserve feature, activated by sliding a switch in the feed, under the nib. The Carrera was a steel nib pen, mine being a cartridge converter version. Aside from the Waterman, the others all had oblique nibs, which I have found to be suited to my lefty overwriter hand-writing style.

Some gifts from Australia! Montblanc 34; Montblanc Carrera fountain pen and ballpoint pen; Waterman Hemisphere.

The Lamy 2000 was new and had an oblique broad nib. Unfortunately I found that this one did not suit me. Held at my usual writing angle, it produced too broad a line for me, both in down strokes and cross strokes. Perhaps looking back I needed to adjust my angle of grip for this particular nib to use it properly. However, I asked Lamy whether they would agree to exchange this nib for a Fine. They kindly agreed and I sent the pen to Germany.

I wrote a blog post at the time about sending the Lamy 2000 back for a nib swap. An extraordinary thing then happened and this post received over 14,000 views in the first month. My blog received it’s highest ever numbers of daily and monthly views.

I attended both the London Spring and Autumn Pen Shows, in March and October. These were most enjoyable and it was good to see so many friends particularly as we had not resumed the London pen club meets since Covid restrictions were lifted.

It was at the Spring pen show that I bought my Esterbrook Estie. I had seen a lot of buzz about these online and was a late-comer to the party. Then at the Autumn pen show, I bought my Onoto Scholar, in navy blue with gold plated trim. The bicolour steel, number 7 medium nib is a joy to use and is the same as the standard steel nib that you would receive on an Onoto Magna, a pen costing more than twice the price of a Scholar, although there is an option to upgrade to a gold nib.

My final pen purchase of the year came in November whilst on a short break in Portugal. I found a wonderful, long-established fountain pen shop called Araujo & Sobrinho and enjoyed meeting the proprietor and buying an Otto Hutt Design 06, in black lacquer with silver colour trim. I am thrilled with it. I hope to give it a blog post to itself soon.

Otto Hutt Design 06 fountain pen.

At home, my pen cups typically have around a dozen pens currently inked. At my office, I limit my work fountain pens to two. A Cross Bailey Light, royal blue model has been in constant use with bottled Cross Blue ink all year, which I am using up for my late Godfather Brian. My other work pen is a Moonman S5 eyedropper, with oblique broad nib. This gets only occasional use and as a result has not needed refilling all year.

I have continued to use fountain pens for my daily A5 page-a-day journal. I cherish the ten minutes or so, spent recalling and summarising the previous day. I think my intention was to change pen each month. In the event, I used the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold for both January and February. I then switched to the Visconti Rembrandt from March right through to September inclusive. In October, I used the Esterbrook Estie. Then for November and December it was the Onoto Scholar. When travelling, I take a different notebook for holiday journaling.

With the year almost over, I am very content with my accumulated pens and ink stash. I have ample to last me out! Also, I am equally well stocked for new notebooks, of all shapes and sizes. My resolution for 2023 will be to remember to use the pens, inks and notebooks I have and not keep buying more. I always say that.

One of my resolutions last year was to walk 1,500 miles, an average of 125 miles per month. Mostly, this consists of walking to and from my office. Ultimately, my pedometer app has counted about 1,200 miles, a slightly disappointing 80% of my annual target. Still, as with my stationery hopes, it is good to leave some room for improvement in the future. A Happy New Year to all.

Onoto Scholar. An exquisite steel nib.

Travelling with ink: Porto, Portugal.

A recent trip with my wife to the city of Porto, was a most welcome break and my first time out of the UK in three years. It was also an opportunity to bring a few pens and notebooks and to discover pen shops in the area.

I considered bringing only one fountain pen, but as usual ended up with several. These were my new Onoto Scholar and two Delike New Moon fude nib pens, which I enjoy. I also brought a Lamy 2000 multi-pen and a Pentel 0.7mm mechanical pencil. For notebooks, I had a Leuchtterm A5 as my holiday journal, another cheap A5 book for random writings and a traveller-style notebook and cover from Flying Tiger Copenhagen.

I had learned from FPN of a pen shop in Porto called Araujo & Sobrinho, founded in 1829 and still belonging to the Araujo family, now in its fifth generation. As luck would have it, this shop was just 100 yards from our hotel.

At the Douro River, Porto.

It is wonderful to explore the city, on foot. It is built on hills each side of the River Douro and famous for the production of Port. Fronting the south side of river, there are a dozen or so Port wine companies. We visited one of these, Sandeman, for a memorable tour of their cellars, finishing with a tasting of three types of their Ports.

Sandeman’s premises and visitor centre, Porto.
Our knowledgeable tour guide at Sandeman.

In an indoor market I found a man making and selling leather notebook covers, branded Sango Handmade Creations. My wife bought me an A5 cover in stiff, dark brown leather with an elastic loop closure and containing one Moleskine notebook. It appealed to me as the notebook is held only by an elastic loop and does not need its covers to be slid into a raised leather pouches which cause an uneven writing surface. However the cover is very stiff and needs effort to keep it open flat, as it wants to slam shut. I expect that with use, and some leather softener on the spine, this will ease.

My new Sango Handmade Creations notebook cover and a pen case. On a mosaic floor of the Bolsa Palace.

As well as the ubiquitous confeitaria pastry shops, I learned to look out for shops called papelaria, Portuguese for stationer. I enjoyed browsing one called Papelaria Peninsular where I bought a couple of Pentel EnerGel 0.7 gel pens, in brown and navy blue.

Papelaria Peninsular. An attractive stationers with print shop at the back.

I came across another, Papelaria Modelo but it was closed for lunch and I could only savour the attractive window including some Kaweco pens and inks.

Papelaria Modelo.

A book shop called Livraria Lello is a popular tourist attraction, claiming to be The Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World. So popular has this become, that it is necessary to book a visit, which has to be done online and to pay a fee of five euros and then wait in a long queue to be admitted. I learned only several days later that you can recover the ticket price against the price of book purchase. The features of the shop, which was very crowded, include a stained glass roof, and curved wooden, red-painted staircases to the galleried first floor. There was currently a display of The Little Prince, with two books from the first 1943 print run inside a mirrored infinity box (to represent the enduring appeal of the book). Also, there was a display of books by the late Nobel prize winning writer José Saramago. A display case included his passport and also a fountain pen that he had used.

Inside Livraria Lello.
A pen used by José Saramago.

It was well worth visiting Clerigos Church and to climb its tower, to see the panoramic views of the city. Just wandering the streets, particularly at the weekend with many buskers and other street entertainers performing, makes for a relaxing holiday atmosphere. One of my favourite performers was a couple dancing to music and it took a moment to realise that the lady was a mannequin whose shoes were attached to her partner’s.

A view of roof tops in Porto.
A dancing “couple” in Porto. She blew me a kiss.

And so to Araujo & Sobrinho. On our first day, we had lunched opposite and, having found the shop location, thought that it may now be a hotel restaurant. But on entering from the front, I spotted a passage leading behind the dining area, where there was a Caran d’Ache sign. There is a pen shop! We had a browse around, assisted by a young man who was working there but unrelated to the family owners. I was keen to return for another look and to take a few photos. This did not materialise until our last morning before our flight home.

Araujo & Sobrinho, at the lower end of Rua das Flores.
The pen shop is more evident from the side entrance.
The inviting interior.
I asked whether Canetas was a Portuguese brand. No, it means “pen.”

On this second visit, I was delighted to meet Mr Miguel Araujo, who kindly allowed me to take some photos of his very attractive shop. Glass cabinets contained displays including Parker, Pilot, Namiki and Caran d’Ache pens. There was a large selection of mechanical pencils, notebooks, Traveler Notebook refills, and inks. For the first time in a bricks and mortar shop, I saw displays of pens from Otto Hutt of Germany, seldom found in the UK. These included a Design 08 with its distinctive guilloche patterned body and black grip section, and the Design 07 in sterling silver.

The author with Mr Miguel Araujo (right).
Notebooks and a display of old large size ink bottles.

I asked to take a look at a black lacquered fountain pen with a shiny plated section (Platinum plating) which I now know to be the Otto Hutt Design 06. I wanted to feel whether the grip would be a problem, either due to the shiny metal plating or the step down from barrel to section to accommodate the flush-fitting screw cap. Rather to my surprise, the pen fits the hand very comfortably and neither of these points was an issue. Miguel dipped the pen in some ink for me to try. Here I was blown away by how smooth and soft the nib was. It is a steel nib but has the soft feel of a gold one. And so, the Design 06 was to come home with me! It was a treat to enjoy a personal and attentive buying experience. Miguel carefully cleaned the nib, put the pen in its box, which also included a converter and gave me a souvenir post card of the shop and an Otto Hutt catalogue, all in an Araujo & Sobrinho tote bag.

One of the Otto Hutt display cases in the shop. My pen, third from the front!
Hard to resist, once you have experienced writing with it.

I caught up with writing some notes in my Flying Tiger notebook on the two hour flight home, now with my new Otto Hutt fountain pen. And on the coach back to London, I was interested to re-read an old review of the pen by Anthony on UKFountain Pens, and was pleased to discover that my opinions very much echoed his from two years ago.

I can strongly recommend a visit to Porto. And if you go, do not miss Araujo & Sobrinho to support this lovely long-established shop for many more years to come.

Goodbye, Porto.

A few bloggiversary thoughts.

Today, Fountain pen blog turns six! It seems like a good moment to take stock, share a few statistics and to reflect on where I am at on this journey.

Born on 5 November 2016, there have now been 218 posts, which makes an average of around 36 per year. There have been 360,000 views, 212,000 visitors and 1,761 comments.

The posts have for the most part been a record of my personal journey through the world of fountain pens, inks and paper. They provide a snapshot of what was on my mind at the time they were written. The blog is an outlet to share my thoughts on recent purchases. I do not plan these posts very far in advance (in case that was not obvious). I have not so far received items for review. Just this week, after some consideration, I declined a friendly and flattering invitation from a well-respected notebook company to feature a product in the blog. It has been my preference, to write reviews only on items that I have bought. Naturally I would have been only too happy to receive a free journal to try but I worry about feeling some obligation to write favourably about a product in those circumstances. Perhaps this will change. I know many others have overcome such reservations.

Meanwhile, the journey of discovering and learning about different makes and types of pen is a long and interesting one. There is a risk that you are constantly tempted to buy ever more expensive pens and that the amount that you feel reasonable to spend on a pen will escalate. I do not think I have fallen too far into that trap. I can think of only three occasions when I spent over £400.00 on a pen: one was a Visconti which I promptly returned a couple of days later. Another, a Montegrappa Monte Grappa I also returned. Finally, a Montblanc 145 Classique, I have had for three years now was an impulse buy but outside my usual comfort zone.

My annual expenditure on fountain pens and the number of pens bought, did rise for a time but is under better control now. Looking back on 2022, I have had 22 pens incoming. Of these, five were gifted to me, which leaves 17 purchases. But of my purchases, four were gifted to other people. Total spent: £931.60.

I am still learning about what pens and nibs best suit me and my writing styles. I am left-handed and for the most part, an overwriter at that. This means writing with little or no downward pressure. Without that downward pressure the nib still needs to have a good ink flow. In recent years, I have found that oblique nibs work well for me and I have enjoyed nibs on a Moonman S5 eyedropper, an Aurora Optima (oblique broad), an Aurora Talentum (oblique medium) and some vintage Montblanc and Geha models that were kindly given to me by a friend knowing of my liking for such nibs.

I do also write in a lefty-underwriter mode sometimes, particularly for short notes since this is less comfortable and natural for me. I am usually not happy with how my writing looks in this style, chiefly because it is so hard to keep the upstrokes vertical. The good news is that fountain pens are much happier in this mode and the natural pressure that you apply in a downstroke, opens the tines, enhances ink flow and lubrication and you get a silky, smooth writing experience (assuming you have a smooth nib and suitable paper).

For underwriting style, I am happy to use standard nibs with fine, medium or broad rounded tipping. I have learned that Sailor’s standard nibs, with the tipping flattened at the sides, have a sharp and unforgiving edge and are not the best option for my style. This year, I have discovered the “bent” (fude) nibs of the Delike/Majohn New Moon fountain pens. As told in my last piece, I have three of them now and am very pleased with their flattering influence on my handwriting, particularly in my lefty-underwriter style.

My three Delike New Moon, fude nib pens. Currently my most-reached for pens!

Over the years I have learned that you do not need to spend more than a certain amount, to enjoy a really pleasant writing experience. You need to spend a bit, of course, to get something which is of decent quality, well made and appealing. The great news, in my opinion, is that the amount you need to spend is probably no more than £30.00. I am thinking here of the Moonman S5, the Cross Bailey Light or the Delike/Majohn New Moon, for example, which make up my most oft-used pens.

I realise that I am probably getting “off message” here for a fountain pen blog and risk not being taken seriously. Well, I do also enjoy my slightly more valuable pens. This year, my four most costly pen purchases were an Aurora Talentum at £240.00 (possibly one of the best value gold nib pens that I know of), an Esterbrook Estie (£140.00), a Tibaldi N.60 (£157.25) and, most recently the entry level Onoto Scholar (£150.00 pen show price). Of these, only the Aurora has a gold nib.

This year’s “big four” purchases: Esterbrook Estie, Aurora Talentum, Tibaldi N.60 and Onoto Scholar.

My fountain pen hobby did not begin with the blog but has always been there since I was a child. I remember cleaning my Parker pens, twisting tissue paper tightly to dry the inside of the cap. I still do this. I once (aged about 10) sent a letter to Parker, to ask about a Leonardo da Vinci drawing used in their advert (what I now know to be the Vitruvian man).

My fountain pen, ink and notebook obsession shows no signs of going anywhere. I still derive a lot of pleasure from using them or even just thinking about using them! And this blog has been a joy, as a platform to share some thoughts and pictures. I enjoy the interaction that it brings with this wonderful fountain pen community. I have made many lasting friends, both at home and abroad through the blog.

Whilst I still get excited about a new bottle of ink, I am now at an age when I also get excited about finishing one. It takes a long time to get to the end of a bottle, when you are using multiple pens and inks simultaneously. This year I have got through my stash of Kaweco blue cartridges and am now working through my Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue cartridges, in my Onoto Scholar (an excellent match for the navy blue body).

Although I do not get to do it very often, a favourite occupation is to take a break from the abundant choice of pens, inks and notebooks that surrounds me at home and to focus on one of each for a while in a writing session, say in a coffee shop somewhere. Perhaps this need for simplicity is to balance the modern-day problem of too much choice, or else is a yearning to return to simpler times when we had only one pen. The wish to buy more, whilst also wishing to have less, are clearly conflicting aims. The journey continues.

New pen: New Moon.

My number of currently inked fountain pens stands at 17, which is about average for me. But what is a bit unusual at the moment is that three are the same. They are my Delike New Moons.

Delike New Moon fountain pen with fude nib.

I have already written an Early thoughts and a More thoughts post on this model, in March and April this year so there is little more to say. At that time I had bought one, loved it, given it away and bought a replacement. That was my marbled green acrylic version. Since then, I added the marbled blue and then, just recently, the marbled red.

Team photo.

What is so good about these inexpensive pens? Well, the fact that they are inexpensive is one benefit. They are well made, they have screw caps, they have attractive colours (which includes the grip section), three shiny plated metal bling rings on the uncapped pen, plus two more on the cap, they are uncomplicated, comfortable and come with a converter which has a spring coil ink agitator. But what makes them so enjoyable, and versatile, is the fine “bent nib”.

Marbled green acrylic version.

On all four of the Delike New Moons that I have purchased, the nibs have been faultless, out of the box. They all write smoothly, with a good flow and all have that capability of writing four distinct line widths, depending upon how you hold the pen.

Marbled Blue version.

I have never been proud of my handwriting. I am no calligrapher and have not studied or been trained in those skills. On my fountain pen “journey” I have owned countless standard nibs, of fine, medium or broad tips (mostly mediums) which are easy to use, practical and forgiving, but which do little to produce a line which can be distinguished, one pen from the next.

A marriage made in Heaven.

And then this year I discovered the fude nib: a tip which bends upwards giving a flat area to write with. If the pen is held in a conventional way (an under-writer style) this will produce a narrow down stroke and a wide cross stroke and various widths in between. This is the opposite effect of a stub nib. It is how I imagine an “architect grind” nib might be.

Waterman Harmonious Green. Semikolon Grand Voyage journal, 100gsm laid paper.

Flicking back through the pages of my notebooks, for once I like how my writing looks with these pens. I can use them in my lefty, over-writing style which feels the most natural to me, either with the pen laying back in my hand to give a medium line, or held more vertical like a ball point, which then produces a finer line. But I tend to prefer to use the pen in my under-writer style. This slows me down and I form each letter and word more carefully and deliberately. I delight in the line variation such as in the two sides of the capital A.

The capital A is an opportunity for line width variation

As you might have guessed, I now have these three pens inked with a matching ink. The green has Waterman Harmonious Green, from a bottle that I have had since 2015. The newer, blue pen is filled with Diamine Pelham Blue, a very pleasing shade from the generous flow of this nib. My latest New Moon addition, the marbled red one, is now filled with Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, which is possibly my GOAT red ink.

Matchy matchy.

I expect a lot from my pens. Not only must they look good and feel good. They must write and behave well. They must (most of them) be good value. They must be enjoyable to use – by which I mean that the act of putting pen to paper is a pleasure, but also that the resulting script is expressive, neat, attractive, legible and satisfying. And as if that were not enough, I depend upon my pens for their role in maintaining my mental health, as a source of relaxation and unwinding to counter the stresses and strains of daily life. Writing with pen and paper lifts my spirits.

Diamine Pelham Blue. (Wetters?!)

I realise that this is a lot to ask of a pen, particularly one that you find on Amazon and which costs under £25.00 including shipping. But when you find one (whatever yours might be), buying three of them does not sound so silly after all.

The tale of the Lady and the Scholar: my London Autumn Pen Show 2022.

Here in London, our Pen Show took place on Sunday, 9 October 2022, held again at the spacious Novotel London West, Hammersmith. I have been attending pen shows now for 9 years and still find them a bit overwhelming and a challenge to make the most of the day.

What makes for a good pen show experience? It helps to go with a list of anything in particular that you want to buy and cash for your budgeted spending, although it is equally enjoyable to go with an open mind and to see what catches your eye. This year I hoped to find another Titanium nib unit with ebonite feed, in a Bock fitting. Previously I had bought one with a Jowo fitting, which I had installed in my Opus 88 Demonstrator to good effect. I also hoped to take a look at an Onoto Scholar in the flesh. I hoped that the Semikolon Grand Voyage journals would again be available. Finally, I planned to take a look at some vintage Parkers. Spending enough, but not too much money, and wisely, helps avoid being left with regrets.

My mini-haul: Titanium nib unit, Parker 17 Lady, Onoto Scholar and case, plus a Semikolon journal.

Of course, it is the wonderful people of the fountain pen community that make the day special. This year I met in real life for the first time, Pamela of pamalisonknits.com attending her first pen show. Also, from Instagram, @amuse.bouch8 was here with her family, and Phil of @theinkscribe. There were the regulars, penultimatedave, Gary of dapprman https://dappr.net/ and Jon of https://www.pensharing.com/ with his Pensharing table, signing up new members. I met many of the well-known dealers – John Foye, John Hall of Write Here, John Twiss, Vince Coates, Dennis (of Den’s Pens) and Kirit Dal at whose Aurora table I tried a Talentum with a medium nib.

My wife came too. She made her purchases early, finding a handsome Diplomat (Excellence, brown guilloche rollerball), plus a Troika fineliner and a few Troika tool pens (ballpoint pens with screw drivers, ruler and spirit level) that she chose for gifts. Soon after, she discovered some colourful Semikolon twist action ball pens in matching colour plastic boxes and chose a selection of them, telling me excitedly “I have spent £80.00!” The game was on!

From wife’s haul: Diplomat Excellence rollerball.
And some Semikolon ball pens for gifts.

I went to find Vince, to ask about a Titanium nib unit. I bought one, in a Medium with red feed. It did not fit in the Campo Marzio Ambassador which I had planned to put it in, but I hoped it might fit in something else at home.

Magna Carta Pens, titanium nib unit.

We went to see the Onoto table, manned by Feng Li and James Boddy, Shirley and Emma. I was yet to own an Onoto pen but had long admired the Magna Classic, reputed to have one of the best stainless steel nibs around (or a gold nib if you wish to upgrade). I was able to handle both the Magna and the recently introduced Scholar, which is similar in shape but slightly smaller but which comes with the same number 7, bicolour stainless steel nib that you would receive on the Magna. Onoto were offering the Scholar at a tempting show price of £150.00 reduced from the usual £195.00. I was hooked. With a choice of red, yellow, navy blue or black, I chose navy blue and with a medium nib. Rather stupidly, I passed up the splendid, sumptuous leather Onoto pen roll pouch included in the price, to have a simpler flat leather pen case which I could more see myself using.

Happily, I was able to buy another Semikolon journal (reviewed here in my last post) which I will greatly enjoy using.

During the day I had many interesting conversations with the friendly dealers. I saw some lovely Conway Stewart pens from Bespoke British Pens, of Emsworth. I saw the 20mm square rods from which their pens are turned, on a lathe. The Churchill is the most popular. I wondered if in years to come, people would buy pens called the Johnson, or the Truss. Don’t answer that.

Derek at Stonecott Fine Writing showed me the Venustas carbon fibre pen with a Titanium nib. It looked like no other pen. I met, for the first time, Emy of Pen Venture. At his table I handled a marvellous Leonardo Mosaico with a size 8 gold nib, exclusive to the show and for £500.00 I think, but well outside my comfort zone for an impulse purchase. A lady at Sparks Nibs had a table of pieces showing me the various stages in making a fountain pen nib.

I browsed at Graham Jasper’s table of vintage Parker pens. I was tempted by the elegant Parker 51 in black with a gold cap, of which there were half a dozen or so examples, with prices not shown but ranging from £60.00 to £200.00, he said. I would have needed to inspect them all to check the nib and the aerometric filler, as well as the general condition of the caps and barrel, which showed differing degrees of wear as expected from these elderly pens. There was a bit too much choice and I could foresee that after this exercise, I would have chosen the one that was the highest price and so I moved on, this time.

After a very enjoyable day of meeting friends and browsing the tables, it was time to go. On a last walk round the tables, I found more trays of vintage Parker pens, but marked as either £40.00, £20.00 or finally, a miscellaneous box in which every item was £10.00. Here, I bought a little Parker 17 Lady, with a hooded nib, in dark green with gold furniture. The nib looked promising, and I could see myself enjoying it.

Parker 17 Lady, made in England.

The aftermath.

Back at home, I tried the Titanium nib in a succession of pens but could not find any that it would fit, so far. I will enjoy paginating the Semikolon journal. I knew that the Onoto Scholar fountain pen would be perfect and left that to try last. Surprisingly I found that it was the Parker 17 Lady that I was most eager to examine and which was to dominate my evening.

I soon spotted a large chip in the cap, just below the finial. However, when unscrewing the green plastic finial, I found that I could position the pocket clip in front of this, and also that when the finial was screwed in, there was no daylight showing from the chip and so hopefully it would still be reasonably airtight (not counting the deliberate hole found in the side of the cap). There were scratches on the barrel and cap. I then found that some of these were actually cracks, but I still clung to the hope that these were cosmetic only. The nib unit and aerometric, squeeze-bar filler were in good usable condition. I filled and wrote with the pen. The nib was a smooth, soft juicy broad.

Uncapped. The cracks start to appear.
But the 14k gold nib is lovely.

Using the pen, I noticed an increasing amount of ink on my fingers. It transpired that the section, or shell over the nib unit was not only scratched but cracked and that ink was leaking out from the shell. By this time, I had already had my £10.00 worth of enjoyment and education from the pen. My wife suggested putting it in the bin. I could not bring myself to do so. No one can bear to see a broken Lady. I pondered filling the pen by first unscrewing the nib and filler unit from the shell. This did not seem very practical but I decided to keep the pen and perhaps find another Lady or some spare components at a pen show to rebuild her some day.

Nib and aerometric filler unit unscrewed from the section and reusable.
Chip to the cap.

And so finally to the Scholar. This was predictably excellent. The steel nib was faultless and the pen felt very comfortable. You even get a brass tubing liner to add weight to the barrel, which is an optional extra on the Magna. Yes, the Magna at double the price would have been a little bit longer and broader, but then I have that size covered already by my recent Tibaldi N.60. I was no scholar myself but coincidentally the silver and the gold colours of the steel nib, and the gold coloured finial, clip and cap ring, next to the navy blue are reminiscent of my school uniform colours at the Reading Blue Coat School in the 1970s. I am thrilled with this beauty.

Onoto Scholar. An exquisite steel nib.

A few days after the show, I learned from Onoto that I was one of several lucky runner-up winners of a Coffee Dusting Stencil with the Onoto logo, so that was good!

With hindsight, I should have taken a little more care in choosing the Parker and spent a bit more money there to buy a pen without so many issues. I could also have passed up the Titanium nib after finding that it was not the right fit for my Campo Marzio. At least I stopped myself from buying any more ink. It takes years of practice to make the best use of a pen show and I am not quite there yet.

The Semikolon Grand Voyage notebook; a brief review.

With the London Autumn Pen Show just a week away, it is natural that my thoughts may turn to what I might buy there.

In London we are fortunate to have two pen shows a year. At the Spring show on 6 March 2022, my modest haul included a notebook from a brand that was new to me, called Semikolon. It was a chunky A5-ish size, offered in a selection of colours and for a tempting show price of £10.00.

Specifications.

  • 152 sheets (304 pages) of Swedish, fine laid watermarked, plain, cream-coloured paper;
  • Page size: 135mm x 180mm;
  • Stiff board covers, and cloth-bound;
  • Stitched spine – opens flat;
  • Two ribbon bookmarks (matching the cover);
  • Elastic closing loop;
  • Elastic pen loop with a Semikolon pencil;
  • Expandable pocket in the back cover;
  • World map with time zones, inside the front cover.
Semikolon Grand Voyage notebook.

I was informed that Semikolon is a sister brand of Leuchtturm, whose hardback A5 notebooks I have used a lot. However the cloth-bound notebook from Semikolon feels rather more luxurious in comparison and the paper feels heavier (although I have not found a reference to the weight in gsm).

How have I used mine?

Naturally, I began by paginating the book, in pencil. I sampled the paper by trying one of my purchases from the same pen show: an Esterbook Estie Nouveau Bleu with a broad nib filled with Waterman Serenity Blue. I also tried an Opus 88 demonstrator pen, in which I had installed a new Jowo-fit Titanium nib in an ebonite feed and housing, from the London pen show last year. This was (and still is) filled with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink. I would be keen to pick up another of these nibs, in a Bock fit housing next time to upgrade another steel nibbed pen.

Replacement Titanium fine nib with ebonite feed, installed in my Opus 88 demonstrator.

I was very pleased with the notebook. There was no bleed through from my fountain pens and also very little show through. I generally use a row guide sheet behind the paper, used from a pad of Basildon Bond writing paper. Flicking back through the pages, I see that I started with the paper-testing writing samples on the back pages and then just carried on with the pen and ink sampling, working from the back of the book all the way down to page 72 which is where I am now. The page numbers therefore tell you the number of pages remaining. This was not intentional, but illustrates that this is a notebook that I pick up often when just wanting to write a paragraph or two from whatever pen catches my eye in the pen cups. My tally of currently inked pens at home is at twenty (after flushing three this morning).

A few pen and ink samples in the Semikolon notebook.

I have also started filling the book from the front too, where I had the idea of inserting the date at the top and writing a page about the events of the day, using a different pen and ink each time. For example, on 2 June I wrote down some reflections on HM The Queen’s birthday parade – the Trooping of the Colour in Horseguards Parade, watched on TV. Little did I know that she was to pass away a little over three months later.

Admittedly I have filled far more pages with idle paragraphs of pen and ink sampling from the back, than I have with any meaningful writing from the front, but then it has been a source of recreation, reached for often when tired from the working day and in need of some pen-time escapism, writing simply for the joy of using a fountain pen on nice quality paper and seeing paragraphs of handwriting from different pens, nibs, and inks and in different writing styles.

A colourful paragraph from the currently inked pen cups.

The “Grand Voyage” theme is supported by the expandable pocket inside the back cover for tickets, post-cards or travel souvenirs, and by the world map in the front cover. I had not studied the map closely and it was literally only today, that I noticed the Semikolon Islands lying to south west of Australia! This is a notebook that does not take itself too seriously.

With a casual glance, you could easily miss the Semikolon Islands, and their punctilious inhabitants.

I am looking forward to next weekend’s pen show and would be happy to pick up another of these notebooks if the opportunity arises and in a different colour next time. How would you use yours?

Observe how these demonstrator pens cleverly adopt the colour of their surroundings.