Tag Archives: paper

Sunday Study: The Perfection of the Paper Clip

All my stationery nerd friends said, “Read this book, you’ll love it.” Well, I have and I don’t.

When I spot a factual error in a book it makes me question all other information held as facts in the book. The first factual error I found was on page 26 where Ward states that reed pens are “filled by pouring ink into the top of the pen.” Apparently Ward has never used a reed pen because this is  hilariously wrong. Reed pens are dip pens. You soak some reed pens (bamboo) in water before use to activate the capillaries in the bamboo, but even still they are still dip pens. They function similarly to quill and steel dip nibs.. You dip them in ink. After this point I was left wondering what else was wrong.

In the section about Moleskines he writes that the “first” time a moleskine was labeled as “Made in China” was only after the company had been purchased by SGCapital in 2013. I suspect this may be a typo and he meant 2003, which was certainly before Modo e Modo was purchased. Further I remember the online uproar the “Made in China” label created. I remember my first “Made in China” Moleskine. I got that Moleskine long before 2013. In fact 2013 is long after I’d given up using Moleskines due to quality control issues. It is true that the Moley had always been made in China, and had previously been labeled, “Designed in Italy.” Further I have some issues with his “historical” facts of small-m moleskines. Yes there was one Parisian supplier that sold those made by someone Chatwin loved, but moleskines are a style of small pocketable notebooks- not just the one sold in that one shop. Rather, moleskine was used to describe all manner of small pocketable notebooks covered in oil cloth and were available all over Europe.

After this point I began to hate read the book. The section on pencils is quite good, though I’m reticent to take anything he’s written as factual given the previous factual errors. The section on King’s The Dark Half may not be totally accurate.

Ward’s humor is not funny to me. He tries really hard to be pithy and funny but often his jokes fall flat. Where Rees has deadpan down pat Ward’s attempt at humor fall flat and scratching my head, wondering how did he think that was funny? I got what he was trying to say, I just never found the humor in what he had written. Frankly, Ward’s writing style bores me. I’ve read many of the books on his reference list, and while those are boring they are far more informative than Ward’s book and because the writing was solid, well researched and informative with out wannabe pithy commentary, they were good.

I’m sorry, but The Perfection of the Paper Clip is anything but perfect, and I can’t even say it’s good. I’m not including an Amazon link for this one. just because I tortured myself doesn’t mean you should too.

User, Collector, or Stockpiler Part 2

The last post was about how do stationery users really get to a point where they stockpile, basically the journey from simple user of an item to stockpiler. To boil that down, the group consensus was that people were searching for the perfect pencil/pen/notebook/sketchbook. In that search some people had the rug yanked out from under them and their favorite item disappeared, which seemed to directly correlate to instances of stockpiling. I think that it is important for me to state here that in these posts I do not intend to speak for “all” stationery nerds, but rather I’m combining my experience with an informal conversation that was had on a Facebook group. I’m writing this, or compiling this information because I find it fascinating and I suspect that others might as well.

The second important aspect was how people defined themselves- as users, collectors, a combination of the two or stockpilers*. Some people see themselves as pure users of their purchases. Most of these people seem to keep a small stockpile of their favorite items on hand. While other users call themselves user-stockpilers and they keep large quantities of their favorite items on hand. This seems to relate back to having difficulty finding their favorite items due to scarcity or manufacturer discontinuing the product, that the item is vintage, or that the manufacturer changed the product.

The last two items on that list- discontinued products and manufacturer changes seem to take people down the path of stockpiling favorite items. This can also lead to the other end of the spectrum- collecting. Collecting doesn’t preclude using but it is an interesting subset of stationery users. I must admit that I do have a small collection of pencils. One of each pencil that arrives in my home goes into a pencil case. Interesting to me is that collectors range from wanting one of everything that interests them to people who collect pencils in packages or great quantities of particular pencils that interest them. I think that the whole collecting side of the stationery world could be (possibly should be) a post in and of itself.

Here is where I make an admission. I wanted to be a collector, but I’m simply not. I really like using my various pocket notebooks, pencils and pens. I have a Danitrio Cumlaude pen that I’ve been on the fence of selling. Though it is a beautiful piece of celluloid that I adore looking at I don’t use it. It’s got the most buttery smooth nib but I don’t use it. I don’t use it because I’m rough on my tools and I’m deathly afraid that I’ll break it. So it sits in a lonely drawer, never being used. That bugs me. I want to use all my tools. I chew through pocket notebooks at the rate of roughly 1 every 2 to 3 weeks and I destroy pencils when I draw and I use them pretty quickly when I’m writing too. I take delight in using my more “collectable” Field Notes**, sometimes as coasters. I’ve got a whole post about how I came to the conclusion that I’m a user not a collector, so this isn’t the place for that story, but the reality is I’m not a collector.

It seems that most collectors use some of their stockpile but never the collection. This is another point of difference between collectors and users- nothing in a users stockpile is sacred, it’s all up for grabs. This, I think is the primary difference between users and collectors. A user primarily stockpiles or collects items to use, eventually, while collectors will hold certain items as sacred and not for use, ever. One member specifically referenced enjoying their pencils as objects- finding enjoyment in the look and feel of the item, not just in it’s use. Even users will take into consideration the look of a pencil or notebook as they use it, the more attractive the item to that person, the higher the desirability. In some cases, people had favorites due to nostalgia. My enjoyment of the EF ECOwriter is largely nostalgia. It’s a dark soft pencil but it also has some grittiness that can be unpleasant in use, but I love the dark chrome yellow of it’s paint combined with the silver ferrule and green eraser. This is nostalgia. While my enjoyment of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl is largely because it is pretty and performs well.

In this discussion, it’s clear that there are a lot of factors that determine if someone considers themselves to be a collector or user or combination of the two. Most importantly it seems that there is a sacredness to the collection of the collector and a lack thereof for the user. Most importantly it seems that each person determines and defines if they are a collector, user, stockpiler, or some combination. 

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Review: Fabriano EqoQua Notebooks

The pocket sized Fabriano EcoQua(EQ) notebooks have been around for awhile and I’ve just now gotten my hands on a 4-pack at my local AC Moore with a 505 off coupon. The regular price at AC Moore is $8.99 for 4 3.5×5.5 inch notebooks.ecoqua ecoqua

They feature 64 pages (or 32 sheets) of creamy off white paper. The paper is lightweight 85gsm paper.  The paper is amazing, smooth yet enough tooth that pencils perform well and smooth enough for fountain pens to glide over the surface. There was no feathering nor bleed through. It does take a bit for the pens to dry, but that should be expected with paper like this. Pencil smudginess was decent though not amazing.  The pages are thin enough that inks and pencils alike have a lot of show through of the previous page, while this wouldn’t stop me from sketching on both sides it might be enough to deter some users. The second half of the book is micro-perforated. I’ll discuss that later.ecoqua ecoqua The covers are bright cheery colors with a linen imprinted finish. The cover weight is slightly heavier than a Field Notes and about the same as a Word notebook. The corners are rounded, but just barely so. The book is held together with 2 silver staples, they seem robust enough. Each of my books at the spine feature a small tear. This can be caused by several things, first the blade on the shear could be dull, secondly the books weren’t clamped tight enough into the shear, thirdly the shear was over filled finally the shear was under filled. Most likely it was over filled and not clamped down properly. This happens pretty often when small pocket books are mass produced. It’s just something to make note of and to check for if you are neurotic about that sort of thing.ecoqua ecoqua

I really love the paper and the bright covers. However, the micro-perforated second half of the book is a deal breaker for me. I cannot stand to have my sketchbooks micro perforated. If I want to remove a page I have an exacto, a ruler, and a self-healing cutting mat. Or I can use my cutter bee micro perforation blade to add my own perforations. I wouldn’t mind if the last 4 or 5 pages were micro-perforated, but perforations just mean that in my use those pages will fall out. I joke that micro-perforation is Italian for “falls out with little effort.” If these weren’t micro-perforated they wold be right up there with my lovely BanditApple Carnet peewee sketchbooks. But with 1/2 of the sketchbook ready to fall out if I sneeze on them… Nope.ecoqua

I don’t know why it’s taken the big paper companies so long to get into the small pocket sketchbook game. Clearly it’s profitable and relatively easy to do. Canson delved into this territory with their pocket XL sketchbooks, which are really not that great but are wonderful for making a lot of dreadful sketches. I’m still surprised that with the success of Moleskine and Field Notes that all the big paper companies (hello, Strathmore, Borden & Riley, and Stillman & Birn) haven’t created a simple sketchbook like this. I’d buy a 3-pack of Stillman & Birn pocket sketchooks in no time.

Instead I’m forced to use notebooks with crappy paper for sketching (I still love you Field Notes) or ordering a sketchbook from overseas (I love you Bandit Apple Carnet.)

Cost of Entry

If I were new to the pen, pencil, and paper addiction and reading the top blogs right now I’d be convinced that entering into this addiction might be very very expensive. As much as I love to read about pricey pens, I know that many are out of my  reach. It seems to be a rare occurrence for an affordable pen to be flogged. A notable exception is the Pilot Metropolitan, a pen that I like very much but wasn’t overly enamored with, but still recommend for people looking for a starter pen.

Another thing that makes pencil-dom more affordable is that pencils and paper pair up more easily. I have a stack of journals and notebooks I’ve put aside because they didn’t work well with my fountain pens. Many of these are doing great with my pencils but were horrible with fountain pens. Take for instance the Martha Stewart and Avery pocket notebooks. God awful with even a dry writing fountain pen but great with a pencil. In fact with a pencil they shine. the paper doesn’t chew up the pencil, but is toothy enough to get a lot of graphite on the page without crazy smudging. I still wouldn’t recommend it as a primary pocket notebook because it’s got those nasty perforated pages, but for quick notes or short letters, it’s great.

Every time I pick up a pencil it writes. Occasionally a point will break off and I’ll have to sharpen it, but generally speaking, I get graphite on the page. That isn’t always the case with a fountain pen. Sometimes the ink will need coaxing out of the nib, sometimes it needs water to be added, or I nee dot refill it , or flush it, or something. If I’ve used a pen consistently it will write without issue, but man if you let that sucker sit for a month you are in for some work.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule. I’ve got 2 Platinum Preppy pens sitting on my desk. I haven’t touched either one in over a month. One is loaded with red ink and another with black. Both of them wrote without a skip or issue. My TWSBI 540 or Lamy Safari can’t say the same thing.

One of the reasons I’ve been reviewing pencils this summer is that for the most part, pencils are affordable. even the most expensive pencil I’ve reviewed/ purchased was $2.50. Compared to my most expensive pen at $75 that’s a bargain. Getting into pencils can be done with just a few dollars. A decent writing experience can be found for $2.50 for a dozen pencils (USA Gold Naturals) and an exceptional experience can be had for $20 a dozen (Palomino Blackwings, pick any one of the 3). I’m not suggesting that pencils are better than pens, simply that they have a lower expense for greatness.

Review: Canson XL Watercolor Pad

I picked up a Canson XL 30 sheet pad of CP 140# watercolor paper a few months back with the intent of comparing it to my favorite inexpensive paper, Strathmore 140# CP 400 series. It compares well.

First off, it comes in a glue bound pad which is good for bookbinding not good for art journaling. To me a glue binding is temporary and won’t last, I abuse my art journals and thus this pad would absolutely not hold up to my use. The paper folds in half easily and without cracking. This is a bonus if you are intending to make your own sketchbook or journal. The grain of this paper is along the short side, which again, is perfect for binding.

The paper is thinner and softer in feel to other 140# paper, specifically the Strathmore. It’s still stiff, but is not quite as stiff as cardboard. The cold pressed paper is textured more on one side than the other. The Canson CP is significantly less textured than most other CP papers I’ve used, and I’ve used a lot. The reverse size is significantly smoother than the front. You can feel and see the difference in texture. The amount of sizing is different too. The differing texture and sizing means that when binding you either let the different textures face each other OR you pull the pages out and face them together.  It’s an extra step in binding that makes an art journal more pleasurable, versus getting into the journal and realizing each facing page responds to pen, ink, and watercolor differently. I find that annoying.

Ink mix0013
Ink mix0013
 The paper handled ink like a dream. Even my fine and extra fine pointed fountain pens floated on its smoothish CP surface. Noodler’s bullet proof ink bonded with it well and other inks gave me a wonderful watercolor effect. The pages handled watercolor crayon like a dream and scraped acrylics like it was made for it. I noticed even with repeated brushing and scribbling layers of ink no pilling or pulling up of fibers. Either side handled them well. The reverse and smoother side was much more absorbent, so an even pull of credit card scraped acrylic got less coverage but was decent. The paper is heavy enough that I did not notice any wrinkling. Watercolors of course gave a cockling effect that soon relaxed as the paper dried.

Ink mix0015

Ink mix0015
This is a budget friendly pad of paper. I purchased it on sale for around $7; regular price is around $13 for the 11×15 in size. It’s not a bad price, especially for a pad that is easily folded up for making an art journal. I found it on Amazon (see below) for $4.59 in the 9×12 size, which is not bad at all. I was unable to find the 11×14 on Amazon but did find it on the Blick site for about $7.


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Jotter Notebooks on Artfire Great Shades of Green with Unlined Paper

More New Jotter Notebooks
Originally uploaded by lessherger

These jotters almost didn't make it to Artfire. I'm so in love with the shades of green on the covers of these notebooks these almost remained mine.IF I didn't already have a box full of jotters these would have been mine. My loss is everyone's gain 'cause they are on ArtFire here.

You can also follow the link to the images of these on Flickr and see more pictures of jotters and other notebooks.

Staples Paper Review

I decided that I would do some testing of the new Staples brand paper, which I have from a reliable source is manufactured for them by a major paper brand. (I’ll do a post on that soon.)
So I tested the 3 papers I wrote about in my previous post here.

The first paper I tested was Staples brand 65lb coverstock. It’s thick, stiff and smooth. It’s quite enjoyable to write on, accepts all inks well without noticeable feathering or strikethrough.


The next paper was the Staples brand 5 squares per inch graph paper. As much as I don’t like to sew it up into a book I was surprised at how much I liked writing on it. The paper is very lightweight, very smooth and takes ink well. I noticed a little feathering with the fountain pen and the Staedtler liquid point. There was also a lot of strike through with most pens, however the following pens showed little to no strike through- Uniball Jetstream- all colors and the space pen. The thicker pens with more liquid ink had more strikethrough.



The next paper was the Staples brand 20lb paper in cream. I found little strike through on the paper with the exception of a red liquid ink pen in .7mm. I should check it out with a thicker fountain pen and see what happens. Again I was pleasantly surprised at how nice this paper was to write on. While not the same experience as a Strathmore 100% cotton it as a very nice feeling paper with all the pens. The fountain pen ran smoothly over the surface and the more fluid inks didn’t feather, with the exception of the red ink, which gives even the thickest of papers trouble.



I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and enjoyability of the Staples brand paper. I found the coverstock to be more pleasant than some of the other cardstock I’ve used for hedgehogs. All papers were listed as acid free on the package.

Maine Vacation Journal

Earlier this year I went to Maine to visit my family and take a brief vacation from work. I had made a sketchbook filled with 140lb 100% cotton paper. It was awesome to work with, the combination of the paper and the handmade book made it easy to draw what I wanted to and add the color I wanted. See below for few pictures of the book.