I was thinking about it the other day, what makes a pocket notebook fountain pen friendly? No show through, no feathering, and no bleed through would be ideal, but that usually means longer than preferable dry time.
I decided to break out a bunch of the pocket notebooks I have, and do some testing. There are constant complaints about Moleskine and Field Notes paper exhibiting a lot of feathering and bleeding, but maybe they’re just looking out for us? Let’s see what happens with a few different popular pocket notebooks and fountain pen ink:
Clairefontaine’s Life Unplugged notebooks are packed with premium, smooth, awesome Clairefontaine paper. In normal circumstances, this is one of the most fountain pen friendly papers around. However, when in a pocket notebook, I find the dry time to be prohibitively long. I use my pocket notebooks to jot down quick notes, fold them up, and back into the pocket they go. With dry time for most inks taking longer than 30 seconds on this paper, there’s a good chance you’re going to stamp a mirror image of what you wrote onto the opposite page. Fountain pen friendly? Not in this context. I’m pretty sure I could fill up both pages before the ink is 100% dry. I find the “stamping” to be more intrusive than some show through.
Next up, we have the Word. Notebooks standard pocket notebook. This one has a built in bullet journaling system, which is pretty cool The 60# opaque smooth white paper does a good job of sucking up the ink and keeping it in place. As soon as I was done writing the sentence on the left, I closed the book and stuck it in my back pocket. There’s some minor show through, and perhaps a tiny bit of bleed, but potentially important notes on the surrounding pages are all safe and legible.
Wider nibs and wetter inks show through a bit more, but it’s by no means bad. Ultimately, paper like this tends to be categorized as “not fountain pen friendly” but I think in this context, it is.
Here we have the Midori Pocket Notebook. The paper is somewhere between Field Notes and Rhodia. It does a great job of keeping fountain pen ink in place, but it’s also guilty of having a prohibitively long dry time. This results in more stamping onto the next page as well, especially if you don’t wait long enough for the ink to dry. Wonderful to write on, but in practice it just doesn’t work out for a pocket notebook the way I use them.
Field Notes – the most popular of the pocket notebooks. Field Notes paper is notoriously hit or miss, and I frequently see people asking about fountain pen friendliness and performance. Field Notes doesn’t have one dedicated type of paper, and some are better than others. This particular specimen is the Cold Horizon edition, and the paper is pretty bad. It bleeds and feathers a bit too much for me. I’ve found that the Finch Opaque Smooth 50#T Whitewash White in the County Fair Edition performs quite well with fountain pens. It’s absorbent without being over the top. Field Notes are my most used pocket notebooks, but admittedly because of form over function and I’m more often than not carrying a fountain pen. I don’t mind the show through that happens because of the ability to quickly write something down and then immediately put it away.
I don’t know why these aren’t the most popular pocket notebooks around. The Doane Utility Notebook is by far the best combination of absorbent and ink-friendly. The grid+lines ruling may not be for everyone, but I personally love it. It’s the same paper that’s in the Doane Flap Jotter, which is awesome. There’s the slightest bit of show through, but overall it works great with fountain pen ink. Dry time is quick enough to handle being written on, then closed and pocketed. The paper is nice and smooth too. If you are a heavy pocket notebook user, and you haven’t tried these out – I 100% recommend you do so. This is by far the best handling paper – most ink dries fast and stays in place. On top of that, the minimalist design and subdued colors look great.
This post was definitely more of a rant than anything. With tons of pocket notebooks out there, and the term “fountain pen friendly” constantly being thrown around, I needed to voice my opinion. So here it is: typical “fountain pen friendly” papers just don’t work as well as pocket notebooks. There needs to be a higher level of absorbency, but balanced with feathering and show through. I find Rhodia and Clairefontaine to be great when you have the time to let the ink dry, but Field Notes, Word. Notebooks, and especially the Doane Utility Notebook are all better suited for on-the-go scribbles (or highly organized, gridded out daily planners). My opinion of what it means to be fountain pen friendly has changed a lot the more I use pocket notebooks. They’ve achieved a permanent spot in my back pocket. I hope this was somewhat informative, either that or I was just looking for an excuse to take a bunch of pictures. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!