Baker’s Dozen

I mentioned in a previous post about the need to expand my inky horizons in 2017 and I haven’t let the grass grow under my feet.  After moaning about poor availability of samples in the UK, it turns out that the Writing Desk offer a pretty good range and 12 new inks duly arrived in the mail this week.

As it’s Friday the 13th, I felt I had to add one more (Diamine Graphite) for the purposes of mildly dramatic effect.  And here they are…

13 ink swatches

Baker’s dozen

Caran d’Ache, Graf von Faber Castell, Monteverde, Rohrer and Klingner and Sailor are all new ink brands to me, so I feel like I’m upholding my new year’s resolution.

Swatches were applied with a cotton bud onto Tomoe River paper, and the names written with my J Herbin glass dip pen.

The Rohrer and Klingner and Sailor inks look really interesting.  In colour terms I particularly like the R&K Alt Goldgrün and Verdigris.  I’ve started using Diamine Graphite a bit, and that looks to be another very interesting ink.

I also bought a Clairefontaine notebook to use as a catalogue  and aide memoire for my inks.  Hopefully it will make writing ink reviews a bit easier too.  As well as the usual swatches and pen tests, I plan to do some simple paper chromatography.  After the issue with my Kaweco Liliput converter and Diamine Twilight, I’ve become quite interested in the dye and pigment combinations used to make the various colours.

I think I’ll be trying more samples this year. The challenge will be affording the full bottles if I decide I like lots of them!  Ho hum.

Curious Orange – some inks for Autumn

After a bit of an Indian Summer, it really feels like Autumn has arrived in the UK now – a bit chilly in the mornings, but with plenty of bright sunshine.  The leaves are turning colour and we’ve been busy looking for conkers.

All of this prompted me to do something with a bunch of orange inks I’ve been accumulating over the summer.  I think there is a tendency to treat orange as something of a novelty colour when it comes to inks.  Most of my writing goes on at work, and while that may limit uses for orange as a colour, I do find it handy when reviewing/annotating documents as well as mind-mapping type stuff.

Taking into account the time of year, I thought about some ways of trying to demonstrate the range of colours I had.  Even with my (extremely) limited drawing abilities I figured I could just about make a pumpkin recognisable and use each segment to highlight a different ink.  Some of the vividness of colour has been lost along the way, but hopefully you can see how they compare.


Oranges are not the only fruit

Diamine’s Orange is probably the most vivid of the inks I tried – it reminds me of the kind of orange-esque  drinks that were around when I was a child.  They’re probably banned by international treaty now, but at the time no-one seemed to worry about the additives they contained.

Not surprisingly, Pumpkin is very pumpkin-like, having a redder tone than the Orange.  The two Sunsets (Diamine and Iroshizuku) are quite closely matched and Blaze Orange is quite aptly named – you almost feel you could warm your hands over it.  Deep Dark Orange is made for Cult Pens by Diamine and for me is reminiscent of a good, spicy marmalade – a welcome addition to a slice of toast at this time of year (with a nice mug of tea, of course).

Ancient Copper is a bit of an imposter, but I needed another ink to fill the final segment and this was the nearest to another shade of orange than anything else I had.

J. Herbin’s Vert Olive was the only green ink I had, so it had to suffice for the pumpkin’s stalk.  I clearly need to investigate green inks further!


  • Paper – Tomoe River (68gsm)
  • Outlines – Sepia Mangaka Flexible pen
  • Text – Black Mangaka Flexible pen

The Tomoe River once again did what it does so well – taking a lot of ink (applied with a cotton bud) and showing no sign of any bleed-through.

All of think inks were purchased from Cult Pens, apart from the Yu-yake, which was bought as a sample from eBay.

Ho, ho, ho…(bonichi)

Don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with Christmas.  It’s way too early in the year to be thinking of such things!  It is, however, the time of year when the 2017 Hobonichi Techo is unleashed on the world.

Hobonichi Techo 2017 box


I’ve used one as a work diary and planner for the last 2 years and decided to repeat the experience for 2017.  The big difference for me this year was that I ordered mine direct from Hobonichi in Japan, instead of from a UK stockist.  Supplies to the UK tend to be limited, so it can be a challenge to get hold of one if you’re not quick off the mark.

The Techo itself looks much the same as previous incarnations – A6 format (the only option in English) with a smart, understated black card cover.  Buying from Japan meant I could choose from a range of outer covers not available in the UK.  It also meant that I could buy some notebooks to accompany the Techo, as well as receiving some free goodies.

One of the goodies is straightforward (4 colour pen) and one is, ahem, unusual.  By unusual I mean a small melamine plate made to look like a slice of toast with some butter melting into it.  No, I don’t know why either, but it certainly catches your attention!


Hobonichi Techo

2017 Hobonichi Techo



Hobonichi Techo cover

Slightly less subtle than my old brown leather cover


Inside view of cover


Hobonichi notebook

Hobonichi pocket notebooks featuring Tomoe River paper (yum!)


Multicolour pen and plate

Hobonichi goodies!

Out of the Grey: A homemade Tomoe River notebook


Why do this in the first place?

Put simply, I love Tomoe River paper.  Ever since I got my hands on my first Hobonichi Techo, I’ve admired this thin, but ever so fountain pen-friendly paper.  Although there seem to be a growing number of notebooks made using Tomoe River, these are generally not easy to come by in the UK.  I recently took the plunge and ordered a couple of Nanami Paper’s Seven Seas notebooks – all the way from California.  These are fairly expensive notebooks in their own right.  Add in the cost of shipping from the US and these become a luxury rather than an everyday notebook.

There aren’t too many options for buying Tomoe River as loose sheets in the UK, but I managed to find a UK seller on eBay offering 300 sheets of Tomoe River paper for just under £30.  So far, so good.  After all, how hard can it be to make a notebook using ridiculously thin paper that creases easily?


I made an A5 book, simply because I bought A4 paper and this meant the least amount of work in terms of folding and cutting.  A5 also happens to be my format of choice, so it wasn’t such a hard decision.  I also settled on a single signature exercise book, rather than a more complicated journal-type notebook.  I’ve been experimenting with this type of book as inserts for my Start Bay Navigator.

I can never figure out how notebook makers count their pages. What I do know is that I used 24 sheets of A4, folded down, giving a total of 96 pages of A5 in the finished book.



The book contains plain paper, more out of necessity than choice.  I tend to prefer dot grids, but the printable dot grids I’ve found on the web so far have been downright patchy in terms of the density of the dots.  I’ve put together my own, but since Tomoe River paper doesn’t fare very well in your average printer this is somewhat moot.  The seller that I got this paper from has now started selling 68gsm Tomoe River and I intend to see whether this will work any better in a printer.

Cover and Binding

In keeping with the exercise book theme, I went for a simple grey card cover (hence the title of the post and a bit of musical nostalgia – a 1986 album by the The Dream Syndicate).

I wanted a sewn binding, similar to the CIAK Appuntino I reviewed recently. From what I can find out, this is known as a Singer Sewn Binding (Made on a Singer sewing machine?), but I didn’t manage to find a handy diagram of the stitching pattern.  Instead, I ended up more or less using backstitch.  This gave the right appearance on the outside, but looks a bit messy on the inside.





After consultation with an embroidery and patchwork expert (my mum), I think the answer is to use a simple running stitch down the spine and then back up again.  With an odd number of holes, this should give the same pattern inside and out, offset by one hole.


As you can see from the photos, the binding could have been straighter.  I was drinking a gin and tonic as I made the notebook (Tanqueray Export if you must know), but that wasn’t the cause (honest!).  I folded and clamped the pages before I marked out and punched the holes, so when I came to stitch the block of paper things weren’t as well aligned as I might have hoped.  Next time out I’ll clamp the block and punch the binding holes before I fold the paper and cover.


One of the consequences of stacking this many sheets of paper is that those in the middle of the book stick out further than those nearest the cover.  To get a neat looking notebook, this means having to trim the edges.  I used a steel rule and a craft knife and to be frank it got a little messy.  Definitely something I need to practice at.

I used a 10mm corner punch to round the corners, and again I need a bit more practice to make these as neat as possible.

In use?

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the outcome.  Sure, there are things that I need to improve and a few things that I will do differently next time, but from nothing to a finished book in a couple of hours didn’t seem too shabby.


In use, the paper performs as you might expect.  Tolerant of lots of pens and inks.  Drying times are long and you get show-through, but that’s something I’m happy to live with.  The sample of writing I’ve shown was written with a medium-nibbed Sheaffer Legacy (not the Lamy 2000 in the photos), inked with Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku – a combination that puts down a pretty wet line.  Even so, it was pretty well behaved, coping with my handwriting and showing off the shading you get with this ink.

What next?

I’ll certainly try this again, looking to improve in the areas I’ve highlighted.  I also plan to try a multi-signature book at some point.  As well as a more complicated binding, this will mean a more elaborate cover, end papers (I have some gorgeous Chiyogami paper that I’m itching to use) etc.  It should be fun!  After all, what’s the worst that can happen?