• Q&A: Guide to choosing the right ink

    A guide to choosing the right ink

    So you have maybe decided to buy some new ink, but where do you start? With so much choice, it is hard to know where to turn. Are all inks essentially the same? What do you get for paying more? And what about all those technical terms?

    Choosing the right ink can be a daunting process and so this article aims to make the process a lot easier by breaking it down into the various elements that will affect your choice, and to give you a guide on how to go about choosing the right ink.

    a guide to choosing the right ink

    The Basics

    We will start by looking at the basics of making a decision. These are four factors that should easily rule in or out some inks and help give a basic pointer to guide you.


    At the time of writing we have 338 colours available to choose from, and this is spread across 18 choices of inks, not allowing for variations in the bottle size. 300+ colours is overwhelming, especially when you consider that the Diamine ink range has something like 27 blue inks alone.

    However, colour is an important factor in choosing your ink, maybe the most important alongside price. For some people this may mean just wanting a basic blue or black ink. For others it means having a specific colour - Enzo Ferrari famously used to sign his name in his signature colour. And no, it wasn't red - he was a purple ink man.

    For others, it will extend down to matching an ink to something specific - to your notebook maybe. Others might place importance on matching the colour shade precisely as no two shades are the same. It really comes down to how specific a shade of colour you are looking for. This may mean you have to search around various different inks to find your perfect colour.


    The other obvious influence on your choice of ink is likely to be cost. With some bottles costing under £7 and some costing over £30, there's a big difference in price. The question is what do you get if you pay more? Is it a straightforward case of the higher the price, the better the ink? Er...no.

    With quality brands like Diamine and Herbin costing well under £10, it clearly doesn't follow that more expensive = better. We only sell good quality inks and so the advice on price would be to choose an ink that suits your budget. We will go on to look at other reasons why you might consider spending more on a bottle of ink later.

    We previously looked at the relative costs of different inks, and with inks being sold in various sized bottles you might want to consider this as well. There is little doubt that Diamine ink is the best value, all things considered.


    Size is less of an issue, but it's worth a mention. Bottled ink tends to be around 50ml per bottle. Some inks have bigger bottles - Diamine is a whopping 80ml, KWZ is a hearty 60ml - whilst others might be a more modest 30ml.

    A big bottle is going to be better value and will last a good while - an 80ml bottle of ink will fill the TWSBI Eco fountain pen about 40 times over! A big bottle of say 50ml+ is perfect when you know you'll want to use the ink frequently, or it's your favourite ink.

    Herbin do small 10ml taster bottles which are a great way to test out colours without feeling like you're wasting ink and even this will last you a while. The point being, size might not be so important in deciding since even a smaller bottle will last a long time.

    We did look at the relative costs of different inks vs cartridges before - click here to see more


    The last of the so-called basic decision makers will be the purpose you intend to use the ink for. Some inks are more suited for specific jobs. You might want a calligraphy ink (which has properties more suited to calligraphy writing), or you might require an ink for archival purposes. You might need a waterproof ink, like Blackstone Barrister ink.

    Another element to consider is drying time - if you need an ink that dries quickly then you might consider an ink like Herbin. The alternative is a wetter ink like KWZ, and you might find this proves very impractical if you need to wait ages for an ink to dry.

    Your paper choice will also impact upon this - some papers are better for inks to dry quickly if time is an issue. Look at papers from:

    choosing the right ink - how much does bottle size matter?
    Bottles range from 10ml to 80ml
    waterproof ink
    Blackstone waterproof Barrister ink

    Beyond The Basics

    Now this is where the choice of ink becomes really interesting. It is also where you move from choosing an ink for more more functional reasons, and find yourself taking greater pleasure from the act of writing and using ink itself.

    At the heart if this lies three key elements you can get from an ink - the Three S's. Some inks will display none, some or all of these elements and discovering them is part of the pleasure. Their presence, or lack of, doesn't makes an ink better or worse, it simply helps give an ink its true character.

    At this point it worth mentioning the paper. Inks don't exist in isolation and since it is likely you will be using them on paper, then your choice of paper is very important. The same iink will perform differently on different papers. See below for more notes on this.


    So what is sheen? This is when the ink dries with with a shiny finish to it. Most ink when dry will be flat and have no 'surface' to it. Sheen is when the ink has an edge that catches in the light. Discovering this when using an ink is part of the pleasure, but as a guide you will find a good sheen to inks like:

    If you want to get the best out of the sheen an ink has then we recommend using Tomoe River paper, which just lets the ink show off its best qualities.


    Shading is where an ink dries with some variation in depth. So rather than leaving a single solid colour, the ink will be more saturated in colour in one area than another. Is that a good thing? Well that depends on what you like and want from your ink, but it is another area that you can discover more about an ink and how it performs in subtle ways to create something richer and more rewarding.

    Inks that are good for shading include:


    Some might argue that this comes under sheen, but it is something quite specific. Shimmer inks have a metallic sparkle to them. Literally. They have small particles in the ink which you can see in the bottle., and which will settle and need agitating before using. The result is an ink that sparkles on the page. The result can be quite varied but when it works it can be magical.

    There have been a whole host of new shimmer inks released in recent years, so there is a good choice, but you might want to look at these for some good results:

    Sheen on Kyoto Nurebairo ink
    Sheen on Kyoto Nurebairo ink
    Shading on Herbin Vert Olive ink
    Shading on Herbin Vert Olive ink
    ink shimmer
    Shimmer on Diamine Arctic Blue ink

    What Else Can Inks Offer?

    Is there anything else to an ink outside the basics and how it appears on paper? Well, arguably no. Choosing an ink based on those values will likely last you a lifetime after all. But there are other factors to consider, and these may help guide you in your choice of ink.

    Limited Editions

    Some inks release special or limited editions, and these can be in high demand. For some ink manufacturers this has become an annual event, and most notable amongst the limited edition inks are the Herbin Anniversary inks (this might now have become the Herbin 1798 range as of 2017) and the annual Edelstein Ink of the Year from Pelikan.

    Lamy have also started to produce limited edition T52 inks to coincide with the annual launch of the limited edition Safari and Al-Star fountain pens. These tend to be very limited in supply.

    Cult Inks

    Some inks acquire an almost cult-like status. Sometimes there is an obvious reason for it, other times it seems to defy reason. But no matter, if an ink has been given this lofty status then it is popular above all other colours in that range.

    Example inks here would be KWZ Honey, Herbin 1670 Emerald de Chivor and Robert Oster Fire and Ice.

    edelstein ink of the year
    Edelstein Aquamarine limited edition ink
    robert oster fire and ice
    Robert Oster Fire & Ice ink

    Extras & Exotic Imports

    Some inks are worth buying because they come beautifully packaged (I'm looking at you, Kyoto ink) or have extras in the box (Colorverse ink is a perfect example here).

    In other cases it is simply that the inks have that exotic something - imports from afar that you are unlikely to stumble across in your local WH Smith or inks with a story to tell. Iroshizuku and Kyoto inks come from Japan, Robert Oster and Blackstone inks are from Australia. KWZ inks are made by a husband-&-wife team in Poland. Feeling closer to the story can make you appreciate the ink in a different way.

    The Kyoto inks are also just beautiful objects in their own right, from the box to the bottle. Does this affect the ink? The obvious answer is no, but then again you can gain extra enjoyment from something more than just purely functional, and an ink like this is very desirable!


    Last but not least is the fact that inks are complex substance. It is no coincidence that KWZ ink is made by two chemists, or that we have worked with chemist-come-bloggers on ink reviews. The process of making an ink requires a lot of input, and not just in terms of colour choice, packaging and marketing.

    Look at Iron Gall inks for a clear demonstration of how complex an ink can be - these very traditional inks require sensitive handling in your pen as they can damage it in some cases. As the name suggests, it is made with iron elements and this helps it bond with the paper to form a more permanent mark. More interestingly it is chemistry in the making when you write with it as it changes colour and darkens.

    Some inks really are just a complex mixture and discovering inks can leave you somewhere between a writer and a chemist at times.

    Colorverse inks packaging
    Colorverse inks have extras in the box
    KWZ Iron Gall inks
    KWZ Iron Gall inks

    In Conclusion

    To summarise, the most powerful influence on your decision of choosing the right ink will be price. A quality ink like Diamine or Herbin comes in at under £7 and will let you choose from well over 130 colours. But once you start to find more pleasure in using inks so you will likely seek out other more expensive inks for the unique properties they can demonstrate. Whether that is the unusual colour, how it performs when used or just a desire to seek out ever new creations will depend on where you ink odessey takes you! In short, start somewhere that feels right, and let you enjoyment lead you.

    Blackstone Uluru Red
    Blackstone Uluru Red
    Diamine Apple Glory
    Diamine Apple Glory
    Lamy Dark Lilac
    Lamy Dark Lilac
    Edelstein Mandarin
    Edelstein Mandarin
  • Q&A: Why should I upgrade my fountain pen?

    upgrade my fountain pen

    Our guide to spending a little bit more on a fountain pen


    So you are considering upgrading your fountain pen for a smarter, more expensive model. But what will you get for your money? You have maybe dipped your toe in the water and bought your first fountain pen. Now persuaded of the joys of using a fountain pen, your thoughts have turned to where you go next.

    So having let your mind wander to what other pens are out there and what spending a little bit more might get you, this article is an attempt at giving some basic advice in terms of what to look for when moving from an entry-level pen to a mid-range pen.

    What is an entry level pen?

    lamy safari fountain pen

    Typically most people will start here. This is most likely because of cost. A first pen might come in around £15-20 and even that can be a big investment when you are making the step up from say a ballpoint pen (dare I suggest you made the leap from a Bic biro to fountain pen?).

    That is not to say that an entry level pen is not one that won’t last you a lifetime. Typically these pens might be something like the Lamy Safari fountain pen, the Kaweco Skyline, or maybe even a TWSBI Eco or the Pilot MR (aka the Pilot Metropolitan). All come in at under £30, some for under £20. All are great pens and will serve you well for many a year. But if you do want more…

    What is a mid-range pen?

    lamy aion fountain pen

    For the purposes of this article, a mid-range fountain pen has been defined as being one that costs over and above an entry-level, but not into the eye-watering levels that you can pay. So this has been set at a more modest level of between £40 and £75.

    Also, since entry-level will vary from brand to brand, it is deemed to be pens that display elements of being an upgrade on a more basic pen.

    Key reasons to upgrade

    So why upgrade? Well it becomes ever harder to actually justify the step up purely on value for money. There are gains to be had by spending more, certainly, but it is also an emotional decision and there is no point skirting round this. Nevertheless there are some clear benefits to be had from spending a bit more.


    Whilst your entry-level pen will typically be made of plastic, you would certainly expect your mid-range pen to be made of a superior material. More often that not this will be metal, likely aluminium as it is lightweight and perfect for a pen. It makes for a more solid, durable pen than plastic, yet you will not be adding any serious weight to the pen. In fact the slight extra weight might make the pen better as it adds just enough to make it feel substantial without being heavy.

    You may also find that this extends to all elements of the pen – look for what the clip and grip sections are made from.

    Tip – consider what material you would feel comfortable writing with, and what weight of pen would suit you, and check the full specification.


    This is something that will vary from pen to pen, and a lot of mid-range pens will not necessarily have a better nib that your entry-level pen. For example many Lamy pens have the same Z50 nib, from the Safari and ABC through to a Scala or Accent. Others like the Aion do have a better nib, in this case the new Z53 nib. It is more likely that the extra cost of the pen will get you a better barrel than a better nib but it is worth checking.

    Also, a more expensive pen may actually have access to a better range of nib sizes although this again will depend on each manufacturer.

    Tip – how important would a better nib be at this stage? This may require you pushing your budget even further.


    This will vary from pen to pen but a more expensive pen might come with a few extra features or add-ons. Certainly most Lamy pens above a certain value will come with a converter. Other entry-level pens may not come with a gift box (worth considering if it is a gift for someone).

    Tip – consider all aspects of what you want from your pen – don’t just be seduced by the look!


    The design of the pen is where there will be marginal gains in making the pen better – possibly a better grip section, or the way the cap can be posted or the way the clip works. Small improvements but it can make a real difference especially with a pen, which requires a good connection between hand and pen.

    Tip – consider what you like the least about your current pen and in what ways it could be improved. Then consider your ‘new’ pen in light of this.


    This is where the choice becomes more emotional. Typically a more expensive pen will be better designed, and may even have been designed by a well-known product designer. This might not make it a better at writing, but owning a pen that you love might make a difference. A pen you want to write with because it looks good is a pen you will enjoy writing with all the more.

    Tip – this all comes down to personal preference. Only you know what you like.

    Other tips

    If you are still unsure then read a few reviews. Think about what you don’t like with your current pen and consider whether a new pen will answer some or all of these problems. And if still unsure then see if you can try out the pen in person. We do offer a try before you buy service with pens but please do check with us first as we can’t offer this on all pens.

  • Q&A: What Is An Undated Diary?

    What is an undated diary?

    What is an undated diary?

    It might seem an odd question but it's not immediately obvious to everyone what an undated diary is. Whilst most people are familiar with a diary that has the days pre-printed for you, an undated diary simply follows the same format but just leaves the dates out. So regardless of whether the layout is a daily diary, weekly or even monthly it will be the same, with days of the week but no dates.

    Example layouts of undated diaries, showing daily, weekly and monthly formats

    What is the point?

    Whilst there is an obvious time-saving benefit to a diary with the dates already printed for you (not to mention the accuracy of having the right dates on the right days), a ‘normal’ diary also has a shelf-life. So your 2018 diary will be of no use until the day it starts, and of no use once the last day has passed. An undated diary frees you from needing to use it in that specific time-frame. So if you have a more relaxed approach to keeping time, or maybe don’t need a diary every week of the year then an undated diary will be ideal.

    What else can an undated diary do?

    Another great use is that if you need a diary outside of diary season then an undated diary is there, ready and waiting. Diary season means that frenzied couple of months towards the end of the year when diaries come and go very quickly, and come early January there’s nothing left. So if you decide in March you need a diary, you might well be waiting a long time.

    You can also let your creative self go free and customise the pages, unrestricted by the printed format already there. In fact, many diaries are so format-heavy that there is little room left to add appointments, but an undated diary tends to be less cluttered. Because it has no dates.

    How do I use one?

    Customise your undated diary
    Customise your undated diary as much as you want to - even use stamps to add the dates

    The quickest and easiest way is to just use a pen and write the dates in as you need them. The longer way is to go crazy with different pens, stamps and washi tape to make something quite unique. And then use it like you would use any diary. But just don’t feel you have to do every day or week. It’s your diary.

    Anything else I need to know?

    One more great advantage is that normally a diary gives you one shot. Mess it up with too many changed appointments or just spill you coffee on that page and you’ve got a problem. Undated diary? No problem as even in the worst case you just tear it out and start that week again.

  • Q&A: What Is A Left-Handed Fountain Pen?

    Lamy Z50 left handed fountain pen nib

    How well suited are pens to left-handed people?

    We are often asked about pens for left-handers, specifically left-handed fountain pens. Given that a lot of people are left-handed this market is poorly catered for. Apart from those designed for young children, there is not much available.

    Although some 10% of the population are left-handed, as a child I was the only one in a class of 39 pupils apart from my teacher. She, being a no-nonsense type, was determined that if she could write ‘properly’ so could I. Properly meant ensuring my writing sloped to the right and not backwards and she would return all my left-sloping efforts to me with a big red ‘NO’ all over them. After being kept in for seemingly endless lunchtimes being made to write out over and over the handwriting cards we used, she declared herself reasonably satisfied. My writing was and still is, forward sloping.

    left handed writing with a fountain pen
    Left-handed writing that avoids smudging the ink (it's a Caran d'Ache 849 fluorescent orange fountain pen, nail varnish model's own)

    These days children are allowed to develop their own style and backward sloping writing is considered fine. The problem many left-handers have though is that they find it difficult to see what they have written as they are going over the text as they move forward This then leads to the curled hand or hook many people end up developing to avoid smudging. The answer is to try and learn to hold the pen under the writing so that you can still see. The grip should be well back from the end of the pen so as to keep the hand back and the wrist should be straight. Turning the paper by 45 degrees clockwise makes it easier to slant the writing forwards if that is preferred.

    But what of specialist pens? Many pens have a universal grip but with fountain pens there is the question of the nib. Of the brands we sell, only Lamy offers a left-handed fountain pen nib. Opinion is divided on how useful this is with some feeling there is no real difference between an LH nib and a medium. When I have tested them out I can feel no difference but that may be because of my writing style which is more akin to a right-hander (thanks Miss) but others may find differently. One of the issues to consider is that the left-handed nib only comes in medium so if you want a fine or broad, tough, they don’t make them for left-handers. Italic nibs can be difficult for those with overhand styles as contact with the paper can be lost with some angles but again, all these things depend on the writing style.

    Certainly for children there can be an advantage of offering a left-handed nib. Even if the difference is slight or non-existent, the child may feel they have a special writing instrument that will help them and sometimes small things make a difference. Arguably fountain pens in themselves can help as they require careful positioning which encourages a proper grip and of course they are a bit special. For adults though it is a harder choice. Ultimately, if you are happy with a medium nib then it may be worth trying the left-handed version to see if that feels comfortable. If you want a fine or broad though, give it a go and you may be surprised to find it works just fine. If not, you’ll have to come see me at lunchtime I guess.

  • Q&A: How To Make A List

    how to make a list

    The art of a to-do list and getting things done


    Lists come in all shapes and sizes, from a shopping list to a 'Top 10' favourite list, but there is one list that can make us feel so much better. A basic ‘To-Do’ list. In this blog piece we look at how to make a list – what goes into a good to-do list and what makes it work?

    Why make a list?

    a to-do list helps get things done
    Make a list - it helps gets things done

    We all have things we need to do, from critical work tasks to mundane shopping lists. A list can make you:

    • focus on what you need to do
    • prioritise the most important tasks
    • give you a sense of achievement as you start to make progress
    • help you see how much more you have to do, helping you plan out your time
    • let you know that you’re done (time to make another list!)

    Lists are also quick and easy to put together and also quick and easy to manage. Simple but effective.

    Choose a subject

    A list works best when it is focused around a core subject. It may be that you need more than one list to make it work. Examples of how to make a good list focused might be:

    • a shopping list (again, but it’s a classic)
    • daily tasks
    • project-based tasks

    Keep it simple

    If the list becomes too long then it may not work well. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve. If it’s that shopping list (again) then maybe it needs to be pretty long, but if it’s your daily to-do list at work then once you start getting north of 10 items it will start to feel a real burden and progress will be slow. Think about splitting a list if it spills over the 10 item mark.

    Keep it focused

    prioritise your list
    Make sure you know which items on the list are the most important. And do them!

    Even with a 10-item list you may still find yourself adrift, and end up feeling pleased that you’ve ticked off 80% of the list when in fact you’ve failed to do the two most important items on there. If you can, pick out the two or three items (at most) that are the really important items you need to get done.

    Private or public?

    There’s nothing quite like a bit of peer pressure to help push you over the line. Some lists are clearly not for public eyes (yes, that one) but it might be that by sharing a list it helps. Think about maybe sharing it with a team or within your household. Maybe even share the load. But then you’re into the next item – ownership.


    If you are going to have a shared list (i.e. with different people doing different tasks) then just make sure it is clear who owns what.


    how to make a list - the SMART way
    SMART lists - worth bearing in mind

    I have so far avoided acronyms and jargon but sadly it falls upon me to suggest one that is possibly quite useful. SMART lists. Different people will define SMART as being something slightly different but essentially it means:

    • Specific. Make each task clearly focused.
    • Measurable. How else will you know if you have done the task?
    • Assignable. Who will it be assigned to, who will own it?
    • Realistic. Make it an achievable task and it might actually get done.
    • Timely. Give it a timeframe, an expected done by date.

    Paper or phone?

    how to make a list: on a phone or on paper
    Phone or paper - depends on what suits you best

    And so to back to stationery. In my world there’s a time and a place for both paper and digital lists, so really this isn’t an either/or. It is just a case of choosing the right one.

    A paper list is so easy and simple, and lends itself to those tasks you need to jot down quickly, as quick as your train of thought. In my notebook I will religiously write out a daily to-so list of tasks that gets added to (and added to, and added to), and will form part of a larger monthly to-do list. I use a phone app for all sorts of to-do lists but these are where I need to be more time-based (e.g. remind me on Friday to call British Gas).

  • Q&A: Diary Formats Explained

    diary formats


    If you are looking for a paper diary then it might seem daunting when faced with such choice but this short guide should help with explaining diary formats. And yes, despite the prevalence of online diaries and calendars there is still a big demand for a traditional paper diary. After all, a paper diary is there no matter what wi-fi is available, it’s simple to use and easy to flick from date to date. Just the mere addition of a pen or pencil and it works. Like it has always done, tried and trusted down the years.

    As for deciding which of the available diary formats are right for you, the choice is actually quite simple. It essentially breaks down into one question – are you a daily or weekly person? And after that you choose your size and the rest is more cosmetic – choosing colour and cover.

    The First Big Question - Calendar Year or Academic Diary?

    This won't affect the format but you might be unsure on what the difference is. Quite simply, most diaries cover a year from January to December with maybe the odd week either end to see you from year to year. These are calendar year diaries.

    An academic diary is aimed at people involved in studying - teachers and students - because their year is based more around a mid-year to mid-year schedule. These diaries will start sometime around July and run to the following year. Oddly many of these run for 18-months but we have yet to understand the significance of this so please don't ask!

    The Second Big Question - Daily or Weekly Diary Formats?

    So the really big question is whether you would want a daily or weekly diary format. And that may actually come down to the type of person you are. First, a quick explanation of what they are.

    Daily Diary

    Quite simply it means that each page in the diary is devoted to a single day.

    Weekly Diary

    This means that the week is spread out before you across the two pages when the diary is open. There are variations on this theme, such as two weeks over the spread, or different ways to show the week, but it’s all the same principal – a week at a glance.

    What Type Of Person Are You?

    You may find it easier to decide which is right for you by knowing whether you need to see slightly further ahead or not. Yes most diaries will have a monthly or yearly planner section, but the big difference is that a daily diary will only give you two days at a time to view, and will never break up your time into nice weekly sections. Some people like this, some can’t cope and need to see the week from Monday to Sunday.

    See more on diary formats below.

    The Last Big Question - What About Diary Size?

    Once you have decided on being a daily or weekly diary person, the next decision is the size. This can be broken down into three main size types – pocket/mini, mid-size and large/desk. Which of these diary formats will work for you will depend on how you intend you use your diary - on the move or on the desk?


    These really are for those who want to make minimal notes and just have something small on them to carry round. You can even go down to micro-diary size if space is at a premium.


    A good all rounder, large enough to write more than just the odd word, but small enough to carry round.


    So called because that is where they usually live. On your desk. Generally seen as too big to carry round, a desk diary will likely be left on your desk, or similar, where you make appointments in it.

    What Else Do I Need To Know About Diaries?

    Once you have decided on a diary style and size, you may have the decision made for you, but assuming there is more than one diary to choose from, you may then need to consider the following.

    Daily Diaries

    There really isn’t much variation between daily diaries. They will devote the whole page to a day, probably with appointment times to help plan your day. Some might have space for notes as well.

    diary formats - daily
    Daily Diary Format

    Weekly Diaries

    The big choice here is whether to go vertical or horizontal. Oh dear, another choice. So what is the difference between a vertical diary and a horizontal diary?

    Vertical Weekly Diaries

    The vertical format is laid out across the page, Monday to Sunday, and each day will have a vertical column usually with timed appointments. Ideal if what you want is a rigid schedule of events.

    diary formats - vertical weekly
    Weekly Vertical Diary Format

    Horizontal Weekly Diaries

    The horizontal format has sections for each day, but without the timed appointments. They suit someone who wants to write something for each day but is less worried about their day being a series of events such as meetings. Less rigid, more relaxed.

    diary formats - weekly horizontal
    Weekly Horizontal Diary Format

    Weekly Diary/Notebooks

    A variation on this theme, and the most popular of diary formats is the diary/notebook. It is also known as a weekly notebook. It will have a horizontal style diary for the week on the left-hand page, and the facing page will be devoted to notes (usually a lined page). For many this is perfect as it gives them enough space for the diary whilst also allowing for free-format notes each week.

    For some pople this is also enough to double up as their notebook, but you are limited to a page per week for notes.

    diary formats - weekly notebook
    Weekly Notebook Diary Format

    Two-Week Diaries

    A real planner diary, with a full fortnight of days across the two-page spread giving you the most of a longer-term view.

    diary formats - 2 weeks
    2 Week Diary Format

    Monthly Diaries

    Now we’re getting serious with our long-term view - a series of monthly planners. Really these are notebooks with a series of spreads that let you plan out each month. This kind of diary format serves someone who sees the big picture, not the daily detail!

    diary formats - monthly
    Monthly Diary Format

    Undated Diaries

    Unlike most other diaries, an undated diary follow one of the diary formats above, but without a pre-printed date. It means you can pick up and drop off keeping your diary without feeling like you have to complete each and every page. It does mean that you have to add the dates yourself though - some love this, some don't.

    diary formats - undated
    Undated Diary Format
  • Q&A: Is Bottled Ink Cheaper Than Cartridges?

    The Price Of Ink

    the price of ink

    It is a question often asked - is bottled ink cheaper than cartridges? Is it more economical to buy ink in bottles or go for the simplicity of cartridges? And if it is cheaper, how much cheaper is bottled ink? Well I decided there was only one way of resolving this problem - find out how much ink costs pound for milliliter. And with the results in we have a clear winner and sort of an answer to the question.

    Is bottled ink cheaper than cartridge ink?

    Bottled ink - Price per ml

    Diamine 8p per ml
    Lamy T52 19p per ml
    Diamine Shimmer 20p per ml
    KWZ 22p per ml
    Lamy T51 22p per ml
    Blackstone 23p per ml
    Herbin D 23p per ml
    KWZ Iron Gall 28p per ml
    Herbin Scented 30p per ml
    Herbin 1670 Anniversary 30p per ml
    Robert Oster 30p per ml
    Edelstein 34p per ml
    Herbin Mini 38p per ml
    Kaweco 40p per ml
    Herbin 1798 Les Encres 42p per ml
    Blackstone Barrier 47p per ml
    Kyoto 50p per ml
    Colorverse 56p per ml
    Pilot Iroshizuku 64p per ml

    Cartridges - Price per ml

    Lamy T10 Cartridges 20p per ml
    Monteverde Cartridges 24p per ml
    Kaweco Cartridges 32p per ml
    Herbin Cartridges 55p per ml

    Well, the simple answer is yes - bottled ink is cheaper than cartridges. However it is surprising how little there was in it, in some cases not at all. Take Lamy ink - at 20p per ml in T10 cartridge form it isn't that much more expensive than bottled T52 ink which comes in at 15p per ml. And Kaweco ink cartridges actually came in cheaper than their bottled ink. But if you want real value then of course a bottle of Diamine ink will see you through for a long time with an 80ml bottle costing just 8p per ml.

    To be clear, these results were based on our retail prices as of 1 May 2017, across all bottled and cartridge inks in our range. For cartridge ink there was a small problem because no one seems to quote the volume of a cartridge, but general consensus seems to suggest that a small cartridge (e.g. Kaweco or Herbin) is 0.9ml and a larger cartridge like the Lamy T10 is 1.5ml so I based all calculations on those volumes.

  • Q&A: What Is Seyes Paper?

    what is seyes paper?

    A simple explanation of how this seemingly complicated French paper ruling system is meant to work


    It is a question that many, if not most people, will ask when confronted by these strange rulings – what is seyes paper? In short, Seyes paper (also known as Grands Carreaux) is a very specialised paper ruling that is found in France. It forms an integral part of how French schoolchildren are taught to write, and yet to anyone not familiar with the Seyes format it can appear quite daunting. Hopefully this short article will explain all and also show how you can use the introductory books to ease someone into learning to use Seyes paper and gain consistency with their handwriting.


    Seyes paper was originally created in the late nineteenth century by Jean-Alexandre Seyès, a librarian, and his system has been adopted and stuck, so much so that the paper ruling is named after him. I can’t say for certainty that every child going through the French education system learns to write using Seyes paper but it is extremely well known and, from personal experience of the system, it does produce consistent results.


    So the obvious question is how do you use it? It’s like there is a hidden code and in a sense there is.

    • Seyes paper is made up of vertical and horizontal lines.
    • There is also a mix of bold and feint lines. Bold lines are every 8mm, feint lines every 2mm
    • Within the lines an 8mm grid is formed from the bold horizontal lines and the vertical lines
    • The pages will typically also have a margin in red

    So to explain how these work, it is easier to ignore the vertical lines for the moment. Look at the horizontal lines. What you now have is a series of lines every 2mm – one bold then three feint, repeated. You treat the bold horizontal lines as your ‘writing’ line, the base line for your letters.

    An explanation of Seyes paper rulings
    An explanation of Seyes paper rulings

    There are rules for which letters go where, and this is where the French system becomes harder to follow as they have a particular style of writing each letter, which I personally found quite hard. A simplified version of this might be as follows:

    • Upper case letters (A, B, C etc) start on the base line and go up to the third feint line;
    • Lower case letters (a, c, e etc) start on the base line, and go up to the first 2mm line;
    • Lower case letters with a vertical stem (b, d, f, h, k, l) are formed by taking the stem up to the third feint line;
    • Letters like an ‘i’ and ‘t’ go up to the second feint line;
    • Letters that drop below the line (g, j, p, q, y) sit on the base line and drop down two feint lines.
    Example of using seyes rulings
    Example of using seyes rulings

    Introductory Seyes Books

    We offer a range of notebooks and pads with Seyes rulings from Clairefontaine, the largest of French stationery manufacturers. Within their range they offer a set of six exercise books that help take someone through to the standard Seyes ruling. Learning to start writing on an 8mm grid with 2mm rulings would be almost impossible so these books are the perfect way to gradually introduce the various elements of Seyes paper in stages.

    You can read more about how these books work by using our handy guide here.

  • Q&A: In Praise Of...Spiral Bound Notebooks

    spiral bound notebook

    The benefit of lying flat

    What is a spiral bound notebook?

    We call them spiral-bound, others call them wirebound. The common link though is that the notebook is bound with a spiral coil, usually made of wire but I guess it could be made of plastic or any material strong enough to cope. Unlike notebooks where the paper is either folded to create a spine, or in some way glued together at the spine, a spiral bound notebook has two separate covers and the pages in between are only held in place by the binding.

    So what is the point?

    spiral bound notebook lies flat
    A spiral bound notebook will lie flat. Really flat.

    Quite simply, they are the easiest notebook to fold open. Others may claim to lie flat, some claim to be bendable beyond the call of duty, but a spiral bound notebook just does it with minimal fuss. It’s what it was born to do. You can open your notebook at any page, plonk it on a table and the book covers will lie flat on the table as they are not joined.

    And why is that a good thing?

    Horses for courses, but if you are frustrated by your notebook being a bit difficult to write in when, especially if you are close to either end of the book where the pages make it lie unevenly, then this could be the answer. And if you have ever tried writing on the go – writing with the book on your lap say – then a spiral bound notebook will win everytime. Usually they will have a hard, sturdy cover and you can fold the cover and pages round to the back creating a solid surface to write on.

    So what’s the catch?

    spiral binding
    The spiral binding may not be to everyone's liking

    Firstly, they are bulkier than a bound notebook. Some spiral bindings are quite small, but the bigger the spiral the better the result so it’s catch 22 on that one. The bigger the binding the better the ability to fold pages over but the more it gets in the way. Smaller bindings will be less easy to fold over.

    Secondly, there is less choice. Way less choice. So if you have your heart set on a pink notebook, or if it has to have dot paper, then you will likely be disappointed.

    Lastly, it doesn’t look as nice. Aesthetics maybe shouldn’t come into this one but in my book they do. The stationery you choose should be both practical to use but also a pleasure to own.

    The verdict

    Give a spiral bound notebook some thought next time you choose a notebook as they may be the answer. Even if you hadn’t quite yet asked the question.

  • Q&A: Paper Rulings Explained

    paper rulings explained

    What are the main types of paper?

    You could spend all day covering every last detail of the different paper rulings that are available, but we have narrowed the choice down to five main paper styles. These are lined, plain, grid, dot and seyes. Many people will be familiar with the first two but maybe less so as the list goes on. The aim of this article is to summarise the main differences between the paper styles and hopefully better inform your choice.

    paper rulings
    The Big 5: Commonly found paper rulings

    1 - Lined

    Lined paper, also known as ruled, is the most common and also the most popular of all the choices of paper rulings. Lined paper is composed of regular horizontal rulings across the page.

    What options are available? The most common choices you will find are the size of rulings  - that is the gap between the lines. Typically you will find this varies from 5mm - 8mm with 6mm being a fairly standard notebook ruling. It might seem a minor detail but the size will determine how much space you have to write in. Bigger handwriting needs bigger rulings.

    You will also find that some lined paper has a margin - typically this will run vertically down the left-hand side of the page. This is useful if you annotate notes.

    Advantages? Lined paper is the most popular of all paper styles and this is because it lends itself so well to writing neatly across the pages in lines.

    Disadvantages? The page rulings are great for writing but can be an obstacle if you want to mix sketching and drawing in with your notes.

    ruled paper
    Ruled Paper (6mm)

    2 - Plain

    Plain paper is fairly self-explanatory - it is a blank page with no rulings at all. Often associated with drawing or sketching, plain notebooks are also suitable as an everyday notebook to write in. But beware as the lack of any rulings will make it harder to be consistently neat.

    What options are available? There are not really any options with plain paper since by its very nature it is the most pared-back of all the paper styles.

    Advantages? Plain paper is the most open of all paper styles and so it suits someone who is happy writing without any page structure at all. There is plenty of scope for drawing alongside your writing.

    Disadvantages? The very same open style! Having no rulings or markings of any kind may not suit everybody as most people's writing will drift messily across the page.

    plain paper
    Plain paper

    3 - Grid

    After lined and plain paper, you are moving into the world of more niche paper rulings. Grid, or graph, paper is still seen as a bit of an unusual style but it has been around for many years. It is also seen as a bit 'continental' since it is more popular in French and other European notebooks.

    Quite simply, grid paper is made up of a series of regular horizontal and vertical lines, which intersect to create small squares.

    What options are available? As with lined paper, the crucial difference is the size of the grid. Unlike with lined paper, there isn't much choice here. You will find that almost all grid notebooks stick to a 5x5mm grid. Occasionally you may also find that grid paper has the option of a page-margin.

    Advantages? Grid paper is the most structured of all paper styles and gives a fantastic framwork for writing and drawing, if that suits your way of working.

    Disadvantages? The disadvantage of grid paper is that with so many lines, the page can become quite busy before you even start writing.

    grid paper
    Grid paper (5x5mm)

    4 - Dot

    Now this is where paper rulings become very modern. Dot paper, also known as dot-grid, is something of a more recent arrival to these shores and often confuses people. It is actually very straightforward and is proving extremely popular as it is a great all-rounder.

    The dots come from the fact that at the intersection of where horizontal and vertical lines would be there is a small dot. There are no lines, just the dots at regular intervals. What it means is that dot paper has a grid-like structure but without the lines.

    What options are available? There is little in the way of choice here - typically you will find that dot paper works off a 5x5mm grid, with the dots spaced 5mm apart horizontally and vertically.

    Advantages? Dot paper has the advantage that the dots form a structure to write with but are feint enough. This means you can sketch and draw without the page structure getting in the way. Many people find that dot paper combines the best of lined, grid and plain paper.

    Disadvantages? The disadvantage of dot paper is that it is neither one thing nor another - not structured enough to be lined or grid and yet too 'dotty' to be useful as plain paper.

    Dot paper
    Dot paper

    5 - Seyes

    Seyes paper (pronounced say-yez) is a uniquely French thing. In fact it is so specific that most people need not even consider it as an option but it is widely available on our website so we will cover it here.

    Seyes has a very particular page layout of horizontal and vertical rulings, but in a seemingly irregular pattern. In fact it is a repeating series of narrow and wide rulings. The purpose of the paper is to help children learn to write. It is something that French children are very familiar with, hence the wide choice of Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebook with seyes paper.

    What options are available? Because the paper is intended to be used for children of all ages, the rulings start very wide and progress to quite fine. There is a method to how the paper is used, and we will explain this in another post. However in summary it is about using the lines to form the different elements of letters.

    Advantages? Er...not many. Seyes paper is something you specifically want and are looking for, in which the advantage is that it will be a unique layout designed for that purpose.

    Disadvantages? The disadvantage is that if you are not familiar with seyes paper then it won't be of much use since it is intended to serve a specific role in writing evenly.

    seyes paper
    Seyes paper (3mm Stage VI)

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