the best of shimmer

Tips: our top 6 tips for shimmer inks

the best of shimmer

This post has been in the works for some time now… Last year was a great year for all inks glittery. We had the arrival of the new Diamine Shimmer ink range which was simply amazing. How often do sequels in life surprise and exceed expectations?

With our cupboards brimming with sparkling ink it’s about time to start writing with some of the stuff. But, before we can get stuck in, let’s talk some quick tips to help bring those pens up to scratch and flowing smoothly to get the best of shimmer. 

Here are our top 6 tips for shimmer inks to help you make them truly shine & shimmer 🙂

1. Shake it till you wake it

the best of shimmer

Shake the bottle well before inking. Make sure that the silver/gold particles are not sitting at the bottom of the ink bottle.

It’s important to mention that turning pen in hand couple of times before and during writing (to re-distribute the shimmer again) will do wonders and is very eye pleasing too.

2. Cleaning is the key

the best of shimmer

Flush the pens regularly (every 2 weeks or so). We do stock cleaning solutions by Diamine / J Herbin which are not essential, but they do help with the flow of stubborn pens. If you would like to read more about cleaning, click to see our blog here.

3. Go broad

the best of shimmer

Use wetter/broader nibs (it will work with Fine nibs too, the shimmer may be a little less apparent or only show under certain angle/light).

I would highly recommend to dedicate a pen to shimmer inks –  TWSBI Eco comes to mind first….

It is a demonstrator pen which shows off shimmering ink beautifully. You can also disassemble it for a thorough clean.

4. There is paper and then there is paper

Emerald of Chivor on Tomoe River Paper

I have seen shimmer even on copy paper, but if you really want to embrace the shimmer use good paper : Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Tomoe River… If you see a photo with crazy amount of shimmer & often sheen the chances are it was Tomoe River – inks really shine on this one 🙂 <3

5. Cheat

Help the flow by pushing some ink through. Push or turn the filling mechanism to get some more ink on the nib and feed (careful, have some tissue paper ready just in case, but you will get a hang of it very quickly). I know that someone might say – well, it’s just not on, but trust me…pens do suffer from ink starvation and this is just too easy 🙂

6. Floss

the best of shimmer

The final piece of advice – this is another cheat/hack which I use a lot (I tend to over-clean pens :))

If you have some DVDs around with security tags, cut them open. Inside will be 2/3 pieces of very thin metal called shim. You can use the shim to ‘floss’ the cut in the nib. Flossing will greatly improve the flow (which may get jammed with paper fibers or shimmer particles).

Shimmering inks do require a little extra effort but they are so worth it 🙂

If you have any other tips/questions please leave them in the comments. We love talking about shimmer 😉

Fountain pen ink cartridges

Fountain pen ink cartridge guide

Fountain pen ink cartridges

Let's talk about cartridges...

We love to get people into fountain pens (and ink), so I have decided to come up with something that would answer some basic questions about ink cartridges.

Cartridges are fountain pen refills and contain fountain pen ink. Most of the fountain pens which we sell will come with one. There are currently around 100 different colours available from 6 manufacturers in stock. Choosing the right cartridge can be tricky…

Compatibility - do you have the right cartridge?

Fountain pen ink cartridge size

Not all cartridges are the same, so let’s dive into the compatibility first.

There are generally 2 kinds of cartridges: International standard and proprietary.

Proprietary cartridges are made by brands (for example Lamy) and will fit only their own pens. They are incompatible with pens from other brands. If your pen is made by one of the brands listed below you will need a cartridge made by the same brand:

Aurora, Cross, Lamy, Namiki, Parker, Pilot (some) Platinum, Sailor, Sheaffer, Waterman (some).

International standard cartridges do fit a lot of fountain pen brands – the ones which we stock are: Caran d’Ache, J Herbin, Kaweco, Pilot and Viking.

Here is a fairly long list of other fountain pen brands that use International short cartridges: Bexley, Centropen, Conklin, Delta, Diplomat, DuPont, Edison, Faber-Castell, Inoxcrom, Italix, J Herbin, Kaweco, Montblanc, Montegrappa, Monteverde, Ohto, Omas, Online, Pelikan, Pilot (some), Porsche, Recife, Retro51, Rotring, Schmidt, Schneider, Sigma, Stabilo, Stipula, Super5, Tombow, Viking, Visconti, Waterman (some), Yard-O-Led.

To make this a little bit complicated International cartridges come in long or short version. As a general rule short cartridges will fit all pens which take international cartridges. There are pens which will fit one long or two short cartridges at the same time – one in use and one spare in the barrel.

We have the pen and correct cartridge. Next up - how to install one...

Insert fountain pen ink cartridge

Here is how to install a fountain pen cartridge. If the pen parts scare you check out our anatomy blog posts of Lamy Safari & J Herbin pen 🙂

  1.  Disassemble the pen by taking the cap off and unscrew the pen barrel.
  2.  Place the cartridge on the desk, lip (the part with little ball) facing up.
  3.  Support the cartridge in one hand and push the front piece of the pen (grip, nib facing upwards) on the cartridge until it gets pierced.
  4. Reassemble the pen. Nib should be pointing downwards.
  5. Wait for the capillary action to do the job of distributing ink. You can also gently tap the nib on paper until you see ink coming out.
  6. Pen is ready to write 🙂

Please note there are different ways of doing this (let us know in comments what works for you) – some pen bodies allow you to insert the cartridge inside and screwed the barrel back on which pops the cartridge too. You can also just push the cartridge into the front part of the pen…

We also recommend to clean your pen before installing a new cartridge – especially if you plan to use a different ink.

If it doesn't fit...

  • Have a look inside the barrel. Most pens (Kaweco) come with the cartridge inside the pen.
  • Some manufacturers put a blunt cartridge/spacer in the pen barrel to prevent cartridges from rattling around during shipping. These items may become stuck inside the pen if you try to install a cartridge without removing them. Check for cartridges and spacers (Lamy uses paper ring) in a new pen by unscrewing the barrel and giving it a firm tap to dislodge anything that’s inside.

Monteverde – belongs to a special category because their cartridges actually work 2 ways. It is a double sided cartridge which can fit Lamy pens (wider end) or pens which take International standard long cartridges (slimmer end). If it doesn’t fit try using the other end 🙂

Cartridge or converter?

That is a very good question.

Converters do open the doors to the world of ink, so you can use any ink you like. There are more colour options and brands to choose from. It is also more economical and environmentally friendly. We blogged about the price of fountain pen ink price here…

Cartridges are convenient, portable, clean, easy to use. You can take a few spares with you when you travel and don’t ever have to worry about them leaking. If you get a syringe and blunt needle you can even refill them (couple of times).

Cartridges have less ink capacity than other filling systems. Personally I don’t mind it because I like changing colours a lot 🙂 Anyway, here is a quick info about the capacity of cartridges. I measured what I could and researched the rest. Please bear in mind that the cartridges are not  completely filled, there is a small air bubble so there is a slight variance in capacity.

Sheaffer 1.5ml
Parker 1.4 - 1.5ml
International standard long 1.2 - 1.45ml
Lamy T10 1.1 - 1.3ml
Sheaffer slim 1.2ml
Monteverde 1.1 - 1.2ml
Platinum 1.1ml
Pilot/Namiki 0.9ml
Cross - 0.8ml
International standard short 0.6 - 0.8ml
guide to nib widths

Q&A: How Do Fountain Pen Nib Widths Compare?

This table provides a guide to the approximate nib widths of the different fountain pen brands we offer. Please note that this is intended as a guide rather than an exact measurement, useful in comparing the relative nib widths across different brands.

Ultimately, the exact width of the pen stroke will depend on so many factors including the ink and paper used and the style of handwriting applied.

J Herbin Compact Rollerballx
TWSBI Extra Finex
Kaweco Extra Finex
Lamy Extra Finex
Pilot Mediumx
J Herbin Compact Fountain Penx
Kaweco Finex
Caran d’Ache Finex
TWSBI Mediumx
Lamy Finex
J Herbin Plus Fountain Penx
Kaweco Mediumx
Lamy Mediumx
Caran d’Ache Mediumx
Kaweco Broadx
Lamy Broadx
TWSBI Broadx
Kaweco Double Broadx
Lamy Nib family

Q&A: What Is The Choice Of Lamy Fountain Pen Nibs

Lamy Nib family

Lamy Nibs - A Quick Introduction

Lamy is a staple across the fountain pen universe. They cover a range of writing instruments from uses with school children who are just starting out, to the die hard of adult stationery addicts. As such, they have a good range of various styles of nibs for all.

In the main Lamy Z50 nib family we have 4 differing sizes: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad. These steel nibs are available in either Polished or Black.

There is also the Left Hand and a beginner nib labelled with an “A” for the German word Anfänger, aptly meaning beginner. These are similar to the Medium size.

For the more creative, Lamy offer the Joy calligraphy pens which carry italic Z50 nibs in 1.1mm, 1.5mm, 1.9mm.

Spot the difference (from left to right: Z50, Z53, Z52)

The Lamy LX pens come with the fancy Z52 steel nibs which have mirroring EF, F, M and B sizes as per the normal Z50 range. These have a black coating with laser etched detailing. The widths are similar but as you get up to the M size you start to notice a bit of line variation between vertical and horizontal strokes with the B size giving way to a good difference.
These fit all other Lamy pens using the Z50 nib.

With the release of Lamy Aion fountain pens, the Z53 nibs were launched. These make a departure in design from the Z50/Z52 with a new wing shape. The new construction responds more to pressure. A lighter touch is needed to acheive the same stroke width as the Z50/Z52 so writing with a bit of pressure has a boldening effect.
The M and B sizes have similar levels of line variation as their counterparts from the Z52 range but applying pressure can exaggerate this further.
Lamy have managed to keep the compatability here too so the Z53 can be used throughout their range just as the original Z50.

Nib Width Comparison

Lamy Standard Z50 Nibs

Lamy Nib comparison test

Lamy Calligraphy Z50 Nibs

Lamy Nib comparison test

Lamy Z52 'LX' Nibs

Lamy Z53 'Aion' Nibs

Where to start?

If you’re new to fountain pens we always recommend going middle of the road and trying the medium Z50 nib. They are a good all rounder, not too thick and not too thin. Once you’re a bit more in tune with your writing style then you can decide if you would prefer going with the Broad, Fine or even Extra Fine.

The Z53 nibs are great if you like writing with a bolder, juicier line. The medium and broad have good line variation and the slight spring of the nib lets you go even wider when needed. Excellent for those looking for something approaching the calligraphy nibs.

For those who are learning how to pick up and write for the first time, Lamy have the A nib which is similar in width to the Medium nib. Generally these are for young children so they don’t feel discouraged with their initial attempts at writing with a fountain pen. They are made stiffer and have a more rounded tip to reduce skipping if held at an awkward angle.

The Left Hand nib is for, you guessed, the left handed crowd. It is intended to have a similar width as the Medium nib and which allows writing for the particular way the pen meets the paper when using the opposing hand.

Line Variation of Lamy Joy Nibs

Lamy Nib comparison test

For more creative writing, Lamy’s Joy pens come with italic nibs in 1.1, 1.5 and 1.9mm sizes. If you’re stuck deciding, then it’s always better to go straight into the deep end first with the widest offering, the 1.9 is just a great deal of fun! If it is too much then you’ll have a better idea of how much to come down than if you do it the other way.

These Italic shaped nibs give a very nice line variation when holding the pen with the nib at a 45 degree slant, you can see the results of this in the photo above. At one extreme you get a very fine line and then coming down the other way is the full width of the nib at work.

The fantastic thing about it all is that all these Lamy nibs are interchangable so if you decide to switch one way or the other as you progress or want to change it up, it’s much cheaper than buying a whole new pen!

Lamy Standard Z50 Nib

Lamy Nib comparison test

Lamy Z50 Calligraphy Nib

Lamy Nib comparison test

Lamy Z52 'LX' Nibs

Lamy Z53 'Aion' Nibs

Alongside the standard nibs, the more premium pens (i.e. Lamy 2000, Lamy Dialog etc.) have a 14 ct. gold nibs with a platinum coating. They still have the same scale between the EF and B but also introduce the Double Broad (BB) and Oblique nibs (from M to BB).

Once we have had a chance to play around with these then this article will be updated.

squeezing J Herbin cleaning solution through rollerball feed

Review: Herbin Fountain Pen Cleaning Solution Guide

J Herbin cleaning solution

J Herbin released cleaning cartridges this year, so we have decided to put them to test.

Why use cleaning solution you may ask?

There are some pens which are more stubborn than others. Same goes for ink…. If cleaning with water does not work then I usually reach for J Herbin cleaning solution. The liquid is made from Limonene which is derived from citrus fruit rind. The colour may vary – it can go from clear, yellow to pink. This is perfectly normal and does not affect the quality of the product. Natural ingredients have a pleasant orange zesty smell too 🙂 Apart from cleaning properties it also lubricates the feed and restores the ink flow.

Bottled version of the cleaning solution has a permanent place in my pen hospital repository.

J Herbin rollerball and fountain pens

J Herbin Cleaning solution cartridges are standard international short cartridges and look just like ink cartridges.

Having a cleaning solution in the cartridge sounds like an interesting idea. Cartridge is a handy little container – convenient, no mess, portable. You can always have one in your pen case (even in the pen if the barrel is long enough to have 2). It’s less messy because you don’t need to use middle-man to transfer the liquid. It will fit many pens. Some of the brands which take this version of cartridges are Faber-Castell, J Herbin, Kaweco, Montblanc, Monteverde, Pelikan, Rotring, Schneider, Waterman, etc… Solution in the cartridge will ‘travel’ exactly the same way as the ink and it it will also lubricate the right channels.

How to use J Herbin cleaning solution.

Bottled version is perfect for soaking. Simply put a little bit of solution in a vial or a cup (hint: tilt the cup – that way you will need less solution) and then dip in your nib. You can also try to draw some solution into the pen if using a converter or go all the way and disassemble the pen. Soak the front part/feed/nib for a few minutes. Rinse with cold water and dry.

Use cleaning cartridges the same way as ink cartridges. Rinse the pen under cold water to flush most of the ink out. Push the cartridge into the pen as normal and squeeze the cartridge to push the liquid through. Empty the entire cartridge at once and let it sit in the pen for a little bit – we have tried this method for J Herbin Fountain pen and it worked wonders. Unplug the empty cartridge, rinse the pen.

Use the same procedure for J Herbin rollerball pens, but do let them soak longer. Shake the excess liquid out and let dry before you ink them up. We find this works the best for us. Let us know your experience….

Click here to read our 6 top tips about how to look after your fountain pens 🙂

Mourad Dekiouk

Fountain Pens – A Guest Review

Mourad Dekiouk

During the month of April we will bring you a series of articles contributed very kindly by various people, all around their love of fountain pens and how they started using them, why they use them and generally why fountain pens are something worth owning and using. We started off with Maria Berry’s story, and now we bring you Mourad Dekiouk. He’s a 17 year-old studying A levels and is a friend of Henry, one of Jo’s sons. By chance it turns out that his friend Mourad was a stationery-obsessive and loves fountain pens, so one thing led to another and he offered to write a short piece on his love of pens for us.

Mourad Dekiouk

Fountain Pens  – A 17-Year Old’s Perspective

After hours of writing one would expect a rather sore wrist and a dull throbbing pain emanating through the forearm; well not me. This is not because I am some sort of literary bodybuilder, a forearm fitness freak, but rather because I use a fountain pen. The main benefit a fountain pen has over a ball point is that it requires almost no pressure to write. The ink flows out through the nib and your pen glides over the paper.

As a sixth form student in my first year of A-Levels, being able to write quickly and efficiently for long periods of time is a great asset. I don’t think I would have been able to get through my 2 hour, 12 page long history GCSE exam without the aid of my trusty Lamy Vista fountain pen. My fountain pens also draw the eyes of many of my peers who look at me as if I have pulled out a quill and parchment when I go to refill my convertor. This is great for striking up conversation but another benefit of using fountain pens is that you can fill them with whatever ink you choose be it black, blue, red, orange, scented or gold flaked, if you can imagine it, the ink probably exists. I find it perplexing that a greater amount of students are not using fountain pens as, for me, they have greatly increased my presentation and pace of work. An unintended side effect is that I find myself wanting to make extra notes as it provides an excuse to use my pens.

Mourad Dekiouk
Some may think that a fountain pen is reserved for the stuffy bureaucrat in his three-piece suit and penthouse office. In reality fountain pens range in price from £5 to over £500. For most school work I use a Lamy Al-Star which ranges in price from £15-£20 depending on the colour and the nib although I do have a rather special gold-nibbed pen made by the company Platinum that cost me £30. That’s another appeal of the fountain pen, once you buy your pen(s), you are likely to keep them for so long that you form an attachment to them. I was more upset than I should have been when my Lamy Vista broke. I had used that pen for three years and through all of my GCSE exams but there it lay cleft in two before me.

Overall, the experience of using a fountain pen is one that has me hooked on the hobby due to the fact that they are practical, eloquent and hardy pieces of stationery.

Mourad Dekiouk

J Herbin Tempete fountain pen

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Fountain Pens*

J Herbin Tempete fountain pen

*But Were Afraid To Ask

So it’s April Fool’s Day but this is not a joke. It’s time to introduce our monthly theme for April and this month we’ve put our spotlight on fountain pens, and specifically why you should consider giving them a go. You may have once used them many moons ago, before your smartphone ruled your life, or maybe you’ve never picked one up. Ever. Possibly the nearest you get to a pen these days is an gunge-encrusted Bic biro stuck in a grubby pen pot of Bic biros. Now the Bic biro has a place in the stationery world as do all ballpoint pens, but fountain pens are just not comparable. Yes they’re both pens, but one serves a basic, grubby purpose (there’s not much point trying to use your fountain pen to sign for deliveries in the warehouse, or leaving it lying around on your desk for others to ‘borrow’), and one actually does something to improve your writing, to make you appreciate that writing is more than just a function.

Lamy Al-Star fountain pen

Here’s a quick hit list of why fountain pens are something you should consider trying:

  • They make writing more enjoyable
  • They will improve your writing
  • They will slow you down just a fraction, sometimes a good thing in our rushed lives
  • They will make others cast envious glances your way
  • They will make you the centre of attention in a business meeting as everyone asks about your pen
  • They will be the means by which you discover ink, itself a whole new world of pleasure and discovery
  • They may just unlock something inside you that wants to discover more about the act of writing itself
  • They will help you come the day civilisation loses all power and needs to revert back to written communication – you will be the leader of many people simply because you can write with a fountain pen, or simply because you own a fountain pen
  • You will become an expert in a field you never knew you could be an expert – pens, nibs, feeds, tines and more

This is just a list off the top of my head and there may be many more reasons out there. The point of what we will turn our attention to this month is that you shouldn’t be put off fountain pens because you see them as something other people use. Buy one, own one, use one just occasionally and they will add to your life. You may not become obsessive but you will hopefully know a bit more about them, and they will be just that bit less…well, scary.

Lamy Safari fountain pen

We will introduce you to some people who themselves love fountain pens, some of them having only recently re-discovered them. We will highlight some classic pens worth looking at. We will provide some useful guides on how to look after your pen. And we will bring you some new fountain pen ranges.

So keep your eyes peeled, maybe sign up for our newsletter or for blog updates, or both.

Visit Bureau Direct and check out our fountain pens now if you just can’t wait.


Crash-testing ‘Rhodiarama’


Hi folks! Jo got couple of these Rhodiarama soft cover notebooks back in April – of course I had to test my pens to see if it’s any good. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Rhodia paper (my inks love it too). Rhodiarama notebook comes with a soft cover – there aren’t many of those that are fountain pen friendly. Long story short – I took this notebook under my wings and gave it some hard time 🙂

And that’s how my little ‘Take me everywhere’ project was born…

Let’s start with all the important facts:

  • Extra Large Size 19x25cm
  • 160 Pages
  • 8mm Ruling (lines are grey)
  • 90gsm Ivory paper <3
  • Soft leatherette cover
  • Elastic band
  • Bookmark
  • Back pocket

There are a lot of good colours to choose from. I picked silver because of the texture, remaining colours come with plain leatherette ‘skin’. I have noticed interesting fact, that after few days of use and abuse, some bruises and dinks actually disappeared. It never got any serious cuts or scars. The healing factor comes in my opinion from the textured surface. What is also fascinating is the size. Sometimes A5 is not big enough and A4 is too big to carry around. XXL notebook was just right.

OK, introductions are over. Here comes the million dollar (£17.50 didn’t sound right) question: how did it do?

Rhodiarama performs really well outdoors – I used it as umbrella, pillow, seat, etc:) I know that Kate would approve of this notebook too because she used to raid my ‘Mary Poppins’ bag all the time. This notebook is just so handy. Slim cover feels more portable than hard cover, so I never cringed about taking it everywhere with me.

I found other good use for Rhodiarama indoors – coaster, game room accessory and paper weight are just few of them.

During my handwriting course I started carrying a lot of handwriting templates with me, also tracing paper.


Notebook still opened flat and extra paper was not noticeable at all!  I have also done a lot of ink testing, writing and again – no complaints here, Rhodia paper coating worked it’s magic. It’s smooth like butter. Please bear in mind that I cannot do calligraphy, so I’m not sure how would this paper cope with sharp dip nibs. I do have couple of Noodler’s flex pens that basically leak ink on the page 🙂 One of them has a halo effect (light green/teal) – displayed on the picture below. It wrote OK, but it did show through on the back page. It is more of ghosting than a bleed through. Can I live with that? Yes. Paper did survive ink spillage too! ink tests

So what is the verdict? I’m going to say YES! This notebook has very few flaws and I would definitely buy it again. The End.


Mishka (^_~)

ps: Rhodiarama notebooks are available from our website, links are here: A5 & XXL

and you can see the day-by-day pictures in full resolution here.


Writing on water

Short, but completely mesmerising video by Leigh Reyes, one of the greatest and most talented people in fountain pen world.


Mishka (^_~)