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 😉

Taroko Breeze Notebook with Tomoe River paper

Review – Taroko Breeze Notebook

Taroko Breeze Notebook with Tomoe River paper


The Breeze notebook from Taroko is a fairly new addition to our range and one we were very excited to receive. We had an extensive choice of the more basic slimline Taroko books, but we were really in need of a more ‘serious’ book, one that could go head to head with the Moleskine, Leuchtturm and Rhodia notebooks that dominate.

When the Breeze was announced it seemed like Christmas had come early. So when my trusty Rhodia book ran out last week I grabbed a slightly damaged Breeze book as my daily book (well, the poor wee write-off needed a good home…). This is how I have got on a week in.


The book scores well because although the cover is minimal, it does at least have a design on it which gives it a lift. The standard range of Taroko books look great but once out of the packet they are unmarked and somehow a bit lacking. The size is appealing – proper A5 and just about the right thickness. The black cover with its silver print is smart, a nice contrast to the usual notebook in this market. That said, it is a fairly understated notebook, nothing too ostentatious.

Score: 8/10


The Breeze notebook has a few extras, not as many as some rival notebooks but with some nice little differences up its sleeve. The book comes with numbered pages and an index which makes life so much easier when it comes to organising your notes. No fumbling around looking for that page where you know you wrote something. It also has several ink swatch pages, a nice way to record which ink you are using or for testing out some inks and keeping a proper record. Now this will likely only appeal to an ink-pen user which leads on to its most obvious feature – the Tomoe River paper.

This Japanese marvel is incredibly thin – just 68gsm – yet handles ink better than almost any paper. This also means you can pack a lot more paper in for less bulk. 183 pages of notes to be precise.

The book does lack some notable add-ons though, such as a page marker, a closure strap or an inside pocket. It’s a shame as these are quite handy features.

As for the card cover, that really depends on what you want. If you want a hard cover book then it won’t work for you, but if you prefer a soft-cover book then this card cover has a nice flexible but stiff cover.

Score: 7/10

Taroko Breeze - Index to pages
Taroko Breeze - Index to pages
Taroko Breeze - Numbered pages
Taroko Breeze - Numbered pages
Taroko Breeze - Pages to record the inks you use
Taroko Breeze - Pages to record the inks you use


This is where the Breeze really comes into its own. The paper is a joy to write on, even if you are not using a fountain pen. It is so smooth and works well with a rollerball or even just a ballpoint pen. But with a fountain pen it stands out.

The dot paper suits me perfectly and they are spot on (pun intended!) and it is a really nice size and weight for a notebook. Sounds a silly thing to say but it works for me.

Score: 10/10

Value for money

At £19.95 it certainly isn’t cheap and there are cheaper alternatives from Rhodia and Leuchtturm. It really comes down to the paper as this is the notebook’s USP. If the paper tempts you then the book is worth the extra few quid, and if the paper leaves you cold then it isn’t likely to have you shelling out that bit extra. Personally I think it is worth it but will

Score: 8/10


Overall it has served me well for the first week – it’s a pelasure to write in and that is half the fun, surely? If you just want a purely functional notebook then go seek out the cheapest, flimsiest book in a supermarket. Assuming you have come to us looking for that extra bit of quality then this is well worth considering.

A bit more pricey and lacking a few useful features, but with enough to compensate by way of the paper and the numbered pages.

essential summer top 10 stationery items

Top 10 Essential Stationery Items For The Summer

From Bureau exclusives to great offers, from exotic imports to reinvented cult classics, even something not really stationery at all.


Rhodia Heritage Notebooks

Rhodia Heritage notebooks

A brand new range of books that harks back to older ways of making things. We especially love the Raw Binding notebooks with their spine that has a…well, a raw feel to it. Sturdy, with the classic Rhodia 90gsm paper. One of the beauties of this binding is that it lies flat no matter where in the book you are.

Why you need this item:

It’s a notebook but so much more. Retro styling has been used for a great purpose meaning this notebook will last the course, can handle all the ink you throw at it and it will be a pleasure to use each time you get it out. What’s not to love?


Field Notes Campfire Edition Notebooks

Field Notes Campfire notebooks

Field Notes produce four limited editions a year, one for each season. The summer edition this year is the Campfire edition and it’s one of their best in a longtime. A set of 3 books, each with a different stage of campfire print on the cover (from dusk to night to dawn), plus a ‘campfire master’ sew-on patch. Release your inner scout.

Why you need this item:

A set of rugged little notebooks that you can sling in your bag or your pocket and it means you will always be able to jot down some important thought or note.


Fjallraven Kanken Backpacks

Fjallraven Kanken backpacks

If you haven’t already spotted them around you soon will. This Swedish staple from 1978 is now a bone-fide classic on the streets here. And why? It does a simple job very well – unzip it fully and you’ll find everything you need, no rumaging around in endless pockets.

Why you need this item:

It strips back a backpack to its core function and does it very well. It is waterproof (Fjallraven are Swedish outdoors experts) and then there’s the colours – so many to choose from, whether bright or muted.


Lamy Safari Special Edition Fountain Pen 2017 - Petrol

special edition lamy safari fountain pen

Each year this pen is released with a new colour and it was always a big ask to follow on from last year’s purple. Who would want to be David Moyes to follow Alex Ferguson? (it’s a football reference, don’t worry). Lamy actually pulled it off though with the petrol pen, an unusual but smart teal-petrol green colour. Special editions sell out so when they’re gone they’re gone.

Whilst stocks last we have put this pen on promotion – grab it now for just £14.95

Why you need this item:

The Safari is widely regarded as an exceptional pen – it writes fantastically, is an easy pen to use for everyone and yet costs a fraction of many a more expensive pen. In other words, it’s worth every penny.


Kyoto Inks

kyoto inks from japan

A new ink range just in from Japan, and looking the part. Five colours, all lovely from a black-with-sheen to a dusky blue and a vibrant pink-red.

Why you need this item:

Sometimes you buy things because the sum of it is so much more than the parts. These inks just tick all the boxes, from the packaging to the bottle to the colours to the inks. Worth that indulgence once in a while to treat yourself.


Walk With Me Maps

Walk With Me maps

We all want to decorate our homes with something a little different and these are just that. Beautiful maps-as-artwork from a series of artists covering different neighbourhoods of London, Madrid and Barcelona.

Why you need this item:

Because maps let you dream of places and these are also beautiful to look at – hang one on your wall and it will transport you somewhere.


Taroko Breeze Notebook With Tomoe River Paper

Taroko Breeze notebook with Tomoe River paper

An exclusive notebook to Bureau, this book has it all. Right size, dot paper with an index and page numbers, and even with ink charts to record your favourite inks. Oh, and it has Tomoe River paper.

Why you need this item:

So many reasons but it’s the paper that does it – Tomoe River paper is lightweight Japanese paper that handles ink better than heavier papers, so it’s great to write with and yet packs in more paper for less weight.


Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pens

Caran d'Ache 849 fountain pen

The 849 pen is a classic, around since 1969. The addition of a fountain pen to the 849 range just means you can have an ink pen in the classic 849 hexagonal shape.

Why you need this item:

Those bright fluorescent colours were just made for summer.


Limited Edition Blackwing Vol.73 Pencils

Blackwing limited edition Volume 73 pencils

The limited edition Blackwing pencils always have a slightly convoluted naming convention, and this one is no exception (it has something to do with the measurement of the water clarity of Lake Tahoe, but please don’t ask). What is quite certain is that these pencils are a winner. The intense blue is inspired by the waters of Lake Tahoe and the nice touch of the topographic map etched onto the barrel works.

Why you need this item:

Blackwing are widely regarded as the best of all pencils, and so if you haven’t tried them yet then take the plunge and get yourself some. Time to find out why they are so highly rated.


Observer's Astronomy Notebooks

Astronomy notebook

An unusual mix of night-sky infographics and unusual paper rulings might make this book seem a bit too quirky for its own good, but it’s not. It’s really good fun, informative and refreshingly different.

Why you need this item:

Doesn’t everyone love to learn a bit more about the night skies above?

Review of the Taroko Tomoe River Breeze Notebook

Review: Taroko ‘Tomoe River’ Breeze – My Favourite Notebook

Review of the Taroko Tomoe River Breeze Notebook

My name's Phil and I’m a stationery addict


We were approached on a Friday afternoon by someone who just the previous Friday afternoon had come by to buy some pens and inks. This time we were being asked for a week’s work experience, starting on the following Monday morning. Short notice indeed. Normally such a request would fail for so many reasons, but this time it just felt right. And so Philip joined us for a week of (very last minute) work experience. And as part of the deal, he had to contribute a piece for our blog. Something he had a lot of spare time to do one morning when our website was down! So, we bring you Philip and his amazing Breeze notebook.

Philip's Review

Hi, I hope you find this review useful and interesting. My name’s Phil and I’m a stationery addict doing a week of work experience here at Bureau Direct, having been given the chance to write a review of this excellent notebook was like a dream come true. As a student, this notebook would be perfect as a planner/bullet journal but I feel like It’d be a shame to relegate this notebook to such a boring use so instead I plan to use it to write short stories in there’s just something about it that makes me want to be creative and write – I suppose that’s the best feeling you could get from a notebook. I hope you find my review useful and informative.

Taroko Tomoe River Notebook

The moment I heard about this notebook, my heart skipped a beat, Tomoe River paper in an A5 string bound notebook… Sign me up! The 68gsm paper is soft to the touch and takes ink like a champ. Of course, with such a light paper you can expect some ghosting, but in my opinion, that adds to the charm. Every time I lay my hands on a lovely new notebook or item of stationery I feel discontent that my clumsy handwriting won’t be able to do it justice but this notebook hasn’t given me the opportunity, I’m just constantly enamoured by how my nib glides over the page so perfectly.

Index page in the Taroko Breeze notebook
Index page in the Taroko Breeze notebook (pages are numbered)

The cover is minimalistic but elegantly so, it is made from a black card with a silver foil embossed design and looks stunning. There is a beautiful navy blue inside cover which I find extremely tasteful, I think anything more colourful would subtract from the main event, the paper. Inside there are 183 sheets of dotted paper; an index at the front and ink swab pages at the back. Last month I had to replace an old Wilko own brand notebook that I’d finished and I decided to pay a little extra and get a nicer one. My criteria were that the pages needed to take fountain pen ink better and not feather or bleed; the pages needed to be dotted or squared, preferably dotted and the pages had to be numbered. I finally settled on a Leuchtturm 1917 hardback notebook, a decision that I don’t regret. But this Breeze notebook by Taroko Design supersedes the Leuchtturm as it has higher paper quality and still has the dotted pages that are numbered.

The ink swab pages are a lovely touch and whilst I don’t expect everyone to use them I know I will always come back to them whenever I fill a pen with a new ink, for those worried that these pages will mean you that you won’t have as much space for your notes don’t fear as they only occupy two double page spreads, for me this is a perfect number as I likely won’t use 18 different inks in the course of one notebook but I’m sure there may also be people who find this still too many or too few. I’m not careful enough to make artful splashes of ink in the swab boxes as I’m worried I’ll miss and get ink everywhere so instead I fall back on a gentle scribble but I wish I could have as stunning a swab page as in the promotional pictures, I’m sure you could achieve this quite easily with some courage and a pipette.

Ink charts in the Taroko Breeze notebook
Ink charts in the Taroko Breeze notebook

I feel like it’s important to explain why Tomoe River paper is something to be so excited about. Normally the adage that the higher the gsm the higher the quality is correct but it falls short when you consider Tomoe River. Their 52gsm paper is comparable to 80gsm paper, like a Rhodia Dot-Pad, in terms of how well it takes ink but the 68gsm is comparable to their more premium 90gsm paper with the advantage of thinner pages so you can fit more sheets in the same dimensions. This results in Taroko Design’s decision to use the 68gsm paper a fantastic one as it is sturdier, less prone to the unexpected creasing that plagued me when I used the 52gsm paper, and the ghosting is less noticeable.

I’ve been writing this review in Blackstone Barrister Black Ink and I just noticed that the ghosting on this paper is comparable to that of it on a Rhodia Dot-Pad, although it is still a lot more apparent in the Breeze, quickly switching to KWZ Iron Gall Turquoise I’ve noticed that whilst in the Breeze the ghosting is the same on the Dot-Pad it’s hardly noticeable. So, if you’re not a fan of ghosting or undecided it may be better to start with one of Taroko Design’s cheaper notebooks to get a feel for it.

In the interest of being completely transparent there are a couple of things I may think about changing about the notebook if I were given the opportunity. The first is I’d probably add an elastic strap to close the notebook and stop it from possibly opening in my bag and having the pages crease, but this is unlikely to happen anyway, and I’d also like to add a fabric book mark in the same colour as the inside of the cover just to make finding the page you’re on slightly easier, although again this isn’t a make it or break it thing for me. This notebook has now become my favourite notebook that I own and is a contender for my favourite that I know exists, in the running with it is the Whitelines Link as I think it’s a great blend of the analogue and digital worlds and I intend to use them for all my school notes next year (Although this is subject to how nice the paper is for use with fountain pens).

history of papermaking

The History Of Papermaking Part II

Fourdrinier paper-making machine

Papermaking from the 18th to the 19th century


In an earlier blog, we looked at the development of paper from its origins, in 1st century China, when T’Sai Lun developed the first true paper from seeing how bees and wasps converted materials, such as leaves, into a paper like substance. From that start, the making of paper gradually swept westwards, through the Arab countries of the Middle East and north Africa and then, from the 11th century, Europe. For the next five hundred years, despite becoming increasingly refined, there was no change to the laborious, hand processes. Then, in the 19th century, two sudden and dramatic bursts of activity changed everything and not only was the making of paper revolutionised but the whole basis of the industry changed with the introduction of a new base material. In this blog we will look at these transformations, events which created the contemporary paper industry, and the paper we use, today.

The limits to production of a highly skilled hand process were not limited to paper, but whereas the processes of making products, such as cotton cloth, had become industrialised during the 18th century, by 1800, and with just one exception, paper was still made by hand, one sheet at a time, manually dipping a frame with a sieve into a vat of pulp, which was then drained and the resulting sheet of paper dried, usually hung over frames. This process was also restricted in that sheet size was limited by how large a sieve a man could handle.

Papermaking - The First Mechanisation

However, as the 18th century drew to its close, there were many in the paper industry who were looking at how industrialised methods might be applied to papermaking and at one mill in France, and despite the turmoil following the French Revolution, they had had some success. Nicholas-Louis Robert, who worked for the then famous Didiot papermaking company in Essonnes, just south of Paris, invented a machine which introduced the first aspects of mechanisation into papermaking. Robert’s machine, a replica of which is in the Frogmore Paper Mill Museum, and shown here, had a moving screen belt that would receive a continuous flow of stock and deliver an unbroken sheet of wet paper to a pair of squeeze rolls. This still had to be collected manually, hung over a series of cables or bars to dry and then had to be cut, but for the first time it introduced elements of mechanisation. Robert obtained a patent for this, in Paris on 9 September 1798, the original of the machine you see here being completed in the following year.

Nicholas-Louis Robert paper machine
A Replica Of Nicholas-Louis Robert's Paper Machine (circa 1799)

Papermaking Comes To Britain

Robert quarrelled with his employer over the further development of this machine. The patent had been registered in the name of St Leger Didiot, and he felt that with the then instability, and lack of the support, skills and finance for manufacturing ideas in France, it would be better to further develop the ideas in England. But the political situation in France meant he could not travel there. So, he invited his brother-in-law, John Gamble, who at that time was working in Paris on repatriating British nationals, to use his connections in England. Gamble had no papermaking experience but back in London, he was introduced to the brothers, Sealy and Henry Foudrinier, skilled Huguenot paper makers whose father, Paul, had migrated from Groningen in the Netherlands, and who agreed to finance the venture. Together they further developed the machine, and John Gamble was granted a patent in London in 1801.

This machine was more complex than the Robert machine and incorporated a full drying process but its practical application was hampered by technical difficulties. The Foudriniers brought in a skilled mechanic, Bryan Donkin, who worked on the problems and in 1807 Donkin registered the patent, in his name, for an improved ‘Foudrinier’ machine. This became the machine which transformed paper making and even today basic paper making machines are still often referred to as a ‘Foudrinier’. Although there have been many improvements over the two hundred years since the first Foudrinier was created, a lot of them significant, all paper making machines have remained essentially the same as the original Donkin-designed machine, which is shown in the box below.

The Foudrinier Paper Making Machine

The drawing below shows the four distinct operations of a Foudrinier paper making machine:

1 – The ‘Wet End’, or Forming Section, where the pulp, usually with between 5 and 10% solids, is filtered out from the water, as it moves along on a continuous wire mesh;

2 – The Wet Press Section, where the now formed fibre sheet is squeezed in large, felt covered rollers to remove most of the liquid;

3 – The Drying Section, where the pressed sheet is passed around heated rollers, completing the drying process and reducing the moisture content to somewhere close to 5%;

4 – The Calender Section, where the paper is smoothed by, again, being passed around rollers.

Foudrinier paper making machine
Workings of the Foudrinier paper making machine

The drawing shows all these processes clearly, though one point not covered in the description is the dandy roller, above the belt at the wet end. The dandy roller, invented in 1826, allowed for the impression of watermarks, literally just a thinning of the sheet at a chosen point, which had previously only been possible with hand-made papers. Why ‘dandy’? No one knows for sure!

The first of these improved machines was installed at Frogmore Mill at Apsley in Hertfordshire, today a working museum of paper making, and it was close by, also at Apsley, that John Dickinson installed one of the improved Donkin, though Dickinson-modified, machines in 1809. Dickinson went on to make further improvements, registering many significant patents in his name, but it was Donkin who became the central character in this first key phase of industrialisation, such that by 1851 there were some two hundred Donkin-made machines in operation throughout the world.

Donkin & Dickinson - Is Paper Mightier Than The Sword?

Bryan Donkin is one of the great engineering characters of the 19th century and it is surprising that he is not better known. Originally a land surveyor in his native Dorset, he became interested in paper and got himself apprenticed to a paper machinery manufacturer, John Hall, in Dartford, Kent.  He went on to set-up his own business, making moulds for papermakers, then in 1801 he was invited in by the Foudrinier Brothers and John Gamble to tackle the problems they were experiencing with the development of their machine. By the following year, he had established his own company in Bermondsey to exploit his developments, the Bryan Donkin Company, still in existence today but no longer in the paper business or in Bermondsey, and went on to become the pre-eminent engineer in the field.

But that was not all. Donkin went on to invent the tin can, which he patented, to work with Charles Babbage on perfecting the first differential machine, for combining calculations and printing, and with Thomas Telford and Marc Brunel, father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, on many of their great engineering achievements. He was the ‘go to man’ of the age when you hit an engineering problem.

He overshadowed John Dickinson, no mean inventor himself, who even before he became involved in developing and greatly refining paper machinery, had developed cartridge paper for shells – yes, the same as you might use for drawing today – which cut out the risk of smouldering after discharge, the cause of many accidents, and improved the firing rate of guns, a factor which greatly contributed to the victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. So, it wasn’t won on the playing fields of Eton, after all, and given that Wellington described it as “a damned near run thing”, perhaps paper made the difference. Is it paper that is mightier than the sword?

Papermaking Crosses To America

Developments were slower In the United States, where the first mechanised paper mill was opened in 1817, at Brandywine Creek in Delaware, and the first Foudrinier machine was imported in 1827. Doubtless, these developments meant that John Dickinson’s cartridge paper, see box on Donkin & Dickinson, was freely available to both sides in the later civil war, facilitating greatly a parity of mutual destruction!

This new process revolutionised the production of paper of all sorts, with costs tumbling by up to 75% but the very success created a new problem, a shortage of raw material. Rags of cotton and linen were still the major source, supplemented by ‘linters’, the short fibres around the cotton seed and too short for use in fabric. As demand grew, longer cotton fibres began to be used, creating shortages in the cotton fabric industry and pushing up prices, a scarcity exacerbated during the American Civil War. Although it was known that the cellulose structure of wood was similar to the raw materials then in use, no one had seriously studied taking this forward until, in 1845, an ocean apart and quite unknown to each other, though inspired by the same original tract, two inventors developed a process for converting wood bark into pulp for making paper – Charles Fenerty in Nova Scotia and Friedrich Gottlob Keller in Saxony.

Both Fenerty and Keller were influenced by an 18th century French scientist, René Antoine Ferchault de Réamur.  Réamur had made a study of insects, and from these he observed, as had T’sai Lun seventeen hundred years earlier, that wasps and bees made a paper like substance in a way which totally altered the structure of the raw material. He wrote a treatise on this, though, to his own regret, he never pursued his idea, writing in 1741, “I am ashamed not yet to have tried this experiment since it is more than twenty years since I have realised the importance of it and since I have announced it.” It was this treatise which a hundred years later was to have a direct bearing on the next transformative stage in paper making.

An 18th Century Polymath

Though the study of insects was Réamur’s principal interest, as a true polymath of the time, he also received a handsome reward from the state for his work on manufacturing iron and steel and invented the first temperature scale, the 0-80 Réamur Scale This was cast aside from most use during and after the French Revolution by the 0-100 Celsius Scale, but is still used in the manufacture of the most famous of parmesan cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggio and Gran Padano.

Paper Made From Trees

Charles Fenerty’s family were in the lumber business in Nova Scotia, felling and converting trees, but Charles was something of a romantic, he left some thirty-five poems for posterity, and presumably it was his detachment from the everyday business, whenever he could, which led him to read widely, including Réamur’s paper, and to experiment with wood as a basis for a paper pulp. Sadly, although he made some paper, he did not take out a patent and his ideas were stillborn.

Friedrich Keller achieved better success, mainly because he persevered despite a similar initial lack of interest. A weaver in the small town of Hainichin in Saxony, he was dissatisfied with his occupation and read and experimented widely, and it was through this that he came upon Réamur’s writings, working on developing this for seven years before producing an acceptable result. He sent samples to the government, though they were not interested, but then in August, 1845,  he filed a patent in the names of both himself and a local paper specialist, Heinrich Voelter, who had helped him, not least with funding. It was not until 1848 that they built their first machine and, even then, they had problems with commercially grinding the bark, a problem not solved until four years later when Voelter commissioned some grindstones suitable for the task. By this time, the patent had run out, but Keller was too poor to contribute his portion of the renewal fee, so Voelter bought him out, for a sum of around £80, becoming the sole patent holder. By 1852 ground-wood pulped paper was being produced regularly in the mill of H. Voelter & Sons, in Heidenheim, and the wood-grinding machine was a success, too, selling widely throughout Europe and the Americas. It made Voelter a very rich man but left Keller unemployed and penniless.

Chemical Pulping

Over the next decades, the development was both widespread and furious, especially in the United States and in Sweden, not least with the development of chemical pulping, invented in the US but first used commercially in a pulp mill in Sweden in 1867. Mechanical pulping leaves the lignin in the fibre, making for a weaker structure because it keeps the fibres apart. Chemical pulping dissolves the lignin, producing a stronger paper and later, thanks to the further improved Kraft process, paper with long chains of cellulose molecules which are stronger still, making excellent printing and writing papers.

The ability of the Kraft process to accept a wide variety of materials, including recycled material, meant that it became the dominant process by the middle of the twentieth century, though mechanically ground paper is still the principal component in newsprint today. There are now also many hybrid processes that allow for even greater variety of both base material and finished product.

Cotton and other such materials are still used in papermaking for specialised uses, such as bank notes and security papers, and other ingredients can be almost any fibrous substance, for example sisal grass, old clothes – denim paper is made from old denim trousers! – and even dried elephant droppings, since their digestive systems have already done much to break down the base material!

Many of the firms we see as the dominant players in the paper industry today were formed during the latter half of the nineteenth century, firms such as Wiggins Teape in England, now Arjo Wiggins, in 1850, Appleton Paper in the USA in 1853, Clairefontaine in France, in 1858, but these developments are for part three.

Where Did All The Money Go?

There is a sad side to this story; few of those early inventors went on to make much, if any, money from their vision and effort. The Didiot’s were left adrift in France and went bankrupt a few years later, having invested a great deal in trying to make their invention commercially viable; John Gamble faded from view with little recognition and no money from his work; the Foudrinier Brothers, having spent £60,000, received no royalties and went bankrupt in 1810, though Henry Foudrinier was granted a special award of £7,000 in 1841, by a House of Commons committee in compensation for the original patent. Charles Fenerty, as we saw, found little interest, see below for a reproduction of his rather sad letter to his local newspaper, and went on to write more poetry. Whilst Keller fell into poverty, in 1870 several German paper makers donated a small sum of money, which he used to buy a house, and later, from further collections abroad, enough for a worry-free retirement. He did, at least, receive several awards in recognition of his invention.

Messrs. English & Blackadar,

Enclosed is a small piece of PAPER, the result of an experiment I have made, in order to ascertain if that useful article might not be manufactured from WOOD. The result has proved that opinion to be correct, for- by the sample which I have sent you, Gentlemen- you will perceive the feasibility of it. The enclosed, which is as firm in its texture as white, and to all appearance as durable as the common wrapping paper made from hemp, cotton, or the ordinary materials of manufacture is ACTUALLY COMPOSED OF SPRUCE WOOD, reduced to a pulp, and subjected to the same treatment as paper is in course of being made, only with this exception, VIZ: my insufficient means of giving it the required pressure. I entertain an opinion that our common forest trees, either hard or soft wood, but more especially the fir, spruce, or poplar, on account of the fibrous quality of their wood, might easily be reduced by a chafing machine, and manufactured into paper of the finest kind. This opinion, Sirs, I think the experiment will justify, and leaving it to be prosecuted further by the scientific, or the curious.

I remain, Gentlemen, your obdt. servant,


The Acadian Recorder
Halifax, N.S.
Saturday, October 26, 1844

Taroko Design notebook paper

Taroko Design and Tomoe River

Taroko Design notebook paper

The final part of our Taroko Design Trilogy is dedicated to the heart of the books, the Tomoe river paper.

For people that know Tomore River paper then you can just go ahead and skip to the lovely photos. Otherwise let us introduce you to something truly special.

The paper that comes in the Taroko Design notebooks is Tomoe River white 68gsm. This Japanese paper feels very different to the more familiar European paper from Rhodia and Clairefontaine. It is less glossy and more lightweight – reminds me a little of the old tracing paper used back at school, just a bit thicker and less transparent.

So what is it like to write on? Well the good stuff happens as soon as the pen meets paper. Every movement glides effortlessly, leaving a wet stroke behind. The ink sits on the paper for a moment as if on wax paper, floating above and wanting to burst out of line. But it behaves, keeps in and starts to settle into the page. Take a little break and grab a cuppa, it takes a while to dry but it is worth it. Or, do what I do watch and go:

Toy Story Green Alien ooooh

I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the colours and sheen left behind, I’ll leave that to the images below. It’s not like any other paper, there is some black magic going on but that’s okay with me! I’m afflicted by an addiction to try out any and all inks, pens, nibs and experience how it reacts with Tomoe River. I am filled with delight every time 🙂

I thought it would be good to point out couple of loved and also unwanted paper properties terminology that burden fountain pen geeks and then show you the difference that paper can make.

Bleedthrough happens when ink (or too much ink) gets absorbed in paper so much, that it gets to the other side of the page. Bleedthrough depends a lot on quality of paper and amount of ink on the page. Tomoe river clears this easily, other paper is not quite up to scratch…

Ghosting (or Showthrough ) happens when you flip the page and can see what’s written on the other side. Not so much that the ink bleeds through the page but just enough to cause a distraction. By the nature of Tomoe River being a lightweight paper it has some transparancy but it’s not the end of the world’ scenarios, it’s fairly light. The show through on something as thick as Rhodia 90gsm is very faint, almost completely opaque.

Bleedthrough on Moleskine paper

Moleskine paper - Bleedthrough

Ghosting on Tomoe River paper

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Ghosting

Ghosting on Rhodia paper

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Zero Bleedthrough

Feathering happens when ink on the page dries into a veiny looking tree. Lines don’t look sharp or crisp anymore. I can’t stand it! It is a true test of quality if paper can avoid this when writing with a fountain pen. Good news – Tomoe River paper excels in this category and shows absolutely no feathering at all 🙂

Zero feathering on Tomoe River paper

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Zero Feathering

Feathering on Moleskine paper

Moleskine notebook - Feathering

Shading is the variation between the light and dark parts of a written line. This is one property which makes writing with fountain pens stand out. Some people find it quirky, others distracting. I love it. This is more of an ink quality, but paper can help – colours on Tomoe River pop!

Tomoe River paper in Taroko Notebook - Shading

Shimmer is when ink with particles, shine and sparkle in the light. J. Herbin 1670 inks come with gold particles; Diamine Shimmering inks have a range with gold or silver…forget the gel pens, fountain pens can do it too.

Sheen is when ink looks as though it has a metallic finish. It is more apparent when you get the right angle under the light. Sheen can be gentle and sit around the edges or it may completely cover the base colour of ink. For me, the more the better! Sheen is not just about the ink, paper and pen often play an important role. Pen – wetter the better. Paper, well, let’s just say that Tomoe River is the champion when it comes to showing off this quality.

Herbin Emerald of Chivor is beautiful green teal ink which has both sheen and shimmer which makes it simply the best 🙂

Taroko Design notebooks are a great first step into the amazing world of Tomoe River paper – great for travelling and using as a refill. However, sometimes you need something a bit meatier to work with. After discussing with Taroko Designs creator, Steven (interview here), we helped refine some ideas and proudly announce Enigma.

Currently available in pocket A6, lots more pages to fill… Steven is working on an A5 version too so keep with us for more info 🙂

Taroko Notebook with sample writing

A look at the Taroko Design notebook range

Taroko Notebook with sample writing

In the second part of Taroko Design notebook trilogy I'd like to tell you about what we currently have our hands on.

The covers are made out of kraft paper and come in 3 colours, each corresponding to the ruling of the sheets within.

  • Blue cover – plain, white paper.
  • Brown cover – dots, spacing is 5×5, white paper with grey dots.
  • Dark cover – lines, spacing is 7mm, white paper with grey lines.

Steven, the mastermind behind Taroko Design, mentioned that the idea behind the subdued colour of the covers were to keep them understated and subtle. The focus should be placed more on the writer and words written inside. A real mascot against judging books by their covers! If you would like to gain further insight from the man himself you can read the full interview here.

Grey printing of the dots and lines is a lot easier on the eye than black or purple, so kudos here! 7mm is the perfect spacing for ruled notebooks, no matter how big or small the book is 🙂

Each notebook comes with:

  • 64 pages, 32 sheets of 68 gsm Tomoe River white paper
  • Staple binding
  • Rounded corners

Stapled notebooks let you have them open completely flat. You can use all of the paper, on both sides without fighting against the centre parting. Sweet!

3 different sizes, 3 paper rulings - 9 notebooks in total

Taroko Design Passport Notebook

The Passport notebook measures 124mm x 88mm and is the smallest in the range.

Compatible with small – passport Midori Traveler’s Notebook. If you haven’t tried Tomoe River paper yet, then I highly recommend getting this one and never looking back 🙂

I use Passport for swabbing ink samples. Great to use on the go as it fits just about anywhere. It’s perfect go-round little notebook.

It currently sells for £3.95. You can buy one here.

Taroko pocket comparison with Rhodia and Field Notes

Taroko Design Regular Notebook

The Regular notebook measures 110mm x 210mm, the goldilocks of the three.

Compatible with the beautifully crafted regular Midori Traveler’s Notebook. It may seem a little off due to it’s unusual long, slim shape but it has a special place in my book… 😉

Traveler’s Notebook is a huge stationery phenomenon and even tho we cannot sell covers, these refills are our best seller for a reason 🙂

It is currently £5.95 and you can get yours here.

Taroko regular comparison with Rhodia and Midori travellers

Taroko Design A5 notebook

This notebook is the big daddy and measures 148mm x 210mm, which is A5 surprisingly.

There’s no Traveler’s cover for this size unfortunately. Weep as you may but someone here had a brilliant idea to try a Mark’s A5 cover – it fits!!! This combo makes a pretty good travel companion. Hands up who already has one (or two) of those Mark’s notebooks.

It currently sells for £7.95. Click here if you want one.

Mark's Storage It Notebook with Taroko A5 notebook

One of the reasons why fountain pens and inks are so popular is because of the feeling you get when you use them. Having a juicy smooth fountain pen, ink with crazy sheen and Tomoe River paper is as good as it gets. It’s fun, it looks great and it feels magical.

I can go on about Tomoe River paper all day, so let’s save it for a separate blog post 🙂 To be continued…


*all prices mentioned were correct at time of writing*

whitelines link paper

Q&A: What Is Whitelines Link Paper?

whitelines link paper

The analogue way to be connected


So what is Whitelines Link paper? Essentially it is reversed out paper, with white lines on a darker background (in this case grey) rather than darker lines on a white background. The theory behind it is that it is easier to write on this paper because the lines won’t interfere with your writing. This is particularly true since most of us will write with a darker ink like black or blue, and most paper uses a black or dark grey line, and even more so if you use a heavy grid paper.

The Link element then combines this paper with the use of a smartphone app to scan, align, clean and send or save your page digitally, all in one seamless action. Could this be the perfect coming together of digital and analogue?

whitelines paper


Whitelines paper was developed by a Swedish inventor called Olof Hansson about ten years ago. You can watch a short animated video on the history of Whitelines paper here, but all you really need to know is that he came up with the idea as a result of being frustrated by his experience of using traditional ‘dark line’ paper. By turning the traditional idea on its head he did something so very simple and yet it really does challenge an idea that we take for granted with paper – that we write by making a darker mark on the paper than the paper itself. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best though.

Part of the secret in the paper only comes out when you copy or scan it though. For technical reasons I won’t pretend to understand, the grey paper doesn’t scan, so what you are left with once you remove the paper and the lines is just your writing. Nice dark lines on a pure white background.

How Is Link Paper Different?

This is where the idea is really pushed forward. It feels like everyone is trying to create the perfect marriage of digital and analogue just now and the Whitelines Link idea might just be the best idea yet. It’s secret lies in the app which does a single job well without fuss or distraction.

Whitelines Link paper is different to standard Whitelines paper because it has specially formatted paper that the app can read. What this means is that it has markings in three of the corners which the app will read when scanning the page. These are essential and must not be obscured as the app needs them to be able to align the page. Once scanned then it will align the page into a rectangle regardless of whether it was scanned at an angle or not. Your page is then digitally saved ready for using.

What Can You Do With Link Paper?

Once you have your page in a digital PDF form you can do pretty much what you want with it. What makes the app so good is the ability to do the most commonly used next steps seamlessly. These are to send or save – either email the PDF as an attachment, or save it to cloud storage. The Whitelines Link paper is already pre-connected to both Dropbox and Evernote, as two of the most popular online storage options.

And then there is the little secret on the page… If you plan to email it, or save to either Dropbox or Evernote, then the page has tiny pre-formatted tick boxes for each option. Before you scan just tick the ones you want to use and the scanning process will automatically carry it out for you.

So What’s The Point Of Whitelines Link Paper?

Well, if you have no interest in ever converting your page into a digital form or copy it then there really is less milage in this paper. The Link paper function uses up some of the paper and it is only worth giving up that small amount of page space if you intend to use it. But if you do want to share notes and ideas, especially if you are working remotely, then the app makes it all so easy.

That said, if you have ever found lines on a page are a distraction then the reversed out paper idea of white lines on grey might work for you. The real selling point though – it’s USP – is the ability to sync paper to PDF. The app is so easy to use and if you are out and about and want to save ideas, especially if you want to share them with others (maybe a colleague or team back at the office) then this is just so much easier than other ways of achieving the same result.

what is seyes paper?

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.

Taroko Design

An Interview with Steven from Taroko Design

Taroko Design

I have just finished my A5 Taroko dot notebook when it hit me…I don’t know a lot about the brand or the makers… Quick nosy Google search took me to their Etsy and Facebook page, but that did not satisfy my curiosity. The notebooks are incredibly popular (A5 dot is currently sold out), so I have set myself a mission to explore the brand, notebooks and paper in a 3-part blog 🙂

So we thought we would get Steven to share something of his background and love of stationery. I had a great time chatting and geeking out with him. Enjoy!

Interview with Steven Chang from Taroko Design

Tell me a little about your background.  What was the impulse to start making your own notebooks? We’re a small studio based in Taipei, Taiwan, and our story really started with the purchase of my first fountain pen, a Pilot Kakuno, several years back. With the fountain pen in hand, I was surprised at the difficulty of finding the right paper/notebook products in the market to use the fountain pen with. One thing lead to another (trying lots of different paper+pen combinations) and we’ve managed to secure three types of fountain pen friendly paper to make products with: Tomoegawa 52 and 68 gms, and our own Taroko Orchid paper at 80gsm. The mission is really to provide more choices to fountain pen users where most paper products cater to the rollerball/gel pen usages.

What’s the story behind your studio? After my earlier career in tech (product manager for notebooks and mobile phones), I decided to pursuit an industrial design degree. While taking the degree program, classmate at the time is my current studio partner Wenwen Liu. We decided to group up and start the studio a few months before graduation to keep the learning process going, by taking on projects as a team. Our past projects included graphic and floor plan design for photography exhibitions, souvenirs for tourist centers, and product branding and packaging. The creation of notebooks under the Taroko brand gives us the freedom of implementing our ideas (versus having to adhere to client design guidelines), as well as choosing the type of material that goes into our notebooks.

How did you come up with the brand name? Taroko is named after Taroko Gorge in my hometown of Hualien. Most people would think of Taiwan as an industrialized island packed with 20 million people, but there are still natural wonders on the eastern portion of the island. We will be incorporating elements from Taroko National Park into our notebooks in the future. 🙂 Here are some references on Taroko Gorge/National Park:

What would you be making if not notebooks? Leathercrafts. Love the experience of making things by hand that will age well with usage. An important lesson from design school days is to always make things with your hand, draw with pen and pencils, and suppress the urge to jump right into Photoshop or a 3D rendering program. So we are always cutting and binding paper during our prototyping stage.

What do you attribute the success and/or demand for stationery today to? The product has to deliver a kind of “experience” to the customer, from the weight of the notebook, suprisingly light to unexpected heft. The touch of the materials used, and the subtle feedback of the nib sliding across the paper. It is a difficult balance to hold between achieving that unique experience and manufacturing constraints in delivering products, but I believe that’s what most leading brands are striving to achieve.

What’s your favourite item of stationery in your personal collection? It’s a little folding hand knife I bought in Nishiki market in Tokyo, and I use it to sharpen pencils with. The knife is handcrafted by a Japanese artisan, and when I use it to sharpen pencils, it serves as a reminder of the trip, as well as liberate the aroma from the pencil wood.

And finally – what is your current paper+pen+ink combo? Tomoe River paper 68gsm (of course) with Pilot Justus 95 filled with Sailor Seasons Yama-dori (teal blue). The Pilot Justus 95, with its adjustable nib hardness, is perfect for when I need to write interchangeably between English and Chinese. And the Yama-dori gives a wonderful red sheen on Tomoe River paper.

Thanks to Steven for sparing his time to give this great interview. We wish you and Taroko Design best of luck.

Watch out for Part 2 of Taroko Trilogy – we’ll focus a bit more on their notebooks.

Part 3 will be all about Tomoe River paper. (Hint: it’s amazing!:) )

Taroko Design notebooks are available here.

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