Ink Review: J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir

Karen at Exaclair was kind enough to recently send me a bottle of J. Herbin‘s “Eclat de Saphir” fountain pen ink to test out and review. In addition, she sent a small Rhodia note pad.

I wasn’t able to get to it for about a week, but tonight was finally able to ink up a couple of pens and try it out on various kinds of paper.

Click on any picture to go to its Flickr page with larger sizes available.

The ink in (and out of) its package and the Rhodia pad:

01 Review Stuff

03 Review Ink

The pens used for the test – a Lamy Safari Special Edition with a Medium nib, and a brand-new Hero 329 with a fine/extra-fine nib:

02 Review Pens

The paper – Field Notes, Moleskine, Staples’ “EcoEasy” brand bagasse (sugarcane) paper, Rhodia pads, and a Doane Paper Idea Book:

04 Review Paper

First, the skinny Rhodia pad. This is 80gsm/21.3lb paper.

05 Test Rhodia

The Rhodia paper squeaked during the Q-tip swabbing; it seemed that the paper was so smooth (or had a coating on it) that the ink took quite a while to dry.

Next, the Field Notes notebook:

06 Test FieldNotes

This paper (Boise 50lb) soaked up the ink like a sponge. Drying was almost instant, but at times the Lamy Safari felt like I was writing with a felt-tip marker.

Third was a Moleskine pocket notebook. No problems with the ink or the paper.

07 Test Moleskine

Fourth was Staples’ “EcoEasy” brand of “bagasse” paper, which is made from sugarcane refuse instead of wood or cotton. It’s very thin, but has a decent feel to it:

08 Test Staples Bagasse

Last was a Doane Paper “Idea Book”:

09 Test DoanePaper

None of the various types of paper exhibited any feathering, or major bleed-through to the point where the back side of the paper would be unusable – even on the sections used for the q-tip swab test.

The J. Herbin ink seemed a little thinner / more “watery” than the Noodler’s ink that I’m used to working with. There were no flow problems in either pen, and no staining issues other than the my hands and fingers.

So far I like the J. Herbin “Eclat de Saphir” ink, and am thinking of putting it in my 1941 Parker Duofold when that pen’s current filling of ink (current Noodler’s Dark Matter) runs out.

DIY Pen Trays Done

I couldn’t find pen storage trays on eBay that I liked, so I bought some cigar boxes and made my own.

Box Exterior

Parker Pens

Parker Pens Closeup

Other Pens

Other Pens Closeup

These pictures don’t show my blue Lamy Safari or the Parker 51 that’s currently out for repair.

The slotted felt trays are from GoPens. Total cost for this project was about $30.

Upcoming Review: Rhodia Webnotebook

After I have enough time to finish the review of the Clairefontaine “Basics” notebook, I’ll be giving my opinions on this:

Rhodia Webnotebook Front

Rhodia Webnotebook Back

The new Rhodia “Webnotebook” that uses 90g Clairefontaine paper. I purchased it from The Daily Planner.

Depending on how much I like it, this may replace my last Moleskine, one that I purchased in 2004 and is pretty beat up but not full yet.

First Looks: Clairefontaine Basics & Rhodia Mini Pocket Notebooks

First, I’d like to thank Karen Doherty, VP of Marketing at Exaclair, Inc., for sending these review samples. Exaclair is the exclusive US distributor for Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Quo Vadis and Exacompta products and J. Herbin inks.

Yesterday, I gave away all of my unused, still-shrinkwrapped Moleskine notebooks. I’ve just not been happy with the quality of their current production, and the way their coated paper works with fountain pens (and I’ve tried various pens and different inks).

I contacted Karen a couple of weeks ago when she mentioned having review samples of the Clairefontaine “Basics” notebooks available. I requested one of the clothbound lined 6″x8.75″ models, and she sent a black one along with a squared Rhodia mini pocket notebook, both of which arrived today.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive review – just a quick first look at both notebooks. I’ll do another review with my thoughts after some long-term usage (at least 2-3 weeks).

First, I want to apologize – my camera stand and clamp lights are packed away in a box right now, so this is all on-camera flash.


The Clairefontaine “Basics” notebook has a black cover, with a glued cloth binding. The Clairefontaine logo is unobtrusively embossed on the front cover, while the back cover is blank. There are 192 pages (96 sheets) of 90gsm (24lb) white paper (environmentally friendly) with violet/light purple lines. The inner cover pages are blank, and are glued to the cardstock cover:

Clairefontaine Inner Cover

This tends to make the first page or two of the notebook unusable for me, but I just view it as somewhere to doodle in boring meetings.

The most important part – the pen and ink test:

Clairefontaine Ink Test

This is pretty much every pen or ink that I have easily available to me without filling any empty pens. This paper is a pleasure to write on – it’s not rough, but it’s got enough texture that a nib isn’t going to skip or slide across the page. Only the Noodler’s Lexington Gray had any really noticeable feathering, and I’ve found it to do that on most any paper I use it with lately. I was particularly surprised by how the Parker Super Quink Blue-Black came out, as that’s an old 1960s bottle (with a price of 39 Cents on the box) that I just received off eBay today.

Clairefontaine Ink Test 2

There was no discernible showthrough or bleeding of any of the inks to the other side of the page; even with the Noodler’s Baystate Blue that will soak through Moleskine paper in a heartbeat.

So far, I’m happy with the Clairefontaine “Basics” notebook; I’ll report back on it in a couple of weeks once it’s been subjected to my office doodling. I tend to draw geometric shapes and then fill them in, which gets interesting with fountain pen ink.

The mini squared Rhodia notebook has slightly lighter paper – 80gsm vs. the 90gsm Clairefontaine. The squares are printed in the same light purple/violet color. The cardstock cover is coated with some sort of waterproofing, and it works! I wrote my name on the inside cover with Noodler’s Aircorp Blue-Black, and put the notebook in the path of my desk fan. Five minutes later, I picked it up and ran my finger across it – I now have a blue right index finger. All of the ink completely wiped off the cover.

I did another basic ink test:

Rhodia Ink Test

Not as many as last time, but I made sure to include the vintage 1960s Super Quink and the Noodler’s Baystate Blue.

Rhodia Ink Test 2

You can see in this picture that the ink shows through the other side of the page more than it does on the heavier Clairefontaine paper. However, it’s not bleeding through or is so bad that you couldn’t use both sides of a page. For a pocket notebook like this, I don’t really think some minor showthrough is going to be a concern.

So far, I’m really liking the Basics notebook, and if things go well I’ll pick up a few more (they’re available with black or tan covers when clothbound) to replace my stack of Moleskines.

Look for a long-term use report in a couple of weeks, and I’d like to again thank Karen at Exaclair for giving me the opportunity to review these two notebooks.

Upcoming Giveaway: My Unused Moleskines

After getting into fountain pens as a hobby, I discovered that the vast majority of my stock of Moleskine notebooks, which worked fine with Pilot G2 pens, don’t work very well with fountain pens and my preferred inks.

As a result, I’m be giving away all of my unopened (still in the shrinkwrap) Moleskine notebooks.

The list:

Set of two ruled Volant notebooks, pocket size, light and dark green (gone to Rebecca)
Set of two ruled Volant notebooks, large size, light and dark green (gone to a neighbor)
Set of two ruled Volant notebooks, large size, light and dark blue (gone to Jonas)
Set of three squared Cahier journals, large size, red (gone to Sarah)
Set of three squared Cahier journals, large size, blue (gone to Hellenek)
Large hardcover squared notebook, black (gone to Titivillus)
Large hardcover ruled notebook, red (gone to Mrs. Bill)

I’ve not yet decided on what my Moleskine replacement will be, but I’m leaning towards something that uses Rhodia/Clairefontaine paper.

Update: All of the Moleskines are spoken for. Enjoy!

Review: Whitelines paper and Pear Tree Pens ink sampler

Last week, I ordered a couple pads of Whitelines paper from Amazon, and a four-bottle ink sampler from Pear Tree Pens. For those wanting to try out a new color of ink before committing to an entire bottle, the ink sampler is a great deal – four tiny bottles with the colors/brands of your choice, each with enough ink for a couple of pen or converter fills.

I ordered Noodler’s Baystate Blue, Squetegue, Zhivago, and Gruene Eel Cactus. The sampler arrived today, so I tried it out on the A5-sized pad of Whitelines paper using various pens.

Whitelines Paper and an Ink Sampler

I was unable to test the Gruene Cactus ink due to running out of fillable pens; don’t want to dump and waste a pen full of ink just to flush and fill with another color. I have two more Lamy Safaris, but no converters for them or syringes to fill empty cartridges with.

The Whitelines paper is great (I’m thinking of getting some of the hardback A5-size notebooks to replace my Moleskines) but from looking at their website I was expecting the gray to be a little more distinct and darker. It looks pretty much just like the picture; the white lines aren’t as distinct as I would like.

Noodler’s Zhivago: From pictures on the Internet I had expected more of a greenish tint, but this came out green-gray-black, with more gray/black than green. It has a very vintage look.

Noodler’s Aircorp Blue-Black: I included this because I have it in two pens and it’s currently my favorite ink. It goes down almost black, but it feathers/bleeds BLUE. The only ink I’ve seen where I think show-through on paper is pretty.

Noodler’s Baystate Blue: Controversial with some due to its older formula that may or may not cause premature feed failures in Lamy pens, I filled up my Parker 51 Special with it. This is an insane, almost electric flourescent blue – even after drying. Yes, it really IS “that blue”.

Noodler’s Squetegue: Both my wife and I had been looking forward to this color, but were a bit dissapointed. Samples on the Internet showed it to be more of a blue/teal color, but the sample that I have is a lot more green than blue. Has good vintage-looking shading effects, and may enter my rotation of regular-use inks.

I’m happy with my purchases. Pear Tree Pens offers a great deal with their ink sampler for $4.99, plus around five bucks shipping. The Whitelines A4 and A5 pads are $3-4 for “80 sheets” (40 actual pages).

New Fountain Pen Inks

I found out that Dromgoole’s here in Houston is a Noodler’s Ink distributor, so Amy went down there today this morning while I was at work. She picked me up a bottle of Aircorp Blue-Black and Eel Turquoise, and a bottle of Eel Rattler Red for herself, along with a couple of bottle-fill converters for my Lamy fountain pens.

So far, I’m *really* impressed. The Aircorp Blue-Black is going to be my new primary ink (anybody want a bag of ~30 Lamy blue ink cartridges?) for most stuff. It works fine in my Moleskine notebooks (no more skipping!). I’m looking forward to trying it out in the Parker Super 21 and Hero 616 (Parker 51 clones) I bought on eBay.

I’m still on the lookout for a grey, blue, or blue-green aerometric Parker 51 to use as my daily writer, but I’ve not had any luck on eBay yet.