Review: House of Doolittle Monthly Desk Pad Calendar with Large Notes Section

This product was sent to me for review by the kind people at House of Doolittle and

I don’t really use these types of calendars (and didn’t know this was being sent to me), so I am going to refer to you to my review on the House of Doolittle Weekly/Monthly Planner and my more recent review on the House of Doolittle Weekly Business Planner for comments on the quality of product and paper.  It is my guess that this desk pad calendar lives up to the same quality as the planner.  For someone that does use this type of desk pad calendar, I think it would be a great choice!


You can purchase this product for $6.90 + shipping from by clicking here.

(Shoplet asked me to include the following links to products/services provided by Shoplet, so here they are:  Office SuppliesBusiness Planner2014 CalendarPromotional ProductsPromotional ShirtsOffice Stationery)

Review: House of Doolittle Wirebound Weekly Business Planner

I did a review of a very similar House of Doolittle planner here.  This planner is almost the same, but with a few variations.

This product was sent to me for review by the kind people at House of Doolittle and

Cover:  The cover is made from “embossed simulated leather” composed of 50% recycled material.  To be honest, it feels more like a flexible plastic, and one can see texture added.  The cover color of mine is black, although I do not know if it comes in other colors.

Size: It’s quite large for a planner, 8.5 x 11″ to be exact.  While I normally don’t use planners this large, it’s size actually has a more executive attitude.

Layout: This is a weekly format and each week has a section to keep track of your business expenses.  I’m sure this format works for many people, but I personally prefer a little more space to write in each hour slot.  I just picked a random week to photograph so you can see the format.

Paper: The paper is made from 100% Post-Consumer Paper and printed with soy ink.  Let’s be clear, this is not Clairefontaine paper.  For recycled paper, it is fairly smooth.  It is a nice bright white, and printed with blue text and grey lines.  The paper is on the thinner side, but sturdy.  There is definite show-through, both from the page printing and from fountain pen ink.  I have not experienced bleed-through, although Private Reserve’s DC Supershow Blue did have more significant show-through.  Most fountain pen inks do feather slightly on this paper, but it’s not glaringly obvious – you have to look more closely to really see the feathering (although more saturated inks like DCSSB do have slightly more pronounced feathering).


Improvements:  Tear-off tabs like the Exaclair-distributed planners would be helpful to easily find the current week within the current month.  I would also like it if there was no feathering and less show-through.  The planner is also non-refillable, which may be a bother to some people.

Other notes: I really like that this planner is made from 100% recycled products, 100% post-consumer paper, 100% made in the USA, 50% recycled cover  material, 90% recycled wire, and printed with soy ink.  I am actually surprised at the high quality of this planner due to it’s mostly recycled content.  It makes me feel more responsible to be using something environmentally friendly, and I like that the company is supporting the US economy by making products at home.  Another cool thing is that the company has been making dated products since 1919 and all of their products are made from recycled materials.

Purchase:   If you would like to purchase this planner from for $13.22 + shipping, click here for the product page.

 (Shoplet asked me to include the following links to products/services provided by Shoplet, so here they are:  Office Supplies, Business Planner, 2014 Calendar, Promotional Products, Promotional Shirts, Office Stationery)

Step Forward Paper – Show Through and Bleed Through

In my last post about Step Forward Paper, I somehow forgot to discuss show through and bleed through.  Unfortunately, I disposed of my sample paper so I cannot use the same sample for comparison.  From my memory, there was very minimal show through.  I do not recall any bleed through, and if there was it was minimal and only on the very wet and thick black ink.   The concern for many is writing on both sides of the paper, and my recommendation is that YES, one can definitely write on both sides of Step Forward Paper with a fountain pen.

I did a quick test below with Sheaffer Black ink in a vintage fine point Lady Sheaffer.

Step Forward Paper

I’m happy to bring you a review of Step Forward Paper (hereinafer “SFP”).  SFP is white printer and copy paper made from 80% wheat-straw waste.  The paper is made by Canadian company, Prairie Pulp & Paper, Inc.  The company is co-owned by actor Woody Harrelson and his partner Jeff Golfman.   The company states that their wheat-straw paper supports farmers with new revenue streams and is lower in environmental impact than 100% recycled tree paper.  The company also donates 1% of sales to eco-systems, habitat, and children’s education charities.

I’ve been working on this review for quite a while because I wanted to test a variety of inks on the paper.  I’m very excited about this product for two reasons:  (1) it’s positive impact on the environment and (2) it is VERY fountain pen friendly.  As most fountain pen users know, most copy and print paper is not fountain pen friendly.  I feel this brand will be a great asset for those who like plain white paper for correspondence and to showcase their ink collections.  The paper I tested is 92 brightness, 21lb/80 gsm, and 8.5″ x 11″/21.6cm x 27.9 cm.   I usually use HammerMill Multipurpose Paper (hereinafter “HMMP”) from Staples, so I will be basing my comparison of SFP to “normal” paper — also known as HMMP.  For reference, HMMP is 92 brightness and 20lb.

Feel, Weight, and Thickness:  SFP has a slight texture and is fairly smooth to the touch, but not quite as smooth HMMP.  SFP also feels to be slightly lighter in weight and thinner than HMMP, which is strange because SFP is actually slightly heavier than HMMP according to the specifications of both papers.  If someone just picked up one sheet of each paper without knowing the brands or specifications of either, one might say SFP feels “cheaper” because of the texture and weight.   However, as I am about to describe, one that loves fountain pens will rejoice when testing SFP.

Fountain Pen Performance:  As shown in the photos, I tested 19 different inks from several different brands.  I personally found the results astonishing as EVERY ink performed well on SFP.  I noted the pens and nib sizes where I could remember them, but note that there were a variety of different nib options used to model the variety in the average fountain pen user’s collection.  The ink colors were all fairly vibrant.  Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku did not shade as much as in tests on Clairefontaine or other premium paper, but otherwise all inks performed as is normal for those inks.  The Pilot Parallel test was even more surprising because the Parallel ink was extremely wet and has feathered greatly on most papers I have used, especially HMMP.  The Brause dip nib tests were also surprising as no feathering occurred even though those inks were also very wet from water mixed with the ink after rinsing the nib.  Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue is also a very wet ink with a long dry time, however, it also performed well and dried quickly on SFP.

Here the inks are shown on a scan of the test sample:


A scan of all the FP/ink tests.

Here are some closeups shot with my camera:


Here are some comparisons on HMMP paper — notice the feathering:

Furthermore, despite SFP feeling slightly less smooth than HMMP, it was not fibrous and I was not concerned with any paper fibers getting caught in any of my fountain pen nibs.  Even the fine and more fragile vintage nibs glided over the paper without catching or accumulating fibers.

Printing Performance:  As shown below, I also tested the print quality of SFP.  These print tests were done on an HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus.  Both the large and small black text performed exactly as one would expect from printer paper, and exactly the same as HMMP.  The black lines were crisp and there is strong contrast of the black ink on the white paper.  However, SFP was disappointing when printing in color, especially after the grand performance with colored fountain pen ink.  The printed color was matte and muted.  One can still tell what the colors are, but they lack vibrancy.

Overall:  Overall, this is fantastic paper and I love the company’s principles.  I definitely recommend supporting this company and using their paper!  While the color printing was slightly disappointing, the black ink printing was great.  One could predominately use SFP for most printing and swap out some regular paper when vibrant color printing is desired.  Using this paper all the time is also ideal because of the benefit to the environment.  Of most interest to fountain pen users, it is wonderful to finally find a plain white printer paper that actually behaves well with fountain pens!  At the very least, I will keep enough stock on hand to use for written correspondence.

Where to Buy:  Step Forward Paper is available throughout the United States and Canada at Staples stores.  In my region, a 5,000 sheet/case box is $57.99 and a 500 sheet ream is currently on sale for $6.99 (regular $9.99).  You can get a $10 coupon to buy SFP through Staples here.   The ream is also available on Amazon for $16.99.  Visit Step Forward Paper‘s website to learn more and you can register for a free sample of SFP!

UPDATE 12/6/13:  I have received correspondence from SFP’s owner Jeff Golfman.  They are aware of the problems I mentioned in this review (like lack of vibrancy when printing in color) and the company will be releasing new and improved SFP in 2014.  They will be sending me a sample to review, so stay tuned to La Plume Etoile for further updates SFP’s new and improved product.  Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed so that you don’t miss it!

Review: J. Herbin Vert Réséda Fountain Pen Ink

J. Herbin’s Vert Réséda has also been one of my favorite end of summer/beginning of fall inks.   The name translates as “reseda green” and the ink lives up to the quality I expect from J. Herbin.

The Bottle:  Like all J. Herbin bottles, the bottle is compact and has a much appreciated pen rest.  One newer feature is that the cap is shiny black plastic, whereas previous bottles had more of a matte plastic cap.

The Color:  This color is hard to describe, but it’s sort of a minty teal/turquoise.  It also matches one of my sealing waxes exactly, so that is a plus for someone like me who likes to color coordinate my writing accoutrements.

Consistency/Flow:  I found the flow to be moderate at first, but actually it got wetter the more I used it.  I started out testing the ink with an Esterbrook dip pen (nib 2442), and the flow was good.  Then I inked it in one of my vintage Vacumatics.  The flow started off just okay.  Now that I have refilled that pen several times with Vert Réséda, I have noticed that the flow has increased, the ink is wetter, and the color is slightly darker.  So this slightly darker color is what you see in the writing samples pictured, but note that you might experience the color to be a bit lighter and closer to the square on the top of the box.

Shading, Feathering, and Other Characteristics: I have not experienced any feathering with Vert Réséda.  At first, there was barely any shading at all.  I was slightly disappointed, but liked the color so much that I planned to continue using it even without shading.  However, again through refills and continued use, the shading has also increased along with the flow and wetness as described above.  As you can see the writing sample, it now has a fairly decent amount of shading.  This development is much to my delight, although I do not know if these results are typical for all users.

Writing sample close-up to see shading.

Writing sample close-up to see shading.

Overall:  I really like this ink and plan on keeping it in my regular rotation.

Writing samples written on Rhodia mini graph pad.

Writing samples written on Rhodia mini graph pad.

Purchasing and Pricing:  A 30mL bottle runs between $7-12 depending on the retailer and is available at most online retailers catering to fountain pen and ink users.  You can also purchase from one of the links below to help support La Plume Etoile.



Review: Pilot Iroshizuku Kosomosu Fountain Pen Ink

It has finally happened — I am the proud owner of two Pilot Iroshizuku inks.  (I’ll have the review of the other color shortly, but for now I’ll keep it as a surprise.)

With this brand, you can believe the hype.  I’ve had a field day with some bright colors this summer, and I want to get those reviews up before I switch to some glorious fall colors.

Today’s review is Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu, or as I like to call it, the cherry blossom ink.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu with a vintage pink Esterbrook and a Rhodia Dot Pad

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu with a vintage pink Esterbrook and a Rhodia Dot Pad

The Bottle:  If you already own Iroshizuku ink or have read other reviews, you know the bottle is quite nice.  It’s made of handblown glass and the ink reservoir takes up about 75% of the bottle with a little triangle at the bottom of the reservoir.  The bottom quarter of the bottle is just thick clear glass, but the way that it is blown allows for some reflection from the ink in the reservoir.  The cap is just black plastic, and there is a little grey cord tied around the neck.  If there is a purpose to the cord other than decoration, I’m not aware of it.  As far as the box, it’s silver and does have a little flap inside to hold the bottle in more securely, but it is as visually appealing as the bottle.


Color:  This ink is Kosumoso, which means “cosmos flower.”  To me it suggests cherry blossoms.  It’s close to a bubblegum pink color with coral undertones, which differs from some pinks that have more purple undertones.  As one of “those” people that often likes to match inks to pens, Kosumosu is a great match for my pink Esterbrook.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu's color is a close match to my pink Esterbrook

Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu’s color is a close match to my pink Esterbrook

Consistency/Flow:  I have only been using this ink in my vintage Esterbrook and am already on my fourth refill.  My Esterbrook has some flow issues and a scratchy nib that I need to refine, so I think it was a great pen for testing.  My first impression of Kosumoso didn’t make me say “Wow!  The flow of this ink is amazing!”  However, the flow has been very stable.  It’s not dry and is appropriately wet without being too wet.  It has actually alleviated some of the dryness and flow issues of the pen, although did not completely resolve them.

Shading, Feathering, and Other Characteristics:  Kosumoso does have some shading, but not as much as I was expecting from reviews of some of the other Iroshizuku colors.  It’s enough to be noticeable for those who look for shading, but would probably be lost on the non-fountain pen/ink person.  I have sometimes experienced minuscule feathering on cheap paper, but I think that is really due to the absorption qualities of the paper rather than the ink’s properties.  It behaves very well, especially on high quality paper.  The figure 8s in the writing sample photos look like they have a little feathering, but it is because the scratchy nib was catching on the paper a bit, it is not from the ink.  The writing sample was on a Rhodia Dot Pad.

Overall:  This ink immediately became part of my regular rotation, especially in the warmer months when bright colors are a necessity.  A great color match for my Estie makes it all the more fitting.

Purchasing and Pricing:  This ink is imported from Japan and not cheap.  It retails for about $27-28 on most online retailers.  You can sometimes find it for a few dollars less, but after adding the shipping it doesn’t make much difference.  I got mine from Amazon, which is direct from Pilot, considerably cheaper, and you can get free shipping if you spend more than $25.   You can click the photo/link below to buy your own bottle of Kosumoso from Amazon and help support La Plume Etoile.

Review: Bexley Admiral Fountain Pen

I haven’t had a pen review for you for a while, so today’s review is of the new Bexley Admiral fountain pen in Reef Blue.

The ink used for this pen test is J. Herbin’s Eclat de Saphir (my review here).

I would like to express thanks to Howard Levy of Bexley Pens for loaning me this pen to review.  I have some mixed feelings about this pen, all of which I have discussed with Howard.  I will express all my opinions to you because I feel the honesty and integrity of La Plume Etoile and my reviews are of the utmost importance.  Also, please note that my current layout is chopping the photos, so please click on the photos for a full view.

Appearance:  The pen has a nice overall appearance.  I personally was not a fan of the Reef Blue crackle pattern because I thought it looked “plasticky,” but that is just personal preference.  Reef Blue comes with rhodium plated accents, and the two cap rings are a nice touch.  I also enjoyed the unique clip design that ends in a ball framed with a crescent shape.

Body:  The body is short in the hand, similar to vintage demi and junior sized pens.  I have included one photo of the Admiral with a vintage demi-sized Parker Vacumatic for comparison.

Here are the Admiral’s measurements:

–  5.25″  posted

– 4.5″  body + section with nib (no cap)

– 3.5″  body + section without nib (no cap)

–  just under 1″  for the nib by itself

– 2.5″  for the cap alone

– weight is just under 1 oz (about 0.8 oz) according to my food scale.

The width of the pen is fat, but not too fat.  The pen body is made from solid body cast acrylic, but it is really lightweight and much too light for my taste.   Frankly, I couldn’t tell the different between the solid body cast acrylic and thin plastic.  Companies like MontBlanc use injection mold acrylic which makes for more substantial, yet more fragile pen, so the benefit of Bexley’s acrylic is that it will withstand dropping, etc. much better than other pens.  However, I personally prefer a more expensive feeling pen and am careful to use more caution.


Nib:   The nib I tested was a Fine.  It is mostly stiff but does give a little if forced.  There is slight variation as seen in the photos.  The two-tone decorative nib is attractive, but too large for the pen.  The choice of large nib by Bexley is due to inventory, as it is easier for the company to stock one size of nib than different sized nibs to fit different pens.  Although it would be more difficult and expensive for the company, I think it would be better to stock different nib sizes so that the nibs are properly in proportion with each pen’s body size.  However, for the price of the pen, you definitely get quite a lot of nib!

Using the Pen:  As previously stated, the pen is very lightweight.  This is good for long writing sessions and people with hand/wrist/arm issues, but I felt the lightness slighted the balance just a tad.  The cap comes down too low so it rests in the crook of my hand when writing.   If I didn’t post the cap securely, the movement of my hand would loosen it and keep knocking it off the end of the body.   However, this can be avoided by post the cap tightly.  Because the cap posts onto the pen body inside the top of the cap, there should not be a risk of cracking the lip of the cap.   I found the weight a little too light when using unposted, but I did mostly write with it unposted because I didn’t like the cap position.


Converter:  The Admiral takes mini-cartridges and comes with a Monteverde mini-converter.  Admittedly, it took me three tries to fill this pen because I kept trying to twist the converter.  Most converters operate by twist, so I thought this to be the same.  This converter, however, does not twist.  You just pull up the black plunger and it sucks up the ink like a vacuum.  The good thing was that the operation of this conveter is easy.  The bad is that is holds a VERY small amount of ink and it needed to be refilled after one evening and one morning of normal writing.  The bonus was that cleaning the pen was one of the easiest I have ever cleaned.  I removed the converter, sucked up and released water a few times and that part was done.  I flushed the nib unit under the faucet and only had to drain it twice before there was no ink in the tissue.  That was definitely a benefit!

Performance:   The best part of this pen was the performance.  The nib was very smooth with no scratchiness.  There was no specific sweet spot to the nib and it wrote well at all angles, except if you turned the nib completely on it’s side (which you wouldn’t do anyway).  There was almost no skipping (a couple small skips on letter starts) and the ink flow was continuous.  This could definitely be a daily workhorse pen if the body is comfortable for you and you like its weight.


Price:  All pens in the Bexley Admiral Collection retail for $139.  Richard Binder has it for $104.

Overall:  I have been told the pen has been selling well and customers are very happy with it.   At that price point, I was personally disappointed at the look, feel, and weight of the acrylic; the too-large nib; and the small converter.  However, the performance was very steady and the acrylic is supposed to withstand breaking, so you might like it if you want a very lightweight pen that you could carry around with you and be a daily workhorse.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos for the box fans:

Is Handwriting Becoming Extinct?

Is Handwriting Becoming Extinct?  This question was asked and answered in an article of the same title by Joanne Chen in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Yes, I love to be crafty and creative like Martha!  And so do the Beastie Boys:  “She’s crafty! She’s crafty!”  Wait, that’s different.  Anyway, I digress.

The article is about how the technology take-over is changing learning, as young children often learn how to type before they actually learn how to write.  Chen quoted several studies, one of which showed that preschool children who learned how to write first were able to distinguish shapes and letters while their typing counterparts could not.  The article continued to explain how handwriting primes the brain for learning in a way that typing does not.  Even elderly adults with dementia improved their memory function after doing Chinese calligraphy for eight weeks, whereas those seniors with cognitive impairments who did not do calligraphy continued to deteriorate.  The article went on to discuss how handwriting is a form of personal expression, and promotes reflection and creativity.

I would like to thank Ms. Chen for a great article.  Unfortunately, the article is not online so I cannot post a link for you.   For those of you who read Martha Stewart Living, the article is on page 158-161.

Calligraphic Meditation

This morning I stumbled upon the video The Mindful Art of Thich Nhat Hanh – Calligraphic Meditation.  If you don’t know, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist master who helped to found the “engaged Buddhism” movement and focuses on mindfulness practice.  I know some in the fountain pen community are also doodlers and dabblers with paint, as well as various forms of calligraphy.  Therefore, I thought this would be of interest.


You can find more about Thich Nhat Hanh at the Plum Village Practice Center.