Ben’s Pilgrimage to Bittner

One of our pen club members, Ben, recently returned from a holiday in sunny California – from San Francisco down the coast to Carmel and Dana Point and back up through Sequoa and Yosemite Park, returning to San Francisco.  Of course, the weather was great and the scenery beautiful,  but none of that mattered to Ben – he was on a mission, to scratch an itch that has been gnawing at him since first reading an article in the November 1995 issue of Pen World (reproduced below) about a stationery store called Gazebo by the Sea.  In 1989, Ben and his son had driven along the Monterey Peninsula on the famed 17-Mile Drive by Carmel runs through Pacific Grove to the Pebble Beach golf course, from the dramatic Pacific coastline to the majestic Del Monte Forest.   After reading the Pen World article and remembering his trip, Ben knew that he had to return their some day.  On his return to Carmel, Ben found that Detlef was no longer in the Gazebo but had instead had opened  Bittner Fine Pens in a more accessible location in Carmel.  Finally, Ben had the chance to meet and pay homage to Mr. Detlef Bittner, the man who had fascinated him since 1995.

As Ben tells us – I recognized Detlef immediately because he had hardly aged from his photo in Pen World and was dressed as sharply.  I was treated royally and allowed to write with some very expensive pens. … The least expensive pen I was tempted to buy was approx.  $300, which is not a problem for some of his customers such as Pierce Brosnan and Clint Eastwood (Editor’s note – Ben, such shameless name dropping!).  I put in a good word for our pen club and provided him with the address of our website, which his main employee Bob immediately checked out (verifying my credibility since I looked like an Iowa farmer dressed in a plaid shirt and ball cap) (Editor’s note – I can see that). Bob commented that it was a good looking website. …Detlef was very kind to compose a kind greeting to our club in beautiful script on his personal stationery and endorsed with a wax seal of what we presume is his coat of arms (reproduced below). … The store was FULL of Rhodia stuff and it is one of the few papers that he endorses – he couldn’t say enough good things about Rhodia.  He does not carry Noodler’s Ink because of too many complaints from customers re: pen damage.  Detlef said that his store sells good quality pens and does not want his customers’ pens ruined by the wrong ink (Editor’s note – those are Mr. Bittner’s opinions, which we respect;however, they do not necessarily represent the views of the London Pen Club or any of its members.).  The store does carry Private Reserve and the traditional ink brands too.

Thanks for sharing your adventure Ben, you must be a happy guy now that itch no longer needs to be scratched and thanks for being such a great ambassador for our club (although we really do need to have a talk about the club’s dress code while traveling!).  Finally, a very special thank you to Mr. Detlef Bittner for the hospitality that he showed to Ben and for showing us the art of writing!

Noodler’s Badger & Blade 5 O’Clock Shadow and Zhivago inks

Recently Badger & Blade commissioned Noodler’s Ink to create a signature ink – “5 O’Clock Shadow” (FOS).  FOS is a deeply pigmented black with shadings of grey and green.

At a recent pen club meeting there was a brief discussion about the colour of FOS and how it compares to Noodler’s Zhivago ink. 

Interestingly, there has been some discussion on the online pen boards whether FOS is simply Zhivago in a different bottle.  Our trusty ink testers assure us that this is NOT the case.  Yes, both are a dark green ink and appear very similar; however, there is a subtle difference – FOS is more grey (grey-green-black) than Zhivago (green-black).  The scan (below) of the two inks made with a Q-tip on Rhodia paper provides further evidence of this subtle but real difference.

Comparison of Badger & Blade 5 O'Clock Shadow to Zhivago ink

The $100,000 question is how FOS compares to the now discontinued Mont Blanc Racing Green or the recently released Diamine Racing Green (created for Missing-Pen ) and offered for sale in this FPN classified ad??

A surprising tale of 3 notebooks – Moleskine, Habana and Rhodia

By LPC member David

After hearing so many bad things about Moleskine notebooks (re fountain pens) and so many good things about Quo Vadis Habana and Rhodia notebooks, I decided to buy one of each and see how they performed.

I bought the following notebooks:

  • Moleskine Reporter 9 x 14 cm
  • Quo Vadis Habana 10 x 15 cm
  • Rhodia Webnotebook 9.5 x 14 cm

I carried out a very unscientific test using the 4 pens that happened to be inked and on my desk:

  • Pelikan brown in a Lamy Vista (1.1 nib)
  • Sailor red-brown in a Sailor Pro Gear (M nib)
  • Sailor evergreen in an Aurora 88 (stub nib)
  • Montblanc violet in a vintage Aurora 88 (flexible M nib)

The following images show the results. I was surprised at how the Rhodia and Habana notebooks performed relative to the Moleskine. There seems, to me at least, that there is less feathering and less bleed-through with the Moleskine……

Fooling around with ink and paper

I recently received a truckload of ink from our friends at Swisher Pens.  I also decided to buy a few pads of the Staples Bagasse paper – made from sugarcane – which seems to be the rage on pen-related discussion boards.

One of the things that I had noticed was the significant drying time for ink used on the Bagasse paper – it just seemed to stay wet forever (imho).  So with Rick ready with his Timex, we compared two inks (Noodler’s Dark Matter and Private Reserve Fast Dry Midnight Blues) on Staples bagasse paper and Rhodia graph paper (from a notebook).  You can see that the Dark Matter took quite a bit longer to dry on the bagasse paper – over 1 minute – compared to just over 15 seconds on the Rhodia paper.  Interestingly, the Fast Dry Midnight Blues lived up to its billing – it dried very quickly on the bagasse paper – less than 15 seconds – and almost immediately on the Rhodia paper.  I should also note that the PR Fast Dry ink was laid down on the paper with a Sheaffer’s Legacy medium nib that has flow like a firehose so we were most impressed with the fast dry qualities of this ink – it was really quite amazing!

ink and paper drying tests July 2009_extra

ink and paper drying tests July 20094

ink and paper drying tests July 20091

One of the other items that has come up for discussion is the apparent difference in the colour of Pilot blue ink – from the bottle and in their V pens.  The proof is in the pudding – as you can see below, the Pilot blue bottled ink appears to be much lighter in comparison to that used in the V pens. 

ink and paper drying tests July 20092

Finally, I was asked to do a comparison of light blue/turquoise coloured inks for someone on the FPN – here are some of the main brands and the colours on Staples bagasse paper.  I tried to use a blotter on the Dark Matter ink used to label the various blues – you can see that there is a faint line running down the right hand side of the page (yet more proof of the slow drying time of this paper!).

ink and paper drying tests July 20093

Review of Renaissance Art Folder Holder (by KR)

So, my friend kindly sent me a bottle of Old Manhattan. I fell madly in love with it and absolutely had to find the right pen for the job. Decided that it had to be something black and subdued and preferable not shiny, just like Old Manhattan. Since said friend knows better than I do, he sent me this for my 40th birthday:

Yellow Omas Emotica
Yellow Omas Emotica in the process of being attacked by a snake!

(The pen, not the snake. The snake is in love with the pen. Long story, but the pen is extremely lovely.)

So. We now have the perfect pen/ink combo. Now what? Hm. I seem to have a separate Apica notebook for everything that interests me. I have a New Music Canada/CBC Radio 3 notebook and a History notebook and a NY Times crossword notebook where I write unfamiliar words for further study so that I can kick tail at the 2010 American Crossword Championship and an “Interesting Things I Hear on the Radio” notebook and… You know where I am going. An absolute nightmare to go to the library lugging all of those notebooks.

Enter the Renaissance Art Folder Holder! Excellent! Rather than a whole notebook dedicated to one subject, I can have all of my subjects, plus work, meal planning, grocery shopping, household chores, calendar and personal goals folders with me at all times, everywhere I go. Sweet.

Drat! I use Rhodia pads and they won’t fit in the traditional Folder Holder! No fear, as Arthur the Magnificent from Renaissance Art kindly just made me one that would accommodate A4. Two days later it was in my hot little hands.

Renaissance Art Folder Holder
Enter the Renaissance Art Folder Holder

The leather is fabulous. Hands down, the nicest leather I have ever seen. It even smells good. For those who ride motorcycles, this leather has the same feel as a Hein Gericke jacket. The stitching and everything exceeded my expectations. Bliss. Now to fill it with lovely, useful things. Because it was purchased to 1) make life easier and 2) look (absolutely!) fabulous with the Emotica and the ink and the Rhodia, yellow, black and orange would figure exclusively.

What a hat trick - Folder holder + Emotica + Rhodia!
What a hat trick - Folder holder + Emotica + Rhodia!

I do use different little useful things depending on where I am going, but the folders generally stay the same. When I have finished a page of, say New Music, I take the page out of the folder and put it in a matching folder in my desk. That way, I don’t fill up my Folder Holder too much. There is ample space for extra folders and a Behance Action Pad, which I carry everywhere in case a spontaneous meeting erupts. If you haven’t tried this stuff, you should. Very cool.

Check out the Behance in that folder holder
Check out the Behance in that folder holder

Anyway, I usually have a Clairefontaine Age Bag address book in the middle pocket (yes, I know my address book is black, not brown. Noodler’s Heart of Darkness and a Q-tip fixed that little problem), Behance Action Pad in orange and a Crane 3×5 card case with a Behance Action Card in the CD pocket. My Mikado fits snugly and happily in the business card pocket (I used to carry a Visconti traveling ink pot there but because of the Mikado’s ink capacity, I no longer run out). The Emotica fits securely and happily in the large pen loop and the material used to make the loop doesn’t stain the yellow rubber. Bliss. Because of a recent development (details below) I now carry a Preppy eyedropper highlighter filled with (wait for it) Noodler’s Orange highlighter ink in the pen loop. Oh. The Rhodia pads have yellow paper. Sigh.

Okay, now we’re cooking. I had a part time job at our local Farmers’ Market and the good bathrooms were upstairs so I used to pass by and chat with an artist who worked up there. Very nice man. One day, I linger a bit longer and take a really good look at one of his little tiny paintings (I had glanced at it every time I went up there, but I hadn’t really looked at it).

"The Gang's All Here" (ed. note - and what a motley crew it is!)
Photo otherwise known as “The Gang’s All Here”.

Enter the missing link: Jim Pescott is his website. Amazing stuff and those of you who get the Unicef Christmas cards may see his work this year, as he was selected to participate. This is a very great honour and I am proud to know him.

Now, as all such adventures go, I found that I needed another piece of the organization puzzle. I am a notoriously bad housekeeper. I don’t plan well and I forget that things need doing, such as taking library books back on time, sending birthday cards and cleaning the kitchen. That one constantly falls out of my head. I was using a folder for it in the Folder Holder, but I’d keep forgetting to look in it to tell me to do things like clean the kitchen. I needed something more “in my face”.   Enter the 3×5 card case with composition book!

Enter the card holder
And gimme one of those card cases too!

While I am not thrilled with the leather used on this one (I got spoiled by the batch used to make my Folder Holder) it is a well made and thoroughly well designed item. I’ll get used to the leather (nothing wrong with it, but I don’t like shiny leather). I scoured the city and have found some composition books that might work. I am still in the process of finding exactly what I want. I may end up cutting the covers of my Apicas and putting those in (the opening is a bit too small).

Everything in its place - Oops, where are my glasses?
Everything in its place - Oops, where are my glasses?

So. The Folder Holder and his little brother, the card case have changed everything. Seriously. I can now have all of my various hobbies documented in one place and it is effortless to drop one subject and pick up on another very quickly. I have orange folders for my personal hobbies and yellow for my work projects. The card case serves as a constant reminder of what needs to be done when and how. It is impossible to open it and not see that my copy of Spaced needs to be back to the library on the 25th. I have a running shopping list in there and a myriad of other lists and doodads, with a composition book that is for note taking and is also perforated so I can dispose of my ramblings.

Renaissance Art has been fabulous to deal with (slow answers to emails aside-their spam filter is apparently too efficient) and there is no denying the quality of their goods (shiny leather aside). The Folder Holder and his little brother are extremely cool tools in quieting the frenetic mind (I think the expression is “mind like water”). I have never been more organized, although the kitchen is still a mess. I lost that card, I think. Oh, well.

Thanks to LPC member KR for writing this and taking the great pics!

Blue Upon The Plains of Abraham ink

Label from bottle of Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham - a Bulletproof ink by Noodler's


I recently came across a discussion on the Fountain Pen Network concerning a new, custom Noodler’s Ink made for our friends Murtaza et al at Sleuth & Statesman, i.e., Blue Upon The Plains of Abraham (BUPA).  As you can see from the above picture of the label, the artwork is very detailed and draws on (no pun intended) the historical significance of this location, namely, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (BOPA).  In fact, those of you who are more historically and/or artistically inclined may notice that the label is an artistic reproduction of A View of the Taking of Quebec, seen below:

A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence).
A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence).

A couple of nits about the label itself.  Obviously the Canadian flag is not historically correct.  I also must admit that I am confused by the meaning of the phrase “American Canadian Ink for Canada”.  I guess I could speculate a bit about that and maybe even rant; however, I have decided to let “sleeping dogs lie” in this instance rather than risk sparking a nationalist uproar.


Before I get to the ink itself, I think it would be interesting to review the history of the BOPA.  After all, it was only the most significant battle in Canadian history!  The actual Plains of Abraham (POA) was a large, flat piece of farmland on high cliffs to the west of Quebec City (and derive their name from a previous owner, Martin Abraham).  The BOPA was a battle fought between the French and English in 1759.  In less than an hour, the British troops led by Major-General Thomas Wolfe defeated the French forces commanded by Lieutenant-General le Marquis de Montcalm.  The French army retreated to Montreal and within a year had surrendered New France (Quebec). A few years later, France transferred its North American possessions to England.  Needless to say, had the French been successful in the BOPA, this blog might very well be written in French!

The Ink

Now, to the real reasons for you reading this blog entry – what is the story on the ink.

Cost and Availability

As I noted previously Noodler’s mixed up a limited number of bottles of this bulletproof ink for Sleuth & Statesman (S&S) in Toronto.  Unless you live in or around Toronto or plan to visit in the near future, you will have to email or call and have them ship the number of bottles that you require.  The cost of each bottle is around Cdn $25, including taxes, and shipping is extra (which will depend on the number of bottles and method selected).  Expensive, yes, but understandable in the circumstances – how else could S&S offer their customers a unique ink while recovering their costs and a small profit, if any, on such a small “batch” of ink (I thought that I read somewhere it was 50 bottles or so).

Performance of the ink

From what I have read, the ink has a strong magenta undertone that takes on varying and differing degrees of prominence.  It apparently can be so temperamental as to reflect those different undertones while using the same pen at different times!  Someone even referred to it as the Canadian “Baystate Blue” – not necessarily a particularly positive comment (to some people) but inaccurate, at least to the extent that the BUPA ink is labelled as being pH neutral – the Baystate line of inks are not.  On the other hand, it can very a very nice blue when the dyes stay mixed!

At our pen club meeting on Saturday morning, I test dipped the bottle with a Q-tip – the line that it laid down showed a variety of colours with a heavy magenta undertone; however, I did not see that special blue that I was expecting.  Perhaps it was because the ink was not as shaken up as it might have been (and that I can remain objective in my test dips and writing samples).

The first thing that I did on Sunday (after shaking the bottle a number of times) was create an ink swatch on Maruman grid paper with a Q-tip with ink from the bottle and then from the inside of the cap.  The results were much better than the first swab on Saturday, however, there is even a noticeable difference in these swipes.  When the ink is blue, it is a very, very nice blue; otherwise, I am not sure what to call it.

I then filled an old warhorse that I have, a Sheaffer Fashion fountain pen with a broad nib.  You can see the handwriting samples on first the Maruman and then the Whitelines paper.  In each case, the pen started skipping and then stopped after writing with it for a few minutes. When I chose to stop writing, capped the pen, and then tried to write with it again (less than five minutes later), the pen would not start – I had to pump the aerometric filler in order to restart the flow.  In my past experience with this Sheaffer pen, it has been a wet writer with a generous flow (I used it with Baystate Blue on a number of occasions without difficulty).  This ink felt very dry when writing on both paper samples, in fact, you could really hear the nib on the paper.  I could even tell that it was going to skip and stop, it was just a question of when.  The other thing I noticed on the Whitelines paper, was that the writing seemed to have a slight aura of magenta.

After leaving my desk and thinking about this for a bit, I thought it might be useful to try out this ink on some different paper (Rhodia reverse book this time) and using two glass dipping pens that I have.  What a disaster, as you can see below.  I tried both glass dipping pens with the same incredibly poor result – the ink either splatted off the pen or nothing, I could not write anything decipherable with it.  And there was clearly ink on the glass nib but it seemed to have dried almost instantly so that it was not able to flow from the glass nib to the paper.


This ink is incredibly temperamental – either the colour is not right or the colour is right but the pen is skipping and stopping.  I am going to have to decide if (and that’s a very big IF) it makes sense to invest some time trying the BUPA in different pens and on different paper to see whether there is a magical combination that works.

I applaud S&S for making the effort to provide their customers with a unique ink but it appears to me that something went wrong here.  I would love to see the test results for this ink and if they are positive, I would love to find out what I (and others) are doing wrong.  It should not be that hard, I mean, we are talking about fountain pen ink after all, not the formula for the fountain of youth.  I cannot believe that Noodler’s would put their name on ink that I can’t figure out how to get work in a fountain pen.