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Stillman & Birn Zeta Series Journals


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#1 inky_artist

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:08

Later this month Stillman & Birn is set to begin distribution of a new addition to their line of high-end journal/sketchbooks. The new Zeta Series will be the same heavy weight (180 lb./270 gsm) as their Beta and Delta Series but with a fountain (and dip) pen-friendly Hot Press/Plate finish. The paper is acid free, pH and chloride free, and archival. It is also both internally and externally sized so show-through and bleed-through will not be an issue.

I recently completed an extensive review of the paper using a variety of fountain and dip pens, inks, brushes, and markers, and have just published an article with illustrations, artwork, and ink wetting/lift tests. If you're interested, you can read the complete article at: http://earnestward.b...13/01/zeta.html

Cheers! :thumbup:
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#2 beachwalker

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 00:40

Thank you for your great review. I've been a fan of this line of sketch pads for the past few years and am glad for this addition.
One question, if I may.
I enjoy sketching with pen and ink. My faithful Pelican M215 is also my preferred sketching pen, leaving me very uneasy about all the wear. Which would be much greater if I were sketching as much as I want rather than as much as I can fit in. I noticed in your review, on one of your "inked" pages, reference to the TWSBI Mini. I have been looking at this as becoming my primary ink tool when out and about, but I did not find it listed in your equipment. Do you use this pen and, if so, how do you find it working for you? I am inclined to get the 1.1mm stub, though the F or EF are my every day writing nibs. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

#3 12345Michael54321

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 02:31

I'm a huge fan of Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.

On the one hand, I'm happy to learn of the upcoming Zeta series of journals.

On the other hand, I find that the existing S&B Epsilon series of journals plays just fine with fountain pens. Maybe the new Zeta line will be even better, but it'd have to be an improvement from "extremely good" to "excellent." Not exactly a great leap forward, so much as a short step.

No, what I'd have preferred would have been an Epsilon with lined pages. (Or, I suppose, a Zeta journal, with lined pages.) Now that would've been sweet.

Admittedly, lined pages make the journal somewhat less attractive when it comes to drawing. But I suspect that a very significant percentage of people who keep journals seldom draw illustrations - and that most of those illustrations are usually little more than quick, utilitarian sketches. (No, not everyone. Just "a very significant percentage of people.")

Well, whatever.

But any suggestions as to how I might put lines on the pages of a Stillman & Birn journal? Like, anyone know where I could score an inexpensive rubber stamp, maybe 5.5 x 8.5" (or 8.5 x 11") in size, with which to stamp lines onto the page?

Oh, and beachwalker - I'm NO expert, but I'd suspect you needn't worry too much about wearing out your Pelikan by using it to sketch. Pens are meant to be used. It'd take a lot of sketching (probably on rather abrasive/"toothy" paper) to wear it out. I know that back in the olden days, many people used fountain pens to write pages and pages, each and every day, often on less than ideally smooth paper, and their Pelikan fountain pens didn't wear out even after years of such use. I suspect that by the time you've worn out your Pelikan, you'll have already spent so much money on the mountain of sketch pads you'll have gone through, that the cost of a new pen will seem like a minor additional expense.

Like I say, I'm no expert, and I'm not talking from experience (as I've never owned an M215, nor sketched extensively with one of my fountain pens). But that's my guess.

'Course, if you simply want to buy a TWSBI Mini - or something else, simply for variety - that's fine and more power to you.
--
Michael

#4 GallBladder

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 02:55

I'm a huge fan of Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.

On the one hand, I'm happy to learn of the upcoming Zeta series of journals.

On the other hand, I find that the existing S&B Epsilon series of journals plays just fine with fountain pens. Maybe the new Zeta line will be even better, but it'd have to be an improvement from "extremely good" to "excellent." Not exactly a great leap forward, so much as a short step.

No, what I'd have preferred would have been an Epsilon with lined pages. (Or, I suppose, a Zeta journal, with lined pages.) Now that would've been sweet.

Admittedly, lined pages make the journal somewhat less attractive when it comes to drawing. But I suspect that a very significant percentage of people who keep journals seldom draw illustrations - and that most of those illustrations are usually little more than quick, utilitarian sketches. (No, not everyone. Just "a very significant percentage of people.")

Well, whatever.

But any suggestions as to how I might put lines on the pages of a Stillman & Birn journal? Like, anyone know where I could score an inexpensive rubber stamp, maybe 5.5 x 8.5" (or 8.5 x 11") in size, with which to stamp lines onto the page?

Oh, and beachwalker - I'm NO expert, but I'd suspect you needn't worry too much about wearing out your Pelikan by using it to sketch. Pens are meant to be used. It'd take a lot of sketching (probably on rather abrasive/"toothy" paper) to wear it out. I know that back in the olden days, many people used fountain pens to write pages and pages, each and every day, often on less than ideally smooth paper, and their Pelikan fountain pens didn't wear out even after years of such use. I suspect that by the time you've worn out your Pelikan, you'll have already spent so much money on the mountain of sketch pads you'll have gone through, that the cost of a new pen will seem like a minor additional expense.

Like I say, I'm no expert, and I'm not talking from experience (as I've never owned an M215, nor sketched extensively with one of my fountain pens). But that's my guess.

'Course, if you simply want to buy a TWSBI Mini - or something else, simply for variety - that's fine and more power to you.
--
Michael

I'm a very happy Epsilon user. I wish they made a dot or very faint graph version.... I can never keep my writing completely horizontal.

Writing with pen and ink, is an endeavour both stimulating and cathartic.

#5 beachwalker

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 01:04

Thanks for your note of confidence. I suspect that my concern is about harm to the Pelican rather than wearing out. I do a fair amount of sketching while out and about and the Pelican is my primary journal pen and preferred writing instrument - I think of it as something other than a tool to be used in my field work, perhaps dropping it inadvertently, or loosing it, or...well, it's more of a friend than a tool, and my dad did teach me respect for tools. I've picked up a couple of Ahabs and a Noodler's Conrad, but find them more suited for working at home, where fussing with them is easier than, say, in a coffee shop when they begin to skip or start to write dryer than wanted - nice pens but, for me, kind of finicky (I'm still learning how to adjust the nib, etc). I'd rather like to observe than be observed. I was hoping to get a TWSBI mini to fill the gap - or as you note, have more justification but not really the need for a new toy, er, tool. (Besides, who want to sketch with a writing ink, say a nice blue/black when there are some great sepias,etc?)
Thanks, John

#6 inky_artist

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 00:35

Thank you for your great review. I've been a fan of this line of sketch pads for the past few years and am glad for this addition.
One question, if I may.
I enjoy sketching with pen and ink. My faithful Pelican M215 is also my preferred sketching pen, leaving me very uneasy about all the wear. Which would be much greater if I were sketching as much as I want rather than as much as I can fit in. I noticed in your review, on one of your "inked" pages, reference to the TWSBI Mini. I have been looking at this as becoming my primary ink tool when out and about, but I did not find it listed in your equipment. Do you use this pen and, if so, how do you find it working for you? I am inclined to get the 1.1mm stub, though the F or EF are my every day writing nibs. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.


Hi beachwalker,

My apologies for not responding sooner but I didn't receive the usual email notification that anyone had left a post and literally just "stumbled" across your question. :embarrassed_smile:

Yes, I use the TWSBI Mini quite a bit for sketching (FYI, I got the clear so I can keep track of ink levels) and find it a dream to work with. I had intended to hack the nib and combine a vintage flex (as some have done with the 530 and 540) with the piston filler system (which would allow me to use my Platinum Carbon ink for its waterproof qualities). But, sadly, I learned from the folks at TWSBI that the nib/feeder/collar assembly was redesigned for the Mini and now requires the use of tools for full disassembly if you wish to avoid damaging the mechanism. :o

So, till I can find someone to perform the mod (or the folks at TWSBI team up with the folks at Manuscript/D. Leonardt or Brause to offer us a steel flex nib option :cloud9: ) my carry will include the TWSBI, my vintage Pelikan 120 for a little flex with the Platinum ink, and my Eversharp Symphony for dream-like flex with regular inks.

Oh, FYI I've been "test driving" a TWSBI 1.5mm stub semi-flex custom mod for my blog. The results should be posted soon.

Cheers! :thumbup:
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#7 inky_artist

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:03

I'm a huge fan of Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.

On the one hand, I'm happy to learn of the upcoming Zeta series of journals.

On the other hand, I find that the existing S&B Epsilon series of journals plays just fine with fountain pens. Maybe the new Zeta line will be even better, but it'd have to be an improvement from "extremely good" to "excellent." Not exactly a great leap forward, so much as a short step.

No, what I'd have preferred would have been an Epsilon with lined pages. (Or, I suppose, a Zeta journal, with lined pages.) Now that would've been sweet.

Admittedly, lined pages make the journal somewhat less attractive when it comes to drawing. But I suspect that a very significant percentage of people who keep journals seldom draw illustrations - and that most of those illustrations are usually little more than quick, utilitarian sketches. (No, not everyone. Just "a very significant percentage of people.")

Well, whatever.

But any suggestions as to how I might put lines on the pages of a Stillman & Birn journal? Like, anyone know where I could score an inexpensive rubber stamp, maybe 5.5 x 8.5" (or 8.5 x 11") in size, with which to stamp lines onto the page?

Oh, and beachwalker - I'm NO expert, but I'd suspect you needn't worry too much about wearing out your Pelikan by using it to sketch. Pens are meant to be used. It'd take a lot of sketching (probably on rather abrasive/"toothy" paper) to wear it out. I know that back in the olden days, many people used fountain pens to write pages and pages, each and every day, often on less than ideally smooth paper, and their Pelikan fountain pens didn't wear out even after years of such use. I suspect that by the time you've worn out your Pelikan, you'll have already spent so much money on the mountain of sketch pads you'll have gone through, that the cost of a new pen will seem like a minor additional expense.

Like I say, I'm no expert, and I'm not talking from experience (as I've never owned an M215, nor sketched extensively with one of my fountain pens). But that's my guess.

'Course, if you simply want to buy a TWSBI Mini - or something else, simply for variety - that's fine and more power to you.
--
Michael


Hi Michael,

Just to clarify, the new Zeta Series will give artists the paper weight/watercolor handling properties of S&B's "extra heavy weight" Beta & Delta Series and the fountain pen-friendly (I.e., less abrasive) Plate surface of the Epsilon.

Regarding a line to guide your handwriting, if I may suggest; take the stiff cardboard sleeve that is wrapped around the front cover of the S&B sketchbook, cut it horizontally just beneath the series name at the top and the words "bound in the United States" at the bottom (being careful to cut perpendicular to the vertical edges), then place this card inside the cover. Next time you write in your journal slip the short side of this card into the gutter of the page and you have an instant line guide. It's very likely that you will find -- holding the card in close proximity to your writing and within your peripheral vision (but not in contact with your nib) will be just the thing to keep your writing horizontal. (A little "trick of the trade" from someone who draws and writes in a sketchbook/journal every day... and who generally likes to keep the writing horizontal too. :thumbup: )
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#8 inky_artist

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:21

Thanks for your note of confidence. I suspect that my concern is about harm to the Pelican rather than wearing out. I do a fair amount of sketching while out and about and the Pelican is my primary journal pen and preferred writing instrument - I think of it as something other than a tool to be used in my field work, perhaps dropping it inadvertently, or loosing it, or...well, it's more of a friend than a tool, and my dad did teach me respect for tools. I've picked up a couple of Ahabs and a Noodler's Conrad, but find them more suited for working at home, where fussing with them is easier than, say, in a coffee shop when they begin to skip or start to write dryer than wanted - nice pens but, for me, kind of finicky (I'm still learning how to adjust the nib, etc). I'd rather like to observe than be observed. I was hoping to get a TWSBI mini to fill the gap - or as you note, have more justification but not really the need for a new toy, er, tool. (Besides, who want to sketch with a writing ink, say a nice blue/black when there are some great sepias,etc?)
Thanks, John


John, that makes perfect sense to me. I based my decision to buy the TWSBI Mini on my experience as artist-in-residence with the North Cascades National Park Service -- 10 weeks in one of the most beautiful, and most isolated places (50 miles from the nearest highway, grocery store, or fountain pen repair facility). The TWSBI Mini is rugged, reliable, easy to maintain, and half the price of even the cheapest Pelikan.
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#9 12345Michael54321

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:27

Thanks for the information, Inky_Artist.

I've almost filled my current journal, and have pretty much made up my mind to make my next one an S&B Epsilon hardbound. Probably the 8.5 x 11" version. I know the S&B line is carried at the local Plaza art supply store, and probably at Utrecht, as well.

#10 beachwalker

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 04:56

John, that makes perfect sense to me. I based my decision to buy the TWSBI Mini on my experience as artist-in-residence with the North Cascades National Park Service -- 10 weeks in one of the most beautiful, and most isolated places (50 miles from the nearest highway, grocery store, or fountain pen repair facility). The TWSBI Mini is rugged, reliable, easy to maintain, and half the price of even the cheapest Pelikan.

Thanks for the response and your earlier note as well. A TWSBI Mini with a fine nib and a 1.1 nib on the side, or some combination, will be a treat for my birthday, and the new S-B pad when available. Happy sketching - hope to do more in the National Parks of the southwest this summer - just can't stay away and may have to find some ink of an appropriate color to take along. Regards, John

#11 ronw

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 02:38

That was a nice, detailed review. I had stumbled on the Zeta paper before I read it; it tends to confirm my own experience with it (although I work strictly with ink). 

 

I had been very happy with Epsilon paper before I ran into Zeta. As you note, the Zeta surface is a sweet one. I like it better than the Epsilon, and am switching most of my drawing to Zeta. I mostly sketch, don't do much finished work, but Zeta really suits sketching in ink.

 

I did a simple drawing on Zeta, then did a similar drawing on Epsilon, to see how the various types of strokes I used worked on each paper. Scans of the two sketches are below (at 50% pixel count, which is still larger than life-size), with a side-by-side comparison of similar areas of the two drawings at 100% pixel count.

 

Pen: Danitrio Takumi with soft XXF nib

Ink: J. Herbin Café de Îles

 

Here are the things of note I found in comparing the two:

 

* Zeta gives me a wider dynamic range - I can get both thinner and thicker lines using the same pen on each. I rely on line width a lot. The Danitrio was carefully tuned to go from extremely fine hairlines to a reasonably wide, firm line, and this range is expanded on the Zeta paper compared to everything else. The highlight lines and frame in the ski goggles show this.

 

* It's a little smoother than the Epsilon, which means that I don't 'ride up' on the paper texture when using extremely light pressure or fast speeds. When I do go with an extremely light tough, the way the line breaks down in better-looking, at least by my preferences. The lightest lines in the hair show this.

 

* It may be subjective (I did the Zeta drawing first; the copy was a little less confident as to line), but the Zeta drawings look a bit crisper to me. I think this has to do with the line edges, rather than the drawing quality, but it's subtle enough that I've qualified myself on this. :-)

 

The price-per-sheet is obviously much higher in the Zeta line, but the differences are enough for me to be willing to pay for the difference.

 

zeta-sample-face.jpg epsilon-sample-face.jpg

 

epsilon-zeta-compare.jpg


Ron Wodaski


wodaski.com

#12 bitterwonder

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 21:52

Thank for the review, i am becoming more emamoured of this line.
I have only used the extra heavy weight and heavy weight.

These are done at the B&B Carousell in Coney Island with a Platinum 3776 music nib, water brush and Sakura solid pigment (white). Stillman & Birne heavy weight paper.

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