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Writing Tablet Bleed-Through Battle


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Elsewhere at FPN


jaysongo posted a comparative review of several high end papers. Inspired by that, and in keeping with the thread I started earlier on cheap ink cartridges,


I decided to test some more modest papers. In this thread I will look at paper that is roughly half the size of standard printer paper. Here in the US of A, that means 5X8 and 6X9 inch papers. I tried to test mainly currently available papers near the bottom of the price range -- roughly one US dollar for a pad of 100 sheets. The sample is limited to papers readily available in the US of A in general, and the state of New Hampshire in particular. Where possible I tried to obtain papers from national chains of stores. I use such papers mainly for letter writing and for jotting down notes that would not fill a full-sized page. The smaller pads are also handy to carry around. Later I hope to do the same tests on loose leaf notebook filler paper.

All the papers in this test come as pads with gummed adhesive or a binding at the top that is supposed to let you easily and cleanly tear sheets off one at a time. All are ruled to guide handwriting and the line spacing is what is called "wide" in the US rather than the narrower "college". I will not try to assign the numerical grades jaysongo used but instead will scan both sides of the page so you can see for yourself exactly what happened. To offset the doubling of the number of pages scanned, I will not post a series of tests with ever more inks but will instead use a small number of inks so that there are but two scans of each paper, one for each side.

The Inks

Inks were chosen for a variety of reasons. Something I already had loaded in a pen had an advantage here. I also tried to include a variety of inks with respect to how likely bleed though might be. At one end was Noodler's Anti-feather and the fairly tame Sheaffer Blue. At the other were inks known to bleed such as those from Levengers. Some inks were chosen because they were already loaded in a pen I wanted to use.

Noodler's Anti-Feather for obvious reasons.

Herbin Perle Noire because Herbin inks are so safe you can drink them (and because it was already loaded in my M200).

Pilot Black to match my black 78G which I wanted to include for its broad nib.

Levengers Smokey because Levenger inks have a tendency to bleed and feather.

Slovenian Sheaffer Blue because of its reputation as a "safe" ink.

Thornton purple to match my magenta Hero 395.

Pelikan Lilac to match my Hero 5028 which I wanted to include for its calligraphy nib.

Slovenian Sheaffer Red because of its reputation as a "safe" red ink.

Thornton Red as I was testing this ink at the time and wanted to compare it to the Sheaffer.

Levengers Always Greener because Levenger inks have a tendency to bleed and feather. In the test pages you will see this labeled as Herbin Vert Pre. As it showed more bleed through than any other ink tested, I wondered if there was a mix-up. I did a separate side comparison of these two inks and Diamine Kelly Green and found that it was Always Greener that bled badly. Later I found notes from tests on the pen used here that stated that the pen was loaded with Always Greener. I decided to trust my notes and observations over my memory.

The Pens

Pens were chosen from a similarly wide range. At one end was a Sheaffer that is about XXF. At the other were calligraphy pens broader than a normal "broad." One of those was exceptionally wet as well.

Sheaffer Imperial Lifetime cartridge pen with broad nib for the headings. Sorry, I do not know what is in this for ink. (Anyone remember the USA Sheaffer ink cartridges that had the color printed on the side? A bright idea not copied often enough, and lost on the boat to Slovenia.)

Sheaffer of unknown model but it is styled like the Lifetime Imperial but with a gold plated inlaid steel nib and a brushed chrome finish. This is the finest nib with which I can comfortably write an entire letter so I hoped that would make it resistant to bleeding and feathering.

Pelikan M200 because I figured it would be a well known quantity at FPN. Fine nib.

Pilot 78G with a nib labeled "broad" but which looks and acts like a calligraphy nib. Chosen as a very wide nib.

Parker Beta pens (3) with fine nibs as inexpensive pens you can easily buy if you want to extend or reproduce my tests.

Hero 395 for its fairly flexible nib, chosen to increase variety.

Hero 5028. In contrast with the Pilot, this is sold as a calligraphy pen but writes like a double broad. It is a very wet writer, too, so I thought it would give the papers a real workout.

Hero 50 with about an XF nib, included as something that might be resistant to feathering and bleed through.

Jinhao 599 that had just arrived and I wanted to test it right away. Fine nib.

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Dollar General 5.75X9 inches from Indonesia. Dollar General is a dollar store that I associate with New York State but which has expanded rapidly into New England in recent years.


This paper shows negligible feathering and only the Levenger inks bled through -- Always Greener quite a bit. Even so, you could certainly write legibly if not elegantly on both sides of this paper.




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Smart Office 6X9 inches from Ocean State Job Lot. OSJL is a New England chain that started somewhat like Railroad Salvage with leftover odds and ends and now is somewhere between Family Dollar as a dollar store with above dollar items and the old Ames department store chain that in its day brought discount department stores to towns too small to support a WalMart or K-Mart. The paper is made in China.


Although this paper showed less bleed through than the Dollar General paper, the writing on the other side of the page was more visible. I would rate this paper better for two-sided writing if you use inks that tend to bleed; worse if you use inks that do not.




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Top Flight is a paper company in Chattanooga, TN, USA, right across the street from Miss Griffin's Foot Long Hot Dogs. I think it is a national brand and I know it's been around for years. This is a pad of their 6X9 inch paper that I bought recently in a Market Basket grocery store for $1.29. The paper is made in the US of A.


This paper performed very well with only isolated bleed through with Always Greener. The writing on the front shows through less than the papers above and this could easily be used for writing on both sides.




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The Top Flight pad with a red cover was something I had on hand and I have no idea how old it is. I included it to see how much papers have gone downhill over the years. To my surprise, the newer paper was much better. This performed very similarly to the Smart Office Paper and less well than the other papers above.




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Wexford 6X9 paper from Walgreens. Made in Viet Nam. Sold in packages of two pads of 100 sheets for $2.49. Walgreens is a national drug store chain.


This paper was the best performer of all, so it is fortunate that it is sold by a nationwide chain. There is no bleed through and very little show through, so you could write on both sides. The paper also seems to repel ink so that the pens wrote as though they had narrower nibs. I have heard of dry inks and pens before, but not dry papers!-)




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Summary for 6X9 Inch Tablets


Ranking, starting with the best: Wexford, modern Top Flight, Dollar General, Smart Office, and the ancient Top Flight. That's for bleeding. The Wexford seems to minimize bleed through by limiting ink flow, with the result that all the ink colors were more vivid on the modern Top Flight paper.


I was surprised by how much worse bleeding for Always Greener was than the other inks, especially considering that it was in a fine-nibbed pen. But it showed similar behavior in another pen in tests not shown here. Another surprise was that the two red inks showed up very little on the backs of the pages. Though the Anti-Feather showed through even less, on the front of the page it was very grey and wispy -- so much so as to be hard to read. The Thornton ink was much more legible, and the Sheaffer Red, with a brighter color and wider nib, really jumped out at you, without much increase in bleeding. The Sheaffer Blue bled more than these reds. Finally, the broad and calligraphy nibs were not that much worse than all the others. Feathering, in the form of little hairs on the writing, was rare.


All in all, I was very pleased with the outcome. All the papers were at least usable on one side with any of the inks except Always Greener.


I will take a break now and come back later with results on some 5X8 inch pads. As a preview, I offer this advice: Stick with 6X9;-)

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I don't use composition books and I don't think I have ever seen B5 paper, so I too will have to pass on those.


Tree House Pad and Paper 6X9


I do have one more 6X9 tablet, this one from Dollar Tree. The paper is made in the US of A and the source is Tree House Pad and Paper in California. It does not appear to be a Dollar Tree brand and so may be available elsewhere. The cover is half blue and half black. I won't do a full test or post any pictures because the paper is far inferior to any I have tested above. It's little more than newsprint -- rather like the paper used for grocery store flyers. I am disappointed because Dollar Tree is a national chain.

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Thanks. Also check the one by jaysongo linked at the top of this thread. My first career was in a research and testing lab, and in later years I taught experimental design to college students and I try to practice what I preached here.

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i find the 5x8 Office Depot junior legal pads are good only ofr ballpoints or gels. my pilot parallel soaks thru them.

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5X8 Tablets


In doing my tests I found that I had both 5X8 and 6X9 pads. At first I thought these were two standard sizes. But the 5X8 papers performed so poorly compared to the 6X9s that I now wonder if the 5X8 size is something like the current 11.5 ounce tin of coffee. (For those in places using sane units, the English "pound" in question is normally made up of 16 ounces, but coffee vendors reduced that to 13 and then 11.5 to hide price increases. The odd Dollar General pad at 5.75X9 inches perhaps corresponds to the 13 ounce "pound.)


Another sign of being sub-standard is that the 5X8 pads rarely carried a brand name and were often found in bargain bins. An even stranger finding was that these "bargains" often cost more per page than 6X9 pads, usually because they have half as many sheets per pad. So the example below may be of little interest individually as the products are sometimes old and carry no identifying information. They may, however, be useful as evidence that one should think carefully about buying pads of this size, as the norm seems to be poorer quality for a higher price.


In addition to the scans below I note the post above from Retrouser on another brand of 5X8 and also a pad I did not test that is marked Riverside Resume. This was out working on another project when I did my tests. That project involved some notes written with random fountain pens. Feathering was not extremely bad but everything looked a bit out of focus. Bleed through was intense with most pens and inks.

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Casemate 5X8 from WalMart


This had many problems and a couple of advantages. Ink did not feather in the sense of definite hairs sprouting from the writing, but you can see that two of the Parker Beta fine nibs ended up looking like broads. There was bleed through with all inks except Anti-Feather, but it was slight with the two reds. At times the ink bled through to the next page. A possible advantage is that the colors were unusually vivid on this paper. This might account for the fact that the lines printed on this paper were also very intense.


This paper is bound in pads with the top 3/4" permanently attached to the backing. You tear off individual sheets which are then about 5X7.25 inches. The perforations gave clean tears for me. The price is $0.88 for a package of three pads of 50 sheets each, making this paper quite cheap per page.



Edited by bob_hayden
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Kingsbridge 5X8


Made in US of A. These pads are a pale yellow-green -- a color used in the past because it was thought to be easy on the eyes. In the US, grocery and drug stores often have a small section meant to compete with dollar stores, and these pads look to have been made for that purpose. You get three pads of 25 sheets bound together by adhesive along the top edge. At a dollar, this make these somewhat more expensive per sheet than the 6X9 pads, for a smaller size sheet. Performance was somewhat better than the Casemate pads.



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National Pad and Paper 5X8


Made in US of A. Light blue with blue lines. Packaged as five pads of 25 sheets for $1.99 which makes it cost nearly twice as much per sheet as some of the good performing 6X9 papers. It's performance was excellent with only very slight bleed through with Levengers Always Greener. Highly recommended if you can find it and like the color, or really need 5X8 rather than 6X9.



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Norcom Workforce Basic 5X8


Made in the US of A. Packaged as three 50 sheet pads for about $6, or roughly twice the price per page of 6X9 pads. This paper is bound in pads with the top 3/4" permanently attached to the backing. You tear off individual sheets which are then about 5X7.25 inches. The perforations gave very rough tears for me. In addition, there was lots of bleeding, some reaching the page behind. It is hard to recommend this, the most expensive paper in my tests, when its performance is among the poorest.



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The End


This completes the current round of tests. I may add some more papers if I run across them, but right now I think I probably have a lifetime supply of paper in these sizes. Others are invited to add their experiences and scans for the same sizes. I will now start on loose leaf notebook filler paper that is about the size of standard printer paper which will appear in a thread of its own.


Let me close with a suggestion to those posting scans. In recent weeks there have been a number of times when I used the FPN search tool to try to find a post I was sure was in here somewhere, yet I came up empty handed. Then later and by accident I found the post. Then I learned why the search tool did not. The post consisted only of a scan, with all information written on paper and then scanned. The search tool cannot read the handwriting in scans, so the post was not findable. So, the suggestion is to include a text header in a posted scan that would allow the post to be found. I did that for the pages above, but for purposes of finding things, the header could be much shorter -- in the case at hand, the large font headlines on the 5X8 posts would probably be fine. (I realize folks rarely search for specific brands of writing pads, but they do search for specific pens and inks.)

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