Paper Review: Apica Premium CD Notebook

 APica Premium CD Blank Notebook

APica Premium CD Blank Notebook

  • Plain, lined, or graph
  • 96 sheets
  • Bright white 
  • Stitched binding, lays flat
  • Squared corners
  • Card stock cover

Over the past 9 months, I’ve been using an Apica Premium CD Notebook as my daily journal. I still love my Traveler’s Notebook, but it’s now dedicated to my writing journal and sketchbook. I didn’t want to stuff a third insert into the TN, so I bought a lined Apica from Goulet Pens.



It’s a joy to write in. Its 96 pages of bright white premium paper are glassy smooth. It is very easy to write on, with no drag whatsoever. This is the closest that you’ll get to knowing just how much friction your pen contributes to the writing experience.The paper itself held up to any ink I put in my Visconti Homo Sapiens (EF nib), with no bleed-through and no show-through. Dry times varied by ink, but were generally comparable to other sized papers - a little on the longer side, but not prohibitive.

The cardstock covers are fairly thick, providing enough protection for me to throw the book into my bag every day, though not enough support to write without a solid surface underneath. The book has stitched binding, and it lays flat without having to force it. Its squared corners have gotten a little rounded from being carried in my bag for the past year, but it’s held up pretty well overall.

My primary complaint is that, at least on the blue cover of the lined notebook, the dye on the cover bleeds like crazy when it gets wet. I can recall two times,l vividly, that I set the notebook down on a wet counter and ended up with blue dye all over the place, including inside the book.

The notebook comes in plain, lined, and graph variants. I own the plain and lined versions. The plain version comes with a gray cover, the lined with a blue cover, and the graph with a red cover. The covers all have silver embossed details, and the spine on all three has black tape covering the stitched binding.

While it’s a little on the pricy side, the Apica Premium CD Notebook is certainly worth the investment if you’re looking for some of the best paper around.

Ink Review: Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts


Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts blue-black ink has become one of my favorites. It is conservative enough to be useful in any situation -- business or personal -- but is still a lovely diversion from a standard blue or black. It flows easily -- it is wet, smooth, and easy to write with. It dries in a reasonable amount of time, and I find the color pleasant and easy to read. It also appears to have a touch of chartreuse to it that blue and black inks don’t typically possess.

It’s highly saturated with low amounts of shading, even in a broad calligraphy pen. In a fine nib, it sometimes exhibits a slightly chalky appearance. It’s also worth pointing out that it smells strongly of solvents. If you are particularly sensitive to odors, you may want to avoid it for that reason, but it has never bothered me.

My complaints, such as they are, are twofold: first, it does not behave in an outstanding fashion on cheap, absorbent paper -- though I typically have the luxury of writing on good paper. Second, it does create a noticeably bold line, due to its wet flow, which doesn’t work as well with my condensed style of writing. I have to write with a looser and larger style in order for my writing to be legible. It turns my EF nib into a M nib. However, it is otherwise such a joy to use that I put up with the inconvenience in order to use it. That says something about my appreciation for this ink.

Dry time is relatively quick, though, as one would expect, it takes longer to dry on smooth, sized paper like Rhodia and Midori (20 seconds) than on cheap copier paper (1 second). It does bleed through and feather heavily on copier paper, but otherwise behaves.


54th Massachusetts is advertised as bulletproof - a marketing term that Noodler’s created to refer to ink that can’t be removed once it has bonded to the fibers in the paper -- so one would expect it to hold up on the water test, and it does. 54th Massachusetts soaks right in to the paper, which means that, on the smear test, where I run a wet finger across the page, absolutely no ink moved.

On the drip test, where I place droplets of water on the page, absolutely no ink lifted off the page. Finally, on the soak test, in which I run the paper under the faucet, the ink stood resolute. Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts lives up to its bulletproof moniker - it's impossible to remove with water alone.


Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts comes in a standard 3 oz. Noodler’s bottle that’s filled to the brim – so be careful when opening. Noodler’s intentionally uses stock bottles and lids to keep their prices low, which means that they aren’t intended to be show pieces in and of themselves. The labels, however, almost always tell their own story.

Nathan Tardiff, the man behind Noodler’s, likes to create labels chock full of meaning. In this case, he chose an illustration of the ink’s namesake, the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry - the first African American regiment organized in the northern states during the Civil War. The regiment was organized in 1863 and, after training, was sent to South Carolina, where it took part in several famous battles, including the Second Battle of Fort Wagner.

The label illustrates the regiment's frontal assault on the fort - a charge that became one of the best known episodes of the war. It was the story of this regiment and their charge on Fort Wagner that was the subject of the film Glory.

All that aside, Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts is one of the best blue-black inks I’ve used. It’s a great value for the money, behaves generally well, and is easy to read. I highly recommend it.

Ink Review: Diamine Ancient Copper

 Diamine Ancient Copper

Diamine Ancient Copper

Diamine Ancient Copper is one of an elite group of inks that seems to be universally respected. It is artistically interesting -- in broad nibs it shades dramatically. It is easy to read, providing sufficient contrast on white and cream colored paper without being hard on the eyes. It is also a very lovely color that one does not often see in ink formulated for fountain pens. Acrylics, oils, metallic markers, yes - but not fountain pen ink.

It also has gravitas of a sort that is not usually present in inks that are not black or blue - a sort of quality that makes one see it and think, “the person that uses this ink must be sophisticated." It’s similar in this way to Diamine’s Oxblood and Damson, red and purple inks that are equally substantive, and are good choices for those with needs that are more traditional, but who tire of black and blue.

In my experience, Diamine ink performs consistently across the different colors of the line: it feathers a bit on absorbent, un-sized paper, and it behaves admirably on coated, ink-resistant paper. Ancient Copper behaved as expected on the six paper types I used to test it: cheap, office copier paper; Staples Bagasse notepad; Rhodia Bloc pad; Midori MD notebook; Canson XL Mixed Media notebook; and Leuchtturm1917 notebook. It took anywhere between one second to dry on copier paper to twenty seconds to dry on Midori paper.

 Diamine Ancient Copper Water Tests

Diamine Ancient Copper Water Tests

Diamine Ancient Copper is not a water resistant ink. It smudges and runs when exposed. In the smear test, in which I run a wet finger across the page, it left a coppery smudgy mess. In the drip test, in which I drip water and then blot it up, much of the ink lifted from the paper. In the soak test, in which I run the page under water, the ink nearly washed away completely. A ghost of the image remains - enough to still read it - but not much else.

 Diamine Ancient Copper Bottle

Diamine Ancient Copper Bottle

Diamine ink is available in 30ml plastic and an 80ml glass bottles, both of which are utilitarian and slightly boring in appearance. The 30ml plastic bottle has a neck that is very small in diameter, and I found that some of my larger pens would not fit all the way in, which made getting to the ink a bit of a challenge. Though you may wish to go with the smaller volume to try out a new color, my recommendation would be to go for the larger bottle due to its superior usability.

Diamine ink is generally a very good value for the price -- similar to Noodler’s Ink. You get a lot for your money and the quality is very high, but one doesn’t buy it for the bottle. To me, Ancient Copper is a no brainer, in the same category as Noodler’s Black or Lamy Blue. It’s a classy, quality ink that looks good in almost every circumstance, behaves well, and is priced competitively.

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. All lines, broad and thin, were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib.

Review: Yak Leather Pen Case


The folks at Pen Boutique were kind enough to send me a sample of the brown, twelve-pen, Yak Leather pen case to review. It’s a new brand to them, and to me, so I thought it was worth taking a look.

The case arrived in a nondescript cardboard box lightly wrapped in tissue paper - enough packaging to keep it safe, but nothing special - and without any accompanying information. It was just the case and a silica gel packet, if I recall correctly, which is unfortunate, because I can’t find any other information on the brand online - so I don’t know if this is actual yak leather or not.

Whatever animal gave its life to protect my pens should be happy with the result, though. The case is nicely constructed and has some thoughtful touches as well as some areas in need of improvement. The red-brown pebbled leather exterior feels good in the hand, though it is hard to tell how thick or durable the leather is without stress testing it. The zipper has loops to allow for a small lock to be used to secure it. The back of the case has a “Yak Leather” logo embossed in the bottom center.


The interior is where I felt there was room for improvement. The pen loops inside are made with the same leather as the exterior, which looks nice, but doesn’t do a great job of holding in pens without using the pen clip. In contrast to the Monteverde pen case I currently use, which has elastic pen loops, it comes up short. Fortunately, it is sized just right that most standard fountain pens will fit without too much rattling around, and it does fit twelve full sized pens perfectly.


The divider that protects one side of the case from the other is affixed with velcro to the middle of the case, which makes it easy to remove. However, the way the velcro is affixed to both the case and the divider mean that no configuration of the two actually feels secure. It’s an obvious design flaw, as if the divider were a last minute addition to the case.


The size of the case is such that it fits into a day bag without issue. I can carry my laptop, my Traveler’s Notebook, and this case easily inside my Saddleback messenger bag, for example.

If you have a small collection; are interested in yak leather; or have a large collection and just need a case for your daily arsenal, then give the Yak Leather pen case a shot.


Dear Readers,

My blog has been ad-free for most of its life. It's been a great creative outlet. However, with two small children running around, I haven't had much time to write for the last three years. But this site still gets a thousand visitors or so per month. My ink reviews are still useful to a lot of people, so, to offset the cost of hosting the site, I've added ads to the right hand side of the page.

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