Ask The Desk: The One Pen, Jotter Hacks & A5 Notebook


Portia asks:

If you could only use one fountain pen, what would it be? I’ve never had one before, but I also don’t need another expensive hobby/collection, so I’d like to stick to just one purchase. I really like a smooth feel to my writing (so gels and ballpoints over felt tips!) if that matters.

Okay, here’s my answer but please leave your answer in the comments!

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

I’d have to say if I had to pick just one fountain pen that had a comparable experience to a gel pen, I’d probably pick a Pilot Metropolitan/Retro Pop with a F nib. They are super smooth writers and the fine nib is comparable to the 0.5mm or finer gel tips depending on the paper stock and ink. The M nib is closer to an 0.5-0.7mm gel tip, if you prefer a wider point.

You can get a converter for them which will give you an unending array of ink options as well. The Metropolitan/Retro Pop is not an expensive pen either so you won’t have invested too much into a new hobby and can put extra funds towards inks instead.

David asks:

I’m looking for a good A5 sized notebook/journal just for note taking and doodling. Nothing too serious :-). Just random thoughts and ideas as they come to me. I tend to write with ballpoints and pencils as I’m terrible at loosing pens so don’t usually buy anything more expensive than that. Which brings me to my question. Do you know if there are any decent A5 journals out there that come with pen loops/holders on them? Is this very common? Or do most people think this kind of thing is a bit intrusive which is why you tend not to see it so much.

The solution to your pen loop problem is the Leuchtturm adhesive pen loop. Depending on your locale, Bureau Direct, Cult Pens and Goulet Pens all stock this genius little add-on. I adhere one into the back of my notebooks and they work brilliantly. I’ve yet to try to remove one and they have not fallen off either so the adhesive seems good.

Leuchtturm Pen Loop

This opens up your options for an A5 notebook to a wider variety based on whether you prefer soft or hardcover books, lined, graph or blank paper. Actually, Leuchtturm1917 makes wonderful A5 sized notebooks in softcover and hardcover with lined, graph, dot grid or blank paper with numbered pages and an index. The paper is good quality and they pack a lot of sheets into each book. Most people consider them to be a step up, quality-wise from a Moleskine and the Leuchtturm1917 books are genuinely A5 sized. I reviewed the neon green edition here. Rhodia webnotebooks are higher quality notebooks with paper suitable for fountain pens but the books are pricier as well. If you stick to non-fountain pens, it may be more than you need. There are reviews of the Rhodia webnotebook in blank, dot grid and the Rhodiarama edition available for more details.

And last, Bill had a question about refills:

I do have a question about the Schmidt P8126 Capless Rollerball in the Parker Style refill section. Form the images I have seen of the refill it doe not seem to have the toothed cap on top like a standard Parker ballpoint refill. Do you know if the Schmidt P8126 will still work in a click pen like a Parker Jotter?

Sadly, the Schmidt P8126 will not work with the Parker Jotter. It turns out the P8126 is slightly too wide to fit into the Jotter barrel. Also, because of the flat cone shape of the refill, even boring out the barrel, the refill would not fit into the tapered end of the pen. Total pen hack fail.

But, I did find a possible alternative: The Kaweco Sport G2 Rollerball refill. It’s available in blue or black as a medium but I tested it out and its not super wide. Monteverde makes Parker-style gel refills in fine point in a variety of colors which might also be an option.

At the end of my written review of the Parker Jotter, I swapped out the regular ballpoint ink with the Monteverde gel ink fine point in blue black if you want to see how it performs. Its not a thorough review but at least its a peek. I write pretty small too.

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7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. The fountain pen question is definitely so subjective. The Metro is such a good choice for most people though – absolute quality with such an affordable price.

    I find myself going for my really inexpensive Parker Jotter (gold stainless steel one) a lot too. It’s a nice little pen for when I find the Pilot too heavy and I’ve heard it’s very good for trying out some iron gall inks.

  2. On the A5 notebook, if number of pages isn’t an issue, check out Mark’s at Jet Pens. It has a cover with a zip opening. If you put a phone in it, you can operate the phone through the plastic cover. It’s $16 but refillable with other brands of thin notebooks.

    I got mine at where they are $10 with different covers. At that site they also have the Field Notes Dry Transfer set.

  3. For the Jotter, the Moleskine gel refill is the best. Monteverde has a variety of colors, but the ink flow can be unreliable.

  4. Hi Anna,

    As for the fountain pen that I would use, if only having the choice of one, I would have to say the Pelikan Stola. I found it to be a very smooth writer and I didn’t experience any hard starts or skips.

    I too would have chosen the Pilot Metropolitan however, I prefer the look of the Stola over the Metropolitan. Just my own taste, the Metropolitan is good too.

    I think that the Stolas’ steel nib may be a tiny bit smoother, also. I do love Pelikan nibs.

    Some drawbacks are that you can only get the pen with a medium nib. (For me- not a deal breaker) I believe it only comes in one color…brushed steel.

    The pen is a bargin at its low price point.

  5. It’s a little bit pricey, but the Blackwing Slate journal has a built in pencil loop (small pens would work, but anything much thicker than a pencil is going to be a trick to get in and out). It’s a great looking journal and has pretty good, but not great, paper as far as fountain pens are concerned.

  6. Portia, If I had to choose just one pen it would be the Lamy Al-Star, I love the aluminum body, big choice of colors, and nibs from extra fine to 1.9 mm stub. The clip slides on to my pen case very easily. My second choice is the Faber Castell Loom, also aluminum, broad clip and a really smooth writer. Good luck in your search. Sarah

    1. I agree with your view of the Lamy. I was not interested in this brand until I tried one and now I’m hooked. I didn’t think I would like it, but the contouring of the grip makes my writing look better because It keeps my fingers positioned properly and I find there is lest fatigue in my wrist.

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