I have been casually interested in paper and pens and notebooks for decades. However, since getting more involved in the community, it is clear that there is a major disruption in the force – namely the change to the most beloved fountain pen paper – Tomoe River paper. For those of you who are not uber geeks and who rightly have other much more important things to worry about (state of the world, democracy, freedom, environment, etc), the company that makes Tomoe River paper recently made some changes to their machinery and, well, Tomoe paper has changed. Some may not care. Others may not even notice the difference, but for those who make their living drawing or painting and/or have developed a close personal or professional relationship with this medium, it matters.
I am a casual user, so for me this issue is more of an academic one. It won’t affect my life in a real way, regardless. But then again, maybe that makes me one of the few objective people out there? Don’t know, but that is what I will tell myself.
I was recently send a sample of the new Tomoe River paper by David at Nanami Paper. If you don’t know Nanami, you should. In my opinion, he produces the best day in day out Japanese paper notebooks anywhere. He takes pride in what he produces and sells and I feel fortunate to know about his website (very utilitarian) and products (same). He offered to send me a sample of the new paper, and from that I am producing this review – comparing his new Cafe A6 notebook against my older Nanami 5th Edition Crossfield A5.
Process – On two days with different weather conditions I used a sample of 5 Fountain Pens, a roller ball, a gel pen, and three pencils on both types of paper. I was looking for:
- Feel of the paper,
- Texture or “toothiness”,
- Drying times,
- Shadowing, and
- Overall impressions.
Feel of the Paper: The new Tomoe feels slightly more substantial and more solid. The older Tomoe was famous for having a crinkle feel with a slight sheen. The newer paper has lost a tad bit of the sheen and a tad bit of the tissue like feel. For some this is a drawback, for others it may be a plus. For me, I like the older feel for the paper so this is a slight demerit. -.5
Texture/Toothiness: The new Tomoe paper has more bite to it overall. This was true regardless of which pen or pencil I used. I found that for the smoother pens I own, this was a real plus. I dislike when a pen flies across the page and I like a little feedback. So with certain pens, medium nib and flexibles this was a plus. For my fine nib pens and ones that are not quite so smooth, the bite was noticeable and provided more feedback that I was used to. I suspect this will be fine once I get more time in, but off the start it was a little unwelcome. For writing with pencils, I like the bite and it leaves a more solid, darker line. I am not an artist, so can’t way how this might effect someone who sketches a lot, but for me it was a plus. Overall, minor downsides, some upsides. +.5
Sound: The new paper is louder. Goes hand in hand with having more texture and feedback. For things like a roller ball or gel pen, this is not an issue. For pencils and for fountain pens, it was noticeable. The smoother the nib, the quieter the pen. I like the sound. once I disaggregated the sound from the texture question, I viewed this as a plus. +.5
Drying: The new paper absorbs paper slightly more quickly and drying time is slightly faster. I was not hyper-scientific about it, but it might be a 5-10% faster drying time. This will be a plus for any reasonable person. +.5
Shadowing: The new paper shows through slightly less across the board. It also does not dimple or crease as easily as the older paper. ON the one hand, this is a plus since it makes it easier to use front and back of a paper. On the other hand, I like the texture and creases so personally, this is a draw.
Disclaimer: I do not use many inks with shading or multiple colors. As someone who does not, I am not experienced or expert enough to lay out whether the new paper is better or worse or different in showing shadings and tones. As such, I decided not to include them. Others may surely have things here to add.
Overall: I like consistency and I liked the old Tomoe paper. It was something I looked forward to using. From a utilitarian point of view, the new paper is superior. It will hold up better, does not show through as much, has more texture and feedback and will lead me to use more of my pens on the paper. However, I miss the crinkle feel of the older paper. On a subjective level, I have to say the change is not one I wanted and not one I am excited about on a personal level, and so the result here is a slight ding. -.5
Official, non-scientific but over analyzed score to make it seem really objective:
Final Verdict: I liked the old paper. I still like the feel of the old paper to my hand, but the differences are very subtle and anyone who happens to have stumbled onto a TRP notebook will not know the difference. If you really dig into it, there are differences and your will notice – especially of the medium is a key part of your profession or hobby. Overall, I came in with a bias against the new paper that is not justified. Different, yes. Things I will miss, you bet. Is the new paper bad? No. The new paper has real attributes and performs well. It works, has pluses and I will use it. I won’t be enthusiastic about it in the way I was before, but that may say more about me and less about the paper. If that makes any sense?
Disclaimer: I was provided a free A6 notebook from Nanami which I used to produce this review/comparison.