One of the major issues for a fountain pen user is the constant quest for quality paper. Some time ago, the online pen community discovered, to their delight, a hitherto unkown paper: Tomoe River (pronounced toe · moe ´ eh).
Manufactured by one of the largest Japanese paper companies, Tomoegawa, this paper is very un-Japanese in character. Where the Japanese paper traditionally always has one smooth and one rough side, Tomoe River is like a Western paper: completely smooth on both sides. Sensually smooth. Originally intended for use in mail-outs and large catalogues, it is a 52g/m2 paper, but with a very low bulk, much like what we would see in Bible paper.
What thrills fountain pen users, however, is in it’s sizing. Referring to a chemical treatment received by most papers, sizing determines how absorbent the paper will be. In the case of pen ink, we absolutely do not want it to bleed through the page, or feather out along it’s lines. Tomoe River is astoundingly ink-proof. Even the wettest line stays crisp and clean, although it takes longer to dry.
It’s low bulk also means that a notebook made with Tomoe River paper is quite dense. In terms of page count, a journal the same size as the famous Moleskin notebook will pack in twice as many pages.
Unfortunately, it is only available in Japan, and can only be ordered from a few sources. Add to that the difficulty of dealing with another culture, a foreign language, and overseas shipping, and getting this paper can be quite a daunting task.
When the topic came up at the regular Toronto fountain pen “meet-up”, it was a case of jump in and do it, or do without it. So I checked my brain at the door (not put in so many words by my dear wife, but close), I volunteered to co-ordinate the buy. Fortunately a group buy had been done a few months earlier, and one of the group was happy to pass on his contacts and experience.
The boring part was the buy itself, involving multiple emails, screwed up orders, and several Paypal transactions. The bottom line? A three week wait, and 8.3¢ per sheet. Finally the paper came and, having just spent an evening doing the fun part (re-packaging the paper), I thought I would share some photos of the process.
The box, slightly the worse for wear, in all it’s 60 pounds of glory. Bright yellow tape shows that customs has both confirmed that they have collected their 13%, and that no baby orangutans were nefariously hidden inside.
Enclosures hawking the latest paper products and their uses were inside, to tempt all Kanji-literate customers in attendance.
Inside, four paper-wrapped packages of paper, each 2,000 sheets. Of the four, only one was pristine. The worst was, of course, the one which was certified baby-sea-turtle free, then stuffed haphazardly back in place. Fortunately the outer box was a perfect fit, so there was minimal sliding about during the short hop from the Gateway mail processing plant to our house.
This paper is thin enough that it is easily damaged. But even though some of the packages had torn, we only had about 60 sheets that were harmed. I’ll keep those as part of my lot, as binding them into notebooks means a fair bit of trimming waste. The damaged bits will simply be part of the trimming loss.
So what to do with four giant piles of paper? Most in the group have ordered in 500-sheet quantities, so it must be accurately divided. A scale would be a good choice, but the only one I have going into the fractions of a gram required measures about two inches square. However, math is our friend, and so are our fingers, which can detect differences of thousandths of an inch.
One 1,000-sheet ream can be split easily into two exact piles, side by side. And simply running your fingers over the two piles tells you instantly if they are the same. (Well, fine. There may be a variance of about 5 sheets. I’m not going to count 8,000 sheets of the skinniest paper you have ever seen for the sake of a couple of sheets!)
Pretty soon we have stacks of 500 sheets, and a couple of 1,000 sheets for the truly ambitious writers among us. But how to safely store, and transport, the paper?
My initial idea was to sandwich the paper between two legal-sized manila folders. This worked, but not too well.
Too much sloppiness for my tastes. This paper has to get hauled to a meet-up or two, probably by streetcar. It also needs to be stored, both here and at it’s final homes. Remember how fragile it is?
Then, and epiphany!
Out comes the paper cutter. The tabs are cut off for a tighter fit all around, and the ends are trimmed to more closely fit the A4-sized paper.
Much better! A tight fit means minimal wrinkles, no rain-drops, and easier storage.
And soon we have neat bundles, ready for delivery. Even the 1,000-sheet packages fit snugly and safely into the folders, one of which will even end up in the United Arab Emirates.
The eagle-eyed amongst us will note that there is still one package in the background. I’m out of elastics, so the two remaining packages, for Dennis and myself, will have to wait one more day.
It’s always fun to play with paper, and Tomoe River makes it even more of a joy. Somehow I think this won’t be the last Tomoegawa hears from us…
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