Pens and pads and tools of the trade

I have found a few older posts on the topic of pens and steno pads, but thought I’d start this new thread to see what folks are using and perhaps renew some recommendations for newbies like myself.

Although I am a fountain pen aficionado, I have found that there are some ballpoints and gel pens that seem to work best for my practice.  These include the Uniball Signo Ultra Micro 207 (.38 mm), the Uniball Jetstream .38 mm ballpoint, and the Morning Glory Mach 3 roller ball, again in .38 mm.  All of these pens are very smooth writers and fit my taste for extra fine tips/nibs.  For fountain pens, I have some old Esterbrooks with the 1555, 2555, and 9555 nibs that work well and are pretty easy to come by.  These nibs are all “Gregg” nibs, but the 1550 and 9550 nibs also work well.  I also have an old Wahl “Gregg” pen and, honestly, it was that pen and not knowing what the Gregg cap meant that led me to discover Gregg shorthand in the first place.  So, that pen is special to me in my journey to learn shorthand.  

What I am looking for is recommendations on steno pads and any advice would be appreciated.  I have picked up a bundle at my local Sam’s Club, but the quality isn’t that good.  They’re fine for practice, I guess, but the paper tends to bleed pretty badly, especially with fountain pens.  I also found a Rediform pad at my office that has light green paper that I really like and it tends to do much better with the fountain pen ink.  I’ll probably chase down some more of these for use as I progress.

Anyway, I thought I would share these thoughts and, again, would appreciate any other recommendations, especially on pads. 

Thank you.


Previous post:
Next post:
11 comments Add yours
  1. I'm using various types of ballpoints and gel ink pens. In the past, I've used Pilot G2 pens but never got a good consistent line out of them for shorthand, which is user rather than pen error. I started using a FP that I got at an estate sale, but the nib seemed too finicky for shorthand, as it had been used to the previous writer's longhand, but I'm waiting on a new FP to see if that will lighten my touch somewhat.

    As far as paper, I'm using whatever Walmart or Dollar General sells at this point.

  2. These days, I'm using a Pilot G2 extra fine. However, I still haven't found the perfect paper/pen combination. Even with the extra fine point in the G2, sometimes the ink flow is not even. However, they are fun to write with. I have many Gregg Shorthand fountain pens, but haven't used them in a long while.

    As for pads, I don't use thick notebooks (more than 80 pages) because I find them uncomfortable if placed on a table. I also like the one-column reporter notebooks.

  3. I purchased and tried out a Lamy fountain pen, just to see what they were like but did not enjoy the experience. I continue to be the heretic who sticks with a Papermate PhD Ultra (that would be a mechanical pencil). I will, on occasion, use the G2 gel pen I keep in my pocket, but only when the pencil is not readily available. There is just something about writing with lead that feels better to me than ink, having nothing to do with being erasable (maybe it's because it doesn't stain my left hand when I drag it across the words…)

    For steno books, I tend to stick with Ampad 25-270 (green tint, 60 sheets), but only because the cardboard cover matters to me. I have to order them through Staples online since the store only carries the ones with the plastic-y covers now.

  4. For the reasons you noted above, I find I seldom use steno pads with two exceptions, neither of which is inexpensive: Levenger's Circa line prints Gregg-ruled steno paper which is yummy to write on with fountain pens; and the Field Notes Steno Book is also lovely when using a fountain pen. Mostly, I use shorthand for journaling, and have found the lined Rhodia Webnotebook size 5-1/2" x 8-1/4" to be "Gregg-Ruled" and the paper is made for fountain pens. The smaller-sized Webnotebook rule seems just slightly narrower.

  5. I still prefer to use a Bic Round Stic pen, medium point but will write with anything other than a regular pencil. (The blunter the point gets, the larger one must write to make distinctions.) I find the Bic the most comfortable to hold, the ink flow is great, the ink doesn't have to dry as it would with a fountain pen, and the line is fine enough without scraping along like a finer point always does.

    I'm probably the only person still purchasing Gregg-ruled steno pads from my local Staples.

    And, yes, for those who care, I'm still trying to get back to 150. I'm stuck in the "vocabulary rut" as it was called, around 130. . . .

  6. If you are looking for fountain pens on a budget, I would go with pilot. I highly recomend the the Petit Mini, the Penmenship, the Plumix, and the Metropolitan. The nibs are interchangeable between the latter three, and I don't really like the caps on the Penmenship and Plumix. All of them write better than a Lamy Safari. JetPens is the source I use for them. I use the cartridges the come with and then refill them with Noodler's Ink using a syringe. I am just starting to do Gregg's, so I am not sure how they work with shorthand, but they are the smoothest writing instrument I have found for longhand. I always have Petit Mini in my pocket.

    1. I should add the Penmanship writes at about 0.3mm, and with light pressure can write thinner. (It is what I use to take notes on PowerPoints printed four to a sheet.)

  7. What sort of pen would one use to get the variation in line thickness that you see in Mr Rader's work in the Notehand textbook? I wonder if he was using a fountain pen with a very fine italic nib. I imagine one could get the same effect with a calligraphy marker such as Speedball's Elegantwriter but you'd have to write huge, poster-sized text.

  8. Does anyone have any experience with TOPS "Docket Gold Classified" steno pads? Some on-line reviews say that they stand up better to gel inks and fountain pen inks, probably because they use a much heavier paper (~75 gsm) than most Gregg-ruled pads.

    1. I used them a while ago, but didn't like them because they were too thick (100 pages), so they were uncomfortable for me to write on a desk. Maybe if they come up with an 80 sheet version, I would reconsider using them. The paper is good though.

Leave a Reply