Fountain Pen Friendly Stenopads

Stenopads have stayed with us long after stenographers turned to specialty keyboards, but their paper has changed dramatically to match the common consumer. Most use highly absorbent paper well suited for ballpoints and gel pens, but the fountain pen user is left remiss. With a little elbow grease and some helpful guidance from users here, I have complied a list of a few products that perform well under even the wettest fountain pens.


Rediform Stenopads

Rediform is my number one pick for serious Gregg fountain pen users looking for professional grade shorthand paper. Ruled in true Gregg with green-tinted paper available in 60 sheet pads for users who don’t like the softness that comes with a thick stenopad or 80 sheets for those who want their stenopad to last longer, it handled a broad nib without the slightest bit of feathering or spread. My inks Heart of Darkness, Old Manhattan, and Bulletproof Black suffered zero fading and had sharp, clean lines. The green-tint is strong and designed to make reading shorthand easier. The price is very reasonable at $4.49 for a single pad or $23.94 for a dozen on Amazon as of this writing.

Portage Stenopads

While I’m ranking Portage second, they are my favorite as a beginner. Their green-tint is much gentler than Rediform, which helps since I’m accustom only to white paper. I had no feathering in my fine and extra fine nibs, but I did had the tiniest amount of feathering in my broad. There was no spread in any nib size and all my lines came off sharp and crisp. It uses Wide Rule spacing (11/32″) instead of true Gregg (1/3″), but the 3% increase is imperceptible to anyone not using a ruler and magnifying glass. The cover is absolutely beautiful, declaring explicitly that it is a professional steonpad with areas to include subject matter and dates for the content of the stenopad as well as name and address if the user wanted the stenopad returned if lost. Its 70 sheets are considerable thicker than Rediform’s despite it only having an additional ten sheets. It has an incredibly sturdy back which would give it an advantage for used while held. Packs of 4 are selling on Amazon for $16.99 presently.


Maruman Mnemosyne N166

I’m including the Mnomosyne N166 despite it glaring deficits (below) because its paper is extremely high-end and uses a much more sturdy double ring binding on top. It feels luxurious in the hand, and it comes at a luxurious price, too, at $12.18 for a single 70-sheet pad. Its sizing is distinctly different from normal stenopads, using A5 (9.06 x 5.83) proportions instead of the traditional 6×9 and 7mm line spacing instead of 1/3″ (8.5mm). The narrower line spacing is certainly not for the beginner, but I wouldn’t describe it as disqualifying either. Its paper color is white and perforated at the top.

Ampad (various styles)

Ampad is undesirably absorbent but not so much as to be a deal-breaker. Anything greater than an Extra Fine nib causes terrible spread, lines don’t come off as sharp or crisp as with Rediform and Portage, and inks tend to lose their intensity on the page. That said, I find Noodler’s Black holds up well on the paper when run through an EF nib, even when other Noodler’s ink lose their color. Ampad’s Gold Fiber series uses really thick paper for those who like that, and they also offer a green-tint version too.


I do not recommend the following brands: Field Notes, Meade, and… the RG-63 from Pengrad. Field Notes is designed to be high-end paper. Everything about them is high quality–even down to the feel of their paper, but don’t be deceived: its paper is extremely absorbent and even Noodler’s X-Feather had extreme spread and feathering on its paper. Meade handles inks surprisingly well, but its paper rubbed right off under the light touch of my fountain pen, creating a clogging hazard. As for the RG-63, I didn’t test it, but I saw its sticker price, and at $88.80 for a dozen pads of paper whose line spacing is greater 1/3″ and includes extra vertical lines not used in Gregg, I find it an unjustifiable expense. The Rediform and Portage stenopads are priced significantly cheaper and the RG-63 gives no reason to think its any better than them either.

I tested a TOPS pad as well, but it failed to distinguish itself in an already crowded field. It wasn’t so bad I would recommend against it, but it wasn’t good enough to go out of my way to buy more either.

I hope this helped, and fountain pen users can rejoice that options are indeed out there if you’re willing to pass over the cheap pads at Walmart and the dollar store for quality products from Redifold and Portage.

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7 comments Add yours
  1. Thanks for this review. Remember that the Pengrad products are for court reporting, and the RGs are not your typical steno notebooks. Those extra vertical lines have a purpose in testimony dictation, as they divide the line into four spaces defining whether what’s being taken down is a question, an answer from a witness, words coming from counsel, or from the judge. In addition, all pages are numbered and the paper is heavy. Since they are targeting a niche market, they are pricey. If you’re not in the need to take down court depositions, then a regular steno book should suffice.

    Interestingly enough, the RG-62 was the notebook recommended in the book “Gregg Shorthand Reporting Course” by Charles Lee Swem. These notebooks used to be available from the Gregg Publishing Company when the company was in existence.

    1. Very interesting. Thank you for your insight and the clarification. Still, at that price point, I feel like Pengrad could afford to still sell the RG-62 rather than straddle the line with the 63.

  2. Thank you for this! This is super helpful for us fountain pen users!! I’m going to try a couple of those out, such as the Rediform and Portage.

    Although I’m a huge Noodler’s fan, another option for the fountain pen user with crummy paper is iron gall ink, such as Diamine’s or Rohrer & Klingner’s iron gall inks. They do require a little more fountain pen maintenance, but then, I’m kind of used to that with Noodler’s most permanent inks anyway.

    Great reviews!

    1. Thank you! I feared there were no fountain pen friendly papers out there when Field Notes failed so spectacularly, but thankfully I was wrong.

      Iron gall inks sound really cool–especially how they change color when exposed to air–but the fear they will dissolve the paper they are written on is too much for me.

  3. The Rediform pads from Amazon have a 5% off coupon at present for the package of 12 pads. So a little less than $2.00 a pad.

    I have several, and don’t need to order any more. But for anyone who thinks they’ll be sticking with Gregg for a while, it would be a smart investment. You never know when companies are going to discontinue products like these.

    I notice that the pads are made in Brazil (at least the ones in the Amazon pictures), and the company is in the Dallas, TX area, just north of where I live!


  4. Absolutely appreciated your reviews and advice on this as I am still new to shorthand. I agree the Maruman Mnemosyne N166 is true luxury (all of their products are!) and that the “Field Notes” brand is nice but “gimmicky”. It is true that not all papers and inks are the same nor made for each other.

    I know for me the “deal-breaker” is whether the steno pad will stand up easily or not. I have found a few floppy and/or difficult to stand-up pads. I do like “good paper” for sure as I have a LOT of pens, inks, brush-pens, etc. I can always find something the paper will work with especially since all of my shorthand at this time is practice work, not paying work. For all the things I use to write in (journal, steno pad, sketchbook, etc.) I always dedicate the last page(s) to testing whatever I intend to use in that item so that I know what it will do in that item/on that paper. It is also handy that it creates a record of all the colors, line widths, etc. already curated in the back. By doing this back to front it ensures I don’t bleed onto my working pages and I will always have enough pages to test anything and everything I may want to use in that item.

    1. You’ll definitely want the Portage stenopad that has a very thick, sturdy back instead of the Rediform, which only has a thin back that can’t support it’s own weight let alone you pushing into it.

      From my experience experimenting with the 7mm ruling of the N166 and other similar products, it is too narrow for speed and honestly for comfort too. Horizontal and downward strokes can still be made effectively, but the vertical strokes of t, d, and ted/ded are significantly affected–there simply isn’t enough room for ted/ded. With long downward strokes such as j, b, and words/brief forms like “judge/charge,” you can accommodate them when you reach that line, but since upward strokes approach a line that is already written, you are forced to write through preceding strokes. This is especially significant for small strokes like “ing/ings” that can be easily covered over. Additionally, creating the dot/dash for “ea” and “ia” is terrible when using 7mm. Even with an EF nib, it is a very tight maneuver that requires a lot of precision. In 8mm, it’s not an issue.

      For writing that doesn’t involve speed such as journaling, I find the extra space of a 8mm journal more comfortable to write in. It’s much easier to write clear, defined outlines. I would say its definitely worth the limited options available in that size line spacing if you journal in shorthand.

      As a side note, I really like your use of a last page for testing your inks for that particular paper. I think I’ll start doing that myself.

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