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 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.
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.
DO NOT RECOMMEND
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.