Tools and kit – pens and ink #Writing

If you’re a writer, you have to love proper pens and ink. It’s in the rules. Even if most of your time, and all of your product, is typed. And, these days, even my always-carry-a-notebook is more often OneNote-on-an-iPhone.


But, all of the good stuff, all of the origins, all of the creativity begins on paper. In ink. From a pen.

After years of trial and error, drawers full of pens and a cupboard of opened and abandoned ink bottles, I’ve settled on these.


Great ink is a revelation. Some inks are thin, watery and scratchy. Others are as smooth and soundless as thought.

For the past few years, I’ve been a dedicated fan of J. Herbin inks:

Their standard range comes in 30 different colours. I’ve settled on three:

  • Eclat de Saphir (sapphire shard) for writing
  • Lierre Sauvage (wild ivy) for editing and annotating
  • Rouge Bourgogne (burgundy red) for oops-I-need-to-edit-my-edits

There is just one hitch. Herbin’s traditional bottles, as above are impossible to use, short and squat, with a long, narrow neck and a pointless “pen-rest”. The reason the bottles of blue and green are empty in the picture is because I decant them into more usable ink bottle. That said, it’s a small inconvenience for a great writing experience.


I have some every expensive fountain pens, both new and vintage, but for everyday, work-horse use, nothing beats the Lamy AL-Star.

The design is stylish, contemporary and ergonomic. They are simply great pens with user-friendly features like a window on the ink-reservoir, easy-to-change nibs and a comfortable, contoured grip.

They are remarkably cheap, too, for such a reliable and well-built pen, around £23 for the AL-Star and less than £20 for the Safari (which is the same design, but in plastic rather than aluminium).


Pens and ink. Everyday tools that deserve a little attention.