Blotting paper is one of those tools that you'll likely never have heard about unless you're into fountain pens. For many beginners, blotting paper can be one of those tools that can change your writing life, opening up your world!
What is Blotting Paper?
Essentially, blotting paper is just absorbent paper that takes up the excess ink that your fountain pen lays down, so you can continue writing if you need to turn the page or handle what you just wrote with your hands. It saves you time so you don't have to wait until the ink dries on the page.
You can use blotting paper just with your hands, but it can be hard to keep from smearing. It's much easier to use a rocking blotter, like the Herbin one (there are others, this is just what I have on hand):
What is a Rocking Blotter?
The rocking blotter is simple, it holds the blotting paper and you just rock it back and forth over your wet writing, which soaks up the excess ink and allows you to then handle the paper without smearing ink.
The concept is straightforward, you have a rounded base with a plate on the back to hold the blotting paper onto it, and a handle with a threaded rod holds the plate onto the base. Like so:
Blotters are something that have been around for a really long time, and were a common tool for anyone writing, say, 150 years ago. But in today's world where most hand writing is done with ballpoint and rollerball pens, the concept of waiting for liquid ink to dry on a page is a foreign concept to new fountain pen users.
If you don't have a blotter, no big deal. Just allow some extra time for your ink to dry on the page and you'll be all set. But if you're writing something thoughtful and you don't want to break the flow of your writing, a blotter can help you to stay 'in the zone' and keep you going without having to wait for your ink to dry.
You don't have to use blotting paper in a rocker blotter, there are other uses for it. One thing I like to do is cut it to fit a small carry-around notebook I use, and when I'm writing something in the notebooks, I can just shut it and know that the ink won't go over to the other page. This works great in planners, too.
J. Herbin Blotting Paper
The J. Herbin blotting paper is good stuff, but there's other blotting paper out there. I have to be honest and say I'm not 100% sure what is the difference between one blotting paper over another. I've heard of people getting some from their local printers (if there is one local to you), but the Herbin stuff is made and distributed specifically for fountain pen use.
It comes in both pink and white sheets, but there's no difference between the two other than color. Both colors are available in full sheets (7.5"x4.75") in packs of 10. These sheets can be cut down into 4 strips to fit the Herbin Rocking Blotter, giving you 40 sheets for your blotter. The pink ones are available in a pack of 10 pre-cut sheets to fit the Herbin rocking blotter (the same thing that comes already on the blotter), they're more expensive this way, but convenient.
How Long Does It Last?
This is going to depend on your use, so my answer is, until you change it ;) Seriously though, you can use the same piece of blotting paper over and over and over again, well beyond when the sheet becomes covered in ink spots. My rule is, I change it when it no longer absorbs ink, which is a while. Pretty much, a pack of blotting paper will last you until you lose it.
Hopefully, this has helped you educate you a bit on blotting paper.