Laid... or wove?

by Amanda Fleet

No, I'm not going to wander off into declining the verb to lay... or discuss why weave changes to wove... I'm talking paper here.

A laid paper is a type of paper which has fine ridges on its surface, historically produced during manufacture. Originally, laid paper was made by hand in large vats. Wove paper has a uniform surface and no texture or watermark.

The differences were a result of the manufacturing processes. During production, the wires in the paper-making moulds ran in parallel for laid paper (producing the ridges), but were woven into a fine mesh for wove paper (giving the uniform surface). Until the mid-eighteenth century, all paper was laid. According to Wikipedia, about 99% of paper made today is wove, made on a paper machine with a wove wire base. The picture below shows a laid paper on top of a wove paper.

Yes, yes, all terribly interesting, but why am I going on about it?

Well, there are certainly many in this world who love a laid paper. You may already have some laid paper and not realise it. The paper in the Life notebooks is laid, and G. Lalo make writing paper that's laid (including the paper stocked on Nero's Notes). The paper in the Bomo Art correspondence sets is also laid.

But, there are also quite a number of people who hate laid paper!

So, which is better? Laid or wove?

Seriously? You're asking a stationery lover that? That's like asking a parent which is their favourite child (while the children are there).

I don't think either is 'better' - they each have their own characteristics.

Laid paper

The most obvious characteristic of laid paper is the ridges, as you can see in the picture above (apologies for the grubby ruler!). It's also usually a higher weight paper. The ridges can be what people adore, and also what others hate! Laid paper is often thought of as higher quality, and notebooks or writing sets that use laid paper are at the higher end of the market. It's also often used by artists for charcoal drawings.

The paper is thick and has a stiff feel to it. It's noisy when you unfold a letter written on laid paper - it crinkles and reminds you that this is a paper not to be trifled with. As well as looking beautiful, it sounds great and it feels great, with the ridges on its surface. It's a multi-sensory experience!

So why do some people not like a laid paper?

Well, if you use a fountain pen, the ridges can make for a bumpy-write, and if you use a stub nib or italic nib, it can snag quite significantly on the ridges. I tend to write with a stub nib and find laid paper a bit of challenge. Also, for some reason, although one of my (non-stub nib) fountain pens really likes laid paper and doesn't snag, the nib seems to dry up as I write and has to get dunked in water periodically.

Of course, if you don't use a fountain pen, none of this matters. I've written perfectly happily with a needle-point roller ball on laid paper and the texture of the paper seems to slow me down and help me to write (a little) more neatly. I personally can't bear to write with a biro, but if you do, laid paper is fine. If you have one of those dinky embossers for your name and address, they give an amazing effect on laid paper as the ridges are more compressible than wove paper.

Wove paper

Most paper made today is wove paper. It has a smooth texture and can be a variety of weights from super-thin, to as heavy as laid paper (and heavier). The vast majority (if not all) of your notebooks/diaries/printer paper etc. will be made of wove paper. Consequently, it's a little harder to do pros and cons, as there are as many different qualities of wove paper as there are notebooks and bottles of ink in my cupboard (hint... that's a LOT!). While some people love Field Notes or Leuchtturm notebooks, just as many others won't, and the reasons they'll give could range from the paper not being fountain pen friendly, to the paper having too much texture for them... (we are a fickle lot!). Conversely, some fountain pen users find that some papers are too smooth and the ink takes too long to dry. Those preferring to use pencil will like a very different surface finish to those using a 1.5 mm stub nib fountain pen. That said, I find the paper in the Poach My Lobster notebooks a great paper for fountain pen and pencil.

But you'll have been brought up on wove paper (even if you didn't know that was what it was), so why don't you give some laid paper a whirl? I know a man who stocks it... You could start with some of the G. Lalo Verge do France writing sets and send someone a letter they'll treasure forever. They come in white or cream, A4 or A5. Or try out a Life notebook.

You never know, you could be a convert!