Art Supply Posse Ep. 13 Back To School

This week on Art Supply Posse we talk about back-to-school rituals, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and do a little follow-up about the A-word. It’s not our most art supply-centric episode – we’ll be back in our 1-subject notebooks next week. Also, we had a little recording issue so if the sound quality is a little off, that’s why. Our apologies, just grab your sketch tools and doodle through the episode and you won’t notice a thing!

Link Love: Write It, Sketch It, Ink It, Plan It, Then Photograph It




Paper & Notebooks:

Planners & Organizers:

Art & Art Supplies:

Other Interesting Things:

Housekeeping: Keeping My Head Above The Rising Ink

housekeepingJust wanted to post a quick “housekeeping” post to let you know what’s going on around here.

First, I added some new links in the Guide Sheets to some other awesome resources from Leigh Reyes and Ink Journal. GO now and check them out! I plan on adding more guide sheet options in the future but Leigh and Tom have created so cool things that are definitely worth trying out.

Next, I reclaimed my mini GorillaPod from Bob so I’m hoping to add some videos to Instagram in the coming weeks. I’ll try to remember to post them here too but you may want to make sure you’re following me on Instagram to see any videos, stories and pen show silliness as it happens.

Finally, I know I am WAY behind on product reviews but have faith, as soon as I’m back from San Francisco there will be an avalanche of reviews. I have a metric ton of inks to review, about a gross of pencils, some fountain pens (both my own and loaners), some notebooks and sketchbooks and many Ask The Desk questions queued up to be answered. I have not forgotten, I’ve just gotten behind on EVERYTHING from laundry to work to life itself. So, don’t despair. I’ll get back to a more regular schedule in the next couple weeks.

If you have any questions, Ask The Desk topics or things you’re dying for my to review ASAP, drop me a line at chair (at) wellappointeddesk (dot) com and I’ll put them on the top of my list.

Ask The Desk: Karas Kustoms RETRAKT/Cross Selectip Hack


My favorite pen is the superb Cross Selectip rollerball. Sadly, all but two of the Cross pens that take this refill (and I’ve got a BUNCH) require you to uncap it to use it. Only the diminutive Cross Click, which is too small for my hand, and the Cross Edge, which I find impossible to open with one hand, operates without a cap. I’m looking for a pocket pen I can operate with one hand – either push-button or twist – that takes the Cross Selectip rollerball refill. Does anyone else make one? Thanks, Gary

The new Ti Arto Kickstater project from Big Idea Design claims to accommodate 200+ refills would be perfect but it, too, is a capped pen. So, I turn to the Karas Kustoms RETRAKT and a little refill hacking to solve your problem. The RETRAKT is available in aluminum and brass and is a wider barrel pen body, comparable in width to a Sharpie permanent marker so should feel quite substantial in the hand. I use and aluminum barrel version which is weighty but can be opened and closed with one hand. My husband has a heavier model with a brass grip section if you want something even more substantial. Prices for the RETRAKT start at $55.


When you purchase a Cross Selectip rollerball refill, it comes with a little plastic cap. Keep this! It is the key to my little hack. Though I suspect a rubber band or string could be used as an alternative. I cut the wide part off and used about 1/8″ or 3mm of the plastic sheath as a spacer between the base of the refill and spring to provide a bit more length to the refill barrel for the spring to travel along. I also needed to shave a little bit of the nubs off the blue cap in order to fit into the barrel of the RETRAKT. You might find a little more plastic is better (or a little less) but there is more than enough left from the cap to experiment a bit.


This last photo shows the Cross Selectip rollerball refill fully extended, with my little plastic mod and the spring inside. Voila! As Tom at Goldspot Pens likes to tease, I’ll hack any pen and any refill.


DC Pen Show Goodies Round-Up & SF Pen Show Prep


I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to finally be able to write up the “haul” part of the DC Supershow post. I really didn’t buy a lot of stuff in DC. Amazingly, it was mostly inks and paper. I still came home with a ton of goodies!




Swag & Misc. Goodies:

  • Aurora Pocket Notebook
  • Aurora Pen Nib Paper Clip
  • MurberDraws Printed M&Ms
  • Fountain Pen Day Button
  • Fountain Pen Day Bookmark
  • Pen Addict Button
  • Music Note Tea Spoon Infuser

Not Pictured: Robert Oster Aqua Ink (I left it at work) that I bought from Federalist Pens and my Cross Century II Selectip Rollerball which was laser engraved with “The Well-Appointed Desk” by Goldspot Pens that took a walk at the KC Comic Con last week. It was a lovely shade of supersuit blue too.

Thanks to all my friends who brought me treats and goodies and everyone who brought treats and goodies to Brad, Lisa, Father Kyle and Matt as well which were graciously shared amongst us all throughout the weekend. The doughnuts were particularly amazing!

I’ve started the “packing” part for the San Francisco International Pen Show. It’s all happening so fast! I will be hopping on a jet plane (or two) on Thursday morning and heading to San Francisco for the SF Pen Show this weekend. I’ll be attending the Pen Addict Meetup on Friday Night (7-9pm) and helping out the Anderson Pens table on Saturday but this trip will be mostly leisurely. Since I’m working on Saturday, I’ll miss the Planner Meet-Up on Saturday afternoon so I hope someone attends and takes lots of pictures. I would love to see what everyone is using. Or at least, bring your planner, Traveler’s Notebook or Bullet Journal to the bar later so I can live vicariously later. I’ll be checking in with the Pen Addict Slack Pen Show thread so feel free to PM me there or earburn me if you’re looking for a doodle buddy at the bar.

I’m bringing what’s left of my red/blue pencils to SF, so if you would like one, find me at the Blogger Meet-Up on Friday and say “weirdo” to score one. I don’t have a ton left so find me early to get one.

On Sunday, Amanda McKay is hosting a letter writing social which sounds fun. And Michael Sull will be teaching Spencerian Script. If you have the time and the chance, take his classes. He’s amazing. You can find the whole seminar schedule here.

My shopping plans for SF are not extensive. There are a few vintage pens I’d like to look for and I’d like to play with the ink testing station. This year the ink testing station will have 686 inks to try! But mostly, I’m looking forward to meeting people and spending time with like minded people. It really does make the miles and the long hours or work that I put in worth it.

Leave a note in the comments if you’ll be at the show and let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to bring for you to check out.

Also, if you would like anything from my shop to be hand delivered place your order before Wednesday at 10pm CST and use the SFPICKUP for free shipping thanks to my luggage (fingers crossed that SWAir gets me and my bag to SF in a timely fashion).

PS: My suitcase will also be transporting other artistic awesomeness for the pen show so be prepared!

Some items were gifts. Other items were purchased with my own money. Links are provided to vendors where they were either purchased or from whom they were provided (when available) as a courtesy should you want to purchase them yourself. When I do more extensive reviews I will be more specific as to which items were purchased and which were gifts. Mostly, I just wanted to show all my fun stuff.

Fashionable Friday: Back To School 2016


Whether you’re going back to school or you’re just nostalgic for a fresh bunch of sharpened pencils and a new backpack, maybe a few of these items will get you into the mood to slam a locker door and complain about fourth period geometry and Mr. Miller.

  • Foot Traffic Pencil Knee High Socks $9 (via Amazon)
  • Kaweco Student Fountain Pen in Yellow € 47,50 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Tombow 2558 Pencil in HB $1 (via JetPens)
  • Teach for America T-Shirt $39.50 (via J.Crew)
  • Montblanc Golden Yellow Ink Bottle 30ml $17 (via Pen Boutique)
  • Everyday Notebook Set in Warm Colours $12.00 CAD (via Uppercase)
  • Seoul Laptop Bag in Sailor Blue $79.99 (via Kipling USA)
  • Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Matte Medium Point Fountain Pen with Medium Nib $148 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Monteverde Tool 60 Ballpoint Pens in Platinum Grey $32 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Custom Circle Monogram Wax Seal Stamp $59.95 AUD (via Kustom Haus)
  • Akkerman #01 Passage Blauw Fountain Pen Ink (60ml Bottle) $29 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Mitsubishi No. 850 Colored Pencils (set of 24) $22 (via Fresh Stock Japan)

Kickstarter: Ti Arto – The Ultimate Refill Friendly Pen

The new Big Idea Design Ti Arto Kickstarter project features the most ambitious Ti pen yet. This one will allow for over 200 different refills without any hacks or tip wiggle. How could I not support a project like this? So, if you, like me have a favorite refill or six, then this is a pen you’ll need to add to your collection. One titanium pen is $65 when backed through Kickstarter and there is still more than 30 days left in the campaign to get in on the project. They have already exceeded their goal about 20 times over so its pretty safe to say this project is a go. Its also the twelfth Big Idea Design Kickstarter project so these guys know what they’re doing in terms of meeting deadlines and shipping requirements.

I had the pleasure of meeting Chadwick Parker (half of the Big Idea Design team) in Chicago this spring and he is as passionate about pens and craftsmanship in person as he appears in the video so I am delighted to back this project myself. That’s right, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

So I’m looking forward to having one of these pens in hand and putting the 200+ refill claim to the test — and you know I will.

Good luck to Big Idea Design on their newest venture and congrats to them on creating another amazing looking project. I’m so excited to try it out. Will you?

Link Love: Lefties, DC and a Bigger Box

rp_link-anaLinks of the Week:
Ink honor of Left-Hander’s Day, this week’s Links of the Week are left-handed-centric. Feel the lefty-love!




Paper & Notebooks:

Planners & Organizers:

DC Pen Show Recaps, Reviews and Commentary:

Other Interesting Things:

Ask The Desk: Left-Handed Pen Questions


Sean asks:

I have never owned a fountain pen before and I want to know which is a good medium priced ($30 or so?) pen that won’t require a lot of maintenance and easy to master.

At the $30 or lower price point, I would probably recommend a Pilot Metropolitan or a Kaweco Sport with an extra fine or  fine nib to start with (Jet Pens stocks a wide array of these). The Pilot nibs are going to be finer overall, even with the same marking on them, so if you know you prefer a wider point but would like to try the Pilot Metropolitan, I recommend starting with a medium nib. The Kaweco Sports are smaller, pocket pens but the nibs are statistically excellent for the price point and are screw-in so if you find you like the experience but would like a wider or narrower nib, a replacement nib unit is about $10-$15.

Monteverde has some good (and a good deal heavier and larger pens) below $50 that might appeal to you. Check on Goulet Pens as they stock a good assortment of Monteverde.

Pilot, Kaweco and Monteverde all use cartridges or converters that make them easy to fill and clean.

Overall, I find that most fountain pens that have smooth grip areas are left-handed compatible. The biggest issues tend to relate to writing hand position and whether you are inclined to smudge ink. Then the issues can be resolved with quicker drying inks like Noodlers Bernanke line or a finer nib that lays down less ink as you write. Paper stock can affect this as well. Rhodia is great paper for fountain pens as the ink does not bleed or feather but it can often increase dry time. Leuchtturm1917 paper is a good alternative. Most ink dries fairly quickly on Leuchtturm paper and has minimal show through and bleed through.

You may want to check out the article I wrote for The Cramped about fountain pens for lefties and the article I wrote for On Fountain Pens about my favorite fountain pens for lefties.

I received an email from Anurag asking about left-handed writers and flex nib pens.

I just found your website recently and its great! I notice that your a lefty. Have you tried any flex pens yet? I am hesitant on buying a flex pen due to this being a very new hobby for me.  I’m a lefty over-writer( very similar to your style) and would love to hear about your experience. Thanks!

The key to writing with a flex pen is being able to make wide down strokes and thin upstrokes to get the look we are most accustomed to seeing. Unfortunately, if you overwrite, this is not going to work with a flex pen if you are writing left to right. So you have a couple of options. You can learn to flex write from below the baseline, or underwrite. Its hard but this is the technique I’ve learned as its the most natural adaptation and easiest to expand to other types of calligraphy.

Master Penman John DiCollibus demonstrates some various angles for holding a flexible dip pen in this video which might help in showing some options to help you in getting started with flex nibs.

There are lots of other videos on YouTube showing how other left-handed calligraphers overcome our inconveniences of writing in the same direction that the English/Roman languages are written so its definitely worth exploring to see how others tackle the problem.

If you happen to make it to a pen show in the US, Deborah Basel is often teaching calligraphy workshops and is an excellent left-handed calligrapher and a fabulous resource. I highly recommend seeking out her classes.

Matt Vergotis, a left-handed calligrapher, relies more heavily on a brush pen rather than flex nibs that allow him to come at his work from the side rather than the top. Felt-tip brush pens are a bit more forgiving than flex nibs and can give some similar results with thicks and thins. You might want to check out some of his videos on YouTube or on Instagram. You might also consider enrolling in his lettering class on SkillShare where he shares a lot of his left-handed tips.

Happy Lefthanders Day!


Happy Lefthanders Day! I thought I’d celebrate this weekend with a few posts specific to left handers that I’ve had queued up for awhile. So, all you lefties out there, this weekend is for you! Whether you hook when you write (also called overwriting like President Obama, pictured below) or write from below the baseline in a more neutral hand position like previous US Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Yes! Five out of the last seven US Presidents were left-handed! Amazing.

U.S. President Barack Obama signs his first act as president, a proclamation, after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES)
U.S. President Barack Obama signs his first act as president, a proclamation, after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES)


Fashionable Friday: Travel Edition


I confess I spent the better part of what little free time I had in DC (at breakfast, on the train, at the airport, etc) trying to figure out how to post this Fashionable Friday via my iPad. Let’s just say that the technology has not come far enough to allow me to accomplish the task to my satisfaction without being able to use pretty fancy photo editing tools AND then bounce back and forth between typing and copying and pasting copious links in order for all you lovely folks to be able to purchase or at least browse the items shown.

Keeping in mind, I had nothing but an original iPad Mini with no external keyboard (because I couldn’t find mine before I left). So, I know I need to upgrade my iPad soon but according to MacRumors’ Buying Guide, I should wait to upgrade all my Apple gear until after the September announcement. And according to the Trib, there won’t be a new MacBook Pro until 2017. Why do you hate me, Apple?

Sorry, I got way off Fashionable Friday topic there for a moment! Here’s my travel edition of Fashionable Friday, finally. I photographed it with iPhone, with all my favorite travel goodies spread out on the floor of the airport terminal while I waited for my flight, which was delayed by two hours. I would have used my “good camera” but I wanted it included in the shot.

  • Olympus PEN E-P2 (2010 model) 12.3MP with 17mm f2.8 pancake lens $488 (via Amazon)
  • Anitbacterial Moist Wipes Individually Wrapped 30-pack $3.69 (via CVS)
  • Pilot Foam Eraser $1.65 (via Jet Pens)
  • Clinique Different Lip Color in Angel Red $17 (via Clinique)
  • Dux Brass Sharpener with Leather Case $22 (via C.W. Pencils)
  • Lookout 3-Pen Holster $25 (via NockCo)
  • Platinum Carbon Desk Pen $9.60 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Seven Color Rainbow Pencil $1.60 (via C.W. Pencils)
  • Exacompta Forum Refillable Journal in Turquoise Club Leatherette $24.50 (via JetPens)
  • Blackwing Volumes #56 Dozen for $24.95 (via
  • Lamy Scala Fountain Pen in BlueBlack – colorway longer available though others are starting at €85 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Cross Century Ltd. Black Gingham $39.95 with Switch-It 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil converter refill $8.50 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Pacifica Roll-On Perfume in Island Vanilla $12 (via Ulta)
  • Caran d’Ache Sketcher Non-Repro Blue Pencil Pack of 2 for $5.95 (via Jet Pens)
  • Uni Signo Broad Opaque White Gel Pen $2.50 (via Jet Pens)
  • Zebra Sarasa Dry Gel 0.4 mm Pen with Black Ink in Soft Blue body $2.55 (via Jet Pens)

Ask The Desk: Notebooks (TN, XL and A5 Filo)


Matt writes:

Dear desk, My question is: I own two travelers Midori journals. One is the regular size while the other is the passport sized one. I am currently using the passport sized one for planning and bullet journaling/taking random notes in. I am not sure what to use the regular sized one for at this point. I was thinking as a daily journal. Any suggestions? P.S. — Do you use these too? Thank you. Matthew


The great thing about Traveler’s notebooks is that they can be used as you need them. So if you find that most of your needs are being served by the passport-sized cover right now, you can put aside the regular-sized one for awhile. However, I found that I loved the size of the regular sized Traveler’s notebook, even though it seems a little unusual. They are particularly good for journaling and traveloguing. I ended up using mine for planning too and the smaller sizes for note-taking and randomness. I don’t think I provided much clarity but the flexibility is the key to Traveler’s notebooks and the ability to use small booklets means you can try one method for awhile and see what works best for you. I’m excited to try my newest inserts, the Ink Journal with the Currently Inked card and the Inky Fingers Currently Inked Journal to help me keep track of what inks are in which pens.

Thomas asks:

I start law school in a few weeks, and I’m looking for a nice notebook to use for class notes. I just moved into my first house, and found my notes from undergraduate and and a masters program. They’re spread across lots of spiral notebooks that are looking as ratty as ever. I know that my notes for law school will be even more important, so I’d like to make sure they have a good home. In reading through your reviews, it seems most of the notebooks you look at are the A5 size–I carry (and love) a Moleskine A5 for meeting notes, ideas, and to-do lists–but for class notes I need something bigger, in the neighborhood of 8×10 or 8.5×11. I really like the classic look of Moleskine, but was also intrigued by the hardcovers from Baron Fig–only to be dismayed to find that they don’t make a larger version. So I’m wondering if you have a sense of who makes lined books that are little bigger, and that are affordable enough that I can buy a dozen or so over time without taking out a second mortgage. I’m also left handed, so that means that smearing is my worst enemy. I write everyday with a Uniball Vision Needle pen, which usually dries very quickly for me, but sometimes it has trouble on the Moleskine paper. And if anyone has done enough paper tests, its you! I would be extremely grateful for any thoughts you might have. Thanks for your time! Cheers, -Thomas


The first notebook I thought of was the Leuchtturm1917 Master series (A4 measures 9″ x 12.5″ – 225 x 315 mm – 121 pages in the Slim and 223 in the standard Master), which I suspect might be second mortgage requiring at around $27 per book for the Slim and $30 for the regular Master. Jenni Bick stocks both in a variety of colors and all the paper configurations (plain, ruled, graph or dot grid). The paper quality is good and the books hold up well but they are pricey.

So, I went digging for other options.

Still a bit pricey, the Blackwing Luxury Large Soft Cover Notebook (7.5 x 10) offers 160 pages of 100 gsm paper in plain, lined or graph and will fit into the Blackwing Large Folio. European Paper sells the books for $21.95 each but offers volume discount pricing so if you decide this is the notebook for you, you might save a few pennies ordering in bulk.

The Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks are available in 8×12″ size in either staplebound booklets with 38 sheets ($4.79) or gluebound with 90 sheets ($8.35) from Dick Blick. Its smooth 85gsm soft white paper that should work well with your Uniball Vision and available in lined or dot gird. The covers are cardstock, however, so its not as durable as a hardcover notebook but definitely easier on the wallet.

If anyone has other A4-ish sized notebook recommendations for Thomas, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Emily asks:

I’m looking for an A5 notebook that comes pre-punched with filofax-esque holes. I would like to use my A5 filo as the “home” for all the notes I take in meetings without actually taking my filo with me to meetings. Ideally it would also have perforated pages. Am I asking too much of the notebook world for such a thing? Thanks!!!

I have not seen any A5 notebooks that are pre-punched with holes for Filofax and that’s most distressing! I noticed that Michael’s was stocking pre-punched Personal-sized paper (not perforated) recently for their Recollections “Creative Year” planner lines but not A5. They had a custom larger-sized binder with four holes. So odd and unhelpful.

Readers, if you can help Emily, please leave a note in the comments. Thanks!

Podcast: Art Supply Posse Ep. 10

tri-tones-1A little bit worse from the road wear, Heather and I are back for the final installment of our series on colored pencils this week on Art Supply Posse. I almost couldn’t remember where I was! I was so tired last night! We cover a little news and follow-up, do our drawing for our first giveaway, yawn a couple times and talk about the colored pencil weirdos — the misfits, and the ones that defy category. I like all colored pencils, even the weirdos.

Hope you like the episode and next week we promise to be awake and ready to discuss the heady topic: calling yourself an artist. If you have a comment or question or your own story, please let us know. We’d love to share it on the episode. Thanks!

Link Love: Kaweco Interviews & DC Recaps




Notebooks & Paper:

Art Supplies:

Other Interesting Things:

DC Pen Show Recap


Row 1:

Row 2:

Row 3:

Once again, I was so busy chatting and working at the DC Pen Show that I hardly took any photos at all so I had to scavenge through the Instagram #DCPenShow2016 hashtag to find all the photos of the show. I hope no one minds that I shared their photos here.

The DC Show was as epic as everyone promised it would be and I met so many people. It was such an amazing experience. I got to meet people I’ve talked to online, made new friends and saw familiar faces from other shows as well. Everyone was incredibly nice, both new collectors and seasoned veterans which made the whole event even better.

Selling ink for the Vanness Pen Shop is an education for me every time I have the opportunity to do it. I love seeing what colors and brands people are drawn to purchasing and what will sell out first. I also learn so much about inks myself and get smarter about them each show — getting better at color matching and putting them on a spectrum from wettest to driest.

The evenings were spent hanging out in the bar or at the ink sampling table visiting with friends and making new ones. The Fountain Pen Day Blogger Meet-Up was a blast on Friday and we packed the room beyond fire code (shh, don’t tell!).

I was, as expected, exhausted by the end of the weekend as was everyone else but the whole trip was worth it. I didn’t buy much, just a few bottles of ink, some paper and one pen but I’ll share those in a future post. I just wanted to share a few pictures and some happy thoughts and let you all know I’m back among the living and already planning for San Francisco.

Ink Review: KWZ Grapefruit

KWZ Grapefruit Ink

As indicated by the absolute fervor around the Vanness Pens table at the DC Pen Show, KWZ inks are very popular. The inks are from Poland and are available in a wide range of colors from subtle to brilliant. I reviewed Menthol Green after the Chicago Show which I really liked and now I’ve got KWZ Grapefruit to share with you.

KWZ Grapefruit Ink

I think Grapefruit is a perfect end-of-summer color. At first, I thought it going to more pinky but it ended up being a much more orangey color. It’s bright a vivid and shades a bit to a lovely sunset yellow-orange.

KWZ Grapefruit Ink comparison swabs

I compared it to swatches I had in my stash of Noodler’s Dragon Napalm and Habanero which are much more yellow-orange than KWZ Grapefruit. Surprisingly, Waterman Red, which turns out to be a very warm red, was closer in hue to Grapefruit than the more deep orangey colors in my swatch libraries.

I hope you enjoy the color and the cocktail recipes. I’m thought it was an appropriate way to share this fun, summery color.

A 60ml bottle of KWZ Grapefruit is $12, 4ml sample is available for $2.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Vanness Pen Shop for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Crate Subscription Service: July 2016 Crate

Ink Crate July 2016

After the end of the Goulet Ink Sample subscription service, Ink Drop, I know a lot of people, myself included had been missing a little monthly ink infusion. Well, thankfully, someone stepped up to take up the reigns of the ink sampling empire. Ink Crate is a new ink sample subscription service created to be the successor to the gap left in our hearts and our ink cabinets by the closing of Ink Drop. Luke Dolan launched the service in July and it offers five bottles of 2ml of ink in each of its signature “crates” each month.

Ink Crate July 2016

The inks provided in the first kit was a nice variety of what I suspect were favorites. J. Herbin Lie de The, Noodler’s Army Green, Noodler’s Dragon’s Napalm, Pilot Iroshizuku Amo Iro,  and Diamine Majestic Purple. The kit included an extra milliliter of one or two of the ink colors randomly added as a bonus to some subscribers.

Ink Crate July 2016

Its a good variety of colors and a great start to the Ink Crate subscription. If you haven’t subscribed to an ink sampling service, this would be a great chance to get started. I do hope that future kits will be seasonally or subject-matter themed just because I enjoy that. Theming kits by topics like autumn colors in September or October, document or permanent inks for a month, maybe fluorescent or shading inks, etc. But starting off with a solid range of appealing colors was a good approach. These are all great options.

Hopefully, in the future, there is also either a partnership with a specific shop or some other way to purchase full bottles of ink should someone love a particular color. Even just recommendations for best sources to acquire different brands.

The last component of the subscription is the option to fill out a survey for the next month to help select colors. I haven’t had a chance to fill out my survey yet but I’m looking forward to putting my suggestions into the proper channels.

Ink Crate July 2016

An Ink Crate subscription costs $10 per month plus shipping (update: $3.99 worldwide at the moment). For readers of The Desk, you are lucky! You can use a special $2 off coupon on your first month by using the code: WELLAPPOINTEDDESK. Coupon code is valid until September 22nd, 2016 so you’ll need to sign up soon.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Ink Crate for the purpose of review. I am, however, now a paying subscriber! Please see the About page for more details.

Link Love: Pencil Diversity, DC Pen Show & Click Bait!

Link artwork by Chris Grine, illustrator of the web comic Wicked Crispy.
Link artwork by Chris Grine, illustrator of the web comic Wicked Crispy.

Posts of the Week:

Its been a week of hot-button discussions surrounding the next editions of the Blackwing Volumes and the hopes that women and minorities might be represented in future editions. That said, I suspect that the next edition is well through production already so if Blackwing has not addressed folks concerns about gender and ethnic diversity yet, I’m sure its on their radar now. So, I hope everyone puts the torches away for the time being. I am sure that all the Volumes editions have been done with the best intentions and the fact that collectors are so passionate about having all their heroes represented will only ignite Blackwing to be even more conscientious in the future about making sure that they, too, represent a diverse cultural group while continuing to meet our exceedingly high expectations for good quality products. In the meantime, check out some of the suggestions for future Volumes from the Erasable gents and others in the pencil community:



Notebooks & Paper:

Planners & Organizers:

Art Supplies:

Other Interesting Things:

Podcast-apalooza: Art Supply Posse #9 & Pen Addict #216


You get a double dose of me this week!

Art Supply Posse gets all wet with watercolor pencils and I kept it to an hour this time. You’re welcome. Heather and I even have our first giveaway thanks to one of our kind listeners. The Art Supply Posse is a real thing!

Then hop on over to Pen Addict Podcast, which I know you already listen to, and Myke, Brad and I gab about the DC Pen Show madness and Nixon Field Notes and Cronky/Crotchety/Crappity/Scribbly Pen-thing. Yeah, its back.

Podcast party time! Queue theme music…

Notebook Review: Story Supply Co. Working Artists’ Series Mike Hawthorne Edition

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

Story Supply Co. released their first Working Artist Series Sketchbook — The Mike Hawthorne Edition this month and its notable for a lot of reasons. First, the 2-pack volume is an oversized booklet at 5.25″x 7.5″ inches. Its also filled with thicker 70# Cougar natural smooth paper. Third, the covers are wraparound illustrations by the awesomely talented Marvel Comics artist, Mike Hawthorne and feature two unique storied illustrations on the covers. On one is characters prepared to go into battle and the other, the same characters celebrating symbolic of the phases of creativity. Oh, and the last… its costs just $14 for the pack.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

The covers are printed on a classic 100# kraft stock and Mike signed and dated the covers in white pen as this series is limited to 5000 packs. Sales of each of these packs allows one sketchbook to be donated to a young artist in York, PA with his or her own story to be told.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

On the inside covers, Mike included his tutorials on how to draw a face. I used the steps to draw my own face. Not quite up to Mike’s graceful line quality but the tutorial is a classic that any fledgling artist should try.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I tested out a lot of different tools on the paper which is super smooth. Brush pens, markers, fineliners and pencils seem best suited to the paper. I definitely treated it like a sketchbook on these tests using materials I’d use for drawing. In other words, I totally forgot to test out my arsenal of fountain pens! But I will put some photos on Instagram later with some fountain pen tests soon.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I could certainly apply watercolor but the paper was not really designed for it as it did cause the paper to curl quite a bit. I used the Sailor Fude fountain pen to create the pattern along the side and my Platinum Maki-e for the lettering and neither feathered, Both pens dried quickly as well.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

From the reverse, there was a little showthrough but minimal. I do stuff like this to purposely test paper limitations. You can clearly see ho much the watercolor curled the paper so I wouldn’t have wanted to draw on the reverse of this page anyway. My instinct is to recommend using watercolor pencils to add color with a semi-dry waterbrush or using watercolor markers if you want to add color to black line art on this paper. I think the effects would be pretty good with a lot less curl. Plus, colored pencil looks great on this smooth stock.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I really enjoyed using this paper for mark making. I’ve been playing with patterns and the smoothness of the paper lends itself to a black pen, pencil, colored pencils. Its definitely smoother paper than you’ll find in most commercial sketchbooks so it creates a different experience. The size is perfectly portable and not so large as to be intimidating or overwhelming. Mike’s awesome cover art, however, is a lot to live up to!

Overall, I love this book. I love the size, the heavier weight paper and I love that Story Supply Co. is exploring a working artists series. And as a comic book geek, I love that they are working with Mike Hawthorne. I can’t wait to see who they will work with next. Not to sway Story Supply Co., but I’d love to see them work with a female artist — young girls need heroes too. Keep up the great work!

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Story Supply Co. for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pencil Review: Blackwing Colors Coloring Pencils 12-Color Set

Blackwing Colors

I know there was a lot of hullaballoo about the Blackwing Volumes release this summer of the #56 Joe DiMaggio release. But then just a week or two later, they very quietly released their Blackwing Colors Coloring Pencils collection (set of 12 in presentation box for $19.95) and I couldn’t click the Buy It Now button fast enough.

Blackwing Colors

The set includes 12 colored pencils, produced in Japan. Each pencil is hexagonal and the barrel is completely painted in the color of the lead color (thank you!). The end cap is metallic silver and the logo name is imprinted in metallic silver on each pencil though the color name is not. This no-color-name isn’t a huge issue in a same 12-color set but in low light it can be a bit hard to tell the brown, purple and black pencils apart. Also, it suggests that there aren’t plans for more colors where it might be helpful to clarify between various tones and hues which is a disappointment. But maybe if there is really good feedback and response, other editions will be produced and more colors will be added with names stamped on the pencils for clarity.

From a purely presentation standpoint, these pencils, like all Blackwing products, are flawless. The finish on the pencils is beautiful and silky. The hex shape feels good in the hand. The cedar wood gives them and almost wood chime-like sound when they clink together in my hand. For looks alone, its worth it to have a set of these pencils. They cost the same as a box of Palomino Blackwing 602s, so what are you waiting for? The rest of the review can wait until you place your order…. go on.

Blackwing Colors Comparison

Okay, now that you’ve ordered some, what can you expect in terms of quality? The Blackwing Colors are SOFT, creamy colored pencils. I put these pencils up next to Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolor Premiers and in terms of color and softness, they were right on par. One notable thing about the Blackwing Colors set is that rather than include a white pencil as the last color, they chose to include metallic silver instead. While I find this to be a fun add, if you plan to do any blending, you may want to go out and purchase a white, cream or colorless blender from Prismacolor or Coloursoft to add to your set to help with blending and burnishing.

I did contact Palomino to ask if the pencils were wax- or oil-based colored pencils but I did not get a reply back. Based on this side-by-side comparison with two other wax-based colored pencils, I’d guess that the Blackwing Colors are wax-based but its just a guess. If anyone here’s a definitive, please leave a note in the comments.

As with Prismas and Colorsofts, on textured stocks the Blackwing Colors would wear down quickly because the leads are soft. They did sharpen very easily. I used a Staedtler sharpener which gave a fairly sharp point which is not always recommended for soft colored pencils. I got a little crumbling at the tip because the point was so fine, not unlike an over-sharpened Prisma, but the point of the Blackwing Colors did not break.

Blackwing Colors Comparison Close-Up

I was testing the pencils on Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper which has a bit of tooth to it which is why the paper is still showing through on all the color swatches. Later in the day I switched to testing in my current daily notebook (my new Quo Vadis Forum refillable with blank refill, review soon!) which has very smooth paper which is not normally conducive to pencils and the Blackwing Colors worked great. This was a surprising turn of events for me.

Blackwing Colors Drawing



I wanted to include what the pencils looked like with examples of blending and burnishing so I did some real quick examples this morning and shot them with my iPhone. The colors aren’t as clean as the other images but you can at least see the effects that can be achieved. I used the red and blue pencil to blend and create purple. Then used the red, pink and orange to blend a lovely sunrise effect. And finally, I blended the bright grass green and yellow together to create some lime-y hues.  They all blend well, actually better in person than they look in the photo. And they will also blend well with Prismas, Colorsofts, Derwent Artists and other wax-based pencils. The little bit of smudging you see was from me running my hand over the loose particles rather than blowing them off. The pencils don’t actually smduge.


As for burnishing, I applied a heavy burnishing of white Prismacolor over the background of my drawing and it worked beautifully with the Blackwing Colors creating a more impressionistic look and softening the overall pencil marks. So, the Blackwing Colors are burnish-friendly.

I am absolutely thrilled I purchased the Blackwing Colors colored pencils. They are leaps and bounds better than the Palomino Colors. They are currently only available in the set of 12 so if you burn through one particular color like I seem to be doing with the red and blue pencils, you may want to refer to my Coloursoft and Primsacolor comparisons for open stock replacements. They will certainly not be as pretty a pencil but they are comparable on the inside. Hopefully, Blackwing will get the hint and offer open stock soon as well as more color options. I want turquoise, parma violet and some ochres ASAP!

Ask The Desk: (Ball)Pointed Questions


Hayley asks:

I am looking for a pen as a gift for my step-father’s 60th and I wondered if you might have any ideas please. He is a salesman and carries a ballpoint-ish pen in his jacket pocket. I’m happy to buy a good refill – like a Fisher space or a Schmidt or something – but I could use some ideas for the actual pen. He is a pretty glam guy, he’d be the one in the white dinner jacket when everyone else is wearing black, and he likes brightly coloured shirts but on the classy side, rather than garish. I suspect a nock/click would be most practical for him but a good post or twist would be ok too. I could probably get him something brass or gold but I wondered if you knew of anything a bit more eye-catching please? Thank you!


Hi, Hayley! This is a tough question without a specific price point so I’m going to give you a couple options at a couple price options. My first thought for a ballpoint pen that is classic but available in some options that could be colourful or understated is the Parker Jotter. It can be purchased in shiny stainless steel for a classy, upscale look for about $26 or in simple black plastic barrel with stainless steel clip for $7.95.

Cross offer their classic Century line which features both a ballpoint model which is a twist closure. There is also a rollerball model that features their Selectip option which has a traditional posted cap and allows for a ballpoint, rollerball or felt tip refill. A Century line pen can be purchased starting at about $24 for the black chrome plated ballpoint pen and the most expensive models would be the solid18K gold pen and pencil set for $6350. That one might be a little too pricey. The Cross Century line was updated and modernized into the Century II which is a wider barrel version which is available in ballpoint and rollerball versions as well as a fountain pen. The prices for the Century II start at about $90 for the ballpoint model.

I seem to keep coming back to classic Americana designs. The way you describe your father, it seems those might best suit his tailored, stylish looks. The next pen that came to mind was the Sheaffer 500 ballpoint in chrome ($15). Its a bit wider barrel but still a sleek, tailored look. It is also available in a variety of other colors, including a translucent red or blue with a chrome clip or a more sophisticated black with gold tone hardware ($46.50).

I hope these give you some good options and good luck finding just the right pen!

Susan asks:

Is it possible to get fine point ballpoint refills in a variety of coloured inks for the Hexomatic Retro 51?

The Hexomatic takes a standard Parker-style refill so your options are pretty broad. I’d recommend that you consider the Monteverde refills for Parker which are available in orange, green, purple, turquoise, and pink as well as more common colors like blue, blue/black, black, red and brown. These refills are available in both ceramic ballpoint and soft roll, even a gel-style refill. A wide selection of these refills are available from Refill FinderPen Boutique, and Goldspot Pens.

Pat asks:

I was given a very nice promotional pen from an associate. I do not know who manufactured it. I really like it and would like to use it, however the the rollerball ink cartridge writes very poorly. It is a Schmidt 888F. Can you recommend a better smoother writing alternative that could be used instead?

The Schmidt 888F is a standard G2 Euro Rollerball refill so you have a lot of options to choose from. A lot of folks prefer the Schmidt 8126 and 8127 over the 888F. But you can also use the Pilot G2 or anything else in the list on my Refill guide under the G2/Euro section.

I know that’s sort of vague but you have so many options you can probably just start twisting open pens from around your home and office and you’ll probably find a refill that will fit into the pen that you like pretty quickly. Then you’ll know what you like and can then buy refills accordingly.

Charles asks:

Since I want to try other refills than the standard Retro 51/Schmidt rollerball which 2 or 3 would you recommend to try? I don’t want to hack, simple refill only.

Retro 51s will take a Parker style refill with no modifications. If you are looking for a ballpoint refill and prefer a wider tip or a very fine tip, I recommend the Monteverde Soft Roll refills. If you prefer a gel refill, the Monteverde Gel refills are available in broad and fine and a variety of colors. If you prefer a medium gel refill, Parker makes them in red, blue and black.

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