Link Love: Col-o-ring News & More

Posts of the Week (and a little news):

The Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books received really good feedback at the Arkansas Pen Show in Little Rock this weekend and we are so happy about that. We will have them available for sale on the Well-Appointed Desk Big Cartel site on Saturday this week. We are just getting the shipping sorted out and the inventory nailed down before we list them. At present, they will only be available for US residents only.

We are going to look for ways to make them available in the UK and EU but right now, shipping costs exceed the price of the product with standard domestic shipping. Please don’t be angry with us. Because we are a small business we don’t ship enough to have the volume discounts with the postal service or another carrier to get a better shipping rate. The Col-o-ring books are bulky in size and shape which make them parcels, no matter how we pack them.

So… good news — we start shipping Saturday. Bad news — US only. On with the Link Love.

Pens:

Inks:

Pencils:

Notebooks & Paper:

Letter Writing:

Art & Art Supplies:

Other Interesting Things:

Review: Field Notes Utility Graph & Tom Sachs Notebook

Oh, the hullabaloo around the quality control for the latest release of the Field Notes Colors Edition Utility Graph and Ledger has reached epic proportions. My Graph set had no visible flaws but the lower corners on the Ledger had a bit of a booger on a couple of them.

(Here is where I start my speculation… I did not speak with Field Notes about this and everything here is based on my own personal experience.)

Since I work in the printing industry, I know that stuff like this happens all the time. Ink coverage gets too heavy, things get mis-registered, the blade on the cutter gets dull, the paper is too thick for the folding machine, etc, etc. If the issue is not too severe, inhibit legibility or is not something like someone forgot a plate color (like they forgot the red on the belly band which is integral to the design aesthetic and would give the design team a stress tic) it is often let go by both the printer and the designers/clients in order to meet the deadline or the costs to trash everything and start over would be exponentially cost prohibitive. Not to mention, some of the materials may have been custom ordered and might take several weeks to be reacquired. You crazy people knew down to the minute when the email announcement for shipping of the Colors Edition was going to drop so stopping the print run to fix a booger-y corner and push back shipping by weeks potentially could have created anarchy. Not to mention how much money Field Notes/Coudal already had tied up in this print run. So… that said, let’s talk about the actual notebooks.

The shortfold back cover has also been discussed at great length by a lot of people already but I thought I give you a good photo and my own opinion. It’s short folded by about an 1/8″ and when unfolded it reveals a 5″ ruler on one side and 13cm ruler on the other. Pulling it back a bit from the edge of the rounded corner  gives the edges of the ruler a bit more stability, in my opinion, so that it is less likely to tear at the edges were it to have been flush with the cover and had the full rounded edges. That may or may not have been the reason that Field Notes chose to pull it back from the edge a bit. Maybe that will be one of the questions asked at the RelayCon event in October?

What the pen community has been happy to discuss about the Utility edition is the paper stock. It’s Mohawk Via Vellum 70# text. Fuss buckets will still bemoan that they’d rather just have grid or just have ledger but that’s what meet-ups and the Field Nuts Facebook Group are for. You can trade the ones you don’t want for the ones you do. Field Notes are grown-up trading cards.

I put the 70# Via Vellum through its paces with a variety of daily use pens like Lamy, Franklin-Christoph, Kaweco, Aurora, Sailor and Pilot fountain pens with fine nibs small enough to write on these small graph paper spaces as well as a variety of gel, felt tip and pencils. I didn’t have any issues with feathering, even with some fine italics, a brush pen or a Papermate Flair.

And from the bask side of the paper, there is the lightest bit of show through from the brush pen only. Pretty impressive. So, despite all the fussing about quality control and “What’s with the ruler?”, the 70# paper in the Utility edition meets all the utility standards that the average fountain pen geek has been asking for.

But wait… there’s more.

Bob brought home another notebook for me that bore a striking resemblance to, not just any Field Notes but, to the very similar colored cover Utility. It’s the Tom Sachs “10 Bullets”  Pocket Notebook. The “10 Bullets” comes as a 3-pack and sells for $20. I didn’t know anything about Tom Sachs or the “10 Bullets” prior to receiving the notebook. After a little research, I discovered that Tom Sachs is an artist with a working studio and several people who work for him including, at one time Casey Neistat. The “10 Bullets” appears to be both tongue-in-cheek and a creative statement but bears a striking resemblance to the Utility Edition so I couldn’t avoid talking about it here.

The cover is also Mohawk Via Vellum 80# (216 gsm) in Safety Yellow but on the inside, the Tom Sachs notebook uses Mohawk Superfine Eggshell Utrawhite 24# (30gsm) and uses a “ghost grid pattern licensed from Edward Tufte“. Really? It looks like 0.25″ standard grid to me. The book is slightly larger than a standard Field Notes both in height and width — about a 1/4″ taller and a 1/2” wider. On the cover are ten bullets in black matte foil with a matte white foil or silkscreen.

The inside cover is handwritten in the distinctive Tom Sachs penmanship and black ink.

Inside the back cover is a photocopy of a ruler and a millimeters to decimals conversion chart. They look photocopied like a zine. The last eight pages of the notebook are assorted reference guides including Sach’s 10 Bullets.

Overall, there are 59 pages of grid paper to use in the Sachs notebook so I put one to the test.

Directly across from Sachs’ “10 Bullets” I tested the same pens I used in the Utility notebook. With the wider spaced grid and the lighter weight paper, I ended up needing a page and a half so you get to see the back side of the page and the remainder of the writing samples in one go.

You can see that the type bleeds through in some cases and shows through much more often than it did on the Via Vellum 70# in the Utility notebook. While I like some of Sachs’ artwork, his more ironic “10 Bullets” video and notebook is way too ironic and smarmy, hipster, self-referential, I’m-not-sure-who-he’s-poking-fun-at-here. I get that we are a bit obsessive and ridiculous at times about our notebooks and our particular-ness and I’m okay with that and if he’s making fun of himself as much as us, then great. But somehow, I think it got lost in translation. And in the process, the product is pricey and not very good. If you’re going to make something snooty and self-referential and charge an arm and a leg, make it better than this. I’m glad I didn’t pay for this one. It was a print sample.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Field Notes for the purpose of review. Tom Sachs did not send me their notebook to review. It came to me by chance but I did not pay for it either. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Dingbats* Wildlife Grey Elephant Notebook

I was recently introduced to a notebook company with a pretty long history called Dingbats*. The company was started in the early 19th century in Lebanon and has been passed down to the current great-great grandsons who have brought the business into the 21st century with a very interesting line of products. I got to try out their Elephant notebook in their Wildlife line, an A5+ (6.3×8.5″) with a textured leatherette cover and a debossed elephant in the center of the cover. The notebook has an elastic closure, ribbon bookmark and a gusseted pocket in the back for loose papers. There’s even an elastic pen loop that was stretchy enough to fit my Aurora Optima though it was a bit of a tight squeeze.

The end papers have a paw print pattern printed on a butter yellow color stock. There is a place for your personal information of the inside front page in case of loss. I like that the note at the bottom just says “please return to me” rather than Moleskine’s reward line. Its much altruistic.

Inside, the paper is 100gsm cream, acid-free, FSC-certified paper with a total of 96 sheets or 192 pages. I received a dot grid notebook and the dots are spaced at 5mm. The dots are printed in grey and are smaller than the dots in my Baron Fig notebooks but the grey is a shade or two darker. There are also grid, lined and blank paper options available if dot gird is not your catnip.

Every single page is micro-perforated as well. I didn’t notice the micro perforations at first until I was flipping to the last few pages where most notebooks include a few pages with micro-perf. Then I flipped through and noticed that all the pages were perfed. With very careful folding along the perforation, I was able to cleanly remove a page from the middle of the book.

The sewn binding allows the notebook to lay flat with no issues. Easy peasy. I almost forgot to mention it because, to me, with a bound notebook, this should be a no-brainer and should only be mentioned when notebooks don’t lay flat. But lat’s all cheer that the Dingbats* notebook does its job beautifully.

The Dingbats* notebook completely lived up to its claim that it was fountain-pen friendly. I had no issues with my daily carry fine and extra-fine nib fountain pens. I also tested an assortment felt tip pens, pencils and whatever I had laying around to get a varied perspective. Everything performed well, dried in a resonable amount of time and had no feathering issues. I, on the other hand, had some unique spelling issues today. No judgement. I must have been particularly tired.

From the back of my ink testing page, there was almost no show through at all and even the beefy Plumchester 1.5 brush pen had little show through.

When my husband saw the Dingbats* notebook, he really liked it as well. He’s not the stationery enthusiast that a lot of us are so I’m always pleased when a notebook or pen turns his head. He particularly liked the feel of the leatherette cover. And both of us enjoyed perusing the small pamphlet included with the notebook of other products offered by Dingbats*. Some of the products we really liked were the School Agenda with tri-language and the Personal Agenda available in English-Arabic. In the current cultural environment, I like knowing that students and adults in the US could get an Agenda that had Arabic featured. I do hope Dingbats* will offer these Agendas in the US market for 2018.

The Dingbats Company also has a strong environmental policy and include information on their web site and promotional materials about their dedication to keeping their paper making as clean to the environment as possible.

I really like the Wildlife series notebooks. They are good quality with all the right features, great paper, and a competitive price point. If you’re looking for a bound notebook alternative to what you are using right now, Dingbats* might be your next new notebook. Fingers crossed, next edition added will be a panda?


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

Review: Manuscript Notebooks & Crate Info

Manuscript Notebooks is a company that specializes in notebooks with a literary bent. They offer Large (A5), pocket (passport) and hardcover (pocket-sized) notebooks featuring classic literature covers.

The covers are a matte finish coated stock rather than the uncoated paper used by a lot of other companies giving it a slightly more durable feel. On the inside cover is a “table of contents” but because its printed on the coated paper stock it would be difficult to used with anything other than a ballpoint pen. It is a clever design but not entirely useful.

The spines feature a sewn binding rather than a staple stitch. I like the look of this and is a nice alternative that seems in keeping with the vintage vibe of the book covers rather than a more utilitarian staple.

Since I keep an A5-sized Traveler’s Notebook as well as my 5th Anniversary Edition Star Ferry Traveler’s Notebook, Manuscript’s two standard cahier sizes perfectly meet my needs. Not to mention, I have a certain penchant for books. So I had my fingers crossed that the paper quality would be good…

I pulled out a good array of “everyday carry” tools to put the paper to the test.  According to my contact at Manuscript, the Large A5 and the hardcover journals both contain 75gsm post-consumer ivory cream paper. The paper in the passport-sized pocket notebooks is blank 85gsm post-consumer. The hardcover journals are the only books with white paper and ruled pages.

In my initial tests, everything looked good with standard testing. I didn’t drench the paper, though I did throw the Plumchester 1.5 brush pen in at the end just for a challenge. I did pepper it with standard fine and medium fountain pens, some fine italics, a Papermate Flair and the standard general writers like a Pilot G2 and Sharpie Pen.

In a more close-up shot, you can see that I didn’t get any bleeding, feathering or splining of the ink. I’m very happy to report that there was also minimal show through as well, even with the great big, juicy brush pen, though there was a bit with that one. That was to be expected though.

There are 86 pages in each of the A5 notebooks so there’s plenty of doodling and writing space for the $11 price tag.  The Pocket notebooks are sold in packs of 3 for $11, each with 48 pages so they are priced competitively with many of the other notebooks currently on the market. While I did not get to test the heavier 85 gsm paper in the Pocket notebooks, if its the same stock as is featured in the A5, only slightly heavier, I think it will be excellent.

Manuscript is also introducing the Manuscript Crate. Each month Manuscript Crate will send a set of Pocket notebooks with a different literary cover art, such as Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and many more. The literature will span all genres and international editions. Sometimes the cover art will be instantly recognizable, and sometimes they will be obscure limited run covers printed a long time ago in far away places. But every month will be a surprise. Right now, they’re giving away $10 gift cards towards your crate purchase to the first 500 people that sign up for Manuscript Crate. The monthly fee for each Crate will be $10 and shipping will be around $2. So the $10 gift basically gives you a free month. Manuscript is also hoping to include some surprise extras in their crates like stickers, bookmarks and miniatures pencils.

It looks like there is Manuscript is another source for good quality A5 and pocket notebooks if you don’t mind blank pages. Since you can use guide sheets, that shouldn’t be a make-or-break issue. And if you like pocket-sized books, the subscription service might be a good option as well.


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

I’m off to see the Wizards of Arkansas!

I’m headed to the Arkansas Pen Show today and I’ll be setting up my very first (ever!) table at a pen show and I’m super nervous. If you don’t have plans this weekend, and live in the Arkansas area, please pop by the Crowne Plaza in Little Rock this weekend and say hello! The show opens Friday, March 17th and 10am and will be open until 6pm. The show will also be open all day Saturday, March 18th from 9 am until 6 pm and again on Sunday, March 19th from 9am until 4 pm.

Skylab Letterpress and I will be sharing a table full of goodies including:

  • vintage typewriters
  • letterpress notecards, notepads, prints, and coasters
  • rubber stamps
  • vintage office supplies
  • assorted Field Notes Colors Editions and Blackwing Editions s as I’m clearing some space in the stationery cupboard (Some Field Notes are still factory sealed and Blackwings will be available individually!)
  • and our brand new product release, The Col-o-ring Ink testing book!

A one day pass is just $5 and a 3-day pass is $10.

There are evening events both Friday and Saturday night.

Friday night is the Open House and Aurora “Flexi Pen Party” at Vanness Pen Shop. The event starts at 6:30 and goes until Lisa and Mike kick us all out.

Saturday night is the Pen Addict meet-up hosted by the one-and-only Brad Dowdy (AKA Pen Show Husband) and the Arkansas Pen Club. The event starts at 6:30pm and is FREE and open to the general public in addition to all pen show attendees, vendors, exhibitors & sponsors. It will be hosted at the Crowne Plaza but specific location will be announced later.

Link Love: Aurora Flex & Penmanship

Pens:

Inks:

Pencils:

Paper & Notebooks:

Planners & Organizers:

Handwriting & Penmanship:

Art Supplies:

Other Interesting Things:

Coming Soon: Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books

After obsessively testing papers since October and finally making a decision about the “right” stock in January, Skylab Letterpress and The Well-Appointed Desk is finally unveiling our answer to the gap in the market — the perfect ink testing swatch book, The Col-o-ring.

We sourced 100lb/160gsm natural white paper from a 400-year-old European paper mill through a distributor located right here in Kansas City. Each book is 2″ x 4″ with die cut rounded corners and the covers are sturdy chipboard letterpress printed on a Heidelberg Windmill then hand assembled with a binder ring so that the pages can be easily be removed, rearranged, added or swapped to your heart’s content. Each book contains 100 pages and the paper is a good clean white so your ink colors will show true.

To prove how much better our paper is to some “other” swatch books, I put the Col-o-ring paper (on the right) up against a discontinued product (on the left). Using the same tools to test the same ink– a watercolor paintbrush with synthetic sable bristles and a Zebra G dip nib pen– (you can see, the Col-o-ring paper is smoother, though there is still a little tooth, so your pens won’t slip and slide all over the place) but the good news, is that even the wettest inks in a dip nib don’t bleed or feather!

But wait! There’s more!

We tested several ink samples on both the front AND the back of the paper…. (Emerald of Chivor is so hard to photograph. It looks so good in person! Alternately, Noodler’s Tchaicovsky is pretty much as weird looking in person as it appears below… I had this sample and thought I would test it … strangely goopy ink. Don’t blame the paper.)

Can you see a difference between Col-o-ring paper on the front or the back of the sheet? Nope. Neither could we. And we got very little show through and no bleed through, even with wet swabs. I use a paint brush loaded with ink so it takes a while to dry and still there was no show through. You could do swabs on both sides if you wanted to. Talk about cost effective!

One more, front and back sample, just to show off. (Diamine Oxblood is lovely,)

If you’re more inclined to do your samples with a pen, rather than a swab and dip pen or glass pen, these cards can work for that too. I did a quick writing sample example with my Aurora Optima and the paper picks up all the shading and color variation. I would have sampled more sheening colors but I had them all packed up for the Arkansas Pen Show this weekend. So, if you prefer to sample your inks this way, these cards will work too.

I’ll have ink samples, swabs and cards to try available at the Arkansas Pen Show so if you are in the area, please come by the show and try them out for yourself. Bring your favorite tools for sampling with you too and try those as well.

The Col-o-ring books will be available in my shop soon after I return from the show. I will put a post on the blog when I get them listed in the shop. Col-o-ring books will sell for $10 each plus shipping.