Link Love: Atlanta Pen Show & Hippo Purple

Post of the Week:

Of course, I couldn’t resist making the post of the week the live episode of the Pen Addict podcast recorded live in front of studio audience in Atlanta with special guests Vito from Story Supply and Jonathan from Carolina Pen Company. And of course, I got to sit in the third chair and laugh a lot. So, hop on over and give it a listen!

Pens:

Ink:

Notebooks and Paper:

Other Interesting Things:

Pencil Review: Viarco Vintage Collection Box Set

I’d been putting it off for sometime but I couldn’t wait any longer when I realized there was only one Viarco Vintage Collection box set left on the CW Pencil Enterprise web site left. I had to get it. Viarco is a small pencil manufacturer in Portugal that is still producing pencils and has been in business since 1907.

The only difference between the box set and buying the boxes individually is the outer box with the matte black box with the gloss black foil stamp. You can still get all six different varieties of Viarco vintage pencils by the dozen.

The set includes reproductions of Viarco’s pencil varieties made between 1940 and 1960. They have reproduced both the pencils and the packaging to a tee. The pencils are:

  • 1950 #2/HB (all yellow, hex-shaped, unfinished ends)
  • 1951 #2/HB (2 each of six solid colors with pinstripes, hex-shaped coordinating dipped ends)
  • 2000 #2/HB (2 each of six metallic colors, hex-shaped with yellow dipped ends)
  • 272D Violeta Copying Pencil (round, unfinished end)
  • 3000 #2/HB (2 each of six metallic colors, round with yellow dipped ends)
  • 3500 #2/HB (all red with pinstripes, hex-shaped, unfinished ends)

I love the script lettering of their logo type. I’d say 60% of the reason I purchased the pencils was for the design of the packaging. As a designer, I love the look of the vintage packaging. The way that the tail of the V curls around the pencil on the box of the 3500s alone was worth the purchase of the box.

All the boxes have the scores on the inner box so it slides out and can them flip down to more easily access pencils. They may be simple paperboard boxes but they are still nicely engineered to be useful.

I had one or two pencils out of the six dozen that had a bad foil stamping on the pencil, on the 3000 round, I think, but overall the quality of the painting and printing was pretty consistent.

The 272D Violeta had the least amount of paint and shellac and felt the most utilitarian but since these were supposed to be reproductions of pencils made between 1940 and 1960, I suspect that war-era and post-war pencils were probably not super-posh to begin with. Resources were limited then and this pencil probably reflects that specifically.

I took the pencils for a test drive. All the standard graphite pencils came pre-sharpened so I used them as is. All were listed as a standard #2/HB. The 3000, which is the only round barrel in the lot, is definitely a softer lead and darker than the rest.

The 1951 “Super” Desenho does feel like the most premium of all the pencils. It has the most lacquer on the barrel and feels weightier. The lead feels similar to the other hex pencils but the wood and the finish makes it feel “super.”

In terms of writing and hand-feel, the 2000 is pretty similar to the 1951. The metallic finish softens the hex shape a bit but the weight and lead is the same. the lacquer is very smooth.

The 3500, with its unfinished end, is the lightest in the hand. It also felt life it had the least amount of lacquer so the hex-shaped felt most pronounced in the hand. I found myself reaching for the 3500 most often. Its just a clean, true hex pencil.

The 1950 is the Portuguese “yellow pencil”. The color is more yellow-orange than what I normally think of as the Dixon-Ticonderoga yellow and the lacquer and lead quality of the 1950 puts the Viarco way above the modern Ticonderoga by leaps and bounds. Unadorned, its the perfect companion for a kraft Field Notes in a all-business sort of way.

Lastly, is the 272D Violeta Copying pencil which writes is a lovely purple color. It erases but doesn’t smudge terribly and when wet with water it makes a lovely violet color. I tried to transfer the color to another page with no real results so that didn’t quite work. What I did discover is that after the scribbles were wet and dried, they were permanent. I couldn’t erase them. So that’s what the magic is. If you want to write or draw something and make it permanent, spritz it with water and let it dry. It’s not going anywhere.

Each box of Viarco Vintage pencils is available from CW Pencils for $15 per dozen.

Pencil Review: Baron Fig Snakes & Ladders

Review by Tina Koyama

When Baron Fig’s standard edition Archer pencil came out a while back, I thought it was fine as far as writing pencils go – attractive matte finish, lightweight, not smeary – but somewhat blah in appearance. As a Pacific Northwest resident who sees gray skies much of the year, I generally stay away from gray products of any kind simply on principle, but I was happy to have a couple of them to use.

A few weeks ago the New York City stationery maker released the first in its quarterly limited-edition Archer pencil series – Snakes & Ladders. Upon seeing photos of that brilliant vermilion barrel, my pulse quickened – it matches my favorite Field Notes Sweet Tooth perfectly!

Like its gray brother, it has a lovely matte finish with an elegant dipped end cap in a darker shade of the same hue. Adornment is spare: snake and ladder symbols and Baron Fig’s simple logo near the end cap. The two pencils are similar enough in basic design that they look like they belong together. Like many of BF’s products, the clean, confident design is very appealing.

Of course, there’s also the tubular container the pencils come in. I like it so much that I would be willing to buy an empty tube just to store other pencils in.

With a matte finish to match the pencil, it has the same tone-on-tone design, simple branding and a brief description of the theme. When the gray Archer first came out, I saw many photos of how the 12 pencils fit perfectly inside, and I almost bought a box just for that (but I resisted because I just couldn’t bring more gray into my life).

I have to admit that before seeing promotional info about this edition, I was not familiar with the Snakes and Ladders ancient Indian board game (though I did play Chutes & Ladders as a child). “The symbols help to encourage you through obstacles you may slither into your life as you climb to find success,” says the product description page, and I appreciate the way that ties into Baron Fig’s basic mission “to champion thinkers in their journey to create and inspire the world.” In fact, I’d say it’s the one thing I like best about all of BF’s product lines (which I can’t say about some other stationery companies’ subscription-based products): They stick to a basic philosophical theme related to creativity, exploration and inspiration.

If the Snakes & Ladders design is a template of future pencil editions to come, I started imagining a growing set of similarly matte-finished pencils in a range of colors, and my subscription finger started to quiver. I was close to tapping the button – but then I started hearing rumors and reading reviews in the stationery blogosphere that something was amiss.

The cores were breaking even without being used, as if they were already shattered inside their casings. People showed photos of entire cartons of Snakes & Ladders pencils that couldn’t be sharpened properly because the cores snapped repeatedly. Apparently Baron Fig’s customer service department was busy taking care of the problem, so subscribers eventually ended up with useable pencils.  But were these random anomalies? Or evidence of a fundamental problem?

Ana sent me a couple of Snakes & Ladders to try, and I sharpened one with trepidation. As I often do with an unfamiliar new graphite pencil, I simply stuck it into an electric sharpener. (No point in babying a product of utility, I say.) It sharpened just fine. I used it to write two pages in my Rhodia journal that evening. I didn’t care much for how it felt, but I’m accustomed to my fountain pens gliding along on that smooth paper, so that seemed like an unfair test. Before using it again, I sharpened it, this time with my Blackwing long point. Again, it sharpened just fine – no breakage at all.

Next I wrote a page in my Plumchester sketchbook, which I knew to have a pleasantly toothy surface that I enjoy when sketching with graphite. The tooth gripped the Snakes & Ladders graphite nicely without feeling scratchy. Even better was a page written in my Baron Fig Confidant, which also has a slight tooth that’s just a touch less toothy than Plumchester paper. Some have said that the Archer pencil feels pleasant on BF notebook paper when it feels scratchy on other similar papers. I don’t know if BF designed its pencils to mate perfectly with its paper, but I have to admit that I’m more likely to write with it in the Confidant before other notebooks now that I know how it feels.

I must say, however, that the writing experience is nothing to write home about. It’s quite average. I suppose you could say that the Snakes & Ladders pencil does not call attention to itself in any way, which suits its unpretentious exterior appearance. It’s not silent, but it doesn’t make enough noise to annoy me. It feels pleasant but doesn’t make me swoon (as, say, the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 4B does). Perhaps the only exceptional feature is that matte finish, which feels wonderful in my hand (and this is difficult for me to acknowledge, but I like that matte finish even more than the glossy lacquer on my swoon-inducing Hi-Uni).

Finger smudging is typical for a core that I would guess is an HB grade, and erasing is also typical. My left hand did not smudge my writing across the page, so that’s a bonus.

After four pages of writing and two sharpenings, it hasn’t broken once yet.

Anomaly or issue? It’s hard to say. I might subscribe, just for that tube if nothing else. But in any case, I’m going to wait for the next edition to come out. Given the customer service and responsiveness that BF has shown, if the pencil core has an issue, it will be addressed before the next edition comes out. Although I applaud innovative designs in subscription-based services, I would be very happy if all future pencils look like they belong with this one and the standard Archer. Even the gray one looks better when standing next to the vermilion one.


Tina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Baron Fig for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Berry D’arche

Robert Oster Berry D’Arche ($16 per 50 ml bottle) is hard color to color to describe. It’s not quite a burgundy, not really purple but its not a brown either. And if you think describing it was a challenge, photographing it was even more difficult.

Looking at the swatch card next to other colors of similar hue is probably the best way to get a ballpark of the color in perspective. Scabiosa is definitely more purply and Syrah more red. Berry D’arche is definitely more of a muted, less vibrant color than some of the other colors shown. I began to think of Berry D’arche as a sophisticated color– appropriate for work but still a little different.

I still couldn’t get away from describing it as a two-color name… red-black, purple-brown, burgundy-grape? I would drive Myke Hurley to drink an entire bottle of Merlot with my two-color names! (If you listened to Episode 252 of The Pen Addict podcast, you’ll know he was not keen on the use of two-color names for things so I’m not helping myself here.) But some colors are just in that hazy, in-between space and what can you do?

Technically, this ink color does shade but there is not much sheening, if any, that I can spot.

The fact that its one of those is-it or isn’t-it colors makes it hard to recommend. Are you looking for a color that isn’t quite burgundy or purple or red or brown or maroon or black? Then this is for you.

 

Review: NEW Denik Layflat Notebook

Denik Notebooks heard the comments about their notebooks from reviewers across the internet and have retooled them and introduced the new Denik Layflat Notebook. They feature the same soft touch softcovers, same interior paper but Denik improved the binding of their books to get a better binding. The books open easier, exposing more of the page and lay flatter more easily.

I could see the stitched binding when I opened the new Layflat Meadowlark notebook ($11.95) so I knew I was opening all the way to the spine. It means I get more real estate per page while also not having to force the page open.

Here’s a close-up of the original Denik notebook spine above. Its drenched in glue making it difficult to open completely.

This photo above is the new, improved Denik Layflat spine. See the individual signatures of paper and how the cover is not attached to the glue? That makes it easier for the book to lay flat. Congrats to Denik for listening to customer feedback.

Next request? Dot grid! And fountain pen-friendly paper! Because I love the cover graphics and what the company stands for so I love supporting them.


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

Kata Kata A4 Postcards

There’s only a few days left in April and I’m thinking I need to end Letter Writing Month on a BIG note. Thankfully, Fresh Stock Japan sent over these A4 sizes die cut Kata Kata postcards ($6 each, six designs available) that will be the perfect thing. Aren’t they fabulous?

They are basically blank on the back and say “postcard” but they exceed US postcard regulation sizes so I have no idea how much postage they would actually need so I’m going to have to wing it and hope that Mr. Whale doesn’t lose his tail and Mr. Bear keeps his feet. I think if I use standard First Class postage and consider it either an “odd-shaped envelope” ($0.70) or a first-class parcel ($2.67) I should be in the clear.

They are just way too cool to keep to myself! Hope you are having fun with April Letter-writing Month too and give these oversized postcards a try. The art is brilliant and who doesn’t need a whale in their mailbox?


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

Set Your Scanners on Atlanta!

Just a reminder… This weekend is the Atlanta Pen Show so there will be lots of activity on Instagram. So, if you’re following along at home, look for the hashtag #atlantapenshow2017 . That should be the best source for photos of cool pens, funny situations and all the good stuff.

The live “in front of a studio audience” broadcast of the Pen Addict podcast will be happening on Saturday night and yours truly will be parked at a mic alongside the main events, Brad and Myke and some special guests too!

If you’ll be in Atlanta, I will be at the Vanness table with Lisa and Christa for the duration of the weekend with a big stack of Col-o-ring Ink testing books, gobs of awesome inks like Bungbox, KWZ, Callifolio, Robert Oster, and so much more. We will be in the “Cool Kids Room” with the ink testing station, along with Karas Kustoms and Jonathan Brooks on the right side of the hall.

If you don’t spot me in any of the above mentioned places (I’m the one without the beard), then you’ll find me at the bar or the Waffle House. I’ll be the tired, inky handed girl with pinky/purple hair. I shouldn’t be to hard to spot.

I’ll be back in the “chair” on Tuesday. Tired but happy. See you then!