Ink Traveling Kit

Ink Traveling Kit

December has arrived! With the multitude of holidays that land in December, many pen and ink fans will be traveling to see family and friends while others may take vacations away from home. We thought it would be appropriate to show a few ways the team at the Desk travels with pen, ink, and paper.

I travel to plenty of pen shows during the year and will be making a guest appearance at the Dromgoole’s store next weekend to talk about ink as well. This frequency has helped me to hone my travel kit down to what I consider the bare minimum. My kit has become modular so I can quickly grab the mix of items I will need at any gathering.

First is paper. I won’t show up to any pen gathering without great paper and typically several kinds. I use the Lochby Notebook holder (I purchased this from Gentleman Stationer) because I can fit 1, 2, or even 3 notebooks into it and still cinch it closed. Currently I have a Tomoe River notebook (from Musubi), a Cosmo Air Light notebook (also from Musubi), and a Midori MD Light notebook (I think I purchased it from Vanness).

Also, I love stickers.

My next piece is an ink swatching brick. Nock made these pouches years ago to hold business card-sized items and a pen, but it’s also perfect to fit Col-O-Ring cards, a dip pen (made from a Traveler’s ballpoint pen body and a dip nib), and a travel paintbrush. In locations where I won’t have easy access to water (to rinse the paintbrush), I substitute several q-tips for the brush.

These Nock pouches are no longer produced but I’ve found great replacements – Rickshaw Bags makes a great zippered pouch and a Pac-Man wallet that fit the same items perfectly.

When I can’t get ahold of a pouch for this purpose, I’ve substituted a full Col-o-Ring and a rubber band that can hold a dip pen and q-tips as well. I do believe this is the most minimal ink swatch kit possible.

The next piece in my modular design is another Lochby piece – the Venture pouch. This one I also purchased from Gentleman Stationer. I like the two pouches on this piece – on the side that is two pouches, I throw in my larger swatching tools – a second paint brush, a capped glass dip pen, and a brass nib dip pen. Sometimes a folded pen will also find a place here. I also keep a few un-inked pens like TWSBIs or Preppys (the ones below are inked from my last venture) and a few pens that can write on most surfaces – you would be surprised how often these come in handy.

The other side of the same pouch opens up to elastic loops. Here I keep tools that I currently find handy.

In the photo below, the top group is a glue pen and a retractable sharp blade. On the right are two versions of water brush pens – sometimes I will fill the larger one with ink rather than water. The group on the left consists of a highlighter/felt pen combo, a white gel pen, and a mechanical pencil. On the bottom of the photo are a Pilot Preppy pen and a refillable felt tip pen, both filled with a waterproof black ink. All of these tools are for playing with ink and paper.

The final module of my kit is the clean and repair portion. I’ll still bring this to most get-togethers, but it doesn’t come out as often. This kit lives in a plastic-y pouch so I can put wet items in on the way out of a meet up but I can also safely store tools that are every pokey.

This kit contains (clock-wise from the top left) Mylar paper for nib smoothing, an old rag that I cut from a baby swaddling blanket, a snot sucker tool for cleaning pens, a pokey dental pick (I got this one from my dentist when it was too old to be resharpened and they were going to throw it out), a nib flossing thing, section pliers, wire cutter (blue handle), a piece of rubber tube that helps grip, a sunshine cloth for polishing, an ink syringe, a retractable Sharpie (probably one of the most used items in this kit), and a few empty ink sample vials.

This kit is remarkable for the variety of problems it can solve in the field – at pen shows, meet-ups, traveling, and even just on hand near my desk.

I always stuff things together as much as I can!

So that is my entire travel kit. This doesn’t include pens themselves – that is a whole different post for sometime in the future. Various portions of this kit are always with me whenever I travel. Each has an easy way to carry by a handle or loop, and they stack together well. I’ve refined these over then years until I am fairly certain I will be prepared for 99% of what I will encounter at pen-related gatherings. Do you have a kit you like to take?

DISCLAIMER: The items in this post were purchased by me. For more information, see our About page.

Link Love: It’s beginning to look a lot like Gift Guide!

Link Love: It’s beginning to look a lot like Gift Guide!

While I am excited about the release of the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide episode of the Pen Addict Podcast, there has also been other events this week worth noting.

Laura recorded the 400th episode of her YouTube vlog, The Corner of Knit & Tea. That’s a lot of knitting. And tea!

Pantone, though they are near the bottom of my shit list for the shenanigans they pulled this year removing support within the Adobe apps, is on the cusp of announcing their “color of the year”. Should I care? No. Will I discuss and consider at great length? Yes. Stupid, Pantone. Pretty, PITA, Pantone.

Pencils are “in the news” this week — at least in our world. Yeah!

Birmingham Pen company got featured in an article in the NYTimes!

Pelikan raised their prices and Rachel’s Reflections gives advice to slow spending. Both of these make me reconsider what I buy and how much I need. It’s timely to consider our spedndgin particularly at the beginning of the biggest shopping season of the year. Maybe I should use what I already have to document and appreciate the people and animals in my life?

Love AnaAnd Modern Daily Knitting recommends the Never Gonna Give You Up episode of the podcast Song Exploder. And since I now got the song stuck in your head, you might as well go listen to the episode.

You’re welcome.




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

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Yarn + Ink: Perfectly Primary

With all the amazing ink colors out there, sometime I just go back to the primary colors and marvel that these 3 hues can be mixed in various proportions to make all the other colors!

Recently I finished a sweater that had the primary colors, plus turquoise thrown in. So I had to search through my ink stash to see what might match!

The Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Superfine Fingering in Party Time

Pattern: Maema Cardigan by Megan Nodecker


Pencil Review: Midori MD Graphite

Pencil Review: Midori MD Graphite

Review by Tina Koyama

I recently reviewed Midori MD Paper Products colored pencils in its very limited but lovely, understated palette. Midori also makes graphite pencils (6/$10) – equally sublime in their appearance and beautifully coordinated with other Midori stationery products. I was given the B grade for review, but I happen to have other drawing grades as well, so I’ll include them in my comments.

Like the colored pencils, the graphite pencil barrel has a subtle matte finish with simple branding. The barrel color is the vanilla ice cream off-white that appears on many of Midori’s notebook covers. Something about that matte finish is such a joy to touch!

Also matching the design of the colored pencils is the slightly convex, uncapped end that reveals a perfectly centered core. They sharpen nicely with a whiff of cedar.

I compared the Midori B grade with B grades in two of my favorite Japanese graphite pencils, Tombow Mono and Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. Although not quite as smooth as either of the higher-priced pencils, the MD graphite quality is consistent and flawless. It feels slightly softer than the Tombow but slightly harder than the Hi-Uni. The B makes a great writing grade for those who prefer softer pencils. (Swatches and sketch shown in this review were made in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook, which has a smooth surface.)

The swatches below show the full range of MD grades available – HB through 6B. 

I have been taking crosshatching courses from France Van Stone (better known as Wagonized), and having the B in my hand was a good opportunity to work on one of the course exercises – a friendly, young cow. (France’s courses often use fun photo references of animals that I adore drawing!) I would typically use a softer grade for the final details, but this B did well enough even at the end.

The MDs are excellent writing and drawing pencils at a price that makes them a good value. 

My only complaint is that the beautiful matte finish I love so much tends to become easily scuffed and marked. I’ve had the full set for a while, knocking about in a pencil cup, and they are showing their age prematurely. I’m sure the colored pencil barrels will suffer the same fate shortly. Most of the time, I appreciate evidence of wear and use on my art materials, and I don’t baby them. But something about that creamy, formerly pristine finish with scuffs is harder to look at. I don’t want my stationery to be better dressed than I am, but if I daily-carried a Midori pencil, I might be tempted to keep it in a Rickshaw sleeve.  

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

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

Paper Review: Cosmo Air Light B6 Slim Notebook

Paper Review: Cosmo Air Light B6 Slim Notebook

I realize I am about two year late to the joys (and sorrows ) of Cosmo Air Light (CAL) but I decided that since the paper was going away, I should be an informed blogger and experience the paper while I still had the opportunity. Also, I wanted be able to find and recommend other products that might be similar.

About the notebook:

The CAL notebook I got came from an Etsy seller named Danika58. The notebook features kraft cardstock covers with a black binding tape around the spine. There are 10- stitched signatures in the notebook and the soft tape-bound spine means the book lays flat easily. Because the cover stock is not as heavyweight as a traditional hardback notebook, this is the perfect notebook to use with a cover. The cardstock cover though heavy enough to survive on its own. There is NO branding on the notebooks at all so if you love it, be sure to remember where you purchased it because a year from now, you will not have any clues where it came from. Of course, a year from now, there probably won’t be anymore Cosmos Air Light paper anyway so its probably a non-issue.

Understanding the B6 Slim Size:

I have mentioned several times this year how much I am loving the B6 size so I thought I’d try a B6 Slim (approx. 7 x 4.25″) which is approx. 1″ narrower than the standard B6 size. As far as I can tell, the B6 Slim size relates back to specific Midori notebook sizes (Midori: also responsible for the A5 Slim sizing for the Traveler’s Notebooks). The Jibun Techo calendar/planners feature a size described as B6 Slim but it looks to be a little bit larger. Ah, the joys of “-ish” sizing.

Pictured above and below is my B6 Bassy & Co leather cover and the CAL B6 Slim notebook. I included a side view of the B6 Slim on top of my current Stalogy B6 to make it more apparent the width difference.  The B6 Slim is going to be too narrow to work effectively in a standard B6 cover. Note to self.

Writing  & Pen Tests:

Jesi did a very thorough review of the Cosmo Air Light paper from Musubi awhile back and has continued to use the CAL paper as part of her ink reviews so I took a slightly less thorough approach to my pen tests and included (gasp!) pencils in the mix.

The CAL for pencils is a little hard. I recommend a slightly softer pencil, HB or softer and colored pencils with a softer core unless you want a really fine, light line. I prefer to not have to stab my paper to get the pigment onto the paper but everyone has their own preferences.

For my fountain pen tests, I used some of my everyday carry pens and had good results overall. Inks sheened or shaded as expected and lines were crisp.

There was some show through on the back side of the sheet but it’s very minimal. I could easily use the front and back of the pages.

Additional tests included the random assortment of pens I keep in a zipper pouch at work for meetings — a range of gel, rollerball, and felt tip pens for writing on copies, 3×5 notecards and post-it notes in meetings, brainstorms and working sessions. As mentioned earlier, hard pencils like my vintage Verithin was a bit lighter than on a softer, more textured paper. But its’ a pretty hard pencil. Normally, I prefer the Caran d’Ache red/blue pencil for it’s soft, creamy core.

I can see the appeal of the Cosmo Air Light paper. Like all fountain pen fanatics, I can see myself hoarding a few of these notebooks for posterity but now that I have used CAL, I feel better recommending the Regalia paper from Endless as a solid alternative. With the exception of multi-chromatic inks, the two stocks performed similarly under regular usage.

DISCLAIMER: Some items in this review were purchased with funds from our amazing Patrons. You can help support this blog by joining our Patreon. Please see the About page for more details.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday shopping season, we are offering all our readers 20% off all merchandise in our shops (Big Cartel & Etsy). Use the code THANKS at check out to apply discount. Coupon code is good through Monday, November 28, 2022.*

This is our way of saying thanks to all our readers and Patrons for the support this year. It means the world to us that you read, comment and support our inky adventures!

*Offer good on in-stock merchandise only. Discount does not include shipping.

Link Love: Black Friday Edition

Link Love: Black Friday Edition

Here in the US, Thanksgiving is tomorrow so if you’re reading this then you are either “pretending to work” your final day before the holiday weekend or you are using this post as an excuse to ignore a family member under the guise of “checking your work email.” Happy to provide a diversion.

Now, I want to remind you of two big events coming up.

First, Friday is the most consumer of all holidays, Black Friday. As most of us are probably already inundated with email newsletters about upcoming sales, I won’t list them all here as we have done in previous years. There are too many deals, discounts and sales to keep up with. Suffice it to say that this weekend will be chock full of fountain pen related deals. If you are hoping to recommend a gift idea to your family to purchase for you or you like to pick up a few things for yourself in the midst of shopping for gift cards for your nieces and nephews (like I will be doing — teenagers, need I say more?), then check out all your favorite online shops starting today through Monday.

Second, the annual Pen Addict Gift Guide episode is back! And unlike last year, I will be on the podcast to make lots of recommendations and generally heckle Brad for waiting so long to have me back on the show. I am not sure exactly what date the episode will go live. Myke will not be available to record the episode with us so it might not go up until next week but be assured… it’s coming!

Gift Guides:




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

We need each other. Please support our sponsors, affiliates or join our Patreon. Your patronage supports this site. Without them, and without you, we could not continue to do what we do. Thank you!