Ink Review: KWZ Chicago Blue

KWZ Chicago Blue (60ml, $15)  is an ink color exclusively created for the Chicago Pen Show 2017 but luckily for you, it did not sell out completely. There are still a few bottles left for sale through Vanness Pens. So, even if you weren’t able to make it to the show, you can still feel like you were a part of the event.

The bottle features a watercolor portrait of the skyline and the tagline “exclusively for Chicago Pen Show 2017” so its definitely a collector’s bottle. For those familiar with KWZ ink, it has the signature aroma of lightly menthol-honey that I’ve grown to love when you open the bottle.

Whether you are inclined to associate the color blue with the Chicago Blues music, the Chicago PD (I think more of their black leather jackets there), the color your lips turn on the average February morning (this color may be right on the money there) or the stripes on the city flag (which are actually pale sky blue) – this blue color is the bluest of the blues. It’s practically pure indigo.

We did a few accidental chromographs in Chicago to discover that there was not a hint of red or purple or black in this blue. It’s blue through and through.

Chicago Blue is so dense and dark that it doesn’t shade nor does it have any sheen but its a very rich blue.

I had a tough time finding any other blues quite as vivid. The closest was Noodler’s Ottoman Azure. It was the only color even in the ballpark. I included some vivid blues just to show exactly how deep these blues are without being blue-blacks.

I do find KWZ inks to be viscous, not runny or watery (what other people might describe as “wet” inks). I’d say similar in consistency to Diamine inks rather than DeAtramentis if that helps to give you some sense of the feeling. I’m not a chemist so I don’t know if that consistency will work better for some pens over others but I do find that it makes KWZ inks denser and less luminous. The colors are rich but don’t shade as often as thinner inks do.

I used my Esterbrook #2442 nib in a Shwan Newton holder so I had to dip midway through my writing which resulted in some color differences. I suspect the variations reflect the differences between a medium/broad nib and a EF/F nib. I tested on Rhodia Uni-Blanc paper using 7mm guide sheets. The titles were done with Silver Black Velvet #6 Round Brush. Swatches were done using the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book, of course.

Pen Review: Sailor 1911 Standard Ballpoint in Ivory (Say what?!?!?)

Did you know that Sailor makes a ballpoint pen that matches the 1911 fountain pen line?  I’m as surprised as you are! At first, I thought, why would I want a fancy-pants ballpoint pen? I’m not one known for being particularly fond of ballpoint pens in general. I am still in therapy after years of gloopy, smudgy budget-priced excuses for ballpoint pens that left smears on my school term papers and on my hand so it takes a lot of convincing for me to even consider a ballpoint pen. Ron at Pen Chalet promised I would love the refill in the Sailor 1911 Ballpoint ($48) so I was willing to take a chance.

Inside the familiar navy blue, spring-loaded Sailor pen box was the ivory colored (listed as white on the web site) ballpoint pen. The pen is a twist mechanism rather than a click or capped design but otherwise looks very similar to the 1911 fountain pen. The clip is the same, the top end has the same rounded shape and the length is comparable. The barrel at the grip is a little bit narrower since its not capped.

The pen is made from the same lightweight resin plastic that the fountain pens use so its light and comfortable. It features gold tone accents.

I was really surprised at how smooth the ballpoint pen was. The ink didn’t gum up or get gloopy like ballpoint pens in the past. After using the pen for awhile, what I realized is that the refill fits snugly in the housing so there is no shimmy when writing. I know this seems like an odd comment to make but its one of the things that I notice most often using disposable ballpoint pens when signing the receipt at a restaurant — the refill in the pen always shakes around a bit in the pen housing. Its never a perfect fit. With a lot of refillable pens, I end up adding extra springs or tape on the refill to try to stabilize the refill but with the Sailor 1911, its a very precise fit.

According to the Monteverde site, the Sheaffer ballpoint refills they make will fit into Sailor pens. By that rationale, Sheaffer refills from any office supply store would also work. Helpful in a pinch however, the point here is that the SAILOR refill is far and away smoother than any other ballpoint refill I’ve used. Monteverde Softroll in Medium in a 2-pack ($8)  are available from Pen Chalet in a variety of colors. They are pretty good refills and if your penmanship is larger than mine (bigger than mosquito script) than these might be a good option. The Monteverde Softroll refills come in purple, brown, turquoise, red and pink to name the more unique ballpoint color options. Monteverde also offers Capless Gel Refills in fine that fit into the Sailor which might meet my exacting standards. A 2-pack of these refills are $8 and are available in black, blue or blue-black. If these options do not replace the original Sailor ballpoint refill, then Amazon can come to your rescue. I found original Sailor fine ballpoint refills listed there.

What hadn’t occurred to me until I was writing my conclusion is that most of the non-fountain pen reviews here have either been disposable pens or machined pens. Occasionally, we talk about Retro 51s but not everybody is interested in that particular aesthetic. And certainly machined pens aren’t to everyone’s taste. So, I’m really glad to add the Sailor 1911 ballpoint into The Well-Appointed Desk pen vault.

The 1911 ballpoint is a lovely upgrade to the everyday pen. The slim barrel is elegant and easy to hold. The only downsides I see with this particular pen is that the light color resin may stain easily if it comes into contact with ink from another pen but this design is available in several other colors — all with gold trim. The somewhat proprietary refill will make it important to stock-up on refills important.

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

Notebook Review: Ghost Paper Notebook

Review by Laura Cameron.

A few months ago I saw that Amazon was having a sale on the Ghost Paper Notebook.  I forwarded the link to Ana, and she let me know she already had one on the way. Of course!

I wasn’t entirely surprised when she put the Ghost in my bag of goodies to try and asked me for a review.

The Ghost Paper Notebook is an A5, 6” x 8” (15.24cm x 20.32cm) notebook that has faintly embossed and debossed lines that you can just barely feel on the pages. In the right light, you can see the lines and use them as guides, but in many lights the pages appear blank.

The notebook itself comes with a faux leather cover in Steel Grey that is soft to the touch and quite flexible.  It has 96 pages and an elastic pen loop and closure. The front and end pages are plain, but provide a clean start and finish to the book.There isn’t a back pocket in this version, but a little birdie told me that there might be in future version. The paper is wood-free and a weight 100lb, which means it is super absorbent and nice and thick. The notebook has a white ribbon bookmark, and the only thing I can find fault with is that it doesn’t seemed to be finished so it might fray with use.

The feature of the Ghost Paper Notebook that I was most intrigued with is the embossed/debossed lines on the paper.

First I tried my Retro 51 Tornado fountain pen with my Robert Oster Fire & Ice ink. While I enjoyed the look of the ink on the paper, there was some bleed through, so I’m not sure this book is best suited to fountain pen inks.

Next I tried my Marvy Le Pens and found that those worked quite a bit better. I also went to my local office supply store and bought a set of Papermate Ink Joy gel pens (0.7mm) and those wrote super smoothly.  I found the paper itself fairly smooth to the touch, but it also felt a little toothy under the pens.

Overall, I think this would make a fun journal, or a place to take daily notes. Its clean lines and simple format lend themselves well to doing anything from writing poetry or prose to making lists or bullet journaling.

The Ghost Paper Notebook retails for $25.00 and is available on Amazon.

Laura is a tech editor, podcaster, knitter, spinner and recent pen addict. You can learn more about her knitting and tea adventures on her website, The Corner of Knit & Tea and can find her on Instagram as Fluffykira.

Ink Review: Montegrappa Violet

I’ve been blogging about pens and ink for seven years and this is the first time I’ve tried a Montegrappa ink. Its safe to say, “Its about time!” So, my first bottle is the Montegrappa Violet (50ml $20).

Bottle rating? A+. Those Italians know a thing or two about making things look fabulous. The faceted glass bottle is elegant and classic and the matching facted top with gold coin logo is bellissima! The grippy gear at the bottom makes it possible to open and close the bottle even if your fingers are wet. Engineering points too!

I had fun using Montegrappa Violet as a watercolor. I was able to pull some of the pink out around the edges and get to see exactly how vivid and rich this ink is. Montegrappa Violet is a very saturated ink. In some ways it almost looks indigo its so rich.

In writing, especially with a flex nib, the color is so deep that there is not a lot of shading but it does give a good rich color that is very vibrant. If you are looking for a vibrant color for a fine nib, I think this would be a great option. It flows beautifully. And once dry, it does not move much so while its not a permanent or iron gall ink, it will survive an errant raindrop or drip from your beverage.

I realized that I didn’t have a lot of royal purples in my ink arsenal. Montegrappa Violet and Waterman Tender Purple are pretty similar but Tender Purple has a distinct green/gold sheen. All the other purples and violets in my collection were more reddish and purple and less violet.

While Montegrappa’s inks aren’t a titillating as the hot, sheening inks coming out of Australia or one of the FOMO colors from an itty bitty Japanese stationery shop, these colors are likely to be around for a long time and provide stable quality for a company that prides itself on heritage and craftsmanship.

There are seven other colors in the Montegrappa ink line to provide a good assortment of classic colors in classic bottles guaranteed to Montegrappa’s exacting standards.

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

Link Love: Paper Love

Post of the Week:

I am touched and flattered that Rhodia took the time to read and respond to my Dot Grid Showdown post. In their reply, they mentioned my biggest complaint which is the ribbon length and said that they are hoping to lengthen it! Joy! They also explained why the dot colors are as dark as they are. And I know for some users, they prefer the color. So, despite my preference for lighter dots, the world has options for a reason. I also discovered, upon opening a different color Leuchtturm 1917 dot grid that not all editions have the same color dots so there may be some consistency issues with how dark the dots print from one volume of Leuchtturm to the other. Whichever notebook you choose, I think all the companies are thoughtful and upstanding and working hard to stand by their products. Thanks, Rhodia for listening to your customers!




Paper & Notebooks:

Other Interesting Things:

*Editor’s Note: It appears that The Finer Point‘s RSS feed was out of commission for a few weeks so I’m doubling down on her content this week. If you don’t have Jenny in your favorites already, this would be a good time to add her to your list. She’s been reviewing a lot of notebooks recently and she’s one of my favorite reads.

Product Review: Art Snacks May 2017 Subscription Box

The May ArtSnacks subscription box was my turn to review a box since Tina is traveling the Italian countryside. This box was probably a bit more to my taste than hers anyway so it probably all worked out. Acrylic paint isn’t exactly urban sketch-friendly.

This month featured a tube of Liquitex heavy body acrylic paint in Muted Pink. I fell in love with the limited edition inks that Liquitex did last year in the muted colors so I can see why they decided to try the formula with their acrylic paints.

I’m more inclined to mix colors with paints and I like fluid acrylics better than heavy body, especially for everyday use but I can see the appeal. And it’s pretty easy to thin these heavy body paints down with water or mediums into a thinner glaze for more mileage. Besides, the tube fits into the classic ArtSnacks box a lot easier than a Liquitex liquid acrylic bottle. I got the color Muted Pink which is very “dried blood” color or if you are more inclined “brick red”.

Also in the box were these wax-based watercolor crayons from Marabu. They are creamy with the consistency of lipstick. They can be blended with your fingers or with water. They are not as water-soluble as higher end Caran d’Ache Neocolor II crayons but the twist-up plastic housing, cap and rubber grip make them considerably more travel-friendly and comfortable.

What I didn’t know is that the Marabu watercolor crayons are remarkable similar to the Faber-Castell Gelato crayons. I’ve never used the Gelatos but these come in tubes that look just like lip balm and behave very similarly. According to artist and Art Supply Posse pal Kathy Weller (YouTube video review and comparison), the Gelatos and Marabu crayons work well together so if you already use Gelatos, the Marabu crayons are a great add-on.

I received a turquoise and light grey color. The light grey is slightly more opaque than the turquoise. It took me awhile to figure out what to do with these since I tend to work pretty small and they are pretty blunt. While the colors I received were not the most vivid there are some other much brighter colors.

Then there’s The Masters Brush Cleaner in a little mini container. EVERYONE should one of these. Make that TWELVE of these. Think of them like lip balm. They should be wherever you keep a paintbrush. I keep a big tub on my bathroom sink. That’s how I don’t contaminate all those ink samples? And those white taklon brushes, like the one that shipped in this subscription box? The minute it touched the Muted Pink paint is was stained but a couple of swooshes in Master’s brush cleaner and it was white again.

I’ve gotten hardened glue off brushes before and hardened acrylic paint! I don’t know what sort of witchcraft General’s employs in this cake of lemony-scented goodness but my brushes are soft and clean after a few swirls and soaks.

The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was the paint brush included. I know ArtSnacks wants the kit to create a complete package so that someone can use the materials included — if they send paint, you get a brush so you can start painting. And I know that each box gets a random brush from the company’s array from a particular line — some people got rounds, some got flats, some got blenders, etc. I got a little tiny, wispy brush which could neither support the acrylic paint nor load enough water to move the crayon. I’m sure I was the odd person out.

Last month, with the M. Graham watercolors I got a ginormous 3/4″ house painting brush. Everyone needs these brushes on the ends of the spectrum but since these boxes are often introducing folks new to the brands or to these products, these extremes are probably not the best options to get started with. And not everyone attempts to do the ArtSnacks challenges either.

So, on that note, here is what we made using the contents of the box (plus a few extras):

I decided to use the materials to make collages. I added in other papers, painted papers with the Marabu crayons and acrylic and applied everything into my sketchbook. Additional art materials: glue stick, Plumchester 1.5 pen, 0.5 Sakura Pigma Micron.

Another collage. Had some slight transfer of the Marabu crayon in the adhesive process. Additional materials: White gel pen, Sakura Pigma Micron

Bob got into the challenge as well and tried the Liquitex acrylic paint and Marabu watercolor crayons on black paper to see how opaque they were. The turquoise ended up looking a lot more green on the black and the grey looks almost white.

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

News & Follow-Up

In Sad News:

Susan Wirth’s obituary can be found in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Janesville Press-Gazette.

I am continuing to receive photos and stories for the book I’m putting together. If you’d like to contribute, please email me. Details in the previous post.

In Other Sad News:

Dan Smith’s pen case was stolen in Chicago. There is information regarding the serial numbers and individual items in the Instagram photos and link below. If you see any of the pens listed for sale on eBay or any of the online boards, please notify Dan.

PLEASE HELP! On Thursday, May 4th, approximately $40,000 worth of fountain pens were stolen out of my vehicle in Chicago near the Adler Planetarium. A list of easily identifiable pens with serial numbers is provided below with more details, images, and the entire list of items stolen provided at my website. If you happen to come across any of these items, please let me know. There will be a reward for information leading to the recovery of any of my pens. I would greatly appreciate it if you could share this information with others. 1. Franklin-Christoph Penvelope 13 in Boot Brown 2. Markiaro 44 pen leather briefcase 3. Aurora 12 pen, black clam-shell case 4.Aurora 85th Anniversary, medium nib (don't recall serial number) 5. Montblanc Hemingway Writers Edition, oblique broad nib 6. Montblanc Charles Dickens Writers Edition, medium nib 7. Classic Pens LB5 Tensui (blue) w/ chrome trim, medium nib, Serial Number: #00/50 8. Sailor King of Pen ebonite, King Eagle nib 9. Nakaya Long Piccolo, medium (had custom lettering on barrel) 10. Nakaya Naka-ai, XXF 11. Nakaya NeoStandard medium Color: Araishu (orange), gold trim 12. Visconti Homo Sapiens Corsani 90th Anniversary, broad nib, Serial Number: #49/90 13. Pelikan M1005 Demo, 3B two-tone nib 14. Pelikan Silver Screen, EF nib, Serial Number: #260/420 15. Aurora 88 Nebulosa, Serial Number: #626/888 16. Aurora 88 Sigaro, Serial Number: #341/888 17. Aurora 88 Sole, Serial Number: #170/888 18. Aurora Optima Green Auroloid, fine flex nib(!), gold trim 19. Aurora Optima Monviso, medium nib, Serial Number: #48/360 20. Montegrappa Ducale Grande, stub nib, Serial Number: #76/888

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In Good News:

I’ll end with some good news because we need something uplifting this week, don’t we?

Col-o-ring Ink Testing books are being used by folks all over the world in new and exciting ways. Leigh Reyes is dipping the ends of the cards in her ink bottles for a great look and a quick way to sample her inks.

Col-o-rings are back in stock in my Big Cartel shop as well as being stocked in many of your favorite locations like:

and coming soon to:

So, folks overseas will finally have some options to get Col-o-rings outside the US! More European and US vendors are coming on board soon too so stay tuned!

Col-o-rings will also be available at the D.C. and San Francisco Pen Shows for sure, more details to follow as the shows get closer.