Fashionable Friday: Indi-Ana Jones and The Pens of Doom

This week I’ve been absolutely smitten with all things Traveler’s Noteboook-y. Rich worn, leather covers and brass fittings and all the trappings of having my very own archaeological artifact like Indiana Jones. So, this week, I donned my own fedora and boots and went spelunking.

  • Grail Diary Hero Prop Replica from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (via S’wak Props and Indiana Jones Wikia)
  • [TSLxBK] “Travel for Life” brass plate $24 (via Baum Kuchen)
  • Nakaya Sumiko:A Skull [no.13016] Fountain Pen $2,300 (via Nakaya)
  • Visconti Fountain Pen Ink in Sepia (40ml bottle) $17.50 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Japanese Washi Tape THIN GRID Blue Green Brown Grid 18mm $4.25 per roll (via CuteTape)
  • Traveler’s Notebook Regular Size Starter Kit in Camel Leather $53.50 (via JetPens)
  • Aurora 88 Ottantotto Big Black Fountain Pen with Chrome Trim € 495 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Diamine Ancient Copper Ink (80ml Bottle) $14.95 (via Anderson Pens)
  • The Temple Bespoke Hat, starting at $375 (via the Penman Hats)
  • Telegram Stationery $12 (via Letter Writers Alliance)
  • Midori Brass Pencil $16 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Don’t Call Me Junior T-Shirt $24 (via Hieroic)
  • “We Do Not Follow Maps” Art Mini Print $17 (via Society6)
  • Alden Men’s Indy High Top Blucher Workboot in Natural Chromexcel $585 (via The Shoemart)
  • Waxed Canvas Leather Messenger Bag $55 (via Rock Cow Studio)
  • Rohrer & Klingner Glass Dip Pen in Blue Gold $27 (via Pen Chalet)

Pencil Review: Dixon Reach Deep Hole Pencils

I confess that when I saw the Dixon Reach DEEP HOLE pencils I laughed uncontrollably. My reaction to these pencils (or at least the branding and packaging) was similar to the reaction a lot of people had to Bic for Her pens. I understand that there is a use-case for these within the construction industry but the HOLE (pun intended) thing is just so BIC for HIM. Especially considering that, on first glance, its just a bridge pencil repainted in “manly” black paint.

I provided a clear photo of the packaging for full entertainment purposes. My other response was that “doesn’t graphite mark on most surfaces anyway?” to the second point that indicates “special lead marks on most surfaces”.  The final bullet indicates that the lead is PMA certified which is also vague. It could either be certified by the FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval, Pilates Method Alliance or… maybe… the Pencil Makers Association! Probably should have been a bit more specific since it looks like its pretty hard to get that particular certification.

I got out my trusty Hester & Cook trusty Bridge Pencil to compare to the Dixon Reach and it turns out that the Reach is actually thinner than a traditional Bridge pencil. It’s also a good deal longer even without a ferrule and eraser. While I find a Bridge pencil pretty comfortable to handle the Dixon is too thin to really handle for much more than the occasional mark making as its been indicated for use. The long, paintbrush length gives it a strange balance too. It’s slim dimensions will mean sharpening will require either a knife or some experimentation to fit into a standard sharpener.

The graphite is pretty dark and a bit waxy. I suspect that is what makes it more “write on any surface”. I does erase pretty easily with my favorite Staedtler Mars Plastic. It doesn’t smudge too much but is susceptible to water solubility so the waxiness is a water soluble wax. If you are using this to mark on surfaces, you should be able to get most marks off with soap and water (think Stabilo All pencils and other grease pencils).

So there you have it. Next time you are at the hardware store (Bob found these for me at Lowe’s), don’t forget to skim the end caps and pencil aisle. You never know what you might find.

Upcoming Events (AKA I’m terrible at self-promotion)

First, there’s just a few hours left to back The Pen Addict Live 2017 – RelayCon Atlanta & DC Pen Show on Kickstarter and get a chance to the special video of Brad and Myke in Atlanta (and ME in the third chair) AND get the cool Pen Addict podcast NockCo “only-available-here” Sapelo pen case. Three years of RelayCon wonder! I can’t believe how lucky I am!

Of course, this means that I will be in Atlanta for the Atlanta Pen Show in April. I will be helping out at the Vanness Pens table for most of the weekend this year but can be found behind a mic for the Pen Addict Live event and at the bar in the evenings. Or at the Waffle House. I will need my sustenance!

Before Atlanta however, The Well-Appointed Desk and Skylab Letterpress will make its pen show debut at the Arkansas Pen Show on Friday, March 17th – Sunday, March 19th at The Crowne Plaza in Little Rock. We will be selling some vintage office supplies including a selection from my typewriter archives, some fine stationery products from Skylab like notecards and assorted paper goods. I’ll also have an array of rubber stamps for those interested.

And… we’ll be debuting a brand new product from The Well-Appointed Desk and Skylab Letterpress! We’ve been working on this for several months and a few people in the community have been privy to details about the project but it will be unveiled at the Arkansas Pen Show just a few weeks away! After the release, I will make it available online.

So stay tuned and I hope to see folks at the upcoming shows!

Future show plans include Chicago, DC, San Francisco and Dallas this year. I’m hoping to be helping out with Vanness at most of these shows this year but I’ll keep you all posted as things develop. Let the pen show season begin!

Link Love: New Week, New Header!

I got a wild hair last week to make a new header for Link Love. I was feeling all cut paper-y so I got out my watercolors and my craft knife and I went to town. Initially I scanned the header in and cleaned it all up in Adobe Photoshop so it looked like a little banner but at the last minute, I saw the cut letters laying on top of my scanner with the light catching them and decided I liked them way better just photographed than all Photoshopped. So… new header! I hope you like it.

Pens:

Inks:

Pencils:

Paper & Notebook:

Planners:

Other Interesting Things:

Notebook Review: Baron Fig Vanguard Black Box

The Baron Fig Vanguard Black Box is probably no longer a big secret but I’m going to hide the photos of the actual covers of the notebooks behind a “read more” so if you don’t want to have the surprise ruined, you don’t have to click through. Especially since the NEW Vanguard Edition launched last week. So, really… but not many folks have been talking about this edition. I feel like it got lost in the shuffle of the holidays and all the other special releases and I think people might kick themselves if they don’t grab this one since its still available so I thought I’d get my review out now. Better late than never.

Everything prior to the “read more” will not be a spoiler so feel free to continue to read on.

First, the Black Box comes in another one of Baron Fig’s excellent boxes. This one in matte black with gloss black symbols on the cover: an x, an o, a wave and a leaf. It reminds me of a puzzle, something from Welcome to Nightvale or an episode of Lost.

The big news is that its one of the first editions of the Vanguard with dot grid. AND… the paper looks to have been upgraded to the same stock that Baron Fig is using in the Confidant. The stock is  toothier than in my previous Vanguard editions and the color is creamier.

See that texture? Alternately, if you liked that smooth smooth Vanguard stock, then this is not the edition for you.

When I did a side-by-side comparison of the Black Box edition paper and an original Vanguard, the paper in the Black Box handled like the Confidant which was much more to my liking. My fountain pens were well-behaved and the toothiness of the stock meant that pencils and pen nibs didn’t slide around of their own accord.

The photo above is a close-ups of the ink handling of the two books. The bottom two frames are the same pen on the two versions of Vanguard. Fountain pen users will recognize that weird ink resistance on the right as opposed to the left which is just lovely shading. (It’s Oster Fire & Ice ink, if you’re curious.)

Okay… this is it… You want to see the cover details?

(more…)

Review: Plumchester Square Sketchbook

Review by Tina Koyama

When I first saw it, I was immediately thrilled by the rich plum color of the new Plumchester Square Sketchbook – with a yellow-gold elastic and matching ribbon bookmark! I don’t know about you, but I don’t see nearly enough of the purple/gold complement anywhere, much less the stationery world. Let’s take a closer look, outside and inside.

Appearance and Features

The vegan leather hardcover has a smooth matte finish without the vague stickiness I sometimes feel on other synthetic leather surfaces. The corners are neatly rounded. Although I didn’t road test its durability, the cover resists minor fingernail scratches and looks like it would hold up well to daily-carry. The only branding is a white debossed logo on the back cover.

The elastic closure is significantly wider and heftier than what you’d find on a Moleskine – proportionate to the book’s 8.3-by-8.3-inch format. I wish the satin ribbon bookmark were wider – by comparison, it seems skimpy (however, the cut edge has been fray-proofed, so Ana would undoubtedly give that detail a bonus point!).

Other than its color, probably the most distinctive physical feature of the Plumchester sketchbook is its square format. Although an Internet search for square-format sketchbooks yields plenty of results, most are spiralbound or softcover, not perfect-bound hardcovers. The square format is one of my favorites for versatility – you can decide on your work’s format after it’s done, not be forced to conform to the format of your book. It’s also just right for sharing on Instagram, as Plumchester points out: “Snap a photo of your art on a square page and post it to social media using #plumchester.”

All of that caught my eye, but what held my attention was when I opened that perfect-bound hardcover binding – and how absolutely flat the page spreads open. As big a fan as I am of Stillman & Birn’s sketchbooks, I’ve looked askance at their claims that their hardcover books open flat – I have never been able to escape the telltale gray shadow at the gutter when I put a spread on the scanner. (S&B’s softcovers do, indeed, open as flat as any sketchbook I know.) The Plumchester, however, really does open completely flat. Since spreads closer to the middle of a book usually open flatter, I deliberately picked a spread near the back cover to scan the gutter. As you can see from my un-Photoshopped image, there’s no gray shadow. Based on all the hardcover sketchbooks I’ve opened, I had been convinced that it just isn’t possible to make one that opens completely flat – but the Plumchester proves it can be done.

Media Tests

OK, let’s get to the nitty-gritty – the 48 pages of paper. The smooth, bright white paper is 160 gsm (108 lbs.). Since I’m familiar with it, and it has a similar texture, I compared it to Stillman & Birn’s Epsilon series, which is 150 gsm (100 lbs.). While that weight difference is hardly noticeable in thickness, where it really shows up is in opacity. On an Epsilon page, the ghost of the image on the page underneath or on the other side is clearly visible, but I saw no ghosting at all on Plumchester pages, even when scanned.

I had a ton of fun throwing just about every medium I own onto those pages. Many sketchbook papers have a toothy surface that’s nice for art media, but the tooth is unpleasant with a fountain pen (my favorite writing tool), so I don’t enjoy writing on the same page I’ve sketched on. But the Plumchester’s smooth surface is a joy to use with everything from fountain and gel pens to fat, juicy brush pens.

The only media that bled through were an alcohol-based Zig Kurecolor marker, a Higgins Black Magic marker (wherever I stalled when writing, but not a scribbled line where I was moving faster) and a scribble of Liquitex ink where I sprayed it with water.

Plumchester says the paper is ideal for “graphite pencils, pigmented ink, colored pencils, paint markers,” so it was no surprise that the paper buckled under watercolor or wherever I sprayed or washed the page with water. While I expected the buckling (most papers lighter than 140 lbs. probably would), I was a little disappointed that the sizing allowed most of my water-soluble marker and brush pen inks to sink in rapidly, which means that giving them a swipe of a waterbrush didn’t bring out a rich wash. Papers of equivalent weight such as Stillman & Birn’s Alpha and Canson XL mixed media do a better job of that.

Still, my pear illustration shows off plenty of bright, blended colors from Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens, so I can’t complain. My other fruit sketches show conventional colored pencils, watercolor pencils (activated with water) and watercolor paints, and the colors all look brilliant on Plumchester’s paper. As expected, the page buckled wherever I applied water, but nothing seeped through.

With all dry media the paper is pleasant to use, especially plain old graphite. I thought it might not have enough tooth to use with charcoal and other chalky drawing pencils, but even those look beautiful. With colored pencils I tend to prefer surfaces with a bit more tooth to pick up the pigment faster, but I still like the results on this smooth surface.   

Final Impressions

I think the Plumchester sketchbook would make an ideal art journal. The page spreads are generous, and the flat-opening binding is unsurpassed. The paper takes nearly every medium beautifully, as long as you don’t get carried away with water, and the pages are heavy enough that they could support collage, too. A bonus is the smooth surface, which is a delight to use for drawing and painting as well as writing.

The A5 square size is a bit too large for me to carry in my everyday bag, so I am really hoping Plumchester makes a smaller book in the same square format – 6 or 7 inches would be ideal. With the same purple and yellow color scheme, please!

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.

Fashionable Friday: La la land

Seems only fitting that this week’s theme be LA-centric with the LA Pen Show being in full swing (pun fully intended) and Lalaland up for 14 Academy Awards and the Oscars are next week. So, the walk of stars are on my mind.

I haven’t gotten to see the film La La Land yet but if there’s ever been a movie made “just for me” this is probably it. I love musicals and the fashion in the film looks right up my alley. As much as I think this film looks fabulous, I am secretly pulling for Hidden Figures to bring home the big Oscar prizes because at our house a film about NASA is always going to be “best picture.” And I still get sassy, smart talking ladies in vintage clothes so I still win.

  • Oscar Bingo Cards Downloadable PDF, free (via How About Orange)
  • Pelikan Souverän M400 fountain pen tortoiseshell white, 14k nib €315 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Visconti Michelangelo White Marbelized Venus Fountain Pen with Fine Stainless Steel Nib $179.40 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen – Gun Metal Gray with Rhodium Trim, Broad Nib $148 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen – Aluminum Gold Body with Fine Nib $95 (via JetPens)
  • GOLD Morning Field Star Pattern MT Washi Tape $3.50 per roll (via CuteTape)
  • Hidden Figures, nominated for 3 Oscars (via IMDB)
  • Diamine Shimmertastic Golden Sands Ink (50ml Bottle) $20 (via Anderson Pens)
  • La la land, nominated for 14 Oscars (via IMDB)
  • Midori Brass Pencil $16 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Cross Stitch Washi Tape Chugoku $2 per roll (via CuteTape)