Notebook Review: Dingbats*

Review by Jessica Coles

Dingbats* notebooks (yes, the star is part of the full name) are not new to the stationery world.  The notebook line began in 2011 in Lebanon and is produced by their parent company, Société Kamel Bekdache et Fils SAL.  The parent company has operated since 1800 as a family business and is the oldest established business in Lebanon.

What sets Dingbats* apart from other notebooks? It’s the materials that are used and their manufacturing process.  Dingbats* claims to care deeply about the environment and they certainly uphold that claim with their notebooks.  No animals products are used in the production of these notebooks which are certified as vegan.  The factory returns water to the environment cleaner than before, trees used as paper sources are harvested in a sustainable manner and all materials in the notebooks can be recycled or will naturally degrade if they find a way to a landfill.

But what about the notebook that comes from all of this?  At the beginning of each notebook in their new Earth series ($22.95 from Dingbats* website), Dingbats* has printed a two page spread about various habitats that are at risk throughout the world.  The notebook I received happened to be focused on the Great Barrier Reef.


The Ocean theme is repeated throughout the design.  I love the endpaper and the embossed decoration on the cover is a wonderful detail as well.

The notebook includes an attached pen holder (no need to purchase that!) and an elastic band to hold it closed and both are made of high-quality elastic.  The pen holder can comfortably hold a Pilot 823 pen.

Another feature of the Earth notebooks is called Page Tabs.  Two pages are reserved in the front of the notebook as a key.  Each entry on the Tab Key has a corresponding half circle.


Throughout the rest of the notebook, fill in the dot that matches the topic in your key. The mark from this half circle can be seen on the edge of the notebook  This is amazingly useful if you have information you would like to find quickly such as reminders or appointments and each page can belong to as many topics as needed. This isn’t a new idea, however, the process of filling out the key and the presence of the empty circles on each page serve as a reminder to keep up the practice as you go.

Dingbats* contains 192 pages (96 sheets) of 100 gsm cream paper with dot grid ruling.  All pages are numbered and the last 16 pages are perforated.  An index (in addition to the tab index pages) is included in the front (3 pages), along with a section titled “Dingbats key”; this is meant to be filled in with symbols used with bullet journaling to indicate the type of task. This notebook is absolutely bullet journal friendly!



Ok.  The manufacturing and the design both get high scores.  But what about the paper?  Well, I threw everything I could at this notebook in order to find the limits.  Here’s what I found:

  • No feathering even with wet inks or broad nibs.
  • The paper loves sparkly inks (both fountain pen ink and gel) and pencil.
  • No visible sheen from any inks.
  • Ghosting with about half of the pens used.
  • Slight bleed through dots where the ink was particularly heavy.
  • It holds up very well when your cats knock over a glass of water during the testing. The dried paper wrinkles slightly, the ink runs unless it is iron gall and you get kitty paw prints on the page.  The paper will hold up well to a light watercolor wash.



My impressions (after my cats and I had fun with ink and water);

  • The paper reminds me of Leuchtturm paper, but better.  Dingbats* holds up to more ink on the page, shows no feathering and smells very light and clean.
  • I love the inclusion of the pen loop.  Because it is built into the notebook, it feels more secure than one I install myself.
  • The cover is sturdier than other notebooks I have used, the bookmark ribbons extend further (3-4 inches past the edge of the closed book) and the elastic is more elastic-y.  Overall the materials used are much nicer than similar notebooks and only stuff that’s good for the environment is used.
  • At $22.95, the price is also similar to other notebooks on the market.  These do come from Lebanon, but shipping costs are low and an order qualifies for free shipping to the US at $37.
  • I deeply appreciate the ideals of Dingbats* and the lengths that they go to with this notebook.  The company is committed to protecting and improving our environment while creating beautiful, affordable, and well-made products. I’m glad that I can help support those ideals!

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this review were provided free of charge by Dingbats* for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details. No cats were harmed during this review, although they did get wet.

Link Love

Link of the Week:

While this link is old, I found it down the click-through rabbit hole that happens when one starts reading one article, then another, then another, that eventually leads to a jewel. This article might lead you forward through my New Yorker rabbit hole to the other articles which were each about journals and diaries but this one seems like a good place to start.

Woke Up This Morning: Why do we read diaries? (via The New Yorker)




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

Pelikan Hubs: This Friday!

We have details for the Kansas City and Nashville Pelikan Hub Events!

Kansas City:

The Kansas City event will be held at 6:30pm on Friday night (Sept. 21) at Crown Center just outside The Pen Place. There are 37 registered attendees but anyone is welcome to come. Registered attendees will receive the goodies from Pelikan but there will be a chance to win other free swag. This is a get together for Pelikan fans to come and share their interests. Please bring any items you would like to share with others. Some of us are planning to bring snacks and beverages to share among attendees but you can also bring something to share or get something to eat or drink from one of the restaurants in Crown Center (Spin Pizza, Unforked, Milano, etc.). As a special thank you for attending, Pen Place will be open and will be offering 25% off Pelikan items and 20% off everything else.


The event in Nashville will be held at  Stout Burgers and Beer (400 Centerview Drive, Brentwood TN) in the side room for events starting at 6:30pm. The event is limited to the room’s capacity so if you did not pre-register to attend the Pelikan Hub in Nashville, please contact the hubmaster for more information.

However… There is a meet-up on Saturday Sept 22 from 1-4pm  that will be open to anyone interested in attending at the Homewood Suites (5107 Peter Taylor Park Drive, Brentwood, TN) hosted by Lisa Vanness of Vanness Pens and Joe Crace of Gentleman Stationer. There will be door prizes and a chance to check out some of the new planners and pens available!

Check with your local pen club to find out details about the Pelikan Hub in your area. If you missed it this year, bookmark the Pelikan Hubs page or put the Pelikan’s Perch in your feed reader as they are one of the best sources for information about the event each year.
And if you do not live near a hub or are unable to attend, you can follow along with the events by searching for the hashtag on Instagram: #pelikanhubs

Ink Review: Bungbox Happiness

Ink Review: Bungbox Happiness

Guest Review by Julia van der Wyk

Intro and general comments

Bungbox Happiness ($39 per 50ml bottle) ink was made to replicate the color of happiness, in the guise of a cheerful, yet unassuming green. Do we think they succeeded? Well, the bunny fox on the label is so happy it can’t even handle how happy it is. Let’s find out why!

Fountain pens

Bungbox Happiness Pens in testing

For this ink’s review, I filled some inadvertently matching pens:
Parker Vacumatic with fine nib, Pelikan M400 with extra fine nib, though for the purposes of this review it works as a medium, and another personal favorite, the Franklin Christoph pocket 20 with the fine cursive italic nib.
The Pelikan is my “stream of consciousness” journal pen, so got lots of use. My current journal is a Confidant, and the ink performed well enough so I was only aware of it’s smooth flow and pretty color. Green, the color of my thoughts. The Parker Vac and FC italic saw more action in my daily schedule Hobonichi pages. Of course, it was a delight tracking my day to day mundane actions with these tools. I never had to coax the feeds with this ink, even with the Parker cap that is not air tight. For standard fountain pen use, this ink is a go!

Paper tests for Fps


Bungbox Happiness on Clairfontaine

Shading galore in the two round nibs. The color was more even using the italic, which is also tuned to be crisp, so no surprise there. I do not detect sheen with this ink. No bleed, show through or feathering, just juicy bright color!


Bungbox Happiness on Col-o-ring

I don’t see as much shading here, just darker to lighter as the nibs get smaller. Nice variety of tones with the brush, and is that sheen I see on the swatch edge?

Tomoe River

Bungbox Happiness Tomoe River

All three nibs show shading here, with nary a mark to be seen on the other side of the paper. Well done, ink and paper combination.

Baron Fig Confidant

Bungbox Happiness Baron Fig Confidant

Consistent again across all nibs, deep color and shading all the way round. No feathering, bleed or show through.

Inky Fingers Currently Inked

Bungbox Happiness on Inky Fingers paper

Bungbox Happiness Parker

Bungbox Happiness Franklin Christoph

Color of the ink appears lighter here, but still can see shading from the round nibs. No feathering, bleed or show through.

Daiso “Word” Card

Bungbox Happiness Daiso word cards

No big surprise, ink appears flatter on this more textured and uncoated paper, but performs well.

Cheap copy paper

Bungbox Happiness on copy paper

Here’s the fun part: feathering, show through and some bleed on this multi-purpose, economical paper. You can tell it’s meant for an entirely different kind of ink. Oh well.

Art tests

Bungbox Happiness Art lettering

Ink wash and dip nib calligraphy on SOHO sketch paper. Since this ink is a bright medium hue, I expected a clear limit on the variety of values it would produce. But here I was happily surprised! Working directly with brush and ink, I could layer and build deepness. Thinning with water I could go as light and ephemeral as I pleased. I added more layers onto the dry ink and the tones changed from there as well. In summary: this ink is pretty amazing as an art supply. Of course, the amount of depth and darkness is dependent upon the delivery system at hand: the brush, champ though it is, cannot compete with a fully saturated dip calligraphy nib. Here we see the full range of tones and shading, especially with the Speedball C-3 nib. The Zebra G flex nib did not want to hold onto the ink, which was expected as fountain pen inks are not made for this style of ink. If one were to embark on a lettering project with this nib, I recommend mixing with a thickening agent (ed. note: a drop or two of liquid gum arabic added to a separate container, not directly into the bottle) to lengthen the stroke capacity. Priming the nib will not be enough to overcome the thinness of the ink.

Conclusion and wrap-up

I know why the bunny fox is happy. I love the color, and yes, greens are my favorite, but still, this is a great one. The ink performs well in all scenarios from fountain pens to art experimentation. It flows well in longer writing sessions, and is ready to go for short jots. Bungbox Happiness is outstanding.

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this review may have been provided free of charge by sponsors for the purpose of review. The Well-Appointed Desk is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Please see the About page for more details.

Julia van der WykJulia is an artist, classical musician, knitter, and lover of the outdoors. She resides in Santa Cruz, California, where she can draw Pelicans with Pelikans, and brag about the weather. Follow her adventures on Instagram @juliavdw or Twitter @juliavdw.

Pen Review: Three Dry Gel Pens Compared

Review by Tina Koyama

After fountain pens, my favorite pen type for writing is gel. I love the wide range of vibrant ink colors they are available in, and they require no maintenance.

As a lefty, however, many gel inks remain wet just long enough that they smear under typical writing conditions. I’ve occasionally tried “fast drying” or “dry” gel pens with varying degrees of satisfaction, but it had been a long time since I explored this characteristic, so I went out to JetPens to look around. As you know, JetPens stocks a staggering number of gel pens, including 200 containing “quick drying” inks. To narrow my choices, I checked the “retractable” option (my preferred pen body style) and still came up with 164 choices. (Whew – shopping at JetPens can be exhausting!) The three quick-drying, retractable gel pens I chose to compare are:

(In retrospect, I realized I should have compared three pens of the same tip size, since broader tips put out more ink and presumably take longer to dry. Thankfully, the Desk didn’t hire me for my scientific methods.)

1 - 3 Dry Gel Pen contenders

Initially my thought was to make lines on a sheet and rub my finger through them at regular intervals to see how long I’d have to wait for them to dry completely. Then I realized that the only meaningful test is a real-world one. So I pulled out my daily-use Leuchtturm 1917 journal and a collection of short stories on my bookshelf. Using each pen, I copied several sentences at my normal writing speed and without trying to be neat. In other words, exactly the way I typically write in my journal. I then examined the page and circled all the spots where I saw that the ink had smeared. (It was somewhat hair-raising to see all those red marks. . . it recalled papers I got back from elementary school teachers.) Finally, I photographed the side of my hand, which often tells a more complete story than the page. (I washed my hand thoroughly after each test so that I always began a new test with a clean hand. I do make some effort at credibility.)

Here are the results.

The Sarasa Dry

The Sarasa Dry is the fast-drying gel pen I’ve had the longest, and I’ve never been crazy about it. Although it isn’t apparent in my test sample, the ink tends to blob. Among Zebras, I prefer the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip Gel Pen, whose ink doesn’t seem to take any longer to dry but flows more smoothly without blobbing. My hand shows an average amount of telltale ink – about the same as what most gel pens leave behind.

2 - Sarasa tip

3 - Sarasa Dry sample

4 - Sarasa hand


The Ohto Rays

Although the Ohto Rays supposedly has the same point size (0.5mm) as the Sarasa Dry, it looks much finer on the page and simply feels finer in a non-flattering way – a bit scratchy. It also rattles unpleasantly. Despite the finer line, it still left behind numerous smeary spots where my hand dragged across it. Looking at my hand, however, I had to conclude that the Ohto Rays ink was dry enough not to transfer to my skin. So although I enjoyed using this pen the least of the three contenders, I must acknowledge that my hand looks cleaner than usual.

5 - Ohto Rays tip

Ohto Rays sample

7 - Ohto Rays hand

The Pentel EnerGel

I had high hopes for the Pentel EnerGel because the pen body itself is the most attractive of the three. In fact, I already owned several before putting it through this test because I enjoy using it so much. The ink flows smoothly and evenly and never blobs. As you can see from the writing test, though, it did smear often, and I was chagrined to see the wide trail of ink it left behind on my hand.

Pentel Energel tip

 Pentel Energel sample

Pentel hand

Final Impressions

Disappointingly, none of the three pens did much better than the others on page tests, but the Ohto Rays clearly left the least amount of ink on my hand. Its retro Parker-esque body might appeal to some, but I found it too slender for my comfort. JetPens indicates that the Ohto Rays Flash ink refill is compatible with several other pens, so I could find another pen body that would make me happier. Another solution might be to stick with finer tips of any kind of gel ink, “dry” or not, since the broader 0.7mm EnerGel left more ink on my hand. Easier still would be to use whatever pen I like and not worry about smudges and inky hand (in other words, be my usual self).

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

Ink Review: Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin

Review by Laura Cameron

I know I’m not the resident green expert here at The Desk, but when Jesi offered this bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-rin (15mL for $9.90) to me, I couldn’t resist it.

Chiku-rin is a gorgeous green. I think of it as almost a lemongrass color, but Chiku-rin translates to bamboo forest.  Either way it is the perfect spring green.

The ink does shade a bit, and it is very legible even in lighter shades. I don’t see any sheen, but on darker applications I do see a much bluer green which was a little surprising.

When I pulled out my green swatches to match, I found that Robert Oster Sublime was a pretty good match for the light tones.  I didn’t have a great match for the darker tones, bit without a pretty wide nib I don’t think the darker greens will show up that much.  I also looked at J. Herbin Olive Vert, which is a smidge yellower in tone.

Overall, I think our green addict would approve!

Link Love: In Search of Pencil Lovers

The only things missing from this week’s links are more pencil reviews – where are all the pencil lovers? We want to hear from you!  This week’s highlights include how the Ink Smudge got it’s name and David Pennington’s shop tales. Oh retail!




Notebooks & Paper:

Art Supplies & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things: