Pen Review: Sakura Ballsign 0.4 Gel Pens

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen header

I know, I know… I need more gel pens like I need a hole in my head but I decided I just had to try the whole rainbow of colors of the new-to-me Sakura Ballsign 0.4mm gel pens. These pens are Sakura’s entry into the already-heavily-fortified gel pen category with heavyweights like Uni Signo, Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Zebra Sarasa and many others. So, the question is what does Sakura bring to the category that the others don’t?

First thing to note is that the Ballsign pens are very slender with a bulbous grip section that has a grippy, elastomer material. Despite being odd looking, the shape is smooth and fits comfortably in the hand and the unusual grippy material is not as sticky and dust-collecting as silicone but still manages to feel good in the hand and counteract any slipping that might be caused by a tight or sweaty grip.

The Ballsign gel pens come in an array of colors. I purchased every color available in the small 0.4mm size which is the smallest tip available. There are neons, metallics and glitter options at 0.6mm and 0.8mm sizes. I will probably give some of those a spin based on my initial impressions of the 0.4mm gel pens.

The Ballgin gel pens are spring-loaded retractables and I quite like the mechanism. The tips are held in place pretty firmly with very little wiggle and the spring mechanism is easy to use. The clear barrels let you see not only the click mechanism and spring but there’s also a small transparent window to see how much ink is left. The top half of the barrel is painted in solid color to make it easy to find the pen you want.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen set

The ten-pack set ($27) included: aqua blue (I labelled this Lt. Blue), black, blue, brown black, green, orange, pink, red, violet (I mislabelled this purple) and yellow. I also bought additional colors separately ($2.70 each) so that I’d have the full color range. The extra colors are: rose pink, cherry pink,  lime green, red orange, and blue. I mixed up all the pink colors immediately so I’m not sure which pink is labelled which way. Reviewing the samples on JetPens, I noticed more color differences between the pink and the cherry pink. The rose pink is the one I labelled “fuchsia”.

(Sidenote: I didn’t put the pens back correctly in the package because, like a kid, I dumped them all out and organized them in rainbow order and started doodling and writing. I do not have good impulse control when it comes to new office products.)

So now that I’ve cleared up all the naming inconsistencies, let’s discuss the performance.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen color sample

The ten-pack set ($27) included: aqua blue (I labelled this Lt. Blue), black, blue, brown black, green, orange, pink, red, violet (I mislabelled this purple) and yellow. I bought the additional colors separately ($2.70 each): rose pink, cherry pink,  lime green, red orange, and blue. I mixed up all the pink colors immediately so I’m not sure which pink is labelled which way. Reviewing the samples on JetPens, I noticed more color differences between the pink and the cherry pink. The rose pink is the one I labelled “fuchsia”. So, now that I’ve cleared up all the naming inconsistencies, let’s discuss the performance.

The yellow is a bit too light to use for writing but all the other colors are very appealing. The lime green is also a little too light but its a bright, clean color so I’ll still probably use it. I love that they included the blue-black as a standard color in the 10-color set rather than the blue even though I like the blue color a lot. If I were to redo this order, I would still have bought the 10-color set but I would have only supplemented the basic colors with the red-orange and blue. The lime green is not the best and the pinks are all pretty similar. I’m not girly enough to need three shades of pink. But feel free to disagree.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen writing sample

Each pen had the little globs of blue rubber on the tip to protect them from maybe drying out that I had to flick off. Once removed, these wrote super smooth and started immediately. I ended up finding the grip, despite looking sort of bulbous, are very comfortable to hold. I love the knock retractable feature.

I know folks love the Zebra Sarasa Clip clips but I’m kind of okay with the teeny tiny Ballsign clips. They keep the pens from rolling off my desk and since I don’t keep my pens in my shirt pocket, I don’t really need a big clip.

Sakura Ballsign waterproof test

At the last second, I realized I hadn’t done a waterproof test. Most gel pens are not particularly waterproof so I was going to skip it completely but I decided to test it anyway. I put a few Ballsign gel pens up against a few Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica pens I had sitting on my desk. And the grand differentiating feature was revealed! The Sakura Ballsign pens are pretty darn waterproof. After I took this picture I scavenged around and found a couple Pilot Juice and Uni Signo refills and tested those as well, for comparison sake. The Pilot Juice inks smeared with water like the Hi-Tec C. The Uni Signo refills bled a little, depending on color. The red more than the blue black I had, for example. But the Ballsign gel pens definitely stand out for water resistance in the gel pen category.

So, if you’re in the market for a wide variety of colored gel ink pens and don’t mind the comewhat unorthodox shape of the Ballsigns, I highly recommend them. Even if you do think they are a little wonky looking, add one or two to your next JetPens order and let me know what you think. I think you’ll agree with me… a little odd but a comfy, good little pen!

Digital Printables for Planners

Ever since I bought a laser printer, I’ve been using it to print various printables for my planner. Previously, it was so expensive to purchase ink for my inkjet printer and it so frequently clogged that I had basically stopped using it. My little laser printer is SO MUCH more reliable and cost effective. Of course, I can only print in black and grey but it give me an excuse to indulge in the occasional sticker, washi tape or rubber stamp.

I’m always on the hunt for good planner, journal, project management sheets. I like seeing good clean designs that can be left simple and clean — or decorated, if you are so inclined.

Here’s a few of my recent favorites:

marcy penner midori planner inserts

Marcy Penner Midori Printables Last year, I bought her personal-sized planner set and it was really well done. Her new planner set for 2016 for Midori-sized books is even better. The design features week-on-one-page with either blank or gird paper on the right. Also included is month-on-two-pages calendar. Set includes October 2015 through December 2016 so if you’re itching to get organized, you could start today. $10 for digital download.

Clock is Ticking Notepaper

Clock is Ticking Printable Notepaper Is this not the cutest illustration? This FREE downloadable PDF is compliments of the talented Mayi Carles of Oh My Handmade Goodness. Once printed and trimmed, you can make them into your own tear-off pad with this tutorial from Playful Learning.

Elise Joy Quote cards

Elise Blaha Cripe, aka Elise Joy, made lovely, inspirational quote cards that you can add to your planner dashboard or dividers. The designs are clean and simple and there’s bound to be one or two quotes that speak to you. Even if you’re not inclined to decorate, pinning one to your wall near your desk might be all you need to inspire you to forge ahead on your goals and projects. Free download.

Do you use downloadable printables? Which designers or styles are your favorite?

Fashionable Friday: Plum Dandy

Fashionable Friday: Plum Dandy

  • Retro 51 Tornado Classic Lacquer Rollerball in Purple (via Anderson Pens, Goldspot Pens, JetPens and more!)
  • Sharpie 80’s Glam Permanent Marker in Valley Girl Violet $1.20 (via JetPens)
  • Seoul Laptop Backpack in Plum Orchard on sale $79.99 (via Kipling USA)
  • Diamine Shimmertastic Purple Pazzazz (50ml Bottle) $20 (Coming soon from Goulet Pens or pre-order at Pen Chalet)
  • Pelikan Tradition Series 205 Amethyst Fine Point Fountain Pen $139.95 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Montblanc Lavender Purple Ink (60ml Bottle) $19 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Lamy Al-Star in Purple $37.60 (via Pen Chalet and Anderson Pens)
  • Pelikan Edelstein Bottled Fountain Pen Ink (50ml) in Amethyst $25 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Paperblanks Ultra Lined Journal in Silver Filigree Blush Pink, Lined $29.95 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Limited Edition TWSBI Diamond 580AL Purple Fountain Pen with Broad Nib $60 (via JetPens)
  • Mystic Rose floral A5 organiser $39.50 (via Paperchase)
  • Raymay Pencut Mini Pen-Style Scissors in Violet $8.25 (via JetPens)
  • Pilot Iroshizuku 15 ml Mini Ink in Yama-budo (Wild Grapes) $14 (via Jet Pens)
  • Tombow Pit Slide Adhesive Tape Roller in Cranberry Purple $3 (via JetPens)
  • Liberty of London Sticky Notes in Floral $9.99 (via Amazon)

Many of the products featured in Fashionable Friday can be found at many of the shops that sponsor this blog. The sponsors are what help keep this site going, providing products for giveaways and reviews so I hope that you’ll make your next purchase with one (or all) of them. Let them know you heard about them on The Well-Appointed Desk. Thanks!

Ask The Readers: Lay-Flat Notebooks & Brown Ink


Hello, dear readers, I’m turning to you to help make some recommendations to some of the questions I’ve received lately.

I will summarize a lengthy question from Jeff in the UK:

He’s looking for a notebook smaller than a standard A5 that will lay flat and will work well with fountain pens.

This is a real stumper. Smaller notebooks make me think of the array of pocket notebooks available (à la Field Notes) but these are not known to be terribly fountain pen friendly. Maybe the Backpocket Journal or the most recent incarnation of the NockCo Dot Dash pad? Leuchtturm 1917 does offer a pocket-sized edition (A6). Leuchtturm paper works tolerably well with fountain pens that are more fine-to-medium nib but not too wet. Anyone have other recommendations for Jeff?

And Scott asks:

What is your favorite everyday brown ink?  I need a change from my beloved blue-blacks! Thanks.

I am also a victim of the blue-black love and have very few recommendations in this category of colors. I am not crazy about J. Herbin’s Lie de The though I know a lot of people are fans of this particular shade of brown. I recently review the Akkerman Hopjesbraun and I liked it better than other browns I’ve tried but I have not committed to a whole bottle of any brown. Can someone with an expertise in brown inks help Scott out?

Link Love: Montblanc, Moleskine & Magic Pencils




Paper & Notebooks:


Other Interesting Things:

Submit your Link Love art: To be the featured artist on an upcoming Link Love, write, draw, photograph, or doodle an original “Link Love” image. It can be lettering, calligraphy, your own interpretation of Link or anything else you think might relate to the weekly list of pen/pencil-centric blog links. Email your submission to me at chair @ Please include any link information you’d like in the image credit (your name, Twitter handle, Instagram, blog, etc). Also include any information about inks, tools, paper, etc used in your creation. Please let me know that I have permission to publish your work in Link Love and that the image is your original piece.

5 Things You Should NOT Keep in a Planner


As I’ve continued to research planners, planning systems and how other people use their planners, I’ve come across a few things I think should NOT be kept in a planner. Please feel free to disagree with me but these are my top five things I won’t keep in my planner.

  1. Passwords: For all my passwords, I use 1Password which syncs across all my devices (computers, tablets and cell phones), creates complex passwords and allows me to use one password to access all of it. It will also store credit card information, shipping information and software serial numbers, all behind the master password. I don’t feel comfortable keeping my passwords in my planner in case it gets lost or I leave it laying unattended for any length of time. Besides, I try to employ a regular password changing schedule for my very important accounts like banking and insurance. Take my advice and migrate your passwords to a secure, online system like 1Password. Its not cheap but it is worth every cent.
  2. Frequent Shopper, Frequent Flyer & Related Cards: While I love paper systems, all these credit card-sized cards in my planner or wallet take up a ton of space and are often only accessed or used occasionally. I found the app CardStar several years ago and it is perfect for saving all these cards. The app will scan the bar code off the card and store it in your phone. When you need to use a card, pull it up and the bar code appears on screen for the cashier to scan. Often times, the bar code is bigger than on the original card and is not scuffed or faded making it easier to scan. I use mine to store pharmacy cards, library cards, hotel point and flyer miles cards. I even hide important account numbers under unused mileage categories like my husband’s social security number or my bank account number. The app does not have a secure log-in for the iPhone but since my phone is thumbprint locked, I’m not overly concerned that someone will get into my phone and into the app to find these numbers. The only cards I couldn’t store in the app  are any with magnetic strips rather than bar codes or numbers on them or warehouse club cards like Costco since I have to show them at the door. My Barnes & Noble and Panera cards still have to travel in my wallet because they have mag strips but hopefully, as more systems get upgraded, these cards will change to bar codes as well. I still store a copy of all my cards in Cardstar in case my wallet goes missing or I misplace a card. I have the numbers stored and Cardstar often stores contact information for commonly used vendors right in the app so that I could contact them should I need to replace a card, upgrade my account or contact them about another matter. The last hold over are punch cards for local coffeeshops and the like. I keep these in a small card case in my wallet.
  3. Home Address: Yes, it is vitally important to keep some sort of contact information in the front of your planner should you misplace it. Using your email address, cell number or office contact info is acceptable in hopes that someone might try to return it to you. I would not recommend keeping your home address in the front of your planner for security reasons — both personal safety and identity theft. I set-up a Google Voice account many years ago to have a phone number that is not my personal number. Google Voice allows you to block individual numbers, receive text-translated voice mail messages and many other great features. If you run a business and use your cell phone as your main means of communication, a Google Voice number might be the perfect solution to have a personal number and a business number. And it means you can put contact info in your planner without revealing your real phone number.
  4. Checkbook or checks: Lots of people use their planner to do double duty as a wallet but in 2015, there is no reason to carry your checkbook, with your address and bank account number printed on each and every one. If you have to make a deposit or mail a check, prepare and completely fill out the checks you need to take with you before you leave the house. If you’re mailing them, be sure they are sealed in an envelope before you leave. If you are delivering them personally, put them in an envelope and seal it with the intended recipient’s name on it as well. If you’re making a deposit at the bank, be sure each check has “For deposit only” written on the back with your signature which will make it less likely that a bank would cash it for someone else.
  5. Excess detritus: This is probably very obvious to most people but in the excitement of setting up a new planner, I often over-stuff it with things I think I’ll need but I don’t use. This just makes the planner bulkier and heavier than if I pare it down to the essentials. So, I’ve learned that I don’t need to fill all the pockets with decorating items, every coupon, every receipt, extra sticky notes and my kitchen sink. I have a couple sheets of Japanese calendar stickers that I reserve for vacations and special events and a sheet of washi stickers I use to cover up anything that gets moved or changed. I keep a short stack of sticky notes for miscellaneous lists. I have lots of extra bits at home should I get the urge to “fancy up” my planner. Be mindful that the more you cram in your planner, the heavier it will be and the less likely you will be to carry it with you thus undoing any good planning mojo you may have created by including extra stuff.

This is, for me, the things I think should not be kept in a planner, especially if you leave it laying on your desk, tote it around in your bag, hang it over the edge of the shopping cart at the grocery and basically live out of it. While I would be devastated to lose it, I know that if I did lose it, I would not be a potential victim of identity theft too.

If you are someone whose planner never leaves the house, than these tenets might not apply to you.

Did I forget anything you think shouldn’t be stored in a planner?

Review: Bic Intensity Marker Pen (Set of 7)

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

When I spotted these Bic Intensity Marker Pens in a set of seven colors at my local big box office supply store, I couldn’t resist trying them out. Its not often that I spy something in the big box store that I can’t resist. I could tell form the moment I picked up the blister pack that this was Bic’s best efforts to compete against the Sharpie Pen so I needed to see for myself if it could hold its own against such a reliable tool.

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

The Bic Intensity Marker Pens are listed on the packaging as smudgeproof and permanent. The package also lists the tip size as “fine” — equally vague sizing to the Sharpie Pen. The pack I bought included a black, blue, purple, orange, red, pink and green pen. The overall look of the pens is “shiny”. The black barrels are covered with zoom-y metallic silver graphics and the caps include a sturdy, metal clip. The clip is arched away from the pen cap which leaves space to attach the pen to a notebook or binder but it does make for a strange profile. The caps are also slightly metallic which wasn’t as noticeable in the vacform packaging. The ink colors are indicated by the colored plastic cap and the end cap on the pens. The colors of the plastic are not particularly true to the actual ink colors but they are in the ball park.

I don’t understand why American mass production, disposable pens have to be quite so “high tech” looking with lots of silver graphics and shimmery nonsense. Its a plastic marker pen, people… not the Space Shuttle. That said, this is not the worst looking big box pen I’ve ever seen.

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

So, let’s get into the true functionality of these pens. I was a little thrown by the pen cap colors hoping that the colors of the ink would match the complexity of the cap colors. But alas, no.

Thankfully, the black ink is a pleasingly, dark black and a total competitor for the Sharpie Pen. The red is a bright, true red. The blue was not a traditional blue pen blue but rather a lighter sky blue. The green is a bluish, emerald green color. The orange is a nice, juicy orange and the pink is actually a bit muted and not as raspberry as the cap eluded it might be. And finally, the purple is a muted, lavender color. I actually really like this color after I got over the initial shock of the purple not being a true violet color. All in all, the color range is okay. Some colors I quite like but for a standard array of six colors plus black, I was expecting more “intensity,” as the brand name implies. In actuality, some of the colors are quite light or muted.

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

Above you can see the wet, water test. No blurring or smudging at all which vastly improves these pens in my eyes.  Their waterproofiness means they can be combined with other art tools like watercolor, inks, pencils and the like and not blur. It also means they would be great for addressing envelopes or for anyone who might end up exposed to the elements. Big PLUS!

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

And finally, a quick visual comparison of the tip size of the Bic Intensity to the Sharpie Pen and a Sakura Pigma Micron (0.3, I think). Despite my slightly fuzzy photo, you can see that the tip size is very comparable.

So, why would you choose the Bic Intensity pens over the Sharpie Pen or a Sakura Pigma Micron? First, availability. If your local discount store or big box office supplier stocks these locally, grab a pack. Second, price. The Bic Intensity is competitive to the Sharpie Pens and a little cheaper than Microns. If cost is a big deciding factor for you, than the Intensity pens maybe a little less expensive or on sale at your local shop. In terms of overall performance, you’ll be just as satisfied with these as Sharpie Pens. Finally, the more robust clip on the Intensity might be to your liking if you have ever snapped the clip off a Sharpie pen.

Let me know if you try these out. I’d love to hear what you like (or didn’t like about them).

Fashionable Friday: Embrace the Pink


This week I was inspired by my new ‘do and some of my favorite designers at Fall Fashion Week, like Kate Spade, Banana Republic and Chanel. That is to say that PINK is the color of the week. From fabulous fuchsia office accessories from Poppin, to the Simplified Planner pink is my IT color. It still mixes fabulously with gold, black and white but I’m seeing it mixed with grey and navy too which is brilliant.

And lime green and pink were my favorite colors since childhood, so much so that my Dad painted my bedroom half lime and half pink. Lime has stayed a favorite all this time but I guess my inner 6-year-old was missing the pink!

  • Qualy Nest Sparrow Paper Clip Holder – Pink $20.50 (via Amazon)
  • Bigso Bright Stockholm Magazine File in Pink $9.99 (via Container Store)
  • Diamine Graphite Ink (30ml Bottle) $7.50 (via Goulet Pens)
  • Kaweco Sport Skyline Fountain Pen in Pink 17,95 € (via Fontoplumo)
  • RETRAKT Aluminum in Pink $45 + 10% discount with coupon code “KARASPENS” (via Karas Kustoms)
  • Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Gold Dots $15 (via Goulet Pens)
  • Sailor Professional Gear Transparent PInk Fountain Pen with 14KT gold nib $156 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Pelikan Special Edition Souveran M600 Pink Fountain Pen in Pink with Gold Nib $500 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Retro 51 Tornado Classic Lacquer Rollerball in Pink $25 (via Anderson Pensv)
  • Jonathan Adler + Garmin – Palm Beach Trio (vívofit® 2 Bands) $39.99 (via Garmin)
  • Pink Bisley 5-Drawer Cabinet $99 (via Container Store)
  • Diamine Hope Pink (80ml Bottle) $14.95 (via Goulet Pens)
  • Aurora Talentum Finesse Pink Fountain Pen Chrome Trim 14Kt Nib $224 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Lamy Tipo Pink Rollerball Pen $12.50 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Filofax Notebook Pocket Fuchsia $13.95 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Private Reserve Shell Pink Ink (66ml Bottle) $11 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Ohto Tasche Needle-Point Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Pink Body $22 (via Jet Pens)
  • Royce Pen Accessories Pink Double Case $35.95 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Midori D-Clips Chihuahua Paper Clips- Box of 12 $5.50 (via Jet Pens)

From The Archives: Papermate Flair

from-the-archivesAfter attending Mike Rohde’s Sketchnotes Workshop, I rekindled my love for the PaperMate Flair. When we arrived for the workshop, each student was given a notebook and a PaperMate Flair. I hadn’t looked at or used one of these pens in a decade at least.

The PaperMate Flair is a simple, medium felt tip pen with a conical felt tip. The body of the pen is 100% old school. It has a softly tapered shape — wider at the center of the pen and tapering to narrow flat end at the cap. It doesn’t taper as much toward the end of the pen but the plastic has a matte look and feel. The cap has a slim metal clip.

This design probably hasn’t changed in 50 years. Actually, according to PaperMate’s web site, its only been 49 years! So its really a classic look and I’m so glad it hasn’t been changed.

PaperMate Flair Pen

While I have maintained an on-going love for felt tip pens, I have used mostly fine tip models like Sharpie Pen, Sakura Pigma Micron and Marvy LePen for the last few years. Uncapping the Flair is a trip down memory lane. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed using it after so much time. Its not the most elegant writing tool with its wide soft tip but it writes with a rich black line that makes labelling tags, file folders and other cases where a wider tip might come in handy. The Flair differ from the Sharpie marker in that they are not alcohol-based so the Flair do not bleed as much making them good for day-to-day office/school use.

The soft, felt tip will wear down over time especially on rougher surfaces. However, the Flair pens are reasonably priced. I bought a box of a dozen for about $10. So the shorter life span of these pens are too devastating.

I expect I’ll keep one tucked into each case and bag for writing notes and the occasionally doodle. They are just so classic and offer a writing quality that’s not available in many other pens.

The PaperMate Flair is also available in an array of colors (16, to be exact) and in an ultra fine tip which I’d be curious to find and try.

PaperMate Flair Pen

When left to dry for 10 minutes or so, the ink is fairly water resistant. But I do think it needs a little time to cure.

From the Archives is a series where I dig up old favorites, old classics and long forgotten tools and give them another look. Are they as good as I remember?

Link Love: Notebooks Abound!




Notebooks & Paper:

Planners & Organizers:

Pen Shows (Past & Future):

Other Interesting Things:

(Big shout out to The Cramped for introducing me to Kicking Ass and Taking Notes. What an awesome blog!)

Submit your Link Love art: To be the featured artist on an upcoming Link Love, write, draw, photograph, or doodle an original “Link Love” image. It can be lettering, calligraphy, your own interpretation of Link or anything else you think might relate to the weekly list of pen/pencil-centric blog links. Email your submission to me at chair @ Please include any link information you’d like in the image credit (your name, Twitter handle, Instagram, blog, etc). Also include any information about inks, tools, paper, etc used in your creation. Please let me know that I have permission to publish your work in Link Love and that the image is your original piece.

Review: Sharpie Gel Highlighters

Sharpie Gel Highlighters

In my recent wanderings in the local big box office supply store, I came across the Sharpie Gel Highlighters. I’d been meaning to try these out for some time so I grabbed a three-pack with one each of yellow, orange and pink highlighter.

Sharpie Gel Highlighters

The Sharpie Gel highlighters have an unusual oval shaped barrel that is actually quite comfortable in the hand and keeps them from rolling off the table. There’s a clip on the stubby little cap that is part of the molded plastic cap. The clip would probably accommodate a notebook cover or pocket but not much else as its not very substantial and might end up snapping off if forced too hard.

Once uncapped, I discovered that the GEL wasn’t the same as gel ink (like you’d find in a Pilot G2 pen or a Hi-Tec C) but rather a a solid stick of a gel-like material. I can’t even think of a good comparison — maybe something between a crayon and a solid antiperspirant? Anyway I try to describe it, its quite unique. Since its a semi-solid material, the more its used, it will wear down so the bottom end of the pens has a twist mechanism to advance the Gel to the end like a twist mechanical pencil.

Sharpie Gel Highlighters

Did I mention that the highlighters smell like gummi bears?!?!? I haven’t wanted to sniff a marker since those grade school “smells like blueberries” markers as I do with these Sharpie Highlighters. That said, theses highlighters really do what they claim which is that they do not smear when applied over ink. Not fountain pen (your results might vary here as I did not test every fountain pen ink available), not felt top or gel pens. Not even pencil. And once the Gel Highlighters are applied to paper, they didn’t smear either.

I really like that Sharpie has attempted to rethink the highlighter, especially in light of how often gel pens are used these days and how easily some inks are to smear with traditional highlighters. These are definitely worth seeking out next time you’re near an office supply store.

Did I mention they smell like gummi bears?

22 Planner Alternatives to a Filofax

There are a lot more options for planning than Filofax or other ring-bound planners. And the reality is that each one of us has unique needs when it comes to staying on top of everything. We have work projects, appointments, personal to-do’s, family activities, long-term goals, and many other things in our lives that we want to make time for and document.  How do we fit it all in?

I went through some of the systems I’ve used in the past as well as some planner options that might be new to all of us. In the end, what might work for you this year, might not be what will work for you next year. Lives change, jobs change and our priorities shift. And that’s okay.

And there may not be ONE book to rule them all. Your personal needs might require a giant bound planner and a small notebook to keep as a journal. Or alternately, maybe you will only need a small planner/agenda and a big book (or books) for writing or drawing.

So here goes!

Non-Traditional Options:

Hobonichi WEEKS

Hobonichi: The English A6 Techo, the larger A5 Cousin and the original Japanese A6 Techo are all currently available for 2016. To me, the most interesting item is the new WEEKS planner. The size of the WEEKS planner reminds me roughly of the dimensions of a standard business envelope. Its actually 7.4″ x 3.8″. It would combine nicely with another notebook for longer form writing, if you’re looking for an alternative to a larger planning system. It features a week-on-one-page layout with the right hand page for notes. It includes two bookmark ribbons and there are several posh cover options available for the WEEKS as well.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Comparison

Midori Traveler’s Notebook: For the better part of this year, I’ve been using a MTN for planning and organizing my notes and to-do’s. I used a 3-book system including a printable planner I purchased on Etsy. I kept a separate notebook for work notes and personal notes plus the planner. I liked the flexibility but I’ve outgrown the space available in the MTN. There are lots of fauxdori options available, some in larger sizes to accommodate more A5-sized paper as well as passport- and Field Notes-sized options. (available through Goulet Pens and Baum-Kuchen in the US)

Roterfaden WK-12

Roterfaden: The fine folks at Baum-Kuchen have brought the German Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter to the US market. There are A5- and A6-sized versions and a plethora of inserts for this system so there’s lots of options to meet your personal needs. There’s a new version of the Roterfaden that is less bulky called the WK-12 which is sleek, low profile and still flexible. While the Roterfaden does not explicitly come with a monthly, weekly or daily calendar, there are several notebook options available for the Roterfaden such as blank, lined, grid and dot grid that could be modified to support a bullet journal or more traditional planning system. Like the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, the Roterfaden is customizable for a very different sort of planning need.

The Classics:

Planner Pad in Green

Planner Pads: Planner Pads rethinks the planning system using a funneling system to organize projects, tasks and daily activities. The company has been in business for over 40 years so clearly, their methods work for people. They offer their system in a spiral bound book, a ring-bound planner option, a desk pad and a digital app. They are so sure that if you try their system, it will work for you that they offer a 6-month money back guarantee. This system is streamlined and very professional looking. I’ll have more about this planner soon.


Uncalendar: Depsite their slightly low-tech looking web site, Uncalendar is not something to be overlooked if you’re searching for a functional system to help you get organized and be more productive. The overwrap on the covers suggest that the Uncalendar can help you improve your grades, start a new business or become a better person. Pretty optimistic. Its a deceptively plain looking spiral-bound book with undated pages for monthly and weekly events and a system for organizing notes. The Uncalendar is available in two sizes and the price is right.

Quo Vadis Planner covers

Quo Vadis: Quo Vadis offers an array of planner sizes and formats in weekly, monthly and daily layouts. Leather and leatherette covers are available for many of the planners to create a durable book with good looks. They also offer insert pages for ring-bound planners in the lush Clairefontaine 85g fountain-pen friendly paper.

Notebook-style (Hardcover Bound) Planners:

Moleskine Licensed Planners

Moleskine Planners: Moleskine (despite mixed opinions on their paper quality) offer an array of sizes and formats in their planner notebooks. Overall, their planners are concise and there’s a format to fit just about any need. If you’re inclined to plan with pencil or a fine line ballpoint, Moleskine paper will work fine for you. Aesthetically, I love the simplicity of Moleskine’s light-colored text, ivory paper, clean design and relatively small desk footprint. Now if they’d just fill their books with Tomoe River paper, the books would stay petite and able to withstand any writing tool thrown at it. A huge appeal of the Moleskine planners is the new licensed designs like Star Wars, Peanuts and The Little Prince. Some are also available with a soft, flexible cover as well as the traditional hardcover versions.


Leuchtturm1917: From the outside, the Leuchtturm1917 line of planners looks quite similar to Moleskine. However, the paper quality is better.  If you are looking for a hardcover planner alternative to a Moleskine, this is a great candidate. Leuchtturm planners are available in a variety of page layouts (three different weekly layous and a page-per-day), sizes  and colors to meet a variety of needs. Several years ago I used a  Leuchtturm Planner and it was a good solution for me at the time. (available through Goulet Pens in the US)

Passion Planner

Passion Planner: Similar in exterior aesthetics to the Moleskine and Leuchtturm1917 planner with black leatherette cover and elastic closure, the Passion Planner reinvents the interior to help map out longer term goals while planning the day-to-day tasks. Available in academic, undated or 12-month formats and with a Sunday or Monday start (this will be a big winner for some folks) in an A4 and A5 size, the Passion Planner is an interesting option. Not sure if Passion Planner is right for you? You can print out free downloadable versions of their planning pages to try it before you buy it. How generous is that? planner 2016 I recently spied the 17-month planners out in the wild. Its a smaller, hardcover planner (5.5″x8.5″) and full of playful, colorful designs. This is the pop fashionista’s planner of choice with 80s-style stickers and bold graphics on the monthly dividers. While the academic (17-month) planners are just about sold out, I suspect that a 2016 12-month edition should be available soon.

Spiral Bound Planner Systems:

spiral bound planners

There are a slew of systems on the market right now designed to appeal to busy women. I’m not being sexist here, these types of planners are designed by women and are talked about all over YouTube by women who love and use them. This is not a bad thing. For years, those drab Covey planners in buttoned-up blue were the only options available so the injection of design sensibilities, color and pattern is a welcome addition to what can sometimes be the tedious task of to-do lists, appointments and meetings.

In this category, there are plenty of options. There’s the Day Designer, the Erin Condren Life Planner (which has a cult-like following), LimeLife, Inkwell Press (also available as A5 inserts for ring-bound planners), Happy Planner (uses a disc binding like the ARC system), Plum Paper Planners, Emily Ley Simplified Planner and probably dozens more I haven’t found yet. Most of these planners are spiral bound and offer options such as fitness tracking, meal planning and the ability to break planning into work, home and family activities. Some can be ordered with custom personalized covers, add-ons and other details to create your unique system. If you are someone who has to schedule your life plus your kids’ lives, some of the options these systems offer might appeal to you. But these systems sell out fast so get on their mailing list now if you would like to try on of these out for 2016.

KateSpade Planner 2016

Kate Spade: Kate Spade used to be a hot ticket in the ring-bound planner world with posh leather binders but in the past few years, she’s moved to offering beautiful spiral bound planners.

2016 sprial bound planners

Rifle Paper, Paper Source and Lilly Pulitzer are also offering their take on the spiral bound planner. They are available in 17-month and 12-month editions though the August 2016 start editions are beginning to be difficult to find.

Paper & Prosper (Colorvale) The Briefcase

Paper & Prosper The Briefcase: The Briefcase used to be branded as the Colorvale Briefcase but is now under the Paper & Prosper brand name. So you may have heard about The Briefcase before. The Biefcase is also a spiral bound planner but it comes undated so you can start using it at any time. And its core focus is on helping you manage your professional life. The design is clean and simple and this book has plenty of room to jot monthly, weekly and daily notes, ideas and to-do’s with a whopping 290 pages of space.

Phew! That’s a lot of options. When I started this list, I thought I’d have five options but it turned into four categories and a total of 22 different options. Are you using any of these options? Do you love them? What feature is missing?

Link Love: Quo Vadis Planning Addendum

Quo Vadis blog screenshot

I’ve got a  whole lot of Quo Vadis love going on right now. So much so that it felt like it deserved its very own shout-out. If you are not familiar with Quo Vadis, they are a division of the Clairefontaine/Rhodia/Quo Vadis paper dynasty specializing in agendas and planners and, of course, the delicious Quo Vadis Habana notebook line.

Over the last few weeks (and to be honest, pretty much all the time), the Quo Vadis blog has an on-going series about time management and planning techniques. It specifically related to their planner systems of course, but I’ve found that a lot of the tips and recommendations will work regardless of whether you use a Quo Vadis planner or another system. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner that the planning and time management tips Quo Vadis provides could apply to any planning system. Looking at it with fresh eyes, I realize that there is so much good content here!

And, of course, I couldn’t help but love the content since Laurie Huff of Plannerisms fame has been at the keyboard. This is a woman who knows a thing or two about planning!

The best thing about the posts on Quo Vadis, and the Quo Vadis planning tools as a whole, is that they focus on getting the content in your planner rather than the decorating or beautifying that is the focus of so many other blogs and videos. Don’t get me wrong, I love that people use their planner as a creative outlet. I love seeing how people embellish their planners and journals. However, I have been looking for the core fundamentals of effectively using a paper planner for weeks and it was right here all along.

So if you are looking for some great planning and organization techniques, you might want to check out some of these posts:

Quo Vadis is also gearing up for a 2016 Page Per Day writing challenge. If you’re considering writing more in 2016, this challenge may help to keep you motivated when facing those blank pages. There is a Facebook group for participants using Quo Vadis tools for the Page Per Day Challenge. You can “play along” with whatever tools you want to use, however, the group is exclusive to Quo Vadis users.

If you think you might be interested in participating in the 2016 Page-Per-Day challenges:


Giveaway Winner: Staedtler/Stabilo Marker Set

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner vs. Stabilo Point 88 0,4

Thanks to everyone who commented and entered to win this week’s giveaway of a set of Staedtler Triplus markers or Stabilo Point 88 markers, sponsored by JetPens.

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 9.04.18 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 9.17.39 AM

Congrats to Julia for being the winner of the Staedtler/Stabilo marker set giveaway. I’ve contacted Julia via email to make arrangements.

Best wishes to everyone and happy coloring/color-coding/doodling!

Fashionable Friday: Hello Yellow!

Fashionable Friday - HelloYellow

  • Victorinox Classic Yellow Pocket Tool $16.95 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Omas Ogiva Cocktail Fountain Pen in Vodka Lemon $395 (via Goulet Pens)
  • Hello iPhone Case $39 (via Shop Ampersand on Etsy)
  • Diamine Shimmering Sands Ink (available soon from Pen Chalet)
  • Lamy Safari Yellow Broad Point Fountain Pen $29.95 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Florence Printed Envelope Set $15 (via Snow & Graham)
  • Library Card: Yellow socks $10 (via Out of Print)
  • Leuchtturm1917 Medium 2016 Weekly Planner in Lemon $19.95 (via Goulet Pens)
  • Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch in Yellow $7.25 (via JetPens)
  • Sailor STORiA Pigment Ink in Spotlight Yellow $32 (via JetPens)
  • Diamine Sunshine Yellow (80ml Bottle) $10 (via Anderson Pens)
  • General’s Semi-Hex HB Pencils $7.20 per dozen (via
  • Tombow 2558 Pencil HB $1 each (via JetPens)
  • Rhodia Rhodiarama Blank Yellow Notebook A6 $18 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Paperblanks Midi Blank Journal in Gold Inlay $24.95 (via Anderson Pens)

Paper Pastries Rubber Stamps

Paper Pastries Stamps

Paper Pastries has been in the news lately for the LA Pen Pal Club which is so exciting. But what I’ve been all swoony about is this pile of stamps I recently received from Margaret. Since we both make stamps so we decided to swap.

Margaret makes her stamps herself and will also make custom designs for return address stamps, monograms or pet silhouette stamps. So clever!

I love the Greetings From stamp which I plan to take with me when I travel in the future — if I ever get a day off.

I also love the Hello, Mr Postie stamp that I think would pair perfectly with my Keep the Post Office Public stamp. Clearly, we make a good team!

I really think I should have gotten the left-handed letter stamp and ordered a custom return address tea pot stamp for my tea-pusher pal, Laura.

Paper Pastries Stamps

Also shown here:

Thanks again to Margaret for the swap and I hope you like her stamps (and all the other wonderful stuff she stocks in her shop) too! If you’re in the LA area, be sure to try to visit the next LA Pen Pal Club event. For future events, check out the Paper Pastries blog.

Link Love: Man Who Stole The Chivor?

My knitting and pen-loving comrade, Glee Norto has offered up another fabulous Link Love art this week. Check out more of her goodness at her Tumblr, Instagram or Twitter. And maybe pull out a few of your favorite mix tapes from the 80s and 90s to serenade you while you click those links!



Paper & Notebooks:

Planning & Organization:

Other Interesting Things:

Submit your Link love art: To be the featured artist on an upcoming Link Love, write, draw, photograph, or doodle an original “Link Love” image. It can be lettering, calligraphy, your own interpretation of Link or anything else you think might relate to the weekly list of pen/pencil-centric blog links. Email your submission to me at chair @ Please include any link information you’d like in the image credit (your name, Twitter handle, Instagram, blog, etc). Also include any information about inks, tools, paper, etc used in your creation. Please let me know that I have permission to publish your work in Link Love and that the image is your original piece.

Pencil Review: Koh-i-noor Special “Magic” Color Pencil


Kohn-i-noor Special MAGIC Colored Pencil

After the article several weeks ago from the NY Times about the tools used by famous artists, I fell under the spell of the multi-colored colored pencil used by Milton Glaser. My friend Kirsten confirmed that Mr. Glaser really does use these pencils. He taught one of her graduate classes at the School of Visual Arts so she confirmed the story with some degree of authority. To say I’m jealous she saw his pencil handiwork in person would be understating things a bit.

It took awhile to find a dozen of these gems. I ended up buying them from a vendor on Amazon who was in Europe. The listing officially calls these pencils “Koh-i-noor Aristochrom Magic – 12 Pencils with Special Multicoloured Lead“. For the sake of ease, I refer to them as Koh-i-noor Magic Pencils. The box of one dozen was $14.50 plus $8 shipping which makes these pencils more expensive than Palomino Blackwings. But needs must, right?

The pencils came in a slightly mangled yellow box with the Koh-i-noor/Hardtmuth logos on the box. They had been shipped in nothing more than a kraft envelope so the mangling was a result of the postal system. The box isn’t anything special so the fact that all the pre-sharpened pencils were safe meant the box served its purpose.

Kohn-i-noor Special MAGIC Colored Pencil writing sample

This pencil was freshly sharpened using the KUM 2-step long point sharpener. Beautiful!

Inside were the dozen pencils I most coveted. The pencils are hexagonal with gold metallic paint and the only branding is ink jet onto one facet in black. The text includes “060”, a lengthy stock number and bar code, “Koh-i-noor” and “3400”. I wish the branding had been foil stamped onto the pencil instead of the super-cheap looking ink jet but these pencils are probably not very popular or produced in extremely large quantities so they don’t get as much attention as a traditional graphite or single color pencil.

The end of the pencil is shaped into a low profile cone shape and is not dipped. Its exposed natural wood. Its a weird detail that I’m not crazy about but the simple gold paint on the rest of the pencil makes up for the unusual treatment of the end. I’d love it if the end were dipped in a glossy black to give it a truly regal feel but there aren’t a lot of options for “magic” pencils so I’ll take what I can get.

The real reason I love these pencils is the three-color lead. Red, blue and yellow pigments are blended into the lead in small chunks so that, as the pencil is used, the color changes. The blue is a deep indigo blue and the red and yellow are pretty much primary colors. What I discovered over the last few weeks of using these pencils is that by turning the pencil a little bit as I’m using it, I can force lighter or darker colors to appear as I need them.

Kohn-i-noor Special MAGIC Colored Pencil writing sample

The composition of the pencil lead is definitely wax- or oil-based as it is not water soluble. This makes it easy to add other materials like watercolor paint, water-based markers, ink, or pen without blurring your linework. It also means that the marks don’t smudge, which is quite pleasant.

On regular paper (like my Rhodia test paper) the Magic pencil does not erase well. I suspect that on a primed surface like gesso, it might be easier to erase but for doodling and sketching, be prepared to leave the lines where they are. Loose-y and goose-y is the best way to enjoy these Magic pencils.

I know these pencils won’t appeal to everyone but I they are such wonderfully unique tools that I couldn’t resist sharing them.

Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 20-color Felt Tip Marker Set (& Giveaway)

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Review

I was recently let loose in Target during back-to-school shopping without any adult supervision. In my melee of shopping enthusiasm, I couldn’t resist buying the largest set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliner felt tip markers they had.

The set included an array of standard colors and six neon colors as well. The set came in a sturdy plastic case with a flip top lid that would create an easel stand. It reminded me so much of those wonderful 64-color boxes of Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener that I was helpless to resist. To an adult, fresh markers are just like a brand new box of crayons.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Writing Sample

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Writing Sample 2

The Staedtler Triplus series is notable for being quite long pens with a rounded triangular shape that makes them comfortable to hold.

I was surprised with how sophisticated the color palette was for this set including colors like a yellow ochre and rich reds and blues. These were certainly not watery kids’ markers in regards to the colors. The neons are lots of fun but the neon yellow is not dark enough for writing — maybe underlining or filling in shapes. Also, the grey marker was too light for writing but might be nice for drawing or coloring.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Review

The whole time I was using the Triplus markers I found myself comparing them to the Stabilo Point 88 markers I purchased not too long ago. There are a lot of similarities in regards to price as well. The Staedtler set cost me about $24 at Target while the mini sized Stabilo 18-color set was $15 from Jet Pens. Stabilo does make full-sized versions of the Point 88 markers which is entirely comparable in size, price and selection to the Staedtler Triplus markers.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner vs. Stabilo Point 88 0,4

The tips on the Stabilos and the Staedtlers are basically identical despite the numeric coding suggesting that the Stabilos are wider. I could not actually discern any difference in the writing samples I did. Colorwise, the two sets differed with the Stabilos having a wider range of traditional colors and the Staedtler having the wild neons instead. If you compare the Staedtler 20-color set listed on Jet Pens to the Stabilo 25-color set, the colors are very similar. The two sets are competitively priced ($25 and $22) but the Stabilo set offers five extra colors where the Staedtler set offers a more durable carrying case.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner vs. Stabilo Point 88 0,4

Sorry this photo is a little blurry. (too much caffeine!) But you get the gist.

While I really enjoy the neon colors in the set I purchased, I wish I had seen the 20-color set available on JetPens that does include a wider array of grey shades plus yellow, orange, and aqua which I miss in the reduced set I purchased.

Would you like to win a set of 20-color Staedtler Triplus Fineliner markers or a 25-color set of Stabilo Point 88 markers from JetPens? I’m giving one set of markers away to a lucky reader. Leave a message in the comments and tell me which set you’d prefer and what you hope to use them for to be entered to win.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Thursday, Spetember 17, 2015. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class. US residents only please.

Finally, for an awesome chart comparing several type and brands of colored marker sets, check out JetPens’ Guide to Choosing a Felt Tip Marker.

Ask the Desk: More Refills (Pen and Paper)


Carlos hoped I could help with this:

I would like to buy some refills for a Dunhill ballpen sidecar and a Montegrapa rollerball (refill with 12 cm long).
Could you tell me what refills should I buy?

According to my research, it looks like the Montegrappa rollerballs all take the standard Pilot G2 style refill, also described as the Schmidt/Euro Rollerball refill size, that are about 110mm (4.5″) long. That’s great because there are lots of options and you may even have a plastic pen laying around with the right size refill on your desk right now. If you have a Pilot G2 retractable, you should be able to twist it apart and pull that refill out and try it in the Montegrappa.
Check out my Epic Refill Guide to find your favorite refill in the Pilot G2 section.
The Dunhill should take a standard Parker-style refill or a “capless style” G2/Euro refill. They are about 98mm (3.875″) long. Most office supply stores like Staples, Office Max or Office Depot should have a selection of Parker-style refills. A list of many Parker style compatible refills are also on the Epic Refill Guide.

Kate asks:

I came across your blog’s review of the Leuchtturm Weekly Planner, and I’m thinking you might be the person who can help me on my quest for the holy grail planner.  What I’ve been searching (unsuccessfully) for is a weekly planner with substantial notes pages.  So, something that has the weekly spread,monthly spread and two or three year overview you’d find in a typical planner, but also has at least 100 ruled or blank pages for notes.  This seems to be an impossible ask. I’ve tried the levenger circa system, but I’m not wired for one that I have to constantly assemble or move stuff around in.  Have you come across anything that fits this bill? I would love to know about it!

Your grail planner is a tall order, indeed! My first instinct was to ask if you’d considered a Midori Traveler’s Notebook or a Fauxdori (leather covers made and sold by individuals on Etsy and such)? There are many inserts available for this system that let’s you have a planner and a notebook for lots of notes. Each blank, lined or grid insert has about 64 pages in it. There is one insert available for the Midori with extra thin paper that I think has over 100 sheets in it. Something like this might give you the option of having a full booklet for notes plus a planner/calendar.
MTN Current Set-up
You might want to do a search on YouTube or Google for how people set up their Midori Traveler’s Notebook (MTN) or a Fauxdori to get an idea if the system might work for you.
There are also many printable planner system options available from folks on Etsy like DIY Fish. Her systems are also available for Midori Traveler’s Notebooks, Filofax ring binder systems or half-sheet sizes that could be used with a mini 3-ring binder. The last time I was in Target, I saw they had a good sized assortment of half-sheet 3-ring binders, if that might be an option that would work for you? Its not quite as fiddly as the Circa but still might require rearranging pages every once in awhile.
I’m not sure if I gave you any suggestions that might be the golden solution but hopefully it will give you some other options to consider.

And finally, Pat asked:
I’m searching for a nice leather notebook for a gift.  Do you emboss names or initials on your notebooks?I would also like your recommendation on the best notebook that can be refilled.  Also, are there any stores in the Baton Rouge area that sell your products?

Despite the confusion in her question that I was an online shop, I do think I might be help to help Pat find someone who can engrave and/or leather and refillable. Not sure I can find anything that is the trifecta though.

As for leather engravables, I know that Vanness Pens in Little Rock, AR does engraving. They have a separate web site for engraving called A Personal Statement. They offer a variety of notebooks.

Filofax has recently introduced a refillable notebook. Goldspot Pens and Goulet Pens both stock them online. While not leather, they are pretty nice leatherette and look good.
As for a good local source for notebooks in Baton Rouge, I do not know of any. The closest pen-and-paper shop that I know of in Louisiana is in New Orleans. Its called Papier Plume. While I’ve not had a chance to visit it yet, I have several friends who have highly recommended it for fountain pens, ink and accessories.

Do you have a pressing pen, paper, pencil, ink or other stationery item issue? Use the “Ask The Desk” link in the navigation bar to send in your questions!

Fashionable Friday: Dot Your Eyes

Fashionable Friday: Dots

This week I was totally inspired by Janine Basil’s fabulous pom pom heaband. And really, who doesn’t love dots?

  • Pom Pom Headband $34.31 (via Janine Basil on Etsy)
  • Dots Planner $16.99 (via Shop Ampersand on Etsy)
  • Uni Style Fit 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component in Dot Black $4.25 (via JetPens)
  • Pilot Metropolitan Aquamarine with Dots Fountain Pen (available soon from Pen Chalet)
  • J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink Tin of 6 Cartridges in Orange Indien (Indian Orange) $5.50 (via JetPens)
  • Sonic Ratchetta Pencil Sharpener with Notification in Orange $3.30 (via JetPens)
  • The Block $60 (via Dudek Modern Goods)
  • Kaweco Sport Skyline fountain pen pink €17,95 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Filofax Domino Patent Pine with Spots A5 Organizer $49 (via Goldspot Pens)
  • Kokuyo Neo Critz Transformer Pencil Case in Pink Dot $17.50 (via JetPens)
  • Beverly Kokosasu Film Page Markers in Sharp Dot $7.25 (via JetPens)
  • Kyoei Orions Shitajiki A5 Writing Board in Dots $2.70 (via JetPens)
  • Caran D’ache 849 Popline Fluorescent Yellow Ballpoint Pen $26.95 (via Goldspot Pens)

Rethinking My Planner System

I can’t believe there are just three months left in 2015. Where did this year go? For the better part of 2015, I’ve been using my Midori Traveler’s notebook for planning. My Midori has three inserts in it: a notebook in the front that was supposed to be for personal projects, a center insert with my planner calendar and an insert in the back for sketching.

While I love the size and format of the MTN, and I did find fabulous weekly planner pages, things are starting to get a little out of control, organizationally speaking.

What’s ended up happening is that I tend to open the MTN to whatever blank page appears and start writing, so notes have gotten all jumbled. There are work notes in the sketchbook, grocery lists in the personal projects and just general chaos on the calender. I’m also running out of space in the weekly calendar to include all the various projects, to-dos and lists that I am needing to keep up with each day. I now understand what people mean about their planner system breaking down.

I need more space per page for planning. I need a place to take work-related notes that can then be collected or moved into specific projects. I need to have a more dedicated method for organizing blog content and personal projects. All of this is making me want to return to a ring-bound planner. However, I think that my current job assignments and life projects need something more spacious than the traditional personal size. I think I’m going to make the leap into the A5-sized planner.

rethinking my planner system

A switch to A5 will require new inserts and rethinking whether a week-on-two-pages will work. Not to mention I must now choose a new binder.

Great posts to re-started:

I think I’ll pair the new turquoise Domino with my Uni Style Fit in black with white dots and maybe a Zebra Mildliner in Mild Violet? And I might need a silver Binder Clip.

Are you happy with your current planning system? Are you working through it or ready to make a change?

Link Love: Messy & Self-Congratulatory

(via Leigh Reyes, written in her Midori Traveler's notebook with a flex nib and her beautiful handwriting)

(via Leigh Reyes, written in her Midori Traveler’s notebook with a flex nib in her beautiful handwriting. Image via her Instagram feed but definitely check out her blog and Twitter feed too!)

Post of the Week:




Paper & Notebooks:

Planners & Organizers:

Other Interesting Things:

Ask The Desk: Grippy Fountain Pens & Cross Refills


Jon wrote me recently about left-handed pens:

I’m a lefty. Never quite got over someone confiscating my ancient Parker VP, loved that pen. For the past couple of years I’ve been using inexpensive Schneider pens that have facets on the grip that make positioning it automatic.

Thought I’d upgrade a bit and have found the Conklin Durograph in cracked ice rather attractive. But it doesn’t seem to be offered in a dedicated left handed model.

I do understand lefties can use just about any fountain pen, but I find the grip designed for lefties appealing. I am an underwriter.

Please tell me what I need to make myself happy.

I’m really considering in the $40 or so range. Don’t need to impress anyone but me and how it writes is pretty much all that’s important. Medium points work well and I’m stuck in the blue/black mentality.

Thanks. Jon

Conklin Duragraph Cracked Ice

I actually have the Conklin Duragraph in the cracked ice finish and it has a smooth grip area so it can pretty much be held at any angle.

If you’re looking for a molded grip, the Lamy Safari might be a good option. The grip is molded symmetrically so you wouldn’t need a special left-handed model. I know a lot of lefties who underwrite like the molded grip section on the Lamy Safari and Lamy AL-Star. The Safari sell for less than $30 and the AL-Stars (the aluminum model of the Safari) sell for about $40. Its available in a full array of European nib sizes and the nibs are easy to swap out should you decide you want a different nib size. Nibs are sold for about $12.

Lamy Safari Neonlime

Jim asked about finding a pen refill:

Hi, I asked a question a good bit ago and your answer rocked.  I was wondering if you could help me with something else.  I’m a bit of a pen junkie.  Years ago I purchased a Cross pen.  It’s was little and fat.  I’ve been trying to get a refill for years. I have no idea what pen it is or if they even still make a cartridge.

I totally understand being a pen junkie. I am also a refill junkie. I’m always worried my favorite refills will become obsolete. But I also am a firm believer that a little refill hacking can get you back to writing as well.

Do you have the old refill still? Was it a ballpoint or rollerball?

If you have the refill and you know it was a Cross, you can use the Refillfinder app site to see if the refill is still available. Refillfinder is a division of one of our fine sponsors, Goldspot Pens. FYI.

If they don’t have the exact size you need, is it possible to cut down a different refill? You might scan those junk drawers for old rollerballs, ballpoints or gel pens and try to disassemble them. If you have the old refill, just hold it up next to the refills you find and then cut the length or use a bit of hardware store tubing to make a spacer if the refill is too short. People often plug the end with air dry clay or other materials if the refill originally had a cap. I trim refills, wrap tape around the ends to make it wider if necessary and other minor modification to get non-standard refills to fit into a pen.

Here’s my last example of pen hacking and Mike Rohde’s hack. And of course, it never hurts to check through the Refill Guide to find comparable refills.

Cross Townsend Darth Vader Fountain Pen
While we’re on the subject of Cross Pens, do you see the new Star Wars pens from Cross? I am loving the look of the Darth Vader Townsend fountain pen. But at the tune of $575 I’m thinking it may have to stay in a galaxy far, far away for me.

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