Link Love: Halloween Desktops & Nib Love




Paper & Notebooks:

Other Interesting Things:


Fountain Pen Review: Bexley Sleeve Filler Fountain Pen (Put TWO Rings on It!)

Fountain Pen Review: Bexley Sleeve Filler Fountain Pen (Put TWO Rings on It!)

The Bexley Sleeve Filler Fountain Pen (Retail $275, Special Offer $175) is a bit different than any pen I’ve ever used before.  It features a pair of gold bands on both ends. When I saw it at Vanness Pen Shop back in the Spring, my curiosity was piqued. I knew I had to try it out. It was part of a collection of new-old-stock pens that Vanness had in their inventory.

The date stamped into the cap in gold says “Bexley Col., OH USA 2001”. According to Vanness, this pen was a reproduction of a sleeve filler design from the early 1900s as well so it’s a double-throwback.

So, what exactly is a sleeve filler? By twisting the the gold band on the bottom end of the pen, it reveals a lever bar and the ink sac. So, the pen is actually a modern sac filler with the sac hidden under the “sleeve.” By depressing the bar and then releasing it — it will slowing raise up as it fills with ink — you are filling the ink sac.

It’s pretty ingenious. And once the ink sac is full, the sleeve is twisted back into place to recover the bar and sac.

From a long-term maintenance standpoint, I’m not sure how difficult it would be to have a repairperson disassemble the pen to replace the ink sac but I suspect that removing the pen barrel from the feed assembly is probably similar to a lot of other vintage pens. In 10 or 20 years, someone can figure out how to do it. In the meantime, the sac in the pen feels supple and durable.

The pen is black acrylic with gold bands and features a two-tone 18K nib. It’s a fairly petite pen. Not quite a pocket pen but it maintains small, vintage proportions (4.875″ uncapped and 5.125″ capped). However, the cap can be posted making it quite long (over 7″).

I lined it up next to some comparably small, modern pens for size comparison: to the right of the Bexley is an Aluminum AL Sport from Kaweco, a Franklin-Christoph Pocket 45 and a TWSBI Mini. None of these are posted. Clearly the Bexley is longer unposted and then it can be posted as well making it longer. The grip area is also comparable to the TWSBI and Franklin-Christoph.

In terms of weight, the acrylic makes this a pretty light pen overall weighing only 20gms total, uncapped just 12gms. It can be posted but in my small hands, the balance was off. If my hands were larger or my writing grip was different, I could see where it might make sense. Just be careful if you decide to post it as the inclination exists to twist the cap when taking it off the end which may cause the sleeve to come untwisted  and potentially expose the ink sac. Not a huge deal but it could get messy.

Have I talked about the nib. The nib is fantastic. I get why people go gaga over Bexley pens now. There are some really weird and wonderful reproductions and unusual designs in the line like this sleeve filler but the nibs! Its beautiful and its writes like a dream.

So, I inked this little black pen up with my favorite new black ink, Ky-no-oto #1 Nurebairo black ($28 for 40ml bottle) which is amazing and had a blast using this pen. I enjoy the scale of the pen and the buttery smoothness of this nib. There’s a little spring in the nib but not flex, so to speak. Its just a light, pleasing writing experience.

While a black acrylic pen isn’t something that normally makes people say “Oooo, what’s that?” I think it brings the focus to the pair of gold rings which is what makes this pen unique. But its the nib that makes this pen really sing.

The Bexley Sleeve Filler is also available in Camouflage and Terracotta. Since these are NOS, there are very few left. If this seems like something you might like, don’t dawdle. Once these are gone, it will be hard to find them in this condition again and be able to choose your colors and nibs.

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

Giveaway: Baron Fig 2018 Planner

It’s the season for getting prepared for the coming year. Baron Fig has launched their 2018 planner. ($22). It’s got all the features from last year like the spiffy charcoal fabric cover, and all the nice features from the 2017 edition.

Inside the box is a year-at-a-glance calendar and then underneath is the blind embossed charcoal cover of the 2018 planner waiting to be filled with your plans for the new year.


The planner, like last year’s, starts with the monthly pages then continues with the week-on-two-pages. The back of the book is filled with dot grid paper for extra notes.

That’s right, this edition can be all yours.

THE GIVEAWAY: I am giving away this one Baron Fig 2018 Charcoal Planner to one lucky reader.

THE RULES: Please leave one comment below and tell me at least one goal you have for 2018.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, October 6, 2017. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. 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. We will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 10 days, we will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS Priority Mail is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will be paid by the winner upon request. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents/APO only.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to us free of charge by Baron Fig. Please see the About page for more details.

Product Review: Sonic Gripen Pencil Holder

Product Review: Sonic Gripen Pencil Holder

Review by Tina Koyama

If you’re a fan of either pencils or John Steinbeck or both, you are probably familiar with the “Steinbeck length” – the length at which the American author would stop using a wood-cased pencil because the eraser end could no longer be supported by the crook between his thumb and forefinger. On an average pencil, that length is about 4 inches.

I can see why he rejected anything shorter – it’s not comfortable to write with a pencil after that, let alone draw with one. For those of us who aren’t Steinbeck, the obvious solution is to get a pencil holder and extend both the pencil and its life of use.

At this point in the discussion, I have an embarrassing confession to make: I have so many pencils (graphite and colored) and use so many simultaneously that I hit the Steinbeck length infrequently. However, many of my colored pencils are finally nearing that stage now (my hand is apparently smaller than Steinbeck’s, because the Steinbeck length for me is about 3 ½ inches long), so I knew it was time to finally shop for a pencil holder. I chose the Sonic Gripen because its description on JetPens indicates that its grip has a relatively hefty girth, which I generally prefer in any writing or drawing instrument. 

Available in four colors, the Sonic Gripen has a white plastic refillable eraser that extends when the eraser barrel is twisted.

Although serviceable, it erased slightly worse than average for this type of eraser. (I’m guessing that other eraser refills would fit.)

To test the Sonic Gripen, I chose two pencils: A yellow Ticonderoga, 3 ½ inches long (scrounged from my husband’s work bench) and a 1 ½-inch-long Staedtler Norica that is now too short to sharpen except with a knife (found in the bottom of my “miscellaneous” pencil box). Both are of standard diameter, and both are firmly beyond the Steinbeck stage and uncomfortable to use without a holder.

My second embarrassing confession is that it took me a while to figure out how to put a pencil into the holder. You need to first twist the barrel until the inner black part (visible through the translucent barrel) retracts enough to accommodate the length of your pencil (less the inch or so that the pencil will extend from the holder’s opening). Then push the pencil into the barrel opening until it clicks firmly into place. (I’m sure this is explained on the packaging instructions, but I can’t read enough Japanese to make sense of technicalities beyond ramen on a café sign.) If you don’t hear a click, the pencil will spin around and fall out. As the pencil gets shorter from use, simply twist the barrel in the opposite direction, and the pencil will be pushed further out.

I was afraid the tiny stub of a Staedtler would be too short, but it is just long enough. In both cases, I could write easily with the Sonic Gripen’s slightly rubbery grip, which is pleasant to hold. The added girth would appeal to me on any pencil of standard diameter, which is always just a little too slender for my comfort.

Final Impressions

Other than the mediocre eraser, the Sonic Gripen gets high marks for being a comfortable and easily operated pencil holder for any standard-size pencil. But dangit – some of my favorite colored pencils with thicker barrels – the ones now at the Steinbeck stage – won’t fit in the Gripen! (These thick-barreled pencils cause me no end of problems.)

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.

DISCLAIMER: The 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.

Notebook Review: Plum & Punch Celestial Print Wood Journal

Notebook Review: Plum & Punch Celestial Print Wood Journal

What would you do if you spied a real wood covered journal with an exposed coptic-style binding and a whopping 400 pages just languishing on the table at your corporate card shop? You wouldn’t just leave it there, would you? I didn’t. I grabbed it faster than a discounted flat-screen TV on Black Friday.

Real wood covers! Silkscreen stars! Blank paper! If I didn’t know better, you’d think I was on the design team. (I wasn’t.)

Look at all that paper!

Lay flat!

This journal from Plum & Punch. It’s inelegantly called the “Wood Cover Journal With Exposed Spine, White Celestial Design”.  I’m going to call it the Celestial Print Wood Journal because THAT other thing is a mouthful. And this beauty was only $20 for 400 pages of what felt like pretty thick paper so I was willing to take a chance on it.

In my first round of writing tests, which I literally did the minute I got back to my desk (shhhh, don’t tell on me! It was Friday afternoon.) started off remarkably well but when I got to the fountain pens I had some dry time issues. I couldn’t figure out if I was just impatient, if it was the inks I was using or if it was just really humid in the office.

From the flip side of the paper though, there was no show through and no bleed through. Can you see a couple little tiny dots? I think its from the Decimo. That’s it. Pretty impressive.

Later, I tested some other pens and had no drying issues. So… huh? Weirdness.

And then I did some colored pencil and even added a bit of water because, why not? The paper tacoed right away but it was in no way designed for wet media. Still, it did not get those little pills so that was a bonus.

The nice thing about having a reasonably priced notebook with a metric ton of paper is I don’t feel badly about just turning the page and using another sheet. I am loving this book and I don’t really know why. Sometimes, a notebook just strikes a chord.

You can see the waffling effect from my water application but also how many pages I’ve already churned through in a few days. Might need some sort of book band to flatten it out a bit.

There are other journals available from Plum & Punch if this might be your thing too. If you want to see these in person, check out your local Hallmark Gold Crown store.

This product was purchased from my company store. Plum & Punch is a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc., the kind folks that keep in health insurance and cat food. I was not asked to write this review nor compensated in anyway to write it. See my About page for more info.

Product Review: Jane Davenport Petite Palette Watercolor Set in Brights

Product Review: Jane Davenport Petite Palette Watercolor Set in Brights

I don’t do a lot of art supply reviews these days but after I read Les’s review of the Jane Davenport Petite Palette Watercolor Set in Brights ($31.99), I couldn’t resist trying them out. First thing to note is that since these are sold through a big box craft supply store, always try to get a coupon. I bought this set with a 30% my entire purchase coupon as I also bought several of the other items in the Jane Davenport art supply line (I’ll be reviewing those in the next few weeks, if you are interested).

The first thing to note is this set (and the neutrals set) are in the craft/entry-level price range and designed for journal use and not for archival purposes. The pigments are not archival. Les’s review goes into a lot of detail about the pigments and there are some very detailed information on YouTube about the pigments used and, on Jane’s website, there is the specific pigments. I would not compare the quality to Schmincke, Winsor & Newton or Sennelier pans, rather I’d compare it to the VanGogh, Cotman or Sakura Koi sets.

The other thing to note is that they are definitely cute. The tin for the brights is Tiffany Blue on the outside and has Jane’s signature prominently featured on the tin. The names of the colors are not “warm red” and “opera pink” and such as would be expected but rather things like “70s eyeshadow” and “ladybug.” Of course, once you remove the packaging and swatch the colors on your own card and place your own sticker on the lid, no one is the wiser about the product other than the color of the tin which can just be called “mint.”

The neutrals tin, however, is in a metallic gold tin. Go figure.

I pre-wet the pans as they all looked a bit dry before I swatched them. I keep a Traveler’s Notebook with Sketch Paper for swatching new art materials and started swatching each color. Each one was coming out very granulated in a cheap, chalky sort-of way. I was getting pretty frustrated.

On the opposite page I was doing some one- and two-color mixing to see if the colors muddied. Do you see the weird clumpy granulation? Super irritating! The colors are fun and vibrant and for a lot of the work I do at work, we immediately scan our work so archival-ness is pretty irrelvant. But the clumpiness!

SO, I sat for awhile, literally watching paint dry. Hmmm…

So, then I upgraded my paper. Best advice I ever got was “never settle for cheap paper” because really even expensive paper is cheap. You buy a BIG sheet of expensive paper and you cut it into smaller pieces or fold it into smaller pieces to fit into a little book and its a small investment, comparatively speaking. (Go on… how much did you spend on your last pen, bottle of ink or box of watercolors compared to the tablet or book of paper? See? I rest my case.)

Here’s my close-up comparisons of close-up photos of the same pan of color on the Traveler’s Notebook up top and then on the cold press watercolor paper at varying intensities. No clumps, just lovely watercolor-ness. That’s the color listed as “ladybug,” by the way.

I ended up re-swatching all the colors on watercolor cold press paper. Much better results. No weird clumps.

I even tried it with a waterbrush rather than my Silver Black Velvet #8 round brush. I know people love waterbrushes for their portability but I’m still on the fence about them. I prefer a real brush 99.9% of the time. I’m the horrible person who will pollute my water glass at a restaurant. I will leave a good tip though.

So, these are not at all the complete palette I’d recommend to someone starting out with watercolors but if you are feeling like you’re in a rut and need a little  creative kickstart, they are pretty fun. Are some of the colors unnecessary? Yeah? Are the sets designed to make you buy the Brights AND the Neutrals? Yep.

I’ll probably end up disassembling both tins and magnet-ing the colors I find most useful into one tin rather than carrying two tins. My Schmincke set only has 14 colors in it so I’m definitely inclined to slim down the Jane Davenport kit. The nice thing with the Davenport paints is that I don’t feel precious about them. They are cheap paints, even if I put them on good paper. I can make bad art with mediocre art supplies. Right? Though I suppose I probably make mediocre art with expensive supplies too. LOL.