Ink Review: Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Every year for the last… maybe eight SIX years now(?) Pelikan has tried to wow us with a new jewel-themed Color of the Year ink color. While Pantone is telling us this year is the year of “Greenery,” Pelikan is trying to convince us its a browner sort of year. Pelikan chose Smoky Quartz ($28 for a 50ml bottle) as its color of the year.

Side note: For a handy cheat sheet of all the Pelikan Edelstein colors released thus far, check out the list compiled on the Pelikan’s Perch. They even have information on the 2018 color that’s been selected: an olive-green though it has yet to be named. 

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

The color is a deep rich, chocolatey brown for sure. The only other neutral/brown tone the Pelikan Edelstein has offered was the Amber in 2013 and it was much more of an orange-brown so fans of this line of ink are sure to be pleased with the richness of this color. I was happy to see that the color is a warm brown with a yellow, golden undertone.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz swatch

When I swatched the color, it magically got this highlight spot so that I could see the undertones. t gave it quite a Western Americana feel to me. It was the first time I really got the “smoky” part of the color.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz writing sample

The writing sample did not show a lot of color variation but its a nice solid brown ink. There was no noticeable shading or sheening. It’s definitely a “staple” ink and not a “boutique” ink.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Swatch Comparison

I had a really hard time getting the color “just right” on these swatches. Suffice it to say that the subtleties got lost but the overall color values are captured here. Smoky Quartz is definitely one of the darkest browns in my collection. Bookbinders Eastern Brown and Kaweco Caramel Brown are definitely warmer colors. Tears of a Clown is more reddish. Platinum Pigment Sepia is the lightest and both formulas of KWZ Honey are more gold, leaning to green.

I hope theses images help to give you a better idea of how Smoky Quartz performs in real world tests. Right now Oster Caffe Creme is probably my favorite brown ink followed by KWZ Honey but I’d probably put Smoky Quartz in slot #3. That’s not a bad place to be. Its a solid performer and a good rich color and a nice alternative to black or blue-black.

Testing Notes: I used Rhodia Uni blank paper for the writing tests and my trusty Esterbrook #2442 nib in my Shawn Newton nib holder. For the header and ink swabs, I used a #4 round watercolor brush. For all the ink swatches shown I used the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book and a Zebra G Titanium dip nib in a vintage holder. To keep my lines straight, I use 6mm and 7mm guide sheets.


Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Giveaway Package

THE PRIZE: Winner will receive ONE (1) bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz graciously provided by Goulet Pens AND ONE (1) Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book from The Well-Appointed Desk.

THE RULES: Leave ONE (1) comment below and tell me which of all the Pelikan Edelstein Color of the Year colors has been your favorite thus far. Is it Smoky Quartz? Or one of the previous colors? Or do you have a recommendation for what the next color should be? If so, you must give it the appropriately gemstone-y name.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, April 10, 2017. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. 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 seven (7) days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents only, please.

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

Link Love: This time with extra love!

Post of the Week:

I cannot believe what an amazing community Brad and Myke have built over 250 episodes and that every once and awhile they let me join in on the fun. The fact that I got to be a part of this and some of their other monumental episodes is such a tremendous honor. Thank you, guys, for making the pen community such a wonderful place.




Paper & Notebook:

Planners & Organizers:

Other Interesting Things:

Ask The Desk: First Fountain Pens

Stephanie asks:

I’m looking for my first fountain pen, mainly for journaling while I’m in college, and I came across reading a review for a pen I saw on Amazon. I don’t want to spend too much money on a pen since I’m just getting into it but I don’t want a real junky pen either that will totally turn me off to fountain pens. Are there any brands or particular pens you would suggest for a beginner? I’ve also seen that there are different size tips or nibs. Which size would you recommend to start with? Thanks for your help.

Stephanie, this is probably the Number One question that all pen bloggers get and often the hardest to answer. Most first-time fountain pen buyers are looking to make a small investment as they are not sure this is a rabbit-hole they are ready to go down. First, the pen needs to be pretty dependable from a brand you can trust so I don’t recommend buying from an off-brand for your first foray into fountain pens. Then, not all first-time fountain pen buyers want to go to buying full bottles of ink either, so knowing if you are more inclined for a cartridge filling pen over a pen that will accept a converter or other filling mechanism that will let you fill your pens from an ink bottle may be a deciding factor. And finally, deciding on a nib size can be hard initially so a pen that makes it easy to switch the nib is a great option. Whether you change the nib soon after purchasing it or years later when your collection has grown.

So, based on price, ease-of-use, reliability and nib swap-ability, I pulled together my best recommendations for the first fountain pen purchase. Your final decisions will depend on which factors most influence you.

In no specific order:

Lamy AL-Star or Safari (both are equally good, its an aesthetic preference): The Lamy Safari and Lamy AL-Star offer the molded grip which many people find very comfortable and helpful in mastering a good grasp in handling a pen and are charmed by the colorful plastics and aluminum finishes of the pens. Lamy has converter and cartridges which make it easy to fill with ink. The nibs are smooth and consistent and its easy to swap out nibs should your taste in nib widths change. The only caveat is for left-handed writers who may have an unusual grip that might find the molded grip uncomfortable.

Kaweco Sport: The Kaweco Sport has a retro design that is quite pocketable. The pen is available in a variety of finishes from clear plastic demonstrator to a weightier brass with prices that range from about $25 to about $100. The nibs are steel and range from a European EF to B. There is also a calligraphy set available. The Sport has a converter available but I would not recommend it so really, its a cartridge filler only. I do refill cartridges so its not really all that limiting but it moves the Sport into more of an “advanced beginner” pen or at least an “adventurous beginner” category. Of course, the small size of the Kaweco Sport makes it unique, the cap is postable which makes it more comfortable but if you have large hands, the small size may make this pen less appealing.

Pilot Metropolitan/Pop: The Pilot Metropolitan and Metropolitan Pop are wonderful starter pens. The price point is excellent, the nibs work great and the pens ship with both a cartridge and a cartridge converter in the box. All for one low, low price, usually below $20. The pens are full-sized with a satin metallic finish and in a range of colors. The nibs are in Japanese sizes so they run a bit finer than the Kaweco and Lamy nibs. There is an italic/stub nib available though.

TWSBI Eco: The TWSBI Eco is on the higher end of the price points but it is a piston filler so if what you are looking for in a fountain pen is the chance to play with lots of fountain pen inks, than this is your best option. It’s available in a couple colors but that only alters the cap and twist filler, the barrel of the pen remains transparent to see the ink. The cap posts and the nib ranges from extra fine to a stub 1.1mm. TWSBI uses German nibs so assume the nibs are more comparable in size to Lamy or Kaweco than to Pilot in sizing.

So, those are my recommendations for starter fountain pens. There are many others but these pens will most likely be easy to find at most online pen shops, pen shows or even a well-stocked brick-and-mortar pen shop. TWSBI being the exception, though a lot of online shops are carrying TWSBI these days.

Fountain Pen Review: Aurora Style Gemstone Aquamarine EF Fountain Pen

The Aurora Style Aquamarine Fountain Pen with extra fine nib is probably one of the most budget-friendly Italian pens. The pen price is $85 at the time of this review which is pretty reasonable. Aurora makes their own nibs so there is real appeal to being able to get an Aurora for less than $100, even with a steel nib.

The Style Gemstone line features three pastel colors that each feature smooth, glossy exteriors. There is another Style line called “Resin” featuring more jewel tones and traditional colors, that is specifically called out as using resin for the cap and body but nowhere could I find information that definitively confirmed that the Gemstone line used resin. If anyone can confirm the material used for the Gemstone line, please let me know in the comments.

The cap features an angled, flat surface with a chrome, disc shape that mimics the shape of the Aurora logo. The clip is a sleek simple shape in chrome and the band at the bottom of the cap is also chrome with “Aurora” and “Italy” engraved discreetly into it. The pen body is rounded and tapers into a cigar shape. The grip section is black and separated from the body by a chrome ring. The overall effect, with the solid pastel color, is very retro.

The pen is a snap cap which might take some getting used to, if you usually use threaded caps.

Because of the lightness of the materials, the Style is not a very heavy pen. Uncapped and unposted, with a converter, it weighs only 14gms. Posted, it weighs 22gms. The cap will post if you prefer a weightier pen.

From left to right: For size comparison: Aurora Style, Pilot Metropolitan, Kaweco Sport, Sailor 1911 regular size and Sailor Pro Gear Slim

The nib has a nice etched decorative line, the size and “Aurora” marked on it. Simplicity at its finest.

As much as I was drawn to the looks of the Aurora Style, it was the nib I was most curious about trying. How would a steel nib form Aurora actually perform? I was most surprised to discover that the EF nib had quite a bit of bounce to it. The nib is very smooth, right out of the box and I was able to use it both holding it below the baseline and overhanded (weird left-handed style).

A big stumbling block is that the Style does not ship with a cartridge converter in the box. If you are inclined to use bottled inks, you’ll want to add a cartridge converter ($16.50) to your order. Aurora uses a proprietary converter and cartridges. Parker cartridges will also work with Aurora pens but I couldn’t find any pen shops that would confirm that the Parker cartridge converters would which is a bit of a bummer because they are half the price of the Aurora converters.

So, the addition of the converter brings the Style price up to $101 which does make me reconsider the Aurora Style a little bit. At $85, it was easier to put the Style as a step up from TWSBI 580 at $50-60 but at $101, the Style is in that “over $100” range. For me, I suspect the Aurora Style is priced to be a competitor to the Pelikan M200/M205 which is priced around $130-150.  Where I had issues with flow from the entry level Pelikans, the Aurora Style worked fine from the box but I think the Pelikans look a little bit more high end than the Style does. However, I really like the look and feel of the Aurora Style and I like the nib of Style a whole lot better than my few experiences with Pelikan thus far.

For another perspective of the Aurora Style,  see the video review from Waski Squirrel on YouTube. He purchased the Aurora Style in Rose Quartz with a Broad nib.

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

Product Review: ArtSnacks March 2017 Subscription Box

Review by Tina Koyama

On top of all the usual excitement over the release of the latest ArtSnacks box, the March edition was a celebration: ArtSnacks’ birthday! For four years, this subscription service has been curating a monthly assortment of fine art and craft supplies to art material junkies like me.

The March box included two tubes of M. Graham & Co. watercolor paints (Terra Rosa and Titanium White Opaque), a Protégé Taklon Paint Brush by Connoisseur, a Koh-I-Noor Triograph 2B graphite pencil, and a small sample pad of Stonehenge Aqua Hotpress watercolor paper by Legion Paper. As a birthday commemoration, subscribers also received an ArtSnacks logo magnet, which I promptly put on my metal file cabinet. Of course, the box also included a snack – a piece of WarHeads Extreme Sour candy (which was sadly long gone by the time I took this photo!).

Having paints, a brush and watercolor paper in the same box meant that I could conveniently try out all three items at once. First, the brush: From images I saw on Instagram, subscribers received a variety of brush styles. I got a No. 5 round, which I’m very happy with because it’s a versatile size that works well in my small sketchbooks. The synthetic bristles snap back nicely, and it retains its point well. I used the Terra Rosa to paint a small pear, and I like the control I had with wide strokes of paint, as well as the fine point on the pear’s stem.

I’d heard that M. Graham paints were unique in that they contain honey to keep the pigments moist. I squirted out a bit more Terra Rosa onto my palette than I had intended because it has a very loose consistency that reminds me very much of honey. The paint is so intense and rich that I could mix in quite a bit of water without diluting the hue. I’m not familiar with this color in other paint brands, so I don’t know how the particular pigments contribute to the consistency, but it appears very concentrated. A little would go a long way with these paints!

The Titanium White Opaque wasn’t nearly as runny as the Terra Rosa. After my pear sketch dried completely, I added a dab of white as a highlight to the upper part of the pear, and it dried nearly as opaque as when it was wet.

I made swatches of both paints over some ink lines so you could see their opacity.

Now, about that paper. In addition to making the pear sketch above, I ran a few of my favorite drawing media over it – the Triograph pencil that came in my box, a traditional and a water-soluble colored pencil, a fountain pen and a brush pen. On the side of the paper that would be considered the front (if you think of the pad’s cover as the front), the surface is considerably more toothy than the back, which is much smoother and without a visible texture. You can see the difference, especially, in the pencil tests. (The pear sketch was painted on the back side.)

The front side feels a bit too rough for hotpress; I found it unpleasant under a fountain pen, which is often what I use for line work before painting. It’s really a two-sided paper – coldpress on one side and hotpress on the other! The paper’s substantial weight is not indicated on the sample pad, but I’d guess it’s at least 140 pound. The sizing is beautiful – I love the way water-soluble media wash out with a rich bloom.

(Out of curiosity, I compared it with the sample pad of Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress paper that I had received in a previous ArtSnacks box. The coldpress has a strong texture, as I’d expect, and it’s consistent on both sides.)

Of the items in the March box, I’m having the most fun with the pencil, which is a jumbo-size, triangular graphite. It’s the biggest graphite pencil I own, so I thought it was appropriate to take it out for a spin on National Pencil Day! (For the sketch below, I used the Plumchester sketchbook, which is one of my favorites with graphite.)

The 2B core is firm enough that it easily retains a point for details. At the same time, that extra-thick core held flat against the paper makes for fast, easy shading. I thought the chunky triangular shape might be unwieldy for drawing, but it is surprisingly secure. The core reminds me of a carpenter’s pencil, but the body is much more comfortable to use.

I like the lightly varnished natural finish and the lacquered end cap.

I scribbled with it on the Plumchester paper, gave the marks a finger smudge and erased with a Tombow Mono Zero eraser. Smudging and erasing were typical of a 2B core, and it felt similar in softness to a Palomino 2B and Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B.

The Triograph does not fit in any sharpener I own (and I own quite a few). However, taking a knife to it was a prime opportunity to give that deliciously thick core a chisel point, which will be even more fun for the next sketch!

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 ArtSnacks for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Fashionable Friday: Darkest before the Light

We have not seen the sun in nearly eight days and I have come to embrace the London-like weather in Kansas City. We shall embrace the darkness. Clearly, last week’s post was premature.

  • Vertical Lace Pattern Washi Tape in Purple $3.50/roll (also available in green and blue, set of three rolls for $6.50) (via CuteTape)
  • Take What’s There Shawl Pattern €3.90 (via Ravelry)
  • Kokuyo Neo Critz Large Pencil Case – Navy / Light Blue $22 (via JetPens)
  • Aurora Blue Black Ink (45ml Bottle) $18 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Kiriko Edo Komen Card Set $32 (via Egg Press)
  • Sailor 1911 Standard Fountain Pen – Anderson Pens Special Edition, Peacock Pre-Order, ONLY 100 PIECES AVAILABLE! $245 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Lamy Safari Petrol fountain pen matt blue (2017 Special Edition) €19,90
    (€16,45 Outside EU) (via Fontoplumo)
  • Pelikan Edelstein Color of the Year Smoky Quartz Sale: $31.50 (via Pen Chalet)
  • CDT Graffiti Pad $3.50 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Platinum 3776 Century Fountain Pen in Bourgogne $220 Special Offer $165.66 (via Pen Chalet)
  • INK Rollerball Pen (ON SALE! NO COUPON NEEDED 3/31-4/7) Starting at $70 (via Karas Pen Co.)
  • Platinum Citrus Black Ink (60ml Bottle) $25 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Copic Gasenfude Brush Pen $7.49 (via ArtSnacks)

Thanks to my sponsors for providing some of the images I use for Fashionable Friday. Please consider making your next purchase from one of the shops that support the blog and let them know you heard about them here.

Thanks for reading the blog and for supporting the shops that help keep it running.

April is National Letter Writing Month

Okay, gang! I know you’all get jazzed about InCoWriMo in February but letter-writing is not a once a year occurrence. Did you fall short in February? Did you lose steam? Did you not even know about InCoWriMo at all? Whatever the case may be, going back as far as 2001, the USPS made a statement that it wanted to expand its previous weeklong card- and letter-writing campaign tradition beyond the first week of April to the entire month of April. It hoped  to encourage school-age children to write cards and letters along with the rest of us by giving us a whole month to put forth the effort to put pen to paper.

In 2014, the Letter Writers Alliance documented that other dates have been chosen as of letter-writing significance. But let’s decide that April is as good a time as any to develop, hone or polish our letter-writing skills. Whether its dashing off a few Easter cards, writing some birthday wishes this month instead of just posting messages on Facebook or finding some like-minded friends to start up a correspondence with – take this month to do a little letter-writing.

One of the most inspiring things I heard this week that got me wanting to write was the podcast Nerdette interview with Tom Hanks talking about typewriters. Go forth, listen, enjoy and get to writing!

You also might want to consider the Egg Press and Hello Lucky collaboration project, Write_On Kit to help you stay motivated.

Write_On is a labor of love. Each year, we offer Write_On Letter-writing Kits because we believe in the power of letters to bring people together in a meaningful way. This year, we invite you to invest in Write_On too – by paying what you can for a kit – so that we can continue to supply you with the tools and inspiration you need to keep your letter-writing practice strong. We really couldn’t do it without you. Free kits are still available to those who need them, but please consider purchasing yours if you can. Thank you in advance for your generosity!

And don’t forget to check out the Think.Make.Share. blog which will be “getting serious” throughout the month of April with posts focused on letter writing, printables, inspiring stories and other excuses to use the tools you love. I love it when my day job and my night job cross paths!

The best thing about the April Letter-Writing Challenge is there is NO challenge. It’s just letter-writing month. You are not being challenged to write a letter every day or set some heroic goal. You can set a realistic, doable goal. Is it to just answer the letters from February? Or finally write those Christmas thank you cards? Maybe just send a couple sweet nothings to your spouse or your child so they get a real card or letter in the mail? Invite a couple friends over for a mini-letter writing social? Or give yourself an excuse to spend an extra hour at your favorite coffee shop and dash off a few notes to old or new friends.

Happy writing and don’t forget to use all those pens, inks and papers you’ve been collecting!