Pencil Review: All the Blackwing Volumes (thus far)

This has been a post I’ve been planning for a long time. I wanted to compare and test all seven of the Blackwing Editions that have been released thus far against one another. The rub was that I didn’t start my subscription until the second edition, No. 1138. So, thankfully, a kind knitter on Ravelry sent me a brand new No. 725 in order to complete the collection. Then I destroyed it by sharpening it for the test. So, here we go.

I sharpened a fresh Blackwing from each edition to start the test, even if I had one I’d been using to make everything consistent. I used the same sharpener — a brand new Stabilo Swan, mostly because it has a good German blade and its gorgeous. Thanks to Wonderfair in Lawrence, KS for stocking such a cool sharpener! The photos are each of the pencils sharepened, in the order they were released: No, 725 (Sunburst/Newport), No. 211 (John Muir), No. 1138 (Mélîes), No. 24 (Steinbeck), No. 56 (DiMaggio), No. 344 (Dorothea Lange), and No. 530 (Gold Rush).

The No. 56 makes my favorite shavings!

The No. 530 looks amazing and its really golden next to its perfect curl of shavings.

I went through each of the Blackwing Editions and noted the descriptions listed on the Blackwing 602 site regarding the type of graphite used in the edition to help establish if I could tell a notable difference in the performance of each pencil.

The No. 1138 is the only edition listed with the soft graphite and was definitely the darkest lead. Alternately, the first edition released, the No. 725 was the only one with the “balanced graphite” core. All the rest of the editions have used either the firm or extra firm core.

While both the No. 530 and the No. 24 list the “extra firm” graphite, I think the No. 24 graphite seems a bit firmer but it could just be me.

Regarding overall finishes on the pencils, I like the look of the No. 56 ($25 per dozen) the best. I just love those stripes. But the No. 530 ($25 per dozen) metallic gold is quickly moving up the ranks. In a blindfold test though, the pencil that felt best in my hands was the No. 24. The finish of the the Steinbeck is one of the best I’ve ever felt. The lacquer on it is impeccable. Unfortunately, the Steinbeck No.24 is almost impossible to find anymore. The red metallic ferrule on the No. 344 ($25 per dozen) is so cool. It also looks good if you switch out the eraser with a different color though to be honest, none of the stock Palomino erasers work all that well. Your best bet is to use a stand alone eraser if you are inclined to erase. Check out my eraser reviews for my best recommendations.

To give some perspective about the various graphite firmnesses used in the Editions, the firm graphite is the same as what is used in the Blackwing 602. While the “balanced graphite” is the same as the Blackwing Pearl. The “soft graphite” is the same as the original Palomino Blackwing which is colloquially known as the Blacking MMX. As for the “extra firm”, this is a new design as far as I understand it only available through the Editions.

So, to give you a wrap up of how the Editions shake out thus far, there have been one MMX edition, one Pearl edition, three 602 editions and two “extra firm” editions. So, what do you think the release in March 2017 might be? Will Palomino go back to one of their classics like the MMX or Pearl cores or will they try something totally new?

Kickstarter: DUO Everyday Ballpoint Pen and Stylus

One of the most recent Kickstarter projects to cross my path is the DUO Ballpoint Pen and Stylus. It’s a slim aluminum, twist retractable ballpoint pen with a stylus tip on the reverse end.

For my tech-savvy friends out there, the stylus is a 6mm Wacom Bamboo Stylus tip and actually works really well on my iPhone and iPad. I haven’t had a chance to put it to the test using any of my drawing apps yet but navigating through email, and regular touch interface worked fine. As someone who uses a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet and a Cintiq, I’m pretty picky about touch capabilities and the Bamboo Stylus worked well enough to not make me crazy. Often, my fingers are so cold that they don’t actually work on my touchscreens so having the DUO handy is actually a bit of a blessing.

The pen is slim and small enough to fit into a pocket, even some of those ridiculous “girl jeans” pockets. The anodized color is pretty without being flashy and is available in four colors: gunmetal grey, copper orange, satin black, and my peppy electric blue which is a lovely turquoise color. The etched crescent moon is the only branding on the pen which is subtle and makes me feel a bit like Sailor Moon.

The pen takes a standard Cross ballpoint refill. I’d say the Cross ballpoint refill is a fairly common refill but there are not a lot of options with this particular refill. It is a “ballpoint only” refill. There are not any gel or rollerball options available. Monteverde makes a version of this refill in Medium or Broad in their “soft roll” and the medium tip option is available in ten colors but that’s the extent of your options.

Most big box office supply stores (i.e. Office Depot, Staples, etc) or your local pen shop should have the Cross ballpoint refill in stock in some variation. Places like RefillFinder, Amazon, and Cult Pens list the Cross refill on their site. I know Vanness Pens and Anderson Pens stock the Cross ballpoint refill in store but don’t list them on their site so if you’re ordering from them, you may want to call in or email and ask to have them add a couple to your next order.

The DUO can be backed for £20 for one pen as an Early Bird for one pen and one refill and they estimate shipping in July of 2017.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by 529Studio for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Lamy AL-Star Pacific Special Edition 2017 (EF Nib) and Lamy Pacific Ink

I spent a very amused hour listening to Myke and Brad fuss about the new Lamy Special Editions for 2017 on this week’s episode of the Pen Addict. Did you hear the episode? First, a big congratulations to the guys for reaching their five year milestone!

I was tickled that Brad was so passionate about not liking the AL-Star as much as he liked the Safari. My feelings on the subject are the exact opposite. The plastic Safari cost is about $30 but for about $7 more you can get the more durable (and IMHO more aesthetically appealing) aluminum AL-Star.

Finally, knowing that Lamy is doing the same pebbly finish on the Petrol Safari special edition that they did on the Dark Lilac means that the AL-Star is going to remain a classic since it keeps the original smooth finish. I’m not a fan of the pebbly finish that Lamy is using on the Dark Lilac and the upcoming Petrol model but you may disagree. So, as you can see, my opinions are diametrically opposite of Brad and Myke on the subject of the new Lamy Safari and AL-Star releases.

Onward, to the Pacific! Isn’t the color stunning? Like all the other limited edition Lamy colorways, the question really boils down to this… will you kick yourself later if you don’t buy it? Its the whole FOMO thing. If you love Lamy AL-Stars or you’re a fan of all things turquoise-y you are going to want to pick one of these up. If you’ve never purchased a Lamy Safari or AL-Star before and were considering buying one, this would be a good one to buy. As a fan of the AL-Star over the Safari, I’m always going to prefer it over the Safari but if you asked Brad, he’d tell you the exact opposite so you’ll have to use your best judgement here. Do you like metallic sheen? Or do you prefer glossy plastics or pebbled finishes?

I received the Lamy AL-Star Pacific with an EF nib ($37.60) from Goulet Pens. Generally, I find that the Lamy nibs tend to run a little wet and a bit wider than other European nibs. I find the Lamy EF nib to be a very pleasant everyday writing pen and with the Lamy Pacific ink ($10.50 for the 50ml bottle) its a great pick-me-up for a grey February day.

Don’t forget to add a Z24 converter ($4.95) to you order if you plan to use bottled ink.

There’s been a lot of discussion around the Lamy Pacific ink being repackaged Lamy’s Turquoise ink. Many pen shops (as well as Lamy) have clarified that the Lamy Pacific ink is the same ink as Lamy Turquoise so if you already own a bottle of Lamy Turquoise, you do not need to purchase another bottle of Lamy Pacific — unless you really want to. However, if you have not purchased Lamy Turquoise in the past, this would be a perfect opportunity to grab a bottle to match this lovely pen.

Lamy Pacific ink is a vibrant turquoise blue that has good shading and even a big of magenta sheen. Shading is visible even in the EF nib writing and the color stays bright and legible even in the fine writing of the EF nib. While Lamy has trouble getting a bright, legible green, they do a splendid job with their bright, legible blue. And at the price point, this ink cannot be beat. Add in the cool bottle with blotting paper built into the bottle and you have a great deal.

I’ve included a couple other current turquoise inks that are popular at the moment for comparison. All were painted on Rhodia paper. Robert Oster Torquay is notably darker and Sailor’s new Yuki-Akari is a bit lighter than the Lamy Pacific.

In the end, I find the AL-Star, and the Pacific color in particular, to be one of the nicest looking pens Lamy has done in awhile. Could you imagine if the Lamy 2000 had been Pacific Blue Makralon? I wish Lamy had been a bit more upfront about the ink color name change with retailers but Pacific/Turquoise is such a gorgeous color and it really does have a lovely sheen that I don’t think anyone will get stuck with too many bottles.

It does make me wonder if the ink for Petrol won’t be rebranded Blue Black though.

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.

Giveaway Winner: Monteverde Intima Neon Pink Pink Fountain Pen and Ballpoint Set


Congrats to the winner of the Pen Boutique Monteverde Intima Neon Pink Fountain Pen & Ballpoint Set! Sounds like Kelly Anne is going to have my kind of Valentine’s Day.

The Monteverde Intima Set is still available at a great price if you want to grab one for yourself or your sweetie! Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone and Kelly Anne, give BB and Buck and extra scratch on the chin for me.

Review: Wanderings Traveler’s Notebook

I received the Wanderings Notebook to review not long ago and wanted to give a good thorough field test before I wrote my review. It will look like most of the leather, Midori-like notebooks you’ve seen on Etsy and other sites and wonder “What’s the big deal?” And that’s part of the big deal. There’s no a big deal unlike Foxy Fix, Chic Sparrow, Buteo Bunker, ZenCraft, One Star Leather or any of the other more posh brands.The Wanderings Notebook doesn’t have a lot of bells-and-whistles. There’s no pockets, extra stitching, no “extra room”, no personal size, passport size, Moleskine size, pocket size, slim size, blah blah blah…. It doesn’t come with a bunch of different colored elastic options or charms or custom embossing. To be honest, a lot of those options cause me to seize up with too-many-decisions-to-make-before-I-can-place-my-order and then I never place an order. The only branding on the Wanderings Notebook is a literal brand on the cover of a compass rose.

Right now, the Wanderings Notebook is only available in dark chocolate brown leather in the original traveler’s size (closed it’s approx. 8.5″ x 4.75″  or 22.2×12.7cm). The elastic is brown. Henry Ford would approve.You can get it any color you want as long as you want it in brown.

I decided to do a bit of a side-by-side with a regular Midor Traveler’s Notebook. The only full-sized Midori I could find was the 2015 Blue Edition Midori Traveler’s Notebook. The Wanderings Notebook is a bit wider overall than the Midori. The added bit of leather on the Wanderings strap is a noticeably nice addition. Also, the stock Wanderings elastic is a bit wider than the standard Traveler’s Notebook elastic. From the top view, you can see that the leather textures are a little bit different. The Wanderings Notebook is a bit more rustic where the Blue Edition has a smoother texture.

The leather on the Wanderings looks a bit thicker overall but its still supple. Inside my Midori Traveler’s Notebook (it as still branded Midori in 2015) is one a refills of handmade sketchbook paper and a plastic sleeve or two.

The Wanderings Notebook uses brass toggles to finish the ends of the elastics. The Wanderings Notebook also does not include any bookmarks in its notebook unlike the Traveler’s Notebook though it would not be difficult to add your own if you wanted to customize your notebook.

From the side view, you can see that the Wanderings Notebook uses the  side hole to attach the elastic for the closure which many people prefer over the back knot that the Traveler’s Notebook uses. Also, the Wanderings Notebook has the same brass noodle-like bead on the side. I prefer it to the Midori disc which sticks out away from the book quite a bit.

I tested out an assortment of my currently inked fountain pens on the notebooks that came with the Wanderings Notebooks.

The Wanderings Notebook ships with three blank inserts with kraft covers and ivory paper. I was surprised to discover that the paper was actually quite good for fountain pens. Most of my fine and medium nibs did quite well.

I usually clip a multi-pen to my Traveler’s Notebook since it ends up getting tossed around a lot or going to meetings and I like having a pen and a pencil with me. I was pleased that gel ink and pencil worked well on the paper that shipped with the cover but was equally happy to see that the paper stood up to a lot of different media.

There’s a little bit of show through on the reverse of stock but not too bad.

In the end though, with a Traveler’s Notebook cover, the most important aspect is always the durability of the cover and how well it wears and feels in your hand. The universality of the size means that finding a replacement insert is not a big deal. I will often just cut down old sketchbooks to make refills in a pinch. So I think it was wise for Black Mountain to go with this size to start. I know a lot of people don’t like this size or prefer the Field Notes or Passport size better but I find that once you adapt to the Traveler’s classic size, you re won over to it for good.

One of the things I talked with the Black Mountain Company about was that their notebooks are made in China and that is how they are able to keep their costs down. We talked about it at length and I hope that he won’t mind me quoting him here:

When I selected my supplier in China it was one of my top priorities to partner with a company that I felt good about in terms of how they treat their people and how the product is made. They pay their people well, source raw materials ethically, and produce a truly high quality product. I’ll leave that last point up to your judgement as well, of course.

I’m not an “artisan” as it is so popular to be these days, but that was not my goal when I started Wanderings. I wanted to provide a truly quality product to people at a price that a normal person can afford, along with stellar customer service (my specialty and what I enjoy doing).

Our planet is a global civilization and I run a micro-global company. My products are designed in Canada, made in China, and sold around the world, and I like it that way.

As someone who also works with Chinese manufacturers regularly, I can relate to his situation and his passion. I also his appreciate his honesty. Having walked through Chinese factories myself and seen the pride and hard work with my own eyes, I know what it means to see what you have envisioned come to life in the hands of craftspeople on the other side of the globe. Anyway… back to the bottom line.

The Wanderings Notebook is just $26.99 and includes three blank refills to get you started. Unlike the Traveler’s Notebook, it does not come with the cotton dust bag and the fancy paperboard box and extra elastics to keep those costs down. You can use that savings to embellish and add to your notebook however you see fit. If you’ve never tried a leather notebook cover before, there’s no better way to try one and I feel good about recommending a company who is both honest and honorable.


Fashionable Friday: Hodge Podge

This week is a hodge podge of things I’m excited about right now.

One of my favorite local shops is Wonderfair. They made some postcards to send to politicians, just in time to keep up with InCoWriMo, and express your personal displeasure with political decision makers or anyone else. I like the one that just says “NO”. I feel that way about Mondays, moth holes in my sweaters and stale donuts too.

After a succession of misplacing my keys, my work badge and other items, I invested in the Tile. It is a bluetooth device tracking system that works with your cellphone (and everyone else’s) to help track your missing items. There are several different styles available now that can be attached through a loop, adhered with adhesive or slipped into a wallet or purse. Should an item go missing, you can use your cell phone to “call” the item and it will play a little tune so you can locate it in your home, under the couch or in the seat cushions. If you left it at a friend’s house, at work or in your car, your phone will show you on a map, where your item is. And, if the worst case scenario has occurred and your item was stolen, you might be able to see on a map, where your item is now. In my case, I can just figure out where in my house, where my badge is instead of spending 40 minutes every Monday morning turning my house upside down trying to find it only to discover I left it in the cup holder in the car.

One of my favorite European online retailers is now stocking KWZ inks! Fontoplumo now has all your favorite KWZ inks including the iron galls and the standard fountain pen inks available, starting at £9,95.

I am so nerdy I subscribe to the Star Wars weekly newsletter so I now know I can make Death Star chocolates for Valentine’s Day and that Kay Jewelers makes licensed Star Wars jewelry. Kay created an amazing replica of Jyn Erso’s kyber pendent but it was really pricey and completely sold out. They also make a fancy Rebel Alliance pendant with black manmade diamonds that says “Use the Force” on the reverse side. That’s my idea of Valentine’s Day jewelry!

While we are on the subject of Star Wars, Etsy creator Andrew Brozyna Design & Illustration has made some excellent enamel pins. His C3PO “We’re Doomed” is oddly appropriate presently. But I also like his “Fly Casual”. His lettering is fantastic. He also has some for the bookish crowd and fans of Gilmore Girls. How do you pick just one?

Then there’s the new Sailor 1911 in Fresca Blue. So, beautiful! It’s a North American exclusive available in a standard body or large body and can be pre-ordered at Anderson Pens right now.

I also learned about yarn bombing which is a sort of urban art/graffiti using knitting and crochet and other fiber art that is wrapped around trees, public art, telephone poles, fences, benches and other objects in the urban landscape to beautify, make a statement, amuse or surprise. Kristy Glass Knits has issued a Share The Love Yarn Bomb challenge on YouTube to all the knitters and crocheters out there for Valentine’s Day.

I’ve tried not to get too political here on the blog because I know that it can be divisive and this is a place to disagree about ink colors and nib widths not political rhetoric and ideology but there have been some things that have come up recently that make me roll my eyes back in my head. So bear with me on this one as I feel that this statement is important for so many women… still. I am pleased to see that this downloadable “Nevertheless, She Persisted” Print from Imaginarybeast is donating all the proceeds to The Black Youth Project, Planned Parenthood, and ACLU. I’ve had days I need to be reminded that I need to persist, don’t you?

Since CuteTape joined as a sponsor, I have been trying to figure out what to do with all my many, many rolls of washi tape so I now have a Pinterest board of Washi Tape Crafts. Go forth and washi tape the world!

I get so annoyed with X-Acto and the craft knives I use at work. The quality of the blades and blade holders are subpar. X-Acto, despite being the name most often associated with craft blades isnot very good. I’m thinking about trying out Olfa Craft knives and blades. I’ve heard really good things about them. I need a better quality knife and blade. I make a lot of paper mock-ups of greeting cards.

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