Link Love: The Science of Pens

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Notebook Review: FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks

The FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks are the latest release from Say Nice Things. The FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks sell in a 3-pack which ship in a cardstock slipcase (£6.99) or you can purchase an individual book for £2.99.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks

The packaging for the 3-pack is the same kraft cardstock that the covers are made from and doubles as a great way to store and archive your books. I like packaging that has secondary use and/or is totally recyclable. This is both. When you open it, it feels like a little gift. If you store your unused and then filled FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks in the box, it feels sturdy enough to keep them safe and secure. But since the material is just kraft paper, its completely recyclable so if you choose to recycle it, that’s fine too. So whatever you decide to do with the box, its all good.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks

The size of the notebooks is a little larger than the average pocket notebook at 4 1/8″ x 5 3/4″ (10.5cm x 14.8cm). They are actually A6 size. It’s not a size I use much but they are noticeably wider than the average pocket notebook even without a ruler. Its kind of refreshing even though it doesn’t fit in my Story Supply Co. leather cover. Bummer.

Each set of three books feature kraft covers with one printed with either a teal, orange or purple stripe on the covers. The kraft covers are good and sturdy.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks

The thread-stitched binding coordinates with the printing on the cover.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks inside paper

What’s unique about the FlipFlop Pocket Notebook is that it combines both a lined notebook and a reticle grid into one book. Depending on which way you flip the book, by looking at the cover, the marking printed on the cover will show if you are on the reticle grid side or the lined side. The books contain 48 pages, 24 pages are lined, 24 pages are reticle. The paper is 90gsm in a soft, cream white.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks writing pen tests

The lines on the lined side are spaced at 5mm. For someone like me with pretty small handwriting and a tendency to use fine writing pens on the go, it didn’t present much issue. I went ahead and tested some wider pens, like a brush pen, some markers and various tools to simulate that “I grabbed whatever was handy” moments.

The lines don’t bleed all the way to the edge and the Say Nice Things smiley face logo is in the bottom corner of each page with a slightly larger margin there as well. I feel like I could use this space to number the pages or add some sort of indexing if I was more organized.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks bleed test

From the reverse side of the paper, you can just see the Platinum Brush Pen showing through a bit. In person, its a little bit more noticeable but the reverse side of the paper is still completely usable, even where the brush pen is.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks pen tests

I ran the same pen tests on the reticle grid side. I found that both the lines and the reticle grid marks were light enough to disappear with all but the lightest ink colors which I really appreciated.

FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks bleed test

Again, from the back of the paper, there was little evidence of show through.


  • Reticle grid
  • pretty good with fountain pens
  • 5mm lines
  • A6
  • nice Kraft covers
  • packaging doubles as storage
  • Made in the UK!


  • A6 might not work for everyone
  • Shipping outside the UK might be challenging (email customer service for shipping information)
  • Reticle/Lined combo might not be for everyone

Overall, I really like the FlipFlop Pocket Notebooks. For someone like me who tends to be a bit indecisive about whether I want to take a lined notebook, a grid or a blank notebook, the FlipFlop gives me the ability to not make a decision. There are very few options on the market with reticle grid so if that’s a format you’re looking for, this is a great candidate. A6 is also not often available which is slightly wider than the 3.5 x 5.5 pocket notebooks and a tiny bit taller. If you have a chance to try the FlipFlop, give it a try!

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

Store Profile: Wonder Fair in Lawrence, KS

Store Profile: Wonder Fair in Lawrence, KS

Just 25 miles west of Kansas City is the college town of Lawrence, Kansas. On the main drag of Massachusetts Street are all sorts of restaurants, bars, and shops. We drive over a couple times a year to visit. There’s a great ramen shop, guitar shop, yarn shop and there’s always new shops popping up. My favorite shop is called Wonder Fair. It’s filled with stationery, notebooks, pens, pencils, ink and art supplies from around the world and there’s an art gallery too.

Wonderfair signage

This is the amazing sign outside the store. Who wouldn’t want to set sail on a voyage at Wonder Fair?

Wonderfair Washi-ton display

On the main floor is paper goods. There are notebooks, stationery, cards, Traveler’s Notebooks, gifts, books, planners, calendars and the like. There is also some t-shirts in the front window and some tote bags and backpacks in the other window. In the back is the gallery area. There is a small display case with the “fancy pens” which is still a relatively small collection but includes Y Studio, Kaweco, Caran d’Ache, Platinum and Lamy.

Atop one of the displays is Mt. Washi-ton, a display of washi tape. How clever!

Wonderfair Field Notes

There is a copious display of both Field Notes and Baron Fig notebooks. I was able to pick up the new Baron Fig sticky notes from the great selection.

Wonderfair notebooks

Wonder Fair has such a great selection of notebooks like Rollbahn, Rhodia, Stalogy, Life, Midori, Write Notebooks, Mnemosyne and so many more. I had to resist buying anymore paper.

Wonderfair notebooks

Wonderfair ink refills

Upstairs are pens, pencils, markers, ink, refills and art supplies. It’s cubbies and containers of joy. It’s a snug little space but such fun and so colorful.

Wonderfair letter writing stationery

Back downstairs are the postal supplies including writing paper and envelopes as well as a wonderful selection of notecards, postcards and card sets.

Wonderfair haul

I picked up a few wonderful things because, really, how could I resist? I was super excited to get the Caran d’Ache Brut Rose ballpoint pen, another rainbow pencil, the Baron Fig Nomad StickyNotes, a set of Zebra Mildliners, a couple enamel pins and the Wonder Fair exclusive patch #1.


The reason I wanted to get this post up right away is because THIS SUNDAY, July 16 is the monthly meeting of the Wonder Fair Letter Writing Club. The Letter Writing Club meet at a nearby coffee shop called Decade from 2-4pm. I plan to attend this month so if you happen to be in the area and can make, I’d love to meet up.

I’d be happy to bring along some of my stock of letter writing stamps for folks to try out and any pens, paper or ink that people might like to try in person.

And of course, a big thank you to Meredith and Paul at Wonder Fair for being so nice to us and not kicking us out for overstaying our welcome on Saturday. We must have been there for hours!

Pen Review: Caran D’Ache 849 Fountain Pen

Pen Review: Caran D’Ache 849 Fountain Pen

I have been waiting with bated breath for the Caran d’Ache 849 fountain pen ($52) to finally be available. It was accidentally revealed a bit ahead of schedule way back in March but they didn’t arrive in the US until mid-June.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen

Aesthetically, all the cues come straight from the original 849 pen and pencil but there are some unique design decisions added in order to make it a capped pen. First, like the ballpoint pen and pencil, the 849 fountain pen is hexagonal and features the same distinctive clip. I love that Caran d’Ache chooses to cover their own branding with their clip. The only text visible on the pen is the “Swiss Made” visible above the clip. If you peer under the clip, the company name and “849” is visible. This clip placement gave me the idea to do the same thing with my Kaweco Sport pens. Its so tasteful and understated.

The end caps are chrome silver and stick out slightly but are narrower than the rest of the pen. You’ll see further down… there’s a good reason for this.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen

For the initial release, Caran d’Ache chose offer the 849 fountain pen in four eye-bleeding fluorescent colors (pink, green, orange, yellow) plus black, white and navy enamel lacquer over aluminum body. And wow, is the pink ever PINK! It’s hard to get the camera to capture just how neon it is and I’m sure that most online photos are not capturing the other colors justly either. They are FLUORESCENT! Or op art black and white and navy. The paint finish is perfect.

The cap is a snap cap and if you notice in the picture above there is a silver ring that slides under the edge of a lip on the body of the pen to create a tight seal. It’s a very nice detail.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen extra fine nib close-up

The nib is an unusual modern shape with a custom Caran d’Ache logo mark. For a steel nib it has a bit of softness to it and a little bit of spring to it. I got the EF nib knowing it would most likely be a European EF and I was right. The line width is comparable to a Kaweco EF but with a good deal more bounce. Its by no means a flex nib but its definitely not hard as nails.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen cap

The same chrome lip on the cap also fits over the end so the cap posts securely. How clever is that!

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen cartridge

The pen ships with an international cartridge from Caran d’Ache. In this case, their Idyllic Blue ink. I was impatient to try the pen immediately, so I popped the cartridge in and noticed that the cartridge is actually foil stamped with the company name on one side and the color on the other. No playing cartridge roulette with Caran d’Ache! How very nice of them.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen comparison

While the price point of the 849 fountain pen puts it a bit higher than some of the other “entry level” pens, aesthetically it feels like a pen many would compare with a Pilot Metropolitan, a Lamy Safari or the TWSBIs. So, I thought I’d show them altogether. You’ll notice that the 849 fountain pen is visibly more slender. What the 849 has going for it is that of these four pens, its the only one that takes standard international cartridges and converters. The Lamy and Pilot both use proprietary systems and TWSBI is a plunger filler only. The 849 and the Metropolitan are also the only metal body pens. Lamy offers the AL-Star in metal but not in bright colors like the 849.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen comparison

When posted, the Caran d’Ache is the longest of them all at a whopping 7 inches (14.2cm). I found the pen completely comfortable to use unposted (almost 5 inches/12cm). It does have a shorter, narrower grip section. The grip section is resin with a bit of a step down due to the cap closure. Other folks have tried out the 849 fountain pen over the past week or so and have found the shorter grip section less comfortable than I have so that’s something to consider.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen writing sample extra fine

I was really surprised the discover the line variation from a EF nib. I found it smoother than I expected it to be too. The nibs have to be custom nibs. The design, shape and style is too unique to be a Bock or Jowo nib. Though Caran d’Ache may have one of those companies make the nibs for them. I don’t know the specific details about

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen writing sample

Weightwise, the 849 is not very heavy, even being metal. Capped or posted, it only weighs 18gms. Uncapped, it weighs 11gms. I only had the cartridge in it so possibly with a converter, you could add a couple grams if you wanted to. On the flipside, it also made the pen very comfortable in my hand. When you add the softly rounded hexagonal shape and the overall feel of the 849 fountain pen is a generally un-put-down-able pen.

The bright color made it hard to lose in my bag so I was continually reaching for it and the snap cap meant it was easy to open and close for quick notes. The 849 wrote smoothly for me and I liked the bounce of the EF nib. I don’t know if a wider nib would have as much play in it but for usefulness on the widest array of paper types, I recommend a finer nib. If you know you’ll only be using high quality papers or you have a particularly heavy hand, than try the wider F or M nib.

The more I use this pen, the more I like it. Keeping in mind, I really got it as a curiosity so my expectations were really low. The fact that it was not a scratchy, hard-starting POS put it way ahead of the curve in its ability to impress me. I have always loved the 844 mechanical pencils and 849 ballpoints. They are based on the Fixpencil design that has been around since 1929. So, the fact that the pen looks cool, writes well and featured some excellent design details put it over the top for me.

Is it a bit spendy for a steel nib, aluminum barrel fountain pen? Probably. Are you worth it? That’s your call. But as with all Caran d’Ache purchases, I find that after I make them I am always glad I did. Supracolor colored pencils? Worth it. Bi-color 999? Yep. Technalo watersoluble pencils? Oh yeah. Sketcher non-photo blue pencil? Indeed. Things from Switzerland may be a bit more expensive but they just seem to build them a little better. Thanks, Caran d’Ache. Now take my money!

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

Notebook Review: Rosetta Notes

Notebook Review: Rosetta Notes

Rosetta Notes are touted plainly on the back of each pocket notebook as “Fountain pen friendly paper” so I was eager to test them out and see if they lived up to their claims. The pocket notebooks are also in the favored 3.5×5.5″ size and are milled, manufactured and printed in Michigan. The paper mill of note in Michigan is, of course, French Paper.

Rosetta Notes Back Cover

The final feather in their cap is that the books are available with plain (with orange or chocolate covers), lined (with turquoise or black cover) or dot grid paper (with wine cover) and can be purchased in 3-packs for $7.99. A mixed pack is also available with one book each.

Rosetta Notes paper

Inside each book is French Paper 70lb/105gsm Smart White ultra-smooth, bright white paper. It’s pH neutral and acid-free. Each book contains 24 sheets/48 pages. The covers are 100lb/260gsm cover weight in an assortment of colors, made from recycled paper. The covers are printed front and back with a compass rose on the front and branding information on the back in metallic ink. The books are staple-bound with two staples along the spine and the corners are rounded. On close inspection, the corner rounding was definitely done on a corner rounder after assembly as they are not consistent. For the price point and the purpose these notebooks serve, I’m willing to overlook some of the finishing issues. They are pocket notebooks with paper covers and high quality paper. For me, that’s the biggest and most important feature.

Rosetta Notes dot grid comparison

I assumed most folks would be most interested in the dot grid book so I thought I’d compare the dot printing in the Rosetta Notes (top) with the printing in other pocket notebooks currently available. In the middle is the Word. notebook in dot grid and on the bottom is the new Blackwing Clutch in dot grid. All three are 5mm spacing. This photo shows the size and color differences of the paper and dots.

Rosetta Notes pen tests

The line spacing on lined paper is 6mm so you can see I write pretty small. The photo above is actually larger than actual size so you can see there’s a little bleeding with more watery inks like deAtramentis.

Rosetta Notes bleed test

But when I turn the page over, there is NO show through or bleed through. So, I decided to push it a little further.

Rosetta Notes writing pen tests

I got out some more artsy tools like a brush pen and some felt tip pens, just to see how the paper would hold up.

Rosetta Notes lined bleed tests

There is a little show through with the big brush pens but really… minimal. When compared with the results that is often found with most pocket notebooks, this is really something. And these Rosetta Notes are much cheaper. So, if you’re looking for (1) dot grid, (2) fountain pen friendlier and (3) cheaper options for your pocket notebooks, its definitely worth checking out Rosetta Notes.

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

Books For The Desk Set: Home Decor

I haven’t done a home decor book review yet but I do have quite the pile of books. I love home decor books and they often have great inspiration for revamping your office, home office or studio/work area. Not to mention that we paper enthusiasts tend to book enthusiasts too so maybe some of these books might be of interest to you, just on principle.

Nomad by Sibella Court
A Global Approach to Interior Style
I purchased The Life of a Bowerbird by Sibella Court for my “other mother” last year and I bought Nomad with every intention of giving it to her as well but it was so lovely I had a hard time parting with it. While this sort of bohemian aesthetic isn’t normally to my taste, this book is so beautiful, I couldn’t resist its allure. There is something about its subtlety, design and honesty that while it wasn’t specifically my taste spoke to me about finding or following my own loves with the same passion and enthusiasm that Court follows hers. I do admit to appreciating the more colorful chapter in Mexico best.

HomemakersHomemakers by Brit Morin of Brit+Co
A Domestic Handbook for the Digital Generation
I wasn’t familiar with Brit+Co until last year when someone at work mentioned it by which time I felt a little late to the party. Homemakers, however, makes me feel like I can get a feel for the web site and its content without having to navigate through years of online content, including a mess of ads, millennial pop culture (like Brit+Co makes their own planners, did you know that?). First, the book suggests that its time to reclaim the term “homemaker” for the 21st century. Okay, everyone else is taking back other words, why not?

Homemakers is divided into sections based on the part of the home it is related to: Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom, Bathroom. There is also Workspace, Gym and “Back Porch” section. The Back Porch is a catchall for some really weird stuff, I’m surprised there’s not an old washer and a broken down Big Wheel

The book has color-coding along the edge to make finding a specific section fast. While there are some interesting tidbits in each section, the book is by no means comprehensive in any category and the “notes” page after various articles seem like a waste of space. Poor page layout? I would have preferred more content instead.

I appreciate that in the Workspace section included references to things like 3D printers, CNC mills and laser cutters but they also dismissed learning to sew as not necessary to be a DIY rockstar. If you can run a Kitchenaid mixer and a laser cutter, you can handle the intracacies of regular sewing machine. Yeah for supporting modern makers but don’t ditch “your grandma’s craft skills”. Sheesh.

Homemakers is a colorful book with lots of references to modern life, apps and online companions like Netflix to make it feel current but there is a boat load of editing that could have been done. There are places where the writing is just weird. “Food process Doritos and use them as chicken skin”? Do they mean use Doritos as breading on chicken? Where was your editor? It just tried to be too many things and not enough of any one thing. Be a cookbook or a maker book or crafts book instead it was kind of crap at all of them. But it had really pretty pictures.

Design Sponge at HomeDesign Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney
By contrast to Homemakers, Design Sponge at Home brings much of the sneak peeks, DIY projects, Before & Afters and DIY basics to the printed page with flying colors. Even though this book was published several years ago, much of the content is still fresh and, in some cases, even more relevant today. With even more interest in small houses, DIY, upcycling and doing more with less, the book feels just as accessible as ever. Maybe some of the paint colors are a little dated or the prints on the bedspreads seems a little 2010, but otherwise, the content all seems sensible and applicable. Many of the Sneak Peeks are folks living in small apartments in New York and figuring out how to make do with little space and little money. These spaces are less about “decorating” and more about creating expressive, livable spaces.

There are also great “before & after” projects in the back that give me hope and courage to tackle some of the many projects I have on my to-do list.

A Colorful HomeA Colorful Home by Susan Hable
Create Lively Palettes for Every Room

How could I resist a book about creating colorful rooms by the co-founder of Hable Construction? There were even pull quote recommendations on the back of the book from Grace Bonney (of Design Sponge, see above) and Andy Spade (yes, the significant other of Kate Spade!) Interspersed throughout the book–which is divided into colors: rose, treetops, arrowhead, citrus, thorn, pool and salt –are photos of dyed swatches of fabric, close-ups of watercolors, details of plants, textural elements and interior photos. This is not a decorating book in a traditional sense. Its a book of inspiration. Like Nomad, it sets a mood  through color rather than place. A Colorful Home establishes a more eclectic aesthetic, mixing classic and modern pieces held together by color where Nomad uses place to develop a color palette and aesthetic based on a locale. The two books actually work together quite well together. If you get your hands on both books, I highly recommend getting both of them if you are looking for visual eye candy.

Product Review: ArtSnacks July 2017 Subscription Box

Product Review: ArtSnacks July 2017 Subscription Box

Review by Tina Koyama

If I had to choose two of my favorite types of sketching materials, I’d have to say brush pens and colored pencils. You can imagine my thrill when I opened the July ArtSnacks box and found a Pentel Duopoint Flex Double-Ended Brush Pen and two Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colored pencils! In addition, I got a Derwent HB Graphic Drawing Pencil and a Derwent 2-in-1 Eraser/Sharpener. A bonus was a 15 percent discount coupon to Artist & Craftsman Supply (online or in store). A&C is one of very few remaining brick-and-mortar art supply stores in Seattle, so I’m happy to take my coupon over there to shop (Ed note: There’s also an A&C in KC and one of my favorites as well!). My box also contained a red-hot Atomic FireBall and a much-loved ArtSnacks sticker.

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