Tag: ask the desk

Ask The Desk: Pen Show List and Nib Holders

Shane challenges:

According to my dad, in the olden days they had inkwells in their desks and practiced handwriting with dip pens in school.

Every dip pen I can find has a really sharp pointed nib, or a calligraphy nib. Does someone make a dip pen that has a nib more like a fountain pen nib, for extensive writing? I’d like a dip pen so I could use any color of ink I want for things like correspondence. I can dip one of my fountain pens, but cleaning them up afterwards is a chore.

Thanks for any help or ideas you might have!

There’s a whole history of trying to make a dip-less dip pen but once ballpoint pens debuted, they were abandoned. However, you can still find them on Ebay and at pen shows.

(From Penucopia)

You can get a custom-made nib holder as well. I actually have a “dip pen” for vintage Esterbook nibs. Shawn Newton made one for me but I know that similar holders have been made for other vintage screw-in nibs. Essentially its a nib holder with no ink reserve but since screw-in nib units have a feed and nib, they hold a good deal of ink — usually enough to write several lines or even a page. Thomas Hall had Shawn create a holder for his Morissett nib but he started out with the the classic dip-less set and started many of us on this path.

Or you could have a pen craftsman create a special holder that holds a modern nib unit just for the nib and feed without a cartridge or converter to allow you to just dip fill. This would work with several modern brands like TWSBI and Kaweco off the top of my head. If you are attending any pen shows this year, it might be something to ask a pen maker if they might make for you.

Finally, you could just dip your favorite fountain pen into ink and let the feed take up some ink rather than actually filling the converter or cartridge. It will slowly “run dry” and need to be re-dipped. Then clean the nib and feed when you are finished writing. I’d recommend removing the converter or cartridge to avoid having to clean that as well.

Sandi asks:

Do you know if there is a website with pen shows? I wish I lived near you…it would fun to attend but I’m in Ohio.

Anderson Pens has a very nice list of the 2017 Pen Shows with links to the show pages. It looks to be all the shows I know about including the Columbus show in Ohio. Maybe you can visit that one? Hope that helps!

Ask The Desk: Traveler’s Notebooks vs. Fodderstack and A5 Refill Options for Louis V. Organiser

Matthew put me to task with this stumper:

If you had to choose one out of the three below for your everyday carry, which one would it be and why?

  1. Nock co. Fodderstack XL ($17)
  2. Paper Republic Grand Voyageur (Passport Size) (approx. $42.31 USD)
  3. Travelers Notebook (Passport) ($44.50)

P.S. – Your pen of choice of course.

Well, Matthew, to be honest, the choice here is seems to be between a leather notebook cover and a nylon sleeve as there is not a big difference between the functionality of the Grand Voyageur and the Traveler’s Notebook. (Update: I stand corrected. The Grand Voyageur is actually sized to hold a Field Notes or other 3.5×5.5″ sized notebook. The dimensions, despite being called a “passport-sized” is 10.5cm x 15cm which is 4.1″ x 5.9″, large enough to hold the larger “pocket-sized” notebooks).  The Traveler’s notebook accept only the passport-sized refills so if you’re looking for something that will hold your copious collection of Field Notes, you might (also) want to consider a One Star Leather notebook cover. They start at $40 for a Traveler’s Notebook style and go up from there.

(Clockwise from top left: NockCo. Fodderstack XL, Traveler’s Notebook Passport, Paper Republic Grand Voyageur Pocket Size, and One Star Leather Field Notes Indie Notebook Cover)

If you are looking for an alternative to leather, than a Fodderstack XL will definitely be your preference. And NockCo definitely offers a lot of colors options as well. The Sinclair and the Hightower also provide a Field Notes-sized  pocket as well as slots for pens.

If you want a larger size, than the Grand Voyageur XL is definitely more appealing since its more of a traditional A5 size. And in general, the Grand Voyageur line offers a wider range of standard colors than the traditional Traveler’s Notebooks.

That said, I’m a traditionalist and I like the long slender size of the original Traveler’s Notebook. It’s not a size for everyone but once you use it, you may find that you like it. If you’re purchasing your first Traveler”s Notebook, and you can afford it, I say you go for the original. There are lots of people making Traveler-style notebooks now but its always nice to have at least one of the the originals, if you can. I prefer to fill my Traveler’s Notebook Passport Sized with Baron Fig Vanguard Pocket Notebooks which fit perfectly.

As for my pen of choice… for my Traveler’s notebook? I usually keep a Platinum Desk Pen with my Traveler’s Notebook. The Carbon ink is bulletproof and the low cost of the pen means I’m not worried about it going astray or getting knocked around. And the needlepoint tip is great for teeny tiny writing in the small books, good for sketching or writing and the tip is so smooth for the price. Now if I could just figure out a way to put it into a better looking body.

Amanda asks:

I have a Louis Vuitton organiser I bought years ago in Turkey, it is not a real one but I a very, very good fake and I have run out of paper inserts for it. It is an A5 organiser, with 6 holes, they are not standard though and I am trying to source some paper refills. If I send an image and measurements through could you let me know if you do anything that may fit this.

Many people have run into issues with non-standard hole placements for one reason or another but I have a workaround for you. It is an adjustable 6-hole punch from Japan. They are available on Amazon for a reasonable price. It takes a bit of time to punch inserts but you can either purchase inserts pre-printed or buy a downloadable PDF file from a vendor on Etsy and then punch them yourself to fit the ring configuration to align properly with your organizer.

You can also buy sheets of A5 paper and punch them to fit for notepaper or buy full sheets of A4 paper and have a local copy shop cut them in half for you and then punch them with your hole punch.

I know this isn’t the magic bullet fix but hopefully it will at least get you up and going with new inserts and open you a new world of possibilities.

Ask The Desk: Cubicle Makeover

Tina needs some advice:

I need some awesome, attractive and functional cubicle accoutrements. Any suggestions?

As a cube dweller myself, I completely understand the need to jazz up the beige-walled, humdrum hives of the worker bee. Luckily I work with some unbelievably creative people who have already filled me with some creative ideas like hanging a paper chandelier from above your desk or making a four-foot-tall papier maché letter to sit atop your filing cabinet. If these seem a bit extreme, don’t fret, I also have some less showy options as well that won’t make your HR person have a conniption.

There’s also tons of great ideas on Pinterest if you search “cubicle ideas”.

If you can install any software on your computer, the next way to personalize your space is to make your computer environment look like your space. I recommend adding a screensaver of your choice and of course changing the desktop wallpaper to match your own personal aesthetic while still being tasteful. Try the Fliqlo screensaver which never fails to impress for being both eye-catching and useful (and available for Mac and Windows). For wallpapers, I often link to Think.Make.Share. Blog and their monthly offerings as well as Oh So Beautiful Paper. They both offer great options for beautiful desktop wallpapers for your computer that are inspiring and professional.

Add a plant. A small plant will add color to your desk, clean the air and brighten your mood. A succulent or air plant won’t require much care or watering but if your thumb is black, you can make a paper plant instead.

Can you cover the panels of the pinboards in your cubicle with fabric or paper? Many of us in cube-land have cover the weird 80s neo-geo fabric on our cubicle panels with black felt, white felt, kraft paper or some other neutral material. Some got more decorative and used patterned gift wrap paper or fabric. I recommend a neutral base and a good stapler if you attempt this particular hack. I used inexpensive polyester felt purchased by the bolt from Joann’s so my cost was under $10 to cover three panels.

Other articles to check out:

I hope this helps and gives you some ideas to get you started on your own cubicle decorating adventures.

Ask The Desk: B6, 8126 Long, Swivodex, Filofax Refills, Frixion for recipes


I have such a huge back log of Ask The Desk questions that I thought I’d try to get a bunch done this week. I’m so sorry for the delay! I do hope I’ve gotten a bunch answered here. If you are waiting for an answer, please drop me a line and let me know. If you’ve found a solution, please let me know —  I’d love to do a whole “TELL the DESK a thing or two” post!

Clara asks:

I need a plain notebook with 100gsm. I’d like a B6 size, but A5 is ok too (just to understand, the ISO A sizes are a little too tall).
I’m looking for a sewn notebook with soft cover, with about 160pages or 192 at most. Its a everyday journal, with sketch, writings and so on.
It seems easy, but it’s not 😀
Paper-oh is perfect, but it has only 112pages, there are opposite review about monsieur notebook (about a bad build quality?). Do you know Nu Elite Kraft notebooks?

Clara, I have wracked my brains (and my endless lists of notebooks) trying to find something that fit into your requirements and I’m coming up empty-handed. If I find the right size, its not the right paper weight. If its the right weight, it doesn’t have enough pages, etc. I have not taken Monsieur Notebooks out for a test drive in a couple years. I know they have been adjusting their materials so I can’t speak to their current configurations. The Nu Elite Kraft notebooks look interesting. For the price point, it might be worth trying it out, though I suspect the paper quality is probably not fountain pen friendly but may be great for pencils and collage.

The Midori MD notebooks don’t list their paper weight but its very good quality, its a soft cover, sewn binding and quite durable. The page count is 88 sheets/176 pages. It is an A5 so it misses there but meets almost all your other criteria.

Midori MD Notebook cover

If anyone has a better suggestion for Clara, please leave a comment below!

Jerry needs:

I have an original Schmidt Rollerball one with a 8126 refill but the length of it is 108mm NOT 98mm as most on sale are. The writing on the refill is “bluRafia Capless System 8126” made in Germany

Can you help with a replacement refill please.


I think you are looking for this:

This would be the Schmidt Long Black Rollerball Refill. Also available in blue. It’s available for $4.50 from our friends over at Refill Finder who pull my proverbial refill out of the fire more times than I care to count.

Steve wants to find:

Do you know where to get instruction manual for swivodex inkwell?

Steve I scouted through all the old posts on Fountain Pen Network in search of any information about the Zephyr Swivodex and all I could find was a photo of the disassembly (in this thread)  of a one but no actual operating instructions. Readers, if anyone has any information that might help Steve, please leave it below in the comments. Thanks!

Daphne asks:

I have searched your blogs but would just like clarification before I order anything. Do the six outer rings of a Franklin Covey Classic ring binder match the position of the six rings on a Filofax A5 binder?

I love Filofax’s binders but don’t like the quality paper of their refills. I have used the FC Compact refills interchangeably with Filofax personal binders but I haven’t found a precise answer to my question above for the larger size systems.

Alternatively, could you recommend A5 size dated planner refills that are on higher quality paper?


On your first question, NO. Franklin Covey rings do not align with Filofax rings because that would be too convenient. Steve over on Philofaxy tried to shed a bit of light on this in his deftly titled article The Great Organiser Hole Conspiracy. I’ve looked at the diagram he created several times which makes the whole matter as clear as mud. It’s like all the different computer cord dongles. Why do they all have to be different sizes?

Filofax stripes insert writing test

As for Filofax paper quality, I can recommend the new Filofax 2017 Illustrated Inserts. The paper quality is far superior to the regular stock inserts and the designs are actually quite nice. Goulet Pens is still stocking the full line for both personal-sized and A5. Other alternatives are Hello Forever blank refills (which I reviewed here) or Yellow Paper House on Etsy.

Nancy is searching for:

I wondered if these (Frixion) pens would be a good idea for recipe cards? I am making a cookbook for a family member, but I don’t want to use a regular pen. I don’t want to have mistakes crossed out, and it would be inevitable when writing 100 recipe cards. I don’t want to type the cards, since it would be more personable in my writing. Would the plastic pockets in the book protect the writing? I obviously don’t want to write out a ga-zillion cards just to have them disappear when under light. Suggestions?

I think Pilot Frixion Gel Pens would be a great option. One thing to consider is that Frixion pens can be affected by heat, making the ink disappear. However, since the cards would be in the kitchen, any “disappearing ink” can be easily solved by sticking the cards in the freezer for a short amount of time to make the ink reappear.

According the the Pilot UK FAQ:

Our FriXion products’ ink “erases” due to PILOT’s exclusive thermo-sensitive ink technology. When you want to make corrections on your page, simply turn around your FriXion pen and rub with the FriXion eraser tip as if using a regular pencil eraser. While rubbing, the ink heats up to over 60°C and becomes invisible. Conversely, the ink reappears at temperatures of under -10°C.

If this seems to finicky for you, you may want to use a regular pen of some sort and consider making any corrections using correction tape which is fast and tidy.

Ask The Desk: Lamy Fountain Pens over $50


Niles asked:

I’m looking for a left-handed fountain pen.

You wrote an article that said:

Lamy nibs are awesome and if you are ready to invest in a fountain pen over $50, I have plenty of Lamys I can recommend.

Any change you could name a few – would really appreciate it.

As it turns out, Niles isn’t the first person to ask me to provide some clarity around what are my favorite Lamy pens. On many occasions, I’ve mentioned that I really like Lamy nibs and prefer their higher end models over the molded grip Safari and AL-Star models but I have never been specific about which models. Partially because I pretty much have all of them except the Dialog which is enormous and the Imporium which is pretty expensive (but gorgeous!).


For left handed writers, I prefer the round barrel shapes on the higher end Lamy fountain pens like the Lamy Studio, the Lamy 2000 and the Lamy CP1.

The Lamy 2000 is a classic and is totally unusual in the makrolon black material and brushed aluminum grip. It also has the hooded 14K nib which, for many, is their first experience with Lamy’s gold nibs. It’s also a piston filler which is pretty unique in the Lamy as well. It’s definitely the most expensive option I’m listing, retailing for about $160, but it is an icon and something every pen collector should have in their collection.

I find that the Lamy Studio is aesthetically similar to the Lamy 2000 in many ways without the hooded nib, with a more tapered clip and a wider array of finishes available. Pricewise, it’s also not nearly as expensive since it comes with a steel nib. It starts at about $80 but can be upgraded to a gold nib and a palladium finish for about $160.

At present, I don’t own a Lamy 2000 but its mostly because I haven’t pulled the “buy it now” button yet. I do own a Studio in brushed aluminum. I frequently fondle the 2000 in friends’ pen cases and pick them at pen shows debating if this will be the day I finally fold.

The Lamy CP1 is a much more slender pen, available in a black titanium finish for about $56. It’s a very simple, clean looking pen. Very functional and utilitarian. I don’t think it could be anymore German if it tried. The Lamy Logo is very similar but has a spring-loaded clip.

Then there’s the Lamy Scala that also has a spring-loaded clip that I find to be considerably heavy and makes the pen way too top-heavy if you try to post it. Aesthetically, I like the looks of the Scala and the model I have actually has the 14K nib on it which means it writes like a dream but the cap is just too heavy. If you don’t post your cap when writing, then you might consider the Logo as an alternative to the CP1. The price is a little lower. And with any Lamy, you can go crazy  upgrade it with a 14K nib.

Lamy fountain pens are available from my fine sponsors: JetPens, Anderson Pens and Pen Chalet.

Ask The Desk: 2017 is Coming! Planning Emergencies!


Heather is looking for a very specific planner replacement:

I’m looking for a new academic planner 16/17 (or second best choice would be kraft paper notebooks with lines and grids / dots) for the one I’ve just finished using from Paperchase. I’ve been looking and looking and not having much luck. I bought a really lovely, inexpensive monthly planner – it has a month on two pages (grid layout), followed by approx 40 lined pages and 40 grid pages, all kraft paper with black and white ink so lovely on the eyes. Its great to write on (gel pens, biros, not fountain pens) and is perfect for my needs as a TA. Paperchase have released one like this for this coming year and I can’t find another supplier that does them in the same size. The notebook is 190mm wide and 245mm high, and has a sewn edge binding. Short of making one myself (wouldn’t even know where to start on that route!), can you advise where I might find something of comparable size and paper? I’m ok with setting it all out by hand, but I’d prefer to buy one ready made. Maybe a blank date one? Its the size that I need most, followed by the kraft paper element.

Heather, I have to admit you’ve left me a bit stumped. I can’t say that I’ve seen a kraft colored planner before your letter. On my search, the only options I found for kraft paper planners was a vendor on Etsy called Letter C Design who makes small planner booklets in kraft paper. I don’t think that’s at all what you were looking for. If anyone else has seen anything in the wild, please leave information in the comments.

Cole asks:

I’m wondering if you can help me find a thin gridded (dot or cube) notebook that could fit inside the pocket of my Leuchtturm 1917 medium? Something similar to the address book that comes with the planner? I LOVE my “official” Bullet Journal, but I’ve noticed there are a few things that I will want to migrate from Journal to Journal, WITHOUT having to recopy it into a new journal. My best example would be my room x room floor plans with paint/color samples. I like to have my floor layouts and color samples with me so if I’m antiquing, garage sale-ing, etc I can quickly reference them to see if I’m buying something that won’t go in my house. I’m now carrying my Bullet Journal everywhere, so I’d love to have it in there, but I don’t want to have to recopy the floor plans every few months. Is there a small “travelers” type notebook that would nicely fit in the pocket that could be transferred from journal to journal?

An A6 (approx. 4×6″), B6 (approx. 5×7″), Field Notes or Passport sized book would fit easily into the back pocket of the Leuchtturm1917 A5. In A5 or B6 sized, I recommend the Life Pistachio or Vermillion notebooks. They have good quality paper, available in grid and are about $4 each. The Pistachio have green lines and the Vermillion have, you guessed it, red lines. Of course, Field Notes are readily available from many shops and the Pitch Black edition is dot grid. Passport sized Traveler’s Notebooks would also work but are quite petite.

Chris needs helps:

I’m eagerly awaiting an A5 Roterfaden, and need a week on two pages insert for the remainder of 2016. Yes, I could just use my existing Midori TN calendar, but I’d like to find something A5 that is already bound and printed. No luck searching Etsy and the Midori version is sold out on Baum Kuchen. Ideas?

I spent weeks looking for a solution for Chris and came up empty handed. Traveler’s Notebook calendars in the classic TN size are in abundance as are the Field Notes/Passport sizes but A5 versions are as rare as Snorlax these days. Unless you are willing to go the print-your-own route, there just aren’t options for A5 calendar booklets to fit custom covers like the Roterfaden or leather Traveler’s Notebooks.

My best suggestion at this point is to finish the year with the standard Traveler’s Notebook calendar and then move to a 2017 A5 planner calendar. The other option is to embrace the DIY option and print out the large cahier format from Ray Blake’s My Life All in One Place printables page.

If anyone knows a good alternative for Chris, please leave a note in the comments.

Ellie seeks:

I’m starting to look for my 2017 daily planner. I’ve used Moleskine at first, but the paper quality kept getting worse every year. I then switched to Paperblanks, their daily option was a bit small for me but their Fabriano paper was quite good. After they changed their paper supplier last year I’m once again in need of new options. I’m looking for an A4 or A5 daily diary with a minimalistic, Moleskine-like page layout. Hobonichi is too expensive and Leuchtturm is not an option, the paper is beautiful but the ghosting is so bad I only write on one side of my Leuchtturm journal. I need sturdy pages since I tend to ask a lot to my journals, draw, write with wet inks, glue scraps of paper on it etc. I’ve seen Fabriano Ecoqua makes beautiful planners, and they would be easy to purchase here in Europe, but I can’t find any feedback online and I don’t want to buy blind. is the paper the same quality as the Ecoqua pads? What about the binding? I’m hoping some of your readers have tried the Ecoqua planner or know of any other options. Thanks for reading!


fabriano 2016-2017 planner

Has anyone seen the Fabriano Ecoqua planners in person yet? I haven’t but I am just as curious about how they will stack up.  I found the Ecoqua 16-month ($22.50), the 2017 weekly planner ($12.50) and the 2017 Daily Diary ($12.75 and $17.75, depending on size). The paper on these books looks quite thin as you can see the numbers printed on the reverse in the photos so I suspect they went for thinner paper for portability over thicker paper for legibility. Sigh.

Amanda wants to know:

Who offers the thickest paper stock (hopefully smooth) for 2017 diary refills for Kikki.K and Filofax Personal, Pocket and A5 planners? Thank you!

So far, the best pre-printed planner pages are either Kikki-K or the new Filofax Illustrated refills are the thickest stock. I also had some personal sized refills purchased at Michael’s from their Recollections line that used some great paper. If you happen upon this collection and are using the personal-sized planners, I can definitely recommend grabbing a few packets if they are still stocked at your local store.

Ask The Desk: Broad D1s, Baron+Elastic, Neo Smartpen & Zebra F701


Khreyselle asked me some time ago:

I’ve been struggling to find the perfect notebook to hold all of my graphic design sketches and notes. I have fallen in love with the paper quality of the Baron Fig/Code & Quill notebooks, but they are both missing the elastic closure and pocket/envelope feature that I would really love to have.

Would you happen to have any notebook suggestions that could possibly have what I am looking for?

PS. If it helps any, I am not a Moleskine fan. (;

Is it possible that the Shinola journals or sketchbooks might meet your needs? I recently purchased the sketchbook which has been getting decent reviews for paper quality and the notebook is definitely a step up in terms of paper quality from the Moleskine. The paper is probably on par with the BAron Fig and Code & Quill but includes the elastic you are wanting. For reviews of the journals, check the Pennaquod blog search tool. For opinions about the Shinola Sketchbook, Roz Stendahl at Roz Wound Up has tested a lot of different materials on the sketchbook with good results.

Cindy is searching for:

I am looking for a non-branded pen refill that is similar to a D1 but 2.0 mm in diameter. Where could I get such a refill?

The widest refill I could find was the Monteverde Soft Roll in Super Broad which is listed at about 1.4mm. Anyone know of a wider D1 refill?

Jaime has quite the conundrum:

I purchased a Neo Smartpen recently and I really like it EXCEPT that the ink refills (they recommend Zebra 4C which came with the pen) blob and I can’t stand it!! They have other brands that they say make a similar product (standard D1 ink cartridges), but that it has to be ballpoint, not gel, etc. to work with the software. I’m not crazy about a fine-tip ballpoint anyway – would rather have medium if possible. I don’t mind the color whether black or blue. Do you have any recommendations that I could try? They start out fine, but within a few pages – far from running out of ink – they are smearing and when I pick the pen up off the paper, it ha a little line of ink that comes with it, like a string of cheese from a pizza, smearing my work.

On my Refill Guide, under the D1 refills, there are several other manufacturers that make ballpoint refills in D1 fine point sizes. I’m surprised that the fine ballpoints are giving you more “string cheese” issues than a medium point might but I’d recommend starting with the Uni Jetstream refills in 0.7mm and see if you have better luck with them.

Adam asked in the Refill Guide thread:

The zebra style of refills seem to be a family all of their own… I’m keen to get the F701 all metal zebra, but I hear their ink is inferior to many other pens. Wondered if there were better alternatives to Zebra refills?

I’m not the only one that hacks refills to fit pens. Over on the EDC Forum, someone went into excruciating detail to hack refills to fit the Zebra F701 because, to your point, Zebra made the most unusual refill to fit this pen. This will allow you to choose the refill based on your preference. Are you looking for gel, permanence or tip fineness? Maybe just easier availability?