Posts Tagged ‘ask the desk’

Ask The Desk: Good, Cheap Pencils

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Don asks:

I read your review of the Mirado Black Warrior, where you mentioned that there were much better pencils for very little more money. Can you tell me what these would be? I work in an elementary school, where we usually stock up on gross boxes of relatively cheap pencils, so the Black Warriors have been something I pick up when they are on sale for my own stash. I am not so sure that the Black Warriors haven’t changed a bit with the various company mergers and acquisitions, but I can’t say for sure. And I just bought 12 dozen for 12 dollars on Amazon; I’m not sure why the price was so low. But I do understand that they usually sell for $3 or $3.50 a box of 12, so I know that your comparisons would be based on this price. Thanks for any information/opinions you can share.

I did a little comparison shopping but at 12 dozen for $12, that’s a hard deal to beat. However, I find the Mirado Black Warriors to be a bit dark and soft, especially for kids. Pencils.com offers some of the Prospector, Forest Choice and Golden Bear pencils in a gross. But they are more than twice than the sale-priced Mirados.

I also really like the General Pencil Company but their site lists only 3 doz. pencils at a time for about $24 which is much more expensive than those Mirados as well.

Papermate Mirado Black Warrior

So I decided I needed to consult the experts at the Erasable podcast for their insights.

Andy Welfle said:

I do think that the Black Warriors have changed a bit, for the worse, in the last few years. Of course, I really dislike Paper Mate, I think they cheapen everything they make, and when they acquire good quality brands and start putting their logo on stuff, it also accompanies standards being lowered.

But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

(Meaning: I’ve never really done any sort of comparison, so that statement is not scientific by any means.)

As for the cheapness, I’m willing to bet that if he wanted to buy in bulk, Amazon would be the way to go. I’m sure those pencils cost nothing to make, so if he’s cutting out the big-box store middleman by shopping direct on Amazon, he’s cutting out their profit needs.

I’ll defer to Tim (Wasem) on what the best pencil to buy for students might be, since he’s going through that right now, but I’d heartily recommend the Golden Bears. They’re super good quality for the price. It’s definitely still more expensive than the Mirado, but damn, they’re worth it. 😀

And Johnny Gamber said:

Hey, Comrades!
The Blackwarrior is a strange beast. While the finish, country of origin and even the wood have become…PaperMated, the core/lead is very nice. But I think Ana’s right that it might be soft for students, and office paper shreds that point.
For cheap bulk school pencils, I’d hit Walmart right now and stock up on their big boxes of USA Gold pencils, even the USA Silver. For the price and ease of getting them, they are hard to beat.
Happy Back to School!

Unfortunately, Tim was unavailable for comment. He must be busy sharpening all those Palomino HBs he’s got squirreled away.


Do you have a pressing pen, paper, pencil, ink or other stationery item issue? Use the “Ask The Desk” link in the navigation bar to send in your questions!

Ask The Desk: Commonplace Book Options & Staples

Rhodia Webbie

From Bruce:

What notebook would you recommend for a long-term commonplace book? I regularly use Moleskine for everything, but for this notebook I’d like something with thicker paper and built to stand some years of use. Suggestions? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

If you will be using fountain pen inks in your commonplace book, I’d recommend either a Rhodia Webnotebook or the Quo Vadis Habana. Both use Clairefontaine papers which are great quality, heavier stocks than Moleskines. They would work great with regular ballpoint and rollerballs as well and are available in lined, blank, grid, etc.

If you want something a little lower priced or don’t need as much fountain pen friendliness, then I’d definitely recommend the Leuchtturm1917 line. Lots of cover color options, sizes and paper ruling and its good for most writing tools but not as bleedproof as the Clairefontaine stocks.

Rhodia Webbies and Quo Vadis Habanas tend to have cream/ivory paper rather than bright white but the Habanas are offered in bright white through some retailers.

All three brands feature the same elastic closures as a Moleskine as well as a pocket in the back for loose items so it would be an easy transition for you from the Moleskines.

Sometimes, I find the Rhodia/Clairefontaine papers “too nice” and they give me blank-page panic so I would personally be inclined to use a Leuchtturm1917. But both are great options.

If you’re looking for something you could find more easily in most cities and towns and don’t mind blank pages, any black hardbound artist’s sketchbook would work great for a commonplace book. My local Blick art supply store is currently selling their house brand sketchbooks as buy-one-get-one-free. Michael’s, Joann’s and other craft stores usually stock Canson, Strathmore, or Cachet sketchbooks which all have acid-free, approx. 65 lb (96 gsm) paper that handles most pen, ink and pencil beautifully.

My reviews of:

Also check with the Pennaquod search tool for other pen bloggers’ reviews of notebooks.

TOT Stapler

Bill writes:

I need staples for a Swingline 53 no place in Sioux Falls  has them.

I did some research to try to locate which model was the Swingline 53 and couldn’t find it listed anywhere on the internet. I’m going to guess that it is similar to the Tot 50 or other mini stapler. In which case, locating Tot or Tot-like staples is going to be a breeze. There are some sellers on Amazon and Ebay that offer original TOT staples. A search to either site will uncover plenty of options. Or you could buy No. 10 sized staples. Jet Pens sells plain silver No. 10 staples for $1.50 for a box of 1000 or anodized colored staples for $3.30 for a box of 1000. My TOT pictured above is currently using the anodized green Max No. 10 staples and they fit perfectly.

Ask The Desk: Swapping TWSBI Nibs & How Flexible is the Esterbrook 9128

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Have I ever told you’all how much I love getting questions about pens, paper and the like? This week, I have two awesome questions.

Beth, the reference librarian asked:

I have a new TWSBI 580 with a custom ground nib (pen was purchased with that nib) and at the same time I purchased a second nib (the whole nib unit) also custom ground – I really like both nibs. One nib is obviously in the TWSBI, which is a nice pen, but I would love to put what I call the “back-up” nib in a different pen, preferably one under $100. that uses a cartridge/converter system. I read about nib-swapping all the time but am not sure just which nibs are compatible with which pens. I don’t think the 580 nib unit will fit the TWSBI mini, but if it did I would go with that. (even though the same filling system.) I am nervous about pulling the nib out of the screw-on unit until I know what I am doing. Am I making sense here? Any advice would be most appreciated!

Disassembling a TWSBI nib

With a little elbow grease I was able to pull the nib out of my TWSBI Mini. The nib is a size 5 (according to the smarter-than-me folks over in the Pen Addict Slack Channel). The only cheap pen I could find that had a size 5 nib was a Pilot Metropolitan. Pilot nibs have a little flange and a groove nicked out to get them to grip the feed that the TWSBI nib does not have. But… the nib does fit into the feed of a Pilot Metropolitan albeit very loosely. I assume this method would also work in other Pilot pens like the Prera or Plumix. So it is possible to use the TWSBI nib in other pens with a little luck but its not the best fit. If I find any other pens that take size 5 nibs with a cartridge/converter system.

As for switching the nibs between a Mini and a 580, that should just require untwisting the nib unit and sliding the grip section off to expose the nib/feed unit. Then they could easily be swapped between the Mini and the 580.

TWSBI nib in a Pilot Metropolitan

The second question actually appeared in the Pen Addict Slack Channel.I’m sorry I don’t remember who asked but here’s my results!

A member of the group asked if the Esterbrook 9128 fine flex nib was more or less flexible than the Noodler’s Ahab/Creaper.

Noodlers vs Esterbrook 9128

The Esterbrook 9128 nib is not super flexible but, for a steel nib, it gets some decent variety and it does not railroad like the Noodler’s nibs do. The 9128 is very smooth and easy to get going while the Noodler’s flex nibs require some adjusting in the feed to get the flow going. So, its a bit of the apples-to-oranges comparison since a Noodler’s flex pen is readily available for about $20 and a vintage Esterbrook with a 9128 flex nib is considerably more expensive ($75 and up). If you’re looking for a flexible nib, a vintage fountain pen with a 14K nib will probably be much more flexible or you might want to consider a Desiderata nib holder.

 

Ask The Desk: TARDIS Blue Ink?

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This message popped up in my Twitter this morning, which I found was very timely after my outrage at the lack of pop culture-themed inks.

@JetPens asked:

@wellapptdesk Just last week, @DQuartermane asked us what fountain pen ink is closest to TARDIS blue 😛 We said Sargasso Sea. Thoughts??

I hate to be too picky here but, over the years, the actual shade of blue for the TARDIS has changed so there will be room for disagreement as to what the “one true blue” should be.

TARDIS 3  TARDIS2

I think Diamine Sargasso Sea is an excellent option — more Matt Smith-era TARDIS than David Tennant. And Diamine Majestic Blue might be a great Eccelston-era blue.

tardis-blue1

J. Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean would be a good option as well for a more Tennant-era TARDIS. Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-Goa would be my choice for a Capaldi-era TARDIS blue and my favorite choice (but I love Peter Capaldi so I’m biased). And I did not delve into blues that might match earlier generations of the Doctor either. Please… discuss!

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(Just to establish my geek-cred, this was my Con TARDIS costume from last year)

(All ink photos from Jet Pens)

Ask The Desk: DDC Factory Floor and Pen Cleaning

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Lori asks:

Two questions for you. First how often do DCC Factory Floor editions come out at Draplin’s site?

And when to you expect to get air mail rubber stamps back in stock?

From what I understand, the DDC Factory Floor Editions are intermittently available. Your best bet to keep track of these collectible Field Notes, keep an eye on the Draplin site and join the Field Nuts Facebook group to keep informed.

And to your second question, I am reproducing stamps today and should have them in the shop within ten days.

Dena asks:

Hello, I am new to fountain pens.  To even try to rank myself as novice would be laughable.  I purchased a Kaweco Classic Sport and fell in love with it, and now have a Pilot on the way.  My question is fountain pen care.  I’ve unsuccessfully searched your site but have not found a care/cleaning section.  Do you have a tutorial or is this something your could post on soon?  Very much enjoy your postings and it has become a daily stop for me!

I’m as surprised as you that I haven’t included any cleaning information. My system for cleaning is pretty simple. I use a plastic container (previously contained hot and sour soup from my favorite Chinese take-out restaurant) and water. I disassemble my pens and remove the cap and body so that I only wet the nib, feed and cartridge converter. I use the converter to suck water in through the nib and feed and then squeeze it out into the sink and repeat until the water looks pretty clear. I will also use a bulb syringe to help push water and dried ink out of the feed and nib if necessary. If the water doesn’t run clear, I will attempt to disassemble the nib from the feed and drop them in the water to soak.

If I was using a cartridge rather than a converter, I will use a syringe to flush out the cartridge so that it could be reused later.

Brian Goulet created a great cleaning video that can demonstrate cleaning techniques better than I can explain it:

Ask The Desk: Multi-Pens

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Ashley asked:
where do you order your multi pens from? and is there a brand that you like better/has more options. I am wanting to use it with my filofax and i noticed your post about your personal filofax and the multi pen you use.
All my multi-pens have come from Jet Pens. I particularly like the build-you-own options like the Uni Style Fit, the Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto, the Zebra Prefill and the Pentel i+ series. Each multi-pen features the brand’s signature gel pen options as well as the option to add a mechanical pencil. The Uni Style Fit uses the same awesome inks that are found in the Signo line. Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto pens use the Hi-Tec C line. Zebra uses the Sarasa inks. Pentel’s multi-pen is unique in that it allows you to use Sliccie refills, Energel or Vicuna refills and a mechanical pencil option.

Side-by-side Zebra Sarasa and UniBall Style Fit

 Each of these brands have pen bodies that start around $3 (and go up) and most hold at least three refills and some up to five refills. Most of these pen bodies are plastic though some have higher end pen bodies in metal.
For a more durable option, you might want to consider the Sharbo-X which has a full metal body and takes Zebra gel, emulsion ballpoint, standard ballpoint and mechanical pencil refills.
Sharbo X meets Kaweco Skyline Mint

Ask The Readers: Multi-format notebooks & Sailor Jentle Ink Substitutions

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I have had a few “Ask The Desk” questions recently that I just don’t have any answers for. Maybe you can help?

Melissa asks:

I want to find a sketchbook that I can use to sketch and practice hand lettering, as well as logo design.  I will use pencil, as well as markers.  What I want to find is a sketchbook that has different alternating pages, such as gridded and plain blank.  That basic request seems hard to find.  I found Kline NYC/, but they are not taking orders at the moment.

I know I’ve seen some notebooks that alternate pages from blank to lined or grid but I can’t remember where I saw them.

Sharmon202 asks:

Any idea why they discontinued Sailor Jentle Sky High and other inks of that set? I got into this just as they did this. What is a possible equivalent to it?

I have no clue why Sailor decided to discontinue some of their most beloved ink colors. I know that times change and tastes change but somehow I never thought it would affect ink colors. That said, has anyone found a good replacement ink for: Grenade, Sky High, Epinard, Ultra Marine, Apricot, and Peche? Bottles of these inks can still be found on Amazon at shockingly inflated prices… $98 for a bottle of Sky High? Definitely time to find a good replacement.

Ask The Desk: Ask The Readers (Sheaffer Lifetime 14K & Planners That Start on Sunday)

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I’ve had a couple stumper questions sent to The Desk that I’ve tried researching but some are outside my field of knowledge so I thought I’d ask you, my dear readers if you could help solve these fine folks’ problems.

Image from The Pen Hero

Image from The Pen Hero

Vicki asks:

… i was given a sheaffer lifetime 14k nib pen it has the twist bottom that you fill up by pushing in, my quandry, problem, irks me to death situation is this, I can’t get it to write, if i give it a little flick ink splatters over the paper, but the darn thing will not write, any suggestions?

My first instinct is to ask if the pen has been cleaned and flushed to be sure there isn’t any dried flecks of ink but as I have no first hand experience with the Sheaffer Lifetime pens, maybe one of our readers has better advice? You could also search on Fountain Pen Network or post your question there.

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Deborah asks:

I cannot, for the LIFE of me, find a calendar/planner where the weekly pages start on Sunday. I do not know why all calendars/planners have monthly calendars in S-S (which is the way it should be), but then turn the weekly into a M-S. Am I the only one on this planet who likes to match my planning materials? Is my brain set up shifted one day to the right…or is it left?  :-) I truly have not found any explanation as to why this occurs (other than putting the work week together and the weekEND at the END)….and maybe if I did, I could conform. (NO!) :-)  Would you happen to know in all of your calendar/planning travels of such an item? My (un)organized life depends on it.

I have spent the past couple of weeks trying to find a solution for Deborah and I’m left truly stumped. I emailed her and recommended that she contact Plannerisms, THE site for all things planner-related in hopes that she might have a recommendation.

The first option I found was from Filofax, which offers a refill for their binder planners that starts the week-on-two-pages layout on Sunday. A 2015 set of refills is $11.03 but you would need to purchase a binder to put the pages into.

Levenger Circa Sunday Start 2015

Levenger has Circa Weekly Agenda pages that start with Sunday available for 2015 in either Junior (A5-ish) or Letter (not quite A4) size ($29-$34). There are also Since these sheets are pre-punched for the Circa ring system, you would also need to purchase a cover and rings set of some sort. There are lots of options on the Levenger site from simple plastic covers to fancy leather folios.  Also, there are a couple other formats available for the Circa system with a Sunday start, do a search on their site for “sunday start” to find them all.

Passion Planners

There are some DIY options as well. These require a bit more work on your part as you’ll have to trim them out and either glue them into a book or punch them to fit into a binder or other format. DIY solutions do give lots of options for customizing and adding your own personal touches though.

One option is from Passion Planner with a “start on Sunday” option in A4 and A5 sizes. Passion Planner PDF pages are undated so you can start today by either pasting a spread into an existing notebook or using the sheets in a binder. Passion Planner started as a Kickstarter project and also has some bound books available but they aren’t shipping until January as the first order has already sold out.

2015-WEEKLY-CALENDAR-THUMBNAIL1-480x480

Marcy Penner of Hello Forever has made a PDF printable planner ($15) that starts on Sunday and is absolutely lovely. Its available in the yellow and turquoise colors or a simple and clean grey and black version. The PDF pages are designed to fit two planner sizes: 3.75 and 6.75 sized planner binders. There is a lot of options with her system and its customizable with add-ons and various extras. Check out her full detailed post for more information.

If any of you fine folks know of a planner that starts on SUNDAY, please leave a note in the comments. There aren’t too many options out there!

Ask The Desk: The Well-Appointed Desk on Podcasts

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Cecelia asked:

I know you’ve done some guest podcasts–can you post a list of them/links to (or point me to them if I’m missing it). Thanks :)

Thanks for the question, Cecelia! Here’s a list of my podcast appearances. There aren’t a lot but here they are:

  1. The Pen Addict Episode 54: The Chair Of The Desk
  2. The Pen Addict Podcast 62: Lefty Apologist
  3. The Pen Addict Episode 71: Sharpening Rainbows
  4. The Pen Addict Episode 81: You Stole My Wish List Item! – Gift Guide 2013
  5. The Pen Addict Episode 109: I Have Colors
  6. Erasable Episode 10: The Graphites of Wrath

I hope that’s more than enough of me for anyone!

Ask The Desk: Where’s Your Feed?

rp_askthedesk_hdr.pngDerrick said:

I am not getting your feed anymore.  Haven’t received an email from the site in a few weeks.

Since the switch over to our own Well-Appointed Desk servers this month, some folks have mentioned that they are no longer getting post from us in the RSS reader. If you’re having issues, please update your feed info to: http://feeds.feedburner.com/thewellappointeddesk

There is also a link in the sidebar for the RSS and a link to receive email updates.

Thanks and sorry for any issues.

Ask The Desk: Long-lasting, Archival Notebook

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Brody recently emailed me this question:

Since I got back into pens, I have become really enamored with Fountain Pens. I have been burning through notebooks trying to find good fits for FPs. I also started journalling – one for my daughter, one for my son, and one for me. I started off with the Piccadilly leather-something… and now I realize that if I keep going with this journalling, when I start vol. 2 I might not find a good match. Piccadilly seems to be erratic and in odd supplies. Are they going down for the count?

Anyway – I want to find a good journal that is solid and will last a long time, as well as something archival AND in a format that is likely to be around over the years as I fill them up. Knowing that nothing forever, what’s a good bet? Although I don’t use Leuchtturm 1917, I thought maybe it would work well… many colors and solid paper. Other thoughts?

 

Piccadilly does cater to the budget market like overstock shops so it can be hit-or-miss to find their on a regular basis. Their web site lists retailers who stock their products. Some people have mentioned issues with the binding over time with Piccadilly so I wouldn’t rely on it for archival journals and keepsakes. I use a Piccadilly for work notes which are not relevant by the end of the week so I don’t plan to pass mine down to future generations.

If you are actually looking for multi-color pages, The Ciak Multicolor Journal might be to your taste.

fabriano-classic-blue-large-artists-journal-6.25-x-8.25-pfa503lg-2

Fabriano used to make one too, for years, but I can’t seem to find anyone selling them now which is sad. They do make a version with an array of white, cream and kraft colored paper but not the rainbow of colors they used to make.

Fabriano has made paper for centuries I think so they would be a good bet though I have not used the paper with fountain pens but it is designed for artists using pencil and pen so it might work well. You may be able to find some Fabriano sketchbooks in a local art supply store.

Rhodia Webnotebooks might be a good option. Excellent paper for fountain pens, well-constructed hardbound books and Clairefontaine has been around for awhile and people love the Webnotebook line so they should be available for years to come. There aren’t a ton of cover colors, black and orange at present but their smaller Rhodiarama line have many different colored covers.

Leuchtturm 1917 neon covers

I think the Leuchtturm1917 should be around for awhile, its good quality and reasonably priced. Its not super high end paper so some wider nibbed pens might bleed but it has the potential to be a book you’ll be able to find for years to come. They come is several sizes and configurations and have lots of cover color options, including a up-to-the-moment neon option at present.

The classic black, artists sketchbooks from Stillman & Birn, Canson or Cachet might also fit your needs since they are all similar sizes and designed for artists so the paper quality is good (usually 65lb or higher) and reasonable priced (between $10-$15 for a 8.5×11″ size). They are available in an A5 and a US Letter size no matter which brand you choose. Some offer a square or spiral bound option as well. And, to butcher a Henry Ford quote,  you can have colored cover you want, as long as you want black. Any art supply store will carry one of these brands (or something comparable) so you’d always have access. I’d recommend the Stillman & Birn to start — the Alpha series paper is not too thick and excellent with fountain pens — though its not as widely available as the other more widely distributed brands.

Cachet Classic Black Sketchbook

Most modern notebooks should have fairly low acidity paper, even if its not labelled “archival.” The artist-grade sketchbooks are definitely archival. I would recommend storing completed journals and notebooks in a dark, dry location (like an opaque plastic tub in  a closet or attic) after its completed to protect it from light degradation or moisture which will could be a bigger threat than the archival-ness  of the paper.

Ask The Desk: Less Smudgy Pencils

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Ian asked:

As a student, I frequently have to go back and reference older papers and essays (stored in binders) I have written. Though work in pen poses no problem, work in pencil, especially that older then a month, often becomes an unreadable gray smear due to pages sliding across each other. I use standard HB pencils (both mechanical and woodcase), but have often wondered if a harder grade would help mitigate this issue. Also, I have recently fallen in love with the FC 9000 pencils and am wondering how they are on the smudging issue, especially the HB grade ones.

I called in the pencil experts, the cast of the Erasable podcast to help get you the best answers. Here’s what the boys had to say:

Johnny from Pencil Revolution definitely supports your enthusiasm for the Castell 9000. He says its “definitely smear-resistant, even through some numbered B grades. On binder/office paper, I would not go softer than the B, though, which brings me to what I suspect the problem might be.
Office papers have so much tooth that they take ‘extra’ graphite from the pencil, and it doesn’t stay put, causing it to smear. Certainly some harder pencils will help. But I think a certain amount of smearing on looseleaf and printer paper is unavoidable. Plus, the loose nature of a binder causing more rubbing than a bound book.
Maybe a composition book, where the pages aren’t moving against one another so much, might help?”
Tim from The Writing Arsenal concurred with both Johnny and Andy so there’s a lot of pencil authority there.
My final recommendations are, if you want to stick with loose leaf papers, is to try Hi-Polymer pencil leads, used in mechanical pencils. They tend to be less smudgy than standard woodcase pencil leads available from your local office supply store. Upgrading to the higher quality Faber-Castell 9000 or Hi-Uni pencils might also reduce smudging. You could also try some of Rhodia’s 3-hole punched paper which is not quite as toothy as standard loose leaf paper.
Best of luck and if you try any of this, let us know how it works for you.

Ask The Desk: ID Protection Stamps

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Sandy asks:

Think this is good idea?
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I assume the question regards any sort of blotting stamp for security purposes. Folks seem to like these as an alternative to paper shredders as they are smaller, quieter and portable for obscuring personal information on printed material. While shredding makes sense for a lot of papers, sometimes you just want to throw those credit card offers in the trash and the only incriminating information is your address. A quick stamp, stamp, stamp might be enough to make it possible to throw the papers in the recycle bin.

The general term to describe these stamps is ID protection stamps or ID Guard stamps. I definitely think that the Max Korkoro model, with the rolling stamp and ability to refill the ink easily makes a good option. The price for any ID protection stamp seems to be about $10 which seems reasonable.

The only thing I don’t know looking at the photos and description is whether the ink is water resistant when dry. That would be the winning feature. If its water-soluble, then someone might be able to wash the ink off reveal your address or account numbers.

So I suppose I ought to order one and put it to the test, huh?

Ask The Desk: Dilli Flex vs. Noodler’s Creaper

Dilli Flex Nib Fountain Pen vs. Noodler's Creaper

M asks:

I’m new to flex pens and am looking to get an inexpensive one. I know this is a common question but was wondering what your thoughts might be on Noodler’s vs FPR? I’m looking to get either the Konrad/Creaper or Dilli/Guru. So far the consensus seems to be that the Noodler’s pens need quite a bit of tweaking and that quality control is variable, while the FPR pens feel cheaper but generally work better out of the box. Some also say that the FPR flex pens are dryer and have less give.

Would appreciate your thoughts on this!

What I discovered upon receiving this question is that I’ve never actually written up a review of the Noodler’s Creaper. I did a review of the Dilli flex though so I thought I’d use this opportunity to dive deeper and share my opinions about both of these pens.

Dilli Flex Nib Fountain Pen vs. Noodler's Creaper

Both pens use a split nib to create flex. The Dilli nib is a brushed finish while the Noodler’s nib is a shiny silver. The Dilli nib is slightly larger nib. Both pens use a twist piston fill mechanism which need to be filled with bottled ink. Neither pen can be fitted with cartridges or converters.

Both pens are lightweight plastic bodied pens. The Creaper has some chrome metal detailing on the pen that  makes it look like a bit higher end and a bit more durable. The Dilli just feels plasticky to me.

The Dilli nib is in a set spot, it seats into the feed in a specific location.

Alternately, there is a lot of play in how low into the pen barrel you can move the Creaper feed, thus allowing for more or less flex. The further into the pen you move the feed though, the more likely the pen is to write dry or not apply ink to the paper. As I cleaned and re-inked it, I could tell that finding the “sweet spot” for the placement of the nib and feed might be a series of trial and error experiments. I did my best to place the nib and feed in a “normal position” comparable to my non-flex nib pens and it worked well.

With both pens, I had no issues getting ink on the paper. Goulet Pens has some detailed information and videos about working with the Creaper pens and notes that they need to be completely flushed upon purchase to remove any traces of machine oil from the manufacturing process.

Dilli Flex Nib Fountain Pen vs. Noodler's Creaper

When writing, the Dilli had less resistance on the paper but I didn’t get as much thick-and-thin line variation on the paper. The lightest line width seemed a little wider than the lightest line with the Creaper. The Creaper had a little more resistance on the paper and a bit more spring but I liked the line variation a lot more.

I prefer the Creaper to the Dilli for a lot of reasons. Part of the joy of fountain pens is a pleasant visual experience and, to me, the Dilli looks and feels cheap. At some point, when filling it, some ink got inside the body of the Dilli pen, between the piston screw and the ink reservoir, and I cannot get it out. It now has dried ink inside a demonstrator body so it looks gross (you can see it in the top photo at the beginning of the post).

There are a few other options fro Noodler’s for the flex nib as well. The slightly larger Noodler’s Konrad can be fitted with one of the Goulet Pens #6 nibs, if your adventures in flexible nibs takes a turn for the worst, so you’ll still have a usable pen.The Ahab was specifically designed to allow for a larger ink reservoir. The Creaper, the Ahab and the Konrad are all available in a wide array of colors and finishes that will create a pleasing visual experience as well.

FPR also offers a few other pen models that feature their flex nib and that might be more visually appealing. The Triveni line look more upscale with prices in the $38-$45 range and available with a flex nib. The Guru is a bit less expensive than the Dilli and looks like it can be completely disassembled which might eliminate my crusty ink issues.

A flex nib Dilli is $18 and the Creaper is only $14.

Ask The Desk: Tea Cup Pen Caddy

Tea Cup Caddy

Lynda sent an email asking where she might find the Tea Cup Caddy featured on the blog back in January 2012.

I tried to email Lynda back directly but the email address must have been mistyped so I’m posting the reply here.

The tea cup caddy was sold through Black + Blum and is listed in their Design Archive so, as far as I can tell, the item is no longer available. For other interesting pen cups, you might check on Modcloth or at Anthropologie.

Ask The Desk: Stamp Pads and Federal Supply Service Notebooks

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Federal Supply Service Notebook

Zack was curious:

Re: Federal Supply Service Notebook
I was wondering if you have ever seen one of those books in a golden color? I have one ins the green but would love to have a few golden colored ones.

It appears that like Henry Ford might have said, “You can have any color Federal Supply notebook you want as long as its green.” That said, if you’re looking for a durable notebook in a golden color, you might want to try Rite in the Rain.

the stamp pad fairy visited today. let the nerd testing begin!

Rachel asks:

 I love the stamps I bought at your store!

I’m a stamping neophyte and have two basic questions about care and storage.  What is the best way to clean a rubber stamp when I want to use a different color ink?  How should I be storing my stamp pads?  I have rubber bands around them now to keep the lids on, but wonder whether I should have them in some sort of air-tight container to keep them from drying out.

Thanks, Rachel! I’m so glad you like the stamps.

To clean stamps, I use a damp paper towel on a ceramic plate to clean my stamps between colors. After stamping, I wipe the stamp gently on the wet towel and then use a dry towel to remove any excess moisture. If a stamp gets left with ink on it, I will add a drop of dishwashing liquid to the wet paper towel to loosen up and remove the dried ink.

I do not recommend submerging the stamps in water or ever using any harsh soaps or detergents to remove ink.

On a particularly crusty stamp, dip an old toothbrush into a cup of water with a couple drops of dishwashing liquid and then gently scrub the stamp to remove ink build-up.

If you use a stamp pad regularly, keeping the lid closed and stored flat, should be enough to keep the pad from drying out.

As for storing stamp pads, I either use a rubber band to keep the lids sealed or bits of tape, depending on how often a particular stamp pad is used. I store my large stamp pads on their ends so tape or rubber bands are a must for keeping them from drying out. But stamp pads, no matter how they are stored, will not stay fresh indefinitely so use them up and re-ink when possible. Happy stamping!

PS: You might enjoy my post about different types of stamp pad ink.

Ask The Desk: Scratchy Pens & Jotter Refills

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Millicent asked two questions and I’ve been mulling over them for a few days:

About fine points of any type, be they fountain, roller, ball pen or even pencil.  While they would not be my first choice, sometimes a medium or broad just won’t work. I have found workarounds for pencils to avoid the 0.3 and 0.5 nightmares. I see all the reviews for fountain pens extolling the virtues of specific nibs.  All I get is scratchy frustration, with no apparent sweet spot. Alternate ink and paper don’t seem to help. There are pens sitting unused in my arsenal that deserve court time. Plus there are always ones waiting to be acquired.  Suggestions and recommendations ???

Fine nib pens are not, as a whole, scratchy. I do find that the teeny tipped gel pens, like the 0.25 Pilot Hi Tec Cs, to be a little scritchy, but overall there may be some other issues to consider.

heavy or light hand writing

The only thing I can think is that you might have a “heavy hand.” This is in no way an insult or anything, it just means that you press your pen more firmly on the paper or that you grip you writing tools tighter than others. With fountain pens, if all pens seem scratchy, I would recommend making sure to use a lighter hand — the least amount of pressure to release ink on the paper. You might want to practice just by making loops on paper with the lightest, loosest grip. Once you find the sweet spot, try actually writing.

I think the same process would work with gel or rollerball pens too.

The only other possibility would be the angle that you are writing. If you have a Lamy Safari or other pen that has a molded grip area  that forces a “correct” hand hold, try using that in combination with your lightest touch. Please let us know if you are still having issues.

Millicent’s second question was:

Many pens come supplied with the Parker Jotter style refills.  The issue is that they are almost always black ink.  The first thing I do is change the refill to blue or green.   I refuse to just toss the black refills in the waste bin since they are brand new. They need a good home, just like puppies and kitties :)   Any ideas?

Parker-style refill

Anyone in need of black Parker Style refills? Or know of any place she can trade or sell them? Leave a comment or email me through the Ask The Desk link and I can put you in touch with Millicent. Thanks!

Ask The Desk: Typist’s Desk and Purse Pens

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Robert asks:

As a writer, I recently purchased an electric typewriter for drafting content. What kind of supplies are appropriate for setting up a vintage typing desk: lamps, pens, paper, erasers, etc.?

(A still from All The President's Men via The Young Folks)

(A still from All The President’s Men via The Young Folks)

If what you are hoping to do is to create a classically vintage workspace, be sure to go through the Vintage posts for recommendations on classic items to add to your space. If you’re looking for specific items designed to function best (vintage or new) with a typewriter set-up, then here are a few recommendations.

  • Remember that the platen travels so you need to have adequate clearance around your typewriter. Don’t set your coffee cup down in the direct path of your typewriter platen or you’ll end up with a big mess (ask me how I know this).
(via Utrecht)

(via Utrecht)

  • A swing-arm or flexible lamp will be a great option to direct light where you need it. I use a Lite-Source Swing Arm Combination Lamp ($89) that is several decades old on my desk at work. It clamps to the edge of the table for stability and moves in all directions. It uses a fluorescent tube plus an incandescent bulb which can each be used alone or in combination for bright light. A less expensive alternative is the Adjustable Swing Arm Lamp ($15.99). Both designs are classic and would be aesthetically comparable to an electric typewriter.
  • For paper, standard 20lb paper from an office supply store should be fine. I would not get paper any heavier than 20lb (like standard black-and-white copier paper). If you’re looking for classic onion skin-style paper, carbon paper, or other classic style, check out Ebay. I put all kinds of paper in my typewriter but I try not to use any paper that’s too heavy. It will end up having a curl to it as a result of being wrapped around the platen.
  • As for erasers, you could try a typewriter eraser or liquid correction fluid but I think modern correction tape is far more effective, easy to use with no odor and no eraser flakes dropping into you typewriter, gumming up the works.
  • Pens are a matter of taste and preference. If you are using standard 20lb paper to type and want a tool to annotate changes and edits, a red or blue pen or pencil would be recommended. Fountain pens might bleed or feather on standard paper so I would say keeping a stash of pencils would be classic, in keeping with your typewriter. Maybe even a red/blue pencil or a mechanical pencil?

Harvest Thick Red/Blue

  • You might also want to consider a copy holder or other method for displaying a previous page while typing. For a vintage look, this one would be particularly nice.

Phil asks:

Looking to pickup a small ballpoint pen to go in my wife’s wristlet (Vera Bradley Pushlock). My thoughts were Monteverde Poquito or maybe Zebra SL-F1.  Gel is okay, but she prefers a no fuss tool above all else.
Suggestions?

I confess that I don’t think I could pull together a better assortment of pocketable/purse-able pens than Jet Pens’ Mini Pens post. And I agree that the Monteverde Poquito Stylus would also be a great choice and it has the added bonus of the stylus at one end for digital devices. If your wife prefers ballpoint pens, she might also like the Kaweco Sport in the ballpoint model. It takes the Zebra 4C refills like the Zebra SL-F1. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic Parker Jotter. Best of luck, Phil!

Ask The Desk: Posterboard Presentation, Orderly Lawyer and Triumph-like Nibs

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I get a lot of Ask The Desk questions these days so I am trying to compile them into weekly digests. And please, if you have ideas or advice for those who’ve sent in questions, please leave your ideas in the comments.  Thanks!

Scott asks:

I am a university student, with a modest budget but an eye for sharp lines.  I need to turn in an A1 size poster with varying sections, basically a mounted essay.  Any top tips or tools that would help a fella, with no cash for print services, produce something that doesn’t look scruffy?

If you are assembling your report on a computer before putting it on the board, you can tile your print outs so that you don’t need to make a late night run to a copy shop for over-priced, over-sized prints.

First, try to find a design student who can loan you an X-Acto blade and a metal straight edge or ruler. This will help you cut your pieces out neatly. In a pinch, a retracting box cutter will also work. A healing cutting mat is a bonus. If you can’t get one, find a large sheet of cardboard to cut on so you don’t scratch your floor (you want your security deposit back, right?).

(image via The Smartest and His Artist)

(image via The Smartest and His Artist)

To mount them to your board, use a glue stick, not Elmer’s liquid glue as it will cause your pages to pucker and wrinkle. When applying the glue stick, lay your pages out on a larger sheet of paper like old newspaper or a paper grocery bag. That way, you can run the glue stick all the way to the edges. Remember to use a fresh sheet of waste paper or flip over the paper or bag each time you glue so you don’t accidentally attach your report to the waste paper.

For ideas on how to best present your sections, check out some of the infographics on Pinterest to inspire your mounted essay to design greatness! Best of luck!


And John asked:

I am a lawyer who, at any given time, has about 15 matters pending at a given time. I take notes every day, usually on tablets; I then tear off those notes and have them put into a file. But I often miss having my notes handy a few days or weeks later when I need to refer back to them. I see other lawyers using notebooks to keep their notes. I am looking for your recommendation on a good notebook that can lay flat, be photocopied fairly easily, look nice and classy (and not like a high school kid getting ready for math class), and also take fountain pen ink. Have you a recommendation? I thought I would like one with sewn-in pages, but I’m not sure that would be best.

My best suggestion for you, John, the Circa or ARC binding system. The Circa system is sold through Levenger and the ARC system is sold through Staples.

And what I really mean is getting the notebook covers, maybe some dividers and a punch and continue using the tablets you love. You can also purchase the pre-punched paper if you want. Or just get some covers and the discs and a punch, just to try it all out. Really, all you need are the discs and the punch. Find a couple sheets of heavy cardstock to punch for covers or use the clear plastic covers. You could even bind the whole thing from the top just like your legal pads but you could group them by client.

By punching and binding the pages into a notebook, you will have a lay-flat notebook that you can easily put into a photocopier, remove or rearrange pages and a slick, professional looking notebook.

And if you want a really upscale look, maybe the zip-up leather Bomber Jacket cover?

Levenger Circa Bomber Jacket Zip Notebook


And Jim asked me a real stumper of a question:

I picked up a couple of old, used Sheaffer snorkel pens with the intent of rebuilding with parts from Anderson Pens.  one of the pens has the “triumph” type nib. a very unique design.  I recently saw a pen ad on the web showing a pen with a nib that looked almost exactly like the triumph  nib.  unfortunately I did not make a note of that pens identity.  can you advise me as to the names of the other pens that carry a nib similar to the triumph design?

(via Pen Hero)

(via Pen Hero)

I found an article about the Sheaffer Snorkel/Triumph nibs on Pen Hero. It’s a very unique nib that looks like the nib wraps around the shaft in a single piece. Jim wants to know if any other pen manufacturer did a nib like this. I’m hopng one of you out there can help him as I don’t know enough about vintage fountain pens to answer his question.

Ask The Desk: Notebook Questions

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Sandy asks:

Can you please explain what is meant by “volant” and “cahier” in regards to noyebook types?  Especially volant, I do not get why a notebook is called by these two names.  What am I looking for when I want one of these?

Moleskine Cahier

Cahier and Volant are terms Moleskine uses to describe two of their soft cover notebooks. The Volant is the perfect bound notebooks with a leatherette cover. The Cahier notebooks have a cardstock cover and are stitch or staple bound. Other companies have used similar terminology to describe their products as well though I would recommend reading the descriptions carefully as neither of these terms are official terminology.

Moleskine Volant


Nick asks:

Maybe you’ve seen the new Doane Paper 3-ring binder pouch. But it made me want to use 3-ring binders more. The problem with binders is that they don’t stack or sit nicely on a bookshelf.

Do you have any tips for binder storage?

Binders are paricularly challenging to store on shelves. I recommend starting with the smallest width binder to start with so that it is fairly full. When it becomes difficult to put more into it, upgrade to a larger width. That way the binders sit a little better on the shelf. A shelf full of 3″ binders with only a few pages in each don’t sit at all nicely.

If anyone has a better idea, let me know!


Melissa asked:

Can you show me a few choices for a budget notebook for fountain pen writing? I want something that’s thick enough not to bleed to the back, under about $15, A5 size, lined preferred (something like narrow ruled filler paper). Bonus points for purple cover, as that’s my favorite colour.

Poppin purple softcover notebook

Poppin is THE source for those with a color fetish. They offer their medium soft cover in their signature plummy purple. The notebook is $9. I tested the softcover notebook and there is a little show through with juicy pens like the Retro 51 and fountain pens but you can’t beat the price.

Scout Books Mega Book

The Scout Books Mega Books are 5×7″ with cardstock covers. While there are not any currently available with purple covers, the tough cardstock would give you a great surface to paint or collage your own ode to purple. Two books are sold in a set for $10. The paper is 70lb text weight so it can hold up to fountain pens but may have some show through with juicy pens.

Paperthinks

Paperthinks is another company I always think of for the color savvy. They stock not one but three different shades of purple to choose from.  Their large notebook is 12 x 17cm (4.7″x6.7″) with recycled leather covers and lined pages.  The regular large notebook has 256 ruled pages (£16) and the slim version has 144 pages (£10) so they are in your price ballpark. When tested, the paper showed a bit of showthrough but the overall quality of the books is good.

11255

Slightly higher than your price point is the Exacompta Club Leatherette Refillable Journal ($24.50) in lilac purple. Refills are $16.50 and available in lined as well as blank and grid. The paper is good quality 64g so it should handle most fountain pens, as well as any gel, rollerball, ballpoint or pencil you used.


And the last question of the week comes from Aziza:

Anyways, just based on some fun movie trivia, would you say the notebook in the series True Detective that Matthew McConaughey uses is an extra large Moleskine? Just curious of your opinion.

mcconaughey notebook in True Detective

I believe you are right. That looks like the A4 Moleskine Folio book. Its 8.5×12″ but I can’t tell if he’s using the sketchbook or plain paper version. I guess I’ll have to watch the series just for the notebooks!

Thanks for all the great questions!

Ask The Desk: Organizing Correspondence

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I recently received a letter from Paul asking:

What are the best practices for archiving correspondence?

My first recommendation was the Paper & Type Letter Ledger which I use to archive all my correspondence. I use this to track regular correspondence as well as any thank you notes I might send. Christmas cards and thank yous get stored in a list in Field Notes since I really only reference those lists once a year. After some thought, I came up with a couple other ideas.

One idea is to tag letters with a sticky note with notes regarding your reply. You can write a few lines about what your reply stated, the date sent and any other info you think relevant. Then you can file the letter. I do store my letters.

I file my letters in accordion file folders by recipient. When I strike up a new correspondence, I have a folder for “Misc. Correspondence”. Once I’ve received a few letters from the same person, they get their own folder.

I read somewhere (it was ages ago so I’m not sure who does this. If its you, leave a note in the comments!) to store letters in 3-ring binders. You can slide the letter into a plastic sleeve with the envelope if you’re inclined to keep that too. Or simply hole punch the letter. Then you can easily review previous letters. You can add a 3×5″ card or sticky note to the sleeve with information regarding your reply. Add divider tabs for each correspondent.

For a digital solution, I saw this post on Lettermo. K. Tempest Bradford recommended using Evernote to photograph and tag your outgoing letters. You can then tag the photo and Evernote may even recognize words written in the letter depending on how tidy your handwriting is. You could actually photograph your incoming post as well and put both images in a collection so that you have quick access to the history of your correspondence. I think this is absolutely brilliant.

Hope these ideas help. Anyone have a different technique for tracking what you’ve written or how you keep your letters?

Ask The Desk: That’s not a pen!

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I received an actual letter from Leah a week or so ago. She asked lots of different questions about pens and tools so I thought I’d include some of my answers here as well as in a letter to her.

She asked:

What pen/nib did you use for the titles of your 12 Days of Inkmas?

The secret is that I didn’t use a pen at all. I used a brush!

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.44.46 AM

I got the idea to use a brush from seeing some ink “swabs” on European Paper. They were using a brush to create a lovely little ink swab. I like that a brush was easy to clean and I wasn’t creating a landfill full of q-tips in sampling inks each month.

brushes21

I’ve used several different brushes that I’ve accumulated over the years to not only create “swabs” but also to create a more interesting header for the 12 Days of Inkmas. I’ve tried to keep up the habit for future ink samples and reviews as I can see the range of shading with the inks this way.

EDIT: The word “Wide Strokes” was done with the Scharff FINELINE 3000 #3, not the #6. Oops!

brushes22

From left to right: Robert Simmons #2 red Kolinsky hair and synthetic filaments round brush, A. Langnickel 670 #5 Red Sable script brush, Scharff Kolinsky red sable FINELINE 3000 #3 round and #6, and a Silverwhite synthetic 1500S #2 Round.

I’ve acquired brushes over the years from friends, yard sales and various art supply stores. I’m stunned to see how expensive the Scharff #6 brush is ($67)! I’ll definitely take better care of it. I’m confident that any good quality round brush recommended for watercolor, acrylic or oil would make a perfect tool for “swabs” and ink tests. Visit your local art supply or craft shop to pick up a couple.

Just remember to wash out your brushes in water, squeeze dry and reshape the tip to dry. Don’t scrub them and make the bristles flair out  or you risk breaking the fibers and/or hairs. Always dry your brushes with the tip up and don’t leave them sit indefinitely in your wash water or the bristles will bend at a weird angle. If you let them cake with inks or paints, try The Masters brush cleaner. It will save just about all your brushes!

Ask The Desk: Letters in Downton Abbey

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Hello!
There were some beautiful shots of envelopes and letters on last week’s Downton Abbey episode. I can’t find images of them online. Any thoughts on how to find them? LOVE LOVE LOVE YOUR BLOG!
Laura

Laura, Thanks so much for your letter. I feel like I must have been wrapped up in the story this week, watching Downton Abbey because I didn’t even notice the letters! I too searched the internet but so far screenshots from Season 4 are sparse. But you are in luck! Last week’s episode can be viewed and replayed through March 9, 2014 on PBS. I watched up to the Ritz letter for Alfred so you can get a better look at the mark on the envelope.

Screen Shot 201Ritz Letter Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 34-01-31 at 10.30.20 AM

Ask The Desk: Clogged Fountain Pens

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Tom asks:

Several of my fountain pens seem to be clogged.  Certainly the ink does not flow as freely as it did when they were new.

The tried and true cures – such as soaking in a bowl of warm water with two drops of ammonia – do not seem to work.

What is the approved 21st Century approach?

Many thanks,
Tom

I have not had a lot of clogging issues myself. I have purchased several old pens that needed cleaning and I just let them soak in warm water for several days, changing the water every day and then flushing the pen completely with good success.

Since it sound like you have more serious issues, I put a call out to some of the folks out on Twitter and here are there responses:

  1. Azizah from Gourmet Pens: Can you disassemble it? Soak it in 10% ammonia and 90% water (section and nib) and flush it out with water.. Should clear it.
  2. Inktronics says: Time for a total tear down and getting the toothbrush out.
  3. FPGeeks says: After Azizah’s advice, next step would be to use ultrasonic cleaner.
  4. Anderson Pens says: How long did they let it soak? Overnight at least if no ultrasonic or use a bulb to force water through the feed.

I would also wonder about the ink that you are using if you are continuing to have clogging issues. You may want to try a new, different ink once you get your pen cleaned out to see if the issue was a result of gritty ink.

I hope these tips help. Let us all know if you have any luck.

Ask The Desk: Condensation in my TWSBI

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Chris asks:

My wife bought me my first TWSBI for Christmas this year–a TWSBI Mini demonstrator. I’ve filled it with Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and carry it in my front shirt pocket, right next to my heart.

One problem: I’ve had trouble with moisture collecting inside the cap and the grip section of the pen. Initially the cap was the only culprit. Now, the condensation is found in both locations. The cap is easy enough to clear with a cue-tip, but the grip is a little more difficult.

Have you had problems with moisture so collecting in any of your TWSBIs or is there something I could do to prevent it?

I suspect the moisture is a result of condensation from the temperature changes. Especially if you are keeping your pen close to your body, it may warm up. Then when it cools on your desk or faces the arctic outdoor temperature shifts, there may be some moisture that builds up in the cap. I suspect that other fountain pens may face the same issue but without the clear cap and grip, we don’t ever notice it.

A quick search on the internet for “demonstrator fountain pen condensation” revealed that this is not an issue exclusive to the TWSBIs. It appears that most demonstrator pens will reveal some sort of condensation or ink in the cap over time.

disassembled TWSBI mini

My Mini tends to get it less frequently in the grip area unless I’ve recently cleaned it. If I don’t let it dry completely before reassembly, I get moisture in the grip section as well. With a firm push on the threaded end of the nib unit, it should pop out of the grip area allowing you to easily swab out any condensation build-up. Then reassemble it.

I have some of those long cotton swabs on a wooden stick that let me wipe away any moisture or stray ink from the inside of the cap though a standard issue Q-Tip should reach just fine.

Does anyone have advice for minimizing the condensation build-up?

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