Tag: DIY

Ask The Desk: Karas Kustoms RETRAKT/Cross Selectip Hack

rp_askthedesk_hdr211111-1-1-1-1.png

My favorite pen is the superb Cross Selectip rollerball. Sadly, all but two of the Cross pens that take this refill (and I’ve got a BUNCH) require you to uncap it to use it. Only the diminutive Cross Click, which is too small for my hand, and the Cross Edge, which I find impossible to open with one hand, operates without a cap. I’m looking for a pocket pen I can operate with one hand – either push-button or twist – that takes the Cross Selectip rollerball refill. Does anyone else make one? Thanks, Gary

The new Ti Arto Kickstater project from Big Idea Design claims to accommodate 200+ refills would be perfect but it, too, is a capped pen. So, I turn to the Karas Kustoms RETRAKT and a little refill hacking to solve your problem. The RETRAKT is available in aluminum and brass and is a wider barrel pen body, comparable in width to a Sharpie permanent marker so should feel quite substantial in the hand. I use and aluminum barrel version which is weighty but can be opened and closed with one hand. My husband has a heavier model with a brass grip section if you want something even more substantial. Prices for the RETRAKT start at $55.

selectip-hack-1

When you purchase a Cross Selectip rollerball refill, it comes with a little plastic cap. Keep this! It is the key to my little hack. Though I suspect a rubber band or string could be used as an alternative. I cut the wide part off and used about 1/8″ or 3mm of the plastic sheath as a spacer between the base of the refill and spring to provide a bit more length to the refill barrel for the spring to travel along. I also needed to shave a little bit of the nubs off the blue cap in order to fit into the barrel of the RETRAKT. You might find a little more plastic is better (or a little less) but there is more than enough left from the cap to experiment a bit.

selectip-hack-2

This last photo shows the Cross Selectip rollerball refill fully extended, with my little plastic mod and the spring inside. Voila! As Tom at Goldspot Pens likes to tease, I’ll hack any pen and any refill.

selectip-hack-3

Jinhao X750 + Zebra G Nib Hack + KWZ Green Gold 2 Ink

Jinhao X750

I found a fabulous flexible nib hack over on Parka blogs and nothing says “let’s mess with a cheap pen” like a rainy day. Throw in a cool ink sample from Vanness Pen Shop and an urge to be a little tweaker and off I go.

This hack will work with either a Zebra G (Titanium pack of 10 for $33.50 from JetPens) or Nikko G nib (3 for $4 from JetPens), whichever you have available to you. Warning: you may or may not damage your pen, so proceed with caution. It is a fun hack and most Jinhao X750 pens can be purchased for $10 or less so its not a huge investment, no matter what happens. I purchased mine from Goulet Pens, the Shimmering Sands model for $9.90.

I followed the instructions in the Parka Blogs video as well as doing a little feed modification à la Leigh Reyes’s tutorial for modifying the Ranga to try to get the nib to lay down a little bit more flush with the feed by using an X-Acto to shave a bit off the feed.

So, for a grand total of $13.50 I had a wonky, but functional, flexible nib fountain pen. Its a little bit finicky and could probably use a little bit more work to make it consistent but it works. I occasionally have to dip it in water to keep it working but it writes much longer than a regular dip pen. I might just need to add more fins in the feed and since the feed is plastic it might not be as ink receptive as the Ranga’s ebonite feed.

Why did I do this hack when I had a perfectly lovely Ranga? I already owned a box of Zebra G nibs and Jinhao X750 and I was bored. The only reason I would recommend this hack over the Ranga is that it is considerably less expensive and it is considerably easier to acquire the Jinhao X750 in the US than a Ranga at this time. But if you have the means, the time or the patience to get a Ranga or a Desiderata instead, the overall experience is better. But for a quick-and-dirty option, this hack is definitely an option.

Jinhao X750

Now, let’s talk about the lovely KWZ Green Gold #2 ink. I picked this up while I was working the Vanness table at the Chicago Pen Show. Lisa said I would love it and she was totally right. Its a lovely green, golden color as decribed in the name. Pantina gold would be another way to describe it. It shades and colors nicely, ranging from a light golden wheat to a dark brown depending on the density of the color.

Jinhao X750

This is not a water resistant ink so its a good candidate for playing around since it will clean out of the pen and feed easily.

KWZ Green Gold 2 ink comparison

KWZ Green Gold 2 is definitely more yellow thank Bung Box 88 and Diamine Safari but its a deeper yellow gold than Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho. A full of KWZ Green Gold 2 60ml bottle is $12 and a 4ml sample is $1.50. Pricewise, its much closer to the Safari than Bung Box or Pilot Iroshizuku.


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

Save

Ask The Desk: 4mm Grid Paper Notebooks

rp_askthedesk_hdr211111-1-1-1-1.png

Romain asks:

I am desperately looking for a large notebook (A5-A4) with 4mm squared paper; do you have any advice for me?

This took some hunting and I could only find one printed option that featured the coveted 4mm grid paper It’s the Miquelrius leather-look journals. They are available in 100-, 200-, and 300-sheet books with black, blue or red covers for $9.99 to $14.99. The paper quality is decent. I used a Miquelrius book for ink testing for some time early in my blog career before switching to Rhodia paper which is a bit more hardy.

Miquelrius books

There are more images of the whole Miquelrius Grid journal I used available on Flickr.

Another option for grid paper would be to print your own paper. Paper Snake offers printable graph in a variety of quadrille and graph paper sizes in metric and imperial sizes including 4mm.

Paper Snake site

Review: Ranga Modified Fountain Pen

Ranga Nikko G Fountain Pen

The Ranga Acrylic Fountain Pen is a very different kind of pen for me to review and to describe so I apologize in advance if this is a little strange. First of all, this pen came to me pre-modified by the fabulous Leigh Reyes. She has provided detailed instructions on her web site along with a video on how to make this modification for yourself, I was just lucky enough to get a hands-on demonstration and prepared pen.

So, to give you more details, the Ranga acrylic fountain pens come with a standard steel fountain pen nib with an ebonite feed that is friction fit and an eyedropper filling mechanism. The reason this is such a good candidate for modification for a flex dip nib is because of the ebonite feed which will allow better flow and can be manipulated to increase flow.

If you can’t tell yet, this is not a beginner’s fountain pen or project. If you averse to having inky fingers for get annoyed if your pen chokes up on you this is NOT a pen for you. However, if you are tired of dip pen dipping, then this can be your new best friend. Because, with some patience and tweaking, the Ranga can hum along beautifully.

Ranga Nikko G Fountain Pen

I included the above image to show that there was a lot of trials on scratch paper and nib cleaning. I’m serious when I say this is a tweaker’s pen. But look how cool this is! If you do a lot a lettering with flex dip nib, anything that makes writing a few more lines without dipping is a bonus so you know what I’m so excited about.

Ranga Nikko G Fountain Pen

The pen is about 5.5″ long capped. The cap will post making the pen almost 7″ from the tip of the flex nib to the end of the cap. Filled with ink it is pretty light, only 20 gms but the Ranga Acrylic is a little wider at the grip section in the hand than a lot of nib holders which tend to be very narrow which is really nice.

Fountain Pen Weights

Ranga Acrylics are available on Amazon with free shipping which seems to be the best option if you live in the US. If you live in the Phillipines, Pengrafik stocks the Ranga Acrylics. Peyton Street Pens in the US stocks some Ranga pens fitted with vintage nibs that may offer some flex as an alternative to using dip nibs.

I purchased a Desiderata Daedalus pen in Chicago that I will review in the next week or so. It works on a similar principle in that it holds a Zebra G nib but is comes prepared to accept the Zebra G nib without the tinkering required to make the Ranga work with a flex nib but it still requires some preparation.

Finally, here’s a little Instagram video I did (handheld!) and managed to misspell Ranga in the process but you can see the flex in action. I’ve since purchased a tripod so hopefully my videos will improve.

Digital Printables for Planners

Ever since I bought a laser printer, I’ve been using it to print various printables for my planner. Previously, it was so expensive to purchase ink for my inkjet printer and it so frequently clogged that I had basically stopped using it. My little laser printer is SO MUCH more reliable and cost effective. Of course, I can only print in black and grey but it give me an excuse to indulge in the occasional sticker, washi tape or rubber stamp.

I’m always on the hunt for good planner, journal, project management sheets. I like seeing good clean designs that can be left simple and clean — or decorated, if you are so inclined.

Here’s a few of my recent favorites:

marcy penner midori planner inserts

Marcy Penner Midori Printables Last year, I bought her personal-sized planner set and it was really well done. Her new planner set for 2016 for Midori-sized books is even better. The design features week-on-one-page with either blank or gird paper on the right. Also included is month-on-two-pages calendar. Set includes October 2015 through December 2016 so if you’re itching to get organized, you could start today. $10 for digital download.

Clock is Ticking Notepaper

Clock is Ticking Printable Notepaper Is this not the cutest illustration? This FREE downloadable PDF is compliments of the talented Mayi Carles of Oh My Handmade Goodness. Once printed and trimmed, you can make them into your own tear-off pad with this tutorial from Playful Learning.

Elise Joy Quote cards

Elise Blaha Cripe, aka Elise Joy, made lovely, inspirational quote cards that you can add to your planner dashboard or dividers. The designs are clean and simple and there’s bound to be one or two quotes that speak to you. Even if you’re not inclined to decorate, pinning one to your wall near your desk might be all you need to inspire you to forge ahead on your goals and projects. Free download.

Do you use downloadable printables? Which designers or styles are your favorite?

Desk Set: DIY Pipe Desk

Getting Creative with Online Classes

I recently mentioned my desire to take some art classes and spend more time being creative this summer. In my hunt for the right classes for me, I found a lot of great online resources for learning new creative skills (and even some technical skills!). I thought I’d share some of the resources in case you, too, are looking to try your hand at painting, drawing, crafts or developing some other skills.

There are two big categories for online classes: the subscription-style sites that house diverse topics, instructors and courses and individuals who teach classes and workshops in a few select areas.

The Big Sites:

Skliishare screenshot

Skillshare: Skillshare is the first online learning site I tried. I started with Mary Kate McDevitt’s Hand Lettering class and I absolutely loved it. After that, I was sold. I bought a whole year subscription and added over 50 classes to my “to try” list. They offer a lot of creative classes and there’s a strong focus on digital skills or taking projects to a digital finish. There’s a logo design class with Aaron Draplin as well as classes on animation, business development and marketing, photography and a whole lot more. I have started recommending Skillshare to all young designers and creative folks. There’s a lot of practical information from a lot of highly respected talent in the industries they represent. Subscriptions are $10/month but there are discounted rates for purchasing a year membership. Skillshare also has mobile apps for iPhone and Android to easily access content.

Lynda.com: Lynda is probably the first online learning site for creative skills. Lynda got started publishing how-to books for Photoshop, HTML and CSS back in the 90s. Then went digital with video tutorials and set the bar. Classes range from step-by-step tutorials for using applications (from Adobe apps to Word to Evernote, QuickBooks and even LogicPro. The list goes on!) to steps to improving your business, marketing, programming and much much more. Subscription start at $24.99/month but discounts are available for a yearly subscription as well as bulk pricing for businesses and Pro account options.

Creativebug screenshot

CreativeBug: CreativeBug focuses more on art and craft skills but if you’ve been thinking about learning how to knit, crochet, sew, start watercolor painting or make jewelry, this might be the site for you. The classes are well-filmed and easy to follow. I started with Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Explorations course and then started adding sewing and other art classes to my queue. There are a few free lessons available to try before you subscribe but the cost per month is just $5 so its not a big leap to just subscribe for a month and see if you like it. CreativeBug also has an iPhone/iPad app and are currently working on a Android app.

Craftsy screenshot

Craftsy: Craftsy organizes its classes on a per-class basis. If you want to take the Pen & Ink Essentials class, you just purchase that class for $19.99 (current sale price) and you can access that class whenever, forever. The class offering range from sewing, baking, knitting and fiber arts, fine arts and even woodworking.

Free Online Art Classes: I found out about Free Online Art Classes from a NYTimes article. Its not the prettiest or most up-to-date looking web site but Lois DeWitt has put her 50 years of teaching experience behind the site and the classes are free. Topics range from traditional art materials lessons like Drawing with Colored Pencils to Fabric Printing and Jewelry Making. This would be a good place to start and get an idea about what creative pursuit might best suit you.

Individual Artists’ Sites:

Jane Davenport: I am currently taking Jane Davenport’s Supplies Me class which is the starter class for her mixed media art journaling classes. Her quirky style was very much to my taste so it seemed like a good fit. She totally enables my urge to buy all the art supplies which is a good and bad thing. I’m enjoying learning some new techniques and how to actually use a lot of the pens, pencils and art supplies I’ve collected in ways I had not considered. There are several more classes available to help build confidence in drawing and handling art materials. Classes start at $55 AUS and go up to the Entire Kaboodle for $775 AUS.

Kelly Rae Roberts: Kelly Rae Roberts offers a Mixed Media Mantras Workshop that focuses on creating meaningful visual messages. The course walks you through creating your own mantra and then guides you through the process of turning your mantra into a mixed media collage piece. The class is divided into three parts and costs $247. Access to the video and virtual classroom is available for six months from purchase date.

Christy Tomlinson: Christy Tomlinson, AKA Scarlet Lime, offers a variety of online multimedia classes. For beginners, she recommends the Behind The Art creative workshop that walks through her favorite materials and process from building multimedia backgrounds to laying in details using an array of materials to create art journals and multimedia pieces. The course is divided into five weeks and costs $64.95. Christy also offers a Creative Planner online course if your urge to be creative intertwines with your love of planners and staying organized. The Crative Planner course contains 25 videos and costs $34.95. There are several other classes to choose from as well. To get a feel for her classes, you can check out Christy’s YouTube channel as well.

Alisa Burke: Alisa Burke offers an assortment of mini classes as well as larger workshops for drawing and journaling. Cost per class is between $15 and $50 and you’ll have unlimited access to videos and content. You can get a feel for her videos on her YouTube channel or just purchase one of her online classes and jump in with both feet.

Have you ever tried an online class or are you considering trying one now?