Tag: misc

Looking Back and Moving Forward

I say this every year but I love the start of the New Year. Its a chance for new beginnings, opening that brand-new planner, journal or notebook and starting on a new path, or course-correcting the one you set last year. I hope that 2016 will be a year of great adventures and great joys for everyone, myself included. I know a lot of us had rocky moments in 2015 but I know there were also some great triumphs as well.

(Photo reposted from Pen Compass)
(Photo reposted from Pen Compass)

For me 2015 was filled with wonderful ups and some hard downs as well. The Atlanta Pen Show was the absolute pinnacle for me and was my saving grace in what turned out to be a rather tumultuous year that followed with work- and health-related stresses. Brad and Myke and all the pen community welcomed me so warmly and openly in Atlanta and the whole world over that I felt like I had the whole world at my back this year and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

As I move forward into 2016, I want to stay committed and actively involved with the pen-and-paper community and be a resource and asset to the wonderful people that are a part of it. Expect to see more ink, paper, pen, and pencil reviews here as always. Holler, if there’s something particular you’d like to see more.

This summer, I started taking drawing and painting classes to try to be more creative and its something that I’d like to continue to do in 2016. I hope that in spending more time making art, I’ll also add more art material reviews to the site as well with the occasional watercolor, colored pencils, and other art material reviews for people who may want to try their hand at more sketching, drawing or mixing of media in their notebooks. By no means, will I be changing the focus of the site but I want to help people feel comfortable using pens with other materials. To be brave and to experiment! Even the most expensive piece of paper is still cheaper than a pizza from the take-out joint down the street, right?


One of the most meaningful pieces I wrote all year, for me anyway, was the post Why Does All This Matter? which came hot on the heels of devouring half of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic book (I promise there will be a review of the whole book in a week or so!) and it still resonates in my mind. All these pens, pencils, notebooks and accouterments are all a means for us to be thoughtful, creative, to remember, to relive and to explore our ideas. However those tools help you do that is good but we have to remember not to let them impede the acts themselves.

This is something I plan on tackling quite a bit this year. The nature of doing product reviews is that I acquire a lot of samples. Its not that I have anything that is not good quality, its just that I am buried under a lot of it and it often leads to indecision and fretting over which ink to use, which pen to pick up or which notebook to write in next. One of my goals for 2016 is to pare down the stash dramatically. If anyone has a good idea about redistributing the wealth without breaking the bank, please let me know.

So, my goals for 2016:

  • Make more art
  • Daily journaling in my Hobonichi Techo A6
  • De-stash the pen/paper/ink/supply clutter
  • Take some personal time for little luxuries (30 minute coffee shop stop, a quiet walk, read for pleasure, etc)
  • Don’t work so late at the jobby-job

My keep-on-keeping’ on:

  • Reviews and more on the blog
  • Atlanta Pen Show 2016, look out!
  • Put all those planners to good use
  • Keep knitting (maybe finish some of those half-baked projects?)
  • Keep biking, and maybe more regularly than I have the last few months

Do you take the end of the year to re-evaluate and make plans? I never think of this end-of-year planning as “resolutions” but as a chance to re-tool, re-focus and start fresh. What do you want to accomplish in 2016? Let’s do this together!

Local Pride: 10 Things to Love about Kansas City

(3-color, 18″ x 24″ screenprintposter of Kansas City. Print is signed and number in an edition of 100. 2nd edition. $25 via Tad Carpenter)

I’m feeling a little sentimental today about my adopted home, Kansas City. We’ll be spending the holidays here this year and we have a friend coming into town so I’ve been mentally preparing a list of things to show him, places to take him and food to feed him. I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe it’ll inspire you to stop in Kansas City some day. Be sure to let me know if you’re in town and I’d be happy to buy you a coffee or a beer and talk pens with you. So here goes, ten things to love about Kansas City:

This list is in no particular order, especially since anyone who knows me will know that I am actually a Chicago Fire MLS fan. However, the enthusiasm that Kansas City has put behind its professional sports teams this year, including its soccer team and, in return, the awesome support the teams give to their supporters make KC a great place to be a sports fan. The post-World Series parade and celebration for the Royals was EPIC. This town knows how to throw a party.

(PS: You can spot my pal Madeline and her black Scottie in the video if you don’t blink!)

Christopher Elbow. This man makes chocolates that make you cry because they are both delicious and beautiful but he also created an ice cream shop called Glacé that elevated ice cream and sorbets to new gourmet heights with a rotating assortment of flavors. I just noticed the seasonal ice cream flavors like Peppermint Flake and Jude’s Rum Cake. I might have to pop over over a taste this week. Yum!

Boulevard Beer. Rieger’s Whiskey. Dark Horse Distillery. Why stop at chocolate and ice cream? Kansas City has a great assortment of booze locally made. Boulevard is our flagship brewery offering an array of seasonal and limited edition brews. Rieger is a small batch distillery recreating pre-Prohibition whiskey, gin and vodka. Their whiskey has been a staple at The Desk but I’ve yet to try their gin and I’m itching to. And Dark Horse is another local liquor staple in KC best known for their white whiskey though they also produce a rye whiskey and a bourbon whiskey.

Joe’s BBQ. Joe’s KC, formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s and still referred to by locals as Okie Joe’s is a KC classic. Its a BBQ joint started in a gas station that still has a line out the door on most nights. Their BBQ (in all its forms) in to die for and even ended up on some pretty fancy foodie bucket lists. Even my vegetarian friends go, if only for the “crack fries”.

(Country Club Plaza Lights Mini Hanging Banner $16 via Tammy Smith)

The Plaza. There is a more official name for The Plaza, its The Country Club Plaza or something like that but locals just call it The Plaza and everyone knows what you mean. Its an outdoor shopping area designed to look a bit like a Spanish courtyard with fancy clock towers and fountains galore. On Thanksgiving night, there is a holiday lighting event where the whole place is lit up and it looks beautiful. There are lots of fancy, upscale shops like Tiffany, Kate Spade, Sephora, Apple and more and lots of restaurants and bars. There’s also a creek that runs down one end that people run and walk along. Its just a nice place to watch people, window shop and eat a nice meal.

The Pen Place. Yes, Kansas City really does have its own pen shop. Its not very big and its tucked back into a dark corner of the very touristy Crown Center Mall but we have a pen shop. The staff is very pleasant and they stock a wide variety of brands of pens and inks that they are happy to let you hold and will even swatch out inks on paper for you to see before you buy. They also have a wide variety of pen refills and have patiently helped me with my refill guide on occasion. So if you’re in the neighborhood, definitely pop in and say hello.

The World War I Museum. Kansas City is lucky enough to have the only and official World War I museum in the United States and it is a moving and memorable experience to visit this museum and surrounding grounds. I work in a building across the street and often walk the grounds on bright days at lunch admiring the amazing views from atop the hill. As a history buff and knitter I have also enjoyed attending the regular lecture series Mrs. Wilson’s Knitting Circle which will enter its second year in 2016. It’s an extraordinary place and an amazing opportunity to learn more about a singular event that changed the course of history. There are also many other amazing museums in Kansas City like the Negro League Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, the Truman Presidential Library, and the Toy & Miniature Museum just to name a few.

The local art scene. Not only does Kansas City have an amazing art museum in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, but there is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and several areas that feature a thriving local art galleries like the Crossroads, the West Bottoms and Brookside. There are many art festivals, craft shows and first Fridays (third Thursdays and other open studio events and the like) all over town, plus there is the Kansas City Art Institute training new artistic talent as well as other local colleges and universities that are helping to develop new creative talent. Add in the music and performing arts in Kansas City from the new Kauffman Center for Performing Arts shell featuring the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera and Kansas City Symphony to the local bars and clubs hosting bands and open mike nights. When I moved here, I didn’t think Kansas City was a cowtown per se but I had no idea how amazingly talented it was.

Coffee. This town loves its coffee. We have local coffee shops and local roasters and all sorts of combinations of the two. Some of my favorites are The Filling Station, Benettis, Messenger Coffee, Kaldi’s Coffee and the king of the coffee bean hill The Roasterie. If you’re a tea drinker, I recommend Kaldi’s Double Vanilla Tea Latte or the London Fog from either the Roasterie or Kaldi’s. Delish!

Hallmark Cards. I feel silly plugging the firm but if it wasn’t for Hallmark, I never would have come to Kansas City and discovered what a cool place it is. I would not have met some of the most amazing, talented and special people I’ve ever known and I might never have started this blog which gave me the chance to meet all of you.  I once read an interview with a Hallmark employee (colloquially called a “Hallmarker”) who described working at Hallmark as grad school and it really is. So many of us refine and hone our skills surrounded by people who are so incredibly talented in everything they do. And everyone is willing to share their knowledge and encourage other people’s success which is unlike any place I’ve ever worked. So, thank you, Hallmark for all the opportunities.

Midori Mini Cleaner

My dear friend picked up one of the original Midori Mini Cleaners on her last trip to Japan and I’ve been dying to have one ever since. So much so, that I emailed Jet Pens and begged for them to restock these. Then, last week, I got a tweet to let me know that the Midori Mini Cleaners II were back in stock.

Mine is in the mail and I will be picking up little gritty bits of eraser dust with glee from the moment it arrives.

Start As You Mean To Go On.

start as you mean to go on

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Pen Habit post. I never intended to scare anyone into thinking I might cease publication or anything. I just wanted to think out loud about the blog. I love doing this and I think I’ve been putting invisible pressure on myself to do more, more often and bigger. In reality, I think I have been my own worst enemy.

All the comments and messages on Twitter have been hugely uplifting and I am so grateful to have such kind loyal readers. I’ll say it over and over again, pen (and pencil) people are the best people in the world.

When I started the blog over four years ago on Tumblr I posted twice a day, five days a week. The content was less involved then than it is now but I have never really tried to taper the pace even though most posts take a lot longer to produce today. The Monologue Journals is a great example (a huge pile of notebooks in different paper weights, sizes and configurations required lots of photos, testing and a lot of specifics transposed into the post) compared with a “look at this beautiful office” post of four years ago.

As it stands right now, there are no plans to change the blog. There will continue to be Link Love posts almost-weekly*, Fashionable Friday, and From The Archives. I will continue to write ink, pen, pencil and notebook reviews as well as publish news, Kickstarter announcements and the occasional Art of The Day post or work space photos. There just might not be two posts everyday. Maybe just one. If I don’t post for a day or so, don’t worry. Sometimes, it gets a bit busy and sometimes or its just a slow news day (whether I’m responsible for the slowness or there just doesn’t seem to be much going on).

I’m always looking for new products, something different, something well-loved or just something beautiful. I hope I can keep bringing these finds to you in a thoughtful and timely manner.

If there’s anything you’d like to see more (or less), please leave a comment.

*It’s hard for me to keep Link Love on a specific day but I get one out every week or so, usually on Wednesday but I’m off this week. AGAIN.

Thinking About The Pen Habit


For those of you who follow The Pen Habit, you may have already heard about his announcement to cease recording his pen review videos and the subsequent follow-up about amending his format and explain in more detail his reasoning. Matt’s comments rang loudly for me about the amount of time he spends preparing and recording his reviews, not to mention the amount of money he has spent on pens.

Matt’s decision came on the heels on  Brad’s recent announcement to cease publishing his weekly Ink Links.

All of this led me to think about what I do and why I do it. How much time (and money) is too much to spend on a hobby? Its made me wonder if I should reconsider how much time I spend doing this blog versus actually living and reading and writing?

I have not made any decisions one way or the other because I like what I do. However, every week I do struggle to stay on top of all my reviews as well as working my full-time job and all those daily tasks that often get overlooked to squeeze in one more blog post, photo shoot, photo editing session or some other blog-related project.

I love this community. I love pens and inks and paper and all the other things to make a beautiful place to work. So bear with me while I get over my own growing pains.

Stationery Shop Map

A 300-Year-Old Color Swatch Book

colors-1 colors-3

If you think we pen geeks get a little OCD about documenting our new fountain pen inks or testing papers in various notebooks, then you’ll appreciate this. In 1692 an artist created an 800-page handwritten book of paint swatches and documenting color at that time. Many comparisons are being made between this book and the modern day Pantone swatch books. Pretty epic, huh?


There are even more photos available to view, all collected in hi-rez though the server is clearly overburdened at present.

(via Colossal and linked from Erik Kwakkel. Thanks to Bob, Teri and everyone else who sent me the link)

How Green is my Mailbox?

How green is my office?

My mailbox has been overflowing with green bounty. A handmade leather envelope for storing pens and pencils from my Australian pen pal (she made it herself!), an assortment of awesome green pencils from Johnny at Pencil Revolution and, of course, the beautiful but hotly-debated Field Notes Shelterwood. Reviews will be coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy the spring greens!

Spring Break!

Dancing vintage easter egg bunnies

The Desk is spending this week cavorting with nature, staring at the crab apple blossoms and skipping through fields of clover (… as soon as the snow stops. Stupid weather!).

Hope you are enjoying a little spring break and communing with nature yourself.

I’ll be back next Monday with lots of reviews, products and stories. Happy Easter!

(image via Bytes Daily)

Oscar Bingo!


Totally off-topic but with Oscar Night this Sunday, I thought I’d share a fun way to celebrate the event. Oscar Bingo is one of my favorite ways to integrate pens or markers while I watch the Oscars. Just print out a Bingo card and get your favorite marker or pen to mark your squares. It helps to watch with friends too so there’s some competition as to who gets a BINGO! first.

I usually play Oscar Bingo using the cards created by How About Orange. This year, I also might try playing with the Studio 360 boards. Two bingo boards at once will double the fun.

Do you watch the Oscars? Do you have your Oscar Ballot all filled out and ready to compare with the actual winners?

(photo and Oscar Bingo cards from How About Orange)

Office Supply Whimsy

office-y accessories from modcloth

While surfing around ModCloth looking for stationery, I found some other goodies for the office and for the office supply geek.

First, there is the cookie-inspired USB cup warmer. I’ve been grumbling about my coffee or tea cooling off and I have one open USB port left on my office computer. Solution? At $14.99, it just might be.

In the middle image is the vintage-inspired, ceramic dachshund paper organizer. Display your incoming post, letters and photos in the coils. It’s hot dog cool for your desk. Just $12.99.

And what paper nerd wouldn’t want to curl up under a sheet of notebook paper with the Free Verse Reveries duvet cover? Dream sweet pen and ink dreams. $89.99


And the Pencil Me In shoes are back in stock. It’s the perfect shoe for the teacher, librarian or office supply geek in your life. $109.99. If you’re feeling generous, I wear a 6.5.

Eyecandy from San Francisco

Happy Heart Mailbox

While I could not get Flickr to upload my travel photos, at least it saved my goodies, so I shall share those with you today. I did not buy a lot of goodies knowing so many things could be purchased later via Jet Pens and other vendors’  online shops so I limited myself to must-haves and small items that would fit in my carry-on bag.

Above, Melissa of Craftgasm and the Smithsonian Postal Museum shared the postal love with a little pink mail box filled with paper treats.

Red & Blue Goodies

If you put red-and-blue airmail stripes on anything, I’m likely to buy it. Maybe that’s why I love red/blue pencils so much? The pencil pictured above came from the epic Patrick & Co. stationery shop for a mere $0.39. Patrick’s is a classic stationery shop that’s been in business for over 100 years with an endless array of legal pads in every color imaginable, pens and pencils in jars to be purchased individually and so much more. There are two locations in downtown San Francisco, both near Union Square and should not be missed. The Dennison Airmail seals and the gummed labels came from Saturday Morning Vintage who had a stellar booth at the vendor market at Ex Postal Facto. The G. Lalo Verge de France stationery pad came from Patrick & Co. while the Air Mail stationery and envelopes came from Maido.

Red and Kraft is good

I purchased a few Pilot Hi-Tec C refills and a Hi-Uni HB pencil in the Maido shop in the Westfield Mall in Union Square. I also visited the Maido shop in Japantown and picked up a few more goodies. The postcard set tied with twine came from the 826 Collective Pirate Shop in the Mission. What fun! The Ohto Dude pen was compliments on Jet Pens along with a couple Morning Glory Mach 3 pens.

For the love of green

And of course, no trip would be complete without a little green. I got a word cards deck, some green gel pens, a “beans” cutter and itty bitty green staples from Maido. There will be more details about these purchases in the near future but I wanted to give a little taste of the stationery bounty available in San Francisco, should you find yourself there.

Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2013

top10 posts from 2013

Here’s a  round-up up the most popular posts from 2013 that appeared here on The Desk.

  1. The Great Beginner Fountain Pen Debate
  2. Customizing a Midori Traveler Notebook
  3. Pilot Metropolitan Review
  4. TWSBI Mini Review
  5. Bullet Journal
  6. Piccadilly Essential Notebook
  7. Pipe Desk Building Plans
  8. Midori Traveler Star Edition
  9. Classroom Friendly Sharpener
  10. Kaweco Student Fountain Pen

I’m surprised to see the Bullet Journal and the Pipe Desk in the top ten but they are both great things to know. Thanks to all of you for continuing to read my reviews, leaving great comments and feedback and inspiring me with your own adventures in paper, ink and writing tools.

Happy New Year to all and happy writing!

Getting Organized: Recipes

Recipe binder

Since one of my goals for 2014 is to cook more meals at home, I need a system to store and organize recipes. Office supply geek thing at work, clearly! I’ve been searching the internet for good recipes and culling the stacks of magazines all over my house for potential recipes and sticking them in a file folder. This is not an ideal way to find a recipe so I am headed out to the office supply store today to pick up a binder ($3.89) or two, dividers ($0.99) and an assortment of plastic sleeves ($12.79/box of 50) to store my recipes in a more orderly fashion. I like that the plastic sleeves will keep the recipes safe from spills too.

I’ve been searching all morning for a good source for standard 8.5″x11″ sheet protectors that are divided to hold two 5.5″x8.5″ sheets since I have a bunch of smaller pages from Everyday Food (now defunct) and to hold recipe cards instead of a box. Sadly, I have been unable to find any at a reasonable cost (most seem specific to holding archival photo prints and are quite pricey). I may end up with a small binder and sheet protectors for the Everyday Food recipes, specifically, if I can’t find a better option.

I will probably keep dessert recipes in a separate binder to keep all the binders light and agile. Besides, I don’t tend to use them with the same frequency as dinner recipes.

In case you are curious, I found a lot of great recipes on Budget Bytes, including easy-to-make crock pot dishes. Also, the Dragon Noodles dish is delicious, easy-to-make and infinitely customizable. I added frozen edamame to mine for some extra protein.

Does anyone else have a good system for organizing recipes?

(photo via Freesytlin’ Beth)

Getting Ready for the New Year

Gold Foil Calendar on raspberry paper with easel stand $52. Refill only $38. Also available in Kraft with opaque white foil stamp. (via Sugar Paper)
Gold Foil Calendar on raspberry paper with easel stand $52. Refill only $38. Also available in Kraft with opaque white foil stamp. (via Sugar Paper)

I love the few, quiet days between Christmas and New Year’s. I use the time to potter around the house, tackling piles of papers, cleaning out my in-box (paper and digital), using Christmas cards to update addresses in my address book and other organizational projects. I try to write my thank you notes, catch up on correspondence, read books and catch up on movies. I really need a month but a week gets some of the projects checked off my list for the new year.

I love using the New Year as a chance to do things better. Lots of people talk about resolutions, but I think of them more as plans and goals. I often choose things that should be attainable in theory rather than things that are completely new habits or lifestyle.

So far, my personal goals are pretty humble:

  1. learn to cook more meals at home (besides frozen pizza)
  2. fix up my vintage bike (needs new rear wheel and tires)
  3. keep riding my bikes (4-5 times a week)
  4. keep writing lots of letters (and reply more quickly)
  5. match my GoodReads goal from 2013 (60 books)
  6. travel to SF for Ex Postal Facto
  7. more goodies in The Well-Appointed Desk shop

What are your goals for the New Year?

Batkid Successfully Saves Gotham

(This post is completely and entirely off-topic. Apologies to all and a promise to get back to business ASAP)


As a loyal listener to the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, AKA PCHH, I often spend my Friday afternoon thinking about “what’s making me happy this week.” This week, and Friday in particular, I spent the day glued to a live feed from SF and the adventures of Batkid.

So, this week, San Francisco is making me happy, for giving a little boy the chance to be a hero.

Wanted: Giveaway Winners


I’ve been unable to reach two giveaway winners to send them their goodies. If you are Maggie B. winner of the Poppin 18-month Planner or Suzanne winner of the Floral Bomb assortment giveaway. Please contact me at the Ask The Desk contact form. Tell me the email address you used to enter the drawing and your shipping address. I’m assuming my emails got lost in your junk mail filter.

If I do not hear from either winner by the last day of September, I will draw new names from the original entries and have to give the goodies to a new winner.

As a result, in the future, I will add a 30-day reply window for giveaway winners so please use your regular email address when entering the giveaways here. I promise, they are hidden in my WordPress contact form. I am the only one who sees them unless the giveaway is specifically sponsored by a second-party and I do not keep email addresses.

More Giveaways: And just to sweeten the pot, for those souls who read this whole post, I’m going to give away a Jet Pens gift certificate for $25 just because I can. (Thank you very much, Jet Pens!)

To enter: Leave a comment and tell me what currently on your Jet Pens wishlist to be officially entered.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Saturday, September 21, 2013. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Sunday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). ONE entry per person, please. Please include your email address in the comment form (not in your comment) so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. Gift certificate will sent digitally via JetPens. Winner has 30 days to reply to my email. If I can’t reach you within 30 days, a new winner will be drawn from the original entries.

Bullet Journal

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 11.24.05 AM

A Bullet Journal is not a brand of notebook. Rather, its a method by which to annotate notes to help organize all those random events, ideas and things that need doing. I had not heard about Bullet Journaling until I listened to the most recent Pen Addict podcast, episode #70. The podcast featured an interview with Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal system. I’m fascinated by the idea of creating a system and being more thoughtful about the manner in which I take and keep notes. Unfortunately, the system works best for simple to-do’s and someday-maybe projects and not bigger projects like work assignments with many steps stretched over weeks of months. But there are the beginnings of ways to tackle that. I think blending the Bullet Journal system with GTD might give me a workable paper system.

Have you tried the Bullet Journal? Has it worked for you?

(via Pen Addict Podcast)

Plugging The Firm: Where I work


This video was featured on The Verge this week and features Hallmark and focuses on the precarious state of the greeting card as a means for communication in our modern age. The video also features views of the halls I walk and many people who I’ve worked with over the years (I spent several years in the humor and Shoebox group. Yes, it really is a tiny little division of Hallmark). There are images of our legendary Crown Room (not during lunch), the outside of the building and even some peeks into the cubicles of people I know.

As folks who appreciate analog tools, I hope you also appreciate cards as a way to communicate with family and friends. Not to mention that, without the lovely steady paycheck from Hallmark, this blog might not be here.

PS: Even the Ford ad that bookends the video was filmed in Kansas City.

(Sorry I was unable to embed the video.)

Edit: Updated video and article links on Tuesday, Sept 10 as the original links went bad.

Brand It With Office Supplies




I appreciate any company whose branding leans heavily on quippy uses of office supplies. For one, few jobs are nothing but sparse workspaces and iPhones so of course you need good office supplies. And second, the products aren’t overbranded with the company’s logo but rather with the principles that guide the company.


I’m speaking of the new branding campaign for advertising giant Hill Holliday. They are using stark black and white with liberal Helvetica to create the brand message without using logo-fied golf shirts (don’t do it).


I love that they quoted Yoda on an office wall.


(via Under Consideration with a shout-out to Paper Pastries for the tip)

Did you know… Iridium?

Iridium info from Wired

If you buy fountain pens, then you’ve probably stumbled across the term “iridium-tipped” at some point in regards to fountain pen nibs. But do you know anything about iridium? I knew it was used to harden the nibs of pens but I did not know it was one of the hardest metals in existence. I have also noticed recently that some pen manufacturers are describing the material they use to tip nibs as “iridium alloy”. I also didn’t know that its also one of the most expensive metals in the world.  As of today, iridium is selling for upwards of $925 per troy ounce. For some scale, gold is at about $1300. Crazy.

Nibs.com has a detailed article about the iridium and alternatives used for nibs.

(via Wired 21.08, article is not currently available online but is the current Aug 2013 issue on newsstands today)