Posts Tagged ‘review’

Notebook Review: Baron Fig Apprentice, Time Travel Edition

Baron Fig Apprentice Time Travel Edition

When I placed my order with Baron Fig, I couldn’t just buy one notebook so I also ordered a set of their pocket-sized Apprentice books in the limited edition Time Travel design. The Apprentice notebooks come in a set of three books for $9 so they are in the same competitive price range as other pocket notebooks on the market. They are slightly smaller than most pocket notebooks at 3.5″x5″ rather than the average 3.5″x5.5″ inches. The Apprentice books feature rounded corners and a sewn stitched binding rather than staples which are nice details.

Baron Fig Apprentice Time Travel Edition

I really like the designs printed on the covers and the pleasingly toothy cover stock. The designs are simple but quite appealing.

Baron Fig Apprentice Time Travel Edition

Inside on the card stock is a lightly printed gradient that goes from the paper stock color to a twilight purple at the bottom. It almost looks like an optical illusion. There’s also a dotted line box printed inside the cover for contact info or details about the notebook contents.

Baron Fig Apprentice Time Travel Edition

On the inside of the back cover is teeny tiny branding and info about the books. Its super subtle and understated and I appreciate that. Thanks for not sticking giant logos all over the notebook I paid to use. Most obliged.

Baron Fig Apprentice writing sample

The paper inside the Apprentice is the same weight and color as the larger Confidant. I did, however, mix it up in terms of ruling and got the Apprentice with blank paper which is the only difference in the paper from the Confidant. I do love a blank page.

Baron Fig Apprentice writing sample reverse

There seemed to be a little more show through and even a little  bit of bleed through on the Apprentice than the Confidant which seemed odd. The only thing I could attribute this too is that the smaller book might be more prone to picking up moisture or oils from your hands more quickly since there’s less space overall. That said, with pocket notebooks, the goal is to have paper quickly available and handy with a writing tool that’s also quick and handy and often that EDC pen is not a fountain pen but a gel, ballpoint, rollerball or pencil which should not present any problems with the Baron Fig paper.

Baron Fig Apprentice Time Travel Edition

The absolute best thing, in my humble opinion about the Baron Fig Apprentice notebooks? They perfectly fit inside my Midori Traveler’s Notebook Star Edition Passport Sized. Perfect fit.

Baron Fig Apprentice Time Travel Edition

Overall, the Time Travel Edition of the Apprentice is a beautiful little pocket notebook set with fair-to-above-average ink handling. The books are beautifully constructed but I’m not inclined to combine them with many of my fountain pens in order to utilize both sides of the 48-page book’s sheets. And the fact that these books fit perfectly in passport-sized Midori Traveler’s is a win-win.

Notebook Review: Baron Fig Confidant

Baron Fig Confidant

I finally decided to take the plunge and order the Baron Fig Confidant notebook ($16). I purchased the Dot Grid format which was widely recommended by other paper-and-pen enthusiasts. I haven’t bought an A5-ish sized  hard cover notebook in a long time so it was about time. Though, the Baron Fig Confidant is actually a bit smaller than an A5, if you want to get technical, at 5.4″ x 7.7″.

Baron Fig Confidant

The book ships in a protective paperboard box with an advertising specification sheet included on top extolling the features of the Confidant such as the lay-flat design, acid-free paper, 12 perforated pages in the back of the notebook, and its 192 page count.

The book itself has a soft warm-grey, book cloth cover and a sunshine-yellow, cotton ribbon bookmark. The corners are rounded which are aesthetically appealing. The book does not have any closure elastics or inner pockets and the interior branding is minimal.

The first thing I noticed was the bookmark was already starting to fray even before I removed my book. I love the idea of ribbon bookmarks but I’m always peeved if the ends are treated to keep them from fraying.

Baron Fig Confidant

I didn’t have any Fray Check handy (available in the sewing section of your local craft shop) so I applied a liberal dollop of white glue (like Elmer’s) to the end of the bookmark to keep it from fraying any further. The photo above is before the glue has dried completely so you can see how much I applied. Once dry the glue is clear and should protect the ribbon from fraying any further.

Baron Fig Confidant

Now, on to the all-important paper and writing samples. The paper is a soft, warm white rather than an ivory or bright white. I think its a happy medium for daily writing and note-taking. Its not so yellowy as to dramatically change ink colors but not a harsh bright white that might blind with tis glare during an early morning writing session.

When I first opened the book the grey printed dots seemed large to me but once I started writing, they really disappeared visually for me. As someone who generally favors blank notebooks used in conjunction with a guide sheet, this was a pleasant surprise. Often times I find printed lines are too dark for the fine lined tools and light colored inks I like to use. The Baron Fig dot grid did not interfere with my writing.

AS I tested my variety of pens, the only issues I had was with the Kaweco Ruby Red cartridge in the J. Herbin Rollerball. It took a long time to dry which I find often happens with some red fountain pen inks when combined with the overhand left-handed writer. All the gel pens, ballpoint and felt tipped pens worked beautifully and the paper has a pleasant texture making pencils enjoyable on the paper as well.

The fountain pens I tried fall into the “everyday use” category like the Pilot Varisty, Kaweco Sports and Liliput and a couple TWSBIs and I threw in my new Super 5 with the 0.5mm stub italic nib just to see how it would work. There was no feathering on the paper with any of the fountain pens, not even the Super 5.

Baron Fig Confidant

From the reverse side of the paper, there was a little show through with the TWSBI filled with Sailor Jentle Yama Dori. I love the color of this ink but its been the culprit of show through on all the notebooks I’ve been testing lately. Alternately, the Super 5 with the stock blue cartridge it shipped with had NO show through at all so sometimes, you have to blame the ink for being particularly showy. The only other show through I got with this batch of test pens was the Retro 51 Tornado with the Schmidt with the P8126 refill. Its a rich dark black but the show through is minimal with no real bleed through.

Baron Fig Confidant

All in all, I’m quite pleased with the performance of the paper in the Baron Fig Confidant. Its definitely better quality paper than A5 notebooks found in most book shops these days for a similar price. I do worry that the light grey covers will show dirt and oils easily so I’ll be curious how the book looks after its been used regularly. Hopefully, my book mark hack will keep the sunny yellow ribbon from fraying into oblivion which is really my only grumble.

Gourmet Pens put the Baron Fig through its paces including extensive fountain pen tests and ink drying times if you’re looking for more thorough testing. Check Pennaquod for dozens of other reviews on the Baron Fig Confidant.

Notebook: Calepino Pocket Books

Calepino notebook

I’ve been wanting to try out the Calepino pocket notebooks for a long time. Its been hard to find a US seller that stocks them though so I’d put if off until I discovered CW Pencil Enterprise. A set of three notebooks in the kraft box is $10 which is competitive with most other pocket notebooks on the market.

The Calepino books are 3.5×5.5″, exactly the same as Field Notes so if you have a cover you use, these will fit into it as well. The right hand corners are nicely rounded and the books have two staples on the spine.

The Calepino notebooks are available in several different paper linings (dot grid, grid, lined and blank) and each style features a different color stripe on the front. If you’re inclined to keep a lined notebook for lists and a grid or dot grid for doodles, you’ll quickly be able to identify which is which from the stripes on the cover.

Calepino notebook

I love the heavy, kraft paper box that the notebooks are packaged in. The box has a tab in the back and then unfolds to open. No glue was used in the constructing the box and there’s information printed in side the box in French. I plan to keep the unused books in the box and then will store used books back in the box. I seldom have a desire to keep packaging so this is high praise indeed.

Calepino notebook

Inside the covers is an area to include your contact info. The paper inside is white with fine orange-y lines. The lines are thin enough to be largely unobtrusive, even with the lightest or finest tools.

Calepino notebook

There’s a little bit of tooth to the paper which helps slow down slippery gel ink pens and makes the writing experience with pencils and fountain pens very tactile.

Calepino notebook

I tested an assortment of different writing tools. I always test on the back pages of my book so I can refer back later if there was any tool that really didn’t work well. Overall, the range of tools had no big issues on the front of the stock. The Sailor Jentle Yama Dori did soften a little bit on the paper so I’m inclined to think there may be some fountain pen inks that won’t perform as well on this paper as others. But most “everyday carry” tools should work pretty well.

Calepino notebook

From the reverse, there’s a a little bit of show through on the Yama Dori line. I’ve had some show through issues in other notebooks with this ink so I’m going to blame the ink more than the paper here. Overall, for a pocket notebook, the paper performed well and I like the toothiness of the paper. It kept certain tools from feeling too slippery on the paper.

I’m curious now to see the dot grid and grid lines as well and see if they are as unobtrusive as the lined version. I suspect the quality and attention to detail in the other editions of the Calepino notebook will be equally good.

If you’re looking for an option in pocket notebooks that is more utilitarian than collectible, the Calepino is a great contender.

Notebook Review (and Reveal): Code & Quill

Code & Quill prototype notebook

The generous folks at Code & Quill “notebooks for creatives” sent me some of their prototype notebooks to check out. They are already making improvements which shows how fastidious they are about the quality and appearance of these books (see notes at the bottom of this review). The notebooks started out life as a Kickstarter Project which was funded and then some (understatement) so there are definitely folks interested in the concept presented by these notebooks.

The most distinguishing feature of the Code & Quill notebooks is that the pages alternate between dot grid on the left hand pages and indention rule on the right hand pages. Indention rule reminds me of some of the papers form Japan that feature a short tick along the baseline to help with character spacing. For the Code & Quill books, the indentation marks help for writing out programming… the “code” portion of the Code and Quill. The dot grid provides just enough structure for drawing or writing without being distracting.

Both the soft cover and hard cover editions of the books feature 100gsm, acid-free, fine-grain, and ivory paper and both the hard and soft cover books measure 5.5×7.7″.

Code & Quill prototype notebook

The Code & Quill hard cover edition, called Origin, is available with a white or grey pebble-textured PU leatherette (this is a leatherette material covered with a layer of polyurethane for added durability). I love the feel of the pebble texture. The grey is a warm grey and dark enough that dirt and smudges will be well-hidden. The logo is stitched on the cover as a red fabric tag. Its subtle and well done. I appreciate little-to-no branding on my notebooks and this is a pretty good compromise.

The book shipped in a matching tomato red rigid slip case (see prototype notes below). My slip case got a little dented in the post but it did its job protecting my book.

Code & Quill prototype notebook

Inside the covers of the Origin hard cover are bright tomato red end papers with a space blocked out for content or contact information. Origin has 180 pages and features stitched signatures that lay flat.

Code & Quill prototype notebook

Code & Quill prototype notebook

The soft cover, called Traveler, is the same overall dimensions as the Origin but with a soft flexible cover. Its also available with a white cover and a grey cover. I was sent the white cover. It even shipped in a  slip case, too (again, see prototype notes below). The Traveler is a little slimmer than the Origin with just 100 pages. The pages are stitched in, not glued so they will also lay flat.

Code & Quill prototype notebook

Code & Quill prototype notebook

Code & Quill prototype notebook

Both book feature identical paper — dot grid on the left, indention rule on the right. The dot grid and indentation rule are printed in light gray. I wish the dots were a tiny bit smaller but, after my test writing, I found they weren’t as distracting as I thought they’d be.

Code & Quill Writing samples

As is always the case, we all want to know how does the paper take ink? Its the make-or-break for any notebook. I’m happy to report that the Code & Quill paper performed way above average. With all the standard gel, ballpoint and rollerball pens in my reach, the paper worked well. No feathering or bleeding. There was a little show through with the Morning Glory Mach 3 0.38 in black which seemed very odd. I would have expected the Schmidt refills for the Retro 51 to more likely show through but, nope.

I tested a variety of everyday fountain pens, like the Pilot Varsity, a hand full of Kaweco pocket pens, a couple TWSBIs and even the Super 5 with stub nib and there’s a little showthrough with the Varsity but no true bleeding. The only ink I had issues with was the Sailor Jentle Yama-Dori in my TWSBI Mini. The Yama Dori splined a tiny bit and kind of mooshed. I had some drying issues with the J. Herbin rollerball with Kaweco Red ink and the Super 5 required a bit longer dry time than I allowed, hence the smudge at the bottom of the right hand page.

With retail prices of $15 and $20 (comparable with most A5 notebooks sold),the Code & Quill paper is above average in performance. Its not up there with Rhodia Webbies for fountain pen friendliness but the A5 retail for a Webbie is closer to $30.

Code & Quill Writing samples

Can you see how the dots fall back once there is ink on the page? Even the light Sky Blue of the Pilot Frixion Point 04 is visible. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the dot grid and indention grid. I don’t necessarily need indention grid but the tick marks don’t bother legibility and may be useful for making nested lists since nobody wants me coding anything.

Code & Quill writing sample reverse

This is the reverse of my sample writing page. There are a few little dots of show through but overall, both sides of the paper could easily be used.

Code & Quill prototype notebook

The notebooks were designed in the US, but are manufactured in China. Code & Quill are very transparent about the production. In the notebooks, the country of manufacture is printed the end paper in the back of the book.

(photos of modifications provided by Code & Quill)

(photos of modifications provided by Code & Quill)

Some of the changes, based on the initial prototypes:

  • On the hard cover edition, the spine will be more indented and defined.
  • Improvements will be made the paper block so that it sits aligned and recessed inside the covers of the hard cover. This will create a more defined ‘lip’ around the pages. In the second picture below, you can see that the review samples are closer to the white notebook, while the production notebooks will have a page block that is like the light gray notebook.
  • The softcover notebook will be feature a thicker, leatherette cover that is flexible, for added durability and so allow the cover to actually lay flat when the notebook is set down.
  • Finally, the packaging will be changed. Information will be available about these changes when all the details have been finalized.

These books are simple and clean designs overall. There are no closure elastics, ribbon bookmarks or paper pockets in the back cover. If these extras are deal breakers for you, there are ways to make them yourself. I’ve made paper pockets for other notebooks and adding a book strap or bookmark would be easy as well.

Overall, I think these are good quality notebooks and if you’ve been looking for a combination notebook with lines and grid, this is a great option. The grey leatherette cover of the hard cover is worth the $5 upcharge.

If you missed funding the Kickstarter project, you can pre-order either the Origin hard cover ($20) or the Traveler soft cover notebook ($15) from their web site. They are listing shipping to be about 8 weeks out.


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

Pencil Review: Nataraj Platinum Extra Dark 2B

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

One of my other happy purchases from CW Pencil Enterprises was a dozen box of Indian-made Nataraj Platinum Extra Dark pencils ($0.30 each/ $3.60 per dozen). The package included a dozen pre-sharpened pencils and a plastic pencil sharpener.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The pencils remind me a bit of the Staedtler Rally pencils with the alternating stripes of color on the hex panels. Where the Rally pencils are navy and white, the Nataraj are black and metallic silver. On one side, the brand name is stamped in silver and on the reverse panel is the pesky bar code. Oh, I hate those bar code but at least its on the reverse from the logo branding.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The lead does write quite darkly as described on the package. It will smudge a bit which could be nice for sketching or if you like a dark line. Even with the dark line, the point did not dull as quickly as I expected it to which is a good thing.

The pencils have a traditional silver ferrule and white eraser but the white eraser cap is CRAP. Its one of the worst I’ve ever used. You might as well flick it off so that you don’t use it accidentally.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The pencil sharpens nicely with a hand sharpener and write smoother once sharpened than it does with the pre-sharpened points.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The biggest shocker was the little plastic sharpener. It sharpened an excellent point and made beautiful shaving roses.

I’d grade this pencil a B-. The eraser really killed it for me but the pencil performance is above average. The cheap-y sharpener is really good for a freebie.

Pencil Review: Ito-Ya

ito-ya-1

A big shoutout to Andy Welfle at Woodlcinched and the Erasable Podcast for sending me this treasure from San Francisco. The Ito-Ya pencil is a smooth round pencil with an almost red-lacquer-like finish and a black rubberized dip end. The only printing on the pencil is the gold foil “ITO-YA” close to the rubber dipped end.

ito-ya-2

There’s a little feedback noise on the paper (the scritch, scritch sound on the paper as I write) but its quite minimal and overall the experience of this pencil is smooth. It writes a fairly dark line and smudges a bit which can be a little messy for a lefty.

The lines erased super clean with the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser and did a passable job with the Black Pearl which pairs well with the ITO-YA pencil nicely. Very Japanese together.

My personal preference is for hex or triangular pencils so this isn’t an A+ for me but a solid B+ pencil. If you like round pencils, I’m sure you’ll rate it higher.

The ITO-YA pencil can be purchased online through Pencils.jp for ¥65 each.

Ink Review: Kaweco Paradise Blue

Kaweco Paradise Blue ink

Kaweco Paradise Blue is a pretty good match for my TWSBI Diamond 580 in Christmas Green. The pen body is a little more green than the ink color but not too bad a match.

Kaweco Paradise Blue ink

Kaweco Paradise Blue ($17.50 for a 30ml bottle) is a turquoise ink that leans a bit more green than most turquoise inks. It’s my second favorite Kaweco ink after Summer Purple because the hue is so unusual for a company that only makes a handful of colors. The label color is a little misleading as it shows a more bluish color.

Paradise Blue dries quickly and is not as watery as the closest color match I could find, De Atramentis Petrol which would make Paradise Blue a better option for wider nibbed pens.

Kaweco Paradise Blue ink

In my hunt for comparison inks, I didn’t find too many colors that were similar. In terms of darkness, Paradise Blue fell between two offerings from De Atramentis: Petrol, which is a little bit darker and Mint Turquoise, which is a little lighter color overall. Most inks that aspire for a turquoise hue are much bluer. Paradise Blue walks that fine line between the slightly greenier hues that I found as a comparison and the much bluer turquoise inks like Lamy Turquoise or Sheaffer Skrip Turquoise.

Overall, Kaweco Paradise Blue is a good, solid ink in a pleasing color at a reasonable price.


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

Pencil Review: Kaweco Special 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil

Kaweco Special 0.7mm pencil

The Kaweco Special 0.7mm mechanical pencil is a bit wider pencil than I expected. It feels in the hand like a jumbo pencil. Luckily the anodized metal, hexagonal octagonal finish is warm and soft in the hand and quite comfortable. I thought the metal finish might be too slick but its not a shiny finish and the tapered end has a bit more tooth to it to keep fingers from sliding down.

Kaweco Special 0.7mm pencil

The stock lead in the Kaweco Special Pencil is super super smooth. The great thing about mechanical pencils is that you can change lead hardness or lead brands, but the stock Kaweco leads are an excellent option. I was quite pleased with the smoothness.

Kaweco Special 0.7mm pencil

The most unusual aspect of the Kaweco Special 0.7 is that under the presser button is the teeny, tiniest, little eraser. Its absolutely dorky how tiny it is in comparison to the size of the pencil and the lead thickness. Erasing one word with this eraser and most of the eraser is used up. I’d definitely recommend using a handheld eraser instead of this little dude. He’s for emergencies only.


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

Ink Review: Diamine 150 Years 1864 Blue Black

daimine 1864 blue-black ink

The Diamine 150 years inks were on my inky radar as soon as I heard about them. Rare, historical or limited edition inks always set my fingers alight on the keyboard over the “buy it now” button.

There are eight colors in this collection, each bottle is a pie-shaped wedge that holds 40ml of ink and sells for $17.50 per bottle. I find the pie shaped wedge bottle a little odd and they have to be packed into the square boxes with padding so the bottles don’t shift around. When one or more bottles are put next to each other, they fit together. If all eight bottles are together, they form a full circle.

daimine 1864 blue-black ink

I knew immediately that I would want to try the 1864 Blue Black since I love blue black inks.Its a deep, dark blue-black so it doesn’t show a lot of shading even with my Lamy Studio with its 1.1mm stub nib.

Like most Diamine inks,the 1864 Blue Black is well-behaved and pretty quick-drying.

daimine 1864 blue-black ink

In the swab, I notice a bit of a reddish halo in the 1864 Blue Black that reminds me a bit of the Pilot IroshizukuTsuki-Yo though Tsuki-Yo is a bit more teal and the halo is a bit more reddish-purple. But the 1864 Blue Black is almost have the price of a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku which is a consideration. Compared tot he Kaweco Midnight Blue, the Diamine 1864 Blue Black is a little more indigo, ever-so-slightly to violet. Isn’t it amazing the little differences between ink shades? I love that there are little variations in ink colors.

I’m glad to add this color to my library.


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

Ink Review: Kaweco Royal Blue

Kaweco Royal Blue ink

When you live in Kansas City, Royal Blue has a very distinct connotation. Very baseball. But lucky for Kaweco, their Royal Blue ink is really spot-on for the local interpretation for the color. Kaweco Royal Blue, in writing, reminds me of a lot of those vintage “washable blue” inks like the old Sheaffer Skrip ink. If you like blue inks or something that looks like your grandfather might have penned letters to your grandma while stationed overseas, this is a good candidate.

Kaweco Royal Blue ink

There’s some shading and its overall a well-behaved ink. Kaweco Royal Blue is everything you’d want or expect from a classic “true blue” ink. I’m not always inclined to gravitate towards blue-blue inks, this one is not a bad option. Its classic, old-world blue.

Kaweco Royal Blue ink

When compared to a few other true blues, its easy to see the violet undertones in the Kaweco Royal Blue ($17.50) — giving it the “royal treatment”, so to speak. Its brighter than the Parker Quink Blue Black ($8.75) I have and darker than the Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuyu-Kusa ($28). Price wise, Kaweco Royal Blue falls between these two inks as well — not a budget ink but not premium-priced either.


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

Review: ALL The Erasable Pens (Pilot Frixion + Uni Fanthom)

Pilot Frixion Uni Fanthom Erasable Pens

Since delving into using a paper planner this year, one of the tools frequently mentioned in conjunction with a paper planner is the Pilot Frixion erasable pen. I’ve acquired a couple Pilot Frixion Color Markers and an 04 gel pen on my travels in Hong Kong but I didn’t really understand why someone might use one. In a standard notebook, I’m fine just crossing something out something. However, in the limited real estate of the week-on-two-pages format, having a meeting move from Monday morning to Tuesday afternoon to “no, let’s meet Tuesday morning” means that crossing out might not be the best solution. So, I’m starting to understand why folks are such loyalists to the Pilot Frixion gel pens.

Pilot offer the Frixion line in gel pen, “point” pens which seem more akin to a needlepoint rollerball like a Pilot V5 Precise or Morning Glory Mach 3, markers and even highlighters. I’m probably missing a variation but this covers a lot of pen needs. Pilot also offers Frixion colored pencils but erasable pencils are not as novel as a good erasable pen, IMHO.

Pilot Frixion Uni Fanthom

(Please ignore my misspelling of “erasable”. I do know how to spell it and I could have erased this but I didn’t notice the mistake until after I had already photographed the pages. Mea culpa.)

Pilot Frixion Gel 0.5

The Frixion erasable pens work because the heat caused by the friction of “erasing” makes the ink vanish. I received a letter this summer from a friend that was almost completely unreadable. It turns out it was written with a Frixion pen and must have either been left in the sun or out in a hot delivery truck that caused the writing to almost completely vanish. So, there’s the rub (pardon the pun). I would recommend keeping any writing done with Frixion pens to ephemeral data like calendar events and make sure that you don’t leave your calendar in a hot car.

I was worried that I might have to give up the convenience of a multi-pen if I switched to the Frixion gel pens for my planner but lo-and-behold, no. I can have my cake and erase it too with the Frixion 3-color Gel Ink Multi-Pen ($9.90).

I also noticed that Uni makes their own erasable pens called Fanthom, so I bought the 3-pack of 0.5mm with red, blue and black pens in the set ($10) to compare the quality. Both the Frixion 3-Color Gel Multi-Pen and the Uni Fanthom 3-pack use a conical rollerball-style pen tip. The Frixion pens feature a translucent rubbery “eraser” where the Uni Fanthom have a hard rubber cap that is supposed to be used to erase. The Fanthom caps just didn’t seem like an eraser to me but they worked.

Uni Fanthom Erasable Pens

The Uni Fanthom 0.5 pens had similar color in writing but erasing with the hard rubber cap left more residue and the black ink left a distinctly brownish haze on the paper. I can see why the Frixion pens are much more popular than the Fanthom.

Pilot Frixion Gel 0.38

I discovered that there are refills that will fit into the Frixion Multi-Pens that are available in a myriad of colors and some smaller tip sizes. So, I bought those too. While red, black and blue are good basic colors, the great thing about multi-pens is the array of ink colors available and I’m glad to see that the Frixion line is well-represented here.

Pilot Frixion 04 Point

I also tried out the Frixion 04 Point line available in a 5-pack ($18). When compared to the conical gel refills for the Frixion multi-pen, I liked the color intensity better with the Point pens. They more liquid ink left a slightly more contrasty color on paper which made the colors more legible, even in the lighter pink and orange colors.

Pilot Frixion Highlighter

I really liked the idea of erasable highlighters too so I grabbed a 3-pack of the Frixion Light Soft Color Highlighters, 3-pack for $4.95. Using the erasable highlighter over erasable ink leads to a completely erased page, so be warned. Using the erasable highlighters over standard gel ink (I used a Uni Style Fit Multi-Pen) left a smudgy mess. The highlighters might perform better with other types of pens for erasing so more testing is probably in order if you want to try these out. Using the erasable highlighters with text books, printouts or other documents would be a great option though. And the mild colors are bright but not blinding. I like the set a lot.

Pilot Frixion highighter smudge

Overall, I like using a specific ink color in my planner for specific activities (purple for work, green for personal, blue for general events and holidays… etc) and there are enough Pilot Frixion pen options to keep color-coding my planner while allowing for erasing as activities change, get cancelled or need to be moved.

Maybe one of our scientifically inclined cohorts will put the Frixion pens to the test? I’m thinking of Ms. Fountain Pen Physicist specifically who can put a more scientific spin to her test than I can.

Jeff over at The Pen Addict recently wrote his own write-up about the Pilot Frixion Ball Knock Series if you need more erasable pen impressions.

For more information and detailed information about all the myriad forms that Frixion pens are available in, check out Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens: A Comprehensive Guide on Jet Pens.


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

Ink Review: J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey

J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey

It certainly took me long enough to write a review of this equally coveted and disdained ink. The new(-ish) J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey ($27) “stormed” onto the market last year with raves and jeers. It took me an age to finally acquire a bottle as every place was selling out of it faster than I could place an order. Then finally, I got on Jet Pens’ email notification list and snagged a bottle of my very own.

This is a “made for me” sort of ink. I love grey inks, anything with historical implications and, hey, sparkles are a bonus! Of course, there are some warnings and downsides with the gold fleck inclusions in this ink but c’mon, who doesn’t love a fancy gold sheen?

J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey

When first using this ink, be sure to shake the gold flecks off the bottom of the bottle as they tend to settle. I suspect that if you leave the ink in your pen for any length of time, you may want to roll or shake the pen to redistribute the gold as well.

The warning that comes with the ink says the ink will stain so if you have a rare, vintage or super collectible pen, you may not want to use this ink with it or leave Stormy Grey in the pen for any extended length of time.

Now that I’ve finished with the “Don’t try this at home, kids” PSA, I had no noticeable flow issues in my Lamy Studio with 1.1mm stub nib, The ink flowed nicely, the grey color is dark and legible and I could discern some gold sparkle as the ink was drying. The gold flecks were less noticeable once dry in standard writing but the ink does have nice shading which more than made up for it.

J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey

In large swatches, the gold flecks are quite noticeable so this ink would show its best form with a flex nib, music nib or other ink-drenched application. I actually quite liked drawing with it with my paint brush.

J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey

Compared with other grey inks in my library, Stormy Grey is a bit bluer and darker than my others. De Atramentis Silver Grey was probably closest in hue but not as dark and the Mont Blanc Meisterstück 90 year Permanent Grey is a little more greenish but about as dark.

Bottom line: J. Herbin Stormy Grey is an ink collector’s ink. If you need a good workhorse grey that is not going to clog your pen or cost as much as a decent dinner-for-two, then this is not the ink for you. But if you like having a bottle of something “a little different, a little special” then grab a bottle of this when you see it available.

Review: Staedtler Rally #2 HB Pencil

Staedtler Rally Pencil

I found Staedtler Rally #2 HB pencils in dozen packs in the clearance section of my local Office Depot so I couldn’t resist picking up a few dozen. These hexagonal pencils feature clean white and navy stripes on alternating hex facets, they come pre-sharpened and have a silver ferrule and white eraser top. Even at $3.49 per dozen, these seem to be a good value.

The packaging indicates that these pencils are made in Thailand and distirbuted through Staedtler Canada.

The paint on the pencils are nice but there is a pesky bar code printed on the pencil below the pencil brand info which is super annoying. I hate bar codes on my pencils, especially if I purchased them in a box of a dozen or more. What is up with this? My box of granola bars don’t have bar code on each individually wrapped bar, why should my pencils?

Staedtler Rally Pencil

The bright white eraser tops made me hope beyond hope that the erasers were Staedtler Mars erasers. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? But, alas, no. Not even close.

Staedtler Rally Pencil

Though pre-sharpened, I tend to re-sharpen my pencils which give a smoother first experience. I find the pre-sharpened points a little rough. The Staedtler Rally is no different here. When writing with the pre-sharpened point, its a little scratchy but after a couple twists in my Dux Variabel sharpener, the writing experience in much improved.

In writing, I got a little feedback noise on the paper but very mild. For a middle-of-the-range pencil, its totally acceptable. I wish Staedtler hadn’t bothered with the eraser caps if they aren’t going to use their flagship eraser on these. The eraser is utter crap. The paint and graphics are printed better than a lot of American pencil brands these days so in terms of looks the Rally is a nice looking pencil despite the bar code.

I think listening to the Erasable Podcast has made me want to “grade” my pencils. So, I give the Staedtler Rally a C — its a good pencil with a crap eraser that can be purchased at your local big box store. If you pair it with a REAL Staedtler Mars plastic eraser, I’d bump it up to a B+.

 

Ink Review: Kaweco Ruby Red

Kaweco Ruby Red Ink

Kaweco inks are not coveted, collectible inks, they are workhorse inks in standard, appealing colors. Ruby Red is no different.  Kaweco Ruby Red ink is a warm, slightly-pinky-hued red ink. I think it would be perfect for penning love notes, Valentines or scribing red-letter ideas. It performs well with no splining or feathering on most papers and it dries relatively quickly, even on premium Rhodia stock. The ink shades a bit that adds some character to the ink which is pleasant.

Kaweco Ruby Red Ink

I carried my TWSBI Mini loaded with Kaweco Ruby Red all week and it did not have any hard starts or issues with the ink performance. The color though is just not a favorite of mine. But to be fair, I don’t tend to lean towards red inks in general so its not anything about this particular red. I’m just not a “red ink girl.”

Kaweco Ruby Red Ink

Compared with other red inks in my library, Ruby Red is not as pinky as J. Herbin Rouge Opera which was recommended to me as a “great red” by a red ink lover.  Both Diamine Red Dragon and Noodler’s Rattler Red Eel are more of a true red-leaning-towards-orange than either the Kaweco Ruby Red or the J. Herbin Rouge Opera. In writing, I don’t think any of this inks would be misconstrued as pink rather than red so it would come down to a personal preference regarding ink costs and overall performance requirements. Noodler’s Rattler Red Eel is a lubricated ink which may have extended dry times but might perform better in EF nibs. J. Herbin standard ink like Rouge Opera tend to be a bit more watery than other ink brands. I think the closest competitor to the Kaweco Ruby Red would be the Diamine Red Dragon in terms of general dry times and ink performance and the Diamine is a bit deeper red that could look considerably darker in a fine line than the Ruby Red.

So… in the end, Ruby Red is a good option if you’re looking for a consistent performing red ink. (Kaweco Inks can be purchased from your favorite online retailer for about $15/bottle)


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

Review: Yoropen Z3

yoropen-1

This review for the Yoropen Z3 was a long time coming. When I heard about the Kickstarter project to create a new version of the Yoropen, that is designed to reduce hand strain and improve ergonomics, I was super excited to get one in my hand. When it arrived though, I had that “this is weird” reaction. I knew it was me being short-sighted so I wanted to let the experience simmer a little to get over my initial snobby reaction.

yoropen-6

It is a very USS Enterprise looking tool in metal with a grippy rubber grip and funky space capsule-with-a-tail cap. Its not a simple straight tube that I’m accustomed for pens to look.

yoropen-7

Even the refill had to be specifically designed to fit into the Yoropen with a sharp bend in the tube to accommodate the ergonomic angle of the tip-to-grip shape.

yoropen-5

The cap will post on the pen but the flyaway clip makes for a very awkward look and feel. One of the first things I noticed was how easily the grippy section picked up paper dust and lint. Its super squishy but the gritty paper dust was visually unpleasant to me. (The Grip is totally black… in the photos you can see a hazy fuzz which is paper dust.)

I let my husband take the pen for a test rive too and his first comment was “How do you get the cap off?” The cap fits very snuggly (VERY snuggly) on the pen and the cap must be put back onto the pen at a specific position as the clip rests along the grip section. The cap won’t fit on in any other way which is a little annoying. The end of the cap is also very pointy so I would not recommend using the heel of your hand to push the cap into place. Ouch.

The clip is loose enough to clip the pen to a binder or notebook cover though the grippy grip does create some friction when clipping the pen.

yoropen-3

As an AWKWARD (overhanded, hooked) left-handed writer, I had high hopes that the ambidextrous Yoropen with ergonomic grip would be a lefty dream. Of course, I didn’t read the instruction first so I found the grip a little peculiar. Do I hold the pen like this?

yoropen-2

Or like this? No. You RTFM, Ana.

yoropen-8

Ah… I needed to twist the grip section 180º to accommodate a left-hander.

yoropen-9

Ah, ha. Better.

Both in my writing tests and when my husband tried it, we both felt very lukewarm about the overall balance and feel. Its a very different writing experience that may take time to get used to. Like using a Wacom Tablet or computer mouse for the first time, the Yoropen approaches the experience of writing differently than other tools.

yoropen-4

My biggest stumbling block with the Yoropen is that I really don’t like writing with ballpoint. My handwriting looks atrocious. However, the ballpoint refill in the Yoropen performed exceptionally well for me with no stutters or smudges that I usually suffer from. So, if you like ballpoints, this is an interesting pen to add to your collection.

If you are suffering from any sorts of hand issues (arthritis or carpal tunnel), the Yoropen is definitely a tool you might want to try. The Yoropen is unusual and will be a conversation starter wherever you use it. Aesthetically, its space-age but its more Star Trek than Alien so its not scary, just unusual. (Bob says “More Wesley Crusher, less Worf.”)

I hope, in the future, Yoropen can create some gel or rollerball refills for the Yoropen because I’d like to try the pen again but the ballpoint ink just puts my teeth on edge.

The Yoropen Z3 starts at $64.99. Grip can be purchased in different colors, ballpoint refills start at $2.40 each.


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

More J. Herbin Mini Bottles

J. Herbin Mini Ink Bottles

I love the look and miniature size of the J. Herbin mini ink bottles which has lead me to purchase a few colors every time I place an order at Jet Pens. Its just enough ink to enjoy without having an excess. A lot of J. Herbin’s inks are light, bright and floral-y so a little bottle for letter writing or a special occasion is just right. And I’m not stuck with a vat of it if its not a favorite.

The latest four colors I picked up make a case on both sides of this. The Violette Pensee and the Larmes de Cassis are colors I think I could use. The bright, vivid color of the Violette Pensee will be a fun summer color and the Larmes de Cassis is a dusty, reddish purple that is a color I am always attracted to — a tertiary, complex hue. So, I feel like these were good investments. The Gris Nuage and Boutan d’Antan were a true waste of fund. Gris Nuage is so light when wet as to be practically invisible. Boutan d’Antan was not much better though both dry darker but it doesn’t help much if you can’t see what you’re writing. So, those two were ink fails as far as I’m concerned.

J. Herbin Mini Bottles are $4.75 each and all standard J.Herbin inks are available in the mini bottles so there are 30 colors to choose from.


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

Ink Review: Kaweco Summer Purple

Kaweco Summer Purple Ink

Kaweco Summer Purple is one of my absolute favorite ink colors. It’s a dark, muted, complex, plum-y purple. More eggplant purple really. When watered down, it reminds me of lilac blossoms. At full-strength, its a subtle, sophisticated purple-black. The closest color comparison I could make is the Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa. However, with the Kaweco Summer Purple, there’s no concern about the iron gall and potential damage to your pens.

Summer Purple doesn’t have a ton of shading but with wider nibs, you get a little color variation. You may decide this is a good thing or not. When writing notes and project planning, I’m less inclined to want a lot of shading as it can affect overall readability. But a little bit of shading can be nice. I think Summer Purple hits a pleasing balance between feeling too flat and being too shading-y for everyday use.

Kaweco Summer Purple is a color that is not too fussy but still adds a little pizazz to your writing. If you’re just dipping inky toes into colors beyond blue, black or blue-black, Summer Purple is a good option.

Kaweco Summer Purple Comparison

I think the closest comparable inks are Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa and Private Reserve Ebony Purple. J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune, Noodler’s Purple Heart and Diamine Grape are all a little bit more reddish purple — less violet, more true purples. If you like your purples with more red, than I recommend these instead.

Isn’t it amazing how much variation exists in ink colors? From subtle to shocking differences at every hue in the rainbow. This is why I love inks!


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

Ink Review: Kaweco Midnight Blue

Kaweco Midnight Blue ink

Kaweco Midnight Blue is one of the blue-blackiest blue-blacks I’ve ever used. At first glance, it appears to be nothing special since its a dark blue black with little-to-no pizazz. But on second glance, this is a workhorse ink. Its not the hot, new color or the “in” ink for 2015. Its a classic. It’s trend proof. Its a beautiful alternative to black ink or a plain blue. Its deep, dark and true to its purpose.

Even on Rhodia paper, Midnight Blue dries pretty quickly. The longer I used it, the more I warmed to this ink. Its like a good comfortable cardigan. It might not be the flashiest thing in your ink closet but I suspect you’ll find yourself coming back to it again and again because it works well and in lots of situations.

Kaweco Midnight Blue Ink Comparison

I used to think that Lamy Blue-Black was my go-to blue black but when I see it side-by-side with Kaweco Midnight Blue, I have to say I prefer the bluer hue of the Midnight Blue ink over Lamy’s more violet undertones.

Kaweco Blue Black is quickly moving into my favorite blue-black and, with its reasonable price (approx. $17.50 for a 30ml bottle), it might just stay there.

My only gripe is the funky label wrap on the bottle. No matter how many ways I try to remove the wrap sticker, I end up with unsightly label residue or weird bits. I keep ink bottles for a long time and I like to keep my favorites on display but the unslightly label shards mean the Kaweco inks are going to be kept out of sight until I find a good method for removing the labels. Which is kind of sad because I like the shape of the Kaweco bottles a good deal.


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

Review: Midori Traveler’s Notebook: Regular Size

Midori Traveler's Notebook and InsertsFull size

I finally invested in a classic, full-size Midori Traveler’s Notebook. This seems to be the one that people love with unending passion so I decided it was time to take the plunge. I found a seller on Amazon that was selling the notebook at a reasonable price (approx. $40) and then I ordered an assortment of refills and accessories from Goulet Pens.

Also pictured above are the two notebook refills I got from Banditapple last year which will, of course, fit perfectly in the MTN.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Full size

One of the most pleasing things about Midori products is the packaging. It is lovingly packaged and feels like a gift while at the same time, being reusable and/or recyclable. The notebook comes in a plain paperboard box and the elastic can be reused on the notebook as a replacement if you prefer the neutral color or snap the original cord. Inside, the book comes in a cotton bag which can be used for storing the notebook or reused for some other purpose.

The initial package includes one blank notebook. That’s it.

For some folks, the sheer cost of the MTN, for what seems so simple and easy to replicate with a home leatherworking tool kit (and includes so few additional pieces in the initial purchase) might dissuade one from making the purchase. I considered making one myself but determined that in the grand time-versus-money debate, I had more space credits than time to mess around with trying to make my own.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Full size

Upon opening the package, I did not notice any excessive odors accept for the light smell of tanned leather.

The simplicity and understated beauty of the Traveler’s Notebook is hard to deny. And the long, narrow size is a lot more appealing than I had anticipated. I know a lot of folks like to add charms and other accoutrements to their MTN but I’m holding off until I am sure how much I’ll use it.

After embracing the ring-bound planner as my method for planning and organization this year, it took awhile for me to figure out how or why I would also use a MTN. This is hot on the heels of all those OTHER notebooks that are currently lying fallow.

Of course, I also wanted to know what all the hullaballoo was about and there is a lot of appeal in the ability to customize what types of writing surfaces I will carry contained in one “book”. So, I decided to use the MTN with just two notebooks to start with: one for knitting projects and planning of said knitting projects and the other for blog planning, ideas and notes.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Comparison

The photo above shows the whole collection of leather notebook covers I own. From left to right; Midori Traveler’s Notebook: Star Edition, Passport Size, Zenok Leatherworks Field Notes Sized, Pelle Journal Regular Size and finally, the Midori Traveler’s Notebook Full Size.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Comparison

The rivet (for lack of a better word) on the spine of the Midori notebooks is a metal disc that can stick up a little bit when trying to lay the notebook open flat but with some manuevering, it will lay on its side making it less noticeable. The Zenok spine is the least intrusive for sure but does add the extra piece of leather.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Full size

On the first pages of the Midori branded notebooks is a place to write a title, description, date or other info before the regular paper stock starts.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Full size InsertsFor the sheer purposes of research, I bought four different refill notebooks in order to do reviews of the paper stocks. I purchased the Kraft brown-014 (which is actually standard writing weight paper in a lovely krafty hue), grid, sketchbook and the “light” paper. The MTN standard refills (blank-003, lined-001, grid-002) have 32 sheets/ 64 pages but the light paper – 013 contains 64 sheet/ 128 pages. There’s a lot of good reviews about the light paper being especially fountain pen friendly so I look forward to trying it out. The sketch paper-012 has only 24 sheets/ 48 pages but is much heavier weight paper designed to accept watercolor as well as lots of inks. The sketch paper has perforated pages while the other books do not.

There were a few inserts I did not try as they were more planner-based like a page-a-day diary and weekly planners in a couple formats. But there is some appeal to have notes and planning contained in one book.

I added a zip pocket insert-008 and I made 6-pocket folder from a file folder using this video tutorial from PoketFullofVintage. Turns out the file folder tutorial works better with an A4-sized filer folder but I made mine works okay, just shorter pockets.

I’ll be doing follow-up reviews specifically about each of the paper types but the fact that there are so many choices is part of the appeal of the MTN. Also, there are lots of tutorials for making your own inserts as well as sources for printing inserts for specific tasks from sources like My Life All in One Place as well as sellers on Etsy.

Overall, I really like the size and shape and I like the weathering that the leather is getting in just the few weeks I’ve owned it. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid but it is tasty, tasty, Kool-Aid.

 

Review:Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

The Kaweco Zequenz notebook is a very different take on a notebook. Its actually two notebooks held together by a z-fold PU leatherette cover. One side is a light brown, the reverse is a dark brown. Around the middle is a wide dark brown elastic with a leatherette embossed logo that creates a pen loop section on the elastic.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Sorry for the slightly out of focus image but its the only shot I took that shows the elastic removed completely from the notebook. This is a plus for anyone who finds the attached elastics on Moleskine-style notebooks annoying. However, I’m concerned I’d misplace the elastic.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Here you can see the z-fold style cover that attaches the two different notebooks. One side is filled with lined paper and the other side with blank paper. The paper is the same shade of white in both books and the same weight, just one is lined and one is not.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

There are 60 sheets of paper in each book and the whole notebook is under one inch thick.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

The line spacing is a bit wider than I usually prefer at 7.5mm. I like 6-7mm but its a nice middle ground for the size of the notebook and general preferences. The ruling is a very fine line in grey so its not distracting and should not interfere with most ink colors or graphite darknesses.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Its a pretty small notebook overall, an A6 (148x105mm or 5.8″x4.1″) which makes it pretty portable, perfect for notes on the go, meetings, or travel journaling. Potentially, one side could be dedicated to work notes and one to home notes or two specific projects. There’s a lot to be intrigued about this notebook set-up.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

I’ve read other reviews (search Pennaquod for “Zequenz” to find all the other recent reviews) about this notebook and a lot of people seemed really disappointed in the ink handling — especially for a company know to sell a wide assortment of fountain pens with lots of nib sizes. So, for me, I went into the testing expecting the worst. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised. The paper is super smooth making it pleasing to write upon.

I started the tests with fountain pens and didn’t see any feathering or terrible bleeding but I did not put it to the limits. There was a little softness with some pen/ink combos but I made a point to test with either a Kaweco pen or Kaweco ink and the paper held up pretty well.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

From the reverse side, you can see a little show through and I suspect a darker ink would have shown some bleed through but overall my results were not as terrible as I had been expecting. The paper is definitely better than a Moleskine notebook and its a soft white instead of the yellowy ivory color so that’s something.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Where the paper really seemed to shine was in testing everyday gel and rollerball pens and pencils. Pencils were particularly nice on the super smooth paper. I can see where sketching on this paper would be quite pleasing.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Again, there’s a little show through on the reverse even with the non-fountain pens but not so bad that I wouldn’t use both sides of the paper.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

What I did notice was that my Sport Series pens did not fit into the pen loop very well, at least not securely enough for me. That was super annoying.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook

Full-sized Kaweco pens like the Dia II and Student fit snugly but do fit into the loop. I suspect the Special series is too slender to fit the loop so the pen loop on the elastic has limited uses. I would probably just use a clip on the Sport series pens, and clip it to the elastic band.

Overall I’m intrigued with the Zequenz. I appreciate that Kaweco tried to do something different with their notebook but I feel like a few of the decisions made in production were iffy at best. I think I’d prefer the Zequenz to be a customizable system. At present, there’s just one option with the notebook and if you don’t like one or the other paper format, you might just walk away from the Zequenz altogether. I’d like to to be able to choose a real leather cover rather than PU and for the books be slip-in inserts. That way I could choose which two notebooks and/or replace one side or the other as needed. Then notebooks could be offered in plain, lined or grid, and maybe a heavier stock specifically for fountain pens. If the elastic either had no pen loop or I could choose between a small, medium or large loop, that would also be preferable. Am I just envisioning a z-fold cover version of a Midori Traveler’s Notebook? I might be.


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

Review: TWSBI Diamond 580 in Christmas Green

TWSBI 580 in Christmas Green

I bought myself a little green Christmas present in the form of the TWSBI Diamond 580 in Christmas green color ($50). The body of the pen, where the ink reservoir is, is still transparent but the cap and piston end are a lovely green color. It’s not a kelly green which I thought it might be but rather has just a hint of blue making it very unique color — like tender blue spruce maybe. The color tickles me.

TWSBI 580 in Christmas Green

I’ve owned a Diamond 540 and the 580 is pretty much identical in size, shape and weight. Since I gave my 580 away awhile ago, I can’t do a side-by-side, but to the naked eye, there is no distinct design difference. I think they just improved the materials to eliminate the cracking issue in the early 540 line.

The 580 shipped in the same cardboard outer box and clear plastic inner box that my 540 and TWSBI Mini arrived in. I like the packaging. Its pleasing to look at without feeling too over-the-top.

TWSBI 580 in Christmas Green

I ordered the 580 with an F nib and it has ended up being smoother than my previous EF nibs. I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly it wrote and didn’t feel all that much broader than the EF.

TWSBI 580 in Christmas Green

TWSBI 580 in Christmas Green

The 580 in green is another fine product from TWSBI. If you’ve been considering adding a TWSBI to your collection, the 580 is a great option and is available in a lot of color configurations.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpIn the wake of the new year, I decided I might try to read up on how to get more organized. One of the first books to come into my field of vision was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Its a thin volume with a very repetitive set of instructions on how to best de-clutter and the order in which to tackle the task.

As I was reading it, there were some keen observations. I specifically liked thinking about her suggestion to “hold each item in your hands and ask yourself if it brings you joy”. While this is appealing in theory, the practical application is not. I read Tif Fusel’s review of this book and her husband’s response: “my leaf blower and lawn mower bring me no joy, i do not need to hold them in my hand to know that. shall i thank them, then get rid of them so we can slowly be buried under a pile of yard waste?” And this, is the crux of my issue with the whole book. There are lots of things that we keep in our homes that bring us no joy — snow shovels, for example — but that we need to keep for those moments that require their use. We might be required to dress in a certain way for work that may provide us with no joy but is required like a suit or uniform. Though I suppose from the book, we could glean that we should limit how much this un-joyful stuff should take up in our homes and our hearts.

However, we also keep many things in our homes that bring us no joy, that we hold onto out of obligation (“But grandma gave it to me for Christmas!”) and things we think we might need one day (I really want to learn to arrange flowers, needlepoint, whittle, play the harp, etc). These are the things that Ms. Kondo is trying to convince us to unburden ourselves of keeping.

There is a large focus in the book about weeding out excess clothing, books and papers that is at the core of many people’s personal clutter. She did not go into any detail about how to balance the clutter of work-at-home offices or anyone with a specific hobby that may occupy a good deal of space. She filed all of this in her “miscellany” category which I think is a bit short-sighted.

As a product blogger, much of my excess is in the form of piles of notebooks, pens, inks and other office supplies.  I have some ideas about how to remove a lot of the excess from my stash but it will require time and effort on my part which is why I haven’t tackled it yet. Sadly, for me, its not laziness but a limit to the amount of time I have to accomplish MANY tasks and a need to prioritze which gets done this week and what has to wait. I think that applies to many people as well. Whether its cleaning out a clothes closet or sorting through bank papers — how much time to we have to devote to these tasks rather than spending time with friends, family or a favorite book.

Ms. Kondo also talked repeatedly about removing bags upon bags of garbage. The environmentalist in me got itchy at the idea of all this stuff ending up in landfills. As I attempted to integrate some of her ideas into my own life, I made bags and boxes for charity and put my paper shredder to use so that most of the paper materials I got rid of could be recycled. I’ve already taken three bags to charity and four boxes to the second-hand bookshop and that’s just the tip of my efforts to get rid of excess.

In the end, the perspective that she provided about thinking through what we own and why we hold onto things was enlightening. And her parting message is that by clearing away the detritus — those unloved, ill-fitting, no-longer-interesting things from our lives — we leave room for new things and new experiences. This is that part that was appealing.

Review: Platinum Preppy 0.2 EF Fountain Pen

Platinume Preppy EF 0.2 fountain Pen

Whenever someone mentions a cursory curiosity in fountain pens, I recommend trying a Platinum Preppy. Personally, I find the nib to be fine enough on the Platinum Preppy not to scare away a new user accustomed to rollerballs, ballpoints and the occasional gel pen. And at $4, its the financial commitment equivalent of a venti mocha at Starbucks. But now, there’s another option: the Platinum Preppy 02 EF, an even finer version.

For me, the Preppy 02 is a good entry into the world of needle fine Japanese fountain pens. And its cost is a more like a venti peppermint mocha with an extra shot ($5). So, still… not a huge financial commitment.

Platinume Preppy EF 0.2 fountain Pen

With the introduction of the Preppy 02 EF, Platinum is re-branding the whole Preppy line. Instead of having tinted nibs to match the ink colors, all the Preppies will have silver tone nibs and the ink colors will be indicated by the design details on the pen. I preferred the aesthetic looks of the old Preppy design but I’m willing to overlook the aethetics for a $5 EF Japanese nib. Because, let’s be honest, Platinum decided to use the mass market disposable pen approach to the graphics on the new Preppy line. I’d rather the clear plastic show the inner workings than mucking up the whole pen with silvery printed graphics. But that’s just me.

Platinume Preppy EF 0.2 fountain Pen

If you’ve not tried the original Preppy, its a fully plastic pen with a Platinum fountain pen cartridge. Some people do modify these pens to be eyedropper pens though I don’t know if the new design will support this (I haven’t looked for holes in the plastic that would inhibit this use). Its a fairly lightweight pen with a cap that will post to give a bit more weight to the pen. The clip is also plastic but its pretty sturdy for being plastic and looks similar in construction to the original Preppy.

Platinume Preppy EF 0.2 fountain Pen

In writing tests, this pen performed exceptionally well. I used the stock cartridge that shipped with the pen and started writing. It is a tiny bit scratchy — not rough in writing but I could hear the sound of my writing on the paper as a “scritch, scritch” which I suspect is a result of how fine the nib is. But I really like it. I’m a little ashamed to like writing with a $5 pen so much when I have a cupboard full of much more expensive pens. But this is a good pen to try if you’re curious about an ultra-fine Japanese nib. It won’t be for everyone but at $5, its worth taking it for a test drive.

I purchased mine from Goulet Pens but other retailers are starting to stock the Preppy 02 EF so you have options. In the meantime, if you preferred the look of the original Preppy pens, go grab them now because all the Preppy line will be replaced with the silvery painted versions soon. I suspect the markers and highlighters will also get the updated look. Ugh.

Review: Nock Co DotDash Pocket Notebook (and Giveaway)

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

The big news just before the holidays was the launch of the new NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebooks. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on these. Everything NockCo has done thus far has been excellent and I expected no less from these pocket notebooks.

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

Inside the front cover is space to include personal information and notes. There’s also a message at the bottom that if the notebook is found, to contact NockCo directly. I’m not entirely sure what NockCo will do but if you include your name and contact info, they might be able to cross-reference with your order history and reunite you with your notebook. So best fill this in!

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

A set of three books is just $9, each book opens at the top like a reporter pad and features white 50lb paper with the DotDash grid pattern in a light grey color. Each pad is 3.5″x5.5″ and includes 48 pages and bright yellow card stock covers.

The pads will fit easily into NockCo’s Maryapple and Hightower folios with easy access to your notes without removing the pad to write your notes.

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

On the inside of the back cover is the printing information. These are first editions, for what its worth.

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

In writing tests, most of the pens I tried wrote well on the smooth stock. There was a little softening on the wider nibbed fountain pens but no true feathering or splining (you know, those shoots of ink caught by the fibers in the paper that often happen in Moleskines?)

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

From the reverse, there’s some show through mostly with the fountain pen inks. In a flip pad though, the likelihood of writing on the reverse side of the paper is pretty slim. I sort of wish the pages were perforated to make it easier to remove pages.

NockCo DotDash Pocket Notebook

Overall, I really like these pads. I do hope that there are other colors offered for the covers in the future. The bright yellow is fun but other colors would be fun.

Now…

THE GIVEAWAY: I have an extra set of three DotDash notebooks available to giveaway. Leave a message in the comments and tell me what color covers you’d like to see next (or if you love the yellow ones) to be entered to win.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. This giveaway is open to all readers.


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

 

Review: Super5 0.5mm Italic Stub Fountain Pen

super5 fountain pen in black

I recently purchased the new Super5 0.5mm stub nib fountain pen in black on a whim. I have some 0.6mm stub nibs pens from Nemosine and my beloved Esterbrook Falcon is about that width as well so I was looking forward to trying another pen with this diminutive stub. My handwriting is small and being left-handed, any stubs larger than a 1.1mm don’t always make proper contact with the paper for me or cause all my letters to fill in so finding that sweet spot in the stub category is pretty limited. And since the Super5 is just $27.95, how could I not give it a try?

super5 nib close-up

Super5 is a relatively new entry into the fountain pen, at least in the US. From the photos on Goulet Pens, the pens look kind of plastic-y but in reality, the pen feel surprisingly sturdy. ON the scale, filled and capped it weighs 24g and 19g uncapped. That’s right between a Lamy AL-Star (22g) and the Lamy Studio (28g) so its a pretty solid pen. It turns out the grip area is metal which gives it solid weighting to the tip. The body and cap are plastic but the clip is also metal. So overall, its not as low-budget as I might have expected.

The clip seems solid and the pen snaps closed tightly with a click. The overall shape is a long tapered bullet which in not unappealing but the plain black with a big logo on the side doesn’t make it my favorite pens to look at. Then again, a Pilot G-2 is a great writer and is an ugly pen. So, looks can be deceiving.

super5 writing sample

In writing, I had no issues with this pen at all. I loaded the blue ink cartridge that shipped with the pen (a standard European short cartridge in blue) and started writing. It wrote smoothly with the lightest of touch in all the wonky angles that this lefty uses.

I miswrote that its a 0.6… Super5 = 0.5mm, at least for now. It sort of reminds me of a medium sized nib without the iridium tip roundy-ness. I get a nice mix of thick and thin stokes rather than an overall roundness in a regular medium nib.

super5 writing close-up

If you’re looking for a new kind of nib at a reasonable price, this is not a pen to be overlooked. Its performance is excellent even if its overall aesthetics wouldn’t win a beauty contest.

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