Tag: review

Review: Filofax Lockwood Personal Planner & 2017 Illustrated Stripes Insert Set

Filofax Lockwood Personal

The Filofax Lockwood Personal sized planner in aqua ($102.15) might not look like a huge change from my Original in dark aqua but, its not the color that’s the change so much as the overall construction. The Lockwood is the freakin’ MacGyver of planners! Its got pockets and slots galore where the Original is stripped down to the essentials. The Lockwood is a higher quality, more supple leather too where the Original is a thicker leather but much more rigid.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

From the inside views, you can see the narrow slit pockets on the Original and the black elastic band on the Original. The Lockwood could easily be filled with business cards, ID and bank cards and double as a wallet and planner. OR the pockets could be filled with items to color-code, annotate or decorate the planner. I haven’t quite decided what to put in the pockets yet. After years with the mostly useless pockets on the Original, I’m stymied with the options.

The plus for the Original (for me) is that the elastic pen loop is on the left hand side and pretty flexible making it capable of holding a lot of different pens and quick-access for a lefty. A lot of right-handed users found the left-hand loop awkward. The Lockwood puts the pen loop under the clasp. Its still elastic but its a tighter elastic and the placement makes it more difficult to put any but the thinnest pens or pencils in it since they bump right up against the inserts and are restricted by the length of the strap.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

Inside the back cover, the Lockwood features a long secretary pocket and a smaller horizontal slit pocket as well. The Original has the secretary pocket too and a top slit pocket as well as the mysterious lower slit that I never actually found a use for.

The Lockwood has a more finished look on the inside with the stitching on all the pocket edging and the leather facing carried under the ring binder. I feel kind of grown-up with the Lockwood. Its like my “big girl” planner. Even though its mermaid-colored.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

Hey, look! One of my letterpress notepads with the side binding fits perfectly in the secretary pocket. Brilliant!

Filofax Lockwood Personal

On the backside on the cover is yet another pocket, this is a zippered pocket that looks perfect to hold receipts, coins or other small bits. This planner is the total cargo pants of planners, I swear.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

Here’s a top view of the Lockwood planner filled with my regular calendar pages, notes pages, assorted bits, page markers and my notepad in the back. Well stuffed, indeed.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

I tucked my Fisher Space Pen in the pen loop which was one of the few pens that fit comfortably without reeking havoc with my tabs. So, I’d definitely recommend a slim pen or pencil in the pen loop or skipping it altogether sadly. Its the only flaw I’ve found in this planner. Everything else is fabulous.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

The front slit pocket easily holds another notepad, pad of sitcky notes or, as I discovered later, my iPhone. It makes this a great planner for meetings or someone who goes back and forth to a lot of places and needs to be able to juggle a planner and a phone.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

I discovered that the horizontal slit in the back of the planner is perfectly sized for a small pad of stocky notes, if that floats your boat.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

I also thought it would be handy to compare the personal-sized Lockwood to an iPad Mini. Its almost the same dimensions, just a good deal thicker when filled completely. I could certainly carry fewer pages in the planner but I thought I’d stuff it completely as a contrast to my month of austerity. I will probably trim it down a bit but I’m enjoying having ALL THE THINGS at the moment.

Filofax Lockwood Personal

The Lockwood is such a lovely planner. The fact that it has a million pockets and places to squirrel away bits of paper and cards just makes it better. The overall quality is excellent and the color is fabulous. I wish the pen loop was a little more user-friendly but I can stick a pen in any of the other cargo pants pockets on the Lockwood so I really don’t have anything to complain about.

And one more thing….

I also wanted to show the new Filofax 2017 Dated Illustrated Stripes refill set ($19.99). The set is also available for A5-sized planners ($26.99). Its a week-on-two-pages layout with lined pages and tabbed months that include a monthly calendar. The tabs and pages alternate colors in an array of interesting colors including tomato orange, navy, orchid, lime, and biscuit tan. The set also included an assortment of lined and blank note paper.

Filofax stripes inserts 2017

The big news was that the paper was listed as 80gsm which is considerably higher than the standard Filofax refills and better than the Cotton Cream which was always better than the plain white but has gotten worse over the years. So I thought I’d put it through some pen tests to see how it performed…

Pens used to test Filofax insertsFilofax stripes insert writing test

I didn’t hold back. I hit the paper with all my currently inked fountain pens next to this year’s Cotton Cream and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Illustrated Stripes paper held up to the abuse. The lines are usually pretty narrow on the Personal Filofax paper anyway since the books are pretty small so I tend to use fine pens, gel pens or pencils mostly. However, every once in awhile, I end up with a fountain pen in my hand when I have to jot something down so its nice to know that the paper can withstand a few lines without completely withering.

reverse side of Filofax stripes insert writing test

From the back of the paper it looks like the worst show through was the Edison Collier and a lot of red and pink inks are a bit more liquidy anyway. Everything else is completely tolerable. Especially when compared with how poorly the Cotton Cream did.

I’m so excited to start using the Illustrated Stripes Insert set. It looks good, works well with lots of pens and is readymade. As much as I like all the DIY options, I’m happy to just buy a pre-dated planner set-up and go. I’m not much of a planner decorator. I’d rather spend my free time drawing, painting or knitting and less time making my to-do list look fancy so these inserts totally solve a problem for me. They work, they look good and they are easy to acquire. I hope that Filofax will continue to innovate their planner inserts in the coming years so I won’t be forced to make my own.


DISCLAIMER: These items were sent to me free of charge by Goulet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pencil Review: Uni Arterase Colored Pencils 12-color Set

Uni ArtErase Colored Pencils

The Uni ArtErase 12-color Colored Pencil Set ($33) is considerably more expensive than the Prismacolor Col-Erase set I reviewed a couple weeks ago but when I saw it, I knew I had to try them. Uni Mitsubishi makes such amazingly high-quality graphite pencils and I love their red/blue pencils that it seemed worth considering the possibility that their erasable colored pencils might be worth the investment.

First of all, the ArtErase pencils come in a lovely tin box compared with the paperboard box that the Prismacolor Col-Erase were packaged. Not that I want a lot of fancy packaging, nor am I inclined to keep my pencils in a tin, but from the standpoint of the pencils being protected in transport and, having a useful and potentially reusable box, clearly Uni has the lead here. Uni also included a foam/plastic eraser in a hard plastic sleeve with the set which, while being only a couple dollars additional investment, is also a mark in their favor. And, it actually works. As opposed to the useless pink erasers on the end of the Col-Erase pencils, which are so useless I don’t think I even mentioned them in my review of the Col-Erase at all. I think those pink eraser top erasers are included on the Col-Erase pencils  are for decorative purposes only.

The ArtErase pencils are absolutely beautiful as pencil objects alone. I’ve come to expect this from top-tier Japanese brands but it should be mentioned, especially in contrast to the Col-Erase. The finish on each of the ArtErase pencils is lacquer smooth with perfect foil stamping, gold foil rings and a sparkly metallic, gold-dipped end that gives it a clean, sophisticated finish. The core of each pencil is thicker than the Col-Erase though I do not have a caliper to provide specific measurements. The ArtErase pencils have the look and feel of a Faber-Castell Polychromos rather than a Prismacolor Verithin, if that helps give you a better idea.

Uni ArtErase Colored Pencils

Once applied to paper (in this case, a Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook paper) it becomes clear how rich and creamy the leads on the pencils really are. They are much softer and creamier than Col-Erase pencils of comparable color. It’s most notable with the black pencils. The ArtErase black is considerably darker and inkier in color than the black Col-Erase. Where some Col-Erase pencils can feel scratchy on paper, the ArtErase pencils feel velvety. Even with how smooth and buttery the ArtErase pencils are, the only colors I could smudge with my finger was the black, brown and red. I could smudge the same colors in the Col-Erase plus the blue. The water solubility tests were also pretty comparable though the ArtErase, since the colors were richer, were prone to a bit more color spreading when wet.

Overall, the ArtErase pencils are richer, creamier and more luscious colored pencils when compared to the Col-Erase. They erase a little bit better than the Col-Erase and have softer, thicker leads. They are a bit more water soluble and are about as smudgeable as the Col-Erase. But the ArtErase are considerably more expensive. Presently, I have only found them through JetPens in the 12-color set so should you find that you like a few colors in particular, there are not open stock sources to replenish those. That said, the ArtErase are not at all scratchy like the Col-Erase and generally perform more like traditional artist’s grade colored pencils than the Col-Erase.

If you’re looking for an alternative for base drawings for animation, storyboarding, preliminary artwork or even everyday sketching and artwork, I think these pencils are far more versatile than the Col-Erase even with the more limited color range and the lack of open stock options. But they are more expensive. Buy once, cry once?


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

Pen Review: Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black Fountain Pen

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black and Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love

Once again, my dear friend Kasey was kind enough to loan me a pen. This time, it was his beloved Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black. I laughed when I pulled it out of the box because it is the absolute antithesis of the only other Sailor pen in my life right now. Where the Sailor Imperial Black is matte black finish with ruthenium trim, my Sailor Pink Love Pro Gear Slim is ridiculously vivid pink with metallic sparkles embedded in the material. So, I’ve spent the last few weeks putting Imperial Black and Pink Love next to each other in a strange “opposites attract” sort of way. And to be honest, its totally true.

Fountain Pen WeightsFrom a purely technical standpoint, I was delighted to have an opportunity to try out a full-sized Pro Gear and discover that it is not nearly as large or heavy as I anticipated. Compared with the Slim model, its really only about a half an inch longer and only slightly wider. Weight-wise, the Pro Gear is only 4 grams heavier at 24 gms than the Slim which weighed in at 20 gms, capped and filled with the converter. Compared to a Lamy AL-Star, which is a bit longer than the Pro Gear, the weights and width are quite comparable so really, the Pro Gear is a a fairly light but solid feeling tool. I’d almost describe it as compact. Especially with the Imperial Black since all the design elements are understated making the pen feel very clean and functional but at the same time very classic and elegant.

Within minutes of putting the pen to paper, I started researching how much it was going to cost me to get my own Imperial Black. Seriously. Fo the record, there are not many of these beauties left in the wild. Anderson Pens still has some in stock with a broad nib for $472.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black

Part of the expense of this Imperial Black is that this particular model of Pro Gear came with the 21K nib instead of the more common 14K nib. Wow. This particular pen has the medium nib. And as is common with Sailor pens, the medium nib is actually quite fine and actually a bit crisp so the line has a lot of character. Its not often that I get excited about a medium nib, but this one is quite something. There’s nothing “medium” about it.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black and Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love

When I put it next to the music nib on the Pro Gear Slim Pink Love, the Imperial Black looks slim, delicate and all business. The Pink Love looks a little bulbous. It does show the vast range of nib size differences within the Sailor line though.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black

In writing, the medium nib 21K is absolutely buttery. It was conducive to writing at any angle and as a left-handed writer this is a big deal. I could write over-handed, under-handed, or side-writing with the lightest of touches and the nib glides on the paper. The medium nib handled my small handwriting with no issues, I seldom had the counters of my letters fill in even using 6mm guide sheets.

I really was blown away by this pen and am seriously considering purchasing, if not an Imperial Black Pro Gear, than at least a Pro Gear, in the near future. It is a beautiful writing tool and the Sailor medium nib should be renamed something more poetic. Maybe the “majestic” nib. That’s what that “M” really stands for.

Ink Review: Waterproof, Permanent Inks

Waterproof Inks

During an episode of Art Supply Posse, Heather mentioned that she didn’t realize that most fountain pen inks were water soluble. I held my tongue because I already had a pile of waterproof fountain pen inks in my arsenal and I was ready to test and share them with folks but I didn’t want to derail our conversation at the time. I’ve collected a few waterproof, permanent fountain pen ink options currently available. These are a little bit more finicky to use since they can dry out in a pen and become difficult to remove so I would not recommend putting them in fancy “grail pen”. However, if you have an assortment of lower-priced fountain pens in your collection and are looking for a permanent ink for addressing envelopes, using with watercolors, or for signing documents, then one of these inks might be a great option to add to your collection.

I’d recommend using them with a pen like a Lamy Safari, a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen, a Pilot Metropolitan or maybe refilling a Preppy. You can also use these inks with dip nibs. Just remember to clean out the inks every couple of weeks to make sure that they do not dry out in the pen.

Waterproof Inks

The Platinum Carbon Black is an excellent ink. I find it incredibly well-behaved. I’ve been using it in my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen for almost a year and I have yet to clean it out thoroughly. I occasionally dip the tip in water and wipe it with a rag to clean off a bit of the built up carbon build-up but it is one of my go-to pens. It’s refilled three times with both cartridge and bottled Carbon Black and performs beautifully. I also put some Carbon Black in an old Platinum Preppy and it works fine too.

That said, I was willing to try some of Platinum’s Pigment inks — the Sepia ($16 for 60ml bottle) and Rose Red ($1.25 for a 3ml sample) specifically. I went ahead and purchased a full bottle of the the Sepia knowing that a good permanent sepia brown is something I needed to have in my collection and I’ve been using it in my Lamy Joy. I’ve refilled it several times already and been quite pleased with the performance of the Sepia so I went ahead and got a sample of the Rose Red as well. I wasn’t sure if I’d need want a whole bottle of rose red ink but, upon using it, I really quite like it. It wasn’t as pink as I expected it to be. It’s more of a warm red. I liked using it to draw. Though I’m still on the fence as to whether I’d use a whole bottle of it.

Waterproof Inks

I also purchased samples of an assortment of De Atramentis Document Inks in Yellow, Fuchsia, Dark Blue, Blue, Green, and Turquoise.  Easch sample is 3ml and costs $1.75. Full bottles are $18.50. The most interesting aspect of the Documents inks, beyond the permanence, is their mixability. I purchased what was essentially the building blocks of printer’s inks — cyan, magenta and yellow to mix with my carbon black in an effort to make some of my own colors in the future. I was inspired by some of the ink color experiments that Liz Steel has done for her field sketching.

The one issue I found was that the turquoise color was a bit runnier than the other colors. I imagine mixing it with one of the other colors might help a bit but I was disappointed with the runnyness. The yellow was also too light to use without mixing with another color but is nice and bright so it would be fun to mix to brighten a darker color.

Waterproof Inks

All-in-all the permanent colors are definitely more experimental. I am fairly confident recommending the Platinum Carbon Black and the Platinum Pigment Sepia though as I’ve been a pretty disrespectful pen owner and they have both worked flawlessly in both my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen ($9.60) and in the Lamy Joy ($28) with an EF nib ($13) so you should feel confident using those and Liz Steel praises the performance of De Atramentis Document inks so I think those should work pretty well long term as well. But I’d still proceed with caution and be prepared to tweak as needed for performance and color.


Thanks to Pen Chalet and Anderson Pens. Both are sponsors of this blog but I purchased all the pen, inks and samples shown here with my own money.

Art Supply Review: Pfeiffer Art Supply Handcrafted Watercolor Paints

Pfeiffer Watercolor Pan Paints

I was really excited to be able to purchase the handmade watercolor pans from Pfeiffer Art Supply. They are listed as non-toxic and come in either half- or full-pans. Half pans are currently $6 each and full pans are $12 which is a very good price. There are currently 14 colors available in their line-up, each named after a bird. I purchased eleven out of the 14 colors as a few were sold out and I decided to skip the Crane White as I don’t often use white when I watercolor. Otherwise, I purchased almost the full range and I’m really glad I did.

Pfeiffer Watercolor Pan Paints

The pans came filled to the top and can have a strong magnet included on the bottom if you add a note in your order. Pfeiffer uses small disc magnets that are a bit thicker than the flexible sheet magnets I normally use on my watercolor pans but are much stronger magnets. It did make the Pfeiffer pans uneven in my watercolor kit with my other pans as a result though. If you plan on using this set independently it wouldn’t make a difference but since I ended up adding the Pfeiffer pans to my everyday watercolor set, the Pfeiffer pans ended up sitting a little higher than the others which I found a little distracting. In the future, I think I will have Pfeiffer send me pans without the magnets and I’ll use my own sheet magnets so all the pans sit at the same height.

Pfeiffer Watercolor Pan Paints

Now, let’s talk about the colors. The colors were actually quite bright and vivid. While the pans were dry, they wet easily and the colors mixed well. I was able to use just two colors in the palette to produce several additional colors I was concerned were missing from the pan like a more warm yellow, an aqua and a more indigo blue very easily while I was swatching colors.

The colors on this smooth paper had some light granulation. I have since used the paint on some more textured paper and its just as nice.

Pfeiffer Watercolor Pan Paints

In painting, the paint also re-wets easily making it easy to rework areas. I love the Heron grey. I don’t normally like black watercolor paint but this light neutral helps with soften and mute the brilliance of the colors to create more subtle tones. The Heron grey is great for doing a simple tonal sketch too.

#worldwatercolormonth day 5 peach iced tea @pfeifferartsupply #schmincke #handbookjournal

A photo posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on

I painted this sketch using a combination of Pfeiffer watercolors and Schminkes and used the Heron grey for the shadows. This was painted on Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor paper which is a cold press watercolour paper so you can see a bit more of the granulation and pooling of the colors.

Pfeiffer watercolors also mixed nicely with my other watercolors so its easy to add one or two colors to an existing palette if you don’t want to invest in a full array of colors. I’d recommend trying a few, maybe even whole pans since the prices are so reasonable. I really like the Macaw Blue, Cardinal Red, Goldfinch Yellow Ochre and Motmot Green as well as the Heron Grey if you’re looking for colors to start with.

There’s still lots of time in World Watercolor Month so what are you waiting for?

The Great Eraser Rub-Off Challenge

Eraser Off

After appearing on the Eraser episode of the Erasable podcast, I decided to fully test all the erasers (and then some) that were in the awesome CW Pencil Enterprise eraser pack as well as some of the erasers that were mentioned on the episode. Some were long time favorites of mine and others were new-to-me goodies so I thought it was time to do a side-by-side comparison.

The challengers:

The tools:

The papers:

Eraser Off

The first phase of this experiment was to test each eraser on the smooth, everyday paper. I chose Leuchtturm1917 which is a warm white, smooth paper. I wanted to test three “everyday pencils” as well as three colored pencils that might be used by people who might want to add color, sketches or more creative elements to their notes or everyday notes.

Eraser Off

For regular graphite, most of the erasers were acceptable. The Koh-i-noor Thermoplastic Hexagonal “throwing star” and the Kohi-noor Pebbles were the least effective on the Leuchtturm1917 but for daily writing, they were acceptable. The Staedtler Mars Plastic, the Tombow, the Sakura and Pilot Foam and the Campus Plastic all performed above expectations for graphite erasing.

Eraser Off

What was most surprising to me was that the Foam erasers by Sakura and Pilot usurped by beloved Staedtler for the best eraser when erasing the colored pencil markings from the smooth Leuchtturm paper. And the unusual and rare-as-a-coelacanth pink Campus Plastic Eraser also did a better-than-average job of erasing both graphite and colored pencil too. Not that I’m biased against pink erasers but it was pink and scented or at least swee-smelling so I wasn’t expecting it to be a top-performer too. The Koh-i-noor Pebbles did a good job of erasing the Col-Erase on the Leuchtturm which was a bit of a surprise.

Eraser Off

In an effort to be completely thorough, I also decided to test the erasers on the toothier Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper which allowed some erasers to really shine where others had a lot more challenges. The Pebbles struggled on the textured surfaces but the Tombow Mono, Campus Plastic and Staedtler Mars Plastic all did well. The Sakura Foam and Pilot Foam erasers did quite well too.

Eraser-off eraser challenge on #stillmanandbirn alpha sketchbook paper.

A video posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on

The Pebbles struggled on the textured surfaces but the Tombow Mono, Campus Plastic and Staedtler Mars Plastic all did well. The Sakura Foam and Pilot Foam erasers did quite well too.

 

Eraser Off

The finalists: Tombow Mono and Pilot Foam.

Runners-up: For toothy paper, Staedtler Mars Plastic. For smooth paper, Koh-i-noor Pebbles.

Most likely to smell good: Campus Plastic Eraser (could not decide if it was scented or not but it smelled sort of sweet).

Still coolest looking: Koh-i-noor Thermoplastic

DISCLAIMER: Some items were sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Other items I purchased myself. Please see the About page for more details.

Pencil Review: Prismacolor Col-Erase 24-Color Set

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils

While researching other artist’s recommended drawing tools, I found several who recommended Prismacolor Col-Erase and since I tend to favor the Prismacolor Premiers but had never used the Col-Erase, I thought I’d see what the appeal was.

Most artists mention a preference for the Col-Erase, not because they actually erase very well but because they do not smudge so the lines they put down stay where they put them and the lines are light enough that if they ink over them, when they photocopy or scan their artwork, the original pencil marks don’t usually show up if they use a light color like light blue or non-photo blue.

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils writing sample

Generally speaking, I found the pencils to be very smooth to use while they also maintained a point quite well in use. Some colors were harder and required a little but more pressure to show up than others. For example, the Carmine Red was much softer than the Vermillion. Why? I don’t know. But for laying some underlying sketches, these pencils didn’t smudge like a graphite pencil does.

With a standard white plastic eraser like a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser, I was able to erase some of the marks but not all of them. The eraser included on each pencil is a pink rubber eraser which worked abysmally. Its purpose was clearly to look classic only.

The pencil marks made by Col-Erase are also water soluble so if you plan to use the pencils in combination with watercolors, the marks will move but depending on the colors you choose, it could enhance your artwork rather than muddy it like graphite might.

The Col-Erase pencil marks did not smudge as much as graphite. Certain colors were more prone to smudging like the black, dark blue and brown but the lighter colors did not smudge without serious effort or a burnishing tool.

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencil Sketch

These little drawing were done along the margin of the page after I did the eraser tests so the heads are no bigger than small coins so the sharp points of the Col-Erase pencils do allow for fine details and quick doodling.

Did I mention that the 24-color box I purchased was acquired on Amazon for $10.96? Cheap. Hard to resist at that price. Its actually cheaper to purchase the whole box than to buy these open stock. Most art supply stores sell these individually for about $1 or more per pencil. Even Dick Blick sells the 24-pencil set for $11.50.

If you’ve never tried the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils, the price point is low enough that a box of 24 is well within most pen-and-pencil addicts’ range. Their good point retention and loyalty by the comics illustrations and animation industry should be reason enough to peak your curiosity.

Once again, CJ is hard at work. This time, as a photo assistant. She's holding my light bounce... but not very well. She decided it made a better car bed.
Once again, CJ is hard at work. This time, as a photo assistant. She’s holding my light bounce… but not very well. She decided it made a better car bed.

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Pencil Review: Red & Blue Pencils

Red & Blue Pencils

I can’t think of anything more patriotic than red & blue pencils. And boy, have I amassed a collection! I just love these things. Some red/blue pencils were originally designed to be “copying pencils” in that they could be wet to transfer writing to a copy like a mimeograph. Others were for copy editing, colors denoting specific changes. I’m sure there are other arcane uses for them that have been lost to the annals of time. I like them as a way to carry two colored pencils in one stick, for portability.

Red & Blue Pencils

All the red/blue pencils I tested out were purchased in the past year or so meaning that these are not all that hard to find. The prices range from about $1 to about $3 with the average price for a red/blue pencil being around $1. The Caran d’Ache BiColor 999 was the most expensive, as was to be expected at about $2.80 but worth every penny.

Red & Blue Pencils

I tested each of the pencils by doing a little test scribble, an erased scribble and a wet scribble to see if the pencil was water soluble for both the blue and red leads.

The Artesco Bi-Color pencil was notable for being a rounded triangular shape which was comfortable in the hand. It was slightly water soluble but not too bad. Sadly, I don’t remember where I found this particular pencil. If someone else knows where to find purchasing information about this model, please let me know.

There were only three of the pencils that were very water resistant: The Tombow 8900 VP ($6.84 for a dozen), the Charles Leonard, and the Pedigree Empire. All three are smooth round barrel pencils. The Charles Leonard ($4.99 per dozen) was the scratchiest of all the red/blue pencils that I tried. The Pedigree Empire was a decent performer overall but was another pencil that I’m having trouble tracking down where I purchased it. If you want a non-water soluble red/blue pencil I would recommend the Tombow 8900 VP. The color is smooth, rich and dark. The finish on the pencil is fabulous too. Being able to purchase the Tomow 8900 VP via Amazon for under $7 per dozen is totally worth it. Grab a box and share the love with friends, family and kids in your neighborhood.

The Mistubishi Colour Pencil 2637 ($1 each) is also a beautiful Japanese pencil. I got what is known as the 70:30 which is 70% red and 30% blue. Why? Maybe its used mostly as a correction pencil so the red color is used most often and the blue is the STET part?… if you ever worked in newspaper, you’ll know STET is the shorthand for “nevermind, don’t make that change” in a Latin abbreviation I can no longer remember. All you copy editors out there leave a comment if you remember what it means. I’m just guessing here… Anyone know?

The Mitsubishi is also available in a standard 50:50 split ($1 each).

The Harvest Thick 725 and the Pedigree Empire 603 are the only red/blue pencil still made in the USA by the Musgrave Co. though I think the Pedigree have since been discontinued. The Harvest Thick 725 ($0.50) and the Musgrave Hermitage Thin ($0.40) are still available. The Harvest Thick is a good, durable red/blue pencil at a very reasonable price. It does not react to water that much so it would be good for base drawings and its made in Tennessee so it doesn’t have far to travel for most US pencil enthusiasts.

Then there’s the Brevillier Urban Copying Pencil Nr. 1925 ($24 per dozen) which, when wet, gets that lovely aqua color in the blue that is common of indelible pencils. The red end does not seem to be water soluble however. The blue also erases pretty easily which is pretty nice if you wanted to use it for sketching. Overall, it is a unique pencil and worth squirreling a dozen away in your collection, if you are a pencil pack rat like I am.

Red & Blue Pencils Red & Blue Pencils

And finally, the king daddy beaucoup of them all, the Caran d’Ache BiColor 999 ($2.80 each) which is the most water soluble, most luscious AND also most expensive of all of the red/blue pencils. I love it but because it literally melts like a watercolor pencil with water, I treat it more like a watercolor pencil than a regular colored pencil.

So, if I were to recommend three red/blue pencils to try, I’d tell you to get the Tombow 8900 VP, the Harvest Thick 725 and a Caran d’Ache BiColor 999. Even if you bought a dozen of the Tombow and one of the Harvest and the Caran d’Ache, you would still only be spending about $10 and you’d be a very happy, very patriotic camper. Don’t forget a good pencil sharpener. Because these pencils are a bit wider than your average #2, I’d recommend a sharpener with a wider opening or one specifically designed for colored pencils.

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

Jinhao X750

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

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

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

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

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

Jinhao X750

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

Jinhao X750

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

KWZ Green Gold 2 ink comparison

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


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

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Ink Review: Callifolio Bleu Equinoxe 5 (and a Happy Ending)

Parker Duofold

First, I wanted to take a chance to thank the kindness of the pen community for rescuing my Parker Duofold from its sad state. Susan Wirth, “queen of pen shows” that she is, offered to repair my Parker Duofold for me before she jetted off to New York for a Guggenheim retrospective and she did a beautiful job. Not only was she able to remove the damaged section of the body of my Duofold but, she was also able to restore the sac and filler so now it holds ink! So, I was able to use my beloved little pen for this ink review. It has the smoothest gold nib with just a little flex so its just such fun to use. And now that it holds ink and isn’t all distorted like a silly straw, I can use it on a daily basis. Thank you, Susan for bringing my little jewel back to life and restoring my faith in the pen community, though I never doubted you for a second!

If you ever have a chance to meet Susan Wirth and her colleagues at a pen show, I highly recommend stopping by and saying hello. She has a lovely collection of pens available to try and purchase and many fascinating stories about the history of pens.

Now, on to the ink review…

Callifolio Equinoxe 5

With every blue black ink I try, I think to myself, “do I really need another blue black ink?” Then I start using it, looking more closely at the subtle differences of the colors and I realize that yes, I really do need one more shade. Because, like lipsticks and nail polish, every shade of ink ever-so-slightly different. And Callifolio Bleu Equinoxe 5 (40ml for $12, 50ml pouch for $8 and sample for $1.25) is no different. Their shade of blue black is ever-so-much-more royal in its blue tone with a red sheen. Oh, the sheen is lovely!

I smudged my header only because it is like a million degrees here in the Midwest with about 100% humidity so all dry times have slowed to a crawl. I don’t think it would be fair to blame it entirely on the ink, I was laying it on thick with a paint brush and then, of course, I’m a lefty with a tendency to lay my arm in my ink almost immediately.

Callifolio Equinoxe 5

Equinoxe 5 is not waterproof or even water resistant but it also means it should be pretty easy to clean up. That made me feel safe putting it in my vintage pen, at least for a week.

The great thing about Callifolio ink beyond the lovely color, shading and sheen is that ink is incredibly, reasonably priced. A 50ml pouch is just $8. The contents can be transferred into an empty bottle for easy access.

Callifolio Equinoxe

I pulled some other deep blue/blue black inks from the sample rings and Equinoxe 5 is clearly more royal blue  than the others in my stash though it does have a sheen similar to Sheaffer Blue Black and the Sailor Bung Box Blue Black. Pricewise, Equinoxe 5 is definitely closer to Sheaffer than Bung Box so if you were looking for an ink that gave you the same oomph for a whole lot less dollars than importing Bung Box, a bottle or pouch of Callifolio may be the way to go.

And remember, Vanness can also sell you an empty ink bottle and laser etch it with your name or a logo if you want to purchase a pouch instead of a bottle.


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

Review: Baron Fig Vanguard

Baron Fig Vanguard

Baron Fig continues to expand their line of products. This time with a soft cover cahier-style notebook they are calling the Vanguard. They are offering it in an A5 size (Flagship) as well as their smaller passport (Pocket) size in blank, dot grid or graph paper formats. There’s also a “plus” size which is 7×10″. The Vanguard is available with a light grey or dark grey cover. Each book is actually stitched along the spine with bright yellow thread which aesthetically lovely.

The lightly textured cardstock covers are clean, simple and elegant. And the overall lack of a lot of branding is most appreciated. The books are clean and simple and ready for the user to put their stamp on them which I like.

Baron Fig Vanguard

It’s been awhile since I’d used a Baron Fig notebook so I decided to run the new notebook through its paces to see if the paper stock was the same a the previous Confidant notebooks.

Baron Fig Vanguard Colored Pencil test

My first experiment with the Vanguard was to try some colored pencils. I pulled out my trusty Prismacolor Premier (and its brethren) and draw a fig. Of course.  I quite like the Baron Fig paper for colored pencil. Really, any kind of pencil works well on Baron Fig paper. Its quite smooth with just a little tooth and the warm white color is quite conducive to pencil sketching and colored pencils. Maybe a good candidate for a red/blue pencil?

Baron Fig Vanguard writing sample

I’d recalled that there was some issues with the Baron Fig paper and liquid inks like rollerball, fountain pens and such. What I noticed most particularly was that most of my felt tip pens seemed broader on the Baron Fig paper than on other paper. As if it sort of spread a bit. It didn’t look like it feathered per se but the ink must have absorbed a bit more than I remembered.

The Sakura Ballsign 04 in black was, by far, the best performing pen on the paper. It dried super-fast, jet black and matte without any bleeding or feathering. If you haven’t tried the Ballsign and want to try the Baron Fig Vanguard, its a great combo. In general, most gel pens work well on the Vanguard paper, more so, I think, than rollerball and felt tip pens which is a bit of a disappointment for me. I tend to use a lot of felt tip pens but I like a super fine point.

The fountain pen issue with Baron Fig paper has been discussed extensively elsewhere so I won’t delve into it but, like most pocketable notebooks (and for most of the modern world), its not something that they concern themselves with. Its just our small corner of the world that gets in a tizzy when every notebook we pick up doesn’t accept our wide stub fountain pen inks with open arms, no bleed through and instantaneous dry times.

I forgot to photograph the reverse of stock this time but I noticed a bit more bleed through this time around than in my previous tests on the Confidant lined and dot grid. I don’t know if it was because the blank paper had not been run through any printing presses and therefore had no sizing of any kind and therefore was more absorbent, if there is a slight difference to this batch of paper or if its because it was warmer and more humid during my testing or if some other factors were at play.

Overall, I plan to use my Vanguard as a colored pencil sketchbook with some notes and put my massive collection of Sakura Ballsign gel pens to good use.

Baron Fig Vanguard

THE GIVEAWAY: Would you like to try out a Baron Fig Vanguard 3-pack of your own? I have THREE (3) sets to give away. I have a Flagship dot grid, Flagship ruled and a Pocket blank.

TO ENTER: All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me if you’ve ever tried a Baron Fig notebook before. If so, which one? If not, which one you like best, whether its one I’m giving away or another one. That’s it.

Baron Fig Vanguard

THE FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, June 24, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email real address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win, not some junky account you never check. 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. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents and APOs only please this time. It would cost more to mail these overseas than the notebooks cost.


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

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Paper Review: Life Noble Report A4 Plain

Life Noble Report Plain A4

While I was in Atlanta, my darling friend Leigh gave me a pile of goodies including this fabulous paper pad: the Life Noble Report Plain A4. It has 100 sheets of cream paper which I just love. The paper is not quite as smooth as the Apica Premium paper in the C.D. Notebook but its awfully close. But somehow, it behaved much better with fountain pens, or maybe my expectations were different with a large writing pad?

Life Noble Report Plain A4

Some inks did take a bit of time to dry like in my title where I smeared. Why do I always do that? Is it me, the ink or the paper or all of the above?

In general though, all my pens performed well and  there was no feathering or bleeding. This paper would be great for pen testing, calligraphy practice or letter writing.

Life Noble Report Plain A4 reverse of writing sample

From the reverse of stock, you can see some of the writing but there was no actual bleed through. The cream paper, however, does not make it a good candidate for ink testing for me because I prefer to test inks on bright white paper to get a true idea of the colors. The warm ivory might skew an ink color slightly which is fine for everyday writing but for my review purposes.

I’ve also considered folding some of the paper into A5 sheets for my Chic Sparrow Black Beauty Traveler’s Notebook. Oooo la la!

A similar item to this pad would be the Noble Note Plain A4 ($35) from Anderson Pens which is the same 85g cream paper just bound along the long edge instead of being bound at the top. Anderson is carrying a whole selection of Life brand stationery including smaller sizes as well as lined and grid.


A shout out to Leigh for the gift!

Borden & Riley Mini Sketchbook Review

Borden & Riley Mini Sketchbook Pads

After doing the Art Supply Posse podcast last week about sketchbooks, I stumbled into my local art store, Artist’s and Craftsman, and found the smallest spiral sketchbook samplers so I grabbed all the varieties that had in stock to try out. Borden & Riley makes my beloved-but-discontinued favorite 100% Cotton Rag Rough Marker Paper that we used for lettering so I was interested in trying out some of their other papers. I picked up the #880 Royal Sketchbook($3.84), #234 Paris Paper for Pens ($2.33) and #15 Tuppence Sketch Bond ($2.33, size not shown on web site). Each book was spiral bound at the top of its diminutive 2.5×3.5″ size. The Royal Sketchbook (90lb) and Paris Paper for Pens  (108lb) had 20 sheet and the Tuppence Sketch(70lb) included 50 sheets.

Borden & Riley Sketchbook test tools

For each paper test, I used the same assortment of pens, pencils and markers on each paper to get a comparison to how they performed and then did a doodle specific to the type of paper. Let’s go!

Borden & Riley Royal Sketchbook

The Royal Sketchbook was the book I had the most hope for because it had thick, creamy stock with some texture to it. The paper was warm white, almost ivory and reminded me immediately of the many multi-media sketchbooks I’ve tried like the Canson XL mixed media, the Strathmore mixed media and the Stillman & Birn Alpha paper. I immediately wanted this paper in a larger format. It was worth the $3.84 test to determine I wanted more of this paper.

Borden & Riley Paper For Pens

I’d always heard mention of the Paris Paper for Pens as a good option for calligraphy, dip pens, lettering and such so I was definitely interested in seeing how this paper felt. Its a very smooth, bright white stock. Its touted as being bleed-proof and I got no show through on the back of the stock except with the teal blue Spectra Marker which is an alcohol marker like a Copic. So, I wouldn’t recommend this paper for Copic-style marker drawings but it held pen, fountain pen and flex nib line work cleanly. The smoothness of the stock was really interesting too. I look forward to experimenting with it more and trying a variety of brush pens. I Was able to add some water to my watercolor marker color  and pencil but it did not move as easily as it did on the Royal Sketchbook paper. It did create some interesting effects though.

Borden & Riley Paper For Pens

These were some additional fountain pen tests on the Paris Paper for Pens. Some standard writing with a fine nib Franklin Christoph as well as some flex writing with my Waterman.

Borden & Riley Tuppence Sketchbook

And the last book I tried was the Tuppence Sketch which had the lightest weight paper. Once I’d tried the other two, I knew that the Tuppence was definitely the budget/dry media paper of the three. The grey PITT brush lines showed through a bit to the back and even some of the black pen from the “#” was starting to show through so this is definitely lightweight budget paper. The watercolor pencil did not move at all and the paper started to warp when water was added. When I did the larger sketch, I started to give up because the W&N watercolor brush markers didn’t move as smoothly as they do on more receptive paper so I kept adding more water which just made the paper buckle and the show through on the back is really bad. I pretty much abandoned the drawing at that point. Were I more inclined to do straight pencil sketches, I think this paper would be just fine. There’s a nice tooth to it — not so much that it will chew up your pencils but enough to hold some pigment and color. I might go back and try some colored pencil and graphite drawings on this paper to give it a second chance but I tend to prefer paper that can take at least a little bit of water media.

Borden & Riley is not one of the larger artist paper producers but they make good products so its worth checking with your local art supply shop to see if they carry them. I’m hoping that Artist & Craftsman will get a wider selection of their products in stock soon. I’d love to have a full sized Royal Sketchbook and a goodly-sized Paris Paper for Pens pad to use as well. Can never have too much paper, right?

 

 

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Pen Review: Edison Collier LE 2015 with Custom Architect Nib

Edison Collier LE 2015

As a nice comparison to the stock Edison Nouveau Premiere that I took for a test drive yesterday, it seemed appropriate to show you the Edison Collier with the custom architect nib ground by Dan Smith over at Nibsmith. The pen started its life with a broad nib and was then customized.

I’m amused I didn’t figure out it was an architect grind until Kasey told me. I kept thinking… “This doesn’t look like a broad nib. Its much too crisp.” Well, duh. It wrote beautifully, if a bit too broadly, for my small writing but the grind is very well done.

Edison Collier LE 2015 Writing Sample

Physically, the Collier is very different from the Nouveau Premiere pen. The barrel is wider and the overall shape is more cigar shaped with a wider, rounder appearance overall. IT balances the size of the nib much better than the Nouveau Premiere. Its also a deep mahogany swirl with black to the candy-color of the water lily Nouveau Premiere.

The nib is two-toned gold and silver and the clip is gold compared to the all-silver hardware of the Premiere. These two pens couldn’t be more different than apples to steaks.

Weight-wise, the Collier is a good 10 grams heavier at 28 grams, capped and filled with the converter, but its well-weighted and comfortable so even in my small hands, I didn’t notice the additional weight. I actually had to put it on a scale to verify that it was heavier than the Premiere.

Edison Collier LE 2015

Overall, the broad architect grind on this crunchy cigar-shaped and deep, richly colored pen is totally appropriate. I would probably name this pen El Comandante if I owned it and write with it while drinking mojitos and listening to salsa music.

This is another pen that’s convinced me to take a good long look at Edison Pens. While I wouldn’t normally have gravitated towards the Collier because its a larger pen, the lightweight acrylic resin kept it from feeling like I was trying to steer a ship, and the variety of colors that Edison uses is really amazing– from subtle browns, as shown with this Collier, to the candy bright with the Nouveau Premiere Water Lily.

Again, since this particular Edison Collier was a limited edition model from 2015, it is no longer available but other color options are available on the Goulet Pens site for $149 or you could check directly with the Edison Pens site to see what they have in stock or for a custom order.


This pen was loaned to me by Kasey, AKA Punkey, as a way to try out pens I might not otherwise purchase or be able to afford. Thank you very much. This is another reason why the pen community is so awesome!

Pen Review: Edison Nouveau Premiere Water Lily Spring 2016

Edison Nouveau Premiere Water Lily Spring 2016

The Edison Premiere Nouveau Water Lily is the Spring 2016 Limited Edition($149) for Goulet Pens and my first Edison fountain pen. Its one of the shapes in the Edison line-up that has always appealed to me so I was excited to have the opportunity to get this particular model. The long slender shape with bullet ends seemed like a very vintage shape but the colors of the acrylic resin material are pretty modern. The vivid pearlescent cerulean blue and pink swirls (AKA “clown vomit”) were an added bonus. I couldn’t resist filling the pen with an equally eye-popping Pilot Iroshizuku Kosumosu pink ink either. In for a penny…

Edison Nouveau Premiere Water Lily Spring 2016

The body has a lightly etched branding and the name of the pen and the limited edition information but is otherwise unbranded on the outside. The nib has the Edison light bulb logo etched on it as well as the stock swirls and the nib size.

The pen features all silver hardware and nib and I got an EF nib which ended up working really well with my miniature handwriting. In general, the overall look of the pen is clean and simple letting the colors of the acrylic resin steal the show. My only complaint about the pen is that the nib seems a little large for the slenderness of the the pen body. It seems a little disproportionate but that might just me. I’m used to vintage pens with smaller nibs overall.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Water Lily Spring 2016

Writing with the pen is quite comfortable and the pen shipped with a cartridge converter that had a generous capacity. The overall length of the pen did not require posting the cap and the pen was nicely balanced without the cap being posted. The cap can be posted if you choose to and its light enough not to throw off the balance.

The pen weighs 18gms capped and filled and is 6 inches long. Uncapped, it’s 5 inches and posted, its 6.75″.It weighs 11gms uncapped and filled.

Fountain Pen Weights

I’m sad to say that the Water Lily edition is sold out already but Goulet Pens does a special edition Edison every quarter so a summer edition should be released soon. I kick myself for missing some of the previous editions now so I won’t make that mistake again.


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

Notebook Review: Apica C.D. Notebook Premium A6

Apica C.D. Premium Notebook A6

I’ve always heard such good things about the paper quality of the Apica C.D. Premium Notebooks that I jumped at the chance to finally try the A6 blank notebook ($10.25). Its a small pocketable softcover with warm white pages and a slightly metallic graphite grey cover with a bookcloth taped spine. It has 96 pages and crisp square corners. It’s about a half an inch larger in height and width than a pocket-sized Moleskine if you’re not familiar with the A6 size.

Apica C.D. Premium Notebook A6 writing sample

Inside, the paper is a soft, warm white. Not ivory, just a natural white and silky smooth.I used the notebook on and off for a week before I felt like I oculd make an informed opinion about the notebook because I had some surprising results the first couple times I used it. I had heard that the Apica premium paper was awesome so I assumed my fountain pens would work great.

What I discovered was that, for me, it was too smooth for most of the fountain pens I use. The inks from fountain pens either took too long to dry or kind of bled a bit and softened around the edges. And the paper was so smooth that I felt like I was chasing the smooth nibbed fountain pens around on the paper. However, what I did like using on this paper were felt tip pens like Microns, the Sharpie Pen, brush-style felt tips or even a PaperMate Flair. The felt/fiber tips seemed to have just enough traction on the slick paper to make for a wonderful writing experience. Gel pens and rollerballs also did well on the paper too. The one fountain pen I did find that worked well was the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen so I suspect that other microfine fountain pens might also perform well.

I had decent results with colored pencil. I tested graphite after I photographed. Palomino Blackwing 602 smudged a bit because its so dark but a harder 2H Turquoise worked quite nicely. I think a standard HB or 2H pencil or a mechanical pencil on this paper would be a good match up as well.

Apica C.D. Premium Notebook A6 writing sample

Overall, once I got over my disappointment that this notebook wasn’t going to be THE notebook for fountain pens, I ended up really liking it. I really like the size, the soft cover and creamy paper. It creates a nice form-and-function arrangement that I really like.


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

Ink Review: Noodler’s Dostoyevsky

Noodler's Dostoyevsky

I got a sample of Noodler’s Dostoyevsky ink (19.50 for 30z bottle or $1.75 per sample) because I need more teal blue grey ink like I need a hole in my head. Right? But there was rationale here, folks. Several of the teal blue grey inks I own are limited edition inks like the Montblanc Meisterstück Blue Hour and Pelikan Edelstein Aquarmarine. As far as I know, Dostoyevsky is a regular ink color in the Noodler’s line-up not to mention considerably more affordable than either the Montblanc or the Pelikan Edelstein inks.  So, let’s talk about the overall quality.

Noodler's Dostoyevsky writing samples

The color has lots of shading and was relatively smooth performing. In my water test, it did not shift much which leads me to wonder if it might stain. Anderson Pens Ink Tool lists the ink as a permanent and waterproof ink so its definitely not an ink to be left in a vintage pen. My sample for the water test was not left to dry for more than a minute so it probably was not completely dry. But its good to know that this is a permanent ink. I may try it out in my Lamy Joy for drawing. It could prove interesting!

Noodler's Dostoyevsky comparison

I re-tested the waterproofiness several hours later with similar results to the water droplet test shown above so the ink isn’t PERMANENT permanent. There was definitely some color travel but it would definitely hold up well for a writer’s notebook but not enough to be used with watercolor for sketching purposes like Platinum Carbon Black.

Overall, I like the color and shading enough to consider Dostoyevsky as an option to replace the limited edition teal blue greys when they run out.

CJ helps with ink review

If you happen to ever see a stray hair in any of my reviews, this is why. I have helpers. Three furry ones and one of them always decides they need to sit on my review, my lap, my table, in the box or be pet at some point during my review process. Today, CJ looked so content it was hard to boot her off the review. Can you blame me?


Anderson Pens is a sponsor of this blog but I purchased this sample and all opinions are my own.

Ink Review: KWZ Menthol Green

KWZ Menthol Green Ink

KWZ Menthol Green Ink

It wasn’t until I started writing with KWZ Menthol Green ($12 for 60ml bottle) that I realized what I liked about it so much – it’s essentially Emerald of Chivor without the sparkle. It might be a tad bit bluer when actually writing with it, but KWZ Menthol Green is probably the closest I’ve found to a sparkle-free substitute for Emerald of Chivor. It’s not water proof but it stands up to a little water without completely losing its shape so that’s handy. It’s a good shading ink, and its priced right too!

I testedd the ink with several different Esterbrook nibs which will account for the color variations. I used wide nibs, fine nibs, flex nibs and even a slightly janky nib. All worked well with the Menthol Green, even Mr. Janky Nib.

KWZ Menthol Green Ink

KWZ Menthol Green doesn’t have the red halo that Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku has either and its a considerably cheaper ink as well.

All-in-all, I can’t say enough nice things about the ink. The only bad thing is that KWZ inks sells out fast. Keep your eyes peeled for it. Vanness usually tries to get it in stock for pen shows so save your pennies for the next big show (DC and SF, for sure).


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

Pencil Review: Louise Fili Tutti Frutti Colored Pencils

fili-colored-pencils

I fall for the gorgeous packaging of Louise Fili’s pencil sets EVERY TIME. I bought the Perfetto Pencils but they were double ended red-and-graphite pencils so how could I not? The red leads were pleasingly soft and the graphite was decent not to mention the foil stamping on the pencils was gorgeous so for looks alone, I loved the Perfettos even though the cores were basically shattered from the moment I got them. But did that stop me from buying the Tutti Frutti colored pencil set? No, of course not.

The packaging on the Tutti Frutti box said it contained “12 Pencils 6 Colors”. What my mammalian pea-brain did not process was that that meant that these pencils would be split pencils and that the box would contain four sets of split pencils that each had complementary colors on each end. From one perspective, it means I have three sets of pencils to share with friends. From another perspective, it means I got three pencils for $12.95– in a lovely box with the same great silver foil stamping on each pencil as the Perfettos. The pencils are round with black cores, lovely smooth paint finishes and are packaged in a matte, slip case box. I am a sucker for good typography and there is beautiful typography all over – on the pencils and the packaging. Twelve dollars and ninety five cents worth of good typography.

Louise Fili Pencils

Colorwise, the pencils are quite basic: red, yellow, blue, orange, green and purple. The basic primary and secondary colors. From a quality standpoint, the pencils are waxy and the colors are bright. On the slightly toothy Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper that I tested them on, the Fili pencils didn’t blend very much but I had done some earlier tests in my Seawhite of Brighton Artist’s Travel Journal which has a smoother, albeit slightly warm white paper, and the pencils did blend to allow me to make some tertiary colors more easily.

inkbottle

As you can see, the Prismas blend more easily than the Tutti Fruttis. I drew over the pencil with Golden High Flow acrylics in a paint pen (dioxazine purple, if you’re curious). For the price and convenience of having three sticks with six colors, the Tutti Frutti pencils are pretty decent, if you are inclined to be taken in by fabulous packaging and the novelty of double-ended pencils like I am. Ah, novelty pencils!

I think that a box of Tutti Fruttis would be a great way to have an assortment of colored pencils handy for traveling, particularly going into summer, and the ability to share the additional sets with friends or kids for road trips is a bonus.

The pencils are regular sized so they fit into a regular sharpener. Being completely round does mean they have a tendency to roll and that means they will fall off the table and break at a moment’s notice so keep that sharpener handy. Would  replace my trusty Prismacolors with Tuttti Fruitts? No, but I will definitely keep a set of these in my travel case for drawing on-the-go.

Ink Review: Lamy Dark Lilac

Lamy Dark Lilac Ink

I feel terrible that I keep reviewing inks that are sold out already but what can I do? I buy them as fast as I can but, when they are limited edition, they sell out. But you want to know if they are good, right? So here it is… my take on Lamy Dark Lilac $10.50. Some shops are saying they will get a restock towards the end of May, beginning of June so keep your eyes peeled.

Lamy Dark Lilac Ink Writing Sample

I tested Dark Lilac with my new-to-me Lamy Safari Lime (the 2008 edition, thanks to Susan Wirth for this wonderful pen!) with an EF nib. I’d heard there was not a lot of shading with the Dark Lilac so I didn’t think using a fine nib would be doing the ink a disservice. I did do a few sentences with my Esterbrook 9315F relief stub, just to check, but the color is so dense that it really did not shade much. As a result, Dark Lilac really is a good color for legibility in fine and extra fine nibs and a great alternative to a black or blue-black ink as an everyday use ink. It flowed beautifully in the Safari with an EF nib and I think would be equally effective with a Japanese F or EF nib as well. It might even look a little lighter in an even finer nib and might show off the vividness of the color a bit more.

Lamy Dark Lilac Ink Comparison

In the ink swabs, the Dark Lilac shows a slight gold sheen but its also evident how dense and the vibrant the color is compared to the other inks. Noodler’s Purple Wampum is really the only ink I could find that was close in hue. KWZ Gummiberry Iron Gall was close in color density. I’m not sure if the regular version of Gummiberry is as deep as the iron gall formula but that may be another alternative.

The last few special edition colors of the Lamy Safaris and AL-Stars with matching inks have offered ink colors that have been way too light to be genuinely usable until now.  Dark Lilac is one of the most usable and interesting ink colors from Lamy since their BlueBlack. If you happen upon a bottle (or even some cartridges), grab it while you have the chance. This is definitely one of the better limited edition ink offerings from Lamy.

Ink Review: Callifolio Andrinople (and Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love)

Callifolio Andrinople Ink

When Brad Dowdy told me he was looking for a bottle of ink that would match his new Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love that he ordered from Bung Box and had delivered by his darling wife on Sunday to the Atlanta Pen Show, I helped him pick Callifolio Andrinople. In the process of picking the ink, I both fell in love with the Sailor Pink Love and Callifolio Andrinople. So, by the time the Chicago Pen Show rolled around two weeks later, I found someone willing to sell me their Pink Love pen and had Lisa Vanness to hold one of the last foil packs of Andrinople for me to pick up in Chicago. So, thanks to Brad, I developed an instant lust for a pink pen and a pink ink. Who thought I’d ever have to blame him for that?

Callifolio Andrinople Ink Etched Bottle

The great thing about the Callifolio foil pouches is the cost-to-volume value. The pouches hold 50ml for a mere $8. Then I was able to transfer the contents to the custom, laser-etched bottle that Lisa made for me with my logo on an empty KWZ bottle. Pretty spiffy, huh?

Callifolio Andrinople Ink Writing Sample

As for the ink itself, I think its a pretty great match for the Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love pen from Bung Box, without being too girly. Andrinople is a fruit punch pink without being garish and totally legible, particularly in the wide music nib.

Callifolio Andrinople Ink Comparison

I did not have many other inks that were similar in color to Andrinople. Caran d’Ache Divine Pink is very similar in color but at three times the price. And J. Herbin Rouge Opera is similar but a little more pink and maybe slightly more coral. I was going to show Platinum Cyclamen Pink here but it was so far removed in color that it didn’t seem appropriate. Way too fluorescent red.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Callifolio Andrinople. The color is lovely and a great match for the Sailor Pink Love.

FYI: I looked it up and Andrinople is a reference to a location in Turkey now known as Edirne, historically known as Adrianople, was known for making a type red dye known as “Turkey red” or in France “rouge d’Andrinople“.


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

Pen Review: Sailor Fude de Mannen Fountain Pens

Sailor Fude de Mannen fountain pens

A couple of days before I left for the Atlanta Pen Show, the amazing Joey Feldman sent me two Sailor Fude de Mannen fountain pens to try. I had been wanting to try these fountain pens for ages since many artists and calligraphers had raved about them but I had had a hard time finding anyone who had them in stock. Along came Joey with a couple he wasn’t using and voila! I’m flush with the funky nib wunderkinds.

Sailor Fude de Mannen fountain pens

The big deal about the Fude de Mannen fountain pens are the bent angle nibs that look like the nibs are broken but they are purposely bent to allow for brush-like ink flow from a fountain pen nib. This allows from very expressive line quality for calligraphy and drawing depending on the angle at which the nib is aligned with the paper. The more parallel the nib is aligned with the paper, the more ink will be applied to the paper; the steeper the angle, the finer the line.

Sailor Fude de Mannen 40º nib

The first one is the Sailor DE 40º Brush Style Calligraphy Fountain Pen. JetPens lists it for $16.50 and says its navy blue but it is so dark that I thought it was black. The trim is gold toned and it is a particularly long pen. The body is a lightweight plastic though so the length is not particularly noticeable once I started using it though I didn’t post the cap as it requires a bit of force to post it and makes the pen ridiculously long and a little back-heavy. The 40º pen does not have a clip but there is a roll-stop bit of plastic on the cap to keep the pen from rolling away.

Sailor Fude De Mannen 55º nib

The smaller pen is the Sailor Profit 55º Fude de Mannen Fountain Pen. I was only able to find it on Amazon for $21.66. Its a shorter pen, more traditional in length and the cap posts much more easily and the weight is more evenly distributed when the cap is posted. The Profit also writes with a much broader stroke overall which looks much more dramatic. When angled just right, the 55º is pretty much a firehose of ink which can be a lot of fun. Angled at a steeper angel, it cam be used more like a traditional broad nib.

Both pens use the Sailor cartridges or the Sailor converter.

I found the 40º pen to be a little bit scratchier on paper compared to the Profit 55º. I don’t know if it was the angle of the nibs or the specific nibs themselves. It could have just been a fluke of the pen I have but the Profit 55º skated like butter on the paper where there was a little more resistance with the 40º, for whatever reason. I might buy another one just to see if it was this specific pen that was a little rough or a difference between the two product lines. Either way, at around $20 per pen, I can hardly complain about quality control since the overall pen is very well done and the nibs are very unique and almost impossible to get in any other configuration without going into the hundreds-of-dollars price points.

Sailor Fude De Mannen writing drawing samples

I had a lot of fun drawing and trying out different lettering styles with these pens and I will definitely continue to experiment with these. Since the price points on these pens are so reasonable as well, I might even try using some permanent inks so that I can add some watercolor and marker to the drawings as well. Then I really have an excuse to buy another one and just label one “carbon ink” and one “water soluble”. If you like trying out different types of tools and $20 won’t break your bank, I definitely recommend picking one or both of these up. The scale you prefer to work will determine whether the 40º or the 55º will be more to your taste. If you work in sketchbooks smaller than A4, then I would recommend the 40º if you work A4 (US Letter or larger) than the 55º is probably a better option or if you like to work in big, bold shapes and patterns.

Review: Monteverde Soft Roll Refills

Monteverde Soft Roll Refills Retro 51a

Generally speaking, I tend to avoid ballpoint refills because I don’t often have very good luck with ballpoint ink. Being left-handed, it tends to smear more often and hard start more often for me than most people. But when Bert at Bertram’s Inkwell insisted I try the Monteverde Soft Roll refills in my Retro 51s as an alternative to the Schmidt P8126 refills, I decided to give it a shot, if only as scientific research. Bert insisted that the superbroad version was one of his best sellers but I was skeptical, being a proponent of the extrafine refills myself. So we settled on trying both. The Parker-style refills fit perfectly in the Retro 51s, something I had not actually tried before so that was an added bonus and opened up a whole new world of refills to me.

Monteverde Soft Roll Writing Samples

It turns out, that on Rhodia paper, both of the Soft Roll refills actually worked really well. The superbroad refill forced me to write a little bit larger than I normally do so that the letters didn’t close up. The ink was actually quite smooth and didn’t have that oily look a lot of ballpoint ink gets. It also didn’t skip or break up like a lot of ballpoint ink does when I write either. The extrafine wrote so smoothly and precisely I forgot it was ballpoint ink at all and kept thinking it was a gel ink.

Monteverde Soft Roll Refills Retro 51s

I used the extrafine refill all week in my Retro51 Bouquet so it was tested on copier paper, Moleskine paper and various and sundry office papers with satisfactory results. I did a few additional tests with the superbroad on a legal pad and there was a bit more evidence of bloops but that’s probably a result of cheap paper combined with the refill putting down a good deal more ink.

If I’m going to use a ballpoint, I’m going to choose one of these refills because the quality is far superior to the average drugstore stick pen. Go, Monteverde!

Both the superbroad and extrafine refills come in a two-pack for $8.95.


DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Bert at Bertram’s Inkwell for these samples. This item was given to me free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Crescent Rendr No Show Thru Sketchbook

Crescent Rendr No Show Sketchbook

The Crescent Rendr No Show Thru Sketchbook 3.5″x5.5″ ($10) was something I wanted to try in hopes of finding a good multimedia sketchbook. I got the small size to sample at first before investing in a larger version. Crescent also claims that the sketchbook lays flat as show on the wrap included with the book.

The sketchbook has a flexible, soft touch paperboard cover and a perfect binding. In looking closely at the pages, the paper looks like there is a black core in the middle of the white sheet to create the bleed-proof quality.

Crescent Rendr No Show Sketchbook

Was the paper bleed proof? Yes, but any wet media, including watercolor markers, liquid ink applied in any volume, brush pens filled with liquid acrylic or ink, caused the paper to buckle and curl severely. I tried adding water to Winsor & Newton watercolor markers to blend the color and the color wouldn’t move. So there is another aspect to this paper that changes the property of some materials as well. The watercolor marker absorbed into the paper and made it impossible to manipulate those markers with water. I got a little movement with water soluble pencils like a Stabilo ALL but mostly, I found the paper frustrating. Sure, most material didn’t bleed to the reverse but the curl and buckle was so bad I couldn’t really use the other side of the sheet anyway so bleed through didn’t really matter by the time I finished a page anyway. At least for the types of art materials I use.

Crescent Rendr No Show Sketchbook Crescent Rendr No Show Sketchbook

As for the claims about lay-flat, I found in the small 3.5×5.5″ size, the book did not lay flat at all, even after trying to bend the pages and cracking the spine. I ended up having to use a clip or hold the book with my hand. Maybe the larger book lays flat more easily but the small pocket-sized book did not lay flat and then after I used it, it did not close either.

Crescent Rendr No Show Sketchbook

Overall, I found this particular product quite frustrating. I looked online to see if anyone else had reviewed it. Notebook Stories agreed with my findings: bleed proof but curls with wet media. On Amazon, I found reviews that suggested that if you use a lot of alcohol-based markers like Copic Markers, then you might have a better experience with this paper but that fountain pens feather terribly. So, this is definitely not for fountain pen users or watercolorists. If you do a lot of marker illustrations, I would be more inclined to recommend traditional marker paper which is translucent but designed to withstand alcohol markers. If you want to use a wider range of mixed media (from pens to ink to graphite) and wet media (watercolor, markers, etc), I’d recommend Strathmore Mixed Media, Canson XL Mixed Media, Stillman & Birn or one of the artist’s sketchbooks from Seawhite of Brighton. I’ve written reviews about the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal and the A5 Starter Sketchbook pack if you’d like more information.


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

Review: Ranga Modified Fountain Pen

Ranga Nikko G Fountain Pen

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

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

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

Ranga Nikko G Fountain Pen

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

Ranga Nikko G Fountain Pen

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

Fountain Pen Weights

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

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

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