Posts Tagged ‘review’

Notebook Review: Word. Dot Grid and Declan Floral Edition

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan

I recently got a delightful little treat in my mailbox in the form of two new packs of Word. notebooks: a 3-pack of Word. dot grid books ($9.99) and a 3-pack of the new Declan Floral edition notebooks ($9.99).

The Declan Floral edition is a collaboration between Word. and Declan. Word makes the books and Declan designed the “Lang” floral print used for the covers. The floral print is taken from a retired design from Declan’s line of high-tech pocket squares that double as eyewear and digital device cleaning wipes. The Declan Floral edition features the classic 48-page Word. bullet system with lined pages and a circle/dot on the left-hand side of each page for list-making. The front cover includes tips for using the bullet system and the back cover has some tips for abbreviation.

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan writing samples

The paper in the Declan edition stood up to most of the pens I tried including an assortment of fine nib fountain pens without any show through and no bleeding. The only exception was the Platinum Preppy with Carbon Black ink and the Karas Kustoms INK with Waterman Tender Purple which had a little show through and a tiny bit of ghosting to the reverse of the paper. The printed lines on the Declan were also pleasingly light and thin which allowed me to use a wide variety of colors without interfering with readability.

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan writing samples

The Word. dot gid notebooks feature a light grey cover with the dot grid pattern printed in a slightly darker grey which is very subtle. The inside cover provides a place for contact information and the back cover has a 5″ ruler printed along the edge as well as the specifications of the paper and printing information. The books contains 48 pages of 5mm dot grid printed on Lynx Opaque Ultra Smooth White 60# acid-free paper which is 100% post-consumer recycled, in case you’re curious. Unfortunately, I found the dots in the Word. dot grid notebooks to be considerably darker and more distracting than the lines in the Declan notebook. I wish the dots were printed about 20% lighter or smaller and a little ligther.

Since the specifications about the paper were not included in the Declan edition, I can be sure if its excatly the same paper. I’m inclined to think it is, but for some reason, the ghosting on the dot grid bothers me more than on the Declan lined paper. Maybe its because I ended up preferring the lighter lines on the Declan so I just generally prefer it? Personal bias, clearly.

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan writing from reverse

Anyway, you be the judge. Does it look the same to you? I tested the same pens at the same time in the same colors. Maybe my eyes are just playing tricks on me. Either way, I think the results on the Word.notebook paper is considerably better than other pocket notebooks and I did test several fountain pens with better-than-expected results. The built-in bullet journal system is a bonus for a lot of people who have embraced the system. Even if you don’t bullet journal, if you use a pocket notebook for lists, then the Word.notebooks definitely provide a leg up over many of its competitors. And I partuclarly like the Declan floral design for being something unique, not overly feminine, but a nice aesthetic alternative to other cover designs.

Now I think I need to invest in the Tasting Notes. Did you hear the Freakonomics podcast episode called The Cheeseburger Diet? I feel like the Tasting Notes notebook was designed to be used for one’s own personal cheeseburger tasting mission. I’d have to do the full cheeseburger triumvirate though: cheeseburger, fries and a vanilla milkshake.


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

Planner Review: Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

Last year, when I first started dabbling in planners, I downloaded the Marcy Penner’s Hello Forever printable inserts for my planner. Since then, Marcy Penner has started designing her Hello Forever planning products for Studio Calico including a line of A5 planners (8.25″ x 9.5″ x 1.375″).

While Studio Calico is most known as a company that create products for memory keeping and scrapbooking, over the last few years, they have started moving into the creative planning world with a planning subscription service and the Hello Forever line of planning products. What I love most about both of these products is that, even if you are not into the decorative planning stuff, the designs are clean and well-designed. I’ve been a subscriber to their planner kit for several months and its one of my favorites offering clean, simple planner add-ons like stickers, washi tape and rubber stamps. When I saw the planners, I couldn’t resist.

I purchased the Hello Forever Planner in Clear Sky blue ($54.99) with a decorative floral pattern on the inside. I think of it as my “Missouri Compromise” — business on the outside, party on the inside. The simple, grey vertical elastic closure kept the exterior of the planner clean and simple and unfussy. The floral design on the inside is bright and cheerful and my little secret.

The overall construction of the binder itself is very good. The material used on the exterior of the planner is a smooth faux leather and lightly padded. Inside is a screen-printed pattern on white fabric. There are three pockets on the inside front cover and a secretary pocket. On the back cover, there is a loop of grey elastic for a pen loop. I would have liked a slot or pocket in the back for a notepad but, for the price point, I’m not too upset.

The ring placement is standard A5 6-hole and the rings are very tight. This means that the binder can accept inserts from any other A5 planner system or can use printables and a standard 6-hole punch.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

The planner came with a complete set of undated inserts for the year, two clear decorative plastic dashboards, a black striped plastic movable bookmark, monthly tabs with pockets, half-sheet perforated to-do lists, two page protector sheets for holding photos, cards or paper ephemera, four pages of kiss-cut stickers, half-sheet perforated photo-a-day list sheets, month-on-two-pages undated calendar pages, undated week-on-two-pages weekly pages, monthly reflection pages, future planning pages, a year at a glance for 2016 and a perpetual planning booklet that can be tucked in the front pocket. There is also an additional sheet of sticker tabs tucked in the front pockets.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

The front acetate sheet has a floral design, the second dashboard acetate has the red fishnet pattern and then under that is a cover page that reads “Today is the day”.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

I can see the appeal for some of the photo-a-day perforated sheets but I’m not sure I’d have much use for these. I do like that they are perforated and can then be moved to a specific month in your planner.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

I love the clean, simple typography for the days of the week and the diagonal stripes on the moveable acetate bookmark. Striking design that could be embellished or kept clean and simple.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

The tabs are color coded and each one already has a pocket on the front of each month to hold receipts and other papers which is very handy.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

In the back are handy perforated half-sheet to-do lists like the photo-a-day sheets. I think these will be much more useful and include check boxes.  Perfect for grocery lists and other errands.

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

And of course, the big question everyone had was how does the paper perform. And I was a little worried because this is such a make-or-break issue and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I was THRILLED to discover that the paper far exceeded my expectation. Our best guess is that its about 70lb smooth and there was no bleed or show through with any of the pens I tested. If Studio Calico keeps using this paper for all the refills they make for this planner series I will buy everything they make for it. The Platinum Carbon Black fountain pen ink didn’t even show through! That alone is a reason to try out this planner!

Studio Calico Hello Forever A5 Planner

This is the reverse of the paper and trust me when I say I did not manipulate this photo. No show through at all. I didn’t abuse it with a Sharpie marker or anything but the black Staedtler Triplus Fineliner had no issues with show through nor did my Franklin Christoph with Noodler’s Black Swan in English Roses. with a Medium Stub. So, I did put it through a standard pen nerd’s everyday carry.

The A5 planner is also available in a greystone and melon with different interior accent colors.   If you’re looking for an alternative to the more business-y Filofax and Franklin Covey style planners but are finding the Carpe Diem and Color Crush planners a little “too much”, the Studio Calico Hello Forever might be the perfect balance between them. I hope that in the future Studio Calico will consider adding a smaller personal-sized version of this planner to their offerings since the size is the only thing holding me back from being madly, passionately in love with it. I’m not sure yet whether I can commit to carrying around a full A5-sized planner. But for the paper alone, I may try out carrying an A5 just to use the beautiful design and the fabulous paper. Studio Calico and Hello Forever really did make a beautiful planner and I’m looking forward to seeing how it wears over time.

Ink Review: Private Reserve Daphne Blue

Private Reserve Daphne Blue header

Private Reserve Daphne Blue ($11 for 66ml bottle or $1.25 for 2ml sample vial) is the most beautiful Mediterranean Sea blue. At first, I was worried that the color would be too light to work in a fine nib fountain pen but the color is deep and vivid enough that its actually extremely legible, even in a fine nib. And it shades beautifully too. I actually think this is a great color for fine nib pens if you’re looking for a color that is readable and you enjoy shading in your ink colors.

Private Reserve Daphne Blue

I test a lot of ink colors and many of them I enjoy using but, by the time I use up a pen’s worth, I’ve had my fill of that color. However, before I even finished writing my review, I was already placing an order for a full bottle of Daphne Blue. I seldom do that so that must be the highest sort of praise. I’m looking forward to putting this into Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 eye dropper. Won’t that look stunning?

Private Reserve Daphne Blue Comparison

I pulled some swatches to compare to Daphne Blue. Lamy Turquoise and Noodler’s Turquoise Eel were both lighter turquoise while Diamine Aqua Lagoon, Kaweco Paradise Blue and Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku were progressively greener and darker than Daphne Blue. Clearly, I do love those turquoise blues and teals.


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.

Ink Review: Diamine Meadow

Diamine Meadow Ink

I was recently reminded about Diamine Meadow (available in 2ml samples for $1.25 and 80ml bottles for $14.95) 30ml bottles for $7.50 and from my Secret Society of Enablers (you know who you are!). I’m lucky I know so many people who share my love of green. I had a sample of it in my stash from a Goulet Pens Ink Drop so I finally pulled it out to give it a good going over to determine if this was an ink worthy of a full bottle purchase, seeing as I already own many bottles of yellow-green ink. I have to be choosy about how many more lime green inks enter my house for fear of mojito overload.

I filled my Lamy Safari with 1.1mm stub/calligraphy nib and set forth to give this ink a thorough testing.

First, I did my watercolor brush painted lettering, to see the range of color and was pleased with the range of color. Meadow varies from a deep almost kelly green to a light lime depending on how much ink is applied.

Then I started my writing tests. It seemed like the color was coming out much darker than most people had described it. I kept thinking that maybe I had some fugitive color from poor cleaning and the more I wrote the lighter the color became. Yep. Fugitive color.

Diamine Meadow Ink close-up

By the time I was halfway down the page, I am pretty confident I was getting the true color, consistent with both the color in the painted lettering and the swab. Its a bright, happy grassy green with lots of shading and it looks great in the wide 1.1mm nib. It does seem to dry a bit darker than when its wet … almost a little olive-y which is actually quite legible.

I was concerned about overall legibility so I switched out the 1.1mm nib to a F nib just to see for myself and the ink maintained both shading and legibility, at least with the European F nib. A Japanese F nib might lose some of the shading because it would be much finer but I think the color would stay dark enough to be usable unlike Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-Rin which I sometimes find too light in very fine nibs to be useful.

Diamine Meadow Ink comparison

Overall, I think Diamine Meadow strikes a nice balance between being a bright green and being a usable color. I love the hue of Chiku-Rin but there are instances where its just too light. Caran D’ache Delicate Green is kind of ridiculously expensive for how kelly green it is and Monblanc Daniel DeFoe is a little subdued, not to mention limited edition. So if you’re in the market for a good green ink, Diamine Meadow is a good candidate and a favorite among the green beans. I think its a keeper.


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.

InCoWriMo Stationery Package Set: Bamboo Green

incowrimo kit-4

I swore to myself this year I would skip InCoWriMo/LetterMo because I can get so overwhelmed with too many letters and not enough time. However, everywhere I turn this year, all signs are pointing to a February full of letter-writing. I cannot diverge from the path, not when people are putting all these beautiful things on my doorstep making it impossible for me not to want to write lots of letters! To start, the folks are Goulet Pens have put together fabulous color coordinated Stationery Package Sets like the Bamboo Green Kit ($84.90, reduced from $100.90 retail). In this kit is Original Crown Mill Correspondence Set with 25 edged sheets and matching lined envelopes in lime green, a bottle of color coordinated Pilot Iroshiuku ink in Chiku-Rin and a Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen in Lime.

incowrimo kit-6

I’ve  always wanted to try a Faber-Castell fountain pen and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. The barrel of the pen is shiny, silver chrome with a brush solve grip section. The cap is lime green plastic embossed with the Faber-Castell logo and has a spring-loaded, silver clip. When I’ve seen pictures of this pen the cap always looks really bulbous. In person, its not nearly as noticeable. The cap is a little bit more rounded than the smooth cylindrical barrel of the pen but the cap is not onion-headed. Its much better looking in person. Is it possible for a pen to not be as photogenic as it is pretty in person?

The body of the pen is quite weighty. The whole pen with cap weighs in at 33gms, unposted its 27gms. Comparing it to other low-priced pens, you can see that the Faber-CAstell Loom is no lightweight. Surprisingly though, when I started writing with it, the pen itself is so well-balanced, I did not notice the weight though I did use the pen unposted so it was just a little weightier than a Lamy AL-Star.

Fountain Pen Weights

The Loom is 5.125″ (13cm) long capped, just 3/8″ (1cm) shorter than a Lamy Safari and the grip on the Loom is 3cm long to the Safari’s 3.5cm grip. So they are quite comparable in size but the Loom is a much weightier pen and the nib is much silkier out of the box (comparing F nib to F nib). Both also use snap caps and the Loom snap cap is very tight.

I got the F nib and I was kind of blown away with how smooth it wrote right out of the box. It wrote immediately upon filling and had no hard starts, even after I left it uncapped for 10 minutes.

incowrimokit1-1

The Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-Rin also performed quite well even in the fine nib of the Loom. everything was readable and I got good shading out of the nib. The Loom plus the Chiku-Rin is actually a good match-up I was quite pleased with my results! I did my writing tests on my standard Rhodia Blank writing pad just so my results were consistent with all my all ink and pen tests and I was really happy with how it all turned out.

I haven’t tested everything out on the Original Crown Mill stationery yet but the paper is a nice bright white with some lovely tooth to the stock and I will be sure to do a follow-up about how the stationery performs but I’m not expecting any issues. Original Crown Mill is known for its good quality paper and it looks beautiful! The paper and envelopes came in a sturdy metallic silver box too which seems posh and old world. I miss stationery that comes in a good box and this set delivers! Lined envelopes!

Several other stationery color sets are available as well in navy, fuchsia, royal blue and dark green in a range of prices and each include a fountain pen, matching ink and a Original Crown Mill Correspondence Set if lime green isn’t your thing.

incowrimo kit-2

And the folks at Goulet Pens wanted my InCoWriMo/LetterMo to be completely decked out and totally color coordinated so they included an edelweiss wax seal ($12) and handle ($16) and two matching green wax seal wax sticks ($6 each) too. I love that the was sticks are embossed with “Atelier Gargoyle”.

incowrimo kit-3

I was a bit nervous to try the seals out on an actual letter so I thought I might practice first in case I made a complete mess.

incowrimo kit-7

I’ve never learned how to seal a letter with a wax seal so I looked for some videos on YouTube to learn how to do it. I now know why Brian Goulet was playing with blow torches on the Q&A video this week. I didn’t have anything that extreme so I practiced melting the wax using a long grill lighter which worked great until I ran out of butane. The example above was my first try and I think it turned out pretty good on my desk scratch paper. (The dust in the seal was from my second attempt with a candle and I got candle wax all over my desk. It was not the wax stick’s fault. It was a total user error)

The best thing is the wax his actually quite flexible, its not at all brittle and I think it will hold up well to the rigors of the postal service, even in the cold temperatures of a Midwest winter. I can see why Goulet chose to stock this brand. The wax melted easily, it smelled pleasing and stayed supple. And I’m impressed with the level of detail in the seal design. Wow, I’m officially a convert to wax seals. This was super easy to do. I just wish I hadn’t run out of lighter fluid.

incowrimo kit-1

So, it looks like I’m all set for February! Are you? Will you be participating in InCoWriMo/LetterMo this year?


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.

Pen Review: Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens close-up

The Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens, available in SB, MB and BB, were something I discovered in a very roundabout way. I was reading Lisa Condon’s blog again and she was talking about more of the tools she liked yo use. I started clicking on links and next thing I knew, voila! I had these in my cart. They are longer than a standard Micron pen, more like a paint brush length and a bit more expensive at $3.90 each but the ink is fade resistant, archival and waterproof and I think the tips are a superior quality to the standard Pigma brush line so I think the upcharge is worth it.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen Tips

The tips of the pens are felt/foam/whatever-it-is and it is the springiest version of this material that I’ve ever experienced. Even with pressure, the points and edges spring back into shape quickly and easily. Making them fun to use and they keep their brush point shape. The point retention seems really good too though I’ve only used them for about a week so time will be the real determining factor here but so far, so good.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens writing sample

These were so fun to draw with the range of line widths, even with the finest tip size was quite dramatic. The BB was big! If you like to work large or want to do something like calligraphic graffiti, this would be a great pen for it. Such fun. In my waterproof test, I had no issues with water but when I added the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush pens over the watered wet ink, I did get some running of the colors. I don’t know if this was a reaction from the ink in the Coloring Brush pens or the combination of the water, Professional Brush pen and Coloring Brush pens. That said, the Professional Brush pens were not affected by the water at all but did get some color travel with the other markers so you may want to do some experiments before using these pens on artwork just in case there are any other fugitive color reactions. My next experiments will probably be with actual watercolor paints and the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens. I think that would look great if the colors don’t bleed.

Overall, I love the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens and I look forward to seeing the longevity of the tips. So springy, I hope they last a long time!


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: Waterman Tender Purple

Waterman Tender Purple Ink

Well, hello Royal Purple! Waterman Tender Purple is a very regal violet purple indeed. Its bright, vivid and a perfect remedy for the bleak January days we’ve been facing here in the Midwest recently. I  tested this ink out in my Karas Kustom INK with a fine nib and was able to get some shading and color variation even in this thin line so the color is deep enough for your finest nibs and the color is rich enough to be legible as well. It dried quickly with the fine nib, even on the Rhodia stock so I was able to write with a good clip. Even the painted lettering in the header didn’t take too long to dry and that was applied with a watercolor brush.

Waterman Tender Purple Ink comparison

I included a few other purple/violet inks samples for color comparison but you can see that Waterman Tender Purple definitely has a unique hue. Pilot Iroshizuku Murasaki-Shikibu is a warmer purple, J. Herbin Violette Pensee is much lighter and  Noodler’s Purple Martin is much, much darker. These were the inks that were closest in my stash too. Everything else was either much redder, much darker or just not in the same family at all.

So, if you’re looking for a regal, bright, clean violet purple, Waterman Tender Purple is definitely a good candidate. I received this sample as part of the Goulet Pens Ink Drop subscription series some time ago but you can purchase a sample individually for $1.25 or a full 50ml bottle for $12.


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.

Pencil Review: Pencil Factory Nashville Assortment Set of 6

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set close-up

Ever since I saw The Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set, I’ve wanted to pick it up but I never did it. My husband, sweetheart that he is, bought them for me for Christmas this year. In the box is an assortment of six different pencils and a small scratchpad of paper. The paper pad seems like a filler but I appreciate that they tried to make it feel like a little “kit”. What I was interested in was the pencils!

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set

The packaging and branding is top-notch and everything suggests that the pencils are actually manufactured in the US, in Nashville, TN which, as a former resident of the state, is a bonus.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set

All the pencils are painted with a warm ivory enamel and stamped in gold with the pencil name and the “THE PENCIL FACTORY”. The ferrules and/or caps are a soft gold, not as shiny as they look in photos which give them a more refined appearance in person. The erasers, where present, are a bright raspberry pink and are a pleasing contrast in color to the warm ivory paint. Aesthetically, these are lovely pencils and the paint is smooth in the hand.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set

Because of the variety of sizes of pencils, I had to get a little creative when I sharpened them.  The Sweetbriar was a standard width pencil and I could use my 2-step Palomino long point sharpener. The Bridge pencil, because it was so slender, I could use just the long point side of the 2-step sharpener and it sharpened beautifully. The Midtown, which is the hexagonal white wax pencil, was sharpened using my Prismacolor sharpener which is designed to sharpen softer leads. The jumbo-sized West End and Hester were sharpened using an old school wall-mount hand crank sharpener as it was the only thing I had with an opening large enough to accommodate these chubby, big-grip pencils. And finally, the carpenter pencil was ineffectually hand sharpened with an X-acto. Somewhere, I own a carpenter pencil sharpener but I could not find it.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set White Wax Pencil

The Midtown ended up being a pleasant surprise. I tested it on kraft paper and it was opaque enough to work just fine so this is a good pencil for marking on any stocks that are not white, I suspect. Fun with colored paper, for sure!

I was expecting something a bit chalky and hard but it turned out to be a surprisingly soft, waxy white crayon in pencil form. It was so soft, in fact, that I had to resharpen the tip to write the word “FUN” at the end of my sample as the tip had already gone soft as you can see in the word “lead”. The one thing I did notice is it is a very hexagonal pencil, so much so that it actually dug into my hands a bit. I guess a lot of manufacturers now soften those points giving most hex pencils a rounder, softer feel. The Midtown writes soft but feels a little sharp.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set Writing Sample

I tested the other pencils on standard Rhodia paper and started with the most traditional, the Sweetbriar. Normally, I don’t favor smooth round barrels as they tend to feel a little wide in my hand but overall the Sweetbriar wrote very smoothly. Then I picked up the Bridge pencil which is the same smooth barrel but in a much narrower width and I liked it much better. I don’t think I’ve ever really used bridge pencils much before nor do I know why they were designed more slender than standard pencils but I really like the size of the the Bridge and it has the same smooth lead as the Sweetbriar. Of the set, the Bridge is the pencil I set aside immediately as my favorite of the lot.

The West End and the Hester are both jumbo pencils. The West End is a smooth, round barrel and the Hester is a hexagonal barrel. I know there are a lot of folks who actually prefer the size of jumbo pencils in the hand but would rather they didn’t look like they were designed for children. If you fall into this camp, than the Pencil Factory jumbo pencils are made for you. Aesthetically, they are upscale and understated. They perform well too. Smooth, though I found the Hester to be softer than the West End even though all the graphite pencils are labelled No. 2. You’ll see I smudged around the Hester writing sample and how much darker the writing appears. Curious.

The Old Hickory is not your average carpenter pencil. It is a double-ended carpenter pencil with graphite on one end and red colored lead on the other. I love that the Pencil Factory created this unique carpenter pencil but I very seldom have need for this type of pencil. When actually marking wood, I have often just used a Prismacolor. Shhh, don’t tell. That said, its a clever design though the red lead is a little harder than I would have expected, especially after using the soft, white wax of the Midtown.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set Eraser Test

My last test was to see if the pink erasers were useful. They do an adequate job on everything except the red from the carpenter pencil thought I’m still inclined to recommend keeping a Mars Staedtler plastic eraser with you if you really want to erase something. Pink eraser are cute but not all that useful.

All in all, the Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set was a treat and I’m glad I got a chance to try these out. Keep in mind that if you purchase these, be prepared to figure out how to sharpen all the various widths. Otherwise, its a fun little set with fabulous design aesthetics.

I suspect I’ll be buying a dozen of the Bridge pencils soon. New obsession!

Review: Van Hook & Co. A5 Fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook Leather Cover

vanhookco-1

I recently found Van Hook and Co. on Etsy and purchased a made-to-order dyed leather, stitched A5 wide cover fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook cover. The cost for the cover an $75 and took about ten days from the time I ordered it until it arrived.

The leather has a warm hue to it and is a heavyweight and firm, not floppy which I really like. There are two short, leather slash pockets in the front and back that add stability and weight to the covers as well. The stitching around the edges is even and bright white. The elastic is black and, by default, Van Hook included four elastics inside for books.

Also, there are two elastic loop along the righthand side for a pen. My Sharbo-X fits snugly in the loops and coordinates nicely with the cover but the loops aren’t wide enough to fit the Pilot Metropolitan without a bit of effort. A Sharpie Pen fits in the loops fine though not as pleasing to look at. If I were to order another cover from Van Hook, I might skip the pen loops just because I tend to carry a whole case of pens with me anyway.

vanhookco-2

I filled mine with the Moleskine large notebooks I reviewed earlier this week which fit perfectly. First, is the planner, then a cahier for my knitting project planning, then a Volant for sketching and notes. I have some other A5-ish notebooks on order that I may swap out along the way, but for now I wanted to see how these fit and how well the cover worked with the various thicknesses. So far, so good.

vanhookco-4

I never thought I would buy a larger fauxdori cover but I got a wild hair and I am so glad I have another size option in my ‘dori arsenal. I also absolutely love the unusual turquoise color. I cannot wait to see how the color will patina over time.

I will definitely be ordering another cover from Van Hook very soon. The craftsmanship and quality is excellent and I love how thick their leather is. I prefer the hardier leather as an alternative to the more traditional Midori floppy leather covers. I think a traditional, slim chartreuse leather stitched is next on my wish list!

Pen Review: Gelly Roll 64-Piece Gel Pen Set

gelly rolls

Hoo, boy! When I decide to go down the path I pretty much take the WHOLE ROAD. In the case of the Sakura Gelly Roll pens, I got the whole kit-and-caboodle! That’s right, I got the Sakura Gelly Roll 64-Color Set Box ($80). I mean, really? How was I supposed to pick just a handful?

The pens came in a translucent plastic box divided into five sections and the wrapper has a color key on the reverse that I could fill in see what each color looks like. Don’t you just want to dig your fingers into each of these compartments and pull out all the pens?!?! The box is a standard plastic art supply tackle box but did not add anything to the cost of the purchase of the all these pens and gave a nice way to keep them all organized. The 64-pen set works out to $1.25 per pen which is cheaper than buying the pens individually so the case is basically free. WIN!

gelly rolls

The 64-color set includes 17 classic/regular pens (in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm), 14 metallic pens, 10 Moonlight pens, 13 Stardust pens, and 10 Shadow Pens (5 in gold shadow and 5 in silver shadow).

The Classic Gelly pens (0.3 mm and 0.4 mm) glide on in a gloss look and dry to an opaque matte finish. These are available in fine and medium point and include on opaque white which is probably one of the most popular options. The white is a great pen for adding in highlights on drawings, using as a “white out” pen or for writing on dark papers. The Gelly Roll Classics look like matte paint when dry which is part of their appeal.

The Metallic pens (0.4mm)  have a fine mica metallic sheen and are opaque making them great for dark stocks.  The colors included a range of jewel tones, gold, silver and copper plus a black metallic which reminded me of asphalt.

The Moonlight colors (listed as 0.5 mm but its seems much wider) are fluorescent and/or super opaque bright colors but take an age to dry and are a pretty wide point. Despite the slow dry times and wide tips, I find myself reaching for these over and over.

The Stardust pens (listed as 0.5 mm but its seems much wider), particularly the clear which is one of my favorite, are glitter with an archival ink base. The glitter may flake away but the colors will remain true. These also had a bit longer dry time but not as long as the Moonlight or Shadow pens.

The Shadow pens (0.7 mm) are the strangest of the bunch, in my opinion. These pens will halo with either silver or gold with a core of the ink color. They are very thick, viscous color and take some time to dry but would be fun for decorating envelopes or letters. They are definitely a bit too broad from general note-taking.

gelly rolls

I tried to photograph my samples from a couple angles to catch the light and show the tinkly effects of the various pens but I think I’ll end up having to put together a quick video just to show off the full effect at some point.

gelly rolls

gelly rolls

gelly rolls

Strangely, my favorite colors in the set ended up being the Moonlight Fluorescent Vermillion, the Stardust Sky Star, the Metallic Emerald (that was sort of a “duh”), the Stardust Clear glitter, the Classic medium orange, and the fine Classic Royal Blue. I pulled those out and added them to my daily pen case. I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the Shadow pens but I suspect envelope addressing will be their forte.

If you think you might ever want to go down the Gelly Roll Rabbit Hole, I think you’re going to have to buy the whole 64-pen box. You’re going to want ALL OF THE COLORS. I know I did and I’m glad I did. Yes, $80 is a lot of money but then I think how much I spend on one fountain pen and it all goes back into perspective.


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.

Reconsidering Moleskine

moleskine covers

I’m fully prepared for backlash and vitriol from this post, but, over the years, Moleskine continues to be the measure used — for better or worse — for all other notebooks. First and foremost, Moleskine notebooks are available in a multitude of sizes, configurations and form factors. The overall aesthetics are streamlined and understated. While you might not love them, its hard to truly dislike them. If anything, they are plain. And they are ubiquitous. You can buy them almost anywhere: the airport, the bookstore, the coffeeshop or your favorite boutique.

What really spurred me was a recent comment that suggested that the paper stock used in the Moleskine Cahier, Volant and standard Moleskine Notebooks was different. Well, that gave me something worthy of investigation.

So, I bought one of each at the standard large size (5″x8.25″ or 13x21cm slightly smaller than A5), new, off-the-shelf from my local Barnes & Noble. I wanted to make sure I had recent editions and not ones that had been sitting on my shelves for months or years that may have been manufactured with different paper stock. I purchased all plain notebooks since I like to use guide sheets and Moleskine paper is very conducive to using your own guide sheets as the paper is not super thick. Of course, all the Moleskine notebooks are also available in other colored covers but I went with plain black. The Cahier I couldn’t find a black version so I went with grey as the next best option for neutral.

I also tested the week-on-two-pages planner for 2016, also with the soft cover, which I got through Jenni Bick. I was curious if the process of adding printing created any coating on the paper that might alter ink adhesion in any way so the planner is my monkey wrench in the testing process.

Of course, my expectations are not that the Moleskine notebooks are all of a sudden 100% fountain pen friendly or anything like that but there are many readers who don’t need all-day, everyday fountain pen friendly paper. And there are lots of other notebooks that we often rely on heavily that don’t support fountain pens the way we wish they would like the Baron Fig, Field Notes, or Word Notebooks.

As pen and pencil aficionados, we also love gels, rollerballs, ballpoints, pencils, felt tips, brushes and all sorts of other mark-making tools. And sometimes, we need something that is easy to find in the size that fits our favorite Fauxdori, Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter or whatever other carryall or pocket we need to stuff with paper.

Format No. of books Pages/book total pages cover material binding extras MSRP
Plain Softcover

1

192

192

leatherette perfect bound, stitched ribbon bookmark, gusset pocket

$19.95

Volant

2

96

192

plastic perfect bound, stitched sticker sheet, all pages are perforated

$13.95

Cahier

3

80

240

cardstock paperboard exposed stitching glued slit pocket, last 16 pages perforated in each book

$13.95

First things first… a spreadsheet of specs!

The first thing I noticed when I put together my spreadsheet is that the Cahier 3-set is a better price value, page-per-page, than the Volant or the soft cover notebook, sales or discounted pricing notwithstanding. Of course, the covers are not as durable but the Cahier sets include the perforated pages in the back and the pocket so there are still some “extras”. I just thought it was interesting to note.

My experience with the large, soft cover plain notebook is pretty much identical to the XL version. The paper behaved as well as I expected and I’m finding that the flexible cover is a good compromise between the classic hard cover Moleskine notebook and a floppy paper cover. The soft leatherette cover actually feels very nice in hand and allows the cover to be folded back or to lay flat as I need it. It also slims the book ever so slightly so its not quite as bulky overall. The soft cover notebook still includes the gusseted pocket in the back, ribbon bookmark and the vertical elastic like the classic hard cover version.

The covers on the Volant feel the most rugged of the three. They are more plasticky feeling than the leatherette quality of the soft cover which feel more supple and upscale. However, I do like that all the pages in the Volant are perforated as an option. If you are looking for a notebook that could be used for lists and leave-behind notes, the Volant offers the easiest flexibility.  There are no extras in the Volant — no ribbon bookmarks or pockets in the Volant so its a very stripped down and streamlined notebook. The writing sample on the Volant was absolutely consistent with the plain notebook. My husband voted the Volant his favorite.

The Cahier notebooks are lovely to look at with the exposed stitching and the kraft paper covers. However, the paper in the Cahier did seem to be more inclined to feather the fountain pen inks than in either the Volant or the soft cover or the planner. Even the J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor in my TWSBI EF behaved nicely in all but the Cahier. Now I don’t know if the Cahier paper behavior was a fluke but it even shadowed and bled to the reverse more than the other three. Maybe that’s part of why its a slightly better price value? You get what you pay for?

Finally, for comparison, I also tested the week-on-two-pages 2016 Weekly Planner (with the same soft cover as the plain notebook) to verify that, in printing, the paper quality didn’t change. I used all the same pens with the same inks as I did on the plain paper which I assume was not run through printing press and the results were consistent with the plain notebook and the Volant. The Cahier paper still seems to be a little more absorbent than any of the other papers but generally speaking the printing lines don’t seem to alter the quality of the paper. So if your preference is lined or graph paper, Moleskine notebooks will withstand the same scrutiny that the plain books do.

One of the things I really enjoy about the Moleskine paper is the warm white color and the smoothness of the stock. The warm white color is very inviting and easy on the eyes. I find it less intimidating than a stark, bright white sheet found in other notebooks.

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(Click on image to view full size)

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(Click on image to view full size)

For the writing tests, I left the full-sized images available to view so that you can get as up-close and personal with these photos as you’d like. As you can see, with most everyday, fine line pens the Moleskine paper performed pretty well. Even fine fountain pens were mostly well-behaved. I particularly like how felt tip pens pens behave on Moleskine paper like the Sharpie Pen and Staedtler Triples Fineliners. They sort of grip along and make lovely marks.

Because the Moleskine paper is very smooth, if you do prefer a very fine writing tool, you are unlikely to snag an 0.25mm on the tooth of the paper. Pencils also glide across the paper. Even the finest Pilot Hi-Tec C, Energel Needletip or (my current favorite) Platinum Carbon Pen, skates across the paper. Despite the issues with some fountain pens and fountain pen inks, many writing tools are a joy on Moleskine paper.

Since most of my daily writing and drawing work is done with a 0.5mm or smaller tool, the Moleskine paper is really quite adequate. And all of the plain paper performed the same. What I did notice was that heat or moisture from my hand could affect the paper. Its not heavyweight paper by any means but honestly, neither is Tomoe River. Sure, Tomoe doesn’t feather but its transparent and takes an age to dry so there are trade-off’s with any notebook or paper you may choose.

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(Click on image to view full size)

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Reverse of pages. (Click on image to view full size)

From the reverse of the pages, you can see some ghosting and show through on the top row which is the planner and the Cahier but not so much as to be distracting when written on the other side. With the plain paper notebooks, I tend to only use one side of the paper anyway. For the planner, I use mostly color coded gel pens for daily use so they don’t show through as much as the testing actually demonstrates. Generally speaking, the reverse of the pen tests were not as bad as I was expecting them to be. Of course, I didn’t try a lot of wide calligraphy fountain pens but even my brush pens behaved with some discretion.

So, in the end, the Cahier paper does seem to be a little thinner, and a little lower quality,  than the paper used in the Volant and standard notebooks. I’d be more inclined to recommend the Volant and the soft cover notebooks over the Cahier if you’re going to dip your toe back in the Moleskine pool.

Part of what spurred my interest in all this Moleskine business was when I started using my Moleskine XL for a daily sketchbook late last year. I’ve warmed back up to the possibilities of the Moleskine notebooks. I’ve carried the XL everyday, to and from work, doodled, written, stamped, scribbled, watercolored and basically treated it as the workhorse object it was designed to be treated. To no ill effects. For three months. I’m happy to keep drawing in it. In fact I look forward to continuing to fill the pages and THAT is why we have notebooks. This goes back to the whole reason I keep a notebook — so that I write and draw and make marks.

I think whatever notebook makes you want to make marks, write your story, save your memories, doodle, scrawl or write your grocery list, don’t feel guilty about it. If you love a Moleskine, use it. If you prefer an Italian embossed leather notebook purchased on the Bridge of Sighs, than use that. The best notebook is the one you have with you, no matter which one you choose.

Review: Koi Watercolor Brush Pens 12-Color Set

Koi Coloring Brush Pens

I was introduced to the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pens 12-color set ($27)  by way of Lisa Condon’s blog, Today Is Going To Be To Be Awesome. She had a post on her sidebar about her favorite tools to use for drawing and illustration and one of her recommended pens for sketchbook use were the 12-color set of Koi Coloring Brush Pens.

The pens are felt-tipped and shaped like a paint brush tip. The colors are bright, clean and vivid and are water soluble so they will blend together easily allowing the 12-color set to extend itself into a wider range of colors by blending the colors together.

If you do blend the colors together, be sure to have a piece of scratch paper handy because the colors will migrate from pen to pen and you’ll want to clean off any color transfer that might occur in the process though this can also create some interesting an unexpected results. Just be prepared.

Koi Coloring Brush Pens

The set comes in a plastic sleeve but I prefer to dump out all my pens immediately into a pen case or a cup so they are handy and accessible. If they are all locked away in a protective sleeve, I find they don’t get used which is a waste.  Rolling around on my desk, I wrote notes, doodled, colored and generally just enjoyed the bright vivid colors all week which was welcomed in the bleak January days I have to say!

The black pen in the set is also water soluble so I would not recommend using it as an outliner and then trying to go back and fill in with colors as the black will migrate. The word “KOI” on my sample has darker colors because the black started to creep into the center. If you want to do outlining in black brush pen and then use the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens instead which are permanent and then add color with the Koi Coloring Brush Pens.

Koi Coloring Brush Pens

I think these pens might spend a little time out with our coloring books this week and see how it plays there. I’d also like to add in a little light water brush to lighten the colors a bit and help to blend so that the colors will play even more like watercolor. I did try a water brush after photographing the samples and the colors do continue to blend even several hours later so these will definitely be lots of fun to play with. A very clean, portable way to use watercolors on the go! And, wow! Are the colors ever bright and clean and juicy!


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: Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch

Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch

Over the holidays I had added a couple of budget-y priced, portable corner rounders to my Amazon cart. When they arrived I was sorely disappointed. They left nicks in the paper and didn’t have anything to catch the little paper flecks so I was leaving a trail all over my office, the coffee shop and the floor. So when I placed my last order with JetPens, I saw the Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch ($7.25) and decided to give it a try instead since I was swearing a blue streak at the crap ones I had bought previously.

Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch

Crappy cheap corner punches

Crappy cheap corner punch

Boy, am I ever glad I upgraded! While the Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch is a bit larger than the others I purchased, the kidney bean space makes it comfortably ergonomic in the hand. It also has a little trap door on the bottom to catch the paper scraps.

Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch back view

Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch paper catch

When used, the Sun-Star clicks firmly so you know you have successfully rounded your corner and it makes a perfect clean edge. I found it works particularly well on card stock like index cards and 3x5s. Lighter weight paper worked better if I put two or three sheets in at a time.

Overall the Sun-Star Kadomarun Round Corner Punch is totally worth the price if you like to round the corners of your printables, index cards or paper goods. Its a fun, easy little device to have on hand and makes your pieces look finished fast.


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.

Pencil Review: Mitsubishi No. 850 Colored Pencils (Set of 24)

mitsubishi colored pencils

Several months ago, I purchased a set of Mitsubishi No. 850 Colored Pencils from Fresh Stock Japan. It was the 24 color set which is reasonably priced at $22 for the pack. The set includes gold and silver metallic as well as an opaque white plus an array of standard colors. The barrels are smooth round and fit into a standard sharpener. The barrels are beautifully foil stamped and the paint on each pencil is stunning. The set is in a plastic case, slid into a paperboard sleeve. The packaging is perfectly Japanese.

The Mitsubishi pencil leads are soft but not quite as soft as Prismacolor Premier pencils. The Mitsubishi pencils seem to be a standard wax pencil that blends pretty nicely on smooth stock for the price point but are not quite “artist quality”. I’d qualify them as a good starter set — more like a student-grade. Most of the colors are opaque enough to show over dark paper. I tested the colors over black gesso to test this range which is a nice added feature.

The color range is pretty broad for a 24-color set though I would have liked an additional bright pink/fuchsia and a true violet or purple in the set instead of one of the blues which are quite similar or one of the reds which are also quite similar. Overall though, with some blending, I was able to get a good range of color from the set for less than $25.

mitsubishi colored pencils

I tested the pencils in drawing on Strathmore Series 500 Mixed Media sketchbook paper which is quite toothy, 100% cotton and the Mitsubishi pencils did not blend as well as Prismacolor Premier or Derwent Artists. I was able to layer Sharpie Pen and Platinum Carbon Pen over the pencil for mixed media doodles so I think on smoother paper, the pencils really do perform nicely. But they don’t soften into the tooth of paper as easily as softer Prismacolors.

mitsubishi colored pencils

Alternately, in a smooth adult coloring book like my new Posh Coloring Book: Happy Doodles for Fun & Relaxation by Flora Chang, the Mitsubishi Colored Pencils were perfect! The smooth paper let the pencils easily blend and mix and the colors really popped. If you’re looking for pencils to pair with a coloring book, the Mitsubishi are a good set to combine and Flora’s coloring book is full of such fun drawings (and I’m only a little bit biased because she works with me!).

mitsubishi colored pencils

So, for doodling, light sketching and coloring, the Mitsubishi colored pencils are a good starter set. For mixed media art-making where you will be doing a lot of textural blending, I’d hold out for a slightly pricier set like Prismacolor Premier or Derwent Coloursoft.

Review: Agendio Planner

agendio-6

The Agendio planner was my first twin-ring planner and my first customize-to-order planner. So there are a lot of firsts for me and I will be making a lot of comparisons to ring-bound planners like Filofax or bound planners like a Moleskine or Leuchtturm1917 rather than other twin-ring planner systems, so bear with me.

I ordered the smallest size which is the Journal size (5.5×8″). The paper size is pretty comparable to A5 sheets in a Filofax planner or a medium Moleskine/Leuchtturm 1917 planner and the overall Agendio Journal book is just a little taller and a little thinner than my personal-sized Filofax. So, size-wise I didn’t make a big change in my planner size form what I’m generally comfortable with using. It makes this book quite portable, easy to fit in my bag or purse as needed and doesn’t require its own desk. Because of the hardcover, leatherette cover, the exterior feels good and looks understated and professional. In a very out-of-character move, I ordered the black cover with a dark green elastic closure. With a couple of weeks usage though, I’m finding I’m not using the elastic nearly as often as I thought I would. It probably wasn’t totally necessary to add the elastic but I like knowing I can secure it closed and I like the aesthetic accent.

agendio-3

Inside, I ordered the combination of monthly calendar (Model 32060) with weekly calendar (Model 32057) and then spent an inordinate amount of time customizing the details. There are so many elements that can be tweaked to your personal taste from fonts and colors to the placement of the numbers on the monthly calendar. Then I was able to add personal events to the calendar like important dates or repeating activities. I added family birthdays and my weekly Knit Night. Agendio allows you to choose holidays to add to your calendar as well by country and/or religious preferences. You can even add specific US State holidays.

agendio-5

On the weekly page layouts, I have a simple layout with the days of the week on the left and a space for notes on the right but the notes section is divided up into Divisibles to help organize my activities. I have a section for Work, Home, Blog and Misc. At the top is a Top 3 Goals and the inside left column is for general notes. Sunday is listed at the bottom of the right hand page but gets equal space as the other six days which I appreciate.

agendio-1

I also had some extra notes pages added to the back of the planner, just in case. And this is the perfect place to test some pens. For the most part, since my planner is on the small side, I tend to use fine gel pens in 0.38mm or thereabouts but I thought I’d test a bunch of pens to verify if there might be any issues with pens bleeding. I tested an array of fountain pens, some gel and rollerballs and even a couple of the brush pens I carry with me for drawing and lettering.  There was no feathering with any of them. Ink dried quite quickly and when I turned the page over…

agendio-2

Very little show through at all! There were a couple tiny dots from the Retro 51 stock rollerball refill which I always find to be a gusher. I always swap it out for a finer refill or hack in a gel pen refill anyway but I thought I’d test it for your benefit. I think heavy fountain pens with dense black ink might cause some show through but overall the performance was very good. Grab that rainbow assortment of gel pens, Frixion pens, or your favorite multi-pen and keep it close to your Agendio and you’ll have a match made in heaven.

agendio-4

There were a couple more extras that I added to the planner as well. I got the pocket in the back so I could pack rat some goodies and I got the Agendio page markers which are simple laser-etched steel clips to mark your week or month page. The clips are low profile and good looking. Etched on the back of each clip is the message “Follow your own agenda” which I think is charming. Its a lovely addition to the planner.

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Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the whole experience and the incredible level of customization. It took about 10 days from placing my order for the planner to arrive and it was totally worth the wait. And again, the prices on the Agendio planners, even with all the extras like the extra pages, page markers and folder pocket is quite competitive with the Erin Condren, Day Designer, Inkwell Press and other wire-ring planners with or without customization. Agendio is also offering customizable inserts for Filofax and Franklin Covey planners in both A5 and Personal sizes now too. The best part of the Agendio system is that the planner can start on any month. Mine started with December 2015. I didn’t even have to wait for January 1 to start a brand new planner. How awesome is that!?! So many great options!

Due to a slight printing variation the folks at Agendio actually sent me two planners. My husband saw the extra one laying on the table and asked “Are you going to use this? Can I have it?” From him, that’s high praise! So, he now has his own Agendio with all my Knit Nights already marked as a reminder for him. I’m pretty excited to see how he’ll use his first planner. Aren’t you?


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

Ink Review: Bung Box 88 Green Tea

bb88-title

Several months ago, some friends went in together on a group order for some Bung Box inks. By the time they finally arrived, I was up to my eye bals in things I needed to review so I pushed the Bung Box inks to the back of the pile. My friend was adamant I try the Bung Box 88 Green Tea ink ASAP. So I relented and moved it to the top of the pile this week and am i ever glad I did. Part of my hesitation might have been because I keep hoping I’ll find the perfect lime green ink and I’ve yet to find “the one” yet. So I didn’t want to have another pricey disappointment.

Bung Box 88 Green Tea

This particular ink came in the taller facted bottle which I really like. Initially I was not fond of the sort of low budget hand-drawn sticker labels but I find them sort of charming now. They are sort of quaint.

bb88-overview

It turns out I didn’t have so much to worry about. The Bung Box 88 Green Tea is a wonderfully usable “old money” green. I did, however, have some challenges photographing it. It looks a tad more yellowy in the photos than it actually appears in real life. Its as if the ink did not want me to capture its true spirit, like someone giving an awkward half smile when you try to take their picture.

I tested it with a Franklin-Christoph Fine Italic nib on Rhodia paper as well as a watercolor paintbrush and it gave lovely shading and dried in a reasonable amount of time. It wrote a bit greener than it dried, drying to a slightly browner hue but was quite legible and easy to read which is an issue I’ve had with green inks. If the color is a lovely lime, its often too light and transparent to be easily read at normal writing sizes or too dark and then becomes more of an evergreen or green black and no longer lime colored.

bb88-swabs

I pulled out swatches of other green ink contenders. Pilot Iroshizuku Chiku-Rin is definitely a more vibrant lime color but can be difficult to read in fine nibbed pens as it is very translucent. The darker yellow brown in the Bung Box 88 makes it a better option for daily use, I think. Daniel De Foe and Diamine Safari are quite similar in color but are both from special edition runs and a touch more green than the yellowy green of the Bung Box 88 Green Tea. The last two inks I included are easier to acquire, regular edition inks but are definitely not as complex in color but are still good options if you’re looking for a different kind of green.

Like all Bung Box inks, #88 Green Tea is a custom created Sailor ink so it has all the fabulous properties Sailor puts into its inks. Its smooth flowing and writes beautifully. If you have the opportunity to invest in a bottle of Bung Box ink, I think its worth adding a bottle to your collection. No, they are not cheap. It’s definitely a luxury item. Depending on how you purchase your bottle, the cost per bottle ranges between $30-$40 per bottle but the colors are unique and well-made and definitely something you’ll enjoy using.

Pen Review: Pilot Multi Ball

Pilot Multiball

I found the Pilot Multi Ball pen in a subscription kit I received this week. Its not a pen I’d ever seen before but it turns out to be one I could easily pick up at JetPens for $1.65. Its a fine tipped rollerball and what I didn’t realize until after I wrote my review is that one of its notable characteristics is its ability to write on slick surfaces though it might take awhile to dry. I just used it as a standard rollerball and compared it to other pens in my stash.

Pilot Multiball

The entire time I was using the Pilot Multi Ball I kept yelling “multipass!” If you’re a fan of the sci-fi film The Fifth Element, you’ll understand the reference. Besides the silly and slightly distracting name, the pen was actually a pleasing experience. I was surprised because I  picked it up on a whim thinking it was going to be a ho-hum extra added into my subscription kit as filler.  I’m also one of those unfortunate left handed writers that choke the life out of rollerball pens so I have a tendency to avoid them most of the time. Killing a pen by touching it is just embarrassing. But I didn’t kill the Multi Ball. In fact, it wrote smoothly for me and created a nice, clean, fine line.

The Multi Ball pen is a simple, capped, plastic barrel with a rubbery grip section and a plastic clip. Its wider than most low-end, plastic, non-refillable pens. The barrel is closer in diameter to a Sharpie marker than to a Sharpie Pen. It makes it quite comfortable for longer writing sessions. The cap will post but the clip also keeps the cap from rolling off the table so I just left it off while I wrote.

Pilot Multiball

I wanted to compare the Multi Ball to the writing from a couple other pens to show the line weight and ink color. As you can see the black ink is quite dark and dense and, because of the rollerball tip, the Multi Ball is not going to lose its fine point over time the way a felt tip pen will. At the bottom you can see how, within three words, I choke the life out of a regular Uniball rollerball pen.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the Pilot Multi Ball. Its not a pen I would have purchased because of my past experiences with rollerball pens but I’m glad it ended up in my hands. It’s made me reconsider looking at other rollerballs as well.

Pen Review: Sakura Ballsign Neon & Pastel Sets

Sakura Ballsign Neon & Pastel 0.6mm

I tend to get afflicted with pen obsessions and my current passion is all things Sakura Ballsign. Poor pens with the stupid names but good grief are they fabulous to write with! At first, I thought Ballsign the shape was a little odd — sort of an elongated teardrop shape that was a little bulbous at the grip — and visibly unappealing that would make me not want to use them. However, what made them sort of dumpy-looking made them extremely comfortable to hold. The retractable tip also made them easy to use and super portable which made me want to use them even more. Add to that, the fact that the original set I purchased was virtually waterproof and I was hooked. So I had to order more of them.

I placed an order for the pastel ($13.50) and neon ($13.50) sets. These were both available in 5-color sets in 0.6mm sizes only but I was willing to give them a shot. Each 5-piece set came in a poly-plastic box. Its not super durable like the StaedtlerTriplus marker boxes but enough to keep the sets together if you prefer to keep them separated.

The pastel and neon sets at 0.6mm are just a tiny bit wider than what I would normally choose in my gel pens but because the colors are pretty light, the wider lines are probably not a bad thing to help make everything a bit more visible.

Sakura Ballsign Neon Pastel 0.6mm

Upon testing the colors first on white paper, most of the colors showed up pretty nicely on the paper. The neon yellow was a bit light  and the pastel white was, of course, not particularly useful on white. But I had a sneaking suspicion that these pens might also work well on dark or colored paper stocks.

Sakura Ballsign Neon 0.6mm

Sakura Ballsign Pastel 0.6mm

I tested both colors on swatches of black gesso and lo and behold all five colors in both sets are opaque over dark colors! If you have a kraft paper insert for your Midori Traveler’s Notebook or other toned paper stocks, you might find these pens to be very fun and useful. I even like the matte opaque qualities of the pastels on white paper and the vivid neon of the pink, red and orange on white paper as well.

The neon and pastel Ballsign pens are not as water resistant as the standard Ballsign gel pens which is the only drawback I could find and it really is a minor complaint since very few gel pens are actually water resistant anyway.

If you like the idea of adding some more varied colors to your gel pen collection for color coding than the neon and/or pastel Sakura Ballsign sets would make great additions.

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: Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop (and Giveaway)

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

I can’t believer how long Pilot waited to release the brightly colored line of their Metropolitan pens known as Retro Pop. The Retro Pop line offers six fabulous colors of the brushed aluminum bodies: red, orange, lime green, turquoise, purple and grey. And the pens are available as both fountain pens and rollerballs. I had a tough time choosing just one color so I bought two: a turquoise with a medium nib and a lime green with a fine nib. I probably should have bought all six, the colors are so fabulous!

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

Each pen color has a different pattern on the band below the cap. The turquoise pen has a op art dot pattern and the lime green has a sort of marbled feathered pattern. These elements are similar to how the previous Metropolitan pens have been handled with the animal print patterns on the bands or a smooth shiny finish featured here. All the Retro Pop fountain pens ship in a black plastic case with a clear plastic lid that is ugly and I’d rather not talk about it. For a $15 pen, I would have been fine with the pen being shipped in an environmentally-friendly recyclable paperboard box instead. The box included one black cartridge and a CON-20 squeeze converter. I’m not a fan of the squeeze fillers but, in a pinch, they will do. Even upgrading to a CON-50 twist converter will only add $5.50 to the price of the pen and most Pilot pens can use the CON-50 as well so it can be shared among several pens as they circulate through your collection.

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

Both the fine and medium nibs featured on the Metropolitan pens are much finer than European and American pens as are common among most Japanese pens. But boy, are the Pilot nibs ever smooth! Pilot did not skimp even on these low priced Metropolitans regarding the nibs. They really are some of the best values available in the pen market today. They are well-weighted, smooth, the caps snap nicely to close and will post if you prefer to post them while writing.

The fine nib will give a writing experience similar to a rollerball like a Sanford Uni-ball fine, a little bit stiffer and firm. The medium nib will have a little bit softer nib experience and give more line variation. It feels like a much more expensive fountain pen. Its pretty darn magical for the price.

Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop Fountain Pens

I filled my pens with the ink cartridges from the Pilot Parallel Mixable Colour cartridges in turquoise and light green which actually match the pen barrels pretty accurately and came from the assorted color set. Goulet Pens carries the Parallel Mixable Colour cartridges in single color packets or in the assorted color set.

The Retro Pop colors offer a wide enough range of colors to the previously more sedate Metropolitan options to appeal to just about anyone’s taste preferences. If you ever wanted to introduce someone to the wonderful world of fountain pens, there is no better option than the Metropolitan now. Its clean look, wide color options and easy filling (with cartridge or CON-50 upgrade) is a no-brainer introduction.

I love the Retro Pop pens so much, Goulet Pens has kindly donated one for me to give away to one lucky reader. So here’s all the details:

The Giveaway Details:

The Goulet Pens Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop giveaway package contents: A lime green Retro Pop with fine nib, a vastly superior Con-50 converter and a surprise ink sample package set. The pen and goodies will be sent directly from Goulet Pens. Thanks, Goulet Pens for making this possible!

To Enter:

Leave a comment below and tell me what the lime green color of the Retro Pop pen most reminds you of. Or tell what color you like to see added to the Retro Pop line. That’s it. Easy peasy limeade squeezy.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, December 4, 2015. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. ONE ENTRY PER PERSON. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Include your “daily use” email address in the comment form (I’m the only one who will see it besides the vendor providing the prize) 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. US residents only please.

Review: Inkwell Press 4th Quarter 2015 Planner

Inkwell Press Quarterly Planner

This fall, Inkwell Press released a sort of “filler” planner for folks who didn’t get in on their first release of the 2015-2016 planner which I think debuted in June. This “filler” fourth quarter planner is a staple-bound, A5-sized booklet that provided folks with a taste of their larger planner and it spanned from September 2015 through December 2015.

The original Inkwell Press LiveWell planner is a larger 7×9″ sized spiral-bound planner which is available in two weekly layouts but its already sold out for 2016. I am not inclined to love the idea of a large closed-ring planner system anyway, especially one with exposed rings. I just envision taking something like that in and out of a bag and getting my keys or a knitting project tangled in those rings… oh, the horror.

Since I ordered the booklet, Inkwell Press is now offering the A5 quarterly booklets as a regular part of their product line. They will be available for purchase as a bundle for $35 starting December 9. Their products sell out fast so mark your calendar if you think you might be interested in purchasing these.

I had heard that Inkwell Press used some of the thickest paper in the business for their  planners so I thought this booklet would give me a chance to test it out without buying a full year planner.The paper is listed as 140gsm (approx 80lb text). Despite the thickness of the paper, it did not do as well with fountain pens as I’d hoped. I got a good deal of squish — the ink just sort of absorbed into the paper blurring my writing and then got dots of bleed through on the back. With gel, felt tip and rollerball pens in a whole array of colors though, the paper worked splendidly and I had little-to-no show through at all. So, this is not the magic bullet paper I had hoped for.

Each month is color coded with two interesting colors. September was blue grey and lilac, October was orange and grey, November is aqua and grey (with a golden yellow accent), December is coral orange and golden yellow. It makes discerning each month easy without being too distracting. The start of each month is a monthly calendar view on two pages followed by  their signature hexagonal “mission board” page. I’m not sure if I would use it or exactly what its for but the colors are pretty and the facing page is a notes page which is handy. Following this is a week on two pages with a Monday start and Saturday and Sunday get equal treatment with a space at the bottom for additional notes. To the right of each day is a colored box for a “top three”.

Anyway… So a nice small staple-bound booklet seemed like a nice change of pace for the end of the year. I’ve been carrying a personal Filofax for the last few months so this is definitely lighter and more compact but lacking in a lot of pockets, slots and extra sections for various notes so I had to start improvising right away.

Inkwell Press Quarterly Planner

Unlike the full Inkwell Press planner, the booklet style planner does not have any tabbed sections so I put some clips to use to mark pages and stuck a binder clip inside the front cover to hold notes. At present, I have the DMV notice to renew my license plate stickers clipped there as a constant reminder.

Inkwell Press Quarterly Planner

As you can see, I’m pretty much an “all-business” planner. I try to color code with pen colors but mostly I use whatever color is closest and call it a design decision. I use washi tape to denote travel dates or an extended project and call it “decorating”.

Inkwell Press Quarterly Planner

I did glue an envelope into the back cover to create a pocket for stamps, business cards and other detritus. You’ll notice that the bottom staple is already starting to pull loose from the cover. By the time I finished photographing this, it had come apart completely, after just two weeks of regular (ab)use. I’m not sure how well these booklets would hold up to four months of daily carry wear-and-tear without a protective cover of some sort.

Inkwell Press Quarterly Planner

Inside the front cover, I glued in another pocket for sticky notes, page flags and more business cards (I must be a magnet for those things!).

In the end, the paper did not live up to the hype and that was really why I ordered the planner in the first place. The mission boards are pretty but I am not the type of person to be introspective enough to know how to use them anyway so I just think “ooo, pretty hexagons”. So, I’m inclined to go back to one of my tried-and-true systems that can handle more abuse and are not quite as difficult to acquire.

The New Karas Kustoms INK

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

The first improvement to the Karas Kustoms INK fountain pen is a snazzy wrap, letterpress printed right here in Kansas City by Skylab Letterpress — not that I’m biased or anything. But it is pretty spiffy, isn’t it?

CORRECTION: The premium packaging will only be included with the copper and brass models. I got a special edition because there was a sample wrap in the house thanks to the printer, AKA Skylab Letterpress, AKA my husband.

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

Inside is a stellar anodized INK in olive green. Pictured here with a fabulous autumn-y skein of yarn that my friend Laura picked up in Montana on a recent road trip.

The new version of the INK is available in several other colors as well, of course. These include the silver aluminum, and other anodized finishes — blue, black, brown,  green, gold, grey, orange, pink, red, and violet, as well as solid copper and solid brass, and a tumbled raw aluminum. And of course, the olive green I received.

There is also a clipless model available for an even sleeker look. The INK and the INK Clipless start at $95 with slightly higher prices for brass and copper grip sections or bodies.

This model is accented with the brass grip section and is the best looking though, in my humble opinion. You are welcome to disagree.

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

What I noticed the minute I saw the INK was that the color was a dead ringer for my 1981 Vespa PK125 scooter. But I figured I had to prove it. See?

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

Perfect match.

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

Karas Kustom INK olive green anodized

In writing, the best part of the INK is the new Bock nib. Its super smooth and scaled to match the larger proportions of the INK very well. The whole pen feels smoother between the threads to the grip to the barrel. Overall, the whole pen feels more refined in small, meaningful ways.

Now for whatever reason, I decided to fill the INK with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses. I guess I’m getting hit with a bit of the Christmas time spirit but the ink flowed smoothly and the pen wrote beautifully. When I started writing with the INK I forgot about the pen and  just focused on what I was writing– my thought and my words. And really, isn’t that what you want from a pen? A really good pen should just melt away and be an extension of your arm, right? Well, the INK did that for me to the point that I had to remind myself I was writing with it for a review. So that’s really the best kind of writing experience.


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

Pen Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Nature Colors 6-colors Set

Staedtler nature colors triplus fineliner markers

First, I promise this is the last set of Staedtler Triplus Finerliner markers I will review because I have them all now. I couldn’t resist. That said, the Nature Set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners ($7.50) are probably my favorite set. It could be because they are the most seasonally appropriate here in the autumnal continental US right now. The set features Green Earth, Warm Sepia, Tuscan Red, Gray, Carmine and Mauve (which looks more like plum to me but I never think anyone names colors properly anyway). The gray in this set is actually a totally usable gray, unlike the silver gray in the Pastel set which is too pale to be usable for writing.

Staedtler nature colors triplus fineliner markers

Actually, I found all the colors in this set usable for writing and there is enough variation in color to create visual interest in note-taking to be interesting without being jarring. Sophisticated palette appropriate for nature sketches or just because.

The Staedtler Triplus Fineliners feature the slim 0.3mm felt tip point, water soluble ink, triangular barrels, and ink designed to be able to be uncapped for long periods of time without drying out. The set comes in the fold-over plastic travel case which is sturdy and easy to use.

Staedtler nature colors triplus fineliner markers

Now, if Staedtler would just make a set of these markers with waterproof ink , I would be the happiest person in the world. But overall, these are wonderful and if you are not trying to combine them with watercolor or other water soluble pens or brushes, I recommend them with my highest praise.


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: Crayola Gel Markers

Crayola Gel Markers

A few weeks ago I saw a post on Instagram where a calligrapher was doing some amazing lettering on black paper and laying off to the side was the distinctive undulating line on the marker of the Crayola wedge marker but the marker was black. Why had I never seen one of these markers before and how was the ink standing up all opaque on black paper?!?!? I must know what this is and I must know now!!!!! Since I have access to the source that the Crayola catalog, I went hunting and discovered that the marker was a Crayola Gel Markers and I toddled myself down to our corporate store ASAP and purchased a package to test them out myself.

Crayola Gel Markers writing sample

There are only eight colors available in the set: a black that looks more dark grey than black, red, pink, yellow, purple, blue (aqua), green and white. While the color range is not super broad, the conical tip provides a range of line variation and they are actually a lot more opaque than I expected. The white is actually clear and dries white so it works best if used slowly so you can keep track of your strokes but all the other pens leave visible lines as you write. Going over the white lines will also create a more opaque white which was nice.

Crayola Gel Markers writing sample

As with all Crayola products, the pens are washable (which means they are water-soluble) and non-toxic (they may not taste great but you can lick them if you want to) so you can share these pens with your kids and they are also extremely reasonable priced. I believe I purchased my set for about $5 or $6 but I’m sure you can find them in a big box store for less.

Crayola Gel Markers writing sample

I think these would be great fun to use with coloring books or on construction paper and a fun way to practice calligraphy, address envelopes or generally spice up an already burgeoning pen collection without breaking the bank. Go forth and scribble!


While this post can be qualified as “plugging the firm” I purchased these with my own money and all the opinions expressed here are my own and are no way influenced by my place of employment.

Review: Moleskine Soft Cover XL Plain

Moleskine Soft cover XL

Before you start asking if the headaches are giving me brain damage, I have to say I asked myself the same question when I picked up this Moleskine Extra Large Plain Soft Cover Notebooks. In general, I find Moleskine notebooks leave me wanting but there was something about the size of this book that appealed to me.

The extra large Moleskine soft cover measures about 7.5×10″ so its bigger than an A5 but its not as large as a full US Letter size or A4. It kind of reminded me of a school composition notebook. And the flexible soft cover only added to the nostalgia.

The soft cover makes it lay flat easily and the covers can be folded back to easily work on either the let or right side of the pages at a time. The book mark ribbon is still unfinished on the end so I added a little white glue to edge to keep it from fraying. The soft cover books do include the gusseted pocket in the back and the vertical elastic, like all the other Moleskine editions.

I added a Leuchtturm 1917 pen loop to the back cover and set to work using it. I think I was really looking for something to tide me over until the start of the year when I plan to start keeping a regular journal in my new Hobonichi Techo.

Because of the soft cover, this book is super low profile. It takes up almost no space in my bag meaning I am taking it with me everywhere and using it for some daily journaling and a catch-all commonplace book.

Moleskine Soft cover XL

If I come to accept that there is showthrough (not necessarily bleed through) on the reverse side of my writing page, than this paper actually did quite well. Even with some fountain pens and brush markers, I didn’t have the issues I’ve had with other Moleskine books. This contains what I assume is the standard writing paper but maybe they’ve improve the stock somewhat because I didn’t get any of the weird splining or veining that I’ve noticed in the past.

Moleskine Soft cover XLI’m a little shocked at how well-behaved the paper is and how much I’m enjoying the larger size.I’ve been using it mostly with felt tip and gel pens at work with the occasional watercolor brush pen thrown in and the inks have not spread or done anything weird. In fact, I keep thinking I could probably use the back of the pages as well but I have been so burnt in the past by earlier editions of Moleskines that I I just keep using the right hand pages only. But I could use the left hand side as well. Really. I’m just as surprised as you are.

Sometimes, the right notebook for the right moment just sort of shows up and no matter how much you think, “Oh, no. I would never use a Moleskine. Its only for posers and hipsters,” you find that its not all that bad after all.

I made a guide sheet for myself for this particular size notebook. Is anyone else interested in these? If so, I’ll add them to the guide sheet page soon. Just leave me a note in the comments.

Review: UniBall Signo DX 0.38 Hello Kitty Special Edition Pens

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty

I’m clearly catering to my inner 7-year-old this month. I saw the Uniball Signo DX 0.38 Hello Kitty Special Edition gel pens and the next thing I know, the whole color array was in my mail box. There are only five colors available: red, pink, orange, purple, green and blue and each sells for $3 (a $0.50 upcharge than the standard Signo DX 0.38 gel pens but KITTY!). The barrels of the pens are covered with Hello Kitty’s signature bows and feature the Hello Kitty logo and her face. Other than those little details, they are classic Uniball Signo DX gel pens with the rubber grip, metal cone above the tip, plastic clip on the cap and round, plastic barrel.

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty

The colors are clean and bright and easy to see. Its actually a great starter set of colors if you’ve never tried Uniball Signo DX pens before. The 0.38 width are my favorites and are great for writing on a wide variety of office papers like copies, planners, index cards and sticky notes.

They write smoothly and cleanly and are actually pretty water resistant. Safe enough for addressing envelopes and could be used in combination with water-based markers without making mud.

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty

If you are Kitty-averse, these same colors are available in the standard UniBall Signo DX UM-151 models in the 0.38 size. But c’mon, who doesn’t love Hello Kitty?

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