Pen Accessory Review: Mark’s Break Time Metal Pen Holder

Review by Tina Koyama

One day I was scrolling through new products on JetPens and spotted adorable beverage-themed metal pen loops from Mark’s called Break Time. “Coffee” was bound to go fast, so I was thrilled to get one before it sold out (which it did, almost immediately). The loop is springy metal.

I’ve used a Leuchtturm 1917 self-adhesive pen loop before, but I didn’t like that it couldn’t be reused. When I filled the journal, the pen loop remained attached to the book without a purpose. The Mark’s metal loop attracted me because its attachment mechanism is a clip that can be put on and pulled off easily.

Well, I thought it would be easy. As it turned out, the clip is a little too thin for a Leuchtturm hardcover, so I had to really force it on with quite a bit of muscle. When I removed it, the clip left a small scratch mark on the cover. It’s not an ideal fit if I want to reuse it regularly.

I then tried clipping it to a few other notebook covers, and it fits much better on a Field Notes, Col-o-Ring Oversize and Hobonichi.

As for writing instruments that will fit through the loop, a standard pencil is too loose and will slip through. Some gel pens with rubberized or textured grip areas are difficult to get into the loop, which is also textured. A smooth-barreled pen works best, like a Bic Clic or most fineliners. I started to put one of my Platinum 3776 fountain pens through the loop, but it resisted just enough that I wondered if the textured loop would scratch the barrel, so I stopped. I’m going to stick with Bic Clics or other less expensive pens.

My only regret is that I didn’t grab the beer mug loop before it went out of stock immediately, too. We all need to journal at the after-work bar as much as we do at the morning coffee shop.


Tina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the items included in this review were provided to us free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more detail

Ink Review: Taccia Ukiyo-e Inks

Ink Review: Taccia Ukiyo-e Inks

By Jessica Coles

Taccia seems to be on the ball lately with new ink. Recently I did an overview of their Lip color line of inks, each based on classic shades of lipstick. Today I am showing the Ukiyo-e line of ink (I am told this translates to “picture of the floating world”); a collection of 8 inks inspired by traditional Japanese paintings.

The Ukiyo-e collection is divided into two groups: four Hokusai inks and four Sharaku inks. First we will look at the Hokusai group. These are each inspired by the artist Hokusai who created the 36 views of Mt. Fuji as woodblock prints in the 1800s in Japan.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Hokusai-Benitsuchi is the Red Soil of Mt Fuji. it is slightly redder than KWZ Meet Me in St. Louis 2019 – it shades dramatically from dark rust to a light reddish coffee inspired by Fine Wind, Clear Morning.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Houdai-Koiai is Dark Indigo ink and shows the image of the famous Great Wave Off Kanagawa with Mt. Fuji in the background. This is another dramatically shading ink from a bright cerulean to dark blue with a muted sheen.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Hokusai-Fukakihanada or Light Blue shades from a light sky blue to a medium blue, inspired by the woodblock print Kajikazawa.

The final ink in the Hokusai group is Taccia Ukiyo-e Hokusai Saibimidori (my personal favorite) or Rust Green. The shading on this ink is a medium teal to a forest green. It was inspired by the woodcut Barrier Town on the Sumida River.

The second group of inks in the Taccia Ukiyo-e line is the Sharaku set of four inks. These were inspired by Ukiyo-e style of woodcuts and paintings of Kabuki actors.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Sharaku-Akasakura or Red Cherry is close to Diamine Ancientt Copper with a bit more red.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Sharaku Natane or Rapeseed Yellow is bright yellow in both the swatch and in writing. Most inks that I have in this color range seem to show the green undertones in writing, but Natane stays yellow.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Sharaku-Koiame or Dark Yellow-Brown is another favorite of mine, shading from a pale peach to a dark brown-red-orange. The shading shows beautifully in writing where it shifts suddenly from light to dark.

Taccia Ukiyo-e Sharaku-Kurocha or Dark Brown is a medium chocolate brown.

I ony purchased one botttle of the Taccia Ukiyo-e inks (so far) so I only have this box to show. The artwork on each ink box is incredible, recreating the original woodcut which inspired the ink name and color.

The 40mL bottles in the Ukiyo-e line of inks is a nice change from small ink bottles. The box is so much larger than the bottle that at first, I felt like the bottle was quite small, but 40mL is a significant amount of ink.

I found these inks to be slightly dry but this didn’t bother me at all. It was hard to notice it much since I was staring at the shading the whole time. The Ukiyo-e inks are not waterproof and behaved very well on fountain pen frriendly paper.

The cut glass bottle is beautful, but not unusual. However, the shading on all of these inks make them stand out among the ever-growing numbers of ink available. Do watch out for color, though. The box and label of Sabimidori here doesn’t really show the true color of the ink. Not even the ink shows the true color of the ink (once dried at least)!



DISCLAIMER:  All of the materials used in this review were purchased by me. Please see the About page for more details.


Art Supply Party: Allex Scissors & Kokuyo Gloo

Art Supply Party: Allex Scissors & Kokuyo Gloo

Sometimes, I just need to play with scissors and glue. I recently upgraded both my scissors and my glue stick so I thought I’d share my results.

I had the matte black Allex S-165F Office Scissors with Fluorine Coating($18.50) in my cart on JetPens for eons and I finally decided to buy them. Their most notable feature is that glue and other sticky substances will not stick to the blades.  The insides of the holes for your fingers are lined with silicone for a softer grip. This makes it more comfortable for long collage sessions. Even Bob, whose hands are much bigger than mine, has commented that he likes using these scissors for day-to-day cutting in the studio.

Allex scissors and Kokuyo Gloo

So far I haven’t gotten a lot of glue or stickiness on the scissors but they are light, well-balanced and cut cleanly. The blades are sharp!

Allex scissors

The glue stick I purchased is the Kokuyo Gloo. I purchased the medium Gloo stick in disappearing blue ($4 per sick). I was enticed by the simple clean design on the outside of the tube. The Gloo sticks have a slightly wider end that makes it easier to stand them on one end. Everything about the Kokuyo GLoo stick in terms of performance is pretty consistent with a lot of other brands on the market. The square shape makes getting into corners a little easier.

Allex scissors and Kokuyo Gloo

The confusing part for me is that the glue end is the one with wider cap end which is different from almost every other brand I’ve used so I kept trying to pull the twist end off. “Turn the square end, pull the round end off.”

The smell of this Gloo stick is mild but a little sweet. It’s definitely not chemically or offensive but might not be suitable around small children who might eat glue because it smells pretty nice. Way better than Elmer’s glue.

So, if you’re itching to do a little creative paper cutting, these tools are a great start. I have been watching some of Lisa Congdon’s Creative Boot Camp – Six Exercises to Spark Artistic Discovery on Creativebug and it features a lot of collage and papercutting if you want to try collage but need a jumping off point.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Link Love: Stationery Habits of Celebrities

Link Love: Stationery Habits of Celebrities

Sometimes I am challenged to come up with a cohesive title and theme for Link Love. I like a snappy title. It helps me remember what might be in any given week of Link Love. So, while the two celebrity related posts are not entirely stationery-related, I decided to take creative liberties with the title. You’ll forgive the discretion this time?

As for the posts, check out Other Interesting Things for the posts in question.




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

Fountain Pen Review: Ensso XS Minimalist Pocket Fountain Pen

Review by Laura Cameron

Being of small hands, I’m always up for trying cute pocket pens. So when Ana sent over the Ensso XS Minimalist Pocket Fountain Pen in Silver Aluminum ($59) that she backed on Kickstarter, I was excited to give it a try!

Ensso is committed to building “Sleek, minimal, and modern pens made in aluminum, brass, and titanium.” I’d say the XS fits the bill!


The XS is a machined pen made out of aluminum (available in silver or black) or a limited edition Titanium version. The site makes mention of a brass version, and I see that in the Kickstarter, but it doesn’t appear to be available currently on the site. It is a 12-sided pen, designed that way so it doesn’t roll away from you! It is embellished with black rubber rings on the finials and near the section and two extras are included with the pen in case you need replacements.

The XS sports Bock steel nibs (available in F, M and B) and there is a titanium nib available if you’re interested in an upgrade (available in M, $40 extra).

The XS is comparable to other EDC pens. I took a few shots for comparison with my Kaweco Liliput in Fireblue and the Kaweco Sport. As you can see, it’s closest to the size of the Liliput in length and girth, but when posted it also compares to the Sport in length. The actual length is 95mm/3.75″ capped and 115mm/4.5″ posted.


The most interesting factor on this pen, at least for me, is the weight. It weighs in at just 9.7g because of the aluminum body. If you’re into lightweight pens, this one’s for you! (Titanium weighs in at 15g.)

pen weight comparison chart

The XS takes standard international cartridges or will use a small aerometric (bulb) converter. However, based on my experience with the little Kaweco converters, I’ll be sticking with cartridges for this one.

When I loaded up a cartridge in the pen, it only took a few seconds for the ink to get flowing. It flowed smoothly and the nib wrote well on the first try. I think what I love most about this pen is that the facets keep it from rolling, but the section is left smooth so it’s not uncomfortable to hold (I’m looking at you Lamy Safari!).

Honestly my only complaint about the pen is that it’s SO lightweight. I prefer a slightly more substantial pen and the Kaweco Liliput just feels better in my hand. Even though the machining on the pen is great and the nib writes well, I guess I just wanted MORE pen out of the XS. But again, if you’re looking for a super lightweight carry, then you should give this one a try!

DISCLAIMER: Some of the items included in this review were provided to us free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Kickstarter Review: Iris Drawing Compass

Kickstarter Review: Iris Drawing Compass

When I saw the Iris Drawing Compass pop up on Kickstarter, I was intrigued enough to back the project. I have backed enough Kickstarter projects to know that no matter how optimistic the creators are,  they will never hit their shipping date goals. So when it arrived right around the holidays, I was pleasantly surprised.Iris Drawing Compass

It came nicely packaged in a protective cardboard box. The brass ring is heavy. Heavier than I anticipated. The compass came with a wooden stand for your desk. Upon realizing that the Iris compass was considerably heavier than I anticipated, I realized it’s too heavy to be carried regularly. So, being a desk-only accessory, a nice stand makes sense.

Iris Drawing Compass

Iris Drawing Compass

Iris Drawing Compass

The wood base is fairly small and made of a light wood stained dark so the compass sits “just so”. If it isn’t seated perfectly in the stand or if its jostled, it will tip over.

Iris Drawing Compass

It looks nice as a desk accessory. At this point, my enthusiasm for this product has come to an end. The mechanism to turn and adjust the aperture to reveal the opening is very difficult to turn. I struggled with it. I attempted to improve the mechanism with graphite and household oil with no improvement. The leaves of the the compass are too tightly layered and the smooth brass exterior makes it difficult to grasp and turn. If I press down hard it’s no better than a light touch.

Iris Drawing Compass

Finally, when in use, the large brass ring, and the opaque aperture completely obscures whatever you are drawing. So, while the Iris drawing compass is a lovely piece, it does not function from a mechanical perspective nor as a functional perspective.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the brass oxidizes onto your hands… turning them grey. As if pencil graphite wasn’t bad enough.

This product was not provided free for this review. I purchased it with my own money.

Ask The Desk: Waterproof Ink & More Refill Questions

Ask The Desk: Waterproof Ink & More Refill Questions

Stacey asks:

Hi there, I was gifted a pen in 2017 which is personalised with my name as I was working as a TA. It needs a refill now (I didn’t use it much) but the refill I bought doesn’t fit properly. It takes a Parker style refill but made of white plastic. I’ve measured it and it’s approx 8.5cm long, with a fat body and tapered tip where the spring would sit. And advice on what sort of refill I actually need would be great. I have pictures of the refill which I can attach to another email if this would help. Kind regards features a Size Guide section that shows a picture of a particular refill along with the length measurements. I didn’t see one that was the same length that you described but since I’m not looking at the refill, maybe there was a modification made to a refill (like the plastic insert on the end was removed)?

The Fisher Space Pen Refill looks closest in length. It’s essentially a regular Parker-style refill but without the plastic fins on the end. It will sometimes ship in a blister pack with removable plastic cap to fit the refill into standard sized pens. Do you think that might work?

Aimme asks:

I am wondering about what kinds of waterproof inks would be best for watercolour art? So I wanted to sketch with a waterproof/resistant ink and then paint over it with watercolours. Any suggestions would be great! Wishing you all a very happy New Year! -Blessings, Aimme

For water resistant inks for watercolor, I recommend Platinum Carbon Black ($22.50 for 60ml bottle). I did all of my Inktober one year using it plus grey watercolor brush and can attest to its waterproofiness. Some people prefer Sailor Kiwa Guro Nano Black ($21.33 for 50ml) but the reviews I’ve seen don’t seem to be as waterproof as PCB (that’s Platinum Carbon Black, not Panama City Beach, FYI).  I’ve never had issues with PCB clogging my pen. A quick dip in water or a wipe on a wet towel, even after sitting for months, was enough to get it going again.
I also did a test of a few various waterproof inks awhile back. You can also search the site for “waterproof” as there have been several other inks tested by Jesi and Tina as well.


Frederick asks:

Does another gel refill, other than Monteverde, exist for the somewhat unique Montblanc ballpoint format?

Unfortunately, Montblanc has designed their ballpoint pens and refills in such a way that they are proprietary. For drop-in ease, the Monteverde or Montblanc refills have been your only options. I found a listing on Amazon for a new refill that is “Montblanc compatible”, The Jaymo Montblanc Compatible Ballpoint Refill. I have not tested it nor do I know anything about it but this gives you another option to try.

My last option for you is to purchase a 3D printed  adapter from Tofty. He has several available for Montblanc ballpoints: