My humble workspace.

When I shoot photos for the Desk, I always show you the pretty parts, namely the photo studio surfaces or maybe my glass desktop from Ikea. Today I present to you the chaos that follows me around the house.

This right here is my ink swatching spot. It’s our dining room table, just adjacent to the kitchen. Near the kitchen sink for easy pen water and pen rinsing action, away from the carpeted floor (though I’d hate to clean ink off the hardwood!) and with lots of elbow room. You can see my elegant brown paper bag used as a blotter for any spills. In the past few years, our entertaining has dropped to a nice round zero, so I’m not sure I’ve cleaned up my inky spot in quite a while. What you don’t see are all the crates and cubes that used to sit on the table, the floor, and the next chair over.

Why don’t you see those cubes? It’s not embarrassment that keeps me from sharing them (though maybe it should be)… it’s that I finally fixed the problem. While I know Ana loves her Raskog cart dearly, I went ahead and ordered a knockoff from Target last week. And on Sunday when it arrived I gleefully cleaned, sorted and emptied out all those different spots and loaded everything onto a handy rolling cart. Now I can store it in my closet to keep it out of the way and roll it out when I’m ready to swatch. In that top tray? New inks I’ll be sharing soon, a new notebook, and a few other fun things.

Three cheers for getting organized!

Product Review: RandomThinks Ink Vial Holders

Product Review: RandomThinks Ink Vial Holders

On the rare occasions that I had to walk around at the St. Louis Pen Show, I did wander to the opposite corner of the show and see Keith of @randomthinks and his dizzying array of colorful, 3D-printed accessories. He had a rainbow of pen and pencil holders as well as the fabulous ink vial holder tea cups. He even had giant tea cup pen holders — also in a rainbow of colors.

I purchased not one but TWO of the tiny ink vial holder tea cups — one in my favorite color — lime green —  and one in pink. The inserts (liquid) in each cup is removable and available in “coffee” brown or “matcha” green. I think the matcha insert works best in the pink cup and the coffee in the lime green cup. What do you think?

If you are interested in purchasing an ink vial holder or find about any of the other awesome 3D printed, pen-related products that Keith is creating, send him a DM on Instagram @randomthinks. Or catch up with him in person at the Detroit Pen Show and the Ohio Pen Shows this year.

Notebook Review: Odyssey Notebooks (Tomoe River 68gsm)

Notebook Review: Odyssey Notebooks (Tomoe River 68gsm)

Want to get me in my happy place? Mix 68gsm Tomoe River paper with something stellar/space themed and then tell me its a BRAND NEW notebook.

I have searched for this image so many times over the last week. 100% the best pen community meme yet. And 100% true. (from jennibick on instagram)

We always need a new notebook. What if we start a new project? Or a new job? Or decide to completely redo how we are planning, journaling, etc? We need to have a spare notebook on hand. We can’t WAIT for one to arrive or, heaven forbid, have to trek out to buy one at a moment’s notice. I mean we don’t wait until we run out of ink to buy another bottle, right? Same thing applies with notebooks.

Odyssey Notebook - cover detail

Like I said, when I am thinking about what kinds of notebooks I want to have in my “emotional support stack” 68gsm Tomoe River notebooks are always at the top of the list. Odyssey Notebooks makes an array of notebook options but focuses on A5 and pocket notebooks presently. The A5 notebooks are available in 200- and 400-page hardcover books and an epic 500-page softcover book. Most notebooks are available with 5mm dot grid, 7mm lined or blank options. All hardcovers feature stunning space-themed foil stamping on the cover.

Odyssey notebooks also did a special 160gsm collab with Cooper Calligraphy to create a limited collection of tarot card themed notebooks. I have not gotten to try the 160gsm premium paper but its definitely on my “next notebook” list.

Odyssey Notebook - ribbon

The A5 hardcover notebooks feature two ribbon bookmarks, a vertical elastic strap, a gusseted pocket in the back for ephemera and numbered pages, even in the blank version. The hardcover notebooks feature a foil stamped image on the cover — planets, supernovas and other stellar artwork which was created by the owner of the company. A woman of many talents!

This is the back of the A5 softcover 500-page dot grid notebook. The cover is a matte, woven texture cardstock that is glued to the interior flysheet for extra thickness. It seems pretty durable and feels nice in the hand though I suspect anyone using a 500-page notebook may need a more durable cover since it will take quite some time to use all 500-page.

Both the hardcover and softcover notebooks have the company info debossed on the bottom edge of the back cover. That’s just the right amount of branding.

All the notebooks are well-stitched and feel durable and quality.

The Pocket-Sized Notebook:

Odyssey Notebook detail

The pocket notebooks (3.5 x 5.5″) feature 72 pp, dot grid and a soft, leatherette cover in an array of colors with a little satellite embossed in the lower right hand corner. They, of course, use 68gsm Tomoe River paper.

Odyssey Notebook - Dots

I did find the dots in the pocket notebooks to be a bit larger and darker than in the A5 sized notebooks. They are still printed in a light grey so they are not too noticeable but I thought I’d note the difference here. There are no pages numbers in the pocket notebook.

A5 Blank:

The A5 hardcover notebook uses the same type of non-leather leatherette for the cover which is soft to the touch and hold the foil stamp details beautifully.

This is my go-to notebook in terms of paper style. I love a blank notebook that i can use a guidesheet under. The 68gsm is that sweet spot between being transparent enough to use a guidesheet while also being opaque enough to be able to use both sides of the paper. the 68gsm Tomoe River shows most ink characteristics while improving dry time when compared to the 52gsm variety.

I know lots of people prefer the 52gsm Tomoe River but I’m delighted that I can still find and use the 68gsm.

A5 Lined Insert:

I also tested a 7mm lined Cahier-style notebooks ($8 each). These are A5-sized with 48pp and use the same 68gsm Tomoe River paper as the larger notebooks. These are perfect for the A5-sized Traveler’s Notebook set-ups.

The lines are an unobtrusive grey and not too thick. Even with extra fine gel pens, I still see the writing before I notice the lines which is my litmus test for lined, graph or dot grid papers.

There was no bleed through with any of the tools I tested and minimal showthrough.

Page Numbers:

Odyssey Notebook - page numbers blank

The orbit lines around the page numbers is fun and unique and not too intrusive. I love that they included page number on the blank edition as well. Often, if I request a blank notebook, its 100% blank. It’s nice to have page numbers so that I can, if I choose, add a table of content or other index to find my content later.

Odyssey Notebooks -- page numbers dot
These are the small dots in the A5 notebook versus the larger in the pocket notebook shown earlier in the review.

Odyssey Notebooks -- page numbers lined

Final Thoughts:

If you haven’t tried the thicker  68gsm Tomoe River paper yet, I think the notebooks from Odyssey are a great place to start. Odyssey Notebooks is a WOC business headquartered in Maryland and makes great products… as if you needed another reason to invest in a few more emotional support notebooks.

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

Ink Review: Newest Sailor Manyo

Ink Review: Newest Sailor Manyo

I’m a big fan of Sailor’s Manyo ink line. The Manyo colors are beautiful, the ink quality is excellent, and the price/volume is well below the current average for Sailor. All Sailor Manyo inks come in 50mL bottles for $24 – a far cry from the $1/mL prices we’ve been seeing recently. A big thank you to Dromgoole’s for sending the inks over for review!

I appreciate that Sailor has been adding more inks to this line on a regular basis and that Manyo inks are a North America-only release. It seems to make up just a tiny bit for the hundreds of inks that are only available in Japan.

The four Manyo inks in this review were recently received by retailers. All four – Koke, Fuji, Ayame, and Hinoki – are described as dual-shading inks by Sailor; they could also fall under the popular term magic inks or multi-chromatic inks.

First up today is Sailor Fuji. This is a dusky purple with grey and blue shading and reminds me of clouds that are lining up to cause major destruction.

Sailor Koke is next, a dark teal with grey, green, and blue showing up in the layered ink. While Koke is very close in color to Sailor 341, Koke has greater depth to the shading and is a touch greener.

Sailor Ayame reminded me of Sailor 123 when I first used it, but it is much darker (and easier to read). The color is closer to Sailor 224 but in Ayame, the tones are more dramatic, swinging from grey to green to purple with a halo of dark green that looks nearly black.

Finally, there is Sailor Hinoki. While it looks close to Ayame, Hinoki is much bluer, shading in grey and purple with just a touch of green in the background. It is similar to Van Dieman’s Morning Frost but Hinoki is slightly darker.

Since Sailor recently released their amazing multi-shading inks (in 20mL bottles), it may help to show these Manyo inks in comparison. Manyo Ayame is darker than Itezora, but close in the mix of colors. Ayame also shows a darker halo in the swatch.

Sailor Manyo Hinoki and Manyo Fuji are similar to Kangyou and Kyokkou in color. The Manyo inks do not show as much color variation, but they are easier to read.

Sailor Manyo Koke didn’t have a good equivalent in the “magic” ink lineup

For those who need more quantity than the 20mL Sailor “magic” inks, the Manyo dual-shading release is a great alternative.

I had a great time playing with these four inks on various paper types. First is Tomoe River paper (old stock). On Tomoe River paper, these look even closer to the “magic” Sailor inks.

The next paper type is Cosmo Air Light paper. Some of the dual-shading quality disappears, but the colors are crisper and darker.

On Midori MD Light paper, Fuji almost glows while the remaining three inks show quite a bit of the dual-shading property.

Typically, the above three paper types are the paper I use in ink reviews. This time I thought it would be interesting to see how Bank paper took the dual-shading Manyo inks. I thought it would be similar to the other paper types. I was wrong.

Where did all of this green come from?? All swatches were done with the same paintbrush and dip pen. One after another. But when the ink touched Bank paper, the result was not the same color at all.

I am also including two comparison photos so the color differences are easier to see. Hinoki and Ayame are quite different colors on Midori MD Light and Cosmo Air Light.

Hinoki on Cosmo Air Light paper versus Tomoe River paper (on the right) is again dramatically different. All four inks look softer on Tomoe River paper while Cosmo Air Light paper shows crisper lines and darker colors.

I will again say that I am a huge fan of Sailor Manyo inks. The newest four dual-shading inks are a fabulous addition to the lineup and I highly recommend them along with all Manyo inks.

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

Link Love: Papery Day

Link Love: Papery Day

Today is a very papery day. At least for me and this edition of Link Love. But I think that’s okay. I love paper and notebooks. If I didn’t, this job would be considerably less enjoyable than it is. I love when people find new paper products or revisit an old favorite. I love knowing that this site and these links might introduce a new paper (or pen or ink) to someone so that it might become their favorite.

What’s your favorite paper?




Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

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Winner: Hinze Pens Erste L12 Fountain Pen Gift Certificate

Winner: Hinze Pens Erste L12 Fountain Pen Gift Certificate

Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway for the Hinze Pens Erste L12 Fountain Pen Gift Certificate (valued at $160).

Drum roll, please….

Clearly, I completely agree!

Hinze L12 Erste Fountain Pen

Winner will be contacted directly with the email provided. Thanks again and a big thanks to our Patrons who helped fund this giveaway and to Hinze Pens for making such awesome pens!

Shameless Plug: Julia van der Wyk’s Ink Wash Painting Class

Julia van der Wyk Ink Wash Class

Our good friend, Julia van der Wyk, is teaching Ink Wash Painting this August at the San Francisco Pen Show.

We all have way too many inks than we can use in a lifetime so thankfully, Julia will show you lots of painting techniques to allow you to use your fountain pen inks (and any ink really) to paint still life, from nature and much more.  Practice brush handling, experiment with water and paper, and create an art piece in her hands-on workshop.

Class is Sunday, August 28, 2022 from 1-3pm and tuition is $85 including materials. Class is limited to 15 students so you should probably register ASAP to ensure your place. Julia asks that you bring an object to use for your first still life. Check out her Instagram feed for some ideas.

Class fee is separate from pen show entry fee.

Julia van der Wyk

There are lots of other interesting classes on the docket for the SF Pen Show. I’ll be working at the show so I won’t be able to attend any classes but I’m looking forward to living vicariously through anyone who is attending the classes.