Notebook Review: Filofax Impressions Notebook

Notebook Review: Filofax Impressions Notebook

The Filofax Impressions Pocket Notebook ($17.95) is a modular notebook system designed to allow users to customize it with their choice of paper, dividers and inserts. The cover is a textural PU material with vertical elastic closure strap.

Filofax Impressions Notebook

Filofax Impressions Notebook

Inside is five, double rings to hold the modular paper with the mushroom tabs, like discbound notebooks use. The notebook comes with four, plastic divider tabs and a removable plastic ruler/bookmark. The notebook ships with 56 lined sheets, four blank sheets and four sheets of graph paper.

Filofax Impressions Notebook

Testing the paper with a variety of fountain pens came back with very good results. The stock Filofax writing paper withstood most fine and extra fine fountain pens with no problem. Since the line width on the paper is just 5mm, much wider nibs are not really practical anyway.

Filofax Impressions Notebook

From the backside, there is no bleed and very little showthrough. It would be no problem to use both sides of the paper.

Filofax Impressions Notebook

I continued to test a few other fountain pens as well as some rollerball, gel and felt tip pens. And some pencils too. I had no feathering or bleed issues.

Filofax Impressions Notebook

From the reverse, not even the felt tip had much in the way of show through. This makes the paper excellent for a pocket notebook to toss in your bag or purse and use with whatever pen or pencil you have handy without worrying about bleed.

The discbound paper is easy to remove, reorder or add more sheets so the notebook is great for lists, to-do’s, projects, etc. The slim size and format also means it doesn’t take up much space.

Filofax Impressions Notebook plastic divider

The first plastic divider is a pocket. It’s large enough to hold tickets, receipts or business cards.

Filofax Impressions Notebook graph paper

The blank and graph paper is the same weight and feel as the lined paper. The graph is 5mm as well.

Filofax Notebook stack

I have the Filofax Notebook in A5 ($18.95) (review to come) but I like the Pocket size for its carryability (yes, I made that word up). The A5 is great for work for meetings and project planning, though.

Levenger hole punch

I already have a hole punch from Levenger. It’s mushroom-shaped where the Filofax is tulip-shaped but any of the discbound hole punches (Staples ARC, Filofax, Levenger Circa, etc) should work with the Filofax Impressions Notebook, if you have invested in a discbound system in the past. A punch will allow you to add in pages (meeting notes, ephemera, etc) or punch paper of your own choosing (Tomoe River, maybe?). Of course, you can always buy refills of the Filofax paper too. It is really nice. And it’s available in colors!

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.

Link Love: Lonely in Your InBox

Link Love: Lonely in Your InBox

This week, like every week, I am reminded that this blog would not be possible without the great team that has developed around me to help grow The Desk. It has just been Tina and I in the office this week as Laura is off in Ireland for two weeks and Jesi was off to Raleigh for the pen show and family trip. Both Laura and Jesi wrote their reviews before they left but the virtual office is quiet without them. The warm weather has Tina out and about drawing all sorts of machinery and other urban landscapes. So, if you’re trapped in the office today, drop me a line and say hello. I’m lonely.




Notebooks & Writing:

Art & Creativity:

Other Interesting Things:

Ink Review: Colorverse #69 Opportunity

Review by Laura Cameron

We haven’t really delved into the new season of Colorverse Inks at the Desk yet, but when I saw there was a purple you know I had to try it right? I managed to get a small sample of Colorverse #69 Opportunity ($3.00) to test it out. (Colorverse #69 Opportunity comes with Colorverse #70 Spirit in one package; Opportunity is the 65mL bottle, and Spirit is the 15mL bottle, $30 for the set)

Photo courtesy of Vanness Pen Shop

Opportunity is a bright regal purple, a color that I truly love. In my samples, I can pull a bit of shading. I don’t get any sheen from it and in writing with different nib sizes, I don’t even see a ton of that lovely shading that I enjoy in so many other Colorverse inks.

In ink splotches, it’s a dark dark purple, with just a bit of a slightly lighter, slightly redder edge, but it’s still pretty solidly dark purple.

After all my sampling of purples, it always amazes me when I bring home another purple that doesn’t quite match anything I’ve got. When I first sampled Opportunity, I thought it would be a dead ringer for David Oscarson’s Royal Purple, but now I see that Royal Purple is a bit redder than this. Bungubox L’Amant also has a touch too much red. The closest I think I can come is Monteverde’s Purple Reign.

As you can see in my final writing sample, the color is lovely but it’s also a bit flat and one note. I used a Story Supply notebook in the final sample, and I found you can coax a bit more variation on Crossfield’s Tomoe River paper, but even so, this one seems like just a nice lavender purple in writing.

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.

Galen Leather 40-Pen Case

Galen Leather 40-Pen Case

What surprised me most about the Galen Leather Crazy Horse Brown 40-Pen Case ($95) when it arrived was how compact it was. The idea of carrying 40 pens in one case is pretty epic. Galen Leather has figured out how to make what should be an insanely large case into one that’s actually usable. And it’s decked out in the awesome crazy horse brown leather which I love.

The zipper pull has a leather pull tab and the zipper is a strong, metal zipper that works smoothly. I’ve never had any issues with Galen Leather zips.

The zipper is Velcro-ed at the end to keep it flush with the case. In order to unzip it completely, it’s best to peel the end away before unzipping. However, I like the detail of adding the Velcro as it keeps the case smooth and low profile.

When the case is opened, it reveals the center panel of pens and the protective divider over the left layer.

Once the protective suede is lifted, twenty pens are revealed in the first section. I was able to fit an array of different sized pens from a petite Pilot Decimo and Sailor Pro Gear Slim to larger pens like the Opus 88 Coloro and Picnic and the Aurora Optima.

The center divider lifts up and holds pens on both sides. There is sturdy board under the the suede so even fully loaded with pens the divider supports the weight pretty well.

Once flipped, there is another piece of suede protecting the pens on the right hand side as well.

Once lifted, it reveals the remainder of the pens I filled the 40-pen case with: a rainbow of Franklin-Christoph pocket pens on the left and a more monochromatic collection of modern and vintage pens on the right. The vintage pens include some more slender Esterbrook pocket pens which stay in place thanks mostly to the clips latched to the elastic. The elastic holds most of the other pens snugly on their own.

Once closed up, the back of the case is debossed with the Galen Leather logo across the bottom.

The Crazy Horse leather is all pre-destressed so I don’t have to worry about getting any nicks or dings in the case.

I stacked the Galen 40-pen case on top of the ubiquitous Monteverde 36-pen case to compare the size.The Galen 40-pen case is a good deal shorter and narrower.

From the side view though, you can see that the Galen case is much thicker. So, depending on how you plan on using your pen case or what your storage options are, you may prefer one over the other. The leather and metal zipper on the Galen Leather case is certainly going to wear better than the nylon zipper and fabric on the Monteverde case. Of course, the Monteverde case is a third of the price.

Finally, the only pens I couldn’t store in the Galen Leather 40-pen case were my vintage Lady Sheaffer Skripserts which were too slender and some of my slender modern pens like the Caran D’ache 849 and Diplomat Traveler.

Overall, I feel like the Galen Leather 40-pen Case is a worthy investment. If you’ve acquired enough pens to fill a 40-pen case, it’s probably time to invest is a good case to store and protect them. The 40-pen case fits neatly on a bookshelf and will travel well to pen clubs, meet-ups and pen shows and look damn good doing it.

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

Fountain Pen Review: Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary Limited Edition

Fountain Pen Review: Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary Limited Edition

The Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary Limited Edition ($68) is (or was) an exclusive through Pen Chalet. The pen comes with a 30ml bottle of Conklin 120th Anniversary Blue ink as well as a converter. I didn’t test the ink for this review. As you read along. you’ll understand a bit more why I didn’t bother testing the ink.

I have not used a Conklin in five years, and the 120th Anniversary pen was my first experience with the Duraflex nib. I inked up the pen with Robert Oster Carolina Blue and set about testing it.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Almost immediately, I realized something was not right. The ink was seizing up immediately. I got a my loupe and took a look.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Okay, this is a crappy photo but there was a blob of extra tipping material on one tine (the right tine, if you are facing the nib, logo forward) which was preventing the nib from making even, consistent contact. To be honest, if you have good eyesight, you could see the imperfection on the nib without a loupe or magnifying glass.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Since this was a huge glob of tipping material and I was beyond annoyed, I set to work trying to sand and smooth down this flaw so that I could at least test out this pen.

I went into this experience not expecting that the Duraflex nib was going to be a true flex nib nor that it was going to get the same sort of writing experience, out of the box, that the Aurora Optima Flex was. I also realize that comparing the Conklin to the Aurora is unfair but both pens promise similar flex-ish writing experiences, albeit at wildly different price points. At least with the Aurora, I didn’t have to spend an entire Saturday trying to get it to write.

That said, I would much rather have purchased the Conklin with a well-tested, fully-functional firm nib than this flawed half-baked concept nib.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

After a good hour of work and debating whether or not to even write a review about this pen at all, I got it going. I wasn’t sure if writing a review about a pen that didn’t really write was the right thing to do. In the end, I decided that this pen might have been the exception. It happens. In manufacturing, be it clothing, pens, whatever, quality control can miss one. I’ve bought clothes with bad seaming or uneven hems. I’ve gotten pens with janky nibs. It happens. I know how to sew so I can fix a hem and I have micro mesh and enough experience that I can try to tweak a bad nib.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Once writing with good flowing ink, the pen writes like a soft medium or medium fine. It is by no means, with regular writing pressure, flexible. I was, however, able to coax it into writing consistently and smoothly.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

I did attempt to flex write with it and that was much more challenging. I don’t think the Duraflex nib is at all flexible. The amount of pressure needed to flex it is ridiculous. Its a one-way ticket to a repetitive stress injury. If you really want a flex nib pen, buy a vintage fountain pen. Contact Myk Daigle (AKA Mad Mercantile) on Ebay for a great vintage flex writer.

I realize that, to Conklin, this is a collector’s pen. To me, I liked the blue, marbled resin and the rose gold hardware was interesting. At this point, I may see if I can just swap out the nib completely for something that is a much better writing experience altogether.

Final Note: Should you decide that, even after my less-than-glowing review, you want to try the Conklin 120th Anniversary fountain pen, I reviewed Pen Chalet’s return policy. If you receive a pen you are concerned might not be for you… don’t immediately ink it up. Per their returns and exchanges policy, dip test the writing experience first to verify that it meets your expectations. They do not accept pen returns that have been fully inked up but will take returns if they have only been dip tested.


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

Ink Review: Lamy Crystal Obsidian

Ink Review: Lamy Crystal Obsidian

By Jessica Coles

When I first heard about Lamy’s new Crystal ink line I was excited because, hey, new ink! Even when the Lamy showed the colors of the ink line in their advertising, I remained excited.  But when I started to see swabs of the colors, my enthusiasm started to wane since the colors seemed to have issues: one was a repeat of a special edition (Rhodonite), another missed the purple mark (Azurite) or colors that are very close to other brands (Amazonite). However, there have also been winning colors in the line (Agate) that are quite original.  I would place Lamy Crystal Obsidian ($14 for 30mL at Vanness) in the latter category.

The band at the bottom of the cap blends in with the black ink of the bottle, but I appreciate the detail. The is packaged securely within the box and should have no trouble with broken bottles during shipping.

I love the look of the bottle and they store nicely next to one another, but the bottle itself is not particularly shaped well for filling a pen. If you are filling a converter, the shallow bottle is quite nice.  Filling directly into the pen, whether it is a converter pen or a piston filler, the bottle presents a challenge.

Lamy Crystal Obsidian is a lovely ink that gets the deep black from the blue section of the spectrum.  However, during normal writing, there was no indication of the blue undertones.  Obsidian is a deep, true black.

The dry time is longer than I usually see with Lamy inks, taking about 30 seconds to dry.  You can see where I became impatient above! 

The only time I experienced any indication of possible bleed-through was when I dropped water on a heavy patch of the ink.  Although some of the ink did wipe away, this was excess dye.  Lamy Crystal Obsidian should be quite readable even after a liquid dunk.

Obsidian is a semi-precious volcanic glass that can hold an incredibly sharp edge.  There is no sheen with Obsidian, although the edge could be said to be present in the crisp writing – in other words, no feathering.


I found Lamy Crystal Obsidian to be a delightfully black ink that needed to be a part of my obsession collection. True black inks are hard to come across, especially one that is easy to clean out of a pen.

My favorite black has been Sailor Kiwa-guro even though it can be difficult to fully clean out of a pen.  Since it is pigmented, it is water-resistant but needs extra attention while cleaning. Kiwa-guro also has a bit of a sheen which keeps it from looking truly black in some lighting.  I’ve also had the same issue below with Platinum Carbon Black – some lighting makes the black look faded (although it doesn’t appear so in person). Lamy Crystal Obsidian, however, seems to absorb any light thrown it’s way.

I highly recommend Obsidian as a valuable addition to your ink line.  I have kept a pen inked with it since purchasing my bottle – I always seem to find a need for black ink throughout my day. Plus, how hard can it be to use up the smaller 30mL bottle!


Disclaimer: All items in this review were purchased by me.  For more information, visit our About page.


Blackwing Eraser Hack-a-Thon

Review by Tina Koyama

Palomino Blackwing pencils have a huge following. We love the high-quality graphite, beautiful finishes, distinctive ferrules and often intriguing themes, and we’re willing to pay $24.95 to $27.95 for a dozen (or much more if you missed a limited edition and you’re willing to shop on eBay after they sell out). Why, then, are these otherwise premium quality pencils attached to such mediocre erasers?

We know Blackwings are made in Japan, and we know that the Japanese make most of the best standalone erasers available. It seems logical that Blackwing pencils would come with high-quality erasers. Some have speculated that only the wood and graphite parts of the pencil are made in Japan, and the other parts are outsourced elsewhere. Others have taken their frustration a step further by cutting up their favorite erasers to fit a Blackwing ferrule. Inspired by these pioneers, I decided to go on an eraser hack-a-thon.

Neither Ana nor I are strangers to epic eraser challenges; they require coffee, stamina and a very rainy afternoon. (In case you missed them, see Ana’s great eraser rub-off and my follow-up.) Memorial Day weekend delivered the necessary rainy afternoon, so I went to work. I chose 10 block erasers, most of which were new to me:

Pentel Hi-Polymer (3/$2.60)

Pentel Mark Sheet ($1.65)

Pentel Hi-Polymer Ain Black ($1.10)

Tombow Mono – Medium ($1.40)

Tombow Mono Smart ($1.89)

Sakura Sumo Grip B60 ($1.25)

Derwent Art and Derwent Soft Art (set of 2/$3.50)

Caran d’Ache Design (about $3.50)

Staedtler Rasoplast Black – size M ($1.75)

My first step was to simply compare their basic erasing performance before cutting. My intention was to eliminate any that didn’t perform better than a Blackwing eraser. I tested them on lines made with a soft (“MMX”) Blackwing, the vermillion side of a Uni Mitsubishi editing pencil, and a Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 6B, and a shaded mark made with a Blackwing Pearl. None erased the colored pencil line well, as I expected, and all but one erased the graphite lines acceptably. The only eraser I was able to eliminate in this round was the Pentel Hi-Polymer Ain Black because its color left a visible smudge (the scanned image shows the results better). That left nine erasers to hack (more coffee, please).

Using a sharp Opinel knife and a standard Blackwing eraser as a template, it was relatively easy to make clean eraser slices. The difficult part was slicing precisely so that the rectangles would fit in the ferrule. At first, I wasted quite a few eraser slivers trying to get the dimensions just right, but eventually my skills improved. Hint: Err on the side of a slice that is slightly too thick rather than too thin. A too-thin eraser will not be held securely by the ferrule and will either fall out or break when used.

Sadly, most of these otherwise excellent erasers will not work as hacks because they are too soft. An earlier hack attempt with my favorite Tombow Mono worked well for a while but eventually broke, even when I wasn’t erasing vigorously. In fact, there’s the rub: In general, the softer the eraser, the better it performs. An eraser firm enough to hold up well in a ferrule tends to perform worse than soft standalone erasers. As a block, a soft eraser has enough stability to perform well, but cutting it to fit a ferrule takes away its stability. If I felt the eraser wobble and bend as it erased, even when it was well-supported by the ferrule, I knew it would eventually break. I could tell some erasers would be too soft even as I was slicing them.

After eliminating all contenders that were too soft, I was left with three finalists: the Rasoplast, the Sumo, and the Mono Smart. For the final round, I tested these erasers secured to Blackwing ferrules on lines made with the soft Blackwing and the Blackwing 602 and a shaded mark made with the Hi-Uni 6B. I also included a standard pink Blackwing eraser (attached to a Volume 811) for comparison.

Of course, all three finalists erased better than the Blackwing eraser. The Sumo is nearly ideal – sufficiently firm while still erasing completely – and I could cut the B60 to the right size with only two slices, resulting in minimal waste. However, since its width is just a hair shorter than a Blackwing eraser’s length, a larger Sumo would offer longer eraser usage but would require a third cut.

The Mono Smart, while tying with the Sumo in erasing performance, is very slender by design (to enable small, precise erasures) and narrower than the Blackwing ferrule, so it had to be cut in the long direction. It would not yield as many hacked erasers from the block, and there would be more waste. Although it looks similar to a standard Tombow Mono, the material is firmer (perhaps to accommodate its slimmer profile). In fact, it’s the firmest of all erasers tested.

The Rasoplast didn’t erase my shaded marks as cleanly as the other two did, but otherwise it offers an acceptable combination of firmness and erasing performance.

Final Impressions

If I had to pick only one, the Mono Smart would be my first choice. It’s the firmest of the three and is the most likely to hold up well for the longest use. If it ever became available in a standard block size, it would be a Blackwing eraser hacker’s dream. But all three are excellent choices for improving on the Blackwing’s only weakness.

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