I haven’t gotten a new TWSBI since I got my Eco in Rose Gold, so I decided to check out the new TWSBI Swipe in Smoke ($26.99).
I’ll be honest and say that the last TWSBI release, the GO, just didn’t appeal to me aesthetically speaking. For some reason, the Swipe did.
The TWSBI Swipe is a somewhat traditional cartridge and converter fountain pen. The two new things with the Swipe (at least for me) are the options available and the funky looking spring (that was actually in the GO as well).
The Swipe comes in two just two colors right now: Smoke and Prussian Blue. The nibs are TWSBI steel #4 nibs (same as the GO) and are available in EF, F, M, B and 1.1 stub. I chose an EF and it was the right choice – to me it’s not that fine, but I guess I’m used to my Japanese pens! The body is made of resin. The cap is postable, and it’s a snap cap.
The fun part about the TWSBI Swipe is the ink. My pen came loaded with a spring converter which was super fun to use – I even shot a little video!
But I also got a standard converter and a cartridge that I could have used instead. Though the cartridge looks slightly wider at one end than standard international cartridge, the top end, through which the ink feeds through is definitely standard. Yay for non-proprietary systems!
So how does the Swipe stack up? Compared to the very slightly more expensive ECO (26.99 vs. 32.99) it’s just a smidge lighter (16g vs. 22g) and every so slightly shorter (5 3/8″/13.5cm vs 5 1/2″/14cm). I also put it against some other introductory pens, the Platinum Prefounte and the Pilot Kakuno for comparison, even though it’s not quite apples to apples.
So how did it write? I think it writes fine and it’s another great introductory fountain pen. I think I prefer the style and feel of the Eco slightly better, but that’s definitely a preference, not anything wrong with the Swipe in the least. And I do love that the Swipe gives you so many options for ink delivery.
Kokuyo Perpanep ($14.25 each) is a new line of paper notebooks that take a bit of study to make sense of the line. The Perpanep name, for starters is an anagram of the words “pen” and “paper” which is a bit of a tongue twister to say.
Then, the books come in three ruling options: dot grid, graph and steno style. The dot grid is a smaller-than-usual 4mm spacing, the graph/grid is a traditional 5mm and the Steno (lined paper with a rule down the center of the page) is a wider 6mm though not as wide as US and European “wide-ruled” papers.
All three notebook rulings are printed in a light grey but the 4mm dot grid is the least visible. If you are looking for a very subtle ruling, the 4mm dot grid is a good option, though narrower than most. If you need slightly more visible ruling, the graph/grid is much more visible as is the Steno.
Finally, there are actually three different paper types: Tsuru Tsuru (the smoothest option), Sara Sara (the in-betweeen) and Zara Zara (the toothiest option). Luckily, to save any additional confusion, the Perpanep series is currently only available in A5 so that is one factor you don’t have to consider at this point.
Each notebook in the line features a simple, grey cardstock cover with a cheesecloth binding and comes wrapped in a lightweight cellophane cover to protect the book. Printed in white on the cellophane cover is the symbol associated with the paper texture. Each Perpanep notebook features 120 pages.
When viewed from the edge, the Zara Zara (toothy paper) notebook is a bit thicker than the Sara Sara or Tsuru Tsuru.
Thanks to the overwrap binding, all three notebooks easily lay flat when open and the cardstock covers, while not heaavy will allow the covers to be folded back as well, especially if the cello overwrap is removed.
The Perpanep Tsuru Tsuru
The paper in all three books is a soft white. The Tsuru Tsuru is absolutely the smoothest of the three and reminded me of Rhodia paper though I think the Tsuru Tsuru paper is not as glassy as Rhodia. With Rhodia, I sometimes feel that my pens “get away from me” if the nib or ink is super silky. With the Tsuru Tsuru, I noticed very little resistance as I was writing but I didn’t feel like I was losing control of my tools either. The smoothness would be extremely appealing to anyone who prefers extra-extra fine nibs or fiber (felt) tipped pens as the paper has little friction.
There was little to no show-through or bleed-through with the Tsuru Tsuru paper.
When using broader nibs like a music nib, there was a little squeak or feeling of squeaking when I wrote (think of the squeaky clean feeling after washing your hair… except on paper).
Pencils were difficult on this paper as there was no surface texture for the graphite to grab onto.
I’d recommend the Tsuru Tsuru to anyone who prefers extremely fine tipped pens or felt tip style tools.
The Perpanep Sara Sara
Using the Goldilocks metaphor for this paper, the Perpanep Sara Sara would be the “just right”. The Sara Sara paper is still very smooth but has a bit more texture than the Tsuru Tsuru.
I noticed that the Sara Sara performed particularly well with ballpoint and rollerball (liquid ink) pens. The smooth with just a little texture allowed the roller balls to roll easily, particularly with the extra fine tips that sometimes get fibers trapped in the roller mechanism on toothier paper.
Fountain pens performed extremely well whether the nib was extra fine or extra wide. There was little evidence of bleed- or show-through.
I’d recommend the Sara Sara to just about everyone as the paper seems to accommodate most pens easily. However, if you frequently use roller-style pens like rollerballs or ballpoints (liquid or oil-based inks) then you will be particularly pleased with the Sara Sara.
The Perpnep Zara Zara
While noticeably toothier than the other two paper offerings, the Zara Zara is not nearly as textured as, say, a Col-o-ring card. It is pleasingly textured if you find your pens running away from you.
Again, bleed- and show-through were not an issue.
Because of the texture of the paper, gel pens performed best on this paper as the texture slowed the super-slick, gel ink down just a bit. Pencils also performed particularly well on this paper.
Fountain pens worked well but the toothier texture allowed the ink from wider nibs to settle into the paper a bit more than the other Perpanep papers. With my smaller handwriting, this meant that the counters on some of my letters filled in, more so than on the other papers.
I normally favor toothier stocks as they often help slow down super slick pens but thanks to the availability of the Sara Sara paper, the Zara Zara is best for people who use gel pens or pencils most often. I wish there was a blank paper option of the Zara Zara as I would use it for pencil sketching.
When I initially saw the wide range of options with the Perpanep notebooks, I was hesitant. If I didn’t choose the right paper or the right ruling, the notebook might just sit. Luckily, all the the papers are good with most everything I threw at them but there was definitely a preference of paper-to-tools with each model of the Kokuyo Perpanep line. While I think you’ll appreciate any of these notebooks, being aable to choose your combination of paper and ruling means it will be a pretty likely you’ll get a notebook you love.
The Tsuru Tsusu is best for extra fine nibs and felt tip pens but not recommended for heavy users of pencils. The Sara Sara is most compatible with a wide range of tools. If you are looking for a notebook that will work with whatever pen or pencil is at hand, then the Sara Sara will work best, especially wider fountain pens. And finally, the Zara Zara is the most textured and will work best with pencils and gel pens but will still accommodate. wide range of tools.
As for the rulings, I like the very light 4mm dot grid — it provided guidance without being distracting or overwhelming lighter ink colors. If 4mm is too small for you, the 5mm graph/grid is the next best option and if you need a little more writing room or really like Steno, then the Steno ruling is excellent.
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.
Erin Condren is the brand to know for the large coil-ring planners favored by influencers, vloggers and busy moms. I am NONE of those things. However, I discovered a simpler Focused Productivity Notebook (currently $12 and only available in black. Other products in the Focused line are available) which is undated and features semi-soft cover notebook with the most minimal of pre-printed content. It claimed to have 80# heavy weight paper and a nice PVC leather cover so I was willing to give it a try.
I purchased the caramel brown cover (no longer listed on the site) which is a flexible cover — not a card stock cover but not a hard cover either. The pages all lay flat easily and the book includes two ribbon bookmarks in two shades of smoky blue.
Inside, the notebook starts with two pages for goals and intentions. I never fill these out. I find it a little too lofty. My goals tend to be much more mundane and seldom worth writing down. “Don’t eat a whole sleeve of thin mints in one sitting” doesn’t seem worthy of a monthly goal.
The next pages are printed with a month-on-two-pages calendar followed by a monthly planning/summary page (The left page is divided in half with one column divided into three sections flanked by a half a column checklist and a scribble space below. The right hand page is an open dot grid page.) and then there are five spreads of weekly pages with Monday through Thursday on the left and Friday through Sunday on the right with room at the bottom for extra notes and a to-do list.
Oddly, the monthly calendar is laid out starting with Sunday and the weekly calendar is laid out starting on Monday. When dating the monthly calendar versus the weekly, I had to make sure to get the right date on the right day.
At the center top of each left hand page is a color block — on both the monthly and weekly pages. The colors change as the months progress (12 monthly sections in total) but there are a few months where the color at the top of the page is the same — the aquas in the front, the maize yellow in the middle and the moss towards the back. I think there are subtle shifts in the colors from month-to-month trying to create a visual transition of the seasons but its a bit too subtle to work effectively in helping to locate a particular month without a bookmark or other identifier.
In the back are 12 pages of lined paper for notes and 11 pages of dot grid followed by a page for contacts with space for name and one line of contact info. All things considered, I would have preferred a few pages in the pack for forward planning — maybe a two page spread for the next year and then a minimum of “notes” pages. I only use the notes pages in my planners if its the only paper at hand so it’s often just a quick name, phone number, or item I need to remember. Often, if it’s something I need to keep in the back of my planner, I end up adding sticky notes which can be moved as needed.
As for the heavyweight paper, it seemed to work okay with my fountain pens with only an occasional show through (I tend to use EF or F nibs mostly). Heavy coverage of fountain pen ink definitely bled and feathered a bit. It does have a bit of tooth so if smooth paper is your preference, the texture of this paper might bother you.
I hoped that the blank pages would lend themselves to a little embellishment. I tried adding colored dots to the monthly calendar using a Zig Clean Color Dot marker and the show through was quite evident. I also attempted to add a script headline on my monthly and weekly pages with an Ecoline Brush Pen and it also resulted in some pretty serious show through. I also tried using some rubber stamps — both pigment and dye based pads and got a lot of show through.
This is paper clearly designed for the rollerball and ballpoint crowd. And pencil folks too.
If I were to give this planner a letter grade, I think I’d give it a C+. It’s got a lot of things that just didn’t live up to my expectations — the paper quality should have been able to stand up to water-based markers. I don’t expect everyone to accommodate the proclivities of fountain pen users but there’s a whole culture around embellished planners and Erin Condren sits in the center of that so I would expect her planners to be able to hold up to craft markers. The simple color palette is aesthetically appealing but the page colors are too subtle to be useful. On the plus side, the cover and ribbon bookmarks are nice but that feels like saying “the gift was terrible but it was beautifully wrapped.”
DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were purchased by me with funds provided by our lovely Patrons for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
My fondness for multi pens goes way back. My first was the Bic 4-Color Pen, the now-iconic multi pen that was introduced in 1970 by French entrepreneur Marcel Bich. It seems basic now, but as a teen, I thought it was the coolest thing ever to have four ink colors in one compact pen. I could write a diary entry in blue or black, then emphasize certain passages with swirly hearts and flowers in red and green! Beyond nostalgic value, the ubiquitous Bic still contains the oily, (and unfortunately) blobby ink that I find to be the ideal ballpoint ink for drawing. The color range has expanded, too.
A while back, a different Bic 4-Color came to my attention: the 4-Color 3 + 1 (about $6). Actually, it has only three ink colors (I don’t miss green), and the fourth component is a mechanical pencil. In general, I’m not a fan of drawing with mechanical pencils, but having a graphite option with my beloved Bic ink does make this Swiss army knife of drawing tools more versatile.
As soon as I got it, I noticed a difference. The body shape is slightly different from the classic 4-Color, and – more significantly – the mechanism of the slidey levers is much smoother and operates better. While most Bic 4-Colors are made in France, reading the fine print on the packaging revealed that the model with the graphite component is made in Japan. To my relief, the ink remains the same Bic ink.
The pencil unit includes 0.7mm lead instead of the more typical 0.5mm lead in other multi pens. I have a heavy-handed habit of snapping most 0.5mm leads, so this was good news to me; I prefer 0.7mm for both writing and drawing. To my mind, nostalgically and practically, the Bic will always be the ballpoint multi pen to beat.
And let’s face it: In most ways, it’s not hard to beat the Bic. The other three multis in this review all have smoother, more vibrant inks than the Bic, and the bodies are generally better, too. They all write and erase competently, as you’d expect from Uni and Zebra, so most of my comparisons are about the bodies. Below are scribble and erasing samples made in a Plumchester sketchbook, which has a smooth surface. Erasing was done with the attached eraser.
When I first got one several years ago, the Uni Jetstream 4&1 ($11.75) instantly became a daily-carry. With Uni’s smooth black, blue, red and green ballpoint inks plus a 0.5mm mechanical pencil, it’s a reliable quick jotter. The plastic body has a metallic sheen like anodized aluminum, and the rubberized grip is comfy. The selector buttons are a bit springy when they snap back, but they engage securely and easily.
For writing, Jetstream ink is leaps and bounds better than Bic. Unfortunately for me, that “revolutionary low-viscosity Jetstream ink” that is so wonderful to write with just doesn’t have the same subtle build-up for drawing as Bic’s viscous formula.
Still, there are many more ink + mechanical pencil multi pens to try, and try more I did. Zebra Sarasa gel pens in all styles have long been favorites, so the Zebra Sarasa Multi 4 Color ($7.50) was a natural choice. You can’t beat gel for lots of colors and sizes to choose from. (I’m still deciding which colors to swap out for the basic 0.5mm black, blue, red and green it comes with.)
The Sarasa’s trademark squeezy clip is also the lever for the 0.5mm mechanical pencil. I don’t use pen clips, so it doesn’t bother me, but I wonder if the motion of clipping it to a pocket could inadvertently select the lead. More bothersome to me, however, is that the ink selector levers are nearly flush with the pen body, making them more difficult to push, and they don’t always engage. Springy and bouncy like the Jetstream’s levers, they are probably a joy for people who like to fidget with things.
Speaking of fidgeting, when no components are selected, the Sarasa’s top button (which covers the eraser) bounces up and down simultaneously with all five selector levers with no apparent function. However, when the mechanical pencil unit is already engaged, then the top button’s function is to extend more lead. This is a bit counterintuitive, as on most other multi pens, pushing further on the mechanical pencil selector is what exposes more lead. However, that functionless bouncing would also be fun for fidgeters.
The Zebra multi pen that I prefer to the Sarasa is the Clip-on 1000S 4 Color ($12.50). Without a fidgety top and with selection levers that are easier to push and engage, this multi contains four 0.7mm ballpoint inks plus a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. Ink refills are also available in 0.5mm and 0.4mm.
Like the other Zebra, its squeezy clip has the additional purpose of selecting the graphite component. Unlike the other Zebra, however, pushing the clip further extends more lead. Both Zebra models use the same graphite refills. I’ll probably switch mine out to 0.7mm (you can also choose the 0.3mm size).
Of the four bodies in this review, I think the Uni Jetstream’s anodized aluminum look is the nicest, and it also has the most solid feel and easiest-to-engage slidey levers. The Zebra 1000S Clip-on is a close second.
As a ballpoint sketcher, I couldn’t resist ending the review by comparing the three ballpoint inks side by side. In the sketch of my hand, the black ink is Bic, the red is Zebra, and the blue is Uni Jetstream. It probably isn’t apparent in the sketch, but I was surprised to find that the Zebra’s ballpoint ink felt close to Bic in its ability to layer gradually (similar to graphite). Jetstream is the least satisfying in that way; it lays down a smooth, solid line every time, making it beautiful to write with but not necessarily to draw with. I’m encouraged to draw more now with the Zebra 1000S – an excellent, all-in-one jotting/drawing tool.
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Many weeks ago I was browsing JetPens (like you do) and I was stopped in my scrolling by the words “fude nib.” For those not in the know, a fude nib is a nib where the tip is somewhat bent. This means that depending on the angle at which you are holding the pen, you’ll see distinct line variation. I was ridiculously thrilled by the idea and immediately ordered the Moonman N6 Fountain Pen with an Extra Fine Fude nib/Glass dip nib in Iris Blue Swirl ($21).
Now what I didn’t read was the fine, or not so fine print, that the fude nib was an extra fine. When I discussed the purchase with Ana, she informed me that since it was a nib that was bent to be an extra fine, I probably wouldn’t get the results I was looking for. However, it wasn’t an expensive purchase so I decided to wait and see what I got.
I have a few dip nib pens and I enjoy playing with them, but I find they really shine when I want to sample inks. Years ago I bought a dip nib pen on ebay that came with a glass nib and 5 other interchangeable nibs (XF, F, M, B, XB) and I have used those with a fair amount of success to this day.
So let’s start by talking about what you’re getting when you buy a glass nib. When you’re investing in a more expensive model of pen, you might be getting a true glass nib. For these less expensive versions, you’re most likely getting a clear acrylic nib. The nib itself may be a variety of shapes (often bulbous or swirling) and will have lines etched in the sides of the nib. When you dip the glass nib in an ink bottle, these grooves will hold more ink than a standard nib, enabling you to write for longer on a single ink dip.
For this particular N6, I admit I’m a little disappointed in the glass nib. For starters, it isn’t as thin as my Delike Glass Signature Pen, and I really like the thin lines I can get with that one. Second, this one has a few imperfections. In the photo above I managed to capture where there’s extra acrylic – it didn’t come out of the mold cleanly? And there’s another small section where there appears to be a chip. Neither of these imperfections really affect the performance of the glass nib itself. They might possibly result in less ink being held in the channels, but of course I’m just using the tip to write with. That said, it was a bit disappointing.
For the extra fine fude nib, it’s a nice nib that wrote cleanly and fairly thin (more like a western extra fine, but that’s ok). There is a definite angle to it, and that will take a little playing with to get used to. I do appreciate that this particular pen also includes a converter, meaning if you want to use this pen as an everyday writer with the fude nib, you can fill it with ink. My other dip pen has a purely decorative handle; no room for storing ink.
So overall, I would say you could probably skip the N6 unless you’re interested in trying out an inexpensive dip pen.
Since my first visit to The SF Pen Show in 2015, I have made this event the destination for my annual vacation. (2020, I’m not talking to you). Its tag line is “The Fun Pen Show” and it has certainly been very fun for me.
The draw of the show is, of course, getting to see beautiful, rare, or custom-made pens, notebooks and stationery ephemera in person. It is also about getting to meet vendors and artisans we have only seen online. And it is about going to classes, meetups and seminars to learn more and meet more people.
There is always more to the show than advertised.
When I turned off the freeway exit and onto Twin Dolphin drive to arrive at the hotel, I had tears. “I have returned home.”
I knew this year would be different, and I was prepared for it to not be quite as I remembered. The tables were spread out farther, and I really liked the wider aisles. While there were many who could not come and were missed, there were also first-time pen show attendees and vendors that I had not seen there before. For safety and community health, we wore masks unless eating. But you can recognize the smiles under masks just fine.
Here’s what I did this year:
Worked at Rick’s table
This was the first pen show where I saw the pen show floor from the eyes of a vendor. I signed up to help Rick Propas, otherwise know as The PENguin.
It was a joy to see first-time pen show goers discovering the floor, and I experienced a flood of emotions seeing pen friends and familiar faces- ok, familiar foreheads- for the first time in two years.
Sitting behind the table, I discovered it is not just about selling the pens. Rick answered many questions, and did some on the spot repairs. I learned a lot in proximity to his knowledge and experience. It was definitely fun for me to help people find the models they wanted to see, and to answer some general questions. I made sure to sit in front of my favorite tray. Beauties!
Of course, I did take time to shop the show myself. I loved seeing favorites and known to me vendors, and although not everyone from years past could make it, these were well represented. I tagged along with a friend getting a nib grind from Gena Salorino (Custom Nib Studio) who was one of several nib-grinders able to come and provide services.
I participated in a bit of a flurry-buying episode at the Plotter, Traveler’s Company and Maido tables. Refills for my Filofax, Traveler’s notebooks, inks and more fun notebooks! Wow, look at this interesting grid! Does it come in Personal size??? No, I want that one!
The rest of the time I was able to peruse at a calmer pace, and took a number of lying-down breaks. It was a slower paced show for me, and this is a good thing.
Teaching a Class
This is the second year I have offered a class in ink wash painting techniques. I like the Sunday morning time slot as it allows me to enjoy the action of the show Friday and Saturday, and then have a quiet, focussed morning sharing a meaningful pursuit with my beloved pen community.
It is always so rewarding to see the students discovering new ways to express themselves with brush, ink and paper.
Pen Show Traditions
I lost my hotel room key, almost immediately after checking in. I put my things in the room, went out again and realized the key was not the item in my pocket, that was my phone. The hotel employee said “already?” when I asked for a duplicate. Pretty sure I over-achieved this tradition!
Tacos at Taqueria El Metate. This spot is, in mileage, very close to the hotel, but because its California, you have to go past it, over an overpass, around a curlicue, and then merge suddenly to get off at the first exit to swoop into a parking spot right out front. Inside, its bright colors, Pen Friends, and excellent tacos.
Saturday night Dinner at Grill House. Just a tired and small group of 3, but all of us happy to be there. We did this in 2019 and again this year. “Let’s make this a tradition!” You don’t have to twist my arm.
Fondling gorgeous urushi/maki-e pens and then seeing the price tag. Right! This year it was a Danitrio goldfish that caught my eye. Also I am a fool for the “eggshell” finish. Future goals.
My Pen Haul
All vintage this year, with the most recent one being from the ’80s or ’90s.
The Delta “sterling”? Purchased from a fellow pen show attendee. I don’t actually know the name of this model, but it looks to be an early one in their lineup. This might be the first bi-color metal pen that I have wanted to buy, and is my first Delta pen. The nib is a “fusion” nib that Delta was known for, and the writing experience of this pen is glorious.
Pelikan 500N tortoise, of course purchased from Rick’s table. I believe this one is from 1956. The 500’s had the gold-filled cap. I really haven’t seen them around much. After a day and a half staring at it on the table in front of me, I knew it was The One.
Kaweco NOS, again from Rick. The story is that there were a bunch of parts “sitting around” from the ’30s, and so they made them into pens. This one has a distinctive celluloid finish, which ensnared me with its siren song. Oh, did I not mention it has a lovely stub nib? [heart eyes]
Waterman Pansy Sterling, semi-flex Ideal nib. Again with the sterling. I bought this from John Strother’s table during my last pass around the floor on Sunday. I had some budget left and thought I’d use it if I found “something special”. Well, sometimes you find the pens, and sometimes the pens find you. I was looking at the lovely ring top models next to this one in the tray, and decided to just hold this one in my hand for comparison of size in hand. Oh. No. This one. The flex nib was all the rest I needed to know.
While the draw is pens and stationery, and they are wonderful, what keeps us coming back to these events is always the people. Our pen community is special. It is open and accepting, enthusiastic. It is as excited about newcomers as much as it celebrates the known names and characters. Navigating a convention-sized event can be a physical and sensorial challenge, but I drive home each year with a giant-sized grin on my face. I am coming back again next year. Pen Shows are Love.
Julia is an artist, classical musician, knitter, and lover of the outdoors. She resides in Santa Cruz, California, where she can draw Pelicans with Pelikans, and brag about the weather. Follow her adventures on Instagram @juliavdw or Twitter @juliavdw.