Tombow Airpress Giveaway Winner!

3 12 2014

I got distracted and temporally displaced, and forgot to announce the winner yesterday! So, without further bibble-babble, out of all the contestants, here is your winner:

Winnerwinnerwinner

 

martha, you are the winner! Please send me an email (link is on the upper right links menu) with your mailing address so I can get this pen to you ASAP!





Tombow AirPress Pen – White (Review & Giveaway)

27 11 2014
Lacking a portable scanner with me at this time, I'm having to make do with photographing the writing sample instead

Lacking a portable scanner with me at this time, I’m having to make do with photographing the writing sample instead

I don’t know if stormtroopers took over Tombow or if the staff there are just being remotely brain-controlled from the Death Star, but I too was contacted to receive and give away a white-and-black version of the Tombow AirPress Pen. Thanks to Tombow for providing these pens!

It also matches my car. I should give more rides to stormtroopers carrying these pens for the ultimate matching experience. More matching than a deathcage match even.

I’ve had some exposure to the AirPress before, evaluating it as a potential motorcycling pen, but I forgot to get around to actually reviewing it. And I have reviewed the similar AirPress Apro ballpoint pen. As I’ve noted before, I like the lightweight, compact body and the grippability of it—both the non-slip surface covering the whole body, and the slightly wider body itself.

I'm not sure if you can really see it, but it is snowing in the background. And foreground. And on the ground

I’m not sure if you can really see it, but it is snowing in the background. And foreground. And on the ground

That wider body makes it easy to hold and write with the pen even with gloves on (and in the cold, on wet paper, upside down, etc.).

Why is the arrow pointing? What does it mean???

Why is the arrow pointing? What does it mean???

The lanyard loop I understand. The hinged clip, we’re good. I like the grip, and the windows where you can see some of the process mechanisms that pressurize the ink cartridge. The only thing I don’t fully understand is the little plastic arrow thing on the end of the clip. I feel like it has some secret meaning or purpose and I just don’t get it.

UNDER PRESSURE, pushing down on me, pressing down on you—wait have I made this joke before

Just like the Tombow Apro AirPress, the regular AirPress ballpoint pen does really well with drawing. Each click of the pen (on the retraction actually, unless I’m mistaken) pressurizes the refill for 492 feet of writing. Is there a machine that tests these things? One robot arm holds the pen while another mechanism scrolls several hundred feet of paper by? Or is it just some probably underpaid guy writing the same word over and over until either he snaps or the ink cartridge runs out? The writing smoothness I would rank just under the supersmooth category; not butterglide skatesmoothery, but it’s still good. For the utility you get, there’s not much sacrifice of performance in terms of how the pen writes. I might loan my pen out to some LEOs I know to see how it holds up to some real field work.

What does 492 feet of writing even look like on paper? Has anyone stopped and really consciously looked at 492 feet of words?

What does 492 feet of writing even look like on paper? Has anyone stopped and really consciously looked at 492 feet of words?

Tombow AirPress Pen at Tombow

 

And now, for the thanksgiveaway! Tombow has provided an extra pen for me to give away, so give it away I shall!

The rules:

  1. Since I can only afford so much postage, I’m going to limit this giveaway to the U.S. only. Just leave one comment on this post any time between now and Cyber Monday, December 1st 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Only one comment per person! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. I will hand-number the entries because why not. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Tuesday, December 2nd. Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

Thanks again to Tombow, and thanks to all of you for reading :)





A Trio of Fountain Pen Friendly Notebooks

25 11 2014

Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook // Kyokuto French Classic Notebook // Apica CD Notebook CD15

It was hard to decide what would make a better background: uninspired carpet, or cut up cardboard box

It was hard to decide what would make a more captivating background: uninspired carpet, or cut up cardboard box

JetPens sent me three different vintage styled softcover B5 notebooks to take for a spin: two explicitly listed in the fountain pen friendly paper section (the Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook – B5 – Comfort – Lined and the Apica CD Notebook – CD15 – Semi B5 – 6.5 mm Rule – Black) and one wildcard (the Kyokuto French Classic Notebook – B5 – Ruled – 32 Sheets – Gray). These are exactly the right size for convenient use: school, work, etc.; they are large enough to really write in, but thin enough not to be a burden (I’ve come around to appreciate filling up more smaller notebooks rather than breaking my shoulders carrying big notebooks with more pages than I’d ever need in any given period of time).

Is the notebook the comfort? Am I to outline my comforts in the notebook?

Is the notebook the comfort? Am I to outline my comforts in the notebook?

This notebook is my favorite of the three on appearance. The white decorative print pops off the background, and the whole affair together with the gauze binding is vintage classy. Of the three, the Tsubame has the heaviest paper weight at 83.5 gsm.

This paper is much more cream colored than my photographs are making it look. Take more pictures, you say? NONSENSE. USE YOUR IMAGINATION

This paper is much more cream colored than my photographs are making it look. Take more pictures, you say? NONSENSE. USE YOUR IMAGINATION

The cream-colored paper has an ingrained latticework between the printed lines that’s a bit reminiscent of french-ruled paper. I don’t know what the point of it is, but who says no to extras? Fountain pen ink on the page is beautiful, lines crisp and charactered with glorious shading, no bleedthrough, and no issue with showthrough (there is some, but I don’t find it a bothersome amount).

Note to self: remember all previous notes to self about not taking pictures on such dark and cloudy days

Note to self: remember all previous notes to self about not taking pictures on such dark and cloudy days

The only pen that didn’t do well was a Sharpie Marker. But there is a cost to this performance—this notebook has the slowest dry times of the three. Lefties tread carefully; I had some smudging with a few combinations of ink and nibs. If you’re heavy-handed, this paper seems slow compared to the others. Maximizing this paper performance requires good fountain pen form: a light touch and deliberate movements to savor the process of pen and ink and paper. This is the paper you use to practice your writing.

The actual notebook looks like more of a yellow gray. Or a muted tan. A sandy gray. Maybe I just ought to do a better job on colors

The actual notebook looks like more of a yellow gray. Or a muted tan. A sandy gray. Maybe I just ought to do a better job on colors

The Kyokuto French Classic has a charming design and the fastest drying times (probably due in part to having the lightest paper weight at 80 gsm). However, it also has the most showthrough and even a few points of bleedthrough, especially with broad nibs, dark inks, print handwriting, etc.

The most showthrough of the bunch

We’re talking if you had this notebook with you in person, you could clearly read what I wrote on the page below

You can use the back side of the page, but it’s not the most beautiful thing. And yet the ink on the top of the page looks pretty decent. You’ve got shading, with no fuzzing or feathering. It’s quite tolerable in the grand scheme of things, especially if you need to take quick notes and don’t mind the shadows of the words you wrote before.

I SWEAR THIS IS CREAM COLORED PAPER TOO

I SWEAR THIS IS CREAM COLORED PAPER TOO UGH

Some pens and inks do better than others. I’m having good results right now writing in cursive, using Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa in my Lamy 2000. Thin gel pens (0.5mm and under), ballpoints, pencils, and thin fountain pen nibs all seem to do best. If you pick this notebook, I’d recommend you spend the space of the back page figuring out what pen and ink combinations work best for you (rather than use pens and inks all willy-nilly and set yourself up for some potential disappointment). This notebook would do best somewhere you need to write fast, like for school or work.

The decoration stands out more when it's well lit. This is the disadvantage of completing the written portion of my review in a dimly lit cave

Looking at this picture, I realize the decoration stands out more when it’s well lit. This is the disadvantage of completing the written portion of my review in a dimly lit cave

Last but not least we have the Apica CD notebook. Similar to the Tsubame, with more subtle vintage styling printed on an irregularly textured cover, filled with 81.4 gsm paper.

Texture!

Texture!

The Apica notebook seems to present a good compromise between drying time and paper quality—dries faster than the Tsubame, yet does not have the problems of bleedthrough and extreme showthrough that haunt the Kyokuto with its faster dry times. Shading looks good, line qualities look good.

THIS is the only one of the three with white paper

THIS is the only one of the three with white paper

Of all three notebooks, the Apica is the one I would buy again first for my own personal use. Fountain pen inks look nice, the paper is delightfully smooth, and the drying time is sufficient. And, as I’ve grown addicted to with my Leuchtturm1917 notebook, it has a line for the date (the Kyokuto and the Apica both have lines for No. and Date).

WHO AM I KIDDING I LOVE ALL THREE

WHO AM I KIDDING I LOVE ALL THREE

Three notebooks, each with particular strengths and weaknesses, each with a time and place to shine. Thanks to JetPens for providing these samples!

Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook – B5 – Comfort – Lined at JetPens

Kyokuto French Classic Notebook – B5 – Ruled – 32 Sheets – Gray at JetPens

Apica CD Notebook – CD15 – Semi B5 – 6.5 mm Rule – Black at JetPens

 





Schneider Assortment – Top Quality German Pens

12 11 2014
If I'd spread this over ~5 individual reviews, it would have taken me forever to tell you about all these pens

If I’d spread this over ~5 individual reviews, it would have taken me forever to tell you about all these pens

The fine folks at Stride, Inc. brought it to my attention that I’d never reviewed any Schneider pens before, the reason being I was pretty sure I didn’t have any. Stride, being the exclusive Schneider agent in the US, offered to send me a Schneider sampler to rectify this situation.

Interestingly enough, when I looked through the Schneider catalogue they sent, I discovered I actually DID have a single Schneider pen, as yet unreviewed, rescued from the same dusty NYC pen shop where I got the Parker Reflex

Interestingly enough, when I looked through the Schneider catalogue they sent, I discovered I actually DID have a single Schneider pen, the Voyage fountain pen, as yet unreviewed, rescued from the same dusty NYC pen shop where I got the Parker Reflex

The appearance of the pens I’ve got seems to fall in one of two camps: standard pens that look similar to other pen lines (such as the ones that look like cousins of a Pentel R.S.V.P. or a Uni rollerball), and the modern fun ones. The ones that look like the R.S.V.P. are known as the Slider (with Viscoglide technology). They have slimmer barrels than an R.S.V.P., and easily-identifiable-in-a-pen-cup color-matching caps and accents. Appearance-wise, these are your basic office / school stick pens with plastic clips.

The body says vaguely Uniball-looking, but the grip/fins/nose cone says Pilot Precise. It's like their strange German baby.

The body says vaguely Uniball-looking, but the grip/fins/nose cone says Pilot Precise. It’s like their strange German baby.

The Xtra Hybrid is also pretty typical office fare, with the addition of a big metal clip, and an attractive grip section.

In hindsight, I think I mentally intended to put the green one in the middle of this lineup for greatest visual balance. TOO LATE TO TAKE MORE PICTURES NOW

In hindsight, I think I mentally intended to put the green one in the middle of this lineup for greatest visual balance. TOO LATE TO TAKE MORE PICTURES NOW

Then we have my favorites—the contoured body style with full-body rubberized surface grippiness. I love that there’s no single exact grip spot that you’re supposed to hold, and the rubber has a nice feel; neither too tacky nor too slick. For the capped models, I wish the caps snapped to post. To post, the caps are friction fit on the end; it’s pretty secure, but I like the sound and sensation of a satisfying cap snap. For that reason, if I had to pick a favorite of the bunch it would probably be the retractable Slider Rave XB. It’s attractive, convenient, and practical.

There's a lot of potentially messy-looking ink buildup, but it hasn't given me problems so far

There’s a lot of potentially messy-looking ink buildup, but it hasn’t given me problems so far

The ballpoints all feature Schneider’s Viscoglide technology, which is just their brand-name way of saying super-smooth ballpoint. And is it? I’m happy to say that Viscoglide does not disappoint. Is the ink as dark as that bastion of the night, the ink which absorbs all light, the venerable Jetstream? No, perhaps not, but the smoothness is there, with no blobs or skips. Put it in the pantheon of super smoothness. The sizes I have to try out are XB and F; XB is undeniably smoother, but the F is still pretty slick. We must ask, as seen with the Jetstream Color, do alternate ink colors impact performance? For the purple Slider Memo XB, a resounding no—this might just be the best purple ballpoint I own. For the cotton candy colors of light blue and pink, I do think they feel a touch slower, the light blue perhaps a smidgen more than the pink, but then again maybe I’m imagining things. There are no issues of skipping or blobbing, it’s just the other colors feel faster.

If you're colorblind, does the red and green body pen just look all the same color?

If you’re colorblind, does the red and green body pen just look all the same color?

And then there’s these two. The Xtra Hybrid performs solidly and provides ink consistently, with no scratchiness or any other weird rollerball feelings I’ve encountered in other rollerball pens before. The Schneider Xpress fineliner has got to be a teacher’s pen. Writing with it I feel like I need to give someone an F minus, and with its waterproof ink I wouldn’t have to worry about their tears washing my harsh but necessary judgments away. There are reasons I’m not a teacher you guys.

Bright colors, maximum fun

Bright colors, maximum fun

Bonus: all these Schneider pens I’ve got feature wear-resistant stainless steel tips. Double bonus: Stride is a company not only providing some quality pens, but with a pretty awesome story: they’re a certified small woman-owned business committed to successfully training and employing people with developmental disabilities. Step up your game, other pen companies; what are the rest of you doing to make the world a better place (besides putting good pens in it)?

Thanks again to Stride for providing these pens for review!

Information on ordering Stride Pens (available through Office Max and Office Depot)





Ink Drop Soup: The Terror & Triumph of the Bent Nib

28 10 2014

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how it happened. Wednesday, my Pilot Vanishing Point M nib was completely normal. Friday, I clicked the plunger and the nib came out looking like this:

You will notice this more closely resembles some sort of exotic bird than it does a proper Vanishing Point nib

You will notice this more closely resembles some sort of exotic bird than it does a proper Vanishing Point nib

Nightmare. Disaster. Catastrophe. How is this reality? I text my pen store—pen emergency, what do I do? We arrange for a replacement. With a fix lined up, there’s really no reason not to try to right this wrong. The worst that happens is everything stays exactly the same: I have one useless nib, and a new one on the way.

WARNING—I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I AM DOING. I DO NOT RECOMMEND ATTEMPTING THE RECKLESS THINGS I AM COMPELLED TO ATTEMPT. IF YOU DISREGARD THIS WARNING AND RUIN YOUR PEN IT IS YOUR OWN FAULT. NOT MINE.

Like a genie slipper. Like a sled runner. Like a very small, pointy ski.

Like a genie slipper. Like a sled runner. Like a very small, pointy ski.

To start with, I emailed the head of my local pen club—I recalled seeing a toolbox full of pen repair oddments with him at meetings and I was pretty confident that he did repairs of some kind, and would not dissuade me from my mission. I presented my case, and asked for advice. Piece of cake, he says. Get the nib off the feed and bend it back in place using fingers, a desktop, etc.

I may have improvised some additional implements

I may have improvised some additional implements

I used my fingers, the desktop, metal parts of the Vanishing Point body, and finally, surfaces of my keychain knife to bend the nib back into shape. But did it work? I had to know, but I was at work, without spare ink, without a syringe. I was able to steal a few drops of blue ink from the Caran d’Ache I had with me, and used another empty Pilot twist converter to collect enough water to add to the ink so I’d have enough liquid to write with. It worked. Smooth as ever before, no hesitations and no qualifications.

Cue celestial choir, song bursting forth in joyful noise, with trumpets.

Cue celestial choir, song bursting forth in joyful noise, with trumpets.

Did I use the most appropriate tools? Probably not. Should I be trusted with other people’s pens? Definitely not. But did I fix this pen? Heck. yes.





!! 200th Review Giveaway !!

26 10 2014

To celebrate 200 reviews’ worth of you all putting up with the haphazardly scheduled posting of my office supply opinions, I’m doing a giveaway! I’ve been amassing this horde for several years, of the choicest goods I’ve ever found on clearance. Mostly from Target, but not all.

That Leuchtturm was an especially good find. Mine has served me well all year.

The goods include:

  • Ruled Leuchtturm 1917 Medium Notebook, Black
  • 2 Moleskine Extra Small Ruled Notebooks, Green and Purple
  • Some Random Turquoise Pocket Notebook from Staples
  • One 0.5mm Uni Kuru Toga with extra lead and extra erasers
  • One 0.7mm Uni Signo 207 Premier Black Gel Pen
  • Pentel Hybrid Technica Set (0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm, 0.6mm)
  • One Wonderland Paperchase Cartridge Fountain Pen, with cartridges
  • 4 Sharpie Pens, assorted colors
  • 3-pack of Pentel Hi-Polymer Erasers
  • Set of Assorted Scented Holiday Pencils

And I may throw in some other Pentel pens and/or pencils as strikes my fancy. Whoever wins, wins it all. THIS GIVEAWAY SHALL BE OPEN TO THE WHOLE WORLD! I may regret this come postage time, but I want to thank all of you, all over the place.

Tobi is not part of the giveaway, but she did keep trying to step on top of the goods while I was taking the picture

Tobi is not part of the giveaway, but she did keep trying to step on top of the goods while I was taking the picture

The rules:

  1. This giveaway is open to the entire world where mail is receivable! Just leave one comment on this post any time between now and Wednesday, December 24th 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. You have two months to remember to enter! No excuses if you forget!
  2. One winner will be picked at random by Santa Claus from the comments section of this post. Only one comment per person! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. I will hand-number the entries in Photoshop because apparently that’s how I roll. All the time. Every giveaway. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Thursday, December 25th. Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.




Rohrer & Klingner – Scabiosa (iron gall) Ink

16 10 2014

I don’t typically review ink, but I’ve been compelled by the consistently impressive performance of this ink to give it its own review.

Behold the incredible mess of my desk

Behold the incredible mess of my desk

The color of the ink is a beautiful, dark, dusky purple with absolutely delicious shading. It has played well with every pen I’ve put it in so far—my broad and my medium-nibbed Vanishing Points, my Zait fountain pen, my Pelikan M150 and M250, my Sheaffer Connaisseur…every pen so far has been a heavenly match-up. If I have a pen that needs to be inked up, my first reaction now ends up being something to the tune of, “gosh, I bet Scabiosa would be great in this…but is it really appropriate to have 5 fountain pens inked with the same color at the same time?”

It is really, truly, totally appropriate

It is really, truly, totally appropriate

The Scabiosa always seems to have good, practical drying times when I actually write with it—I don’t have to stop to let the page dry to keep from smudging while I write, whether I’m using fine, medium, or broad nibs. But even more impressive is Scabiosa’s ability to overcome most any crappy paper. The Scabiosa consistently outperforms other fountain pen inks on subpar paper. This is what you want to see in a daily use ink. It will take some truly terrible paper to get Scabiosa to misbehave—it tends neither to bleed through, show through, fuzz, nor feather. Can ink have superpowers? Can ink be a super hero?

The most perfect color

The most perfect color

Scabiosa is a modern iron gall ink. It has archival properties (water resistant), but being a modern formulation this iron gall ink isn’t going to eat up everything the way old iron gall inks would. That said, I can’t speak to how finicky antique pens made with delicate or temperamental materials might respond—I don’t have any such pens to test it with. The Goulets and Rorher & Klingner recommend not leaving it in your pens for more than a week, as it may stain; I’ve had some in my Pelikan M150 for over a month—I cleaned the pen out, and there was nary a stain to be found.

 

Are there any downsides to this ink? I certainly haven’t found them yet.

Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa (iron gall) ink — available in 50ml bottles and 2ml samples at the Goulet Pen Company








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