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





Pelikan M205 Traditional Cremeweiss Body with Italic Nib

6 10 2014
I wish I could hand you this pen to write with, because if I did I guarantee the first thing you would say would be "WHOA"

I wish I could hand you this pen to write with, because if I did I guarantee the first thing you would say would be “WHOA”

Once you go crazy, it’s hard to go any other way. That’s the only explanation I have for why I bought this pen. I had no need for this pen. I simply decided that a Pelikan M205 would be an excellent idea and that an italic nib was exactly what I needed to have in it. These are not the thoughts of a rational actor.

I also wish I could hand you this pen so you could get an accurate idea of what color it is

I also wish I could hand you this pen so you could get an accurate idea of what color it is

This pen has everything I’m looking for aesthetically—the bare minimum of decoration, a dash of practicality, and a beautiful cream-white body.

On the whiteness of pens scale, it's sort of a warm off-white, with a hint of peach?

On the whiteness of pens scale, it’s sort of a warm off-white, with a hint of peach?

The cream-white is subtle, and blends beautifully with the pages of my Leuchtturm notebook. The size of the pen is satisfying—small, but not too small, long enough to write with posted (and the cap doesn’t hit my hand) or unposted. The pen is light, but well-balanced. If I needed to hand-write a novel, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.

It would use a heckuva lot of paper though, having to write so big.

It would use a heckuva lot of paper though, having to write so big.

The only thing I don’t like here is the newer Pelikan logo on the top of the cap. It’s printed-on sparkle, compared to the inlaid pattern on my 1988 M150. But I’m quibbling. As to the art deco-ness of the top of the cap, my feelings aren’t exactly sure how to feel. Intrigued. A little confused.

I feel like the most appropriate noise to accompany this picture is a blaring foghorn. Please imagine such as you view.

I feel like the most appropriate noise to accompany this picture is a blaring foghorn. Please imagine such as you view.

Now, let’s talk about this nib. Whoa. This is one wide italic. You say italic, I think crisp, calligraphy italic. This is not that sort of italic AT ALL. This baby is a broad, buttery italic. Not exactly practical for college ruled paper. But I love it, practicality be damned. It’s smooth and it shows off ink beautifully. And besides, these nibs are easy to swap out—the whole nib unit unscrews from the body. I’ve already bought a fine M205 nib for when I finally feel like being practical.

I have a feeling this logo will probably get worn off.

I have a feeling this logo will probably get worn off.

I got my Pelikan M205 from my local pen store, Office Supplies and More. They still don’t have an online website, but you can call in, ask for Alan, and work out an order (he might even still have one of this pen, this nib, this color). Or if you prefer to eschew all human interaction, the following online retailers all carry the basic M205 with various nibs, but I’ve only seen the italic nib available with the black body at Goldspot Pens.

Pelikan M205 at Goldspot Pens

Pelikan M205 at JetPens

Pelikan M205 at Pen Chalet (followers of the Pen Addict podcast will have heard of Pen Chalet before; if you don’t listen to the Pen Addict podcast get on it! And find out about the Pen Chalet discount for Pen Addict listeners)





Mini Review: Five Star Dry Erase Pocket

14 09 2014
Behold the majesty of the door of my work locker. The inside is a beauty of Tetris-like kitchen implement organization

Behold the majesty of the door of my work locker. The inside is a beauty of Tetris-like kitchen implement organization

At work, my half-size locker is packed full of various pots, pans, and assorted kitchen essentials so that I can fully utilize the breakroom stove/oven at lunch time. Because these half lockers are so small, and because a proper complement of kitchen cookware involves several items, it’s imperative that I organize my locker as efficiently as possible, while still having easy access to the things I need (thus the magnetic spice canisters above). Today, I want to give a shout out to that white oval thing in the middle, the Five Star Dry Erase Pocket. Previously I had one of those approximately rectangular mesh boxes holding my bacon tongs, serrated kitchen knife, straight edge kitchen knife, tiny whisk, pan scraper, vegetable peeler, and fork; it was a bit much for the two magnet strips on the back of the mesh basket. It frequently fell off the locker door, usually as loudly as possible, often taking down the green mesh tray below with it, sending my kitcheny goods everywhere. I saw the Five Star Dry Erase Pocket on sale for ~50% off at Target, and decided to give it a go. WOW. The entire back of the unit is a magnet. This thing is on the door and it isn’t going anywhere. I need to go back to Target and get another one for my fridge at home, because it’s that good.

 

Five Star Dry Erase Pocket (look around at the clearance sections of box stores and you might be able to find it cheaper, as I did at Target!)








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