Shopping the Trenches of Purchases Past

31 10 2017

The pen world is fueled by chasing the new. Must have new ink. Must have new pen. Must have new notebook, new case, new stickers, new washi tape, anything out there so long as it’s new. Or at least new to you; vintage collecting isn’t exempt from the madness. It’s not a hedonic treadmill, it’s a hedonic runaway train barreling through my wallet and leaving scores of barely used, briefly effused-over products in my wake. I have so many things acquired that I haven’t even gotten around to reviewing yet—things that burned with the white-hot need of acquisition in the moment, the heady intoxication of having that thing, carrying it everywhere for a week, perhaps two, and then slowly the excitement fades, a pen is cleaned, tucked away in a storage case, forgotten for a while, because there is some new pen out there and I must buy it.

buy it all, buy it now

It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. I have all these wonderful stationery objects which I’ve barely taken the proper time to appreciate. I haven’t taken the time to use them to create, because I’ve been so preoccupied with the never enough hamster wheel of consuming. I suggested to a friend that I was going to cut down on buying pens—“but you love pens!“—as if by not buying more pens, my whole vast collection would suddenly vanish. As if there isn’t a small shop worth of barely used products in my possession, ready to be organized and ‘shopped’ through with fresh eyes. I’ll still be going back through the things I love, I’ll still do reviews, but I’ve got to take a pause from chasing the new.

Let me show you an example born from this shift in mindset. I bought this pen, grouped with several others, back in…2016? Yes. 2016. It needed a new sac. I gleefully photographed it along with the rest of my newly bought DC Pen Show hoard, moved it to a holding tray, put the tray by my desk in the garage, and there it sat for a year, unthought of, untouched. I’m sure at the 2017 DC Pen Show I looked longingly at pens just like it, because the patterned red hard rubber (especially this wood grain swirl type) has always appealed to me, and yet intimidated me because it seemed like they were all so expensive (for someone with no idea what vintage models were what). This year at DC I picked up a wicked cheap lever filler fountain pen with a flex gold nib that also needed a new sac, which finally prompted me to acquire a proper selection of resacking tools and supplies. With supplies in hand, naturally I had to resac as many pens as I could, which included this guy.

spooktastic

It’s a fantastic little pen. No gold nib, but for a firm nib it’s satisfyingly smooth. And even more satisfying is the knowledge that I fixed the pen. There’s a deeper level of ownership knowing I brought it back to life. The smooth matte red hard rubber has faded to a more fall-appropriate reddish orange. The imprint, Wahl Eversharp, can barely be read, but it doesn’t matter. The pattern is gorgeous and the pen is great for every day use. It’s a new crown jewel in my regular fall line up.

the crown jewels need some….organization

I’m not going to stop buying new pens forever. But I’m not going to keep buying with reckless abandon. There’s going to be a lot more careful consideration before adding pens to an already great collection. More continuing to do my own repairs and modifications on pens I already own. Focus on enjoying what I have, and selling what I don’t enjoy to fund any future purchases.

Advertisements




Kaweco Skyline Sport Fountain Pen – Mint – Medium Nib

10 07 2016

Remind me to upload a scan of this sample later, rather than a picture of it

If you have a very good memory, you’ll recall that I’ve reviewed the Kaweco Sport before. Years ago, in fact. So why am I reviewing a Kaweco Sport again? Well, it’s the Skyline edition with different colors and this one has a clip and it came in a different box all the way from Australia.

It's pretty much an entirely different pen

It’s pretty much an entirely different pen

First off, a general update on the durability of the Kaweco Sport — my original survived a trip through the washing machine without damage and without coming open/putting ink all over my clothes. When the feed broke (for no apparent reason) after 5 years of service, Kaweco saw my Instagram post and got me in contact with their customer service, who sent me a new feed/nib/grip assembly. Great customer service. Very durable little pen.

Stealthy

Cool container, Kaweco

I don’t know if this is the box specific to the Skyline edition, or perhaps specific to a certain geographical distribution area, but this is a cool box. Matte black, stealthy metal tin. Much nicer than the tin my Liliput came in.

Kaweco Skyline is evolving! Kaweco Skyline has learned clip. It's super effective!

Kaweco Skyline is evolving! Kaweco Skyline has learned clip. It’s super effective!

This pen also came with a clip. When I bought my original Kaweco Sport, I could have ordered the clip separately. Maybe I will. I still can. I’m glad this one came with a clip–it’s sturdy and secure, and help makes the pen easy to find, clipped to the side of a pocket rather than lost in the bottom of a bag. It’s not a clip that will be easily or accidentally knocked off.

cool

Believe me, I tried

The color scheme is refreshing. I prefer silvery accents to gold, so this is more up my alley. And it pairs nicely with the soft mint blue. Can mint be blue?

Sufficient!

I say yes.

The Kaweco Sport is lightweight, being plastic, and pretty comfortable for a compact pen, with its round, slightly curved-in grip. The flat sides on the octagonal cap don’t dig into my hand when I’m holding the pen in my horribly abnormal grip. There is definitely a sweet spot to this nib, and for most of the handwritten version of this review, I’ve been falling off it.

Look close and witness the madness

When it’s on, it’s good stuff. Nice flowing tactile nib. But when it’s off, what a pain. My overwriting angle may be partly to blame. But I probably won’t be entirely satisfied until I’ve fiddled with this nib. Your out of the box experience may vary. Oddly enough, I seem to have little to no problem when I’m using it to jot a quick note, be it at work on a post-it, or on the back of a receipt while on the side of a mountain on a motorcycle trip. It’s just this more longform stuff that brings out the less cooperative aspects of this nib.

Here’s where I’d put a good converter, IF THEY MADE ONE

The biggest drawback to the Kaweco Sport is the lack of a good converter option. The pen takes standard international cartridges, but the body is too short for a proper converter. There’s a squeeze converter available, which doesn’t hold much ink and isn’t the most convenient thing to use, and a mini twist converter that similarly fails to get the job done.

Competitively priced entry level fountain pens, left to right: Pilot Metropolitan, Pilot Petit 1, Pilot Kakuno, Kaweco Sport Skyline, Platinum Preppy, Jinhao 599A, Muji Round Aluminum Fountain Pen, Pelikan Pelikano, Pilot Penmanship, Sailor HighAce Neo

A selection of competitively priced entry level fountain pens, left to right: Pilot Metropolitan, Pilot Petit 1, Pilot Kakuno, Kaweco Sport Skyline, Platinum Preppy, Jinhao 599A, Muji Round Aluminum Fountain Pen, Pelikan Pelikano, Pilot Penmanship, Sailor HighAce Neo. Most expensive pen in this pic: the Kaweco

The Kaweco Sport (without clip) used to cost $15 when I bought my first one, which made it a competitively priced entry level fountain pen. The higher that price goes, the harder it is for the Kaweco Sport to remain in that category. It doesn’t have much competition in the compact/pocket size entry level fountain pen front, but for how long? At least you know the money gets you something durable backed by a responsive company.

Every day carry. Or at least every other day carry

Every day carry. Or at least every other day carry

All in all, the Kaweco Sport remains a decent little fountain pen well suited to everyday carry. The Skyline colorway is a welcome addition to an enduring product line.

Kaweco Skyline Sport Fountain Pen – Mint – Medium Nib at NoteMaker

(Notemaker provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)





Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen

10 05 2016

Trying out a Field Notes for this here writing sample. It’s ok because it’s ballpoint

When you get an email with an offer to try “The official pen of the United States Government,” you can’t say no. That’s how you make bald eagles cry, and George Washington would not be pleased with that.

Insert partisan political joke of your choice here


These pens look like a retro throwback straight out of some non-existent idyllic past (a.k.a. the good old days). I dig the stamped-on “SKILCRAFT U.S. GOVERNMENT” label. But wow, these pens are tiny.

Granted, I’m comparing this to normal, full sized pens. Maybe it actually aspires to the compact carry category?

Makes me think about the size of a 1950s McDonald’s meal vs. now. Cheeseburgers of a rational size that look microscopic in comparison to the heaving patty towers of the modern era. I digress. This is a short, slender pen, light of weight and modest of design.

So official

The knock is a slim button, but with a strong and satisfying click. There’s a decent amount of resistance to it–when you deploy the pen, it’s a deliberate action. This! Is! Government! Business!

Does very good job attracting dust and cat hairs

Some minor quibbles – alignment. The clip doesn’t line up with the label. The metal spacer ring in the middle mostly lines up, but you can feel the slight edge line between the plastic and the metal. Psychologically, I really want the words to all be in a line, and the surface to all be impossibly smooth. 

See how none of these refills seem quite centered? That will become relevant

The refill is a bronze-bodied affair rumored to last for a mile (I don’t have paper long enough or patience sufficient enough to make over 5000 one foot long lines to test this claim). It’s no modern marvel–compared to the super smooth ballpoint kings, the Skilcraft refill is lighter in color and not as smooth. It’s good when it gets going, no blobs. There’s about half a millimeter of play laterally between the refill and the end of the barrel, the result being a soft but not unpleasant sound as you write, like a gentle tapping with each pen strike on the page. If you like tactile things, it’s a bit zen-like, your own personal write-powered white noise generator. If you crave absolute silence, then this could at times pose a problem.

Technically I have a dozen of these, but all those not pictured have migrated their way into the fabric of my life, and the reliable bottoms of my bags

This pen seems designed to be as unobtrusive as possible while still retaining usability as an everyday jotter. I doubt this would be very comfortable for a marathon note-taking session, but for quick notes such a slim pen tucks away easily to be ever-available. It’s stood up well to several months of abuse thrown in various bags without care. I find myself including one in each of my bags, in case I need a normal people pen, especially one I won’t have to worry about loaning out or losing.

Available wherever they are sold. Like Amazon, apparently. And probably other places.

A little more about Skilcraft – it’s the trade name of the National Industries for the Blind, employing those who are blind or visually impaired. Let me just link to the Tiger Pens Blog post about Skilcraft, which has a fantastic and fascinating write up about the company that makes these pens.

(Industries for the Blind, Inc. provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes. Opinions entirely my own.)





Lamy Dark Lilac Fountain Pen and Ink

2 05 2016

I could have reviewed the nib, but ive already swapped on a slightly crisp stubby italic that I ground ahead of this pen’s arrival, which gives you no insight into how it writes right out of the box

A review for the much anticipated Lamy Dark Lilac Safari doesn’t need to be long. Here it is: just buy it. Unless you hate purple, or purple murdered your parents outside a movie theater forcing you into a life of vigilante justice against purple-jacketed villains, then you can pass, but everyone else? You probably ought to get this pen, and the ink to go with it. I hate triangular grips, and I still think you should get this pen.

Heck, I might even get this pen again

Ultimately this is still a Lamy Safari, and my opinions about the Safari haven’t really changed (though it’s no longer the sole best contender for a beginner fountain pen, not since the Pilot Metropolitan hit the streets). But I will tell you what makes this particular Safari a winner among all other Safaris.

I recommend pairing this pen and ink with a Rhodia Ice pad for maximum cool factor

I don’t know if the success of the Pelikan M205 Amethyst led them to this conclusion or if Lamy came up with this one all on their own, but special edition pens can be made in colors other than green. With fantastic results! I couldn’t ask for a more perfect shade of purple.

I could ask, but no one would be able to give it to me

The entire pen is finished with the same matte texture as you’d find on the charcoal Safari. It’s a wonderful texture that doesn’t show fingerprints the way the glossy finishes do, and adds comfortable grippability to the plastic body.

I’m going to sleep now and dream of this most perfect purple

The black nib, clip, and finial seals the deal. Silver accents would have been too showy. The stealth scheme lends the pen an ineffable air of coolness.

SHEEN, BABY, SHEEN!

Lamy ink is one of my favorites for everyday use — it’s vibrant, it shades, and it’s fairly quick drying. The only downside to Lamy ink is the limited selection of colors available — or, that was the downside, prior to the arrival in the past few years of matching special edition inks. Now I have the purple I’ve wanted to exist since I first learned about Lamy inks. Bonus? The ink has a golden sheen.

This pen and its matching ink are everything I hoped for. My only problem is that they didn’t come out with it sooner.

And Tobi’s only problem is that the ink isn’t meat-flavored


I got mine from my local enabler, Crazy Alan’s Emporium. He might have some in stock if you give the store a call. Otherwise you can find this pen for however limited a time at any fine retailer where Lamys are sold, but not yet sold out. 





Noodler’s Berning Red

18 04 2016

I don’t mix politics and pens (pens are for everyone, regardless of whether our worldviews agree), nor did I have the attention span to watch the 35 minute opus YouTube video related to this ink (I’ve tried 3 times and only made it a total of 4 minutes in, but I’ve heard that “it’s a trip” – interpret that as you will), so I can’t comment thoughtfully on the political aspects of this ink. But it’s quite a memorable label, and I don’t think any other ink company has labels as fantastically strange and detailed as Noodler’s labels.

 

What does it all mean? Maybe if I could pay attention for over half an hour I would know

The big draws for me on this ink are the quick drying potential, and the red color (I still haven’t found a perfect fall red). Noodler’s Bernanke Blue is the current gold standard in my life for quick drying ink. I haven’t given it a formal review, but I can tell you when I need an ink I can count on, Bernanke Blue is what I load up. The trade-off with Bernanke Blue is that it has no shading, tends to bleed through all kinds of paper (some more than others), and is given to some fuzz and feathering. It doesn’t come out sharp. But it hits the paper dry, yet has no problems starting up even after I haven’t used it in a pen for weeks. How does Berning Red compare?

 

Well for starters Bernanke Blue is probably around 475 nm wavelength and Berning Red around 650 nm as far as visible light goes

Just as Bernanke is a strong, rich blue, Berning is a strong, vibrant red. It’s not quite firetruck red, more of a warm autumn leaf color. It also has no trouble starting up in my pens after time spent unused, and has given me no dry-outs or hard starts. Good ink flow. Most excitingly, Berning Red exhibits some shading…on Tomoe River paper. Better than nothing!

This picture is the tl;dr summary image of this post

On every other paper besides Tomoe River, Berning Red has the same less desirable characteristics as Bernanke Blue: a tendency to fuzz and feather, to bleed through the page, and just generally fail to deliver a crisp writing line. It’s not the worst, but I’m picky, and generally willing to sacrifice a few seconds drying time advantage if it means ink that will look crisp on the page. I could just use this ink on Tomoe River paper, but on that paper Berning Red loses all dry time advantage; whereas Bernanke Blue dried in about 5 seconds on TR (most paper it takes 1 second, at most 2), Berning Red took 15 seconds to dry, no better than most any other ink. On other papers, dry time for Berning Red varied from 1 second to 5 seconds, maxing out at 25 seconds on the InkJournal paper. It’s mostly a fast drying ink, except when it’s not, and definitely not as quick drying as its close relative, Bernanke Blue.

 

Shade-wise it clocks in somewhere near fall maple leaf

Your mileage will definitely vary based on what pen and paper combos you bring to this ink. If you’re looking to use it as a quick drying ink, stick to cheaper and conventional papers and probably lean toward a finer nib for a better looking line. If you want the best look out of this vigorous red, then abandon all hope of a quick dry time, and pair a broad and/or stub nib with Tomoe River paper. Ideal for lefties? Eh, it can be, with a thoughtful choice of pen and paper.

 

(Pen Boutique provided this product at no charge for review purposes)





Update: Nock Co. Hightower Pen Case Motorcycle Test

8 10 2013
btw adding captions from the phone wordpress app is some horse baloney

I cannot color edit on this new adobe photoshop mobile app worth a diddlycrap

I took my Nock Co. prototype along for a motorcycle trip to West Virginia. Previous motorcycle trips with pens that traveled daily ended poorly (as rugged as a matte black finish seems, it’s just not cut out for the life of badassery and motorcycle travel). As a control, I also carried a retractable Space Pen loose in my shoulder bag…and here are the results: the Space Pen literally rattled itself completely undone…and all the pens in the Hightower case were just as good as they were pre-trip. Round one durability test success. I’ll let y’all know how it does if I get rained on…though I would definitely prefer to not get rained on.





Sharpie Liquid Pencil

3 03 2012

WHAT A MESS

I’ve been procrastinating on doing this review. I’ve had this writing sample since back when I reviewed the purple Pentel EnerGels. My feelings are just so mixed on the Sharpie Liquid Pencil! I wanted it to be good, I really did. I had a liquid graphite mechanical pencil when I was in middle school (can’t remember if it was actually any good or not), and was hoping this would be even better.

Once I heard these hit stores, I checked Staples every chance I could until they FINALLY got them in.

I can’t complain in terms of design (but then, I didn’t have the rattling problem others have had; maybe I don’t write exuberantly enough). Fits in nicely in the typical American mechanical pencil world without trying too hard, and without blending blandly into the background. And they rolled out more body colors (not all pictured here):

Spoiler alert: changing the color of the body did nothing to improve the performance of the pen. Even turquoise can't help you, Sharpie

Unfortunately, I feel like new body colors is something you should save for when you already have a solid product. Like the Jetstream. Uni-ball can roll out every color and style of body from one end of the visual light spectrum all the way into the ultraviolet; I will still be excited to buy yet another iteration of the Jetstream. But the Sharpie Liquid Pencil? If I weren’t so gullibly pen-crazy and they hadn’t been on sale, I would never have bought these:

Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-derp

Based on the performance of this guy:

The eraser seems to go mighty quick; no wonder the packaging includes so many bonus erasers

The writing sample just about speaks for itself. Though the feeling of writing with the Sharpie Liquid Pencil is deceptively smooth, there’s a lot of blobbing, streaking, skipping, and just generally unpredictable ink/graphite flow. A writing utensil with bad ink flow is like a notebook with bad paper—you’ve fudged on LITERALLY the most important part of the product! A Sharpie representative responding to the same complaint from the Office Supply Geek noted that “the flow of the liquid graphite may occasionally skip just as a ballpoint pen sometimes skips”….yes, maybe in normal people world. But in crazy pen people world, we take those ballpoint pens, quietly put them in a drawer, never speak of or write with them again, and go back to Jetstreams, Zebra Suraris, Pentel Vicunas, Write Dudes ballpoints even, but we don’t just put up with an inferiorly performing product, because we KNOW it doesn’t have to be that way.

These get messy in a hurry

But we’re haggling on that point. No, my big problem is one directly at odds with the very nature of this instrument. It’s TOO erasable. By which I mean, my HAND moving back and forth across the page will erase the things I’ve written. So, this would be a great gift to give a left-handed person you secretly hate. What is the solution to this dilemma, Sharpie? You want me to suddenly learn to be an underwriter? Transform into a right-handed person? I know conventional pencils also smudge, but not to the point of leaving almost nothing left on the page, which I have just accomplished at my desk here on the back of an envelope.

Liquid disappointment

As for the permanence of the ink/graphite, I found I couldn’t fully erase any of the lines after twenty-four hours or so. I could make them a wee bit lighter, but as far as permanence goes, yes, this is much more permanent than a conventional pencil.

Now, you might think I hate the Sharpie Liquid Pencil. I am strongly disappointed in many respects, yes, and yet I can’t bring myself to consign these pens/cils to the graveyard drawer of unused pens. They are fun to write with, when they’re behaving, and when I’m not writing too much/ too fast, and when I make absolutely sure to find some way to keep my hand from rubbing on the page. I also appreciate the effort to try something new, something different, and get it in the hands of ordinary people (I have indeed seen ordinary people using these). There are areas to improve, but they are worth improving. Whether they will be improved or not is up to Sharpie; they’ve got a good idea, they just still have a little way to go before that good idea becomes a great product.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil at Sharpie’s Website

[can also be found just about anywhere pens are sold that isn’t a gas station convenience store or the back of a truck]

Can’t have a Sharpie Liquid Pencil Review without linking to these:

Sharpie Liquid Pencil Review by Office Supply Geek

Review: Sharpie Liquid Pencil by the Pen Addict