Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho (Rice Ear) Ink

25 06 2016

Trying out a little different format for reviewing ink. I’ve never been a fan of having to create the very detailed formulaic reviews/scientific lab reports on inks. I enjoy looking at them, but not making them

Left to my own devices, I probably would never have picked up any Iroshizuku Ina-ho ink. Maybe if I was on a quest to try all the Iroshizuku inks and 2ml samples were on sale. Shades of brown are unassuming, and do not call as much attention to themselves. But then fall comes around, and the only autumn inks I have are the same shades as those of a roaring fire. Or three colors of bright-hued flowers. Brown is necessary to distinguish the season’s colors from one another.

Fun fact: my mind decided to pronounce Ina-ho like an incredibly exaggerated Minnesotan rendition of “I know” and now I can’t undo it. Ya-noh? Eye na-ho!

Is this a brown? I suppose it is, but it has tones of greenish yellow to it. A shade of gold, perhaps? I have no concept of rice ear–as an American, the only edible ears I know are corn–but a bit of Googling shows ears of rice to be a golden-brown color, with some tints of green. An accurate color name then.

Turns out rice doesn’t grow in orange bags with “Uncle Ben’s” on the side #themoreyouknow

The biggest surprise about this ink was the unexpectedly beautiful level of shading. I love shading. Possibly my favorite ink characteristic. Ina-ho’s got it. The ink itself is an unusual color but standard enough that you might get away with it for most everyday office use that doesn’t require blue or black ink. Good to the last drop, I had no issues with flow in my Pilot Vanishing Point with architect nib.

What is the little cord for besides decoration and to match the box? What is the utility here?

The packaging of all the Iroshizuku inks is in line with the pricey nature of the ink – fancy glass bottle in a brushed-steel-looking cardboard box. The labeling on the box and the bottle corresponds to the ink color, and it’s a close but not quite match. The labeling is a smidge too warm of a brown.

Expensive but beautiful

I don’t know that I’ll keep this color inked up for the summer (as hot as it’s getting around here, it might put me too much in mind of drought-dead grass rather than a bountiful harvest). But I’m looking forward to putting this color in the rotation combination for my fall ink lineup.

Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho Ink at NoteMaker

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





Bookblock Original Customized Notebooks

2 06 2016
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Look at this snazzy, professional picture that Bookblock took! Of my notebook! Makes me briefly consider constructing some kind of light box for my pictures, rather than the random backgrounds of wherever I happen to be

When given the opportunity to customize a notebook with ANYTHING I WANTED….ANY ARTWORK MY IMAGINATION DESIRED…I naturally opted to slather the covers in fur children.

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Not even real camera pictures of the fur children. iPhone pictures. Photoshop-filtered iPhone pictures. The disgrace.

But perhaps I should rewind, and explain the process to create one of these notebooks. You go to the website, click the “Create Your Notebook” button, Launch the Artwork Editor (which seems to have some nice features for finagling around multiple images if desired), Submit Design, choose the color of your elastic band and ribbon book mark, choose your paper type (ruled, plain, or dot grid in 90gsm ivory; or sketch paper of 140gsm) and delivery area, and proceed to complete your order. It’s so enticingly simple that, in spite of already having my sample notebook I’ve received for free, I’ve nearly ordered an additional notebook half a dozen times now, in spite of not really needing one, not knowing what I even want to put on it, and currently trying to save money for the upcoming Triangle Pen Show.

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Once I decide what I want to put on a second notebook, then I’ll order it

I love the quality of the printed image. The notebook is a deliciously soft-touch hardcover, and the images came out beautifully. But I am concerned how that soft-touch finish will wear over time:

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Wear and tear

There’s already a crease in the spine. I’ve had it for about a month. Maybe the crease just seems extra visible due to the light color of my notebook. The notebook itself includes a ribbon bookmark, elastic band, and no inside pocket.

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My paper life was so much easier before I got into fountain pens…

Now here’s the biggest let-down: the paper. The paper comes from a company I have not reviewed before, Monsieur Notebook. Let’s take a brief detour down memory lane and I will tell you why I did not review a Monsieur Notebook.

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Had this not been inside the cover of my Bookblock, I would never have known…

Many years ago, when they were first coming to the US, Monsieur Notebook sent me samples of their leather notebooks asking for my feedback. The leather was wonderful and the paper was absolutely godawful for fountain pens. I told them as much, they said they were working on a version with more fountain pen friendly paper that they wanted to send me a sample of, I intended to wait until I received the potential improvement before doing a review. I never received the sample. That was 2011. Then, in 2013, I received an email from them again, as if we’d never spoken before (it was the same person, same email address both times), about the IndieGoGo campaign they were launching–they’d JUST discovered my blog and wanted to know if I was interested in trying a sample! Sure, I’ll go along with the selective amnesia. Send me a sample, since the last improved sample never made it. Surprise! This sample never made it either. Somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, countless Monsieur Notebooks have no doubt gathered to die, as I’m not the only one who seems to have encountered this phenomena. I emailed back to say I never received the sample, and have heard nothing in the years since. So here’s a mini review of all I know about the Monsieur Notebook (leather cover edition):

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Elastic band, or jump rope?

The paper sucks, the elastic lost all elasticity after about 3 to 4 years, and the leather is awesome but seems to be pulling away from the notebook. If you write with gel pens, ballpoints, pencils, or micron-type pens, then the paper is ok. Anything remotely water-based will fuzz and bleed horrifically, and in spite of the wonderful cover you will essentially never use the notebook again.

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Enough about that! This is a Bookblock review, after all.

Now, back to the Bookblock. My notebook came with plain 90gsm paper–presumably the most modern and theoretically improved paper something Monsieur Notebooks-based can offer. Gel pens, ballpoint, pencils, Pilot FriXion highlighters, a quick and gentle pass with a Faber Castell Pitt Artist brush pen, and a light wash with watercolor pen/waterbrush were fine. Water-based inks still looking…not great.

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Who needs to use both sides of the page anyway

We’ve got showthrough and bleedthrough, including bleedthrough with heavy gel inks like the Sakura Gelly Roll. Very fine fountain pens are almost ok, unless your sketching involves going over a line more than once or twice, then you’ve got bleedthrough. This notebook is primarily suited for pencil or ballpoint pen sketching.

Normally I’m not keen on paper that doesn’t play nice with my fountain pens. So why would I still want another one of these notebooks? I’m not sure you can beat the customization at this price. The notebook is $18, with an additional $8 shipping to the US. And the notebook customization interface is so easy to use. These would make a great gift, especially for ordinary people who don’t care about fountain pens.

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Like Tobi here! She doesn’t give a single flip about fountain pens, because she is a cat.

(Bookblock Original provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes. Opinions entirely my own. Monsieur Notebooks also provided that leather notebook, several years ago, at no charge, and opinions definitely my own since I never heard from them again…)





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)





Ink Drop Soup: Did I Mention the Instagram?

28 02 2016

  Last DC Pen Show it was brought to my attention that all the cool kids were on Instagram. I promptly went to sign up, realized someone stole my handle before I could sign up, then re-realized the person who stole it was probably me having signed up long ago and forgotten all about it. One “forgot my password” later, I was in. While the blog will remain my repository for long-form reviews, if you’re looking for frequent updates, mini opinions, lots of pics, plus the occasional cat, dog, and selfie, make sure to follow my Instagram. 

My Instagram! Penstagram! 





Diamine Shimmertastic Purple Pazzazz and Red Lustre

14 02 2016

Diamine Shimmertastic ink, in a nutshell: almost more trouble than it’s worth.

Sparkle

In spite of owning every last one, I haven’t reviewed any of the J. Herbin 1670 inks yet. I’ve been too busy enjoying them – that company knows how to both build and live up to the hype. By the time Emerald of Chivor became available last year, I NEEDED that ink to live. I ordered a second bottle from a different distributor because the first one I’d ordered didn’t seem to be coming fast enough (even though it arrived the next day). Emerald of Chivor is life. I HAVE NO REGRETS.

 

It’s like staring into the cosmos


But I was not among those excited by the announcement that Diamine would be dropping a whole line of TEN shimmer-filled inks. I was psychologically spent after the satisfying fulfillment of Chivormania; I didn’t have the emotional resources to care about TEN DIFFERENT INKS that I definitely could not afford all at once. I put the whole line out of my mind, until someone at pen club (possibly Tom with all the Pelikans) brought in a bottle of Purple Pazzazz and a bottle of Red Lustre, giving away samples to try.

 

I thought I was making good choices


I started with Purple Pazzazz in a Lamy Vista with 1.9mm calligraphy nib, chiefly because every last J. Herbin 1670 ink has done fantastically with the Lamy feed/1.9mm nib combination. After about one sentence, the flow choked up. This Diamine stuff was definitely a different beast. I swapped on a broad nib instead, and the pen was coaxed into cooperation. Purple Pazzazz in a Lamy Al-Star with medium nib gave me no trouble. Time then to try the Red Lustre.

 

At least it’s a pretty mess

TWSBI mini with 1.5 stub? NOPE. Nothing but failure. A. G. Spalding Bros mini pen, the juicy one? Couldn’t even get the ink to flow to the end of the nib. Monteverde Artista Crystal? The clear feed shows exactly where the ink stops, and goes no more. In desperation (and seriously lacking in the broad nibs department of my life for some reason), I inked up my Pelikan M205 with the gigantically juicy factory italic nib – at last! Success! Delicious success! 

You can see the shimmer particles settle and move in the juicy lines of ink. Just as I was about to consign this color to dip pens only, here at last a glimmer, shimmer of hope. I swapped the biggest non-stub TWSBI nib I had (a medium) onto the mini, and after some nib-flossing it works now, more or less reliably. More tests will determine if this cooperation is color based, or if I just didn’t have the right pen/nib combos for the red as I did for the purple. I’ve got the Goulet Pens Shimmertastic Sample set now, so in due time I can properly assess the entire line. 

Who needs to look professional when you can be sparkly instead

On to the ink itself, once on the page – a delightful sparkle. Like writing with some form of arcane magic. Moreso than the J. Herbin 1670 inks though, the sparkles will spread all over the page, far beyond where the ink is located. Your writing takes on the appearance of a fairy sneeze when tilted to the light. I don’t know why the sparkle spreads – the particles definitely settle a little faster in the solution than the J. Herbin particles do in theirs, so perhaps that in some way has something to do with it. I haven’t used the pen in the ink bottle technique to fill anything with these inks — I think the sparkles settle too quickly for that. Shake your sample/bottle vigorously, and use a syringe to draw ink from about the halfway down or so point, and you should end up with a decent amount of sparkle and bling. And although I am irresponsible and have left these inks sitting in my pens for quite a little bit of time with no negative consequences, you should probably clean out any pens you put this ink into on a regular basis. 

Pen blogger tested, King Midas approved

In spite of all the attendant frustration, the lovely look of these inks makes it worth my while. Avoid the headache and stick to dip pens with this ink, or brave the sometimes unsuccessful combinations in the quest for a perfect pen/nib/ink shimmertastic trifecta.