Pens for Crappy Paper

I’ve discussed in previous posts how my workplace offers the finest of the cheapest papers that Staples sells. Every quarter they buy 10 to 12 cases of whatever is the cheapest at that moment. This means the paper is never the same, though it is always one of Staples finest cheapest offerings. Sometimes we get 30% recycled, sometimes it’s not recycled but bright white whatever. You get my drift. The paper varies and it’s always rough and absorbent. As much as I’d prefer to fill out my paperwork with my Namisu Nove F with a Ti nib loaded up with Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo, it’d feather and bleed through any of the papers. For awhile I was was using an EF or F Platinum Preppy loaded up with Diatrementis Deepwater black. The combination does okay on some of the cheap crappy paper, but not the most recent batch. This has led me on a quest to find the best gel and rollerball pens for crappy paper.

Simply because I’m on a quest for the best pen for the crappiest of terrible paper doesn’t mean that I want to sacrifice my writing experience. I want to keep a smooth enjoyable experience despite the hardship of writing on terrible paper. There are many ballpoints that do well on the crappiest of crappy paper, but I’m not including these in this discussion for the simple fact that I already know they work on crappy paper. You want a solid ballpoint for crappy paper- get a Bic Cristal or Parker Jotter. You want gel? There is much more to discuss.

I’ve already written about how a Pilot G2 is always a solid choice– in both black and blue ink for crappy paper. It has become a go to for my work place. Any point size seems to work well. I stick with the standard offering of the 0.5. I did pick up the Pilot B2P, which is loaded with a G2 0.7 refill and it works quite well. So add the Pilot B2P gel to your G2 choices.

While I quite enjoy the Paperhate InkJoy gel pen in my pocket notebooks and journals when I use it on crappy absorbent paper I blow through the refills incredibly fast. The InkJoy gel seems to flow faster on crappy paper. It is already a firehose of a pen, but cheap paper makes it write wetter and drain faster. Also I’ve noticed that it has a tendency to bleed through on the paper. These faster flow and bleed through makes the Inkjoy a poor choice for crappy paper.

The Uniball Signo series in all colors does well on the crappy paper. It performs as well as the G2. In my mind I like the Signo over the G2 because I’ve never had one dry or skip as I have with the G2. The Signo writes and writes. Plus the BLX colors are just great.

Another Uniball, the Vision, is a rollerball rather than gel ink like the Signo, works very well on most of the paper at work. It writes and writes with good ink flow. Occasionally I’ll notice a few spots of bleed through, but that seems to be a rare occurrence. I use these in the standard black only.

I’ve used  a few Pentel EnerGel pens, and while I like the blue on the crappy paper at work, the black isn’t as good. I noticed that the edges of the line are darker than the center. My lines are less dark because of this. The ink flow is good and it doesn’t skip, nor does it bleed. I simply do not like the darker line edges the black produces. The blue does not seem to exhibit this characteristic. I prefer to buy these in refills and fill my Pentel Alloy body- as I always seem to snap the Energel plastic bodies in half before the pen is finished.

The unsung hero of crappy paper is the Zebra Sarasa. Not the Sarasa Clip, just the regular old Sarasa you can find in multipacks in any Staples, and oddly as Singles in many Walgreen’s locations in the US. The 0.7 retractable Sarasa is a decent and solid pen on crappy paper. On better paper it tends to skip and show that weird lighter in the middle line variation I saw with the EnerGel. The Sarasa doesn’t skip, bleed, or anything but write on crappy paper. From the moment I remove the waxy blob on the tip to the moment the refill is drained, it writes and writes.* Combine the Sarasa’s writing with it’s low price and availability it has become a staple in my cheap paper arsenal.

Many of my workplaces have offered Staples brand capped black gel ink pens in 0.7mm tips. While I prefer a click pen at my DayJob, I grab these when they are offered. These seem to be modeled after a Uniball Signo UM-151. They may even be made for Staples by Uniball. (The ink isn’t waterproof or lightfast.) That said, they perform as well as the Signo 207 series of pens on crappy paper- really well. They write and write without skipping or bleeding. That said, the refills are smaller than in the Uniball or Sarasa, so I tend to drain these pens faster than others.

In terms of affordability, the Staples is the most affordable. Because so many workplaces have accounts with Staples you can often get the person who orders to order you a box of 12 of the Staples pens at least once. If you cannot get the Staples pens ordered for you, the Sarasa is probably the most affordable next option. The Sarasa can often be found for less than the G2 or the Signo. If you look for sales, other pens are an option. I’ve been trying to keep my options to be $1 or less per pen. I’ve managed to score some serious deals in the post Back-to-School Sale season- I snagged 5 Indigo Sarasa for 10 cents each. Keeping a close eye on sales and clearance racks has helped me to find enough pens to last at least the next year at my DayJob.**

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Reflection: The Thrill of the Hunt

This post was written by Deirdre Scolardi, 1/3rd of RSVP and the person behind The Weekly Pencil.

I think for me, besides the excitement that comes with using my stationery goods, is the process I sometimes go through to get there. I am a very organized person and with that organization comes meticulous list-making. Whenever I dive deep into a hobby, I make lists. Lists of things I already have followed by things I want followed by the categorization of those lists into subcategories when necessary. Oftentimes I find myself spending hours compiling these lists and in the end wind up never acquiring half of what is on them.I delve deep when I discover something new. Not only do I need the “starter” stuff, but I need the best stuff. I need to catch up and keep up with the Joneses that have been collecting special edition pencils since they started making special edition pencils. But wait. What about all those Field Notes editions I missed out on? Or how about the Write Notepads subscriptions? Baron Fig’s latest Squire? You see my dilemma here. Yes. I want all of those things, but for what? The ability to say that I have those things? God knows I would NEVER use my last 211 (I have more than one so don’t fret).I often wonder what motivates people in their own hobby that they like. It is the time spent engaging in the hobby itself or establishing one’s self in that hobby’s community? Take the stationery world. Pencils to be more exact. What if, upon joining the Erasable community, you are given a Starter Pack and in that Starter Pack is a bunch of pencils, erasers, sharpeners, notebooks, etc.? Sure, you would enjoy using all of that free stuff, but would you enjoy it for hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS? Probably not. But if you were instead given a list of things that you should check out, perhaps that joy would be continuous because it would require you to acquire those things yourself. Acquisition is the key here. Sure, I’d love for someone to hand me a Blaisdell Calculator 600 (hint!! [I kid]), but it would be a hell of a lot more fun to search for one and find that holy grail on my own. If I did acquire a Calculator 600 I wouldn’t use it, but then how would I enjoy it? I couldn’t. It reminds me of the time I acquired an original Blackwing 602. It did not live up to the hype and I much rather use a modern day 602. It made me ask myself: “Do I want these pencils to collect them or to use them?” Stationery items are meant to be used– they are tools after all. It was at that point, at least for me, that I realized while I enjoy using pencils and stationery items, I enjoy the stories that come along with finding those rare items so much more.

Review: KUM Masterpiece

I mention the KUM Masterpiece pretty often in my pencil reviews. With good reason too, it’s a fantastic sharpener. Compared to the dramatic teasing of the Pollux from M+R, KUM did the roll out for the Masterpiece juuuust right. Initially it was only available in Germany then someone was able to do a group buy for a decent price. Finally, CWPE was able to get them in stock.The Masterpiece is machined from a solid block of aluminum, possibly an alloy. With a sliding blue plastic stop for your lead. The stop also has a slot on the underside to hold 2 replacement blade, and arrives with 2 in the slot. The blades are standard sharpener blades. I use M+R blades that are available in 10-packs all over the place. The Masterpiece arrives swaddled in neoprene and in a hard plastic case. I’ve ditched my plastic and neoprene for a mini mint tin, but that matters not. It comes with a neat neoprene case for carting around in your bag in cushioned safety. To use the Masterpiece you first sharpen the wood away in hole 1, which is on the left side of the sharpener. On a pencil with a well centered core it sharpens only the wood away. After you’ve shaved off the wood you slide the exposed lead into hole number 2 to the right, using a light touch it shaves off the graphite to a perfectly pointy long point. With practice you can learn to stop before you get a needlepoint hat snaps when you touch it to paper. I’ve found that I can usually touch up my point 2 or 3 times without sharpening the wood again.

If the blade in hole 2 is dull it will take forever to get a point and occasionally the lead will snap off. I rotate my blades. So I’ll recycled blade 1, moving the dull blade 2 to hole 1 and putting a fresh blade onto hole2. Generally the Masterpiece will sharpen any pencil any time without issue. It just works 99% of the time, unlike the Pollux. Replacement blades are cheap.

The Masterpiece is available for $18 plus shipping at CWPE and $15 at Pencil(dot)com plus rather high shipping. You can also get it at JetPens for $22, and free shipping at $25.

Pricing aside, the Masterpiece is ready to go the moment you get it and it just works and works. This thing is a workhorse of a sharpener. Sharpening everything from the cheapest Dixon no name to the priciest Blackwing volumes. I love it. Continue reading

Review: California Typewriter

This post is written by Harry Marks, the mind behind one of my favorite podcasts, Covered. you should check it out Harry’s interview style is excellent.

I was unable to catch California Typewriter, a documentary from Doug Nichol, in theaters during its limited run, so instead I purchased it from iTunes a few days before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what I expected. Certainly a heavy dose of hipsters nostalgic for an era they never lived so as to set themselves apart from the iPad crowd. However, this movie, unlike others centered around the tools of creators, didn’t give me what I expected and in fact, delivered something more.Looking at the poster, with its flaming sheet of paper sticking out the top of a vague, blue 1970s machine, one might think the movie was about the men in the four boxes at the top. Tom Hanks is arguably the most famous typewriter collector in the world, but he doesn’t feature that heavily in the film; John Mayer, David McCullough, and Sam Shepard are far more prominent, perhaps because the typewriter plays a bigger role in their creative endeavors. But these celebrities are not the focus of the film. They are more akin to hype men, expounding on the typewriter’s beauty and longevity while the rest of the movie focuses on its namesake: a tiny shop in Berkley, California that repairs, restores, and resells vintage typewriters. Herb Permillion, the store’s owner, his daughters, and repairman Kenneth Alexander keep things running four days a week. It’s almost enough to validate the “small businesses are the backbone of the American economy” platitude politicians spout right before they vote to tax the hell out of them.  I found myself pausing and searching eBay throughout the film because of the way Ken talked about a particular bell sound or how his fingers danced over a machine as though he’d built it himself. This family of do-or-die typewriter aficionados lives and breathes the clicks and clacks of yesteryear and it is impossible to not get swept up in their genuine love for these objects.Some might say a documentary about people repairing typewriters wouldn’t be very entertaining (I beg to differ), so when the cameras aren’t inside the shop, they’re pointed at the men and women who collect or make their living from typewriters. When Tom Hanks talks about one of the over 200 typewriters in his collection, it’s like watching Jay Leno discuss a rare car in his garage. You can’t help but smile and feel the warmth of his admiration for them. 1776 author David McCullough writes all his books on an old Royal in his backyard writing shed. Silvi Alcivar is a “poet on demand” who composes short verse on her red Royal Custom III in subway stations and at street fairs.Not all featured are writers and poets, though. Jeremy Mayer creates amazing sculptures of animals and humans out of old typewriter parts. I couldn’t help but cringe at his prying apart old Selectrics and Coronas to construct fingers and cheek bones for his skeletal people. When a film is dedicated to the preservation of such beautiful machines, seeing someone mangle them to feed their Frankenstein-like need to create feels like watching a person make wallpaper from torn-out Bible pages. Mayer’s work is fascinating in a macabre kind of way. Regardless of how each individual uses (or abuses) typewriters, every single person in California Typewriter has a different and unique reason for why he or she enjoys them, be it the sound, or the joy of an analog lifestyle, or the satisfaction of putting actual words on an actual page. This is what’s most inspiring about the documentary: everyone in it is different, just like every typewriter is different. The bells chime in different tones. An Olympia has a crispier “chunk” than a Smith-Corona. Keys are spaced and shaped differently, and each of those characteristics is something to either entice or repel a potential owner. One person makes sculptures with parts while another makes music. One types non-fiction in a shed while another types poetry in public. The typewriter can be a symphony and a work of art, and while different people may use it in different ways, its purpose is clear: to create.After watching the film, I felt compelled to drop a fresh sheet of paper into my own Smith-Corona and start a new short story. My words hit the page like gunfire. Sure, it was nice to slow down and get away from the notifications and dings of new email, but more than that it was fun. Typewriters are fun. Typing on a typewriter is fun. Fun is something not talked about when writing on a computer or even by hand. One is mundane, the other a chore (I’m failing NaNoWriMo by hand and it is less than amusing). The people of California Typewriter, both the shop and the film, embrace the fun side of the tools we take for granted. Their enjoyment is almost better than the footage of all the beautiful typewriters they surround themselves with. Almost.For me, California Typewriter has the potential to be the On Writing of movies, a well to revisit and quench one’s thirst when the words run dry. One viewing and I had already slipped a sheet of paper through the platen. No operating systems to update, no Internet required, no interruptions, just me and the words. You may call us hipsters or contrarians. You may look down on our love of the old ways, but our machines are 60, 70, 80 years old or more. They have lasted through numerous presidents, World Wars, the dot com bubble, and they may even outlast us.

California Typewriter avoids the common traps found in similar documentaries. It is more than a celebration of an enduring creative tool. It is proof that obsolescence is not inevitable, but a suggestion as long as these machines can enchant new audiences and skillful hands continue to keep them running. We’ve embraced analog because despite the time it takes to complete a task, it is more satisfying. Tactile. Personal. I cannot think of a better representation of these principles than California Typewriter.

California Typewriter is available now for rent or purchase on iTunes.

Harry Marks is the host of the literary podcast COVERED where he interviews authors about their books and the writing process. His fiction can be read at HelloHorror and in Plumbago Magazine.

Review: Mobius + Rupert Pollux

Who knew that a pencil sharpener could be so divisive? Well, I suppose pencil nerds who like the chewy look a Classroom Friendly sharpener gives fancy pencils might suspect that the Pollux could upset and excite folks.Let me start with the basics. The Pollux is a hand held sharpener that creates an concave point in much like the vintage Janus sharpener or a modern crank sharpener. Good luck finding a Janus with a working blade. The Pollux is machined from a solid block of brass and the design is reminiscent of M+R’s Grenade or Brass Bullet sharpener, but longer. The Pollux was teased for months and months before it finally became available, when it was finally available it wasn’t offered with replacement blades. Replacement blades weren’t available until at least a month. Many of the initial run of sharpeners had dull blades that caused issues with sharpening.Once you got a sharpener with a working blade, the point the produced is long and concave. It is very similar to the Classroom Friendly point and slightly longer than that produced by the KUM Masterpiece. This is where the Pollux incites heated pencil nerdy debate. Unlike the Classroom Friendly and Masterpiece, which will sharpen any standard sized pencil to delightfully long points, the Pollux won’t. The Pollux is finicky and hates certain pencils. The Tombow 2558, my Nataraj Metallics, and harder graded pencils shatter and are devoured by the Pollux. The same pencil in the Classroom Friendly will sharpen perfectly. You could sharpen the same pencil to a nub in the Pollux and never get a point. The Pollux can be frustrating.

Another thing is, the Pollux requires a sharp blade for it to work well. Once the blade gets dull it will snap the point off every time. It also requires a light touch. If you jam your pencil into the Pollux, oh hey, snapped point. If you wiggle the pencil around, look a snapped point. Annoying.

If you stick to premium pencils- Uni NanoDia, Blackwings, and Helvetica you’ll never have a problem. Or if you stick to pencils with a silky smooth core that lacks grit you’ll be happy. The Tombow 2558 seems to be an odd duck when it comes to sharpening. My favorite budget pencils- Staedtler Norica and Pen+Gear/ Casemates Clown Car and Patterned pencil all do well in the Pollux.

Another factor to consider is the expense. The cheapest price available is $28 from CWPE. Replacement blade are $8, for a 3-pack. To get properly set up the Pollux will cost $36. Which is a ridiculously expensive price for a pencil sharpener. Compare that to the Masterpiece, which now retails for $18 and is bundled with 2 replacement blades and produces a point that is nearly as long.

I’m torn about the Pollux, and I do love it, but the fact that it will just DEVOUR some of my pencils irritates the crap out of me. Because of this I keep my KUM masterpiece handy and forces me to alternate my sharpener carry based off the pencils I’m using that day. This tempers my love. That said, I reach for it over and over again. I’m more likely to put my Blackwings and nicer soft core pencils through it for that long lasting concave point. When it works, it is perfect when it doesn’t you want to lob it across a field and then set the field on fire.

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A Different Kind of SABLE

This post is written by Paula Binsol, the med student behind the Insta account @outofpost and the blog Out of Post. She gives us a fresh take on SABLE.

In the past few months or so, SABLE or Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy, has been a term thrown around in pen and pencil collector communities. I have always been more of a user than a collector, with even the rarest among my collection being sharpened up and put to good use, but in terms of SABLE, my stash is small and practical because SABLE for me means Student Acquisitions Budgeted for Length of Education.

Just a little background: for the past two and a half years, I have been studying in the Philippines. Here, my daily allowance is equivalent to about $10 a day, depending on the exchange rate of the US Dollar that morning. It may not seem like much but there are some people in this country who don’t make that as their salary, let alone as a daily allowance and while it is more than enough to live on here while I’m studying, it is not enough to acquire a collection of rare or vintage items, which is why I tend to use everything that is in my stash. As a stationery lover for years, mostly of pens and paper, I started my whole pencil journey in January 2017 and was shocked and surprised when many of the veteran members of my pencil-loving Facebook family offered to send me packages of pencils and notebooks to try. Their gifts make up the bulk of my collection and while it was not feasible to transport everything back to school with me, I have almost one of everything and they are being put to great use each day.

Now, being on a student’s budget does not mean that I cannot collect or acquire pencils! It just means that I must be more creative in the way that I acquire them. To do this in the smartest and most cost-effective way possible, I begin with making a list of all the pencils that I wish to acquire, basically, a pencil wish list. Then, in another notebook (for me, a Field Notes Lunacy), I keep an inventory of all the pencils currently in my possession, which gives me a bird’s-eye-view of my collection, at-a-glance. To make sure that I have the opportunity I try everything, I use a system taught to me by a friend – I have three plastic boxes, two of which house pencils that are newly sharpened and the last that houses ones I have tried. If I love the pencil, it goes into my daily line-up on a pencil cup in my desk, but most of them go into the green “have tried” box. Practically speaking, I try to get the most out of what I do have by using it, using it and using it some more! There are a few things that I carry around with me on a regular basis that get a lot of use. First, is my little Klimt tin, which houses my most-used erasers and a traveling sharpener. Then, my most used pencils remain on my desk in a pencil cup. I use three each day in my daily journaling and rotate through them so that I can get a feel for what I like and don’t like; it helps me pare down my collection to the bare necessities. I don’t let myself buy anything for my collection, which limits my acquisitions to just what comes to me in trades, which allows me to cut costs substantially, but does allow me to explore the pencil and stationery world in a budget-friendly way!  And as a student on-the-go, I have a pencil case that is ready and waiting for me at all times. My pencil case of choice for this academic year is a Yoobi case that I bought at Target. I love it because it opens up into a tray, which makes grabbing what I need when I’m studying so much easier. Because I very rarely have time hand-sharpen when I’m at school or during exams, I bring mostly mechanical pencils with me – my current favorites are the P200 series and I have one of each, a P205, a P207 and a P209, mostly for taking written exams (because on our exams if you alter your answers after writing in pen, it’s considered wrong—the perfect excuse to start out with pencil). You can also see my all-time favorite pencil for writing and journaling, Apsara Absolute with its Ippo Pencil Cap. My two trust erasers, the Sakura Foam and Tombow Mono were chosen because of how well they erase both on paper and on Scantrons; they don’t leave a trace and that’s just the way I like it. While as a medical student, we aren’t able to use pencil very often (we are required to use pen or submit typewritten work for the most part), my favorite use of pencil lies in my quiet daily life, in journaling, making grocery lists or my bullet journal. I have a special pencil case that I use when I travel along with my notebooks that can fit even an unsharpened Blackwing and has extra pockets where I can keep a Ziploc and a sharpener, for long point sharpening while traveling! My favorite notebooks are my A5 bullet journal (no brand traveler’s notebook), the Olive Edition by the Traveler’s Company used for journaling and my September Leather Field Notes size bought off Amazon for my notebooks that carry lists, brain dumps and speaker’s notes for the debate team that I train. All in all, when asked to describe my process and collection and myself, as a lover of stationery, I label myself as an appreciator—both a user and a collector. I find my collection to be large for someone who didn’t have to spend too much and I love, love, love trades because they not only allow me to get to know others within the pencil and stationery community, but they expose me to pencils and other paraphernalia that I would otherwise not have known without the kindness and knowledge of others. So maybe I can’t yet afford the renowned Pollux or snag a vintage Eberhard Faber Blackwing, but with my kind of SABLE, I find that I get to go on an adventure every single day.

  • Instagram/Twitter: @outofpost
  • Blog: https://outofpost.wordpress.com

Biography: Born and raised on bagels and lox and challah French toast, Paula considers herself a Jersey girl through and through. She is a lover of stationery, the musty smell of a good, well-loved book and runs on hot tea and plain croissants. Currently pursuing her medical degree in the Philippines and in her third year, she is a self-proclaimed nerd and believes that quality tools bring quality work.

Review: Yoobi Gel Highlighters

I don’t know why I keep buying highlighters. Now that I’m out of school I’ve got enough left to last the rest of my life. I’ve got enough highlighter ink left to refill my Platinum Preppy highlighters forever.

In my work life I use highlighters to cross names off a list after I’ve written progress notes for the day. I use a highlighter because I still need to get info off the list when I’m done and transfer that to the progress note after it’s been printed. It’s a convoluted process that has to do with time constraints and access, or rather, lack of access to a computer for my work. I prefer crossing the names off the list to a check mark for visibility. Even with this use, I’m SABLE on all my highlighters.I used the Sharpie gel highlighter, and like Dee I found it to be chunky and lackluster. I don’t know what possessed me to buy the 4-pack of Yoobi gel highlighters. Hope? Stupidity? I dunno. At $4.50 they aren’t cheap, but I tossed them into my cart anyway.

Each package contains green, yellow, orange, and pink neon highlighters. The highlighter is encased in a thick plastic roll up tube that reminds me of a glue stick and chapstick all in one. Each has a small clear cap with an integrated clip. The cap clips on and off securely and can be posted. When posted it’s only held on with friction but in my use it stays put. I tend to hold the cap in my hand anyway.The highlighter gel rolls up with ease, like any tube of chapstick, and each twist pushes up a decent amount of highlighter. When first uncapped and in use the gel has a very strong odor, it reminds me of marker, or some fountain pen inks. I suspect that what I’m smelling is something to keep mold from growing on the exposed gelatinous ink bar. I’ve noticed this with Faber Castell Gelato crayons, though to a much lesser degree. I don’t find the smell off putting but know that others might.The highlighters are smooth and soft. They require the user to find the right amount of pressure without going overboard. Too little pressure and the gel doesn’t lay down enough and with too much, chunks break off. At first I didn’t like the rounded tip, but once I wore down a portion of the highlighter to the right angle it covered a line of text pretty perfectly and without needing additional passes. Though once I did get it to the proper angle I was more likely to break off a chunk with too much pressure. The highlighter does take some time to dry. If you get chunks of it on your page it can sort of glue pages together.On the rough cheap paper at work the Yoobi highlighter shines it takes less time to dry and the rough paper seems to help it need less pressure to lay down an adequate line. On the silky smooth paper in my StudioC notebook it took days for it to dry. It also had a tendency to bleed through. It doesn’t do this on the cheap paper. The StudioC paper is thin but my fountain pens don’t soak through. I have to wonder if this is due to the amount of time the gel ink takes to dry. Either way, it’s worth noting that Yoobi gel highlighters work best on crappy paper. My final take on these? If you need to get a gel highlighter- because you forget to put the cap on your highlighter, or you don’t like ink getting everywhere, these are a better option than the Sharpie version. They are about the same price, are smoother and have cute sayings on the side of the body. If you can control the pressure you use when highlighting, these aren’t bad. Don’t expect to use them on thin nice paper though- that’s where they will let you down.

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Review: CWPE Exclusive Bugle Pencil

The standard Musgrave Bugle is a glossy clear lacquered round pencil. It’s made of linden with a hard HB core, that I find scratchy. The imprint is gold and adequately applied. I won’t hide it, I dislike the standard Bugle. I find it to be a cheap scratchy mess.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the CWPE exclusive version of the Bugle is significantly better. The core isn’t scratchy, rather it is a decently smooth HB core. It is a true HB that is not dark or light, it is right in the middle of the graphite darkness range. I like it on rough scratchy paper.

The core is inside round mismatched wood. One side is natural pale linden, the other is dyed black. Sharpening one of these is a great deal of fun- you get a neat black and white spiral. The 2 different colors are really just fun to look at as I write. It’s mentioned that it looks like the NYC Black and White cookie, and I’d agree. The clear lacquered finish on these is great. Now if they’d only made them raw…

The imprint is still kinda… adequate. Some of mine are missing letters or parts of words. Still gold foil though, so that’s nice. I wonder if the stamping issues are because the pencil is round? I have one with a fat knot in the middle of one side, I’m interested in seeing how well that one sharpens.

Speaking of sharpening, I prefer to get pointy with the Alvin/M+R Brass Bullet. The pencil is hard enough that the BB holds a point for a page or so. With a long point from the Classroom friendly pages and pages flow from the tip before needing to sharpen up.

The exclusive version of the pencil is 45 cents each. Not a bad deal for upgraded graphite and a fun exterior. 

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A Global Search for Stationery: Taiwan

This post and images was graciously created by the wonderful Tiffany Babb. She is a New York based poet, comic creator, and academic.  You can find more of her work at www.tiffanybabb.com

Taipei is a stationery lover’s paradise. No matter where you are, you won’t have to go far to get some shopping done in the city. Even in the most residential areas, you’ll find yourself walking by some form of school supply shop or stepping into a convenience store with a decent assortment of mechanical pencils, erasers, rulers, and pencil pouches.

During my time in Taiwan, I was able to visit most of the stores recommended to me. My first stop was Kuangnan, a brightly lit two-floor store (the upper floor is where you can find stationery). The stationery section of the store focused on pens, notebooks, and binders, but I did find a pencil section which featured a selection of labelled and unlabeled dime pencils. I also grabbed a cool pencil pouch for about 3 US dollars.

ESLITE

The second store I visited was the large Eslite location near City Hall. Visiting Eslite was quite an experience. It felt like a glossy shopping mall with a strong literary bent. I found everything from a Powerpuff Girls café to an organic olive oil shop. In my mad rush to find some pencils, I first stumbled across the “Writing Center” (pictured below) which mostly carried fountain pens and fountain pen related ephemera. They had these gorgeous Caran D’ache pencils—a set of four for $30 USD, which I had to pass on, but a quick trip upstairs landed me with some well-priced single Caran D’ache pencils, a cool store brand notebook, and an Agatha Christie novel I hadn’t read yet.The store is a must for lovers of washi tape, as I felt like I couldn’t walk ten feet without bumping into another selection of (admittedly not cheap) beautifully designed tape. I also found this huge table of Rhodia products, half of which I hadn’t seen before. The store also carried Leuchturrm, Midori, and Moleskine products. The day I set out to hit the rest of my stops, it was pouring rain (yikes!) I’m pretty sure I ruined by shoes, but my love for stationery won out, and I found some real gems!

DAISO

The Daiso I visited (in the Living Mall) carried Golden Swords, only the B cores, but they also carried a host of other Japanese pencils that I had never seen at Daiso before, including the Kitaboshi red/blue pencils, Kitaboshi HIT 4Bs and 6Bs, and even some pretty Mitsubishi pencils. They also had the newer triangular natural wood pencils. Apart from the much better pencil selection, I didn’t see much difference from the actual store in Taipei and those visited in Southern California.PINMO PURE

I only stopped by the Pinmo Pure store for a few minutes, but it was a really cool little DIY notebook place. If I had more time, I could imagine spending hours there picking through the various grades of paper, stamps, covers, and binding options before coming out of the store with an awesome personalized notebook. Like a lot of boutique stationery stores in Taipei, the store’s aesthetic very trendy and the employees seemed friendly.

KINOKUNIYA

When I first got to the Kinokuniya, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong—the store is big and beautiful and carried a bunch of amazing stationery options, but I just didn’t see much that was  different from what I could find in the branch in New York or LA—at  least not in the single pencil category. There were a few more more Japanese pencil options, but most were in box sets and a little pricey for me. I did note that they had a few really cool displays of both ballpoint and fountain pens, but due to my lack of knowledge about pens, I couldn’t tell how special or rare they were.I was about to leave when a jar of pencils caught my eye. In this magical jar I found some loose Palomino Blackwing 602s, a couple of Pearls, an older MMX with the gold stripe (which I snapped up), a vol. 1138 (!), and three vol. 24s (!!!) I rushed to pay for my purchase, constantly glancing around me making sure that no one was going to take my treasures away from me.TOOLS TO LIVE BY

Tools to Live By was the kind of stationery store you wish you had down the street from your apartment. It’s meticulously kept and curated and carries a strong assortment of pretty much anything you’d ever want. It was also the store I visited which carried the most American made pencils and notebooks. They also had a nice selection of fountain pens and ink.  They had a myriad of Japanese pencils as well as American pencils including loose Field Notes pencils (both the round ones and carpenter), Rhodia pencils, Palomino HBs, and a couple of loose Guy Clark editions too (which I happily picked up). They had some individually wrapped (!) Pitch Black Field Notes. They also had a really amazing selection of high quality (and priced) “Tools to Live By” branded items from delicate and surprisingly heavy scissors to beautifully thin metal rulers.CONCLUSIONS!

Taipei is a really great place to check out if you’re a fan of stationery. The city is wonderful (lots of tree covered mountains in the distance), with a very clean and easy to use subway system. High quality stationery including Faber Castell and Staedtler as well as (surprisingly) Wopex pencils can be found pretty much in any stationery store as well as Taiwanese brands like Liberty and Rabbit. If you’re not picky about brands, you’ll be able to find plenty of pencils and cute notebooks of varying size and quality for fifty cents to a couple of dollars.

Motherland

The mountains here are a force of nature,

oceans of stone roiling beneath a vibrant forest

that shivers as warm winds pass through.

The boundaries between air and earth are indistinguishable

As the tallest peaks disappear into the sky

It seems as if they’ve been there forever

Waiting to split open the earth

And swallow the sky.

 

First Look: Baron Fig LE Vanguard Train of Thought

When BF sent out the “do you want this for review” email I almost said no. The exterior of the books looked really childish. Then I thought my nephew would really dig the trains on the exterior. So I asked them to kindly send me a reviewer set. Let me start this out by saying that in the interior of this notebook set sports BF’s lovely fountain pen and pencil friendly cream paper with a light gray dot grid ruling. I really love BF’s paper because it works so well with all my favorite writing tools. The stitching is done really well with white thread and is well centered and tight on my books.  The cover stock is lightly textured and feels nice in hand. The printing on these is matte finished. The exterior of these book features trains and clouds. They are childlike and playful with a dreamlike quality. The interior of the covers are the weird side of dreamlike and remind me of 80s era riffs on psychedelic imagery. The train and cloud theme runs throughout but with planets, aliens, and emojis. If these were done in neons we could call these, “That Day Lisa Frank Dropped Acid.” While they have that trippy quality I’m glad they didn’t go with neon shades and instead chose sedate groupings of analogous colors. This turns a bizarre illustration to the realm of fun without being too jarring to the senses. In a practical sense, these aren’t going to be something you bring with you to the boardroom or for professional meetings. One look at the poop emoji next to two aliens holding hands is going to raise the eyebrow of even the most lenient boss. These are strictly “for fun” notebooks. In that sense I love them. I always need more little notebooks for around the desk here at home and frankly if I were in school I’d love to use these, despite the odd looks some of my sedate professors might toss my way.

The Flagship Vanguards run $14 for a set of 3. You can get them over here at Baron Fig.

Here is where i”m going to go tangential on you. There is something really fresh and fun with all the things BF has been doing lately. Train of Thought is just one example where BF is shaking up the bring monotony of the stationery world. There are a hundred places where you can get a black grey, or white pocket notebook; hell even BF offers their notebooks in standard colors of black and grey. No I can’t take these into a stodgy board meeting but is that the target audience of these notebooks, or even the New School set? I don’t think so. I think Baron Fig is going after their core audience of younger professionals who might not be so concerned with what is considered “professional” in the traditional sense. I suspect a lot of people are going to loathe this set while many more are going to enjoy Lisa Frank on acid. I am in the camp who loves the idea of these despite working in an environment where my boss might tell me I can’t use them. Continue reading