Review: Baron Fig Gather LE Review Journal

If you are trying to get away from reviewing anything online, or maybe you need to take some notes for your online review the LE Gather is a perfect option.

The packaging for Gather is light olive colored with and an assortment of illustrations scattered across its surface. These are rendered in traditional Baron Fig white and gray. Between these items are stars printed in thick glossy ink, they remind me of thick embossing powdered rubber stamps. (Only a few of you will get that reference.) Like all their other products the packaging is eminently giftable, maybe to yourself maybe to someone else.

Cracking this box open reveals a gorgeous olive green cloth cover debossed with icons that look suspiciously close to those you might find on your phone. The bookmark is a slightly darker shade of olive while the elastic closure is dark gray. Opening the book reveals olive end sheets with lighter green stars and some of the icons scattered about the page. Further, into the book, you find a quick start reference and a key to the icons.

The set up of the review page is very simple, along the edge is a bar with all the icons, you circle of check off what you are reviewing, then at the top of the page is a pale green bar to write the name of what you are reviewing. Then there are lines to write the body of your review, a 5-star rating guide, then high and low points. In the far back of the journal are a few pages about each item and a brief almost how-to on reviewing those items.

I tested my Gather with a few pencils and pens. I notice that the paper feels less toothy than other iterations of the Confidant. I’m a fan of the toothy paper, but this doesn’t eat a graphite pencil to a nub in short order. Also, my fountain pen felt great on the page but the ink did seem to spread wider than my nib size. There was no feathering or bleed through but it should be noted that my EF looked a bit like an F. I love BF’s cream-colored paper and the pale green accents on this color are subtle but lovely.

My low points on this journal are that they spend 11 pages explaining how to review each item represented by an icon. This would have been a perfect Confidant to introduce a pocket- to collect ticket stubs and other ephemera gathered as you gather your reviews. The top 10 lists in the back seem a bit redundant, but also like they could be useful for some folks. An index might be helpful in finding where particular items have been reviewed.

The high points are definitely the color and design. Like all Baron Fig products, this is well designed and work really well for their intended purposes. It also assists in giving something some thoughtful inspection, examining why you might like something or dislike it, without snap judgment. As someone who reviews all the things that comes into her orbit (from restaurants to books to pens and paper) this is a fun way to focus my thoughts and not nitpick every tiny thing with the thing I’m reviewing. I do think this is far too small a format for books, but that’s just me.

Overall, this is a great starter review journal for someone you know that likes to think deeply about all their things, or if you want to start out reviewing and don’t want to use an online service- this is a great tool.

Review: Baron Fig Fortress LE Squire Click

Purple. Blue-ish purple, not the normal burgundy shade of purple Baron Fig often uses, nope, true purple on the violet side of the spectrum. If this were an ink shade it would be referred to a blurple. The shade of purple hit me straight away when I browsed the Baron Fig site checking out their newest limited editions.

When I was a kid I loved purple. I loved purple so much that every gift-giving occasion I was gifted purple things. Until I hit 13 and I hated the world and only wanted things in black. Deep down my affection for purple was still there.

If you haven’t gotten it yet this pen is purple, and it is a lovely shade of purple. Gorgeously blueish in hue.

Etched into the sides of the pen are Castlevania-esque stairs, bricks, and windows. I’m talking old school 1990s era Nintendo Castlevania, not the new Netflix cartoon Castlevania. The version of the game with an endless scroll of jumping and swinging as you kill vampires in the castle. The design is simple, covers the whole body of the pen and is elegantly done. I’m not sure a casual observer would recognize the design as a fortress/castle.

I always love Baron Fig’s packaging. The presentation makes these pens perfect for gifting, maybe to someone else but also for yourself. BF hasn’t made a Stone for the Click yet, but the base of the tube is perfect to act as a desk stand until they adapt the stone for the Click.

I like the slim feel of the click, if you have smaller hands this might be the perfect Squire for you. You can see my previous review of the OG Click here. My issues with the nock still stand, I find is soft and mushy and I miss the satisfying click of a good nock. This nock is sturdy and works really well, but it just doesn’t give me a good click.

I like this pen, it’s slim and comfortable and feel great in hand. The nock is a bit mushy and doesn’t have a resounding CLICK when depressed, At $50 it isn’t cheap, but like I’ve argued before, a refillable pen body is an investment that is well worth the initial expense. Get yours here.

Review: Wing Sung 5502 Fountain Pen

This pen was ordered from a seller on eBay and arrived in my mailbox 22 days after payment. It was shipped in a zipper bag and a bubble envelope. I paid $5.69 for this pen.

This is another of those pens where it feels like some designers at Wing Sung got really stoned and dumped all the parts of pens into a brown bag, shock it, and drew out parts, and said, “Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhh, man, that’s rad.” In this case this works. In this case we have a pen that looks inspired by the TWSBI Eco, Lamy Safari, and Pilot Prera.

This pen features a locking piston mechanism. To use it you first slide the little end cap away from the pen then twist. When filled align the tabs with the notches and push the cap in to lock it into place. There is a little bit of play in the cap that allows you to lock it into place without losing any ink. Speaking of which, this ink holds roughly 1.8ml of ink. Which is kind of surprising given the size and weight of the pen.

This pen feels very light weight but not cheap. Despite it being a little more slim than other Wing Sung pens it’s very comfortable. The grip is triangular and a riff on the TWSBI Eco grip. It is narrow. I find it comfortable but many folks won’t.

The cap can be posted but the length of the pen becomes ungainly and far too long to be realistically used. The clip is sturdy and holds to my shirt or other location tightly. There is a stop that cuts the depth of the clip and seems unnecessary. The cap and piston have color coded pieces of plastic. I’ve only seen this pen in black, white, and pink.

The nib and feed are Pilot style, giving you many options for upgrade. The feed is black instead of clear and my feed was quite constricted leading to a miserly flow of ink. A little work with a razor blade opened up the channel and the flow is perfect. This might not be a problem for everyone. The nib was perfectly smooth out of the envelope. Of course I smoothed it a bit more, but it didn’t need the work to be serviceable.

Overall, this is a great little pen. At $5.69 it’s a good price and the ability to swap out Pilot nibs really adds to the usefulness of the pen. That it holds a mammoth 1.8ml of ink means you can write and write and not need to fill. I’ve yet to write mine dry and frankly since getting this pen, I keep reaching for it again and again.

Review: Hero 98 Sponge Head Brush Pen

The Hero 98 is a basic looking metal bodied pen. It features a metallic paint job with black plastic accents and a silver clip. There is some writing on the side of the cap in presumably Chinese. (Google translate indicates that it says “Hero” and “Do.”) The pen is very light weight. It looks and feels cheap. I purchased it for $2.56 on eBay and it arrived roughly 15 days later.

Inside the pen is a horrible aerometric filler. I filled this pen with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness and was able to get about 3/4 of a fill. Not bad in the world of cheap aerometric fillers. When I filled this with water I was able to get just over 1ml of water in, so perhaps there is about .75ml of ink inside. Bonus points for the blackout stealthy cover on the aerometric.

The grip section is made out of black plastic, with noticeable mold lines. I can feel them as I’m using this pen. The grip section is shaped weirdly and ends with a flair and another taper. Possibly for the sponge head to rest?

I referred to the sponge head in a livecast as “that maggot looking thing.” I still maintain that it looks like a maggot. The sponge seems to be made out of the same kind of sponge as makeup sponges. Which further grosses me out. The sponge is shaped like a teardrop. Flow is uneven and the tip dries out in use. Attempts to use this in a dry brush style were met with frustration. It gets too dry even for dry brush. Getting the ink to flow again means squeezing the aerometric filler, which I think we can call agree is an easy way to wear ink on your fingers. Well maybe, getting the ink to flow was a pain in the arse now matter what I tried. In the end I dribbled water onto the sponge and got the ink flowing.

The cap is not airtight so you go through the process of dribbling water and squeezing every time you want to use the pen. Very annoying. The clip is the best thing about the pen- it’s springy and give one something to fidget with.

The sensation of using this pen was not pleasant, at least not to me. Even when flush with ink the spong grabs and drags on the page- even with good art paper. On cheap copy paper the grab was even more distinct.

I don’t usually post negative reviews. I feel this is more of a warning than anything else. This is not a good pen for writing or drawing. It’s a great way to build up frustration tolerance because it just doesn’t work well. Avoid this garbage at all costs. Mine has gone into the recycle bin and trash*.

Review: Birmingham Pen Company Tarnished Nickel Fountain Pen Ink

The Birmingham Pen Company puts out an extraordinary amount of shades of blue, blue-black, grey, and black. They seem to focus on professional shades with their inexpensive inks. Tarnished Nickel is grey with a hint of warm blue.

The ink is well behaved on most paper. I really liked it on the cheap paper at work. It didn’t show through despite the paper being only 20lb. With my fine nibbed pen it didn’t bleed or even show through. The ink felt good on every paper- from garbage paper to the good stuff in my L1917 and BF Confidant. Lubrication was good and flow was great in even my most finicky extra fine nib. Line width was accurate to the pen. With garbage paper there was a hint of feathering, but not a lot.

There was a bit of shading but not a whole lot. The ink photocopies well enough. The ink responds better than I expected with the drip and wipe testing. As soon as water hits the ink the warm black aspects lift and move. What is left behind is a cool but legible line. I would not expect this to survive a washing machine but it would survive tea or coffee being spilled on it.

This ink can almost be confused for a washed out black but it is a little more complex than just grey. It has great character, despite this, it isn’t exactly eye-catching or something that many people would notice. It is something that a fountain pen fan would notice.

In case you haven’t noticed I really enjoy this ink. It’s subtle and works great on a variety of papers. Even better, the ink is inexpensive.

Review: Sailor Jentle Yama-Dori Fountain Pen Ink

I picked this ink up ages ago via a sale on Amazon. It is a favorite ink of mine, and leans too green and teal for it to be considered professional. That is to say, that I don’t think that I can get away with signing paperwork with this lovely ink. That said, I think it deserves to be reviewed.

I’ve used this in most of my pens over the years. It works well in most pens and better yet cleans out of them with ease. It does not seem to stain any of my demonstrators. It is nice in a fine to broad nib. It wetter flowing nibs the ink looks dark blue-green and has a red sheen. In even the finest nib I found it to give a smooth feel, it is nicely lubricating.

It is generally a well behaved ink, working well on nice paper and decently on junky paper. On garbage paper it is not prone to feathering or bleeding. On nice paper you get a lovely red sheen. Dry time on better paper is slower, around 7 seconds with a fine nib. On garbage paper it dries in under 5.

This ink isn’t going to survive the wash. In my wipe test it smeared all over. The drip test left blue ink migrated with little semblance of the lines left.

The ink performed well on most paper. That said it didn’t do well on Field Notes*. I had plenty of bleed and show through in that book. It did really well in a standard Story Supply Co book. Of course it does great in my Baron Fig Confidant and L1917. Clearly i like this ink. I purchased a full bottle. This ink is readily available from most vendors who carry Sailor inks. You can find many other reviews of this ink on most review blogs. It’s a  great ink.

Review: Poluma Dotted Grid Journal Notebook

This nondescript notebook was listed near the bottom of the price range for my inexpensive dot grid journal search in the depth of Amazon. At $5.99 it is decidedly inexpensive. The price also fluctuates from $9.99 down as low as $4.99. Gotta love Amazon. (Or not.)

So this book has all the usual bells and whistles of a basic notebook- hard vinyl cover, pocket in the back, ribbon place marker, and an elastic. It’s stitched and glued with a standard Smythe sewn binding. The vinyl cover has a nice fake leather imprint and has a bit of give giving the cover a bit of grippiness over the slipperiness of a L1917 or a Moleskine. The front and rear end sheets are basic and lighter than the inner pages. The pocket feels cheap and pulpy, though it will likely survive the life of the book. The ribbon is standard nylon and heat sealed. The elastic is appropriately sized and tight to the book. The size is narrow A5 or Moleskine sized.

So far so good.

The inner pages are dot grid on cream paper and are ruled at 5mm. There are 128 pages. They are not numbered. The paper is thick, smooth with a hint of tooth. In testing the paper felt great with fountain pens, gel, ballpoint, roller ball, and every other pen I used. Pencils felt good too. There is just enough tooth for pencil to leave a legible line but not smudge or be eaten by the paper. The only ghosting and bleed I had was with multiple layers of highlighters. Fountain pen was especially nice on this paper. The lines were true to nib size and there was no feathering at all.

The binding looks and feels solid. It folds over on itself and opens flat and closes back tightly, even without the elastic.

The paper performance stands up. The downside of this journal is that it doesn’t have numbered pages or an index, but honestly those are so easy to set up that It is hardly something to point out as a detraction. There are only 128 pages which means you might fill this up in a month or two depending on your bullet journaling habit and practices.

Overall, if I was looking for a plain black journal for bullet journaling I’d consider this one. It’s made well enough and has good paper. The leather imprinted vinyl feels good in hand.

Review: Wing Sung 618 Fountain Pen

I purchased the Wing Sung 618 via a seller on eBay for $11.90. It arrived in my mailbox roughly 14 days after payment.

The packaging for this pen is the showy Wing Sung knock off of a Lamy Safari box inside a wrap of bubble wrap and a bubble mailer. The whole thing is very secure feeling. The box arrived undamaged and the pen in excellent condition.

With any pen I buy I clean it with water and test the fill capacity. This holds roughly 1.3ml of ink, not bad but not an ink tank. The piston mechanism locks and unlocks by pulling on the blind cap and then twisting. I didn’t realize this at first and immediately unscrewed the piston from the pen body. Oops. I realized what I had done pretty quickly and looked at the listing to find some “instructions” on how to use the filling mechanism. THe instructions aren’t great but I was able to figure it out.

I’ve grown to like the locking mechanism. The piston works smoothly and easily sucks in the fill of ink. I purchased the translucent model and this includes a clear feed, so as I filled the pen the ink is visible throughout the process. Very cool.

My nib was a tad scratchy but was easily aligned and smoothed. Ink flow is great. The hooded nib is fantastic for forgetful notetaking. I can leave it uncapped on my desk for 10 minutes or so and come back and it’ll still write. I do find the section a bit too narrow and the thread to sit in a funny place. For most people this won’t be a problem, and it’s not a problem for me, it’s simply noticeable.

The cap is sturdy and screws on tightly and looks to be nearly airtight around the nib, you can see the sleeve push against the cap when tightened. The cap posts deeply but throws the balance off for my hand, but for people with larger hands this won’t be an issue. For my tiny lady hands the pen feels good unposted and is of a nice length. The clip is diminutive and the worst part of an otherwise nice pen. The arrow clip is done poorly and looks and feels cheap. While it holds onto my shirt nicely it does catch on the stitching and has torn a stitch on a favorite chambray. The clip is awful.

The look of the pen is a mash up of a variety of pens. It looks a bit like the PArker 51/21, the TWSBI 5XX series, and an assortment of others. Sometimes it feels like Wing Sung takes all the pens from other brands and mashes them together. Sometimes this works really well, and others, not so much.

This isn’t a bad pen, but it is underwhelming at $11.90. I do seem to have a  thing for hooded nibs now, especially the clear versions. Overall this pen writes really well and has a neat locking piston, but it’s just not mind blowing.

Review: Montblanc JFK Limited Edition Fountain Pen Ink

Montblanc JFK is a limited edition ink released in conjunction with a limited edition pen. It can be found in a variety of places ranging in price from $16 to $30 with an average price seems to hover around $25 for 30ml.

The ink is navy blue and doesn’t lean green or too purple. Rather it is a warm dark blue. The color is dark and has no shading that I noted in any of my use or testing. It photocopies spectacularly well. In some instances, it may be hard to tell that this is blue instead of black on the page.

I found this ink to be fabulous on all the papers I’ve tested it on, from the nice L197 and Confidant pages to the garbage paper at work. I noticed that it didn’t spread or feather on anything. There was little to no bleed through or show through on any paper. Dry time was as expected- longer on nice paper, roughly 7 seconds and shorter on lesser paper, around 5 seconds. This ink made even scratchy pens and garbage paper feel good, the lubrication and flow are fabulous.

Overall this ink is perfectly professional and looks lovely on most paper. The warm paper in a Baron Fig Confidant really works well with this ink. Most of my testing was with a fine nibbed pen but in a medium, it really looked especially wonderful. Overall if you are looking for something professional with a bit of character that works really well on a lot of different papers, this might be the right ink for you.

Review: Baron Fig Limited Edition Pencil Oracle

With most limited edition (LE) pencils I review the outside and direct you to a review of the core. Given the variability of the Baron Fig pencil’s cores in the past, I’m going to tell you about the core on this pencil.

The variability of the core of these pencils is almost legendary. The first pencil was a true HB, the second a shattered 2B, and then back to HB but with a heap of grit. The pencil maker in Portugal* can’t seem to get the pencils to be an even true HB. Most of the other LE Archers have some grit in them. I sharpened 3 of these to get a feel for the core. I picked a pencil that had a centered core and the other 2 I purposefully chose uncentered cores. I sharpened with my Classroom Friendly and the Masterpiece after. I did attempt to use the Pollux but it shattered the cores and made a mess of the centered pencil. I have no such problems with the Masterpiece.

Testing consisted of me reworking the outline of my current novel and attempting to figure out why the ending I have doesn’t work. I used a Teen Vogue composition notebook and wrote up some character studies and a loose outline of the beats of the novel. In all, I wrote probably 25 pages, many of the lines crossed out, in the comp book. I also took notes in a Field Notes Snowblind for some audio testing my cohost and I did on Sunday. I made notes in the same pocket notebook for my weekly meal prep. I also used these in my L1917 to make note of the recipes I used and to log my Kombucha observations in my Bullet Journal.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at the cores. They are a true HB but I’ve yet to encounter large pieces of grit or other unpleasantness. I grabbed a couple of other LE Archers and tested those side by side, the No. 2 and Element and found grit. The Oracle has a pleasing grab on the page as it lays down graphite. It’s not silky smooth like a Blackwing or Mitsu-Bishi or even a General’s Cedar Pointe. It grips the page. The point retention is fantastic, only need a touch up after a few pages in my comp book and after 3 in my L1917. This is a pencil that does spectacularly with rougher paper, like a Confidant or a composition book.

Despite being a true HB in hardness it is nicely dark, leaving a nice dark grey line with moderate pressure.

The packaging for the Oracle is gorgeous, as usual. The coloring is graphite grey, ash grey, and mustard yellow. The decorations seem to be inspired by playing cards and tarot cards. On each side near the dipped end is an answer, roll your pencil and whatever is up is your answer. Fun. Each side is adorned with playing card suits plus a moon and crystal ball. All this in pale ash grey on deep dark graphite grey. The pencil is matte finished and always has some shinier bits due to rubbing in the packaging during shipping.

In the past, the exterior of the Baron Fig LE Archers has always been gorgeous, but it was wrapped around uneven graphite filled with grit. This is the first time I’ve used the Archer and actually enjoyed the core. Really, the main difference is that there isn’t any grit. I don’t get these bits that leave snags and gouges in my paper. Overall I really like this version of the Archer, and I always did enjoy asking the Magic 8 Ball questions. Get yours over at Baron Fig.