Review: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen

The Parkr Jotter is a classic in the pen world. Both the ballpoint and fountain pen version has been around forever. Where the ballpoint is a timeless classic the fountain pen version is… not.

The brushed stainless steel exterior is lightweight and feels pretty nice. The section is made of cheap plastic and has visible mold lines. The pen does not come with a converter, rather 2 international small cartridges. The carts take some serious force to get them to seat properly. Until one is properly seated in the pen you get weak ink flow. As soon as the cart is in place ink flows and keeps flowing. The pen will also take an international long cartridge.

The nib out of the box was smooth and once ink began to flow, it wrote well. Here and there the pen would skip. Looking at it under a loupe I found that the tipping suffered from baby bottom. A tiny amount of work with my polishing stick solved that problem. Since then the pen has worked well in every instance.

I have found that it performs less well on rough crappy paper- the paper at work makes it feel like I’m writing on sandpaper.

The pen has a classic look- brushes stainless steel body, the classic Parker Arrow clip, and flat ends. I like how it looks but the feel is beyond cheap. The raised visible mold lines leave me feeling flat. The diminutive size makes me feel like I’m writing with a child’s pen or pocket pen. This isn’t a pen you’ll want to carry around in a pocket either. The cap takes very little force to remove and could easily fall off as you walk around.

It’s a pen you won’t mind losing or giving away. I’m entirely meh on this pen. What is really horrible is that this is often a pen people pick up because it’s readily available and it is their first introduction to fountain pens. They’d be better off buying a Wing Sung 3008 or a CaliArts Ego. There are a hundred better first pen options at a lower price point than the Parker Jotter Fountain Pen.

Review: CaliArts Ego Fountain Pen

The CaliArts Ego is available on eBay for about $10USD. The pen is available with fine and extra fine nibs. I ordered the fine nib.

The pen arrives in a bubble mailer roughly 2 weeks after ordering. Inside the mailer was a silver colored box. Within that box is a silver tin. The tin has a die-cut foam insert to hold the pen in place during shipping. Inset into the foam is a silver wrench and 2 new silicone orange o-rings.

The pen is a clear piston filling demonstrator. The feed is also clear. Upon arrival, I cleaned the feed and interior with some clean water. I did not remove the feed to do this, and I should have, the feed would not allow ink to move freely. I removed it and gave it a quick scrub with a toothbrush and warm water. After drying I installed it again and the ink has moved perfectly since.

I inked my pen with a classic ink- Diamine Chocolate. There is something about this ink that reminds me of fall and the harvest but also of gingerbread. It is a lovely ink with perfect flow and is well behaved on most papers. It is a great ink for testing a pen.

The nib out of the box was smooth and feels great on all the paper I’ve tested it on. Thus far I’ve used it on Story Supply Co Morning, HP LaserJet 24lb, Staples Sustainable Harvest, the cheap recycled garbage at work, Staples 20lb office copy paper, and Baron Fig Confidant paper. Overall the pen feels great. I was surprised it felt so good on the rough garbage work paper, which makes most pens feel terrible.

The fine nib is very fine for a fine. The feed seems to allow a decent amount of ink to flow through to the nib. It’s neither dry nor wet. It is just right, for me.

The cap cannot be posted. It connects to the blind cap and flops around until it falls off. Useless. The cap itself is fine. It screws on snugly and an o-ring prevents you from over tightening. It also keeps the cap airtight.

Let’s talk about that clip. The pen itself is pretty decent looking. SImple clean and useful. That clip is an abomination. It is too small and reminds me of one of those skinny neckties, but at the wrong proportion to the body. Yeesh. Ugly. It is snug enough and holds my pen clipped to my shirt. But it’s ugly.

Overall I like this pen. Sure the clip is ugly but it is a minor issue for a pen that works really well and with a really nice nib for $10. I like that it arrives in a nice protective foam-lined tin. Because it can be completely and relatively easily disassembled it is a contender for filling with India ink for sketching. (Don’t @ me. I know you shouldn’t.)

A final thought on this pen. It is clearly, uh, influenced, by the TWSBI Diamond and Eco pens. I’ve been told that the piston and blind cap fit the TWSBI Diamond and vice versa. The nib and feed look like Pilot nibs and feeds. This pen looks as though someone took design “cues” from both companies decided that they could make their own pen and set off to make one. Honestly they pulled it off but this could have ended badly.

Review:Sakura Sumo Grip Retractable Eraser

I’m a big fan of the Sakura Foam eraser. I’ve been a fan of it for a long time. When I make an order from JetPens, I add a few onto my order. I use them in trades, swaps, and often give them away.

When I was at my local Artist and Craftsman I picked up a Sumo Grip retractable. They are quite affordable chunky click style erasers. The Sumo Grip is offered in a variety of sizes, all of them large. This is by design. I was able to chat with Peter from Sakura of America who filled me in on some of the design choices around the Sumo Grip. Sakura has a line of mechanical pencils designed for kids that have a sturdy chunky style the company chose to call them Sumo Grip after the sport of Sumo Wrestling. The image of the sumo wrestler was purposefully chosen to match the style of the pencils, and now erasers.

Coming back to the eraser itself, Sakura created the sticky non-smudging technology by combining the tech behind the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and a standard white plastic (PVC) eraser. The result is a soft sticky eraser that wraps around graphite (and other materials) and trapping the graphite in the sticky eraser without harming the fibers of your page. Which is one of the reasons I LOVE the Sakura foam, it takes less effort to clean graphite off the page and the erasers don’t burnish the fibers of the page down like so many other erasers styles. (Lookin’ at you Mars Plastic.)

Sakura then upped the ante by removing philates from the PVC and making the eraser nontoxic. As someone who often uses her erasers as fidgets, I can appreciate this. Also, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable about giving a fat Sumo Grip to my nephew.

Bringing all this back to the Sumo Grip Retractable. I love this as much as I like the Sakura Foam, or Arch- it’s the same eraser but colored black. My inner angsty emo kid loves black stationery items. The chunky black click mechanism means that when I carry this around in my pocket it doesn’t get worn away via movement. The nock ejects 3mm of the eraser at a time. The chunky body is comfortable and feels great in use.

I’m as much a fan of this eraser as I am the original Sakura Foam. Every person who uses pencils or makes art should get some version of the Sakura Foam- I just happen to really love the fat chunky black Sumo Grip a whole lot.

I’ve read a review or two where folks express, concern, over the logo. Just as an FYI Sakura is a Japanese company that is based out of Osaka, Japan. Design choices are made by the company and with pride over their heritage which includes Sumo Wrestling.

Review: Uniball Signo 207 Multicolor 8-pack

The Uniball Signo 207 is a staple pen. You can pick one up at any office, box, drug, or grocery store in the US. The multicolored sets are available at office supply stores across the US. A standard multicolor pack includes red, blue, and black. There are a total of 8 colors. 5 of those colors are only available in the 0.7 or medium point. The colors are identical across their range of gel inks, so if you want to sketch with a SIgno 207 then switch over to a Signo DX you can. This is great news if you want to sketch with these pens.

Uniball reports that the Signo 207 RT “forms an indelible bond in paper” and reports them to be “fade- & water-resistant, acid-free ink.” If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time you know what I think about acid free claims.* Fade and water resistance are much more important for those of us who use these pens for sketching. So a few things to note about these pens. The black is a solid everyday pen- great for writing, making notes, bullet journaling, and sketching. I’ve recomended it over and over and over again. It’s a great pen. Additionally so are many of the other colors. However, when you use these pens on good paper the ink doesn’t bond well with the fibers of the paper. So when you add water, or highlighter, it lifts and smears. I have found that this is much much worse with the colors, any of them. The black adheres the best of the lot, but every other colors I’ve tested with a variety of highlighters, smears. Adding water causes lifting and bleed of the ink.

Sketchbook paper with less sizing does well. My Leuchtturm1917 didn’t fare well. The ink smeared and I had to use a blotting sheet to keep the ink on one page. The colors are great for bullet journaling but not in a Leuchtturm1917.

Overall, I find the colors great for sketching and writing. I can use the bright red or orange for calling out a note or coloring a box. Further, the writing experience remains smooth and enjoyable from first to the last click. The ink is great on crappy paper, it bonds well but doesn’t drain out of the pen. I also enjoy these for sketching but the water-resistance of the colors is less than that of the black ink. Use the variety of colors combined with water with caution. Test first.

Review: Pentalic Traveler

Let’s just cut to the chase, the Pentalic Traveler is a fabulous sketchbook or journal. Let me tell you why.

The cover is made of soft touch vinyl. It feels really nice for vinyl. I purchased a softcover version. The covers are held shut when in transit by a sturdy elastic the same color as the vinyl. Mine is red, bright cherry red. Inside there is a lengthy satin red ribbon, in the same shade as the rest. I heat sealed mine.

The end sheets are cream. In the back there is a pocket for assorted loose bits and bobs you might add to your sketchbook as you are traveling. THe pocket is roomy. The soft cover allows you to stuff even more into the pocket than a hardcover.

The book block is smythe sewn, sturdy and flexible. The paper itself is fabulous. It’s smooth but with enough tooth that pencils fair very well. Fountain pens and dip nibs glide across the pages. Surprisingly the 74 lb recycled sketch paper accepts watercolor washes with ease. The paper cockles a bit but in the end looks better than most sketchbooks in this price range.

Overall I was very surprised at the performance of this sketchbook. Every media I used performed well and looked great on the cool white page. At $7.49 and 160 pages it’s not a bad price for a pocket sketchbook. It’s sturdy and full of great paper.

Review: Sharpie Clear view Highlighter

I’ve been wanting to review a highlighter with a view window tip for ages. I picked up a 2 pack of the Sharpie version during the BTSS clearance for super cheap.

The highlighter is classic neon yellow, my least favorite of the highlighter colors, but a classic shade. The ink lays down wet and even. I hate it when they squish out a blob of oozy wet ink then dry out as I lay down a line. The chisel tip is just the right size to get a line of text in an average textbook or in my pocket notebook.. the tip can be flipped to achieve a narrow line. The tip does not mush down even with a heavy hand. To test this I gave one of the highlighters to my wife and she used it as she read cases for work. Usually, I don’t like to use a highlighter after shes touched one for more than an hour. Hers was perfectly usable after several days of use.

Which brings me to another point, despite its diminutive size these things have a decent amount of longevity. My wife often burns through a highlighter or two PER week. This one lasted a week.  So there is a decent amount of ink.

The shape is flat and prevents rolling. They remind me of the Stabilo Boss highlighters in shape and size. It isn’t my favorite but it does the job well enough.

The cap is flaired and acts as a convenient pen stand so the pen doesn’t dry out in use. The pen is dry out resistant. I left it uncapped for about an hour and it was fine. This also means that if you lose the cap or toss it into your bag uncapped it’s going to make a huge mess.

The tip does allow me to see what I’m highlighting and I really do like it, though these are kinda silly. The see-through tip feels like a gimmick to me and unnecessary.  But the tip does hold up much better than other highlighter tips. It doesn’t mash or bend, and I like how usable the tip remained even after heavy use. That the tip is made of mostly plastic with a firm but smooth tip seems to make a great deal of difference of the longevity of the highlighter. Overall, I love these, but not for the see-through nature of the tip, rather for the longevity of the tip, which is a byproduct of the see-through plastic.

Review: Zebra Mildliners

If you follow bullet journaling on any social media you are likely familiar with Zebra Mildliners. I admit my FOMO was so strong on these that when I saw a set at Target priced well above my budget I almost put everything in my cart back to spend $20 on a handful of not-highlighters.

I’ll be blunt, the Mildliner is a dual-tipped marker. It’s a really nice one, but at the end of the day, it is a marker. The ink is translucent enough that you can see any writing you are highlighting.

The core point of the Mildliner is that they aren’t highlighter bright. The colors are muted and mild on the page. The shades do pop off the page but function as almost any marker might. I picked up 3 Mildliners in the loose stock at Michael’s. At $1.99 each or more in a set these are pretty pricey little markers. Loose with a coupon at Michael’s brings these into an affordable price range.

In terms of performance, I find both tips suitably sturdy. I’ve only used mine for a few days but they haven’t crushed or deformed in my use. I don’t generally have a problem with mushing chisel tips but I do with bullet tips. But the bullet tips have stayed at a nice fine point. I have found that I quite enjoy the bullet tip for making a few notes or underlining notes in my pocket notebook. The size of these is nice too, it is close enough to a regular pen that it will fit into a regular pencil case, so you don’t need to find an extra long case, I’m looking at YOU Tombow Dual Tip Brush Markers!

I’m biased, but I picked up 3 colors I knew I would like and use, so I like the colors and they work well for how I use highlighters. Which is to say, that I use highlighters for minor emphasis in my notes- underlining some of my text or by circling notes. I also use them in my bullet journal to denote weekends and other important events. I need to figure out how I’m going to use mine in my “side-hustle bullet journal” (SHBJ) and what I’m going to denote with them.

In use, they smear with the same inks, pencils, and pens as any other highlighter. So expect that if you use waterbased inks or fountain pens that you’ll get smearing. IF you want to use pencil stick to HB or F grades for less smear, those 2b and Blackwings are going to get graphite all over the place.

Overall I think that the Mildliner performs wonderfully and the colors are great. They are just different enough that finding these shades in another brand of marker is going to be a pain in the rear. Frankly, any chisel tip or bullet tip marker will perform similarly, but finding a chisel tip marker that is in a compact package with these colors is going to be difficult. The closest you’ll get to these shades is the Tombow Dual Tip Brush Pen. But that has a brush tip which many will find hard to control, though is great for the same purposes as the Mildliner.

I like these, but I also guaranteed my like by purchasing only the 3 colors I knew I’d use in my bullet journal or in my lifelong learning quest. The best place to purchase these is at Jetpens.  Their prices are the best online and their sets are at the best price I’ve seen. You can also get them at Michael’s from the singles display at the register. Which is the best price I’ve seen in person. I’ve seen the 15-color set at Target during BTS but not since.

Review: Story Supply Company Morning LE

I reviewed the standard Story Supply Company (SSC) pocket notebook and pencils over here. Plus I’ve picked up and reviewed their collab with CW Pencil Enterprise called “the Pencil Pusher” over here. They began as a Kickstarter and have evolved into a small but growing company that makes their own notebooks in a small shop in York, Pennsylvania. I love this little company.

There is a lot to love about this company. First, their LE game is on point, their summer 2018 edition “SMR” is a gorgeous series of orange and yellow shades across the cover of a notebook. It perfectly evoked the hot August sun.  

The Fall 2018 LE, “Morning” is muted and gorgeous. I don’t know how many of you have needed to get up super early in the morning in the fall and happened to look out across a field or lake. Watching the fog lift and the changes in temperature occur is really gorgeous, and the Story Supply team captured that feeling in this cover. It’s a grey to black gradient but done a little differently to get that fog like feel. I love it. Inside is a lighter grey version of the gradient plus some printing.

The cover stock is thick and beefy, it’s some of the thickest cover stock available in the pocket notebook game and it is the one to beat. The thick cover stock makes this a great notebook to use for notes on the go-  the sturdiness of the covers means you can actually write in hand without a great deal of bending.

Inside the covers are 48-pages of thick creamy paper. It’s smooth but toothy enough that all my pencils respond well on its surface. Fountain pens do pretty well on this paper as well. It’s thick so there isn’t a great deal of show through. I had no feathering or bleed through, but the largest nib I used was a medium and most of my inks are well behaved. Rubber stamps do well on this smooth but toothy paper.

Overall, the SSC notebooks are top notch and are just amazing to use. At $11.99 their pricing is standard for materials that are anything but. The combination of quality and durability can’t be beaten. You could buy another brand but why? If you want to test them out without buying an LE their regular notebooks are $10, but they also have sales on older editions for $10 as well.

SSC donates notebook and pencil sets to schools in need. You buy a pack of notebooks and a kid gets a notebook and pencil set of their own.

Review: Pilot G2 mini

I picked up a 4 pack of the G2 Mini pens on a whim. The 4-pack was affordably priced and held regular blue, bright blue, red, and purple. The G2 minis perform just like their full sized counterparts- smooth most of the time and best on junky paper. On nice paper (Studio C, Tomoe River) it has a tendency to skip a bit and for the tip to feel rough.

I find mini pens of this size to be just a tad too small for longer term writing. They are okay for filling a box or two in my bullet journal and a quick note here or there. Writing more than a page in a pocket notebook puts a great deal of strain on my hand and is tiring.

I think these are great pens to toss into a bag for occasional quick notes or for children. I’m using the bright blue and purple to introduce my nephew to better stationery.

Review: Pilot Frixion Color Stick

I picked these up on a whim from the post back-to-school sale clearance section at my local Walgreens. The 4-pack of orange, pink, green, and blue are regularly priced at $7. I saw the price and did a double take and said out loud, “LOL, whut?”

I’ll start with the good. The ink in these flows really well, it’s a “ball” pen but writes like a rollerball. All in all it’s a comfortable feeling pen. The ink flows and it feels really smooth on all the paper I have used them on. Erasing was a breeze.

The cap posts and is replaced with a satisfying click. It stays put once capped too. I’ve been carting around the orange in my FodderstackXL and the cap stays put, despite my sitting and moving around all day. It hasn’t fallen off. The pen lacks a clip, so you need to have a pocket or case to carry these around.

So far so good. I like these little pens a lot. Now for the bad.

These look cheap. When I say cheap, I mean, like Bic sticks, or those old blue Papermate stick pens I loved in HS. I mean cheap AF. Despite the glossy hard plastic and slick clear cap with integrated eraser they exude cheapness.

The exterior tube is the refill. I had wondered if I could pop out the refill and slide it into another pen body that looked less cheap. Just take it from the inky mess I made, you cannot. The body is very sturdy, again, my fat butt has been sitting on one for weeks, and it has yet to break crack or even curve.

These are sturdy little pens that look cheap and are sold at a stupidly high price. I really enjoy writing with them, the colors of the ink are great- muted and not overly bright. They erase cleanly and feel good. However these are not $1.50 pens. The 4-pack would probably sell better at $4 or $5.

I picked these up with my own cash money from the clearance section. I got a steal of a deal- I paid 79 cents for the 4-pack, totally worth it. I should have purchased more.