Review: J.Herbin Refillable Rollerball Pen

A brief digression before I begin the actual review. This pen is a prime example of why I am so against what I term the beauty, drive-by, or first impression reviews. While I think there is a certain validity to a first impression, it must be balanced against longer term usage to give the reader a real idea of the true nature of the item being reviewed. That is to say my first impression of an item may be “Wow this is great.“ Which can change to, “Holy jeebus crisco, this is the worst thing I’ve ever used.” In the course of a month of use. A beauty review can tell us how something looks but nothing about its longer term performance and this pen is a prime example of how initial functionality loses out to performance over time.

This is a pretty good looking pen when compared to other pens in it’s price range. Like the J. Herbin cheap-o fountain pen, this has slightly milky clear plastic for the body, but has a crystal clear grip section, in this case, it houses a feed and a rollerball tip. The pen accepts short international standard carts. Sadly it will not accept long carts.JHerbin RollerballThe cap is made of the same milky yet clear plastic, that has just a small amount of give. It snaps on for capping the pen with a satisfying click. It posts easily, but I found initially could work it’s way loose as I wrote. However, after some use, the cap posted just fine. You will need to use this pen posted unless you have smaller dainty hands than my lady hands. I found it too short to use unposted. It stayed clipped to pockets, lapels, and notebooks without an issue. The clip is snappy and strong.JHerbin RollerballThe pen itself is very lightweight. It would be ideal for longer sessions of writing and maybe even note taking sessions.

So here is the issue, sticking point, or rub after a month of on and off use the tip is scratchy as hell. When I first purchased this pen, it was smooth and nice in my Field Notes and other notebooks I tested it in. Now it’s not smooth on everything. In my composition notebooks I feel like I’m writing with a sharpened  stick dipped in sand. The ink flow is just right and it keeps up even with the thirsty paper, but ewwwww it feels gross. It is still smooth in my Field Notes, Fabriano, and a few other papers, but I do the majority of my notes and longer form writing in composition notebooks, and this puppy is awful after a month’s use.JHerbin RollerballDepending on your paper, and intended use, this pen might not be for you. If you stick to smoother papers- Rhodia, Clairfontaine, etc you will likely enjoy this pen for many months. If you use rougher cheaper paper like Staples comp books, even those that are good with fountain pens, you will likely be highly disappointed with this pen, especially with it’s longevity. A month is not a long time for a pen that touts its ability to be refilled and reused to wear out. So, yes, I quite like this pen, but as I stated above, have a few qualms against recommending it.JHerbin RollerballFor my readers who hack or kludge, this pen could EASILY be converted to eyedropper with the use of silicone based glue like E6000  and a few dabs of silicone grease. There are 3 tiny holes in the back end which could be filled with ease. The threads are tight and would need just a dab or two of silicone grease to keep this thing ink tight. (I may attempt this hack and get back to you. A more lubricated ink may solve the scratchiness on cheaper paper. I’m thinking Noodler’s Heart of Darkness.)

Review: Uniball Air

Here is another pen that if I’d reviewed it when I first purchased it would have received a better review than after about a month of on and off use. I resist my urge to again rant and rave against drive by beauty reviews that are pretty but lack a substantive amount of use to back the reviewer’s claims.

I picked up a 3-pack with red, blue, and black capped pens. The pen body is made of translucent plastic the same shade as the pen which is then covered in a print. The print is in black and gray and looks to me like a generalized idea of black carbon fiber… The pattern is slightly raised and feels nice. The cap is smoke colored with an inset attached to the clip matching the ink. The cap secures over the business end with a nice click. It posts deeply and I have no fear of losing it.UNI Air

The pen is lightweight and well balanced both posted and unposted.  I found that the grip section was slippery in longer writing sessions and that I could feel the coordinating colored bit. Something about this annoyed me. I think mostly that the section was slippery and thus I had to  adjust my grip frequently. I am not a sweaty hand person, I use metal and plastic sectioned pens all the time with no issues. So this was not a matter of my hand but the slick nature of the plastic.UNI Air UNI Air

The pen tips glide over every surface I’ve used them on and I think this is due to the huge ink flow. These pens are gushers. Using them in my comp books meant I had bleed and show through everywhere. This is less of an issue with these books as I don’t use the reverse of the page other than writing brief notes about things I need to address later or ideas for edits. But it does show how much the pens saturate the paper as well as how much ink is wasted. The pens were only available at target in the large 0.7 but I’d put them on most paper at a 1mm. The ink really spreads out. This is anything but a fine tip.UNI Air

These pens are so smooth that you can almost feel the ink being pushed out of the tip. My wife described these as a combination in feel of a gel ink and a fiber tipped pen, and I think that is an apt description. I did not like these for writing very much because they felt so weird, BUT they were really nice for drawing and the ink is waterproof. The high flow of ink really lent the pens to doodles and sketching. But again, because of the flow, lingering anywhere on a page will cause bleed through. These really flow so wet that writing on regular paper is akin to writing on toilet paper.

I really liked the shade of red and blue that was offered in the 3-pack. The red is a nice bright red, perfect for marking up edits. The blue is a wonderful shade that is both bright and bold. The black is deep and dark.UNI Air

Overall, I don’t really them much. I also think they are overpriced. With the ink flow being so high, I’ve used a quarter of the black already and can see myself blowing through this one if I used it more frequently very quickly. At $7.99 for 3 at Target, or $5 at Staples, and $6.57 at Walmort, or a whopping $12 on amazon, these are just not a value. Especially when you consider how quickly they squirt ink onto the page. Also, they are a little ugly. Actually, a lot ugly. The futuristic design will appeal to high school kids and possibly dudes, maybe dudebros. The slick grip was also uncomfortable even with my cool dry hands. If you must buy these, get them while they are on back-to-school sale for $5 at Staples.

There are much better options at better prices- the Uniball 207/307 or Signo gives you better feel and the same quality ink with a better grip, ink flow, and look.

Review: The Mt. Tom Six by Four by Bob Slate

In complete opposite to the last notebook review I did, I’m ecstatic over this one, even though it has a spiral binding, and I’ve written about how much I despise spiral bindings. The Mt. Tom is a 6×4 inch 80 sheet notebook sold by Bob Slate Stationer in Cambridge, MA. The spiral binding is bright silver and tough. The paper is bright white with dusky blue college ruling. The cover is raw tan card and is stiff enough that you can write in hand.MT TOMThe paper is very nice. It responds well to juicy fountain pens and scratchy pencils and smooth Palomino Blackwings. I was quite surprised at how nice the paper responded to everything I threw at it. The construction is solid. the spirals, though the notebook lives at the bottom of my backpack, are hardly squished or bent. The stiff cover allows me to take notes on the go and is delightful for scratching out ideas on the train. The printing on the book is in red, much like their line of notebooks branded for Harvard, but is a little more subtle.MT TOM MT TOMThe price is right too, at $1.95 this notebook is not only a quality winner, but a value.MT TOM MT TOMAs for the spiral binding, I wish they would produce a composition notebook with this paper inside. It would allow for any tool to be used on it’s pages with success. I also tested out another of their notebooks, which I’ll write about later, but no where on their shelves did I see a Bob Slate composition notebook. If half as good as these, I’d buy a dozen. I suffer the spiral binding, though I loathe them, because sometimes you need a notebook where pages can be torn asunder and passed to another. To do and grocery  lists must be jotted down and fulfilled. You can’t just tear out a page of a Field Notes without destroying it’s structural integrity, rather, you keep something like this for those occasions.

Use it Before Reviewing it

I’ve previously written about what I’ve referred to as the beauty or drive-by review. I think it’s better called a first impression review, which lacks the derogatory inference of the terms beauty or drive-by. Though, I do believe that such reviews are inferior to reviews with lengthy use supporting the opinions of the reviewer.use it use it

This in the front of my mind as I have two reviews in my queue that if I had reviewed them after writing only one page right after purchase, my review would have been skewed overwhelmingly favorably. Now that I have at least a month of use on these pens, I have different feelings. I have written in my Field Notes, composition notebooks, assorted cheap paper at work, my sketch books, and other paper, and the results have varied wildly. I’ve also subjected each pen to long writing sessions, brief notes, being uncapped for brief and longer distracted periods. Each method of use gave me a better of idea of how the pen felt and worked. Also the longer review period gave me a better idea of the longevity of the pen. I can better answer, “Will this pen last?” or “Is this pen a value?”

If I chose to place emphasis on quick initial impressions, as in my TWSBI Eco(nomical) first impression “review”, I should label them as such. Can I accurately report on a pen or pencil if I have only used it for the single sheet of paper I used to write the review? Or should I hold myself to a higher standard and use the damn thing for longer? If I only use the pen/ink/pencil in a Field Notes/Rhodia/composition book/Hand-Book sketchbook, how am I telling people about the performance? I’m not, I’ve only got the one point of comparison.

I know that the standard has been set that reviews on pens and pencils are done on one sheet of paper by one manufacturer, but it’s a simplistic precedent and one that those of us who do reviews should revolt against. There is a division between reporting on the aesthetics of a tool and it’s overall performance. I fully believe that the performance of a pen/pencil/paint/paper cannot be done with a single written page.

Review: Mitsubishi Boxy Eraser

After reading a bunch of reviews I sprang for a Boxy eraser. I’ll also admit that I have a thing for black erasers. They are super cool, or have been stuck in that “super cool” frame since I was 12 and in 8th grade and most erasers were pink. I missed out on the bright neon Yikes! erasers that came out in the following years. See I graduated straight from pink pearls to art erasers, and once I became an art kid only art erasers would do. I digress, back to the Boxy.Boxy

I must admit that I was underwhelmed with the Boxy when I first used it and it has sat in  my eraser cart* for months before I pulled it into regular rotation. The only reason I pulled it into regular rotation at all was because I misplaced my Sakura Foam, which is STILL the greatest eraser of all time. When compared to the Foam, the Boxy falls short. The Foam is still superior.Boxy

Enough talk about the Foam, the Boxy is not a BAD eraser, it’s a great eraser. First off it is a great shape, the long squared rectangle is perfect for cleaning lines of text out of small tight areas.It also cleans my soft dark 2B and 4B pencils off every page I’ve used. I used the Boxy during a class and it cleared away General’s Cedar Pointe #1 graphite off a composition book page like it had never been there. The soft body of the Boxy got into the nooks and crannies of my writing and cleared that graphite until it was gone.Boxy Boxy Boxy

I also got a chance to test out the Boxy on some art. I had sketched a drawing onto really rough thick paper and then inked it with Carbon Black in a brush pen. Loads of dark pigment over the graphite. Now the main issue when cleaning up graphite is that the eraser also picks up some of the ink and either smudges or grays it out. The Boxy did not gray out my image, at all. Areas that were damp smudged but the dry ink didn’t turn gray. Which is awesome.Boxy Another added benefit of the Boxy is that it is sturdy enough to carry in a pocket without any additional protection other than it’s own paper sleeve. The Sakura Foam turns blue in the pocket of my jeans and seems to shrink as the cotton wears away at it’s soft body. The Boxy has none of these issues. First it’s black, so even if it were dirty who would know? And secondly it’s a smidge firmer than the foam so the simple act of walking doesn’t create quite enough friction to wear it down.

Now my biggest gripe with the Boxy is that it leaves crumbs everywhere. The eraser bits, so eloquently known as crumbs, roll up a bit but don’t stick to themselves or to the eraser. Because it is a soft eraser, it makes  a ton of crumbs. After using the Sakura Foam for so long I spent a few minutes looking at the mess of crumbs on my paper and trying to press the eraser to them to see if they would stick with little success.  Your page must be brushed or tapped clean. I don’t find this quite as annoying when drawing as I do when I’m making notes in a notebook, the crumbs get caught in the gutter of the book and leave bumps. Annoying.Boxy

Bottom line: The Boxy does a fantastic job of cleaning the page and stands up to pocket carry better than the Sakura Foam. If you are looking for a pocket eraser that does a great job, get the Boxy, Available at a bunch of retailers, but I got mine from Jetpens with my own cash money for general use and not for teh purposes of review. The review occurred organically.

Continue reading Review: Mitsubishi Boxy Eraser

Portrait Process

I thought I’d show you some of the process of creating the images of the presidential wannabes.

I start by looking through google and assessing the kinds of pictures they have available. I don’t use just one as a reference, sometimes an image will wash out the nose, or the lips. Quite often all of the images made the candidate look pink, really really pink. Occasionally they’d be orange or gold. I think it depends on the photographer, but man, many of them should get their blood pressure checked, because their faces are RED.  After I find 3 or 4 images to reference, I start with a sketch, it’s basic. I was using a “iron blue” (AKA payne’s gray) Derwent Inktense. However, my local stores only carry Inktense in tins, and I have no interest in having a tin of them. I like them for under drawings for watercolors because after I add water and they dry, they stay put. However, they aren’t light-fast, or all the colors aren’t. So I don’t want to rely on them because I don’t want to use them in anything but my journal. I have moved to other brands of watercolor pencils and I’m debating which I like best.processprocessAfter the under drawing us finished, I hit it with water, blending the color out and into the proper tone.process processAfter this I start to layer on the actual colors. I and working with a bright and dark palette of not true to life shades. I start with pale pinks and yellows, brushing these on in broad strokes. I’m using a #10 synthetic brush. I then layer on medium shades, and finally the fully saturated dark colors. I’m a huge fan of mineral violet and indigo. Such amazing colors. process

Two Weeks with the TWSBI Eco(nomical) Fountain Pen

It’s been another week with the Eco(nomical) I’ve run it through a full fill in a variety of circumstances. I continue to enjoy the pen and it has performed incredibly well.IMG_20150726_112046I have been using mine in my Field Notes with a personal blend of ink that is dark teal in color and based on the no longer available Scribal Workshop’s Siren. The blend was to lend flow and smoothness to a nice ink color. The ink works remarkably well in Field Notes with  the EF Eco(nomical) nib. I experience minimal bleed and show through, and what does occur is not noticeable once I write on the reverse of the page. The pen and ink combo just works in my Field Notes.

The other place I’ve been using this pen is in a regular Roaring Springs made in the USA composition book.* This composition book is not a great one for fountain pens. Rather it sucks up ink and let’s it bleed through. I did 10 pages of nonstop writing and the pen just delivered ink to the page, no skips, no burps, no issues. Smooth flow all the way. Compared to my TWSBI Mini, also in EF, the Mini started to dry up around 4 pages, and eventually stopped writing and had to be primed to write again. When a paper forces the pen to deliver ink above what the feed usually delivers, and the pen keeps writing, well that is a win in my book. The Eco(nomical) kept up.

I spent a day in a hot sweaty gym watching my wife lift heavy things in a skilled manner. I kept the pen in my FodderstackXL in my back pocket while I sat on hard plastic bleachers. I sat with a good friend and while we weren’t getting up and cheering, Olympic lifting is more of a calm clapping type affair, we were moving about as we talked. Suffice it to say that this was not a gentle stress test. I’ve spent significant time at the new Dayjob and walking** around my city in warm weather. In walking in from hot humid weather to air conditioned cafes, I’ve not had many issues with burping or blobbing, in fact the issues I’ve had relate to my notebook picking up humidity from the air and allowing the ink to blur out. If I weren’t stress testing this pen, I’d honestly be using pencil due to the humidity.

All of my previous thoughts about this pen stand. It is clunky and that clip is ugly as sin, but it writes, and writes well. The only issue that I really have with the pen (other than it’s looks) is that the clip is super tight and doesn’t just slip over anything. I have to lift the clip to slide it over anything. It’ll slide onto the cover of my Field Notes or Comp book but that’s about it. It refuses to slide over fabric of any kind, from thin dress shirt material to the thick pocket of my FXL. I’ll do another update when I’ve hit around a month or so with this pen.

Continue reading Two Weeks with the TWSBI Eco(nomical) Fountain Pen

More Unflattering Portraits of Presidential Wannabes

I kinda decided that none of these portraits would be flattering. IN fact I went out of my way to find reference materials that were unflattering. Many of the candidates have what I call the “petulant little repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican democrap democrapboy frown.” You know the look a little boys, around age 5, gets when they don’t get their way? Some of these candidates get that, so often I was sure I’d painted a few of them previously, only to see they were photographed making the exact same tight lipped frown as another candidate. Go figure.

Desire to Acquire

A few months ago I started to really deeply consider the things that I’ve acquired. While I hadn’t gone past what I could reasonably use in a lifetime (SABLE*) I had picked up a lot of stuff I wasn’t using. After I’d written and posted my “cult of stuff” essays a few years back, I’d become good about not buying so much stuff. My art supplies are right within the range of reasonable use. I have a few more sketchbooks and plenty of watercolors, but I’m good about buying what I’ll use and not a whole lot more.

Somehow my desire to acquire more fountain pens and fancy pencils, though I’m a confirmed user and not collector of said tools has continued me down a path of purchases. And more purchases, and more. Things came to a head when I had to purchase a set of storage drawers to store my pencils. As I put the drawers to use, I realized I had many dozens of pencils. Some were brands and styles I’d never use. I made a few decisions, four to be specific, and for the most part, I’ve stuck to them. I like to call these “concepts” and they are as follows:

  1. Reduce– aka stop the acquisitions. Stop bringing in more stuff. Get rid of stuff I won’t or don’t use.
  2. Use– Use the stuff I have. Diligently work my way through my stash of pens, pencils, ink and paper.
  3. Examine– Deeply examine how I use my stuff. Look at each item I own and how I use it. Did I purchase it as a novelty (725) or is it something I use on a regular basis (Tombow 8900) and is part of my everyday carry (Fodderstack XL)? Examine my uses. Document them carefully. Refer to decisions reduce and use. Follow through.
  4. Forgive– I’m going to give into marketing and hype and peer pressure, and when I do, use the stuff and then move on. Beating myself up for not adhering to concepts 1-3 doesn’t help. But I can refer back to them to examine the whys and hows of my purchases. Anything new that comes into the fold must be used and reviewed.

I’ve done remarkably well with this system so far. I was able to resist getting the latest Field Notes edition, which I thought was pretty cool, but I know I prefer grids to their lines. So it was easy to resist. However, I bought the TWSBI Eco(nomical) and it was an easy one to buy as I’d wanted  one from the moment I saw their first mock up on their facebook page. I used it for a week, reviewed it, and I’m still using it. I’ll post up a few follow ups over the next few months, and report if I continue to use it or not.

So I’ve done pretty well in my new concepts. I need to refine my examination of why I want something, so that the “reduce” concept is more fleshed out, and includes a built in form of resistance. But that is for another post.

For another post on this subject check out The Clicky Post.

Continue reading Desire to Acquire

Portraits of “Presidential” Candidates

In an effort to learn more about politics and be balanced, I decided to read about each of the declared candidates for president. That wasn’t making things stick, so I decided to make art for each of the declared  candidates for US President. It turns out there are many of them. I could end up making little paintings about them all summer if I wanted to. I don’t but I’ve decided to highlight a few of them and fill a journal. Here are a few without my color commentary.

IMG_20150723_214208 repuglican repuglican repuglican repuglican IMG_20150727_112355 IMG_20150727_112355 IMG_20150727_112355 repuglicanHere are a few close ups of what the paint looks like after it dries. I’m working very wet into wet and in the humidity the paint takes forever to dry. I’m also working with a #10 and #20 brush on a hand-book travelogue series sketchbook. Which I’ll have to do a full review on soon enough.

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