Review: Notegeist Pencilog

I have a sheet that I developed to log and track all of my pencils. I have a small collection of over 300 unique pencils! I use my sheet to record each new pencil that comes into my hands. I buy pencils in 2s or 3s and always use one and store one. My collection fits into a couple of those plastic pencil cases you find for kids. I frequently forget to log a pencil.

When Gary sent me over the Pencilog I was taken by it’s cute cover and the simple multi color print. I like both but the cyan and magenta toned one really strikes my fancy. At first glance it looks like any other 2-pack of pocket notebooks but with cuter covers; complete with a nice little belly band. Inside things are different. Inside each cover are interesting tidbits and then an index. Then the guts have a place to record the pencil. Some of the info is based on facts- brand, type, grade. Other information is subjective.

You could use this to record your notes on a collection, it’s a great way to log each pencil quickly and easily. All the info is there at hand.

I’m using it to log my in use pencils. I have to write about my pencil cup but I’m currently using a small rotation of pencils and replacing as I use them up. This is a great way to keep note of which pencils I’m using and replacing.

It should be noted that the paper inside these notebooks is great- it’s got enough tooth to be nice with pencil but not so toothy it chews them up. It feels smooth too. It is a great paper.

I like these and have found a use for them, though not quite the same as the intended use, it works for me.

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Review: Amazon Basics Fountain Pen

This popped up into my suggested items based on my searches and I had a good chuckle. Then I did a search for other reviews and found that they were all over the map in terms of experience, so I had to get one.

Like many Amazon items this fluctuates in price from the base of $9.99 up to $15. I snagged mine at $12. Not bad, not great.

It arrives in a bubble mailer and a very sturdy cardboard box that is sealed with packing tape. Inside the box is an extremely nice and well made gift box in forest green. It snaps open and stays open. Inside is a die cut foam piece, instructions, and some satin covering of the rest of the foam. It is a stellar presentation of a pen.

The pen itself is pretty small and glossy black with silver trim. The clip is adorned with the AmazonBasics logo in left handed format. Odd choice but I’m here for it. The cap snaps on and off with some force and posts well. It does not feel as if it will work loose easily. There are fingers inside the cap that could be adjusted with a wooden skewer if needed.

The solid metal construction of this pen is done well, it feels pretty good in hand. It weighs less than I expected given what I read in other other reviews. It is lighter than the Pilot Metropolitan but weighs more than my Wing Sung 601. Though it posts I will not be using this pen posted, the balance is wonky once posted, leaning very heavily to the back of the pen. I have small hands so this might be a more balanced feeling for someone with larger hands.

Initially, in use the pen had nice ink flow but the nib wasn’t amazing. Eventually in the midst of writing a letter it just dried out completely. Later during a journal entry it also dried out. The nib didn’t dry because I wasn’t writing, it dried out of ink completely and took a few minutes for ink to flow back into the feed and nib, weird. It took a bit of work to get the nib to feel good. The tip was just a smidge scratchy but also only in one place, it smoothed out easily. Other reviewers had a smooth experience with their pens. The grip was a good size for my hands, though the step from body to grip section sits exactly where my thumb holds the pen. It’s rounded and not sharp so it’s not painful, just annoying.

My thoughts on this pen are mixed. It’s okay. It has a very classic pen look- glossy black lacquer on a brass body and nicely done silver trim. The unadorned silver nib has only the M on it to designated the size of the nib. I think it’s a better pen experience for me than the Metropolitan, but the nib is not as nice. For $12 I think most folx would be better off buying a couple of WingSung 3008/9 etc. The AmazonBasics logo is a wart on this pen. The gift box is unadorned and could easily be repurposed to hold another pen for gifting. It’s a solid meh on this pen.

This pen was, sadly, purchased with ko-fi fund. I feel as though I have wasted your money. Though I have assisted you in avoiding this purchase. If you like this sort of review, feel free to buy me a coffee via my ko-fi button on the sidebar.

Maker: Pencil Sharpeners in Jars

A friend of the blog (Lisa S.) sent me a cute little Zebra pencil sharpener in a glass jar. It wasn’t working well and she wondered if I could fix it. Well, yes and no. The lid was cracked and the sharpener was a short point.

I tossed the lid and pulled the screws from the sharpener. I then rooted around my recycle bin and found a lid that fit the cute glass jar. I then drilled out a hole with a step bit. I then attached a fresh new Apsara Long Point sharpener that I had hacked. I added 2 screws to hold it in place. Perfect.

This got me thinking, could I attach a sharpener in other small glass jars in my recycling bin? Or other jars?

The answer is yes. I pulled a bunch of tiny jars and drilled out holes in the lids. Then I glued in the sharpeners and added screws for additional durability. The little sharpener jars make me so happy. I’ve also attached the sharpeners to the lids of an espresso take out cup.

I ordered another box of apsara long point sharpeners and a box of tiny screws to make these. I’m having a lot of fun. Now I need to find an assortment of small glass jars.

Review: Baronfig Letters to the Future

For those of us who straddle the cultural divide between the 80s and 90s the move from 2020 to 2021 stationery fashions has been very very kind to us. We have the TWSBI rainbow plated eco/diamond, the emergence of teal as a fashionable color, and hot damn Baronfig has brought us all the Holofoil of our dreams. Well, mine anyway.

I am here for it all it’s garish beauty, the holofoil isn’t garish though, the book itself is tastefully done as are the envelopes, but that insert, man, I just want to stare at it and let the rainbows glint off it into my eyes. RAD.

We all know that Baronfig’s paper is great with everything I’ve ever thrown at it, LttF is no exception- great paper, great binding, lovely cover, and a ribbon that could be about an inch longer for it to be useful. No elastic. In the holofoil highlighted box, we have the journal, that lovely holofoiled card and 12 envelopes.

I’m also here for the concept of LttF. One of the most interesting things I did in grad school was write a letter to myself. It was written about a week before graduation and we were instructed to write a letter to ourselves that would be sent to us one year from that date. It’s been several years since I wrote and then read that letter. It’s tucked into a journal somewhere and I don’t remember it’s contents, but I do remember the feeling of reading that letter, it was good. It was a touch sad, but mostly it was helpful and dare I say even useful?

It was nice to see where I was a year post graduation, unlike many of Baronfig’s other offerings this one ships with little in the way of instructions. 12 envelopes could lead you to writing a letter to yourself every month for the next year. Or a letter to be read at a specific time in the year. OR a letter a year for 12 years (whoa that is a commitment.)  Or some other combination. But it is an interesting journaling and motivational tool to explore. When would you want to read the letters? When do you want to leave them to yourself?

Overall I’m in love with the concept, though I’ll likely only use a few of the pages for the intended 12 letters and the rest for letters I’m sending out to friends. 

As an aside, the book I just finished, Harrow the 9th, featured letters written to the self in code. The reasoning for these letters are multifold and sad, and at the end of the book revealed to be totally unnecessary. 

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Review: Wing Sung 601 Vacuumatic

The 601 is a classic knock off pen- it’s a direct rip off of the Parker 51 with a vacummatic filler from the 40s. This doesn’t make it bad, it simply is. Since it is a direct translation it’s not a bad look at all.

We have discussed at length my love and adoration of demonstrator pens. I love to see the ink sloshing about and the inner workings of the pen. I managed to snag a clear version  of this pen. It has a brushed stainless steel cap which has a little pearlized finial cap. The cap has that classic arrow clip, which is cool but also too small for this sized cap. It seems dainty and weak. That said my clip is plenty sturdy and has survived sliding in and out of the outer pocket of my Guardian pro for a month without any signs of fatigue. The cap slides on and off with some oomph but the fingers inside can be adjusted with a skewer. (Others have explained this far more easily than I can.)

The vacuum portion of the pen works really well, you depress the spring loaded plunger a few times and it sucks up a whopping 1.5 ml of ink. This baby is an ink tank. My mechanism worked flawlessly with each of the 3 fills I’ve done thus far. The blind cap screws on and off with ease, and with another model of this pen, you could barely detect that the cap was there. You can use a little hex tool to remove the plunger for a full and complete cleaning.

This nib on mine was perfect right out of the box. It’s a smooth and decent writer that is just right in terms of ink flow. Mine did take a little adjustment to get the nib to line up perfectly with the hooded grip section. That was easily adjusted before I inked the pen.

This pen posts deeply and tightly enough that the cap does not work itself loose as I write. There are lots of things to love and hate about this pen. Sure it’s a cheap knock off of a classic Parker pen, but that is also a selling point. For $15 I can snag a fun new pen with an interesting filling mechanism. It is also a great writer. I’ve yet to have a Wing Sung pen with a bad nib (just jinxed it didn’t I?)  this one was great out of the box. Add to that it holds a LOT of ink. 1.5ml is basically 3 large cartridges of ink. That’s a LOT of writing. Page after page even on the crappy absorbent paper I get at work. If you load this up with a nice black ink, you have a tremendous pen for sketching, and getting in some nice tight line work, because the nib is nice and fine.

No at just south of $16 this isn’t the best historical knock off deal out there, the Jinhao 51A is, but this might be the most fun Wing Sung in existence.


(20201125 Edited for accuracy: Thanks to eagle eye reader Jerry Y who spotted that this is a Wing Sung not a Jinhao. I have a Jinhao on order and in shipping still. Honestly though. I own too many Wing Sung pens to have made that mistake. I mean, duh, the box alone. Sigh I need more coffee.)

This pen was purchased with Ko-fi funds. If you enjoy this kind of review, feel free to hit that button on the sidebar and send me some coffee.

Week Links

Johnny has again, encapsulated my feelings about the tool being tools. 

This podcast is recordings of things, they call it field recordings. Loosely people stand in a field and record the noise, except it’s not all fields. One of the most recent is a recording of a train going by the recorder. Neat. Field Recordings.

I haven’t mentioned it recently, but MyNoise is a KILLER website where the owner of said site records and makes background noise. Maybe you really want to go to a café and work, but you know Covid. Big sigh. MyNoise can make it sound like you’re in a café, or sitting next to a river, on the beach, in a dungeon (no judgement) or even taking a walk through the woods. It’s a donation based site and everyone who likes it should use it and pass the guy who makes it a few coins. I mention the café noises because I brewed myself a coffee put the café noise on in the background along with some Tangerine Dream and worked on my NaNo novel and it was ALMOST like being in the café.



State of the Art: Making the Zine

The physical act of making a zine is usually a pretty easy endeavor. After you write up the contents, do your layout and print and bind. Most of the time it goes smoothly.

Not this time. I’m not sure what happened to my head when I was collating the covers and sheaf of paper that makes the single signature of the pages, but in half of the zines I bound (60!) I reversed the sheaf, so the first page was 9 and page 1 and 16 were in the middle of the book. UGH. I didn’t notice until I had stapled all of them and folded half the zines that I’d already stapled. I pulled 120 staples with a pair of needle nose pliers. I use a jig to staple so I was easily able to get most of the staples in the original holes.

Mostly this was annoying because it added about 45 minutes of work and a fair amount of aggravation that I hadn’t checked to be sure the stacks were aligned properly. Lesson learned, the next zine will get double and tripled checked before stapling.

State of the Art: Making the Zine

Making a zine is usually a pretty easy endeavor. You write up the contents, do your layout and print and bind. And most of the time it goes smoothly.

Not this time. I’m not sure what happened to my head when I was collating the covers and sheaf of paper that makes the single signature of the pages, but in half of the zines I bound (60!) I reversed the sheaf, so the first page was 9 and page 1 and 16 were in the middle of the book. UGH. I didn’t notice until I had stapled all of them and folded half the zines that I’d already stapled.

I pulled 120 staples with a pair of needle nose pliers. I use a jig to staple so I was easily able to get most of the staples in the original holes.

Mostly this was annoying because it added about 45 minutes of work and a fair amount of aggravation that I hadn’t checked to be sure the sheaf were aligned properly. Lesson learned, the next zine will get double and tripled checked before stapling.

Also, you can get the latest copy of Useful Journaling on my Ko-Fi page here.

Review: Higgins Black Magic Fiber Tip Marker

I have fond memories of working with Higgins inks throughout my childhood. My high school kept large quantities of Black Magic on hand. When I went to college I bought jars of it. I used it with dip pens and even *GASP* Look away if you are faint of heart, put it into fountain pens. (Do not do this, it will ruin them over time, maybe put it in a Preppy.) It is a nice dark ink that is pretty good in an ink wash set up and doesn’t budge once dry. It’s not a straight up true India ink, but some sort of hybrid. It dries matte on most surfaces.

All that is to say that when I walked past the display of art supplies in my closest Staples I saw the little blister packed marker and was hit with a wave of nostalgia. So despite it being priced at a whopping $4.99 I bought it.

So you get a little fiber tipped marker that needs to be shaken REALLY well before you first use it. The sediment pools at the base of the marker with the shaker balls in the pigment. It took a lot of shaking and leaving the pen on its side overnight to get this shaken properly. If you use it without a good proper shake the ink will be watery and grey colored. It’ll seem pretty disappointing.

One you get it shaken and primed properly it’ll be a deep dark black that is matte on most paper and works pretty well with most paper. I did find that there was some pretty deep penetration on my surfaces- it bled through the crappy sketchbook I use at work. It looked great on my bright white cardstock but was deeply absorbed. It doesn’t lift much when I erase which is always nice.

On fibery and even some smooth papers this fiber tip is aggressive. I used a light hand and this tip lifted fibers every time. Even on smooth cardstock, I was surprised to see little trails of fibers as well as lifted and bunched fibers on the page when I was done drawing. I think if you mash the tip it’ll be softer, but who wants to purposefully do that?

Like many pump style fiber tipped pens, this one is likely pretty easily refillable. When I get to that point I’ll post a tutorial. If you know how to take apart a paint pen you will probably be able to use that same technique here.

This is a bold line, no fine lines at all here. The tip is at least 1 mm if not 2mm in diameter. You won’t be doing fine line work, but you can pretend you’re Aaron Draplin and doodle some THICC lines.

Given the cheapness of Higgins Black Magic ink it’s difficult to think about shelling out $5 for a single pen, when you can buy an entire 1 ounce (33ml) bottle from $3 to $5. If it is refillable, and easily so, then the $5 is not a bad price at all. Continue reading

Show Your Work: Bizness of Zines

Zines are rarely profitable. This is a truth and can be false. Zines are a multitude of truth and fiction.

In disclosure and transparency I decided to explore the (un)profitability of Useful Journaling.

I chose to use the Ko-Fi sales platform, on a year long subscription of Ko-Fi Gold. This way Ko-Fi does not take a cut of the money used to purchase my zines and things*. That said I did pay $4.50 to use the service for the whole month.

I chose $3 with US shipping included as my total price. To get an address via Ko-Fi, I had to break that down to $2.50 with shipping extra. Paypal took 39 cents per sale. I always forget the enormous amount paypal takes. I think I block it out. Postage within the US was 50 cents (1 stamp)**.

Materials breakdown is as follows, per issue:

  • Cardstock: 8 cents
  • Paper: 4 cents 
  • Black toner: 4 cents
  • Color toner: 30 cents
  • Sundry items: staples, envelopes, craft blades etc: 10 cents
  • Total: 60 cents an issue

The largest expense here was the color toner. I was gifted the color laser printer and a box of fresh 4 color toners, but had to replace the drum, and now the transfer roller (could be called something else but it’s the bit of film that rolls the image onto the paper/roller). The cost per issue is the same given the amount I have spent on the cursed machine.***

I also repurposed many of the items from previous projects- I already own a long reach stapler, colored staples, really nice cardstock, plain white paper, and a black and white laser printer. So while I’m not out any of those items and have slowly accumulated all of the things I WISHED I had back in 1999 when making zines.**** It’s taken me 20 or so years, but I finally have all the tools for zines I ever wanted. It is kind of amazing that layout can be done in an app and even online if you really want.

The net profit from each copy of the zine, not even coming close to thinking about time and labor, is $1.51. From the first printing I made $105.***** The second printing will be slightly different and slightly more profitable- I’ll be using colored cardstock at roughly 10 cents a sheet and eliminate the color printing. So the total cost of physical supplies will drop from 60 cents to about 30 or 40 cents.

The $105 I made will go toward replenishing supplies- black toner ($20), more paper (moving toward 100% recycled paper for the insides)($10), yellow toner ($20), colored staples ($5), and more cardstock ($20). Leaving me with about $20 to spend on a bag of coffee. I have my priorities.

A thing to remember is that for much of this- the more copies I make (and sell) the lower my cost becomes. If I can buy a bulk pack of black high yield toner cartridges, that drops the cost of black toner from 2 cents a sheet to 1.5 cents/sheet. I strongly want to keep this zine very affordable to get it into the hands of more people. I do have loose plans to create special editions- so things like the first 3 issues bound into a special cover, notebooks with related content and covers, prompt cards and many other things. For now, I am enjoying the tactile nature of these items, but PDF versions might be a possibility in the future. I suspect that eventually I will need to upgrade to a new computer. The Lenovo I bought… Well it’s one step above a pizza box in terms of functionality, and I can really see where it lags with graphics where my previous computer did not. So that is a thing I need to keep in mind as well.

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