Author Archives: leslie

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

An Updated PigPog PDA

This post is written by Lenore, one third of the 3 woman team that makes up the awesome RSVP Stationery Podcast. You can listen to Lenore talk stationery to you over here. You could also enroll at the University where she teaches chemistry if you really want to know more about the elements that make up the world around us. You can hang out in the RSVP stationery podcast Facebook group and learn even more about stationery!

My history with to-do lists and pocket notebooks has been a messy one. Like most of us, I often have lots of little personal tasks that need doing, some on a timeline, some not, along with tasks for my work including big jobs, small jobs, and big jobs that are made up of lots of small jobs. I’ve dabbled with various organization and productivity systems in the past, but have usually fallen back on some combination of a desk pad, a stack of index cards, a pocket notebook, or random scraps of paper, none of them organized in any intentional way.

So when I read Less’s post last week about her planner setup, [ed note this is from 2006 and unearthed when we were talking about OLD school GTD methods on RSVP.} there were three main components of it that leapt out at me and made the difference:

(1)    The 4-page arrangement: two facing pages for lists, and the next two pages for random whatever. I needed this. One of my problems has always been the fact that there’s a combination of action items and random thoughts needing to be corralled, and like siblings in the back of a station wagon on a 13-hour road trip, these don’t play well together unless some thought is put into making space for them.

(2)    The concept of marking things off *or moving them forward.* I don’t know why this had never occurred to me before as a formal part of a system; it always felt like cheating to mark something off one list and move it to another, but of course, it’s brilliant, because it keeps everything where you only have to look at one display, rather than checking back.

(3)    Dropping in one vertical line for the margin, to check things off as they’re dealt with.

Of course, her setup, and the PigPog planner setup from which it’s adapted offer so much more than this. I was going to go the whole way, setting up my new notebook with sticky flags in the front, dedicated pages for various tasks, etc etc, but then it was four days after I had initially read her description and I still had no place to write down the first action item, which was, “Go back to Less’s blog post and set up planner.” So I realized that I needed to just take the very minimum components and get it going.

My setup is as basic as it gets: a dot grid No-Brand pocket notebook with a date in the front and my name and phone number in the back; 

the first set of facing pages marked with margins and separated into four to-do lists;

and the second set of facing pages marked as “idea pages”. 

Because of the weird way my first day went, the “idea pages” didn’t get any play, while the to-do list pages were nearly full. But that’s ok because I just leapfrogged over to the third set of pages for my next set of lists. It was fine.

Less’s setup has dates in the margins for when jobs need to be completed; I rarely need this feature, since I have a sense of the necessary timeline for most of my tasks, and can naturally prioritize them in an appropriate way when I have them all laid out in front of me. And since the number of tasks I’m recording is small enough for me to have an idea where most of them are in terms of progress, I don’t need the dot-slash-X-circle kinds of codes a lot of systems use. For me, a check mark indicating completion is usually plenty. Similarly, I don’t need color-coded inks (and indeed this would be an impediment to my using the system, since I don’t normally carry a variety of writing materials.) For me, it was really critical to give myself permission to write—and check off—with literally whatever is handy to write with.  (This is another point in favor of the pocket notebook, since I often feel pressure to match the ink and use good handwriting in a “nice” journal.) In my initial setup, I was thinking of three categories of jobs, but of course I didn’t allocate exactly the right amount of space for them so I ended up with some messiness when the longest list slopped into the next available space. Also, four lists is a more appropriate breakdown for me, if I’m going to use a single notebook for work and personal lists together. On my second set of to-do lists, I fixed that by starting two lists on the same page, one from the top line down, the other from the bottom line up. I left a space between them when they approached in the middle, and I still had to slop one list over to another area, but at least it was only one. Oh, and here’s one of my revlations: when the pages started filling up with jobs, and then the margins started filling up with check marks, and I found myself staring down the barrel of opening a new page of to-do lists…I was reluctant to copy some of those jobs over. They were such little things, it really seemed like I should just do them instead of carrying them to the next list. I should just…do them…oh. I should just do them. Oh, yeah. I don’t know why it took me that long to catch on, I mean the point of a to-do list is to remind me to do things, but before starting this system, I was perfectly happy to let those jobs just sort of languish on an old list. I mean, I knew I needed to do them sometime, but…well, they were on my list, weren’t they? But now I have to put up or shut up. The day this dawned on me, I completed several small tasks that would normally have just fallen off the end of the day, again and again.

I use a few other adaptations that I haven’t noticed in other places (apologies if I’ve appropriated ideas without credit):

  1. For tasks that include several small sub-tasks, I often combine them on a single line, with spaces for check marks after each sub-task. Then when the whole series is done I can mark it off in the margin. For example, for an exam that has to be scored, the line might have:

“E1: Score___ Total___  Alphabetize___ Scan____ Collate____ Record____.”

Then if I need to move part of this to a new list, it might become

“E1: Collate___ Record___”

or just “Record E1.” (b)  I do use the PigPog method of keeping a sticky flag on the first page that still has active jobs listed on it. However I also literally mark across a page with a slash mark when everything on that page has been completed or moved. It helps me get over the uneasy feeling that I might be missing something.

(c) For other needs that come up, I just start from the back of the book and use space as needed. Quotes, meeting notes, ink tests, drawings my daughter does when I’m trying to distract her at a restaurant, etc. Most of the things I might need to do in a pocket notebook are sporadic and unpredictable enough that I don’t need to invest mental capital in setting them up when I start a new book. The top consideration for me is low startup costs. The best planner is the one you’ll use, and my experience is that if I have to do a lot of organizational work before I can start my organizational work, I’ll close that loop by never doing any of it (and I’ll be back to a pile of index cards, a random scattering of pocket notebooks filling simultaneously, and a lot of dropped balls and missed deadlines.)  (d) When I have a task that really has to happen pretty quick, particularly if it’s a kind of task that is outside my normal workflow (I’m lookin’ at you, insurance open enrollment period), I put a circle in the margin (with or without a date) to draw my eye every time I open the book. [Pic 8]

So, the tl;dr: new notebook; margin lines slashed in on outside edges of first two pages and date at the top (total setup time <30 sec); four categories of tasks, one category at the top and one at the bottom of each page; markthrough of entry and check mark in margin on completion of a task. A set of dedicated pages immediately after list pages for whatever brain dump/ephemera/info that needs to be captured and transferred elsewhere. A plan to use pages starting from the back for anything I need to use them for. Permission to be messy.

 

Review: Piccadilly Essential Notebook Medium Ruled

The PIccadilly Essential Notebook (PEN) is a basic black journal. Some of you might want to call it a “moleskine knock off” but it’s probably been around at least as long as moleskine’s little marketing gem that makes everyone think that the moleskine is original (guffaw.)

Let’s talk about the basics- 240 ivory pages, smythe sewn, medium gray ruling, black satin bookmark, pocket in the back, elastic closure, and a hard “leatherette” aka vinyl cover. Like any smythe sewn binding the PEN opens fully flat for comfortable writing and will fold over onto itself for writing out of hand. Nifty. The belly band boasts that the PEN has acid free paper*.The paper itself is a nice warm ivory shade that I quite enjoy. It is easy on the eyes and a variety of colored inks look fantastic on its surface. Fountain pens feel great but have a tendency to feather and bleed. It’s too bad the paper isn’t better with fountain pens because my pens all feel fabulous on the surface of the paper. Pencil looks and feels amazing. The paper has a nice amount of tooth, so writing is effortless for a dark line. The pages don’t smear and smudge much either. Even my darkest pencils didn’t smudge. Ballpoint works well on the paper too. Interestingly gel ink responds much the same way as fountain pens. While the gel doesn’t feather it does bleed and show through.The same with rollerball.

Honestly, if you’d used a modern Moleskine these are almost identical enough that you can wonder if they are made in the same factory. The paper looks and feels the same- hell it even feather in the same bizarre way you see in moleskines. The only difference are the logo and color of the bookmark.

Piccadilly notebooks are only available at Barnes & Noble locations throughout the US. The Amazon sellers are… weird and sometimes the notebooks aren’t available or they range in price from $5 up to $50.  The MSRP is $15 but if you happen to be in B&N and look around the clearance section you can usually find them for $6 a book. I like them because at $6 they are cheap. Continue reading

Introduction to Kokuyo Campus Notebooks

Welcome to the first guest post on Comfortable Shoes Studio! I’ve asked some of my friends to write posts for the blog to introduce new voices. Big thanks to Hahna for kicking off the series! You can interact with Hahna via Facebook in the RSVP Podcast group!

A set of Kokuyo Campus Notebooks, Todai Series.

I never gave composition notebooks (comp books) much thought before I started reading Less’ reviews.  Didn’t use them much, but I do feel nostalgic when I see them.  They feel Very American with their no-nonsense stitching and the sturdy, 5-foot thick plywood covers that some sport.  Seems like they were field-tested and made to survive handling from jocks who could care less.  The empty class schedules, multiplication tables and grammar rules often printed on the insides also somehow seem hopeful and encouraging, as if the designers and companies are doing what they can to help kids get through their days.

i before e except after c, or when sounded as a as in neighbor and weigh.

To convert Celsius (C) for Fahrenheit (F): multiply by 9, divide by 5, and then add 32 or F = (C x 1.8) + 32.

Me, I tended to use crappy spirals or perforated glue bound books, but I also used a whole slew of asian stationery store notebooks, mostly for the My Melody covers. Though many were spiral bound, the ones I preferred to use were glue bound books.  They were mostly B5 size, which is 250 x 177 mm.  B5 is just a tad taller and a tad narrower than the standard American comp books which are 9.75X7.5 inches or 247×190 mm.

The B5 notebooks (purple) are a tad taller than the American comp book (orange).

The B5 notebooks (purple) are a tad narrower than the American comp book (orange).

B5 books are also usually thinner, with around 30 sheets per book, but sometimes they have more, up to 100 sheets.  Comp books, meanwhile, generally have 70-100 sheets.  Asian books are often glue bound, with no threads on the inside, but spiral books are also common.

Here two standard comp books (total 200 sheets, to the left) are stacked up next to five standard B5 notebooks (total 150 sheets, to the right).

Asian B5 books have thin and flexible cardstock for covers and inside they are ruled in a single color, most often at either 6mm or 7mm.  They also don’t have margin lines and I don’t think any ever have schedule grids, grammar rules or tables of any sort.

Typical ruling in a B5 book.  No red margins in sight.

Inside front and back covers are blank with no helpful multiplication tables.

Inside back cover, also stark white.  Ready for anything.

Comp books are hard (impossible?) to find in Korea, and I imagine that the B5s fill the void.  Like comp books, they are everywhere and come in a range of quality and price.  Lot of competition in the B5 notebook arena, but some of the most popular are the Kokuyo Campus notebooks. 

Kokuyo Campus Notebooks, Todai Series.  What’s shown is sold as a set of five 30-sheet books in the following colors: purple, blue, green, yellow and red.

Campus notebooks come in standard 6 mm or 7 mm rulings but here we have the Todai Series which features something slightly fancier than just plain rules: rules with tiny dots evenly spaced along the rule.  So not reticle, not dot graph, not graph and not grid + lines.  It’s dotted rule, or graph lite, as I like to think of it.  The lines and dots are a faint grey and unobtrusive when you write on it but are easy enough to see when you need them.  I love it.  But for those purists who think the dots are just too fancy for them, Kokuyo still offers plain ruled books as well, so fret not!

A close up of the dotted rule; it is also reflected in the design of the covers.

The Campus notebooks are ok paper for pens.  The papers are slightly thinnish and with some pens there is just a teeeeny tiny bit of ghosting.  I think most people would use both sides. Some ink pens might not allow it.  Luckily for me, though, I love my pencils and you can’t see pencil writing at all on the other side.  Yay for pencils!  

A small sample of pens, pencils and markers.

The teeeeeniest bit of ghosting.

Don’t use sharpies in the Campus books, unless it’s an emergency.

I love how discreet and slim the Campuses are; you aren’t committed to the usual 70-100 sheets per book like you are with American comp books. 

I’ve talked a lot of love for Campus, haven’t I?  There are a few cons.  First, they don’t completely lie flat, especially the first and last pages.  But I think that the pages lie extremely flat in between. 

First page opened.

Pages in the middle lie pretty flat.

Book abused and folded over completely.  Poor little fellow.

Also, I think that the glue is a big turn off for many people. 

Glued spine!  I love it and yes, glue turns me on.

Another minus: Kokuyo Campus books are $16.50 on JetPens per pack of 5 or $11 for the same 5 pack on amazon.  I know that in Korea, a single Campus notebook sells for around USD $1, so its definitely the importing that’s making them so pricey.  There’s a range in pricing to American comp books ($0.50-3.00+ for one), but you can find a decent one of 100 sheets for $1, or 1 cent per sheet.  Campus books are going to be 7 – 11 cents per sheet in America. 

All this can be yours for between $11 and $16.50.

Still, $16.50 for a five pack of notebooks isn’t ridiculous in the stationery world, where nerds regularly shell out $12 for 3 pocket notebooks.  So here at Chez Hahna, we still get ’em.

So there you have it, an overview of Kokuyo’s Campus Notebooks.  Why don’t you try a pack?  They’re my favorite! 

My happy place.

hahna lives in rural Illinois and is still trying to figure out what to be when she grows up.

 

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Review: Palomino Blackwing Volumes Number 1

As I did with my review of the 73 I’m not reviewing the interior of the pencil, but the exterior. The balanced core of the Number 1 is the same core as the Pearl but perhaps with a few batch variants. I’ve not read any wild conspiracy theories about the No.1 being even slightly different than other Pearls, so we don’t need to explore that area. No in this case a Pearl is a Pearl.Starting in with the least different aspect of this pencil- it sports a shiny silver ferrule and a nice silver imprint. Like the 73 the No.1 has the new branding and font- little trees and the updated Palomino. It looks great on this pencil.Held in the silver ferrule is an indigo blue eraser. It’s meant to be the color of chambray shirts but is a touch too dark. I was disgruntled that it was far too dark, then I used it. The color changed and with each erasure I found that it lightened, I realized that like chambray, the indigo eraser lightened and became the light indigo color I associate with chambray. A brilliant design choice, though not readily apparent.The pencil itself is gray washed. The warm color of the cedar shines through the thin gray paint. I love and loathe it in equal parts. Part of me wonders if I have come so far from my roots that I can actually enjoy a faux weathered pencil? Am I so far gone from my heritage that this is okay to me? Then I stuff the stub of the pencil into the pocket of my Wrangler chambray shirt and I feel better about life.The biggest departure for this pencil is that it is round. I for one love round pencils. There are no pointy hex bits digging into my finger. I rotate it smoothly in tiny increments. I can sketch with it and build up wide points to create bold expressive lines. I love the round. Several people complained that their ferrules were not perfectly centered with the imprint. o_O I just can’t. If it bothers you, grab the pencil in one hand and the ferrule in the other and twist until aligned. First world problem solved.So the elephant in the room, the tribute. I decided to look up Guy Clark and wow, okay, maybe I’m too young, not cultured enough, but man, Clark’s music is the cure for insomnia. Great lyrics just boy, he had a boring voice. Not my cup of anything. So yet another white bro, though at least this guy sings the songs of the working class? I guess. In part, I feel like we’re getting back into the dudebros at Palomino making tributes to the guys they love. That’s fine, but frankly, I have not cared, at all, about virtually anything they have decided to make a tribute about. I feel like there is a total disconnect between the dudes in charge at Palomino and the folks who use their pencils. “I like these things so everyone else will too.” None of these things are universal. The 73 and the 211 seem to be the most widely received but I think that’s because their topics are wider than just the stuff a dude, who is about my Dad’s age, really digs. (One can make an argument for the 24 being well received but is that because of the new firmer core or because so many of us were forced to read Steinbeck in High School?)

So here is a gripe that I have. I come from a working class background. I’ve spent my fair share of time doing hard physical labor and I always find it irritating when rich folks want to highlight the working class. I talked a bit in RSVP about how you could always tell if someone was rich or poor growing up, because the rich folks stained their houses gray, while the poor folks let their shingles weather naturally, because they couldn’t afford to stain or paint their shingles. While it is certainly nice to enjoy the aesthetic, it is another to mimic it out of a lack of understanding. Just go listen to me yammer on over here. For the dudebro who tone policed me, language warning, though it’s bleeped for sensitive ears.

So overall, I really enjoy this pencil. I love round pencils. I love the Pearl core. I like silver ferrules and imprints. I love the color blue. I’m warming up to the grey wash. I don’t care about Clark’s music at all and frankly I’m finding it easier and easier to divorce the tribute from the pencil and just enjoy the pencils. Get some at Jetpens. Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig LE Squire Spectre

If you have been listening to my podcast, RSVP, then you know how I feel about the BF Squire. The pen is perfectly comfortable. The weight is nice. Just heavy enough so I always know it is there, but not so heavy as to tire my hand. The size is perfect for my hand. The pen is short-ish, if you have really big meaty paws, this might not be the pen for you. The weight is toward the front of the pen for good writing balance. It feels wonderful. The twist mechanism twists the refill down just enough to expose the point without excess. I find myself fiddling with the twist mechanism in much the same way one might fiddle with a clicky nock. There is a slight gap between the nock and the body of the pen. It has been noted on other blogs that the pen should be seamless, but I see the slight gap as part of the aesthetic. The gap is perhaps .5mm. Though I tend to cart my Squire around in my pants pocket the anodized finish as remained perfect. Not one chip, ding, or scratch mars it’s surface. I would suggest that you NOT cart your Spectre in your front pocket, lest you end up ruining as many pairs of pants as I have. The motion of it rolling around in your pocket is enough to twist the nock, expose the point, and leave a nice large black stain on your favorite pair of camel colored khakis. Not only does this suck most of the ink out of an otherwise full cart, the refill never quite works the same. If you are wondering if the ink washes out, it does not. The Schmidt ink bonds quite well with cotton. The Schmidt refill works really well on the garbage paper at work, which is why it ends up in my pocket so often. It is also quite nice on Baron Fig’s paper. I quite like it in my Confidant journals.I find that the ink tends to bleed through on other paper- Write and Field Notes as 2 examples. The HP Laserjet I use in No Brand Notebooks handles it’s liquidy black ink just fine. If you are not a fan of the Schmidt cartridges you can buy many Parker style refills. Be careful though, many will not fit due to the super narrow opening at the tip of the Squire. Itoya and Monteverde refills both fit.As for the Spectre, I really dig everything about the pen. The little engraved ghost, the weight and feel. I was a little surprised at the color. Many of the images online show it to be BLACK the actual color is a deep dark purple black. The color is warm and looks a lot like graphite. I like the color but it was not expected. While I found the green of the Experiment too eye catching for my workplace the muted purple charcoal shade is perfect for work. It’s professional and flies under the radar and most people won’t peg this as “fancy pen.” The cost of the pen is $60, which makes this one of my more expensive pens. But any pen you refill is an investment. While my Pentel Alloy will likely break after a year of use, the Spectre will continue working for years and years of use. It should be noted that the pen does not have a clip or roll stop. The slightly narrower nock doesn’t keep it from rolling off a desk top. Because it is weighted toward the front, it will land tip first, likely ruining the refill inside. Baron Fig does offer a little pocketable leather case for the pen, which is a solid investment, if you intend to pocket carry. I quite love my Squires, I’m lucky enough to have an Experiment and a Spectre. They are solidly made and worth the investment. One of the great things about using a refillable pen is that you get to pick what refill you want to use- from Monteverde to Itoya to Parker to Schmidt you have plenty of choices here. Continue reading

Review: Canson Art Book Universal

Back in 2012 I offered a semi-review or a first look at the Canson Art Book One as a budget friendly offering for art journalers. The Canson Art Book Universal (CABU) is in the same series of sketchbooks but with a few differences. I won’t focus on the differences but what makes the CABU so great. I have the A5 or 5.5×8.5 inch size. The basic rundown of the CABU is that it has 224 pages of 96gsm (65lb) white paper. It is acid free, has no brighteners, and states it won’t yellow with age. The paper is smooth to the touch but has a nice tooth for pencils. The sketchbook has a classic pebbled faux leather grain coating over sturdy heavy boards. The corners of the cover are rounded but the book block is squared. The binding is a traditional Smythe stitch with heavyweight neutral grey end sheets. The back of the book has a nice roomy pocket and sports an elastic that was loose when I opened the package and has only gotten worse as the book has gotten older. I finally ripped the elastic off. Useless.Let’s talk about this paper, it’s lovely. The tooth is just right for sketching with pencils. The graphite glides over the surface. Though it is toothy it doesn’t grind the points down to a stump in moments rather, just the right amount is deposited no the paper and the points last well. Pencil feels amazing on this paper. It looks awesome too. The graphite seems to pop off the page, but shades well.

Fountain pens also fair well. Though there is a nice tooth to the page, it is very smooth when using a fountain pen. All mine felt great on the surface. My EF Eco was a tad bit scratchy but that pen is always a tad bit scratchy. All the inks that should exhibit sheen or glitter did, and whoa did they! Not one bled through either. Brush pens fair in much the same way- the ink looks great, the ink doesn’t bleed through.

One of my favorite ways of using the CABU is for mixed media and watercolors. The paper is great for collage  and though it cockles a bit it is great for watercolor washes. IN fact I really have slopped some watercolor in this book and it never soaks through. The colors sits on top of the paper similar to the way they react on hot press. Lifting colors, so long as you aren’t using a color that stains, actually works. Softening hard edges works nicely. This has become my go to for portraiture practice. The paper is really just lovely.As it is a sketchbook it is only available in blanks pages. If you want to use this for writing, you can download one of Ana’s writing guides, over here.

In short if you are looking for a sketchbook that pretty much does it all reasonably well, the CABU will fit that bill. True it isn’t available in lined or dot grid, but the paper is so good you won’t really care once you get a writing guide. Continue reading

Review: Ito-ya Helvetica Pencil

The Ito-ya pencil is made by Camel. Per CWPE the eraser was designed for Camel by Eiichi Kato. Most pencils with this sort of ferrule-free eraser experience are made by Camel. I’ve reviewed another Camel pencil here.

I love the look of ferrule-free erasers. That’s no different on the Helvetica pencils. All the erasers are black, no matter the color of the pencil. They are available in white, black, red, and gray. You can find mixed packs on Amazon. I purchased a 12 pack with 6 red and 6 black pencils. The paint is thick and well applied to a perfect satin finish. It’s not quite dull enough to call it matte but also not shiny. The black paint and eraser feel stealthy. TThe imprint is printed rather than debossed. On all the pencils the imprint is glossy black. It stands out quite well on all the colors, even the black on black it looks great. Very minimalist.

Inside the paint is nicely fragrant cedar, which sharpens up in any sharpener I own. Inside that lovely cedar is smooth dark graphite. The writing experience with these is silky smooth. The graphite is dark too. If you own the Camel 60 pencil the Helvetica is significantly softer and darker. I’d liken it to a B Misubishi 9850 or Nataraj Super Black pencil. That is to say, dark and smooth.

Honestly, when I bought these I didn’t put mine down until it hit Steinbeck stage, then I immediately sharpened up another. Though these are $15 for a 12-pack, they are so pleasant to use that I keep an eye on Amazon and keep them in my future to buy cart. I also like to include them in trades and pencil gift package.

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