Author Archives: leslie

Review: Starrett 6’ Steel Measure Stix

This post is written by Lenore from RSVP Stationery Podcast. This is a great post about a useful tool!

I actually ordered the regular (polyurethane) version of the Starrett Measure Stix, and what came in the package was this steel version. Until I was writing this review, I naturally assumed I had ordered the wrong item by accident, but looking back through my order history, it’s clear that the vendor sent me the wrong one (I actually can’t find a link on Amazon to what I received, but here are links to the 4’ and 12’ versions). My intent had been to throw a piece in the covers of my non-FN pocket notebooks, and the steel definitely wasn’t a great choice for that. At the price, though, it was definitely worth using rather than sending it back. The steel tape measures come in various combinations of length (at least 4’, 6’ and 12’ options), scale (English only or English + Metric), and direction (reading left to right or right to left), but not all combinations are available.

25 years ago, give or take, I had put some tape-measure tape on my cutting table for sewing projects, and it’s been peeling off. I was looking for a replacement for that, and when I saw that an option was available with both English and metric scales, I thought I’d expand it to use in my notebooks as well. So a word about that: if the scale is all you need, and you don’t necessarily need the markings to start at 0 at the edge of your surface, then the two-scale tape can be cut to any length, and into any number of pieces, and work fine (it just won’t start at 0). But since inches aren’t tidy multiples of centimeters, the scales only align at the beginning of the tape and every 50 inches (127 cm) thereafter. I’ve been looking for some adhesive tape marked just in cm but haven’t scored any yet.

I literally have no idea how one was supposed to get into this package gracefully. I had to go full hulk on it.

The steel tape is a little springy and pops into looser coils as soon as it’s taken out of the package. The print is sharp and clear. You can see that there’s a short (a centimeter or so) leader at each end, unmarked; I cut off the left end because I wanted to put the 0 mark right at the edge of my table. The package says to cut it with scissors, but I don’t have any scissors I was willing to abuse this way, so I used tin snips. (As you’ll see a little later, they didn’t make quite as tidy a cut as I would have liked, but this is a utilitarian, rather than a decorative, addition.)

It’s a 3M adhesive. The backer paper was easy to get a corner free to peel, and the adhesive was fresh and sticky. (VERY sticky. This is an aggressive adhesive.)

If I were putting this on a project table, I would certainly put it on the top of the working surface. This table, though, is in my office at school; I mostly use it for meeting with students during office hours and as a work table for shuffling papers and grading, so I didn’t want to give up the smooth top for a ruler I wouldn’t use often. The steel is thin; it’s thick enough that you could use it as an edge to bump a piece of paper or card stock against it, or thicker material (like carboard, mdf, wood, etc) if it had a very defined corner, but fabric, or any hard material with a blunt corner, would slide up right over the tape. (You can also see the yellow handles of my tin snips lying on the table in this picture.)

The application was easy. This is NOT intended to be repositionable, but I did have a couple false moves where I stuck a small area to the table and was able to pull it off again and get it straight. I peeled the backing off a few inches at a time as I worked across from the zero end, lining it up with the edge of the veneer as I went.

My table is only 5 feet long, so I cut the tape at the corner and then went ahead and wrapped it around onto the end. I didn’t try to make a sharp bend; it’s possible it could be done, with care or with the proper tools. This is where you can see that the tin snips made a little bit of a messy scratch on the surface.


It also turned out that because I was placing this so close to the top of the table, the sharp corner of the cut end was a little too noticeable and was catching on my clothes or my students’ sleeves if they brushed against it, so I trimmed it down a little, and then just threw a piece of scotch tape on it for now to protect myself. (Unfortunately, this corner of the table is the most prominent and the most likely to be bumped or brushed against.) This will also protect the surface of the ruler from wear. I may come up with a cleaner, more permanent solution later.

While this is labeled as a 6’ tape, it actually goes a little beyond 2 meters, as you can see here. The total marked length on the English scale is 81 inches, and there’s some space on both ends, so it’s almost 7’ long and will have to be trimmed in any application to a surface shorter than that, which means the sharp corners at the cuts will have to be dealt with.

Overall, this product was surprisingly inexpensive for what it is. It’s well-made and easy to apply, and it looks good. I’m going to follow up with the vendor and see if I can get the regular polyurethane version.

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Review: Show Tell Baron Fig X Dribble LE Confidant

The Show and Tell (ST) is the latest limited edition Confidant from Baron Fig. It has all of the usual Baron fig goodness- sturdy stitched binding, nice tactile covers, a debossed logo on the front, and best of all it’s filled with that lovely Baron Fig paper. I love that warm cream colored paper with all my pens, inks and pencils. The ruling of this paper is different- the top half is blank and the bottom half is lined. The ruling is in a pale grey shade the perfectly accents the warm dusty purple of the cover. I quite like the combination. The ruling is pale enough that it retreats to the background of any writing- be it pale shades of blue, black or the silvery shades of graphite. The coloring of BF’s ruling always makes me happy. The half blank and lined pages are great for life and nature drawing. In my undergrad many many years ago, I had a class that required the use of a similar setup sketchbook. They were radically overpriced for a slim sketchbook with okay paper. The BFXDribble is around the same price as that sketchbook but with more pages and better paper. I can see myself working on some art journaling in this sketchbook. This would be a great journal for Speed Journaling or add a mandala or color swatches of the day. I see this as a great gift for the artist in your life.A great change which I feel is notable is that the page marker, which perfectly matches the cover, is long enough that I can grip it, and use it to open the journal. This is a vast improvement in the Confidant. I hope that BF makes this change in all of their upcoming Confidants. Continue reading

Review: Brandless Gel Pen 0.7mm Black

The Brandless brand is a simple set up- think Muji but American and with a focus on groceries. As a small upstart brand, they are interesting. Their schtick is that everything on their site is $3, and you qualify for free shipping at $30, or 10 items. They have frequent free shipping offers, so you can often get your goods at $3. The look of Brandless is minimalistic and simple. Labels are barebones and, I find them aesthetically pleasing. The pens are available in a 4-pack for $3. The package is a clear hard plastic box. The backside sports a white label with product info. Simple. The pens are semi-opaque white frosted plastic. The plastic is matte with a glossy white “Brandless” label printed in the middle of the pen. Simple. The cap is short and reminds me of many other inexpensive gel pens, specifically Poppin, but without the bright colors and carefully designed clip. The clip on the Brandless pen does its job, holding the pen to a notebook or the placket of a shirt. The cap is short. It offers a soft click as the pen is capped or posted. The pen posts easily and the cap stays in place.

The cap does not stay put if you clip the pen to your lapel or put it in your pocket. the cap will fall off. The good thing is that the gel ink doesn’t seem to bleed too badly into the fabric of your pockets but it is a danger. Don’t pocket carry if you like your pants.
The refill is held in place with a rear cap that screws into place. When my pens arrived this rear cap was loose on two of the four pens. It was easily screwed down with my fingers. Once tight the refill doesn’t move or wiggle. It is quite an efficient method of holding the refill in place. I found that several of the refills weren’t as full as others. In use I find the pens quite comfortable, they have a slightly thicker body than other gel pens. They fit my hand well. If you grip your pens close to the tip you might find that the drop between the tip and body is uncomfortable. The ink flows smoothly and darkly without soaking through most of the pocket notebooks I use, or the crappy paper at my DayJob. They respond quite well to crappy DayJob paper but also in my Baron Fig confidant I use as my book journal.

Overall I quite like these pens. If you need something to get you up to $30 for your free shipping, this is a good opportunity to get some decent black ink pens for cheap.(These are also available in blue ink. Though I have not tested them.) Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig Lock and Key LE Confidant and Squire

Let’s start this review off with a statement about the internals of the Confidant and the Squire- they are exactly the same as any standard edition. The Lock comes filled with BF’s dreamy creamy paper with enough tooth for all your penciling needs and enough coating to pair with almost any fountain pen. This paper is where it is at for both graphite and ink. The pale gray dot grid is a tad narrow but disappears into the background of your writing. Perfection. The Key is loaded with a Schmidt P8126 refill and the standard spring loaded twist mechanism, that works smoothly.

The Key (Squire) is machined out of solid brass and is uncoated which lends itself to forced patina as well as natural patina via use. The weight is more than double a standard Squire despite the extra weight the pen is still ridiculously comfortable to use. Because of the balance of the pen being toward the front end, I don’t find that it tires my hand at all in use. I’ve spent several days working on characters and an outline with the pen and filled many composition book pages with it. The pen is perfectly comfortable.

The Lock (Confidant) is covered in dark forest green fabric that reminds me of Maine Balsam Fir trees at dusk. The debossed maze on the front and back cover lends a layer of structured tactility that begs for the cover to be stroked. The end sheets are printed in gold foil that matches the bright brass of the Key. The subtle linen texture of the end sheets paired with the smooth foil is a lovely touch. Again, it’s tactile and I find myself absentmindedly stroking the pages. The ribbon bookmark is golden in color and typically about an inch too short for my taste.

The pairing of the Lock and Key in terms of look and color is perfect. The gold of the brass on the dusky forest green is a perfect combination. The brass shines against the deep green color and looks great. The combined tactile nature of the Lock and Key is fantastic. I want to pet my journal and fiddle with the pen. The weight of the pen is great and the whole package feels good in the hand. Continue reading

Review: Doms X1 Pencil

The first review I saw for the Doms X1 pencil was on Leadfast after which, Michael was kind enough to send me one in a trade package. I’ve been hooked from the moment I saw the Leadfast review- royal blue and silver paint with slick silver foil imprint? Yes, please. The X1 reminds me of a higher end Staedtler Rally- the paint is thick and glossy and on my package of 10, evenly applied. The blue is bright and on every other hex with silver paint between. The imprint is silver foil and white and applied on the blue sides. It’s clearly a pencil made for school kids as there is a spot to write your name. Fancy. The UPC is in the center but closer to the business end and printed in white. My package arrived with 10 pencils, a matching translucent blue sharpener, and point protector. The wood appears to be popular or bass. It is definitely not cedar. It’s straight grained and sharpens with ease. Inside the thick lacquer and wood is a thick core. Most of my 10-pack was well centered, though a few were off but not by enough to cause issues with sharpening. The core itself is described as black and it is, it lays down a dark line. It’s smooth and lacks even occasional bits of grit. The core is softer than most HB pencils and I’d describe it as close to a B than HB or 2B. It sits right in a happy spot for point retention and darkness. It is also quite suitable for sketching. The lead is capable of quite a range of tone and value- from a nice light grey to a deep dark. Because it is smooth the graphite lays down effortlessly. I have quite enjoyed it for sketching a few portraits here and there. Overall the X1 is a jaunty little pencil that can be used for many uses. Its blue and silver stripes are cheerful. The thickly applied lacquer makes the pencils appear more expensive than they are and the end dip is precisely done. The thick core sharpens well in a Pollux, Masterpiece or Classroom Friendly. You can sketch or write with its smooth dark graphite. These are well worth the wait when you order them from India.
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Review: Dee Charles Designs Pocket Notebook Cover

I have the Rawhide Brown cover but these are also available in Black, Rawhide, and Gold with a variety of colored stitching- black, brown, gold, red and blue. The presentation is in a black box with Dee Charles Designs and logo printed on the top in silver ink. The cover barely fits inside and if I were giving this as a gift I’d probably put a round silver gift elastic around the top or round seals on 2 sides. Perhaps a paper belly band would work well too. Opening the box filled my office with the smell of quality leather. If you like leather, the smell was nice but not overwhelming.The rawhide color is a distressed brown color that is dark with spots and lighter in others. The front cover sports a small Dee Charles Designs logo in the lower right corner. In use scuffs and scratches make this leather look even better. If you don’t like a scuff or scratch then you can buff them out with a soft cloth. It gets some personality pretty quickly. The cover holds 2 notebooks at a time. Sliding a pocket notebook into the pockets was really snug the first few times, and easier over time. Thus far the pockets have only loosened up enough to allow the notebooks to slide in and out more easily. I do not see them getting too loose to hold a notebook snugly. I found that for the first few books notebooks with thinner covers had a tough time being slipped in so I stuck with No Brand Notebooks and Story Supply Co. The rough interior leather burnishes smooth with time and use, but its roughness helps to hold the notebooks inside the cover. The cover is perfectly sized to hold the 2 notebooks there is no excess and no bulge or pressure on the spines.The outer leather is thick and quite stiff, perfect for writing in hand without the need for folding your notebook over onto itself. It took awhile for the leather to break in and be a little more flexible around the spine but it didn’t take too long with constant daily use. One thing that I did find to be a nitpicky thing is that the interior pockets that hold your notebook in place are the same thickness as the exterior leather. A thinner stiff leather would work better. The pockets are also only half the width of the cover so that bulge runs directly down the middle of the page as you write. It is really only a problem when you get to the last few pages of a notebook, but it is a minor nuisance.

Overall if you are in the market for a really nice leather cover this is a pretty good choice. Thanks to the packaging it also makes a nice gift, for someone else or yourself. It retails for $59 but if you sign up for Pen Chalet’s mailing list you get a coupon you can use on your first order. Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig Stone for Squire Pens

The BF Stone is a small machined cylinder of aluminum with a rounded over top. In the center is a round hole that perfectly fits the Squire pen. It is completely solid. The base is indented and the only place the Baron Fig name is laser etched. Otherwise, the Stone is completely unmarked.It is available in one color- Baron Fig light gray. This shade matches most of their pens really well. I think it clashes ever so slightly with the bright green of the Experiment. My Spectre looks fabulous in it though. The Stone is a fabulously minimalistic way to stash your Squire while also keeping it at the ready. It fits into the stone even with the point extended. I’m not sure if that is how you are intended to use it, but I find myself stashing the pen with the point out and only retracting the point at the end of the day. I did test it out to see if I could fit other pens and the only pen that fit was the Paperhate Inkjoy gel. So this is a pen stand for one pen only.

My current writing set up is a little plastic desk that folds up and I find that the Stone slides around on it a bit. I may add a small circle of cork to the base but I also notice it doesn’t do this on my other desk so I might skip the cork. It does look fabulous sitting on my desk with a small cup of pencils nearby.

The Stone retails for $24.99 and is a good companion to any Squire. Continue reading

Review: Staples Arc System Notebooks and Refills

My partner was in the market for a planner but needed something that would also work as a notebook. The BF Planner didn’t fit her needs, she really needed more room for notes and the ability to take pages out of the planner as they needed to be discarded or filed. She also needed enough room to plan the day from morning to late afternoon. Bonus points for a planner that didn’t include times, as many of her tasks are fluid. We looked at Target found nothing and then headed to Staples. I’d mentioned the disc binding system to her in passing, this let me show it to her in depth as well as show her how pages could easily be moved around. Even better, Staples had them on sale for 40% off that week. She purchased a full sized calendar model and I picked  up a half size notebook.While they had a plethora of fun designs in a variety of color, I went with a relatively plain black and white patterned cover with shiny black disks. I’m likely to cover it with stickers so the pattern mattered less to me than getting something that wasn’t too, bright. It was filled with 60 pages of what seems to be the standard ruled ARC system paper. It should be noted here that after I got my notebook home I noticed that it had a copyright date of 2012, and that the paper has changed since then and is much better for fountain pens. The paper in mine was pretty terrible for any liquid ink, feathering and bleeding. The new paper is great. So check and make sure that your ARC system notebooks and refills have a recent copyright date.

The system itself uses mushroom shaped slots on the binding edge that wrap around a disc with a rounded edge. The slots fit around the disc and the shape keeps the page secure, while allowing you to easily remove the page by pulling up from either the top or bottom edge. The page can be easily reinserted into other parts of your notebook simply by fixing the slots around the discs again. It’s rather ingenious.I found that I could easily insert items of other sizes into my notebook by punching the holes and slotting the item in. I needed to have a fax number handy while I made phone calls the easiest thing was to use the punch and create 2 slots on the edge of the card and slot it into the notebook in the right spot. Eventually I’ll write the numbers into the work bible* but for now, it’s very easy to move the card in an out of the notebook as I’m working.I knew I wanted to have an assortment of lined and dot grid pages. I used gridzzly to print off some of each, which I chopped in half and then punched to fit into the notebook. According to the info insert, my discs can hold 150 pages. I’ve got 100 in there now and it feels decent. I’m not sure I’d want to cart around 150 pages though. The larger discs can hold 200 pages.The punch I was able to get at Staples can only do 2 sheets of paper at a time. Which is annoying. I’ve been told that the most of the disc binding punches work for the Staples discs too, but many of those punches will only do 3 sheets at a time, though they are easier to use than the mini punch we bought. I also made some quick dividers to separate my various types of paper from one another.

The poly cover I picked up is thick and sturdy. It’s slightly flexible and forms to the things in my backpack. When I have the notebook opened over onto itself I can write in hand, but It is not quite as stiff as I would like. The covers are about an inch wider than the pages, giving plenty of room for tabs and stick on pen and pencil holders.I didn’t buy any pockets or folders to add to my notebook, but I immediately wished I had when I started to use the book at work. I had a few self guided trainings I wanted to take home with me, but didn’t have anywhere to stow them easily. A pocket would have made that job easier.I’ve been carting my ARC around with me for a few weeks at this point and it’s really doing well being pulled in an out of my bag and being tossed onto a desk and leafed through as I make calls to insurance companies. I’ve moved pages from one section to another and around as I group information for insurance company calls. I’ve also been able to tear out individual pages and toss them without mess.

There are many advantages with the disc bindings over standard 3 ring binders- the mushroom shaped slots are less likely to tear, the pages don’t shift as much so if you use pencil your writing is less likely to blur. A decided down side of the system is that the punches are ridiculously expensive and the cheaper versions are still much more expensive than even a  decent 3-hole punch. If you plan on using this system at all you NEED a punch. It is the only way this system makes sense. You could go all in and buy all the various parts and pieces at Staples/Office Depot/Levenger/ online and never print your own paper or inserts but at some point you may want to corral work info or a print out  into your system and you’ll need a punch. The punch we purchased, the only one available at our local Staples is only capable of punching through 2 sheets of 20lb paper or 1 sheet of cardstock at a time. Let me tell you, the 40 pages of paper I printed? That went really slow at 2 sheets at a time. Very annoying. In sharp contrast the $20 3-hole punch I own can punch 20, 20lb sheets at time. It’s a beast.

In short the disc bound system is awesome. It works great. The pages don’t shift or rub against one another. It was cheap at 40% off to get into, but if I were looking to start out at full price the entrance fee can be VERY intimidating, especially if you are looking at using the leather or fancier covers. The purchase of a punch is also a big investment and like I detailed above, completely necessary if you plan on going all in on the system. Frankly I like the system, but I have been a huge fan of 3-ring binders for years. If you are someone who likes to move info around or need to the disc systems will appeal to you. If you can find a coupon you can get a setup of the Happy Planner at Michael’s for 40 to 50% off. I like the system a lot and it is very functional and useful for planning out projects and gathering research. So worth it but pricey. Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig Strategist aka 3×5 Notecard

The Strategist is a heavyweight white colored 3×5 card with pale gray dot grid ruling on one side with a blank reverse side. Each $9 package has 100 cards with rounded corners.

My package arrived at the right moment for me to write down the beats of my Nano novel in preparation for the second round of edits. In this I wrote with a variety of materials from my BWV No1 to the Mitsuboshi Uni*Star 2B to my Namisu Nova inked with Robert Oster FIre and Ice and my TWSBI 540 inked with RO Walden. The cards handled each ink and graphite with ease. I noted that the card is smoother and less toothy than the paper in the Confidant and Vanguards. Despite lacking the tooth of BF’s other paper it handled the pencils with ease and graphite erased easily. Even better, the cards accepted fountain pens with ease. I noted no feathering or bleeding. My pens stayed true to their nib size. The blank backside of each card was usable too. There wasn’t any show through.  

I love dot grid and I like notecards. These notecards perform as well as any other premium card out there and are priced in the premium tier. At $9 a pack they are 9 cents per card. You can get other brands for less but they won’t work well with a fountain pen or liquid ink. I’ve found that many brands now use thinner cardstock, so even brands that worked well enough in the past are less useful now because the thin cardstock allows for bleed and show through. For $9 you get cards that will work with anything you use to write. Continue reading

Review : Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pen

The Pilot Kakuno is a student’s or beginner’s fountain pen, with a focus on children. As such it is available in a wide variety of colors with standard fine and medium nibs generally available here in the US. Along with that, Pilot has chosen to only import some of the colors available to the US market. My Kakuno is an import clear version and has an extra fine nib. The shiny steel nib has a cute smiley face with tongue out on the top.

The EF nib is made of steel and with a small amount of smoothing is silky smooth on good paper. It skates across my Baron Fig Confidant as I create my Work Bible* I also find it quite nice in my pocket notebooks from Field Notes to Write to Lodestone. It also feels pretty decent on the crappy paper at work. Despite the nice feeling of the nib on the various paper, the papers all respond to the ink as one would expect for that brand. The EF nib is needle thin with a hint of bounce which is nice. It doesn’t create much variation in the line but it feels good as I’m writing.

The grip section is subtly triangular shaped while the rest of the pen is hex shaped. The clear plastic is extremely light weight. Empty it comes in at 11.3g. With a cart it comes in at 12.5g. It’s not a big pen but it isn’t tiny either. The body of the pen is roughly the same size as a Lamy Safari but the cap is slightly smaller. It can be used unposted comfortably or posted without the weight being thrown off. I really like the weight and size of the pen- I can write for long periods without hand fatigue that I get from heavier pens. The Kakuno is great for long writing periods.

Because the pen is hexagonal and roughly the same diameter as a Kaweco Sport I wondered if the Kaweco clip would fit. I ordered one of the older style, plain clips rather than one that has the Kaweco logo emblazoned on the clip. I chose silver so it would match the steel nib. The facets don’t match perfectly but it is snug on the cap. It is a functional addition to the pen, as I need a clip for my DayJob.

IN the several week’s I’ve been using this pen it has survived being clipped to the plackets of my work shirts and being tossed into the pockets of my work pants. The snap on cap stays put and has yet to fall off. The plastic of the pen body has not yet cracks or shown any wear. Despite banging around in my pocket with my wallet, pencil sharpeners and can tabs (don’t ask) the pen hasn’t developed any scratches as of yet.

Despite it being an EF pen the ink flow is good and you get a decent amount of ink on the page. This is both good and bad. Like with the gel pens I’ve written about this means I’m blowing through ink carts very quickly. I’ve been using at least one a week, more often nearly 2. Certainly this can add up in cost it accumulates more frustration for me in terms of plastic waste. I prefer to use a converter but it is not realistic that I refill from a bottle at work. A cartridge I can swap on the fly as I work. I’ve taken to refilling my carts. I’m also looking at filling the holes on the back of the pen body so I can convert to eyedropper.**

Anyway, the Kakuno with an EF nib is great for crappy paper and even better on nice paper. The price for the opaque colors is about $11.75 while the clear is around $12.50 on JetPen. I really like it for my workplace The smiley face puts a smile on some of my client’s faces and can insert some levity into an otherwise difficult situation. It works great on crappy paper and feels good in hand. For the $12.50, the Kakuno is a great little pen.

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