Category Archives: Review

Review: Staedtler My First Norica Jumbo Triangular HB Pencil

The name of this pencil is a mouthful. This is a jumbo triangular pencil, if you’ve used other large diameter pencils, you’ll like this one. This is a full jumbo, but triangular. It’s fat in hand. I sharpened mine with the Dahle 133, which puts a vampire staking point onto any jumbo pencil. The MFN didn’t disappoint what a lovely point. It sharpens well with the Dahle but also the small hand sharpener, just not to the vampire killing point.

The finish on the MFN is average but glossy and blue. The same shade as the not-US version of the standard Norica. Inside is the 2014 Norica core. It’s thick, smooth and dark, everything we loved about the early days of the Norica. It holds a point for a long time and looks great on every paper I’ve put it on.

Overall this is a lovely, if hard to find pencil. I cannot find them on Amazon or from a reputable dealer online. I purchased mine at Bob Slate in Cambridge, MA so if you are looking for them they are 95¢in their loose pencil display.

If you find a good online source for these pencils, post it in the comments!

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Review: Baron Fig Card Sleeve

This review is a little outside my typical reviews. That said, I think you’ll appreciate it.

I have carried a front pocket wallet for many years. I started in college with a zippered card sleeve that was intended for student ID and maybe a few other cards, plus a zippered pocket for your cash. It was integrated into a keychain. I had several different versions over the years, but I always liked the form factor.

After I graduated I switched over to a card sleeve with an integrated cash clip. I liked these more but the clip always wore a hole into my jeans or irritated my leg. Around 3 or 4 years ago I switched over to a Cortier leather card fold, basically, 2 card sleeves linked that folds over on itself. Cortier is a Massachusetts based leather goods maker that has set my bar for all leather goods. Which is to say, my bar is set ridiculously high when it comes to leather goods. (WE could also talk about One Star Leather too. Or hell Galen Leather.)

The BF Card Sleeve (BFCS) arrives in perfect packaging, a little gray cardstock envelope. It looks lovely. Inside the wallet is swaddled in tissue paper, The presentation is perfect for gifts. I felt like I was opening a gift for myself.

I picked the gray and yellow colored wallet. The exterior is gray with bright mustard yellow inside. I love the coloration of the leather. I’ll make a few notes about the feel of the wallet. The maker uses a very different leather than most that make things by hand. This leather is crisp and stiff. Unlike most artisanal makers who use cordovan or shell leather which is supple soft and has an amazing hand feel, you won’t be petting this wallet. The stitching is thin and looks like regular machine stitching, unlike the thick thread I’m accustomed to seeing from the artisanal makers.

I admit I was skeptical that I’d like this card sleeve. It was too crisp too slim, too little. I was able to slip 9 cards into the various pockets. The interior slot seems to be sized for cash, but I’ve yet to carry any cash with it. Instead, I’ve got my license and insurance cards in that middle slot. One slot holds the 3 credit cards I use regular, the other my gas card, a loyalty card for the local cafe I love, and my library card.* Whe I went into Cambridge to visit a friend, I slid my Charlie card into one of the outter pockets, I was able to scan the card withoutremoving it from the sleeve. Perfection.

What I really love about this little card sleeve is that it is lightweight and disappears into my pocket. Unlike other card sleeves I’ve used, there isn’t anything that protrudes to wear unsightly holes in my denim, nor does it cause unseemly wallet bulges in my front pocket. It is lightweight and feels great. The stiff leather grips the cards well but allows for them to slide out with ease, but they don’t fall out.

You can get yours over at Baron Fig. At $35 it’s not a bad deal for a well-made card sleeve that really does disappear into your pocket. The hardest part of owning this wallet is figuring out what cards you are going to shove into it.

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Review: Semikolon Journal A6

This journal or pocket notebook feature 64 leaves or 128 pages of blank cream-colored paper. It measures 105x148mm or 4.1×5.8 inches. In other words, pretty standard pocket-sized. The corners are sharp. The whole notebook is held together with 2 regular steel colored staples. The notebooks are available in several different colors and are shrink wrapped.

Mine is burgundy or brick red colored. It’s a nice vibrant color. The paper has a pleasing texture. The cover stock is the same weight as the interior pages, which doesn’t bode well for it doing well in a pocket. This is a book that will require a cover of some sort.

The paper inside is cream colored and has a laid texture, which is lovely. The paper responds very well to fountain pens, inks of all kinds, and all the pencils I tested. It’s really quite lovely. I look forward to sketching on its pages.

At Almost $5 for the little pocket-sized notebook, I’m not sure it is a great value. IF I had a cover that fits it, I may feel differently. But as it is, I just don’t feel like I’ll get enough bang for my buck on this notebook. Continue reading

Review: MD Paper Products Pencil B Grade

The Midori pencils have been around for awhile, and I snagged one in a swap but bought my first package of them while in Cambridge. You can find them online easily but also at Black INk in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

These pencils feature a cream colored matte finish over fabulously scented cedar. The imprint is in black and crisp. They are eraser less and the ends are not finished. Each end is ever so slightly domed. The domed ends are a lovely little detail, something I’ve come to expect from Midori products.

They sharpen well in every sharpener I’ve used, from Classroom Friendly to Masterpiece to Pollux. The cedar shaves off smoothly and the lead sharpens to a perfect point. The B grade core is darker and softer than many B grades. Compared to European pencils, like Staedtler I”d rate is a 3 or 4 B while in Japanese pencils I’d say it is closer to a Mitsubishi 2B. The core is silky smooth and reminds me of Mitsubishi pencils. It glides over the paper and lays down a nice dark line as I write. Sketching this pencil produces decent darks and lights, it won’t produce the darkest of darks, but it does a good enough job for general sketching.

These aren’t the cheapest of pencils. I picked up a 6-pack for almost $11, still cheaper than Blackwing Volumes and around the same price as the regular Blackwings, with a vastly different look. Continue reading

Review: Ohto Sharp Pencil 0.5 Mechanical

The Ohto Sharp Pencil (OSP form here) is wood cased with lovely cedar and designed to look like a standard number 2 pencil. The design mostly works, with a few little details that could work better.

First, let me tell you about the good parts of the OSP. The wood casing is the size of a regular number two pencil. It is lightly varnished with a clear satin finish. The imprint is black, crisp and looks fabulous. The “ferrule” is silver aluminum but is also available in brass, but more about that later. Seated in the ferrule is a cup, with a standard pink eraser.

At the working end, the pencil features a small brass cone and guide. If your pencil gets jammed up with broken leads you are SOL, the tip cannot be unscrewed to be cleared. I tried and the tip did not budge no matter how much I attempted to remove it. The interior mechanism appears to be made with a combination of metal and plastic. For less than $5 this is to be expected. Ohto makes a higher end version with a brass colored ferrule and no eraser. The interior appeared to be the same as the cheaper version, the big difference is the lack of eraser and brass coloration.

I find that the mechanism to work well. Leads deploy at roughly 0.5mm per click and the click while soft is satisfying. The supplied lead is smooth and appears to be a hard HB. I swapped mine out with some NanoDia in 2B which works wonderfully in this pencil.

The OSP 0.5 mechanical suffers from the same issues as the Ohto Sharp Pencil 2.0 mm, in that the eraser cup floats around in the ferrule and clicks as you write. The 2.0 mm version has a very small amount of room and required a quick wrap of sticky tape to solve the metal on metal click. The OSP has a larger amount of room and required a wrap with washi tape to solve the issue.

This points out a regular issue I have with many Ohto products- their half-assing their design and production. Ohto puts out lovely, really nice designs that fall flat in production values. This design is lovely, but the rattling of the eraser cup in the ferrule is beyond annoying. Solving this issue is as simple as a wrap of tape around the cup, but Ohto could solve the issue by inserting a plastic sleeve into the ferrule. I get that they are attempting to get their products into a certain price point (affordable/cheap) but I’d gladly pay an extra buck for this pencil without the issue. Let’s face it several other companies have made wood-cased mechanical pencils at much higher price points.

Overall, if you love wood-cased pencils and mechanicals this is a nice mashup, especially for $5. Does it perform as well as my Rotring 600? No, but I’m not going to use it for anything but notes and writing, not draughting fancy plans. Continue reading

Review: Tofty Via Shapeways Refill Adapter

I’ve been wanting a gel pen refill for my Squire since I got the thing. Don’t get me wrong I love the Schmidt P8126 refill that comes with them, but I love gel ink, particularly on the paper at work. As I’ve detailed before, my DayJob has the finest cheapest crappy printer paper, and everything bleeds on it. Gel pens seem to perform the best. Well, that and ballpoint.

After a chat with Ana of The Well-Appointed Desk, I tested out a bunch of the gel refills I had around on my desk. Only to continue the conversation (as pen nerds do) and find that Baron Fig had narrowed up the nose of the Squire and it will only accept a few refills, namely those with a tip roughly the same diameter of the P8126. This leaves you with using standard Parker type refills, and Parker does make a lovely gel refill that I destroy in under a week.

But in my discussion with Ana, she suggested Tofty and his adapters. I headed over to Shapeways and Tofty’s page and ordered a few adapters. I also ordered some Schmidt D1 ballpoint refills. D1 refills are a steal on the ‘Zon, I snagged a 10-pack for cheap. Are they the best? No. As far as ballpoints go, they aren’t bad. They write smoothly and don’t blob.

Anyway. The D1 refill slide into the adapter- BE CAREFUL the adapters should be snug and hold onto that refill like, well you make up your own metaphor/simile here, my mind isn’t going to good places. It takes a bit of effort to get the refill into the adapter but once it is in there, it STAYS in there. I found it helpful to get the refill started into the adapter, install it into my pen and then press the tip of the refill straight down into a pad of paper, which fully seats the refill every time. To remove the refill, take it out of the pen, hold the adapter in on hand and grip the D1 refill with a pair of plier and yank.

Like most of the Shapeways stuff, I’ve picked up… The plastic looks cheap, feel fragile, and gets filthy in moments. It doesn’t matter so much with these adapters because they live inside the pen and so long as it’s not a transparent pen, they are hidden. Thus far I’ve been using one inside a Squire for a few months and I’ve been happy with the change. It does its job well.

At $5.50 the price is… A little high in my mind. BUT over time and with 10 D1 refills over P8126 you’ll save a few bucks. Continue reading

Review: Tofty via Shapeways Pen Clip

This clip has been mentioned on RSVP multiple times yet I’ve failed to post a review. My thoughts on this clip are mixed.

I picked up the white processed versatile plastic. It’s got a rough finish I rather like but it looks filthy very quickly. For another $4.50 you can get a smoother premium plastic. White goes with everything, and given how many color variations Baron Fig has, black and white are the best choices (to me.)  The 9mm clip worked for me, but 8.5mm might also work with a snugger fit.

The part of the clip that wraps around your pen is delicate, BE CAREFUL when you slide the pen into it, or you might crush or crack it and it won’t work. Sigh. I’ve ordered 2 of these because the first clip I ordered was 10mm and too big and of course I crushed that one. Once you get the right size for your pen, the clip slides on and fits nicely at a good point on the BF Squire pen body. It doesn’t look great, but it is perfectly functional.

Scratch that. The Tofty clip is a wart on a beautiful pen body. It’s ugly AF and I hate it except for the fact that it means I can now use my Squires at work. My work environment means I’m up and moving around and I need to be able to grab my pen (clipped to the buttons of my shirt) quickly for notes. I can’t leave it on my desk in the Stone like I do when I’m at home. For work use, my pens MUST have a clip, and Tofty’s are ugly but functional and they won’t scratch the anodized finish like other slide on metal clips will. I won’t even look at the Peerless pencil clip as an option, that things scratch my fingers if I look at it wrong.

Anyway, if you can look past the aesthetics of the Tofty clips it is the only option for BF Squire that slides on securely. At $4.50 it’s not super cheap but it is affordable. Continue reading

Review: Brandless Softcover Notebook 3-pack

I reviewed the Brandless gel pens over here. My wife likes to add on a new stationery item with every order as a surprise to me. 🙂

Like all the other Brandless items a 3-pack is $3. Each notebook contain 30 sheets or 60 pages. There are multiple signatures in each notebook and they are stitched together and then glued to the cover. The cover is soft and pretty floppy, it is impossible to write in hand with these notebooks. That said they are about composition notebook size and fit into any cover that fits comp books. The corners are square and not rounded.

The matte cover features ridges of texture and a white area to write into, no Brandless info on the front cover. Discreetly on the back is the brandless logo.

The paper inside is college ruled in dark gray. The ruling is dark enough that it doesn’t blend into the background but stands out. The paper is thin, very thin. It does not work well with fountain pens. Some of my inks feathered, but not all. Most all had show through and many had bleed through. Even some of my gel pens bleed through the page. The paper responded best with ballpoint and pencil. Pencil was really nice on this paper.

These aren’t great notebooks but they aren’t bad if you stick to pencil and are just looking for something to jot down a few study notes or thoughts on book reviews. They don’t feel special or particularly nice, but they are okay. It’s not a bad way to get your Brandless order up for free shipping. Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig X Codecademy Computerworld LE Vanguard

I’ve reviewed a few BF vanguard sets in the past. This set sports the same great paper and soft but sturdy card cover with stitched spines. The big difference in this set is that they arrive in a box, instead of belly banded and shrink wrapped. If you are seeking a lovely presentation for a gift, this is a good one. The interior paper is printed with a nicely sized ruling with numbered lines. The numbers are pale enough that if you wish, you can write over them and it won’t interfere with reading your writing later.

What is truly enjoyable about this set are the covers. Each cover sports a different theme and intricate artwork that I can’t help but stare at as I think. The covers are colorful but use muted shades of all the colors used. Teal, yellow, and magenta call back to the late 80s and early 90s while the interior numbered lines are a full-on thrown back to dot matrix printer paper I used in elementary school.

The back cover of each book is one solid color with an icon in the center and the title of the set in the bottom center. It is a simple reprieve from the business of the front. The inside covers sport a pale shade of that back cover with info about the cover in white text. Overall, the covers are lovely.

This is the first Vanguard set I’ve received with a sheet of stickers. I think it is a great addition to the set. BF has pulled out little icons from the covers and made stickers. They are a lot of fun.

Overall this set is a lot of fun. It looks great and has amazing paper inside.

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Review: Baron Fig LE Apprentice The Atomic Edition

Baron Fig hasn’t put out an Apprentice in years. This is a great new edition that I love. My RSVP cohost, Lenore might hate the planetary atomic model but I love the look.

The pale baby blue textured cover feels great in my hand. The tactile feel of all the BF covers really draws me in, this is no exception. I find myself picking the notebook up without thinking about it. The spine is stitched, which I’ve blathered on about my favorite of all the pocket notebook bindings.  It’s sturdy and mine are all straight and well done.

Inside the covers live 48 pages of cream-colored dot grid paper. As usual, the grid is pale gray and fades behind any writing. The paper is great with pencil, ballpoint, gel, and rollerball, but I found that my fountain pens tended to have a great deal of show through and even a bit of bleed. It doesn’t feather so I use my EF and F nibbed pens on it and ignore the show through.

My big problem with the BF Apprentice isn’t the bleed or show through with fountain pens, it is the size. It is about ½ inch (1cm) too short and roughly ¼ inch (5mm) narrower than most other pocket notebooks. The size feels precious and small. The size feels great in hand but it doesn’t fit any over my covers and slides down deep into my Nock FodderstackXL. Of course, this means that if I want to slap this into a cover I’m stuck using the BF Guardian.  

Overall, this is a worthy addition to the scores of pocket notebooks on the market, but I think BF missed out by not making this the standard pocket notebooks size. The stitched binding could have made this a serious contender but instead, it falls a little short and narrow. Continue reading