Category Archives: Review

Review: Pen+Gear Gel Ink Stick Pen

Pen+Gear might be Walmart’s house brand but it has contained some surprising quality. I snagged the Pen+Gear Gel Stick Pens (GSP) n a whim from the clearance section post Back-to-School season. Cost in clearance was around 50 cents. Regular price is a few dollars. They are made in China.

In the package are eight 0.7mm pens. Each pen has a grippy rubber grip with circular divots to improve the grip. The tip at the working end is metal. The tip unscrews to reveal a pretty standard stick pen gel refill. Each refill has a different amount of ink. You can see the differences in the images of the package. The refill doesn’t last very long. It took less than a half week for me to blow through one at my day job.

The ink itself is nicely dark, doesn’t grey out in the middle, and has really nice flow. Some of my pens were perfectly wonderfully smooth, others were scratchy and felt gross on all paper. The ink seems moderately waterproof. I do not know if it is lightfast. I have not tested it.

The cap snaps closed securely and with a nice click. It posts in the same manner. All of it is nicely secure.

Please ignore the words. This was the one good pen in the package.

You might recognize the design from several sources- the design is a direct rip off of the Uniball Signo DX stick gel pen. It also looks like the Staples Stick Gel pens, which I suspect are made by Uniball. Frankly the Pen+Gear GSP looks as though Walmart passed a Signo DX and said, “Scan this, but change everything just enough so we don’t get sued.”

Honestly, while the Pen+Gear pencils and notebooks are a steal these aren’t. You have to find the pens that work smoothly and contend with scratchy tips to do so. Even if you need a cheap waterproof sketcher you can usually walk into any store (here in the US) and pick up a 2 or 3-pack of Uniball Signo in black for not much more and have almost guaranteed smoothness and success. The Pen+Gear GSP is a pass from me.

Review: Yoobi 3×5 Index Cards and Case

The Yoobi Back to School sale display at my local Target included a 3×5 card case with 100 index cards, dividers, and labels. The hard poly case with elastic closure is great. At $2.99 they aren’t a steal but they aren’t a bad deal either.

The cards are paper thin and floppy. There is no header space above the ruling and the ruling itself is VERY dark. Despite being thin there is no show or bleed through with anything I wrote with, fountain pens included. The paper is smooth and crisp. Fountain pens feel great on it, and the ink looks great too. No feathering at all. Pencil tends to smear a bit and there isn’t enough tooth for pencils to feel good.

The case feels sturdy and the elastic is tight and holds the contents inside. The thin poly dividers are fun colors and the labels stick well enough.

Overall, I’m not impressed with the Yoobi index cards. They are thick paper not card. The ruling is too dark. They do okay with fountain pen ink but that’s not enough to make an index card for me. I do like the case and dividers.

Review: Moonman Pocket Mini Fountain Pen

My Instagram feed has been full of pics of Moonman fountain pens for ages. I pushed down the FOMO for months, finally I found a version of the pocket mini on eBay for less than $13 and I pulled the trigger, and almost a month later it arrived.

The packaging is a simple white box with a glossy embossed image of the closed pen. Inside, the tiny pen is sheathed in a tight plastic sleeve and set into die cut foam. In the box are 2 pipettes and a package of 6 international short ink carts. The most difficult part of the packaging is getting the pen out of the snug plastic sleeve.

I always wash my new pens with some plain water to clean out any machining gunk left behind from the manufacturing process. I disassembled the pen to its bits and bobs- body, section, nib, feed and the screw in bit that holds the nib and feed into the section. Each of the parts that screws into the other has a small white o-ring for sealing. I added some silicone grease to further seal the pen as I intended to use it eyedropper.

Closed the pen is tiny. Smaller than a Kaweco Sport. It disappears into my pocket. Even filled with ink it is incredibly lightweight. The pen holds just over 2 ml  of ink when eyedroppered. Which is a ton of those short international short carts or 3 international long carts. The pen will only hold international short carts. I immediately inked my pen up with Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo.

Ink flow is good. It’s not wet nor is it dry. My nib out of the box was smooth, but not silky smooth. I ran it over a buffing stick to get it to the smoothness I prefer. I then manipulated it a bit to get some line variation, it’s not quite an architect grind but similar. The nib can be replaced with a (I think) number 5 nib from any of the standard sellers of nibs.

I really enjoy the seaglass green color with the slight frosted look inside the cap. It combines with blue inks to look really lovely. The overly thick body size is nice. I find that it feels pretty good when I write. The section is small enough that the pen doesn’t feel overly fat. The drop from body to section is steep and a tad sharp. Because it is a $13 pen I won’t feel bad if I file and sand this down to something that works better for my hand. As it is the step doesn’t sit on an awkward place in my hand.

This is not going to be a pen for everyone. If you have large hands you will probably not like this pen. If you don’t like the Kaweco Sport you probably will find this too small. It is a stubby tiny pen with a decent nib and feed.  We’ll see how it holds up over time I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks. I’ve certainly let it bang around in my pocket over these few weeks and it’s done okay. I’ve noticed a few small scratches in the plastic after keeping in a pocket with my work keys. Oops.

Review: Zebra Delguard Mechanical Pencil

Let’s start this review with this fact, the Zebra Delguard is a budget-friendly mechanical pencil. It is no way competes with great mechs like the Rotring 600 or TWSBI Precision. If you are looking for a wallet-friendly upgrade from your Bic Mechanical, this is a good choice. The pencil comes packaged with a 12-pack of HB leads.

First off in the look department, this pencil is a charcoal gray and black pencil with chrome and orange accents. The top half of the body has a pinstripe visual look that seems as if it is intended to look like carbon fiber or something a little fancier. It looks pretty nice. The grip section is molded smoke-colored translucent plastic. You can see the workings of the DelGuard mechanism inside. The nock and the point are the only external metal parts of the pencil. The nock covers a tiny niblet of an eraser, so carry a block eraser. Internally you can see springs in the DelGuard mechanism. A single click extends 0.5mm of lead every time.

A big negative for me is that there is no way to unscrew the pencil should the mechanism jam, you are in a word, screwed, should the pencil jam up. That said, it’s a $4.99 mech readily available at big box, drug, and grocery stores; most likely you won’t cry if it gets jammed you’ll have the funds to buy a new one.

In hand this is a VERY lightweight pencil. It’s a barely there feeling that I expected to hate, but I didn’t. I wrote page after page and enjoyed it far more than I expected. It felt good despite weighing so little.

As for the mechanism, it works. When the lead is extended at a typical amount the little tip pushes out and protects the lead. At a high angle or a low angle, it works. The only time it broke in regular use was when I extended the lead more than 2mm, even then you could see the tip beginning to extend to protect the lead. The key to the DelGuard mechanism working properly is extending the right amount of lead at a time. And it does work. When I wrote with a heavy hand the tip extended.

The included lead is a true HB. It’s decent on rough paper but is nothing to write home about. I did find it decently smooth, though not as smooth as NanoDia leads.

My experience with the DelGuard is positive. I’m encouraged by how well the mechanism works on their lowest end version of this mech. It makes me want to invest in a higher end version from JetPens. If I had a teenager or friend who I was attempting to get them away from disposable mechanicals this would be a fabulous cheap option.

Jetpens has a bunch of higher end options which are still south of $15.

Review: Baron Fig Dateless Confidant Planner

We all know I’m a huge fan of the Baron Fig Confidants, and if you read my review of the 2018 planner you know I love their planner too. When BF asked if I wanted to review their dateless version, I immediately responded, “YES!”

To start the Dateless features all the same goodness of their regular Confidant- fabulous paper, lovely end sheets, awesome stitching, and lay flat binding. The page marker this round is slightly longer. I heat sealed mine with a lighter and you should too. Like last year’s planner, this one features a set of planner pages with some dot grid at the back of the book. A section of the dog gridded pages are perforated for easy removal.

I’m a huge fan of undated planners. I mentioned this in my review of the Dateless Vanguard. It makes sense for companies to make dateless planners and it is easy for those of us who use them to write in the dates. The paper in the Confidant accepts rubber stamps and markers really well, so adding decorative touches is easy and looks great. If you want to use a dip pen with some of your fancy Organic Studios sheening inks? You can do that. Want to use a rubber stamp with your fancy pigment rubber stamps? Works well with that too.

The set up of the planner portion features a spread for the month followed by 5 weeks of weekly spreads. It makes sense to have them all be the same length because folks could be starting the Dateless today and not on January 1st. I really like the flexibility. I wrote in each month’s spread then stamped out the dates for each weekly spread until I reached the week where the months overlapped. If I had extra spreads, I skipped those. I figure having a few empty spreads will give me some space to make notes for phone calls and other things.

The exterior of the Dateless is nice too. It features debossing of the same images on the Dateless Vanguard. The Dateless is a darker shade of gray than the dated version.

Anyway, the Dateless Confidant is a darn near perfect planner for folks who don’t want to be tied into a dated version or who work projects over the course of a month or two and find that the rest of the planner is wasted. The dateless fixes that problem, date the parts you’ll use and then date some more. You can’t go wrong with this paper- it is lovely with pens and pencils.

Review : Baron Fig Dateless Pocket Vanguard Planner

We all know that I love Baron Fig’s paper and dot grid ruling. I’ve used their dated 2018 planner as my go-to for the last year and I love that too. I’ll tell you about their Dateless Confidant in another review.

The Dateless Vanguard is available in pocket size only with the Confidant available in flagship size.  The Dateless Vanguard (DV) arrives in a belly banded and shrinkwrapped 4-pack. The books are meant to be seasonal. Each book has 15 weekly spreads, 2 blank spreads, and  14 pages of dot grid. The pages at the back are not perforated. Each season is designated with a simple and beautiful graphic in shades of the color of that season- red, yellow, green and blue. The exterior design is lovely.

Inside the pages are set up with 8 blocks for each week, 4 on each page. The top bar is grayed slightly and has lines for writing the date. Each block but the 8th has a small line for writing (or in my case rubber stamping) the date. The 8th block is grayed out with a very light printing of ink. I prefer an 8 block set up to 6 with the 6th being cut in half. Weekends are main working days for those of us with side hustles. (When do you think I work on this blog!?!)

Let’s face it, for many folks a pocket-sized planner isn’t going to cut it, but for many others- with occasional appointments and regular work schedules the pocket-sized is perfect. The bright colors can easily be found in the depths of an overstuffed bag while the small size can fit into the passport size Traveler’s covers. The 15-week length is almost perfect for a semester’s worth of planning. (You could just draw a few lines into those blank pages… ) Or it is perfect for planning out some sort of side hustle project.
I won’t use this for my main planner, we’ll get to that with the Dateless Confidant, but this is a go-to for planning smaller projects- marketing for self-publishing books, podcasts, or blogs. You could have one for each project and plan it out to the day.

Review: Yoobi Mini Gel Pen 12-pack

The Yoobi display filled up with loads of different gel pen packages. The full sized multicolor package was outside of my budget, so I picked up the 12-pack of mini pens for $4.99, which is still way over priced. While back-to-school sales can net us some great deals this is not one of them. For 2018, the multicolor packs of gel pens seem to be the thing that is WAY expensive compared to other items that are on discount.

This 12-pack of color has an odd rainbow mix of neon and glitter inks. The mix is odd and most of them I won’t use- primarily the glitter inks. While I like glittery sheen in my fountain pen inks I don’t like it in gel. It doesn’t make sense. I know. Don’t @ me.

The tips are bold and have great flow. I didn’t notice any scratchiness, just smooth ink flow. The pens are totally uncomfortable. When they say mini, they mean it. The length of the pen is far to short even for my small hands. They would only be comfortable for children. Even posted they are too short. Speaking of posting, they don’t post well at all.

Overall, the Yoobi gel minis have wonderful ink flow, would be great for coloring pages or highlighting, but their diminutive size and poor posting mean they’ll be a pain in the arse in use for anything but children, and kids are likely to lose the caps. I’d give the full-size Yoobi gel pens a chance but not the mini pens.

Review: Composition Notebooks at Walmart

The Walmart near me is out of my way so getting to it is a bit of a pain in the arse. I finally had a reason to go that was more pressing than just picking up a few notebooks. School started over a week ago and there were still parents and kids in there buying notebooks. Maybe they were hoping to cash in on some sweet clearance deals, but they were as surprised as I that clearance prices were not applied.

I picked up 4 different notebooks, 3 were actual composition notebooks while another was a sneak in disguise.

Studio C

  • Clear Poly Cover with decorative stickers
  • Wide rule only
  • Perfect bound and thus NOT a composition book
  • $1.96

To be fair the Studio C notebook sports the same great paper as every other Studio C notebook. In this case the paper is slightly rougher than the other versions, but works well with every ink I tossed at it. All inks that sheen, sheened highly, and glitter glittered. Pencil feels great on this slightly toothier version of the Studio C paper.

The poly cover is floppy and you cannot write in hand with this notebook. The biggest downer of this book is that it is perfect or glue bound instead of being stitched. Even after my review the back page was falling out. It will be great for letter writing or notes that need to be put into other books. Overall, I’m unimpressed.

Mead Fashion Cover 100 Pages

  • Thin card covers
  • Fun patterns and colors
  • Contrasting white spine tape
  • 100 pages
  • The palest of pale blue ruling
  • 50 cents

The covers of these Mead comps are gorgeous. I love the colors, patterns, and designs. I wanted to pick out one of each pattern and color. I’m glad I didn’t. This paper was absolute garbage with fountain pens and liquid ink. Some of my gel pens bled through. This is a ballpoint and pencil only notebook.

Exceed by Norcom

  • Thick poly covers,
  • Thick smooth paper
  • Dark blue ruling
  • 80 sheets
  • Made in the USA!!!
  • $1.47

I had high hopes for this comp book, the Exceed Moleskine knockoffs have gotten rave reviews from many of my friends, and are offered in dot grid. Then.  I saw that it was made by Norcom. Norcom makes great comp books but not one I’ve tried has a bit of fountain pen compatibility. That was the case with these. Not only did inks feather and bleed, but they soaked through to the page behind! Not good. Pencil, ballpoint,  and gel inks performed well.

As poly covers go, this is a good one, you’ll just need to use pencil or ballpoint. The stitching is great.

Pen+Gear by Walmart

  • 80 pages
  • Medium blue ruling
  • Thin, floppy poly cover
  • Well stitched
  • Overly narrow, black taped spine
  • 50 cents

Last year’s version of the P+G comp was garbage. I picked this up because it was 50 cents and I wanted to see if it was still garbage. The paper is smooth and feels good. I was surprised when I used my fountain pens and nothing feathered or bled. Inks looked amazing on this paper and my pens felt amazing too. Loads of sheen and glimmery glitter.

Anyway, the mighty have fallen and some have risen. In the composition book grande battle royale, there are a few winners and a few losers. The winner hands down are the Studio C- they aren’t the best price but they offer a sturdy binding and the best of the best in paper. If you want the best price- the Target Unison at 50 cents is the best classic covered at the best price. They also sport some amazing paper. If you want a poly cover (why, why would you?) the Pen+Gear was a surprising winner at Walmart this year. The paper is lovely and the plain colors are great. They had a number of foiled holographic fashion covers available, sadly also poly covered.

Review: Cognitive Surplus “The Hypothesis” Hardcover Notebook

Cognitive surplus designated this a notebook but it functions quite well as a journal.

The nitty gritty:

  • 7×9 inches
  • Hardcover, with a waterproof coating
  • 192 pages of 80 gsm paper
  • Pale gray ruling, graph on the left, lines on right; available in different ruling online
  • Fountain pen friendly paper, with medium or smaller nibs
  • Designed in Portland, OR made in China
  • Lengthy gray ribbon page marker.
  • $18.95 at Bob Slate in Cambridge MA, and in their online shop

I picked up the Crystallization cover because it has geometric shapes on a dark teal background. They have many other cover options in many other colors in their online shop. I particularly like the Planetary Motion, Neurons, Models of the Universe, and Brain Anatomy. The designers at CS have a great sense of color and design. They mix old-timey scientific drawings with text and color in a way that I find particularly interesting.

The cover is smooth and not quite slippery in hand. It has a satin finish that has gotten burnished with use and shows a few spots of shine as I’ve pulled it in and out of my bag. I’ve been a bit… rough, with it and it’s showing the consequences. The burnishing is barely noticable.

Inside I found the signatures of the book to be securely stitched and glued. I did not find any glue creep or loose stitching in my book. The block is cut cleanly and square. It is fitted into the cover well. The whole thing opens flat on desk or in hand. The covers are stiff and solid, allowing the book to be used for writing in hand. It even folds over onto itself well. Surprisingly well considering that the binding utilizes a piece of card across the spine, a practice which I find usually interferes. IN this case it is done well enough that it doesn’t interfere at all.

The paper is decently smooth with most of my finer nibbed pens. I only noticed feathering with ink that has general issues with bleed through, the majority of my inks were well behaved and looked great. Inks that sheen exhibited a great deal of sheen. Glittery inks glittered. I did not note any ink spread. Nib size is true on this paper. All other inks performed well on this paper- grl, rollerball, and ballpoint were all fabulous.

The paper also has excellent tooth for pencils. It’s at a great amount for even softer darker pencils. I found that my soft dark pencils held a point quite well. My harder pencils also performed well on this paper. They put down a decent amount of lead to the page and smudging is minimal. Pencil felt superb to me on this paper.

Overall, I love the designs on the covers and the paper is great. The size works well for notes or journaling. It’s just a smidge smaller than a composition notebook so fits in most backpacks and messenger bags with ease. the cover is sturdy and allows for writing in hand. At $18.95 these aren’t cheap, but they are a solid choice for a journaling splurge or gifting to your favorite stationery fan.

No affiliate links today. I bought this book with my own cash money and no one influenced my review. But hey if Cognitive Surplus wanted to hit me up with review copies of their other books I’d be down to review the rest of their line. They have POCKET NOTEBOOKS with their colorfully printed covers!!!

Review: Baron Fig LE Confidant Wander Dream Journal

I’ll get this part of the reviw out of the way- the Wander journal is a Confidant with a few tweaks that make it even more lovely. The base the Wander is built off of has lovely paper, a great binding, and sturdy covers. The book’s Smythe stitching lays flat on a table for easy writing. In short if you are going to make a specialty use journal, the Confidant is a perfect base to begin with.

Baron Fig seems to have added a decent amount of length to their page marker ribbons which, makes them useable! I can grasp the ribbon and open the book with it. Lovely.

The exterior of this book is gorgeous. Deep midnight blue is accented with debossed silver foil stars and a moon. The fabric itself has a glint and glimmer of silver woven into the fabric. The combination of debossing and hint of glitter is lovely. The debossed stars and moon are wonderfully tactile under my fingers. NOt only is the texture of the fabric a tactile feel in hand but the feel of the stars is great too. I’ve said this before (re: Raspberryhoney) but the debossed Confidants are pettable. The color combination of the midnight blue cover, the deeply shaded end sheets and additional midnight blue pages plus the dusty blue ribbon is beautiful.

I forgot to mention this Confidant has one new feature that I love- a silvery gray elastic to hold the whole thing shut. Hells yeah! My elastic feels snug and silky soft in hand. It feels pretty sturdy in hand. I hope Baron Fig considers adding this as a regular feature for their Confidants.

What really sets the Wander apart from other Confidants is the specialty interior. At the edge of each page are tools to quickly record emotions, quality, viewpoint, etc about the dream. The journal is set up so that you record each dream on 2 pages, or what we in the journaling world call, “spreads.” Each spread consists of a “recall” or lined page where you record the dream, the right hand page is divided into two sections- visualize or a blank section where you can draw or doodle and finally a dotted line section called interpret.

If you are someone who dreams this is likely to be a great journal for recording your dreams. Even if you don’t dream this could be a useful journal for just examining the events of your day, or one particular event. this would be a great journal to use for examining cognitive distortions.

Overall, this is a gorgeous journal with a very specific end use. I see it as going down in BF history as a bit of genius despite it probably not being a best seller. Though, if you have a friend who analyzes their dreams this would be a perfect gift. This is another thing BF does well- each of their journals arrives in a perfect gift box, which makes them easy to gift wrap.