Category Archives: Review

Review: Notegeist Pencilog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Amazon Basics Fountain Pen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Baronfig Letters to the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Wing Sung 601 Vacuumatic

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Review: Higgins Black Magic Fiber Tip Marker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Bic Gelocity 0.5mm Gel Pen

I’m going to start with this rather bold statement, I wanted to hate this pen from the moment I opened it’s blister package. But I don’t, not entirely.

The Gelocity is an inexpensive pen, a 4-pack costs $3 at Walgreen’s and less if you look for a sale. They are sold in a blister pack ready to hang on a peg. There is nothing particularly eye catching with the package or the pen. As far as packaging goes, it is as standard as one can get.

What caught my eye was the 50% off sale offer. Except I didn’t read the fine print, I needed to buy 2 Bic products, one at regular price and the second lower priced item at 50%. Well, crap. Still at $3 these aren’t breaking the bank.

Once the package is open, you see that you get what you pay for. As far as gel pens are concerned you aren’t getting much with the Gelocity. The pens look cheap and feel cheaper. The clear plastic is adorned with concentric circle blob things that look like doodles on might make in a design program when first learning. The end cap removes but you can’t take the refill out from the end cap end, nope only from the point end.

The cap itself is removed and posts with a satisfying click. The clip does not look like it will survive a day in a classroom let alone the amount of time it will last in use. The nose/tip is made of plastic, the whole pen is made entirely of plastic, except for the tip of the refill. This makes the pen ultra lightweight. It is also very narrow.

Which brings me to the grip. There is a silicone sleeve with some grooves molded into it. It sits above the area where the cap clips. It is too high for my hand grip, so my fingers grip the hard plastic of the cap clipping area. Which I found uncomfortable but not painful.

So the pen is not great in the feels department.

The refill though, if you like a narrow line feels and looks more like a 0.38mm to me. It isn’t dry but has that narrow point scratchy feel of a 0.38mm on the paper. The gel ink isn’t stingy it has good flow and is nicely black. The narrowness of the line is nice for some tiny doodling and sketching, allowing for some nice cross hatching and building up of darkness. I have not tested it for lightfastness. It does seem to have some water resistance but is not waterproof, so not a great sketching gel for anyone interested in using watercolors.

If you are in need of a bunch of pens for cheap this isn’t the worst choice. If you are looking for a multi use pen that allows you to write and sketch with perhaps a bit of watercolor work added, this isn’t it. 

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Review: Pencil Revolution The Zine

I love zines. I’ve loved them for years and years. I’ve made many of my own and collected a lot of them. Sadly I’ve lost the couple of hundred that I had collected. So when Johnny of Pencil revolution, the blog told me he was starting a zine, I got excited. I had no idea what he had planned, but I knew it would be good. You see, Johnny can write, and it is always a joy to read a zine written by someone with a grasp of language and a true joy of their subject matter.

Johnny did not disappoint. His physical manifestation of Pencil Revolution is both precious and informative. He’s made a tiny little zine so packed with pencil history I’m not sure how it can be held in such a tiny package. He uses a single sheet book format that folds up into a sweet little pocket sized book. It would even fit into the pocket of a pocket sized moleskine!

The first 4 issues are all about the history of pencils. With any other writer you might find this dry or boring, but Johnny’s writing style pulls you in and holds your attention. Which I might say, can be really difficult when writing about the history of pencils. (Ahem, looking at other histories of pencils.) He’s clear, conversational, and a bit funny. If you enjoy Pencil Revolution the blog you’ll love Pencil Revolution the Zine, plus it’s inexpensive!

Review: Baronfig Guardian Pro for Confidant Notebooks

I regularly use an A5 Lihit Labs Bag-in-Bag to contain my notebook and journaling supplies. I also use a large sized to contain my laptop and cords and cables. I love the simple slim packaging of these cases and how I can look into my bag, select the right case with the right stuff. The Guardian Pro enters an already crowded arena of things that do a similar job.

The Guardian Pro (GP from here) is top notch in what it does and what it does it for. Compared to the Lihit pouches I own it feels both sturdier and more expensive, which is good because it is significantly more expensive. The zipper is smooth and moves effortlessly. Which is good because the GP fits snugly around my Confidant and everything else you will want to shove inside.

The GP pushes you toward minimalism in your tools. It will hold a Confidant, a Vanguard, some Strategist/index cards, and a few refills. The index or pocket notebook pocket will hold a phone, so long as it isn’t in a fat Otterbox Defender with a Linkmount. It holds my work iPhone in it’s ultra slim case just fine. The pen loop at the spine is a great touch. I like how it is both out of the way and in the center of the case. If you are putting a Baronfig Squire in there it is bracketed with yellow stitches that perfectly match the zipper and classic Baronfig ribbons! Such a nice little detail.

I’ve only had the GP for a couple of weeks. So I can’t report to you about the longevity of the case. I can tell you that I haven’t been gentle. It gets shoved into my bag along with my Kindle (I don’t like the Kindle in the front pocket of the GP), my current composition notebook, a thermos, and assorted other things. It has yet to pick up as much dirt as my other bag organizers. I really like the materials Baronfig chose for the exterior and interior. The exterior mimics the Confidant while the inside feels more like a traditional backpack. The slightly  rougher feeling of the exterior has a nice tactile appeal. A step up from many of the other  canvas materials, it feels grippy.

I have to admit that other than pocket notebooks that live in my back pocket I rarely see the need for a case for my hardcover notebooks. The cover does the job of protecting the books well enough for my needs and any damage done is a line in the story of the life of the notebook. So when I have used a notebook in a case like the Lihit Labs (bag in bag) I use the journal separate from the case. I was a bit worried about working in my Confidant inside the GP. I was even more surprised to see that I LIKED IT.

Because I am a notebook and journal agnostic the GP won’t fit all of my notebook case needs all of the time but for the time when I’m using a Confidant it fits them perfectly. It is an investment but the better quality materials and detailed touches like that zipper and stitching really make this case stand out. Overall, the Guardian Pro challenged some of the ways that I use my notebooks– working in a case, use of a case for a hardcover notebook, but it also let me carry just a pen and a few other supplies in a safe way. Since I may end up going back to “Office in a Backpack” this will allow me to bring a level of side hustle to the Backpack Office.*

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Review: Staedtler Metallic Norica HB Pencil

Staples had these up with a limited time exclusive sign. I’m not sure if that means that these pencils will only be available at only Staples for a limited period of time or if it means they’ll be available like some of the other exclusives I’ve seen from Ticonderoga where they are available at Target for a limited time period then everywhere later. I’m thinking of the Ticonderoga Stripes in particular, which were sitting next to these on the shelf. I didn’t buy these because they were an exclusive Staples item, rather because they had really pretty shades of metallic paint.

The 10-pack costs $2.99, which is pretty pricey in the land of Norica pencils. At 30 cents each these are among the most expensive Noricas available.

The package is a nice blister pack, though I do wish they were in a simple cardboard box, with a window instead. At least this is a good rigid package. Upon opening the package I found that some of the packaging printing had adhered to the paint of the pencils. I was able to scrape the stuff off with my fingernail and the paint underneath looked great. The lacquer is thinly applied but nicely metallic and glossy. The rough areas of wood are fully visible. The imprint is silver and well done. The ferrule is a simple silver job and on a few pencils had pushed up the paint around its base. Not too awful, but not overly pretty either. The white plastic eraser is nice and works really well.

Inside all that is linden/basswood wrapped around a smooth core. The pencil is very lightweight. I added a silicone gel grip to decrease my urges to death grip the thing. It is not as dark as the previous version but for a 30 cent pencil it is smooth and holds a point well, even on rougher papers.

I’m glad I bought a pack of them and they’ll likely get used, I’m a real sucker for metallics. These would make a great gift for a kid or adult interested in pencils.

These pencils were purchased with  Ko-Fi support!

Review: Pentel EnerGel Pro 0.7

I like Pentel EnerGel pens. We’ve got a box of the needle tip 0.5 at work and quite a few of them find their way into my desk after a trip to the supply cabinet.* I should do a full review of those too, since I’ve never done it

This is a good bold pen. That is my one quibble with this pen. Where UniBall and Zebra 0.7 tips lean a bit fine, Pentel has determined that their 0.7 tip shall actually be a 0.7 tip. Had I noticed the pack I picked up was 0.7 I’d have swapped it out for a 0.5. The line is fat and rich. The black is DEEPLY black and on the warm side. 

The ink is great.

The body of the pen is okay. It is all plastic with a shaped rubber grip and a chromed plastic tip and knock. The clip is metal. All logos are in silver printing. The pen feels okay. It feels about as substantial as a Pilot G2 or Zebra Sarasa but not quite as put together as the UniBall 207/307. I’m sure that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone who puts the 207/307 above all other gel pens, but it does to me.

This is a doodler and sketcher’s dream pen. The ink bonds to the page and doesn’t lift or move once dry. That is the kicker, it takes between 10 to 15 seconds to dry on good paper (less on absorbent pages) and a good swipe of the heel of your palm over it and it makes a mess. I tested it with a few drops of coffee on an index card and even the hot coffee didn’t lift the ink. I’ve yet to test it with water colors but if coffee won’t lift it, I doubt most watercolors would. I will say if you use any pencil lines on smooth glossy paper that you’ll need to clean up after a drawing is rendered, be prepared to reink some lines. I found that EVERY eraser grayed the ink out immensely. You might be able to see that in some of these images. I’m not sure how well my camera picked up on this.

During a couple of meetings I doodled a composition book pattern onto a nice sheet of cardstock. I did notice a few things. First this was Neenah cardstock with a SMOOTH finish the pen felt great on it but on areas where I scribbled a couple of times the ink would lift itself or skip. I also noticed on areas where I’d used my fingers to fold the page, the ink would skip over my fingerprints. That said, areas where I scribbled, allowed the ink to dry, and then scribbled again, accepted more ink without skipping or hollow lines. I didn’t notice any blobs as I drained this pen dry.

One of the truly great things about this pen is that you can buy refills. They are listed as LRP7 and are $1.65 on Jetpens as of this writing. You can get 12 Energel Pro refills on the ‘Zon for about $13. As far as sketching and doodling pens, these are in my top 5 list for sure. IN terms of smoothness they are up there with the Sharpie SGel and waterproofness with the Unibal Signo. I might’ve ordered a 12-pack of refills right after writing this.

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