Category Archives: Review

Review: Baron Fig Archer

So I’m a few days late and a few bucks short when it comes to this review. I’ve been sitting on it hoping my opinion would change. For the TL;DR crowd- it is pretty, if you like pretty, go ahead and buy them. If you want performance, go elsewhere.

I picked up a few of these from a friend for a few bucks. I didn’t want to spring for a 12-pack of pencils where the whispered undertone to all the reviews read, “scratchy.” I sharpened one up and used it extensively in a cheap Staples comp notebook during NaNoWriMo. I’ve forced myself to use it on slick as teflon Tomoe River paper and silky smooth Maruman and Life notebook pages. I’ve even jotted a shopping list on the nondescript paper in Field Notes.

Ignoring the feeling of the point on paper, the looks of these pencils is gorgeous. The matte finished cool gray paint with a perfectly end dipped darker charcoal gray end is just pretty. It is simplistic and pretty. It works. The imprint is also minimalist- a simple Baron Fig on one flat, with a stylized arrow on the opposite- both in crisp perfectly imprinted white. The pencil is perfectly minimalistic in design. They are gorgeous to look at.

I sharpened mine in, gasp, the Carl Angel-5 with it’s dangerously chewy teeth, which chomped into the soft linden wood body.  I suggest linden over bass based off scent. Linden smells like bay leaves to me and these pencils when freshly sharpened have that dusty odor of impending kitchen magic. Linden is ridiculously light weight. These pencils feel lighter than most pencils. I have not weighed them to be sure. the absence of a ferrule and eraser make them lighter but even compared to other pencils without ferrule and eraser they feel significantly lighter. I should weigh them and and take the subjective out of this review, but I’ll leave this here to let you know they FEEL lighter than other pencils. I prefer a little bit of heft to my pencils

This brings me to the core of these pencils. Scratchy is an apt description of these pretty pretty pencils. I’d lean more toward gritty. They are the antithesis of smooth.  If you are a fan of pencil points gliding over your page like butter on a hot griddle, look elsewhere, these aren’t the fix you are seeking.  They have a durable point that lasts for a good long time. I found myself getting pages in the comp book with the Archer. But it was an effort to write with- I had to force the graphite off the pencil. Compared to *gasp* my penny-per-pencil Casemates, these were a disappointment in use. Going back to kitchen based comparison- writing with these on most papers, even the glassy smooth Tomoe River, is like spreading chilled butter on cold toast- a gritty mess that is simply unpleasant.

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Sunday Study: The Perfection of the Paper Clip

All my stationery nerd friends said, “Read this book, you’ll love it.” Well, I have and I don’t.

When I spot a factual error in a book it makes me question all other information held as facts in the book. The first factual error I found was on page 26 where Ward states that reed pens are “filled by pouring ink into the top of the pen.” Apparently Ward has never used a reed pen because this is  hilariously wrong. Reed pens are dip pens. You soak some reed pens (bamboo) in water before use to activate the capillaries in the bamboo, but even still they are still dip pens. They function similarly to quill and steel dip nibs.. You dip them in ink. After this point I was left wondering what else was wrong.

In the section about Moleskines he writes that the “first” time a moleskine was labeled as “Made in China” was only after the company had been purchased by SGCapital in 2013. I suspect this may be a typo and he meant 2003, which was certainly before Modo e Modo was purchased. Further I remember the online uproar the “Made in China” label created. I remember my first “Made in China” Moleskine. I got that Moleskine long before 2013. In fact 2013 is long after I’d given up using Moleskines due to quality control issues. It is true that the Moley had always been made in China, and had previously been labeled, “Designed in Italy.” Further I have some issues with his “historical” facts of small-m moleskines. Yes there was one Parisian supplier that sold those made by someone Chatwin loved, but moleskines are a style of small pocketable notebooks- not just the one sold in that one shop. Rather, moleskine was used to describe all manner of small pocketable notebooks covered in oil cloth and were available all over Europe.

After this point I began to hate read the book. The section on pencils is quite good, though I’m reticent to take anything he’s written as factual given the previous factual errors. The section on King’s The Dark Half may not be totally accurate.

Ward’s humor is not funny to me. He tries really hard to be pithy and funny but often his jokes fall flat. Where Rees has deadpan down pat Ward’s attempt at humor fall flat and scratching my head, wondering how did he think that was funny? I got what he was trying to say, I just never found the humor in what he had written. Frankly, Ward’s writing style bores me. I’ve read many of the books on his reference list, and while those are boring they are far more informative than Ward’s book and because the writing was solid, well researched and informative with out wannabe pithy commentary, they were good.

I’m sorry, but The Perfection of the Paper Clip is anything but perfect, and I can’t even say it’s good. I’m not including an Amazon link for this one. just because I tortured myself doesn’t mean you should too.

Review: Conte X Bic Coloring Pencils

I picked these up for a mere $7 from the Staples clearance rack. I purchased based on seeing the name Conte on the package. 

The tin is gorgeously printed- the spiral coloring page on the top cover is great. The lid fits very snug and holds the pencils very tightly into their plastic tray. Opening the tin the pencils are gorgeous- black with black “wood” (we’ll get to that in a bit.) And vibrantly colored cores. The printing is silver foil and looks great. Each is simply labeled “coloring pencil” and Conte. 

The color selection is weird. There are five shades of red, 3 shades of brown, five shades of green, three blue, two purple plus white, grey and black. the cores are very smooth but also very hard. It takes a lot of pressure to get a dark line. They are anything but creamy.  They layer and blend well and are nice on rough paper. One smooth paper they are terrible. 

The “wood” part of the pencil is not wood but a foamy extruded garbage.* In use this allows the pencils to bend, especially when using pressure to apply a darker line, they bend in the hand. It’s quite unpleasant. I suppose this is where the Bic part of the arrangement comes in, the extruded garbage reminds me of the Bic Xtra fun pencils. Nasty.

Overall, these are good for kids who might want a nice set for coloring or doodles. For art making purposes they are good for sketching. i’m not sure I’d trust them to be lightfast, and I’m not likely to test them since I’m not adding them to my art tools. Continue reading

Review: Bic for Kids Mechanical Pencil

Wandering the aisles of my local Staples looking for deals I found the Bic for Kids mechanical pencil. At $4.29 it’s not a deal but it was interesting. The package includes the pencil itself, a pack of 6 leads, and an eraser. The pencil is designed to be a finger fitter to help little kids learn how to write. They were available in 2 gendered colors of blue and pink. Sigh.*

I picked it up in the hope that the lead inside is the same as the Bic disposable mechanical but thicker. I wasn’t disappointed. It was dark and smooth for an HB. I quite like the lead. The pencil includes 3 leads inside and the little double ended tube holds 6 more. The bad thing about this pencil is that leads are not sold separately, so you can not refill them once you finish your 9 included leads. So that’s a bummer.

The pencil is tiny, one of the other reason I purchased it, thinking it would make an excellent pocket mechanical. And it is. It fits perfectly into a pocket. For people with large or even medium sized hand, this is going to be much too small to be usable. It is also very lightweight. That said the finger fitting fin is a pain in thumb. With a pencil you need to rotate it to keep it pointed. the fin prevents you from doing so.

So I cut it off. Sow and carefully I used a knife to shave off the fin. This allows me to rotate the pencil to keep the point, pointy. Without the fin the pencil is very comfortable and even enjoyable to use.

The included eraser is color coordinated to look good with the pencil. The blue eraser is a nice dark blue, while the pink eraser looks like bubblegum. The eraser is dust gathering so all the crumbs clump together and make it easy to clean your page. The Eraser also works really well and cleans the graphite entirely off the page. It is very soft and will be quickly used up.

Overall this is a fun little mechanical pencil that is limited by the finger fitting fin and its diminutive size.

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Point Comparison: 2mm Lead Pointers

Sharpeners and lead pointers are giant rabbit holes and I’ve barely touched the surface of the many amazing lead pointers out there. I happened to luck into finding the KUM-onit 233 and 250 pretty early on and they give me a very nice point that I like for my general use or writing and light sketching. The Kitaboshi is garbage for writing but it is nice for sketching particularly if you are shading. The KUM automatic with included lead pointers is okay in a pinch but not my favorite.

The 2mm lead in all image is Staedtler Lumograph HB, what I have on hand at this moment.

First Impression: Butterfly Effect Book

This is my first impression of the Jane Davenport Butterfly Effect Book. Also known as a traveler’s notebook or Fauxdori, or one of many other names for a version of the Midori Traveler’s notebook- an ingenious take on an old fashioned version of a binder. If you want more info on the original Midori notebook system head over to my friend Patrick Ng’s blog Scription. Patrick really took the Traveler’s notebook to the next level with ingenious marketing and gorgeous photography.  He’s a master and an amazingly nice guy.

As much as I have always loved the Traveler’s notebook system I’ve never been able to spring for one. US$50+ for a flap of leather with some holes punched in it and some elastic always seemed a tad high, especially when I can head to eBay buy myself a large chunk of leather for $50 and make myself a full sized Traveler’s notebook as well as a few Field Notes sized. Which is the great thing about Patrick and Midori, they have always embraced the DIY esthetic, in fact when Patrick saw an image of my own boiled bucked skin version of the notebook he told me I shouldn’t denigrate it by calling it a knock off.

In the end I don’t use my Field Note size Traveler’s notebook, it no longer fits my needs. But my friend Jazmin pointed out that Michael’s is now carrying the Butterfly Effect Book(BEB)- a true knock off of the traveler’s notebook. This one fits the bill for people who don’t want to buy leather and who want to be able to decorate their notebook in wild and fun ways that you might not wish to do on leather*. 

Moving on. Inside the BEB package you get the white nylon canvas cover, a 16 page insert of unknown paper type, elastic closure and a single large book holding elastic.

First the cover is white nylon. I know this because a corner was frayed and I was able to sear it with a lighter to keep it from continuing to fray. It melted easily. It also feels like nylon. There are two pieces of nylon with what feels like thin cardboard sandwich between them and then stitched. From a little flexing and how the canvas moves on the outside but not the inside, the cardboard is glued to the inner canvas but not the outer. This makes sense from a bookbinding standpoint. If you don’t glue the inner fabric it’s going to bunch in ugly ways. 

The holes for the elastics are while painted eyelets. The eyelets on mine are well finished on the outside but the inside the aluminum shows through the paint. The closure elastic feels sturdy and is nice and thick. The interior elastic is too thick and the same thickness as the closure elastic. Further if you want to paint the exterior of your cover you will need to remove the interior notebook holding elastic by cutting it, or risk getting it covered in paint. Since it is so thick, I’m going to cut mine and replace it with thinner 1/16th elastic to create less of a bulge in my notebooks. Of course my local Michael’s didn’t have the full range of add ons so I was not able to get any differently colored elastics. The only color available was light teal. Luckily I adore teal.

The included insert is 16 pages, or 8 leaves, or 4 sheets of stapled paper. I’m not sure which of the 2 inserts was included because it’s not on the label anywhere. I’m going to assume it’s the marker paper because it’s heavyweight and smooth and doesn’t remind me of watercolor paper at all.  I’ll use it but it doesn’t feel like a Traveler’s insert to me. Rather it feels like… Someone stacked 4 sheets of paper, folded ’em, and then stapled and rounded the corners. Davenport inserts are $6 for 4 folded sheets of paper. *DAFUQ* In the next aisle you can get a 100 sheet package of cardstock for $4, and in another aisle you can get a corner rounder for about the same. Or you can go to the sketchbook and art paper aisle and spend your $6 and buy a whole sketchbook and tear it down to size. Because again *DAFUQ*

Overall, this cover is a value if you plan on decorating the inside and outside with acrylic paints and don’t want to use leather. At $13 MSRP it’s not a bad price. However the line is subject to Michael’s coupons which range from 60% to 25% off. I picked up mine for 60% off or $5.53, which is a killer deal. Would I pay full price? Probably not. For the same price you can also pick up a line of pre-decorated covers with Davenport’s cutesy version of Suzi Blu/Willow/Insert another online instructor’s “girls.” these may not appeal to many people outside her “Davenpeeps.” I didn’t make that up, apparently that’s what she calls the people who follow her online.  I certainly would not buy her inserts which are highway robbery and aren’t even the right Midori size of 11x21cm or 8.5×4.5 inches, they are 8×4 inches.

Overall a fun experiment for under $6.

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Comparison of Sharpeners

I sharpened pencils with my collection of sharpeners (not all of them) and took pics of the points next to factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1 pencils for someone in the Erasable group. It’s good to preserve those images before they disappear into the abyss of the FaceBook group feed. (searchable yet never found again.)

In the pics you can see that the blade on my KUM brass wedge is dull.

In Defense of the Humble Pilot G2

I’ve railed against the Pilot G2 in the past. It blobs. It skips. It smears. It isn’t waterproof nor is it lightfast. It is everything I don’t like in a pen that I draw or sketch with, in fact it is horrible for either of the 2 purposes in which I usually use a pen. I’ve never understood the popularity of the Pilot G2, until I began my current DayJob*.

The DayJob require black or blue ink, and black ink on particular documents as some sort of herald to professionalism and for perceived legal reasons. I’ve blown through an astonishing number of black gel ink pens in the last 6 months in a search for the best of the best. What really blows my mind is how fast some of the gel pens were consumed. One of these days I must log the number of pages I’ve written/signed/filled out with each pen. I’ve used Papermate Gel InkJoy, Zebra Sarasa, Uniball Jetstream, Uniball Signo, Staples 0.5 Stick Gel pens, and the Pilot G2. All with black ink.

I loved all of them.

The DayJob uses the finest cheapest of all the available Staples recycled papers. It is as absorbent as a Brawny paper towel. In fact I’ve used it to mop up spilled coffee in the past. The InkJoy glides over the page like butter on a hot griddle. The Sarasa writes and writes without skipping or blobbing. The Uniball pens performed flawlessly, writing page after page without skipping or blobs- silk smooth on the page.

The Pilot G2 has surprised me and has become my go to gel pen for this cheap absorbent paper. Unlike all the other pens I’ve used it doesn’t absorb into the paper, it sits on the surface of the cheap paper. The pen still glides smoothly, less smoothly than the InkJoy or the Sarasa, but still smooth enough to be enjoyable. What really sold me on the G2 is it’s longevity when compared to the other gel ink pens. Most of the other pens lasted roughly a week to two weeks. The G2 in heavy use lasted three plus weeks.** Given the amount that I write in my job, that is a huge amount of time. It’s also nearly double the time of most of the other pens used.

I cannot believe that I’m going to write this, the Pilot G2 is the superior gel ink pen if you are writing on super cheap absorbent paper. It’s not quite as smooth as the others mentioned here but it writes for much much longer. This is enough for me to purchase a package of my own 

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Open Letter to the AJ Ning Community

Hi Everyone,

Change is inevitable but we are a fortunate group. Ning, the company we use to host Art Journaling has raised it’s prices but we are paid for the next year so we are good on Ning until June 2017.  another group I am a member of cannot afford the price hike and is shuttering at the end of October.

This is the second major price hike, where the group went from free to a reasonable price, to expensive (and why we run a yearly fundraiser) to now absolutely outrageous. The price went from $239/year to $588/year, more than doubling for next year. My frustration with this price hike has much to do with the fact that Ning has made little to no improvements in the years since the last price hike, so we are getting double the cost with zero improvements. Ning made plenty of promises after the last price hike, and lost many groups, particularly those like AJ Ning, but we persevered.
While we have a year to decide the fate of Art Journaling, right now I feel that the best choice is to move the site to a new host and using a new software. I’m leaning toward WordPress social media site but I’m open to other ideas, so long as it is less expensive than $588/year. I do not want to make a HUGE change like this without your input, as always because this is a community site, movement matters little if it is not done without YOUR thoughts, ideas, and feelings taken into account.

Please head to the site and join the group “Movement and Change” to discuss the option and feelings around this potential change.  http://artjournaling.ning.com/group/movement-and-change

I have a  little heart ache over the idea of moving from Ning, but I also feel like together we can make AJ Ning continue to be amazing and a resource for all the new and old art journalers alike. Again, even if you decide not to head over to AJ Ning (I really hope you do) I appreciate all the input, ideas, and art we’ve shared over the years. Please join in on the discussion and share your thoughts.

MUCH LOVE,

Leslie aka ComfortableShoes

Review: Bob Slate Quad

Comrade Johnny recently informed me in the Erasable Facebook group, about Bob Slate’s Quad ruled 5×7.75 spiral bound notebooks. I had to buy a few.

The Quad is $2.95 at Bob Slate Stationers in cambridge, MA. It is not available anywhere else.*  The covers are the Standard BSS hard kraft imprinted with a red brown ink. The decoration is simple, their logo, notebooks info, and a little grid on the lower right corner. These covers are hard with minimal flexibility. Folded over on itself you can write in hand. The spiral is bright silver and doubled. Though I’ve shoved this notebook into my bag and let it get beaten up. The spiral looks as good as the day I bought it while the cover has developed a nice patina of graphite, fingerprints, and coffee rings.QUAD

Inside the paper is white with blue ruling. There are 4 lines per inch. It is narrow but not as narrow as many graphs or grid that are out there. The printed grid is quite a dark blue, and though they are dark, they are VERY fine, very narrow, so though dark, they still disappear behind darker shades of ink.QUAD

So let’s talk about ink. With ballpoint, rollerball, and gel inks this paper is great. It’s got a nice tooth and feels good. With porous points, fiber tips, fountain pens, and other liquid ink pens it’s not as nice. Fountain pens bleed through and even my smoothest fine points feel rough. Larger nibs feel better, but they bleed like I’m writing on TP. Even fiber tips and fineliners soak through this paper. This was a huge surprise to me, because BSS paper is usually so good with fountain pens and liquid inks. That said, if you are a pencil fan, these are amazing. The toothiness of the paper is great with every single pencil I’ve used within its covers.Stick to pencils or ballpoint and this is a great notebook.QUAD QUAD QUAD QUAD

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