Category Archives: Review

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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Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

triplusI decided to pick up a trio of these pens a few months ago for sketching. I picked them up at Blick for around $2 a pen. They are now available at Artist and Craftsman for a little less. You can get multipacks on Amazon for decent prices. I’ve only seen singles at Blick and A&C. Blick has a great range of colors, while A&C had only 24 shades.

The Triplus sports a very fine fiber point that is sheathed in metal. The ink flow is smooth, generous, and even. The feel of the tip is smooth on every paper I’ve used. It will soak through on some thinner and more absorbent papers. It performed well in Field Notes, though the black does soak through if I linger upon a word in my meandered thinking.triplus

While drawing I found that they performed well. The teal shade was a tad too light, while black and blue were dark. What is important that you can leave them uncapped for ages and they won’t dry out, hence the “dry safe” designation on the pens.

I found the size and shape of the pen comfortable but not for long periods of time. Like most narrow, triangular writing instruments I find the shape and size annoying. Why? I’m not sure. I tend to death grip narrow pens but add triangular to the mix, I’m attempting strangulation. The tip itself is nearly a full inch long and if you are a “near the point” type gripper, you are going to feel the transition from body to point, and likely find it uncomfortable.IMG_0064

These have been marketed with adult coloring books. Have I yet mentioned that the tips are incredibly fine? They are smaller than 0.5, likely in the 0.38 category. It would take FOREVER to do a coloring page. I colored in 3 ¼ inch squares in a Mt Tom and 2 hours later I finish. Yes, hyperbole. That being said, if you would like to use a fiber tip pen the Paperhate Flair, which is cheaper, has a wider tip, might be a more enjoyable choice.
triplusOn the other hand, I tend to be heavy handed with fiber tipped pens and crush them. These survived and still work really well. I could see drawing with these or using brighter colors for highlighting. Mostly I’ve been using them for doodles and occasional quick notes in my Field Notes.

Review: Field Notes Byline Summer Colors Edition

 

I don’t usually review the new Field Notes (FN) color editions as they come out, but Bylines is so different I think it really deserves a once over.

First, I’ve been digging Reporter Notebooks for the last 6 months and began to get interested in them about a year ago. Why? I don’t know. Universe synergy? Collective consciousness*. Clearly something is in the air, because reporter notebooks are booming. Field Notes and Write both came out with one at the SAME FRICKIN’ time. Whoa. Crazy cool.IMG_0107

Anyway. The Byline has been hailed as “reinventing” the reporter notebook among many other things that fans of Field Notes are wont to say. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Aaron Draplin design, but this is not reinvention. It is a fabulous interpretation of the reporter notebook, but reinvention? Well, if you count using floppy barely functional covers as radical. But then Tops, Portage, and Mead have been doing that since the 90s. So radical, what a  departure. Please, cool your hyperbolic jets, field nuts.daringfireballhyperbole.bmp

But the covered spiral binding? That’s surely radical. Err, yeah, you haven’t seen many annual reports for midsized companies** have you? The covered spiral binding is routinely used by print companies to dress up a company’s annual report. It’s relatively inexpensive yet looks great. It stands up well to being tossed around and shipped.IMG_0113

He made it narrower! By a quarter inch. There are also half as many pages as in a regular reporter’s notebook. Yes the paper in the FNB is twice as good and I’m able to use both sides. There is a pocket! Is that really your trump card? *shakes head* The pocket makes the last few pages lumpy and bumpy and hard to write on. It also gives some weight and thickness.IMG_0108

Here’s the thing, I LOVE this edition. I love reporter’s notebooks. The long narrow form factor is great for making outlines for stories, podcasts, videos, and other things that need outlines. It’s one of the reasons I love the Write Notes Ledger and I want to love all notebooks that are tall, open at top, and narrow. If you like this form factor it’s going to work for you. If not, well, my address is…
IMG_0112 IMG_0115One of the best aspects of his new design is the paper. It’s heavy, quality, and great with all manners of ink. This is a notebook for the fountain pen users of Field Notes, granted it’s not the right form factor, but you can’t get everything you want.IMG_0111

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Follow Up: Lightfast Testing

A month ago I created some samples of art and writing materials to see if their pigments were lightfast or fugitive. I’ve checked them here and there throughout the month to see which pens fared the worst. There were some surprises and with other expectations were met.

Let’s start with lightfast expectations met. The Uniball and Zebra pens all proved to be lightfast. This was expected, every Uni pen I’ve ever tested has been lightfast. In this case I tested the Air and  Jetstream 3.0. I also tested the Zebra Surari 3 and Sarasa 3, both were lightfast.IMG_0056

The lightfast surprise was that all of the highlighter pencils did not fade, at all. I tested all shades of the Yoobi,  Very Best, Koh-i-Noor Dry Marker, as well as the Koh-i-Noor MagixFX series. None of the colors shifted, changed or faded. Quite amazing given that the general rule is that highlighter and neon colors shift.

For fugitive properties I expected that all of the Bic colors would fade or shift within a short period of time. Most met this expectation in both tip sizes. Purple, red and pink all shifted in a week and at the end of the month we’re extremely faded. I have no doubt that if I were to continue with the experiment these colors would be gone in months. Blue and Black had noticeably shifted in shade and begin fading at the end of the month, with the black fading the most. Interestingly light blue, light green and dark green exhibited the least amount of color shift and fading.  I would not suggest that these 3 colors are lightfast merely that they did not shift as much as the other colors.IMG_0060 IMG_0059 IMG_0055

I also expected that the 4 fountain pen inks I tested would show fading and color shifting. There was no surprise here. Both Edelstein shades faded within a week, and by the end of the month the Turquoise was on it’s way to being gone and Tanzanite had only the black left behind. Emerald of Chivor had shifted shade noticeably and was showing signs of fading. Interestingly of the fountain pen inks tested only one was lightfast, the Platinum Preppy black cartridge used in an EF Preppy pen.IMG_0054

I tested 2 ballpoint pens- the Retro 51 REF71 (a Schmidt refill) and a Schmidt mini refill. Both proved to be fugitive but still easy to read at the end of the month. The black ink was quite faded.

Finally as predicted the Papermate Flairs proved to be incredibly fugitive. They showed rapid color shifting- radical color changes in a week and several colors complete gone from the page at the end of the month. Both shades of purple and pink were gone and no longer at all visible. Yellow and Peach were nearly gone. Red, both shades of blue, black, both shades of green showed fading and massive color shifts at the end of the month.IMG_0058 IMG_0057

What does all of this mean? For me, anything that shows color shifting or fading should only be used in an art journal, or something that will not be displayed. Because even artificial light can fade and alter colors it’s not safe to allow work done with these fugitive pigments to be anywhere the sun or light shines.