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Continued Change and Growth

2018 has been many things- for me, it has been a year of change. This blog has remained a constant in my ever-changing and evolving life. It is my touchstone. I return to it as a source of comfort, continuing self-expression and learning. I’ve been blogging so long that I cannot imagine my life without something of Comfortable Shoes Studio.

Thinking forward to 2019, I’ve been considering what I plan to do with this blog as I move forward with both my side hustle (this blog, writing, and my podcasts) and my professional life. Clearly, CSS will continue on. I’ve discussed some of my thoughts regarding reviews on RSVP and how they shape a blog. I hope that my honest reviews have helped you make informed decisions regarding your purchases and that has had a positive impact on your life.

As much as some might like to pretend that it’s just stationery, it’s not. The choices we make about stationery, the tools we use, adds to our life. When we take a mindful approach to these choices, and how we use our tools it has a positive impact on our lives. Sitting down with a pen or pencil that you love to hold and attending to how that tool feels as it glides and scrapes across a page is a deeply sensory experience, one that grounds us in the here and now. And at that moment as we allow our senses to take over and deeply feel that connection between ourselves and the page we are truly in the moment. This is at the core of mindfulness it is my belief that using this connection to our tools in a mindful manner can only add to our lives, never detract.

In the coming year, I hope to delve deeply into the affordable side of fountain pens. I’ve ordered a grouping of inexpensive pens to explore on the blog. One of the great things about the change instilled in my current DayJob is that I can safely test and explore the tools in my new surroundings. I hope to also explore more on the paper end of things. I’ve been looking at some of the notebook and journal options out there, and my hope is that I can review more notebooks and journals. My stance on ink reviews has generally been other people out there are better at them than I, but I’m hoping to expand into doing ink reviews but of specific colors and shades that I can use at work. I hope to explore these colors specifically in how they work for the DayJob.

I also hope to explore some of this tactile nature of the pens, pencils, and paper we use. What is it that causes me to like one ink over another? One paper over another? What are the specific tactile cues that I seek out? This endeavor will force me to be more mindful of my use and to also document these preferences.

This is less a roadmap but a listing of my hopes for the next year of Comfortable Shoes Studio.

(And of course I’ll be doing my yearly back to school sale composition book reviews!)

Review: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen

The Parkr Jotter is a classic in the pen world. Both the ballpoint and fountain pen version has been around forever. Where the ballpoint is a timeless classic the fountain pen version is… not.

The brushed stainless steel exterior is lightweight and feels pretty nice. The section is made of cheap plastic and has visible mold lines. The pen does not come with a converter, rather 2 international small cartridges. The carts take some serious force to get them to seat properly. Until one is properly seated in the pen you get weak ink flow. As soon as the cart is in place ink flows and keeps flowing. The pen will also take an international long cartridge.

The nib out of the box was smooth and once ink began to flow, it wrote well. Here and there the pen would skip. Looking at it under a loupe I found that the tipping suffered from baby bottom. A tiny amount of work with my polishing stick solved that problem. Since then the pen has worked well in every instance.

I have found that it performs less well on rough crappy paper- the paper at work makes it feel like I’m writing on sandpaper.

The pen has a classic look- brushes stainless steel body, the classic Parker Arrow clip, and flat ends. I like how it looks but the feel is beyond cheap. The raised visible mold lines leave me feeling flat. The diminutive size makes me feel like I’m writing with a child’s pen or pocket pen. This isn’t a pen you’ll want to carry around in a pocket either. The cap takes very little force to remove and could easily fall off as you walk around.

It’s a pen you won’t mind losing or giving away. I’m entirely meh on this pen. What is really horrible is that this is often a pen people pick up because it’s readily available and it is their first introduction to fountain pens. They’d be better off buying a Wing Sung 3008 or a CaliArts Ego. There are a hundred better first pen options at a lower price point than the Parker Jotter Fountain Pen.

Review: CaliArts Ego Fountain Pen

The CaliArts Ego is available on eBay for about $10USD. The pen is available with fine and extra fine nibs. I ordered the fine nib.

The pen arrives in a bubble mailer roughly 2 weeks after ordering. Inside the mailer was a silver colored box. Within that box is a silver tin. The tin has a die-cut foam insert to hold the pen in place during shipping. Inset into the foam is a silver wrench and 2 new silicone orange o-rings.

The pen is a clear piston filling demonstrator. The feed is also clear. Upon arrival, I cleaned the feed and interior with some clean water. I did not remove the feed to do this, and I should have, the feed would not allow ink to move freely. I removed it and gave it a quick scrub with a toothbrush and warm water. After drying I installed it again and the ink has moved perfectly since.

I inked my pen with a classic ink- Diamine Chocolate. There is something about this ink that reminds me of fall and the harvest but also of gingerbread. It is a lovely ink with perfect flow and is well behaved on most papers. It is a great ink for testing a pen.

The nib out of the box was smooth and feels great on all the paper I’ve tested it on. Thus far I’ve used it on Story Supply Co Morning, HP LaserJet 24lb, Staples Sustainable Harvest, the cheap recycled garbage at work, Staples 20lb office copy paper, and Baron Fig Confidant paper. Overall the pen feels great. I was surprised it felt so good on the rough garbage work paper, which makes most pens feel terrible.

The fine nib is very fine for a fine. The feed seems to allow a decent amount of ink to flow through to the nib. It’s neither dry nor wet. It is just right, for me.

The cap cannot be posted. It connects to the blind cap and flops around until it falls off. Useless. The cap itself is fine. It screws on snugly and an o-ring prevents you from over tightening. It also keeps the cap airtight.

Let’s talk about that clip. The pen itself is pretty decent looking. SImple clean and useful. That clip is an abomination. It is too small and reminds me of one of those skinny neckties, but at the wrong proportion to the body. Yeesh. Ugly. It is snug enough and holds my pen clipped to my shirt. But it’s ugly.

Overall I like this pen. Sure the clip is ugly but it is a minor issue for a pen that works really well and with a really nice nib for $10. I like that it arrives in a nice protective foam-lined tin. Because it can be completely and relatively easily disassembled it is a contender for filling with India ink for sketching. (Don’t @ me. I know you shouldn’t.)

A final thought on this pen. It is clearly, uh, influenced, by the TWSBI Diamond and Eco pens. I’ve been told that the piston and blind cap fit the TWSBI Diamond and vice versa. The nib and feed look like Pilot nibs and feeds. This pen looks as though someone took design “cues” from both companies decided that they could make their own pen and set off to make one. Honestly they pulled it off but this could have ended badly.

Review:Sakura Sumo Grip Retractable Eraser

I’m a big fan of the Sakura Foam eraser. I’ve been a fan of it for a long time. When I make an order from JetPens, I add a few onto my order. I use them in trades, swaps, and often give them away.

When I was at my local Artist and Craftsman I picked up a Sumo Grip retractable. They are quite affordable chunky click style erasers. The Sumo Grip is offered in a variety of sizes, all of them large. This is by design. I was able to chat with Peter from Sakura of America who filled me in on some of the design choices around the Sumo Grip. Sakura has a line of mechanical pencils designed for kids that have a sturdy chunky style the company chose to call them Sumo Grip after the sport of Sumo Wrestling. The image of the sumo wrestler was purposefully chosen to match the style of the pencils, and now erasers.

Coming back to the eraser itself, Sakura created the sticky non-smudging technology by combining the tech behind the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and a standard white plastic (PVC) eraser. The result is a soft sticky eraser that wraps around graphite (and other materials) and trapping the graphite in the sticky eraser without harming the fibers of your page. Which is one of the reasons I LOVE the Sakura foam, it takes less effort to clean graphite off the page and the erasers don’t burnish the fibers of the page down like so many other erasers styles. (Lookin’ at you Mars Plastic.)

Sakura then upped the ante by removing philates from the PVC and making the eraser nontoxic. As someone who often uses her erasers as fidgets, I can appreciate this. Also, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable about giving a fat Sumo Grip to my nephew.

Bringing all this back to the Sumo Grip Retractable. I love this as much as I like the Sakura Foam, or Arch- it’s the same eraser but colored black. My inner angsty emo kid loves black stationery items. The chunky black click mechanism means that when I carry this around in my pocket it doesn’t get worn away via movement. The nock ejects 3mm of the eraser at a time. The chunky body is comfortable and feels great in use.

I’m as much a fan of this eraser as I am the original Sakura Foam. Every person who uses pencils or makes art should get some version of the Sakura Foam- I just happen to really love the fat chunky black Sumo Grip a whole lot.

I’ve read a review or two where folks express, concern, over the logo. Just as an FYI Sakura is a Japanese company that is based out of Osaka, Japan. Design choices are made by the company and with pride over their heritage which includes Sumo Wrestling.

Review: Pilot Frixion Color Stick

I picked these up on a whim from the post back-to-school sale clearance section at my local Walgreens. The 4-pack of orange, pink, green, and blue are regularly priced at $7. I saw the price and did a double take and said out loud, “LOL, whut?”

I’ll start with the good. The ink in these flows really well, it’s a “ball” pen but writes like a rollerball. All in all it’s a comfortable feeling pen. The ink flows and it feels really smooth on all the paper I have used them on. Erasing was a breeze.

The cap posts and is replaced with a satisfying click. It stays put once capped too. I’ve been carting around the orange in my FodderstackXL and the cap stays put, despite my sitting and moving around all day. It hasn’t fallen off. The pen lacks a clip, so you need to have a pocket or case to carry these around.

So far so good. I like these little pens a lot. Now for the bad.

These look cheap. When I say cheap, I mean, like Bic sticks, or those old blue Papermate stick pens I loved in HS. I mean cheap AF. Despite the glossy hard plastic and slick clear cap with integrated eraser they exude cheapness.

The exterior tube is the refill. I had wondered if I could pop out the refill and slide it into another pen body that looked less cheap. Just take it from the inky mess I made, you cannot. The body is very sturdy, again, my fat butt has been sitting on one for weeks, and it has yet to break crack or even curve.

These are sturdy little pens that look cheap and are sold at a stupidly high price. I really enjoy writing with them, the colors of the ink are great- muted and not overly bright. They erase cleanly and feel good. However these are not $1.50 pens. The 4-pack would probably sell better at $4 or $5.

I picked these up with my own cash money from the clearance section. I got a steal of a deal- I paid 79 cents for the 4-pack, totally worth it. I should have purchased more.

Review: Zebra Sarasa Grand

The Grand is a refillable pen body made for Zebra’s Sarasa gel ink refills. It will hold almost any gel ink refill- from Pentel to Pilot to Uniball.

The Grand is available in 5 colors, black, navy silver, copper, and gold. The clip on all colors is chrome. The lower half of the pen is metal cased in a thick layer of glossy metallic lacquer. The top half holds the clip and a translucent window. It could be argued that the window is to view the ink level but it is far too high to tell you when the ink is low, and thus useless, but looks nice.

Overall, I find the Grand quite comfortable. It’s narrower than the Pentel Alloy and heavier. The weight is toward the working end and as a result the balance feels good to me. The glossy lacquer is going to be slippery for folks with sweaty hands, but works great for me. The clip is sturdy and grabs onto my lapel and holds on. The Grand has made it as a DayJob go to pen because the clip is fabulous.

I picked up mine in the clearance section of my local Walgreens for… 75 cents. They only had the copper (aka Rose Gold?) color which is really a dull metallic orange-pink. At 75 cents it was cheaper than a regular Sarasa. Regular price is about $11 almost everywhere. IF you don’t like the Sarasa refills you can get the Sarasa Clip refills via Jetpens, ranging from about 75 cents each to $2 a refill. You can also buy boxes of Pentel or Uniball refills on Amazon. Essentially, you have options of refilling this pen body.

Thinking: Washing Notebooks

A few months ago, hell maybe it was a year ago now, I washed one of my Field Notes. It was an orange Unexposed. Unexposed is one of my favorite editions. The bright colors and reticle grid make me happy.

Sadly the Unexposed covers are garbage when it comes to water resistance. The notebook was a pulpy mass when it emerged from the drier. The cover had shredded into tiny pieces of paper that glued themselves to my clothing, it was especially attracted to my black khakis I wear for work. I had to wash the entire load again.

The book lodged in my pocket and as the washing machine and drier tumbled it’s paged matted together and formed a ball inside the pocket. What was left of the cover glued itself to the interior of the pocket. I had to peel the book from the cotton pocket liner. I flattened the book the best I could, the damp pages tearing if I touched them with too much force.

I had to look, I had to see what information I had lost. Fortunately, it was a recently started work notebook. So only 3 or 4 pages had been filled. I’d lost little.

In the past, I’ve been insistent on using waterproof inks. My love of the Signo 207 and other Uniball pens is well known. Much of the reason I love these pens is that they have great waterproof ink in them. Most of the ink in the washed Unexposed was gone. It had migrated to the rest of the paper, tinting it a pale blue-gray. Here and there you could see where I had written with a waterproof ink. (I can’t show you, as it was a work notebook.)

Each time I washed a notebook I lean more towards using waterproof inks, not for their archival qualities, but because I want my books to survive the wash. I’ve washed maybe 4 notebooks in my life, and dramatically, each time I do, I feel a deep sense of loss. The sense of loss is ridiculous and a bit silly. Most of my notebooks don’t have important info in them, merely notes for blog posts, story ideas, and reading notes. Even my work notebooks don’t have important info in them, those are comprised of to-do lists and paperwork I need to fill out.

Anyway. Don’t wash your notebooks, It makes a mess.