Review: Blackwing Volumes Number 10

I’ve been struggling with how to review the special editions and pencils made for other companies by Blackwing aka Palomino. How does one review a pencil that has a topnotch core that is one of 4 different grades (extra firm, firms, balanced, and soft) wrapped in perfect cedar and then coated in a thick coat of lacquer? We’re already starting off with a wonderful product that may be a little higher priced, it is after all marketed as a premium pencil, that we know has quality going into it.

After all I acknowledge that the Blackwing is a premium well-made product at a slightly higher price than I like to pay. I’ve detailed in other posts that I will now only purchase singles or trade for the editions I REALLY like. Otherwise, I’ll live with one to use and one for my collection.

So how do I review the number 19? The story is great. For me the tribute means less to me than the rest of the pencils, even divorced from the story the pencil is great. I love a matte coated pencil, and the flat cool gray is wonderfully grippy. My hand doesn’t slide at all. The imprint smudges a bit which seems to be deliberate and in keeping with the newspaper theme. The charcoal eraser looks black to me but goes well with the pencil itself.

My one problem with this pencil is that the ferrule fit was not great. In Bob Slate, I noticed that all the ferrules were off. I don’t care much about the centering, that is dealt with by twisting the ferrule into place. Easy. Instead the ferrule just didn’t fit deep enough. Once I arrived home, I removed the ferrule and sliced off a mere millimeter and the ferrule fit perfectly. Gone were the janky looking bits of cedar hanging out around the sides and chips of paint. Once dealt with this pencil became amazing.

Now comes the argument that evolved as I used this pencil. Once dealt with the janky issues, the looks are perfect. But I had to deal with them. I had to do work on this pencil. A pencil that costs $3 (when bought as a single at Bob Slate, and even when not bought as a single it’s well over $2 per pencil) shouldn’t need to be worked on for it to be perfection. If I were spending 50 cents I don’t care about reattaching the ferrule in a pleasing manner, but when a pencil is sold at a premium price the quality control of said pencil should match that premium price. It shouldn’t be janky once it is boxed and sent out to buyers.

In short, this pencil is a perfectly sedate pencil that feels great in hand but it is hampered by janky production values that don’t belong on a $3 pencil. If I’d bought a 12-pack of these for $26 or $30 and they all looked this awful I’d have been very upset.

Review: Baron Fig LE The Editor Squire Pen

People call me many things but traditional is not usually at the top of the list. When it comes to editing I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I want red ink that pops off the page and looks as though I’ve cut an artery onto the page. Those pages should bleed with my edits. Enter Baron Fig’s latest limited edition Squire- The Editor.

The packaging is spot-on perfect for this pen. Black and white punched up with hints of red, just like an edited page of text. The text is some info about the pen and editing. Slide the cylinder open and you have a red pen.

I was expecting something bright, carmine red, instead, it’s blood-red a deep dark red that still pops off the page. It works well against the white and cream-colored paper. The red of the pen body is a shade or two darker than the ink inside. It works.

Along one side of the pen are laser etched proofreading and editing symbols. I love the tactile feel of the etched symbols. They contrast with the smooth colored body of the pen. 

As always the fit and finish of my pen is perfect. The twist mechanism turns smoothly and deployed the refill perfectly. Just because it arrives with a red refill doesn’t mean that is the only refill you can use with this pen. You can use any of the Baron Fig or Schmidt D8126 refill inside. SO if you like this pen but need black or blue ink, you can have that instead.

Overall, I love this refillable pen body. The Squire is a classic twist pen with streamlined good looks. While I’d love the addition of a slide on clip designed by Baron Fig, I love the look of this pen. The red is just so perfect and the symbols are awesome.

Review: Muji Mini Utility Knife

While I was visiting Johnny and Dade in Boston we went to Muji. I’d never been and I have to say it was worth the effort. I spotted the mini utility knife right away as I browsed the stationery goods. It immediately went into my grubby paws as well as a package of replacement blades.

I love a good utility knife. My bar for a good utility knife is the Olfa brand. I have 2 of their stainless steel models covered in translucent plastic. I have several other brands and models but the Olfa is the bar. I’ve never been able to find the Olfa without the plastic coating and I’ve wanted one. The mini Muji fits the bill.

The tiny knife measures less than 3 inches weighs next to nothing and nearly disappears into a pocket. The clip slides onto a pocket notebook cover but not onto a thicker cover. The clip loosens up with use and eventually could slide off. The clip has a tiny slot to assist in breaking off the dull portions of the knife. The replacement blade box has a slot for the same. The blade box also doubles as disposal for those broken bits of the blade. Useful. The blade is the same size and shape as a regular utility knife blade, simply shorter. Each blade has 3 scores. You could take a used blade from a full-sized utility knife and save them for this tiny blade.

The blade slides out of the knife with a gentle click click. It does not lock into place but stays in place for light-duty cutting- opening envelops, cutting small amounts of paper and sharpening pencils. All the regular stuff you might do with a knife like this. Any heavier pressure on that blade and it slides right up into the body of the knife. I did snap one blade off accidentally when I slid out too much of the blade to pop the seal on a med bottle, and it snapped off at the end. 

This tiny little utility knife isn’t going to be a go-to for heavy cutting. The handle is too small to be comfortably held for long cutting sessions. It is a good size for opening letters, cutting for short periods of time or small projects. It is a great little knife for sharpening pencils while sketching. The price is tiny as well- at about $3 for the knife and $2 for ten blades, you get a super-compact knife that sharpens pencils and goes under the radar. I’ve kept mine clipped to my wallet for quick access and have found it to be very useful.

Review: Baron Fig Gather LE Review Journal

If you are trying to get away from reviewing anything online, or maybe you need to take some notes for your online review the LE Gather is a perfect option.

The packaging for Gather is light olive colored with and an assortment of illustrations scattered across its surface. These are rendered in traditional Baron Fig white and gray. Between these items are stars printed in thick glossy ink, they remind me of thick embossing powdered rubber stamps. (Only a few of you will get that reference.) Like all their other products the packaging is eminently giftable, maybe to yourself maybe to someone else.

Cracking this box open reveals a gorgeous olive green cloth cover debossed with icons that look suspiciously close to those you might find on your phone. The bookmark is a slightly darker shade of olive while the elastic closure is dark gray. Opening the book reveals olive end sheets with lighter green stars and some of the icons scattered about the page. Further, into the book, you find a quick start reference and a key to the icons.

The set up of the review page is very simple, along the edge is a bar with all the icons, you circle of check off what you are reviewing, then at the top of the page is a pale green bar to write the name of what you are reviewing. Then there are lines to write the body of your review, a 5-star rating guide, then high and low points. In the far back of the journal are a few pages about each item and a brief almost how-to on reviewing those items.

I tested my Gather with a few pencils and pens. I notice that the paper feels less toothy than other iterations of the Confidant. I’m a fan of the toothy paper, but this doesn’t eat a graphite pencil to a nub in short order. Also, my fountain pen felt great on the page but the ink did seem to spread wider than my nib size. There was no feathering or bleed through but it should be noted that my EF looked a bit like an F. I love BF’s cream-colored paper and the pale green accents on this color are subtle but lovely.

My low points on this journal are that they spend 11 pages explaining how to review each item represented by an icon. This would have been a perfect Confidant to introduce a pocket- to collect ticket stubs and other ephemera gathered as you gather your reviews. The top 10 lists in the back seem a bit redundant, but also like they could be useful for some folks. An index might be helpful in finding where particular items have been reviewed.

The high points are definitely the color and design. Like all Baron Fig products, this is well designed and work really well for their intended purposes. It also assists in giving something some thoughtful inspection, examining why you might like something or dislike it, without snap judgment. As someone who reviews all the things that comes into her orbit (from restaurants to books to pens and paper) this is a fun way to focus my thoughts and not nitpick every tiny thing with the thing I’m reviewing. I do think this is far too small a format for books, but that’s just me.

Overall, this is a great starter review journal for someone you know that likes to think deeply about all their things, or if you want to start out reviewing and don’t want to use an online service- this is a great tool.

Review: Baron Fig Fortress LE Squire Click

Purple. Blue-ish purple, not the normal burgundy shade of purple Baron Fig often uses, nope, true purple on the violet side of the spectrum. If this were an ink shade it would be referred to a blurple. The shade of purple hit me straight away when I browsed the Baron Fig site checking out their newest limited editions.

When I was a kid I loved purple. I loved purple so much that every gift-giving occasion I was gifted purple things. Until I hit 13 and I hated the world and only wanted things in black. Deep down my affection for purple was still there.

If you haven’t gotten it yet this pen is purple, and it is a lovely shade of purple. Gorgeously blueish in hue.

Etched into the sides of the pen are Castlevania-esque stairs, bricks, and windows. I’m talking old school 1990s era Nintendo Castlevania, not the new Netflix cartoon Castlevania. The version of the game with an endless scroll of jumping and swinging as you kill vampires in the castle. The design is simple, covers the whole body of the pen and is elegantly done. I’m not sure a casual observer would recognize the design as a fortress/castle.

I always love Baron Fig’s packaging. The presentation makes these pens perfect for gifting, maybe to someone else but also for yourself. BF hasn’t made a Stone for the Click yet, but the base of the tube is perfect to act as a desk stand until they adapt the stone for the Click.

I like the slim feel of the click, if you have smaller hands this might be the perfect Squire for you. You can see my previous review of the OG Click here. My issues with the nock still stand, I find is soft and mushy and I miss the satisfying click of a good nock. This nock is sturdy and works really well, but it just doesn’t give me a good click.

I like this pen, it’s slim and comfortable and feel great in hand. The nock is a bit mushy and doesn’t have a resounding CLICK when depressed, At $50 it isn’t cheap, but like I’ve argued before, a refillable pen body is an investment that is well worth the initial expense. Get yours here.

Review: Wing Sung 5502 Fountain Pen

This pen was ordered from a seller on eBay and arrived in my mailbox 22 days after payment. It was shipped in a zipper bag and a bubble envelope. I paid $5.69 for this pen.

This is another of those pens where it feels like some designers at Wing Sung got really stoned and dumped all the parts of pens into a brown bag, shock it, and drew out parts, and said, “Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhh, man, that’s rad.” In this case this works. In this case we have a pen that looks inspired by the TWSBI Eco, Lamy Safari, and Pilot Prera.

This pen features a locking piston mechanism. To use it you first slide the little end cap away from the pen then twist. When filled align the tabs with the notches and push the cap in to lock it into place. There is a little bit of play in the cap that allows you to lock it into place without losing any ink. Speaking of which, this ink holds roughly 1.8ml of ink. Which is kind of surprising given the size and weight of the pen.

This pen feels very light weight but not cheap. Despite it being a little more slim than other Wing Sung pens it’s very comfortable. The grip is triangular and a riff on the TWSBI Eco grip. It is narrow. I find it comfortable but many folks won’t.

The cap can be posted but the length of the pen becomes ungainly and far too long to be realistically used. The clip is sturdy and holds to my shirt or other location tightly. There is a stop that cuts the depth of the clip and seems unnecessary. The cap and piston have color coded pieces of plastic. I’ve only seen this pen in black, white, and pink.

The nib and feed are Pilot style, giving you many options for upgrade. The feed is black instead of clear and my feed was quite constricted leading to a miserly flow of ink. A little work with a razor blade opened up the channel and the flow is perfect. This might not be a problem for everyone. The nib was perfectly smooth out of the envelope. Of course I smoothed it a bit more, but it didn’t need the work to be serviceable.

Overall, this is a great little pen. At $5.69 it’s a good price and the ability to swap out Pilot nibs really adds to the usefulness of the pen. That it holds a mammoth 1.8ml of ink means you can write and write and not need to fill. I’ve yet to write mine dry and frankly since getting this pen, I keep reaching for it again and again.

Review: Hero 98 Sponge Head Brush Pen

The Hero 98 is a basic looking metal bodied pen. It features a metallic paint job with black plastic accents and a silver clip. There is some writing on the side of the cap in presumably Chinese. (Google translate indicates that it says “Hero” and “Do.”) The pen is very light weight. It looks and feels cheap. I purchased it for $2.56 on eBay and it arrived roughly 15 days later.

Inside the pen is a horrible aerometric filler. I filled this pen with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness and was able to get about 3/4 of a fill. Not bad in the world of cheap aerometric fillers. When I filled this with water I was able to get just over 1ml of water in, so perhaps there is about .75ml of ink inside. Bonus points for the blackout stealthy cover on the aerometric.

The grip section is made out of black plastic, with noticeable mold lines. I can feel them as I’m using this pen. The grip section is shaped weirdly and ends with a flair and another taper. Possibly for the sponge head to rest?

I referred to the sponge head in a livecast as “that maggot looking thing.” I still maintain that it looks like a maggot. The sponge seems to be made out of the same kind of sponge as makeup sponges. Which further grosses me out. The sponge is shaped like a teardrop. Flow is uneven and the tip dries out in use. Attempts to use this in a dry brush style were met with frustration. It gets too dry even for dry brush. Getting the ink to flow again means squeezing the aerometric filler, which I think we can call agree is an easy way to wear ink on your fingers. Well maybe, getting the ink to flow was a pain in the arse now matter what I tried. In the end I dribbled water onto the sponge and got the ink flowing.

The cap is not airtight so you go through the process of dribbling water and squeezing every time you want to use the pen. Very annoying. The clip is the best thing about the pen- it’s springy and give one something to fidget with.

The sensation of using this pen was not pleasant, at least not to me. Even when flush with ink the spong grabs and drags on the page- even with good art paper. On cheap copy paper the grab was even more distinct.

I don’t usually post negative reviews. I feel this is more of a warning than anything else. This is not a good pen for writing or drawing. It’s a great way to build up frustration tolerance because it just doesn’t work well. Avoid this garbage at all costs. Mine has gone into the recycle bin and trash*.

Review: Birmingham Pen Company Tarnished Nickel Fountain Pen Ink

The Birmingham Pen Company puts out an extraordinary amount of shades of blue, blue-black, grey, and black. They seem to focus on professional shades with their inexpensive inks. Tarnished Nickel is grey with a hint of warm blue.

The ink is well behaved on most paper. I really liked it on the cheap paper at work. It didn’t show through despite the paper being only 20lb. With my fine nibbed pen it didn’t bleed or even show through. The ink felt good on every paper- from garbage paper to the good stuff in my L1917 and BF Confidant. Lubrication was good and flow was great in even my most finicky extra fine nib. Line width was accurate to the pen. With garbage paper there was a hint of feathering, but not a lot.

There was a bit of shading but not a whole lot. The ink photocopies well enough. The ink responds better than I expected with the drip and wipe testing. As soon as water hits the ink the warm black aspects lift and move. What is left behind is a cool but legible line. I would not expect this to survive a washing machine but it would survive tea or coffee being spilled on it.

This ink can almost be confused for a washed out black but it is a little more complex than just grey. It has great character, despite this, it isn’t exactly eye-catching or something that many people would notice. It is something that a fountain pen fan would notice.

In case you haven’t noticed I really enjoy this ink. It’s subtle and works great on a variety of papers. Even better, the ink is inexpensive.

Review: Sailor Jentle Yama-Dori Fountain Pen Ink

I picked this ink up ages ago via a sale on Amazon. It is a favorite ink of mine, and leans too green and teal for it to be considered professional. That is to say, that I don’t think that I can get away with signing paperwork with this lovely ink. That said, I think it deserves to be reviewed.

I’ve used this in most of my pens over the years. It works well in most pens and better yet cleans out of them with ease. It does not seem to stain any of my demonstrators. It is nice in a fine to broad nib. It wetter flowing nibs the ink looks dark blue-green and has a red sheen. In even the finest nib I found it to give a smooth feel, it is nicely lubricating.

It is generally a well behaved ink, working well on nice paper and decently on junky paper. On garbage paper it is not prone to feathering or bleeding. On nice paper you get a lovely red sheen. Dry time on better paper is slower, around 7 seconds with a fine nib. On garbage paper it dries in under 5.

This ink isn’t going to survive the wash. In my wipe test it smeared all over. The drip test left blue ink migrated with little semblance of the lines left.

The ink performed well on most paper. That said it didn’t do well on Field Notes*. I had plenty of bleed and show through in that book. It did really well in a standard Story Supply Co book. Of course it does great in my Baron Fig Confidant and L1917. Clearly i like this ink. I purchased a full bottle. This ink is readily available from most vendors who carry Sailor inks. You can find many other reviews of this ink on most review blogs. It’s a  great ink.

Review: Poluma Dotted Grid Journal Notebook

This nondescript notebook was listed near the bottom of the price range for my inexpensive dot grid journal search in the depth of Amazon. At $5.99 it is decidedly inexpensive. The price also fluctuates from $9.99 down as low as $4.99. Gotta love Amazon. (Or not.)

So this book has all the usual bells and whistles of a basic notebook- hard vinyl cover, pocket in the back, ribbon place marker, and an elastic. It’s stitched and glued with a standard Smythe sewn binding. The vinyl cover has a nice fake leather imprint and has a bit of give giving the cover a bit of grippiness over the slipperiness of a L1917 or a Moleskine. The front and rear end sheets are basic and lighter than the inner pages. The pocket feels cheap and pulpy, though it will likely survive the life of the book. The ribbon is standard nylon and heat sealed. The elastic is appropriately sized and tight to the book. The size is narrow A5 or Moleskine sized.

So far so good.

The inner pages are dot grid on cream paper and are ruled at 5mm. There are 128 pages. They are not numbered. The paper is thick, smooth with a hint of tooth. In testing the paper felt great with fountain pens, gel, ballpoint, roller ball, and every other pen I used. Pencils felt good too. There is just enough tooth for pencil to leave a legible line but not smudge or be eaten by the paper. The only ghosting and bleed I had was with multiple layers of highlighters. Fountain pen was especially nice on this paper. The lines were true to nib size and there was no feathering at all.

The binding looks and feels solid. It folds over on itself and opens flat and closes back tightly, even without the elastic.

The paper performance stands up. The downside of this journal is that it doesn’t have numbered pages or an index, but honestly those are so easy to set up that It is hardly something to point out as a detraction. There are only 128 pages which means you might fill this up in a month or two depending on your bullet journaling habit and practices.

Overall, if I was looking for a plain black journal for bullet journaling I’d consider this one. It’s made well enough and has good paper. The leather imprinted vinyl feels good in hand.