Review: Artfan Dot Grid Journal Notebook

The Artfan “Dotted Bullet Grid Journal” is another Amazon offering that has frequent price fluctuations. I purchased my copy for $5.99 but I’ve seen it as high as $9.99 and as low as $4.99. There are multiple color offerings but mine is dark teal.

The Artfan has all the bells and whistles of a L1917- hard vinyl cover, 2 ribbon placemarkers, pocket, elastic, index, and numbered pages. It also arrives with a label tucked into the center of the book.

The images of the Artfan show a belly band but the book arrives in a plastic sleeve sans belly band. Which is fine so long as you aren’t planning on gifting the Artfan. The plastic envelope feels cheap.

Inside the book are 4 index pages and 124 numbered pages. A total of 128 pages. The paper is cream colored with grey dots at 5.5 mm ruling. It is thick and smooth. Most of my fountain pens and inks responded well to this paper. They felt really nice on this paper. There was enough tooth for pencil as well. It didn’t do well with brush pens but did surprisingly well with highlighters and mildliners.

The ribbon bookmarks are thin and in two colors. They are lengthy enough to be useful and are heat sealed. I quite like the color matching of the ribbons to the cover. The elastic closure is tight without being too snug. It can be stretched the traditional manner or diagonally. The vinyl cover is smooth with a bit of imprinted grain. The only logo is at the bottom center of the back cover.

Of the cheap depths of Amazon this is one of my favorites. The color is a great shade of teal, the elastic is secure and the pages are numbered. The paper is great too. If you put this into your cart and wait there will likely be a price change. It fluctuates often and will drop down to $5.99 for a day or two then bump back up and then down again.

Review: Lamy Blue-Black Ink

Lamy blue-black is a classic blue black ink. It is readily available from almost any place that sells pens- from Amazon to Goulet to brick and mortar shops. Pricing is affordable and around $13 to $15 for 50ml.

On the page it looks like a blue gray, sort of stormy sky like. It is smooth with decent flow. There is no shading in the pens I used for testing. I did not notice a sheen with any paper. I don’t think this is a highly lubricated ink, but my pens felt smooth enough. It’s not going to make a scratchy nib feel like butter, but paired with a good nib it feels nice. Dry time on all papers was good- under 7 seconds on the nicest paper.

In the drip and wipe tests this ink did poorly. The drip test left little behind- lines were barely visible and color migrated. In the wipe test it performed better but not great. This ink will not survive the washing machine.

It feels good in my L1917, Confidant, and on cheap paper at work. It did okay in my Field Notes and much better in my Story Supply Co. If you want to use it in a Moleskine with a fine nib, it’s not going to be a great choice. I found lots of bleed through in my Moleskine.

I like this ink for professional settings. It’s not exciting but it’s very professional. No one is going to stop and ask you “What ink are you using?” with this ink. Ultimately when it comes to “professional” shades that is what we’re looking for- flying under the radar.

Review: Minimalism Art Classic Notebook

This notebook pops up in every search I’ve made for dot grid notebooks and journals. At $9.95 it fits my criteria for cheap. Like many of the Amazon selling brands you can find that certain colors are less expensive than others, the chrome yellow was $9.95 though other colors are slightly more expensive. This brand has a deal where you can buy a 3-pack of these notebooks for $22.99. Which is a pretty darn good deal.

This notebook features all the bells and whistles you might associate with a classic journal- elastic, ribbon page marker, and a pocket in the back. These are all well done with the elastic being just the right size so that you can close the regular manner, use it as a bookmark, or use the Bullet Journal elastic trick (link Carroll video.) The pocket is gusseted with white satin and paper. The ribbon is generously long and heat sealed. All of this is done perfectly in my book.

The size of this notebook is narrow A5 or Moleskine A5. That is to say 5×8.3 inches.

The covers are hard. They are covered in classic vinyl that has a slightly squishy grippy feel. They aren’t as squishy as a Rhodia Webby but softer than a Moleskine. The feel is premium. The logo is minimalist and featured on the bottom of the back cover.

The binding is the classic Smythe stitching that is associated with most notebooks of this style. The combination of this flexible stitching and the cover style allows the notebook to open completely flat with little work. The notebook will also fold over on itself for writing in hand.

The cream colored paper is 100 gsm and slightly darker than a Leauchtturm1917 (L1917) but about the same shade as a Baron Fig Confidant. There are 192 pages, and they aren’t numbered. The dots are small and dark gray. They are 5 mm apart, which is a standard ruling. The dots aren’t dark enough to interfere with writing but don’t quite disappear behind the writing. What I like about this darkness of ruling is that I can write in lower light levels than with the L1917, where I find the dots too pale.

The paper performance is surprisingly great. It has just enough tooth that pencils perform really well without smudging. Gel, rollerball, and ballpoint all glide over this paper without an issue. The subtle cream color makes some colors really pop. The real stand out here is how well it responds to fountain pen inks. All the inks and nib combinations performed really well without bleed through, feathering, soak, or strikethrough. Inks with sheen show off on this paper.  The only thing to soak through was a triple application of highlighter.

Overall, this is a great deal. The combination of great paper, fun colors, and sturdiness makes this a go-to notebook one I’ll purchase again and again. The company has also released a “premium” line with slightly different branding and numbered pages. Thus far, this is the cheap notebook to beat.

Review Sailor Jentle Sky High Fountain Pen Ink

Sailor Jentle Sky High is a bright cheerful blue ink that is available in 50ml bottles for roughly $25.* the Jentle bottles have a reservoir in them to assist in filling your pen. The reservoir works really well at assisting to get every last drop of ink out of a bottle. I find the short squat bottles to be easy to use and look nice on my shelf.

I filled my Hero 616 large sized with a fine nib with this ink. My goal here is to find professional inks for work I’m limiting myself to extra fine, fine, and medium nibs. I have no doubt this ink would look fabulous in a fat broad nib. It looks great in my EF and F nibs thus far. The ink is bright cheerful blue that reminds me a lot of Pilot G2 blue or Pentel EnerGel blue. It pops off the page. The ink does tend to have a bit of a red sheen on better paper. I did not notice any shading. This is a saturated ink. Dry time is a bit slower than other inks- even on lesser paper dry time is over 7 seconds. Dry time on Field Notes** was almost instantaneous as it absorbed the ink as if I were writing onto blotter paper.

This ink is well lubricated making even a scratchy pen feel smoother. This ink feels great and looks great on all the paper I tested it on (except Field Notes.) It looks really nice on L1917, Baron Fig Confidant, Staples Stickies, and the garbage paper at work. It performed well on these too. The big stand out for lack of performance was Field Notes. The paper sucked the ink up like blotter paper and spread the line width out to ugly wide. There was plenty of show through and a touch of bleed through on the Field Notes paper. Though this was not apparent anywhere else I used the ink.

In the drip and wipe tests this ink proved to be not at all water resistant. The drips merged the ink with the paper in a large blob. Lines were not legible afterward. In the wipe test the ink lifted and smeared, leaving behind a legible line. It won’t survive the wash but it might survive a spill.

Overall I really like this ink. It is the bluest of blues. It is bright enough to pop off the page, so it could be used for editing. Is it professional? Yes. Or I think so. It is likely that this color would have given my old boss a coronary. In her mind the only professional color is black. This would have jammed her brain. To me it is in the same family as the Pilot G2 or Pentel Energel blue color- bright true royal blue.

Review: Diamine Chopin Ink

Diamine Chopin was first introduced as part of the Diamine Music boxed set. The set had ten colors of ink in 30 ml bottles. In this case, the bottles are short squat squares rather than Diamine’s usual taller rectangular 30 ml plastic or 80ml glass round shouldered bottles. When sold individually the 30 ml bottle retails for roughly $10. The set is roughly $55.

This ink is a warm blue-grey, though most will classify it as a blue-black. I notice some shading on some paper, though not on most. The ink feels great on every paper I used- even Field Notes*! The ink is well lubricated and like most Diamine inks, well behaved. The flow is great in the pens I’ve tested. Currently, I’ve got it in a Wing Sung 3118. In the layered test on Baron Fig Strategist cards I found there to be a subtle red sheen. I didn’t notice this on any other papers. Granted my testing was mostly done with fine and extra fine nibs, given my search for professional inks.

In testing this ink was very well behaved, while lines may have spread on cheaper and more absorbent paper I didn’t notice any feathering. Dry time was about 7 seconds on most paper, except on the Field Notes, where it absorbed the ink quickly. I really loved this ink in my L1917 and Confidant. It looks great and stands out on the warm papers. It tends to blend in well with photocopies, so it wouldn’t be a good blue-black for making notes while reading articles.

In the drip and wipe test the ink proved to be more water resistant than I expected. The drip definitely migrated a lot of color all over the wet area. The wipe stood up better than expected. Both had legible lines left behind. I would not expect this ink to survive the washing machine but it would likely survive a coffee dribble or spill.

This is a nice sedate but gorgeous blue grey ink. I adore it. It’s sedate enough that my old boss would have mistaken it for black and not made a snide comment about my color choice. The ink feels great on everything, even Moleskine.

Review: Pen Addict X Spoke Pen

I’ve been testing out the orange Spoke pen for the last few weeks. When I write testing, I really mean abusing. I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere. I’ve used it at work, on the bus, outside, and at home. Right now you can sign up to buy your own via Kickstarter. The kickstarter campaign ends on 20190309 (March 9th, 2019.)

It hasn’t disappointed.

The pen arrived swaddled in bubble wrap from The Pen Addict himself. The pen is lightweight but feels sturdy. The cap is the heaviest part of the pen and moved the balance when capped. The pen cannot be posted, which works well enough for me, but might be a deal breaker for some. The clip is simple and springy. It’s not tight but grips to things well. I carried this clipped to my shirt and it never once slipped or fell off. It stays where you clip it. I also carried this clipped into my leather Fodderstack XL (LFXL) and it stayed in my pocket. I dropped my LFXL and the pen stayed IN the pen slot.

The body of the pen consists of two parts- the grip and the body. The grip has rings to improve the grip rather than knurling. I’d love to see a deeply knurled version of this grip. The grooves feel good and are easy to like. I could also see some silicone or rubber o-rings slid into the grooves. In other words I see loads of potential for customization here.

The body of the pen has slots cut into the sides. They expose a sleeve inside the body of the pen. In this case that sleeve is black, but there are plans to offer additional colors and color combinations. I find that the slots offer a tactile fidget opportunity. I like the look and the feel.

The pen takes Uniball Signo DX or Uni-ball Signo UMR-1 refills. It ships with one 0.5 refill but others are available via Amazon or Jetpens. They are available in 0.28 on up. I like the 0.38 or 0.5. The 0.5 is slim but also smooth, while the 0.38 can be a bit scratchy.

Inside the body is a spring that holds the tip tight but also allows for different refill lengths. Everything in this pen is tight and it doesn’t make a noise as I write.

The cap deserves another mention here. It is held to the pen via rare earth magnets. The cap slides on smoothly and snaps in place after a certain point. I find myself fidgeting with this gain and again. Despite the pen being held into the cap with magnets I found that it never slid out while I was wearing it clipped to my shirt. It stayed perfectly in place.

Clearly, I like this pen. The orange is bright without being neon. I can find it easily in my bag or on my desk. I like the fact that it holds a refill that most pen bodies ignore. Like Brad, I’m a fan of the Uniball Signo, it’s a great pen and the UMR refills are among the best Uniball make. They are also a superior pen refill for sketching- laying down smooth even lines that dry water resistant.

Any refillable pen body is an investment. Like any investment one must decide how much of an investment they are willing to dive into. The Spoke pen is not cheap, at $60, it is on par with any other machined pen body. It is made and assembled in the US. It’s a gorgeous pen that is durable as hell. If you like the Uniball Signo DX this might be the refillable investment for you.

Review: Wing Sung 6118 Fountain Pen

I ordered this pen on eBay for $7.12 and it arrived from China 15 days later. It was packaged in an inexpensive black gift box, of the sort that inexpensive necklaces might be packaged. Inside a velvet drawstring pouch held the pen within a thin plastic sleeve. The cheap pouch (available from the same seller for 99 cents) sits atop a bed of black foam. Altogether the package is then in a plastic bag, and inside another bubble envelope, then wrapped in bubble wrap and slid into a plastic envelope. The whole thing is very secure and my pen arrived in good condition.

I ordered a second pen from another seller on eBay for $1.66. It arrived 25 days after purchase in a bubble mailer and in a thin plastic sleeve. I was not expecting much for $1.66

The 6118 is a piston filling pen. It mashes together the looks and features of several different brands. The body of the pen looks much like a TWSBI Diamond or Eco or Pilot Prera. It uses the same piston mechanism as the Wing Sung 6008. The piston works delightfully well, sucking up a huge portion of ink, roughly 1.9ml. The body of the pen is also easy to disassemble- remove the silver ring near the fill knob and the whole mechanism pops out. This allows for easy cleaning and lubrication of the mechanism.

The feed on this pen is also Lamy style and clear. I quite enjoy the clear feed. It lets me see ink flowing through the mechanism. The nib is Lamy or Platinum style. Sadly mine does not also fit Lamy nibs but it does fit and work with Platinum Preppy nibs, but not well. The feed is too long for the Preppy nib and fits awkwardly. It only properly fits Wing Sung knock off nibs. The nib on the pen I received is terrible. I do not have a heavy hand but managed to spring and bend this nib to hell and back. It took some work to get it back to somewhat normal after my springiness test. Once aligned and fitted to the feed again the nib works fine. I did order a replacement Wing Sung nib, but that took 2 weeks to arrive. (More on this later.)

The second pen ordered had a dark grey feed and a terrific nib. It worked very well right out of the envelope.

The cap is a direct riff of the Lamy Safari wire clip and cap. It screws on and off the pen in about 3 to 4 turns. The wire clip has sharper bends than a Lamy but it works just as well. I’ve clipped it to my shirt, a pocket and to my notebooks. It works great. You could post it, but posting throws the entire balance of the pen off. It posts to the silver ring that holds the piston mechanism into the pen. Pulling the cap off the back of the pen incorrectly could cause a squirt or dribble of ink.

Overall, I really like this pen. The piston filling mechanism sucks ink in perfectly each time and is smooth. The clear plastic lets me see all the ink moving around plus the mechanism working. The clear feed adds to the whole look. While the nib on this pen is junk the rest of the pen is well worth the $7 price tag. The rest of the packaging serves only to protect the pen and would not be a great presentation, depending on who you were gifting the pen. The 6008 has significantly better packaging.

I ordered 3 “Genuine” Wing Sung nibs from yet another seller on eBay for just over $3USD. The replacement was as easy as ripping off the old junk nib and sliding the new one in place. You’ve got to be gentle and careful when you slide the new nib into place, Now that I’ve done this, the pen works great. Look for a seller who sells these pens with nibs that have a Wing Sung logo.

In my search for a new nib I found another listing for the 6118, for a whole $1.66. I jumped on it and wow, the second pen is great right out of the envelope. Smooth stiff nib, good flow, and sucks up a massive 1.9ml of ink. At $10, this pen is a good deal if you get one with a good nib. This is a great cheap pen.

Review: Leuchtturm 1917 Dots Notebook

I picked up this Leuchtturm 1917 (L1917) years ago at my local Artist and Craftsman. The sky blue color called my name. Initially I purchased it to practice calligraphy. I found that I didn’t like the grid size or the paper as much as I had hoped. Soon it was abandoned in my bin of journals.

Since the L1917 is the suggested journal for bullet journaling, I pulled the failed notebook out of retirement and pressed it into service.

A few notes. This book sat in my abandoned journal bin for years. In this time the elastic lost its elasticity and stretched completely out. I remember it was loose even when first purchased. I ripped it out and replaced it with a new sturdy black elastic. Inside I found several loose stitches, which I clipped and melted into place. Otherwise the notebook was well made.

The journal is Smythe sewn with nylon thread. It opens completely flat and can be folded over on itself for writing in hand. Unlike a Moleskine the L1917 features a supported rather than hollow spine. This means that folding the book over on itself takes a bit of work and requires creasing the spine. It looks natural on my L1917, but some folks might not appreciate the look. The cover is made of vinyl over stiff hard card that feels very sturdy.

The ribbon marker is a shade darker than the cover and is also made of nylon. I think mine arrived heat sealed but I do know that I sealed it more deeply. The marker is generous and has several inches outside of the book. I like this. I can grab it and open the book with it easily. It is also glued deeply into the spine. I gave it a good yank and didn’t feel any give at all. The back of the book had a generously sized pocket that holds the stickers that arrive with the book. I also store my sheet of blotting paper here.

The paper in my is labeled as “ink proof” and indicates that there should be no bleed through. I have found that this is true, but I have also noticed that there is  some feathering. Some ink wicks along long fibers in the paper, which is a major complaint that many fountain pen users have against Moleskine. I don’t notice this with all inks, just some of them. The paper is heavily sized, and even quick drying inks seem to take forever to dry, which is why I keep a sheet of blotting paper handy. I use it VERY often. I’ve had issues with gel pens smearing hours after I’ve finished writing.

I’ve frequently touched a page days later only to have the slight moisture from my hands* smear the ink all over the page. Forget about using a highlighter to emphasis an item in your bullet journal, it’ll smear.

The paper is very thin. All the inks I used had show through on the back side of the page. It’s not so bad that the page is unusable, just very obvious, particularly with black ink.

Complaints aside, this paper feels great with everything- even pencil and ballpoint. It’s smooth with a hint of tooth. Even rubber stamps perform well on this paper. In fact the variety of stamp inks I used on this paper responded well- dye, pigment, and Staz-on. The paper takes a great impression.

The dots are tiny and the palest of grey. They completely disappear behind any writing, which you know I love. The creamy shade of the paper looks great with all the colors of ink I’ve used and graphite looks great on it too.

Overall, this is a perfectly acceptable notebook. I like the pale gray dots, that the pages are numbered, and the feel of the paper. The generous page marker and sturdy pocket are great too. The elastic left something to be desired but that could have been due to age and storage. The price of $$$ is within range for hardcover A5 journals with quality paper. If you watch the stationery sites you can often find them on sale.

This is a nice journal, it’s just not my favorite.

Review: Pen Addict X Robert Oster Fire on Fire Fountain Pen Ink

Brad graciously sent me a bottle of this ink for review. When he contacted me I was so excited. Having a good orange or red ink is vital for editing, for me anyway. I need something with some pop against the borning black. I also want something that I can read with ease.

The color is a true orange leaning neither yellow nor red. This ink is not overly saturated and has some lovely shading with a hint of sheen. The sheen is red and the shading is warm and a touch reddish, though not overly so. In a dry-ish pen the shading is less pronounced and the sheen is negligible. To get sheen and shading out of this ink you will need to use a wet writing pen with a wider nib. The ink goes onto the page as a true orange with a fine nib.

I don’t know why I’m always surprised when a Robert Oster ink is so well behaved, but I am. This ink was amazingly well behaved on the garbage paper at work. It stayed true to nib size, didn’t feather, didn’t bleed through, and had little to no show through. On good paper I was able to get that shading and sheen. I used it in my L1917 and Baron Fig Confidant and it looks great on those warm creamy pages. With a fine nib it even did okay in a Field Notes, but with a wet or wide nib it was as awful as any other fountain pen ink.

I’ve put it into two of my cheap fountain pens- the Kaco Retro and the Wing Sung 601a. The Retro writes on the dry side while the 601A writes wet. The ink in both pens feels well lubricated and smooth. Flow in both is average, with neither pen exhibiting dryness nor excessive wetness. Both pens feel good with this ink on multiple paper types.

This ink isn’t particularly professional- unless you edit papers or need to use it to draw attention to places where people need to sign documents. I’m not someone who will regularly write with orange ink, even with a firehose of a nib this ink is too light to read large passages written with it. That said it is a pleasurable ink to use and I have used it to write several long entries into my bullet journal. I’ve also used it during a brainstorming session to highlight particular ideas. In my use this is where an ink like this stands out- highlighting and lending emphasis.

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