Review: Zebra Delguard Mechanical Pencil

Let’s start this review with this fact, the Zebra Delguard is a budget-friendly mechanical pencil. It is no way competes with great mechs like the Rotring 600 or TWSBI Precision. If you are looking for a wallet-friendly upgrade from your Bic Mechanical, this is a good choice. The pencil comes packaged with a 12-pack of HB leads.

First off in the look department, this pencil is a charcoal gray and black pencil with chrome and orange accents. The top half of the body has a pinstripe visual look that seems as if it is intended to look like carbon fiber or something a little fancier. It looks pretty nice. The grip section is molded smoke-colored translucent plastic. You can see the workings of the DelGuard mechanism inside. The nock and the point are the only external metal parts of the pencil. The nock covers a tiny niblet of an eraser, so carry a block eraser. Internally you can see springs in the DelGuard mechanism. A single click extends 0.5mm of lead every time.

A big negative for me is that there is no way to unscrew the pencil should the mechanism jam, you are in a word, screwed, should the pencil jam up. That said, it’s a $4.99 mech readily available at big box, drug, and grocery stores; most likely you won’t cry if it gets jammed you’ll have the funds to buy a new one.

In hand this is a VERY lightweight pencil. It’s a barely there feeling that I expected to hate, but I didn’t. I wrote page after page and enjoyed it far more than I expected. It felt good despite weighing so little.

As for the mechanism, it works. When the lead is extended at a typical amount the little tip pushes out and protects the lead. At a high angle or a low angle, it works. The only time it broke in regular use was when I extended the lead more than 2mm, even then you could see the tip beginning to extend to protect the lead. The key to the DelGuard mechanism working properly is extending the right amount of lead at a time. And it does work. When I wrote with a heavy hand the tip extended.

The included lead is a true HB. It’s decent on rough paper but is nothing to write home about. I did find it decently smooth, though not as smooth as NanoDia leads.

My experience with the DelGuard is positive. I’m encouraged by how well the mechanism works on their lowest end version of this mech. It makes me want to invest in a higher end version from JetPens. If I had a teenager or friend who I was attempting to get them away from disposable mechanicals this would be a fabulous cheap option.

Jetpens has a bunch of higher end options which are still south of $15.

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.

Review: Baron Fig Dateless Confidant Planner

We all know I’m a huge fan of the Baron Fig Confidants, and if you read my review of the 2018 planner you know I love their planner too. When BF asked if I wanted to review their dateless version, I immediately responded, “YES!”

To start the Dateless features all the same goodness of their regular Confidant- fabulous paper, lovely end sheets, awesome stitching, and lay flat binding. The page marker this round is slightly longer. I heat sealed mine with a lighter and you should too. Like last year’s planner, this one features a set of planner pages with some dot grid at the back of the book. A section of the dog gridded pages are perforated for easy removal.

I’m a huge fan of undated planners. I mentioned this in my review of the Dateless Vanguard. It makes sense for companies to make dateless planners and it is easy for those of us who use them to write in the dates. The paper in the Confidant accepts rubber stamps and markers really well, so adding decorative touches is easy and looks great. If you want to use a dip pen with some of your fancy Organic Studios sheening inks? You can do that. Want to use a rubber stamp with your fancy pigment rubber stamps? Works well with that too.

The set up of the planner portion features a spread for the month followed by 5 weeks of weekly spreads. It makes sense to have them all be the same length because folks could be starting the Dateless today and not on January 1st. I really like the flexibility. I wrote in each month’s spread then stamped out the dates for each weekly spread until I reached the week where the months overlapped. If I had extra spreads, I skipped those. I figure having a few empty spreads will give me some space to make notes for phone calls and other things.

The exterior of the Dateless is nice too. It features debossing of the same images on the Dateless Vanguard. The Dateless is a darker shade of gray than the dated version.

Anyway, the Dateless Confidant is a darn near perfect planner for folks who don’t want to be tied into a dated version or who work projects over the course of a month or two and find that the rest of the planner is wasted. The dateless fixes that problem, date the parts you’ll use and then date some more. You can’t go wrong with this paper- it is lovely with pens and pencils.

Review : Baron Fig Dateless Pocket Vanguard Planner

We all know that I love Baron Fig’s paper and dot grid ruling. I’ve used their dated 2018 planner as my go-to for the last year and I love that too. I’ll tell you about their Dateless Confidant in another review.

The Dateless Vanguard is available in pocket size only with the Confidant available in flagship size.  The Dateless Vanguard (DV) arrives in a belly banded and shrinkwrapped 4-pack. The books are meant to be seasonal. Each book has 15 weekly spreads, 2 blank spreads, and  14 pages of dot grid. The pages at the back are not perforated. Each season is designated with a simple and beautiful graphic in shades of the color of that season- red, yellow, green and blue. The exterior design is lovely.

Inside the pages are set up with 8 blocks for each week, 4 on each page. The top bar is grayed slightly and has lines for writing the date. Each block but the 8th has a small line for writing (or in my case rubber stamping) the date. The 8th block is grayed out with a very light printing of ink. I prefer an 8 block set up to 6 with the 6th being cut in half. Weekends are main working days for those of us with side hustles. (When do you think I work on this blog!?!)

Let’s face it, for many folks a pocket-sized planner isn’t going to cut it, but for many others- with occasional appointments and regular work schedules the pocket-sized is perfect. The bright colors can easily be found in the depths of an overstuffed bag while the small size can fit into the passport size Traveler’s covers. The 15-week length is almost perfect for a semester’s worth of planning. (You could just draw a few lines into those blank pages… ) Or it is perfect for planning out some sort of side hustle project.
I won’t use this for my main planner, we’ll get to that with the Dateless Confidant, but this is a go-to for planning smaller projects- marketing for self-publishing books, podcasts, or blogs. You could have one for each project and plan it out to the day.

Review: Yoobi Mini Gel Pen 12-pack

The Yoobi display filled up with loads of different gel pen packages. The full sized multicolor package was outside of my budget, so I picked up the 12-pack of mini pens for $4.99, which is still way over priced. While back-to-school sales can net us some great deals this is not one of them. For 2018, the multicolor packs of gel pens seem to be the thing that is WAY expensive compared to other items that are on discount.

This 12-pack of color has an odd rainbow mix of neon and glitter inks. The mix is odd and most of them I won’t use- primarily the glitter inks. While I like glittery sheen in my fountain pen inks I don’t like it in gel. It doesn’t make sense. I know. Don’t @ me.

The tips are bold and have great flow. I didn’t notice any scratchiness, just smooth ink flow. The pens are totally uncomfortable. When they say mini, they mean it. The length of the pen is far to short even for my small hands. They would only be comfortable for children. Even posted they are too short. Speaking of posting, they don’t post well at all.

Overall, the Yoobi gel minis have wonderful ink flow, would be great for coloring pages or highlighting, but their diminutive size and poor posting mean they’ll be a pain in the arse in use for anything but children, and kids are likely to lose the caps. I’d give the full-size Yoobi gel pens a chance but not the mini pens.

Thinking: Blue Inks That Photocopy

There is no legal reason to not use any color of ink, but it’s a well worn bit of professional etiquette that blue and black inks are considered professional. A former boss at my DayJob insisted on us using black ink for everything. She attempted to tell us that it was for legal reasons, then it was because it’s professional. Finally, she insisted on black ink because blue does not photocopy well. Some blue inks do not photocopy well and if I’m going to use blue ink then I need to know which inks copy well.

I’m going to start this little experiment with the following caveat- I know some of the blue inks I’ve been using at work do not copy well on the small Canon copier we use for fast small batches of copies. We’ve nicknamed this copier “Big Bertha.” Why? I’m less likely to kick uit if it has a name. Well that’s not WHY but it’s a good reason. I’ve included these blues in this experiment for many reasons. Thus far I’ve written with 16 different inks and with one refill style twice, when it is new and once when it starts to skip. Most of these inks are gel, ballpoint, or rollerball. I have one fountain pen inked with blue, and that is included. I do not use a lot of blue inks in my fountain pens, but find myself adding more as I need to have a rotation of “professional” inks.

Experiment- test these pages in my pocket notebook on Bertha as well as the high volume machine on the other side of the building. Bertha tends to make worse prints while the high volume machine does much better. I’d also like to test it on the fax, but then I’d have to write everything out again on a flat sheet of paper. Oh well, next time. Each pen and ink will have the following phrase, “Blue inks for photocopies” followed by the name of the pen, color and size if known.


The copier used makes a huge difference in the quality of how blue inks photocopy. Big Bertha (Small canon copier) doesn’t do a good job at picking up the blue inks, many of the lighter shades barely show up. With the larger Xerox WorkStation most of the blue inks copied perfectly well. Only the lightest of the blue shades were pale in the copies made on the large Xerox machine.

From the big copier
From “big Bertha” note the differences.

The pens I would use for guaranteed copy success no matter the copier would be:

  • A fresh Monteverde blue refill with a medium tip
  • Zebra Sarasa medium in indigo
  • Uniball Signo 207 BLX in blue black
  • Papermate Inkjoy in Slate Blue or Blue

Medium tips seem to copy better than fine or extra fine even with the better copier. The line form the EF and F tips were fair with the better copier but not exceptional. Sadly for photocopy clarity, a medium point is needed.

Big Bertha makes pale copies.

Review: Composition Notebooks at Walmart

The Walmart near me is out of my way so getting to it is a bit of a pain in the arse. I finally had a reason to go that was more pressing than just picking up a few notebooks. School started over a week ago and there were still parents and kids in there buying notebooks. Maybe they were hoping to cash in on some sweet clearance deals, but they were as surprised as I that clearance prices were not applied.

I picked up 4 different notebooks, 3 were actual composition notebooks while another was a sneak in disguise.

Studio C

  • Clear Poly Cover with decorative stickers
  • Wide rule only
  • Perfect bound and thus NOT a composition book
  • $1.96

To be fair the Studio C notebook sports the same great paper as every other Studio C notebook. In this case the paper is slightly rougher than the other versions, but works well with every ink I tossed at it. All inks that sheen, sheened highly, and glitter glittered. Pencil feels great on this slightly toothier version of the Studio C paper.

The poly cover is floppy and you cannot write in hand with this notebook. The biggest downer of this book is that it is perfect or glue bound instead of being stitched. Even after my review the back page was falling out. It will be great for letter writing or notes that need to be put into other books. Overall, I’m unimpressed.

Mead Fashion Cover 100 Pages

  • Thin card covers
  • Fun patterns and colors
  • Contrasting white spine tape
  • 100 pages
  • The palest of pale blue ruling
  • 50 cents

The covers of these Mead comps are gorgeous. I love the colors, patterns, and designs. I wanted to pick out one of each pattern and color. I’m glad I didn’t. This paper was absolute garbage with fountain pens and liquid ink. Some of my gel pens bled through. This is a ballpoint and pencil only notebook.

Exceed by Norcom

  • Thick poly covers,
  • Thick smooth paper
  • Dark blue ruling
  • 80 sheets
  • Made in the USA!!!
  • $1.47

I had high hopes for this comp book, the Exceed Moleskine knockoffs have gotten rave reviews from many of my friends, and are offered in dot grid. Then.  I saw that it was made by Norcom. Norcom makes great comp books but not one I’ve tried has a bit of fountain pen compatibility. That was the case with these. Not only did inks feather and bleed, but they soaked through to the page behind! Not good. Pencil, ballpoint,  and gel inks performed well.

As poly covers go, this is a good one, you’ll just need to use pencil or ballpoint. The stitching is great.

Pen+Gear by Walmart

  • 80 pages
  • Medium blue ruling
  • Thin, floppy poly cover
  • Well stitched
  • Overly narrow, black taped spine
  • 50 cents

Last year’s version of the P+G comp was garbage. I picked this up because it was 50 cents and I wanted to see if it was still garbage. The paper is smooth and feels good. I was surprised when I used my fountain pens and nothing feathered or bled. Inks looked amazing on this paper and my pens felt amazing too. Loads of sheen and glimmery glitter.

Anyway, the mighty have fallen and some have risen. In the composition book grande battle royale, there are a few winners and a few losers. The winner hands down are the Studio C- they aren’t the best price but they offer a sturdy binding and the best of the best in paper. If you want the best price- the Target Unison at 50 cents is the best classic covered at the best price. They also sport some amazing paper. If you want a poly cover (why, why would you?) the Pen+Gear was a surprising winner at Walmart this year. The paper is lovely and the plain colors are great. They had a number of foiled holographic fashion covers available, sadly also poly covered.

Review: Cognitive Surplus “The Hypothesis” Hardcover Notebook

Cognitive surplus designated this a notebook but it functions quite well as a journal.

The nitty gritty:

  • 7×9 inches
  • Hardcover, with a waterproof coating
  • 192 pages of 80 gsm paper
  • Pale gray ruling, graph on the left, lines on right; available in different ruling online
  • Fountain pen friendly paper, with medium or smaller nibs
  • Designed in Portland, OR made in China
  • Lengthy gray ribbon page marker.
  • $18.95 at Bob Slate in Cambridge MA, and in their online shop

I picked up the Crystallization cover because it has geometric shapes on a dark teal background. They have many other cover options in many other colors in their online shop. I particularly like the Planetary Motion, Neurons, Models of the Universe, and Brain Anatomy. The designers at CS have a great sense of color and design. They mix old-timey scientific drawings with text and color in a way that I find particularly interesting.

The cover is smooth and not quite slippery in hand. It has a satin finish that has gotten burnished with use and shows a few spots of shine as I’ve pulled it in and out of my bag. I’ve been a bit… rough, with it and it’s showing the consequences. The burnishing is barely noticable.

Inside I found the signatures of the book to be securely stitched and glued. I did not find any glue creep or loose stitching in my book. The block is cut cleanly and square. It is fitted into the cover well. The whole thing opens flat on desk or in hand. The covers are stiff and solid, allowing the book to be used for writing in hand. It even folds over onto itself well. Surprisingly well considering that the binding utilizes a piece of card across the spine, a practice which I find usually interferes. IN this case it is done well enough that it doesn’t interfere at all.

The paper is decently smooth with most of my finer nibbed pens. I only noticed feathering with ink that has general issues with bleed through, the majority of my inks were well behaved and looked great. Inks that sheen exhibited a great deal of sheen. Glittery inks glittered. I did not note any ink spread. Nib size is true on this paper. All other inks performed well on this paper- grl, rollerball, and ballpoint were all fabulous.

The paper also has excellent tooth for pencils. It’s at a great amount for even softer darker pencils. I found that my soft dark pencils held a point quite well. My harder pencils also performed well on this paper. They put down a decent amount of lead to the page and smudging is minimal. Pencil felt superb to me on this paper.

Overall, I love the designs on the covers and the paper is great. The size works well for notes or journaling. It’s just a smidge smaller than a composition notebook so fits in most backpacks and messenger bags with ease. the cover is sturdy and allows for writing in hand. At $18.95 these aren’t cheap, but they are a solid choice for a journaling splurge or gifting to your favorite stationery fan.

No affiliate links today. I bought this book with my own cash money and no one influenced my review. But hey if Cognitive Surplus wanted to hit me up with review copies of their other books I’d be down to review the rest of their line. They have POCKET NOTEBOOKS with their colorfully printed covers!!!