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Review: Baron Fig LE Squire Spectre

If you have been listening to my podcast, RSVP, then you know how I feel about the BF Squire. The pen is perfectly comfortable. The weight is nice. Just heavy enough so I always know it is there, but not so heavy as to tire my hand. The size is perfect for my hand. The pen is short-ish, if you have really big meaty paws, this might not be the pen for you. The weight is toward the front of the pen for good writing balance. It feels wonderful. The twist mechanism twists the refill down just enough to expose the point without excess. I find myself fiddling with the twist mechanism in much the same way one might fiddle with a clicky nock. There is a slight gap between the nock and the body of the pen. It has been noted on other blogs that the pen should be seamless, but I see the slight gap as part of the aesthetic. The gap is perhaps .5mm. Though I tend to cart my Squire around in my pants pocket the anodized finish as remained perfect. Not one chip, ding, or scratch mars it’s surface. I would suggest that you NOT cart your Spectre in your front pocket, lest you end up ruining as many pairs of pants as I have. The motion of it rolling around in your pocket is enough to twist the nock, expose the point, and leave a nice large black stain on your favorite pair of camel colored khakis. Not only does this suck most of the ink out of an otherwise full cart, the refill never quite works the same. If you are wondering if the ink washes out, it does not. The Schmidt ink bonds quite well with cotton. The Schmidt refill works really well on the garbage paper at work, which is why it ends up in my pocket so often. It is also quite nice on Baron Fig’s paper. I quite like it in my Confidant journals.I find that the ink tends to bleed through on other paper- Write and Field Notes as 2 examples. The HP Laserjet I use in No Brand Notebooks handles it’s liquidy black ink just fine. If you are not a fan of the Schmidt cartridges you can buy many Parker style refills. Be careful though, many will not fit due to the super narrow opening at the tip of the Squire. Itoya and Monteverde refills both fit.As for the Spectre, I really dig everything about the pen. The little engraved ghost, the weight and feel. I was a little surprised at the color. Many of the images online show it to be BLACK the actual color is a deep dark purple black. The color is warm and looks a lot like graphite. I like the color but it was not expected. While I found the green of the Experiment too eye catching for my workplace the muted purple charcoal shade is perfect for work. It’s professional and flies under the radar and most people won’t peg this as “fancy pen.” The cost of the pen is $60, which makes this one of my more expensive pens. But any pen you refill is an investment. While my Pentel Alloy will likely break after a year of use, the Spectre will continue working for years and years of use. It should be noted that the pen does not have a clip or roll stop. The slightly narrower nock doesn’t keep it from rolling off a desk top. Because it is weighted toward the front, it will land tip first, likely ruining the refill inside. Baron Fig does offer a little pocketable leather case for the pen, which is a solid investment, if you intend to pocket carry. I quite love my Squires, I’m lucky enough to have an Experiment and a Spectre. They are solidly made and worth the investment. One of the great things about using a refillable pen is that you get to pick what refill you want to use- from Monteverde to Itoya to Parker to Schmidt you have plenty of choices here. Continue reading

First Look: Baron Fig LE Archer No.2 Pencil

With limited editions, my focus is on evaluating the aesthetics of the look and less on evaluating the internals. Viarco makes Baron Fig pencils. I’m not a huge fan of Viarco pencils, I find them to be a tad on the scratchy and gritty side for my taste. Which is BAFFLING because Viarco is capable of creating the smoothest and prettiest graphite as they do with some of their art graphite. Their Art Graph Sticks are creamy smooth brilliance. They are capable of SO much more.As much as I love the look of the Prismatics, the No.2 hits me in the feels. There is so much to love about this pencil. Part of what I love is that pencil nerds have been asking any of the makers of limited edition pencils to do something with a classic yellow school pencil. No one has delivered until now. Baron Fig not only nailed it, they hit it out of the park. This pencil is steeped in American school pencil tradition. They went with a matte but bright finish. The yellow  is bright or light chrome yellow versus the mid or dark chrome yellow we usually see on school buses and school pencil. It’s cheerful and put a smile on  my face. The green end dip and imprint are light chrome green. It’s also super bright. The color combination is classic. It calls out to Dixon’s Ticonderoga, General’s Badger or their Semi-Hex, and John Deere tractors.* the change in colors for pencils- the Ticonderoga uses foil in its imprint and a dusty shade of green on the ferrule. While the Badger sports green foil and a gold ferrule. IN contrast the No.2 has no ferrule at all, just a simple green end dip that perfectly matches the imprint. Unlike the budget pencils this has a thick application of the matte lacquer. Inside the matte lacquer is, for the first time, good old cedar.

The core on mine were mostly centered, though I had 2 pencils that were pretty off center in my dozen. I tested the No.2 out on a variety of paper from Baron Fig’s Vanguard and Confidant, to Write, to Field Notes, To No Brand Notebooks, and finally P+G index cards. The results were surprising. The 3 that I tested and used extensively for several days were much less gritty than the previous Archers I’ve used. As usual the archer’s perform best on Baron Fig’s own paper, the smooth yet toothy paper is optimum for gaining the darkest line with the least amount of effort. While smoother paper like the Write pocket notebooks forces the user to use much more pressure to get a good dark line.

For a pencil I wasn’t expecting to like but enjoyed quite a bit more than usual. The core is much more consistent and not gritty as in previous versions. The look is awesome and definitely reminds me of old school pencils. Thanks Baron Fig for the trip down memory lane. Continue reading

First Look: Baron Fig Vanguard The New Composition

Here’s what happened, I love my composition notebooks but I was frustrated with the often nasty paper inside. I thought, “You know who could make an awesome updated version of the composition book? Baron Fig.” I picked up my phone and called Joey and Adam and told them my idea. They told me it was great and awesome. That they’d read my obsessive composition notebook review, then let me know when it was going to happen. Okay, so that’s not really what happened, but it doesn’t hurt to think that maybe the guys over at BF read my obsessive reviews of composition notebooks. You know, where I harp on the amount of white to black in the marble and the size of the tape on the spine… I mean that probably didn’t happen either. But these Vanguards feel like the guys at BF crawled into my head and put all my thoughts about awesome composition notebooks into play. The ratio of color to white in the marbling is great, the black “tape” on the spine is almost perfectly proportioned for the size. I’m just so  in love with the cover style. They even fit my requirement that the spine is stitched. Inside is that great toothy but smooth enough for fountain pen paper. The Vanguard paper seems to be a tad thinner than the Confidant paper, but doesn’t feather with fountain pen inks. The flagship size is perfect for tossing into a bag, or if you must, the pocket of cargo pants. The only downside of these is that the cover is thin and not the stiff hearty cardboard comp books should be made from. Luckily they are a smaller size so the weight of the cover material is less important. These notebooks are a fun miniaturized twist on the larger traditional composition notebooks.  They look lovely with the Baron Fig No.2 pencils. Which I’ll review in their own post. Anyway, head on over the Baron Fig’s website to pick up a set.So some deeper fuller composition book analysis is needed here. Is this a comp book by my own standards? No. It is a good update on a comp book. It lacks a few things that I use to determine a true comp book- the size is too small (though there are mini and 6x9ish comp books), the spine is not taped, and finally the covers are soft and not card. It also lacks the standard generic label on the front. Even with all of that I love these. I’m glad they did this on the Vanguard and not a Confidant because this is the closest thing to a comp they offer. A marbled Confidant would not be in the tradition of comp books, in the same way that I cannot see the Kickstarted Comp as a composition book. I think that the Baron Fig Composition is a good modern take on the old school composition notebook.

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First Look: Unfinish Baron Fig Limited Edition Confidant

I have to admit, when Baron Fig contacted me with an offer to review this Confidant I wavered. I love the Confidant for so many reasons, but this, this Unfinish business, well, it’s controversial. I missed out on Askew, and admit I thought that one was a little silly. But oh my the social media crankiness was delightful. So in comes Unfinish, delightfully weird and a dash wacky all printed up in non-photo blue. No weirdo lines, just little images that aren’t finished. If you doodle this might be your dream journal. If you just want a Confidant you can write in, don’t fear, the printing is pale enough that it disappears behind your writing- whether you use blue or black ink or graphite. There are no lines just unfinished little images throughout the book. You need lines? Hit up The Well Appointed Desk for some printable line goodness. I find the little images kinda cute and silly. If I wanted a journal to doodle in with a bit of a prompt, this would be a good choice. Some of the images remind me of Keri Smith’s “Wreck This Journal,” i’m not sure why, but they do. It also reminds me of Dada and Fluxus, and a bit of surrealism. Look up Hannah Hoch for more Dadaist goodness. Unfinish sports all the same goodness that all Confidant notebooks have- solid fabric covered hard covers, smythe sewn, quality paper that is FP friendly and nice with pencils, and a too short bookmark.
In short, it is a lovely, if quirky, notebook or journal. It won’t fit the needs of some folks, and will likely incite passionate debate in the stationery forums, but for those who will love it, they will do so with excitement.

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First Look: Baron Fig 2018 Planner

This planner begins with a Baron Fig Confidant base- a solidly built grey notebook. In this case medium, or flagship size, with a charcoal gray cover. Flagship size is 5.4×7.7 inches or 137x196mm with 192 pages of toothy but fountain pen friendly paper. The paper is off white. All ruling is light grey.

Inside the planner is where it differs from the Confidant. There are different sections, starting with a year overview, followed by month at-a-glance, then week + day view, and finally a notes section with dot grid ruling. As I’ve mentioned, the ruling is all light gray. For me, it is perfect- it disappears behind the inks and pencils I use most often, while being completely visible in regular light.

Depending on your use- the week + day view might be perfect. I’m in a profession where I need to schedule myself by the hour on the hour- so I needed to add in times to each day. I looked for self inking stampers but found none that would work for the available space. I picked up (and was gifted) a few number stamps as well as to do list stamps. Combined with an acrylic block I am able to stamp each week and day with 9am-7pm along with lines. This lets me schedule clients and easily see which times are open. In the past I didn’t need to have the hour marked out and this planner would have worked really well for me. I like the generous openings for each day with smaller spots for weekends.

The month at-a-glance is useful for planning vacations, paydays, and other activities. I also found the year overview useful to track vacations and days off. In the monthly section I used rubber stamps to label holidays and days the office is closed. I then used these to easily find the same dates in the weekly planner section to also easily label those same dates. This way when it comes to scheduling, it’s easy as can be.

I had never used rubber stamps in a Confidant before, and there are some important things to be aware of. First if you are stamping something with a lot of “black” area and you are using a REALLY juicy wet stamp, it will soak through to the verso. It stops short of completely soaking through but it is visible. Because the paper is good for fountain pens, it does take a really long time for pigment in to dry. I used a blotter sheet while I was quickly working, and even after an hour, the in was still wet. Use of a heat gun to dry pigment ink is totally necessary. Stick to fast dry ink pads or keep your heat tool handy.

Because the paper is so good for ink, ink looks amazing on it’s creamy surface. I have been very pleasantly surprised by how nice the stamp inks look. I’ve used red, teal, indigo, and pale teal and it all looks wonderful. The cream paper does darken everything by a shade or two. But it looks great. The stamps are crisp and edges neat, except where I used too much pressure. I’m able to write names into the lines easy as pie, and the ink looks great. Pencil also fairs well enough. Once the stamps are set pencil erases off the page and the stamp is still strong and vibrant.

Overall, with just a first look at this, and basically setting up the planner for use next year I’ve found it to be pleasant and well built like any Confidant. A year in my bag will tell me how well the cover stands up to abuse and coffee, but based on my use of other Confidants I suspect it’ll fair just fine. As with any planner if it will work for you is really based off the week at-a-glance layout as the bulk of the planner. I suspect I’ll be using the Saturday and Sunday spots for to do lists as I keep my outside-of-work life separate from work.

You can find the planner here.

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Review: Baron Fig Prismatics LE Pencils

Baron Fig had some issues with the Snakes and Ladders edition of their Archer pencil. Shattered and off center cores were the worst of the issues. I also read reports of the core being significantly softer than the previous edition, which to me is a good thing. The original Archer is lovely to behold  but contains coarse somewhat gritty graphite.

Let’s start with the awesome thing about the Prismatics* they are gorgeous and the packaging is beautiful. When I opened the box that Michael of Leadfast sent my way, I was struck by the gorgeous tube- deep blue-ish purple with red, blue, pink, and yellow geometric shapes all over. There is a white outline of a pencil shape and opposite is the informational copy. The tube feels sturdy and it lovely to hold. I ripped the plastic off the tube and was greeted by the pretty hexagonal pattern created by the 12 pencils held tightly together. The end dip matches the package. Perfect.

Inside there are 4 pencils of each color- red, blue, and yellow. The colors are bright and cheerful. One hex side is adorned with geometric designs the opposite simple says, “Baron Fig.” Inside the bright cheerful coloring is cedar. The cores are well centered and the whole deal sharpens with ease in all my sharpeners- from the Carl A5 to the Pollux to the Masterpiece.

The Prismatics contain the same core as the Archer with it’s somewhat coarse and gritty graphite. I sharpened 3 of the pencils, one each color, and found that each pencil had different level of coarseness and softness. One was about perfectly an HB, another slightly harder and much more coarse, and another slightly softer with less grit.  The point retention is great.

These are not a bad pencil but nor are they a good pencil, they are acceptable. I found them to work perfectly fine on toothy paper- paper where the coarseness of the core was less evident and mattered less because the paper was working hard to create the smooth experience I prefer. That said, if you use composition notebooks, yoobi journals, and other inexpensive paper with plenty of tooth you’ll like these well enough.

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First Look: Baron Fig Limited Edition Confidant Raspberry Honey

The Baron Fig LE Confidants have fresh covers wrapped around quality innards.Their newly updated paper stock is thick, has some tooth, is decent with fountain pens, pencils, gel, rollerball, ballpoint, and other inks. There is minimal bleed and show through. Feathering? The new Baron Fig paper doesn’t even know what feathering is, bro! The dot grid pattern is pale enough to fade into the background, which I adore. The book block is Smythe sewn and done well- I have no glue creep or loose stitches in mine. The creamy off white paper is great for long writing session and journaling. This paper is great and I love it.

They have changed up their limited editions a little bit, in this box there is an included booklet with a short 16 page illustrated short story called… Raspberry Honey. The illustrations from the story adorn the box and the end sheets. Which is a lovely touch. The cover of RH is brick red or as BF calls it maroon. The color is dark enough that dirt and dust won’t mark it up easily. It will gather cat and dog hair, so if like me you have light colored dogs, well, all that hair will show. The cover is debossed with little bees all over. They are precious and tactile. It is a really different cover from the previous Metamorphosis edition. And I love it. I love feeling the little bees under my fingertips but know that they aren’t felt when I write on the pages of the notebook. The color on this one is hard to photograph. I tried my best to capture it, but you know every monitor is different. It looks good on mine.

Sadly, the ribbon book mark is still about an inch and a half too short. It is a lovely shade of pink that reminds me of raspberries and cream, or rosé.

You can get one at Baron Fig’s Website here.

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Review: Baron Fig Metamorphosis Confidant

 

The Metamorphosis is a really well done journal. It sports a nice hard cover that is covered with a nicely textured linen (or similar) bookcloth in very light salmon aka Millennial Pink, the end sheets are bright blue. It feels awesome. The spine is flat and opens relatively flat. It’s Smythe sewn like most journals of this style and this gives the journal quite a lot of flexibility and strength. I have not found any loose stitching in my Metamorphosis. It sports a bright blue wide cotton poly blend ribbon that is heat sealed to prevent fraying. It’s a tad too short for my preference, I’d like a full 2 inches protruding from the bottom of my book, but this has less than an inch. This makes it hard to use as a place marker and for opening the notebook. Unlike other journals of this style there is no elastic or pocket in the back. More on that later.

The paper inside is cream colored with grey dot grid or ruling if you chose that option. The dots are quite large but spaced 5mm apart. The gray of the dots is light and they fade into the background of my writing no matter what tool I’m using. BF doesn’t disclose the weight of the paper but it’s a decent thickness without being cardstock heavy. Most of my fountain pens performed relatively well on the paper with a minimum of bleed and soak through. There wasn’t a great deal of show through either. You can comfortably write on both sides of the page and have no problems reading it all. That last 12 leaves/ 24 pages (an entire signature) are perforated so you can tear them out. It does take quite a lot of effort to tear them out so no worries on them working their way loose. The paper is smooth but has enough tooth that it is wonderful with pencil. I actually prefer it with pencil over pen- even fountain pen.

The linen cover, like any linen cover, attracts dust and a bit of dirt. It shows up especially on this pale salmon shade. That said, I like the look as it wears in with use. As I’ve used the journal and bent back the spine repeatedly, it now sits flat on a desk but doesn’t close as well as it once did. I have giant rubber bands I use to hold it closed, but that’s not totally needed. I adore the paper and the color of the dot grid, I do wish that the dots were a tad smaller.

Overall I really like this journal and I know it won’t be my last Confidant, I’ll definitely be back for more. I do not miss the inclusion of the back pocket- a addition I rarely use in journal in which I write. However in an art journal I would miss the pocket. Once the book has been opened a few times the cover has difficulty staying closed, hence the large ass rubber band you see in my pics. It holds my Metamorphosis closed. It’s ugly crepe rubber but I love it. I bought a giant box of them and use them all the time. I as looking for some that were FN “bands of rubber” size, but ordered the huge version. I like them anyway. I digress. I love my Confidant. Perhaps Baron Fig can add a nice braided or woven elastic pen/cil holder to their stable of accessories? 

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Review: Baron Fig Archer

So I’m a few days late and a few bucks short when it comes to this review. I’ve been sitting on it hoping my opinion would change. For the TL;DR crowd- it is pretty, if you like pretty, go ahead and buy them. If you want performance, go elsewhere.

I picked up a few of these from a friend for a few bucks. I didn’t want to spring for a 12-pack of pencils where the whispered undertone to all the reviews read, “scratchy.” I sharpened one up and used it extensively in a cheap Staples comp notebook during NaNoWriMo. I’ve forced myself to use it on slick as teflon Tomoe River paper and silky smooth Maruman and Life notebook pages. I’ve even jotted a shopping list on the nondescript paper in Field Notes.

Ignoring the feeling of the point on paper, the looks of these pencils is gorgeous. The matte finished cool gray paint with a perfectly end dipped darker charcoal gray end is just pretty. It is simplistic and pretty. It works. The imprint is also minimalist- a simple Baron Fig on one flat, with a stylized arrow on the opposite- both in crisp perfectly imprinted white. The pencil is perfectly minimalistic in design. They are gorgeous to look at.

I sharpened mine in, gasp, the Carl Angel-5 with it’s dangerously chewy teeth, which chomped into the soft linden wood body.  I suggest linden over bass based off scent. Linden smells like bay leaves to me and these pencils when freshly sharpened have that dusty odor of impending kitchen magic. Linden is ridiculously light weight. These pencils feel lighter than most pencils. I have not weighed them to be sure. the absence of a ferrule and eraser make them lighter but even compared to other pencils without ferrule and eraser they feel significantly lighter. I should weigh them and and take the subjective out of this review, but I’ll leave this here to let you know they FEEL lighter than other pencils. I prefer a little bit of heft to my pencils

This brings me to the core of these pencils. Scratchy is an apt description of these pretty pretty pencils. I’d lean more toward gritty. They are the antithesis of smooth.  If you are a fan of pencil points gliding over your page like butter on a hot griddle, look elsewhere, these aren’t the fix you are seeking.  They have a durable point that lasts for a good long time. I found myself getting pages in the comp book with the Archer. But it was an effort to write with- I had to force the graphite off the pencil. Compared to *gasp* my penny-per-pencil Casemates, these were a disappointment in use. Going back to kitchen based comparison- writing with these on most papers, even the glassy smooth Tomoe River, is like spreading chilled butter on cold toast- a gritty mess that is simply unpleasant.

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