Tag Archives: pen

User, Collector, or Stockpiler Part 3

In my final post based off the user, collector, or combination question that I posed to the Erasable Pencil Podcast group, I’ll write about a couple of points that seem to have several adherents, and those are: the seemingly accidental acquisition in the search for the right tool; enjoyment of variety and change;  a love of stationery; as well as a fear of writing or use of the materials. Each of these is a vastly different point that is deserving of a blog post on it’s own but for brevity I’m addressing them here.

Initially it seems that all of this collecting and using begins as a love for stationery- be it pen, paper, or pencil. Pure unadulterated enjoyment leads to a quest for a pen, pencil, and paper combination that brings writing joy. In some cases, the chase precludes the writing, and people begin to not feel worthy of their pretty pretty tools. That really is an entirely different post or even series of posts. The chase also brings about an enjoyment in variety, after all, how many of us are truly monogamous with our pens, pencils, and paper?

Here again, I’m in the camp of people who like variety and yet once I find a tool I like (General’s CP#1,  Staedtler Norica, Calepino, Field Notes) I stockpile a decent amount of those tools so that I’ll always have them. While I enjoy change I also realize that I enjoy knowing that I have tools that will work the way I expect them to all the time. Say my monthly 6 pencils* include a few duds, I know that I can grab a CP#1 and use it and be happy with how the pencil works. While I enjoy what I use regularly I also enjoy the chase and variety of pencils available.

My love of stationery is derived from my love of writing and drawing as well as a need for a time management system that is flexible and easy to adapt to my changing needs over time. I’ve used such planning systems as the pocket mod, attempted bullet journaling, the pig pog method, and various other GTD styles. Anyway, my planner style has evolved over the years and you can read more about it here. It’s not the point of this post, but to point out that through the finding of the right tool, pocket notebooks, my planner style has evolved to use something I like and fits my use and life.

The final point, which I think I’ll expand upon in another, separate post, is the fear of using our tools. I saw this again and again in art journaling. Journalers would buy the most beautiful journals and then never use them. we call it fear of the white page in art circles, I’ve seen it mentioned as fear of the page in NaNoWriMo circles. It boils down to a person’s inner critic getting the best of them, filling the mind with the phrase, “Who do you think you are?” As a phrase, this just kills any sort of creativity. In therapy circles we call this “negative self talk.” I prefer to call it an inner critic, it seems friendlier, and lacks the clinical feel of the latter. Also, when artists write about the inner critic it is pretty approachable and most people can relate, but if I link to a research study about negative self talk, eyes glaze over.

When I teach art one of the first things I try to do is just get students moving their pencils, pens and brushes across a page in an effort to get to know the material but also to simply enjoy how it feels. This tactile sensation is one of the primary reasons for using analog tools. It’s a sensation you don’t get from swiping a finger across a screen**, it can only be derived from pencil, pen, or brush on paper or canvas. The joy we derive from the tactile sensations associated with analog tools is a large part of why we use them, collect them, and stockpile those we fear will disappear.

In conclusion of this brief series, I’d like to thank all the members of Erasables for feeding my curiosity and looking within themselves to answer my questions. It’s certainly fun to read about everyone’s love for writing, no matter the tools they use it really does boil down to love.

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Review: J.Herbin Refillable Rollerball Pen

A brief digression before I begin the actual review. This pen is a prime example of why I am so against what I term the beauty, drive-by, or first impression reviews. While I think there is a certain validity to a first impression, it must be balanced against longer term usage to give the reader a real idea of the true nature of the item being reviewed. That is to say my first impression of an item may be “Wow this is great.“ Which can change to, “Holy jeebus crisco, this is the worst thing I’ve ever used.” In the course of a month of use. A beauty review can tell us how something looks but nothing about its longer term performance and this pen is a prime example of how initial functionality loses out to performance over time.

This is a pretty good looking pen when compared to other pens in it’s price range. Like the J. Herbin cheap-o fountain pen, this has slightly milky clear plastic for the body, but has a crystal clear grip section, in this case, it houses a feed and a rollerball tip. The pen accepts short international standard carts. Sadly it will not accept long carts.JHerbin RollerballThe cap is made of the same milky yet clear plastic, that has just a small amount of give. It snaps on for capping the pen with a satisfying click. It posts easily, but I found initially could work it’s way loose as I wrote. However, after some use, the cap posted just fine. You will need to use this pen posted unless you have smaller dainty hands than my lady hands. I found it too short to use unposted. It stayed clipped to pockets, lapels, and notebooks without an issue. The clip is snappy and strong.JHerbin RollerballThe pen itself is very lightweight. It would be ideal for longer sessions of writing and maybe even note taking sessions.

So here is the issue, sticking point, or rub after a month of on and off use the tip is scratchy as hell. When I first purchased this pen, it was smooth and nice in my Field Notes and other notebooks I tested it in. Now it’s not smooth on everything. In my composition notebooks I feel like I’m writing with a sharpened  stick dipped in sand. The ink flow is just right and it keeps up even with the thirsty paper, but ewwwww it feels gross. It is still smooth in my Field Notes, Fabriano, and a few other papers, but I do the majority of my notes and longer form writing in composition notebooks, and this puppy is awful after a month’s use.JHerbin RollerballDepending on your paper, and intended use, this pen might not be for you. If you stick to smoother papers- Rhodia, Clairfontaine, etc you will likely enjoy this pen for many months. If you use rougher cheaper paper like Staples comp books, even those that are good with fountain pens, you will likely be highly disappointed with this pen, especially with it’s longevity. A month is not a long time for a pen that touts its ability to be refilled and reused to wear out. So, yes, I quite like this pen, but as I stated above, have a few qualms against recommending it.JHerbin RollerballFor my readers who hack or kludge, this pen could EASILY be converted to eyedropper with the use of silicone based glue like E6000  and a few dabs of silicone grease. There are 3 tiny holes in the back end which could be filled with ease. The threads are tight and would need just a dab or two of silicone grease to keep this thing ink tight. (I may attempt this hack and get back to you. A more lubricated ink may solve the scratchiness on cheaper paper. I’m thinking Noodler’s Heart of Darkness.)

Review: Calepino Notebook

Calepino notebooks are the french equivalent of Field Notes. Their limited editions pair with a designer to create their covers, pencils, and matching pens. They have 4 ruling options- lines, grid, dot grid, and plain. Their regular editions feature a color that denotes the kind of grid inside, red, green blue and silver. The typical cover features bands of color with the name of the company and notebook’s info.calepino calepino calepino

I lucked out and snagged a Vetted X Calepino notebook via a swap a few weeks ago. This featured a white cover with some printing on it in black. Inside it was loaded up with white dot grid paper.  The inside of the cover was printed with the usual “fill in your important info” style lines and such. Of course it was in French but my rudimentary High School French tells me that it is pretty much like Word or Field Notes style info. the inside back cover relays info about Calepino and the history of the company as well as a ruler.calepino calepino

The cover is tough cardstock and survive my uses, which you can see via the picture means that it’s used as a coaster for my coffee cup in the AM. I found the cover to be very absorbent. the area for info took pencil and BIC clic roller ball well. It also survived, though the white looked very dirty at the end of my week’s of use. This is the danger with white notebooks. Filth.

The dot grid was done with a nice gray ink. It was good to know where I was writing but sinks into the background after words are added. Perfect in my book. the paper itself is thick and crinkly, it feels nice, smooth but not glassy enough texture you can see it but isn’t overwhelming. The paper took fountain pens reasonably well with some show through but nothing bad.calepino

This paper worked wonders with pencils, but not good soft dark pencils like my Palmino Pearl. Oh no using a Pearl on this paper was like writing with soft cheese on a cheese grater. Rather this paper was a dream with harder pencils like my General’s Semi-Hex which I generally refer to as the “general’s Semi-Yuck” due to it’s gritty scratchy performance*. Writing with a Neon Ticonderoga was heavenly. Lumgraph HB? Let us not go there. The Caran d’Ache Grafwood B performed like a B should instead of an H. This paper took all the good points of writing with a B or Palomino and threw them out the window, allowing  me, NO BEGGING me to use my less expensive pencils to fill it’s pages. This notebook was cheap pencil HEAVEN. I’m sad it’s gone, where will I use my crappy General’s Semi-Hex?calepino calepino

From what I understand of the website and what is printed in the book, this paper is exactly the same as their regular dot grid paper, so you can get the regular edition, with more printing on the cover, to fill in with your not-so-nice pencils. **

The price of these is the same as Field Notes, Calepino offers a exchange rate (or thereabouts) discount for non- EU buyers. Which is pretty awesome. These little notebooks are definitely on my radar for yet another notebook to buy and keep in my rotation.

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Cost of Entry

If I were new to the pen, pencil, and paper addiction and reading the top blogs right now I’d be convinced that entering into this addiction might be very very expensive. As much as I love to read about pricey pens, I know that many are out of my  reach. It seems to be a rare occurrence for an affordable pen to be flogged. A notable exception is the Pilot Metropolitan, a pen that I like very much but wasn’t overly enamored with, but still recommend for people looking for a starter pen.

Another thing that makes pencil-dom more affordable is that pencils and paper pair up more easily. I have a stack of journals and notebooks I’ve put aside because they didn’t work well with my fountain pens. Many of these are doing great with my pencils but were horrible with fountain pens. Take for instance the Martha Stewart and Avery pocket notebooks. God awful with even a dry writing fountain pen but great with a pencil. In fact with a pencil they shine. the paper doesn’t chew up the pencil, but is toothy enough to get a lot of graphite on the page without crazy smudging. I still wouldn’t recommend it as a primary pocket notebook because it’s got those nasty perforated pages, but for quick notes or short letters, it’s great.

Every time I pick up a pencil it writes. Occasionally a point will break off and I’ll have to sharpen it, but generally speaking, I get graphite on the page. That isn’t always the case with a fountain pen. Sometimes the ink will need coaxing out of the nib, sometimes it needs water to be added, or I nee dot refill it , or flush it, or something. If I’ve used a pen consistently it will write without issue, but man if you let that sucker sit for a month you are in for some work.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule. I’ve got 2 Platinum Preppy pens sitting on my desk. I haven’t touched either one in over a month. One is loaded with red ink and another with black. Both of them wrote without a skip or issue. My TWSBI 540 or Lamy Safari can’t say the same thing.

One of the reasons I’ve been reviewing pencils this summer is that for the most part, pencils are affordable. even the most expensive pencil I’ve reviewed/ purchased was $2.50. Compared to my most expensive pen at $75 that’s a bargain. Getting into pencils can be done with just a few dollars. A decent writing experience can be found for $2.50 for a dozen pencils (USA Gold Naturals) and an exceptional experience can be had for $20 a dozen (Palomino Blackwings, pick any one of the 3). I’m not suggesting that pencils are better than pens, simply that they have a lower expense for greatness.

Technique Today: Drawing and Sketching

No joke, I love to draw in my art journal. Sketches, doodles, all sorts of neat stuff can go in there. But what to sketch, how to sketch? Hopefully, these videos will help give some guidance.

If you have an issue watching the videos here on my blog you can click the title of the video (top left of each video) and it will open up in youtube for you.

 

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Hacking the Noodler’s Flex Pen

I’m a woman who likes to hack things or just make them better. I loved the idea of the Noodler’s Flex pen when it first came out. The idea of having a fountain pen that flexed like the  pens I once used in high school for sketching was an enticing idea. I found a used one and enjoyed it but not overly much, flexing it was very tough on my wrists and hands. The pen was small and flexing it required a decent amount of pressure.

I read an article back then about people hacking the pens with good and bad results. I held off on hacking mine, not sure if I wanted to maybe destroy the pen. After numerous other pens had been introduced; the Ahab and the Konrad, I went ahead and decided I wanted to hack the pen I had to see if maybe I wanted to get myself one of the newer models.
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I got the dremel out with a heavy cutting wheel. I didn’t use the cutting surface of the wheel but the larger flat side on the lowest speed. I held the nib in a pair of needle nose pliers and carefully trimmed about 2mm off the shoulders of the nib. I attempted to make them match up as much as possible. They mostly match, one is maybe .5mm off if not less. I shaped them so the cut area was at the same angle as the rest of the nib. I smoothed the edges and called it good. Working slowly the whole job took me less than 2 minutes.

The results are nothing short of miraculous. The pen initially while interesting and usable was not totally enjoyable. Now it’s soft and easy for me to use. I’m able to flex it to max width with little pressure. I’ve not put it through it’s paces with sketching yet, but I’m thinking it’s going to be a real treat to use. So far I’m able to use it much like my brush pen, lots of noodly line variation and it simply adds a ton of interest to the page. I’m hoping that I can  really test it out this week and report back about how it works for me.

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Another Cowboy

Another Cowboy

I thougth I'd show you another cowboy drawing. I started this guy the same as the last- with the Pilot Technica .04, quickly scratching out the basic lines. This image is about 5×7 inches just a little larger than the last few drawings I've loaded up.

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After that I added the shades of gray, using layers to get darker shades of gray.

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Finally I added black with the brush pen.

Obviolsly I'm totally digging these brush pens. I've found a figure drawing class and I think i'm going to go and draw with this pen combination. Additionally, I've used the Loew Cornell pens I reviewed here with this technique and it's pretty cool when they bleed into the gray ink. Also the pens are way more comfortable when used for drawing than when writing.

Review: Pentel Arts Pocket Brush Pen

I have been coveting a pocket brush pen for awhile. I have a brush pen but it has a incredibly long handle and is a pain because of that. I was comp shopping Michael’s when I came upon this pen. Imagine my horror when I got to the counter and found I’d left my 40% off coupon at home… I put the pen back and came back later. With my 40% off coupon I snagged this pen for a measly $10.83, which is less than I could find it online.

 

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It’s sold on a blister pack like most other markers and pens are at Michael’s. Once out of the packaging its a nice looking shiny black pen. It’s comparable in size to most pens on the market. It’s very light weight even with the cartridge plugged into the pen. After wielding a TWSBI 540 for an extended writing session earlier in the day, this is like writing with a cloud. The pen is all black except for a Kanji character on the cap near the clip and the pentel name on the opposite side of the cap.

 

 

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After installing the cartridge the ink descends into the brush rather quickly, the brush was fully loaded with 60 seconds of installing the cart. The tip is soft, flexible but springs to a point immediately after pressing it down fully. It is capable of giving a hair thin line or a swath of ink 5mm wide. The ink flow is generous and kept up with some very quick line work. The line variation is quite nice and relatively easy to control.

 

 

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The ink in the cartridges is reported to be in water resistant. Something that I found interesting is that the back proclaims that the “fittings” are leak proof. This tells me that with some silicone grease this pen could EASILY be converted to eye dropper fill. For me, this is a VERY VERY interesting thing. In my testing I found that the ink is water resistant once dry on paper and when wet gives a very nice wash effect with a nice even gray tone. In effect you could take just this and a water brush sketching and you could do the sketch, allow it to dry, add more ink, add water and get a nice gray tone for your shadows. The ink is not water resistant on acrylic paint until it is FULLY dry. It writes without issue on acrylic, no skipping or beading up. It does take quite some time to dry on acrylic paint- to get to the fully dry point it needs a few minutes.

 

 

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This pen is a very good price when 40% off but at full price at Michael’s I’m not sure. I’d rather put together a $25 order with Jetpens.

I'll probably do an update to this review once I run through the 2 carts that came with the pen and convert it to eyedropper style. (See update on eyedropper fill here.)

Reg $16.99 at Michael’s $14 at JetPens

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Review: FlexiSketch Sketchbook

I picked up this sketchbook on sale at Artist & Craftman. It was super affordable, more so than usual. It usually runs in the $10 to $15 range. The 8.5×11 inch sketchbook feels weighty in hand and looks nice. The green color is a soothing soft mossy green they call "Fern." I’m annoyed that the 25% more FREE stick is stuck to the cover and doesn’t peel off easily. I’ll be hacking at it with a knife to get it off. After opening up the package I notice it’s Smythe Sewn like a moleskine so it will open flat and flatter the more I use it. The binding is nice and flexible but the wrap around cover on the spine is less so.

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The paper is bright white, thick and sturdy feeling, 75lb/110gsm. There are 300 pages or 150 sheets. It has a soft texture and is nice with pencils. Wider nibbed pens glide over it’s surface but narrow nibs sink into it’s surface a little. The paper is absorbent with ink and watercolor. I didn’t notice any feathering with ink but most pens looked to be about a size larger than on other paper. I noticed some ink soaking through as I sketched and wrote. Nothing major since I didn’t plan on using both sides of the paper anyway. This isn’t a deal breaker if you use dry media like pencil or charcoal. The fact that the paper soaks ink up like a paper towel is annoying, and if I were using expensive ink, would annoy me.

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The cover is thick cardstock with a glossy finish. It scuffs easily, but I don’t mind that. If you are the sort who would like to decorate your art journal you’ll need to sand the surface to get gesso to stick. I managed to pop the glue that holds the back cover to the block off. Rather annoying but it also let me see the spine and that it’s glued sturdily and will survive a lot of abuse. This also makes me think I could cover this journal with little work

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Overall my verdict on this is that this sketchbook is a great value. The paper isn’t optimum for ink but it’s thick and sturdy enough to withstand pretty much anything an art journaler can throw at it. The paper has a nice surface for a variety of media. While pen does soak through in some spots it looks fantastic on this paper. I’d buy it again.

 

Review: Jinhao 602 Fountain Pen

Every now and then I get a surprise in the mail. Today I got a Jinhao 602 fountain pen, a gift from Christie. She suggest I review it, so I'm being dutiful and doing so.

Pulling the pen out of the envelope I found it in a black flocked case. It felt rather heavy for it's size. The black paint is smooth, the gold colored trim is nice, even if it's gold (I prefer silver.) the grip section is oddly trimmed in brushed steel. It doesn't match the rest of the pen, even if it is comfortable. The pen is very slim measuring about 3/8th of an inch in diameter. It looks good.

 

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The nib is steel but colored gold. It is hooded so only part of it can be seen. The nib is stiff, with no flex or bounce. It produces an even fine to medium line with good ink flow. It would be great for sketching. The nib offers a little feedback but it's not scratchy

 

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The downside is that the cap does not post well, as this is a small pen it would be more comfortable if it were posted.

Overall this would be a very good pen for sketching, priced a little more than $5 you won't be heartbroken if it dies or you lose it. I was surprised at how well the pen wrote, it was remarkably smooth for $5. (Not as smooth as the Serwex Special I reviewed earlier.) Not a bad deal, head over to eB@y and search for one.

Unposted length: 4.5 inches

Posted: 6 inches Capped 5.5 inches 

Less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Cost: About $5.50 shipping included on eBay.

A good value for the money if you like thin pens with fine nibs.

Unlike the Serwex Special I reviewed a few weeks back, this is not a candidate for abusing with India inks. The hooded nib means getting the feed out of the grip for cleaning is nearly impossible. India ink will gunk up this pen and render it unusable in short order. 

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