Category Archives: Reflection

Maker: Worn in Tools

pencil with imprint worn off

Doms Fusion with imprint partially worn off.

I posted a review of the Doms Fusion pencil. It’s a nifty little pencil with a grippy matte finish printed with loads of little foil starbursts and silver words. I love everything about its weird little design choices. Why red, blue and green foil with a silver imprint? Why not have all the printing be one color for each pencil? The end dip is spectacular.
I know a lot of folx want their imprints to be pristine from the start to finish of their pencils. The last few weeks I’ve been using the Fusion pencils as I write up notes, outlines, and jot down research. I’ve carried one with me to and from work. I’ve been shoving it over my ear and under the folded brim of my beanie.

As I’ve used it, the foil has worn here and there. As I sharpen it, it gets a little more worn. I love the look of a tool that shows I’ve used it, I’ve worn it into my use. To my eyes, it looks better every day.

Maker: Zine Friends Edition

I’m sitting here toasty warm after a weekend long warm snap wherein I began building raised beds that will take up the entire back half of my city sized backyard. The rough part of this is that I am now in allergy hell. Leaking nose, watery eyes, and sinuses so stuffed I’m surprised my nose can leak. I finally had a chance to sit  down with a few zine friends that I’ve been meaning to dig into.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m pretty lucky to have my zine friends, not only do they make some killer content online but their creativity is stellar.

404 (Dunno where my picture for this went) Is Andy’s little ditty to error codes and poetry and UX writing. KIller. I can’t wait to get the next issue.

Pencil of the Week– This last issue was awesome. The folded library card like envelope was awesome, not to mention the collab with Ernest Theodore. Included in the package is a color post card by Ali Serra aka Ernest Theodore. I love it when zinesters go artsy, and this was great.

Just when I thought Pencil Revolution couldn’t  get cooler, Johnny moved up to a half sized zine* and moved production to once a month. This means we get a thicker, longer themed issues. And the last 3 in this series are all great. I particularly enjoy this last issue that explores walking with writing. I’ve got to agree with Johnny that nothing gets those grey cells pumping out journal pages better than a good walk.

Johnny also does a series of zines about mental health issues. They are really wonderful snapshots of life with mental health issues.

Plumbago is coming back and they are looking for contributors.

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State of the Art: Photo a Day

Waaaayyyyyy back in 2009 Polaroid introduced the Zink Pogo printer. A cute little printer that spits out 2×3 inch prints on sticker paper. Sweet little journaling tool. I of course immediately asked for one for the holidays. And my lovely partner managed to get a good deal on one and I loved it, for 50 prints or so. 

Other folx got hundreds and hundreds of glorious little stickers. Not me. I had a dozen or so prints before mine was a streaky mess.

It ended up in a drawer.

In the great office clean out of the Covidalypse I found the dusty little printer and thought I might dust it off. I did and it was still streaky. I headed to the internet and found loads of info on cleaning it. So I tore it apart, which was really easy and only around 8 screws or so. I was able to clean some little bits of what looked like… glitter in there, as well as some, big surprise here, dog hair. I gave the roller and print head a good swabbing down with rubbing alcohol with a q-tip, then ran several sheets of super thick cardstock through it.

This is not a pogo print but an image I considered for a pogo print.

No more streaks.

Well, mostly no more streaks. The pogo works best on low-res images. So it is helpful to take smaller pictures. I started this project off using Lightroom. Bad idea, it automatically saves in the highest res option on my phone. Also the Pogo prints in 2×3 images, so I used the basic camera on my phone and set it to 3×4 on the lowest res setting available. This particular option also saves it to the cloud so I have the option of editing it down on my laptop. Sadly the polaroid apps that are still available do NOT work with the Pogo. I can’t get any of them to pair with it, or even print to it. BUT I can snap a picture with their app, save it, and print manually, the way the pogo always worked. It takes the picture in the right 2×3 ratio.

Anyway, the goal of this little project is to snap an interesting pic once a day for at least the next 50 days and to journal around a page along with it. If I find that this is a useful journaling practice for me, I’ll continue it with another 50 pack of paper. We’ll see what happens!

An interesting aside to this is that the battery died on the Pogo and no one makes a replacement pack for it. I ripped the old battery apart, picked up a 2 pack of AA battery holders soldered the leads in place, and made my own. It’s not at all pretty but it does the job and is better than being tethered to the hideous and HUGE wall wart plug this thing has. The wall wart on this thing is inexplicably huge. I will also add that Polaroid’s CS when I asked about the battery was prompt and curt. Funny thing, since making the battery pack I have yet to take the Pogo anywhere, so I guess a useful thing is to consider if you will actually use the Pogo on the go.

Anyway, we’ll see how long I can do a photo a day.

https://dronebygg.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/how-to-repair-your-polaroid-pogo-printer/

Week Links

Johnny has again, encapsulated my feelings about the tool being tools. 

This podcast is recordings of things, they call it field recordings. Loosely people stand in a field and record the noise, except it’s not all fields. One of the most recent is a recording of a train going by the recorder. Neat. Field Recordings.

I haven’t mentioned it recently, but MyNoise is a KILLER website where the owner of said site records and makes background noise. Maybe you really want to go to a café and work, but you know Covid. Big sigh. MyNoise can make it sound like you’re in a café, or sitting next to a river, on the beach, in a dungeon (no judgement) or even taking a walk through the woods. It’s a donation based site and everyone who likes it should use it and pass the guy who makes it a few coins. I mention the café noises because I brewed myself a coffee put the café noise on in the background along with some Tangerine Dream and worked on my NaNo novel and it was ALMOST like being in the café.

 

 

Show Your Work: Bizness of Zines

Zines are rarely profitable. This is a truth and can be false. Zines are a multitude of truth and fiction.

In disclosure and transparency I decided to explore the (un)profitability of Useful Journaling.

I chose to use the Ko-Fi sales platform, on a year long subscription of Ko-Fi Gold. This way Ko-Fi does not take a cut of the money used to purchase my zines and things*. That said I did pay $4.50 to use the service for the whole month.

I chose $3 with US shipping included as my total price. To get an address via Ko-Fi, I had to break that down to $2.50 with shipping extra. Paypal took 39 cents per sale. I always forget the enormous amount paypal takes. I think I block it out. Postage within the US was 50 cents (1 stamp)**.

Materials breakdown is as follows, per issue:

  • Cardstock: 8 cents
  • Paper: 4 cents 
  • Black toner: 4 cents
  • Color toner: 30 cents
  • Sundry items: staples, envelopes, craft blades etc: 10 cents
  • Total: 60 cents an issue

The largest expense here was the color toner. I was gifted the color laser printer and a box of fresh 4 color toners, but had to replace the drum, and now the transfer roller (could be called something else but it’s the bit of film that rolls the image onto the paper/roller). The cost per issue is the same given the amount I have spent on the cursed machine.***

I also repurposed many of the items from previous projects- I already own a long reach stapler, colored staples, really nice cardstock, plain white paper, and a black and white laser printer. So while I’m not out any of those items and have slowly accumulated all of the things I WISHED I had back in 1999 when making zines.**** It’s taken me 20 or so years, but I finally have all the tools for zines I ever wanted. It is kind of amazing that layout can be done in an app and even online if you really want.

The net profit from each copy of the zine, not even coming close to thinking about time and labor, is $1.51. From the first printing I made $105.***** The second printing will be slightly different and slightly more profitable- I’ll be using colored cardstock at roughly 10 cents a sheet and eliminate the color printing. So the total cost of physical supplies will drop from 60 cents to about 30 or 40 cents.

The $105 I made will go toward replenishing supplies- black toner ($20), more paper (moving toward 100% recycled paper for the insides)($10), yellow toner ($20), colored staples ($5), and more cardstock ($20). Leaving me with about $20 to spend on a bag of coffee. I have my priorities.

A thing to remember is that for much of this- the more copies I make (and sell) the lower my cost becomes. If I can buy a bulk pack of black high yield toner cartridges, that drops the cost of black toner from 2 cents a sheet to 1.5 cents/sheet. I strongly want to keep this zine very affordable to get it into the hands of more people. I do have loose plans to create special editions- so things like the first 3 issues bound into a special cover, notebooks with related content and covers, prompt cards and many other things. For now, I am enjoying the tactile nature of these items, but PDF versions might be a possibility in the future. I suspect that eventually I will need to upgrade to a new computer. The Lenovo I bought… Well it’s one step above a pizza box in terms of functionality, and I can really see where it lags with graphics where my previous computer did not. So that is a thing I need to keep in mind as well.

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On Making Things: Tearing Down to Repair

Last Friday I told you about the Printer, in passing. I was gifted a 10 year old Samsung ColorXpressions laser printer. It’s a 4 color printer and on the outside in great shape. I remember my Mom buying it for herself way back when and being super jealous of it. New, it made amazing prints, clean, crisp and clear.

When my mom cleaned out her classroom the printer came home with her and sat in a pile, she had neither the time nor excitement to set it up at home. To be frank she didn’t want to. They had another printer and after 10 years the excitement was gone. 

She knew I’d probably continue  to use it, so she offered it and a box of 4 brand new unopened toner carts to me. I didn’t think before I said yes.

Then I brought it home and let it sit, for another… 6 months at least.

Then we set it up and the printing was a mess. Clearly it needed a new drum. I searched out and found that the printer itself was discontinued as were the parts for it. Then I found rebuild kits for the drum, and finally, a drum itself for not too much. Ordered. And still the printers were a mess and the machine would not pick up cardstock.

Disappointed I looked at color laser printers, and used ones on Craigslist and Marketplace, whoa, expensive. I hadn’t realized what a gift this machine really was.More research, and I found that there’s another part called the image transfer roller- a belt of some kind of plastic that transfers the image to the paper. I could clean it! 

First impressions were that mine disconnected in a different way from the video I watched, so I did a halfway cleaning, and things were better. 

Finally I decided to remove a few screws, and voila! I could see where everything connected and was able to disconnect the roller and remove it from the machine. I then sat down with rubber gloves, rubbing alcohol, and rags and proceeded to clean off the transfer roller. I took it apart and took it outside and let the dust blow away, and then wiped down the whole thing with alcohol. I took the moment to clean out the dust from the machine itself, there were streaks of toner everywhere. The alcohol picked it up and cleaned it out.

Then I put it back together and did a test print. I was hopeful, but worried I’d need to buy a new part. A quick search showed the parts to rebuild the transfer belt range from $80 to $200, depending on the part. Given the cost of a new printer, that is a feasible investment.

The prints that emerged at first were crisp and clean and perfect. I did a few more test prints and a few covers for some possible No Brand Notebook covers, and the results were pretty clear, but it was also apparent that years of use had warped the scraper bar inside the transfer unit. I won’t lie, this was disappointing, but also not horrible. I’ve found that if I print the same image for a few prints (the intended use of this machine anyway) that I get nice clear prints and it takes 3 prints to get clear prints.

But it is also an easy fix, also cheap. A new scraper bar costs around $10, and replacing it is pretty easy. So after the next issue of UJ I’ll be replacing that. Mostly the wait is that I have to wait for the bar to arrive. The best place to find them has been A1Xpress or ebay and I simply have to wait for it to arrive from China.
Another great thing about the printer is that because it is old, the market is flooded with a variety of remanufactured toner cartridges. They range from ridiculously cheap to pretty expensive. This means I’ll be able to keep printing UJ with pops of color and hopefully some color inside, at a relatively cheap price.

I’m optimistic that I can keep this printer running for a good long time with careful repairs.

Composition Book Round Up: Which to Stock Up

If I had to stock up on one of the options which would I chose? It’s a tough question. We’ve got Walmart, Target, and Staples as places to shop. We’ve got plastic covered and card covered. Then we’ve got made all over the world or made in the USA. Then we’ve got books that are great with pencil and terrible with fountain pen, and great with fountain pen but too slick for pencil. The choice is ultimately made by what each person is going to use. Frankly, what I use changes from year to year and sometimes changes on a whim. Lately, I’m using more pencil than fountain pen, and more gel ink than fountain pen. Mostly because I’m attempting to use up some of my tools rather than letting them dry up in a cup. That said I might pick up a fountain pen on occasion. So I’m going to suggest a few all around notebooks that work well for all of the above.

Let’s start with my top choice from Staples. Here I’m going to pick the TruRed card covered book. It works well with all my tools, but isn’t the best with any one in particular. Despite the mess of how it looks, it’s better than the atrocity of the regular staples cover.

Next up in Target. I’m still team Unison. The paper is the best around for a 50 cent notebook, and despite the mere 80 sheets, it works so well with so many tools makes it a winner for me.

Lastly, Walmart. This is the first time I’m going with a poly covered notebook. I hate the plastic covers but here the interior is what matters. The paper is great. The covers are printed with fun things.

If I were only going to use pencil or ballpoint? For the best covers it’s Yoobi every time. Sure it’s a bit more money, but those covers are so fun. For the best monetary value? Pen+Gear card covered made in the USA. At 50 cents for 100 pages it offers the best pencil and ballpoint paper.

If I were to switch over to using only liquid ink in a rollerball or fountain pen all the time? My budget choice is going to be the Unison. For 50 cents and 80 pages it worked the best over all for fountain pens and other liquid inks. My less budget choice would be the $2.50 standard non-fashion poly covered Mead Five Star. The paper is pretty good, with minimal bleed with wet pens, and the poly cover isn’t awful.

These reviews were made possible by readers just like you. They decided that these reviews were worth a few bucks, namely $3 via Ko-Fi. So they hit that Ko-Fi button on the side bar of my blog and let me know they like what I do. And I appreciate it so much. When folx send me money to do reviews I’m able to do them without the worry of the company cutting me off from review products because I’m too critical. So if you like this kind of review, smash that Ko_Fi button and let me know. Every $3 counts.

In Defense of Plastic Covered Composition Books

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any period of time, you may know how much I love the humble composition notebook. My journey from hate to love was many years long but I have embraced them as not only an object of aesthetic appreciation but a useful workhorse tool. During these times of pandemic, when I went from blank brain fog to a period of large creative output I also embraced a new way of working, or perhaps for me, an old way of working.

You see, I went back to working in pencil and a comp book. Sort of like when I won nano by writing by hand. In the last month I’ve filled 3.5 comp books with notes and ideas, and yes, the workings of several novels. I’ve allowed myself to write the scene out of order, unplanned and as they spring to mind. I’ve written an ending and an epilogue. I’ve got to tell you, that this new-ish manner of working has freed my mind. Given that my mind was caged by fear for three of the last 4 months, this is a new feeling, and oh wow does it feel good.

But that is not the reason for this post, well, without the above the reason for this post would not have occurred.

If you know of my love of compositions books you may also know of my disdain for the plastic covered version of the. If not, now you do. The plastic doesn’t fold over well, I’m left with a lumpy writing surface and really, the cardstock and cardboard covers work just fine at keeping my comp books safe in my bag. Sure they get a bit worn and beaten, but let’s face it, that is a look I adore.

Yesterday I sprained my ankle, Yes again. This has been a frequent thing since I was 21. One of the things I forget about spraining my ankle is how much the pain of it knocks me for a loop. Pain and healing make me tired. (I swear I’m getting to my point.) It also means that I roll over in my sleep, knock that foot out of place and the jarring pain wakes me. Which means I’m still tired. When I’m tired I’m clumsy.

When I’m clumsy I knock over my coffee. Onto my work-in-progress notebooks. Luckily it was an iced coffee and more ice than coffee splashed onto my notebooks (and kindle).

All of my comp books survived with minimal damage. 

Those with card covers have a bit of waver and smell a bit like coffee. (Yum for now) 

The plastic covers wiped clean with ease and don’t even smell like coffee. (A bit sad)

The interiors were all okay and frankly part of that is due to where and how the coffee was spilled (on the spines) and not on the fore edge. 

While I still prefer the card covers for their ability to fold back on themselves and the worn in look they acquire, I see that the plastic covers have use for the more klutzy among us.

Reflection as I Prepare for 2020

This, 2019 has been a rough year. I changed jobs, a family member had cancer and went through chemo and radiation, another family member has been ill, and then we have the whole government thing here in the US. This has been a year of transition and change, and rough patches.

Transitioning from one job to the next is always rough, especially as I moved from one with a top-down leadership style to one that focuses on teamwork. After nearly 20 years of working in top-down styled workplaces, moving into a teamwork environment has been a more difficult transition than I expected. In the past I planned for the first 6 months of any job transition to mean that I would work much less on my outside pursuits of writing, blogging, reading, art, crafting, and garden. And wow, was all of that impacted and for longer than 6 months. Hell, I’m going on a year and I’m just settling in. Add to all that I screwed up my shoulder and had a carpal tunnel flare up and whoa a recipe for not wanting to sit in front of the computer.

When I transitioned I had quite a few blog posts partially written and images shot so this blog didn’t see much of an impact until June. At that point, the combination of all the things in my life hit the fan and I simply was not able to focus on the blog much at all. My plan for 2020 is to get back into writing more posts, focusing on a few art materials, getting back into my professional ink series, and my cheap pens from China.

Another thing I might focus on is the use of the materials. Some of you may (or not) know that I started another blog, FermentStuff.com a place to focus and document my fermentation and gardening efforts.  I use pens and pencils heavily in my documentation of my garden and ferments. Recipes must be documented and seed purchases recorded.

After I wrote the above I was informed that my Grandmother passed away. Despite her advanced age and frailty, it was unexpected. As with any death, it has put me into an introspective mood. 

If there is one thing that 2019 going into 2020 taught me it is that we’re all human and life is short. Despite all my best intentions of writing and exploring art and writing materials, sometimes, life just gets in the way and things, like blogging, must be set aside for the moment. For now, I’m looking closely at how I use my stationery in my other hobbies- podcasting, writing fiction, and gardening; and let’s not forget the DayJob. It is always surprising to see how the stationery I love gets used in the pursuit of all my other interests. Stationery is a support and a tool. And with that thinking, I’ll be exploring a bit of that in this blog. I’m not sure how those posts will look, but they’ll be there. Despite taking a bit of time off from this blog, I’ll be back, with hopefully more reviews, weird little writings, some art, and an assortment of other written things. 

If you aren’t already following my instagram, my facebook, and twitter you should. Though I’ll warn you Twitter is where I get salty and rant a bit and my Instagram is a lot of food and cooking pictures, and if you don’t like plants you won’t like my instagram. You can also follow my other blog, FermentStuff.com for more cooking, growing, and queered urban homesteading activities.