Tag Archives: inexpensive

Review: Markings Bulleting Log Notebook

Y’all know I love an inexpensive notebook, and the Markings Bulleting Log Notebook fit’s the bill. This one qualifies because it was in the clearance bin which brought it down to well below $10. It’s usual price is around $15.
Markings Bulleting Log Notebooks with an orange cover

Markings Bulleting Log Notebooks with an orange cover

Imagine my surprise when I was in Walgreens* to get my kombucha** and I saw they were carrying the formerly Staples exclusive brand Markings by C.R. Gibson. If you don’t make a run through the stationery section of the drug store are you even a stationery fan?
Anyway, Walgreens has been carrying the Markings journals for a while now. The prices are on par with other journals in the mass market range- anywhere from $10 to $20, but hovering right around $15 for most of the offerings. The Markings journals have a range of features- from dot grid pages to multiple ribbon place markers, to plastic rulers, to calendars across the top.

My first interaction with Markings journals was that the covers were sturdy black or dark brown vinyl with stitching around the edges. Classy and ready for the boardroom. The covers in Walgreens range from plain vinyl to mine- bright orange with a printed slogan, mine says, “Go get ’em!” Luckily I have a bunch of stickers to slap over that. It still has that classic edge stitching. The cover is sturdy with a hint of flex. It works well enough for writing in hand and opens flat for writing on a desk.

Mine sports 3 differently colored ribbon place markers, that were well heat sealed upon purchase but I hit them with a lighter to get the seal stronger. At the back there is a pocket and an elastic to hold the whole thing shut.

Inside are off white creamy colored pages with pale grey printing. You know how I love grey ruling, well this one isn’t super pale but stands out a bit. Better for low-level light writing than a few of my old journals.

Across the top is a large area to write in a topic label and a date bar. You circle the proper month, then the day. It’s not a bad system and one I’ve seen a few rubber stamps for on etsy. At the very bottom corner of the page is a grey circle, for numbering your pages.

I have to admit that in all the years I saw Markings at Staples I never purchased one. The paper always felt okay, but back when they would have appealed to me, I was firmly entrenched in Moleskine sketchbooks, with their thicker paper for my journaling. The Markings seemed too… parental and stuffy to me. Not this one, with it’s bright orange cover and cheesetastic slogan.

So how is the paper? Good. It’s smooth with a bit of tooth. Pencil is great on this paper and looks good on it’s warm creamy surface. Gel ink sings across the page. Highlighters don’t soak through, even with multiple passes across the same area! And fountain pen? Well, fountain pens perform really well. The page isn’t thin, but you can see darker colors in wide nibs through the page, but it doesn’t interfere with use of the reverse of the page. At 240 pages this is a chonky journal.

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by the Markings Bulleting Log Notebook. If you are running out of pages in your current journal and happen upon Markings by C.R. Gibson for a good price, it’s worth the cash, this is a great Every Thing Every Where Journal.

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Review: Pen+ Gear Graph Ruled Index Cards

I pick up index cards for no real reason, other than I like to use them as convenient scrap paper. I used to have dreams of making a Hipster PDA  and becoming super organized and efficient.I much prefer bound pocket notebooks. That said I always have my vintage index card holder on my desk, a few 3×5 cards wrapped in a Gigante card in my Sinclair. I keep them ready for action. INdex cards get used for making notes while on the phone, ideas get jotted down, reminders to myself are scribbled, and plot points are recorded. My point being, I use index cards as throw away scrap paper. I have never expected fountain pen compatibility, though I always test FP on any new cards I buy, you know, just in case.

On a whim I purchased a pack of 100 Pen+Gear graph ruled index cards for 48 cents. The cards are bright white with a sharp bright blue ruling. The ruling is 5×5 squares per inch. On many of my cards the ruling is off around the edges- it’s straight but larger in size. This doesn’t bother me, but I KNOW that this will bug the shit out of some of you. Just take a close look at your package.

I tested all my currently inked fountain pens, gel ink, liquid ink, pencils, and other writing tools I had on hand, and found that my package performed really really well. I had no feathering, bleed through, or other issues. Both sides of each card were totally usable. My pens stayed true to their nib size and ink looked fantastic on this bright white paper. At least one person in the RSVP FB group reported that they had issues with their fountain pens on the paper- feathering and bleed through. Most people in that thread reported no issues with their pens and results similar to mine.

So this brings me to an observation in my experience with buying P+G stuff from Wally World- consistency is an issue. Part of this has to do with how products are sourced by the company- they slap their private label onto the finest cheapest version of that Item that they can find. This year’s Index Cards happen to be really nice for fountain pens, next years? Well we don’t know where they will source those or how they will respond. Last years weren’t very good. As of this writing I cannot determine a good way to tell which package is going to be good. This particular package was Made in India. My suggestion to most people wanting to secure a good index card on the cheap is to stock up on these. Like their pencils you never know when they will change production to a new location and to an inferior product.

Maybe the graph ruled P+G index cards are my key to finally adopting the hipster PDA. Maybe not, but I’m probably going to head to Wally World and pick up a lifetime supply.

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Review: Target Dollar Spot Pencils

The majority of the Dollar Spot Pencils are from the company Made for Retail (MfR). They are made in Vietnam and feature a variety of paint, imprints, and other fun stuff. I’ve bought a bunch of them and I’ve been happy. For this review I’m focusing on one particular pencil, their version of the “rainbow” pencil.

Rainbow is in quotes above for a specific reason- these at first glance look like a rainbow but when you look closer- not a rainbow. The colors are as follows: violet, pink, orange, yellow, blue, and purple. They are all surrounded by white and finished with a glossy smooth coating. Each pencil has a gold foil imprint near the business end with made for retail and a series of numbers.

Inside the fun wrapped paper exterior is a smooth, dark core. It’s darker and softer than a typical HB but not so dark or soft that I’d think of it as a B or 2B. The core is typical of all of the Made for Retail pencils. All of the MfR pencils I’ve used have the same core.

You might think that you recognize these from Kickstarter. We’ll you’d be partially right, these are a knock off of the Duncan Shotton rainbow pencils. Those featured a true rainbow inside and the option of white or black exterior. The MfR have a better core- it’s darker and more pleasant. The Shotton pencils are hard and a tad scratchy. I do prefer the matte exterior of the Shotton version over the glossy white version made by MfR.

If you can get past buying the knock off of a kickstarter item these are a fantastic pencil.

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Review: Princeton Art SNAP! Brush

When I paint with watercolors I buy Princeton Art Company red handled synthetic rounds. Why? They hold a point well, survive my abuse the longest, and hold a great deal of paint. Lately I’ve been working with acrylic, and my usual view of working with acrylic is that I should buy the cheapest brush available because I’ll eventually abuse it by leaving paint in it for too long. i’m an acrylic brush destroyer. BUT! lately I’ve been working on things with small details that need a fine point… I’ve reached for my watercolor brushes… I’ve not destroyed any of them YET!


When I picked up my “Congrats, You survived your first semester of grad school” gift a couple of weeks ago I also snagged a new brush. Princeton Art company has a new line of brushes called “SNAP!” The rack had 2 sides- one with long handles and the other with short. On each side was a range of sizes at a set price point. 2 and 4 rounds and flats were $2.99 and 6 and 8 rounds and flats were $5.99 and so on. I snagged a #6 round with a short handle and white taklon bristles.


The brush is good looking, the handle is painted green and blue and then coated in varnish, leaving some of the natural wood visible. It’s pretty. (in the image below the SNAP! brush is shown with a #6 Princeton Art red handle water color brush as well as a Robert Simmons' Sapphire. Do not buy the Simmon's sapphire brush, it was over priced and has been a horrible brush frm the get go. I could go on and on about how horrible it is, but I'll just leave it at, don't buy.)


I’ve been using the brush for about 2 weeks.Thus far I’m very  happy. The bristles are snappy and spread the paint well. The point has survived my use for 2 weeks. This is a miracle. I tend to kill points quickly. The white taklon has stained with red and blue pigment but that’s expected with the colors I use.


Anyway, I’m very happy with this brush at this price. They are available in multi packs as well, also at a set price and very fair price- I saw a mixed group of brushes for about $11. (I wasn’t able to find a decent Amazon link for this product, they all had $7.50 shipping… for $5 items LOL.)

The images below are some faces on can lids. I used this brush for all of the image. Check out the fine detail you can see in the faces. Again nice point on a #6 round.

IMAG1388(These images are available at my Etsy shop. Faces on can lids!)


As a side note, with the introduction of these snazzy brushes and the new Catalyst tools I think that Princeton Art company is going after the mixed media market in a big way. These new lines of products are perfectly situated as affordable and USEFUL tools for mixed media artists. They aren’t doing it in a cheesy annoying way either. rather than flooding blogs and youtube with annoying ads (or getting bloggers to shill for them (looking at  you Brother)) they have introduced their great products and are letting artists use them and spread the word for them. I like this method, it doesn’t pander to us, or put goo artists and bloggers (looking at you Brother) into positions where to get to use or keep a product they have to copy and paste crappy copy that doesn’t fit the tone of the blog into their blog. You see, when a product is good, like the Catalyst wedge, it doesn’t need advertising copy forced down the throat of the blogger (again, looking at you Brother). A good blog post will write itself, that includes good and bad aspects of the product. /rant.

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Review: Fountain Pen Revolution Pen

I stumbled upon Fountain Pen Revolution while searching for a place to find a couple of inexpensive fountain pens made in India. The FPR is a site dedicated to the sale of such pens. At the time I found his site I also found that he was running a special I took him up on his offer and scored a fountain pen for $2.50. The special is no longer running but his prices are pretty reasonable. There are pens on his site for $6 plus $3 shipping. Not bad especially when you consider the review I'm going to give on this $2.50 pen.

The pen I was sent was a gray Serwex Special 101. It reminds me of the Noodler's Nikita Nib Creeper pen. Ever since I got my first Noodler's pen I sniff my new pens, I know weird, but not. The Serwex has a slightly different odor like engine grease and garage, or what plastic toys smelled like in the early 80's,* somewhat pleasant. Unlike the Noodler's which I likened to dog crap and diesel fuel. Along the side of the clear barrel is a gold foil imprint of the company name and product name. The cap has 2 cap bands which are silver. The clip is also silver and seems to be pressed steel. The jewel, which holds the clip to the cap is black. The gray cap itself is slightly mottled with a few streaks of darker gray here and there. The barrel is tapered and has what I call a cigar shape, though small.

Not the sexiest pen I've ever seen but looks serviceable and good knock around pen.

Taking off the cap I'm greeted by a fine gold nib with a design and the words "iridium nib" pressed into it. There is no breather hole in the nib. The nib reminds me of the Noodler's Nib Creeper nibs.** I unscrewed the section from the barrel and found a few mould edges at the end, I scraped these off with an exacto, for fear they'd come loose with use. After rinsing the barrel and nib off I loaded it up with ink. For a smaller pen it holds an impressive 3+ml of ink. I loaded 2.5ml in it with a TON of room to spare.

I loaded mine up, eye dropper style, with my sample of Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun. Yes, I put the most expensive ink I own into a $2.50 pen. Why? I'm addicted to gray inks right now and I had a nearly full sample of this ink and wanted to use it. Plus, for the first time ever I had an ink that matched the color of the pen. Gray ink in a gray pen.

I then proceeded to write out 2 full pages in my Exacompta journal. At first it was slightly scratchy, the feel of writing with this pen matched the feel of writing with a Noodler's Nib Creeper.The nib writes with a true fine and is rock hard, no bounce, no flex; it is friction fit into the section. It writes relatively wet and started up with a quick shake downward. I did notice that when I had some ink on the nib it seemed to blob there. After I cleaned the ink off it no longer creeped to that one spot.

At the end of the 2nd page of writing I noticed that the nib was much smoother than when I started. The flow of ink was perfect for me, slightly on the wet side (6/10) and the nib itself was smoother, and gliding over the paper. Given I was using a premium ink this was to be expected and I wonder what will happen when I put a less premium ink in it. All in all this is most likely to end up as my new gray ink sketching pen and will have a permanent spot in my drawing stable.

Given my love of cheap pens I'm going to have to say I like this pen, a lot. Yes it's cheap and will never perform as well as a $50 TWSBI 540 and it has one nib size available- fine and it's construction is okay. The real thing to think of here is how it performs, and in my opinion if you are looking for something like a Noodler's Nib Creeper or an inexpensive pen this is a good pen.

As an aside this pen is one you can COMPLETELY disassemble, meaning you can get at the innards to clean it… I have in the past abused fountain pens with India ink. This is a pen you could do that with as you can get at the feed and inside the section to scrub them with a toothbrush. Hmmm. Ideas.

The Serwex Special 101 is not in stock at FPR. They have a pen called the Serwex 77TR that looks identical to this pen EXCEPT that the clip and bands appear to be all "gold" plated. At $6 plus $3 shipping it's not a bad deal, especially if the pens write as well as this one does. You can check out the FPR on FaceBook as well. The way you order from FPR is to figure out what pens you want, make note of the name and color you want and send Kevin an email. He'll send you a total price. Then you paypal. Shipping is from India so it will take some time (3 weeks) to get to you, but the wait is worth it.

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