How I Choose My Next Pen

I had my dream job for a couple of years back in the early 80’s. The office supplies buyer for a big company. That role has gone the way of big discounts with major chains but back in the day there was a fair amount of negotiations, product comparisons and competition going on and I loved it. Where I got a little sideways was probably my overzealous testing of writing instruments that we paid $.72 a dozen for, I will never forget the winning product that won based solely on price, those pens were awful and they are still sold today (Could they really be that awful then?). If we were going to buy cheap pens I wanted them to at least write good. They didn’t, and it just wasn’t a priority to the organization as a whole. I reluctantly bought into the rationale that most of the pens would have been lost, walked home or broke before they ran out of ink. In the end they proved adequate and we bought container loads of them. Another part of my job was questioning the justification of requests for higher quality pens on smaller purchase scales, we just called them “specials”. Yes I was THAT GUY that told the office admin that the company was not going to spend the money for G2’s, Uni-balls or GASP Cross pens, even for retirement gifts. I was a good corporate soldier and bought the pens I wanted to write with using my own money and even tucked my tail when a corporate exec would come over the top of the organization and demand a better writing experience at the company’s expense. Memorable times.

During that period, and still to this day, my subjective testing criteria for a pen has been fundamentally the same. I want them to lay down a solid line of ink with minimal pressure on the tip and be comfortable to hold. Nice aesthetics, as a purchase criteria, didn’t land on my checklist until many years later.

Today the writing part is pretty easy to attain as the technology has improved a lot with even cheap disposable pens from the major brands and many of the private label offerings, I still love the Staples Sonix product. Where my tastes have expanded over the years is in the aesthetics area and the source of the pen.

When I can try a pen here are my bulletized criteria. The showstoppers for me are:

  • Does the ink flow skip?
  • Does the pen require a lot pressure to get a saturated line of ink on the page?
  • Does it leak?
  • Does it start as soon as I place the tip to the paper?
  • Is the pen body and section slippery to hold?
  • Does the cap go on and off easily and have good retention while on the pen

When none of the above are issues then it gets even more subjective and I may have more leniency in these areas:

  • Do I just like the looks?
  • Is it a brand I have never tried before?
  • Is the maker somebody I like and respect or just starting out and could use the support?
  • Is it a limited edition that I am FOMO’ing over?
  • Is this a new model for the maker/brand and I just want everything they make?
  • For fountain pens how easy is it to clean?

Size comes in to play for me when I’m shopping for an enjoyment pen. I think I have average size hands for a 6’ male. I have some minor arthritis so a large pen is more comfortable for me. Both in length and diameter.

You may notice an absence of any consideration given to a clip.  I don’t clip a pen to anything so unless the clip is just hideously ugly it rarely carries any weight for my choices.

Some of these questions are ignored when I’m buying a machined pen or similar that will take standardized refills because I know the writing portion can be fixed with a Parker, G2 or D1 type refill. Additionally a fountain pen that I really fall in love with may get a pass in the ink to paper area since that can be fixed with nib tuning if all the other characteristics of the pen grab my attention. Though I have lamented before I strongly dislike buying a brand new pen that has to be sent off for nib work.

The above lists have worked well for me and I don’t seeing it changing any time in the future. The pen is a pretty simple concept. A stick with an ink reservoir.

Anything else you consider when shopping for your next pen? Maybe I’m missing something.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Uni Style Fit Multi Pen Review

My opinion of multi-pens has not changed since I reviewed the Lamy multi-pen a little over a year ago. I still think they are good utility pens that fill a niche and frankly, I’m intrigued by the mechanics of them more so than just picking one up because I enjoy writing with it, that designation is usually left for my fountain pens.

What drew me to the Uni Style Fit, that I’m sharing with you today, is the lure of 5 colors in a single pen body, yes 5! The Uni Style takes the approach of building your own multi-pen with the refills you prefer. This initial cafeteria style purchase is unique and in the end may cost you a little more but you end up with no wasted colors or refills you don’t use. You don’t need 5? There are plenty of body styles for 3 and 4 colors as well.

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Length Overall: 5 7/8
  • Weight: 7.85g
  • Street Price: $17.25 with 5 gel refills

Here is a great Uni Style Fit guide that Jet Pens put together and gives a lot of detail on the options available.

The Uni Style uses the excellent Uniball Signo ink and you can get refills in ballpoint, gel or mechanical pencil. You can even mix and match or double up on your favorite blue! The only possible drawback I found was you are locked in to their refill system. They have some excellent choices and at less than $2 a refill I think they are fairly priced. I loaded up a Pink Meister 5 series with 5 colors of .5mm gel refills. Total cost: $17.50.

I’m a deployment guy when it comes to pens. I don’t want to spend a lot of time between when I pick up a pen to the time ink hits the paper. Mainly because at my age I may forget the thought! Pushbutton knock style remains my favorite for random quick notes but with a little thought in the refill placement (See insider tip below) the Uni-Style is pretty good and the typical slotted sliders at the tail end of the pen. They are all clear so you use a clear window in the body of the pen to see which color which slider pushes out the tip. There are four sliders and the clip acts as the fifth refill slider. Ingenious and though not the fastest color chooser here is your insider tip. You can strategically place the refills you use most often and then by memory you know sliding the clip gives you blue, for example. Retraction of the tip is like most others, just partially deploy another color and everything goes back inside safe and sound.

The sliding clip doesn’t instill the most confidence in its robustness if you are hard on traditional clips but it hasn’t broke on me yet so maybe I’m being over critical and just paranoid because the clip moves. Ramp is good and even with the construction it works like a pen clip should.

The only design element I can’t grasp is what looks like a knock pushbutton on the top of the pen. It looks conventional enough but not on a multi-pen. It even pushes down a little bit but doesn’t seem to do anything. Unsolved but unimportant.

(UPDATE:  The pushbutton that I couldn’t figure out is to advance lead when you’re using the mechanical pencil refill. Thanks Kelly!)

(UPDATE 2: Underneath the pushbutton is an eraser. Nice touch. Thanks Notebook Stories for the tip off!)

Conclusion

The Uni Style is a fat pen, coming in at over ½” in diameter. It’s holding 5 pens and when I look at the wall thickness of the body I don’t know how they could make the whole assembly any thinner. I like the girth but I understand it wouldn’t be for everyone. It does slightly taper down smaller near the clip end of the pen and the overall shape gives the pen kind of a torpedo look. The taper down to the nose is gradual and the ink window is a good size.

If you have a need or application for a multi-pen the Lamy 2000 is probably the dressier more dignified sibling with its Makrolon body and black look but at way less than half the price of the Lamy the Uni Style Fit is a better writer with the Signo ink, has 5 colors and you can build it yourself with a huge selection of option al refills and pen bodies.

Read the guide

Pick a Body

Decide your refills

Place your order

Remember: Write something nice……

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Sunderland MK1 Pen Review

I own a lot of machined pens, it’s hard for makers to deliver something really different when you’re dealing with a turned tube of material that has to hold a popular standard size refill. The differences usually come in design, grips and tip retraction. I tried one out recently that pushes a few design limits with good results.  My good friend Matthew over at www.nibandink.com entrusted me with one of his favorites, the Sunderland MK1. If you don’t follow him you should @heymatthew .

The Pen

  • Anodized Aluminum
  • Available in a variety of colors and a nickel finish
  • Standard G2 Size Refills or threaded Montblanc rollerball and fineliner cartridges
  • Length Capped: 5.2”
  • Length Uncapped: 4.9”
  • Length Posted: 5.8”
  • Weight: 23 g with G2 Refill
  • Price: $80

Overall Appearance

The Sunderland is a two piece body and cap style pen with a matching finishing on both pieces. The Clip is from a solid block of stainless steel and the brushed finish is a nice looking contrast to the rest of the pen.

The body has a taper about half way down that turns the barrel to a smaller diameter to allow the cap to post. The look is different, I like the overall aesthetic that this allows where the cap remains the same diameter as most of the body.

Ergonomics

The MK1 has good balance and the aluminum makes it light. The section has some rings around it that work good as reference points for your grip and even after a couple of pages I had no strain. Additionally no exposed threads, but more on that next.

Cap

The coolest part of the pen and the single element that just might make me add one to my collection is the cap threads. They are invisible. Ok maybe not invisible but hidden. At the top of the cap the Sunderland team has figure out how to threads that screw down over the writing tip into the body threads that, you guessed it, are hidden. It looks difficult to manufacturer and it works flawlessly. Impressive.

Clip

Beautifully executed clip and one of those that looks like you would destroy the rest of the pen before the clip fails. Made of a solid block of 17-4 stainless steel. The ramp is good and the grip is tight. The clip attachment is another area that Sunderland raises the bar on fit and finish with small design elements.

Refills

The Sunderland MK1 accepts the widely available G2 style refill or MontBlanc rollerball and fineliner cartridges.  There are internal threads in the section that accept the MontBlanc style threaded cartridges. I’m convinced the Sunderland team are thread geniuses!

Conclusion

This is not an inexpensive entry into the machined pen genre but it’s definitely a step up from many in terms of construction fit and finish. Many people like the minimalist aesthetic that is popular but the Sunderland takes a different approach by adding some panache and design elements that don’t interfere with it being a great writing experience as well.

The black on my loaner was stealthy enough to be mistaken for any number of modern high production cap pens, but the similarities end there. The cap threads are just cool, the clip and it’s attachment will make you say wow and if you like the G2 format, you’re all set.

Thanks again Matthew for the test drive.

Remember: Write something nice……

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My Favorite Disposable Pens

Favorite Disposable PensIn the knife community when you pick up a knife that catches your eye at the checkout register (think gas station or rural convenience store) and admit to it that is enough to get you banned for life on the internet knife forums for buying such presumed junk quality. In the pen community when you make a good score with a gel pen that was on sale or overstocked in a funky color you get high fives across the same internet. Funny, and I enjoy the high fives a hundred times more. Usually these finds come at the checkout of the big box office supply chains. $2 seems to be the price point cap so I bite more times than not and I would say my batting average is probably a .500 with those purchases that I keep. The other approach I take is sometimes on pay day Friday I just want a pen fix so I will shop Jet Pens in sort of a game mode to get as close to $25.01 for the free shipping. This usually includes something that writes from the Whats New area. Jet Pens’ excellent service has them in my mailbox, across the country, on Monday. From both approaches the keepers that I have enjoyed are numerous so I’m sharing them with you here to fuel your ideas in case you haven’t tried any of these. Forgive the short reviews of each pen, they are disposables so my review criteria is slim, they write good, they are not uncomfortable to hold and a simple scale of 1-10 with 10 being my highest rating.

Here is what I started with

All of my disposable pens

And here we go with the top choices in no particular order:

Papermate InkJoy Gel .7

This was a big box office supply store checkout counter find. It looked interesting and I always loved the name PaperMate, those two words together just say PEN to me. I was very impressed with how it wrote and liked it so much I found one of those 14 color pen deal and bought it. The whole body is rubberized which is kind of unique.

  • Writing: 10
  • Grip: 9
  • Aesthetics: 5 plain
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Pilot Juice .7

A new one for me but I quickly fell in love. The clip is the BEST of the bunch if that is something you use frequently.

  • Writing: 10
  • Grip: 7
  • Aesthetics: 8
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Pentel EnerGel .7

Another drugstore stumble find and I find myself grabbing it often sitting around the house. I don’t own alot of Pentel product and I’m not sure why not.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 10 fat body
  • Aesthetics: 4 Blah
  • Deployment: 10 knock

And now for the Uniball Signo Run

Uniball Signo 207
Probably my favorite grip and always a consistent writer every time I pick it up.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 10
  • Aesthetics: 9
  • Deployment:10 clicky

Uniball Signo 307

There are reportedly some differences between the 207 and 307 somewhere but I can’t find them except in the looks department. They both write and grip just the same but I would bump up the 307 by 1 point in the aesthetics category as I think it’s a touch nicer looking.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 10
  • Aesthetics: 10
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Uniball Signo UM-100-.7

The longest body shortest cap of the lot with a step body that I’m not sure the purpose of but it’s a solid performer.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 4 all plastic
  • Aesthetics: 4 the cap to body balance is off to me
  • Deployment: 5 cap

Uniball Signo UM-151-.5

Probably my favorite stick style pen with a cap.

  • Writing: 10
  • Grip: 8 rubber is there but firm
  • Aesthetics: 5 plain clear body
  • Deployment: 5 cap

Uniball Signo DX UM-151-.38

The smallest tip size I will go. I am surprised it writes as smooth as it does but I only use this one occasionally when I have a specific need for a really fine line.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 8 firm rubber again
  • Aesthetics: 5
  • Deployment: 5 cap

Uniball Signo RT1 .5

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 8
  • Aesthetics: 7 kind of sleek for a disposable clicky
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Plenty of great pens in the $2 price range and if you’re going to have pens in the car, garage and kitchen drawer why not have ones that write good!

What are your favorites?

Remember: Write something nice……

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Darkstar Collection Pocket Notebook Review

The pocket notebook appears to me, like a simple engineering product. I’m sure there is more to it than I know. Just by the brands that have passed under my nibs, ballpoints and gels I have enjoyed many well thought out features. Some of these features help us gravitate to one brand or the other. The latest to pass over my desk is from the team over at Darkstar Collection in the UK.

Darkstar’s contribution to our community comes in two formats, Pocket Notebooks and a larger Adventure Notebook. I am even seeing some rumors and IG spy photos of a hard cover.

  • 100GSM paper
  • Flexible covers available in yellow, black, orange and red
  • Printing available in Grid, Crosshair, Dot Grid and Lined at 5 mm ruling
  • Price: $9.22 US / Pack
  • Pocket Notebooks
  • – 4 x 5 ½”
  • – Pack of 3
  • – 54 pages
  • Adventure Notebooks
  • – 5 ¾ x 7 7/8”
  • – Pack of 2
  • – 72 pages

Overall Construction Fit & Finish

The version I tried out was the lined black pocket notebook. Packaging is minimal with a branding description band for point of sale. A foiled Darkstar logo is inconspicuous on the front cover which helps me orient the notebook quickly when I’m picking it up. Page one is an owner’s page and 2 staples hold it all together.

Paper and covers are cut well and clean with flawless rounded corners. The cover seems heavy enough and after a couple weeks in and out of my pocket it has held up well. I’m sure one would fill the pages before wearing anything out.

The printing is straight and fully flooded all the way to the edges. The lines appear to be a greenish gray. The lines stay out of the way but still guide my writing. Looking at it under a loupe it’s two lines of dashes right next to each other with the squares alternating in a checkerboard pattern. It’s a good look that works and a small detail that harkens to my opening paragraph and proving I really don’t have a clue what it takes to design a good pocket notebook.

Paper

At 100GSM the paper works great with any pen I use in pocket notebooks. From my broad wet Ondoro, to my gels that I usually have with me on the go and I even threw in an Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush pen and it worked great. Impressive.

No feathering, no bleed-through and if you look hard you can see some faint ghosting from the broader lines but I wouldn’t hesitate at all to use both sides of the page.

Drying time is good at 6-8 seconds with a wet broad fountain pen. The writing is smooth but with this dry time performance I suspect this is not a coated paper.

Darkstar Ink

This is cool. Darkstar has teamed up with Robert Oster, who is on a big popularity run right now with their ink colors. Both companies collaborated on a Blue-Back ink shade they call, of course, Darkstar Blue. I love the other RO inks I have so this just got added to my want list. Robert Oster Darkstar Blue Ink.

Conclusion

Darkstar offers a great selection of configurations for your small notebook needs. 4 printing options, 4 colors and 2 sizes. There are even some special editions they call Shine Stars. I wouldn’t change a thing about the basics of the notebook. The 100 gsm paper is wonderful and the covers are tough. If I could reach for more I would offer three suggestions to Darkstar:

  • A blank page option
  • A wider rule lined option
  • A blue cover that matches their signature ink

If implemented, none of these things make the Darkstar a better notebook, they already hit that out of the park. These would only broaden their market appeal but I understand adding a new sku is expensive and only Darkstar can determine if the cost makes sense.

Thanks again to Craig and the Darkstar team for sending these over, I am enjoying them.

The Gentleman Stationer had some good things to say about the Darkstar as well. Check out his comments here.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Caran D’Ache 849 Fountain Pen Review

I have owned some Caran D’Ache ink and was very pleased with it but I have never really seen any of their writing instruments that jumped out at me and had to rest in my shopping cart. Recently my friends at The Pen Company gave me an opportunity to look at the Caran D’ Ache model 849 fountain pen. I’m glad I did.

Founded in 1915, Caran D’Ache is a Swiss manufacturer of office, school and art supplies including some beautiful fountain pen ink colors and writing instruments.

The 849, in ballpoint or fountain pen, is one of their moderately priced models with a hexagon shaped barrel and comes in multiple powder coated colors. The Fluo edition, which I reviewed, comes in striking and bold anodized colors. My fluorescent green will not be mistaken for any other color in any light!

The Pen

Caran D’Ache 849 Fluo

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Nib: Steel available in M, F, XF
  • Length Capped: 5.5”
  • Length Uncapped: 4.85″
  • Length Posted: 7”
  • Weight: 18.5 grams with ink cartridge
  • Street Price: $49

Overall Appearance

The 849 would be considered a hex shape pen though technically it’s almost a 12 sided pen. The 6 large flat spots meet each other by way of 6 smaller flat spots. The finish and the light reflection from all the edges is a unique look I haven’t seen before. In contrast to my Faber Castel Ondoro, another popular hex shaped barrel pen, where the edges are sharper. Caran D’Ache even trademarked their design.

The bright green anodized finish is a real stand out on any desk if you like bright and loud but it doesn’t look plasticy or toyish either.

Section

The section is black plastic with a fairly steep taper for a pen that starts out slender to begin with. The stop collar near the nib is large enough to be a tactical que for your finger to stay uninked by not going any further towards the nib. Uneventful, well executed.

Cap

The cap is the coolest part of this pen to me. It’s the same diameter as the body of the pen and has a smaller chrome collar at the bottom that slips INSIDE the body of the pen to make the capped pen all one diameter. It stays on with a definitive and satisfying snap. The cap established itself as my favorite part of the pen when I learned it posts the same way slipping inside the barrel end. Quite cool. Granted when posted it makes for long pen at 7” but usually one posts a pen for better weight balance or better length to fit their hand. I don’t think the unposted 849 needs either of those, but it’s still fancy.

Clip

Functionally the clip works well and I’m not sure how I would redesign in but it looks like an afterthought to me. It’s a stamped steel variety that clamps around 5 sides of the hex shaped cap. Again, the clip works fine and given the design you could choose to remove the clip altogether without a trace and I think that gives the pen a real streamlined look. The Caran D’Ache branding is visible on the cap right under the clip.

Filling System

The 849 accepts international standard short ink cartridge and comes with a blue black cartridge to get you started. A converter is available for about $8.00

Nib

The nib is unadorned except for a small hexagon shape engraving with a circle in the middle. I’m not sure what that stands for as the official Caran D’Ache logo is just their name in a fancy font. Like the pen itself the nib is long and slender which really works aesthetically. My medium wrote very smooth and a little on the dry side which I don’t think is a bad thing and if you prefer a little more ink a nibmeister could customize it for you in short order.

Writing

This is a slender pen, plenty of length and the hex edges, as described above, are almost not edges at all and thereby comfortable with any grip I tried. The section is long. The nib requires some pressure to get the darkest lines out of it. That may be adjustable with some nib work but I found myself lightening my pressure and not getting as much ink out as I would like, not a deficiency, just a preference. I didn’t experience any hard starts or skips. Overall it was comfortable and I’m sure one could go awhile with this pen. I took it for three pages and just ran out of things to write, the pen was still comfortable.

Conclusion

After my time with the 849 Fluo I will admit I shopped the Caran D’Ache brand a little deeper than I have in the past. The Pen Company has a great selection. The nib was a strong performer out of the box, fit and finish were flawless from my inspection and that cap is just ingenious. If you want a reasonable entry point into a Swiss writing instrument you have many choices in finishes here and I don’t think you will go wrong with an 849.

Thanks again to the Pen Company for sending this one over and broadening my brand horizons.

BTW here my friends over at Scrively reviewed it  and Ana over at Well Appointed Desk reviewed it as well.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Sailor Pro Gear Fountain Pen Review

I tend to like my nibs like my cheeseburgers, fat and juicy. This has caused me to overlook some of the Japanese brand pens because of their propensity to finer nibs. I realize that leads me to miss out on some great pens.

Recently I teamed up with Massdrop to bring you a look at a widely recommended and praised pen from Sailor, the Pro Gear. Massdrop is a community-driven commerce site where enthusiasts of select groups of product categories come together to connect, inspire and shop. Writing is the community where I have focused but everyday carry, watches and blades also garner some of my attention.

Here is a link to the review I wrote if you’ve wondered about the frequently praised Pro Gear.

Thanks Massdrop

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Scout Books Notebook Review

I have begun to use more and more pocket notebooks. I have taken on a fundamental shift is my use pattern. For several years I held a strict discipline of a single notebook dedicated to my To Do List. Most of these tasks are personal in nature and I rarely have to refer back to them after I cross them off. This strict discipline frequently left me scrambling to look for a piece of paper to leave a note on somebody’s car or at their door even if I had my pocket To Do list notebook with me. The logical sensible thing to do was just tear a page out of that and BAM there was the paper I needed.

I tried carrying two notebooks for a very short while. One for my formal to do list and the other one for everything else. That didn’t work so I’m getting better at using my notebook for what it is. A bunch of blank paper stapled together to write on. If I need a quick list for shopping at the home center, I got it covered, missed mom at home and need to leave her a note, I got it covered. And I don’t carry anymore stuff than I have to. How hard is this right? The only drawback is I go through notebooks faster. I was going through the same amount of paper just not a single notebook as fast. This is a better system by far.

My increased usage had me doing a little shopping recently to see if there was a brand in the marketplace that I was overlooking. Fountain pens get the most use from me and most of those have a fat wet broad nib so wide lines and good paper are a must. Rowan over at Scout Books was kind enough to send me some of their notebooks to try out. A great experience and a great product.

  • Price: $24.95 pack of 10
  • Size: 3 ½” x 5” Is there a standard pocket notebook size anymore?
  • Lots of stock colors available
  • Paper: 32 white pages of 70# recycled paper. Hold on though don’t worry about the sometimes feared R word
  • Available with lined, blank or dot grid paper
  • Line Spacing: ¼” or 6.5 mm
  • Lines: Faint gray dots give a good lined page effect

Construction Fit & Finish – I was very pleased with the Scout Books and how well they are constructed. Folds were straight, printing was consistent and the edges were crisp. They are two staple affairs and all in fine order with the binding. The slip case for 10 books was sturdy enough without be overbuilt and taking away from the money invested in making the notebooks.

Cover – Scout Books offer many different fun styles of covers, the one I spent time with for this review is an all black variant. They carry several cool print patterns and also offer a custom line where you can use your own artwork and have it transferred to the covers using silkscreen, letter press, painting or stamping. Stock offerings come in packages of 10 with a nice slip cover. Custom orders require a larger quanity purchase.

Paper – Scout Books is using 70# paper that I found has very good performance, an added bonus is it’s a recycled paper product. There is some feathering with the wetter nibs but for a utility notebook it’s very acceptable and usually that means extremely fast dry times. Under 8 seconds in my test produced no finger smudges. The line spacing is good for me at ¼”. I like broad nibs and line spacing that is too tight jumbles up my writing too much. Ghosting was minimal and the only bleed through I got was with a Sharpie marker using a heavy slow hand with a lot of ink transferred. Impressive.

Conclusion – Nothing I would add, at $2.50 a notebook the price is competitive for a quality pocket notebook. The recycled paper, if that is important to you, takes just about any ink and wet fountain pens reasonable well. If I had the marketing reach I would love to do a My Pen Needs Ink custom notebook.

Thanks to Rowan and the team over at Scout Books for sending these along and creating a great choice in the pocket notebook sector.

Remember: Write something nice……

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My Analog Room

Over the years I have fallen deeper into this hobby which has resulted in a common collection of pens, inks, pencils, note cards, letter paper and so on. I haven’t amassed a huge collection so I have been able to contain it to a bookshelf in my home office. Though my recent acquisition of paper products has outpaced my use of said paper products so everything gets rearranged to make it fit after I try it out.

I find myself putting off writing letters and not enjoying my pens because of the time it takes to find what I want and the subsequent put away afterwards. I have longed for a good solution and after some mental stalling and fear of just doing it I think I have made some progress. Recently we freed up a room in our house that was starting to collect more random household goods than we wanted. I decided to transition the room to the Analog Room. Not a man cave, but a place for anyone to experience an occasional refuge from email, screens and technology.

The center piece for me will always be the electro-mechanical pinball machine that is very similar to the one I had as a child. I still love a good game of pin without having to maintain a pocket full of quarters.

The first purchase was a writing desk, just for writing, no stapler, tape dispenser, pictures or doodads, just a blank desktop. I wanted small and preferred a roll top variety not for the nostalgia as much as for dust control. Shopping the online classifieds, prices ranged widely and I think some of the sellers’ believed theirs was used by Thomas Jefferson when he penned the Declaration of Independence. I found a reproduction that fit the budget to a point that if this hair brain idea doesn’t work out I’m not out much coin. A short drive, exchange of cash and a cleanup from some domestic animal that shed blankets full of hair in one of the drawers and we got it inside our new room setup. It has a few age bruises but if I ever have to sell it I will go with words like patina and character.

Writing Desk

Immediate Needs

  • Lighting
  • Chair, do I go vintage or comfort?
  • Ceiling fan with electrical, it gets quite warm in there
  • Cellular signal and wi-fi jamming device (ok kidding)

Coming Soon

  • JCPenney table radio that works great with the old tune dial
  • Old citizens band radio desktop microphone that my dad used
  • Typewriter, though floor space may limit what I can do for a stand
  • Flip card rolodex for addresses, or maybe a Col-r-ring?
  • Hardbound dictionary

Cute Creative Stuff

  • A shelf or basket at the door for any visitors’ devices
  • A sign claiming the room as an analog only zone

Conclusion

I’m enjoying the setup so far though with a delay from our friend Irma the storm. I have written the first letter from the new desk to my lovely wife who has been extremely supportive, yes I mail letters to my wife who lives in the same household. I look forward to some Pinterest cruising for analog ideas and inspiration and I’m hoping I can get a few pictures through the window for social media as I progress because remember devices will not be allowed in the room 🙂 .

So do you have an analog space or have any ideas for mine?

Remember: Write something nice……

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Central Crafts Bellagio Journal Review

Bellagio JournalI spend a lot of time in the United States, ok all my life, all the time, but I really do appreciate the products from other countries that are passionate about their quality and reputation. Germany has their cars, Switzerland has their watches and I’m sure there are many other examples. From Italy I enjoy what I know as Italian food, Italian cars are some of the most beautiful in the world and Italian wearables have a reputation for fine quality. Recently I got the chance to review a handmade Italian leather journal from Central Crafts called the Bellagio.

Central Crafts is based out of the UK and has been building relationships with small artisan product makers since 1999. The journal I spent time with is from a small family run leather workshop in Florence Italy. The Bellagio is one of many variations on the classic A5 size journal that Central Crafts offers on their website.

  • Material: Italian Calf Leather
  • Price: $33 US – dependent upon exchange rate
  • Size: 6” x 8 ½” x ¾”Length Overall
  • Colors available: Aubergine (Dark Purple), Black, Chocolate, Fuchsia and Red
  • Paper: Blank cream colored acid free paper

140 Character Review – Italian leather cover in rich chocolate brown with a cool paisley pattern and great paper makes for an enjoyable holder of ink and words.

Construction Fit & Finish
A well-made journal with a little bit of cover flex and corners that are tastefully unadorned. The paper binding is tightly sewn so when using about the first 25% of the pages you get a slight spine hump to work around when writing on the back of the pages. I did not experience the annoyance of any pages flopping over on their own, regardless of where I open the journal up to. A good balance.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Bellagio JournalCover

The cover is a beautiful chocolate brown with an embossed paisley design on the front and back. The calf leather texture is quite grippy which helps me carry the journal safely and a side benefit this surface texture is it doesn’t slide around on the desk at all.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Paper

The paper is cream colored, acid free and Italian sourced. I am not sure of the actual GSM weight but it feels heavy enough, maybe 90 gsm if I had to guess. My broad wet nib fountain pens performed very well with no feathering or bleed. There is some slight ghosting but I’m not a both sides of the paper person so I was ok with it. My gel, rollerballs, ballpoints and pencils worked fine with similar ghosting.

My experience says when a maker thickens the paper up much more to help remove all ghosting then they usually reduce the page count quite a bit for weight and thickness targets. Which speaking of page count I don’t know exactly how many pages there are and I tried to count a couple of times but my fat fingers kept slipping up so I’m going with ALOT of pages. The Bellagio comes in at just over ¾” thick.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Bellagio Journal

What I would like to see in the Bellagio

  • More paper options across Central Crafts’ entire journal lineup. The Bellagio only comes with blank paper. A choice of blank, ruled or dot grid would be nice.
  • A ribbon page marker, some use them some don’t, I’m a user and I miss it. A sticky note is just out of character for this journal.
  • A maker’s mark or some other ornamentation on the front or the back so I can quickly orientate the journal when I take it from my briefcase to take down a few lines or notes
  • A few more technical specifications on the website for the various models. Paper weight and page count come to mind.

Conclusion

None of above nit-picks take away from the quality of the paper or this journal overall. At $33 US you get genuine Italian leather, wonderful paper and a very high quality build that is a pleasure to write in.

Thanks to Alma over at Central Crafts for sending me over a Bellagio to try out.

Remember: Write something nice……

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