Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Samhain to All

One of my favorite pictures from Astronomy Picture of the Day is the Ghost Head Nebula, a perfect photo for All Hallow's. A good Samhain to you all.

It's 10 am, Do You Know Where Your Novel Is?

National Novel Writing Month kicks off on November 1, fourteen hours to go. Pens and pencils to the ready, lots of one's preferred paper at hand, and may everyone win.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Plaisir Fountain Pen Giveaway @Note Booker, Esq

Note Booker, Esq has a review up of the Platinum Plaisir fountain pen in red, beautiful looking pen with a medium nib that writes quite...well, it's a beautiful looking pen, It's part of a giveaway, go red the review and leave a comment, contest is open through Halloween e'ven.

Uni-ball Vision with Midnight Gel Ink

Rooting around the pens at Art Brown some time back I found this Uni-ball Vision in the particularly unique shade of Midnight, blue-black with a hint of gray in it. The pen itself seems to be very old, as half the ink looks like it evaporated and the pen tip sometimes refuses to move across the page.

I certainly have quite a few Uni-ball Vision pens and wasn't really looking to replace the Elite, which is an office and personal favorite. What I do like about this older Vision pen is the style of the barrel and cap, with a polycarbonate brushed finish that's really quite stunning in this midnight color and gently rounded ends.

I would love to see this color and style re-introduced, but will probably have to make do with the one I bought. I'm not in the market for older gel ink pens, although I do like finding unusual colors. The Vision Needle does have a choice of the Midnight color, but it's a draw as I'm not fond of needle point tips. Oh well, back to Muji!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Was In the Water Last Sunday?

Seems like every dog within a one-mile radius of my apartment was out for a walk and dressed to kill, including a French bulldog in a blue sailor suit with matching cap and two poodles dressed like Raggedy Anne and Andy.

Here is a Pom dressed like a pirate (with feathered cap, blue shirt, and brown trousers) and a terrier of some kind dressed as a ballet dancer (or something). At least they seem to be taking this with good humor.

TWSBI Fine Point Fountain Pen

If you've followed the forums on Fountain Pen Network then you know about the TWSBI Diamond 530 fountain pen, a clear vacuum filling pen that FPN member Speedy debuted for comments back in February 2010.

With a polycarbonate clear body, steel nib, and silver accents, the TWSBI has gotten a lot of buzz on FPN. I'd only seen the pen on eBay, but had the chance to see it in person at the NYC 2010 Pen Show.

This is an amazing pen, no doubt about it. The steel nib comes in EF, F, and M, and as noted on FPN it is a nail. No flex or give at all, just lays down the ink. But the way it does that one job makes it my new "have you see this?!" fave to show people.

This has to be one of the smoothest writing pens I've ever used that is not a roller ball. My friend C has the medium nib, and we both wax ecstatic over how fine a pen this is. C is a lefty but doesn't write overhand, so she's basically safe from ink smears.

Included with this amazing clear plastic case (which is functional and good looking but not overly heavy or a resource-waster like some cases) is a small bottle of silicone oil and a tiny wrench for maintenance on the pen. What's great is that everything is packaged in the bottom, and only the pen is on the top for viewing.

Besides how well this pen writes, the way the nib really glides over the paper and the fine feel of it in my hand, is how really simple the design is. A polycarbonate clear body shows off the ink (Sailor Gentle Ink in Blue-Black) and the internal design. You can't see the shape of the barrel or the molding of it, but it's there.

I really enjoy taking this pen out and writing with it. TWSBI, Rhodia, and coffee have become a weekend ritual. Price at $40, this is a remarkable writing experience. Would I give up my Namiki 823 for it? No. But my Parker Sonnet and Latitude are cringing in their cases and acting a bit more well-behaved than before!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Morning View of the GW Bridge

The George Washington Bridge yesterday morning, quite an amazing site. You can just see the moon fading, in the upper left corner.

The Bridge with a better view of the greenery and the highway.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pens of Dist-INK-tion

One of the more interesting stops at the NYC 2010 Pen Show was the Pens of Dist-INK-tion area, where Carl Seidl specializes in the retrofit pen--turning fountain pens into ballpoint pens. I was really taken with a green Parker Vacumatic that had once been a fountain pen but is now living the life of a ballpoint. The above picture shows off it's beautiful green bands and highly polished surface, along with a few additions that Mr. Seidl mentioned he used in the early versions of his retrofits.

The RetroFit Pens are the caps, barrels, and clips of non-working vintage fountain pens and mechanical pencils, which are then re-fashioned into using ballpoint refills. It happens that I had some Monteverde ceramic rollerball refills that are perfect for this pen, so my swivel RetroFit Parker Vacumatic Pen is now a rollerball.

The tables at Pens of Dist-INK-tion were filled with many well-known vintage pens retrofitted into ballpens. Some of my favorites were Montblanc pens, but there were many styles and price ranges. The above are among some of the more expensive pens available, but they are well worth it if you're looking for a particular pen but don't want it in a fountain pen design. Parker Vacumatics don't come in ballpoint styles, but I have one that's a joy to write with and usable in different situations where a fountain pen won't work (making out a deposit slip at the bank and not having a ballpoing was what made me consider stopping by this table and looking for a retrofitted fountain pen).

Above are eight Parker Vacumatics in various colors and designs (mine is similar in price and design to the third from the left). Carl Seidl mentioned to me that when he started he added parts to the pens, such as a black grip section, giving the pen a more ballpoint-y look to it. So my pen is a RetroFit with some extra work on it, and not just a Vacumatic. There were two styles of these available, a swivel pen and a push pen (the three to the far right are all push pens, the others swivel to bring the cartridge down and up.)

Looking for something different, not a fountain pen but like a fountain pen? This is a dealer to check out, do stop by his website for more information.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sheaffer Slender Balance

This is one of the pens I found on Ron Zorn's website that I really wanted to see in person, along with the military-style Sheaffer (the pen clip is on backwards so that a pocket flap will lie straight over it and not show, per military dress code).

Green striped celluloid with gold accents won out, and I then took it over to Pendleton Brown to have the nib made into a cursive italic.

Per the website, the pen's overall grade is excellent, the metal is perfect and the nib is in excellent condition. It's an extra fine #3 point, and a lever filler. The pen measures 5 3/8 inches capped, and the jeweler's cap band is in perfect condition.

It's a very light, slender pen, and I almost don't feel it in my hand as there's no weight to it relative to some of my other pens. The cursive italic nib gives it some extra kick, although the pen itself just sitting on a table is fantastic all by itself.

What I loved about the pen is the ambered yet clear section, which when you see it next to the green celluloid looks very distinctive. It happens to be among my favorite color combinations, a lucky happenstance that adds to this Sheaffer Slender Balance's overall appeal.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TWSBI & Cappuccino

The TWSBI lounging around the B Cup Cafe next to my large Rhodia Webbie. This is truly an excellent pen, it writes like a rollerball that's how smooth the nib is on the paper. I'm working on a review, but this is something you want to check out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Parker Latitude Fountain Pen Revisited

One reason I wanted to get to the NYC Pen Show early in the morning is that I had some pens I wanted to get checked/tweaked, among them my Parker Latitude Silky Black medium nib. This pen was something of a disappointment as it was either too dry or too wet or wouldn't write at all, and I was wondering if the nib might be the problem. Turned out it was in more ways than one.

The tines of the nib were slightly bent upward and skewed, which made the ink creep up onto the top of the nib but also made it harder for the pen to work properly. The pen went from Pendleton Brown who diagnosed the problem but didn't have the tools with him to fix it, to Ron Zorn who I was waiting for regarding another pwn, then back to Pendleton Brown for some nib work. As he said, this nib just asks to have a little something extra added to it.

First, the pen now works wonderfully well. My mouth dropped when I started writing with it, as it wrote just the way I had wanted it to back in April when I bought it from Fountain Pen Hospital. The nib wasn't aligned correctly out of the box, nothing I could have done about it on my own.

Then Pendleton Brown started playing with the nib, scratching away and working with it to see what took his fancy. He didn't want to make it into a plain old italic, but he wasn't sure what it needed. This ended up as a stubby italic something-or-other, and it's really fine by me.

As you can see from the pic above, I'm really enjoying writing with my "new" Parker Latitude.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday Morning Pen Show Pics

A line up of pen barrel possibilities from Edison Pen Co.

The Grays at The Edison Pen Co. table, with two trays of barrels for custom designing your pen.

A few dealers, and Fountain Pen Hospital in the back, next to

Chuck Swisher setting up Friday morning, and the Lamy display already in place.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

NYC 2010 Pen Show Purchases (minus 1)

From Left to Right:

Parker Duofold striped red and blue, it carries the #2 so I believe it's from 1942 (and the pen I went to the show to find)

Waterman NOS red metallic lacquer medium nib;

Waterman NOS brown metallic lacquer with a medium nib;

a Twsbi fine nib (and met the twisby folks as well);

a Moore lever filler from around 1937 to 1940 (what an amazing flex nib);

a vintage Sheaffer Balance purchased from Ron Zorn with a cursive italic nib made by Pendleton Brown;

a Monteverde Invincia Color Fusion in Avenger Yellow, medium nib made into a cursive italic by PB;

Pilot Namiki 823 Smoke with a medium nib;

finally, a green retrofitted Parker Vacumatic made into a twist ballpen/rollerball by Carl Seidl of Pens of Dist-INK-tion.

The one pen missing is the Edison Huron bulb filler with a fine steel nib, should be available in 6 weeks or so.

Above right is a picture of Pendleton Brown (to the left) and another Fountain Pen Network member (I think he's Jonathan). PB remade four nibs for me, three into cursive italics and one is a stubby something-not really an italic, not really a stub, something in-between but not either. I love it. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

American Musuem of Natural History

I spent the day at the American Museum of Natural History, bumming around and looking at old favorites and new exhibits. The above, from the Hall of North American Mammals, is the panorama featuring the Brown Bear, the largest bear on the planet. You don't get the amazing height or sense of power from the pic, but you do get a sense of their strength and sheer bulk.

From an exhibit on Japan, a Samurai in full regalia. Whoever painted this picture is a genius.

From the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems, an uncut emerald about 5 or 6 inches long and about an inch and a half thick. One of the most amazing raw stones they have in their collection.

From the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, left to right are the skeletons of a chimapanzee, a modern human, and a neanderthal.

Finally, one of the Mars Rovers, which is of particualr interest to me since my friend's nephew headed the team that designed the optics (when he was all of a sophomore at Cornell no less).

And so I'm off to spend the next few days in and out of the New York City pen show, where I hope to get equally interesting and unusual pictures.

Franklin Covey Padfolio

My new Target store on 117th Street carries a small selection of Franklin Covey products, and while looking through the various planners I came across several smallish (6x9) padfolios. A few were pretty garish and/or missing the price, but this pink padfolio with orange trim and bright orange inner lining caught my eye (how could it not, it practically glows in the dark).

The cloth padfolio has a small pen/pencil holder on the side that can get in the way, but otherwise it's perfect for my favorite Rhodia notepad, the No. 16. The only small problem was that getting the pad into the back pocket was a tight fit, and that's when I discovered that the Rhodia's black back cover isn't attached to the thicker backing. Took a minute or two before the cloth had loosened enough to get the entire Rhodia in place and to my liking, and now it's my favorite carryall.

The price is $9.95 for the pad folio, and you may have a better selection than the few at my store. There's a pocket for notes, receipts, whatever you need to carry. This isn't listed on the Franklin Covey website, so these could be special to Target. Definitely a fun purchase, and with winter on the way it will brighten up meetings.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pilot BP-S Medium Ballpen

A pen I haven't used in many yeas is this Pilot BP-S ballpen with a medium point. I'd forgotten how good a pen this is, very smooth writer with ink that flows well with no skipping. More importantly, the ink doesn't blob when you stop writing and start again, leaving ink stains on paper and hands.

The design of the BP-S is impressive as well. It's a long-looking pen, which I think is partly due to the sculpted cap (for those who like to chew on the cap, the Pilot BP-S is dessert). The grip is ribbed plastic, and the barrel is a pale blue with an almost crystal sheen to it. The tip of the pen extends out a bit more from the end of the barrel, and the silver metal casing around the barrel makes a nice counterpoint to the plastic. Nicely designed and a good working ballpen if you need one for your every day work. At $1.25 it's less than many of the gel inks but more than your standard BIC pens.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Papyrus Notebook

Passing through Grand Central Terminal a few weeks back I stopped by Papyrus, which has several locations in NYC that I've been to but not the tiny postage-stamp of a store in GCT. I was really taken with the large, brightly-colored wire-bound notebook with a black elastic band.

The striped notebook, called Festive Stripe, is a standard 8.5 by 11 inch size with 120 sheets of paper and sells for $8.95. It's part of the Papyrus store's own line of stationery products, which are numerous and include some very nice leather journals as well as cloth-bound notebooks of all sizes. The Papyrus and Carlton Cards retail stores, with 450 locations in the US and Canada, are owned by Schurman Retail Group.

Schurman, founded in 1950, offers premier stationery and "social expression" items, including the notebook pictured above, stationery, cards, journals, and lots of other interesting things that are great impulse buys when you're killing time in a train station. I like the bold striped colors, as well as the way the black elastic band fades into the cover. But how good is it as a notebook is a better question.

There were two sizes offered, one more of an A5 similar to a Rhodia large Webbie and this letter size notebook. The paper is better than printer or copy paper, definitely smoother and more substantial. But definitely not in the same 80gsm to 90gsm as Rhodia or Clairefontaine. Meaning this isn't fountain pen friendly, no matter how fantastic unlined bright white paper may be for different fountain pen ink colors.

One point to note is the black elastic band. The bank is held in place by brass-colored metal grommets attached to the back cover. A small paper tab is glued over the elastic to keep it in place and to make sure it doesn't show through on the inside of the cover.

Both are very nice details that do add a touch of thoughtfulness to this notebook (not that it was slapped together in some mass-market factory, but actually designed and manufactured with care).

If there's a Papyrus in your area, do stop by and check out their line of notebooks and journals. The price is not too high, and they're definitely fashionable and pretty well-made.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dreamcather Theatreworks

Dreamcatcher Theatrework's
ads for their next production. I love the calling-card design with the catchy phrase taped to the orange metal store window frame.

Sunday Morning

A much-needed morning cappuccino at B-Cup on Avenue B and 13th Street. Free WiFi for my iPad, a corner table, large Rhodia orange Webbie, and my Namiki Falcon II soft fine flex nib. As the caffeine and ink work their magic, I'm starting to de-stress.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pelikan Stainless Steel Signum

Saw this over at the Fountain Pen Network, and as it was being offered at a great price and I was in the mood to try another Pelikan pen I decided to chance it. This ultra-slim Signum has a 14ct gold nib and a fine point, but what really amazed me was the flex. At first I thought there was something wrong with the nib as it kept bending and felt like it was loose. Then I realized how much it flexes and I just fell in love with it.

Quite a few of my pens are advertised as semi-flexible nibs, while my Namiki Falcon II is a soft, flexible nib. They are nothing compared to this Signum nib, I've never before realized how much fun a fountain pen could be to write with--nor how hard. I'm using a J. Herbin cartridge with Bleu Myosotis, and seeing a lot of shading in the ink. I'm going to empty to look around for a converter for this pen (which was made around 1980 I think) and check out some other inks for shading, especially the Diamine and Edelstein inks.

I'm using Doane Paper which produced a very nice, smooth link. But I can't wait to try the Signum on some Rhodia and Clairefontaine, especially a Webbie.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Carnival is Here!

Journaling Arts is hosting the October Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper. Go take a look at all the great posts (the Diamine Oxblood review is fantastic). Next month's Carnival will be at the Pen Addict, don't forget to submit your entries.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Pens, pencils, paper--what about letterhead? Above is one of Ray Bradbury's personal stationery pieces, the original graphic of Mr. Moundshroud from The Halloween Tree (one of my favorite books, as Bradbury really understands October and Halloween). Take a look at, lots of amazing famous-people letterheads to ogle and gaze at.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

After reading the reviews of the Sharpie Liquid Pencil, most notably OfficeSupplyGeek, I was ready to pass on trying these out. But every time I went near the office supply section of a store I'd check to see if the Sharpie Liquid Pencil was available, only to spend several weeks without seeing one and wondering if there was a shortage. Finally, at Target I found a two-pack of liquid pencils and spent some time testing them out.

On the whole the Sharpie Liquid Pencil reminds me of the Pilot Frixion, which is interesting as the latter is an erasable ink while this is supposed to be liquid graphite. The feel of the two on paper is exactly the same, at least for me: a kind of skipping and oiliness that reminds me of silicone. Both the ink and the graphite seem fragile, although the Sharpie Liquid Pencil is supposed to become permanent within 24 hours. So the graphite must have some sort of setting component to it, making it more than a mere pencil but less than a ballpen.

I definitely like the idea of a liquid graphite pencil, but I'm not sure version 1.0 of anything is ever reliable or a good purchase. The future versions hopefully will be better, with greater flow and different hardness levels.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Paris Review has put all of its interviews online, available by decade or by name. Reading the interview with Shelby Foote he mentions his favorite writing instrument and manufacturer.


With what instrument do you write? A word processor?


I use a dip pen. Everybody on earth used to have one. They were in every post office in the land. I like the feel that a pen or pencil gives you, being in close touch with the paper and with nothing mechanical between you and it. The very notion of a word processor horrifies me. When I’ve finished a draft, I make changes in the margin. Then I make a fair copy. I also edit the fair copy somewhat when I type it on big yellow sheets so I can see it in print for the first time. I correct those outsized yellow sheets, then retype them on regular eight and a half by eleven pages for the printer. I’ve had poet friends tell me they never type a poem until they are really satisfied with it. Once they see it in print it is very different from what it was in longhand. It freezes the poem for them.


I’ve heard that during the middle of writing The Civil War you bought all the dip pens left in the United States.


My favorite pen-point manufacturer had all but gone out of business—Esterbrook. I was running out and fairly desperate. On Forty-fourth Street just east of the Algonquin Hotel, on the other side of the street, there used to be an old stationery shop, all dusty and everything, and I went in there on the chance he might have some. He looked in a drawer. He had what I wanted—Probate 313. I bought several gross of those things, so I’ve got enough pen points to last me out my life and more. Another problem is blotters. When I was a kid and when I was writing back in the forties on into the fifties, you could go into any insurance office and they had stacks of giveaway blotters for advertising.


What precisely is a blotter?


This is a blotter [pointing] and if you haven’t got one you’re up the creek. You use the blotter to keep the ink from being wet on the page. You put the blotter on top and blot the page. I was talking about blotters in an interview, what a hard time I had finding them, and I got a letter from a woman in Mississippi. She said, I have quite a lot of blotters I’ll be glad to send you. So I got blotters galore. Ink is another problem. I got a phone call from a man in Richmond, Virginia who had a good supply of ink in quart bottles. I got three quarts from him, so I’m in good shape on that.