Thursday, December 30, 2010

EVERFLO Blue Black Ink

Among the Christmas presents from my brother was this bottle of EVERFLO Blue Black Ink from Binder-Baer's Gate City Pen & Ink Co. Blue Black is one of my favorite colors, so I was a bit surprised when I swabbed this and took a closer look--it's really a very dark blue with the barest hint of black. An unusual and very deep, rich color that's somehow different from other blues I've got on hand (I'll have to swab them all for a future review).

Per the website, EVERFLO ink is "especially formulated to be benign, washable, and well behaved in all pens." It's definitely washable as the above pic shows, there's almost a water-color quality to this ink when it meets water.

Drying time is so-so, but that may be because the pen I was using (a vintage Waterman that's scheduled for review soon) has a semi-flex wet noodle of a nib. The ink creep on this nib is amazing, almost looks like a blue alloy over the gold that's how much ink gets on it. So I'll have to give this a try in another pen, but if you like dark blues give this one a try.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kuretake Zig CocoIro Letter Pen

Kuretake makes a wide selection of pens, but the brush pens are of real interest to me. JetPens carries quite a few Kuretake pens, including this unusual-looking CocoIro letter pen with a flexible, brush-like tip. It's very different, in a lot of ways: the soft plastic body and rounded end give it a very plush feel, while the muted pastel colors make this seem more like a child's plaything than a pen.

Overall, it's fun. Not a pen I'd grab automatically, but something I'd use when I wanted to joke around or play. The refill colors are awesome--blood red, anyone? I chose my favorite, blue black, but I like all six.

If you're feeling silly then these CocoIro pens (and the refill, which is separate) are for you. Not a pen for heavy duty note-taking, but something to add some fun and softness to your writing experience.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Had a few flakes here in NYC, about 12 to 15 inches is my guess. This is looking north on the avenue around 8 am, people have to walk in the street as the sidewalks are just being shoveled.

Waterman Rollerball

While visiting the parents, I wandered into my brother's office looking for something only to stop dead when I saw this on his desk--a beautiful Waterman rollerball from the early 1990s. It looks very much like one of my Waterman Laureat fountain pens, but it has a slightly slimmer silhouette. The shiny grey-black lacquer over metal, a color that reminds me of hematite, is elegant but not too snobbish.

My brother was amused when I grabbed the rollerball and started writing with it, checking out it's grip and flow. It's beautiful, but then it's been sitting in a drawer for over 15 years unused and unremembered until recently so it's in absolute mint condition and ready to go. Seeing this led me to get out some of the fountain pens I brought home and show him the vintage ones I got at the NYC Pen Show, and talking pens. I got another shock when I opened his gift to me, but that's for another post. I will only say that Richard Binder must have been pleased. I sure was.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best of 2010 Post

Pocket Change invited me to contribute a "Best of 2010" post to their site, and looking through my posts I decided to go with Ecosystem's medium hard journal (which is one of my favorites, and readily available online and at Barnes and Noble). I'm very excited to be a part of their series of posts, and was extremely lucky as well in their gift card drawing.

Posting will be light, as I'm in Pennsylvania visiting my parents (and about a mile away or so from His Nibs and the next town over from BiffyBeans).

One of my favorite YouTube videos, enjoy and have a very Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fine Lines

Given my penchant for Japanese fine nibs, I've been wondering how "fine" a line they actually make and what, if any, difference there might be between them. So I took out a handful of fountain pens, and stated playing with them.

The finest line is without a doubt the Lamy Al-Star extra fine nib. If that's cheating, then the next one looks like the Sailor Regulus fine. One of the wider lines is from the Namiki Falcon II soft fine. I put more flex into the top line as I wanted to see what that would look like, then put in the second line with a much lighter touch.

Pelikan's German nibs actually stack up quite well next to the various Japanese nibs, which surprised me. I thought the Pelikan nibs (and the Edison Huron Bulb Filler with an iridium steel nib) would be much wider, but they all came down fairly even in width.

The biggest surprise is the Monteverde Invincia (Stealth) Color Fusion fountain pen, which has a medium cursive italic nib. The pen looks like it could fly to the moon and back in stealth fashion without being detected, and the rather fine-looking line from this nib kind of proves it. I'm not sure if having it made into a cursive italic took the width off it somehow, but I was expecting a broader line and didn't get one. I'm now curious to see what the Invincia fine would look like next to this group.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Staples Letter Size Pad

One of the "staples" of our office, and no doubt millions of others, is this Staples letter size note pad. Simple white paper with a double red line separating the margin makes for a common yet thoroughly enjoyable writing experience.

The paper is slightly rough (like bagasse, but made with the dioxin) and seems thin, but it's actually quite substantial. My Zebra Sarasa gel ink pen didn't bleed through, though there was a heavy shadow on the other side, so you might want to skip the back when writing.

The paper itself is a bright white, and it's actually a rather classy-looking notepad. The logo looks right on the khaki-olive color just underneath the blue top liner, giving everything a balance look that's not too weird or bright or garish.

If you use these, take a moment to really look at this nice little notepad. That it fades into the background actually makes it more interesting--it's not meant to stand out, what you write down is.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sailor Gentle Ink in Blue Black

An ink that I discovered at the October 2010 NYC Pen Show was this Sailor Gentle Ink, and particularly this color--Blue Black. I saw it first when testing out the TWSBI Diamond 530 pen, and absolutely fell in love with the color.

The above picture doesn't really capture the color of this ink, which looks like it's blue with a black tinge to it (and so it should be "black blue" indicating that it's a blue color with black characteristics). While not waterproof, the ink did hold up pretty well when H2O was added. And while not a quick drying ink, it wasn't as wet as some and dried within a fairly short time.

I do like how this shades, very dark with blue highlights. It's a lovely color, and looks great in clear demonstrators like the TWSBI.

Friday, December 17, 2010

January Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper

I'll be hosting the January 2011 Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper and am looking for submissions. Blogcarnvial seems to be having some problems accepting submissions, so you can email me directly ( .

Please use Carnival in the subject line, otherwise I might delete your post. I've been getting some suspicious emails lately purportedly from friends, but the subject is empty and I'm being asked to click to some link I don't know and therefore won't touch.

Submissions are due in by Sunday, January 2. And I'll be reading around the web, grabbing great posts to showcase, so don't be surprised if you see yourself here on the 4th!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rhodia No. 210 Le Carre Large Notepad

One Rhodia notepad I've gotten to like a lot, in the same way that my Reverse Book grew on me, is this stubby large square of graphed paper called Le Carre, which measures 8.25 x 8.25 (but a bit smaller when page is torn out of the pad).

Roughly the same size as the Reverse Book, Le Carre folds over like a regular notepad but can be used in both portrait and landscape styles. With the landscape, there's the feel of a journal or notebook rather than a pad, which I like when taking notes.

Same great quality Rhodia paper, with the 5x5 grid pattern making for some slight inability to read the writing (dark inks are useful with grid paper; the Edelstein Jade above seems to just fade into the violet lines). What's probably really great about this notepad is how...edgy it looks. Coolness cannot be ruled out when assessing notepads, and Rhodia has a winner in this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pockets Everywhere.

Got an email from someone at Pocket Change Shopping Blog asking if I'd be interested in being featured on their site, so I went over to take a look. There's a lot of information and posts to choose from, take a look and see if anything catches your eye.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sheaffer Prelude Fountain Pen

Here's a fountain pen I am forever forgetting about, yet it's one of the more distinctive in my collection due to it's color--Sheaffer's Prelude in Radiant Magenta.

The fine nib is made of steel, and it is definitely one of the finest lines in my pen collection and akin I'd say to a Sailor fine nib.

One of the more interesting points is the the grip along the section, with padded areas so your hand doesn't cramp or get overly tired holding it. I haven't had that problem, and I like how the ink flows very smoothly from this nib so that I don't have to press very hard to write. No skipping or false starts, just a nice writing experience.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Everflow Orchid Ink

Gate City Pen and Ink Company is an informal partnership between Richard Binder and Jim Baer offering vintage-style fountain pen and inks from days gone by. The Everflo Orchid ink caught my eye at Goulet Pens, an interesting color reminiscent of Waterman's purple ink.

Definitely smooth flowing, the ink color is very similar to J. Herbin's Violet Pensee--a purple that is touch on the blue side but not too much. Not the fastest drying ink and not waterproof either, it's a nice, clear color with a hint of shading to it.

The above had to be one of the hardest pictures to take and I'm still not happy with the ink color (haven't done any retouching at all). The ink itself looks more purple on the page, while this pic makes it look too blue. But then I look at it on the paper and it does seem more blue and less purple. Frustrating!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Michael Roger Landmade Cork Pocket Journal

One of the more interesting purchases from Sustainable NYC was this Michael Roger cork notebook. It's a pocket hardbound notebook measuring 3.5x5.5 with lined cream-colored paper that's rough to the touch but works pretty well with an assortment of pens.

The journal cover is made from sustainably-harvested cork (stripping the outermost layer of bark from the cork oak tree, which then grows back and can be re-harvested). There's an elastic band for closure, but no pouch at the back (which I find refreshing, actually). It's certainly different from small Moleskine, Ecosystem, and Rhodia webbies, and if you have several small pocket journals around you'll find this one right away by touch or sight. I'd probably go with a tan or dark brown elastic band, as I find this white one a bit out of place, but that's really my only negative for this small pocket notebook (and the price of $10.95 is right in line with other pocket notebooks as well).

The small pocket journal has 160 narrow-lined pages (there's a blank journal one as well), but I didn't find them too narrow that I couldn't write. In fact, I was rather impressed by this little journal. The paper is quite writeable with no ink creep on the letters or smearing. And except for the Sharpie permanent marker, none of the inks bled through the pages.

According to their website, Michael Roger Press is a small bookbinding firm in New Jersey, and they manufacture almost everything by hand at their warehouse. There are some very nice small and medium-sized journals available, along with other odds and ends that are in the "buy it and then find a use for it" category. I do like that Dispatches Journal, and will have to look around for it or place an order.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Where Were You 30 Years Ago?

One of my favorite photos of Lennon from the recent biography by Philip Norman. It was a Wednesday just like today, I remember because it was the last day of classes at my college where I was finishing the Fall Semester of my senior year. Around 6 am or so I heard my mom and dad getting ready to go to work, and I heard my mom say "they shot him, he's dead."

My first thought was, "Reagan was shot?" It was just after the election, and made sense. But then my mom came in and told me, "John Lennon is dead." Never before or since have I gotten up from a dreamy, warm sleep so fast.

The last class for me was a Fine Arts course I was taking, we were in a small, arena-style auditorium and I was sitting in the middle area above where our prof was lecturing. We were finishing our retrospective of Fine Arts in the 20th Century when he concluded with a musical number that he mentioned was from a performer who changed the world. And then we heard the first words: "I read the news today, oh boy...."

The auditorium had been hear-a-pin-drop silent until that moment, then we all exploded into noisy conversations. Why, why, why came the same word. We just couldn't figure it out. And of course, the minute we were out of class we headed for our cars (or mine, I should say, as I was a day student and drove to school every day) for the one store at the mall that carried Playboy--because the Lennon-Ono interview had come out the day before and we wanted to get copies as soon as possible. And we did, and I still have mine at the house in Pennsylvania.

So where were you?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 2010 Carnival

The December Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper is now up at Journaling Saves, lots of great posts (especially the notebook section).

And if you're in the mood to submit for the January 2011 edition (which I'll be hosting on January 4), here's the entry form.

Many thanks to Nifty of Notebook Stories for founding this Carnival, check out the many fine notebook posts.

Photographs of The Great War

What an amazing trove of photographs of British and Colonial soldiers photographed just before the Battle of the Somme. According to the article, an amateur photographer, likely a French farmer, took the pictures as souvenirs for the soldiers to send home to their families. The glass plates were found in a barn and thrown out, later to be collected, restored, and exhibited.

The Independent
has the exclusive story and over 200 photographs of the Tommies awaiting deployment. Take a look at picture #46 of the three artillery soldiers: two are white and one is black, all from different regiments.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rhodia Reverse Book

When I first saw the Rhodia Reverse Book, I couldn't figure it out. Obviously you could use it differently than a standard grid notebook, either with the ring binder to the left or at the top and that would effect the way you took notes. But that didn't seem like much to me, so I basically used it as a left-sided-ring notebook.

But I realized I was missing something by not trying it out as both a left= and top-sided-ring notebook, and started playing around. The side nearest the cappuccino (my own personal North Star) is written as with the ring on the left, the bottom side with the ring on the top (I had to blur the writing).

Good, but I wasn't really rushing to use the Reverse Book as anything but a traditional notebook, usually with the ring on the left. I was constantly turning pages back trying to find my notes, and getting frustrated.

Then one day I figured out how to use this to the best of its (and my) ability: when the ring binder is at the top, life up the page you would be writing on and start on the back of that page at the top first, writing down the full page. Then turn the page over and start on that page as your second page, again starting from the top.

What I found is that I could read my notes quickly and more easily by having the pages turn in a specific way, which just seemed to help me find what I needed more quickly. Weird, huh? But with that one little quirk, the Rhodia Reverse Book has now become my favorite notebook for all my current work projects.

I do like the paper, obviously, and the violet-colored grid design is great. I would like to see a blank Reverse Book, as the grid lines sometimes interfere with looking at the words. If you have one but are frustrated like I was, take a moment to go over the Book's layout and figure out the best way to use it. It's really worth the extra effort.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Caliber Is Your Fountain Pen?

Guest Post by Jack of Youngtown, Ohio (which I've read was one of the main crime centers of the country back in the day).

What Would Pretty Boy Floyd Write With?

Clyde Barrow was one of us in one respect--he was a penman. Murderer and bank robber, Barrow and his frail, Bonnie Parker, took to the fountain pen for Bonnie’s verse and Clyde’s letter to Henry Ford, maker of really good getaway cars for the Barrow Gang’s wheelmen.

Difficult to picture these gunmen genteelly dipping a nib into a bottle of Skrip, isn’t it?

And then there was another penman--Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. Born on February 3, 1904 in Adairsville, Georgia and died on October 22, 1934 in East Liverpool, Ohio. I know something about him, as he counted on Youngstown, Ohio as his destination location after being run to ground outside of East Liverpool, Ohio.

Prohibition had brought widespread contempt for law in brawling Youngstown. Scots-Irish moonshiners, Italian and German winemakers and homebrewers, and Mob truckers hauling Canadian booze from Ashtabula’s rum-runners’ coves all made it so. Pretty Boy Floyd would have found good hospitals in Youngstown to patch him up, and a gangster-friendly environment to recuperate had he survived long enough to make it there.

He was gunned down by law enforcement officials. “Bandit” was how his occupation was listed on his death certificate by the Columbiana County coroner. Floyd, like Barrow, was literate. The year before he’d written a postcard to Kansas City police denying his involvement in the Union Station Massacre. What was his weapon of choice then? A sub-$1.00 schoolboy’s pen picked up at a nearby Woolworth’s? Or, freshly shaved and talced between robberies, did he amble to a department store’s fine writing clerk for a look-see at some Parker Duofolds?

English novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton and American folk singer Woody Guthrie both offer tips on just where to place your fountain pens in your personal armory. Bulwer-Lytton is credited with “the pen is mightier than the sword”. I’ll guess that means your broad-nibbed Pelikan M800 will whip the bejesus out of anyone fool enough to approach you with a broadsword or battleaxe.

Guthrie puts the fountain pen on a par with the revolver in his “Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd”. Here’s the penultimate stanza:

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

Guthrie hadn’t reckoned with today’s double-stack Glocks and Brownings, but he knew a thing or two about The Suits. Their pen cases loaded with gold-slathered blingy pens, The Suits are in Congress, our state legislatures, darned near everywhere now, maneuvering people needlessly into misery for the sake of political expedience. Never ends, does it?

Afterthought: Although not a native of Youngstown, I spent my growing-up years there, and live about a 15-minute drive from “the Yo’” now. I meditated back in the 1990s upon the death mask of Pretty Boy Floyd [after I’d gone broke the second time]—for a few seconds at least---then at the C. C. Thompson house, a wealthy pottery maker’s home converted to a small museum in East Liverpool.

There’s also a pretty extensive Museum of Ceramics in the former post office building, as East Liverpool was once a major American pottery manufacturer. Our collectors ‘n’ connoisseurs community helps build us up. I like blingy pens. Wish I owned a few, although I’m pretty happy with my high-quality, moderate-priced Shanghai writers. I object to the poseur’s bullying by way of one-upmanship. [ed. note: who me? *lol*]

(I enjoyed writing this post. We sometimes forget that the fountain pen was a ubiquitous writing tool for sixty-some years, used by youngsters, service station owners, immigrant letter-writers---and gangsters, too.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quo Vadis Blog Enhancements

Leah Hoffman of the wonderful Quo Vadis Blog is enhancing their site and adding a Usages page featuring how people use their planners. Do take a look and consider submitting a post, a new 2011 planner could be yours. (Disclaimer--my post is the first on their site, and I do love their products.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ink Review: Noodler's Black Swan

One of the funniest videos I've seen recently was Nathan Tardiff introducing Black Swan in Australian Roses, and explaining that the Noodler's catfish mascot was trying to allay the swan's fears of being eaten (didn't know about the migrating waterfowl being eaten by large catfish). So when Brian of Goulet Pens announced these were on the way and to hurry up and order I got right on it and snagged one. Which is good, as he's now sold out and taking emails for the day new bottles arrive.

Black Swan calls up a lot of thoughts, most recently Nouriel Roubini's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. For quite some time you could barely move without someone wanting to know if another Black Swan was on the way (an interesting question, since the concept of a Black Swan is of something that can't be conceived of, much less taken into consideration--I have problems with this, but that's not for this post).

So when the below video made its rounds I was really interested, and couldn't wait to get my bottle from Goulet Pens. And serendipitously it arrived just as I was making my way out of the office Wednesday afternoon for a 4 day break. The Ink Gods and Goddesses are smiling, I'm sure.

The Black Swan in Australian Roses is a black cherry color, with a tremendous amount of shading on the downstroke. I know that Nathan Tardiff mentions in the video that he wants to create a flex nib that won't cost a fortune, and this ink is specifically for flex pens, but I was surprised as how well it worked in a semi-flex Namiki Custom 823 medium nib.

Definitely a lovely color, but it can take forever to dry. If you're not going anywhere and are very careful (sorry lefties, this may not work for you) then take a look at this ink. Especially if you like unusual or dark colors, it's both!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Diamine Delamere Ink

My Noodler's V-Mail GI Green was a bit too wet for my pen, and wound up getting into parts of the pen where I couldn't remove the ink. So I was looking for a more well-behaved green, and decided to give the Diamine Delamere a try as a sample from the Goulet Pen Company.

This is a really beautiful green, true to the concept of green with maybe a touch more yellow in the shading. It's not the quickest drying ink, but it doesn't take forever like some. I tried it out on a Rhodia 80gsm notepad using my Pilot Custom 74 with a fine point. If you're looking for a deep green, try the Diamine Delamere.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quantitative Easing Explained

Richard Alford's post at Naked Capitalism has a really great take on why the "Powers That Be" are missing the point in their criticism of this YouTube video. It doesn't matter if the Fed can or can't print money (it can't, that's Treasury's prerogative), what is important is the humor used to get across the stupidity of the situation. The former and current enablers of this mess (Hank Paulson, anyone?) don't look like they know how to chuckle (unless it involves a horror story about foreclosure and how those people had it coming).

TyPad Keyboard for the Apple iPad

CNET News recently showcased the tyPad, a keyboard case for the iPad that syncs via a wireless bluetooth connection. The iPad goes into a standard carrying case, and when turned on its side becomes a screen for the keypad.

Sync the tyPad, turn it on, and the bluetooth symbol will show up in the top right next to the battery symbol letting you know that the keyboard is good to go. There are two blue lights, which fade out when the battery gets low and you need to re-charge the tyPad (comes wiht its own cable, and a travel charger is available at an extra charge.

The keypad is fairly large, about the size of a netbook and it works exceptionally well. I've started doing quite a lot of work sitting in the cafe with a cappuccino on one side, a Rhodia Reverse Book and fountain pen on the other, and my iPad/tyPad duo typing away (the Rhodia is there for those times when I need to make some notes for later use).

The tyPad works perfectly with the Docs To Go app (pictured above) for the iPad, and with Dropbox I can access documents I need to work on, make changes to them quickly using the keypad, and then save and go on to other things (like the cafe's mint mocha latte, for example). With all the Macs and Dells/HPs taking up a ton of space at the cafe, this has been a great alternative as the keypad is fairly stiff and will lay flat on most any surface.

A few minuses that are really just my peeves: there's only one shift key, on the left, so I'll suddenly see some gibberish on the notepage due to hitting the right non-existent shift. And I'd like to have a better idea of the battery life, which seems to be about 90 minutes or more but I can't always tell. The blue lights turn off, but I don't know if that means low power or this is just screwing with my mind (no anthropomorphizing there, lol).

The tyPad is now available at Tekserve as well, glad to see them at one of the major NYC Mac resellers and tekkie hangouts. Not cheap ($130 from tyPad), but the service has been excellent (had a few problems that Sean helped me with and he was gracious all the way while I fumbled with the jargon) and I'm very pleased with it's durability and capability. If you have an iPad, you might want to consider a wireless keyboard for it if, like me, you use it for work as well as Netflix.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Swan in Australian Roses

Just received a package from The Goulet Pen Company, with waves to Brian for such fast delivery. It's the new Noodler's Ink called Black Swan in Australian Roses.

Had to swab it to see how it looks, quite an impressive black-red (the writing is a black flair pen). Can't wait to get home and ink up a fountain pen and give it a try.

The paper is a Rhodia dotPad, and you get an idea of how the color shades and layers.

Happy Thanksgiving All

First the turkey with stuffing, then a nap,! Have a great holiday.

(kitty pic from smile panic)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Review Ecosystem Large Sketchbook

(When the very kind folks handling Ecosystem saw my review of the hard back blank journal, they offered to send some additional goodies for me to try. Among them was a large Onyx Sketchbook with some incredible blank paper that I wanted to keep for myself. But having no artistic talent, I did want and artist with tons of talent to spare to try it out. And it just so happens that the marvelous Mia of Jadecow fits this description perfectly. So let me turn this post over to her, with many thanks on my part.)

I'm always on the lookout for a great sketchbook. I can never get enough of them, so when Diane at Pocket Blonde offered me the large Ecosystem Artist Journal to review, I jumped at the chance. (Thank you, Diane!)

If you've never heard of Ecosystem before, you'll be pleasantly surprised at their two-fold mission: to maintain a low carbon footprint in creating high-quality recycled journals, notebooks, and planners while fostering local manufacturing in the U.S. You can find out more about Ecosystem here at their website.

Now, just a bit more of boring history. I bought the medium-size Artist Journal last year, and I was disappointed with the results. The paper, though bright and recycled, was very thin and had no coating whatsoever. (See this photo and this photo.) As I like to work in watercolor and fountain pen, the paper wasn't really suited to me. But it was smooth and bright enough for pencil, ballpoint pens, and gel pens.

With this shiny new version of the Artist Journal, I was excited to see significant changes.

Appearance and Performance

The sketchbook I received was the large hardcover Onyx (7 3/8" wide by 9 7/8" high), constructed with the classic style popularized by Moleskine: leatherette materials, rounded corners, a ribbon bookmark, back pocket, and elastic band to keep the precious contents...uh, contained.

On the front cover, running along the vertical foredge in lowercase letters, is the word "sketchbook" in varnish. This can pose a potential problem for those of us who like to work en plein air and incognito, as this one word can effectively reveal our true purpose to our targets, I mean, subjects. Hiding it is a simple solution, but I prefer not to announce to the world what kind of book I have or expend the energy to hide the cover of a large book, especially since it's hard enough to remain incognito and ninja-like while sketching random strangers.

The book lies flat thanks to sewn binding and good construction that is characteristic of Ecosystem Journals (I regularly buy their small Author notebooks to use as a daily to-do, and let me tell you, those puppies are sturdy).

The paper is 80lb text weight, "acid-free super-bright." There are no perforations on the pages, which is wonderful for folks who like to work across the gutter and work on a spread of a book.

Pencils, Fountain Pens, Pitts, Copics

Using Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencils in the B range (B, 3B, 10B) was delightful on this buttery-smooth paper, which was able to take layers of cross-hatching and blending as well as repeated erasing using both a kneaded eraser and a plastic eraser. There was hardly a noticeable disintegration in the erasures, but when I draw I don't press hard unless necessary, preferring to build darks in layers instead.

Next I used a fountain pen, a Sailor Regulus with a fine nib and filled with Platinum Carbon ink (my favorite waterproof ink). Again, the paper was smooth and a joy to work with. The lightest touch was the only requirement to render a faithful line. There was no feathering or bleed-through from the fine-nibbed fountain pen, or the double-broad stub Nakaya loaded with Sailor's Limited Edition Doyou ink (for those of you who like to use blank sketchbooks as their primary writing notebook).

The same goes for the Pentel Pocket Brushpen, one of my favorite tools for sketching on-the-go. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens simply pop on the bright white paper with just the barest hint of see-through on the reverse side of the page. Copic markers, as expected, bled through the page but did blend nicely. (Not a lot of papers take Copics well, so this wasn't a surprise.) I don't use markers often, and when I do it's usually in a painterly manner.


I love working with watercolors. This is a requirement that usually ends up making or breaking my decision to keep a sketchbook. Some are hits, a few are misses, but a large portion of the sketchbooks I've tried have fallen somewhere in-between. The Ecosystem Artist Journal falls in this last category.

While the Ecosystem Artist Journal definitely takes watercolor a lot better than the first version, it doesn't hold up well to heavy or repeated layers of washes and eventually seeps through the page. The wax-like coating on the paper beads the water in a similar way to the Moleskine sketchbook and buckles the paper.

Final thoughts

The Ecosystem Artist Journal is a wonderful value for a sketchbook: at $19.95, the book is well-constructed, its smooth paper takes a good variety of commonly-available materials, and the "super-bright" whiteness of the paper will make your colors sing. I wouldn't recommend using charcoal or pastel on this paper -- it's simply too smooth and these dry media prefer a toothier material to hold on to. For light washes of watercolor, they're okay, but not something I'd recommend for a serious enthusiast.

This is a great sketchbook with many fine qualities that make it worth the price to me. And while it doesn't take watercolors as I'd like, it's not something I have to work hard to work around. With any sketchbooks there are limitations to its performance, but that's just the way it goes. I applaud Ecosystem's commitment to the environment and support for local American manufacturers, and the company's responsiveness to customer feedback. I'm happy to see the Artist Journal revised and upgraded into a true contender in the art materials arena.

all photos here and artwork here

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pictures: Silver Marble Huron Bulb Filler

Brian of Edison Pen Co. emailed to let me know my Huron bulb filler, in Silver Marble, is finished and ready to ship.

He also sent these pictures, which make me want to reach through the laptop screen and grab it right now!

Pretty Amazing Video

This video of UCF professor Richard Quinn dressing down his class is really powerful (approximately 200 out of 600 cheated on their mid-term and got caught via statistical analysis and a guilty conscience). He's obviously very upset, watch to the end and you'll see him breaking down a bit. More information here.

Toffee Taboo from the NYC Chocolate Show

The 2010 Chocolate Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion had a lot of new faces (at least for me), including Sendall Chocolates and their incredible box of Toffee Taboo. The company is located in Pittsburgh, PA and has a wonderful selection of treats and goodies.

The 8 ounce Toffee Taboo pictured above is some serious chocolate. The box contains two large slices of hand-molded Belgian chocolate with toffee-encrusted almonds and cashews on top and drizzled with white chocolate. If you're thinking this sounds evil and delicious, you're right on both counts

Here are Justin (l.) and the founder of Sendall Chocolates Robert Sendall (r.) in front of their wares at the 2010 NYC Chocolate Show.

While I loved the chocolate, I will note that the shipping charges are fairly high (most likely because they are mailing food items and particularly chocolate, so they have to make sure it gets to you quickly--which costs extra).

So if you're thinking of ordering, you should consider a large order of Toffee Taboo or one of their seasonal items. It's not the weight of the chocolate but the need to ensure prompt delivery that raises the cost, but it is beyond worth it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Uni-ball Signo Erasable Gel Ink Pen

I've always thought the point of writing in ink was permanence--you can't erase whatever witty (or less than so) sentence is on the paper claiming to be your handwriting. But there are times when you do want to correct a mistake or re-write a thought that's on paper, so erasable ink pens such as the Uni-ball Signo Erasable Gel were created.

Using an erasable gel ink pen is a conscious act, one that pretty much says that you know you're going to erase something. You can't hide from that statement about yourself, so why not wear it proudly and with some style? If that's more to your taste, the Uni-ball Signo Erasable Gel's "little black pen" will be perfect for you.

This is an 0.8mm tip and I f0und it to be the right width, but JetPens has them in 0.5mm and in an assortment of colors for a very low price of $1.50. The black ink on this pen is quite different, it has an almost oily sheen to it that makes it more of a smokey black than a true black. That is probably from whatever is used to make the ink erasable, and may not be to some people's liking. I thought it was unusual and appealing.

The eraser is on the end of the cap, so once you post it on the pen you're all set. It does its job quite well, although it does leave a lot of rubber crumblies on the page. You might want to invest in a different, stand alone eraser if that's of importance to you.

One final test was how well the pen overwrote the erased space. Here is the deal-breaker on erasables, as some are not very good at that particular task. And the Uni-ball Signo Erasable Gel did quite well at this particular job. Not perfect, mind you, as there was a bit of skipping and invisible marks where writing should have been, but quite well.

If you're interested in erasable gel ink pens, or you need to round out a JetPens free shipping order, take a look at the Uni-ball Signo Erasable Gel ink pen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maruman Sept Couleur A5 Notebook

Maruman's Sept Couleur notebook line features the seven colors of the rainbow in a two-ring notebook that comes in two sizes, A4 (letter) and the smaller A5. Although I tend not to like ringed notebooks or vinyl plastic transparent covers, I've made an exception with these for several reasons.

The biggest problem I have with transparent covers, even if there is lots of writing or pretty pictures, is that everyone can see what's written on the first sheet. So there's an automatic skip to the next page for me. As you can see in the picture above, the Sept Couleur notebook's first sheet is a slightly heavier blank page that acts as a barrier between your notes and the world's eyes. I like that a lot, and so have taken to carrying this with me for quick jots and doodles.

The 7mm line width does make a big difference to me in writing, I don't need to pull my writing into a smaller, cramped style but can let my hand move as it wants. The page has 26 lines and there are 80 sheets of cream-ivory paper that is Rhodia-like but not quite up to it. The paper is so-so with fountain pens, friendly to some ink (Waterman did not breach the pulp) and unfriendly to others (Pelikan 4001 bled like a badly beaten boxer *snicker at alliteration).

JetPens carries this line of notebooks, both the A4 and A5 sizes, although they are slightly higher than at Kinokuniya. If you're in NYC, stop by the store on 6th Avenue between 40th and 41st, across from Bryant Park, and take a look at all the fantastic notebooks they carry as well as these Mauman Sept Couleur.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The neo-Celtic group Bardou with James Kline and Kornel Mariusz Radwanski. An intricate performance of Greensleeves with Radwanski playing a centuries-old Swedish instrument called the nyckelharpa and Kline playing a harp guitar with 19 strings.

Waiting Patiently For My Huron Bulb Filler

No, this isn't the pen I'm waiting for from Edison Pen Co. but oh, would that it were. What an amazing-looking pen, the hieroglyphics are beautifully engraved.

As for my pen, according to the email from Brian my ivy-green-and-white Huron Bulb Filler went on the lathe yesterday, will be engraved on the 19th, and shipped on the 22nd. With all the pens I now have you'd think waiting on this one would be easy? Not.