Monday, June 23, 2014

A Small Announcement

I hope everyone had a great weekend and is enjoying the exciting matches the World Cup has to offer.  To everyone who habitually writes to me, I am moving at the beginning of July to a slightly bigger apartment (definitely a cross the city blocks move, not a cross-continental one!).  Please e-mail me for my updated snail mail address.  If you already have a letter en route, fear not, I have submitted a change of address form so your letter will reach me during the transition.

Hopefully I can gather some time to write proper posts while packing for a short business trip and boxing the apartment!

Have a great week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sailor Colors of Four Seasons

Sailor fountain pen ink rank very high on my personal list, for the hues are saturated and can transform any scratchy nibs into fine buttery ones due to their lubrication.  However, no new addition was made to the Jentle ink line for quite some time, so you can imagine my ecstasy when Sailor announced the reissue of limited edition ink from the past, under the series Colors of Four Seasons.  Three colors from this series are purchased:  Nioi Sumire  (Sweet Violet), Shigure (Drizzle), and Tokiwa matsu (Tokiwa pine).

While I was making samples out of these ink, I could not help but to observe the similarities between ink from Color of Four Seasons and the soon-to-be-retired Jentle series.  Since I have Ultramarine from the previous series, I decided to do a quick color comparison.  


Nioi Ultramarine
Writing done by J. Herbin glass dip pen on Tomoe River paper

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For the lack of better example for Sailor Epinard, I only found a message that I wrote to myself on the Hobonichi planner with that ink.  You can still see the similarities between the two.

To my eyes, Nioi Sumire does not have as much purple undertone as Ultramarine, while Tokiwa matsu has resemblance to Epinard.  As Paper and Hand kindly explained to me, Nioi Sumire was released back in 2010 as a limited edition ink. It seems that Sailor renamed it to Ultramarine when the Jentle line was introduced.  Now the old favorite is reinstated (in a sense) in place of the replacer.  Oku-Yama is identical to Grenade (a written comparison can be found here on Fountain Pen Network, notice the chromatographic similarities between the two).  Souten, as I suspect, might be very closely related to Jentle Sky High.  

What does this finding  tell us?  From the Colors of Four Seasons, it appear that the only colors that are truly retired are Apricot and Pêche.  I cannot personally vouch for Pêche, as it was described to me as a pale pink with brownish undertone (found here, Gentian's beautiful ink art), but Apricot is simply gorgeous.  It reminds me of a ripe Aprium, with rich and subtle orange hue.  Do not worry if you have not gotten all colors from the Jentle line; most of them will still be around, with a few new exciting colors!

The new line up can be found at Pen Boutique, Gold Spot, and Anderson Pens for $18 a bottle.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Currently Inked

Currently inked

This round of rotation involved more pens than the past because of my recent acquisition of some colors from Sailor's Colors of Four Seasons.  As you probably have heard, Sailor will retire the existing Jentle Ink line, but do not panic, almost all colors will remain in place with the exception of Apricot and Pêche, with reintroduction of some limited edition colors from the past.  I will talk more about it in my next post.

I am glad that J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe is available again for my rotation.  Back in January, I wanted to ink Pilot Kakuno with it but detected a funny whiff from the ink bottle.  J. Herbin responded to my inquiry immediately and offered to send a replacement bottle after receiving mine.  Glad to know when manufacturer stands behind their products by offering robust customer services regarding possibly flawed products.  This is actually my second time contacting J. Herbin about ink that has possibly gone bad, and I am equally satisfied both times.

On the other note, I am planning to attend the Pelikan Hubs meeting in Los Angeles tomorrow evening.  Not sure what to expect yet, but I hope I will have something exciting to report later!

Any new ink on your horizon?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dialogue Too A5 Notebook

Problem with liking nice designs is that many notebooks will involuntarily following you home.  When I received a hefty box from Grandluxe sometimes last year, Dialogue Too notebook was the one that caught my eyes with its embossed motif on the cover.  Like many GrandLuxe notebooks that I have reviewed1,2 Dialogue Too is made with same paper; hence similar writing performance.  Here is a summary of Dialogue Too's specification:

  • Available in both A5 (21cm x 14.8cm; 8 1/4 inch x 5 7/8 inch) and A6 (14.8 x 10.5 cm; 5 7/8 x 4 1/8 inches).
  • Italian polyurethane cover with blind embossed motif.
  • 80 gsm acid free cream paper.
  • Lined and blank pages.
  • Available in blue, lime green, ivory, pink, and turquoise.
  • Weighs 358 g (12.65 oz) 

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A pink one is sent for review.  The color reminds me of Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline, a nice and rich magenta.  The embossing on the lower right hand corner along with the elastic closure add a degree of finesse to the notebook.

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A small notch designed for the elastic band.  Nice addition to an otherwise simple notebook.

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Writing sample done on Dialogue Too.  Visible feathering on fountain pen ink
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Backside of the same writing sample.  Visible bleed through.  Less show through for gel and ballpoint pens

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Binding of the notebook.  
Personally I like cream colored paper because it is softer to the eyes; however, the paper color can distort, absorb, as well as sharpen ink color, so certain colors appear more pleasing than others.  Similar to other thick notebooks, one would feel a bit of an "edge" while writing on the last portion of the notebook that feels like an uphill incline.

One feature that stands out from Dialogue Too is the notebook has both lined and blank format.  At first I am perplexed by the format, but then I realize the benefits of this mixed format.  When one uses Dialogue Too as a journal/diary, one can easily use the lined page to compose the entry and use the opposing page for illustration or collaging.  Since the notebook comes with elastic closure and not entirely snug, it can accommodate other keepsakes that one put on the blank pages.

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Cream colored pages with lined and blank format.  Lamy Al-Star with 1.1 italic nib is pictured here.

Pros:
  • Elastic holds cover and content intact
  • Lines are wide enough to accommodate writings of different sizes
  • Mixed format in one book makes the notebook more versatile
  • Polyurethane cover is durable
  • Smooth writing surface that can improve overall writing experience
Cons:
  • Notebook does not lay flat
  • Paper is less accommodating to wetter media, such as fountain pen ink and highlighters
  • Polyurethane cover is scuffed easily
Dialogue Too can be purchased on Amazon.
What do you think of notebooks with mixed formats?  

1 GrandLuxe Monologue notebooks
2 GrandLuxe Elastiq Journal

This notebook is graciously given to me by GrandLuxe as a sample for reviewing purpose, without any monetary compensation.  All opinions expressed here entirely mine. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nomadic Easy Classification Pencil Case


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Selecting a suitable pencil case is close to a shoe fitting for Cinderella for me, probably because I am such an indecisive person who have hard time deciding what to bring.  Most of the time, I only transport my selected stationery goods between home and work; thus, there is no urgent need for me to look for an adequate pencil case, until I had to travel back home earlier this year.  Though the selected arsenal would be in my messenger bag with me in the cabin at all time, it was still better to be safe than sorry since I have planned to take a few fountain pen with me.  The prerequisites for this ideal pencil case are medium capacity (I prefer not to take too many items with me, as it does become harder to locate an item in the midst of pens) and some protections for fountain pens.  With these elements me mind, I thought a combination of a book style and a zippered compartment would do nicely, and after some perusal sessions, I settled on Nomadic Easy Classification Pencil Case in Blue.

Specification

  • Length:  21.7 cm (approx. 8.54 in)
  • Width:  9.2 cm (approx. 3.62 in)
  • Depth:  5.5 cm (approx. 2.17 in)
  • Material:  Nylon
  • Exterior color:  Blue with light gray trims (in this review), also available in black, gray, navy, red, and yellow.
  • Interior color:  orange (similar to the hue of Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-gaki)
  • Closure:  zipper
  • Numbers of compartment:  3

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Nomadic logo hiding behind the mesh part
Nomadic Easy Classification is large for me only because I am so accustomed to using pencil rolls.  With its dimension, it is a medium pencil case that is great for organization, daily carry, as well as traveling.  My very first impression of it was its lightweight.  Some pencil cases can be very hefty that discourage users from putting more items in it.  However, do not be fooled by its feather weight because all compartments have a thin padded layer to protect the enclosed goods.  The color combination is also eye-catching and gives an unisex appeal.  The one that is under reviewed here has hyacinth blue exterior and orange red interior.

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YKK zippers

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double stitches all around
The nylon material is textured which gives a bit of grip to the pencil case that facilitates the overall retrieval of the case, and the standard YKK zippers ensure the ease of use and longevity.  I speculate that the driving force behind the design of this case is utility, since there is no feature or compartment on the case that appears to be "extra."  Though the quality of a product can be determined by the material or design alone, for me, details are indicative of the overall quality and concept of the product.  In the case of Nomadic Easy Classification, all the edgings have matching color double stitching to improve durability and to appeal aesthetically.

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tray compartment with mesh pockets
The design of case intrigued me because half of the case is similar to a book-style pencil case in that the upper half has a pouch that allows vertical storage of pens, which is ideal for fountain pens, while the bottom half opens to a small compartment that is great for post-it and other smaller items.  The other half of the pencil case is tray style with two mesh pockets on the sides, with plenty of room for pens and gadgets and added sense of organization for commonly retrieved items, such as lead and bar style eraser.

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book-style-like side

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longer portion

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smaller compartment
Notice that I said Nomadic Easy Classification has a similar to book-style pencil case because the two compartments on one side unzipped into two flaps and do not completely open like a book.  One side is long enough to accommodate an average size fountain pen, such as a Pilot Kaküno.  Also because how long the compartment is, mini size fountain pens, such as Kaweco Liliput, might "disappear" in the pocket.  Interestingly, this is one of the times when I found pen clip handy, since fountain pens can be easily secured in the pocket by clipping onto the edge.  The tray style side can fit quite a bit of pens; currently, I have 8 pens, a white-out pen, and a 15-cm (approx. 6 inch) ruler without the pen case looks overly bulging (that is with 6 fountain pens on the other side).  Though I place fountain pens in Nomadic Easy Classification as my daily carry, I would not suggest placing grail pens in them for the reasons that the case only offers light protection; however, it is suitable for any pens you would not mind or have a heartache if they have some signs of usage.

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Nomadic in action!  Tray compartment

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All fountain pens nicely stowed 

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Storing page markers and post-it in the smaller compartment
For the one month I have used this case, I have not found any feature that I dislike.  It is a durable, lightweight, and utilitarian.  The space allowance that this case provides does not translated into the weight.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a nicely and streamline designed case for the daily carry.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Follow-up on Stipula Vedo

IMG_0160 Stipula Vedo was purchased at my first fountain pen show back in Washington D.C., and I have fond memories with the pen until recently.  When I first inked the pen, it wrote smoothly and beautifully, leaning toward a wetter side.  Gradually, the pen loses its luster because it started to skip.  From time to time, I needed to turn the piston to manually feed more ink to the nib.

At first, I suspected the problem was caused by my negligence in cleaning the pen thoroughly.  I soaked the pen over night, used pen rinse, but the skipping problem still persisted.  The tines on my nib were aligned, or at least to my eyes.  I did a little research with a friend's kind assistance.  It turned out that it is a common problem with Stipula, where the nib has residual oil on it during manufacturing process that it impeded with the writing.  This nib removing tutorial gives me the gist of the process, but it was still a bit scary to actually do it for the first time.  the nib unit was soaked overnight to loosen any residual ink there was.  With one hand  holding onto the neck of the nib unit, I gently held onto the nib and started wiggling the nib unit.  Stipula's nib unit was built somewhat similar to Kaweco's, where you can remove the nib by twisting and pulling at the same time.

Good news to me that nothing was broken during this process; moreover, the nib now writes so much better.  The pen writes every time I uncap and it lays nice wet lines as well.  That is one thing about fountain pens; they are always work in progress.  Even for a pen that works right out of the box, the writing experience with it changes over time.  The pen acclimates to one's writing style, and vice versa.  That is why writing with fountain pens is an enriching experience, at least to me.

Have you ever troubleshoot the fountain pens you own?  How did it turn out?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Zebra Optex EZ Highlighter

Highlighters can be a lifesaver for students.  They can point you to the passage that you think you have seen, but unsure of, or the action of highlighting can keep you awake while reading something that is dryer than rye bread.

I am usually not picky about highlighters as I would to paper or fountain pen ink because I have not come across any that disappointed me so to the extent that I need to scrutinize all other ones.  When my highlighter of 3 years finally gave out, I am back to the market for another one.  Browsing through myriads of offering at JetPens, I settled on Zebra Optex EZ highlighter since I had positive experience with other Zebra products.


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Specifications of Zebra Optex EZ:

  • Body material:  recycled plastic
  • Length:  13.5 cm (5.31 inch)
  • Available colors:  10
  • Refillable
  • Chisel tip

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See the Braille-like dots?  Gently press both sides together to remove the cap
Compare to other highlighters I have used, Zebra Optex has two things stand out.  The cap has two squeezing points where you can simply apply slight pressure and the cap will come off.  I have had some highlighters in the past whose caps were on so tight that I literally had to ply them off the pens.  Optex is refillable, which makes it environmentally friendly and economical.



The color can come off a bit strong, especially as a brand new highlighter, but the hue is not so bright and dark to the point that it will obstruct the text.  The color does become a bit softer with more use, but not as soft as Monami Essneti Soft Highligther.  


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Bright enough for your attention, but will not overwhelm the text

To refill the pen, it requires the top of the refill case, which acts like a wrench.  Latch the wrench part close to the grip and slowly turn.  The top of the pen will open, remove the old ink tank, and replace with a new one.  Too bad the chisel tip cannot be replaced, but as long as you are not Samson, the tip should have a long life.

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Refill packaging also has a diagram that succinctly explains how to insert the refill.
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Here is the handy wrench

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Top is the brand new refill versus bottom the used up one
Here comes the most curious part about this highlighter.  I bought it shortly before I went back to Taiwan and during my second week of stay, I literally ran out of ink.  Is it me who is highlighting chronically or it is the pen?  After I purchased the refills, I gave it another try and was able to replicate the same result.  I am uncertain whether this is the characteristic of refillable highlighters, or I am indeed a highlighting fiend.   This verdict, unfortunately, cannot be made until I try out another refillable ones!

Despite the curious lifespan of each refill, I enjoy the time I spend with this highlighter.  If you ever have trouble uncapping one, this one could be for you!  Zebra Optex EZ Highlighter can be purchased at JetPens.