Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pens for Aid: Help the Philippines and Buy a Pen!

Leigh Reyes, the lovely and talented woman behind My Life as a Verb, is hosting a small pen auction to raise funds to assist our neighbors in the Philippines. Please drop by and bid lavishly! All proceeds go directly to the Philippine Red Cross, as outlined on Leigh's website.

Besides, we've contributed this lovely thing - bid it up for me, won't you?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

FPD 2013 Giveaway Winners!

What a fun experience this has been for me!

When I gave away a Jinhao X750 in February 2012, I had 20 entries. For this giveaway I've had more than eight times that many, with 162 entries from 17 different countries, including multiple entries from Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, the Philippines, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, as well as so many from my native United States! Thank you all so much for your interest in my blog and the giveaway!

And now for the news you've all been waiting for:

Tim from Huntington Beach, CA - Gold pen with the following ink samples: Noodler's Army Green • J. Herbin Lie de Thé • Pilot Namiki Blue • Noodler's North African Violet • Noodler's Nikita

Doug from Oakland, CA - Matte Black pen with Caran d'Ache Grand Canyon • Montegrappa Bordeaux • DeAtramentis Cucumber • Diamine Aqua Lagoon • DeAtramentis Elderberry

David from Waltham, MA - Holographic Black pen with Noodler's Bad Belted Kingfisher • Diamine Meadow • Diamine Ruby • Monteverde Purple • Waterman Havana Brown

Francesco from Pisa, Italy - Gold and Black check pen with Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia • Aurora Blue • Private Reserve Ebony Green • Noodler's Rattler Red Eel • Noodler's Purple Heart 

Amy from Los Angeles, CA - White pen with Diamine Soft Mint • DeAtramentis Rose • Sheaffer Brown • Waterman Red • Sheaffer Turquoise

Curious what those ink colors look like? I'd suggest you hop over to Goulet Pens' The Swab Shop and take a peek.

Many thanks go to the bloggers who gave me a mention (particularly Sandra, Azizah, and Julie), the many people who favorited and retweeted the entry link, and to all the entrants for their enthusiasm and the kind notes so many of you wrote. You made my week!

(Just for fun, the countries represented in the entries are: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the US.)

Happy Fountain Pen Day indeed!

Congratulations to the winners! I'll be in touch via email within the next day about the details!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome to My Fountain Pen Day Giveaway!

Happy Fountain Pen Day! So glad you could join me!

In honor of the day, and because I love fountain pens and ink, and especially because I love all the crazy people like me who love fountain pens and ink (is that sentence run-on enough for you?)...

I'm hosting a little giveaway!

So here's what's up:

I have five lovely Jinhao X750 pens with medium nibs that I'd like to give away, one to each of five people. I have personally flushed, inked, write-tested, and then cleaned them, so they should be good to go as soon as they arrive at your house. (Other than the cleaning and testing, they are unused - I bought them for this purpose.)  They are: matte black, black with holographic sparkles, gold, cream, and gold and black check. Individual photos of the pens are also available here.

(click on photo to embiggen)

I also have gobs of ink samples, more than we'll probably ever, ever, ever work our way through - I've been an Ink Drop subscriber from the beginning (a founding member as it were!). I have my ink samples beautifully sorted, organized and stored as you see here:

So, to go with each pen, I will randomly select one sample from each of the five bags and include five random-color ink samples with each pen. (The five bags, in case you are curious, are labeled Pink/Purple/Orange, Blues, Greens, Browns and Reds.)

I like the Jinhaos, and featured one in a giveaway a while ago - here is a link to the Very Awful Video Review I did at the time. They are good basic pens, reliable and sturdy. In combination with some ink samples, this would be a great way to try a fountain pen without investing a ton of money, or it could be used as a bribe a lure a gift for someone you know who'd like to give fountain pens a try. The holidays are coming up, after all, and faster than any of us realize, I suspect.

Or just keep it as a gift to yourself!


One entry per person please.

PLEASE FILL OUT THE FORM - COMMENTS on this blog post WILL NOT COUNT AS AN ENTRY! Sorry to shout, but I'm hoping it'll make that more visible!

Please indicate whether you have a pen color preference - I will do my best to accommodate preferences for the winners, but no guarantees - I only have one of each color.

Entries will be accepted through November 10 at 9 pm Pacific Standard Time (GMT-8). Each entry will be given a number in order of entry, and a random selection will be made for the five winners - numbers in a hat if there are a few, random number generator if I get a bunch. Winners will be notified promptly by email, and a list of first names published on the blog as well.

Good luck, and thanks for playing!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat! FPD giveaway starts tomorrow!

Hope the ghosts and goblins are good to you today! Stay tuned - I have a giveaway starting tomorrow in honor of Fountain Pen Day, and I'd love to have you participate!

And it's a good thing that blog posts can be automated - we'll have well over a hundred kids coming to the door tonight, so I'm sure I'll be a little tired Friday morning...

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

MRI time!

No, I'm not ill or injured...The nice people over at PenPaperInkLetter have begun a rather ambitious project to corral all reviews relating to - well - pens, paper, and inks. Looks like they're off to a great start - I can't imagine the time involved!

They call it the Massive Review Index, or MRI for short.

Just thought I'd mention it was out there, in case you're looking for a little light reading! Enjoy! (And if I can get the time to get the camera out, I'll have another review or two for you myself soon!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Sugar Paper Journal

Joe and I spent a few days in Victoria, BC a week or so ago. During one of our walks about town, we walked by a shop that had this journal in the window, along with an assortment of other goods. As an aside, the shop was laid out interestingly; the goods (which ranged from greeting cards and journals to cell phone cases, tea and nail polish - a little something for everyone, I suppose) were laid out around the perimeter of the narrow shop, sorted by color in rainbow order from left to right. It was rather striking, actually.

At any rate, the journal caught my eye - and especially the note that says "Sugar Paper" below the word Journal on the label.

(click to embiggen photos)
And here I reveal my ignorance; once I got it home and opened it, I discovered that Sugar Paper is the name of the maker and has nothing to do with the content of the paper. No bagasse here, sorry to say. Sugar Paper is a company started by two graphic designers in 2003, who like to focus on letterpress work. I saw some cute things on their website - including some other notebooks, by the way.

The cover is textured heavy card stock, in black with gold polka dots; it also comes in raspberry and kraft with the gold polka dots. The paper is fairly heavy as well, and surprisingly smooth and well-behaved for a journal that isn't necessarily marketed to fountain pen people. It looks to be glued in. The journal is 6x8 inches and 75 pages, narrow ruled. Each page has a preprinted date field in the upper right corner, and the last line on each page is decorative, with an arrow motif. There is an elastic band to keep the journal closed, attached with rivets on the back; not the tidiest job I've ever seen on this one, but I think it'll hold.

Test writing here was done with a TWSBI Diamond 530 with a Pendleton stub with Diamine Monaco Red; a Visconti Homo Sapiens, XF Palladium nib, Diamine Majestic Blue; Levenger True Writer SeaGlass, F nib, with Private Reserve Midnight Blue; and a Sheaffer Balance Aspen, F nib with Sheaffer Washable Blue.

That Visconti is Joe's. Pretty sweet pen, eh? I've been trying to steal it from him since he got it. It is a very wet writer, which was my excuse for borrowing it; I wanted to see how it fared in my test writing. But I digress.

The paper has a fairly hard finish and I saw no evidence of spread or feathering at all.

As you can see, there is a bit of show-through, though not bad, and some bleedthrough with the Visconti and the Levenger, both of which are pretty wet writers. Not impossible to deal with; I've certainly seen worse.

All in all, for an impulse purchase I did pretty well. It's certainly stylish, and the paper quality is better than one often finds in things like this. I'm pretty pleased.

And just for fun, here is a shot taken out of our hotel window overlooking Victoria Harbour, with the moon and Venus in the evening sky.

Multiple mementos of a fun trip!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Sunday Post: September 8, 2013

I've written before about the family reunion we attend every year; that event was today.

As we got within an hour or so of our destination, the freeway was closed. Up ahead was a large cloud of smoke - it appeared that some fool had thrown a cigarette butt out of the window and started a large brush fire. This is in a very arid area, which means brush fires are easy to start - if you're foolish like that.

So, we ended up being detoured off of the freeway and onto the road that ran along the Yakima River, called Canyon Road but referred to by the family as "the old river road." This is a slow, winding road with one lane in each direction - and we were behind large semi tractor-trailer rigs who had also been detoured off the freeway. Since we were going to be slower anyway, we put the top down on the car and made the most of it.

Many people, when they think of Washington State, think of Seattle and our famous rain, not realizing that the state is bisected by the Cascade Mountains and has (at least!) two very distinct climates. Just for fun, here are a few photos I took while leaning out the car window (taken with an iPhone, so not the best quality, but fun nonetheless). As you can see, this is strictly desert canyon. It's fun to have such differences in climate and geography relatively close.

Hope everyone had a good weekend!

As always, photos will embiggen upon clicking...

A lot of river rafting goes on in this section

The railroad running through the canyon somehow reminds me of the Old West

The cliffs are rather impressive - made of basalt, Joe tells me

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Scariest Words……..

Joe in Seattle was recently the recipient of a gift horse pen. Here is the story:

“I know you like pens, so I bought you this for _______ occasion!”

“Oh, thank you so much, it’s just what I never dreamt of ever owning and can’t for the life of me think what in the heck to do with it.”

A friend wanted to thank me for some small service, so he presented me with a pen box with these words, “I know you like pens, and I’ve seen you use them, so I got you this. I hope you can make it work.” Dan didn’t say where it came from, or why he thought it might not work, just handed me the rectangular brown leatherette box.

I opened it to see the word “Dunhill” in elongated letters inside the lid and what appeared to be a 70’s slim tortoise enamel on brass pen. Clicking off the cap revealed (wonder-of-wonders!) a nib! Dan is an observant sort; he realized the pens I’m always using are fountain pens.

As always, all photos are clickable to embiggen

 I unscrewed the section to see that the pen had been put away with a no name grey plastic cartridge installed and it was dry. I thanked him for the thoughtful gift and said that I was quite hopeful that I could restore the pen to service from what I could see.

On the way home I wondered, “Is it really a Dunhill or a cheap Asian knockoff?” I’d hardly ever seen a nib that small and I’d never owned a pen so narrow, though I did recall seeing designer pens of that diameter in the 70’s.

At home, I took out the bottom of the box and found a universal converter with the Dunhill logo, a box of Dunhill cartridges (the same no name grey plastic as was moldering empty in the section) and the guarantee booklet which even appeared to be spelled correctly in several languages.

I got out my loupe. The nib was marked “Dunhill, 14K” yet it seemed to have a good bit of plating loss.  A fake, I was now pretty sure, but maybe I could get it writing for a lark. Dan had certainly meant well.

A closer examination of the pen body showed an “M” sticker on the bottom and “made in Germany” engraved or stamped around the body. The plating was pretty darn good for a fake. The pen did have the heft to be enamel on brass, but the section and feed looked …. Wait a minute! The feed is definitely ebonite; I could see machining that isn’t present on a plastic feed. The section had a similar feel, though it was cylindrical in shape and more finely finished. Ebonite or something unfamiliar to me?

Playing with the pen it capped and posted with a crisp “snick” that sounded just like the precision closing of a trunk latch on a Mercedes. Holy heck, this thing isn’t a fake! I went to the internet and learned it’s a Dunhill Gemline from the 1970’s. Dunhill sold pens made in Germany by Montblanc. In fact, Dunhill owned Montblanc and the Gemline series had feeds and nibs interchangeable with Montblanc's 1970’s Noblesse pens. The sections for both were a frosted finish steel that had a unique feel. I had mistaken it for ebonite. The steel gave the section weight and the frosted finish gave it a unique tactile experience – smooth, but not slippery in use.

After a cleaning I could see that what I thought was plating loss on the nib was just dried schmutz. A brief soak of the section in a glass of cool water and a few rinses with the baby ear bulb rinsed away what was probably decades-old dried Dunhill ink. (The ‘net had shown that Dunhill’s cartridges carried no name, only a colored ball in the nipple to designate the color within - just like what was installed in the pen when I received it.)

I installed an international cartridge with Pelikan Purple. It writes! A bit of hesitation on the first stroke, but I haven’t even cleaned the nib with Perfect Pen Flush yet. Cleaned, the pen writes very similarly, no surprise here, to the F nib on my Montblanc 146. It’s very smooth – just like a Mercedes drives, not a lot of road feel. The M nib is broader than I customarily use, but it’s pleasant and the nib width allows a lot of color enjoyment.

A few days ago Dan asked, “Did you ever get that old pen to work?”
“Yes,” I answered, “thanks again.”

What a story the 40 year old Dunhill might tell of a long, long wait in someone’s dark desk drawer until it saw the light again in Seattle. In fact, I think it just did!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Sunday Post: July 14, 2013

So. I quit my job.

My last day of employment will be August 9.

I won't bore you with the details of why and wherefore; suffice it to say: it's time. And we'll be just fine without it.

I have been actively working on the exit plan for some months now - well, actually, for years, but the time frame I'd had in mind was still a few years into the future. Events in the past few months caused me to work on accelerating that date. As I've been working toward it, I can already feel the layers of stress starting to peel off rather like the skin on an onion - it'll be interesting to see what's left as that process continues.

What does it mean for you, my readers? (If any of you are left?)

I still have ideas up my sleeve, still have some things to say. And now perhaps I'll actually have the time to say those things and play with those ideas. It's been months since I've posted anything, and even more time since I posted anything of substance.

Oh, and there will be a giveaway when I'm ready to relaunch, too!

For those of you who've hung in there with me, even if all you did was not delete me from your feed reader, I thank you. For the newer readers, welcome aboard! I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with everyone, and reacquainted with those whose company I've missed over the last several months.

Happy Sunday!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

As the plate spins

Yes, the above video was once considered the height of prime-time network entertainment.

And it also illustrates somewhat succinctly what my life resembles right now. At least, thus far, I am the spinner and not the plate.

Still in the (mental) hopper:
  • Everything Old is New Again
  • Urushi Smackdown!!!! (I need a WWE announcer for this one; any volunteers?)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Google+ Fountain Pen Community

Hey - did you know that there's an active fountain pen community on Google+? Might be worth your time to check it out! Take a look!

Still working on a couple of blog posts that I think you'll enjoy as well...stay tuned!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Favorite Inks: Montblanc Toffee Brown

Montblanc is one of those brands. You know the ones - the ones that some people find pretentious. I thought that about the brand for quite some time - and then I got my hands on some of their products, and reluctantly began to enjoy the brand. Quietly, in my own home, without admitting it to anyone. (Don't forget to pull the drapes.)

Seriously, though, MB tends to get a lot of flak from people. Snarky comments about "precious resin" aside, I do think they make quality products. Their marketing team is just a bit over the top.

I am not the brown ink fan in the household - that honor belongs to Joe. He bought a bottle of Montblanc Toffee Brown some time ago, and I find myself swiping it time and again to use, unlike almost every other brown ink here - and believe me, there are quite a few.

Take a look and see what you think.

(scan is clickable)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Notebook selection, part two: the continuing saga

Some months ago now, I wrote a piece regarding the ever-continuing quest for a notebook I love. As with so many other things in life, it seems that none are perfect and every choice involves some bit of compromise.

The latest stage of that journey has involved small cahiers for use in the Zenok Leather cover I purchased a month or two ago. I chose the Zenok product over the Midori so I'd have ample choice of notebooks to use - its size lends itself to use with a wider variety of products. And so I've bought a fairly wide variety of 3.5"x5.5" (or so) cahiers to try out. I thought I'd share some comparison information with you and shots of the various papers so you might perhaps benefit from my experimentations.

(as always, all photos are clickable)

In no particular order, then, may I present my purchases to you?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Edison Herald: the pen I hated to love

Once again, Joe in Seattle is stepping into the breach - not only has he spent the bulk of his time lately caring for my bronchitis-laden-and-still-frantically-working self, decorating the house for the holidays, cooking, cleaning, and helping host Christmas for our family  - he has also contributed this lovely review of his custom Edison Herald!

I’ve followed Brian Gray’s career from the very early stages, before he built his shop, back when the Edison Herald was his mainstay pen - and I loved it. I really felt the red and black streaked ebonite was the epitome of a perfect pen. I liked the shape of the section, the fact that it was of the same material as the body, and just about everything except the clip. 

Over several years, whilst I dithered about ordering one, the price rose a bit and Brian began putting out really nice two tone nibs with his own logo in place (answering one minor criticism that I had). 

I finally ordered one – with a medium nib ground to a .9 cursive italic and a standard F as well, both in steel. I had read Brian’s comments about steel vs. gold nibs and liked the idea of having two nibs - and, frankly, the cost of gold was too much of a stretch. I asked him to use the original signature Herald section, not the current production curve, and to replace the clip with a more vintage-looking one. He made two recommendations for a clip, and we both felt the one I chose was the best. It’s entirely, to my eye, more finished, elegant, and appropriate to a fountain pen. 

He did all this, creating a pen to exactly my specifications, then sent me a photo – and my heart sank.  
(photos, as always, are clickable)
The ebonite currently available to him wasn't the streaked black and red I’d been mooning over for more than 5 years; it was mottled. “Well, perhaps the pen will look better in person,” I thought. 

It arrived (the excellent packaging, quick service, pen box, etc. have all been described by other reviewers). The colour reads predominantly more a blended “brown” than discrete red and black to my eye. Sad, sad, sad. Well, I thought, I can always sell it at only a slight loss. 

Ah, heck, let’s try it out anyway. The first two weeks I wasn’t impressed at all. Adequate, but not pleasant. Flow was OK, but nothing special. Then, the stars (or the tines) aligned to my ‘hand’ and I found myself using no other pens and running through that big Schmidt converter of ink every 2 days! That Schmidt converter holds a powerful lot of ink. 

I loved the pen’s weight, size, balance, and feel – and the fact that I can carry it in a shirt pocket and not fear exposing it to the rigors of real life. I love the way it screws together like a finely machined object – which it is. I use it posted, but don’t baby it. It’s a really, really nice and useful tool.  I like the ease of hot-swapping the CI and F nibs. I write with the F nib for a while and I’m convinced I like it the very best of the two, then swap for the CI and say, “oooooh! I forgot how nice this makes my hand look!” and I enjoy the CI for a while. It also seems to inspire occasional flourishes that telegraph to me how much I’m enjoying using the nib. After all, isn’t that why we relish nice pens? 


This pen writes the way I wish some others did. It also loves Private Reserve inks (my favourite) and seems to have a special affinity for PR Chocolat, my best brown. The overall ‘retro’ appeal of the brown ebonite, two tone nib, vintage-style clip and the cigar shape along with the chocolate ink on off-white paper is very pleasing. One almost feels sepia-toned as one writes. 


So, what I really like about it is the sheer feel of Brian’s polished ebonite. The feel and tactile pleasure I get from using, and playing with, the Herald is very much like using my Nakaya in Aka Tamenuri Urushi. Often, as I write, I fondle the cap in one hand whilst using the pen in the other. Over the past months the pen has picked up a very subtle patina of use, a tangible sense that it has been used – as opposed to a pristine shiny surface, but my fingers continue to play with it. 


As to using the pen as an eye-dropper, I seem to be the only person in Pendom for whom an Edison does NOT work well as an ED. It gets a runny, drippy nose. Ah, well. I change ink colours often anyway and that small failure never bothered me enough to ask Brian about what I might be doing wrong. 

On the other hand, it seems to love sipping from cartridges just as well as the converter. I wondered if the barrel was machined deeply enough to allow for two international cartridges to be inserted back-to-back. It is not. The photo below shows how I extracted  the spare the first - and only! - time I tried the camel trick. 


I wish I’d had a pen like this in college. Actually, I did – sort of – it was a Pelikan 120 or 140 green/black with an F nib and a piston, which allowed me to write forever on a fill of ink and all day with no writer’s cramp or fatigue. 

Forced to choose, I’d take this pen with the F nib with me to that fabled Desert Island. 

I hate reviews that can’t find a thing to criticize about a pen. Yet, I find myself grasping for superlatives in this case. The weaknesses I found were the colour (Brian says he can no longer get that ebonite he used in the early days, plus the ebonite he uses now is better) and the eye dropper failure for me.
Oh, that colour? It’s growing on me.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Sunday Post: January 6, 2013

You may - or may not - have noticed that it's been a while since I posted here.

It's been a little busy for me.

I don't want to bore you with excessive detail, but...six weeks of bronchitis/pneumonia requiring 14 days of a 5-day antibiotic to finally kill it before it killed me. Picked up that bug at work, where several others have also been as sick or sicker - including my boss, who's been out for some time and in and out of the hospital, meaning I'm doing double duty as I am her backup. (I am not expecting her back for some weeks to come either.) We hosted Christmas for our family as I worked straight through the holiday season with no time off - other than Christmas Day and the days I spent in bed with the above-mentioned bronchitis. I work in a business subject to annual government audits, and there are currently 11 auditors at my office, which is taking a lot of my time at work - meaning my actual work is getting done after hours. They'll be visiting us until late this month.

I've been using my spare time for sleeping. I know, how selfish of me. What am I thinking?

Mostly about how to get one foot in front of the other without tripping!

At any rate, I wanted you all to know I have not forgotten you, and I do have some things in the pipeline for the blog. Some of it, hopefully, this week.

Stay tuned...