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!