‘…back to the roots’ – testing small portable notebooks – Prolog

Just before Easter, I received a small cool looking box full of goodies, kindly sent by Stewart from Pocket Notebooks which is a small British company who makes a great deal about portable good quality notebooks. The mission they have to bring back the power of hand written notes is very important and very close to my heart. The Pocket Notebooks slogan is:  Forget the App, there’s a Pocket Notebook for that … and I can’t agree more. This is actually why I am here dealing with inks and pens. This is why I returned to use fountain pens, which quickly became my passion three, or four years ago. I was using my tablet, phone and notebook as much, that one day I have realised  that I am missing something very important to me which I used to like a lot – a handwriting.

For heavy testing  purposes (which I did ! )  Stewart sent me a bunch of different notebooks he has in his store, made by different people and companies. Some of them are ‘big’ and ‘very small’ and here ‘small’ not necessarily means bad. Some of these notebooks are really good but also some are not that cool as they meant to be. But that is life, and I really appreciate the fact that I can compare them together side by side.

So, what I got? Well, I got seven notebooks total and I think they cover quite nicely a wide spectrum of different paper types, built and quality, which for me and as end user is one of the most important things. I got three Fieldnote size notebooks: ClaireFontaine Retro Nova, Story Supply  Co and Inky Fingers, then I got two completely different ones from Curnow Bookbinding & Leatherwork which have interesting size in between Fielnote and Midori passport. The last one is a fairly small but handy pocket notebook from Silvine. I will split this post into parts (likely 4) where I present some tests I did and what I honestly think about them.

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Taroko Design notebooks

Few weeks ago Mishka from BureauDirect, UK asked me if I would like to try and test very hard one of the A5 size notebooks (or A5 notebook insert) made by small Taiwanese company called Taroko Design (name after very beautiful Taroko Gorge in Taiwan).  I already had another two large Midori traveler’s size Taroko inserts, which I bought some time ago from BureauDirect at 2016 London Writing Instrument Show and I was about to review them too. I will call it as good coincidence .

What is very interesting about these Taroko notebooks/inserts is a paper they use to make them. Taroko uses incredibly light and at the same time satin smooth, famous among all fountain pen users (and not only)  Tomoe River paper. 

Taroko for their notebooks (at least for these I have) uses 68 gsm grade Tomoe River paper. Each notebook contains 64 pages ( 32 sheets) . The A5 notebook I received for review is made out of white paper. In fact, white paper has very subtle creamy hint which I really like. The two Midori size inserts I have are made of  white and truly creamy type of paper respectively. Because Tomoe River paper is available as blank sheets, Taroko is offering three types of press printed pattern they do themselves: graph (or squared), dotted and ruled. I must say Taroko did a vary good job and the patterns are very well printed and all lines and dots are visible but not overwhelming. They also offer blank notebooks too. Dots in A5 are evenly distributed and the way each sheet is cut makes all pages within notebook look very consistent. Interestingly, the line position in Midori size ruled notebook varies slightly from page to page. But this is very minor issue an possibly most people will not notice it to be absolutely honest. It may be also an older batch. 

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J. Herbin – Vert Olive and other

Hi,

Just a quick update. My review of J. Herbin – Vert Olive ink is live, so please have a look. Possibly not for everyone, but still this is very interesting ink and colour.

There is quite few different reviews in the pipeline on the write up stage being very close to completion. These are (in no particular order):

Paper:

  • Taroko notebooks with Tomoe River paper

Inks

  • J. Herbin – Lie de The
  • J. Herbin – Larmes de cassis
  • KWZ – Flame Red
  • KWZ – Grey Plum

Pens

  • Pelikan M805 (F)
  • Platinium Century 3776 (Soft Fine)

….so, stay tuned folks 🙂

Handwriting – Can we improve? and HOW?

Recently I was asked many times about my still clumsy handwriting or penmanship if you like. I am really pleased that you enjoy to watch it. Thank you! Many people who contacted me or commented my posts  in here, Instagram, FB and other social media I share asked number of very interesting questions. Among them there were always the same questions regarding technique I have, other techniques, where to start, are there any resources which help, or do I have any hints, etc?

I am working on my handwriting  bit more seriously over last two – three year or so. Beforehand I use to write but my handwriting was rather choppy and chaotic and even if I thought that it looked cool from my current perspective it was awful. Obviously, this is a  natural and self critique (if stimulating) is a good thing.

When I joined Fountain Pen Network group on FB there were always many people who already show excellent handwriting skills. The person who really inspired me at the very beginning of my journey was Hector Padilla. His handwriting with fountain pens is mesmerising. The most striking thing I picked up watching him writing is the rhythm and dynamics he has. His down strokes are slower, more elaborative, whereas up strokes are much quicker and lighter at the same time.

Check Hector’s funny sounding youtube channel at (Crappy Calligraphy with an Idiot) and follow him (Inkluminati) on Twitter and Flickr where you can find loads of his handwriting examples.

The rhythm and dynamics are very important. They are as important as in music but also in drawing and painting. We humans love rhythm and  patterns and most things around as is built this way. Just look around. In penmanship dynamic and rhythm give a flavour to written words. Very closely related aspect to his is consistency. By consistency I mean couple of things like spacing between letters  but also within letters, the height and width of the letters and and the way you write them so the particular letters will not differ from each other (shape, slant height and so one).

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Black Horseman – Namisu Nova Ebonite

Black Horseman – Namisu Nova Studio Ebonite

Few days ago, as a part of collaborative group called UnitedInkdom I have received for reviewing  an interesting pen called Namisu Nova Studio Ebonite.

Namisu is a small and independent designer’s studio based in the UK close to Edinburgh who successfully run few kickstarter projects including Nova. Nova is currently available with several barrel options including titanium, aluminum and ebonite which is especially interesting. I spent few days using it  and testing  with different nib options Namisu offers.

I really like the Namisu Nova Studio pen design, which is very minimalistic. The pen adopts a ‘classic’ torpedo shape, which to some extent reminiscences some Japanese-like pens like Nakaya (Piccolo) for instance. Nothing wrong with that. I like it. It looks modern and is well refined. I already have hand made fountain pen from Twiss Pen which has very similar shape (obviously material is different). Namisu Nova fountain pen I was lucky to test is made from ebonite, which gives not only matte ‘stealthy’ look but more importantly worm , pleasant feel, which is very unique and different from  other acrylic, resin or plastic pens. The ebonite is light material. It also does not feel slippery at all and to some extend it reminds Lamy 2000. It can catch some fingerprints, but then is very easy to get rid of them using any soft cloth.

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‘…I got the Eye of the Tiger…a fighter…’ – Jinhao Century yellow with black swirls

From time to time I buy inexpensive pens from China. I do this less and less often over last three years, but I still do. Many people think that cheap fountain pens can’t be any good, because they are so cheap. Is it true? Well, as always the true answer lies in-between. Very often they are poor quality and pretty much useless, however some of them are actually pretty good writers and writing experience may be compared to much more expensive fountain pens. There is few quite popular brands from China like Duke, Hero, Kaigelu and Jinhao which specialises in inexpensive pens. I have few in my collection including Kaigelu 316 or Duke Big Shark I reviewed several months ago.  These pens are below £ 25.0, look nice and are not bad writers either. Do they have issues? – yes, but overall they are fairly good value for money and I had them in rotation for quite long time. Nowadays, I use them less, but I still like to write with them.

There is some controversy about pens from China which design is quite often extremely similar to models offered by famous, but more expensive brands. If you look at Jinhao 159 and famous Montblanc 149 , the influence is obvious (even name is not accidental).  Some of them are very close (or way too close) to original designs like Jinhao 599 for instance which  looks very similar to Lamy Safari (except clip). Kaiglu 316 which reminds Parker Duofold Centennial or Hero 616 Jumbo vs. Parker 51 Special are another examples. Obviously, pens from China are much cheaper than original pens, but the overall quality (especially nibs) and materials are often lacking. Many of them like Jinhao are made from metal and are very heavy and feel unbalanced. Often the enamel is chipping off or gold plating is washing off after few months of use.  However, from the second hand, if you you are short on money or you are new to fountain pens and you are not sure if you like to invest more than 100 bucks for a pen, these inexpensive pens may be (and usually are) a good starting point into word of the fountain pens.

I haven’t bought any pen like this for last at least 9 months easily, so when I have seen on Youtube a review (please see) of the  recent Jinhao Century  model,  I decided to give it a go and buy one.  To be more specific the Cenury  line is not that new pen, because it was available in other colors in the past  (see review of Jinhao Century, MkI in blue). However, the yellow with black swirls and white (pearl) with black swirls are two new colours introduced recently .

Because I like the way yellow looks, I purchased it from Amazon for £ 14.80.  To my my surprise it arrived to my door in less than two days ! I thought it will be shipped from China…but obviously this is way to quick. Anyway, can’t complain at all.

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Lamy 2000 – when utility and design come together

There are possibly not many pens around which original idea and original design last since it was created and seems to be timeless.  Lamy 2000 is one of these pens. I was designed in mid 1960’s in Germany and it’s unusual design  was highly influenced by Bauhaus and German modernism revival that time. It represents more than 50 years of  German modernity, and its sleek, contemporary design become a ‘classic’ in the word of fountain pens, nowadays. Lamy 2000 ages well…or wait a minute …this pen design actually is not ageing at all! Still looks very modern and represents high manufacturing quality and is a class on its own. Its unique design is closely related to it’s utility functions and it works with purpose.  With no doubt, Lamy 2000 is one of the most popular fountain pens all the time.  ( Here you can find much more about history and design of Lamy 2000 )

 

Lamy 2000 was on my radar for quite a while, but not being a very big fan of less expensive Lamy line like Safari or Al-Star, I was always pushed back and undecided, especially knowing that this is not a very cheap fountain pen. The price vary. In the UK I have seen it for £ 150.0 but some retailers have it for £ 100.00, which actually is a very good price. In the USA price osculates too between $ 110.0 and  $ 160.0. However, the price is very easy to justify. The design, materials (including 14k gold nib) and finish are superb. When I touched this pen first time  my ultimate reaction was – WOW! This feels pretty cool !Continue reading

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze EF

Visconti Homo Sapiens is recognised by many in the fountain pen community as an iconic ‘grail pen’ and there is some sort of mysterious cult around this fountain pen in particular.  Before I got it,  which has happened few months ago, I have seen numerous reviews, pictures and comments about this pen and I was really curious what this massive hype is all about. The term ‘grail pen‘ may be considered as: ‘must to have this pen‘  but also: ‘I would love to have it, but damn… this is a really expensive pen and I can’t afford it!’. Is it worth its price? Why is so special? Or maybe this fountain pen is simply overrated?  Well, I will try to answer this question from my handwriting perspective and few months experience with mighty Visconti Homo Sapiens.

My journey with Visconti’s Homo Sapiens started in June 2016 when I visited Warsaw for my science related reasons. Wondering around center of Warsaw I stopped by in one local pen shop Pióroteka, where I was looking several pens including Sailor, Pilot, Kaweco and many others. I actually brought a pen there and it was incredible Lamy 2000, which nowadays is one of my ‘every day’ pens, but this is a story for different time. However, being there I asked lovely and extremely patient lady who works there, if I can have a look at Visconti’s pens. Luckily, they had them in bronze, silver and brand new that time Dark Ages version. When I picked this pen, the feel it gave was so incredible, that I knew straight on, that here is some serious business going on. The pen is quite heavy (43 grams capped/ 25 grams uncapped) and feels substantial, but not too heavy. It feels right and to some extent powerful. When I unscrewed the cap, which is very easy to do with famous Visconti’s ‘hook lock safe’ system, the beauty of this fountain pen was astonishing and overwhelming. 

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Robert Oster Signature inks

Just a quick update tonight.

Two reviews of very cool inks from Robert Oster Signature line: Direct Sun and Barossa Grape are done and live since last few days. These two reviews are part of the larger collaborative meta-review of Robert Oster Signature  you may find already at the United Inkdom blog .

 

Robert Oster inks are gaining popularity among fountain pen users recently and there are many reasons why. They are really good quality inks with beautiful and well saturated colours representing Australian landscape. I have reviewed so far only two from quote extensive palette of colours which Rober Oster has in his offer, but I am looking forward to have a look at many more in the future. They are definitely worth checking and using.

(*)  Free samples of Robert Oster  inks I  reviewed were kindly provided by iZods.ink in the UK, who already has them in stock.

Twiss Pen Eye Candy

TwissPens is a small fountain pen company located in famous Sherwood forest in the UK run by well known and acclaimed British pen turner – John Twiss

Before I got into the realm of Twiss Pens I have seen many examples on the internet and I always admired his work and materials he uses.

I met John and his pens last year during London Writing Instruments Show. His desk was located just after the entrance to the main showroom, so it was difficult to overlook it, especially when his beautiful mainly acrylics and ebonite pens were visible from the distance. Once I have seen them, I knew that I won’t leave the show without one of his pens. The pen I purchased at the end was one of the first I spotted between all of these cuties. Almost like love from the first sight.

The pen is beautiful in its simplicity. This is a clipless, relatively slim cigar shaped pen, with slightly tapered ends, reminding some Japanese pens from Nakaya. It has very appealing look and beautiful line.

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