Review: Gallery Leather Notebooks

Gallery Leather Journals

Gallery Leather kindly sent me two of their leather bound notebooks: the lime green cover is the Travel Journal ($20) and the black cover is the Oporto Journal ($20). Both books feature real leather covers and ribbon bookmark. These are clean, simple journals with rounded corners and speckled paper endpapers. Neither book has a back cover pocket or elastic band closure like some other notebooks we know.

Gallery Leather is a US company that binds all its books domestically. The paper blocks are printed overseas but all the leather working and binding is done in the US. Gallery Leather also offers personalized foil stamping on book covers for any order.  See the “personalize” tab for more information. Gallery Leather also sells photo albums, address books and other high end leather and paper goods.

Gallery Leather Travel Journal

The Travel Journal features a pebble texture leather with the word “JOURNAL” blind debossed into the center of the cover. There are a bevvy of choices available for the covers: three different material finishes and a baker’s dozen worth of colors. Also stamped on the back cover at the bottom is the Gallery Leather logo and their location “Maine”.  Inside this petite 5×7″ notebook are 192 heavyweight pages that are lightly lined in brown.

Gallery Leather Desk Journal

The cover of the Oporto Journal features a smooth leather cover with the word “JOURNAL” blind debossed in the center. Five other color options are available in the Oporto Journal : sand, red, verde, pink and orange. The books measures 8” x 5.5”  and has 192 pages. The paper is white, ever-so-slightly on the soft white side with grey lines. The lines are very fine so they are not at all distracting — enough to keep my text even but no so heavy or dark as to interfere with legibility. The Oporto also features an ivory satin bookmark with fray-checked edges (always a big plus in my book).

Gallery Leather Desk Journal flexible cover

Both journals feature a flexible leather cover. The leather is glued to a heavyweight paper endpapers giving the material a lot of flex. I bent the cover up with my hand to show how easy it is to flex while remaining sturdy and durable feeling. The book does open up pretty flat once I loosened the spine a bit.

In both books, on the last page of the text block (not the end papers) is a “Personal Data” page with lines to enter contact info. (Remind me to tell you the tale of Diane and her lost Moleskine that she did NOT put her name in as a cautionary tale.) This page also include the company info.

The lines in both books are about 6mm spacing, comparable to American collegiate ruled. Why the Oporto has grey lines and the Travel Journal has brown lines is anyone’s guess?

Gallery Leather Desk Journal Writing Sample

The paper in the Oporto Journal is smooth and easy to write on. I had no difficulties with any of the gel, rollerball or felt tip pens; pencils; or even brush pens, but the fountain pens did show some feathering. The medium European nib on the Karas Kustoms INK!, the Lamy Studio with the 1.1mm nib and the Pilot Kakuno with the fine nib showed the most evident feathering.

Gallery Leather revese side of Desk Journal

From the other side of the paper, evidence of the slight bleed through of both the Karas Kustoms and the Lamy are evident. None of the other inks showed through too much except in the darker or heavier colors but their was no bleed though except with the fountain pens. Even the brush pens had but a mere shadow on the reverse side of the paper.

Gallery Leather Travel Journal writing sample

The Travel Journal paper is notably heavier than the Oporto. Its also a smooth stock with only a little tooth. The heaver paper meant that all the tools I tested performed as well or better than on the Oporto paper. All the fountain pens were less inclined to feather. Only the Lamy Studio with the 1.1mm nib showed some slight feathering but that may have been as much a fault of that particular ink (I can’t remember what I was using, sorry!) as the pen or paper.

Leather Gallery Travel Journal Reverse side of writing sample

On the reverse of the the Travel Journal there was only the slightest bit of show through at the starts and stops of some of the fountain pen writing samples. Interestingly, the one blue ink dot clearly seen on the reverse is from the Ohto Dude. None of the brush pens showed through at all.

Gallery Leather Journals

Between the heavier weight paper and how well most of the tools performed on this paper, I would definitely recommend the Gallery Leather Travel Journal to anyone looking for good paper and a quality leather cover at a good price.

The Oporto is a beautiful journal and I would definitely recommend it as well, particularly if you are not wanting to use fountain pens with it. Its a fine upgrade to a  Moleskine which retails for $18.95. The extra $1.05 for a real leather cover and considerably improved paper is worth the upgrade.

The Giveaway:

Gallery Leather has been kind enough to offer two lucky readers the chance to win either the Oporto or Travel Journal. So, how do you enter to win this awesome giveaway? Just tell me which color cover and whether you prefer the Oporto Journal or the Travel Journal in the comments to be entered to win.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, March 3, 2014. US Residents only, please. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winners will be announced on Tuesday. Winners will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Fulfillment will be handled by Gallery Leather.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Gallery Leather for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Ohto DUDE Fountain Pen

Ohto Dude    Ohto Dude

The Ohto Dude Fountain Pen is pretty notable simply because its a metal body fountain pen for a mere $24.50. Its got a pleasing hexagonal shape, aluminum body and the cap easily posts to make it a nice sized, well-weighted pen. It takes standard European short cartridges or a converter. I used the Kaweco converter I had laying around and it worked just fine. I got the silver finish which looks like a polished aluminum. Its not as shiny as a chrome finish but is bright and definitely shiny. The Ohto Dude is also available in a lacquer black, metallic royal blue and a metallic purple finish.

Ohto Dude posted

Ohto Dude finish comparison

The Ohto Dude metallic finish compared to the Monteverde Poquito in Chrome on the left and the Lamy Studio in brushed aluminum on the right. The Dude in the middle had the look of an unpolished aluminum.

What’s odd about the Ohto Dude, other than the name, is that it is described as a medium nib and it is NOT at all comparable to other Japanese medium nib pens. Its more like a European bold nib. It is a very broad medium and stretches the definition of a medium nib quite a bit. The nib has a little spring to it, though, which makes for some nice line variation and makes it light on the page. Its not at all scratchy and wrote easily, even when I’d left it uncapped for several minutes. Only after sitting uncapped for awhile did it need to be primed (scribbled on a piece of scratch paper to get it flowing again) and then, only just a little bit.

Ohto Dude nib

The smooth, molded plastic grip is quite comfortable to hold.

Ohto Dude grip

Ohto Dude Writing sample

Ohto Dude Writing sample

If you’re looking for a nice looking pen with a wide nib and a nice aluminum body, the Ohto Dude is a good option. Like vanity-sized clothing that does not run to proper sizing, the Ohto Dude should come with the caveat “runs large.” Then again, what would you expect from a pen called “Dude”?

Ohto Dude writing sample

Ink used: De Atramentis Pigeon Blue. Paper used: Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank Pad.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen

The fine folks over at Pen Chalet gave me the opportunity to try the new Monteverde Poquito fountain pen (Retail price $30; from Pen Chalet, $27). Its a classic looking, teeny tiny pocket pen for sure. This is the first Monteverde pen I’ve tried so I was quite excited for the chance to take my first foray into the Monteverde pen world.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen

The details:

The packaging was on the budget side, just a cardboard box with the pen in a plastic sleeve with an instruction sheet and a single refill cartridge. For the price point, I don’t expect presentation quality packaging but if this is a make or break for you or you were hoping to give this as a gift, I recommend creating your own presentation packaging for this pen.

The branding on this pen is quite subtle. In black on the opposite side of the cap from the clip, in small type, is the Monteverde brand name and below it in smaller text “Poquito”. I know a lot of folks are not fond on the Monteverde logo type and this is some of the most subtle application I’ve seen. Truly unobtrusive. On the top of the clip is a small emboss stamp of the Monteverde crest.

I received the chrome finish version with a “Iridium Point Germany” medium stainless steel nib. The pen has a smooth, tapered shape that made me think, “If a Fisher Space Pen and a Kaweco Sport ever merged…” then this would be the result. Good looks, totally pocketable with some steely-eyed missile man good looks.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen Size Comparison

As the comparison to the Kaweco Sport and Liliput was inevitable, here’s a quick run down of the comparison specs:

Poquito

Kaweco Sport

Kaweco Liliput

length: closed

4.5”

4.0625”

3.75″

length: uncapped

3.75”

4”

3.5”

length: posted

5”

5.125”

5”

weight: filled & capped

17gms

12 gms

10 gms

weight: filled, no cap

11 gms

6 gms

7 gms

Monteverde Poquito fountain pensize comparison

Overall, the physical size is quite comparable. For determining the width of the pens, the Poquito feels more like the size of a Uni-Ball Signo capped pen while the Kaweco Sport barrel has the width equivalent of a Sharpie marker. The Liliput is ever-so-slightly narrower than the Poquito and is the same diameter from end-to-end while the Poquito tapers on each end. Does that make sense?

I let my husband try the Poquito to get a “man’s perspective”. He found the pen too small overall but normally he prefers ACME pens. He couldn’t find his Fisher Space Pen so we couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison but he’s pretty confident that, when posted, the Space Pen is about a 0.5″ longer than the Poquito.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen writing sample

The writing experience:

The cap posts easily and does not affect the pen’s weight. The cap actually helps to weight the pen creating a pleasing writing experience. The narrower overall width of the Poquito made it comfortable in my small hands. Its wider than the Kaweco Liliput but obviously narrower than the Kaweco Sport.

The grip section is tiny with a slight ridge where the body and cap snap together. The ridges are smooth so they are not distracting but I imagine this might not be comfortable for extended writing sessions. The cap snaps on with a satisfying click.

The nib was silky smooth out of the box. I seldom use a medium nib fountain pen but this wrote so smoothly and consistently as soon as I put the accompanying cartridge in it. Not one skip or stutter. The line weight was on the finer side of medium for a European/American nib. No lefty issues with getting the ink to flow and on the paper.

The nib is stiff with no flex but I needed only the lightest touch to write and got some nice line variation and even some shading from the black ink. I would probably prefer a fine nib but I like the look and feel of the medium and is not a make-or-break aspect for me with this pen.

If the nib is any indication of Monteverde’s other fountain pens, you’ll definitely be seeing more Monteverde reviews here soon. This pen is “full of awesome” for $30 or less.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen

Options:

The Poquito fountain pen is new for 2014 and is also available in a dark Stone Gray, a bright metallic Turquoise and a metallic Pink finish with silver tone clip (see the colors over at FPGeeks). The Poquito line offers a stylus/ballpoint model in a similar size and an XL version.

Pen Chalet would like to offer a special discount for readers of The Well-Appointed Desk. Receive 10% off any item on their site using the coupon code wellappointeddesk, including the Poquito. Offer is good through March 31, 2014.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Chalet for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank Pad

Rhodia Pad

I’ve finally been wooed into trying the Rhodia pads for pen and ink reviews. I chose the Rhodia Pad No. 18 ($14.50) with the black cover. The large size (8.25″ x 11.75″) gives me plenty of real estate. The pages tear from the top with a smooth microperf and the cover folds neatly out of the way causing no lefty anguish. It was something that I was concerned about but, in actuality, there is little discomfort since the top folds flat, not the awkwardness of wire rings or other impediment.

The black cardstock covers are super glossy and scratched easily. My cover was noticeably worn in the time it took me to write a few reviews. I don’t suspect the pad will be kept closed much so I won’t notice but if this is something that will bother you, the classic orange covers may hide the wear and tear a little better.

rhodia pad writing sample

The paper is the posh Clairefontaine 80gsm bright white and I chose the blank (uni) version so that no mater how dark or light my inks were, lines or grid would not distract. I find the dark purple grid lines of the Rhodia paper to be too dark and distracting. The blank paper is a clean, bright white so ink colors show true. I like the soft white of the Rhodia webnotebooks but for ink reviews its imperative to use a bright white stock.

In my writing samples, none of the inks bled through to the reverse side and there was very little show through at all. I could definitely get use out of both sides of the paper. Not one of the materials I tried feathered on the paper though, for some reason, the red Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen ink took an age to dry. I don’t find the Preppy red to take that long on cheaper stocks. All the other fountain pen inks dried quickly. Pencil smudged a little bit but this is probably due to the smoothness of the stock. Pencil wrote beautifully on the paper.

When a review is finished, I can tear it out of the pad and file it. I will probably 3-hole punch the pages and store them in binders by category in the future so that it will be easy to go back and refer to previous reviews.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the pad. It meets all my reviewing needs and is excellent paper for all types of ink and graphite.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

How green is my pencil?

Green Pencils

Thanks to Johnny at Pencil Revolution, I am now the owner of a lovely selection of green pencils. Not green as in environmentally sensitive but green as in outside paint colors. They look lovely in combination with all my other green office supplies but what’s most pleasant is that they are pretty good writers too.

Musgrave Cub Pencil

The Musgrave Pencil Co. CUB 3030T is a large diameter round pencil. Based on its size, I suspect it is meant as a kid’s learning pencil but its not as large as some children’s pencils. And its actually a smooth writer. Because of the diameter, I didn’t have a lot of sharpener options so I used the large diameter size of my Lefty sharpener from Pencil Things. Its about the same diameter as some of the colored pencils I own.

Paper Mate Earth Write Pencil

The PaperMate Earth Write #2 HB pencil is a deep evergreen with silver foil stamp, silver ferrule and a nicely contrasting mint eraser. The eraser doesn’t work particularly well but it looks nice. The pencil is a hexagonal shape and standard diameter. Sadly, I found it a little scratchy to use but not terrible. At the right price, these are nice looking. Office Depot lists a box of 48 for $8 so that’s a good price for a pencil of this quality. Teachers might want to pick up a box or two for their classrooms.

Dixon Ticonderoga Neon Green Pencil

The Dixon Ticonderoga SOFT #2 HB was part of a dozen neon painted pencils in a variety pack purchased at Target for $2.89. These pencils were made in Mexico. Its a standard hexagonal wood cased pencil with the traditional evergreen metallic ferrule with school bus yellow srtipes which is used on the classic yellow pencils and on the black versions as well. The branding is foil stamped in bright  kelly green. Its a lot of different shades of green on one pencil.  The pink eraser works okay, better than the green eraser on the Earth Write.

The bright neon paint makes it feel like an updated classic. The neon multi-pack would be a big hit with kids for sure. It writes pretty smoothly for a mass market pencil.

Thanks to Johnny for a package full of happy pencils!

Review: Paperblanks Journals

paperblanks stack of notebooks

The folks over at Paperblanks kindly sent me an assortment of notebooks to review. The books have such amazing details on the covers that I decided the best way to review them is with a video. (Please forgive the ums and ahs, this is the first time I’ve done this. I was nervous.)

To clarify from the video, I received four books in various sizes and formats:

Description Format Size Page Count Price
DaVinci-themed Sun & Moonlight Mini Reporter 3.75×5.75″ 192 $11.95
Letters of Inspiration: Florence Nightingale Mini 3.75X5.5″ 176 $15.95
Mucha Tiger Lily Midi 5×7″ 144 $14.95
Parisian Mosaic Mosaique Safran Midi 5X7″ 144 $14.95

All but the Florence Nightingale book had a black elastic closure. The Nightingale edition has a magnetic closure. They all have pockets in the back with book cloth gussets. All but the reporter-style DaVinci book included a red satin ribbon bookmark.

paperblanks notebook assortment

paperblanks inside

The line spacing is about 8mm which is probably equivalent to wide-ruled notebook paper. The lines are very fine and brown and do not run edge to edge but leave a small margin round the edge of the page. The spacing is a bit too wide for me, preferring the blank paper for optimum writing freedom.

Paperblanks Writing Sample

The paper in the Paperblanks is the same as in planner I used all last year. I’ve included the writing samples here. I have to say that the warm white paper is pleasing and the overall weight of the paper allowed it to hold up to an array of writing tools including fountain pens with above-average results.

Paperblanks Reverse Side

You can see from the back that the Sharpie was really the only tool to bleed through.

Overall, the Paperblanks books are some of my favorite notebooks. They are sometimes a little too elaborate for my everyday needs but the construction, paper quality and features plus the reasonable price point make them a good choice. To purchase online, Love Notebooks has the widest selection of books but I purchased my planner via Jenni Bick so I recommend them as well.

For more information, you may want to check out these posts:

Finally, I’d like to give away some of these books to some lucky readers. I’m going to giveaway the DaVinci reporter, the Mucha Tiger Lily and the Florence Nightingale. One to each of three lucky readers. Leave a comment and tell me which of these designs is your favorite or visit the Paperblanks site and tell which one you wish they’d sent me.


FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Sunday, January 26, 2014. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Monday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner(s) does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. US readers only this time. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance (or customs fees) will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Paperblanks for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Kaweco Art Sport Amber Fine Nib

Kaweco Art Sport

You may recognize this pen from Brad’s review posted a couple months ago. It might look almost identical because it is the same pen. Brad kindly sent it over to me after I whined mercilessly about not getting any love from Kaweco. Then he sent me a replacement nib for it so that I could have what in my head is the PERFECT pen.

Kaweco Art Sport

I love Kaweco Sports with a retriever-like loyalty and the addition of the pattern mixed acrylic bodies take this pen to a new level of class and good looks.

Kaweco Art Sport

I originally attempted to use it with the B broad nib that Brad had used but I found it too juicy for me. He sent me a fine nib in silver and I’m now in the process of ordering a silver clip to coordinate with it. While I think the gold nib on the amber body is gorgeous, I’m happy to let the Art Sport live its own life with its bright shiny new silver nib and clip.

Kaweco Art Sport

Both nibs write as smoothly as I’ve come to expect from Kaweco nibs. Really, the luxury of this pen is the one-of-a-kind look of the acrylic bodies. Its a considerable upcharge from the standard Kaweco Sport pens. For me, its the right kind of upgrade. I would love an option to upgrade to a 14K gold nib on an Art Sport. That would be a holy grail pen for me.

kaweco art sport

I’ve included a little writing sample though its the same nibs as any of the other Sport line, it is not the same unit though so swapping nibs between a Sport and an Art Sport is not recommended since you’d have to remove just the nib, not the whole nib unit.

kaweco art sport

While the end cap has the gold logo and the nib is silver, I think its an acceptable arrangement. And oh, that amber acrylic is fabulous!

For reviews of other Kaweco products, see my Kaweco Student Review, Kaweco Guilloch 1930 EF, Kaweco Liliput EF, Kaweco Highlighter Pen and Kaweco Sports F reviews.

Stylus Fine Pens sells the Art Sports, in all the color varieties for $125 each. I really like the Alabaster and Akeshir versions as well.

Review: Bird Letter Opener

bird-opener4

A dear friend sent me this beautiful bird letter opener for Christmas. Its made of a hard plastic with a matte finish. It’s sculpted shape feels good in the hand and the tail is curved to tuck under the edge of an envelope. It can stand on its own like a little bird perched on my desk.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve put it through its paces the last couple weeks. It works pretty well but is not as sharp as a blade sharpener like my favorite old school letter openers. It has decided to take up residence on my work desk where it can be called upon to open the occasional letter versus the abuse my home openers endure.

(available via Walker Art Center Shop for $16 each, seven color options)

bird-opener5

Review: Pilot Kakuno Fine Nib

pilot kakuno

I finally got a hold of a Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pen. Its an introductory fountain pen, originally targeted to school kids, with its plastic body and low price ($16.50).

The cap has no clip and is the part of the pen available in a variety of colors.  I, of course, bought the lime green cap version with a fine nib. There are other color caps available: red, blue, pink, gray and orange. The cap snaps into place and the divot on the cap is the grip area for grabbing and removing the cap. The body on all the Kakuno pens is an opaque, slate grey. The grip area is a translucent grey-black.

Its a very lightweight pen but the cap can be posted on the pen to give it a little bit more weight and makes it a comfortable length for just about any hand size.

pilot kakuno

One of the most endearing features of the Kakuno is the etched smiley face on the nib. This is a nib that should make you smile on a Monday morning.

pilot kakuno writing sample

The nib is as smooth and silky as the nib I have in my Prera. The grip has a faceted grip area like a hexagonal pencil but has soft, rounded edges that does not dig into my hands the way the Lamy Safari does. But the grip area will help people using fountain pens for the first time find the right hand placement.

I used a standard Pilot blue-black cartridge ($4) for my writing sample though the pen does ship with one black cartridge. I also purchased a CON-50 converter ($8.25) to use with bottled inks. The total cost is $24.75 for the pen and the converter which is a very competitive price for a first fountain pen.

Overall, I love the nib and the grip area is a lovely compromise between the rigid grip area of a Lamy Safari. The green cap is a perfect lime but, I find the look of the pen plastic to be a little kid-like for me. With the exception of the cap, the pen is very unassuming. Though I think it will definitely be a pen I use and keep in my office. The Kakuno is a great value.

EDIT: The grip area is actually a rounded triangular shape.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Apica C.D. Premium Notebook

Apica CD Premium Notebook

I finally got a chance to try out the much-touted Apica C.D. Premium notebook ($18.50). I got the A6 size (approx. 4″x6″) with plain paper. The notebooks have a bookcloth-wrapped perfectbound spine and the cover is a mica-flaked dark grey paper with embossed and foil-stamped “C.D. Notebook” on the cover. Below that printed in the same silver grey ink as the decorative border are the words “Choose the paper like you would a good pen.” This paper is definitely setting itself up to be a better quality than most. The price reflects this as well.

Apica CD Premium Notebook

The metallic paper cover is pretty but just doesn’t feel durable enough for the price point and the quality of the paper. Maybe its just me but at the upper end of the price spectrum, I prefer my notebooks to have a full hardcover binding, not just a flimsy (though lovely) cardstock cover.

The notebook has a healthy 96 sheets and a traditional stitched binding, the pages are not simply glued to the tape. When opened, the book lays fairly flat too.

Apica CD Premium Notebook writing sample

Of course, where this notebook really shines is the paper. It is silky smooth with no noticeable tooth. I tested fountain pens, felt tip, gel and pencil and all performed lovely with no bleeding or feathering and all dried in a relatively acceptable amount of time. The paper is also fairly opaque so it would be easy to use both sides of the paper making this an even better value.

Apica CD Premium Notebook reverse writing sample

From the reverse of the test sample, you can see there is no bleed-through at all. I can see just a hint of the burgundy LePen in the middle of the page but otherwise, the Apica Premuim paper really does live up to its name. The Apica C.D. series really is a stellar quality paper product.

Now if they only offered a hardcover version it really would be PERFECT.

I received this notebook as a gift from a friend but JetPens would happily sell you one. The Apica Premium line of notebooks are available in grid (5mm), lined (6.5mm and 7mm) and blank in A6 (approx. 4″x6″) and B5 (approx. 7.25″x10″) size, $18.50 or $32 respectively. There is also an option to buy a set of three at a reduced price ($33.30 and $57.60 respectively) which is a healthy reduction to the single notebook price.

Review: Federal Supply Service Notebook

Federal Supply Service Notebook

When I spied this perfect-shade-of-green, hardcover notebook with plain white, lined paper for a mere $9, I thought I may have found notebook nirvana. It is totally no-fuss. There is no pocket, no ribbon book mark, no elastic on the spine. Its just a simple green notebook.

Federal Supply Service Notebook

Printed (industrially) on the cover were the words “Federal Supply Service (GPO)” and a long code. I did some internet research to discover that federal means FEDERAL. This is a notebook used by the US Government, usually purchased by contract for military troops. So that code on the cover is totally official. Which made it even cooler to me.

Federal Supply Service Notebook interior page

The book measures 5″x8″. Inside, the paper is a simple white with notebook-style blue lines. I’d compare them to American collegiate width lines (6mm). I get a warm, sentimental vibe from the blue lines. It reminds me of the spiral notebooks and loose leaf paper from grade school in a pleasing, grown-up hardback book.

Federal Supply Service Notebook writing sample

What made me cry a little was that this paper was about the same quality as school notebook paper. Fountain pen ink soaked in like Kleenex. Felt tip pens blurred. Luckily, gel pens, ballpoint and pencil performed fine.

Federal Supply Service Notebook writing reverse side

Despite the iffy ink endurance, I still like this notebook. Its sturdy, inexpensive and all-business.

I purchased my copy of the Federal Supply Service notebook for $9 at Hammerpress in Kansas City. Army Navy Surplus shops or eBay may be good sources to pick up your own copy and probably a bit cheaper than I paid.

Check out what other people have said about the Federal Supply Services notebook:

Review: Zenok Leatherworks Field Notes Cover

Zenok Leather Field Notes Cover

My darling husband has been known, on occasion, to read The Well-Appointed Desk as a make-shift wish list for me. This often works out in my favor at the holidays. For Christmas this year, he bought me a Zenok Leatherworks Field Notes Cover ($39) in natural beige.

Zenok Leather Field Notes Cover Comparison

I thought I’d give is a quick comparison to my Pelle Journal on the left and my Midori Traveler Passport-sized Star Edition on the right.

The most notable detail of the Zenok cover is the leather tab that covers the elastic at the open edge of the cover. There are notches in the leather cover for the elastics which is also unique to the Zenok. An extra elastic was included with the package though I think I might visit a local fabric store and acquire a contrasting elastic to customize my cover.

The Zenok Leatherworks Cover for Field Notes is just a bit taller than the passport-sized Traveler and the leather is a lighter color. I like the warmer color of the Traveler cover and a bit softer. The Zenok cover feels like untreated leather so I wonder if I treat it with saddle soap or mink oil might soften it and deepen the color.

Zenok Leather Field Notes Cover

Inside, the cover includes four elastics that can be used to hold notebooks or other item inside the cover.

Zenok Leather Field Notes Cover

Zenok Leather Field Notes Cover

The cover comfortably holds three notebooks. Four Field Notes will fit but that’s a lot of notebooks for me. I think I’ll normally carry two: one for work and one for personal notes. I’d add a third only if I was getting to end of one book and wanted to have a back-up. I’ll use the additional elastics for a folder for loose papers. I also found that a small Bar-4 envelope (10 for $3) can be used to store receipts and business cards if I tuck the envelope tongue under the elastic.

When the cover arrived and I tucked a Field Notes into it, my husband got a little envious so I think we’ll be ordering another one soon. Very soon.

Review: Stubby Pencil Studio Pencil Highlighters

Stubby Pencil Studio Highlighter Pencils

I love the idea of pencil highlighters. They don’t dry out, can be used all the way down to a stump and don’t leave a big wet patch in a book or on my notes. When the fine folks at Stubby Pencil Studios offered to send a few highlighters to try out, I was excited to try them out. These are wide, hexagonal pencils — like kids’ first pencils —  with a plain, untreated wood exterior. Stamped along one side is the Stubby Pencil name and “Eco Highlighter Austria” in black foil.

I received a set of five colors ($9.95) : yellow, orange, green, pink and blue. The pencils were wrapped in a simple cellophane bag, no fancy packaging which is fine with me.

The colors are much more vivid and quite comparable to the colors of regular wet highlighters. The colors are much better than the last set of pencil highlighters I tried.

Stubby Pencil Studio Highlighter Pencils

The colors are bright and the lead is thick enough to stroke across a line of text in one or two strokes. The lead seems strong and unlikely to break easily. The pencils have a pleasing wood smell and the untreated finish make them easy to hold.

Stubby Pencil Studio Highlighter Pencils Writing Samples

In writing tests, the joy of joys is that, over dry fountain pen ink, these pencils perform beautifully. They do not smear the ink or smudge. This applies to felt tip and gel inks as well. The dry highlighter does not smear the inks below as long as they are dry first. I let my writing dry for a minute at most before highlighting.

Pencil is a blurry mess with the Eco Highlighter though. If you need to highlight pencil, a wet highlighter might work better. Or stick to underlining.

The yellow, green and orange colors worked best to highlight over writing. The pink and blue were too dark over most writing but would work fine for underlining. They are dark enough to add bold writing to notes though.

Stubby Pencil Studio Highlighter Pencils sharpened

Stubby Pencil Studio also sent along a KUM double wooden sharpener ($1.99) which had a large diameter slot pefectly sized for the Eco Highlighters. It sharpened the highlighter easily. I’ll have a more extensive review of the sharpener later but wanted to be sure readers knew it was a good fit for the over-sized Eco Highlighters.

So far, these are my favorite highlighters. I can easily toss a couple in my pencil case, along with the sharpener, and be prepared for any situation. I’m so glad I’ve gotten a chance to try these out.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Stubby Pencil Studio for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Midori Pocket & Envelope Notebooks

Midori Pocket & Envelope Notebook

The Midori Spiral Ring Pocket and Envelope Notebooks are so simply utilitarian and classy I couldn’t resist them. They are both 3.5″x5″ with the covers wrapping through the spiral binding.

Midori Pocket & Envelope Notebook

The Pocket Envelope has cream-colored, folded sheets that create a pocket to slip loose ephemera. You can write notes on the pages which would make this a great small notebook to collect travel ephemera like tickets, wrappers, stamps and such.

The Envelope Notebook is filled with kraft envelopes with a clear plastic window. This notebook is going to be my stamp storage since the envelopes do have flaps to keep the contents from falling out.

Midori Pocket and Envelope Spriral Notebooks

They are both beautifully constructed, durable and elegantly simple. LOVE!

Midori Pocket & Envelope Notebook

Both notebooks are available from European Paper for $8.35 each. There are also larger editions of both books for bigger collections.

12 Days of Inkmas: De Atramentis Pigeon Blue

De Atramentis Pigeon Blue review

On the last day of Inkmas, my true pen was inked with De Atramentis Pigeon Blue! Not as romantic as a partridge in a pear tree but its my favorite ink (at the moment) so I thought it was worthy of being the last ink of the first annual Inkmas.

De Atramentis Pigeon Blue writing sample

Initially, I ordered a sample of  this ink because I loved the name. I used the sample up immediately and decided I needed a whole bottle but Goulet was sold out. A friend sent me another sample to hold me over until they restocked. The bottle I purchased is already half-used. That’s a true testament to how much I like this ink.

It’s not a true blue but rather a slightly grey turquoise blue. I’d almost call it a teal. There’s enough black in the ink to keep it from being garish but its still a beautiful color.  In general, de Atramentis inks are super easy-flow, and Pigeon Blue is no exception. It makes the inks good options for fine nib pens and also quick drying which means I don’t track wet ink all over my paper.

De Atramentis Pigeon Blue swab

The swab shows the range of color variation that makes for great shading in wider nib pens. Pigeon Blue is not waterproof or even water resistant all that much but it will hold up to the occasional slosh of coffee and pat drying.

De Atramentis Pigeon Blue ink comparisons

 

I tried to find a comparable color in my collection but nothing I could find was all that similar. Diamine Aqua Lagoon 80ml ($12.50) was close but its a much more vivid, jewel-tone  blue-green. Sheaffer Skrip Turquoise 50ml ($9)  in much bluer overall and Diamine Soft Mint 80ml ($12.50) is much more of a green ink with blue undertones.

De Atramentis Pigeon Blue is available in 35ml bottles for $12.50.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Inkmas as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing all these wonderful ink colors with you. Happy holidays to everyone and please send your comments and recommendations for other inks I should try.


The samples above were written with my Lamy Studio brushed stainless steel with 1.1mm nib in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

Review: Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen

I’ve alluded to the latest Kickstarter project from Karas Kustoms for several weeks but I wanted to write-up a good thorough review with lots of photos to entice and satisfy any questions. So here it is!

Dan over at Karas Kustoms was kind enough to send me a prototype Ink fountain pen to get my opinion and allow me to share in the excitement. My initial impression taking this pen out of the package was “DANG! this think is huge!” Keeping in mind, I generally prefer smaller pens like the Kaweco Sport and little vintage jewels like the Esterbrooks. Both of these pens have plastic bodies and are diminutive in size so my perspective is a little skewed. I also have child-sized hands.

The Ink fountain pen in aluminum weighs 44gms with cap, 27gms without. This is fine with me since 44gms way exceeds my weight limit for a comfortable writing tool. The brass RETRAKT weighs 63 gms so if that pen is comfortable to you, the weight will be no issue.

The pen is machined entirely out of aluminum. Dan made a point of telling me that my pen is a prototype and there are still some finishing details that will be plussed-up in the production version of the pens. The shape is slightly tapered towards the end that gives this pen a refined look. The cap screws tightly onto the pen but cannot be posted on the pen when writing, though at 44gm, why would you want to?

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen cap

The clip is an industrial strength, streamlined bauty that’s held on with signature Karas hex bolts that give the pen a nod to its industrial roots.

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen

The grip area is slightly tapered  but quite short. The screw tooling is pretty fine so even thought my fingers touched the ridges it provided a grip area and was not uncomfortable.

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen nib

The nib is a Schmidt M nib which is a satiny-smooth, medium nib. I used it for the R&K Verdigris writing sample . I don’t usually use medium nibs but I found it easy to use.  Its a stiff nib with no flex but its not so wide that my tiny writing was completely obscured. The nib is a #5 size so if you like the looks of the pen but want a different nib for it, you may be able to swap it out. Dan said they may be stocking other Schmidt nib sizes after the Kickstarter campaign concludes. No promises but its something they may consider. In the meantime, several online reatilers stock #5 nibs including Edison Pen Co.

 with Lamy Studio

The first pen to come to mind for comparison is my Lamy Studio in brushed aluminum. Both the Karas Kustoms Ink and the Lamy Studio feature understated, classic good looks. They are both weighty pens of similar length. The Ink is a bit wider overall though.

The advantage of the size of the Ink is that it can hold two short cartridges, a long cartridge or the converter that ships with the Ink giving lots of ink options and possibilities.

There are still 20+ days left in the Kickstarter campaign and many options to choose from with the Ink pen including an array of anodized colors,  rollerball version and the option to have a brass or copper grip area. Prices start at $60 for the silver anodized version of the fountain pen or rollerball pen.

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen size comparison

From top to bottom: Kaweco Liliput, Karas Kustoms Ink, Lamy Studio, TWSBI Mini, Kaweco Sport

Now, I just need to convince Karas Kustoms to make a mini Ink-ette and offer it in lime green anodized alumnium! A girl can dream, right?


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by KarasKustoms for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

12 Days of Inkmas: Diamine Graphite

Diamine Graphite ink review

Today is one of those gray, winter days so I thought maybe I’d choose an ink that reflected the gray days for the eleventh day of Inkmas. Its called Diamine Graphite. I expected it to be a neutral grey-black. What I got instead was a very unusual grey-green. My first thought was that it reminded me of the wash water for Noodler’s Zhivago possibly.

Diamine Graphite writing sample

Diamine Graphite has a ton of shading in a wide nib fountain pen but looks much darker when used with a crow quill dip nib. Even with the B nib on my Kaweco Art Sport, the ink was dry quickly which is a very nice trait considering the mess I made at the top of the page because the brush lettering wasn’t quite dry. Ah, the trouble with lefties!

Overall, I find a lot of interest in Graphite. Its not altogether grey but its not green either. It shades like crazy in my fountain pen but dips to a deep dark grey. Just like a gray winter day, there are still wonders and interest to be found.

Diamine Graphite Comparisons

I did compare Diamine Graphite to Noodler’s Zhivago 3oz/88ml ($12.50) and, at its full concentration, Zhivago is much more of a black than a grey but it was worth a shot. De Atramentis Silver Grey 35ml ($12.50) is close in overall color tone but Silver Grey is much more of a blue-grey than Graphite. I really couldn’t find a good ink match in my collection to Graphite so its definitely a unique ink.

Diamine Graphite is available in a 80ml bottle for $12.75.


The samples above were written with a Kaweco Art Sport with a B nib (review coming soon!) in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

Shout out to Karen P. for sending me a sample of Diamine Graphite as well as the Diamine Salamander and De Atramentis Cement Gray. Much appreciated!

12 Days of Inkmas: Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris review

Today is the tenth day of the first ever Inkmas and today’s offering is Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris. I have a little experience with French but not much with German so my first instinct was to think Verdigris would be a green-grey, vert gris. Totally wrong! It’s actually a blue-black. Yep. Jet Pens does not include swabs or samples with the R&K inks so I went on name alone when I selected it. Not that I mind a good blue-black (see the Inkmas Private Reserve Ebony Blue ink review for details), because I quite like them. But I was surprised that the name is 100% misleading.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris writing sample

I tested the ink with a very special pen I just received (more about that later this week) which sports a wider nib than I usually use so dry times were a tiny bit longer but not too bad. Its a deeply pigmented color so I did not see a lot of shading in the writing which gives a consistent look to the writing.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris swab

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris is not a waterproof ink but it can withstand a bit of water without completely vanishing. In the swab, the Verdigris has a blue undertone with a tiny hint of violet but its very subtle.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris Ink Comparisons

I think this will be the last time I use the J. Herbin glass pen for my ink comparisons as its scratchy and inconsistent, ranging from super dry to bloopy with no warning.  Of the inks in my collection, The Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts and the Private Reserve Ebony Blue are the closest in color to the Verdigris though the 54th Massachusetts has a bit of a brownish undertone when dry and the Ebony Blue is a bit more turquoise with that unusual hint of burgundy when you get it in just the right light.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris is available in a 50ml for $12.


The samples above were written with a prototype Karas Kustoms INK fountain pen with a M nib (review coming soon!) in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a J. Herbin glass pen which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

12 Days of Inkmas: Diamine Red Dragon

Diamine Red Dragon review

Today’s Inkmas offering is Diamine Red Dragon. It’s a dramatic red-brown. I say red-brown because it is not at all pinkish though there is a cast of a deep burgundy. It’s a good holiday red for sure but its also a solidly-spirited red ink, good for use all year long. Diamine inks have impressed me with how well they stand up on paper. Generally, Diamine inks seem less inclined to bleed than other inks though they may have a longer dry time. I notice this phenomena when using dip nibs particularly.

Diamine Red Dragon writing sample

Once again, I forgot to do a water test but its not a water resistant or water proof ink so if that’s a concern, skip this ink.

Diamine Red Dragon swab

You can see the range of hue in the swab above. Red Dragon can appear dark reddish brown down to a clear, bright red in the shaded areas. There’s some nice shading, if you like that kind of thing.

Diamine Red Dragon comparison

When compared with other inks in my collection, De Atramentis Oriental Red 35ml ($12.50) was probably the closest in color. R&K Morinda 50ml ($12) has more of an orange cast, Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo 50ml ($28) is much more of a purple and the others were all more of a burgundy/brown. (The bloops are a result of trying to use fountain pen inks with dip pens. Its not always a successful venture.)

Diamine Red Dragon is available in 80ml bottles for $12.50, quite a value.


The samples above were written with a Kaweco Art Sport with a B nib (review coming soon!) in theQuo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a J. Herbin glass pen which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

12 Days of Inkmas: Pilot Blue

IMG_0003

On this, the ninth day of Inkmas, I give you a tried-and-true classic, Pilot Blue. This is not the fancy-pants Iroshizuku version but the back-to-basics, loyal-like-a-labrador Pilot Blue.

It comes in a gorgeous, classic bottle with a pedestal base that will look nice on your desk and last for ages. The bottle has an ingenious little plastic tube in the middle. When the ink level in the bottle starts to drop, just cap the bottle, flip it over and then right it and open it. The plastic tube will be filled with ink and you can easily fill your pen.

IMG_0002

Pilot Blue has a bit of a strong smell in the bottle but once its loaded in my pen, I don’t notice it. There’s lots of shading details in my writing sample from a crystal sky blue to a deep indigo. The dry time was pretty reasonable. I was using a wider nib than I normally do and didn’t have any smudging issues. It stood up pretty well to water. While it is not waterproof, there is a bit of water resistance which is nice.

IMG_0004

When compared with other blues in my arsenal, Diamine Washable Blue 80ml ($12.75) was the closest in color. De Atramentis U. S. Constitution 35ml ($12.50) (besides being extremely bloopy in my dip pen) is a bit more of a smoky blue. Private Reserve American Blue 50ml ($8.80) is more of a royal blue and leans much darker when applied in heavy strokes.

Pilot Blue comes in a 70ml bottle for $16.50. If you’re looking for the best value for the volume, Pilot Blue might not be the favored option but the easy-to-use bottle adds a benefit some of the other inks don’t offer.


The samples above were written with a vintage Esterbrook outfitted with a #2442 falcon stub in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

12 Days of Inkmas: Black Velvet

12 Days of Inkmas

Inspired by Kenouni Renoshin‘s suggestion that I do more ink reviews, I give to you the first day of the 12 Days of Inkmas. Cheers!

Private Reserve Black Velvet

I must confess, of the eight inks I received this month from the December Ink Drop,in honor of Private Reserve founder Terry Johnson, I waited to do Private Reserve Black Velvet last. Partially because I find it hard to say much about black ink. I love fountain pens because I don’t have to use black. But I know lots of people like using black inks or need to use black for professional reasons. So, for you, lovers of the black inks, this is my review of Black Velvet. Let’s start by admitting that I love the name and find it quite fitting for the holiday season.

Private Reserve Black Velvet Writing Sample

I found the Black Velvet to be a fairly neutral black. In the water test, there is a slight undertone of red but overall its a very neutral black. In writing, it seems to be a solid black with slight shading. Black Velvet is not a waterproof or even water resistant ink but it does leave evidence on the paper after water which means it could stain clothes or surfaces if spilled.

Black Velvet is a wet ink and flowed easily out of my EF TWSBI mini. If I felt compelled to use a black, this is not a bad option.

Private Reserve Black Velvet  comparisons

When compared to other black inks in my collection, I’d say its most comparable to Lamy Black. Noodler’s Zhivago ($12.50)and El Lawrence ($18.50) both are 3 oz/ 88ml bottles and  both have more of a green undertone.  Monteverde Black 90 ml ($12.50) has a clear red undertone making it look a little purply, even in my samples.

Private Reserve Black Velvet is sold in 50ml bottles for $8.80.


The samples above were written with a TWSBI Mini EF fountain pen in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

12 Days of Inkmas: Private Reserve Tanzanite

12 Days of Inkmas

Inspired by Kenouni Renoshin‘s suggestion that I do more ink reviews, I give to you the first day of the 12 Days of Inkmas. Cheers!

Private Reserve Tanzanite ink review

On this, the seventh day of Inkmas, I finally have some jewels. Well, ink jewels anyway. Private Reserve Tanzanite. This is also another of the colors (there’s only one left!) from the December Ink Drop in honor of Private Reserve founder Terry Johnson.

Private Reserve Tanzanite writing sample

Private Reserve Tanzanite is a bluish violet. Its a bright, vivid color with some shading. When writing with a fine nib, the color definitely looks like a violet. It’s a pretty easy-to-use violet ink especially in a standard nib fountain pen. Its a deep color and dries to show a little shading. (My photos look a bit more blue than it appears in real life)

This is a shade of ink that is just not normally to my liking. I prefer darker, dirtier purple colors — more purple-black or plums. That said, I’d happily use this ink for a bit of color variety.

Private Reserve Tanzanite ink swab

In the swab, you can really see how bluish the color is and just a hint of the reddish undertone.

Private Reserve Tanzanite ink comparisons

Purples, like almost all the other ink colors have such a range of hues. I’d say the closest color I could find to P.R. Tanzanite with the De Atramentis Hyacinth 35ml ($12.50)  though it’s a bit more blue, and its scented. (These sample images seem a bit more blue on my screen than in real life — ah, the joys of color correcting!)

Private Reserve Tanzanite is sold in 50ml bottles for $8.80.


The samples above were written with a TWSBI Mini EF fountain pen in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

Review: Hobonichi Planner 2014

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

Over the last few months, I’ve heard a lot of interest in the Hobonichi Planner. The name roughly translates to ‘Just about everyday planner’. The first aspect of this planner that piqued my interest was that it is filled with the much-coveted Tomoe River paper, known for its fountain pen friendliness. It’s also considered one of the most well-loved, easy-to-use planners. The combination of those two things meant I desperately wanted to try it for myself. Since there is now an English language edition, there was no reason not to try it.

History:

What I didn’t know was that the Hobonichi planner was part of a much larger project by Shigesato Itoi. He is a well-known figure in Japan for being a advertising copywriter, creator of Nintendo Mother 2/Earthbound video game, voice actor in the epic Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro and the founder of online publication Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shimbun (Almost-Daily Itoi Newspaper). The planner was originally part of the site’s shop to generate revenue instead of selling ads. The planner has been made in Japanese for over 12 years but in 2013, the first English edition was published.

Following the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, many victims lamented the loss of their beloved planner so Itoi decided to give free planners away to any tsunami victim who had lost theirs in the disaster. Over 1400 people took him up on his offer and he’s received thank you notes and kind words for helping victims get their paper lives back. That shows the dedication of the fans to the planner and how much Shigesato Itoi appreciates that loyalty.

About the planner:

Hobonichi 2014 planner

Now, let’s get into the details of the planner. The planner itself is a small book, covered with a flexible black leatherette cover stamped with gold foil (¥2,500, approx. $24.50). The stamped charaters say “techo” along with the key logo for Arts & Sciences. The book is perfect-bound with the date and “HOBO” foil stamped on the spine. The standard planner is a lot smaller than I thought it would be: 15cm x 10.5cm (4.125″x5.875″). The planner is just 1.5cm thick (0.625″) which is due in large part to the Tomoe River paper’s thinness since this is a page-a-day planner so there are a lot of pages crammed into a small space (over 400 pages!).

Hobonichi 2014 planner

Hobonichi planner

Most pages feature a petite 4mm grid in dotted grey lines. There are blank pages in the back of the book for notes that feature a red dot grid (also at 4mm spacing).

There are tabs along the edge of the pages to indicate each month. Sunday pages are printed in red and Saturday and Sunday get FULL PAGES. Most planners give Saturday and Sunday a shared page, if that much so if you work a unique schedule or fit as much in on the weekends as you do during the week, then you will really appreciate this.

At the bottom of each two-page spread is a quote, many from Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shimbun and well-known figures in Japanese culture. Some are thoughtful, some are light-hearted and silly.

Hobonichi planner

December is a “head start” with 2-days-on-a-page in a long vertical space. Its perfect for writing out all those holiday must-do’s and to get a sense of how the planner will perform for you. In just the few days I’ve been using it, the page size doesn’t seem so small. It seems just right. There’s room enough for my notes, to-do’s and calendar activities without being too large to keep it with me.

Hobonichi planner

In the back of the planner there are some informational pages like international calling codes, holidays, a guide to sushi and sake, and tea around the world. These might not be a necessity but they do provide some entertaining reading while you’re waiting for the next meeting to start. In the research I did, it appears that the 2013 edition included different factoids in the back. Something to look forward to for next year is what might be included in the back!

For even more detailed information about what’s inside the Hobonichi planner, visit the Closer Look pages.

Hobonichi planner

The paper is a unique experience. Its very lightweight and my instincts tell me that ink would bleed through it easily but that is not the case at all. I tend to use a multi-pen in my planner so total fountain-pen-friendly isn’t a key factor for me in selecting a planner but a planner that IS fountain pen friendly is a real bonus.

For a detailed review of the Tomoe River paper, the stock used in the Hobonichi planner, Azizah of Gourmet Pens did a fabulous write-up for FP Geeks.

Hobonichi planner

I tested an assortment of pens from my tried-and-true Marvy Le Pens to a range of Uni, Pilot and Zebra gel multi-pens, pencils and even fontain pens. None of the inks bled or feathered or did anything unacceptable. As others have mentioned, with heavier ink deposits on Tomoe River paper, take longer to dry so proceed with caution there so you don’t get transfer onto the facing page but it also means that you can use whatever tool you have in your hand from the finest of gel pens to the juiciest of fountain pens without the ink bleeding or feathering.

Hobonichi planner

From the back of the page, you can see the inks through the paper but there is no bleeding at all despite the thinness of the stock. Pretty amazing.

Hobonichi planner

I folded a page back so that it would be easier to see that even the printing is visible through the stock.

About the Cover:

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

I received one of the simple nylon covers in a bright, true blue. It features loads of pockets and an interlocking pen loop that, when a pen is slipped through the loops, the planner stays closed. Quite ingenious. The loops are large enough to hold a thick multi-pen or a slender fountain pen if you slip the clip over the loop.

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

The cover also has two matching grosgrain ribbon bookmarks. One has a triangle shape at the end and the other is a rectangle, both in a leather-like PU. As a user, you get to decide what marks what page. I use the rectangle to mark the month-at-a-glance calender page and the triangle to mark today’s page.

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

Inside, the cover has lots of pockets and slots to hold cards, reciepts and paper ephemera. There are embroidered tags in the back with the words HOBONICHI and another with the year 2014.

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

My planner also shipped with the protective plastic sleeve that fits perfectly over the nylon cover. The plastic cover includes a ziploc-style opening on the back to allow access to the outside pocket on the cover. While it feels a bit like plastic on the furniture, it does protect the outside of the planner cover, should I want to add additional customization like stickers or artwork or just slide a photo in between the cover and the protective sleeve.

There are lots of options for covers for the Hobonichi planner. The prices for covers range from ¥1,900 for a nylon cover to ¥31,500 (approx. $18.50- $300) for a leather cover with stitching (that high-end cover can only be shipped within Japan) at present. Several covers are scheduled to be restocked in the next couple days so check back regularly.

How to Order:

I think what’s stopped a lot of people from trying the Hobonichi planner is that ordering from Japan was a bit challenging. Well, that’s been remedied thanks to the work of Lindsay, a translator working for Hobonichi and a big fan of the planner herself. She’s translated the ordering process to be pretty seamless. The whole ordering process is in English if you use the links I’ve included here.

She’s even created a guide to help non-Japanese speakers order from any Japanese web site.

For more about the  Hobonichi Techo planner, it’s thriving community and other reviews:

In closing:

This is one of the best planners I’ve ever had. The size is good, the paper is exceptional, the light grid lines are easy-to-use with most ink colors and the details within the book are spot-on. If you’re inclined to use a planner this year, this would be my first recommendation.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Lindsay for Hobonichi Planner for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

12 Days of Inkmas: Private Reserve Avocado

12 Days of Inkmas

Inspired by Kenouni Renoshin‘s suggestion that I do more ink reviews, I give to you the first day of the 12 Days of Inkmas. Cheers!

Private Reserve Avocado review

For the sixth day of Inkmas, I thought I’d do one more green ink: Private Reserve Avocado. This is also another of the colors from the December Ink Drop in honor of Private Reserve founder Terry Johnson. You’re surprised I’ve only had two green inks in Inkmas, right? Me too.

Private Reserve Avocado writing sample

(Note: I cannot spell Avocado without the aid of spell check so please do not remind me!) I have been having fun using a watercolor brush and dipping the inks to get a better example of the shading and color depth of each of the inks. Depending on the shading, P.R. Avocado can look as light as a bright spring green to as dark as a green-black on the pine-y side. In fine nibbed pens like the one I used for my writing sample, the color is a lightly shaded deep green. In wider nibs, you’ll see more of the color variation.

I’ve had a bottle of Avocado on hand for quite some time and think of it as one of my go-to “neutrals”. Its dark enough to be used on a daily basis but adds a little of color variety. This is one of the big draws of fountain pens for me — color options.

Avacado Swab

In the swab, you can see how deep the green can get and the sort of evergreen/olive tone overall. In the water test, you can see the halo of red so there’s definitely some red in the ink that dulls down the brightest of the green. Kind of cool!

Private Reserve Avocado comparison inks

 

There’s such a diversity in green inks– some are more blue, some more black, some more yellow– it was hard to find a close comparison to Private Reserve Avocado. The colors I used for comparison all brought a different vibe than Avocado. Rohrer & Klingner Verdura 50ml ($12) is probably closer in color to Private Reserve Spearmint, Scribal Workshop Leviathan is much more of a green-black with a blue undertone, Diamine Meadow 80ml ($12.50) is a springier, yellow-green and De Atramentis Sandalwood 35ml ($12.50) is much more blue. The closest is probably De Atramentis Fir 35ml ($12.50) although my sample above is much runnier (thank you, dip pen) and its scented so it smells a bit like Pine-Sol.

Private Reserve Avocado is sold in 50ml bottles for $8.80.


The samples above were written with a TWSBI Mini EF fountain pen in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.

12 Days of Inkmas: Private Reserve Ebony Blue

12 Days of Inkmas

Inspired by Kenouni Renoshin‘s suggestion that I do more ink reviews, I give to you the first day of the 12 Days of Inkmas. Cheers!

Private Reserve Ebony Blue

On the fifth day of Inkmas, while I do not have five gold rings, I do have Private Reserve Ebony Blue. This is also another of the colors from the December Ink Drop in honor of Private Reserve founder Terry Johnson. And this is in my favorite color wheelhouse, for sure.

Private Reserve Ebony Blue writing sample

I just love blue-black inks. Do I want blue? Do I want black? I get both! Blue-blacks are the Missouri Compromise of inks. They are the “business in the front, party in the rear” of inks. While I’m not a fan of an actual mullet, blue-black inks are a whole other story. I love them. And Private Reserve Ebony Blue is no exception.

Private Reserve Ebony Blue Swab

Private Reserve Ebony Blue is a blue black with an unusual burgundy undertone. In the large painted letters, you might be able to see a hint of this undertone in the capital E and around the edges in the swab.

Private Reserve Ebony Blue Comparisons

My favorite blue-blacks (up to this point) are Noodler’s Air Corp blue-black 3oz/88ml ($12.50),  Noodler’s Navy 3oz/88ml ($12.50), and I sort of put De Atramentis Pigeon Blue 35ml ($12.50) in this category even though its more of a blue-turquoise. But P.R. Ebony Blue is racing up the list. That undertone is such a nice added detail.

There’s a bit of shading in Ebony Blue and a reasonable dry time. I confess I’m all about the color, I’ll find the perfect pen and paper for the right color and this is definitely one of those “right colors” for me. I’m thinking I better go watch Dazed and Confused now to douse all the mullet jokes.

Private Reserve Ebony Blue is sold in 50ml bottles for $8.80.


The samples above were written with a TWSBI Mini EF fountain pen in the Quo Vadis Habana bright white, blank notebook. Dry times will vary depending on paper stock. Comparison samples were written using a steel dip nib with a bit of flex which causes some of the more liquidy inks, like De Atramentis, to run a bit. They are included for color comparison. Best efforts were made to achieve color accuracy but the limitations of camera, lighting and individual monitor calibrations may alter the final look. For best results, order a sample of the ink color you like best and try it before you invest in a whole bottle.