Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category


A Quo Vadis Planner for 2017


Laurie Huff from Quo Vadis blog sent a 2017 Plan & Note Weekly Open Format planner for review and it’s going to fit perfectly into my journaling plans for next year.

Some details from the Quo Vadis website:

  • Sleek and compact – made for organized note keeping on-the-go
  • Open space for planning & notes
  • Week across two full pages
  • 2017 monthly planning pages
  • 12 months – January-December
  • Bound-smooth rubberized hardboard covers
  • Color binding & match elastic closure (blue, purple or rose)
  • Anno-planning for 2017 & 2018
  • White 90g paper
  • Crisp, two color print – grey & blue
  • Tear-off corner opens to week in progress
  • Bound in address book

All to the good, but this statement on the inner cover intrigued me from the first word. “Freedom to organize your day.  No boundaries. No boxes. Just Open Space.” Exactly! Use it as a planner, journal, diary or all three in the same day.

Form and fit are well-executed. Stitched binding encourages the journal to lay flat for comfortable writing. The desk sized version has a writing area of 13 x 3.5 cm for each day with 5 mm line spacing. The area for notes is the same size and located at the bottom of the right hand page. The lines and details are pale and unobtrusive. Whatever you write will be the star attraction against the soft background.

Confession time. I was reluctant to put a mark on the lovely paper. It seemed a travesty to mar its smooth surface. Consequently, the journal sat on my desk for several days before it met a pen. Ink tests showed no feathering with a couple of nearly imperceptible exceptions visible only under magnification. There was no bleed-through and virtually no show-through except with a Sharpie. (I like Sharpies but cannot figure out where to use them. Suggestions?)

The journal could use a bookmark so I added a book thong that won’t interfere with writing. Yeah, it’s girlie and dangly, but it dresses up the place.

For my purposes, the year-at-a-glance will be for birthdays and anniversaries, the monthly section for appointments and events, while the weekly pages will work as a journal. That’s just one approach. With three calendars, it can be adapted to a variety of uses.

So there you go. Fine form, excellent paper, open format. The worst thing about my Quo Vadis 2017 Plan & Note? I have to wait until the new year to put it to use!

Thanks, Laurie, for the planner and opportunity to review it.

More uses for planners at Quo Vadis blog.


Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen


A summer project provided the opportunity to test an inexpensive, reliable, sturdy fountain pen with a medium nib. The Pilot MR Metropolitan seemed a good fit for the purpose. So I popped one into an Amazon order along with dog biscuits and vitamins. Macy was very excited when she first sniffed the package. “Mom, this one’s for me!” She was not impressed by the dark gray pen box, but was tail-wagging happy about the food.

Here is how the Metro stacks up.

For a metal pen, the Metro is surprisingly light-weight. Even writing with the cap on the end, the weight remains within my range if a trifle overbalanced. The brass barrel should take plenty of everyday knocks and abuse. This is a sleek baby that feels quite comfortable in the hand.

The Metro writes every time without hesitation which is impressive considering my inconsistent use of it. The snap on cap seals solidly which may prevent or at least reduce ink evaporation. That may account for the easy starts. It also means jostling won’t loosen the cap, perfect for an everyday carry pen.

Unlike most fountain pens, the Metro allowed me to pause in thought for an unusually long time without concern for ink drying in the nib. Not something everyone needs, but it is helpful for a pensive mood. I really wanted to write longer just to experience the satisfaction of putting down words so easily.

Initially filled with Pilot Blue-Black, the pen and ink are perfectly suited. The color may be rather ordinary, but the flow and lubrication are just right for the stainless steel nib. It glides without a hint of drag. Staples Arc notebook paper completed a pen, ink, paper threesome that is a pleasure to use.

The Metropolitan comes in several styles and an array of colors. The neutral silver with a zig zag pattern was a practical choice. Maybe next time, a colorful Retro Pop will land in my cart, but for now, the matte silver will have to work extra hard trying lots of different inks especially Iroshizuku, Noodler’s, and Sailor. All should write at least as well as Pilot BBk. Iroshizuku ku-jaku is angling for a spin in the Metro and that is a writing duo that will be hard to resist.

Several retailers carry the Pilot MR Metropolitan. Mine came from Amazon, but even Massdrop has offered it. This is one pen that shouldn’t be hard to find. Current prices range from approximately $12 to $15 including a CON-20 squeeze converter and a single Pilot cartridge. Converters can cost $5 purchased separately, so including one with the pen makes this a very good deal.

With a Pilot MR Metropolitan in my bag, I am prepared for anything including a rough-writing newbie who wants to see what it’s like to use a fountain pen. What a great way to make a convert!


Pentel Touch Brush Tip Felt Pen


Pentel has a real winner for calligraphers with the Touch line of felt tipped pens. That is something I already knew from YouTube and Instagram videos before I got my hands on one. What was a genuine surprise is how little effort it takes to make a mark with a Touch. Just skim the paper with the pen and bold lines result. Banish hand fatigue though writing large is the best I could do.

The two on my desk came from a local art store and are not equal. They were in an open display and one tip has suffered mild abuse making delicate lines elusive. The other pen has a dream tip that glides effortlessly. It is an absolute delight to use for lettering though I have no hand for true calligraphy. You should see the colorful notes all around my desk. They draw my attention to what must be accomplished today and that is a good thing.

Worthy of note is that the Touch pen did not feather and produced only a few tiny dots of bleed-through in my new squared Moleskine journal. Ghosting was its only flaw, no surprise on Moleskine. That brings up the Moleskine caveat: Their journals are possessed by fickle paper so your results may not be comparable to mine. Even printer paper suffered zero bleed-through and less ghosting than the Moleskine. My other journals handled the Touch without complaint.

The Pentel Touch is a fun-to-write-with pen that comes in a variety of colors. There are two versions so look for the brush tip if you want the one reviewed here. Amazon offers individual black and blue pens among other colors as well as a twelve color set. Local stores did not stock this pen except for the one, distant art store where I purchased my first two. The full set is on my wishlist because the Touch is so much fun to use. Plus it has all those colors and I am always a sucker for color. The notes around my desk will never look the same.


Moleskine Surprise


When it comes to journals, Moleskine has set the standard for form. Sturdy, but lays flat. Natural white paper. Ribbon marker. Elastic band and rear pocket. The size is just right in the hand. But in recent times, the paper has left much to be desired when it comes to fountain pen ink.

When I started using Moleskine some twelve years ago, my pens were quite happy with it and the few inks I owned would cozy up to the paper and leave marks with clean outlines. Extra-fine and fine nibs were perfect, especially a vintage Parker 51 fine-medium that was the pen I carried everywhere.

Skip forward a few years and the paper quality suffered. Spidery feathers bloomed from every letter and blobs of ink showed through on the backs of pages making them worthless. One-sided writing cut the value of the pricey journals by half. Moleskine betrayed my trust and I swore off for good.

To be fair, paper sources can change over time and being ever hopeful that the company had come to its senses, I tucked a squared notebook into a recent Amazon order. The wrapper says “Mix. Paper from responsible sources.” What does that mean? It also says the notebook was manufactured in China. Lots of paper comes from China, but most of it isn’t fountain pen friendly. Hoping to be surprised, I put the Moleskine to the test.

Every instrument except the fountain pens worked well enough that both sides of the paper were useful. Clean outlines and almost no feathering with only very faint ghosting from the Sharpie Pen and the Pentel Touch make the Moleskine an excellent choice.

The scan shows a new Moleskine at the upper left with a Rhodia notebook to the right. The bottom two are Moleskine journals purchased several years ago. The recent Moleskine has paper that is more white than in the past which is another indication that the paper is from a different batch.

Fountain pen ink produced mixed results. To the good, feathering has been reduced. Not gone entirely, but spidery offshoots did not happen. That is a significant improvement over the Moleskine journals I last purchased. Outlines are less jagged though under magnification still imperfect with some inks. It isn’t Rhodia quality, but it will do.

Bleed-through on the reverse proved frustrating, but ink and nib width made a difference. Noodler’s Black in a fine nib was perfect. Sailor Peach Pink did not bleed even from a Platinum #3776 Music Nib. J. Herbin Bleu Azure from a Platinum Century B Nib left only a couple of dots. Other inks in wide nibs left so many spots that the reverse was unusable at least by my standards. However, a dry nib or an extra-fine to fine nib should have less trouble. The narrow nib for many users will be more suitable for the size of the journal and the 5 mm grid spacing anyway.

The bottom line is Moleskine has improved the quality of its paper at least in the grid notebook I tested. Some pen and ink duos will work beautifully on both sides of the paper. If you only write on one side, use any pen and ink. With the feathering reduced, Moleskine is no longer off my list. Is it time to put it on yours?





Zebra Mini Ballpoint Pen


When space is scarce and tiny tools are in order, the Zebra Mini Ballpoint could be the perfect fit.

At 3.25 inches closed, this pen can fit in the smallest of spaces. It extends to a useful length of 4.25 inches when it is time to go to work. Pair it with a mini journal for a truly pocket-sized traveling companion.

Zebra Mini Ballpoint (BA55):

  • Sturdy metal barrel – no plastic parts
  • Rated as fine but writes extra fine
  • Ink dries quickly
  • No cap to lose
  • Very little pressure needed to write a consistent line
  • Narrow barrel isn’t the most comfortable, but okay for lists or short passages
  • Pen available in black, gray, white, silver, pink, light blue, mint green and navy
  • Ink refills available in black, blue, red and green
  • Close the barrel and twist off the tip to install a refill
  • Small enough to fit in some wallets

Sometimes really small is just right.


From The Archives: Pelikan Violet Ink


Recently I was reminded of the quality of Pelikan fountain pen ink. Here is a link to my review from January, 2015, and below is a photo that was taken at sunset last night. Once in a while, a little drama is in order.

The paper is from a Clairefontaine notebook that loves fountain pen ink.

I checked around and found the one ounce and two ounce sizes reasonably priced at Amazon. Pelikan ink is good in any fountain pen and this is lovely stuff if violet is on your wish list.


Two Pens For The Price Of One


For a limited time, Noodler’s is offering two pens for the price of one. It’s a great deal that includes my favorite Noodler’s fountain pen, the Konrad #10 Dixie. The second pen is the Charlie along with a glass eyedropper to fill it.

Carol of Luxury Brands USA sent a #10 Dixie Rebellion Red with a Charlie pen tucked in the Dixie’s box to introduce me to the special. Carol didn’t know the #10 Dixie Methuselah is my most oft used Noodler’s pen so a second Dixie is a real treat.

My opinion of the ebonite #10 Dixie hasn’t changed since I reviewed it in 2014 though the pen has enjoyed more frequent use than I originally anticipated. It continues to be wedded to General of the Armies ink thanks to excellent flow and a degree of lubrication that is perfect for the nib. No reason to stray from such a satisfying pairing.

The resin Charlie was ably reviewed by catbert a year ago and that will suffice for now since I don’t want to delay letting you know about this deal. If you’ve never tried an eyedropper filler, the free Charlie would be a great opportunity to do so. It holds more ink than other filling systems though it has been known to burp a drop of ink from time to time. The Charlie’s clear barrel with no obstructing filler mechanism shows an ink’s color to best advantage. Noodler’s Apache Sunset or Turquoise would be very eye-catching, but so would a lot of other inks. No two Charlie caps are the same according to the insert making each one unique.

The pen models are completely different and so are the nibs. The #10 Dixie has a #6 flex nib while the Charlie has the smaller #5 with a bit of spring to it. The tines don’t open as they would for a flex nib. However, with a little tinkering, that nib can be swapped with a flex nib from a Noodler’s Creaper.

While the Charlie pen has the typical Noodler’s aroma, if less so than some models, the #10 does not. Exposure to air helps with the resin odor, but I’ve read that storing the pen for a few days in a plastic bag filled with baking soda can be quite effective as well. As with all new pens, a light cleaning to remove any residual oil or debris from the manufacturing process is recommended.

Check with your favorite Noodler’s retailer for the two pen plus eyedropper deal. It retails for $40, but it’s a limited offer so grab one while you can.

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