Traveling With Pens: A Case Study (or a study of a basket case?!)

I’m attending a conference in Indianapolis, IN this week. But before I traveled here, I spent a god awful amount of time mulling over which pens to bring with me. Clothes? Easy. Pens? Not so much.

Right up until the last minute I was swapping pens in and out of my Nock Co. Brasstown case. The case, at least, was pretty much a given. Even though I schlep three or four Nock Co. Pen cases to and from work every day, I knew I only wanted to travel with one, and the Brasstown quickly made the cut. With its roll-up, multiple pen holding “tongue” and space to carry some ink cartridges and a small ruler, the case was an easy pick.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I had to STOP with the pen swaps and go with what was in the case. Here’s the final line-up:

Fountain pens
Lamy AL Star Blue-Green (fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Lamy Vista (extra-fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Pilot Knight (medium nib) with Namiki Blue/Black cartridges

Rollerball pen
Retro 51 Betsy Tornado Rollerball

Gel pen
Nock Co./Karas Kustoms exclusive Render K with 0.5 mm black G2 refill

Ballpoint pens
Fisher Space pen (matte black bullet model)
TactileTurn Shaker with Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 black refill

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I’m a couple of days into the conference now and have a few thoughts about my choices. The Lamy Vista is great. The EF nib is perfect in my Clairefontaine notebook and I especially like being able to monitor the ink level. The fine nib on the Lamy AL Star is a little broad, while the medium nib on the Pilot Knight is wonderfully smooth and lays down a precise fine line as it’s a Japanese medium.

The Fisher Space pen has been particularly handy for filling out entry forms at today’s trade show. It’s easy to carry and completely reliable. Maybe not my favorite refill of all time, but great when you just need a pen to do its job whenever and wherever.

I haven’t used Betsy or the Shaker as yet, though both are favorites when I’m home. I think I’ll work them into tomorrow’s sessions. Could it be I have pen A.D.D.? Is that a thing?

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A couple of other Nock Co. products have really performed well on this trip- the Fodderstack loaded with the DotDash 3×5 cards paired with Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive G2 Render K. The pen looks and writes great. I love the playful trio of colors, and loaded with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, it’s been perfect for taking meeting notes AND for keeping track of action items that are popping up at work and at home. By jotting down tasks on the DotDash cards, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be concentrating on- the conference.

Someone on Twitter suggested that I should travel with only one pen as a challenge, and I considered that for a little bit. Obviously, I didn’t go that route since I have a stupid number of pens with me. But really, I’m having fun swapping pens from day to day…or even within the same day.

And, I must admit, pens are something of a security blanket for me. I feel better when they’re with me.

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There…I admitted it.

Written and photographed on my iPad and iPhone with poor hotel lighting. But written nonetheless!

Refreshing! The Kaweco Skyline Sport (Mint)

I really wasn’t in the market for another Kaweco, but then I read Ana’s post about the Kaweco Skyline Sport in Mint. MINT! That’s not a pen color that you see very often, and it’s one that reeled me right in.

Kaweco Sport Skyline

I ordered the pen from Fontoplumo, using the discount code on Ana’s site, and just a couple of hours later received an email saying that my order had shipped. THAT was fast! Frank, from Fontoplumo, also followed up with a genuinely friendly thank you email. Good vibes already, all the way across the ocean.

Kaweco Sport Skyline

The pen arrived about eight working days later— not bad from the Netherlands— and I immediately popped in the included blue cartridge. I couldn’t wait to put pen to paper. I’ve had mixed experiences with Kaweco nibs— from amazingly smooth in my first Kaweco, the Liliput (EF nib), to “won’t write at all” in my AL Sport (also EF). The vendor remedied THAT problem, but it’s made me leery of the brand. My clear Sport writes nicely, but not as good as my Liliput. So what would my experience be with this Skyline Sport model and its medium nib?

The Skyline's medium nib

SUSPENSE!

I’m happy to report that this Skyline writes like a dream— smooth, consistent, pleasantly wet— just like my Liliput. Kaweco nibs are inexpensive and super simple to swap, but I’d rather swap nibs because I want to try a different line width than because of a problem. All is well. Phew.

Closed vs. Retro 51 Tornado

This Skyline Sport is, of course, the perfect pocket pen, made even more perfect by the unusual pale mint color. It’s cool. It’s retro. It’s minty fresh.

Posted vs. Retro 51 Tornado

The pen is light (about 10.5 g), but the plastic is sturdy and feels as though it will hold up well. Posted (as it really must be) the pen is almost identical in length to a Retro 51 Tornado. The cap posts securely, better than the one on my AL Sport which always seems to wiggle loose as I’m writing. The plastic on this Skyline Sport is grippier than the metal on the AL Sport so that hasn’t been a problem at all.

Disassembled Kaweco Sport Skyline

I plan to stick with cartridges or syringe re-filled cartridges. There’s a mini converter available but I haven’t read many (or any) favorable reviews on that, so sticking with cartridges seems to be the best plan.

Despite an iffy experience in the past, this Sport Skyline has me back on the Kaweco bandwagon. Everything about it has been superb— from the quick and friendly service by Fontoplumo, to the smooth and juicy nib, to that cool mint color.

Kaweco Sport Skyline end cap logo

The Kaweco Skyline Sport— it really IS wonderfully refreshing.

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Check out Ana’s review HERE, for her take on the same pen, as well as her Fontoplumo discount code.

A Class Act: Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus by Big Idea Design, LLC

Full disclosure: The pen reviewed here was sent to me by Chadwick Parker of Big Idea Design, LLC. I was not otherwise compensated and this review reflects my observations and experiences with this pen, as well as my previous interactions with Big Idea Design via two of their Kickstarter projects.

Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus
Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus

I’m currently snarled in a couple of Kickstarter projects where the creators appear to have gone AWOL, and that’s disheartening. I’m frustrated enough by these bungled projects to vow that I’ll only back projects by creators who have proven themselves to be seriously committed to delivering quality goods. That list is a short one and includes Chadwick Parker and Joe Huang of Big Idea Designs, LLC.

Big Idea Design titanium pens
Big Idea Design titanium pens: Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus (2014), Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (2012), Ti-Click Pro (2013)

I backed their Solid Titanium Pen & Stylus in 2012, then a follow-up model in 2013, the Ti-Click Pro: Titanium Click Pen + Stylus. Chadwick and Joe love their titanium and they consistently deliver products that ooze quality and attention to detail. Their 2014 offering, the Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus is just as good as its predecessors— actually, it’s even a little better. That’s what I love about this team— they take the lessons learned from each project and apply them to the their next one— always improving their products, always fine-tuning the details, and always available to provide support in the rare case that it’s needed. I’ve been 110% impressed with their products and how they conduct their campaigns. Chadwick and Joe are the real deal.

And so are their pens.

Posting comparison
Cap posting comparison, 2014 pen vs. 2012 pen

Chadwick graciously sent a Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus my way and it’s another beauty— great looking, great in hand, and a great writer. The pen is solid TA2 titanium with a scratch-resistant finish. I’ve been using this pen for a couple of weeks and so far it looks brand-new. At 36.5g (cap 9.5g, body 27g) this pen has heft, but is well-balanced in hand, whether posted or unposted. The cap posts deeply onto the body, which is a well thought out improvement over the 2012 Solid Titanium Pen which featured a shallowly posting cap that resulted in a pen that felt a little too long. Like I said, they listen, then make improvements.

Exploded view
Exploded view

The pen ships with a Uniball Signo 207 0.7mm Black Gel Ink refill and I’ve been so happy with it that I haven’t swapped it out. But if you prefer a different refill, you’re in luck. The Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus takes many, many refills. Check out this list:

•Avant Pen Refills (0.5mm)
•Bic Velocity Gel 0.7mm (Medium)
•Cross Gel Rolling Ball Refill 0.7mm
•Dong-A Fine Tech RT Pen (GRC-43 refill)
•Duke Rollerball Refill (Medium)
•Faber-Castell Ceramic Rollerball Refill 0.5mm
•Foray (Office Depots Brand-USA) Replacement Refills
•Mont Blanc Fineliner Refills
•Mont Blanc 163 Rollerball Pen Refills (M) & (F)
•Monteverde Rollerball Refill (Mont Blanc Style Replacements)
•MUJI 0.5mm Refill
•Ohto Ceramic Rollerball Refill (C-305P, C-307P)
•Pentel ENERGEL BLN105 pen (LRN5 & LRN7)
•Pentel HyperG Retractable KL257 Series (LR7 & KLR7)
•Pilot B2P Bottle to Pen Gel Ink Pen Refill 0.7 mm
•Pilot Frixion Ball pen BLS-FR5 (LFBK-23EF-B refill)
•Pilot G2 (America’s #1 selling ink gel pen, 0.38, 0.5, 0.7, & 1.0mm)
•Pilot G2 Pro
•Pilot G6
•Pilot Hi-Tec-C “Cavalier” (Same performance as the regular Hi-Tec-C, but with more ink)
•Pilot Juice Gel Ink Refill (LP2RF, .05mm)
•Pilot Precise V5 RT/V7 RT, named Hi-tecpoint V5 RT/V7 RT in Europe
•Pilot Q7 Needle Point Refill 0.7mm (BLS-GCK-7 / LHKRF-8C7)
•Pilot V ball RT (BLS-VB5RT)
•Pelikan Roller Refill 338 Rollerball
•Schmidt Safety ceramic roller 888 Fine
•Schneider Topball 850
•Staples Classic Grip Pen 0.7mm Gel (#31581)
•TUL GL1 Gel Pen Retractable Needle Point Fine 0.5mm
•Uniball Impact RT 1.0mm Bold (Signo UMR-80)
•Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm & 0.5mm (UMN-138)
•Uniball Signo (UMN-152)
•Uniball Signo 207 Gel Refill 0.7mm (UMR-87, UMR-85)
•Uniball Jetstream 0.7mm (SXR-7) & 1mm (SXR-C1)
•Visconti Rolling Ceramic 0.7mm (AA40)
•Waterman Rollerball Refill
•Zebra Sarasa Clip Pen Refill
•Zebra JF Gel Ink (JJ2; JJ15; JJZ15; JJ21; RJF5 pens)

Surely there’s something there that’s a favorite. As I said, I’ve been happy with the refill it shipped with so I haven’t explored this aspect as yet, but it’s nice knowing that I can go to my big box of refills and find something that fits perfectly.

Prior to stylus installation
Preparing to install the optional stylus

With stylus installed
With stylus installed

The pen also ships with an optional stylus. If you don’t need one, no worries— just leave it in the box. But if you’re someone who switches between analog and digital worlds, it’s a snap to install. Just unscrew the slotted back plug from the end of the pen and screw the stylus in in its place. Now you’re free to take notes on paper OR on an electronic device. All bases are covered.

Grip area
Groovy grip

There is a decent sized step down from the pen barrel to the grip area, but the grip is long enough that I doubt this’ll cause an issue for anyone. The grip is nicely tapered and features three grooves to add a bit of traction. I’ve haven’t experienced any issues with my fingers slipping as I write.

Clip profile evolution
Clip profile changes. (Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus is the topmost pen.)

The clip is solid and springy, with an improved profile over the two earlier models. On those pens, the end of the pen curved inward towards the body of the pen, whereas on this pen, the end of clip is curved away from the pen body. This improvement makes the Ti RAW POST Pen + Stylus easier to slide into a pen case or pocket. It’s another example of how Joe and Chadwick take the details seriously.

Ti branding

Branding is super subtle— just their characteristic “Ti” logo on the pen’s clip. It’s branding that’s clean and simple and doesn’t interfere with the pen’s industrial good looks.

After their Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus pen shipped, a niggly problem cropped up for some of us where certain refills stopped working, possibly because they were hitting the inside of the cap. As the feedback rolled in, Chadwick and Joe jumped to action, remade the front section of the pen, and shipped it out to anyone who was having a problem, myself included. They listened and they acted quickly and decisively— simple as that. This is a team that builds trust AND great pens.

Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus
Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus

The Kickstarter project for this pen has been completed, but you can order the Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus, or any of their other offerings, at bigidesign.com. Note that they offer free worldwide shipping along with a zero risk, 14-day 100% money back guarantee.

Ti POST RAW Pen + Stylus
A felt pen sleeve is included.

This is a fine pen brought to you by a fine team. They are, simply put, a class act.

Albert Einstein, the Pencil

It’s no secret that Physics and I have had a rocky relationship. All I can say as far as college Physics goes is, “Thank God for a smart lab partner.” My seat in the lecture hall was in the WAY back (alphabetically arranged) which didn’t help my precarious grasp on the formulas and theories that the professor tried to jam into my head. I got through…somehow. This was not my finest hour, academically speaking.

Retro 51 Albert pencil

Given that history, you’d think I’d avoid this Retro 1951 Albert pencil like the plague. But no, I had to have it. (Held out for awhile, then cracked.) I have a couple of theories about this:

1) One of my favorite childhood activities was writing and drawing on the blackboard in our playroom. Every now and then my father would apply a fresh coat of blackboard paint so the surface was restored to a deep dark finish. Fresh chalk on a smooth blackboard. Nothing better.

2) My office is situated on the floor with the Physics department so I see a lot of this…

Physics on display
Ummm…what?!

I love where I work, so maybe, this pencil with its blackboards and formulaic scribbles makes me feel at home even though I don’t understand a whit.

Knurling and eraser

Whatever the reason, I love this pencil. It’s my first one from Retro 1951, though I’d been eyeing the all-black stealth model for awhile. Even though that one looked cool, I like this one with Albert Einstein’s formulas scribbled on a blackboard even better. The iconic Tornado knurling holds the pencil’s substantial eraser. And this eraser ERASES! No smudgy business going on here. The eraser feels soft and is big enough to handle even my Physics-sized mistakes.

Erasure

Albert clip, knurling and eraser

A twist of the knurled section advances the beefy 1.15 mm HB lead, which means that you can advance exactly as much or as little lead as you like. You’re not at the mercy of a click-to-advance system that often extends too much or too little. The mechanism works without a hitch and the lead is luscious. At first I was leery of such a thick lead, but I absolutely love it. I’ll have trouble going back to those fragile 0.5 and 0.7 mm leads.

Various line sizes

The pencil itself is hefty and smooth feeling, not unlike the Makrolon body on the Lamy 2000 writing utensils, but without even that HINT of texture. This is pure smoothness. It feels so good in hand that I find myself using it when I’d typically use a pen. And that’s saying something.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Albert pencil comes with a 12-pack of 1.15 mm HB lead as well as a 6-pack of replacement erasers, meaning that I’m set to write and erase for a good long time.

The whole Albert package

Though Physics was not my thing, this Albert pencil by Retro 1951 is. With its slick blackboard look covered with Einstein’s tidy formulas, I can’t help but feel smarter for owning it. Professor Lapetina, though, might beg to differ.
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I purchased my Albert pencil from Goldspot Pens. Here’s a LINK. (Not an affiliate link, I’m just a happy customer.)

A Second Chance: The TWSBI Diamond 580RB

TWSBI 580RB

I think I was JUST discovering the TWSBI brand back when the first incarnation of this pen— the TSWBI 540 ROC 100— was around. At the time I was enamored with the TWSBI Micarta which couldn’t be more different than this pen. I remember seeing the ROC and thinking that the color scheme wasn’t really my thing. And so I passed. And then it was gone.

Which immediately made me want it. Well played, TWSBI, well played.

Blue Sky with White Sun

So when TWSBI recently released the TWSBI 580RB with the same red/clear/blue color scheme, I pounced on it on launch day. It’s a patriotic looking pen, but not necessarily applicable to just the USA. The cap features the “Blue Sky with White Sun” Taiwanese flag symbol. Though a version sporting a US flag design is promised, I prefer seeing this sun on the end of my pen. I’m patriotic(ish), but more in a “Give me your tired, your poor…” way than the “We’re #1!!” kind of way. The pen, at first glance, might seem like it’s screaming “USA, USA” but there SO MANY countries with red, white, and blue flags, that it could actually be considered multi-cultural.

TWSBI 580RB blind cap

When I was fascinated with the organic and muted look of the TWSBI Micarta, the 580ROC looked garish, but now I enjoy its eye popping red cap and section and blue blind cap. I’ve filled mine with Iroshizuku kon-peki which is a dead ringer for the pen’s blue accents. The piston filler works smoothly and makes the pen a breeze to clean.

TWSBI 580RB Medium nib

The pen is available in fine, medium, and broad— no stub as yet— but a spare TWSBI stub nib unit could be swapped in. I chose the medium nib which writes very smoothly with excellent flow. I couldn’t be happier with the way this steel nib performs. I have a couple of other TWSBIs with EF nibs that I can swap in should I desire a finer line with this pen. I also have a 580 with a 1.1 mm stub, so I’ve got the nib range pretty well covered.

TWSBI 580RB Cap, clip, & branding

The pen’s clip is firm but functional. The branding— etched lettering on the cap’s band— is simple and clean. The cap doesn’t post. Well, technically you can jam the cap on the end of the pen, but it’s not a good look or feel. This isn’t an issue for me as the 580RB’s uncapped length of 5-1/8 inches makes it the perfect size for my average-sized hand.

Filled with Iroshizuku kon-peki

While the pen’s red section is round and nicely tapered, the clear body is faceted, which gives the pen the “Diamond” moniker. I get endless amusement from watching the kon-peki slosh around in the pen body. Simple pleasures— or a simple mind?! It’s a cool look and makes monitoring the ink level a snap.

TWSBI 580RB

While I was asleep at the wheel when the TWSBI 540 ROC was available, and lost out on a chance to acquire that pen, I was wide awake when TWSBI launched the 580RB. While not a pen for everyone in terms of color-scheme, I personally love the look of this pen that celebrates its Taiwanese roots with the cap’s charming sun design. And whether you’re American, Chilean, Norwegian, French, or Slovakian, the 580RB’s red, white (clear), and blue colors will remind you of your country’s flag and history.

We’ll celebrate the 4th of July here tomorrow with cook-outs, parades, and fireworks, and lots of red, white, and blue decorations. My favorite one will be this pen. Thank you, TWSBI, for the second chance to own this pen with a decidedly global vibe.

TWSBI 580RB

I like to think of the TWSBI 580RB as a pen that reminds us we’re all in this together. Peace, friends.

A Fair Shake: The Field Notes Bic Clic

A little shorter review this week because there’s a new member of the household who demands our full attention! Meet FLAPJACK! He’s our 9-week old Silky Terrier whose middle name should be Houdini. He scaled his playpen on day two, and is keeping us on our toes. We love him to bits.

Flapjack (9 weeks)

NOW, for the review…

Field Notes branded Bic Clic

My latest package from Field Notes included one of the Field Notes branded Bic Clic pens. As I was about to reflexively toss it into a mug of pens, it dawned on me that I’ve never spent much time writing with one. I give them away, I have them lying around, I stuff them into pen cups, but I don’t write with them. It was about time to give this retractable blast from the past a fair shake.

Bic Clic (Made in Mexico)

I spent a day using this pen only— an unheard of feat! (Sometimes I change pens in the middle of a sentence. No lie.)

It turns out, there are a lot of things I like about this pen. It feels comfortable in hand— nice taper, easy to grip. I’m smitten by the retro look and simple Field Notes branding. The clip, with its embossed Bic branding, is perfectly adequate. The knock functions reliably and with a solid sounding “click” (thus the name). The refill FEELS smooth and is not draggy. It’s easy to carry and inexpensive, which means it’s a good candidate for a “take it everywhere” pen. Lose one? Not a big deal.

Bic Clic knock

There is, though, one flaw. And for me, it’s the fatal flaw.

Bic Clic refill

The refill is merely adequate— just as it’s always been. There’s a lot of white space in the line, and the “black” ink is a blah gray. The line is not rich or solid— two things that I demand from my ballpoints. Since discovering the uni-ball Jetstream and the like, that’s pretty much the standard by which I gauge all other ballpoints. The Bic Clic, despite the attributes of its simple and iconic pen body, just doesn’t deliver a memorable writing experience.

Ink comparison
Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 refill vs. Bic Clic’s refill

Oh, how I’d love an ink upgrade in these pens!

Errand pen
A good errand pen

I posted a comment on the Field Nuts Facebook page asking if folks regularly use these pens and the answers were plentiful and varied. Some people love them, others don’t. Some use them for work all day long, while others leave them in their car or purse as an “emergency” pen.

Because I do love the Field Notes branding and the pen’s easy-to-throw-in-pocket form factor, I’m going to make a point of using these pens a little more, if only when I’m running errands and might have to jot something down. And maybe I’ll set a few free in the world— in a bookstore or coffee shop. I think that’s what these pens are best at— spreading a little Field Notes love.

Do YOU love and use the Field Notes Bic Clic, or, like me, do they cause you to reach for something better? Do you know of a refill hack that elevates this pen’s writing performance?

Be sure to let me know.

One Strategy to Improve Your Handwriting

Thank you to my friends at JetPens for sponsoring this post. Because of their sponsorship, the calligraphy supplies pictured in this post were free to me. I was not otherwise compensated, and this post reflects my personal experience with the products. 
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Speedball Textbook

I don’t really think too much about my handwriting, though I generally like how it looks. Though some folks have wonderfully consistent handwriting (Hi, Azizah! Hi, Brad!), mine varies depending on the pen, the paper, and my mood. If I’m in a rush, it’s not that great. If I’m taking my time and loving the pen, ink, and paper I’m using, it looks pretty good. It IS, I will admit, MUCH better than it used to be “back in the day.” I’ve received some lovely compliments (always appreciated!) as well as a couple of blog comments asking for handwriting advice, so here are my thoughts.

All through high school and into college, I had handwriting that teetered one way, then tottered another. It was a random mess. I didn’t really think all that much about it until I took an elective Creative Writing class. Victoria, the girl who sat next to me, had beautiful handwriting— a mature, gorgeous script. (She always used rich brown ink, I now recall.) Her poetry was a little “meh,” but I drooled over her handwriting. Mine looked like a fifth-grader had scrawled the lines. I wanted that handwriting. (She could keep her poems.)

So I picked up an inexpensive Sheaffer calligraphy set and a calligraphy workbook and spent hours hunched over practice paper. HOURS. I never DID become a very accomplished calligrapher—school and life eventually got in the way— but after all those hours of practice, a funny thing happened. My random, immature, tilt-a-whirl handwriting became more uniform, tidier, and infinitely more mature. It wasn’t Victoria’s, but it was a much-improved version of my own. Finally, I had handwriting that had a bit of style.

Through the years I’ve informally worked to refine my handwriting further— by writing, writing, writing, and writing. And while it’s true that writing with a fountain pen isn’t going to magically improve your handwriting, I think that if you’re using tools that you love, you’ll practice longer and harder. Anyway, I know that’s true for me. I’ve filled up plenty of Rhodia pads just writing nonsense, forming letters over and over again, writing my name.

Copperplate practice

At the 2013 DC Pen Show, I took a 3-hour Copperplate workshop with Deborah Basel and re-kindled my love of calligraphy practice. I could sit forever and write one letter over and over and over again— which is basically what Deb had us doing. In the course of those 3-hours, I went from making tentative and scratchy “O’s” to forming letters that looked pretty decent. I eventually relaxed my death grip on the oblique nib holder and let my writing flow. Fun stuff! But alas, the Copperplate textbook I purchased from Deborah has been gathering dust since that show.

Calligraphy products

I recently noticed that JetPens is carrying Speedball calligraphy products, so using a little sponsorship money, I purchased the Speedball Textbook, a Speedball Oblique Pen Set, and bottle of Higgins Eternal Black Ink. Time to blow the dust off of my practice books and hunker down. The Speedball Textbook’s ninety-six pages cover the history of calligraphy as well a brief overview of several alphabet styles. This is a good book for picking out a style that interests you, then dabbling in it a bit. For in-depth study, you’ll probably need a guide devoted entirely to the alphabet style that speaks to you.

Speedball textbook

The Speedball Oblique Pen Set comes with a plastic nib holder and six nibs— perfect for getting your Copperplate practice underway. The Eternal Higgins Black Ink is the same ink that I used in the Copperplate workshop. If Deborah Basel uses it, it’s good enough for me. I’m looking forward to carving out some time to slow down with pen and ink and practice sheets to really work on my Copperplate script. Who knows what changes it might bring to my handwriting?

Oblique nib holder

SOOOO…how do you improve your handwriting? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall— practice, practice, practice.

Too fine?! The Pilot Metropolitan/Lizard/Fine nib

I’ve been a fan of the Pilot Metropolitan since its introduction, and have a handful of the medium nibbled versions in Black/Plain, Gold/Dot, Silver/Zig-Zag, White Tiger, and Purple Leopard. (Might’ve gone a LITTLE bit overboard there, but they ARE kind of addictive in a I-must-have-one-of-each kind of way.)

P1040228

As you’ve undoubtedly read in numerous other reviews, the Pilot Metropolitan really is a phenomenal value. For just $14.50-$15, you get a very solid, superbly performing pen, along with a squeeze converter and one cartridge. It’s the real deal at an amazingly low price. The metal body has a very nice heft (26g overall; 17g body, 9g cap) that is equally pleasant to write with posted or unposted. The snap-cap issues a satisfying “CLICK” when you cap the pen and posts without a hint of wishy-washiness. Rock solid, is what the Metropolitan is. Obviously, I’m a bit of a Metro groupie.

The complete package
The complete package

SOOOO, when Pilot recently introduced the Metropolitan with a FINE nib, I added the Taupe/Lizard model to a JetPens refill order to boost myself up to the $25 free shipping threshold. The pen arrived last week and I’ve been spending time with it ever since. I decided to forgo the cartridge, and instead filled the converter with Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsukushi (horsetail), which is a good match for the lizard pattern accent band. The lizardish body band is a deep brown that blends well with the taupe body. Others, you may have read, are not exactly head-over heels in love with the animal pattern models, but I think most of them are kind of cool and not too gimmicky looking.

Lizard pattern

There’s a faction of Metropolitan fans that’s been crying out for a fine-nibbed version of the Metropolitan but I wasn’t one of them. The original models, available only with Pilot’s medium nib— which is equivalent to a western fine— suited me well. But I was curious. Thus the order.

Like every Pilot fountain pen, my Lizard Metropolitan started RIGHT up, without a skip or stutter or hesitation. Pilot pens do not disappoint. The line it put down is supremely sharp and crisp, and felt even finer than the nib on my Kaküno (also fine and also from Pilot). In fact, it felt a little TOO fine, a little too sharp. Not scratchy, but sharp. VERY sharp. Hmmmm.

Fine nibbed Metro

I’ve been a fine/extra-fine person forever, and only recently branched out into broader nibs, but something in me has changed. I’ve gotten used to the buttery smoothness of those broader nibs and the way that the wetter/thicker line of a medium or broad nib brings out the shading properties of many inks. Writing with such a needle-like nib felt weird. Not bad, just weird.

I kept thinking, “It’s not you, it’s me.” “You’re a really great pen, I’m just not into you.” I did not say these things out loud because that would be weird. But I thought them. (Still weird, isn’t it?!)

BUT…that’s not the end of the story. For the past few days I’ve been using this particular pen when writing in my Field Notes (California State Fair and Night Sky editions) and my opinion took a 180-degree turn. The super-fine nib suits the Field Notes paper perfectly. Whereas a medium or broad nib would be an inky mess on Field Notes paper, with this Metro, there’s little to no feathering and just a TOUCH of bleed-through. And you know what? When I went back to writing on my Rhodia pad, I liked the way it felt on that paper, too. Very precise. Very crisp.

In Field Notes
In Field Notes, w/ Iroshizuku tsukushi

Initially, I thought the Metropolitan’s fine nib was TOO fine, but a little time and the right paper changed my mind. It’s probably not a pen I’ll use for letter writing, but for writing out my daily work and home lists, journaling, and jotting down appointments in my homemade Field Notes calendar, it’s just the ticket. It’s also another “candidate” pen for my conference later in the summer (low cost, yet still a great writer).

Metropolitan fine nib

The Pilot Metropolitan— fine pen, fine nib, fine price.

And I am, it turns out, fine with all of that.

And now for something completely different…

Sandy & Mary
My sister and I. Have you ever seen such happy-go-lucky kids?!

I was always a skinny kid— could eat anything and everything and barely gained an ounce. In college, I tried to donate blood but didn’t weigh enough. The lower limit was 110 pounds. I sort of figured I’d always be this way.

I sort of figured wrong.

As the decades passed, my weight crept upwards, mostly due to eating for comfort rather than for fuel. Stressed? Let’s eat. Tired? Let’s eat. Happy? Worried? Sad? Let’s eat. Ice cream filled me up, and ultimately, filled me out. Bad morning at work? Let’s spend the lunch hour reading in my car at McDonald’s. Afterwards, I felt both better and worse. Mostly worse.

In my head, I thought I exercised because I do a lot of running around at work and I walk the dogs every night. Truth is, our two oldest dogs meander more than they walk, so an evening stroll involves a lot of standing still with some bursts of strolling. Let’s just say that my heart isn’t exactly pounding when we get back to the house. But in my head, I thought I exercised.

Iced coffee

I knew this path was not a good one— that I didn’t like how I looked and felt— so I’d pledge to do something about it….tomorrow. Except tomorrow kept getting pushed off and the changes never happened. How could I resist the allure of an iced coffee (cream AND sugar) or a glazed donut? I felt powerless. I felt bad. But not bad ENOUGH, apparently, to change.

Why, you may ask, am I posting this on my pen blog? Well…it’s the only active blog I have, AND there is a pen & ink connection to this story.

Back in September 2013, I watched Brian Goulet’s “30 by 30 by 30″ video on Ink Nouveau where he discussed the mental and physical transformation that resulted in him dropping 30 pounds well BEFORE his 30th birthday. Everything he said in that video hit home— how he hated how he looked and felt, how he got sick of his own excuses, how he vowed to make a change. His words hit home, but still, I stalled and let the same old excuses loop through my brain.

I didn’t act in September or October or November or December, but Brian’s words lit a tiny flame— a flame that smoldered through the first four months of 2014. (Wouldn’t want to do anything rash, now would we?!)

In April, a small panel of co-workers spoke about their experiences after participating in the Whole Life Challenge. Their honest stories of how the 8-week challenge helped them break bad habits, exercise more, and lose some weight ignited the spark that Brian’s words lit so many months before. I was, finally and officially, sick of myself and my tired excuses. During their talk, I decided to go ALL IN— from spark to inferno in the course of an hour.

Starting on May 3rd, I did just that. I joined a team of 40+ co-workers who are participating in the latest edition of the Whole Life Challenge, which runs until June 28th. We JUST passed the half-way mark and I can’t believe how dramatically things have changed in just four weeks.

  • I’m down about 10 pounds and couple of belt notches.
  • I’ve lost my desire for foods that were mainstay treats (ice cream! fries! soda!).
  • Our shopping cart is 180 degrees different than it used to be. Just veg and meat and fruit and fresh goodness. NO sugar!
  • Our dinners are tastier and more varied. We’ve climbed out of a heckuva food rut that relied heavily on pasta, white potatoes, and white rice. I made applesauce (with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg) in my crockpot on Saturday and it’s the best treat ever.
  • I’m exercising at least 10 minutes a day (the minimum to earn my daily points)…usually much more…either in the fitness center at work or riding my previously moth-balled bike.
  • I HAVE WILLPOWER! (Who knew?)

After just a month, I feel physically (and mentally) lighter. I have more energy. My acid reflux is gone. My headaches are less frequent and less severe. It’s only been four weeks, but I’m 100% sure that that changes I’m making are forever. This feels like a little miracle. Or maybe a big miracle.

Life is funny— you never know where a particular interest will take you. My love of pens and paper and ink has brought so many cool and wonderful people into my life— people I consider friends whether we’ve met in real life or not. We write letters, share pictures and stories, and bits of our lives. We entertain and inspire. We comfort and kid. We offer sympathy and understanding and advice. We can also, I’m finding out, change each other’s lives.

I’m writing here to offer Brian Goulet my gratitude for putting his story of struggle, denial, and ultimately, success out there. Even though it took MONTHS for me to take action, his video planted a seed that showed me what’s possible when you commit yourself to making a change, when you flip off the switch of denial and flip ON the switch of accountability and action.

I also thank the other members of my team for sharing their triumphs and struggles as we move through these eight weeks together, as well as the founders of the Whole Life Challenge, Andy and Michael, for giving me the rules, tools, competitive fun, and team support to help me FINALLY help myself.

I feel repaired, restored, and very, very grateful.

—————-
Edited to add: The next Whole Life Challenge starts September 13th. I’d be happy to form a team with anyone who’s interested. We COULD call ourselves “Ink Well.” (haha!)

Great Expectations: Visconti Opera Elements/Air

Visconti Opera Elements (Air)

One day, a few months ago, THIS pen popped up on sale in an email from Fahrney’s Pens. I’ve admired the looks and reported performance of Visconti pens vicariously for quite some time, but figured it’d be a long time (if ever) before I acquired one. They do tend to be pricey. The sale on this pen, though, brought it into the range of the possible. But was the price really a good one? Was the pen a good one FOR the price? Hmmmm. What to do, what to do?!

Visconti Opera Elements

I quickly turned to someone who could help me sort out this pen dilemma— my friend and penpal, Tracy— known in pen circles as the Visconti Queen. Tracy and I met for the first time at the 2013 DC Pen Show and the Viscontis in her pen case are drop-dead gorgeous. She’s a great ambassdor for the brand as she clearly knows her way around the Visconti block and is building a truly impressive collection. If anyone could help me, it’d be Tracy.

And she did. We chatted via Facebook where she asked me about the particulars— the model, the nib, the price. After our chat she rendered her verdict— “Get it!” And so I did.

I COULD NOT WAIT for it to arrive.

There’s always that underlying anxiety when I buy a pen online— will it live up to my expectations? Given the brand and the list price, my expectations were pretty high. Scratch that— they were REALLY high.

For the reduced price, I gave up some choice. Only the Air (Yellow) model was available, and only in a medium nib. Why Visconti calls this “yellow” is beyond me.  It’s clearly brown. (And why is “air” yellow or brown??) One reviewer called the resin “root beer” and that’s a perfect description. Root beer with white stripes. A root beer float! Yum. (Sorry. Hungry.)

Visconti Opera Elements

I think the resin is gorgeous— flecked and rich and just a LITTLE bit translucent, especially in the cap. So the lack of a model/color choice was not a problem.

Visconti Opera Elements (Bayonet cap)

This Opera Elements pen comes with a “bayonet style” cap, which is neither screw-on nor a snap cap. Basically, you push the cap on, then twist a quarter turn so that the grooves in the cap engage with the grooves in the body. This style cap assures that the facets on the pen and the cap are always aligned. It makes capping and uncapping the pen quick and easy. The cap can be posted, but I never do so because I’m afraid of scratching the metal trim, and because it makes the pen a little long for my taste.

Visconti clip

You can’t miss the iconic Visconti clip. It’s arched and springy and bears the brand’s name on both sides. I only clip this pen into my pen case, never into a pocket, so I can’t really attest to the functionality of the clip. It works fine for my application.

After I admired the pen, and even the packaging (a leather-lined box with a built in drawer for holding the Visconti booklet), it was time to ink it up! I chose Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsukushi (horsetail) because the color is a dead-ringer for the Visconti Opera Element’s resin, and filled the converter. Then I got out a piece of Tomoe River paper and put the 23 kt PD950 palladium nib to work. Drumroll, please….

Dreamtouch nib

WELL, HELLO! They don’t call this a Dreamtouch nib for nothing. The springiness of the nib surprised me as it felt unlike any other nib in my collection. With just a light touch, the nib laid down a wonderfully wet line. I was worried that the medium nib might be a little too wide for my tastes, but it’s not. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve been branching out into medium, broad, and stub nibs. The Dreamtouch nib— well, the whole pen, really— feels (and looks) elegant and makes me feel like I should be signing important documents with flourish. But of course, I’m not. I’m writing letters and doodling and recording the day’s joys and frustrations in my journal. Even my mundane scribblings feel elevated with this pen.

Visconti Opera Elements

The pen arrived with a small slip of paper tucked under the pen’s clip which read, “Don’t press! This nib will follow your dreams.” I might edit that to, “Don’t press! This is the nib of your dreams.”

Visconti Opera Elements

The Visconti Opera Elements is now solidly at the top of my “best-writers” list, just above my Lamy 2000 and Delta Fusion 82. The nib, she is impressive.

I think Tracy may be onto something.