Confessions Of a Hoarder: Levenger’s Circa Vivacious Refill

Levenger Vivacious Circa refill

I had a great aunt who lived in a historic looking brownstone in the heart of Albany, NY. She was eccentric and confused— both a hermit and a hoarder. There was a narrow goat path through the middle of her living space. Well, through the middle of EVERY space. Drop an earring and it was gone forever. (My mother found this out the hard way.) The table where she sat to eat her spare meals was covered with a huge pile of papers, photographs, and letters, some dating back to the 1930’s. After she died, we carefully sorted though her papers and belongings. The process took weeks and countless trips to the dumpster.

These are not images and experiences that you can easily shake. And part of your brain wonders, “Could this happen to me?!”

While our home is generally tidy, some “collections” (pens, pencils, notebooks) continue to grow. They are collections. They are not hoarding. Or are they?!

Levenger's Vivacious Circa refill

Case in point— Levenger’s Circa Vivacious Refill, in the cross-dot pattern. I absolutely LOVE THIS PAPER, and find myself ordering, and squirreling away, a few packs every time Levenger puts them on sale or offers free shipping.

I think I’m up to eight packs, neatly stored in a desk drawer. No goat path. Yet.

Circa junior notebook

A few months ago, I was having a horrible time keeping up with life— work life, home life, life life. Even though I consider myself organized, and am a pretty close follower of Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done, everything felt like it was a mess. I needed a fresh start.

I took an old Circa Junior notebook (constructed from the Circa Sampling Kit), labeled some dividers, loaded the notebook with Circa grid paper, and immediately felt better. With Circa paper, moving pages within the book is a snap. Just pull the sheet from the Circa discs and reposition it in its new location. It’s a great system.

Circa Junior Notebook

This book is my main “capture” tool— everything goes into this book. From meeting notes, to weekly priority lists, to Action, Waiting, and Someday/Maybe lists. The system works like a dream. (From this book, I parse things out into master lists in Evernote for weekly review and updating.) I thank the Circa system for giving me back my sanity.

Cross-Dot Vivacious paper

So things were going along fine. I was happy using the Circa grid paper I had stashed away. THEN I saw the Vivacious Cross-Dot refill. GONER!

Vivacious Circa refill

I think I first saw the Vivacious paper in a Levenger catalog, and then had a tricky time finding it online. (The easiest way is to search for “Vivacious.”) I ordered a couple of packs. Then a couple more. Then more. And a few MORE, egged on by the fact that the paper is found in Levenger’s “outlet,” which makes me think that it’s on its way to being discontinued. Shudder.

Night sky vs. Vivacious refill
[Field Notes Night Sky reticle vs. Levenger Vivacious cross-dot]

I fell hard for the lime-green cross-dot pattern that’s a dead-ringer for the reticle grid found in the Field Notes Night Sky edition. That edition is a favorite, particularly due to that grid, so seeing the same thing on this fantastic Levenger Circa paper was a total no-brainer.

The Vivacious Circa refill paper is 100-gsm, very substantial, and gorgeously smooth. The cross-dot pattern is found on both sides of the page, and there are spaces at the top of each page for subject and date. The fresh looking grass-green cross-dots are the icing on the paper cake.

Writing samples

This is superb paper— able to handle ballpoint, pencil, rollerball, and fountain pen equally well. That’s what I like— I don’t have to do a mental check about my pen/paper pairing, because everything works. Everything looks great. Everything FEELS great when you’re writing on this stuff.

Good with all writing utensils

I’ve since picked up a couple of Circa Vivacious Notebooks. I’ll put one to use as a journal because having the ability to easily move and re-arrange pages is so appealing.

So, though I sometimes feel like I’m channeling my inner Aunt Matilda, I think I’m completely justified in hoarding this Vivacious paper.

Levenger Vivacious Circa refill

I’m not worrying until there’s a goat path.

I [heart] you: Pelikan M205 and Levenger Shiraz Ink

(Click on any picture for a larger view.)

Pelikan M205
Rhodium trim, Steel nib

This pen purchase resulted from a recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast where both Brad and Myke sang the praises of their Pelikans. That same day, someone on Twitter mentioned a sale on the Pelikan M205 at Fountain Pen Hospital, so I called it a sign and ordered one. What can I say, my arm was twisted. By fate.

Right around the same time, I was ordering some refills from Levenger, and decided to add a bottle of their Shiraz ink to the order. Both orders arrived on the same day so the obvious choice was to fill one with the other.

Hoo boy, do I love this pair.

Just like peanut butter and chocolate (or chocolate and peanut butter), the Pelikan M205 and the Shiraz ink are two things that work perfectly together. I’m always looking for reasons to use this particular combination, even though I’m someone who leans heavily towards “traditional” ink colors— black, blue-black, blue, brown, and dusty green. The Shiraz looks exactly as I hoped it would— not pink, not red, not purple, but SHIRAZ. It’s not waterproof, for those who care. I love the way it pops on a page without being obnoxious. Simply gorgeous, with a bit of shading. This is an ink that’s kicked me out of my “conservative” rut.

Levenger Shiraz

M205 vs. Lamy 2000
An understated pair for size comparison: Lamy 2000 vs. Pelikan M205

The M205 is one of my smaller (5″ capped; 4-7/8″ uncapped; 6″ posted) and lighter (a mere 14 grams overall) pens, but is an absolute joy to hold and use. It’s a piston filler which makes filling and cleaning fast and easy. The medium steel nib (the only option on this sale pen) is smooth and juicy, but without any flex. This is a very classic looking pen— devoid of any real bling— but who needs bling when you perform this well?! It’s understated and unassuming— a real classic.

Pelikan M205 medium steel nib

Pelikan clip/beak
Pelikan clip/pelican beak

The “pelican’s beak” clip is iconic and suitably springy. The caps band simply states “PELIKAN” and “GERMANY.” I have the black body version, but there are others available— red, taupe, white. Since I’m prone to making sure the pen and ink color complement each other, black is probably the best choice for me, anyway. Everything goes with black. Well…yeah…and also with white. And taupe.

Pelikan M205 ink window

The smoke-colored ink window lets me know when my beloved Shiraz is “down a quart.” I enjoy watching the ink slosh around as the level changes.

This is, admittedly, an entry level Pelikan pen, and there are many prettier and more expensive models available, but for everyday use, the M205 suits me just fine, and it’s been a great way for me to dip my toe in the shallow end of the Pelikan pool.

Pelikan logo

I’m irrationally smitten by the Pelikan logo on the cap— a mama pelican with her chick. Such a sweet pair looking at each other with affection— exactly the way I look at my M205 filled with the Shiraz ink.

Pelikan M205

True love forever.

Shiraz heart

 

 

Ink With a Twist: Levenger’s Facets Fountain Pen

Levenger’s Facets fountain pen caught my eye a while back, but I didn’t make my move until a sale popped up. I love that— getting a deal on a pen that’s been on my radar.

Levenger Facets FP (Oxblood)

As my fountain pen collection grows, I find myself dismissing pens that don’t offer something a little different. (Don’t hold me to that— I’ll randomly throw that rule out the window when I feel like it.) This pen brings a number of interesting features to the table— the rich/warm color, the shimmering depths of the resin, and, of course, the gently spiraling facets of the cap and body. All of these add up to a pen that’s as great to look at as it is to use.

Facets Fountain Pen

Levenger calls the color of the pen “oxblood,” but to me it looks more like burgundy wine— or very interesting grape juice (which, I guess, is what wine IS). There’s a swirly marbleized effect that gives the pen’s resin more depth and interest than I can capture in my photos. It’s one of those fun-to-stare-at-while-twirling pens because the light, bouncing off of those facets, brings out a gorgeous range of purples and deep pinks. It’s like like looking into a purpley hologram. Mesmerizing.

Facets Fountain Pen

I’ve filled this cartridge/converter pen with Noodler’s Black Swan In English Roses a color I WOULD call “oxblood”—that satisfies my “ink should match pen” need. It doesn’t hurt that I’m fascinated with the name of that ink.

Inked with Black Swan In English Roses

Levenger’s Facets fountain pen is only available with a medium stainless steel nib, but it’s a very smooth and juicy writer. To my eye, it leans just a hair to the fine side, so it works well for me as an everyday writer. I have yet to have an issue with a Levenger nib and this pen just continues that streak of excellent nibbage. The pen wrote right out of the box and hasn’t sputtered or hesitated since. I can get a line from the pen even when I apply very little pressure. It’s just superb.

Facets Fountain Pen

The threaded cap posts solidly, and I’m finding that the pen feels well-balanced both posted and unposted. The body is lightweight (22.7 g/0.8 oz) but still feels, and looks, substantial. The pen measures 5-9/16″ when capped, 6-3/8″ posted, and 5-7/8″ unposted, and has enough room in the barrel to store a spare cartridge. With its chrome trim and clip, this is one sharp pen.

Levenger Facets Pen

There is one piece of bad news— it appears that the Oxblood version is no longer available from Levenger. There IS, though, a Midnight Blue version that’s still available. And I think you’ll probably be able to find the Oxblood version if you do a little hunting around online.

So if you’re looking for a pen with sparkling good looks, a wonderful nib, and just enough of a twist to keep things interesting, Levenger’s Facets fountain pen delivers. I think it’s a beauty.

Notes: Though this may sound like a commercial, I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m just a very satisfied Levenger customer.

When Things Go Wrong: The Good, the Meh, the Bad, and the Truly Ridiculous

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things go wrong with PENS. And when things go wrong, some companies leap over tall buildings in a single bound, some gingerly scale small fences, while a few can’t be bothered to get off the couch. Some examples? Don’t mind if I do.

THE GOOD

TWSBI

A wee TWSBI

TWSBI STORY #1: I’m in love with my TWSBI Mini (as you can read here), but soon after I posted my review, blobs of ink would periodically fall onto my paper from the nib. I flushed the pen, re-inked it, to see if that made a difference, but it didn’t. So I emailed TWSBI and received a very quick response from Philip Wang. He was as baffled as I was, but offered to take a look at the pen to see if he could diagnose the problem. Just as I was getting ready to box up the pen for mailing, I noticed an o-ring in my pen case, right near the elastic loop where I keep the Mini. Ah ha! By looking at the schematic drawing that came with the pen, I was able to determine that an o-ring was missing from the piston end of the pen. It obviously came off when I dragged the pen through the case’s elastic loop. Once replaced, no more maddening drips. So the pen wasn’t at fault, but HAD IT BEEN, Philip was prepared to make it right. We exchanged a few emails over the course of a few days trying to sort this out, and the replies were always prompt, courteous, and sincere. I came away from the exchanges an even stronger TWSBI fan. THAT collection is bound to grow.

TWSBI STORY #2: This weekend, my husband and I were looking over past American Express statements for some reason, and when we got to the October 2012 statement, I noticed what appeared to be a duplicate charge for a TWSBI purchase. One charge was via PayPal, while the other appeared to be from TWSBI itself, both for the same amount, on the same day. Being a saver of receipts, I put together an email with documentation, and sent it off (Sunday evening), feeling like a bit of a stooge because I’d just noticed an October 2012 problem in February 2013. (Kick self.) A little before lunch on Monday, I received a PHONE CALL from Philip. He’d investigated and found that there WAS, for some reason, a duplicate charge, which he promised to immediately refund via PayPal. He’d even investigated my previous purchases and found nothing amiss. Who knows why this happened- we’re both baffled- but the whole thing was cleared up quickly and professionally, and WITH A PHONE CALL. FROM A PERSON. Yeah, I’m happy. TWSBI, you made my day.

Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell e-motion Parquet

After I posted the review of my Faber-Castell e-motion, a commenter asked about interchanging nibs between the e-motion and BASIC pens. Hmmmm…I couldn’t answer that, so I contacted Faber-Castell, and received a lightning fast response. (No, they can’t be interchanged.) So many times, an email to a company seems to fall into a black hole, but Faber-Castell reads and responds. QUICKLY reads and responds.

A few weeks later, after I reviewed the Faber-Castell BASIC fountain pen, a commenter complained about an issue he’d been having with a Faber-Castell rollerball:

The issue: I own both the carbon roller, and clicky ball-pen. I wanted to get the fountain, however the roller uses the same rubber-grip screw-into-carbon construction, and over time, the plastic at the base of the threads have cracked and the thread section is holding on, barely.

The response: I’m very sorry to hear that you are experiencing a problem with the pen and I would like to correct the situation for you. Please contact me at consumer@fabercastell.com so that I may assist you in replacing the broken part.
Sincerely,
Renee Lamb
Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell…making it right.

Daly’s Pen Shop

Matte body w/ black nib

When I received this Lamy Safari Charcoal (EF nib) from Daly’s Pen Shop, the blasted thing would not write. I cleaned it and coaxed it with different inks, but couldn’t get anything more than a dry, dry line. I emailed a few photos of the issue to Daly’s, and received a quick offer to replace the pen. Daly’s tested the 2nd pen before mailing it out (smart move). Happy ending. Happy customer.

JetPens

Kaweco AL-Sport

I ordered an EF nib for my Kaweco AL-Sport from JetPens. Once installed, I was disappointed to find that the nib performed horribly; not at all like the buttery smooth EF nib on my Kaweco Liliput. Once again, I emailed a couple of photos showing the inconsistent and dry lines, and by the next day, a new nib unit was on its way to me. Problem solved without breaking a sweat.

Kaweco EF nib

The Goulet Pen Company

I’ve been eyeing a TWSBI Micarta for a LONG time, but have been a little put off by some of the reviews that call it a “dry writer.” Since I’m not, as yet, able to adjust my own pens, I’ve been hesitant to order one. I noted this dilemma in an email to The Goulet Pen Company, and received a quick and helpful response. The folks at Goulet Pen will happily ink up and test a pen prior to shipping to make sure that it flows properly. All it takes is a mention in the comments section of the order form. Good to know.

THE MEH

Levenger

Pilot Prera
I’m a big fan of Levenger products and am knee deep in Circa notebooks, Circa punches, True Writer fountain pens, and even a piece or two of furniture. Their products are strong, but their customer service could stand to kick it up a notch or two. In mid-December, I used a promotional gift card to place an order for a Pilot Prera with free ink, then applied a promotional discount to the bundle (after first checking with Customer Service to verify that the discount could be applied). “Yup, no problem.” Shortly after that, I received a back-order notice. Fine, I’m in no hurry. Sometime in January I started wondering where my pen and ink were, so I checked the order status online and found that the order had been cancelled. Cancelled without notification. Yikes. AND my gift card still showed that it had been debited for the order! Double yikes. I called and spoke to someone who said that they would pass along the issue to “Customer Service” (who was I speaking to?!), and that they’d get back to me. Never happened. So I called again, and reached someone who did all the right things. She started from scratch by re-loading the gift card, then placed the order a second time. Some time after that the Pilot Prera arrived (with free shipping, for my troubles), and it’s a dream. (But that’s another story.) The ink, though, has yet to arrive. After emailing yet again, I was told that the original receipt date has been pushed further into February. And so I’m waiting nearly two months for a bottle of Levenger Cobalt Blue.

I have every confidence that I’ll receive the ink, just as I received the pen, but the problem is that I’ve been doing the bulk of the work in this transaction. I’ve been emailing. I’ve been calling. I’ve been waiting. I have no problem waiting as long as I receive timely communications whenever there’s a change. Maybe it’s a fluke, but this transaction ran off the rails a few times. If I wasn’t such a fan of their products, would I stick around after this falderal? Probably not.

THE BAD

ACME Studio, Inc.

So this happened…

ACME Crayon

Yup…I dropped my precious white ACME Crayon rollerball on a counter at work, and it hit in such a way that the top of the brass crayon “cone” sheared off. Totally my fault. I emailed ACME Studios, explained what happened and sent the picture, hoping that the damaged piece could be replaced (on my dime, obviously). When I didn’t hear a peep, I tweeted the same photo and story to @AcmeStudioInc.

*Crickets*

Nothing irks me more than no response. I’ll take a “sorry, tough luck” response over no response.

And so I remain irked.

THE TRULY RIDICULOUS

[md]-pen on Kickstarter

I’ve backed a number of pen projects on Kickstarter, and have received a number of very cool pens…one WAY ahead of schedule (thank you, David!), but most a few months after the expected ship date. Communication has, at times, been spotty, but in the end, I always wind up with my pen. Until now. No matter how slowly a project has progressed, NOTHING compares to the wild ride the 321 backers of the [md]-pen have taken (myself included). It all started out very normal oh so many months ago, but deteriorated to the point that I’m 99.9% sure that there is no pen. And yet the charade continues. Over the course of the project’s history, there have been tales of manufacturing woes and misunderstandings, an admission that the creator’s profile photo (since taken down) DOES NOT BELONG TO THE CREATOR, tales of computer hacking, stolen images, and stolen ideas, countless lies, no follow-through on promises, and giant gaps between updates.

I can’t even begin to explain the whole saga, but you can read about it here.

Kickstarter projects are not guaranteed. I understand that. If a project fails because of an unforeseen complication, so be it. But to feel defrauded is an ugly feeling. A pretty awful feeling.

Things can and do go wrong, and when they do, companies would be wise to treat these hiccups as opportunities to show their customer service strengths. Happily, a number of my favorite pen companies and vendors do just that. Some certainly have room for improvement, while others simply disappoint.

All of this made me think, as I go throughout my day, how am I treating my “customers” (for no matter what we do, almost all of us are dealing with people who we could call our customers)? Where am I on the scale of TWSBI to ACME? (Let’s ignore that Kickstarter debacle as a true outlier.) Where do I shine, where can I improve, and where do I disappoint? Hmmmmm.

May we all be a little more TWSBI.

———-

Updated to add: Just after posting this, I received an email from Levenger with the tracking number for my ink. IT HAS SHIPPED.

Mosaic: The Levenger True Writer Kyoto Fountain Pen (F nib)

I’ve been a fan of Levenger’s goods for a LONG time, and am a happy user of their Circa notebooks and address books. I thumb through their catalogs repeatedly, making mental wish-lists, and flagging pages with sticky notes (much like I did as a kid with the Sears catalog of toys). I’ve been hearing good things about their True Writer fountain pens on FPGeeks, so when a recent promotion popped up, I made my move and purchased the True Writer Kyoto Fountain Pen.


Kyoto True Writer by Levenger

Man, oh, man…what colors! I’m particularly drawn to shiny colorful pens, like the Edison Collier Persimmon Swirl and Ken Cavers’ Tiger Stripey pen, and now, the True Writer Kyoto. Its acrylic body is, as Levenger puts it, “a marbled mosaic of turquoise, lavender, espresso, and caramel.” To be honest, I didn’t even notice the lavender until I shot a few pictures for this entry. And that’s the real fun of this pen…there are so many colors and shades and layers, that the look of the pen changes constantly. In low light, it looks quite subtle, while in brighter light, the colors and sheen POP.


A mosaic of colors

I chose a fine nib, as I almost always do, and this one writes smoothly and consistently, and has done so from the moment I filled the converter with Montblanc’s Toffee Brown. This is my go-to brown ink, and it pairs perfectly with the pen, as it also reveals a range of brown shades when the ink hits the paper.


The Kyoto’s fine steel nib

The pen measures 5-1/2″ in length and 5/8″ in diameter and weighs 0.77 ounces. The body is accented with a chrome clip and chrome bands that I think compliment the look of the pen. Your eye sees the amazing colors first, then is drawn to the subtle accents. It’s a well-balanced look, in my opinion.


Chrome accents

The screw-style cap posts nicely and I find it equally comfortable to write with the cap posted or unposted. The body is big enough to hide a spare ink cartridge, if you’re using cartridges rather than the included converter.

Did I mention that the colors are really cool?


Well, they are.

They certainly are.

—–

A tip: Levenger is currently offering a $100 gift card for orders of $125 or more. (Check their website for details.) Might be the time to do a little shopping!

A note: Though it sounds like I’m doing a Levenger commercial, I haven’t been compensated by them in any way. I just love their paper products, and now, their pens.