Letter Writing: Stuff That Helps

I used to write a ton of letters, usually on my typewriter. (Imagine that.) When I landed my first job, I bought an electronic one that had a one-line LED read-out that seemed like an amazing upgrade from the clunky manual version I used all through college. Eventually I sprung for a Magnavox Word Processor (bliss!), and then, finally, for my first Mac. With the computer, came the internet and email and my letter-writing trailed off. Then came messages and texts, and sometimes, just emoji (as if actual words are too hard). Communicating with friends and family has gotten easier and quicker, but has it gotten better?

Silky with letter

Isn’t receiving actual mail the best thing?! Receiving a letter—with stories and humor and common interests laid on paper by someone’s hand—can make a blah day zippier. I find myself making a little ritual out of reading a letter—comfy chair, ample time, a cup of tea. A letter is a dessert of words that you really want to savor.

"Thanks for the letter!"

I have a couple of faithful pen pals (hi, Michelle and Tracy!) and InCoWriMo has given me some new friends. I’m not the fastest responder, but I find it so relaxing to sit down with pen, paper, and ink then letting the words fly. As I thought about my letter-writing process, I realized that there are some tools and products that might be fun to share.

PAPER

Tomoe River Paper

I pretty much stick to Tomoe River paper for all of my letters, except for cards and quick notes. It’s shockingly thin, yet delivers an incredible writing experience— without any feathering or bleed through, even with wet and wide fountain pen nibs and inks. There’s a touch of show-through, but nothing that keeps me from using both sides of the page.

Tomoe River Paper

I buy packs of 100 sheets (A4 size) from JetPens, then fold the sheets in half to make little booklets for four-page letters. For shorter two-page letters, I just tear the sheets in half. The dimensions are as follows:

  • Tomoe River A4 Full Size: 8.3″ x 11.7″ (210 mm x 297 mm)
  • Tomoe River A4 Half Size: 8.3″ x 5.85″ (210 mm x 148.5 mm)

This is gorgeously smooth paper— feather-light but able to handle even the wettest inks. I can’t recommend it enough.

ENVELOPES

Envelope template

Inspired by my pen pals, I’ve started making my own envelopes from the stacks of 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking papers that I have on hand. (My scrapbooking phase sputtered and burned before it could get off the ground.) I use the Handmade Envelope Template—Western Version—available from JetPens.

Tracing the envelope shape

The process is super simple. Just trace around the guide on the back of your decorative paper, cut out the traced design, score, fold, and glue.

Cut out envelope designs

Scored and folded envelope

I always make the largest size available on this template as it’s perfect for holding a quarter-fold sheet of the A4 paper (i.e., the letter “booklet” folded in half), but depending on which guide you trace, you can make four sizes of envelopes with this one template.

  • 2.6″ x 4.1″ (65 mm x 105 mm)
  • 3.9″ x 5.8″ (98 mm x 148 mm)
  • 4.5″ x 6.4″ (114 mm x 162 mm)
  • 4.7″ x 6.7″ (120 mm x 170 mm) —> My favorite!

Assembled envelope and Glue Pen

I use the Kuretake Craft Glue Pen to assemble the envelopes. Like I said—it’s all very easy, and kind of relaxing. I address the envelopes by using 1″ x 2-5/8″ address labels, so that the recipient’s address and my return address are legible against the graphic print of the envelope.

LETTER CONTENT

Ledger of ideas

As I get older, my brain seems to be “spongier” than it used to be. Ideas flit through and drip out, so it takes a little more work to make them stick. I’ve discovered that I need a system to keep track of 1) the topics I want to cover; and 2) the unplanned topics I end up writing about. Funny story— I started a letter to a friend one day, then wrapped it up on the following day. When I read the pages over before sending it off, I was horrified to find that I’d written about the same topic in both halves of the letter. Egad.

Ledger full of ideas

SO–to combat the encroaching memory issues, I use one of the Field Notes Ambition ledger books to jot down things I want to write about. I then check off the topic when it’s covered, and also add the date of the letter where the subject was discussed. I also make note of things that weren’t on my original list in order to capture each letter’s details on the fly. With this simple system, I repeat myself less often, much to the delight of my oh-so patient pen pals.

STAMPS

Limited Edition Forever stamps

There’s no need to use the same old same old, run-of-the-mill Forever stamps. The post office carries a bunch of limited edition Forever stamps that add just one more cool touch to your letters. My current favorites—shown above—are Batman, Farmers Market, and Celebrity Chefs.  I now stalk my local post office looking for fun new designs.

Letter-writing is a great way to slow down and reconnect with friends and family in a deeper way than any emoji can accomplish. Use those pens. Write a letter.

"Bye for now!"

Credits: The adorable drawings were part of a recent letter from my new InCoWriMo pen pal, Thèrése. (I can’t draw to save my life, but her cute figures and scenes make me want to take a stab at it.) The Tomoe River Paper, Kuretake Envelope Template and Glue Pen were originally purchased using some sponsorship money from JetPens. I can assure you, though, that I continue to replenish my supply of these items with my own money. There are no affiliate links in this post.

 

EDC vs EDU: The Ti2 Techliner (Gonzodized Shorty)

Welp…let’s jump on the Ti2 Techliner bandwagon, too! Lots of talk about this pen out and about in the pen world lately, and with good reason.

Ti2 Techliner Shorty

I passed on the Ti2 Techliner project on Kickstarter the first time around because, quite frankly, I was put off by the way the writing tip inelegantly poked out of the front of the pen. The look was strange—different than anything I was used to—and I thought that, given that odd design, the tip might wiggle around because there was nothing to hold it in place.

Ti2 Techliner tip and grip

Turns out I was wrong, wrong, wrong. (Did I mention “wrong”?!)

Not TOO long after that fateful erroneous decision, Brad Dowdy extolled the virtues of the Ti2 Techliner on an episode of “The Pen Addict” podcast, and suddenly the pen I thought I’d loathe rocketed to the top of my “I must have it” list. In an odd stroke of luck, Mike Bond launched a second Kickstarter project soon thereafter and I POUNCED without hesitation. The Shorty Gonzodized version was my instantaneous pick. The Kickstarter project proceeded without a hiccup (unheard of), and soon I had my very own Ti2 Techliner in hand. Thank god for a second chance.

And, Brad, YOU WERE RIGHT!

Ti2 Techliner Shorty

The “shorty” version is the perfect size for me, measuring:

  • 5.1″ capped (129 mm)
  • 4.8″ uncapped (122 mm)
  • 5.4″ posted (136 mm)

This titanium pen is perfectly balanced whether I’m using it uncapped or posted. It’s on the short side, but definitely long enough unless you have giant hands. I haven’t tried the longer (regular) version, so I can’t speak to how the two compare.

Ti2 Techliner Shorty

The coolness factor is ramped up significantly by the presence of neodymium magnets in three places—inside the tip of the pen, in the “butt” end of the pen, and inside the pen’s cap. The magnets keep the refill snuggly in place so there is not one iota of wiggle (as I originally feared). Their presence also means that the cap snaps onto either end of the pen with a serious, substantial THUNK. There is nothing wimpy about these magnets. They are the perfect strength. PERFECT. And cool.

Ti2 Techliner grip area

The Techliner’s grip area features sort of a “waffle-cut” pattern so your fingers stay exactly where you want them. The pattern is “rounded off” enough that it doesn’t bother your fingers in the slightest. Another perfect feature. That same pattern is repeated at the other end of the pen for an appealing symmetrical look.

Tail end of Ti2 Techliner

The Gonzodized finish is unique—a muted blue with the underlying titanium peeking through. Instant patina that will only get better with time. Mike explains the finish this way: “Gonzodizing is a unique method of anodizing by fellow Kickstarter creator Brad Martin. The result is a unique two-tone blue/gold patina that evolves with wear.” It’s a sweet, sweet look, unlike any other pen I own.

Writing tip

But NONE of this matters if the refill is a dud. Like everything else with this pen, the uni-ball Signo 207 refill is top-notch—one of my all-time favorites. The 0.5 mm tip hits the sweet spot for me—neither too thick nor too thin—and never falters. It’s consistently smooth, dark, precise, and reliable—the perfect match for this killer pen.

Ti2 Techliner Shorty

While I carry a bunch of pens to and from work every day as part of my everyday carry (EDC), there are very few that make it to everyday USE (EDU) status. Mike Bond’s Ti2 Techliner Shorty (Gonzodized) is at the top of that very short list of pens.

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For more information on this pen, check out:

  • Mike Dudek’s video review HERE
  • Brad Dowdy’s written review of the original Ti2 Techliner HERE
  • Talk of an exclusive Nock Co./Ti2 Design Techliner collaboration HERE (Hold onto your wallets when this is announced!)
  • Ian Hedley’s interview with Mike Bond AND an Urban Camo Ti2 Techliner Giveaway HERE

 

UPDATE: WINNERS of the Cabin Fever Giveaway

Regal Fountain Pen

Winner #1: For the Regal Fountain Pen AND a Jet-Do Hat is…

Winner #1

#32 = Miss Swytch who said: I love Lamy Safari from jetpens. I also like to browse through their collection and make a wishlist…so many goodies..and.so tough to pick just one!

——————————

Winner #2: For a Jet-Do Hat is…

Winner #2

#57 = rebelmrd who said: I love the blog and pen tips …. and I LOVE trying new refills….

SO…Winner #1 and Winner #2, I will contact you via email and you’ll have one week to provide your address so that I can send out your prizes! If I don’t hear from you in a week’s time, we’ll pick a new name.

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you all for commenting and telling me about your favorite JetPens products!

Jet-Do Beanie Hat

Perfect Pair: The Write Notepads & Co. Jumbo Pencils and the Classroom Friendly Large-Hole Sharpener

Write Notepads & Co. pencils

Right before Christmas, I ordered the full slate of pencils from Write Notepads & Co., as well as a couple of notebooks. After my visit to their headquarters last summer, I’ve become an even bigger fan than I already was. The jumbo pencils really intrigued me, but there was a problem—how to sharpen them?

Classroom Friendly Sharpeners

So while I sharpened and used the other pencils—the maroon hex and the natural round—the jumbo pencils sat unused. Then, about a month ago, I noticed someone mention a large-hole sharpener available from Classroom Friendly Supplies. WHAT??!! Since I’ve yet to tackle “artisanal pencil sharpening” (by hand, via knife + bandaids), I knew that I’d have to get my hands on this sharpener. I should also add that I have the regular version of the Classroom Friendly Sharpener and use it almost daily. (Actually, I have THREE—one for home, one for work, and one for back-up.)

Jumbo pencils and Large-Hole Sharpener

Where the regular sharpeners are metal and available in handful of colors, the large-hole sharpener is plastic and available only in a black and white version. No worries, though, it sharpens like a champ, and doesn’t leave “bite marks” on the pencils like the regular sharpener does.

Large-hole sharpener and jumbo pencil

Most importantly, it sharpens the Write Notepads & Co. jumbo pencils perfectly. These beefy, smooth, dark, and “made in America” pencils are now right up there among my favorites—the Palomino Blackwing Pearl and the Musgrave Test Scoring pencil.

Write Notepads Jumbo Pencils

I should mention that all of the Write Notepads & Co. pencils are “left-handed” pencils. When I first heard this I thought, “What?? How can a pencil be right or left handed?” Well, here’s the thing—branding on the pencils is printed in such a way that it appears right side up when held in the left hand, and upside down when held in the right. I’d never considered this before, undoubtedly because I’m right handed so the issue just never occurred to me. Chris Rothe—one of the founding brothers— is left handed, so this bit of whimsy makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t left handed writers have pencil branding oriented for them?

Write Notepad & Co. jumbo pencils

When I hold one of these over-sized pencils, memories of elementary school, hot lunch, hissing radiators, recess, and learning to read and write all come flooding back to me. They conjure up thoughts of simpler times and simpler tools. They are the “comfort food” of pencils.

Jumbo pencil cores

Wonderfully smooth, thickly painted, and perfectly branded, this is the pencil that I’m reaching for when I’m making lists, balancing my checkbook, and jotting down groceries. How can you resist a pencil that says, “THIS IS A GENUINE WRITE NOTEPADS & CO PRODUCT-TO COUNTERFEIT IS DEATH.” The cores are centered and sharpen without issue. Point retention is very good. I rotate my pencil a bit as I write and find that I can go for quite awhile without re-sharpening (and that’s one of my quirks—the need for a pretty decent point at all times.)

Ferrules and erasers

The gold ferrules are gorgeous and do a fantastic job anchoring the equally girthy erasers. When erasing, the bits left behind are strand-like, not “crumby,” and erasing is quite clean with just a faint ghost of the erased word visible.

Hex pencils
Long point from regular sharpener (top) vs. short point from Long-Hole sharpener (bottom)

The Classroom Friendly Large-Hole Sharpener can also be used to sharpen regular size pencils, but the resulting point is shorter and more conical than the long point you get from the regular sharpener, as you can see in the photo above. But if you want a Classroom Friendly Sharpener that doesn’t put bite-marks on your pencils, the Large-Hole Sharpener is the one to go with, despite the somewhat stunted point.

Write Notepads & Co. Jumbo pencils

The Write Notepads & Co. Jumbo pencils and the Classroom Friendly Large-Hole Sharpener really are the perfect pair. They go together like gin and tonic, bacon and eggs, Thelma and Louise. If you have one, you gotta have the other.

Worth a Look: Reclaimed Wood Pens, by Doug Mann, on Kickstarter

Reclaimed Wood Pens
Photo courtesy of Doug’s Kickstarter page

I haven’t been backing a lot of pen projects on Kickstarter lately, as per my desire to ratchet down the buying, BUT today I backed Doug Mann’s “Custom Handmade Pens” project.

Doug hasn’t asked me to plug his project and I have no prior experience with Doug, so proceed as you see fit. I just thought this project was worth a quick mention.

Doug’s from State College, PA and makes pens using traditional pen making processes combined with 3D printing technology. Interesting.

He uses reclaimed wood (as you’ve probably gathered from the name of the project) like:

  • Game-used MLB Bat Wood
  • WWII Crate Wood
  • Wood salvaged from the mountains of northeastern Kentucky

I like wooden pens, especially those with a bit of a story. Doug is making rollerball and fountain pens available as rewards.

If you do nothing else, give his video a look. It made me chuckle out loud. (No spoilers here!)

Reclaimed Wood Pen
Photo courtesy of Doug’s Kickstarter page

Doug’s project certainly appears to be worth a look. Click HERE to do so.

A Cabin Fever Giveaway, Courtesy of JetPens

Regal Fountain Pen

Hoo boy, am I ever sick of winter! The local news recently reported that this was, in fact, the coldest February on record in central NY, with an average temperature of 7.2ºF. This breaks the old record of 9.2ºF set WAY back in 1857. So, yeah, we’re freezing, and a lot of us (me!) have a severe case of cabin fever. It’s been so cold that outdoor sports are downright painful. We ventured out on snowshoes on a particularly bitter and blustery day, and within minutes my fingers started to burn from the cold, despite heavy-duty mittens, so back inside we went. Thank god for hot tea, fleece, and flannel sheets.

Regal 503 Hadrian fountain pen

Are YOU sick of winter and looking for a little pick-me-up? Thanks to some sponsorship money from JetPens, I have just the thing— a giveaway sure to warm your heart and your head. I wrote the rough draft of this review with a Regal 503 Hadrian fountain pen, with a medium nib. This pen popped up in a recent JetPens newsletter and I thought it’d be fun to try out, then give away.

Regal 503 Hadrian Fountain pen

The pen’s copper body sports a gunmetal finish, and an etched line pattern, giving it that executive look without the executive price. The pen’s accents are chrome-plated and there’s a Swarovski crystal on the clip for a touch of elegance. (To be honest, the crystal isn’t really my thing, but it’s pretty understated and not too blingy.) The pen has nice heft and balance, weighing 30.3g capped (16.4g body, 13.9g cap). The snap cap posts securely and is in no danger of wiggling off.

Regal Hadrian 503 Fountain Pen

The pen takes short international cartridges, and one is included with the pen. (A converter is not included.) The nib lays down a nice medium line, and is fairly smooth. I haven’t experienced any hard starts or skips. (I used a spare cartridge I had on hand to write the review. The original cartridge will ship with the pen.)

JetPens Jet-Do Beanie
Photo courtesy of JetPens

Did you know that JetPens sells hats? No? Well, now you do! And because we’re talking about winter and cold weather, I’m going to toss in a couple of these super-cute Jet-Do Mascot Beanies as giveaway prizes. Made of  milk cotton, the hats are wonderfully soft, while also being machine washable. Size XL fits most women, while size XXL fits most men (the difference in size looks to be quite minimal). There’s also a medium size, suitable for kids. Sure to scare away the March chill with their whimsical good looks, the hats are a great way to show your love for all things JetPens.

P1060361

Winner #1 will get BOTH the Regal 503 Hadrian fountain pen, AND one of the hats (choice of XL or XXL).

Jet-Do Beanie Hat

Winner #2 will win the second hat.

To ENTER: Just post a comment on this blog— maybe tell me about your favorite JetPens product or products. I’ll assign each comment a sequential number, then will use a random number generator to select TWO winners. Post your comment (one per person, please) by Monday March 9th, 11:59 pm Eastern Time (USA). I’ll select the winners on Tuesday March 10th, and will post their names on the blog. You’ll have a week to get in touch with me with your address so that I can ship your prize to you. The contest is open to US and international readers.

Thank you to JetPens for making this giveaway possible, and for bringing us such a wide variety of interesting and useful products. Yes, even hats.

A Pen With Personality: The Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen

Waterman Phileas x2

If you were trying to set up the Waterman Phileas on a blind date, you’d probably say that it has a “great personality”— which is code for “not that great looking.” With its “marbled” plastic body, gold furniture, and art deco trim, this isn’t a pen that catches your eye. Some may even consider it a little bit ugly.

Art Deco trim

I met The Gentleman Stationer at the DC Pen Show, and though we didn’t chat for long, I could tell he was a good guy. So when he put a handful of his “surplus” pens up for sale, I took a look, liked the price of the Waterman Phileas he’d listed, and decided to go for it. Up to this point, I didn’t own any Watermans so that was some of the draw— the chance to try a new-to-me brand at a good price.

Green Marble Waterman Phileas

And like I said, when the pen arrived, its looks struck me as unremarkable, and sort of not my style. No chatoyancy, no gorgeous swirls, no rich colors. Oh, well, I thought, it’s only $35. Since the body on this one is green simulated marble, I inked it with Montblanc Irish Green and sat down with it and a piece of Tomoe River paper. Despite the “meh” looks, the minute that nib hit paper, I was a smitten. As I doodled and scribbled, I fell deeper in love with this Phileas, so much so that it actually started looking kind of cute. That funny looking pen shot an arrow right through my ink-loving heart.

Waterman Phileas two-tone nibs

I’ve had this green Phileas continuously inked since it arrived in November 2014. It’s become a go-to pen for letter writing and journaling, or just doodling to take the edge off of a stressful day. So, yeah, smitten. Who woulda thought?!

Blue Waterman Phileas

A few weeks ago I noticed a sale going on at Bertram’s Inkwell, so I took a look (despite my vow to rein in pen purchases this year). And well, whatta ya know, a blue marble Waterman Phileas was listed—again for just $35. I’d made that pen-buying pledge so I mulled this over for awhile before ultimately deciding to buy. (Bert offers a 30-day/100% purchase satisfaction guarantee, so that pretty much clinched the deal.) Even though I already own the green version, the fact that the Phileas is a discontinued Waterman model made this find all that much more appealing.

Writing samples

When the pen arrived, I noted that what is called “blue marble” is actually quite purple. I think Wahl-Eversharp’s Everberry ink—a nice purply blue—would be a great match, but for its first fill I went with Sailor Yama Dori. That ink’s not really a match, but it’s a color I love and use often for letter-writing (especially during this InCoWriMo month). I wondered if the first nib was a fluke, but no—this one is just as nice, though maybe a touch finer. That’s kind of nice—the fact that they don’t write exactly the same even though they’re both medium nibs. Both are phenomenally smooth—kind of “soft” feeling. I don’t mean that in the sense of flex (NOT like the softness on my Visconti Opera Elements nib), but in the way it glides over paper. Whispery. So nice and yet so hard to describe.

Waterman Phileas x2

Some quick research reveals that the Waterman Phileas model is from the late 1990’s and is no longer produced. That’s too bad because this pen would be absolutely perfect for a fountain pen novice—a really lovely nib at a great price. (Prices are kind of all over the place on these, no doubt due to the fact that it’s been discontinued.) If I make it to the DC Pen Show in August, I plan to keep my eyes open for some of the other colors—red marble, grey marble, and black—or other nib sizes. I’ve read that the broad nib is particularly glorious.

Uncapped Waterman Phileas

The cap snaps on and off and posts well. The filling system is cartridge/converter, which is fine by me—easy to clean and maintain. I do like the looks of the two-tone steel nib that sports just a hint of that art deco vibe. The pen is light (24g; 17g body, 7g cap), but not overly so—sort of “just right” in hand. It almost feels like it disappears, but again, I think that’s because the nib puts you in a little trance. Well, it puts ME in a little trance.

We all know that saying, “Not everything that glitters is gold.” The Waterman Phileas has taught me that the opposite is also true—not everything that’s gold (or super smooth steel) glitters.

Waterman Phileas x2

Just like that blind date with the great personality, you’ll soon find that there’s something very interesting going on under the unassuming surface of this pen. The Waterman Phileas—the more you get to know it, the better it looks.