2014 Wrap-Up: The Feelings

Simple tree
Simple tree

I had planned to get a post up last week, but then I caught a cold (unexpected) and Christmas arrived (expected). One thing was fun, the other not so much. Slowly coming out of my sinus miseries and low-key Christmas celebrations to think about getting things back to normal. Well, normalish.

Baking cookies
Baking molasses cookies. Or as I call them, mole asses cookies.

I’m off from work for most of the week— just have to pop in on Friday for a little while— so every day feels like Saturday lately. Which is what I imagine heaven feels like.

Christmas colored Retro 51s
My festive Retro 51s

A couple of feelings routinely kick in this time of year, as one year ends and the other begins. The first is gratitude. Thanks for all of the good stuff and good people that I’ve encountered in the last year, much of it related to pens (and paper and ink and pencils) and the pen/pencil communities. These are the places where I feel most comfortable, where my introverted tendencies vanish, where I have a blast.

The Retrakt
Karas Kustoms Retrakt

Though not a complete list by any means, these are just some of the people and places who made 2014 a memorable year:

Podcasts/Videocasts
The Pen Addict with Brad and Myke (responsible for oh so many pen purchases and for an always entertaining commute)
The Erasable Podcast with Andy, Johnny, and Tim (Who would’ve thought I’d listen to a show about pencils? I do, and I love it.)
Anderson Pens (Oh, that chat! It’s like meeting with friends every time I tune in.)
SBREBrown & Gourmet Pens & the “I won’t be ignored” kitty (Great information with great humor. You guys rock.)

Pen, pencil, ink, notebook, and storage vendors
Anderson Pens
Dudek Modern Goods
Edison Pen Co.
Field Notes
Fontoplumo
The Goulet Pen Co.
JetPens
Karas Kustoms
Levenger
Nock Co.
Pen Chalet
The Pen Company
Retro 1951
Write Notepads & Co.

Thanks to some for supplying review items, to others for great customer service, and to all for great products and that extra-special personal touch.

My nib guy
Dan Smith @fpgeeks

Thanks for making less than stellar pens remarkable, quickly and affordably. Great work!

Penpals
Tracy Lee
Michelle

Thank you for understanding when I TAKE SO LONG TO REPLY. Your letters and cool envelopes are a source of delight in my mailbox. So glad we’re getting to know each other better while using our pens and inks.

Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers
I won’t name names because I’ll leave someone out then feel bad, but you all entertain and educate me, amuse and enlighten. This is the BEST community.

Best hotel
The Sheraton at Tysons Corner for returning my “left behind” Akkerman ink after the DC Pen Show. Amazing customer service. So grateful.

Pencils at the ready
Pencil line-up

The other feeling that kicks in this time of year is “fresh start.” Old year out, new year in. Time to purge, reorganize, and start with a blank(ish) slate. Fred and I regularly purge and straighten out our pantry during our break between Christmas and New Year’s. Annual ritual. Afterwards, we vow to use what we have on hand before adding more stuff to the cupboards.

Conklin Stylograph
Conklin Stylograph (to be reviewed)

In that same vein, I plan to make 2015 a year where I buckle down and USE my pens, pencils, papers, and inks— switching my focus from acquisition to using. When you have a Staples Printer Paper box full of empty notebooks, it might be time to stop buying notebooks and start writing in them. Like every day. Don’t get me wrong, I use my stuff but I need to REALLY use my stuff. There’s plenty here to be written in and written with, plenty to be reviewed, plenty to have fun with. Plenty.

Machined goodness
Machined favorites

So I’m closing out 2014 and starting 2015 feeling grateful and blessed. And you— all of you— are the reason.

Peace and good health to you all.

Write Notepads & Co.
Write Notepads & Co. loot

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United We Stand: The Divide by Dudek Modern Goods (A Giveaway!)

The Divide

We humans are always finding ways to divide ourselves into “us” and “them.” Coke vs. Pepsi, introverts vs. extroverts, cats vs. dogs, early risers vs. night owls. We like what we like and burn through energy trying to convince others why we’re right and they’re wrong. What a strange bunch we are!

The Divide with pencils

I’ve found an exception to that rule in the pen, pencil, and paper communities. Instead of bickering about what we personally like or dislike, I’ve found the “writing implement” community to be fun, supportive, encouraging, down-to-earth, and exceptionally friendly. These are my people. We may have different tastes, budgets, and obsession levels, but we’re always there to help each other with advice, kind words, recommendations, and solutions.

The Divide

The Divide, by Mike Dudek of Dudek Modern Goods, represents that “let’s all get along” spirit by providing a place for your pens, pencils, AND pocket notebooks to live in harmony. Starting out as a special request by Tim Wasem of the Erasable Podcast, The Divide is now a regular in Mike’s line-up of handmade goods. Mine arrived last week and I already find myself longing for a second one— one for work and one for home. This thing looks and feels great, SMELLS divine (that wonderful “woodshop” smell), and is absolutely perfect for corralling six of your pens, six of your pencils, and three of your pocket notebooks. No more flotsam and jetsam scattered all over your desk.

Felt pads & branding

Made of solid walnut by Mike himself, The Divide measures 2.5″H x 5.5″W x 3″D. It has a “just the right size” footprint that doesn’t consume too much desk space. Using my handy dandy (and cheap) Harbor Freight digital caliper, I found that the pencils holes measure 0.4″, while the pen holes measure 0.5″ and 0.6″ (give or take a few hundredths of an inch). Hand-rubbed with a stain poly finish, The Divide feels like a small piece of fine furniture. The underside features felt pads to prevent the surface of your desk (or the bottom of The Divide) from getting scratched, as well as a smart looking Dudek Modern Goods “brand.” It’s simple but solid. Divided but harmonized. It’s a really, really nice piece of handcrafted goodness.

The Divide

I picked mine up from Mike’s shop, but thanks to Mike’s generosity, you can enter to win your very own Divide. Just post a comment on this blog— maybe pass along a few words about how the pen/pencil/paper community has helped, encouraged, or entertained you. I’ll assign each comment a sequential number, then will use a random number generator to select a winner. Post your comment (one per person, please) by Sunday December 7th, 11:59 pm Eastern Time (USA). I’ll select a winner on Monday December 8th, and will post their name right here on the blog. You’ll have a week to get in touch with me with your address so that I can pass it along to Mike. (The Divide will ship directly from Mike to the lucky winner.) The contest is open to US and international readers. [Pens, pencils, and Ambition Field Notes not included in the giveaway.]

The Divide

The world can be a prickly place, but our love of pens, paper, pencils, and notebooks keeps us together— just like The Divide.

The Divide

Check out The Divide, as well as Mike’s other products HERE.

(There are no affiliate links in this post, and I was not compensated for this review. I’m just a big fan of Mike’s work. Thanks to Mike for making this prize available for giveaway.)

Imperfectly Perfect: The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 Pencil

My top three
[Three favorites]

I’ve already written about my top two pencils— the Stabilo 8008 Graphite and the Palomino Blackwing Pearl— but lately a third pencil has been sneaking into my line-up more and more often. The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil pops up quite often in Twitter discussions, as well as in the Erasable Podcast where it was recently the “Pencil Of the Week” (meaning that it was used by Johnny, Tim, and Andy for the course of one week, not that it was necessarily their favorite pencil).

Because of the Twitter chatter and a blog post here and there, I ordered myself a pack from Pencils.com and have been using them for awhile now, both at home and at work. The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 is currently resting solidly in one of the top spots in my pencil arsenal. Going by appearance only, it’s a bit of an unlikely candidate.

Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencils

While my Palomino and Stabilo favorites are thickly and evenly lacquered, the silver paint on the Musgrave TS 100 appears to be thin and a little bit uneven. I think Tim Wasem noted that you can almost see the brush strokes, and I have to agree. The branding features a font that would look right at home on a mimeographed (yes, I’m old) test paper. The letters wiggle a bit and are not as polished or perfect as the rock-solid branding on the Palomino or the Stabilo. But you know what? I don’t care.

Musgrave TS 100 Branding

The pencil body is full-hex, meaning that the edges aren’t rounded off and feel more pronounced— maybe even severe— compared to a semi-hex or rounded pencil. Personally, I enjoy the edges because they give the Musgrave TS 100 an old-school feel— like you’re REALLY using a pencil. Maybe they’re meant to keep you awake while you’re taking a test or to make it easy to distinguish the TS 100 from the herd of other pencils in your pencil cup or to keep it from rolling off of a desk. In any case, I find the feel of the distinct facets to be…well…distinctive, not annoying. Granted, I tend to use pencils in fairly short bursts so I’m not looking for long-lasting comfort.

Musgrave TS 100

Made in the USA, and featuring what is described as an “electro-graphite” core (which is supposedly picked up better by test scanning machines), this pencil is a true bargain at $3.25 per dozen— just $0.27 per pencil. Though I’m no longer taking “fill in the bubble” tests anymore— thank god— I still appreciate the look and feel of the graphite. Though not as silky or creamy as the graphite in my top two pencils— the Stabilo 8008 and Palomino Blackwing Pearl (my true love)— the darkness and smoothness of the TS 100’s graphite is a bit of a surprise. In fact, I feel like the smoothness improves as the pencil wears down, though it’s entirely possible that I’m imagining that. Point retention is decent. I’m not running to the sharpener very 5 seconds (as I can be prone to do). Again we learn the lesson, don’t judge a book by its cover— or a pencil by its paint job or price.

Writing samples

Musgrave TS 100 eraser

The eraser does a decent job, too. Though a black eraser would look pretty cool, this one is unabashedly pink— again adding to that old school look. Erasing is quite clean and the eraser “debris” is more strand-like than crumbly. The eraser wears pretty easily, but still I run out of pencil before eraser. The ferrules are secure and look sharp against the pencil’s cool silver finish.

Erasers

This isn’t a perfect pencil. The finish is basic but adequate. One of the cores in my pencils showed a slight flaw— a bit of a “cavity”— though it sharpened just fine. The branding is decidedly low-tech looking. The full hex body may annoy those who write for hours.

Musgrave TS 100

Despite those flaws, and maybe even because of them, the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil has captured my pencil-loving heart. It’s not trying to be something it isn’t. It’s like a pair of broken-in jeans and a favorite t-shirt— ready for work. And the price? Well, what’s not to love?!

Writing sample
[I like looking at writing upside down. A quirk.]

If I was paying a premium price, the minor flaws I’ve described might annoy me, but given the excellent performance of the graphite, I can’t help but reach for this pencil, sometimes over my top two favorites. There’s just something about that hex.

Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencils

The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil sits solidly in the #3 spot on my “favorite pencils” list. Considering the competition, that’s high praise. Very high praise.

Top 3 pencils

This is a pencil that is, to me, imperfectly perfect.