My Security Blanket: Traveling With Too Many Pens

I love the thought of going away. Seeing friends, having new experiences, taking in fresh scenery, enjoying a break from home and work routines. Finally a chance to exhale.

But travel itself, especially when flying, is fun and draining at the same time. The packing. The security rigamorole. Timing airplane bathroom breaks appropriately. Not losing any of your stuff. There’s always some point along the way where I kind of wish I was home. Just an inkling of homesickness creeps in along the way.

I miss my things–my husband (if he’s not with me, as on this current trip), our crazy pups, my own just-so pillows, a well-stocked refrigerator, ice on demand.

I swear, I have an easier time deciding what clothes to pack than picking out which pens to bring. I always miss the ones that aren’t with me. I stock my Nock Co. Brasstown with more pens than a sane person needs, then typically swap things in and out until zero hour. There’s so much mental chatter in my head about my pen selections that it makes me feel like I must be going off the deep end. But what a deep end it is!

Part of me wishes that I could embrace minimalism–pick ONE pen and use ONLY it for the entire trip. Maybe someday. Right now that thought gives me what is technically called the heebie jeebies.


So here I am in California, oh so far from home, with new and old pen favorites. For this trip (a conference), I brought along:


Pilot Metropolitan White Tiger fountain pen. Nice fine point for note taking. Replaceable should the unthinkable occur.


Karas Kustoms Two-Tone Retrakt outfitted with Pilot G2 0.5 mm black refill. Great pen in my favorite color.

Ti2 Techliner Red Alert and Orange Crush. The Red Alert is outfitted with a uni-ball Jetstream  0.7 mm black ballpoint refill while the Orange Crush holds a uni-ball Signo 207 0.7 mm gel refill…both excellent options.


Amy Grigg’s Apex Kickstarter pen with a Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Great on the Levenger Circa Vivacious paper in my notebook. Smooth. Dark. Gorgeous wood.

 
Bigidesign’s Ti Post Raw Pen + Stylus
, also with the Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Do I need to carry two pens with the same refill? Nope. I never said any of this was reasonable.

Retro 1951 Lift-Off with a Schimdt P8126 refill. It’s my newest Retro so why shouldn’t it travel with me to California?

I also have my Lamy Scribble tucked into the Hightower, should I need to do pencily things. I have not tired of this mechanical pencil. It’s a gem.

There’s no need to carry this many pens across the country. Technically I could survive with a few of the Bic Stic Queen Mary pens the hotel provides. But these pens and pencil (and pen case) make me feel secure. They’re unique, well-made, and reliable–comfortable to hold and top-notch performers. They remind me of the connections I have with the folks who make and sell them. We’ve exchanged everything from brief messages to emails to long letters. Pens aren’t just pens. They’re the people behind the pens.

And that feels like home.

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This post was composed and photographed entirely with my iPhone, so excuse the lack of links (too cumbersome) and any formatting and lighting oddities. Fun fact– the photos were taken on the desk President Eisenhower used while aboard the Queen Mary. I’m sharing his suite with a friend. Pretty cool.


Another Hole In My Head: The Lamy Scribble 0.7 mm Pencil

Lamy Scribble Pencil

Did I need another pencil? In a word, no. Ever since I started listening to the Erasable podcast, their brainwashing suggestions have led to more and more woodcased pencils finding their way to my house. I remain enamored with the Palomino Blackwing Pearl, the Musgrave Test Scoring 100, and the Jumbo pencil by Write Notepads & Co. and have plenty of those around the house. I also have a couple of subscriptions (CWPencil Pencil-of-the-Month and Blackwing Volumes) bringing periodic pencil surprises to my mailbox. So, no, there was no need.

Lamy Scribble

But being well-stocked in a particular stationery product has never stopped me before. (See my stash of the Levenger Vivacious paper as evidence.) So when Goldspot Pens offered up the Lamy Scribble Pencil as a special of the week, I caved. It should be noted that I didn’t pounce immediately, but read and watched reviews which did nothing to deter me, and everything to nudge me toward the purchase.

Lamy Scribble

The Lamy Scribble pencil is sold in two versions to accommodate two lead sizes— 0.7 mm for writing and 3.15 mm for drawing. Though the look of the big fat 3.15 mm lead was intriguing, I knew I couldn’t do that pencil justice, and so opted for the 0.7 mm version. The Lamy Scribble is short (12 cm/4.7″), with a stubby chubby shape that could put you off. But don’t let it do that. Weighing a solid 24 g, this is one of the most comfortable writing instruments I’ve ever held. It’s fat where it should be fat, and slimmer where it should be a little less thick. It simply belongs in your hand. 100% comfortable.

Lamy Scribble

Lamy Scribble

With a matte black plastic body and palladium trim, this is a good-looking pencil. There is the faintest hint of a seam in the body, one that I didn’t really notice until I looked at some of my photos. The look is classic Lamy— understated and classy while also being eye-catching.

Pushing the pencil’s knock one time deploys a tiny lead-protecting sleeve, while a second push extends the 0.7 mm lead. A common complaint with mechanical pencils is that the lead snaps off easily but I haven’t had that happen at all— maybe because of the protective sleeve or maybe because I chose to substitute my favorite non-Lamy lead.

Lamy Scribble and Pentel 2B lead

Because I’m a delicate flower, and need to have my pencil lead write JUST SO, I swapped out the perfectly fine Lamy lead for Pentel’s Ain Stein 0.7mm 2B lead. Talk about perfection. This lead is tough and smooth and dark— a killer trifecta of pencil lead qualities.

Lamy Scribble's clip

The aluminum clip is thin and shaped to slide in and out of a pen (or pencil) case without issue. The Lamy literature notes that the clip is removable so if you’re anti-clip, Lamy’s got you covered. I like the look of the metal clip against the black body, and am not bothered by it in hand, so the clip remains on my Scribble.

Lamy Scribble

Lamy Scribble eraser

There’s a small eraser and lead-clearing “probe” tucked under the pencil’s knock/end cap. I haven’t used the eraser more than a couple of times as I prefer to use a separate eraser rather than going to the bother of removing the cap to access the small thing. When I did use the Scribble’s built-in eraser, it worked perfectly fine for rubbing out tiny errors. This is not an eraser for an industrial size mistake.

Lamy Scribble Pencil

So though I needed another pencil like I needed another hole in my head, I have no regrets about picking up the Lamy Scribble Pencil. And now that I’ve picked it up, I never want to put it down.

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Medical update: Not much to report as I’m still waiting for my MRI and spinal tap appointments. I rattled the cage of my doctor’s office earlier this week and should hear something by the end of the week. My symptoms have ramped back up just a little bit…still mild, but slightly more annoying…so I’m very anxious to make some diagnostic progress.

Updated update: Cervical spine MRI has been scheduled for June 30th. At first I thought that was really far away, then realized that, um, no, it’s next week. Where did June go?? 

Slick: Lamy Studio (Palladium, 14k Medium Nib)

Lamy Studio Palladium finish

I’ll pounce on some pens in a millisecond, while others I’ll mull over for months. It’s not really a price thing (within comfortable limits), it’s more of a “what does this pen bring to the table?” type of pondering. I’ve looked at the Lamy Studio many, many times, but never felt won over enough to make a purchase. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’ve hesitated for so long, but some of it has to do with the polished chrome grip section that you see on most models. It looks like a fingerprint magnet and potentially slippery, and this, I think, is what’s been holding me back.

Lamy Studio Palladium model

A Lamy Studio recently popped up on MassDrop and happened to hit all the right notes— a Palladium finish (so there’s no highly polished grip), a 14k gold nib, and a price that wasn’t much higher than what I’d pay for a steel nib. That trifecta of factors pushed me from pondering to purchasing.

14k nib on the Lamy Studio

The 14k gold nib is a sweet one. To be honest, I’m unclear if the whole nib is gold, or just that piece down the center. In any case, there’s a softness and a bit of spring that you don’t get from a steel Lamy nib. I have some super smooth steel Lamy nibs that I enjoy using, but this is a different feel— a noticeable upgrade. The medium line hits a sweet spot for me— quite juicy, and yet still perfectly suited for my small(ish) handwriting. I could also easily swap this nib onto one of my Lamy Safaris, AL-Stars, or Vista, should I ever want to. (Probably won’t, but I could.)

Lamy Studio clip

Lamy Studio clip

The clip on the Lamy Studio certainly stands out from the crowd. Lamy calls it a “propeller-shaped clip” for the way it resembles…ummm…a propeller, and states that that the way it “turns in on itself is more reminiscent of a modern piece of sculpture than a conventional pen clip.” I see what they’re saying, as it IS sort of sculptural, but I’m a little undecided about the look. I like that it’s unique, but the higher profile makes it seem a little “bulky.” Well…not really bulky…but not as sleek as most clips. It functions perfectly fine for my purposes (clipped into a pen case), so no complaints there. The perpendicular profile might not suit those looking to clip the Studio in a shirt pocket since it doesn’t lay flat. So, yeah, I’m still a little bit on the fence as far as the clip goes.

Lamy Studio Palladium model

The palladium finish on this model means that the grip isn’t a fingerprint magnet, but it turns out that it’s still a little slippery—both in shape and in smoothness. There’s nothing, structurally, to keep your fingers from sliding down towards the nib, so I do find that I’m having to grip the pen a little more tightly. I’d hoped that the “brushed” palladium finish would add a bit of grip but I don’t think that it does. As a result, I sometimes notice more hand fatigue with this pen than with others. Kind of depends on the day and the temperature and the state of my hands—not an issue one day, then more so another day.

Disassembled Lamy Studio

The Studio arrived with two Z26 converters, but I’m quite sure that MassDrop threw in a spare. Sweet little bonus.

The snap-cap posts well, with a very satisfying “click” when pressed onto the end of the barrel. The pen has a nice weight (34 g overall, 24 g body, 10 g cap) and is very well-balanced whether posted or unposted.

Polished end cap

The Lamy Studio is a sharp looking pen—particularly in this champagne-colored finish. The 14k nib is noticeably springier and more fun than its steel counterpart. It’s a slick pen—with highly polished trim, minimal branding, and a uniquely styled clip. But it’s also slick to handle with a sloping, somewhat slippery grip. Though I sound iffy, I’m glad that I finally added a Lamy Studio to my collection, and think that, for me, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Lamy Studio Palladium

The Lamy Studio—it’s one slick pen. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you.

The pen was inked with Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo. The rough draft of this review was written on Levenger’s Vivacious freeleaf note pad.

You Had Me At Orange

My new orange pens

Turns out my pledge to hold off on buying pens doesn’t stand a chance when the pen world offers up a handful of reasonably priced orange pens. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!

Lamy AL-Star in Copper Orange

I wrote the rough draft of this review with my new CopperOrange Lamy AL-Star (medium nib), filled with the matching CopperOrange ink (cartridge). Lamy has, in my opinion, nailed it with this pen and ink combo. They match perfectly and this ink has quickly become one of my favorite oranges. It’s dark enough to be legible, but still pops with a nicely balanced brightness.

Lamy AL-Star in Copper Orange

The pen almost looks like it’s lit from within—warm and bright but still easy on the eyes. The AL-Star is a pen you either love or hate, mostly because of the iconic contoured grip. I have no issues with the grip so picking up this pen in this color was a total no-brainer.

TWSBI 580AL in Orange

I also “cracked” and ordered the orange TWSBI 580AL when I read that the color was being discontinued. (They manipulate me like a pen-buying puppet!) I chewed on my pledge, but again, this is an affordable pen and I’ve yet to have a bad TWSBI experience.

TWSBI 580AL in Orange

The pen arrived in Saturday’s mail, but the weekend was such a blur that I haven’t gotten around to inking it yet. I stepped outside of my nib comfort zone by ordering a broad, and can’t wait to see how it writes. My current dilemma—what ink should I fill it with? One of my oranges? Or a nice bright blue? Why I belabor this, I’ll never know. It’s not like it’s a permanent decision.

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I hear there’s a big basketball game on tonight, but I’ll be watching “The Voice,” then reading. So…not really a basketball fan, but the Limited Edition SWISH Big Shot Tornado Popper by Retro 51 reeled me in with top-notch details and orangey goodness.

Retro 51 SWISH

The pen is marked and textured like an actual basketball, features that classic Retro 51 knurling, and is finished with a very cool basketball graphic end cap. Though I don’t give a hoot if Wisconsin or Duke wins tonight, I do love using my SWISH pen with my usual “swapped in” Schmidt P8126 refill.

My new orange pens

So that pledge to pare down pen purchases has taken a little bit of a beating.

Lamy, TWSBI, and Retro 51—you had me at orange.

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I purchased the Lamy AL-Star from Fontoplumo, the TWSBI 580AL directly from TWSBI, and the SWISH Retro 51 from Anderson Pens. I experienced excellent customer service from all three vendors. There are no affiliate links in this post. I just enjoy sharing good pens and good buying experiences with you.

The Ink Debacle: A Cautionary Tale

Prior to the DC Pen Show, I took the Vanness Pen Shop up on an offer to order a couple of bottles of Akkerman ink, for pick-up at the show. By pre-selecting, and pre-paying, I wouldn’t have to worry about them running out of the colors I was interested in.  This was especially appealing because I was only able to attend the show on Sunday and I figured they’d be picked clean by then. So I ordered Akkerman #18 (Garuda Rood) and #24 (Zuiderpark Blauw-Groen).

On Sunday morning, the Vanness Pen Shop booth was my first stop, and since the ink was already paid for, it felt like I was getting it for free! The colors I reserved WERE sold out, so my approach was a sound one. I couldn’t wait to take a look at those cool Akkerman bottles.

Akkerman Ink packaging

If you’re not familiar with them, Akkerman ink bottles (60 mL, from the Netherlands),  feature a wide bottom with the long neck. This neck contains a marble that seals off the opening after the neck is filled with ink. So, to fill your pen, you tip the bottle, the marble slides out of the way and the neck fills with ink. Tipping the bottle back to an upright position causes the marble to drop into place to seal off the neck. Dip your pen into the “trapped” ink to fill it, then partially tip the bottle so that the marble dislodges and the ink flows back into the bottle. It’s a unique and very well thought out system. I’ve wanted Akkerman ink FOREVER. Well, at least since 2012, which feels like forever.

And I FINALLY had some.

We shopped all morning, took a break for lunch, then shopped and browsed a little more. I wound up with a bunch of bags…the goodie bags handed out upon entry to the show, as well as the bags I accumulated during the show. I was very careful to keep track of my stuff— double and triple checking myself after each stop at a table. I’d freak if I left something behind. But there’s confusion and excitement, sort of a recipe for disaster.

At the end of the day, we flopped in our hotel room and I took inventory. All present and accounted for. Exhale.

We stayed around a couple more days, headed into Baltimore on Monday to explore the city and visit with Chris and Mark of Write Notepads & Co. (more on that in another post). That evening, we took in a Yankees/Orioles game at Camden Yards. Each time we ventured out of the hotel, I stashed my pens– the ones I’d purchased as well as the ones I’d brought from home— in the in-room safe, just in case. I left all of the other stuff— some Write Notepad Co. notebooks, Montblanc Oyster Grey ink, some free Delta ink samples, and the Akkerman ink in the handle bags in the room.

Finally, it was Tuesday morning— time for the 7+ hour trip home— and we had to skedaddle. We had to make it home by 6 pm in order to pick up our four dogs from the vet/boarding so speed was of the essence. We packed up after breakfast, I double-checked the closet and the safe, scanned the room, and hauled everything to the car in one trip. The trip home was miserably rainy, but I love road trips, so it was a fun day. We picked up the boys at 5:30. Perfect.

After unpacking and laundry (ugh!), I rooted through my stuff, pulled out the Wahl-Eversharp Technik fountain pen and inked it up. Wow- what a wonderful nib! I screwed around with that for the evening, then JUST before bed, I thought, “Hey, let’s take a look at that Akkerman ink!”

You probably see where this is going.

I went through the first handle bag looking for the little brown bag holding my Akkerman boxes. Hmmm. Well, it’s gotta be in this other bag. Nope. Or in THIS bag. Nope.

Cue instant nausea.

NO AKKERMAN INK ANYWHERE.

Despair. Disbelief. Confusion. Anger. Blame. I passed through all of the possible stages of missing-ink grief in a matter of minutes. I sprouted an instant headache.

I called the hotel, gave them my name and room number and information about the ink (feeling a little bit like a weirdo). I mean, people leave pillows and laptops and stuffed animals, but INK? They took my information but in my mind, I’d already written it off. It’s gone, I kept saying, to myself AND out loud.

This is not the type of thing to discover right before bed.

The next day I had a call from Virginia. Florida,  a manager at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel, called to follow-up and asked for a more complete description of the ink and the bag I had it in. I googled some Akkerman images and sent them to her. I explained that it HAD TO BE in room 1617 in a small brown paper bag with my name on it. She said she’d contact Housekeeping to see if they’d found my ink.

Later on, another call from Virginia. My heart jumped! But no, this call was from Elizabeth, the Housekeeping manager, saying that she’d do her best to track it down. People might already be in the room, though, she said, but she’d see what she could do.

Then in the afternoon, the call I was sure wouldn’t come came. They’d FOUND MY INK in the room. Florida confirmed my credit card # and said she’d have it shipped out asap. My headache, and nausea, receded.

What a great feeling. What great customer service! I raced to my desk and wrote both Florida and Elizabeth thank-you notes. I tweeted thank yous! I gave them all 5’s on the Sheraton survey that arrived via email. I was, you could say, very happy. And relieved. AND puzzled.

Where the heck was the ink in the room??? How had we missed it when we scanned the room on our way out??? Well, we’ll never know the answer, but who cares? The ink arrived in excellent condition, and I cherish it even more than I would have had it made the trip home with us.

Lamy AL-Star Blue-Green

I’ve been using the Akkerman #24, a gorgeous blue-green (Blauw-Groen) in my Lamy AL-Star Blue-Green (fine nib) and they complement each other perfectly. This particular Lamy writes exceptionally well, very smooth. That ink in this pen is a great match.

Lamy AL-Star Blue-Green on Akkerman #24

My Akkerman ink took the long way home, but it’s here now, and I love it. I’ll be forever grateful to Florida and Elizabeth at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel for taking a genuine interest in my stupid little debacle and for providing stellar customer service. Even if they hadn’t been able to track down my ink, I would’ve been grateful for their efforts and phone calls.

So we have a happy ending and some lessons learned the hard way:

  • Make a list of your purchases (or really, all of your critical items) and take inventory before you leave the hotel.
  • Consolidate everything into as few bags as possible.
  • Never leave the hotel room in just one trip. Always go back for a second or third look.
  • Don’t let your spouse or partner rush you!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Akkerman packaging

Akkerman #18 and #24

Akkerman #18 and #24 with Lamy Al0Star Blue-Green

Such cool bottles filled with excellent ink. Smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!