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:

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
The Goulet Pen Co.
Karas Kustoms
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!

Tracy Lee

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

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.)

The Solution: “The Block” by Mike Dudek

Soooo, you buy a pen. Then you listen to a podcast about pens and you buy another pen. And another. And another. Dot dot dot.

The pens start piling up. Some are too nice to throw all willy-nilly into a pen case, and the coffee mug pen cup isn’t really cutting it anymore. What to do, what to do??

Yes, this pancake helped solved a pen storage problem.

I have a few pen storage solutions that I’ll cover in the coming weeks- one of which is The Block, by Mike Dudek. I stumbled onto Mike’s creation while sitting in a diner waiting for my breakfast to arrive. Fred was reading one of those free real estate newspapers and I was messing around on my phone. Pancakes the size of Wyoming take awhile to cook, so I had a lot of time on my hands. As I scrolled through Twitter, I stopped dead when I saw the answer to my pen storage prayers on Mike Dudek’s @ClickyPost feed…

The Block
The Block

After a quick Twitter exchange which directed me to his Trading Post, I made my selection, and processed it via PayPal. Just as I wrapped up the transaction, that PANCAKE arrived. It was a good morning.

The Block vs. TWSBI Vac 700
The Block vs. TWSBI’s Vac 700

There are two offerings in Mike’s store…the Cube, which holds 9 pens and measures 3″ x 3″ x 2.5″, and The Block, which holds 21 pens and measures 6″ x 3″ x 2.5″. Given the number of pens I own, The Block was a no-brainer. Mike was quick to acknowledge my order and offered to make the four corner holes slightly larger than the rest of the holes. (The bulk of the holes accommodate pens up to 1/2″ in diameter, while the larger holes will obviously accommodate slightly larger pens.) Sounds good, I replied. Simple transaction. Great feedback. Happy customer.

The Block arrived about a week later, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It looks, feels, and even smells, great. The walnut wood is satiny smooth and very rich and warm looking. The footprint is so small that The Block fits just about anywhere…on a desk, dresser, or end table. Twenty-one pens easily stored in a very compact space. Perfect.

Enough yakking…here’s The Block in action (or inaction, I guess):

Note that the regular sized holes hold the Safari and Vista models perfectly, while the AL-Stars are slightly larger and need to be stored in the bigger corner holes.

Lamy Storage
Holding some Lamys

The Retros stand up great, and look very much at home, don’t you think?

Retro 51s
Retro 51 Tornados at attention

Mike lives near Karas Kustoms so it’s no surprise that he’s a fan of their pens and that The Block holds them perfectly.

Karas Kustoms creations
Karas Kustoms: Aluminum Bolt, Aluminum Render K, Orange Render K, Copper Retrakt

And here’s the block with a bit of a pen assortment…

Assorted pens
TWSBI 580, a couple of Esterbrook SJs, Retro 51 fountain pen, a pair of Monteverde fountain pens, and a TWSBI 540

The TWSBIs have fairly large diameters so they have to be stored in the larger holes, just like the Lamy AL-Stars.


I love handmade goods. Especially handmade goods that store my pens. Mike’s handiwork solves a universal problem for all pen lovers. Where do I keep all of these pens?? Well, now you know.