Just Right: The Karas Kustoms EDK

Right here on my desk, there’s a sizable (and ever-growing) collection of Karas Kustoms pens within arm’s reach. Render Ks, Fountain Ks, Bolts, Retrakts, INKs—all at the ready. All well-loved. I simply can’t resist their hearty, machined goodness. But lately, the Karas Kustoms offering I reach for most often is the EDK.

Karas Kustoms EDK

Why is that?

Let’s take a look.

Size comparison

At just over 5″ (12.9 cm), the EDK is the shortest of the Karas Kustoms pen models, and, man, does it feel perfect in my hand. The EDK is stubby and thick, in all the right ways. My anodized black aluminum pen is substantial and well-balanced. At 28 grams, it’s not too heavy, not too light. Every time I pick up it up, the pen pleasure center in my brain lights up.

Size comparison vs. pencils

Much like a wood case pencil that’s been used down to just the right size, or the thick and perfectly weighted Lamy Scribble (love this mechanical pencil), the EDK is a pen that’s instantly comfortable—like a pair of well-worn jeans or broken-in sandals.

Knock and knurling

The retractable mechanism—or “knock”—is the same one found on the Retrakt. It’s nearly silent, smooth, and reliable. The Karas Kustoms website warns that compulsive clicking can damage the inner mechanism, but because there’s no audible “click” with which to annoy your friends and loved ones, the urge to engage in this type of behavior is reduced (for the most part).

The machined knurling at this end of the pen is a subtle and classic detail. I’m always a little happier when a pen includes some knurling.

Grooved barrel

The anodizing on my all-black pen is super smooth and flawless. I’ve been carrying and using the pen a lot and have yet to mar the finish. The grooved barrel provides visual interest, but doesn’t seem to influence the grip one way or another. That said, I don’t find the EDK to be a particularly slippery pen, despite its satiny smooth finish.

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The clip is pure Karas Kustoms. Formed from stainless steel and attached to the pen body with two hex screws, this clip is very snug, very sturdy. It’s certainly not going anywhere, but still exhibits just enough “give” to allow the pen to be clipped into a pocket or case.

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But none of these details matter if the pen body doesn’t house a quality refill. Fear not, for I bring you tidings of great joy! (Oh, wait…that’s a completely different story.) But there is joy, as the guys at Karas Kustoms wisely decided to build the EDK around the Schmidt P8126, a liquid ink refill that glides over paper like an…ummm…exceptionally glidey thing. I’m usually writing on Rhodia paper or my stash of (discontinued) Levenger Vivacious freeleaf note pads and the experience is sublime—rich, dark, and smooth.

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This Karas Kustoms EDK is a comfortable pen with classic good looks and an excellent refill. Not to go all Goldilocks on you, but this is a pen that’s “just right.”

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I purchased the EDK reviewed here with my own funds. There was no cajoling or haranguing or arm-twisting by anyone at Karas Kustoms to provide a review. I’m just a total Karas Kustoms fan girl…and proud of it. 

You  can check out all of the Karas Kustoms machined pens at http://karaskustoms.com/pens.html

“It’s Quality Bro!”

A Vacation In a Pen: The Woodsmen by Bear Claw Woodcraft

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My cousins own this charming little camp in Long Lake, NY. Though tiny, it has everything you need to step away from the world without sacrificing comfort— a cute little kitchen, a strong hot shower, a wood stove. In order to get or make cellphone calls, I have to walk down their road, head to the bridge in town, and stand in just the right spot. That, honestly, is the best feature— being inaccessible. I’m never happier than when we’re vacationing at their camp.

There’s scenery…

The Wild Center

and trails…

Newcomb Trails

places to rest…

Charlie Scout, and Boo

and the world’s best pie from the Noonmark Diner

Raspberry Crumble pie

When we spend even just a few days at their camp, I feel my breath returning to a slower, deeper rhythm, my neck and shoulders unclenching, and a feeling of calm seep into almost every cell in my body. There’s no such thing as a stress headache in Long Lake. I’m pretty sure they’ve been outlawed by the town board.

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The Woodsmen ballpoint pen by Bear Claw Woodcraft has become a real favorite, not just because it takes my favorite ballpoint refill— the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000— but because its rustic carved body transports me to those lazy days in the Adirondacks. The look, the feel, and even the smell, remind me of the woods and of days without appointments and stress. This pen, I’m convinced, lowers my blood pressure every time I use it.

Bolt action

At 44 g, this is a weighty but well-balanced pen. The antiqued brass hardware looks right at home against the carved walnut barrel, and has proven to be sturdy and durable. The bolt action works easily with just my thumb, making it as convenient as a clicky pen, but certainly more fun. Need something to fiddle with in a meeting that just won’t end? This is your pen.

Carved body

Touted as being the only carved pen on the market, this is where the pen fits me perfectly. I love the rustic, but smooth, feel of the walnut body in my hand. There’s character and workmanship and the great smell of the natural oils used to finish the wood. This pen hits all of my Adirondack-loving buttons.

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The tiny wood-burned detail reminds me of a trail marker and our daily hikes on the Newcomb Visitors Center trails, where the smell of pine and the sound of loons means we’re far far away from our loaded inboxes. Bliss.

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The Woodsmen takes Parker-style refills, so if the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 isn’t your thing, there are other options available (e.g., Fisher Space Pen refill, Moleskine gel refill, etc.). Priced at a very reasonable $46, Gabriel offers a pen that writes, feels, and even smells great. When I hunker down at my desk for a day of work, the Woodsmen reminds me of those warm summer days full of sun and relaxation, of pine trees and campfires and, of course, pie.

The Woodsmen is a vacation in a pen.

For another review of the same pen, check out this post by Matthew Morse. His post was the one that prompted me to buy this pen. Thanks for the nudge, Matthew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tomoe River Rival: Life Writing Paper

Life Writing Paper

On a recent JetPens order, where I picked up a fistful of Pilot Juice pens (so good!), I randomly decided to throw a pad of Life Writing Paper into my cart. I’m not sure why, as I’ve been more than satisfied using Tomoe River Paper for the bulk of my letter writing. But, you know, the thrill of the hunt and all that.

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The other evening, I needed some pen-therapy so I collected a bunch of inked pens and tested out my new paper.

Made in Japan, JetPens calls this paper “luxuriously smooth” and says that it “resists ink feathering and bleed-through and doesn’t get roughed from the use of an eraser.” This “Bank Paper” pad is said to be durable and high quality, according to Life.

And to all of that I say, “YES!”

Life Writing Paper

The Life Writing Paper is heavier than Tomoe River Paper, but exhibits the same qualities that have endeared Tomoe River to so many of us. I’ve confirmed that all of the claims appear to be true. Every pen I used, from a fine Pilot Custom 74 to a bold TWSBI ECO, behaved exemplary. No feathering, no bleed-through, but still a LOT of sheen.

Writing samples

I have a terrible time trying to capture the sheen in the same way that my eyes see it, but trust me, this paper is just as good as Tomoe River in that regard, at least with the pens and inks I’ve tested. [Click on any photo to enlarge it, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.]

Writing samples

Emerald of Chivor’s sheen looks more dramatic in person, but you can get a sense of how it looks in a couple of my photos.

Writing samples

Sailor Yama Dori sheens like crazy, too.

Life Writing Paper

This 100-sheet pad of Life Writing Paper measures 5.7″ x 7.9″ (14.4 cm x 20 cm), which is slightly smaller than the standard A5 size. I love the size and find it much more convenient to carry than the large sheets of Tomoe River Paper. The pad is bound with glue, and pages tear off neatly every single time. One page of pink blotter paper is also included with the pad. I haven’t found dry times to be any more of an issue than with Tomoe River Paper, and they may, in fact, be a bit quicker. That’s just my impression. I can’t back it up with actual data at this point.

Hello, Life Writing Paper!

How glad I am that I tossed this Life Writing Pad Paper into my JetPens cart at the last moment. It’s quickly become a favorite (in case you couldn’t tell). I love the Tomoe River Paper in my Hobonichi Techo, but for letter writing, the convenient size of this pad coupled with the paper’s outstanding characteristics, makes it a very real rival to our beloved Tomoe River Paper.

Here’s to Life!

Life Writing Paper is available at JetPens where a 100-sheet pad costs $19.50. Not cheap, but, to me, it’s well worth the money. The paper reviewed here was purchased with my own funds, on a whim. Yay for whims!

 

 

 

Pencils and Postcards

Postcard with pencil

This weekend, our ornate downtown theatre (circa 1928) held an Antiquefest. What a great setting for vendors to set up their booths stuffed with antiques. Fred and I volunteered at the event so I made the rounds of the various rooms several times and did some browsing while directing people to the bathrooms and coffee. I was on the lookout for pens but only saw a few that were in exceptionally sad shape. No luck there.

But amongst the furniture, furs, jewelry, linens, and books, I spied a box of carefully categorized vintage postcards and started leafing through them. I skipped to the “New York” section, thinking that there might be some familiar attractions. It didn’t take long before I selected the card shown above. $1.00. Sold.

Made in Germany

I should note that I’m not a collector of postcards, but this one tugged at me. It’s from a time when postcards were little works of art, not kitschy souvenirs. This one was made in Germany, then sold here in New York, out in the Finger Lakes region, a prime location for vacation and relaxation.

Onondaga

On the front, the writer has scribbled, in pencil, “This is the boat we did not take.” I hear frustration in that single line. This vacation, it seems, has hit a snag.

Penciled message

“We cannot go across the lake. Boats have not been running for some time. We are at NY Central station Watkins waiting for a train to Geneva. Have walked about forty-eleven miles.” T. (or F?)

More frustration. The need for Plan B. We’ve all had vacations like this.

“Have walked about forty-eleven miles.” What an interesting phrase. A quick Google search turned up a number of references all explaining that this means “innumerable” or “a large amount.” Why have we stopped saying this?!

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Addressed to Miss Hatty Harding of Waverly, NY, this penciled postcard was written and  posted in September 1910. This postcard—my postcard—is 106 years old, and still perfectly legible. No fading, no smearing, no discoloration.

That’s impressive for forty-eleven years.

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For a modern take on the same subject, check out The Purl Bug’s postcard/pencil experiment HERE.

I recently picked up this giant box of postcards. Once I start sending them out, I’m going to write exclusively in pencil. Will my messages survive until Antiquefest 2122? Could be.

 

 

 

 

A Practice: My Hobonichi Techo

When I started learning how to ride my scooter, I quickly learned a valuable lesson. Look where you want to go. This sounds so obvious, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. If you saw me riding in those first few days, you’d know it didn’t come to me naturally. I wanted to turn into the right hand lane, but my eyes would lock onto the cars I was trying to avoid in the left lane and my scooter would head right towards them. Eek!

Hobonichi Techo

Life, it turns out, is a lot like my scooter lesson. If you focus on the negative, you’ll find the negative. The opposite is also true, look for the positive and you’ll find the positive.

I started using my first Hobonichi Techo at the end of December and bonded with it right away. But I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to use it. I knew I’d use it to keep track of appointments, but what would I do with the rest of the page- that gorgeous Tomoe River paper page?

Keeping track of the weather

I quickly decided to use the monthly index pages to jot down some notes about the day’s weather. My grandmother used to routinely record the weather on a calendar that hung by her back porch door, so maybe this urge is genetic.

I also decided to use the “knife and fork”prompt on each daily page to record what we ate for dinner. Yes, ham again!

Tracking dinner

But how was I going to use the rest of the daily pages?

Initially I started doing a kind of activity log- we went here, we did this- but I was only a few days in before I started boring myself. Do I really need a record of the errands I’ve run? My daily Field Notes to-do lists fill this niche pretty nicely, so rehashing the day-to-day stuff in my Hobonichi seemed redundant.

The answer to this datebook dilemma was handed to me by a friend. “Why don’t we,” she said, “record three good things for each day? Three things we’re grateful for.” We’d been talking about journaling and how we both suffer from “new journal paralysis” when this idea popped up. “Yes!” I said, and a new practice was born.

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On some days, I may jot down a quote that hits home, or a verse or note from a sermon, but I always record my three things. In a world that’s gone haywire, with so much in our lives that’s hard, closing out the day by writing down those small special moments keeps my focus where it should be- on all that I’m grateful for, on the positive.

Hobonichi Techo

Keep your eyes focused on where you want to go and you’ll get there. It just takes a little daily practice.

 

To Buy Or Not To Buy: Edison Collier in Antique Marble

Edison Collier in Antique Marble

I suspect you’re familiar with this internal (and ETERNAL) battle. See pretty pen. Want pretty pen.

Problem is, you only have two hands (and really, only one that can write anything), and way more pens than hands. Way more. Like, you’re on your way to becoming one of those people with goat paths that lead from one cluttered room to another. The pens, I’ve noticed, tend to pile up.

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But, GAH, you want this pen. So the angel and devil both start whispering in opposite ears, each trying to outmaneuver the other.

“But it’s so pretty!”

“You have enough pens!”

“It will make my life complete!”

“Um, no.”

“But everybody’s getting one!”

“And if everybody jumped off a bridge, would you do that?!” [Funny how your brain digs up these little beauties from your childhood.]

The ping-ponging conversation continues until you’re exhausted by indecision. But, oh, how that pen speaks to you!

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Such was the scenario when I saw this slightly used Edison Collier in Antique Marble on Gary Varner’s former Notegeist site.

I did my best to look away, but I couldn’t unsee that pen.

I appealed to my sense of reason. I already own an Edison Collier in Persimmon Swirl. (Talk about a looker!) AND, I already own an Edison Pearl in Antique Marble. So neither the model nor material were new to me.

I really DID do my best to ignore it, thinking that someone else would snap it up and make the decision moot. But no one did.

The price, I should mention, was excellent. A real steal. I stewed and rationalized and waffled in both the “buy” and “don’t buy” directions. I burned brain power and calories thinking about this, so strenuous was my thinking.

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You’re smart. You know how this particular tale turns out. I bought the pen.

The price was too good. The pen, too gorgeous. The Antique Marble acrylic is slightly translucent and beautifully swirled. There’s chatoyancy and depth and glow. The colors are my colors.

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The fine nib writes wonderfully. Upon receipt, I filled it with Montblanc JFK Blue Navy, and have been writing letters and journal entries with it often. I do not regret this purchase.

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But sometimes I don’t buy the pen. And this year I’m going to do my best to do what I said I was going to do LAST year- to be happy with what I already have. To USE what I already have.

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To buy or not to buy. That will always be the question.

 

An Unexpected Gift

 

2015 handed me an unexpected gift, and it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not a pen. It’s not even a thing.

It’s MS. Multiple Sclerosis.

Last Christmas, MS was somebody else’s disease. This Christmas, it’s mine.

I won’t lie. My diagnosis brought with it a giant serving of negative emotions- numbing fear, confusion, dismay, deep sadness. I cried at work. I never cry at work.

But when the sharpness of those first few days and weeks softened, my perspective shifted, and I began to see my MS in terms of what it has given me, rather than what it may be taking away.

MS has given me kindness. So many people- family, old friends, new friends, even strangers- have given me the gift of kindness that has helped beyond measure. I’ve been buoyed up and overwhelmed by the goodness of people who’ve reached out with letters, emails, texts, conversations, and hugs. This kindness carries me through the swift current of jagged emotions that sometimes feels like it could sweep me away.

I hope, too, that MS has made me kinder and more attuned to the needs of others. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own “stuff” that it’s tricky to see when someone else might be faltering. I think my experience this year has tuned my radar a bit so that I respond with the same kindness that has been shown to me. This is a work in progress for me, for sure. It’s another “muscle” to exercise.

MS has also made me appreciate, and push, my body. About a year before my diagnosis, I started participating in the Whole Life Challenge (WLC) as a way to drop some pounds and a handful of bad habits. The WLC worked like a charm. I lost weight, kicked a bad sugar habit, gave up soda for good, and became more active. I was feeling the healthiest I’ve felt in years when I was blindsided by my sudden symptoms and eventual diagnosis.

At first I was incredibly angry. Like “Fuck you, universe!” angry. How dare I get this thing when I’m doing everything in my power to live a healthier life. Then a friend pointed out that maybe the universe nudged me towards the Whole Life Challenge so that I’d be in a better place to deal with this thing. I was coming at it from a position of strength rather than one of weakness. She was so right.

I skipped one of the 8-week challenges when my symptoms were at their peak and I wasn’t sure what I was dealing with, but even then, I kept walking for exercise, despite the fact that it felt like I was walking on electrified barbed wire.

Gradually the symptoms faded, and I’ve been able to participate in subsequent challenges and have recently ramped up my exercise even further to include a regular weight workout. A friend and I serve as each other’s fitness buddy which keeps both of us motivated and accountable. That’s been another gift- having someone to push me just a little harder, a little further.

I start another round of the Whole Life Challenge in a few weeks. Each time I play the challenge, I burn in my new and improved habits a little deeper. I’m so grateful that I work someplace where wellness is a huge priority, where our WLC team really bonds, shares, and encourages. I like stretching myself and my body. I like feeling healthy and whole, despite the MS, despite some ongoing low level symptoms.

This Christmas, I’m grateful for all that MS has given me- for showing me that even in our darkest days, there is gold.