Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shades of Rainbow

Left to right: Crayola rainbow pencils (these are old, as I've had them since I was a child); PaperMate InkJoy 100 1.0 mm Green; Zebra #2 0.7 mm mechanical pencils ("Cadoozles" patterns); rainbow novelty pencil; Dong-A Miffy Scented Gel Ink Pen 0.5 mm Lavender Purple; Staedtler Riptide 0.7 mm mechanical pencil; multicoloured Bensia non-sharpening ("pop-a-point") pencil; Stabilo Point 88 0.4 mm Green; Pentel Slicci Gel Pen 0.3 mm Purple; star-shaped Post-it Super Sticky notes; PaperMate Expressions eraser; apple-shaped novelty eraser; green butterfly scissors (these aren't mine; I'm just borrowing them for this post!); binder clip.

Back in 2012 I started a series of photo posts based on colours: shades of green, shades of orange, etc.  I was inspired by Azizah's old "Shades of Tuesday" posts, which I thought looked like a fun way to show off my collections and direct readers to some of my older reviews; since then, I have seen a few other bloggers sharing similar posts.  However, there are only so many colours to choose from, and eventually my series reached its natural conclusion, although I did revive it (with a slightly different focus and photo format) in 2014.  Since I will not be compiling any more of these posts, I thought that it would be fun to gather all of my "shades of" posts together in one place, so here they are:

Shades of Red
Shades of Orange
Shades of Yellow
Shades of Green
Shades of Blue
Shades of Purple and Pink
Shades of Brown
Shades of Grey
Shades of Black (and White)
Shades of White
Shades of Silver and Gold
Shades of Tan
Shades of Neon

Shades of Aqua

Shades of Lime

What colours are your favourites?  Mine are green (the first post "shades of" post I made), brown, and lime.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Pen Review: J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball

The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball is a rollerball pen that takes fountain pen ink cartridges.  I love the idea of this pen; refillable means less waste and you have your choice of inks to use in it.  I've been curious about the Refillable Rollerball for a long time, but as the reviews I've read have been mixed, I've always been reluctant to buy one.  Luckily, Sunny at Exaclair recently sent me one of these pens so I could test it out myself.

To start with, I love the appearance of the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball.  It has a minimalist design with a clear body and cap, metal clip, and "J. Herbin" printed in red on the lid.  The pen also came with a barcode sticker with easily peeled off.  I was surprised at how small the pen is (see below comparison with a Lamy Safari fountain pen).  Because of its size, most people will need to keep the cap posted in order to hold the pen comfortably.  And if you have larger hands, this pen may simply be too small for you.

The grip section of the Refillable Rollerball is very basic, being made only of smooth plastic.  There is a thin ridge of plastic (see below photo) toward the nib end of the grip that I did not like at first because I thought it would be uncomfortable to hold (I grip my pens low on the barrel).  I actually found that it made the pen easier to grip.  One thing I do not like is the thin metal ring between the two sections of the pen.  This ring is not attached to anything, and when you unscrew the pen to refill it, it would be easy for this ring to slip off and be lost.

The J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball can be refilled with J. Herbin ink cartridges or any other short international fountain pen ink cartridges.  Some reviewers have found that the Monteverde Mini Converter also fits this pen, which would give you the option to use any fountain pen inks with it.  You could also refill the old cartridges.  Sunny sent along some J. Herbin Rouge Caroubier ink cartridges which I'll be using in this review (I'll review the ink itself later).

The ink cartridge popped in easily.  Once I started writing, I was immediately pleased with how fine the line was.  I would guess that the Refillable Rollerball writes with a line comparable to that of a 0.5mm gel pen - my ideal line width.  The pen initially wrote very smoothly, but after a few lines, it started skipping (the ink flow briefly slowing or stopping) more and more often.  It soon became so bad that I found it almost impossible to write.

I decided to keep the Refillable Rollerball stored tip downwards overnight in hopes that this would get the ink flowing better the next day.  In the morning, I pulled out the pen once again and started writing with it and testing it on different papers.  Finally, after quite a bit of writing and doodling, I was able to get it to write relatively smoothly on the pages of my Rhodia Webnotebook.  I say "relatively" because the pen was still skipping, just not as badly as the day before.  I also noticed that the pen wrote most easily on more absorbent papers.  For example, flow was excellent (with no skipping) on the recycled paper pages of my Decomposition Book, but since most fountain pen inks feather and bleed on papers like this, this was still far from an ideal writing experience.

I wrote this on the first day.  The pen performed somewhat better than this on the second day.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball.  This was a pen I wanted to love, but my experiences with it were disappointing.  I would like to try a few different inks in it; I think it is possible that there exists an ink and paper combination that will work well with it.  But generally it seems to be a finicky pen that requires some patience: Store it tip downwards, allow it some writing time for the ink to start flowing, write more slowly (which reduces skipping), and experiment with different papers to find ones that it likes to write on.  I haven't given up on this pen yet, but I am glad that I did not buy it myself.  If you love the idea and look of the Refillable Rollerball, feel free to give it a try; maybe it will work for you.  But it's not a pen that I'll be recommending.


Other reviews: Gourmet Pens, From the Pen Cup, Pen Paper Ink Letter, The Unroyal Warrant, Ed Jelley, Life Imitates Doodles, OfficeSupplyGeek, Ink of Me Fondly, Rhonda Eudaly, Addicted to Pens and Paper.


Note: I received this pen for the purposes of review from Exaclair, but that did not affect my review, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May Miscellany: Journals, Erasers, Inks

Once again I must say that I am not quitting this blog, despite what things may have looked like lately.  I still have many things I want to write about and review here, but I've been struggling a lot with finding focus and motivation in my life in general this year.  Since I missed the last two monthly miscellany posts, many of the links in this one are rather old, but are still very much worth reading.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Finding Journal Inspiration

Once upon a time, I wrote in my journal everyday.  But over time, I started to write in it less often.  I started keeping a bullet journal last year in hopes that this would help me to write more, but when this system broke down, I stopped keeping both a planner and a journal.

Since then, I've realized that the journals I used to keep no longer interest me.  In my old journals, I wrote about things that were happening in my daily life and angst-filled reflections on my life in general.  All of this is boring and rather depressing to re-read, and I do not want to keep journals like this anymore.

I missed keeping a regular journal, though, and over the last several months, I've been trying to think of a way I could keep a journal that would be fun to work in, not make me feel guilty if I didn't write in it for a day or a week, and would be interesting to look back on in future years.  I've always loved the idea of keeping a nature journal, but I've never been able to figure out just how I wanted to keep one.

Then, I came across a certain book at a local used book sale.  The book was Edith Holden's Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, and soon after I started reading it I realized that this was exactly the kind of journal that I wanted to keep.

Edith Holden created her Country Diary in 1906 in Olton, Warwickshire.  The Diary is a record of her nature observations throughout the year.  As I see it, it consists of three main parts, which I'm going to discuss in some detail:

  • Dated journal entries - Edith wrote the name of the month at the top of the page and the dates down the left-hand side.  She did not write every day; sometimes as much as a week or more would go by between her entries.  Sometimes she only wrote one sentence; other times, half a page.  Her written entries were mainly brief descriptions of the things that she observed in nature and contained few personal references.
  • Illustrations - Facing the written entries and throughout the Diary were Edith's beautiful illustrations of wildflowers, birds, and insects.  These were undated, but could often be matched to references in her written entries and were nearly always identified with names of the species.
  • Copied poems and quotes - Edith also coped out poems, quotes, and seasonal proverbs into her journal.

This is a typical page spread from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.  Dated journal entries are on the left, with illustrations on the right.  Other page spreads contain illustrations only, or illustrations combined with poems and quotes.

All of these aspects of Edith Holden's Country Diary are exactly what I want to include in my own nature journal:

  • Written journal entries - Write just as much or as little as is appropriate, and don't force myself to stick to a strict schedule.  Minimize the kind of personal details that filled my old journals, and focus on recording interesting observations and events.
  • Drawings and sketches - I am not even close to being the kind of artist that Edith Holden was, but I do want to practice sketching in nature more often.  Doing so will help me to improve my observation skills, and the finished journal will be more interesting to look at than one that contains only text.
  • Poems and quotes - I have long collected these in my commonplace books (which I will write about in a future post), but I like the idea of including my favourites in my journal as well.  It will be a good option for those days when I don't have anything to write about, and it may also provide a good opportunity to practice calligraphy - something I have long wanted to do.

Thanks to Edith Holden and her diary from over a hundred years ago, I feel excited about keeping a journal again and I hope that one day I'll be able to share some pages from my nature journal with you.  (If you're interested, you can also read my review of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.)

Have you ever been inspired by someone else's journal?  And do you keep a nature journal?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Eraser Review: Staedtler Rasoplast Combi

Staedtler makes one of my favourite erasers, the Mars Plastic, but they also make the Rasoplast.  The Rasoplast, like the Mars Plastic, comes in both a standard version and a "Combi" version, which is an eraser that includes a white end for erasing pencil and a blue end for erasing ink.

The white end has the familiar soft, flexible feel of most erasers, while the blue end is harder and has a rougher texture.  The eraser is imprinted over its entire length with the Staedtler logo; this is a touch I love on Staedtler erasers.  With the sleeve off, you can see that the white part of the eraser is larger than the blue part.

I was curious to see how the pencil eraser end of the Rasoplast would compare to the Mars Plastic, Staedtler's "premium quality" eraser.  To begin with, the Rasoplast feels firmer than the Mars Plastic, but its texture is just as soft.  When I compared erasing ability side by side with 2H, HB, 2B, and 6B Tombow Mono pencils, the Mars Plastic erased noticeably better than the Rasoplast for all the pencil grades.  (The Mars Plastic appears to have smeared more, but that might just be because my Mars Plastic has worn down more and has no fine corners left to erase with as my Rasoplast does.)  For ordinary writing purposes, the Rasoplast would probably be okay, but I don't know why anyone would choose it over the Mars Plastic, especially since the prices seem to be comparable.

What about the ink eraser end of the Rasoplast Combi?  Here, things get a bit more confusing.  I've owned a few combination-type erasers in the past, and I've always assumed that the blue part was for erasing pen on paper (even though they never seemed to work very well for that).  The Staedtler website even confirms this, with the page for the Rasoplast Combi stating that the "blue part of [the] eraser [is] for ink on paper."  However, a quick test with different types of pens on ordinary copy paper shows that this simply does not work.  The eraser made the gel pen ink look a bit fainter, but otherwise it had absolutely no effect.

This is not what the blue end of the eraser is for!

Out of curiosity, I turned to Staedtler's page for the Mars Plastic Combi eraser.  Here, we get a different story: the "blue part of [the] eraser [is] for India ink on transparent paper (vellum) and matt drafting film."  This was starting to sound a bit out of my league, but Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens are supposed to contain India ink, and I do own a few pieces of vellum-type paper that were part of a package of scrapbooking paper I bought many years ago.  So I decided to test the Rasoplast with this combination.

Success!  Sort of.  It didn't erase perfectly, but I'm not sure if that's because it's just not a great eraser, or because my supplies were still not quite the ones it was meant to be used with.  I did notice that erasing the ink took a bit more effort and time than erasing pencil on paper.  Also, the eraser left a slight whitish mark on the vellum paper.

Overall, the Staedtler Rasoplast is an okay eraser, but Staedtler Mars Plastic is a better one.  And do not be fooled by the Combi versions of either eraser (no matter what Staedtler tries to tell you); you will be very disappointed if you try to erase normal pens with them.  I don't think that many people would need to erase India ink on vellum or drafting film, but if you're one of those people, I would love to hear from you about how you use erasers that way, and if the Rasoplast is actually any good for this or not.

Reviews elsewhere: Dave's Mechanical Pencils (pencil eraser only).
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