Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3mm Kurikawa (Chestnut Bark Brown)

Of the triumvirate of micro-tipped gel pens, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C is probably my least favourite.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a great pen, but I've never felt that it quite compared to the other two: the Uni-ball Signo DX and the Pentel Slicci.  The Hi-Tec-C is the scratchiest, the most uncomfortable to use (with its hexagonal body and lack of a grip), the most fragile (I once bent the tip of a Hi-Tec-C when I pressed too hard while writing), and it can, on occasion, be irritatingly slow to start writing smoothly.


But despite these issues (and before I alienate all the Hi-Tec-C lovers among my readers), the Pilot Hi-Tec-C retains a certain attraction.  It is probably the longest lasting of those three pens, its needle-point tip is a joy to use (just don't press too hard), and it comes in a truly diverse range of colours.  Some of the most intriguing of these colours are found in the Yawaragi series.  So when I was looking to check out the 0.3mm version of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C (my earlier review was of the 0.4mm), I thought I'd check out the Kurikawa shade, know in English as "chestnut bark brown", as well.


Unsurprisingly, the 0.3mm Hi-Tec-C is scratchier than the 0.4mm, and it is also scratchier than the comparable 0.28mm Uni-ball Signo DX and 0.3mm Pentel Slicci (the Slicci is the least scratchy of these three pens).  Although scratchiness is to be expected as the nib size gets smaller, writing slower or using smoother paper can reduce it.  With the Hi-Tec-C, this helps, but does not completely solve the problem.  Still, on smooth, high-quality paper, it can be tolerated.

Also, as I already briefly mentioned, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C is not the most comfortable pen to write with.  It has a hexagonal body of hard plastic, and not really any grip, just a section of ridged plastic.  I don't recommend writing with this pen for long periods of time.  The best feature is its cap, which snaps on and posts with a very satisfying click, and which is marked on the end with colour and nib size - a helpful feature if you have a collection of these pens (just don't put the wrong caps on the pens!).


Despite the scratchiness and discomfort, my decision to purchase this pen was mainly based on the colour.  I was originally undecided about whether to pick this colour or the Usuzumi (light sumi grey), but I eventually decided that I would probably like the brown better.  I have noticed that when choosing ink colours, I often prefer the more muted, darker shades over the lighter, brighter shades.  I have a particular fondness for colours that are close to, but not quite, black: blue black, lavender black, green black, and now dark brown.

Compared to black, this chestnut bark brown is a softer, quieter shade.  Black is fine for business or work and for writing things that are straightforward and concerned with hard facts or numbers.  Brown, however, is more suited to dealing with subtle nuances and for writings of a more ambiguous or emotional character, such as writing in your journal, composing poetry, or penning a letter to a close friend.  This chestnut bark brown is not a warm brown, but a dark, calming shade.  I enjoy using it; it is not an exciting colour, but rather one that will add a certain sophistication and elegance to your page.


I still have mixed feelings about the Pilot Hi-Tec-C.  I know there are probably people out there who adore it, but it just has too many issues for me to love it.  I appreciate its diverse range of colours, and I would definitely recommend the chestnut bark brown, but you'll probably want to check it out in the 0.4mm or even the 0.5mm, rather than the 0.3mm.  I suspect that the 0.3mm is simply going to be too scratchy for most people, and I'll probably be sticking with the 0.4mm myself from now on.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, Doodles in the Footnotes, The Pen Addict (blue black), The Pen Addict (violet), The Pen Addict (muscat), The Pen Addict (pompadour), The Pen Addict (mandarin orange), Shh, I'm Counting.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Field Notes Memo Books

Field Notes Memo Books fall into the class of "pocket notebooks", although at 3½'' by 5½'' they seem a bit large to be truly pocket-sized.  The notebooks are made in the United States - a notable feature these days when so many others are being manufactured overseas - and are sold in packs of three.  I picked up the "mixed three-pack", which includes one each of graph, ruled, and plain memo books.


The notebooks claim to be made of "durable materials", but the covers are only made of card stock and bound with only three staples.  The Rhodia Staplebound and Moleskine Volant pocket notebooks that I reviewed earlier are similar but their card stock covers both have some kind of plastic-y coating, and the Moleskine is stitched rather than stapled.  What is going to be more durable?  I suppose it really depends on where and how you plan to use your notebook, so you'll have to decide for yourself.

The corners of the these notebooks are rounded - a nice touch, but I noticed that two of my notebooks had their top edge cut slightly unevenly.  It is only a small detail, but one that does detract, however slightly, from the overall image of the notebook.  The covers are boldly printed with the "Field Notes" name - I don't mind this (I actually rather like it), but if you prefer your notebooks to have minimal branding, then this is not the one for you.  And as for that name, I don't know how many people use these notebooks for actual work in the field and I suppose it would depend on the nature of your work, but these don't seem to be the ideal "field notebooks."  If you're staying dry, they'd probably be okay, but if you're working in wet or dirty conditions in the field I would suggest a Rite in the Rain notebook.  And a sturdier cover would be better if you plan to carry your notebook around a lot.


Opening the notebook up, the inside front cover bears spaces for you to write in your name, address ("pertinent coordinates"), relevant dates, and contact email.  It also includes the amusing touch of boxes you can check to indicate whether there is or isn't a reward waiting for someone who finds your misplaced notebook.  The inside back cover includes a ruler (in inches) along the edge, further information about Field Notes (including an obsessively detailed list of specifications), and a list of suggested "practical applications" (including everything from "inspired ramblings" to "shady transactions" and "escape routes" - the latter presumably needed for when your shady transactions fall through).  I continually get the feeling that Field Notes is trying for a classic, old-time feel in these notebooks, but that they're not entirely succeeding.



The graph and ruled notebooks are lined with fine brown lines, a pleasant change from the more standard blue or black ruling.  The lines are 1/4" apart in the ruled notebook and 3/16" apart in the graph - both of which seem to be reasonable widths, at least for my writing.  The graph notebook has no margins, but the ruled notebook has a narrow bottom margin and a wider top margin set off by a bold double line.  If I had a choice, I'd prefer a simple ruling without any fancy margins, but this is hardly a major issue.  One thing I do like is that the lines go straight to the edge of the page.  I suspect that the graph notebook will be my favourite of the three, but I am glad that I got the mixed pack so I had a chance to try each of them.


Now, on to the most important aspect of any notebook: how does the paper hold up to writing with different  kinds of pens?  I tried a number of different pens in the lined notebook (the paper is the same in all three of the notebooks) and, at first glance, things looked good.  The paper is a very slightly off-white, and the ink colours stand out well with virtually no feathering.  There was some very slight feathering with the Pilot Petit1 fountain pen, but even the Uni-ball Vision, which is a very wet pen and typically feathers on just about everything, did not do so on this paper.

However, looking at the back side of the test page, things don't look quite as good.  Virtually all of the pens exhibit slight to considerable show-through, although only the aforementioned Pilot Petit1 and Uni-ball Vision actually bleed through considerably.  Given the amount of show-through (it looks worse in person than it does in the photo), I'd suggest that this paper is really only suitable for micro-tip gel pens (0.5mm or less), ballpoints, and pencils, although of course you would need to experiment to determine what level of show-through is acceptable for you.  Or, since the paper is otherwise quite acceptable, you could also choose to sacrifice the back of every page and write only on the front side.

(I don't know why these photos always make the back of the page look like a different colour than the front of the page.   The front and the back are in fact the same shade of off-white.)

In conclusion, the Field Notes Memo Books are a decent set of pocket notebooks, although they have a few too many issues for me to love them.  They are not ideal for every purpose or for every pen, but in the right situation they could be an excellent choice.  Field Notes is trying really hard with these notebooks and they're probably going to pull some people in, but I don't think they're quite worth the hype they sometimes receive.  Still, these are thoroughly acceptable little notebooks and my overall opinion of them is positive.  Just don't expect too much of them.

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, Planet Millie, Coffee-Stained Memos, Capitolism, Stationery Review.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Uni-ball Signo DX 0.28mm Emerald Green

I don't make a secret of the fact that I love writing with micro-tip gel pens.  They are ideal for my small handwriting, and enable me to write cleanly, precisely, and neatly.  There are a number of micro-tip gel pens out there, but the Uni-ball Signo DX is one of the best.  I have previously reviewed the 0.38mm Signo DX (in lime green and green black), but this review will be of the 0.28mm version in emerald green (any guesses what my favourite colour is?) and will focus on the ways in which this pen differs from those others.


First of all, 0.28mm vs. 0.38mm: Not surprisingly, the 0.28mm Signo DX is notably scratchier than the 0.38mm.  I didn't really notice any scratchiness with the 0.38mm, but I do notice it with the 0.28mm.  This is to be expected with the finer nib, but it is important to note that the scratchiness can also be affected by factors such as the smoothness of the paper and the speed at which you write.   If you use a smooth, high-quality paper, and form your letters slowly, you'll probably notice less scratchiness.  And despite being scratchier than the 0.38mm, the 0.28mm Signo DX is still not as scratchy as many of the poorer-quality pens out there.

At 0.28mm, this Signo DX writes a line that appears comparable to that of the 0.3mm Pentel Slicci.  Maybe a microscope or hand lens could pick up a difference, but my eyes alone can't really perceive a mere 0.02mm difference.


I was worried that the emerald green colour might be too pale to write with regularly, but it is not.  It is a slightly blue-tinged green, bright but still dark enough to read clearly, even in a 0.28mm nib size.  The colour is actually somewhat similar to the green ink in those old Bic 4-colour ballpoints, but not as dull.  The ink really is a lovely shade, and one that should stand out from any other colours that you may be using.


The appearance of the 0.28mm DX is very similar to that of the 0.38mm.  Basic to the point of minimalism, it sports a short grip that is practically useless for me.  However, I have often thought that the Uni-ball Signo DX, since it is such a great pen otherwise, really transcends its bland, utilitarian appearance.  In other words, this pen doesn't need to wow us with its good looks, since it already delivers such an excellent, solid writing experience.

One slight difference I noticed about this pen is that the clip is made of a translucent plastic, while the clips of the 0.38mm pens I own are opaque.  Looking at photos of this pen on the JetPens website, it appears that the 0.28mm and 0.5mm pens have translucent clips, while the 0.38mm pens are opaque.  An interesting touch, and I think I prefer the translucent clip.


The 0.28mm Uni-ball Signo DX is not for everyone.  It is a bit scratchy, and it is very fine, which may not be suitable for everyone's writing style.  I recommend the 0.38mm over the 0.28mm, especially if you don't usually use fine-tipped pens.  But if you're a micro-tip fanatic, then don't be afraid to give the 0.28mm a try.  I do recommend the emerald green though; it is a great shade, especially if you want a slightly different green (or you're just obsessed with the colour green like I am) and it is also available in the 0.38mm and 0.5mm versions.

Related reviews: The Pen Addict, The Pen Addict (lime green), The Pen Addict (brown black), The Pen Addict (violet), The Pen Addict (blue black), The Pen Addict (orange), The Stationery Station, From the Pen Cup, Informal Scribble, Ink and Graphite.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Notebook System

I love the idea of having only one notebook.  It would probably be a sophisticated leather-bound affair, with creamy unlined pages.  The cover would be soft and worn with use.  The notebook itself would have multiple sections - one for journalling, one for miscellaneous notes, one for keeping track of the books I read, and so on.  Accompanying the notebook would be a simple pen case, containing perhaps only a couple wooden pencils, a vintage fountain pen, a multi-pen with gel refills, and not much else.  I appreciate simplicity and minimalism, so the idea of one notebook is very attractive.  However, it is not, so far, a reality for me.

In reality, I have multiple notebooks, multiple pens and pencils, and multiple pen cases, all of them equally stuffed full, and I still find myself acquiring more, although not quite as much these days as I once did.  However, I have gradually developed something of a notebook system: a series of notebooks, each with a distinct use.  This system, although it does not quite fit my ideal of simplicity embodied in the single notebook, is still an improvement over my previous notebook "system."  This earlier "system" was not really a system at all, as it consisted merely of a random collection of notebooks, acquired haphazardly over the years, with many of them overlapping in purpose.  I wrote a bit about this "system" in my post wondering how many notebooks were too many.

Now, my current system is far from ideal either.  It still includes what I feel is simply too many notebooks, and some of the notebooks still overlap slightly in their uses.  However, I hate to retire any notebook until it is entirely filled up, so there are still a number of older notebooks hanging on in the system, even though they are no longer necessary parts of it.  As these older notebooks are gradually used up, I will be able to simplify my system further and, hopefully, take more small steps towards my ideal of one notebook (or at least fewer notebooks than I use now).

But enough said about all that.  Let's get on to the notebooks that are in my system:


These four notebooks are probably the core of the system.  From left to right, they are:
  • Draft notebook (Hilroy 1-subject Notebook): As I mentioned in my last post on writing pen reviews, I typically write drafts (of blog posts or other things) out by hand before typing them up.  The cheaper the notebook I use for this, the better.  That way I have no fears about writing whatever comes to mind, I can cross things out, scribble, doodle in the margins, whatever.  And once the blog posts are typed up and published, the old pages are torn out of the notebook.
  • Journal (unlined Rhodia Webnotebook)
  • Sketchbook (Heinz Jordan Permanent Sketchbook)
  • Commonplace book (Paperblanks Journal): This notebook is used to collect quotes, poems, lists, etc.  Read more about commonplace books in the terrific article over at D*I*Y Planner.

The following three notebooks are also a part of the system, but are not quite as essential as the previous four.  They may also not be permanent parts of the system, and one day they may be combined with some of the previous four notebooks.

  • Art journal/gluebook (large notebook beneath the other two): Probably one day this will be combined with my sketchbook to become an art journal/sketchbook that includes drawings, sketches, painting, and collages.  It makes less and less sense to have them separate, but it works for now.
  • Tarot journal (left; Clairefontaine Minuscule): Used to chronicle my current work with Tarot.  Probably not a permanent part of the system.
  • Book journal (right; Banditapple Carnet): I'll be writing about this more in a future post, but basically it's a notebook that I use to keep track of the non-fiction books that I read.  It's still a bit experimental, and I'm not yet sure if it's going to work out or remain in the system.

Finally, the next five notebooks are those "hangers on" that I mentioned earlier.  They're still in use, but they're not really part of the system anymore:


From left to right, they are:
  • Poetry book (blue floral notebook): This is a notebook that I use to collect poems that I like.  Essentially, it is just another commonplace book and when it is filled up, it will be replaced with my regular commonplace book that I discussed above.
  • Field notebook (Rite in the Rain Journal): I used this notebook when I was in university for field trips (which were frequently wet, rainy, muddy, and/or dirty), but I don't really have a use for it anymore.  I'm not sure what I'll do with it now.
  • Poetry journal (green notebook): This is where I write my poetry, but the small size makes me feel too constrained to really let loose.  Some journal entries have crept into it as well, so I may combine it with my journal, or perhaps find a larger notebook to use.
  • Notebook for miscellaneous notes (Quo Vadis Habana): I like the idea of having a notebook for miscellaneous thoughts and notes that don't fit into any of the other notebooks, but in practice I don't really seem to have any miscellaneous thoughts.  Or they just end up in my journal.  So I'm not really sure what's going to happen with this notebook either.
  • Quote notebook (black notebook with stickers): Similar to the poetry notebook, this notebook is used to collect short quotes, and will also likely be replaced by my commonplace book.

So there you have it!  That is my notebook system!  As you can see, it is constantly evolving and is still very much a work in progress.  As old notebooks are used up, I am continually simplifying and condensing multiple notebooks into one.  I've listed twelve notebooks here; in time, these could probably be condensed down to six, or maybe even five.  That's still more than one, but I'm getting there.

What about you?  Do you use one notebook, or many notebooks?  Do you have a notebook system?  If so, how has your notebook system evolved over time?  Does anyone else get as obsessive as me about how they use their notebooks?
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