Friday, May 28, 2010

Bookbinding: Gwen Diehn's Thirty-Minute Multiple-Pamphlet Journal

Perhaps the best option for people who cannot find the ideal notebook is for them to make their own.  Although bookbinding can be intimidating and some practice and experimentation may be needed, the result will be a notebook or journal that is customized to your precise needs.

I, unfortunately, am still in the experimentation stage.  I made this book from instructions in Gwen Diehn's excellent book on journaling, The Decorated Journal, which has a very straightforward section on bookbinding for "the reluctant bookbinder."

This book required no specialized tools (you can use a push pin instead of an awl, for example), and although it took me longer than thirty minutes to complete, it would probably have taken less time if I had completed it in one setting instead of spread over several days.  I worked very slowly and carefully, and I suspect that with further practice I would be able to get the time down to thirty minutes.

I made the cover out of ordinary brown wrapping paper (which was later partially covered with a more decorative paper) and the pages out of white cardstock.  Lighter-weight paper would probably have been easier to work with, but as I plan to do some collage in this book, I wanted paper that would be able to handle that.

I used upholstery thread for the binding; Gwen Diehn trimmed the ends of her threads, but I thought that would look messy so I left mine long and braided them, gluing a wooden bead to the end of the braid to avoid the necessity of tying a large and ugly knot (I'm not good with knots).  When you look at the stitches on the spine, you can see that the signatures are not evenly spaced and aligned.  It would probably have been simpler to use fewer signatures (I used seven) for this first book, but I am sure that my binding skills will improve with practice.

This is the first book that I have made that actually looks like a book and not like a pamphlet, and overall I am pleased with how it turned out.  And, given that I already owned all of the supplies that I used to make it with, the price was certainly right!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm Green Black

I was looking forward to trying the green black version of the Uni-ball Signo DX, but I was disappointed to find that JetPens only offered it in 0.38mm, and not in 0.28mm, which I had been wanting to try as well.

Despite that issue, this is still an excellent pen, and will likely end up on my list of top five pens in the future.  I don't have much to say about the way this pen writes that I didn't say in my earlier review of the lime green version, other than to say that I have experienced no problems at all - it writes very smoothly, with a delightfully fine line.

I love the colour, which is the perfect shade of deep green, with just enough black in it to make it acceptable in any setting and just enough green in it to make it stand out (the photograph does not do this colour justice).  I have liked all of the combination colours that I have tried (such as blue black and lavender black), but, given that green is my favourite colour, this green black is probably the best yet.

Related reviews: A Penchant for Paper (lime green version), Pocket Blonde, No Pen Intended, Tools & Toys, Gourmet Pens, The Pen Addict (red), Kataish, The Pen Addict (bordeaux black), The Pen Addict (pink), The Pen Addict

Thursday, May 20, 2010

From the Art Journal: Hand + Mandala

If it is possible to go too far with a journal page, then I may have done that here.  But I did have fun, creating intricate designs using paint markers and gel pens, and using a colour scheme quite different from my usual greens and browns.  I usually add writing to these pages, but I did not do so here; the pages were complete without writing.  Overall, this is probably one of my favourite page spreads ever, and my favourite so far in my new art journal.  I hope that you like it as well.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Post-it Flag Pen - Black Ballpoint

The Post-it Flag Pen, combining a ballpoint pen with a dispenser for Post-it Flags, could be a very useful item, if you use flags to mark your pages (which I, unfortunately, do not).  It could be particularly useful for students and other people that want to limit the amount of items that they are carrying around.  However, the pen itself is far from ideal.

Although the fat shape of the pen is not uncomfortable to write with, the balance of the pen is not quite right: the pen is too light for its size.  The grip section, although soft and squishy, is too short and the slightly sticky surface attracts dust.  I don't like the purple and black colour scheme, but there may be other options available and, of course, your taste in colours is probably different from mine.

The ballpoint is slightly better than average (with average being the basic Bic ballpoint), but nowhere near the quality of a Uni-ball Jetstream.  It is tolerable if all you want is a basic pen for taking notes with in class (or some similar activity), but is certainly nothing to get excited about.

The body of the pen twists to hide or reveal the flag dispenser.  The construction of this part feels a bit loose: it does not snap neatly into place but still moves around a bit when in either position.

Post-it Flag Pen: flags revealed (top) and hidden (bottom).

Overall, if the idea of having a pen that also dispenses Post-it Flags is exciting to you, then you may like to check this pen out; if not, then don't bother.

Related reviews: The Pen Addict, OfficeSupplyGeek.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Zebra Sarasa 0.4mm Olive

When I first picked up this 0.4mm Zebra Sarasa gel pen, I was disappointed by how scratchy it was.  I had been using the 0.7mm Sarasas for years and had never had any problems with them.  However, first impressions can be deceiving.  As I have used this pen more, much of the scratchiness has gone away, although it is still far from being as smooth as a Pentel Slicci or Uni-ball Signo DX.

The 0.4mm version is a smaller, thinner version of the 0.7mm.  I do not like the rubbery, hard, slightly sticky grip; it has accumulated a few black smears on it that will not come off and it feels as though it would attract dust and lint as well (I've just tested it by rubbing it on my cat's back and it did attract a few cat hairs).

0.4mm Sarasa (top) and 0.7mm Sarasa (bottom) compared.

I cannot resist comparing the colour of this pen to that of the olive green Pilot Hi-Tec-C that I reviewed a few days ago.  As you can see on the written review, the Hi-Tec-C olive is a bit darker and considerably greener than the Sarasa olive.  Being a fan of green inks, I prefer the Hi-Tec-C olive, but the Sarasa's version may be more true to the olive colour (I'm not an expert on olives so I don't really know).

The 0.4mm Zebra Sarasa is not a bad pen, but if you are looking for a good fine-tipped retractable gel pen, I would be more likely to recommend something like the Uni-ball Signo RT, which writes more smoothly.

Related review: Paper and Pens.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pen or Pencil?

Do you prefer writing with a pen or with a pencil?  Do you use a pen in certain situations and a pencil in others?  Do you have a preference at all?

For most purposes, I prefer a pen.  For writing or sketching in my journal or even just jotting down a quick note to myself, a pen is the tool of choice.  Pencils do, of course, have their place - for crossword puzzles, for solving math problems, for taking notes in class.  While pens have the glamour of permanence, pencils offer writers the ability to erase and make corrections.

Owning few non-mechanical pencils myself, I went searching through my mother's pencil cup and came up with a handful of stubs, many of which had clearly seen better days.

Oddly, I have never seen her using one of these pencils, since she nearly always uses a ballpoint pen.  I suspect she found them at the place where she works and brought them home, in hopes that they might someday prove useful.  I love looking at these old pencils, wondering about their past owners.  They have a certain personality and romance about them that my own shiny new pens sadly lack.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.4mm Olive

While I have reviewed the Coleto (multi-pen) version of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C here, I have not previously reviewed the standard version.  Again, I suspect that this a pen with which many readers will already be familiar.

The Pilot Hi-Tec-C is a great pen.  It writes just as well as other fine-tipped gel pens that I have reviewed here in the past, such as my beloved Pentel Slicci and the Uni-ball Signo DX.  Although I have heard that these pens can be slow to start writing, I have not noticed this so far.  It may be more noticeable with the finer 0.3mm and 0.25mm versions.

Although I love the look of the needle-point tip, it can be a bit fragile.  I know from experience that the tip can bend if too much pressure is used when writing.  However, because this is a gel pen and not a ballpoint and because it writes so smoothly, you should not need to use that much pressure.

The Pilot Hi-Tec-C will not win any points for its overall physical appearance, as it is fairly bland.  Still it is very functional and I have no major objections to it either.  (I quite appreciate the satisfying click the lid makes attached to either top or bottom.)  When a pen writes this well, who cares what it looks like?

Finally, I love the olive green colour of this pen.  It is a more sophisticated, subtle, and mature shade than the brighter greens that are more commonly found.  I wouldn't mind if it was slightly darker, but it is certainly acceptable as it is.  (The colour appears slightly darker in the photo that it is in reality.)

Related reviews: Gourmet Pens, The Pen Addict (grape), The Pen Addict (soda blue), The Pen Addict (venet), Rhonda Eudaly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Art Journal From a Recycled Notebook

I had decided that I wanted to begin another art journal; my last one had been finished sometime in January.  However, I did not want to spend any money on a new notebook, or on supplies to bind a book myself.

So I found an old dollar-store notebook that had been used for various purposes in the past, such as writing down poems and quotes that had appealed to me when I was 13 years old but no longer did so, doing practice exercises for my economics and math classes, etc.  Nearly all of the pages had been written on and I no longer had any use for this notebook.

To turn it into my new art journal, I cut out every other page (so that the book would not bulge open after I added paint and collage items to the pages), prepared many of the pages by painting them in different colours of dollar-store acrylic paint (of which I have somehow accumulated a great amount), and decorated the cover (the original cover was green with silver shooting stars on it, and is still partially visible).  I don't think that I'm quite finished with the cover yet, but I like how it is turning out.  The title of the book is "Palimpsest: An Art Journal", which refers to the previous use of this notebook.  (A palimpsest is basically any kind of manuscript, etc. that has been re-used.)

I think that recycling notebooks in this way is excellent for both those people who have limited funds for purchasing expensive new notebooks, and those who are trying to be more environmentally conscious.  My very first art journal was made from a similar, previously-used notebook (which was all I had available at that time).  I have begun working on the first page spread in the book, and hopefully I will post a page or two here in the next few weeks.
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