Monday, March 31, 2014

March Miscellany: The Pen and Pencil Edition

The theme of this month's miscellany is, you guessed it, pens and pencils.  Obviously I'm not too good at thinking up clever and witty blog post titles.  Oh well, here are the posts anyway:

That's all for now.  As always, I'll have more to say about pens and pencils and related topics next month!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ink Review: Noodler's Habanero

Noodler's Habanero is the second orange ink that I have reviewed, the first being Private Reserve Shoreline Gold back in December - an ink that I liked but did not love.  I can't remember what initially attracted me to Habanero (beyond the fact that it's orange), but I'm glad I bought a sample, because this is a great ink that is going to become one of my favourites.
Noodler's Habanero in Rhodia dotPad.

Noodler's Habanero is a deep reddish orange.  It might not be what you want if you're looking for a bright true orange, but if you like more muted colours with some depth to them, then you'll love this colour.  When it comes to alternative ink colours like orange, I sometimes fear that the ink colour will not be dark enough for me to read easily (something that was starting to be a problem with Shoreline Gold), but that's not an issue with Habanero.  This is a colour I could see myself using on a daily basis.  It's definitely orange, but deep and dark enough to make it easy on the eyes and clear to read.  And the shading is beautiful - it shades from a lighter orange to a very deep orange-red.

Noodler's Habanero in Paperblanks journal with lines from the poem "Clearing" by Morgan Farley.

Noodler's Habanero compared to Private Reserve Shoreline Gold.

The flow is perhaps a bit dryer than that of some other inks I have reviewed, but I think that I actually prefer an ink that's not quite as wet, so for me I think it is just right.  As with most fountain pen inks, you're going to see some bleedthrough on cheaper papers, but you shouldn't have a problem on good papers.  There was a tiny bit of feathering on cheap paper, but of course nothing at all on Rhodia.  And while some of the other reviews of this ink mentioned a long dry time, it seemed fairly average to me.

Scan of the writing sample for a more well-rounded appreciation of the ink's colour.

I was a bit disappointed in my last orange ink, so I'm happy to have found an orange ink that I love using.  I can't think of anything about Noodler's Habanero that I don't like, and I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you like orange.  I think that it's become one of my new favourite fountain pen inks, right after Rohrer & Klinger Alt-Goldgrün and Diamine Meadow (the only reason it's not higher up on the list is because I like green better than orange!).

Related reviews: Pentulant, Inkdependence, Ink on Hand, Goldspot Pens Blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

From the Archives: Pencils

I'm still relatively new to pencils - especially wooden pencils, which I have only recently rediscovered after ignoring them for many years.  Sometimes I feel a bit nervous about sharing my pencil reviews, because there is still a lot I don't know about pencils.  But I didn't know much about pens either when I started this blog.  I've learned a lot through keeping this blog, and I continue to learn.  Pencils (along with bottled fountain pen inks) are the new area I've been exploring more recently.  Because of that, my list of top posts on pencils contains several relatively newer posts:

  1. Pencils Lost and Found (June 2010): This is where I started to rediscover wooden pencils - picking up discarded pencils in the next-door schoolyard.
  2. Pencil Review: Dixon No.2/HB (+ first thoughts on using a wooden pencil) (August 2012): My first pencil review.  Not the most amazing pencil, but one I will remember fondly as the pencil that helped me get back to using wooden pencils.
  3. More Lost and Found Pencils and Pens (August 2011): Yeah, more of this.  I can never resist a poor abandoned pencil lying helplessly on the ground.
  4. Pencil Review: Staedtler Mars Lumograph (October 2012): Another review!  The Lumograph is one of my favourites.
  5. Rhodia Pencil (June 2013): I was unimpressed with this pencil, but it looks cool.  And matches my Rhodia notebooks.
  6. Laurentien Coloured Pencils (April 2013): A favourite from my childhood.
  7. My Growing Wooden Pencil Collection (October 2013): I seem to collect wooden pencils more than I actually use them.  I just like having them around.
  8. Pen or Pencil? (May 2010): Which one do you prefer?  I like them both, of course, although my tastes have evolved a lot since I wrote this post.
  9. The Great Eraser Review: Pentel Hi-Polymer, Staedtler Mars Plastic, and Staples Brand Erasers (July 2012): If you use pencils, you need erasers too.  I'm certainly not an expert on erasers, but the Hi-Polymer and Mars Plastic are both good choices.
  10. Pencil Review: Faber-Castell Castell 9000 4H (September 2013): I like this pencil even though it's in a hard grade that I don't have many uses for.

In July of this year, A Penchant for Paper will be five years old.  As part of the celebration, I'll be delving into this blog's archives and sharing with you some of the best posts from the past five years (with a focus on older posts that newer readers might not have seen).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pilot Feed GP4 Multi 0.7mm Ballpoint Pen

The last time I reviewed a multi-pen was way back in August of 2009, when I reviewed the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto.  The Coleto ultimately ended up disappointing me, and (perhaps because of that) I haven't touched a multi-pen since.  But long before the Coleto and this blog, there was another multi-pen: the Bic 4-Color pen, a staple of my ninth-grade science class, where I sat in the front row taking perfectly colour-coordinated notes and clicking the colours back and forth.  Click.  Click.  Click.  The Pilot Feed, while not a Bic, could very easily be a close cousin to it and that is why, after all these years, I'm reviewing a multi-pen once again.

The bottom end of the Pilot Feed contains four tabs representing the four colours of ink.  To write with the colour you want, you simply use your thumb to pull down the appropriate tab until the ink cartridge snaps into place.  The Feed comes in several different barrel colours; this white barrel looks almost like a clone of the Bic multi-pen, but I think it also looks rather odd.  The two halves of the pen don't really match, and it almost looks like someone took two different pens and combined them together.

But I have to say that - ugly as it may be - the Pilot Feed is comfortable to use.  It has a wider-than-average barrel (typical for multi-pens, to make room for the extra ink cartridges), which I find easy to hold, and the grip section is great.  The pen is nicely rounded off towards the tip, so there are no sharp edges to dig into my fingers, and grip itself is rather, um, grippy, without being squishy or sticky.

The pen can be refilled, and the colour of the ink is indicated not only by the tabs at the end, but also by a tiny circle of colour on the nib.  I like that the tip is transparent, so that I can see the movement of the ink cartridges as they move in and out of position.

But as for how it writes, the Pilot Feed seems to be a very average ballpoint.  There's no ink globs, which is good, but this is no Jetstream by any means.  There is a fair amount of white space in the line and most disappointing is the green cartridge - it is a pale colour that makes me feel that I need to press down extra hard with the pen to leave a mark.  The black is more of a dark grey than black.  The blue and red are the best, I think: they seem to write the smoothest and be the brightest colours.

Overall, the Pilot Feed is comfortable to hold and will likely evoke memories of the Bic multi-pen for many users.  But it's not the most attractive pen and the writing quality is only average.  I still enjoy using it for the memories, but it won't be on my favourite pen list any time soon.  And maybe now that I've gotten back into multi-pens, I'll be more willing to give that Coleto a second chance...

Related reviews: Paper Lovestory, Tiger Pens Blog.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Shades of Aqua

Left to right: Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Permanent Marker in Aqua, Pentel Slicci 0.3mm in Sky Blue, Uni-ball Signo DX 0.28mm in Emerald Green, Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, buttons, binder clip.
Top to bottom: postcard from Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada (I've been there, but only in the fall, when it didn't look quite this nice!); Sharpie Accent Highlighter; Pentel Aquash Waterbrush; binder clip.

I'm thinking I need more of this colour!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pencil Review: Faber-Castell PITT Charcoal Pencil

I'm continuing to explore the world of pencils, and recently I decided to try my first charcoal pencil.  Artists' charcoal is available in three main varieties: vine (basically just burned wood), powdered, and compressed (powdered charcoal that has been mixed with a binder so that it can be formed into sticks).  Charcoal pencils are compressed charcoal in the form of a pencil, which makes the charcoal less messy to work with.  Faber-Castell PITT charcoal pencils don't come in traditional pencil grades (HB, B, etc.), but in hard, medium, soft, and extra-soft.  Mine's a soft.

From the outside, the Faber-Castell PITT charcoal pencil looks like just another pencil.  It's round, which could be a concern if you're prone to letting things roll off your desk.  However, even before I sharpened it, I could tell that the core appeared to be thicker than that of a traditional graphite pencil and it was noticeably black - nothing like the shiny grey of graphite.  I read online that it is best to sharpen charcoal pencils with a knife, because using a pencil sharpener can apparently get messy, but as I didn't have a suitable knife handy, I decided to use my pencil sharpener anyway, and it ended up sharpening well.

Artists love charcoal because it can create deep blacks and great shading.  But it can also be a challenge to work with because it smudges easily and can be messy when it gets on your hands.  Because of this, I used a drawing pad for my sketch rather than the notebook I usually use.  And I also didn't include a written review, because these are definitely not writing pencils.

I read that it's good to start by using a hard graphite pencil to lay out the basic shapes of your drawing, because this will be easier to erase and correct.  This sounded like a good idea, so I used my 4H Faber-Castell Castell 9000 pencil for that.  Then I started to fill in my outline with the charcoal pencil.  For my first attempt, I thought a simple shape would be best, so I chose a small round vase to sketch, which would allow me to practice some shading without getting too complicated.  If you would like to try sketching with a charcoal pencil yourself, this article goes through the basic steps and this article gets into a bit more detail (and the sample drawing is amazing).  The second article used a paper stump to blend and soften the charcoal; I don't own one of those, but I wish I did, because it created a really lovely effect.

If you're like me, though, you may prefer to just figure things out as you go along.  While I am very much an amateur, I am happy with how my quick drawing turned out.  Since I'm used to graphite pencils, I was surprised by how dark and black the charcoal was.  If you tend to be frustrated that your pencils aren't dark enough, then you may want to give graphite a try.  I especially like how my shading turned out; I think I was able to get a greater variation in dark to light tones more easily than I could with a pencil.  And my sketch didn't have that shiny look that graphite does.  But all of that said, I usually work in journals, which means that easily-smudged graphite is not going to be ideal, unless I want all of my pages to turn into smudgy messes (or if I used spray fixatives to keep the charcoal in place).

Overall, I'm happy with my first experiments with charcoal pencils.  If you haven't tried them before, you should give them a try.  To me, charcoal sounds like something only a serious artist should own, but this charcoal pencil was simple to use, even for a complete amateur and beginner like me.  Although I'll probably be sticking with graphite pencils most of the time, I loved the deep black tones and shading of the charcoal, and I'm sure I'll do some more experimenting with it in the future.

Have you ever used charcoal pencils?
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