Monday, June 30, 2014

June Miscellany: DIY Planners, Fountain Pens, Ballpoints

Now that we're at the end of June, the year is officially half over.  Here's a slightly-longer-than-usual miscellany to celebrate:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Years Later... Thank You

A Penchant for Paper will soon be five years old.  Over the past few months, I have been sharing with you some of my favourite and most popular posts from the past five years.  Now, I would like to thank you for your support over all of those years.

In 2009, I started this blog with no expectations of where it might lead.  Now, with nearly 800,000 page views, my blog is still small compared to the most popular blogs and websites out there, but it has grown much, much larger than I would have ever have thought possible.  Many times I have thought that I would run out of things to write about, but that has never happened.  I keep finding new products to review, keep making new changes to my productivity system, and keep starting new journals and sketchbooks, and your interest and comments here encourage me to keep sharing those things with you.

I would like to especially thank:
  • The Pen Addict, Brad Dowdy, who I'm sure has helped many new bloggers (including me) get noticed through his weekly "Ink Links."
  • Jack, Azizah, Tina, Millie, Sophie, Armando, B2-kun, John the Monkey, JoniB, Lito, Bob, Note Booker, Julie, Shangching, Von, and the many, many others who have left comments here over the years.  I haven't heard from some of you in a while so I don't know if you're still reading along or not, but even if you are not, thank you so much for your comments, product recommendations, tips, knowledge, and support.
  • And all of my readers, followers, and lurkers, whether you have ever commented or not.  I will never know most of you, but I know that you are there.  You come from countries as diverse as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Poland, Singapore, Russia, the Philippines, and all around the world.  I feel awed to think that, writing away in a small town in rural Canada, I have managed to reach so many people in so many different parts of the world.
Thank you for the five years we've had together with this blog!

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Rhodia Ice

Ask me to name a favourite notebook or paper and I'll probably name something from Rhodia.  I've reviewed a few of their products here over the years, and I trust them to be well-made and have great paper that always performs beautifully.  The Rhodia Ice has recently been released in honour of Rhodia's 80th anniversary, and as soon as I saw this pad online, I knew I would have to own one.  Luckily, Sunny from Exaclair was kind enough to send one my way.

Like all the Rhodia pads I've reviewed, the Ice has a sturdy cover backed with cardboard to provide a firm writing surface.  The front cover is carefully scored in such a way to make it easy for you to fold it back (this attention to detail is one of the things I love about Rhodia).  The Ice differs from other Rhodia Pads in that it's cover is a cool white with silver lettering.  Although white isn't a colour I'm usually drawn towards, I find the Rhodia Ice surprisingly beautiful.  It has a crisp, clean, sophisticated, and minimalist feel, and it's definitely cooler than I am.  The silver lettering adds just the right touch to make the Ice feel a bit more luxurious than the traditional pads.  I love how well the Ice's colour scheme fits with Rhodia's overall aesthetic, even though it's not orange or black.  It's just different enough to be unique and interesting.

No. 13 Rhodia Ice with No. 12 black Rhodia dotPad and No. 11 orange Rhodia Pad.

Inside, the Rhodia Ice is filled with 80 sheets of 80 g/mpaper ("high grade vellum").  It's available in both graph and lined versions, and the lines are printed in a soft silvery grey, which I find a bit less intrusive than the violet lines of the traditional pads.  The paper itself is, of course, wonderful.  Most pens and inks will work well on this paper (for examples, just see any of my pen and ink reviews, since I write them all on Rhodia paper).  However, Rhodia paper is very smooth and less porous so some inks may take longer to dry, although that's not an issue for me.  Things like Sharpie markers do bleed through, but they do that on just about everything.  I love this paper because all of my pens glide over it and writing feels especially effortless and magical.

The pad I've reviewed here is the No. 13 (approximately 4 x 6 inches), which is a size I hadn't used before.  It's a nice size, not too big and too small - probably too large for your pocket, small enough to easily slip into a bag or desk drawer, and with enough space for some writing or a quick sketch.  The Rhodia Ice is not available in quite as many sizes as the traditional pads (details here).

Overall, I have nothing to complain about with the Rhodia Ice.  It's even more beautiful and eye-catching in person than it is in photos (especially my photos - white notebooks are hard to photograph!).  Personally, I would love to see these available in dot grid, but I'm happy with the graph version as well.  If you are looking for a some good quality paper, then Rhodia is always a great choice, and the Ice is a particularly attractive alternative to the traditional orange and black.  If you are already a fan of Rhodia, then you'll need to add one of these pads to your collection!

Related reviews: OfficeSupplyGeek, Ink Nouveau.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shades of Silver and Gold

...though not real silver and gold, of course (I wish!).

From left to right: spoon, Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm Black, Sheaffer ballpoint, Sharpie permanent marker in Metallic Silver, letter opener, Canadian one-dollar coin ("loonie") with a hole drilled in it (I've had this coin ever since I was very young, but I have no idea who drilled the hole!), key, buttons.

From left to right: Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller in Gold, Merangue Hi-Jell gel pen in Silver, PaperMate X-Tend 0.5mm mechanical pencil, Sharpie Pen Grip, assorted loose-leaf rings (linked together), assorted metal buttons (I'm especially fond of the third button from the top, which is shaped like a seashell!), metal pencil sharpener.

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Old Favourite: Staedtler Silver Ball 404 0.3mm

Many years ago in high school an acquaintance came to class with a set of coloured pens in a plastic pouch which she used to take wonderfully colour-coordinated notes.  The pens were Staedtler Silver Ball 404 rollerballs, and of course I instantly coveted a set of my own.  I bought my own set at Staples as soon as possible, and used them obsessively for the rest of that year.  I still remember those pens fondly, but I hadn't seen any in years.  So I was delighted to come across a single Staedtler Silver Ball recently at the thrift store.

I am happy to report that the Staedtler Silver Ball 404 is still as good as I remember it.  It writes smoothly with a fine line and bright colour.  The ink does not bleed through as some rollerballs do (this was especially important to me back in high school, as I didn't use any particularly good paper back then).  I have to admit that there is a tiny bit of feathering, even on Rhodia paper, and sometimes the ink skips a bit, but both issues are not that noticeable most of the time, and I honestly don't care because I still love these pens.

The pen itself has a very basic stick design with a round barrel.  It's actually not that uncomfortable to hold, though; because the ink flows smoothly, I don't need to grip the pen as hard I am often prone to do.  I remember that the full set of these pens came in a reusable plastic pouch, and I also remember them being fairly long-lasting - I used these pens a lot in high school, and I was still using the pink one (pink is my least favourite colour, so the pink pens in a set usually last me the longest) in my first few years at university.  (That pen is pictured in this post, where I also mentioned that it bled through on thinner papers and that I wouldn't buy a set of the pens again - however, bleedthough now seems to be very minimal, and I would definitely buy another set.)

Overall, I still feel that the Staedtler Silver Ball 404 is a great rollerball pen, although not perfect.  Sadly, they do not seem to be as widely available as they once were.  An Internet search turns up a few sites that seem to sell them, but I haven't seen them in a store for a long time.  I would gladly buy another set if I ran across some in person, though I doubt that I'd actively seek them out.  (I have a lot of other pens to use up, so I wouldn't really need a set.)

Have you ever used these pens?  What favourite pens (or pencils) do you remember from your childhood?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Recent Acquisitions: Thrift Store Sheaffers + Some Questions

A couple of months ago my mom brought me three Sheaffer fountain pens from the thrift store.  They were in a plastic Ziploc bag and on the outside of the bag was a Post-it note labelled "Calligraphy pens."  The three pens were basically identical to each other except that two had dark red bodies while the third was blue, and they all had different nibs: while all had italic nibs, one was fine, one medium, and one broad.  And all of the pens were filthy.

All three pens had dried-up, partially filled ink cartridges inside them.  One pen, bizarrely, had ink (of a different colour) inside the barrel of the pen itself.  I have no idea how that could have happened.  If the ink had been of the same colour as the ink in the cartridge, it might have made more sense, but it was obviously a different ink.  The ink was all over the grip of the pen (as I unfortunately found out the hard way) and I couldn't even unscrew the barrel since it was stuck shut with dried up ink.

Previous experiences with cleaning pens have taught me that simple, plain water can be quite effective, so I filled a bucket with room temperature water (it may be tempting to use hot water, but many readers have warned me against that in the past), took the pens apart as best I could, and dumped them in.  It was fascinating watching the pens soak (I know, I really need to get out more...), as red, orange, blue, and black inks (yes, four ink colours out of three pens, because of the ink-in-the-barrel issue mentioned above) oozed out of the nibs, the empty cartridges (yes, I cleaned the old cartridges; for some reason I can never bear to throw these away), the barrels, and even the caps.  When the water became too inky, I dumped it and started the process over again.  Eventually, the ink in the stuck-shut pen softened up enough to let me unscrew it.  And finally the ink stopped oozing and the water stayed clear.  I pulled everything out, let it dry, and put the pens back together.  Ta-da!  Three calligraphy pens!

The pens are still not quite pristine, and probably never will be (one has a bit of rust on the clip, while another has a random piece of silvery tape on the barrel - you can see this in the top and bottom photos).  I haven't used any of these pens yet, but I have hopes that they will now be usable.  At least they are mostly clean now, and don't cover my hands with black ink when I take the caps off.

Do any of you know of a converter that will fit these pens?  I own several old Sheaffer ink cartridges, but a converter would be much more convenient.  I have seen a Sheaffer converter available, but it seems a bit pricey and I don't even know for sure if it would fit these particular pens.  Would a different converter work instead?  I don't know what model these pens are; they are marked "Sheaffer" on the clips but that is all.  (My other option would be to refill the old cartridges with a syringe, so I may try that as well.)

I'm also wondering: How do you practice calligraphy?  I dabbled a bit in calligraphy a few years ago and I'd like to do more of it, but my trouble is making a habit out of it and keeping it interesting.  Part of learning calligraphy is practicing the same letters and shapes over and over again, which is not that exciting.  If you have spend some time learning calligraphy, how have you made it part of your regular routine in an interesting and fun way?  Also, what resources (online, books, etc.) have you found most helpful?  I would really appreciate any answers or ideas you might have for these questions!  Let me know in the comments or send me an email.

I've been thinking about getting into calligraphy again for a while now, and I feel that acquiring these pens is a sign that now is the time to start doing just that!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pentel Quicker Clicker 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

I seem to be reviewing more mechanical pencils lately, and I'm not sure why.  But whatever the reason, the Pentel Quicker Clicker - while it does have some flaws - is likely one of my favourite mechanical pencils that I have reviewed so far.

Let's start with the positives.  My favourite thing about the Pentel Quicker Clicker is how it feels in my hand.  I know, this is very subjective, but as soon as I picked this pencil up I noticed that the weight, balance, and width of the barrel felt just right to me.  I also love how the grip feels.  It's just plastic, so it's not anything special, but - again - it feels like just the right soft-but-not-squishy grip for me.

I also think that the Quicker Clicker looks good.  The translucent sky blue barrel is appealing, and it contrasts nicely with the brighter blue eraser cap and the darker blue grip.  (The Quicker Clicker is also available in a few other barrel colours, and in 0.7mm and 0.9mm as well as 0.5mm.)  I like that I can see the spare leads inside the translucent barrel.  The clip is metal, so is presumably sturdier than a plastic clip, and the branding is very minimal: above the clip is inscribed (almost invisibly) the words "0.5", "Pentel", and "Japan", and to the left of that, "PD345".  (You can barely see a hint of this in the photo above.)  If you don't like obvious branding, then this is the pencil for you.  Under the cap, the eraser is a fairly decent size (and refill erasers are apparently available), and erases well.

But as I said, the Quicker Clicker does have some flaws.  I'm not a fan of caps on erasers, as they can be easily lost, but I have to admit that this bright blue cap looks good and provides a nice finishing touch to the design of the pencil.  So I can live with it.  My main issue is with the button to advance the lead.  Usually, this is located at the end of the pencil, but in the Quicker Clicker, it's along the side of the grip (presumably to make it quicker for users for advance the lead, and hence the name).  Somehow, no matter how I carefully position the pencil so that this button is away from my hand, it always seems to end up directly under my thumb.  It's rather irritating, especially since I tend to grip my pencils and pens very firmly, and I fear that I may end up accidentally advancing the lead this way.

Overall, I really, really want to love the Pentel Quicker Clicker mechanical pencil.  It feels so close to being the perfect mechanical pencil for me.  I love how it feels and how it looks.  If only Pentel could have somehow changed that lead-advance button (perhaps it would have been better along the barrel just below the grip? would that work?).  But as I said, this is still one of my favourite mechanical pencils so far, and I think I'll make it my everyday pencil for a while (displacing my Pentel Fiesta).  Perhaps I'll be able to find a way of holding this pencil that works better for me...

Related reviews: Dave's Mechanical Pencils, Thinkertry.
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