TWSBI GO and J Herbin Caroube de Chypre Ink Review

I’ve tried shimmering fountain pen inks (inks with little sparkly bits in them) only once before, when J Herbin first started producing them, and they ruined a Lamy Safari pen and converter with their non-removable sparkle. Over time more and more reviews came out lauding these pretty, shiny inks and saying that they’re completely fountain pen friendly nowadays, yet I kept my distance. No amount of glitter was worth another ruined pen, after all.

Enter the TWSBI GO, which is a a TWSBI nib connected to a toy pen that is so cheap that it practically has “Bay State Blue ready” written on it (I still don’t recommend going anywhere near the stainiest of stainy inks, no matter how gorgeous it is).

The packaging is bewilderingly good for such a cheap fountain pen. A cardboard sleeve over a plastic box that puts the cardboard Lamy Safari packaging (and price point) to shame.

Cardboard sleeve with TWSBI logo
Solid plastic box for the pen. I’m not a packaging person, but this is disproportionally good for the price.

Then you open the box, and laugh. The pen looks and feels like a child’s toy, with its cheap feeling plastic, its light weight and ridiculous spring filling mechanism. It takes the ugly duckling bit a step beyond what even other TWSBI functional but ugly pens, like the ECO, have.

Ugly.

But then you start to write with it, and the silly little body has good ink capacity, is easy to fill, and most importantly, it has a TWSBI nib. TWSBI nibs are phenomenally good for the price, and they come in 1.1 stub sizes, which are super fun to use.

Here’s a writing sample with a TWSBI GO 1.1 stub, which I did late at night when I was pretty tired, and so I spelled TWSBI phonetically, so whoopsie.

The ink is J Herbin’s Caroube de Chypre, which I had bought but not yet used. It’s a light, coffee brown ink with a medium amount of shading and some gold sparkle that is just-impossible-to-photograph-unless-you-pour-half-a-bottle-of-the-stuff-on-the-page-so-you’re-going-to-have-to-trust-me-on-this-it-is-pretty.

Writing sample.

Can you get away with using this ink in a work setting? I believe you can, since the colour itself is pretty tame and the sparkle isn’t in your face, but just glints in the light in certain angles.

img_5626.jpg
This photographed darker than it appears in reality, but is shows some of the depth of shading that you can expect to see with this ink.
img_5627.jpg
Ugly pen, ugly handwriting, pretty ink.
TWSBI logo on the cap.
The nib, which is the main reason to buy this pen.
Pen grip and pen feed, with ink capacity on display.

The pen itself is a paragon of practicality: super light, super comfortable grip, good ink capacity, excellent nib and feed, easy to use filling mechanism. For less than $20 that’s a tremendous feat on TWSBI’s part and it makes this pen a “no-brainer”. Whether you’re a beginner or a hardened collector, you should have at least one of these in your pen case. It’s a great workhorse, good for experimenting with “dangerous” inks (keep well away from Bay State Blue, yes you, I’m talking to you. I can see what’s in your shopping cart), good as a loaner pen to get more people into the wonderful world of fountain pens, and even good for people experimenting with nib grinds. In the beginner fountain pen category it is uglier than even the platinum preppy, but when it comes to bang for your buck, this pen puts all others to shame.

 

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TWSBI GO and J Herbin Caroube de Chypre Ink Review

Moleskine Limited Edition Peanuts and How to Start a New Journal

I started a new journal this month, this time a Peanuts limited edition Moleskine. This is one of Moleskine’s best designed limited editions in recent years, because of the simplicity of the design and the limited palate choice (white, black and red). So first up, here are some pretty pictures, and then I’ll get into how I start a new journal.

That sleeve looks transparent, but is just perfectly aligned, that’s all. 
“Are you happy right now?” “I guess so..”
Gramma knows best.
No Problem
Only the best end papers in any Moleskine edition to date.
The back end paper is a sweet and a little heartbreaking – like the best Peanuts strips.
Bonk! Stickers galore.
Red detail on the famous back pocket.
Build your own Snoopy’s doghouse from the B-Side of the sleeve. 

So this is definitely a top 10 edition for me, both because I love Peanuts so much, and because it is such a well-designed notebook.

Now to how I actually start a new journal:

I’ve noticed that the hardest part of journaling for me is when I’m just getting started with a new notebook. Blank pages are scary and discouraging, and at that point I’ve invested so much time and effort in my old notebook that I really don’t feel like moving to a new one. Like Charlie Brown says, “Goodbyes always make my throat hurt… I need more hellos”.

The trick is to get the new journal started well before you actually “move into” it, so that by the time you start using it full-time it’s already an old friend.

Once I get to about 20 pages before the end of my current journal I select a new one, fill in my personal info, and start filling the first few pages with various project ideas/running and training plans/writing plans/home improvement plans. These are specifically things that I know that I’ll need to start updating and referencing before I start using the new journal, so that it’ll start filling up with meaningful content ahead of time. I also use the last pages of the journal to test new pens, jot notes for myself or just for various stamps. By the time I start using it, the notebook isn’t just randomly used or “wrecked”, but meaningfully mine. It’s already working for me, being my outboard brain and eye and heart. And it doesn’t take a lot — I was too preoccupied this time to notice that my old Star Wars Duel notebook was running out, so I started the Peanuts one in a rush, only a few days before I fully moved into it. All it took was a running plan and a list of things that I want to pack up and give to charity for me to easily transition into it, as if I was merely turning another page in my old notebook.

If you have trouble starting new notebooks, give this idea a try, it may help you out.

Moleskine Limited Edition Peanuts and How to Start a New Journal

Moleskine James Bond Limited Edition Boxed Set

Completing my Moleskine James Bond limited edition reviews (see here for the Titles notebook and here for the Carbon one) is the crowning glory of them all: the boxed set.

Unlike the other two notebooks, this is a numbered edition with 7007 notebooks total made worldwide. It comes in a silk covered box, with its own matching “tie” (to help you get the notebook out. It’s not really necessary, but adds another touch of luxury to this set), and is itself covered in black silk. All of this is terrifically excessive, like Q’s elegant little gadgets on an already over the top car. The result is a notebook and box that you just want to stare at and stroke every once in a while.

The Box
The “tie” inside the box

The notebook with its shiny silk cover:

Moleskine did a limited edition run of silk covered pocket notebooks years back, for the van Gogh museum in the Netherlands. They were all the rage, especially at a time when Moleskine was not doing limited editions except for special events, and they were exceptionally difficult to obtain. The silk on those covers was thinner and rougher, and after a bit of use tended to fray, likely because silk is not an easy fabric to work with, and the company had very little experience with fabric covered notebooks.

The James Bond Boxed Set comes after the Blend, Rolling Stones, Denim and Marauder’s Map fabric covered editions, and you can tell that they know what they’re doing now. The silk on the cover is densely woven and substantial, and unlike the van Gogh notebooks, it actually shines with sheen. It feels like the notebook is wearing a high end tuxedo and just waiting for a gorgeous woman in a skimpy dress and a silly name to bring it a martini, shaken, not stirred.

Front end page, with the well designed map and the number of the edition
Back end page, with all the titles beautifully aligned.

Like all previous boxed sets, the notebook comes unwrapped (the box itself is wrapped) and so without the paper slip and its B-side around it. The sticker sheet that comes with this edition is the same as the other notebooks in this range.

The set originally cost around $35 but you can get it now for $25. If you’re a James Bond fan this is the one to get out of this edition, with the Carbon coming in second place and the Titles in third. The only minus to this notebook is that it is so sexy there’s a good chance that you’ll feel uncomfortable using it (ah, double entendre. What’s a James Bond movie without it?).

Moleskine James Bond Limited Edition Boxed Set

Ti Click EDC Pen Review

I am a big fan of Big Idea Design’s pens (the Ti Arto is my daily carry pen), and so of course I joined the Kickstarter for the Ti Click EDC Pen. Since I hadn’t tried their black anodised pens before, that’s the finish I opted for. It arrived yesterday, and even though I’ve been using it exclusively all day, I’l be the first to admit that these are only my preliminary thoughts on it. (See updates in the end for more detailed thoughts on this pen).

The packaging, as usual with BIGiDESIGN, is compact and neat. The pen comes with everything you need to fix it, should you need to (I’ve never needed to), and in a pretty nifty box.

The finish on this pen is shiny and black, but it’s surprisingly not a fingerprint magnet, as I would have imagined:

The pen came with a Scheider Gelion 39 0.4 mm gel ink refill. This is a new refill for me, and I can’t say I’m a fan. It’s as wide as a 0.7-0.8 mm refill, and I much prefer the Uni-Ball Signo UMR-85N refill that the BIGiDESIGN pens used to be shipped with (it’s me favourite gel refill).

As part of the kickstarter, the pen came with a cool Bioworkz sticker, which you can see below:

The pen itself is about the length of the Ti Arto, when the Ti Arto is capped, but the grip is much wider, about the size of the Ti Pocket Pro. That’s a bit large for an EDC pen, and it’s definitely not a pocket pen. The grip feels weird at first, but it’s very comfortable and well designed. You can see how the Ti Click EDC compares to the Ti Arto (on the left) and the Ti Pocket Pro (on the right) in the various finish options that the Ti pens come in (machined raw, midnight black, and stonewashed). My machined raw Ti Arto shows scratches much more than my stonewashed Ti Pocket Pro, but I’ve no idea yet how the midnight black finish wears.

This brings me to the only minus that the Ti Click EDC has – the click mechanism. It’s silent (no satisfying click), which will probably turn off those planning on using it as a fidget toy, and it doesn’t always engage properly. It’s especially prone to not engaging after you replace the refill. Make sure that you use the provided instructions to switch refills (and like other BIGiDESIGN pens this one accepts dozens of refills without using any spacers or requiring any special hacks), and take into account that you might have to fiddle with the grip a bit until most clicks work. This is not a minor drawback, as the whole point of the pen is its click mechanism. It should work 100% of the time and feel satisfying, not “soft” as it feels now.

For the price of the Ti Click EDC you could buy a Ti Arto (still their best pen), or a Ti Pocket Pro (if portability is super important to you), have some change for a bunch of refills and get a much better pen. I love supporting BIGiDESIGN and I’m glad that I got to try this pen, but for now it looks like the Ti Arto will continue to reign supreme in my rotation.

Update: After using this pen almost exclusively for a week, I stand by my first impressions. It’s slightly more comfortable to use in long form writing, but the click mechanism is garbage.

Update 2: The BIGiDESIGN guys contacted me and it turns out that you can significantly improve the click mechanism with some silicone grease. Using the clip fixing kit that came with the pen and their simple instructional video on how to use it you can get to the click mechanism, and then apply some silicone grease, which you can buy at Goulet Pens for example. I happened to have grease around, so I had no problem trying this out, and it fixes the problem of the click mechanism not engaging properly.

The click is now solid, but it’s still not much fun to use – there’s no satisfying click or solid feedback once the thing is engaged. You just push past a point, and then the mechanism partially bounces back. It’s a disappointment because most $2-3 pens have more satisfying click mechanisms and even Karas Kustoms EDK pen, which has a similar click mechanism, offers more feedback and an audible click once it’s engaged.

I don’t know how many Ti Click EDC pens were affected by this problem, and I’m glad that I have at least a “mostly OK” click mechanism for my pen now, but I stand by my initial review, that for a pen that advertises its click mechanism so prominently, this is not a great buy. Spend your money on the Ti Arto, it’s a pen worth having, or go for the Ti Pocket Pro if you’re looking for an EDC pen. Those are truly great pens, while the Ti Click EDC is OK to “sort of good” at best.

Ti Click EDC Pen Review

“Triggers” Daily Questions and a Moleskine Pocket Peter Pan Limited Edition review: All Children, Except One, Grow Up.

Ever since I’ve read the book “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith about six months ago I’ve been searching for ways to track the progress of my Daily Questions (“Did I do my best to…”). I tried using my journal for several months, then used a Google Sheet for two months, and in both cases something was missing. The Google Sheet was great for statistics and tracking, but not as satisfying and meaningful as writing my daily scores down (and I didn’t really find the statistics useful). The journal was much better, but as my goals changed it was time consuming to create a new table each time, and I needed a way to for me to justify my daily scores.

Enter tracking system number three: a Moleskine pocket Peter Pan limited edition notebook and an index card. Let’s start with the notebook:

The Peter Pan Moleskine limited editions showcase some of Moleskine’s best design work in recent years. Both the colourful covers, the drawing and the lettering evoke the spirit of Peter Pan without resorting to Disney-esque tropes. They’re naive without being childish, colourful without being brash, and the quotes on the covers are brilliantly selected.

Inside the covers are more illustrations in the same vein and even the famous “In case of loss” is set in a hand lettering like font. The palate of the entire Peter Pan line is limited (navy, orangey-yellow, green and white) but it never feels that way.

The back cover. Again, extra points for aligning the design so well with the back pocket. It almost seems like they’re flying into it:

This edition comes with stickers that are a lot of fun and well drawn in a naive style:

And the B-Side of the sleeve instructs you on how to build paper planes and also uses quotes from the books or that reference the book:

So that’s the review of the notebook itself. I highly recommend all of the Moleskine Peter Pan notebooks — they rank alongside the Denim and some of the Harry Potter limited edition notebooks as my favourites of recent years. I didn’t buy it specifically to try to use it as a Triggers Daily Questions tracker, but it was languishing in my “to use” pile and a used notebook is better than an unused notebook, so I decided to give it a spin.

The idea of writing down my Daily Questions each time was what made me stop using my journal for this purpose in the first place, so I decided to write them down once on an index card (which I would slip in the notebook’s back pocket), and then number each question, and date the card. Every day I would write down a score for each daily question, and a very short justification for the score. The justification is short to make it easy to write them down (if it’s a hassle I’ll have a hard time sticking with it), and that’s why I chose the pocket notebook (it’s also light and easy to carry around). When I feel like I need to change the questions up, I’ll create a new index card, put an end date on the old index card and archive it in the notebook’s back pocket. Every day will be dated in the notebook, and I use the appropriate index card if I really want to reference that particular day in the future. This may seem a little clunky for reference purposes, but as I learned over time, I don’t really go back to reference my past answers, so that’s not a meaningful setback.

I’ll check in a few months and document how it goes, but judging by my previous experience, this looks like a pretty good setup for now.

“Triggers” Daily Questions and a Moleskine Pocket Peter Pan Limited Edition review: All Children, Except One, Grow Up.

Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Fountain Pen Review

After reviewing the Moleskine James Bond Carbon it was only natural to review my recently acquired Kaweco AC Sport Carbon fountain pen, so here you have it:

I’m not a huge Kaweco fan, mainly because their practically non existent filling system makes using them something of a pain. Cartridges are sometimes very useful (especially when traveling), but I generally prefer a cartridge based pen to accept converters as well and Kaweco’s Sport converters are a joke. They are difficult to fill and hold less than a drop of ink, and oftentimes come loose, so they’re basically terrible. Kaweco seems to be aware of that because they also make them difficult to obtain. You really have to want the pain to experience it (and believe me, you don’t. Save your money and buy yourself several cups of coffee).

So what possessed me to buy this pen? It’s pretty. There, I said it. That red, that carbon fibre — this pen is basically a Ferrari in pen shape: gorgeous and not very practical.

Look how pretty it is!

The nib is smooth and I was luck enough that it worked well out of the box. I’ve had mixed success with Kaweco nibs, so unless you’re comfortable dealing with baby bottom or flow issues I’d test the pen before buying.

The nib is also pretty handsome, and in this case a Fine, which is closer to a Japanese Medium. I got this pen on a closeout sale in a local art supply store so I lucked out on the nib, since you usually find Medium nibs in non-specialist stores.

I had a bunch of Diamine ink cartridges lying around, so I popped one in and gave it a spin. Here it is with Diamine Woodland Green, a very nice, well behaved ink with some shading:

The pen has a metal body but is not heavy. It can only be used capped (I have tiny hands so trust me when I say this), and despite its pocket size and rugged build, I’d never trust it, or any other fountain pen, in my trouser pocket. That way horror stories of stained pants lie.

Would you enjoy this pen? If you like the aesthetic, and are willing to compromise on ink cartridges, a steel nib and the price, then yes. If you’re looking for a daily workhorse or a practical pen, buy several Pilot Metropolitans, Lamy Safari’s, TWISBI ECOs or even a Lamy AL Star. This is a Ferrari pen — beautiful, frivolous and fun.

Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Fountain Pen Review

Moleskine James Bond Carbon Limited Edition

Dun da da da dun, dun dun dun, dun da da da dun, dun dun dun, DA DA, dun dun dun!

It’s the Moleskine James Bond Carbon Limited Edition and it is charming, it is sophisticated, it is elegant, it is everything you know James Bond has to be.

The cover has a carbon fibre like pattern and texture to it, and this time it’s all over the cover.

Moleksine went all in on the understated look this time, and just embossed the 007 logo on the cover, instead of gold foiling it. It’s the right choice in my opinion, and works well with their own embossed logo on the back.

So much texture…

The Moleskine logo isn’t as deeply embossed as the 007, which makes it half disappear in the texture of the cover, another good design choice on their part.

The endpapers, sleeve and stickers are exactly the same as the Moleskine James Bond Titles Limited Edition, but they’re slick, so I’ll photograph them anyway.

Front endpaper with the world map which I love so much:

Back endpaper with the titles design, another win, and yes, the back pocket print is aligned with the back cover print, so extra brownie points for that Moleskine:

The stickers:

And the B-side of the sleeve:

The only flaw in this edition seems to be in the spine, which creased because of the texture of the Carbon design. It’s far from a deal breaker and I would normally not even mention it, but there is a possibility that it may break there over use. Only time will tell if it’s just a slight aesthetic thing, or if it’s a real design flaw.

So, should you buy this notebook? Yes, even if you aren’t a die hard James Bond fan. There’s no notebook I know of that managed to pull of such a cool texture without making it feel super cheap and plastic-y. It’s a notebook that you can carry at work and will look completely professional, and also one that will be fun to use as a personal journal, a travel journal, a project notebook, or on your next secret mission to outer space.

Moleskine James Bond Carbon Limited Edition