I am a big fan of writing letters and thank-you notes on real paper and correspondence stock. Original Crown Mill has become quite popular in the last few years so I thought I would write a review on their laid paper correspondence pad and envelopes. The Original Crown Mill paper has been made by Pelletier & Co in Belgium since 1870.
The 50 sheet correspondence pad is glue bound at the top and does not come with a blotter sheet; you do however get a lined guide sheet to put under the paper so you can keep your writing straight. The paper is the standard A5 size (5.83″ × 8.27″) and has a 100g weight. I really like the look and feel of the paper; it is laid so you get a very attractive ribbed texture. This paper is supposedly a replica of a handmade 17th century writing paper commissioned by King Charles II.
Unfortunately this paper has quite a bit of feathering and some bleed through with the more juicy pens. If you like pens with a fine nib I think this paper will work well for you but if you like writing with a wider or wetter nib there is better paper out there.
I love the color of these orange/yellow envelopes and I wish I had bought a pad in this color. The envelopes come in packs of 25 and are lined with white paper.
Original Crown Mill also makes a cotton paper as well; the cotton paper is more expensive and doesn’t take the ink as well as the laid paper so I have not repurchased it.
Here is a great review of Original Crown Mill laid paper:
I have been using a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner since my school days and it is still one of my favorite fineliners. The Triplus fineliner comes in 30 different colors and features a long thin triangle-shaped barrel with a metal encased tip. The tip is on the softer side but manages to still feel precise and ultra smooth. The Triplus fineliner puts down a very clean and crisp line that Staedtler measures at 0.3mm. I enjoy writing with this pen but others may find the line too wide. By changing pressure you can get some line variation.
The Triplus fineliner also features “DRY SAFE” technology that allows the pen to be uncapped for days without drying out. I haven’t tested this claim beyond 30 minutes but others have and attest that the Triplus wont dry out after a few days of being uncapped. It is worth noting that the ink is neither archival nor waterproof.
For a pen of this type, the Staedtler Triplus fineliner lasts a long time and at $1.30 a piece you can’t go wrong. Also if you buy these pens in a set the box turns into a pen stand which is awesome.
Here are some great reviews of the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner:
The Pilot 78G is a great looking budget fountain pen. The pen I will be reviewing has a bold nib that is actually a stub; I do not know why Pilot doesn’t offer this pen with a round tipped bold nib.
The nib writes quite well with some feedback but it is a bit dry for my taste; I may have to experiment with some different inks to find what works best with this pen.
The Pilot 78G comes with an aerometric-style converter and also accepts Pilot cartridges. It is rare for pens at this price point to come with a converter. For example, the ultra popular Lamy Safari at $35 doesn’t come with a converter; you have to pay an extra $5 to get one. Unlike the aerometric filling system found in a Parker 51 the Pilot’s doesn’t hold a lot of ink. If you plan to do a lot of writing you would be better served by using this pen with a cartridge.
The body is made of a lightweight black plastic and features a gold plated steel nib and clip. The 78G weighs in at about half an ounce which is lighter than I prefer. Capped it measures about 5.25″ and is 0.5″ wide at its widest point. The grip section is a problem, at less than a quarter inch wide I find it too skinny to be comfortable for long writing sessions. If you have larger hands or a tight grip this pen may be a bit too small for you. The body of the 78G seems to scratch quite easily but at this price point it’s not that big of a deal.
I have been using the Pilot 78G for 7 days straight now and it is great for taking notes. Compared to my Lamy Safari w/1.1mm stub, the Pilot 78G writes better, looks better and costs a fourth of the price. In short the Pilot 78G is great entry-level fountain pen that I highly recommend.
Here are some great reviews of the Pilot 78G fountain pen:
When I tried Field Notes journals a few years back I didn’t like them; the paper wasn’t fountain pen friendly so I gave them away and that was that. Recently, I saw a friend’s vast collection of limited edition Field Notes and realized that I couldn’t live without them. Beyond the journals I have ventured out into some of their other products which brings me to the Field Notes 18-Month Work Station Calendar.
The calendar features the same Futura Bold font as the journals and the chipboard backing has the typical sort of campy/amusing signage you expect from Field Notes. For example, it states “No maintenance or special tools required.” As the name suggests this calendar has 18 months starting November 2013 and ending with April 2015.
The back of the chipboard features a list of “Real Big Days” including major holidays and the dates of (random) historical events; here is a sample of the dates:
Mar 22: “Leonard ‘Chico’ Marx, hat-wearing comedian (b. 1887)”
May 1 : “1982 World’s Fair opens in Knoxville, Tennessee (1982)”
Jun 12 : “Dr. Cyclops begins filming in three-stage Technicolor (1939)”
The back also lists details about what was used in the manufacturing process.
The calendar itself is very simple; the only real features are moon phases and holidays. There isn’t much space to write in the date boxes so like the Field Notes journals you would buy this more for looks than for function. The Field Notes 18-Month Work Station Calendar looks great and I am excited to use it at my desk.
While there are a lot of things I don’t like about the Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Gel Pen, it is easily the best erasable pen I have used.
One thing I didn’t mention in the written review is that the eraser doesn’t make a mess like a normal pencil eraser. The ink disappears with heat caused by the “frixion” of the eraser against the paper.
I have never been a fan of non-gel ballpoints; the ink is generally inconsistent and not particularly vivid. I have received ballpoints as gifts on a number of occasions and on a pen blog it would be wrong to ignore them.
The S.T. Dupont Liberté ballpoint is made from a brass barrel finished in black lacquer (not the more expensive Chinese lacquer S.T. Dupont is famous for) with palladium accents. The tapered design is elegant and the top of the cap its faceted with “D” in metal. Even though this is a lower end model for S.T. Dupont it still costs a whopping $480 retail. The Liberté is a fingerprint magnet and that drives me nuts but the fit and finish is exceptional.
The Liberté weighs in at 1.16oz which makes it a heavier pen but in my hand it is incredibly well balanced. The body of the pen attaches to the cap with threading on the INSIDE of the barrel (see below). To deploy and retract the ballpoint you simply twist the pen. The twist mechanism is both very smooth and very crisp.
The ballpoint is an S.T. Dupont branded EasyFLOW Schmidt refill that is unusually smooth. It is so smooth in fact that I felt inclined to write in my normal cursive-esque hand. Unfortunately the look of the ink is unusually hideous. The easyFLOW refill always starts up without delay which is nice but when the ink looks this washed out and faint who really cares?
With a better refill The S.T. Dupont Liberté would be a great ballpoint pen that quality-wise is superior to many pens in the same price-range (the modern version of the Montblanc Meisterstück and the Cartier Diabolo come to mind).
The Parker 51 (P51 for short) is one of the most famous and most revered fountain pens ever made. The P51 was produced for 30+ years starting in the 1941 and as a result there are all sorts of variations (you can even buy these pens with new bespoke bodies for $400+). I am not going to get into the history and different types of Parker 51s I am only going to talk about my Parker 51 which has been my favorite fountain pen for several years now.
My P51 is an “Aerometric” version and therefor produced in 1949 or later. “Aerometric” refers to the pens filling system which uses a clear sack impervious to the chemical effects of ink. The pen is filled by depressing the pressure bar four times. An aerometric P51 holds more ink than many larger piston filled fountain pens thanks to the efficiency of the filling system.
I purchased my P51 on a famous auction site for around $40 in original condition. The pen was thoroughly cleaned and when filled with ink wrote beautifully. The body is a nice dark green and the cap has a pinstripe design and is 12ct gold filed; I am not sure the cap is original to this pen. The nice thing about the standard size P51 is that most of the caps are interchangeable. I bought a nice silver cap as an extra for my P51.
Thanks to the hooded nib the pen can be left uncapped for a very long time and write straight away without missing a beat. I am not certain what width my nib is but I suspect its a medium. I have also dropped mine a couple of times on hard surfaces without any damage to report. The gold nib puts down a nice wet line with just the right amount of feedback, no flex to speak of.
The styling of this pen is very clean and streamlined. It doesn’t scream “fountain pen” which is nice when you are in a meeting and don’t want to draw attention to yourself. This pen is 6″ posted, 5.5″ capped and 0.5″ at its widest point. The weight of my P51 is 20.4 grams which is light weight for a fountain pen but not so light as to feel cheap.
For durability, every day usability, and writing quality nothing in my collection beats the Parker 51 fountain pen. This is a great pen and every fountain pen collector should have at least one. At some point I am going to want to buy one with a custom body from Torelli Pen (no affiliation).
The Zebra Arbez Eo Ballpoint Pen 0.7 mm has an unusual body that is inspired by various modes of transport in London. The Arbez series from Zebra (arbreZ…the name is Zebra spelled backwards) is the company’s designer series which features pens designed by winners of a competition aimed at young new designers.
The body of the pen has a toy-like look to it and has a weird half oval shape (one size is flat and the rest of the pen is rounded; think of an elongated “D”) which has been suggested is to resemble a Tube tunnel. I have a normal grip but I generally don’t care pens that dictate how I should hold them. Based on the design of the pen and where the branding is, this pen should be held with your index finger resting on the flat portion of the barrel. I don’t find the barrel to be uncomfortable but I don’t want to waste brain cycles thinking about how to hold a ballpoint pen.
The ballpoint writes smoothly but is not as nice as some other less expensive ballpoints like the Pilot Acroball. Also I don’t like that this pen has a cap. Ballpoints don’t need a cap and I would prefer not to deal with one if I don’t have to.
If you love the design or simply want a conversation piece then it may be worth shelling out the $3.30 the Zebra Arbez Eo Ballpoint.
Here are a couple other reviews of the Zebra Arbez Eo Ballpoint Pen:
I can’t say that I love keyboards as much as I love pens but I do believe that choosing the right keyboard is very important, especially when you interact with one as much as I do.
Microsoft has been making peripherals for decades now and their last ergonomic keyboard, the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop Keyboard, has been around in one form or another since 2005. I had two iterations of the the Natural Ergo and it was an okay keyboard but not great. I had a couple issues with it: 1. the space bar was loud and too heavy and 2. the keyboard was enormous; it was so large that it left room for little else on my desk. I actually destroyed both of my Natural Ergos by knocking beverages on them; I blame these mishaps on the keyboard’s vast size (and a bit on me being clumsy). I have yet to spill a drink on any of my other keyboards of which I have had dozens. So to sum up the old one had a crummy space bar and was too big.
To my delight, Microsoft’s new ergonomic keyboard, The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop, attempts to solve both of the Natural Ergo’s biggest problems. The Sculpt Ergo has a split space bar and has a significantly trimmed down form-factor, going so far as to separate the 10-key from the main keyboard. This is still a large keyboard at 15.4″ wide and 9″ deep but it is significantly smaller the Natural Ergo which was almost 20″ wide.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop comes with a wireless mouse, keyboard, and 10-key at a retail price of approximately $130. The keys are very light and resemble a laptop-style key with very little travel. The wrist pad is nicely cushioned and appears to be good quality. The keyboard also comes with a riser bar that lifts the bottom of the keyboard resulting in a higher wrist position for better ergonomics. I personally didn’t find the keyboard comfortable with the raiser bar attached.
I quickly adapted to the keyboard and found it to be quite comfortable. I love the look of the keyboard, it looks futuristic and the cutout in the middle allows the keyboard to have less visual weight. The keys are surrounded in a shiny black plastic which does show finger prints and with heavy use will likely show scratches as well.
My favorite part of the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is the mouse. The mouse is egg shaped and extremely comfortable to my hand, more so than the Goldtouch Ergonomic mouse I currently use. For larger hands though I suspect the Sculpt mouse will feel a bit small. Also this mouse is for right-handed people only as the rubberized thumb cutout is on the left of the mouse. The top of the mouse and the primary left and right buttons are made of the same shiny black plastic as is on my keyboard. There is a back button on the left in the rubberized thumb cutout. I found this button to be a little bit too high and initially had trouble locating the button. There is a bright blue Windows button on the top of the mouse. I haven’t tested the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop on a Windows PC yet but it is my understanding that it brings up the Windows Start menu. The scroll wheel is notched and features four way scrolling.
Smaller form-factor than previous Microsoft ergonomic keyboards
Split space bar for easier actuation
Short key travel makes for fast typing
Great looking futuristic design
Very comfortable egg shaped mouse
Keyboard and mouse run on AA batteries
Shiny black plastic attracts finger prints
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is a big upgrade that is suitable for people who spend a lot time at their computer typing. I don’t think that the Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard will replace my current Kinesis Freestyle 2 Ergonomic Keyboard (review to come) but I will definitely keep on using the mouse.
Here are some great reviews of the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop:
The Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen is a decent porous tip pen with a simple black plastic body and a metal clip on the cap. The pen puts down a nice bold black line, darker than that of the Stabilo Sensor I reviewed yesterday. This pen writes relatively smooth but does not glide across the paper as easily as other porous tip pens like the Staedtler Triplus fineliner (review to come) and the Stabilo mentioned earlier. At $1.65 this pen is affordable but only comes in black, blue and red. I like the Uni Live but I don’t think it is a pen I will be rushing out to buy more of them any time soon.