The Baltimore-based Write Notepads & Co. produces American-made notebooks featuring high quality letterpress chipboard covers. At $16 for the Large Notebook, you get 120 5.5″ x 8.5″ pages of lined or blank paper with a brass spiral binding. Each notebook comes with a thick rubber band that can be used to keep the notebook closed. When you buy a notebook from Write Notepads & Co. they donate one to a public school, so the $16 for the large notebook actually buys two.
I quite like the rustic look of these notebooks. The thick chipboard covers go well with the brass spiral. I also like the letterpress logo featuring a fountain pen.
The notebook is dubbed “fountain pen friendly” and while smooth and thick, the recycled paper doesn’t handle fountain pen ink all that well.
I found that the paper tends to bleed with fountain pens, roller ball pens and porous tip pens. Most of the gel pens and all of the traditional ballpoints I tested, behaved well on this paper.
Interestingly, the lines on the page do not seem to be perfectly printed, some are thin, others are fat and I notice that in the middle of most pages there are some breaks in the lines. I think this adds to the character and charm of the notebook but others may find it distracting.
The pages are perforated but don’t always produce the cleanest of tears.
Overall, I like this notebook because its design and materials have a lot of character.
Is it right for fountain pen users? I wouldn’t call it “fountain pen friendly” but I have no problem using it with most of my fountain pens; some bleed through doesn’t bother me and one advantage of an absorbent paper is faster dry times.
Please note: this product was provided to me at no charge by Write Notepads & Co. for review purposes.
Here are some great reviews of the Write Notepads & Co. Notebook:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
Having abandoned my Cartier diary (as the refills have increased an unbelievable 60% in price) I began searching for a replacement and stumbled upon a thread on The Fountain Pen Network discussing diaries for 2014. The one that seemed to peak everyone’s interest was the Hobonichi Planner featuring Tomoe River paper. To my knowledge, 2014 is the first year that this planner has been released in English. After doing more research and learning about the awesome layout I knew I had to have one.
The appearance of the planner is simple and elegant. The cover is a thin flexible black leatherette with “Techo” (in Japanese) and three keys printed in silver. Printed on the spine in silver is “HOBO” and “2014”. I like the look of the black leatherette cover so much that I am tempted to use it without a case. The planner measures 105mm wide x 149mm high x 14mm thick (that’s approximately 4.13″ wide x 5.87″ high x o.55″ thick). Pictured below is the spine with the book open. Tomoe River paper is so thin that you can fit 464 pages + the cover into a 14mm dimension. The planner lays flat thanks to its excellent construction.
The layout of the planner is quite nice. You get a full page per day with 4mm grids. Each page shows the current moon phase and every two page spread features a quote. Most of the quotes are from Japanese cultural figures.
For Sunday the print on the page is orange instead of the normal black/grey. In the back of the planner there are several pages of blank orange dot grid followed by some reference pages (clothing sizes, international holidays and country codes) as well as informational pages like a sushi guide and a sake guide. One thing that I would like to see in the Hobonichi is a color map of the world.
The paper, as I have show in my review of a Tomoe River notebook , is simply amazing. It holds fountain pen ink as well or better than any other paper I can think of. It’s hard not to love this planner. The Hobonichi planner is reasonably priced at 2,500 Yen (approx $24 USD) before shipping and handling.
Naoko at Hobonichi Planner was kind enough to send me this planner free of charge for me to review. Along with the planner she included a cover, a couple of stencils and a set of page flags. The design of the cover to be honest, is not my cup of tea. The polyester cover was designed by the children’s book illustrator Ryoji Arai. The front features a bright red donkey against a sky blue cover and the spine and back cover has some doodles and pictures. It’s a very interesting composition. The inside of the cover is bright pink and has two neon green page makers with pink tips (one is a rectangle and the other is a triangle).
There is a pocket on the outside of the back cover which I have found to be handy for slipping in receipts as well as a Field Notes journal. There are two large pen loops, one attached to the front of the cover and one attached to the back so that you can slip a pen into both loops to keep the notebook shut. I was able to easily slide my Montblanc 149 into the loops which is good news if you like to use oversized pens.
On the inside of the front cover there are 5 card slots that fit the Hobonichi stencils perfectly. There is an additional pocket behind the card slots.
On the inside of the back cover there is a black tag that says “Hobonichi 2014” as well as two small pockets.
The retail price of this cover is 1,900 Yen (approx $18 USD). This same cover in a plain solid color is 1,500 Yen (approx $14.50 USD) and in leather is 8,500 Yen (approx $81.50 USD). The are several other cover designs that cost as much as 31,500 Yen (approx $302 USD). The polyester cover is reasonably priced and and provides a lot of functionality.
The Hobonichi planner and covers can be purchased in English directly from Hobonichi here.
Please note: (as mentioned above) this product was provided to me at no charge by Hobonichi for review purposes.
Here are some great reviews of the Hobonichi Planner:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
Up until now I have been carrying my larger and more expensive pens in single pen pouches. I would carry two to three pouches at a time which was cumbersome; I finally broke down and bought a Pelikan 3 pen pouch. I have been using a Pelikan Fine Leather Black Triple Pen Pouch every day for about a month now and I quite like it. I spent a good amount of time looking for a quality case that really protects pens. I had originally wanted a Montblanc pen pouch but after looking at it, I knew that it wasn’t right. The main issue I found with the Montblanc case (apart from the $180 price tag) was the fact that the dividers stopped about halfway down the case; this in my opinion is a design flaw that would allow the bottom of the pens to knock into each other. So after doing a bit more research I found that the Pelikan case would accommodate larger pens and had dividers that run the length of the case.
The Pelikan pouch is made out of a soft leather (softer than the Montblanc case) and comes in black with a green strap or black with a black strap. Each case has the Pelikan logo embossed on the strap. The leather is of good quality, however, it is not as nice as the leather Montblanc uses but for $35 the Pelikan case is of excellent quality. I don’t know where the case is made but I cannot find any flaws in its construction; every thing is cleanly cut and sewn. It’s clear that this case was carefully made. The interior of the flap is leather and the inside of the case seems to be some sort of felt sort of felt.
Compared to the Montblanc case pens do fit a bit more snugly. I can easily fit my Montblanc 149, 146, and Aurora Optima into the case but it is a tight fit. If you want to fit three 149s the Pelikan case is not for you. Also the top of the pens that the flap covers are not protected much on the side. I carry my case in a backpack or briefcase without issue.
Overall I am really satisfied with this case and highly recommend it.
The Pilot VBall BeGreen is a roller ball pen with a body made from “81.6% recycled content”. First off, this isn’t the VBall I remember enjoying years ago; the design is much better but the pen as a whole is worse.
I really love the clean and elegant design of this pen; the inset metallic branding and the blue plastic cap combined with the translucent body and feed are excellent. For a disposable pen the VBall BeGreen gets an A+ in design.
As for writing, the VBall is quite scratchy. I compared it to the Uni Ball Micro Deluxe (another traditional liquid ink roller ball) and the difference was night and day. The Uni glided across the paper with more ease and left a cleaner line on the page. As I spent more time with the Vball I noticed that some parts of the tip were smoother than others; by twisting I could find both smooth and scratchy parts of the tip which makes me think I may have gotten a bad one.
I haven’t come across many duds that were made by Pilot in Japan but this might be one.
Here is a great review of the Pilot VBall BeGreen:
(I have no affiliation with the site linked below)
The Midori World Meister’s Note series features collaborations between Japan and other countries. The Dainel is the first in the series which Midori describes as ” A marriage of French leather paper and Japan’s MD paper, developed for the best writing comfort”.
Let’s start with the cover and then make our way inside. The cover is made in France out of “French leather paper” and according to the packaging:
“[Dainel] stands for ‘suede’ in France. In a town some 200 km east of the capital, Paris, 30 years of experience with suede work have created a one-of-a-kind technology unique in the whole world. This unique technology has crystallized in this gorgeous leather paper.”
To me the cover looks a bit like suede but I was disappointed when I touched it; it feels like a mediocre felt. The more I use the notebook the more I like the cover; it is a lot nicer than a paper cover but it certainly isn’t leather. The cover has “Dainel” pressed into the front of the cover and “The World Meister’s Note” pressed into the spine. This cover is the light brown color and I believe they come in four or five other colors.
This notebook is extremely well made and dare I say, better than anything else I have seen in its price range. The notebook is nicely stitched this notebook lays flat.
The inside of the notebook features 91 A5 pages of Midori’s exceptional cream colored MD paper which holds fountain pen ink beautifully. There is no bleed through even with juicy pens and almost no feathering.
At around $13 this notebook is not cheap but the combination of the quality and the branding make it a winner. I look forward to getting my hands on the other notebooks in this series; I believe they are up to volume 3.
Cold Horizon is the latest edition in Field Notes’ Colors series. When the covers are lined up you can see a blue gradient. The blue gradient is continued in the font on the inside of the front and back cover.
In the set each notebook features a different paper color, blue, green, and grey. Each notebook has grey grids.
Overall, I love the design; it is clear that they really put some thought into these notebooks.
On to the bad:
The covers are unpleasant to touch; they have a bit of a grainy feel which seems odd on a glossy cover. Most Field Notes are not considered fountain pen friendly and the Cold Horizon edition is no exception, in fact, the paper actually seems to resist fountain pen ink.
While I like the look of these Field Notes I don’t think I will be purchasing another set.
The Caran d’Ache Hexagonal Ecaille Chinese Lacquer fountain pen is an odd ball in my collection. I don’t like skinny pens nor do I like fingerprint prone pens and pens with metal sections….this pen is all of these things. So why do I have it you ask? It was the price. I saw this pen new old stock in a small pen shop in the Netherlands and I just couldn’t let it go.
I have decided to use a more standardized review process for nicer fountain pens with six categories and a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best and 1 being the worst).
The Hexagonal shares the same shape as the original Caran d’Ache Ecridor pencil. The combination of gold plate and red marbled Chinese lacquer are pretty dated looking but the fit and finish make this pen still beautiful in my eyes as an objet d’art. I can’t think of another pen in production today that is comparable. The Hexagonal Chinese Lacquer is still listed on Caran d’Ache’s website but if you look around you will have a hard time finding one. The rectangles carved into the grip section are a touch I quite like. I love the squarish shape of the 18kt gold nib and the lack of a breather hole. My pen is from the 90s and the more recent Hexagonals have a more traditional nib with a breather hole. This pen is a fingerprint magnet and I worry that even wiping it with a soft cloth with scratch it. Score: 3.5
Just by looking at the Hexagonal you can tell that it is of the highest quality. The “Maison de Haute Ecriture” will never disappoint you in the quality department. The gold plate is beautifully polished and the hand painted Chinese lacquer is gorgeous. Running your finger on the barrel you will notice that there is a seamless transition between the gold and lacquer; you cannot feel it at all. The rectangle shapes carved into the section are painted with lacquer. The pen both caps a posts with a crisp snap. This is an incredibly well made pen and is easily on the same quality level as S.T. Dupont and Graf von Faber-Castell. Score: 5
Size and Weight:
The Hexagonal weighs in at just under 27 grams which is neither light nor overly heavy for a normal fountain pen. The pen measures 5.25″ capped, 6″ posted and without the cap the pen measures 4.75″. At its widest point it is less than half an inch thick and the grip section measures about a quarter of an inch thick. The weight and the length of the pen are all excellent but the width makes this pen uncomfortable.
What Caran d’Ache did was made a capped version of the Ecridor pencil which has the same girth as a pencil wooden pencil. Keeping the same form factor with a capped pen means shrinking the grip section width and this is a serious problem comfort-wise. The smaller the girth, the more pressure needed to control the pen and when you consider that this pen weighs many times more than a wooden pencil the result is not brilliant.
I wrote a letter with the Hexagonal and about half way into the second page my hand was in pain and it was a struggle to continue. As a pen for quick notes you shouldn’t run into any problems but I wouldn’t recommend it for long writing sessions at all. Score: 1.5
The 18kt gold medium nib writes well and is very smooth with some light feedback. I have had no issues with skipping or hard starting. The performance of the nib has been flawless for me. It’s a pretty stiff nib so you wont see much in the way of line variation. I love nibs with character and unfortunately (like most modern nibs) the Hexagonal’s nib does not have much. Score: 3
The Hexagonal uses a cartridge or converter which is a feature I am starting to like on high-end pens. A piston filling system is more expensive to produce and holds more ink but from a cleaning perspective is much less desirable. I like to be able to change inks frequently and a cartridge or converter allows me to do just that without much hassle. I can easily go from an dark black to an ultra light orange without even giving it a second thought. With a piston fill pen I wouldn’t be able to make that change without a ton of cleaning. I use a regular Waterman converter with the Hexagonal and I have had no issues. Like the nib, the performance is good but there is nothing special to note here. Score: 3
The retail price of this pen (with the updated nib) is about $1,300 and I could never pay that for this pen. The quality is certainly there but it’s just not comfortable. I also feel as though there is no X-factor with this pen like you would have on many similarly priced pens from other manufacturers. I paid about €120 for my new old stock Hexagonal and at that price it is not a regret for me but it also isn’t a home run purchase as I rarely use it. Score: 2
Unless you love the style and can put up with the thin grip section, the Hexagonal isn’t a pen I would ever recommend. Final score : 18/30
Noodler’s Blue Eel is a lubricated ink that is designed to improve the flow of your fountain pen. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking the color of the ink; it’s a real bright and saturated blue. The flow is heavier as you would expect from a lubricated ink but so far has not caused problems with any of the papers I regularly use. No real issues with bleeding or feathering. Dry time is on the average to slow side and it is not waterproof. This is easily one of my favorite blues.
Here are some great reviews of Noodler’s Blue Eel:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
The Uni-Ball Vision RT is a retractable roller ball pen. Uni states that this pen has “triple protection against ink leakage” and is airplane safe. I am not certain what consists of triple protection but it sounds nice. The fine point retracts when you pull on the clip making it a safe for pockets. I quite like the design of this pen; someone clearly put thought into it.
In the writing sample I incorrectly state that the pen is not refillable; it is in fact refillable.
On to the bad…
When I first used this pen I thought it was a ballpoint because the pen wrote so dryly. “Roller ball” usually means liquid ink but Vision RT feels pasty like an oil based ink. The lines as you can see in the image above are not clean. This is easily the worst writing roller ball I have come across. At a dollar I would say it’s passable but $2.00 is too much for this level of performance. Uni usually makes excellent product but the Uni-Ball Vision RT is a rare miss.
Here are some reviews of the Uni-Ball Vision RT Roller Ball:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
The Uni-Ball Signo Impact RT 207 is a retractable gel ink pen with a bold 1.0mm tip. I have been writing with this pen for a day now and line width is too wide for me and I don’t have small handwriting. The ink really flows out of this pen creating an ultra smooth writing experience. It’s actually a fun pen to write with even though I wouldn’t use it for work. The ink drys very quickly which is surprising for a gel ink pen with such a bold line. The design isn’t overly cohesive; it has a silver barrel with a black rubberized grip, a translucent click button with blue plastic inside, and a metal tip. It’s almost as if this pen with made from Uni’s spare parts bin.
I don’t have a use for this pen and it is a bit ugly but I do find it fun to use. I am not sure I would recommend this pen. The quality like all the pens in Uni’s Signo line is great but unless you need a really bold line you would likely be happier with a narrower Signo.