Getting re-aquainted with the blog…

16 09 2009

Ah…it feels good to be back. It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to start posting a little more regularly than what you’ve seen from me in the past few months. There’s lots of cool new pen topics and interesting stuff to talk about, too. Despite the troubled economy, pen companies are still doing cool things, and there are always a few more vintage pens that don’t get the love they deserve.

In the coming months, I’m hoping to be able to stick to about two posts per month. Here’s a few ideas I’m working on: tips on smoothing scratchy nibs, a few new-ish pen reviews, some notebook short-takes, perhaps a hack or two, some history lessons, and maybe some additions to the budget writers series, too.


The Bean gets the scoop…Moleskine killers on the way from Rhodia!

8 09 2008

Steph is a great blogger buddy who’s apparently been in conversation with the folks who bring us our favorite orange pads…and guess what?  They’re bringing out some really solid competition for Moleskine! 

Check out the details here!  I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these!

Does this look a little strange to you?

3 07 2008

*Picture above borrowed from Speedmaster.

Speedmaster has a great review of a new notebook from Rhodia that’s built to give Moleskine some competition. Find out what he thought of it here!

Laser-engraved Moleskines…freakin’ sweet!

23 05 2008

Have you seen these yet?  They’re definitely for the hardcore Moleskine-ite, but wow, these are cool!  As I’ve said a few times before, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the Moleskine notebook as the paper quality can be sketchy (and patently NOT friendly for use with a fountain pen), but these are outstanding.  Here’s a few of my favorites from their product catalog, but they also do custom orders.  I could easily see some of the more productivity-oriented consulting groups and/or companies making these into quite the marketing piece!

There’s a couple of other companies (other than that Etchstar/LaserMoleskine)are doing these too, I think.  Most notably, Modofly.  Here’s a few pics and links.  Cool stuff!




Like I said, I’m not always the world’s biggest fan of Moleskines, but I think this whole personalization concept is pretty cool. 

Stick around…next week we’ll get back to the $80 category, and finish up the series with the “What can I get for a Benjamin?” post.  Then…on to new and different and exciting things!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Hack.05: Signos and Sliccis and Bits…oh my!

14 05 2008

The uniBall Signo, the Pentel Slicci, and the uniBall Signo Bit are great rollerballs that are available in super-fine lines.  I’ve been a fan of skinny lines forever, it seems.  I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I’m a lefty.  Ergo, thick lines = more ink on page.  More ink on page + left handed overwriter = messy hands.

I also like to fit a lot on a single page.  Saves paper.  It’s one way that I can reduce consumption of natural resources.

Ever since JetPens opened up its webstore, I’ve been wanting to place an order from them for some of the new breed of skinnier-than-thou rollerballs that you can’t find here in the States.  Pilot’s Hi-Tec C, the Pentel Slicci, the uniBall Signo Bit (which, incidentally, is the skinniest line on earth at the time of this posting), etc.  They’re all cool pens, but not one of them is easy to get if you’re in the middle of corn country. 

So when I got started with the testing for the Moleskine shootout that I’m finishing up, I decided I’d order a couple of things and give them a run for their money to see if they’d fit the bill.  I ordered a Slicci 0.25mm rollerball, a uniBall Signo Bit 0.18, and a handful of other stuff just for fun.  Here’s the problem with these pens, though.  They don’t fit very comfortably in the hands of big ham-fisted guys like me.  I’m 6’6″ tall, and I’m built like one of the guys on the Ohio State o-line…except I’m not nearly as fit. 

Time for a hack.  3 of ’em, actually.  With very little work, you can easily make the refills in these fit in a handful of different pens that are more comfortable for bigger hands.  I used the Levenger TrueWriter, which I think is an incredibly well-balanced pen, the Lamy Safari, and the Sailor Gel Innovation. 

What you need in order to make these work:

  1. A Pentel Slicci.
  2. A Sailor Gel Innovation.
  3. A little piece of paper towel.
  4. 2 minutes.

What you need to do:

  1. Take the Slicci’s refill from the barrel.
  2. Remove the Sailor’s refill.
  3. Wad up a little tiny piece of paper towel, and shove it down into the Sailor’s barrel.  The Slicci refill can be used as a ramrod to get it in there.
  4. Put the Sailor back together.
  5. Enjoy hacked pen for big hands.  The shape of the Gel Innovation is really comfortable.

Here’s what it looks like.

The TrueWriter Hack:  The Signo RT Gel refill in a 0.38mm is a nearly perfect size (in my mind) for a refill.  Nice and skinny, and the RT Gel’s refill is remarkably well-behaved, too.  Pull the refill from the TrueWriter, and replace with the RT Gel.  Enjoy!

The Safari Hack:  This one is just a little more involved, but still easy.  Take the Signo Bit 0.18 refill, and use sandpaper to grind off about 1/4″ of the material on the bottom of the refill’s plug.  Keep test-fitting as you go, but you’ll know when it’s right.  Enjoy! 

Of all of these hacks, I’m still not sure which one is my favorite.  They all have their place in my life.  The Safari Signo Bit is my Bible marginalia pen, and as such, it works great.  Super-fine lines work well with the thin Bible paper and they don’t bleed through, either.  The TrueWriter Signo also works for this, although the lines are thicker.  The Slicci/Sailor works really well as a Moleskine pen/disposable, and I enjoy their blue ink quite a bit, too.  If I could only keep one, it’d probably be the Slicci/Sailor.  All three are great pens, but the hacked Slicci is the one that’s the most versatile.

(Yes, the Moleskine shootout is still coming.  It’s not quite ready yet…too many great products!)

Review: Quattro Notepad

12 05 2008

Here’s one I hadn’t seen before.  I haven’t had a chance to give it a real thorough test, but here’s a short take.

It’s an 80-sheet pad that’s styled a little like the Rhodia pads, with the stiff glossy-ish cover that folds over (this one has a pea soup-colored cover).  Overall size is 3.4″ x 5.5″, and the sheets are micro-perforated.  It’s made by the Hand Book Journal Company (an offshoot of Global Art Materials) based in Kansas City, MO.  I picked it up at The Art Store in Des Moines for $3.  They’re available in an interesting 8×8 quadrille-ruled format (scan below), a lined format that I didn’t look at, and a blank one.  One thing that’s cool about these things is that Hand Book has also released leather foldover covers for them.  I didn’t check the prices, but with the notepad priced at $3, it probably won’t break the bank for the leather cover to go along with it.  If I decide I like these, I might spring for one. 

The paper is finished, but it’s not the same type of finishing process that Clairefontaine uses for their Rhodia pads; it’s more like the finish on the Ampad Gold Fibre legal pads.  Still, with a fine point, you shouldn’t have many issues. 

Initially I tested it with a Vanishing Point loaded with Pelikan Royal Blue.  Seemed to work fine, although I think the line might have spread out a little further than I’d have expected.  Later, I used a wet-writing Omas 360 on it with good results (better than I expected, actually).  I also tried out a needlepointed nib on it and got predictable results. 

I couldn’t find any traces of feathering, and no bleedthrough.  Granted, I wasn’t using the world’s most saturated inks, but with the Omas being such a wet writer, if it was going to bleed, it would have. 

If you want to try one, here’s a few pictures so you’ll know what to look for.  Happy hunting!  (Pardon the poor photo quality on these…pressed for time!)

Hack.03: Levenger/FieldNotes/Moleskine mashup!

31 10 2007

This is what happens when worlds collide, kids.

I’m sure there’s a handful of you productivity mavens out there who’ve already figured this out, and it’ll be nothing new to you.  But…for those of you who rely on the cahier-style notebook (be it Moleskine, Field Notes, or otherwise) but don’t trust the durability (or your own clumsiness as the case may be) of the cover material, here’s something that might help.

The sleeve inside a Levenger International Pocket Briefcase is perfectly sized to hold a few 3×5 cards, but it’ll also hold the back cover of a 3×5-ish cahier-style notebook with just a little wee bit of modification. 

The ingredients:

1 Levenger International Pocket Briefcase (or similar substitute for 3×5 cards)


1 3×5 cahier-styled notebook


1 pair scissors (don’t run with them)


2 minutes.


The instructions:

Cut 1/4 inch strip off of the top of the back cover of the cahier. 

Recycle cover strip (a bookmark, an object to torment a sleeping housepet/spouse/boss/(insert tormentable being here), or just into the recycle bin).

(Sorry folks…no picture here.  It was too dangerous.)

Put scissors away.  Resist urge to run and/or cut hair of previously tormented being.


Carefully insert back cover of cahier into the sleeve inside the pocket briefcase.


Admire handiwork.

Look stylish.


Bask in glow of stylish productivity geekdom!

Finished product should look like this.

Remember what I told you about running with scissors.

Further thoughts: For those of you who are using this idea with fountain pens, you can still use one in the little pen sleeve in the center.  Stick with a skinny one, though.  For those of you who are the Parker Jotter type, you’ll have zero problems with this.