Archive for the ‘Fountain Pens’ Category
There is a growing community of folks who prefer, to varying degrees, analog tools, such as pens, paper, and pencils. Lots of people are sharing ideas, be it Sketchnoting, Bullet Journals, and blogs such as The Cramped or, appropriately enough Write Analog. I have several hypothesis as to why. It may legitimately be a way some folks can think and focus. I know I have those tendencies. As with distraction free text editors, for some people, obsessing over tools is a good way to feel like you are getting something done while avoiding the task at hand. Finally, some folks simply enjoy old-school office supplies, and, in a world which is increasingly paperless, want to find a way to use these tools in their day-to-day work, rather than simply admire them.
However, much of my life these days tends to exist in the digital realm. I know my Outlook inbox has a lot of mail in it, in part because it has an attachment or link to a SharePoint that I need to access. I keep both my professional and personal calendar online, and occasionally make a pass at getting the whole household on one system. Much of the information I generate tends to wind up stored as ones and zeros.
This spills over into my journals and notepads. My handwritten activities often bounce between things that come from my head (which is put on paper) and things online that relate to it. For instance, something I read in a blog post will spawn an entry in a journal. Or, I might take a digital photo of a whiteboard that I want to associate with the notes (but, at the same time, share with my team). Creating these connections is the challenge of analog tools in a world that want to be paperless.
Most of these sorts of things are either conventional web posts, or stored “in the Cloud,” using SharePoint, Evernote, or other cloud storage options such as Copy or OneDrive. What all these things have in common is the ability to point to something with a uniform resource locator, or URL. You may know this as a “web address.” This blog, for instance, is https://mrguilt.wordpress.com. That one is fairly simple, and could be written down in a notebook fairly easily. But, when you start to get to specific items, it gets long. The URL for my post about the Riverbanks Zoo is https://mrguilt.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/riverbanks-zoo-and-garden-in-columbia-south-carolina/. While relatively long, it is clear what it points to.
However, you have to write down the URL exactly for it to work, and then type it into the address bar of your browser exactly for it to work. URLs can be tricky this way. Evernote is a good place to stash a picture of a whiteboard. However, a share URL from there is quite cryptic: http://www.evernote.com/l/AAFdTwhp225H97wlIADxiTP3CJWPZiBVCfY/–and one wrong character (even the wrong case) can throw it off. Microsoft SharePoint is commonly used to store and share files in the corporate world. However, its URLs are even longer and more challenging: https://services.bigcorp.com/sites/Portal/Office/Division/Shared%20Documents/Data%20Center%20Space%20--%20Cincinnati,%20Ohio/A%20Subdirectory%20Power/Really%20Important%20Spreadsheet%202015.xls. There is no way this can make its way reliably into the analog word, much less the return trip.
There are a few products out there that try to bridge this gap. One example is the Quo Vadis Multimedia Enhanced journal. I won one over the summer, and played with the system a bit. The basic journal is nice. Mine is just shy of US letter size, and filled with Clairefontaine paper–the same used in my beloved Rhodia pads. This means it is great paper, and the very definition of “fountain pen friendly.” As a notebook, there is nothing to complain about.
What makes it unique is that, on each page, a QR code is printed. With a SmartPhone app, you can scan the code, and attach and view digital objects to the page. The objects can include video, audio, pictures, files, or links. The app is a bit quirky, with an awkward interface, and periods where I have to reset my password. It does an OK job capturing and storing items. Unfortunately, a code I scanned a few months ago doesn’t show up in my “library” (though scanning the code gets me to to item–strange). Also, it is somewhat of a dead end. I can’t share things out of it, and it doesn’t link to more common tools. I could muddle through with it, if the overall system held value.
There are other flaws as well. There is only one QR Code per page. On some pages, there may not be anything to link to, which, at worst, makes the QR Code meaningless. On other pages, I might want to make multiple links. Further, I’m tied into using that notebook, or ones like it. I couldn’t use other notebooks, nor can I tie it to other documents, such as a map or brochure. The pre-printed code doesn’t offer the flexibility you might need or desire for an analog/digital system.
There was a service called StickyBits that was a similar implementation of this idea, but enhanced the flexibility of the system. Rather than having the QR Codes pre-printed into a journal, you could either print or purchase stickers with the QR Code on them. When you needed to make a connection, you could put the sticker in your notebook, scan it with their app, and then create what you needed. At the time it was released, I didn’t really think through the utility: I played with it for a day or two, then let it fade. Unfortunately, it has since joined other Web 2.0 start-ups in, well, closing shop.
I actually started to consider building StickyBits on my own, doing some coding in Perl and HTML. It seemed like a major undertaking, and it’d be something just for myself–after all, one start-up already failed with this concept. It is a bit of a niche intersection of folks who use analog tools and digital tools and want to somehow create interoperability. Simply put, I had better things to do with my time.
Then, I read an article, “Connecting Your Paper Notebooks to the Digital Age,” which made me realize that I was out-thinking this. Rather than being dependent on the QR Code, it leverages a URL shortener, such as Bitly. By assuming that there is the same domain and server name (the http://bit.ly part), the shortened URL is written down with some demarcation (he uses greater than/less than symbols). The article suggests also underlining upper case letters for clarity.
Using this scheme, I would write “<1HGmax9>” in my notebook, and it would point me to the article that inspired this. The author suggests Bitly, as you can forward your own domain to it, but it doesn’t sound like a hard requirement, so long as you can use the same URL shortener. Multiple URL shorteners could be used with a different demarcation symbol–brackets could be used, for instance, for my company’s in-house shortener.
This scheme has several advantages. First, there is no need for a sticker or something printed on the page. You simply write it on the fly wherever it is relevant. This also means you are not tied to a specific notebook-or even a notebook. A Post-It, margin of a magazine, or any other relevant place can be used. The short URL frees you from having to use a specific application or a device with a camera. This is quite a flexible solution.
One other advantage is from other features of the URL shortener. Most URL shorteners can allow customization of the short URL. A meaningful title, such as “DataCenterMap” could be used. In addition to making it easier to write down, it makes it easier in other contexts. I have even been taking greater advantage of this in my emails that I don’t expect to wind up on paper, as I think it makes it more obvious what a given URL is for.
My quest to link my beloved pen and paper to the omnipresence of digital media has taken me from specialized tools to a very simply DIY approach. In doing so, I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be a niche interest, and each individual will probably find an approach that best suits them. I am doubtful that specialized products, such as the ME Journal, will find much success. But I have found that there are ways to achieve the end which offer the flexibility I desire in the analog world, and can extend their utility in the digital one as well.
Got a comment on my post about the Sheaffer Intrigue:
Would you please have a detailed step-by-step, diagram illustration on how to refill this Intrigue pen? there are two moving parts, and I cannot get it to work
There are two parts that move in the back of the barrel of a Shearer Intrigue:
The part marked “B,” closest to the nib, is the part that unscrews completely, exposing the ink tray. In the picture below, there is a cartridge in the tray.
If you are using a cartridge, you just put it in the tray, then screw it back together again. The cartridge will be pierced when you complete screwing this closed. Write a bit, or run some water over the nib to get the ink flowing.
If you want to use a bottle, however, you’ll want to put the converter in. Note that while the Intrigue uses standard Shearer cartridges, the converter is unique to this model. It has a “geared” top to a piston-filling mechanism, rather than an areometric filler. Note that part “A” will need to be pushed closed (towards the nib).
OK, assuming you want to bottle-fill, and you’ve installed the converter and screwed “B” back in, you’ll use the knob, part “A” on the diagram to fill it. During normal operation, it will be pushed in to the barrel.
To fill, you will pull this away from the nib. This will allow the knob to engage the gear at the top of the converter.
Dip the nib in the bottle of ink (make sure the ink adequately covers the nib), then turn the knob. You’ll want to turn it all the way counter-clockwise (which will move the plunger in the convertor towards the nib), then all the way clockwise (pulling the plunger away from the nib, and sucking ink into the pen). This will fill the pen. I like to repeat this two or three times, then, pull the pen out of the ink (but keep it over the bottle), and turn it counter-clockwise to push a drop or two out of the pen. Push the knob back in, and you should be good to go.
That’s how you fill a Sheaffer Intrigue! Happy Writing.
The first Friday in November is Interational Fountain Pen day. This year, it’s today, November 7. This year will mark my twentieth anniversary as a fountain pen collector and user. I like to think of all my pens as users, whether they are brand new, or over a century old.
Fountain pens offer an elegance to writing, and a bit of ritual. Given modern companies that produce a rainbow of inks and the ability to choose your nib, letters on the page are infinitely customizable. I find the writing to be smoother, and my handwriting simply looks better.
Never try a fountain pen? Might I suggest Pilot Varsity Or, if you want to get the full experience, I would recommend a Lamy Safari. This is a great pen that can take cartridges, or, with a convertor, fill from a bottle. I’m almost certain you will fall in love with fountain pens.
Some great shops:
- My favorite store is Appointments, here in Cincinnati.
- JetPens has a lot of pens at a variety of price points and styles.
- Want something vintage? Go to Pendemonium
My wife came home from our mailbox with a new mystery box for me. I love mystery boxes! This one I was not expecting.
Remember my ill-fated Pelikan Hub?
On top of all the other cool things Pelikan did he wonderful folks at Pelikan sent their hub masters a thank you gift.
I’d admired these ceramic pelicans for a long time, having seen them at pen shows and online. It’s about six inches tall, and has a hole to hold a pen (in this case, my Souverän 600). I was extremely excited as I unwrapped it.
“How do you hold that pen?”
So, a “thank you” goes out to the fine folks at Pelikan for a very nice, and very unnecessary, present. Even though the Cincinnati Hub had an extremely low turn-out, the pleasure was all mine.
Pelikan, a German manufacturer of fountain pens, has been making a strong push in social media. Primarily, this has been on Facebook and Instagram. They really do seem committed to reaching out to their fans.
A couple months ago, they announced Pelikan Hubs, an in-real-life meet-up of Pelikan fans. The idea was that, on Friday, June 13, fans would meet up at a designated spot at 7:30 PM local time. There, they would talk about pens, post with the #PelikanHubs hashtag, and generally have a good time. At the initial announcement, they were determining where the Hubs would take place. I signed up, unsure if we’d have one in Cincinnati.
They sent a note out saying that Cincinnati was chosen–one of thirteen cities in the United States to host a Hub. A week later, I got an email–they needed a “Hub Master” to run the hub. The duties were fairly light: select a location, and distribute goodies sent by Pelikan. I made a mental note to talk to my wife about it, to confirm I could commit to that. Over the weekend, I had forgotten about it, but a second email came that Monday.
Perhaps I should have taken that as a bad sign.
Regardless, I agreed, and worked with Pelikan to select a location, and get the word out to the half-dozen Queen City citizens who signed up. I chose one of the larger Starbucks in town, near an Interstate exit, figuring it’d make it relatively convenient for the attendees. Packages and emails were exchanged with Germany. I found my pelican beanie baby to be our mascot (as well as a way to identify me in a crowd). We were set.
The freebies were some post cards, along with a “shiny green” notebook, meant to match their new “shiney green” M205 Duo fountain pen highlighter–I have the original yellow version. The notebook is actually quite nice–a leather-like cover on cork backing hold two spiral notebooks: one of plain paper; the other, graph. The paper is good for fountain pens, with mild show-through.
I was good–I kept my notebook sealed until the Thirteenth. On that day, I drove to the Starbucks with the box of goodies and my pelican. I ordered a drink then set up at a table for six. The place was empty, save for a couple of Xavier University students.
Unfortunately, no one showed. I watched patrons as they came in, trying to decide if they were one of my Hub-folks. I generally figured if they weren’t wearing something that could hold pens, they weren’t it. However, after forty minutes, I gave up.
Other hubs seemed to go well, with dinners, give-aways, and other happenings. It was a bit of a bummer that my Hub at an attendance of one. Still, it was quite neat for Pelikan to reach out to their fans and try to connect them in this fashion.
I’ve commented in the past that, for me, a “distraction free writing environment” involves actual pen and paper. It seems that I’m not alone in this. I’ve read many studies which show that the brain processes things differently when handwriting than typing. I think the unitasking nature of pens combined with an inherently slower speed forces more thoughtful writing–be it in composition or note taking.
A new blog, The Cramped, celebrates folks who write with analog tools. It’s less tool-centric, unlike other pen blogs (which feature pen, ink, and paper reviews). rather, it looks at how paper is integrated into workflows and how it affects the creative process.
(I use “creative” quite broadly. As expected, a painting, poem, or story is a creative pursuit. However, any form of writing qualifies. Synthesizing data into a report, paper, or argument certainly qualifies as creative. It is simply more functional than philosophical or aesthetic.)
Reading the posts, I’ve become inspired. I’m creating a new category for this blog, “paper draft first.” This will be for posts where the first draft is on paper. I already do this informally–my journal is, and will continue to be, the place where the first seeds of some ideas are planted into the world. However, I’ll also start to write them out into something more closely resembling the final form.
Beyond simply being another excuse to use my pens, I want to see if this improves the quality o the longer written posts. There will still be plenty of posts–especially photo-heavy ones–that will be digital only. IN fact, I expect there to be revisions between the paper and the final post. This is a draft after all. After a time of this process, I’ll post follow-ups, to share thoughts on this method.
As you use up ink in a fountain pen, the only thing that changes is the ink. The rest of the pen–the nib and feed (what moves ink from the reservoir to the nib)–stays the same. The writing experience stays relatively consistent.* With ball pens, such as ball points, rollerballs, and gel pens, all of the parts that put ink on paper get swapped out. Put in the snobbiest fashion, all a ball pen is a a fancy holder for a refill. That is a bit unfair, as the barrel and cap influence the balance and grip of the pen. Still, how the writing looks on the page is driven primarily by the refill.
One advantage is that a single pen body can take on a variety of characteristics, if a suitable refill is produced. There are several Kickstart pens based on this premise. Some can take refills of different designs (I’ve considered purchasing one simply to burn off a few refills I’ve accumulated over the years).
Alternately, some refill designs are almost de facto standards, designed by one manufacturer, but copied and used in a variety of pens. The Parker ballpoint refill, originally designed for their Jotter pen, turns up in a variety of pens, ranging from cheap give-away pens, all the way up to high end Duofolds. It is one option for my beloved Retro 1951 Tornados, for instance. The refill may be made by a variety of manufactures and materials, and filled with different material, but has the same dimensions and shape. Some examples:
- Ballpoint ink, which is more of a paste, produced by any number of companies.
- The Fisher Space Pen refill fits in Parker-compatible pens with the addition of an included plastic adapter.
- During the Palm Pilot era, there were refills with plastic tips to be pressure sensative styluses.
- Parker made a gel refill, with others following suit.
This is not the sole refill with these options–the D1 refill shows up in many pens. Given that most men are issued at least one Cross Century upon graduating high school, many companies make refills compatible with Cross pens. Parker, however, seems to be the most common refill, in the widest variety of pens.
I recently learned that Parker has added a new option for users of such refills, the QuinkFlow. I confess that I’m a bit late to the party, as this has been out since 2010. While I’m a huge fan of vintage Parker pens, modern ones (since the late Nineties) don’t show up on my radar; ball pens even more-so. Their designs went from classic to modern in a cheesy sense.
What got my attention was that the QuinkFlow uses hybrid ink. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the idea of hybrid ink is to combine some of the desirable characteristics of ballpoint ink (long life even without a cap) with those of a rollerball or gel (vibrant colors and smooth writing). As this refill could fit many pens, I decided to get one, and try it out.
Though I have a couple Parker ballpoints, both are a bit smaller than I typically go for pens these days. I’m happy to use them in my daily aresenal, but, for a test, I wanted something that matched by best case writing experience. I put my specimen, a medium blue QuinkFlow, into my titanium Retro 1951 Tornado.
Right out of the gate, it was the smoothest ball pen refill I’ve ever used, rollerball or ball point. Don’t get me wrong–it’s no Lamy 2000, but there are ((very) rare) times when a fountain pen isn’t the right tool for the job. But there is very low friction, letting the ball glide against the paper.
The ink itself is quite nice. It is more vibrant, in my opinion, than most ballpoint ink, though perhaps not as vibrant as most rollerballs–it falls into the middle. It starts a bit more consistently than most of the ballpoints I compared it to, which is definitely a plus.
I will say it smelled a bit more like a ballpoint. I find that at once a reminder of my youth, before my communications were primarily either with liquid ink or ones and zeros, and a bit of a turn-off. For ballpoints, it takes a page or so of writing before that kicks in with me. The QuinkFlow is not nearly as strong, making it a very tolerable choice for that.
Since I just got it, I can’t comment on service life. My hope is that it will last longer than a rollerball, which seems to be the common experience among hybrid ink pens.
Overall, I’d say the QuickFill refill is an upgrade for pens that use Parker-style refills. It is perhaps the best thing to come out of Parker since the Sonnet fountain pen. Given the ubiquity of pens that can use it, it’s bound to find a place in your pocket.
*Different inks behave differently, and the same ink may work better in some pens than others. In general, though…
International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo) is a wrap! I’m proud to say that I successfully wrote twenty-eight pieces of correspondence. About a half were to folks I knew; the balance were people who are new to me. I sent mail to four countries, which marks some of my rare instances of international post.
So far, I’ve received four replies, most of them this week. I confess the lack of replies until now got a bit disheartening, but I think everyone participating had a lot of letters to write. It’s been fun to read the mail.
It has been an interesting experience. It was certainly a bit odd writing people you don’t know, and have no real reason to write (unlike, say, an email for work). I think that bit of confidence is a good skill to have.
Most of the people involved are fellow pen geeks. They all have commented, either in letters or on the forum, that it was a good excuse to pull out the pens they love. While one of my pens accompanies to work everyday, it almost exclusively serves to write in one of my notebooks, for my soul consumption. It was nice to share the writing, particularly with people who would be impressed by them. I also was glad to pull out stationery. Most of my inbound mail is bulk, printed with thousands of units in mind. Holding a letter on good paper made it feel extremely special. I think I might have to share this with more people.
I’m not sure if I’ll do this next year, though I do intend to write back those who have written me so far. The personal touch is definitely something Outlook lacks.
Three weeks and twenty-three letters into International correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo). It’s been a fun project. This last week, as I noted, has been mostly people I don’t know–simply pulled from the InCoWriMo forum. They do have a post, “These 28 People Would Love to Receive your InCoWriMo Correspondence.” This has led to fan letters to a few of my favorite pen companies. Naturally, these were written with examples of their products. A bit geeky, I admit, but, as long as I’ve been using some of the products from these companies, it makes sense, given the context.
As I’ve mentioned, this has been a good excuse to use my pens, stationery, and other fun writing gear. Yes, I’m geeky enough to track what letters get sent, and what gear was used. I’ve managed to use a different pen for each letter, and expect to do so.
There is still a week left if you want snail mail from me–I was thrilled to write an old friend from college who reached out to me. Just email me an address (my gmail.com address is mrguilt), and I’ll be happy to select a pen, ink, and paper just for you!