What’s What 1/28-2/3 2024

Still swatching, choosing nib grinds (almost), and sharp memories.

Inked Right Now

  • Pilot Decimo with Pilot Light Blue

  • Pilot Custom 845 with Iroshizuku Yama-Guri

  • Parker Sonnet with Colorverse Supernova

Gone from last time: the Newton Prospector and Pilot Tank. I wanted a Decimo back online for work. The light blue is a cartridge offering from Pilot, though it doesn’t strike me as being a well-known or widely used color. It’s like Herbin Bleu Azur, but more saturated and not as pale. I typically use a fine nib in the Decimo but to make the most of this ink I chose a medium nib.

New & Exciting

I still working on the ink swatch book, one brand at a time. Today I did all my Diamine inks.

Now the sheen of Monboddo's Hat can really come through.Now the sheen of Monboddo's Hat can really come through.

The wrong end was the right end. The wrong end was the right end.

Last time I swatched I used a Kakimori brass nib to fill in the bottle and cap areas. It worked fine but I wanted a result that looked more uniform, like ink simply filled the space rather than it being drawn there. When I was getting the dip nib ready for writing the ink names, I saw my old glass dip pen. I think it’s from Herbin. I barely use it these days because there are better and more varied options for dip nibs. I took it out of the box and looked at the end opposite the nib. Smooth rounded glass. Would that be any good for spreading the ink on the swatch pages? Yes, as it turns out. I like the swatch appearance much more using the blunt non-writing end of the glass pen than any other option I had tried. And cleanup doesn’t get any easier. A brief dip in water and wipe it off with a rag. It seems an obvious thing now but I’d never tried using the glass pen that way. Sometimes reexamining what you already have is as important and seeking something new.

Thinking About

I’m closer to picking a grind for the Sailor music nib. I’m intrigued by reversible grinds. Several nibmeisters seem to offer these grinds where one side is an architect. I already have an architect nib I like, and a naginata-style, so the idea of another grind in that neighborhood is not as appealing. My ideal would be a medium round point that reverses to something stub-ish, though I tend to think those grinds are not compatible in such a way.

Finally, in the what’s old is new again” department.

Spyderco Carbon Fiber Civilian and Carbon Fiber Delica.Spyderco Carbon Fiber Civilian and Carbon Fiber Delica.

Before pens, knives were my main hobby. I’ve gone through many more of them than I’ve had pens. I keep a small stable of knives because, like pens, they are invaluable everyday tools. My go to knife brand was always Spyderco. The first modern one hand opening knife I bought was a Spyderco Endura back in 1997 or so, and they’ve had my business ever since.

As tends to be the case, what you’re exposed to during the initial few years of collecting something can form the largest and longest lasting impressions. So it was with Spyderco’s older carbon fiber handled knives. The glossy finish gave a 3D depth to their appearance that doesn’t exist on their later CF handles. The only thing that came close were the Nishijin glass fiber scales. The nostalgia for those old carbon fiber handles never left me, even after the knives were long gone.

The smaller of the two knives shown above is the carbon fiber version of Spyderco’s Delica model. C11CFP on your scorecards. I can’t think of a good reason why I sold it, other than I didn’t fully appreciate what it was at the time and something else caught my eye. I later came to realize it was my favorite version of the Delica model and wished I hadn’t let it go.

The CF Delica is not the easiest knife to come by these days. It was made for one year in 2003. Total production run in was said to be 1500 pieces, 600 of which were the plain edge right-handed variety. Collectors seek them out and tend to hang on to them. I kept a long running eBay search on them, but for reasons of cost, condition, or being picky about shipping location, I never connected with one.

Over the last month or so there was one CF Delica that kept getting listed and not selling. It wasn’t cheap but I felt the price was commensurate with the knife’s rarity and condition. Week after week the knife went up for bid and no one took it. At a certain point, I thought to myself that if I’m trying to avoid buying more pens I can substitute one hobby for another and get this Delica. It would scratch an itch I’ve had for a long time. 17 years, if memory serves.

In the end, I took the plunge and the Delica is on its way to me. Will it be everything I remember? That’s an interesting question because for as strong and as fond as the memories feel to me, how sure can we be of something we had a long time ago that was one of many? Add to that none of us are the same person we were 17 years ago. Still, I’m confident it will put a smile on my face and find its fair share of time in my pocket.


29 January 2024

Making A Unified Swatch Collection

Image Credit: Cite du Temps https://www.citedutemps.com/planet-swatch/Image Credit: Cite du Temps https://www.citedutemps.com/planet-swatch/

No, not that Swatch. I had the requisite funky patterned Swatch back in junior high. I remember it fondly, although those plastic straps were not comfortable in hot weather of if you were sweaty from playing street hockey with your friends. Two words — skin irritation. Anyway, we’re talking about a different kind of swatch collection.

After cataloging all the fountain pens I have back in November, I knew the next piece would be to catalog all the inks I own. I have swatched any ink I’ve ever used in various fashions somewhere among half a dozen notebooks or small card collections. They’re mostly organized, but it’s not always convenient to find a given color if I don’t know right off where it’s located. For this project, I wanted one place to collect all the swatches using a single consistent format.

I have plenty of suitable paper and some templates that could be used with it for swatching. The easiest paper to use with the templates would be loose leaf pages or ones torn out of a top glue bound notepad, but those options need more work after the fact for keeping the pages together to access them. Using other notebooks is not as easy for me with templates because I find I’m often working around the binding method and not getting consistent results.

There are several notebooks preformatted for swatching inks but, for one reason or another, they missed the mark. I was looking for one with a simple layout, in a convenient size, paper on the heavier side, with binding that was easy to work with but would hold up over time. Picky, I know.

I happened upon the Wearingeul Ink Color Swatch Notebook at Goulet Pens. This looked interesting. Let’s go down the checklist.

  • Size — I love A5. Big enough not to feel cramped but travels easily.

  • Layout — Bottle graphic with two blank lines. Clean & uncluttered.

  • Paper — 200gsm should minimize bleed, ghosting, and distortion.

  • Binding — Ring bound is durable and easy to work with.

It only costs $9? I’ll take one, thank you very much.

Simple presentation.Simple presentation.

40 pages with 9 spaces each equals 360 swatches. That'll keep me in business quite a while. 40 pages with 9 spaces each equals 360 swatches. That'll keep me in business quite a while.

I like the simplicity of this book. The cover pages are the same paper as the interior. I might have liked them to be something sturdier but then the cost would probably have been higher. I will look for a thin plastic or cloth cover that might fit. There should be some decent choices out there for A5.

Now, the paper. Wearingeul has come on strong in the US the last few years but I had no previous experience with their products. 200gsm sounded right for a swatch book but the feel of the paper and how it would show ink were unknown to me. Still, given Wearingeul’s prolific ink catalog and many positive reviews I had confidence they were providing competent paper. Happily, that is the case and this paper is well suited to swatching. I started off with my Pilot bottled inks.

Even with heavy paper there is still likely to be some distortion where the ink concentration is heaviest. Wearingeul’s paper exhibits a little of this but has no bleed or ghosting.

Sheen came through nicely on Tsutsuji.Sheen came through nicely on Tsutsuji.

This was the first Iroshizuku ink I tried years ago, still one of my favorites. This was the first Iroshizuku ink I tried years ago, still one of my favorites.

The tools used were a Kakimori brass nib and an old Esterbrook Jackson stub. The Kakimori does well to lay down a good patch of ink while keeping it relatively controlled.

Kakimori brass nib and Esterbrook Jackson stub.Kakimori brass nib and Esterbrook Jackson stub.

All told, I think the Wearingeul swatch book is a very good product. It may not meet as many preferences for others as it does for me, but I’d say it’s well worth trying for the money. I only wish it existed 8 years ago so I could have used it from my start in the hobby.


27 January 2024

What’s What 1/14-1/20/24

Forming routine, trying to make choices.

Inked Right Now

  • Newton Prospector with Montegrappa Black

  • Pilot Tank with Ferris Wheel Press Mirror of Moraine

  • Pilot Custom 845 with Iroshizuku Yama-Guri

  • Parker Sonnet Cisele with Colorverse Supernova

Changed inks on the 845 and am still enjoying the unique qualities of the Prospector. The Tank and Sonnet are new from last week. Looking through the pen drawer, they both struck me as not having been used in quite some time so out they came.

The Tank’s an interesting pen with modifications from the factory to facilitate use as an eyedropper. I’ve used it that way and it works well, but entire barrels full of ink aren’t that appealing to me so I pulled the extra parts and just use it as a regular cartridge/converter pen. The nib was swapped from a Pilot desk pen I recently bought. Makes for a good EDC piece with the slip cap and slim profile.

The Sonnet is one of my longer tenured pens, dating back to May 2019. It has a stub grind from Custom Nib Studio and the sterling body gives a lovely heft in hand.

New & Exciting

The journaling and habit tracking mentioned in previous weeks are going okay. Even though it’s been just two weeks I have some difficulty in cutting myself slack for missing days. Maybe it’s because the tasks are small and don’t require large investments of time & effort. On some level that makes me feel there’s no excuse. But behavior doesn’t change instantly unless your survival depends on it, which is not the case here. Then what am I worried about? Keep stacking bits of progress and eventually we’ll be closer to where we want to be.

Thinking About

Still making evaluations for nib grinds on pens that could use them. First up will probably be the music nib on my Sailor Pro Gear Slim. The nib is the only part of that pen that keeps me away from using it. It has a massive block of tipping that could be shaped into almost anything.


But what should it become? Maybe a reversible grind, maybe another naginata style. I feel like this starting point should be used to go somewhere special that wouldn’t be possible with many other nibs.

What would you suggest?


15 January 2024

Barnes & Notebooks?

It had been a while since I was in my local Barnes & Noble. I popped by today to look for a birthday gift for someone. As is custom, I browsed the stationery section to see if there was anything interesting. Occasionally you find the odd bargain or a version of something you haven’t seen before.

The notebook selection included the standard full display sets of Moleskine and Leuchtterm. The racks contained many of the usual names – Peter Pauper Press, Denik, Rossi, Rifle Paper, Cavallini, Designworks, and Quo Vadis. There were also some Paper Source branded books, which figures given their common ownership.

There was more though. Brands and papers I didn’t expect to see at B&N.

The first item to stand out was this set of Kokuyo Campus notebooks with character art from a manga series called Spy x Family.

$15 for 5 Campus notebooks is strong value. The paper is very good quality. $15 for 5 Campus notebooks is strong value. The paper is very good quality.

Next to that was another Campus notebook with soft ring binding.

There were more Kokuyo 5 packs.

Candy or gum? Your choice. Candy or gum? Your choice.

And a graph paper notebook for good measure.

Rhodia is not uncommon at B&N but it’d been a while since I’d seen any.

Rollbahn (a Delfonics line) was new. I like their aesthetic but don’t prefer the color of the paper they use.

Not recommended for use when changing lanes on the Autobahn.Not recommended for use when changing lanes on the Autobahn.

Nuuna — a brand I’d heard of somewhere. These seem quite well made but I don’t know anything about their paper.

There was a single Laconic monthly planner. Check out The Gentleman Stationer for a rundown on this brand.

Sparse looks outside, but these notebooks have some interesting formats inside. Sparse looks outside, but these notebooks have some interesting formats inside.

And now Midori? Granted, it was only the small size but at this point I’m thinking a person somewhere in the company who’s really into paper got hold of the category merchant’s purchasing account and took a joyride.

The last find was this one from Good Inkpressions. It stood out for obvious reasons.

Shut up and take my money!Shut up and take my money!

This is another name I’d heard before. I know they’ve been around a while but couldn’t recall ever finding their products in person. When I flipped the notebook over, I was caught by the product details.

Is Machine 9 a cousin to Johnny 5?Is Machine 9 a cousin to Johnny 5?

Calling out Tomoe River on the front is one thing. Telling us which machine it came from is another level of geekdom. If a million people looked at this notebook in stores across the country, how many would have any idea what Machine 9” meant? A fraction of one percent, maybe? This is something made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. And here it sits, on the shelf at a big box bookstore. I’m just not used to it.

I decided to get the Good Inkpressions notebook as well as a Campus Soft Ring in blue. Why didn’t I get a picture of the blue notebook in store? Because I found them on a different shelf several feet away from the other notebooks. If there’s one thing I’d want to improve with what I saw at B&N today, it’s how the notebooks are merchandised. I know everything gets picked up and moved around by customers in retail. Been dealing with it all my life. But this seemed to me that same brand items were deliberately separated from each other. Perhaps it was for visual appeal and spacing. But if I see one Kokuyo notebook on the shelf I would like to find all the similar Kokuyo notebooks displayed nearby. If it’s scattershot then I’m compelled to scan the whole rack. That can be its own kind of merchandising, but it also can leave a customer with the feeling that they’re potentially missing something.

After all this excitement I still remembered to look for the birthday gift. Found a good one too. ;-)


10 January 2024