Field Notes Black Ice Edition

Review 3/3

After running through my Sweet Tooth and Unexposed Editions, I was searching for another Field Notes edition, except this one was for a specific purpose. Recently, I’ve really delved into the world of photography and wanted a pocket notebook for quick descriptions of some of my favorite shots on campus. On some select weekends, when I had the luxury of free time and weather permitting conditions, I’ve ventured outside to take some pictures around my campus.

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Spanning nearly 1,933 acres, the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington is expansive and full of places to get some amazing shots. So far, I’ve stuck to the various buildings I usually walk by on the weekdays and seek to view them from a different perspective. On many occasions, I was walking to class or back home and I suddenly stopped after seeing a scene that would make a well composed photo. So to keep it in my head, I whip out my trusty Field Notes notebook and quickly jot down my location and what exactly I was looking at. If I didn’t have this, I would’ve actually forgotten some really nice locations by the my weekend morning photo walk.

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The cover of this edition looks stunning and glints in the sunlight. The embossing of the Field Notes Logo on the front page looks like it has been machined onto sheet metal rather than just shiny paper stock. I found on one of my photo walks that the cover could also be used as a light reflector that helped illuminate some of my darker macro shots.

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The paper they used for this edition is the Finch Fine Smooth 70# paper with gray line rulings and orange on top (Field Notes website). The thing that really excited me into getting this specific edition is the fact that this is Field Note’s very first non-staple-bound notebook. These notebooks are actually PUR-bound and Field Notes made an awesome video showcasing the process. The paper withstood almost everything I threw at it other than the Iroshizuku Shin-Kai that spread out a bit on the paper. Maybe if I had a finer nib, then it would be alright, but as far as the Lamy 2000 medium nib, it is a bit too juicy for the Field Notes to handle. I don’t need to harp on about how good Field Notes notebooks are as well as the convenience they afford. They have already established themselves and their brand in the market and my only input would be to get this edition to not only get a cool notebook, but also see Field Notes innovation first hand with the binding.

Thanks for reading and being so patient with my slightly erratic posting schedule. I expect my workload to drop down back to normal once my first exam week passes. Then I’ll be able to get back to a regular once every 2 weeks review schedule. I’ll see you all near the end of February. Until then, write on, my friends.

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Huy Hoang Dao Oblique Holder 2

Review 2/3

 

 

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I remember a while back when I published the first oblique holder review on my blog and featured a Huy Hoang Dao holder that I had bought nearly a year back. Since then, I had a bit of an accident. While trying to adjust my flange, the glue gave in and the flange popped right out of the holder. Worried about the integrity of the wood, I promptly emailed Hoang about it and inquired what I could possibly do to revive it. As my first holder, it holds a lot of sentimental value that I just couldn’t get myself to let go of. Hoang got back to me and recommended me to get it fixed by Chris Yoke, given that I was based in Indiana now.

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In a completely surprising twist of events, he told me that since I had last ordered, his pen making skills had gone through considerable improvement and that I deserve a better pen, so he would send me one for free. He really didn’t need to and it wasn’t necessary, but Hoang took matters into his own hands and decided to send me a new one for free(!). It was amazing to see how sincere he is towards his customers and his passion towards his craft. I was absolutely inspired by him to really pursue my practice with more gusto than I thought I was capable of. So for the last couple months practicing exclusively with the one he sent.

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The very first thing I noticed were the beautiful contours of the holder. While the shape was very similar to my previous one, the thin profile really made it seem much more delicate and refined. If put right next to each other, one can see a quantum leap in the lines of the wood and how thorough Hoang was with the respective processes that made this pen look and feel absolutely stunning in my hand. All around another stunning holder by Hoang and something that I will be using for a long time. Hoang is putting some amazing holders up for sale and I would advise anyone in the market for a tastefully designed, well-made oblique holder at a price that won’t make your wallet cry, check out his online store.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for my review and have written my impartial observations and thoughts for your reading pleasure.

Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano Black

I’m so sorry with the late posts guys. With my first exams coming up for multiple classes, the veritable deluge of work I was assigned had me burning the midnight oil for many days on end. It was very difficult for me to dedicate time to write reviews and I could only write them in pieces with the limited amount of free time I had. So for today, I decided to finish all 3 reviews that I owed. 2 for January and 1 so far. Here’s review 1/3, enjoy. The next review is on its way.

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This is an ink that I’ve been using for nearly 2 years now. I initially picked it up at the 2015 LA Pen Show and barely used it. Due to it being one of the more expensive fountain pen inks I occasionally treated myself to, I didn’t want to use it up too quickly. My reticence to its use contributed to the unjust wait it had to go through at the bottom of my ink drawer. Before I transferred, I decided that I would take an entire day to just clear out my desk and drawers to sift through everything and decide whether it had to be taken with me. I found the bottle covered in dust and took it out, wondering what ink this was. The moment I saw the glint of gold lettering, I knew it had to be something good. Needless to say, I wasn’t wrong. A full bottle of Sailor Kiwa Guro Black just waiting for me to use it. I immediately packed it in my suitcase with my other inks and left.

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Fast forward 4 months and it has become a mainstay of my ink collection. Blacker than the black and extremely well-behaved, I ended up using it in almost all of my pens that I brought to Indiana. Whether it be my Pilot Custom 823 to my new Lamy 2000, it performed virtually the same without any hiccups. In fact, I wrote a good 80% of all my notes for my classes with this ink. It’s just that good.

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I figured out shortly that shading isn’t exactly its strong suit, but the amazing smoothness accompanied by the quick dry time helped settle this as my current go-to black ink. If I honestly had to recommend someone a quality black ink at this point in time, I would unhesitatingly tell them to go with Sailor Kiwa Guro. Although the price is a bit more on the premium side, even more expensive than the Iroshizuku line, it provides the most consistent and utilitarian purpose as a simple black ink. Throw in a decent bit of water resistance and the price seems just about right. I encourage anyone to acquire a sample of this through your favorite retailer and give it a go in a daily use pen, I can assure you that you will be adding a bottle of it to your shopping cart sooner or later. Thank you all for reading this review. Another one is coming right up.

New Year’s Resolutions. How Well Did I Follow Through?

First of week of the semester finally over! I feel that I started strong and am going to try to maintain that level of focus. I wanted to put this post out before school started, but the preparation I was doing for some of my more intense classes this semester was more of a priority so… that didn’t happen.So here it is.

Scientists say that the reason people don’t follow through on their New Year’s resolutions is simple. Most people pick big actions like “Eat healthier” or “Exercise more”. According to Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., the reason most people fail is because we have to start changing habits with small actions. Instead of “Exercise more”, we should instead say “Walk a 1/3 more than usual”. Not only do they have to be small, but they should also attach onto an existing action for easier acclimatization and be easy to follow through for the first week minimum. I’ll be going into 2017 with these in mind. Here’s the article for anyone interested. I highly recommend giving it a read and incorporating the lessons into your resolutions for this year.

I made a couple of resolutions at the beginning of 2016 with the goal of looking back and seeing that I accomplished them. While I’m pretty confident I didn’t exactly manage to do all of them, I honestly feel that I definitely did make somewhat of an improvement. I’ll link the whole post down below, but I’ll be going through only the main list. So let’s get started.

Start becoming more active on social media

My social media posting for the year of 2016 was much better than 2015. I was able to finally get a bit more involved on Instagram and am slowly building a larger follower base. Still a long way to go, but for someone as uninterested in social media as I am, it was a huge leap. This year I will be looking to improve even more and start showcasing more of my calligraphy practice as I notice that those were some of the things people were responding to. It’ll definitely be tough, but I’ll use the excuse of posting it on social media to focus on keeping a clear schedule of practice and for a more useful practice instead of mindlessly doing drills and not focusing on the foundations. This year I will be using online resources more often to practice smart and will eventually be writing in calligraphy on Instagram for any holidays and the like. Look forward to it! 🙂

One review a week without fail, no excuses

In the 52 weeks of the year of 2016, I posted 32 reviews. Honestly, this one was a little bit of a stretch for me to accomplish and I’m surprised I got as far as I did given how tough the quarters leading up to my transfer were. There were many times I found myself simply releasing 2 or even 3 on a given weekend simply to catch up. In short, it was an ambitious goal that I couldn’t follow through on because I underestimated the effort and motivation I had to constantly put out reviews every single week. For this year, since my schedule and academic rigor has increased substantially, I simply can’t make one review a week happen. However, I feel that one every two weeks should be very possible given how many I put out last year. By decreasing my schedule, you guys have more to look forward to also. I’ll be posting only on weekends as that’s when I’ll have the most free time. I feel that I can definitely make this happen, so I’m gonna go for it.

Improve my photography which I feature in my reviews.

Now this one was something that I’m not really sure how well I accomplished. For me personally, when I compare my January photos to my December photos, I see a stark difference in quality. The December shots are better composed make better use of negative space and are more in focus because I invested in a decent tabletop tripod to avoid shaking and blurriness present in some of my January shots. That being said, I feel that the creativity behind the shots were lacking. Lot of them are the standard in focus nib and body and a couple of round angle shots that are pretty standard. I didn’t exactly do a good job in varying my backgrounds and it became a little stale even for me. When I moved to IU, I no longer had my standard black desk but instead a wooden grain one that really looked nice in some of the latest reviews. I want to try to capture some pen in nature shots this year. Something like that should be easy due to having so many seasonal backgrounds here in Indiana. I’ve been a little uneasy about going outside due to how cold it is, but I feel that a morning photo walk is something that will help me not only improve my composition further, but challenge me to try out different methods and utilize different perspectives.

Work on getting some kind of sponsorship

Well this is a little embarrassing. O.O Now this was a resolution that honestly fell by the wayside after January. For some reason, it completely slipped my mind after the year started up and it wasn’t until I wanted to write this post that I saw this and remembered. It hit me how much trouble could be saved when wondering about what new pens I could get that I haven’t reviewed. This is something that I would definitely like to work on as it would not only guarantee my readers fresh reviews on new pens, it would also allow me to stop stressing on how I’m going to put out new content every week. I will be contacting some of my favorite pen bloggers for advice on how I can make this happen and encourage anyone with experience in this field to get in contact with me via the Contact Form and I’d love to chat..

That was all of my resolutions for 2016 and a few minor adjustments notwithstanding, they will stay the same for this year. Resolutions cannot be thrown away if you don’t accomplish them. The biggest problem I faced last year was overreaching. I set goals that didn’t take into account how my life was going to change near the end of the year. I set goals that were a bit too ambitious given the limited amount of time I had to make them happen. Lastly, I set goals blindly, without thinking about how I was going to follow through. Ultimately, while I didn’t complete any of them, at least there was improvement. Until the day comes that I’m completely sure that I followed through these are going to be my blog resolutions for every year. Consistency is key and perseverance is mandatory for success. I also have some personal goals that I’ve set for myself and I’ll be working on those too alongside these. I’m getting a feeling that this year is going to be a good one. Keep on going, my friends. Never stop trying to better yourself and never settle for anything less than what you want. Let’s work hard together and make 2017 a year to remember.

I really want to know what you guys are thinking so please leave a comment telling me how I’m doing. Comments are getting more frequent, but it’s just not enough to gauge how well my reviews are being received, so let me know what you think hitting that like button and leaving a comment. Thank you all so much for your support. I’ll see you in 2 weeks with 2 reviews to make up for missing these first couple weeks. So until then, write on, my friends. 🙂

Link to 2016 New Year’s Resolutions blog post

Happy New Year! A Look at 2016.

I can’t believe that it’s already here. The day where everyone looks back on the year and how they navigated through the many curve-balls life threw at them. For me, this was certainly one of the most fulfilling years I’ve had in a while. A couple of years back, after being bogged down and overrun by the math-heavy curriculum for Computer Science, I was lost. It was the worst feeling for me, to know that I had a genuine interest in a field, but I couldn’t pursue it simply because calculus wasn’t my thing.

It was at this point that a simple mistake allowed me to meet someone who would change my life. I had gone back to being a business major and needed to take financial accounting as a prerequisite for transfer. My business club advisor, a Mr. Kevin Mello, was an accounting teacher at the time, so I planned to take him. It wasn’t until the day I walked into the classroom that I realized I had signed up for the wrong Mello’s class. Apparently, Kevin’s twin brother Keith was also an accounting teacher and the online registration portal hadn’t shown the difference. Determined to just get through the course however possible, I sat down and prepared myself for another mundane and uninteresting course. The moment he started teaching, something in me clicked. He handed us some exercise sheets and I was breezing through them with 100% accuracy. A feeling of euphoria that I used to feel only when I was in a computer class invaded me. I had finally found it. Something I was good at and a field I could pursue for a career.

I found myself attending his office hours daily, peppering him with questions about what accountants do, different sub-fields within accounting and about his personal experience in the industry. He patiently answered every single one and shared his thoughts on what he used to do and how the field is changing in numerous ways. He sat with me daily for almost a month straight and helped me find a path that I was interested in pursuing and encouraged me to follow my heart, wherever it took me. He helped encourage me when I was mired by self-doubt and ultimately inspired me to work hard to get into a good business program at a 4-year university. In the immortal words of William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” He turned out to be the most inspirational and kindest professor I had ever had the fortune to meet. I fondly reminisce on that incident now as one of the best and luckiest mistakes I ever made.

I worked hard and got into Indiana University at Bloomington, home to the prestigious Kelley School of Business. Through all my effort, I was able to transfer to a college with a beautiful campus, amazing people and dedicated teachers. I was able to meet my roommate Nick, who has since become one of my best friends. 2016 was an amazing year for me and I sincerely hope that I can carry this momentum into 2017. I have some personal goals I’ve set that are ambitious but achievable. I feel that aiming for these goals will change my life for the better and I fully intend on following through.

I want to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year! 🙂 May the new year bring tidings of health, happiness and prosperity to you all. Thank you so much for all your support and I will see you all in 2017. (I’m in California, and it’s technically not 2017 yet)

Word Notebooks

Post 3/3. All caught up, see you tomorrow! 🙂

Word Notebooks are something that I have wanted to try for the longest time and I finally got a chance to after a friend gave me a pack. I’ve seen numerous versions of these over at Cool Material, a website I visit occasionally to find out about cool gadgets and the latest trends. They always have these in stock for some reason and the one thing that drew me to them was the cover. While Field Notes does a really god job with unique covers for their notebooks, Word just has very aesthetically pleasing covers that immediately draw the eye. I really liked this one in particular due to my obsession with the color blue and the numerous shades therein. The chromatic effect that is the highlight of this cover just really worked for me. I actually didn’t want to use them simply to maintain the neatness of the cover, but I had to review them, so they invariably got bent and crushed mercilessly by the contents of my bag. T_T

Word Notebooks, unlike Field Notes has a very specific system in place for the functionality. It’s a lot like the Bullet Journal system, except in a simpler form. At the front of the notebook, after the property identification and archival system, there’s a dedicated user guide. I honestly had used a bullet journal before, so it was easy to handle the transition.

The paper was much better than I expected and held up against most of my EDC pens to a good extent. The writing instruments I tested are in the picture above and it took just about everything I threw at it. The Platinum Preppy M loaded with Platinum Blue-Black showed signs of feathering and it ghosted through much more than any of the other pens tested. However, it did not bled through at all, but that could change depending on the nib size. I think that Japanese Extra Fine/Fine nibs should be alright, but the ink can also play a huge role in the performance, so some testing with your regular use inks is required.

Word Notebooks really puts out some decent notebooks with quality paper than can handle numerous styles of pens all packaged with aesthetically pleasing covers. The biggest drawback to these notebooks is the inherent system. While effective, it does the one thing that Field Notes doesn’t, and that’s limiting your customer’s choices. With a standard Field Notes notebook, I can turn it into anything I want, be it a to-do list, a photography journal, etc. I’m not limited to what the company dictates I use it for (a to-do list, in the case of Word Notebooks). It’s been a while since I’ve last checked out their stuff, but I hope they’ve stopped shipping their notebooks out with the system, otherwise the use they provide to the buyers would be limited in nature. So if you’re looking for a Field Notes alternative that is functional mainly as a to-do list, then the Word Notebook is the right choice for you.

 

Tombow 2558 Pencil

Post 2/3. I’ll get the last one for the day done after dinner. See you in a couple of hours.

dscf8183The lead on this pencil is the standard that one can expect from a Tombow pencil. The lines it puts down are nice and dark allowing for high visibility under light. I used it primarily in well-lit lecture halls and had no trouble rereading and studying my notes when staying in my dimmer lit room. It required a touch more pressure than the Mono 100 and performed just a shade under. It didn’t break under quite a decent amount of pressure (math makes me very frustrated sometimes :P). I had no problem sharpening it to a nice point, but it often lost it quickly once I started writing. While it didn’t affect the performance too much, I personally like writing with a sharp point. I feel it helps me control my hand better and it helps whenever I do drills for my calligraphy practice. All in all, a decent upper tier pencil in comparison to the various lines from Uni Mitsubishi.

dscf8189I have never seen a pencil resemble a standard Dixon Ticonderoga so much and be so different at the same time. The Tombow 2558 isn’t a very flashy pencil. Much like the Ticonderoga, the bright color draws the eyes, but the similarities end there. Tombow opts for a more subdued branding done in a dark purple color that contrasts beautifully with the burnt orange body.

dscf8190This is a no-nonsense pen that is geared towards functionality more than anything else. If one removes the branding, then this is just a standard pencil you see in schools across the nation. That is how simple the design is. It is this design that does it for me. Unlike the Caran d’Ache I reviewed in the last post, this pencil is geared specifically towards writing. It doesn’t give off a luxurious feel or use high-quality materials. Just simple wood and graphite with some embossing on the side. I would recommend this pencil to anyone who wants a functional and simple pencil. It’s a little bit more on the expensive side with a price of $1.20/pencil but if a sturdy pencil that performs well is what you want, I highly recommend this one.

Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood Beech Pencil

Review 1/3 today to make up for the staggered schedule. Next one coming in a couple of hours.

dscf8176This was a pencil that I had been dying to try out, but not up for buying. At $5.45/pencil this is definitely one of the most, if not the most expensive pencils I’ve ever reviewed. Caran d’ache is a Swiss manufacturer of school, office and luxury stationery supplies. Founded in 1915 in Geneva by Arnold Schweitzer, he named his company Caran d’Ache after the nickname of French satiric political cartoonist Emmanuel Poire, who took his name from карандаш (karandash) the Russian word for pencil. In 1929, they trademarked the design for one of the first mechanical pencils. (Wikipedia)

After being around for nearly a century, Caran d’Ache is still going strong with their iconic designs and luxurious materials. This pencil in particular is made from FSC-Certified Grovelier beech wood from the Jura mountains for northwestern Switzerland. (JetPens) Just from that description alone, I was excited to try this pencil out. I have to say, so far after almost 2 months of use, I have not been disappointed.

dscf8173The first thing that I often look at when I want to buy a pencil is looks. I admit it is a bit superficial, but a good-looking pencil more often than not indicated decent writing quality, at least in my experience. Some of the simplest pencils with elegant design and color choices have constantly performed better than garish ones. The best example I can give would be the Tombow Mono 100 and the Palomino Blackwing 602. Simple color palette, subtle branding and an attention to details made them some of my favorite pencils to use.

dscf8170With the Swiss Wood pencil, the clear coat of matte varnish helps keep the natural grain of the wood intact and looking amazing. I have started to love seeing the grain of wood ever since I started collecting oblique holders. I sometimes need a bib when I’m browsing through some of my favorite pen-maker’s catalogues. This pencil showcases the natural beauty of the wood and accentuates it with the red paint and Swiss cross on the back.

dscf8177Writing with it has been an absolute pleasure. It holds a point very well and I’ve yet to have problems with the lead breaking even with a decent amount of pressure. While the smoothness is not up to par with say, the Blackwing 602, it’s definitely up there in terms of how easy it is to write with on different papers. I’ve tested it out on everything from Doane and Field Notes to Rhodia and Maruman. It handled every change like a champ and I never had any trouble switching between them.

However, one thing to note is that there is no eraser. While to me this isn’t much of a problem, it can be a bit of an issue for someone who is more function oriented when it comes to pencils. Having a decent quality eraser can be a huge deal, especially with expensive pencils. The Blackwing 602 is the penultimate (get it?) luxury pencil as it affords the consumer both quality and functionality for the price. The Caran d’ache on the other hand offers natural beauty, high quality materials, but less functionality for its price point. This might be a turn off to some buyers, so I thought I should mention this.

If you’re looking for a premium pencil at a premium price, then look no further than the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood Beech pencil. It maintains the natural aesthetic of the wood grain while adding tasteful additions like the red and white Swiss cross on the back. It’s versatile and high quality lead can be used on numerous papers without a fuss and it can hold a point well. I highly recommend anyone interested in high quality pencils to try it out.

TWSBI Eco – M nib

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TWSBI is always known for pushing the buck on affordable fountain pens. From their Vac Mini line to their Mini model. They’ve constantly surprised the pen community with just how affordable they can make such great pens. That’s why I was really excited to try the Eco, their cheapest pen to date and one that can be anyone’s first fountain pen. After some time of using it nearly every day for notes, I was pleasantly surprised.

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For $30USD, this pen really delivers on the TWSBI experience. I was a little hesitant due to the all plastic build, but decided to trust TWSBI with their quality, something that I will no longer hesitate to do. The plastic they used is solid and reliable. The one problem of this, is that there is no texturing around the grip area. I constantly found myself adjusting my grip because no matter how hard I tried it slipped after a couple of minutes. One of the biggest drawbacks to this pen for me, is how insecure the grip feels. However, due to the quality of the plastic, it can survive being dropped multiple times. I feel that they could improve on this by just adding some texture to the grip area, nothing fancy just a couple of line to ease up the grip pressure and not stress the hand out as much.

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For the rest of the pen, I don’t particularly mind the use of plastic as nowadays the quality of plastic is relatively high and helps keep such a great pen affordable. I know some have complained a bit about the flimsy nature of the piston, but I feel that it’s merely a tactile difference in operation form the standard metal knob that is present in all of TWSBI’s other models. To me, it doesn’t feel flimsy and was very smooth in operation. I wasn’t worried about any accidental turns leading to spills.

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The best part of this pen has got to be the nib. While I was expecting the standard TWSBI experience of smooth nibs to be there, it wasn’t until I actually tested it and affirmed my suspicions that I realized what it meant. When it comes to fountain pens, you usually tend to get what you pay for, especially in the price range of $15-$30. The fact that they managed to keep the amazing quality of the nib in this pen is something to be commended. I honestly have never tried another pen in this price range that had such a smooth nib out of the box. It lays down a nice line consistently and hasn’t failed me even once. Kudos to TWSBI for managing to do this. However, I found that there was often a small amount of leaking occasionally and feel that the clear direct feed design makes it much easier to occur. While it’s cool to see the ink run through the feed and look at the color right underneath your fingers, it also diminished my confidence in keeping it in my pocket. I found numerous ink stains on my fingers sometimes without knowing exactly how I got them while writing. I think it might have to do with my grip position alongside the way the feed was designed.

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Finally, the branding is very subtle and tastefully done. It’s not festooned around the pen and it really accentuates the glossiness of the black plastic that I opted for. TWSBI also has a lime green and clear version with the same nib range (EF – 1.1 Stub).

All in all, an a great and affordable first fountain pen that can definitely turn people into pen addicts. I would highly recommend this as a starter pen for anyone who wants to get start writing with fountain pens, or as a way to get others into the hobby. The first pen is a very important milestone that can make or break an individuals perception on fountain pens, so it’s important to have something beginner friendly and high quality that can give a great writing experience. The TWSBI Eco checks all those boxes for me, so don’t hesitate to try it out.

 

Christmas Update

Hello Everyone,

I know it’s been a month and a half since I last posted and I sincerely apologize for not keeping you apprised of the situation. During the last month I had to buckle down and hit the books to study, complete numerous group projects and take my final exams. Thus I was finding myself spending hours on end in the library and basically living there for a month and a half. So, now that my first semester is officially over, I’m going to make it up to you with a deluge of posts covering all I missed so far. According to the calendar, I missed about 6 posts and owe you one for this week, so 7 reviews in total. Starting tomorrow, I plan to give you one post a day until Friday where I’ll put out the remaining before Christmas Eve. There won’t be any posts on New Year’s Eve except for the annual WordPress statistics update for 2016. There will also be a surprise post after New Year’s that I’m looking forward to sharing with you. Let’s start off the countdown to Christmas and spread some holiday cheer. Thank you all for reading. See you tomorrow with a new review. Look forward to it! 🙂

Sincerely,

Anchit, The Passionate Penman