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

Caran d’Ache Technalo Pencil

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This is my first foray into Caran d’ache pencils and I’m very satisfied with my experience so far. The Technalo was something that I inadvertently picked up because I wanted to try some Caran d’Ache pencils and this one seemed pretty unique and different from the ones I’ve reviewed so far. I was curious to see how the water-soluble graphite would feel when writing. I wasn’t expecting Blackwing 602 performance, but the lead was soft enough to rival it.

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The pen is marketed as a water-soluble graphite pencil. This means that the typical use of this pen would be for watercolor-esque washed and you would see the graphite getting lighter with multiple washes. I have not gotten to test this yet as I lack the proper paper that is able to take a wash or two. Hopefully once I get some watercolor paper I can truly make use of this pencil. Until then, just writing with it will suffice.

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The matte finishing on the body is one of the things that was the biggest gripe I had about this pen. Due to the smoothness, it was extremely difficult for me, someone with sweaty hands, to get a proper grip when I was writing. I ended up forming a death grip near the front of the pen but still struggled to maintain a proper hold.

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There was a lot of rather ostentatious branding as well as unnecessary applications of shiny material. Unlike some of the more subtly branded and understated pencils I’ve reviewed in the past, the Technalo goes out of its way to seem luxurious. However, I have to say that it does look really good even if it’s not to my specific taste.

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The lead was very soft and honestly felt much like a colored pencil. The death grip I was slowly developing lea to me putting a lot of pressure when writing and I could feel the lead depressing when I pushed. It led to one side being soft and wider and when I switched sides, it started out extremely sharp and resulted in a darker line. You can see in stances of this phenomenon in the first picture.

Galen Leather Field Notes Cover

This is a review that has been a long time coming. I was first approached by Zeynep through the contact form on the blog back in April. She informed me of a company she and her brother had started, Galen Leather and how they had just opened an online store for handmade leather goods. I was very interested as I had never owned a leather notebook cover before. I’d been meaning to get one for the longest time, but just couldn’t reconcile spending that much money on it. Most of the options I found were in the $60 – $70 range and way more than I could afford. When Zeynep so graciously offered to send me a cover free of charge for a review, I didn’t hesitate. Again, this product was given to me free of charge to review. I will strive to be as objective as I possibly can be and to not let this affect my review.

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The first thing I noticed when I opened the package, was a very nicely designed box with the company’s branding. It was slightly bulging and I didn’t know why until I opened it up. The Field Notes cover I received, (No.55 in black leather) was still a bit stiff as it hadn’t been broken in, leading to it pushing up against the box. It was secured with a simple cardboard slip that ran around the sides and a little explanation on the history of the company on a separate slip of cardboard. It also came with an “evil eye” charm that I forgot to take a picture of. You can read up about the story behind the charm here.(credit to Gentleman Stationer for the link)

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Straight out of the box, I could tell that this was a solid product. Thick pieces of leather with burnished edges and it looked fantastic with the oils providing a nice shine. A surprising fact was that it smelt really nice, which I had never experienced with any of the leather products I’ve owned. All of Galen’s products are made with locally sourced 2-3mm vegetable oak tanned leather (source: Galen Leather Care) They give very clear and simple instructions to deal with any questions you might have regarding how to care for the leather on the same page I linked above. The stitching is very precise and even along the edges and the burnishing on the edges gives it a very soft feel for such thick pieces of leather.

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The cover is very simple to use as all you have to do is slip the last page of your Field Notes notebook into the slot and it’ll securely hold it no matter what. I’ve put this cover through its paces for nearly half a year and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how well its held up.

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On the inside, there is an elastic pen loop that can accommodate various sizes of pens be they fountain or regular in length and width. It is positioned very comfortably and is very functional and easy to use. I’ve put everything from the Retro 51 pictured above to my Karas Kustoms INK. The elastic worked perfectly all the time and I didn’t have worry about the pen falling out due to any jostling.

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I actually don’t use the card slots too often as I usually carry all my cards in a wallet. However, when I have used them, they performed very well and securely held the cards without fail. I never had to worry about whether anything would fall out because of how the leather grips onto the cards. The cards don’t even need to be textured for the leather to gain purchase, the two cards I used for this shot are my Campus ID and my driver’s license (both of which took some time to maneuver into proper position so as to keep the details hidden). These cards have a matte like finish with barely any texturing, yet they are held properly in place by the slots and are easy to pull out and insert again.

All in all, the Galen Leather Field Notes covers are good quality, solidly built and functional handmade leather products that are well worth their asking price. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any other covers made as nicely for the selling price listed on Galen. If you’re looking for an affordable and long-lasting Field Notes cover, look no further than the offerings from Galen Leather. A big thanks to Zeynep for reaching out and providing me with this cover. I wish her and her brother Yusuf all the success they deserve for bringing such high quality products to the market. Look forward to more orders from me in the future. 🙂 Check out their products at their website: Galen Leather.

P.S. This is review 1/3 for today (10/30/16). Second review dropping in a couple of hours.

October Update

Hey Everyone,

It’s definitely been a while since I posted a review and I do apologize for the long wait. I’ve been slowly getting more and more work assigned to me as we passed the halfway point of the semester and I’ve been doing my best to finish as much as possible over the weekends so I can spend my weekdays studying for whatever exams I have coming up. Today is one of those increasingly rare days where I’ve finished all of my work for the week in advance and have enough free time for a review, so I decided to make up for some missed weeks by publishing a total of 3 reviews today. Enjoy. 🙂

Sincerely,

Anchit

Horizon Folded Pen

Sorry for not being as active as I would have liked. I’ve taken a rather intense course load for the semester and tests keep barreling towards me like trains and I have to do my best to study as hard as possible. I’ve had next to no free time in between studying and I’m ending up still awake at 2 in the morning doing calligraphy drills to calm down before heading to sleep. It’s nearing midterms week so, there’s going to be more and more thrown at me right before that time, so this might be the only update for the next two weeks (hopefully not). Thank you all for your outstanding patience and I will endeavor to get another review in today if possible.

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This was a nib that I really wanted to get my hands on for the longest time. So when I finally did, I went absolutely nuts with experimenting. Different inks, angles of the strokes going for the splatter pattern I see so many of my favorite calligraphers make when they use it. So far, I have not been able to get it yet, maybe it’s all in the flick of the wrist as the letter ends.

A folded nib is a rather unique nib when it comes to calligraphy as the style of writing is very different from say, a broad edge pen. It’s relatively new innovation in the calligraphy industry and it definitely has a unique charm that other current nibs can’t provide.

The center fold of the nib acts as the ink reservoir and it can really hold a lot of ink. I did a full dip and was able to write 3 capital letters before running out. As it’s running out, if the ink has nice shading, like Iroshizuku Yama-Budo, then the color will start getting progressively lighter with each stroke allowing you to view numerous gradations as you write. Depending on the angle you hold the nib relative to the paper, the stroke could be thin or brush-like. Also, how much control you exert over the nib changes the way the ink flows, as heavy pressure from the hand, results in more ink on the page. Pacing is also important, as a fast pace can result in choppy lines. All of these variations can be seen in the first picture.

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You can choose to either buy one or make one. I chose to but from Paper Ink Arts as I tried making one and it just didn’t come out right no matter how many times I tried, so I defaulted to buying one. There are instructions to make one too though they typically won’t be as consistent as a store-bought one. The end result, however, is similar so if you just want to try it out to see the possibilities, you can just make one and experiment with it.

 

Huy Hoang Dao Oblique Holder

So this is a review that’s been on the back burner for a long time, as with my last year of community college, I just didn’t have the time to sit down and practice my Ornamental penmanship as much as I would have liked. I got this almost a year back when I was graduating from a standard plastic Speedball oblique holder. Yesterday when I was planning what to review this came up as I’ve been getting back into doing drills as a form of stress management with all the schoolwork I’m getting assigned. So without further ado, let’s get started with the review.

First of all, I would like to mention that Hoang is one of the calligraphers I admire the most. He’s massively talented, hardworking and all around a great person. While our latest interaction was nearly a year back, I still remember how seriously he took my concern that the pen had not arrived and made sure to check with his local post office on where it was just to assuage whatever doubts I had. He’s a huge inspiration to me and I really appreciate the time and effort he puts into his craft.

 

The pen came in a standard cardboard box that I still use to house it. It’s solid enough that it has gone through airport security and checked in baggage and come out smiling every time. Never have I once worried whether there would be any damage to the pen.

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Within the box there was a handwritten note from Hoang thanking me for my order and describing the wood he used to make the holder. According to him, my specific oblique holder is made from a rare black rosewood that can only be bought every 1 in 20 wood blanks he purchases. He described the process of how he cleaned and covered the wood in a transparent lacquer to achieve the magnificent shine I see every time I use it. It really felt surreal to be holding such a beautifully handwritten letter and ever since receiving my holder, I stored the letter with it so I could use it as an exemplar of sorts.

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The first time I held the pen, it was a truly sublime moment for me. To be holding something that would not only help me improve the quality of my calligraphy, but also something that will last a very long time. The sheen of the lacquer really brings the aesthetics of this pen to a new level. Every time I use it I can’t help but admire the shine, the grain patterns of the wood and all the other aspects that make this pen mesmerizing.

Overall, this is a holder that will accompany for a long time. Who knows, judging by how well it’s held up so far, it might just last long enough to make it a family heirloom. Everything about it screams quality and the amount of work put in definitely enhances this perception. While I still haven’t used this holder as much as I should have, I hope to rectify this in the coming months. Lastly, a little shout out to Hoang, I’ve been following your work on Instagram for a while now, and I just want to tell you that you are a big inspiration to me. Keep up the great work man! 🙂

 

 

A New Chapter

Hey Everyone,

Been more than a month since my last post and I wanted to give everyone an update on my current situation. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I would be transferring colleges this fall. I attended my New Student Orientation and was a little anxious about moving. For the first time in my life I will be living by myself, nearly 2000+ miles away from my parents. I just moved in to my college dorm the other day and have been preparing for my classes non stop. This is an exciting new chapter in my life and it honestly feels a bit surreal to me as of this moment. While I wanted to do a full review today, I don’t think I can as I will attending numerous activities to try to acclimate to my new surroundings. The first review will be posted next week and I will aim to post once, maybe twice if I have enough free time (which I honestly can’t properly gauge right now as I don’t know my work load). I will try and keep everyone updated, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the independence and getting over my home-sickness. Thank you so much for sticking with me through this time. I hope to see you again next week. Write on, my friends.

Sincerely,

Anchit, The Passionate Penman