Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 10 of 2014

2014 is almost over and that means it's time for my yearly top ten list - the list of the items that I used and enjoyed the most throughout the year.  I can hardly believe that this is the fifth year I've compiled this list!  It feels like such a short time ago that I thought of it for the first time.  (Click on the links to go back to the original reviews.)

  1. Pentel EnerGel Euro 0.35mm Black - I've used this pen for a while but I was reminded this year of how much I love it.  I think this may even be my Favourite Pen Ever, since it writes so smoothly with such a fine, crisp, dark line; it's pretty much perfection.
  2. Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser - Surprised to see an eraser so high on the list?  I didn't do as much writing by hand this year as I have in other years, but I have been doing a lot of kakuro and logic puzzles lately, so this eraser has come in handy.  It's just a great, dependable eraser.  And kakuro puzzles are the best, by the way; they're much more fun than sudoku.
  3. Pentel Quicker Clicker 0.5mm mechanical pencil - This goes along with the eraser as I always use a mechanical pencil to solve puzzles.  I still have some mixed feelings about this pencil (as I described in my review), but it always feels good in my hand and I feel happy using it.
  4. My DIY planner/bullet journal in my Rhodia Webnotebook - This was my main planning tool for over half the year.  As I've described before, my system did fall apart during the summer, but I loved using it before that happened and I found it to be to be a simple and satisfying way to keep a planner and journal.  As for the Rhodia Webnotebook, I still think it's the best notebook ever and it's appeared on all of my top 10 lists so far.
  5. Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrün fountain pen ink - Currently my favourite ink.  I have no problems with how this ink writes and the colour is perfect for me, although I still don't own a full bottle...
  6. Tombow MONO drawing pencils - I love these pencils.  The HB and B grades have my perfect combination of relatively hard yet dark lead.  And they're great for practicing my much-neglected drawing skills.
  7. UHU Stic glue stick - This may seem like an odd addition to my top ten list, but as I've mentioned before, my main creative project this year has been creating a collage for every week, so I've been using these glue sticks a lot.  UHU has been my favourite brand of glue stick since just about forever.
  8. Pentel Fluorescent Marker - I also used highlighters more often this year, as this was the year when I discovered just how useful they can be.  The Pentel Fluorescent Marker is my current favourite; I love its slim body and the fine, crisp, bright line of ink it lays down.  Unfortunately, these highlighters do not seem to be very widely available, so I might have to start looking for a replacement.
  9. Rhodia Ice - I've long loved Rhodia pads, and I was very happy with this year's offering of the Rhodia Ice.  I still think that I prefer the orange covers, but I can't resist the Ice's cool beauty, and I do prefer its grey grid lines rather than the violet lines of the standard editions.
  10. Sharpie Metallic Permanent Marker (review upcoming) - Another odd addition to this list, the metallic Sharpie marker (in silver) was another item I used a lot in my weekly collages.  Also, I feel like I've been searching for the perfect metallic pen or marker for most of my life, and this may finally be it.

That's all for this year!  What were your favourite products of 2014?  Did any of your favourites appear on my list?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Recent Acquisitions: A Bit of Vintage

I don't consider myself a collector of vintage or antique items, but I love looking at older items and wondering about where they have been and who has used them over the years.  To me, older items usually seem to have more personality than newer items.  And occasionally, a few of these items do end up in my possession, and here are a few that I have acquired recently.

Address book ("with the compliments of R.O. Roberts & Sons, Holland Arms Garage, Anglesey, Tel. Gaerwen 240"), and staple-bound notepad from Swift's Premium.

Address book - I usually don't find address books very interesting, but this one is intriguing because it comes from Anglesey, which is in Wales, and therefore has travelled quite a way to arrive here in western Canada.  There is only one address written in the book, that of a hotel in London, and a loose address in Calgary, Canada slipped inside the front cover.  I'm guessing that this book was probably picked up by someone from Canada travelling in England and Wales.

Staple-bound notepad - This notepad is from Swift's Premium ("...the two most trusted words in meat"), and I was rather startled and amused when I opened it to discover my own name.  "Heather," someone had written on the first page, "is wearing a white rayon/polyester blouse and blue denim skirt made of 100% cotton for the casual hot afternoon shopping trip."  The next page contains a brief recipe for rhubarb jam (dated May 22, 1974), and then several pages of notes that appear to be related to printing.

Two children's get well cards: "A Spinning Satellite to Speed Your Recovery" and "A Pet Show to help you get Well."

Greeting cards - These are both get well cards for children.  They're interesting because they're not just cards, but each include a small activity or game as well.  One includes a "spinning satellite", a small plastic disk that can be removed from the card and attached to a piece of string for spinning ("Launching Instructions" are on the back).  The other card includes a pet show with illustrations of several different pets, a space for the child to insert a photo or sketch of his or her own pet, and 1st and 2nd prize paper ribbons that can be punched out of the card and inserted in the desired slot.  Neither card has been used.

Tin from Imperial Mfg. Co., with General's Kimberly pencil for scale.

Tin - This tin is from the Imperial Mfg. Co. ("makers of typewriter ribbons and carbon papers for railroad and commercial use"), from Newark, N.J., U.S.A.  The other side of the tin (too dark to see in the above photo) informs me that the "ribbons and carbon papers are not affected by the atmosphere."  This tin is probably my favourite of all the items in this post (it's even my favourite colour) and I would love to learn more about it.

As I said, I don't really consider myself a collector yet (except of pencils), but I love all of these items and wouldn't mind acquiring a few more similar things if the opportunity arises.  Do you collect any vintage or antique items?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pencil Review: Dixon Ticonderoga Tri-Write HB

I can't resist triangular pencils.  Make any pencil a triangular shape and it automatically looks much more interesting and special to me.  For example, consider this Dixon Ticonderoga Tri-Write.  It looks almost identical to the ordinary Dixon Ticonderoga, except for the triangular shape.  Because of that, I grabbed these pencils as soon as I saw them and put them at the front of my "to be reviewed" lineup, because of course they must be special pencils.

To be honest though, I don't find triangular pencils as comfortable to write with as hexagonal or round pencils.  I'm always shifting the pencil around in my hand, trying to get its three sides into perfect alignment with my fingers.  Like the grip of the Lamy Safari fountain pen, triangular pencils probably work best for only certain ways of holding your pencil (or pen).  But they do stand out from all of my other round and hexagonal shaped pencils and pens, and - when I get them aligned just right - they're not that bad to write with either.

So what about the Tri-Write?  Well, I like the colour scheme of Ticonderogas in general.  They're a slightly yellower shade than the typical orange/yellow pencils, and I love the green and yellow ferrule.  The finish on the Tri-Write appears to be okay but not amazing; on mine, the paint is chipping a bit around the ferrule.  That doesn't bother me, and small imperfections like that are actually something that I rather like in pencils.  They make each pencil a little bit different.

I prefer pencils that write with relatively dark lead.  For me, the Tri-Write is not quite dark enough, but I think it would be acceptable for most people.  The eraser performed better than I expected, as it erased quite cleanly.  The pencils also sharpened well to a fine point.  It's a good basic writing pencil.

If you like Ticonderogas, then you'll probably like the Ticonderoga Tri-Write, though I would not recommend buying an entire set of these pencils unless you're sure that you will be comfortable with the triangular shape.  Speaking of that shape, I love how it gives a slight twist to an otherwise ordinary, everyday pencil to make it more interesting.  It's different, but in a subtle way.  Overall, the Tri-Write is not the most amazing pencil I've ever used, but one I find myself becoming rather fond of nonetheless.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Miscellany: Gel Pens, Field Notes, Pencils

The end of November, and 2014 is drawing to a close... Soon it will be time to start doing all of those end of the year things, like figuring out what kind of planner (if any) I'll be using in the new year, planning next year's reviews, and so on.  You know, all that important stuff.  Here are some links to read along the way:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Pen Comparison

Black pens are not all created equal.  While I consider black to be one of the least interesting ink colours out there, it is also (along with blue) one of the most commonly used options.  So here is a comparison of the black pens I have in rotation, as a follow-up to my green pen, blue pen, and red and orange pen comparisons.

Personally, I like my black pens to write with the deepest, darkest black imaginable.  I don't particularly care for black ink (there are so many more fun colours out there), so if I'm going to use it, I want it to be not just black, but BLACK.  My favourite pen in this category is by far the 0.7mm Pentel EnerGel.  Not only does it have rich, deep black ink, it's also very smooth and lays down a luscious and bold line.  The 0.35mm version of the EnerGel has the same ink, but is not as bold as its wider-nibbed cousin.

The Pentel Pulaman disposable fountain pen and Sanford Liquid Expresso also write with a deep, dark black, as does the Uni-ball Vison RT, although since I've had some issues with how the Vision RT writes (occasional skipping), I wouldn't describe it as one of my favourite black pens.  Fine-tipped pens tend not to stand out in this comparison, but the 0.3mm Pentel Slicci actually has quite nice black ink as well.  And for drawing and sketching, the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen and Tombow Fudenosuke brush pen are also excellent.

My least favourite black pen is the Sharpie Pen Grip; I would describe its ink colour as more of a dark grey than a true black.  Ballpoints typically have greyish, washed-out black inks as well; the two in the comparison, the Pentel Superb and PaperMate FlexGrip Ultra (a generic cheap stick ballpoint) are no exception, and I usually like blue ballpoints better than black ones.

Finally, one pen I left out of this comparison was the Zebra Sarasa.  This has long been one of my favourite 0.7mm gel pens, but a reader recently informed me that Zebra has changed their ink formula in the Sarasa, and I have not yet tried one of the new versions.

What are your favourite black pens and inks?
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