Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Ice Sport

I'm not a fan of small pens. I find them uncomfortable to use, unlike big, heavy pens with heft and balance. When Arizona-based Pen Chalet owner Ron Manwaring offered to send me a fountain pen to review, he included a Kaweco Ice Sport in the list. I know it's a small pen, and I got curious about it. I thought I won't use it because of its size, but I still said yes to Ron's offer. Who wouldn't? A Kaweco Ice Sport sounded interesting, but an orange Kaweco Ice Sport with a broad nib is simply irresistible!

The Ice Sport, a colored demonstrator fountain pen made by Kaweco in Heidelberg, Germany, is from the Sport Series that includes the Classic, Aluminum, Stonewashed, AC, Art, Brass, and Skyline. It is available in six bright colors: blue, orange, red, green, yellow, and pink. Unlike most pens, Kaweco's Sport pens do not have clips, but clips can be bought separately in chrome, gold, or bronze finishes.

The Ice Sport is a small and lightweight pen, so it's easy to carry in one's pocket, or tuck in a bag. This small pen, however, has a unique design and becomes a full-sized pen when the cap is posted on the barrel. The pen is designed well, and the plastic used appears to be of high quality.

As mentioned above, the Ice Sport is a lightweight pen. It weighs 10g (body - 6g; cap - 4g), without a clip, or a full cartridge of ink. Don't frown yet — a posted Kaweco Ice Sport has exactly the same weight of a Lamy Safari's body!

Many fountain pen users consider it a downside that the Ice Sport is difficult to use without posting the cap. But this pen's faceted cap is designed to be an extension of its barrel to make it a full-sized pen. The cap is also a built in roll stopper. Even without a clip, the pen will not easily roll off a surface.

The Ice Sport's small built consists of the transparent barrel, section (grip + feed + nib), and cap. The nib and feed are friction-fit into the section, and I'm happy that I can easily pull them out for cleaning. It's cool that the transparent barrel shows the ink cartridge and the color of the ink inside, and nice, too, that the cap and section have the same bright, happy, orange color. The cap is threaded and screws securely to the barrel — not typical of small pens in this price range — which is a very practical feature.

Being a small pen, the Ice Sport is filled with ink only through an international standard short cartridge, which has 0.5 – 0.6ml of ink. Kaweco offers a squeeze converter for the Sport pens, but I do not own one, so I'm not sure about its ink capacity of how well it fills with ink. Some people, however, do away with cartridges and convert their Ice Sport into eyedropper pens for higher ink capacity. When converted as eyedropper pens, the Ice Sport's barrel can hold approximately 3ml of ink. For my pen, though, I used an empty short cartridge and syringe-filled it with Diamine Pumpkin to the brim.

I requested Ron to send me a pen with a broad nib, but Kaweco Sport pens have nibs ranging from extra fine (XF) to double broad (BB). Other Sport pens have gold plated nibs, but those in the Ice line have stainless steel nibs. The imprint includes the nib width (B), Kaweco logo, and the words Germany and 1883 under a filigree-like pattern.

The broad nib didn't write well out of the box, but it was my fault. In my excitement to test this pen, I forgot to clean the nib and section before inking. It was dry and scratchy and it took me two ink fills before I realized that I need to prime the nib and section first. After trying Noodler's Apache Sunset and Caran d'Ache Saffron, I finally cleaned the feed with a soft brush and mild soap, spread the tines with a thin blade, and widened the ink channel to increase the flow. I then tried another orange ink, Diamine Pumpkin, and voilĂ , I got my happy pen writing wet and smooth.

Ice Sport pens have chrome trims, including their finial (top cap), which bears the Kaweco logo.

The Kaweco Ice Sport, capped, measures ~4.10 inches.

Uncapped and unposted, it is really short at only 4 inches. The cap is a bit longer than most fountain pen caps at 2.75 inches.

The Ice Sport looks dwarfed alongside the Lamy Al Star (5.6 inches), Sailor Pro Gear (5 inches) and Pelikan M205 (4.8 inches).
But when it is posted, it becomes a full-sized pen at 5.3 inches long!

I don't usually post my pens, so writing with the posted Ice Sport is somewhat new to me. I tried writing with it unposted, and it was uncomfortable. The cap not only extends the length of the pen, it also provides weight and balance.

The Kaweco Ice Sport is a well-made, compact fountain pen that is uniquely designed to be portable and easy to use. The stainless steel nib writes well, and it can easily be converted to an eyedropper. It's a great pen in the US$30 price range, a perfect companion to small notebooks. If you are looking for a happy fountain pen, I suggest you get a Kaweco Ice Sport. I know it will be a happy fountain pen for you, because it is mine!

The Kaweco Ice Sport fountain pen in this review is courtesy of Pen Chalet, where it retails for US$27. For more about Pen Chalet and their pen offerings, visit www.penchalet.com.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Notebook Review: Papernotes Classic Notebooks

Imagine stumbling upon an Inbox that has not been opened or checked in the last three years. Imagine a thousand of unread email messages. Imagine rushing to reply to each of those thousand email messages. That happened to me when I mistakenly and unknowingly cancelled the forwarding feature for my blog's email address three years ago. I completely forgot about it for a long time, and when I remembered to check the email account, I had more than a thousand email messages!

I was unaware that people were sending me comments and questions, and also offering to send new products to review here. One of those who offered to send products for review is Papernotes, a startup company in Manila, Philippines that makes quality notebooks at affordable prices. 

When I learned that I could get two incredible notebooks, I chose orange and blue.

Papernotes makes the Classic Notebook Series, available in six different colors of black, white, grey, red, blue, and orange. A Classic notebook has 160 lined pages, and measures ~5.25 in × 8.25 in, shorter than a large Moleskine, but just as wide.

Papernotes uses soft, textured polyurethane (PU) as cover for their Classic notebooks. PU is described as 'synthetic leather,' and while it is soft and can be folded, it is sturdy enough like real leather.

The Classic notebook has a pen loop attached to the back cover. A nice feature, the loop can hold a slim to medium sized pen. People who tuck their pens in their notebooks can now easily slide them into their notebooks' loops. I tried putting a Lamy Al Star in the pen loop, but stopped because the elastic is a little tight and I thought it might scratch my pen.

The notebook's elastic closure is firm, but not too tight that it will cramp the soft cover. It's just right to hold the pages together, and notches on the covers keep the elastic closure in place.

The Papernotes team's thoughtful touch: notches to keep the elastic closure in place.
The Classic notebook's elastic closure is just as wide and thick as that of a Rhodia Webbie (orange notebook at the bottom) or a Moleskine (top of the Webbie). The other notebook in this pile is a TWSBI.

Each Classic notebook has a single color theme for its cover, pen loop, elastic band, and page marker. The long page marker is silk ribbon and has a width of 0.25 in.

I'm happy that these notebooks have round page corners. Notebooks with pointed corners are sharp and fray easily.

The pages of the Classic notebooks are smyth sewn, to ensure page security and flexibility. Sewn pages open completely flat, and they also look tidier. 

The inside cover page of the Classic notebook.

Papernotes also included a back pocket to their notebooks. Back pockets are useful to some, but I rarely use them because their contents create bulges and make it uncomfortable to write on the notebook's pages.

The Classic notebooks have 100gsm wood-free paper. Wood-free paper went through a chemical process where most of the wood pulp is removed. It is not an environmentally sound process, but wood-free paper lasts longer and is not susceptible to yellowing and discoloration.

Classic notebooks are all ruled, and use the college (medium) ruling of 0.7mm. 

I was really excited to try this notebook's 100gsm paper and filled a page with different fountain pen and ink combinations. I also included some of my gel pens. After the inks have dried, I was surprised to see that ink from most of my broad-nibbed pens did not bleed on the Papernotes Classic notebook. Some pens and ink bled, though, but they are only minimal. I am happy to see that most of my daily carry pens are drying well in this notebook.

I was not able to do a proper test for inks' drying times, but I did not have any problems with drying when I did the pen and ink tests.

I tested 11 fountain pens + inks combinations in this 100gsm paper.
Three out of the 11 combinations showed minimal bleed, but that's alright. 
The Classic notebook is a beautiful notebook. Thank you, Papernotes!

Overall, the Classic Notebooks by Papernotes are of good quality and suitable for fountain pen use. They are simple, attractive, and elegant. They have soft flexible covers, an elastic closure to keep the pages together, the pages have round corners, and the paper is suitable for many pen types. These notebooks are perfect for note taking and journaling, and they are very affordable at only PhP225 each! (That's roughly US$4.80.)

To get these notebooks you place your orders through the Papernotes Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/papernotesbrand. They ship to anywhere in the Philippines and outside the country.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Notebook Review: Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition

I've been using my regular-sized Traveler's Notebook since 2011, and I am happy with the customization I have done with it. A brown TN looks nice, but I kept to my black notebook because it looked better and better as I used it. In February, I read Midori's announcement of a new TN in blue leather, and I was smitten.

The announcement said that the Limited Edition Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition will be available in April. After a number of delays due to limited stocks, I finally got my Blue TN from Scribe Writing Essentials in June. The Blue TN is beautiful, and because I have not written a notebook review in two years, it seemed the perfect notebook for a new review.

The release of the limited edition Blue TN marks the transition of the Traveler's Notebook gradually dropping off the Midori name from its branding. Instead of the old brand Midori Traveler's Notebook, it is now called the 'Traveler's Notebook'.

The Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition is available for a limited time in 2015, according to the Traveler's Notebook and Company. It comes only in regular size (5.12 x 8.27 inches).

Like other TNs, the Blue Edition is packaged in a neatly folded box, held together by a blue elastic band. Flyers about the notebook and leather care are included in the packaging.

Inside the folded box are the following: a cotton case for the notebook, genuine cowhide leather notebook cover, notebook refill, and a spare blue elastic band.

This limited edition Traveler's Notebook features a uniquely beautiful leather cover in deep, dark blue. Why blue for the 2015 TN? The Traveler's Notebook and Company gave several reasons for coming up with a Blue TN, citing artists such as Picasso and Yves Klein whose signature color is blue. The news release said that the company's inspiration came from the indigo sky right before dawn, when the first beam of sunlight peeks into the horizon.

The leather cover of TNs is all hand-made in Chiangmai, Thailand. The genuine cowhide leather cover has a lovely texture and will develop character the more it gets used. The TN has a simple and elegant design with an elastic band along the spine inside the leather cover, secured with a tin clasp/fastener outside the cover. The band holds the notebook in place inside, while another band holds the notebook cover closed. 

The genuine cowhide leather of the Blue TN is smoother and softer than the leather in my older TN. I noticed though, that the Blue TN leather is easily scratched and scuffed.

A tin fastener holds both the TN's page marker, and the elastic band that holds the notebook refill inside.
The elastic band that holds the notebook refill inside is threaded in either ends of the leather cover.
The elastic band that holds the notebook covers together is thick and sturdy.

The regular notebook refill that comes with the Blue TN has Midori Diary (MD) paper. Made at the MD factory in Nagareyama, Northern Chiba, Japan, MD paper is one of the best fountain pen friendly paper in the market. The refill has 32 sheets (64 pages) of bleed-resistant and feather-resistant paper.

The TN's inside back cover. I will add more notebook inserts here.
The back cover holds the elastic band that keeps the notebook covers together.
At the back cover of the TN is the Traveler's Notebook logo.
New and old TNs. The new TN without the Midori name, which is in my old TN.

I have been closely following the blog and social media accounts of fellow TN enthusiast Patrick Ng. He was at the Global Gathering at the recent International Stationery and Products Fair in Tokyo, Japan, and he reported that the Traveler's Notebook brand is gradually dropping off the Midori name and will be called Traveler's Company. Traveler's Company will be an independent global brand from Midori.

Aside from the Blue Edition TN, Midori Japan also released a series of new products created in collaboration with the historic US national flag carrier Pan Am. During its operation, the airliner used blue as its corporate color, and the Pan Am items are the perfect accessories for the Blue Edition TN.

The complete set of Pan Am products includes two notebooks (blank and grid), zipper pocket, two sets of stickers, brass ballpoint pen, and pen holder. I wasn't able to get all of the accessories, but I got a blank notebook, a zipper pocket, and a set of stickers from Scribe Writing Essentials. 

The Pan Am logo is printed on the covers of the blue zipper pocket (left) and blank notebook refill (right).
Details of notebook refill and zipper pocket inserts.

The blank notebook refill has Pan Am images, including the logo used by the airline during their time of operation. The images are printed in sepia, instead of the usual dark gray, and I noticed that the Midori logo which used to be at the bottom of the inside cover page of previous TN refills has been taken out.

The inside of the zipper pocket is also printed with Pan Am logos. It can hold stuff in the left part, and various cards on the right. At the bottom is a space for the TN's owner's contact details.
The contents of the sticker set. I'd like to get the other set, too.

The Blue Edition TN and Pan Am accessories were released in Japan in April, and stocks have been sold out in the Traveler's Notebook and Company and in reseller stores, including Scribe Writing Essentials. A lot of people are still looking forward to owning a Blue TN, hopefully more stocks will come around.
Blockbuster hit: the Blue TN and Pan Am items are now mostly out of stock.

The Blue TN is a blockbuster hit! Watch out for when stocks get back in stores and get one for yourself. This special notebook is a must have for any TN enthusiast.

The Blue Traveler's Notebook used in this review is courtesy of Scribe Writing Essentials. The Limited Edition Traveler's Notebook Blue Edition, Pan Am accessories, and other TN accessories are available in Scribe's stores in Eastwood Mall, Shangrila Plaza Mall, Glorietta 5, SM Aura, and SM Megamall. For their complete location/address, contact numbers, and store hours, click here.
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