Midori Traveler’s Notebook from MyMaido.com

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Up for our last review for a while (my sabbatical begins as soon as this review is completed), is another awesome offering from MyMaido.com. As I mentioned in my last review, Andrew from MyMaido was awesome enough to send me some sample products, and I promised to finish them before I took my break.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is a revolutionary minimalistic notebook, created just for those on the go. The construction is simple. A rectangle of leather with several holes punched in it and an elastic band and book mark threaded through them and secured with a brass rivet contraption. The notebook simply slides in under the elastic band, which holds it securely.

With a price tag of $57.95, it’s easy to hesitate at checkout button, but it, thus far, seems to be worth it. The leather cover is creamy and smooth (which scratches easily, but the Midori insert says that it builds character as you go along), and the elastic band (an extra is provided, by the way) is tight. As for the notebook itself, I really couldn’t dig up too much information regarding it’s construction/paper weight/material. I do know that it has a soft texture and everything that I tried on it wrote well… While there was some show through, there was no bleedthrough, even when using my wettest fountain pens, so I can gladly say that the paper held up to my standards and I would gladly use it every day…

The main draw for this “notebook” (more a notebook cover to be honest; you’re paying for a square of leather and some hardware) is that it’s refillable. The refills are also available at MyMaido for $5.95 each (graph, ruled, and blank), and there are also calendar refills and sketchbooks refills available, although they cost more ($11.95-$13.95).

I definitely recommend that you check this fine notebook, as well as MyMaido, an awesome supplier, out soon! You can view the whole Midori Traveler’s Notebook Original Size line here. Many thanks go out again to Andrew, who graciously sent me this sample to try out.

Check out this link for another awesome review of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook.

Until next time…

Note: I am not an employee nor and I am in any way affiliated with MyMaido.com. This review is in no way affected by the fact that this item was a free sample from MyMaido.com.

Pilot Birdie Switch Combo Pen and Zebra Mini Ballpoint

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Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news… The good news is that I have some new stuff to review (Yay!). The bad news, is that I’ve decided to take a hiatus from Pens’n’Paper (Boo!)… I know, I can already hear the hissing and “buts” on people’s lips as I write this, but there are several valid reasons for my putting a pause on my blogging endeavours. Firstly, cost… In today’s economy, with me being a poor college student working a part-time job, I am already experiencing mental angst when paying out for a tank of gasoline. It’s been over a month since I’ve bought a pen or a notebook, because I simply look at the price and can’t justify purchasing it. I have over 300 barely used pens and 100 notebooks lying around in nice orderly boxes at house, and even my obsession for pens can’t overrule my super-thin wallet… Secondly, I’m short on time… Between, church, work, girlfriend, school, and the million other things I have to do, blogging just hasn’t been a priority lately, and for that I apologize. So, after I complete two more reviews, I will be taking a sabbatical. No, Pens’n’Paper won’t be shut down. I still plan on paying for the domain name and leaving it up as a resource, and perhaps even returning to it someday.

But anyhoo, enough of my pity partying, let’s get on to today’s review…

 Up for a look today are two tiny pens which were sent to me by the amazing Andrew from over at MyMaido.com. The Pilot Birdie Switch Combo and Zebra Mini Ballpoint both are extremely small and would easily slip into the pine of your favorite high-end notebook or clip onto the rings of your spiral wound.

The Pilot Birdie Switch Combo Pen is interesting in that it’s a self-contained multi-pen with a pencil on one end and a ballpoint pen on the other. In order to switch from pencil to pen or vice-versa, you simply remove the cap (similar to most old-fashioned mechanical pencils) and place it on the opposite end. The Birdie features a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil and a 0.5mm black ballpoint and also comes with a black refill for the ballpoint.

This combo pen/pencil is a decent offering from Pilot. The mechanical pencil is mechanically sound and the supplied lead is smooth. The ballpoint is a bit scratchy, but that’s something I’ve come to expect from fine-tipped ball points, so I won’t harp on it too much. My main qualm about this combo is the fact that there’s no eraser… Having a mechanical pencil is kind of pointless if there’s no eraser available, but I guess it was sacrificed due to size.

Next up, we have the Zebra Mini 0.5mm Ballpoint. This small pen features a clip retracting mechanism, so in order to retract the tip, you have to push down on the clip, releasing the spring. The ballpoint writes relatively smooth, again a little scratchy because of the fine point, and the sleek barrel is an attention-getter. This pen also came with a refill, so that when you run out of ink you can replace it and continue on.

Both of these pens feature stainless construction and are very small (see the picture where they are compared with a dime), and would not be out-of-place on any person’s notebook. Thanks again Andrew for the awesome opportunity to review these two items from MyMaido.com!

Staples (postscript) 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

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Today, we have an affordable mechanical pencil option from Staples. At $5.49, they would make a great pencil to just have around for those times when you just need to jot down a quick note. And to be honest, even though they’re cheap, they work pretty well…

The (postscript) mechanical pencil features a slight non-slip grip on the entire barrel, a metal tip (that retract all the way into the plastic barrel, thereby lessening the chance of unintentional pokes or stabs), a decent latex eraser which erases well but leaves behind faint graphite marks, and smooth lead. As I mentioned, it’s actually a good mechanical pencil for the price and I could easily recommend them as a quick note jotter.

Pencils from Pencils.com

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Up for a look today are several items I received in a sampler pack from Andy at Pencils.com. Pencils.com is the web store of the California Cedar Products Company, which produces well-known brands such as Palomino, Generals, and Kum. Thanks to Andy’s generosity, I have a Spangle “Mini Jumbo”, Forest Choice, Prospector HB, Golden Bear Triangular HB, Palomino HB, and a Palomino Blackwing to try out today!

First off, we have the very blue Spangle “Mini Jumbo”. It’s a beginner’s pencil, manufactured specifically for little hands with its thick body and lead. It is larger than the normal sized pencil sharpener (I had to sharpen it with a razor knife which happened to be laying beside me on my leather table), but after sharpening wrote very well (although it did smear a bit).

Secondly, we have the ForestChoice pencil. Made from FSC-certified Incense cedar with a natural finish, which sharpens beautifully and smells amazing (unless, of course, you’re allergic to real cedar like my mother-in-law-to-be, which sucks, lol), this pencil is sure to a favorite. The #2 HB lead writes amazing well, with very little smearing.

Next up, we have the Prospector, CalCedar’s cheapest pencil. At less than $.15 each ($.13 to be exact), these pencils offer excellent quality while not breaking your budget. These green coated pencils (which also come in green triangular form and a natural finish) sharpen well and write very smoothly, especially for a budget pencil.

Fourthly, we have the Golden Bear. CalCedar claims this pencil to be “equivalent to, perhaps, a Dixon Ticonderoga”, and I can definitely agree! With a beautiful orange finish with gold foil lettering, this triangular pencil really stands out in a crowd. While the sample I was sent is triangular, it’s also available in regular orange and regular blue forms.

Next, is the Palomino HB. Termed “the pencil that started it all” by CalCedar, this pencil is definitely a piece of work. With a glossy, lacquered, Incense cedar barrel surrounding a deliciously smooth graphite core, you can expect a beautiful, dark line with very little effort and a tip that stays sharp for longer than the average pencil.

Lastly, we have the crème de la crème, the recreation of a pencil long sought after by collectors and enthusiasts alike, the Palomino Blackwing! Based on the original design of the Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602, the Palomino Blackwing’s frictionless, buttery lead lays down a dost, smooth, dark line. The unique eraser ferrule and eraser allow you to extend it for longer use, and the matte black body with gold accents makes this an instant conversation piece. Want to add prestige to even the most mundane Post-it? Grab a Blackwing. Want to add class to a quick note to a friend? Grab a Blackwing. Got the picture yet? Get some Blackwings! They truly are beautiful pencils (albeit a little costly), but they are definitely worth the price!

Pencil Test Sheet

Note: I am not an employee nor and I am in any way affiliated with Pencils.com or the California Cedar Products Company. This review is in no way affected by the fact that this item was a free sample from Pencils.com or the California Cedar Products Company.

Zebra V-301 Stainless Steel Fountain Pen

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Zebra V-301 Stainless Steel Fountain Pen

Up for a look this time is a brand-spankin’-new fountain pen offering from Zebra, which was kindly sent to me from Canada by Halden J., a Twitter acquaintance! This pen is due out for US release some time in the Spring of this year, but I guess they had an earlier release date in Canada, where it can be found at Staples.

So, as for my opinions of the pen. I took some photos, opened the package, then took some more photos before actually loading an ink cartridge in the pen. s with all the fountain pens I use, I turned it up on its end (nib down) and left it for five minutes in order to facilitate ink flow. The ink is fed through a wick nib feed (which may present some difficulties when it comes to flushing it out and using another ink color) which, I was soon to discover, did not feed ink quickly at all.

After five minutes or so, I posted the cap only to find that the cap does not post firmly  and rotates and bounces on the end of the barrel (although this may be a fluke) and that the pen would not yet write. So, I thought the feed might be a little slower, so I left it turned upside down for another 5 minutes or so, and finally, after some furtive scratching on a piece of Rhodia paper, ink flowed from the nib.

I thought this might be the end of the problem, but I was soon to discover that this happened every single time I stopped using the pen for more thn a few moments. It was almost as if the ink was drawn back up the wick feed into the cartridge, leaving me with a dry nib each and every time.

The ink itself is decent. It’s a grey/black ink that dries very quickly (a little less than 5 seconds, which is great for lefties) and doesn’t bleed through the paper. The nib is a medium stainless steel nib, which is a bit more broad than what I’m used to and lays down a good amount of ink. The grip is a bit of a disappointment, since it’s made completely of a hard plastic with bumps and no rubber coating, which promotes the “death-grip” while writing. The barrel and cap are made of stainless steel and are actually just a copy of Zebra’s stainless highlighter range that came out last year.

So, we have a decent refillable (although only with Zebra’s cartridges. So far, converter/international cartridge attempts have failed, at least by what I’ve seen around the web) stainless steel fountain pen at a relatively decent price (I believe it was about $3.89 Canadian, which equals out to $3.94 US). Although there are several issues (ink feed problem and loose cap), and I can’t really see myself personally using it everyday, it might work well for others.

Pilot VPen Fine Nib Black Disposable Fountain Pen

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 Pilot VPen Fine Nib Black Disposable Fountain Pen

So, the pen up for review today was purchased from a brand-spankin’-new online store (I placed the fourth order they had, if that gives you any idea of how new), Maido Stationery. More on them later…

Along with several other items, I picked up this Pilot VPen. To be honest, I’ve not been all that enamoured with the performance of my Pilot Varsity medium nib fountain pens, and I wondered about the quality of the VPen. Since the nib on the VPen is fine (although Maido also carries them in medium), I was hoping that it would not suffer from the incessant ink blots and thick line that I dislike about the Varsity, and was glad to see that it did not… (I’ve come to find out that the Varsity and VPen are actually the same exact pen, just labeled/designed for different markets.)

But, that’s not to say that is my new “perfect pen”. I do have an issue with the ink drying time and the fact that it smears, even when written on the Rhodia Bloc I use for testing pens. But that’s the only problem I have. Other than that it’s an excellent fine tipped fountain pen, and I can possibly see myself refilling it with a faster drying ink (if I can figure out how to do it correctly without tearing it all to pieces, lol).

So, a little bit more info on the stationer that I ordered these from. Maido Stationery, which was started in Japan in 1963 and came to the United States in 1988 and opened a store in Japantown, San Francisco. In addition they also have three other stores, but the thing I want to focus on is their recent beginning in the online marketplace. They offer a wide range of Japanese stationery products including fountain, gel, rollerball, brush, and ballpoint pens as well as the famous Midori Traveler’s Notebooks (an interesting product which I have yet to try, mainly due to it’s high price, although it has been reviewed over at Black Cover) and many othe rinteresting products! Check ’em out for great prices and a fine stock of items with more new stationery stuff on the way!

Click here for the full “About Us” page at Maido Stationery.

Jinhao Matte Black Pocket Missile Fine Hooded Nib Fountain Pen

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Jinhao Matte Black Pocket Missile Fine Hooded Nib Fountain Pen

Well, thanks to DIYSara (http://diysara.wordpress.com), I have now been introduced to the addictive habit of browsing eBay for affordable fountain pens… Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on there looking for that $1,000 pen and trying to get it for only $500. I’m talking about cheap (and mostly Chinese) fountain pens. This Jinhao Black Missile was the first of my purchases, and for only $4.50 (shipping was free)  I got an excellent fountain pen. Sure, it may not be a Lamy, Waterman, or Montblanc, but it is a pen, it is relatively attractive, and it writes beautifully… I’m not looking for gem-encrusted beauty, I’m looking for functionality.

So, the specs… The pen, when capped is a little shy of 4″ long (closer to 3-3/4″), and when the cap is posted, it is a little under 5″. The body and cap have a matte black finish, and the clip is chrome and has the brand name, Jinhao, embossed lightly, the only branding on the pen. The nib itself is hooded, so I can’t exactly tell the material, but I’m assuming it’s stainless, much like my Sailor Recruit. The grip area is chromed plastic (I believe, no metallic clink) and features 3 oval-shaped, grooved sections, which are actually (amazingly!) located correctly considering the nib alignment and my fingers actually rest on all three grooved sections when I hold the pen in the writing position! As a left-handed person, this is a rare find indeed.

The Black Missile fills using a “squeeze-bar mechanism” (see this link over at Richard’s Pens for more info), which I had never used before, and in the end, I actually ended up taking the metal “shield” off and carefully squeezing the sac itself to draw the ink up into the pen (not sure what it was, but the bar just didn’t seem to be doing the job properly)… I’m sure I’ll get blasted for this by some fountain pen enthusiast, but I care not, because it worked…

So, I flushed the pen out with water (as you should with any new fountain pen, I’m assuming…), let it dry, and then filled it up with J.Herbin 1670 Ink. It worked fine, but I hate how the 1670 takes forever and a day to dry and is not water-fast at all, so I only put a small amount in the pen and then flushed it once more. The second fill, I put in black Parker Quink, which I got with a Parker Urban Fountain Pen Kit (yes, my list of inks basically boil down to blue-black and black Parker Quink, J. Herbin 1670, and the remains of a small vial of Noodlers Bulletproof Lexington Grey that Note Booker Esq. sent me with a pen I won), and it wrote, and dried, like a dream. I think I might’ve found my new “everyday” fountain pen…

The pen writes with a very fine line, easily comparable to in between a 0.5 and 0.7mm gel pen depending upon paper, especially for a fountain pen, and I must say that I’m very pleased with its performance. While it is a little small, even with the cap posted, I definitely think I can used to this neat little pen and easily recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable and fine fountain pen solution. Also, you can find the seller as well as some of these fine writing instruments and others at: http://stores.ebay.com/sjg1953pens

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