Little Rock Pen Show

This was my 2nd time at the Little Rock Pen Show, and it was bigger than last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Papier Plume from New Orleans had a booth this year–I saw their ink bottles first and I was like oh, someone brought some of PP’s inks. Then I looked up and saw Patrick Rideau and was like oh, no PP actually came to the show! He had an even longer drive than I did.

Ironically, I had just made a purchase off their website the day before; they started carrying Flow Magazine and they have it much sooner than Barnes & Noble (who’s still trying to unload copies of the previous issue) does. They charge a couple dollars less than B&N, but then you add that back in with shipping and it’s virtually the same price. Plus, you’re giving your money to a small local business instead of a chain, and that’s always good. Flow is a Dutch magazine (there’s an English language version) that I discovered through my Hobonichi Facebook group, it reminds me of Real Simple but fancier and with really nice paper. There’s a yearly supplement called the Flow Book for Paper Lovers that has lots of stationery, paper crafts, and goodies you can use in journals/planners; neither PP for B&N seems to carry it and I ordered it off the Flow website. That was going on 3 weeks ago and I’m still waiting. *sigh*

IMG_20160227_163803_044

Anyway, the show! The first table I made a beeline for was the Vanness one, because I wanted to see if they had brought any of the KWZ Inks with them. They did, although they’re out of the two colors I’m really interested in, Brown Pink and Honey. KWZ is handmade in small batches by a chemist in Poland and at the moment Vanness is the only place in the US that carries their standard inks, although Massdrop offered a 3-pack of their iron gall inks a while back. They’re surprisingly affordable for such “boutique” inks, $12/60 mL for the standard ink and $2 more for the iron gall. I settled on Brown #2, which has a reddish tone and shades beautifully, and I swallowed my nervousness and also bought a bottle of the Turquoise IG. Iron gall inks are infamously caustic to pens, but they bond with the paper and are pretty much bulletproof. I want something I can address envelopes with and not worry about rain washing away the address, but most iron gall inks come in horribly boring colors. I figure I’ll limit exposure to either dip nibs, which can be quickly washed off after every use, or one of my Pilot Petit eyedroppers, which cost less than $5.

After that I found Shawn Newton and picked up the pen I sent him for grinding, the vintage UK Parker button fill I bought at last fall’s Dallas show. It had a 14k oblique nib that I just COULD. NOT. get to work for me. I tried holding that thing at every conceivable angle and no matter what I did, it would catch on the paper on the upsweeps and spray ink. He ground it to a stub and did a lovely job; right now I have the Brown #2 in it, but I recently bought a small bottle of Iroshizuku Momiji and may swap it for that and put Brown #2 in something else.

And then I just wandered around and looked at pens! I had some dumb idea that my goal pen for the show was going to be a Sailor Sapporo Mini, which of course I did not find, so I decided to just scoop up some vintage pens and not be a name brand snob about it. With old pens, while it’s cool to find something like the Parker, I mostly just buy pens that are pretty. I found a lady’s ringtop pen/pencil set from the 1920s that I really liked that was priced $80-$100; the dealer had a lot of pens so I was like hey, give me the $80 price and I’ll buy another pen from you. After much agonizing I decided on the green/bronze pen because I thought it was an interesting color combo. The nibs on both are a little chewed up, but nothing a quick rub with a micro mesh cloth won’t solve.

After I’d checked into my Airbnb (a very cute bed/bath suite with its own entrance and separated from the main house with a pocket door), I went to Big Orange for dinner, a burger place that had a ton of great online reviews. I sat at the bar and was waited on by a skinny hipster with an honest-to-dog waxed mustache, but he was a good server so I won’t hold it against him. I told him to give me whatever was the staff favorite and I wound up with a turkey burger dressed with havarti cheese, red onion, butter lettuce, bacon, and a (fresh, local) fried egg. It was uhhh-mazing.

I’m probably not going to Little Rock next year, because I’ve decided to attend the Chicago show and that’s in April. I’m going to take Amtrak–specifically, The City of New Orleans, the train in the Arlo Guthrie song. It leaves NOLA every afternoon at 1:45 and arrives at Chicago at 9:00 the next morning. A round-trip ticket is just over $100, which is probably what I’d spend on gas if I drove; not to mention I’d have to spend the night somewhere midway because it’s a 14 hour drive. Chicago has Uber, so I’m just going to use that to get around. I haven’t been to Chicago since I was a little girl, so I’m going to spend an extra day and sightsee. Top of the list: visiting Field Notes HQ!

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Hobonichi Techo 2016

ht cover

So this is my first year with the coveted Hobonichi Techo planner, and I love it. Technically I was able to start using it halfway through December, but you only get half pages until New Year’s Day. On January 1st it goes to the full page-per-day format, one of the things users love so much about this particular planner. My only complaint is the quotes at the bottom of every page, I don’t have much use for them and I’d rather have the space to write in.

ht day

The pen I chose to go with it is my Sailor Lecoule, partly because of the color and partly because it’s one of my few F nibs, allowing me to write small and still have it be legible. It’s filled with Iroshizuku Ku-jaku (Peacock), and I’m planning on using the same pen/ink throughout the year. Some people use different pens to color-code their planners, but I like to write on the go, so I’ll probably just stick with one.

HT month
(not my photo)

One of the great things about the Techo (besides than the ultra-thin but fountain pen-friendly Tomoe River paper) is that it’s sort of two things in one. At the beginning of the planner you have the small box-per-day monthly layout, and the page-per-day format after that. (Also some blank dot-grid pages at the back.) I’m not a particularly busy person, so I like to use this section for more traditional planner-type writings. I use the big pages for short journal entries, lists, and photos. (In fact, just before Christmas I dusted off my Polaroid and bought 10 10-packs of the 2×3″ Zink paper that goes in it.)

Some people get really artistic with the large pages, sketching a visual diary, or making miniature scrapbook pages. Except for photographs, I’ve always been more of a words journaler. Howver, I did buy some stickers and small post-its, and last night I ordered these stamps from Amazon:

stamps

In the course of Googling around to see what other people do with their Techos, stamps seem to be a popular option. (Also with Filofaxes, which have apparently morphed from the yuppie must-have accessory I knew it as during my ’80s childhood into something more fun and youthful.) I looked at a lot of stamp sets and most of them just had too many stamps I would never use. These are Korean (a lot of the sets I saw were Korean or Japanese), but most of them have symbols that make their meaning obvious. I might never use a couple of these, but most of them I could see using a few times a year, and some of them a few times a month. I especially like the little + and – change purse ones; using those in the monthly pages could help give you a good idea of your finances for the week or month at a glance. The 40-stamp set was $8.85 (free shipping with Amazon Prime) and they come in a little wooden box.

(My first choice for stamps was Pilot Frixion, because they are both self-inking and erasable, and I did buy a couple of them from JetPens just before New Year’s. But no American retailer seems to carry more than a few of the designs, if I wanted all of them I’d have to buy them from Etsy or eBay and pay a huge mark-up.)

Everyday Carry

The JetPens blog has a fun, detailed entry on Everyday Carry, with some suggested items–I like the section of “EDC Example Kits” towards the end. EDC is one of those things that I never heard until I started using and collecting fountain pens but which makes absolute sense. I’ve always loved things like pencil cases, of course I love pens and other stationery items, and I find a weirdly soothing effect in organizing/compartmentalizing my possessions. Most everyone has an EDC, even if you don’t carry it to such philosophical heights. Some people take it to extremes, as if they were expecting the zombie apocalypse to break out at any moment, but mine is pretty simple.

I use the Nomadic Easy Classification case to hold:

  • A weekly-ish rotating cast of 2 or 3 fountains pens (usually one mini and lately my Vanishing Point has been staying in there permanently).
  • A Field Notes notebook and ballpoint.
  • Mechanical pencil.
  • Fine-tipped Sharpie.
  • Foldable mini scissors.
  • Flash drive.
  • Photography business cards.
  • Cell phone.

I guess my journal/planner is a separate part of my EDC, I bought the Hobonichi Techo planner with the blue/green cover for 2016 and I am really impatient for the year to end so I can start using it! This will be my first experience with Tomoe River paper.

Fountains pens #3

It’s full! Actually, since I usually carry 2 or 3 pens in my carry case, and leave another pen or two out on my desk at home, it’s more than full.

Fountain pens #3

Left to right:

  • Jinhao 159. My latest purchase, I just got this last night. Like all Jinhaos, less than $10.
  • Kaweco Skyline Sport. I recently did an eyedropper conversion on this because the dinky little squeeze converter only holds a DROP of ink. It’s a very nice mint green color that never shows up in photographs.
  • Vintage Sheaffer. This was a gift from a pen friend in Canada.
  • Pilot Prera. I got this to replace my old ivory-colored Prera, which I dropped on our stupid tile floor. This is one of my favorite pens.
  • Esterbrook J. I bought this off another pen friend for cheap. A classic mid-20th century pen.
  • Jinhao X750. I bought this pen specifically to use the new J. Herbin 1670 ink, Emerald of Chivor, in. I use another 1670 ink, Rouge Hematite, in my gold X750.
  • Bexley Imperial. This is my most expensive pen, although I bought it through Massdrop and didn’t pay full retail.
  • Platinum Plaisir. Came with a broken converter so I use cartridges in it.
  • Sheaffer 100. I had this inked with Diamine Ancient Copper for a long time, but recently cleaned it and took it out of rotation for a while.

And I just realized that my Kaweco Liliput Brass is nowhere to be found, it’s tiny so it tends to get lost in the wraps.

Not my photo

Not my photo

Aaaaand after the Dallas Pen Show (pens I bought at that shown in a previous blog) I think I’m going to take it easy for a while. I still get emails from Massdrop, but I haven’t seen anything since the Liliput that I NEED to have. The new special edition Vanishing Point was released this week, and it’s gorgeous, but the best price I’ve found is $192 and I’m happy with the VP I just bought in Dallas. Maybe if it’s still around at Christmas, I’ll ask all of my family members to go in on it together. (My birthday money is already earmarked for some Soviet cameras.)

Vacation #1

(I’m also taking the first week of November off, hence the “#1”.)

I took the last full week of September off and spent several days at my parents’ condo on Dauphin Island, Alabama. While it was hotter than I’d hoped it would be, it still provided some much-needed peace and quiet so I could recharge my batteries. I would go down to the beach in the evening and watch the sunset, and I went into Mobile one day, but a great deal of the time was spent reading on the balcony or in quiet shaded spots on the island, and drinking lots of cheap pink box wine.

It wasn’t a photography-heavy vacation (the next one will be), but of course I took a few shots with my cell phone.

v formation and sunset

Shrimp boats on Bayou le Batre.

Shrimp boats on Bayou le Batre

I tried to tour Bellingrath Gardens, but it was just too hot. There was usually a breeze on the island, but the gardens were too far inland, and there wasn’t ANY air moving among all those plants and trees. I got about 1/3 of the way in, then had a gardener take me back to the gift shop in her golf cart.

Mermaid fountain, Bellingrath Gardens, AL

Magnolia Cemetery was one of the things I saw in Mobile. It was raining, so I just drove around (it’s one of those cemeteries) and shot some photos out of my car window. That was the only rainy day we had, and it stopped around 1:00, not bad.

Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, AL

I also had fried catfish and hushpuppies (THE iconic food of Alabama, like gumbo in Louisiana) at Wintzell’s Oyster house, strolled around Dauphin Street (Mobile’s answer to Bourbon Street, but much nicer, honestly–not as tacky and sleazy). I found a fun used bookstore called Bienville Books.

I came home on Thursday morning, spent one night at home, then got up early to drive to Texas for the Dallas Pen Show. It was MUCH bigger than the Little Rock show, the only other one I’ve been to, and I found my two wish list items and then some:

dallas pen show

The pen that looks orange but is actually red is a Pilot Vanishing Point, a “clickable” fountain pen. It’s got a stub nib. I love Pilots and have more of them in my collection than any other brand; I’ve wanted a VP but I wanted to see if I could find a used one to keep the price under $100. I just made it with this one at $95, it’s a few years old but was never used and came in the box. (A brand new base-model VP usually retails for $140.)

The pen beneath that is a Parker Duofold and it’s kind of a weird one so I decided it had to come home with me. It’s a Victory but apparently this particular color/shape was only made for the UK market. It’s a button-fill but it’s old enough to predate the distinctive arrow-shaped clip that Parker started using in the early 1930s (at least on American pens), and it’s got a 14k oblique nib.

Those were my two wish list items, but I had some money left in the budget, so I also got a 1960s NOS Japanese desk pen (some no-name brand, kind of a Pilot knock-off) and some ink. I went about $25 over budget when all was said and done, but I can live with that.

Oh, and I also got to eat a cheeseburger at In N’ Out Burger.

In N' Out cheeseburger

Bexley Imperial

(There is eventually going to be a Fountain Pens, Part 3. I’ll do it when I’ve filled my 3rd pen wrap, which is about half full now.)

So I’m kind of wishing I’d never heard of Massdrop, because they are enabling my fountain pen addiction like whoa. They organize group buys of items–not just fountain pens, but that’s what I’m into them for–for discounts. Although really, I ignore probably 90% of the drops, because they’re too expensive or just not my thing. Massdrop offers a lot pf pens that are either industrial-looking and kind of drab (IMO), or rather gaudy. However, this could not be ignored:

bexley

The orange and blue pen is the Bexley 701 I bought from Inkpen Vintage at the Little Rock show in February. The green pen is the Bexley Imperial I bought through Massdrop ($60 off MSRP!) and which arrived on Saturday. Bexleys tend to be very large pens and I wanted to see how they compared; the Imperial is a bit larger than the 701.

I haven’t inked it up yet; I’m waiting for the arrival of another Massdrop order, the J. Herbin 1670 ink 3-pack that they put together for the release of the newest color, Emerald of Chivor. There are 4 colors in the line so far, and you had to choose EoC as one of the colors; since I already have a bottle of Stormy Grey (it’s what’s in the 701, as a matter of fact), I chose Rouge Hematite and Bleu Ocean as my other colors. So I’ll have all 4 colors once the order arrives… at least until they release another color in the line. I’m going to ink the Imperial with Bleu Ocean; I bought another Jinhao (at $8–with converter!–probably the best fountain pen for the price you can buy) for EoC.

For the uninitiated, 1670 inks are very special to a certain kind of fountain pen user because, well, glitter:

eoc

They have gold mica flecks in the ink (I’m assuming it’s mica, anyway, it would clog the feed if it was any kind of plastic) and color-shifting properties, EoC especially has a weird red shift to it that’s quite startling. It reminds me of those old outline markers (I think Pentel still makes them), where you’d get a gold or silver line surrounded by a thin line of some non-metallic color, red or blue or purple.

Last week I committed to another drop, the Kaweco Liliput, which I’m getting in brass. I have a Kaweco Skyline Sport that’s one of my favorite small pens. They released the Franklin-Christophe drop this morning, and I’m almost relieved that none of the color options I wanted made the cut. They’re offering it in, get this, either ice with blue-violet accents or blue-violet with ice accents. WTF? I mean okay, I guess that’s what got the most votes, but still. I really only wanted it if I could get it in smoke and ice.

Going to the Dallas Pen Show is starting to seem redundant, but I’m hoping to find two pens that aren’t likely have a Massdrop: A Parker Duofold–pretty much any kind, I’m not picky–and a Pilot Vanishing Point. All the VPs that come up for auction on eBay are special editions and way too expensive.

Fountain pens, part 2

fountain pens 2

Left to right:

  • Eversharp Doric: This was my first real vintage pen, which I found for about 1/3 of its actual value of one of my favorite stores in Breaux Bridge.
  • Ohto Tasche: This is what’s sometimes called a “vest pen”, in that it’s very small, but when you post the cap it makes it regular-sized.
  • Pelikan Pelikano: Pelikan is another swanky brand (a German one) that is too expensive for me to bother with. The Pelikano is a child’s pen.
  • Pilot Petit 1: These were my entry back into fountain pens after many years away, when I found them at Kinokuniya Books in Japantown.
  • Pilot Cavalier: This is my most “ladylike” pen.
  • Sheaffer Balance: This is one of my oldest pens, both it and the Doric are from the 1930s.
  • Parker Urban: My only all-black pen.
  • Everysharp Skyline: This is the model that came after the Doric. I love this design, which I find very “dieselpunk”.
  • Parker 51: One of the most-collected vintage pens in existence. I got this for scandalously cheap in an eBay auction.

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