Friday, February 28, 2014

Bit by Bit (by dip)

20140228 pencast

That color shifting tells me I need to flush out my pen a little better. Inspired by Richard, I pulled out the dip pen, though I skipped the inkwell and went straight for the bottle. Like my life these days, the pen lightens by degrees.

Did anyone else see the mention of ITAM in the Washington Post's Style blog? It crossed my news feed reader this week. I suppose this means we have an even greater air of legitimacy now. Not having a typewriter out and available does seriously impact my hands-on time. I think I need to figure out a way to keep a permanent block of "me time" on the schedule, and rotate through activities by season. Spring is CYO track and field, October and November are NaNo. It's easy for worker-bee types like myself to forget that we need to take some down time, too, even if it's just little sips now and then.

The pedometer I mentioned is a FitBit Zip, by the way. My wife and I each have one, which I recommend, since we're naturally competitive with each other. (Scrabble games on Facebook get ugly fast.) We're trying to outdo each other's daily steps, knowing that each is quite busy either with an office job or homeschooling. On Fridays, for example, I've been making it a point to head to the library. But it is raining, quite hard at times, and I'm feeling particularly Blerchy today as a result. But I know it's a mile each way to the library on foot, and that will put me in the lead of Mrs. Clickthing. And our dog is rain-phobic, so I know she won't be boosting steps by taking the pooch around the block a few times. Fitness domination is mine!

Saturday, February 15, 2014


20140215 pencast pt1

Pelikan M205, detail

20140215 pencast pt2

Pelikan M205

And thus ends the Great Daily Carry Quest of 2014. Already pressed into service, I'm looking forward to giving this one a workout. Thanks to all who offered suggestions and recommendations. This one just hit the sweet spot for me, helped in part by the fact that I have a lot of cartridge/converter pens, of which a vanishing point would be Yet Another. I hate running out of ink mid-meeting, and a pistol fill is just simple enough to make topping up the reservoir a daily ritual.

The Safari is also a surprise favorite, and I'm really glad I picked that one up as well. Maybe it's the size difference, or maybe I'm just not babying it as much as I am the Pelikan right now, but I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would, given that it's (in essence) more of the same sort of thing I already have.

For those crazy about ink, Waterman's "Serenity Blue" is a renaming of their "Florida Blue" color, as near as I can tell. That was the first ink I ever used with the pen that's now been replaced. Not every pen user is a fan of shading in their inks, preferring the lines to come out one single, bold color. Personally, I like the shading, and Florida Blue always shaded like crazy with my writing style. I'm pleased to see it's still doing so from the bottle. Masochists with a good 'net connection should take a peek at that second pen photo in the large size. I may have to save up for an oblique nib, just to spend more time with that color shading.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Plastic Pen Showdown: Pelikano Junior vs. Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari vs. Pelikano Junior, capped

Lamy Safari vs. Pelikano Junior, posted

Pelikano Junior pencast

Pelikano Junior

Pelikano Junior ink cartridge

Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari pencast

Personally, I think pirate-themed ink carts are pretty awesome, and the world would be a better place with more of them around.

There are more similarities than differences between these pens. Both have an ink window, though on the Pelikano Junior, it's a clear bubble molded into opposite sides of the barrel instead of a cutout. That pen also lacks a clip, which probably is by design -- in small, curious fingers, a clip may be bent or snapped off, though it does provide some nice anchoring for keeping your pen from rolling off the desk... or the paper when photographing it.

Both come in a variety of colors, though only the Safari seems to come in "business" colors (black, charcoal, white.) The Pelikano Junior can also be had with a left-hand grip, presumably with those molded pads reversed (the one pictured here is the right-handed model.)

So which one is the best? Like most playground showdowns, this one may come out a draw (no pen pun intended.) The Safari is more grown-up, but also simpler. The Pelikano Junior has a number of well-thought-out details making it suitable for the classroom, but its styling may raise an eyebrow or two in the boardroom. But if you can get standard cartridges -- all the big box office stores around here carry them -- you won't be far from a refill and they last a long time. I suspect they have room for a converter, too.

Safaris have swappable nibs, so as a "gateway" pen, it's got a lot more flexibility and expandability out of the box. It's rare to hear a Safari owner not recommend them to pen newbies.

In the end, I think it comes down to budget and personal preference about styling. Unlike the disappointing Zebra V-301, both of these handle great, write smooth, and can survive life in a pocket, backpack, or briefcase.

Which would you choose?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Yellow Fellow

Although this week was pretty rocky, it ended on a high note.

Shipment #1

After over-analyzing things on the pen front, I went ahead and picked up a Safari, to use up the stockpile of cartridges I have around. The Pilot carts are impossible to find around here, so they will resurrect my existing steel Pilot pen when I need a businesslike pen at hand.

The Waterman ink is evidently the renaming of their old "Florida Blue" color. Safe for vintage pens like the new green fellow sitting in the pen box, waiting for me to schedule a new sac-and-shellac surgery.

The real treat, though, is in the box. Is anyone else reminded of a comb feed? Those slits are pretty stylish in a contemporary-design way. Plus, it lets you peek inside...

Lamy Safari

"Sedate" is not a word I'd use to describe the Safari. Having grown up with Lego and still having *cough* a few bins of the stuff in our shed for the kids *cough cough* I actually like the primary colors and the ABS plastic shell. There's no mistaking that this is an inexpensive writing instrument, but that doesn't mean it's cheap. Little touches like the molded grip section and that chunky clip mean this is a pen meant to be used by little hands and big, and taken out in the world, not left on a shelf.

The cutout window is a nice solution to the problem of seeing how much ink is left, and the cartridges are generously sized, to say the least. I opted for the fine-sized nib here, since this will probably be a knocking-around, toss-in-the-pocket pen, and need to be miserly with the ink. A little testing shows it to be a "wet" writer, not scratchy. I'm looking forward to putting it in rotation, and since it's plastic, it can happily live in the flower frog/pen holder on my desk where it's close at hand.

Speaking of yellow, and re-purposed pen storage, this brainstorm hit me at the thrift store:

Pen trays for the budget minded

It's supposed to be a tray for making ice cubes for your water bottles -- narrow, to fit in the neck, you see. The perfect size for pens, though. It's currently modeling my assortment of cheapo Sheaffer calligraphy pens, the steel Pilot, and that red no-name one that decided to take regular ink-poos on my fingers. It's being punished.

Next time: flirting with tetanus!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

His Nibs

Life for the past five days or so has been a whirlwind as my older child and wife both came down with a nasty respiratory flu, leaving me ostensibly in charge of meals, laundry, homeschooling, and also juggling work and starting our youth team's track practice. I've lost a few days in there, but as my beloved is slowly getting back to health -- and the youngest child spikes a fever, sigh -- I'm getting my head up again, and going "Holy crap, it's February already" and "it's ITAM, I should type something."

Today was my first day back in the office after that unexpected bout of home-care, and while I try to fend off the coughing from my coworkers* I made the pen decision that got postponed. The final purchase was... a Pelikan M205! As much as I covet the vanishing point, I realized that I'd be sad if I didn't check out a pen that's so highly praised, that requires no fuss to refill, and is designed to be modular -- don't like the nib? Unscrew it an pop in a new one. That's pretty awesome.

It should be here in a week or so, and I had enough left over to pick up a Safari, too. Also highly praised, it meets my criteria for being durable, carryable, and not so precious that I'll freak out if it's dropped (cough Speegle cough.) Also, when our local Borders books was on the verge of closing down, they had about a few boxes of Lamy cartridges in a clearance bin that have been waiting patiently for a pen to juice up. I'm just as excited about this as the Pel, honestly.

Finally, when I managed to get the household stabilized enough this weekend to run out and pick up some groceries, I swung through a consignment store that's dangerously close to my house. Most of the wares are not to my taste or wildly overpriced but what's that down there in that cabinet?

Sheaffer jade flat-top detail

So, to recap -- set out to pick one pen, wound up with three. Seems about right.

This is an old Sheaffer "flat top" Lifetime pen. "Old," since it's likely from the 1920s-1930. "Flat top" because, well, the end of the cap is flat:

Sheaffer jade flat-top

It's also ink-stained, noticeably brassed in places like the knob on the clip, and the sac literally tore in my hands. What was once a bright green "jade" color is now a mottled pea-soup, which are all known issues with these guys. I also really, really like it. It's grown on me, and with a coat of the same carnauba wax that's so effective on enameled typewriters, it's regained some of its old lustre, if not its color. And soon: it'll have some friends to join it.

* Seriously: stay home if you don't feel well. There are no medals for being the office martyr to the plague. Stay the hell home. I get completely germophobic at this time of year.