Life and Death of a Pocket Notebook

Once upon a time, May 2015, there was a beloved pocket notebook. Well IMG_0114maybe I didn’t love it, but I was quite fond of it. And rightfully so. It was a nice blue Two Rivers edition Field Notes notebook. It dutifully travelled in the back pocket of my jeans. Daily I made various notes in it, some transitory like a grocery list, and others so deeply profound they could change the course of history. By August the notebook was almost full. Then, in a moments inattentiveness, the beautiful notebook was left in my jeans pocket as the jeans made their traditional trek into the wash cycle.

IMG_0196What came out of the other end of the wash cycle was truly sad, even tragic. The notebook paper did not hold up well to its return to its origins as a watery pulp. Still it had not completely disintegrated. After letting it dry, the pages of this once handsome Two Rivers notebook could be teased apart.




The survival of the ink was more varied. Some was completely erased. Some was faded to someplace between faintly visible to IMG_1139illegible. But some writing survived intact.

I noticed that the surviving writing was all in black. Surveying my modest store of ink, I discovered there was only one black ink in use. An ink that I had chosen based mostly on the cleverness of the name – Heart of Darkness. I hope my thinking that is clever is not too telling on my personal outlook. I will right here claim an ironic streak to my tastes, like the ringtone for my wife of 26 years being Victim of Love. But back to the Heart of Darkness, the ink I mean. I did know that some inks hold up better to water. Some are more tamper resistance. Some are permanent. So I went to checkout where Noodler’s Heart of Darkness fell on these scales. Turns out it is considered water resistant or even bulletproof. I am not setup to shoot a bullet through the writing to test this last assertion. Although it occurs to me now that it means bulletproof as a measure or permanence. That label I can vouch for. It was more than a match for Gain detergent, a top load Samsung washing machine and all the water thrown at it.


Unfortunately none of the deeply profound, history changing notes, were written in Heart of Darkness. They are tragically lost to humanity.


Chicago Pens

One thing I used to do before so many things were online, was to browse through the magazine section of large bookstores. I would look for less common titles that looked interesting. You might come across things and think, I can’t believe there is a magazine dedicated to this. The exciting ones were magazines that seemed interesting to me. That is how I discovered Pen World. Then as now, Pen World skewed to the really expensive pens. But it did show me just how much existed.
Waterman Expert CappedI had a business trip to Chicago coming up, this was about 20 years ago, and I found a few pen stores. I came home with a Sheaffer Legacy (the first year it was released)  and a Waterman Expert from a shop who carried the latest stuff. The Legacy is black lacquer with a 23k gold inlaid fine nib and a silver cap with gold clip. The Expert  is also a fine nib and the body and cap are Dune Red. I am currently using both of these pens quite a lot. The Legacy is my normal letter writing pen.
Sheaffer Legacy CappedSheaffer Legacy Nip and ClipWaterman Expert Crossed
I also picked up a few of older pens from a place that was a little hard to find. An older gentleman was working on pens and sitting at a desk with lots of little storage cubbies around him. He was working on pens when I came in and when I left. I ended up getting an Esterbrook Desk Set which I use these days.
Esterbrook Desk Pen OpenEsterbrook Desk Pen Capped
I also picked up three pens that were fine 20 years ago but now need more work.
Sheaffer Imperial Nib And Clip One is a Sheaffer Imperial with a gold cross hatched pattern. Unfortunately late last year a part of the section threads broke.
The second pen is a Parker black rubber ring top button filler. I was recently told that it does not seem to have the original nib. Several people think a Lucky Curve nib would be correct on it. This is my oldest pen and seems to be from around 1916.
Parker Lucky CurveParker Lucky Curve Capped
The third pen is a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph which seemed clogged the last time I tired to use it. I’ll say more about each of these pens in the future.
Kohinoor Rapidograph ClipKohinoor Rapidograph Capped
This could have been the start of nice collection which could have grown over the 20+ years, but it did not work out that way. Next time, I will share what did happen.
Thanks for reading,
Caligraphy Jack
p.s. Write a loved one a letter.

Looking Back: A New, To Me, Kind of Pen

At some point I was wandering through a local shopping center and went into a stationary store. This particular one is gone now but they had lots of gifts and greeting cards and probably did most of their business in invitations. But the thing I was drawn to was a display of interesting pens. I tried some and a couple were a whole new writing experience – smooth, clean , dark lines. I didn’t know it at the time but they were roller balls. Plus they were cool looking – metal and modern.

Tombow Object Rollerball
Tombow Object Rollerball
Lamy Swift Rollerball
Lamy Swift Rollerball

One was a Tombow Object and the other a Lamy Swift. The Object was a capped pen and the Swift is retractable but with a cool extra. When you click the knock to write the clip retracts to make a smooth body. It also keeps you from clipping it into your pocket with the rollerball still exposed and ruining your clothes.

Clip out and rollerball retracted
Clip out and rollerball retracted
Clip in and rollerball ready to write
Clip in and rollerball ready to write

I guess I was not the only one to like these since they are still made. I have used both of these a fair amount but the Tombow always seemed tough enough to just throw in the bottom of my computer bag. It shows the wear but has held up well.

Tombow Object Clip
Well worn but still good

Next, an inexpensive habit leads to some real spending.

Caligraphy Jack

Supply Cabinet Roulette

When I last described my pen journey, it was off to a slow start. But eventually I finished a couple of Computer Science degrees at Texas A&M. Hey, the computers were slower back then, It took a while. I took a job with what was then a fairly small software company, around 200 employees. In the 80’s a start up was what you hoped your car did every morning. Where I worked was but big enough to have a supply cabinet in the mail room. I got the basics: pens, pencils, a cup to put them in and some notebooks. Time has slowly blurred my memory of the details, so I can’t say what I used to write with exactly but this was pre-gel pen years – just ball points and sometimes felt tips.
Choices, choices, choices.
Choices, choices, choices.
I went through a phase off using pencils. I settled on wood case pencils. Whenever I tried mechanical pencils the lead would always break. I now know this is because my writing is far from upright and puts a lot of pressure on the lead. Also these were low end mechanical pencils.
I do know that during these years I got in the habit of liking a matching set of pens – all the colors I could find – typically black, blue, red and occasionally green. And highlighters too – all the colors I could find. Highlighting a print out of some tricky code or the log from running it was one of my normal debugging techniques.
As a small company each secretary made their own decision about what pens to buy. So the choices would slowly change. I would take a chance on most anything that showed up. Sometimes it was an improvement, other times a dud. The ever changing choices also meant if there was something I liked I would stash a few before they vanished like last years reality stars.
So far I had not opened my wallet to acquire pens myself, but this was about to change. The next part of my journey involves a new discovery – roller balls.
Caligraphy Jack

Pen Case Surprise

I just posted about loading my new Nock Co cases but my wife surprised me with a Valentine’s Day gift.

Franklin-Cristoph 3 pen case

If you can’t quite make out the logo it is a Franklin-Cristoph and it is the new home for my 3 favorite pens. Of course that makes it the 3 pen case and it is the black model. I like the contrasting gold stitching. The case has reenforced rectangular shape which protects your pens. Also the flap closes over the pens to protect the clips and caps. There are elastic sections that keep the pens from rubbing each other. The flap is a little stiff but since it is leather it should break in.


Here are the three pens I am currently carrying in this case. From the left:

  • Waterman Expert Dune Red
  • Sheaffer Legacy 1 – Black Laquer/Palladium GT
  • Edison Nouveau Premiere Majestic Pine


I moved my Retro 51 Tornado Jack (see the logo picture) to the Fodderstack. It is great for quick notes. I have been practicing some simple hand lettering on the 3×5 cards and leaving them around the house for my wife.

Thanks for reading,

Caligraphy Jack

p.s. Get out a favorite pen and write someone a quick note.

Delivery From Nock Co

We now interrupt the slowly unfolding story of my pen journey for a special delivery – from Nock Co. Having checked the tracking early this morning it looked like this would come on Tuesday, after the President’s Day holiday. Instead it showed up on Saturday – a Valentine’s present to myself.

I had been checking every now and then for the colors I like to come back into stock. I was writing a letter to Nock Co as part of the International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo). I had just written that I was wwatching the stock and decided I should stop writing and double check. Sure enough the Fodderstack and Brasstown were both now available in the colors I was waiting for. I finished the letter and made my order.

Now it was here and even though I had ordered it earlier in the week, I was anxious to see the what was inside this plain white envelope.


This is what my order looked like – the Fodderstack in midnight with a bluejay interior, a set of 3 x 5 DotDash Note Cards and a Brasstown also in midnight but with a foliage interior.


So it was time to load them up. Here is the Fodderstack with some 3×5 cards and my Sheaffer Legacy. I have been using that pen more and more. I will have to see how I end up using the cards. I may stash more of a backup pen in here than the Legacy.


Here is the Brasstown loaded and all closed up.Figuring out just what to carry in this going to take more time.IMG_0009

Here are the pens I loaded for the minute. Front the left, a Lamy Safari fountain pen, Lamy Swift roller ball, Waterman Expert fountain pen, Edison Nouveau Premiere in Majestic Pine, Noodler’s Creaper Flex in Lapis Inferno and a Paola Tommasi roller ball. If the Legacy moves in here the Paola Tommasi will be out.


Even harder to figure out is what else to add to the main section of the Brasstown. I pulled a few things together to try it.


From the left, a Zebra Sarasa gel, retractable blue Sharpie Pen, Blackwing pencil, Pilot Hi-Tec-C gel pen, highlighter, Musemee Notier precision stylus, retractable X-Acto knife. I think some more pencils and a sharpener make a lot of sense. More colors of gel pens or even of the Sharpie Pen would also be nice. I am not sure how much is practical to fit. I can certainly hold more than this trial has in it.


Now that I think about it, I guess this post is a part of my pen journey. Lots of pens are part of the journey and so is how to carry them.

Thanks for reading,

Caligraphy Jack

p.s. Send someone a card.

Rhodia Drive – The Paper Project – Week #10

As part of the Rhodia Drive – The Paper Project – Week #10 I received 3 paper samples. I tried quite a few pens and inks on the samples. The papers are one A5 size sheet each of Clairfontaine Classic white/violet ruled 90g, Clairfontaine Triomphe white/violet ruled 90g and R by Rhodia Premium Ivory, grey ruled 90g.

My favorite of these three was the Rhodia. I have been using Tomoe River paper a lot recently and while it performs very well, its parchment like feel is not as suitable in some situations as the Rhodia. I want to mention the pens that I thought really wrote well on the Rhodia all in one place:

  • Esterbrook 9950 desk pen
  • Sheaffer Legacy F nib
  • Pilot Metropolitan M nib
  • Fisher Space Pen
  • Sharpie Pen
  • Retro 51 Tornado
  • Pilot G-2 0.7

Now let’s look at more detail starting with the non-fountain pens: After writing just one line with various pens, the no brainer is to use any of these papers with a Retro 51 Tornado and enjoy writing. The Retro 51 was crisp and extra smooth. The Sharpie Pen also wrote really well on all three papers. The other non-fountain pens I tried (see the images) were good but not as nice as the Retro 51 or the Sharpie Pen. In fairness while the Tombow refill was kind of blobby I used a 20 year old refill. I need to get a new one because that is a rugged pen I love to throw in the bottom of my computer bag. The Signo DX and Pilot G2 were also good but the Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3 was noticeably scratchier than normal on these papers. As listed above the Fisher Space Pen was very good on the Rhodia paper. It seemed about like normal on the Clairfontaine papers.

The fountain pens were generally good on the Clairfontaine papers. No surprise.  But they flow best on the R by Rhodia Premium. To me the standout fountain pens were the Pilot Metropolitan (borrowed from my wife), the Legacy and the Esterbrook. The Metropolitan and the Legacy are no surprise to me. They are my favorite pens to write with. But normally the Esterbrook is scratchy and skips some, but on all three papers it was great. These papers made me want to use it more. What else could you want in a paper?

I am including images of the various pens on each of the three papers even though the paper colors did not reproduce well. The white paper is very white and the ivory is nice, slightly yellow to my eye. I will work on my photography setup. I tried scanning as well. The paper colors were more accurate but not the ink. The ink color in these images seems pretty accurate. Click on the images for a higher resolution image.

Clairfontaine Classic
Clairfontaine Classic 90g white with violet rule lines
Clairfontaine Triomphe
Clairfontaine Triomphe 90g white with violet rule lines
R by Rhodia Premium
R by Rhodia Premium 90g ivory with grey rule lines