Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TWSBI Vac-20 Inkwells

You may have recently seen my video on the TWSBI Diamond 50, and I wanted to follow that up with a video on the recently released Vac-20 inkwell. It's different than the Diamond 50, and I cover how in the video.

TWSBI Vac-20 inkwells, available in blue, orange, black, red, and green.

The Vac-20 is a bottle that's specifically designed to fit the TWSBI Vac-700, and nothing else (at least from the adapter). It fits onto the grip section of the pen and allows you to fill it to the max without getting ink all over the pen like you would get if filling from a normal open bottle. It's a pretty cool little bottle, and greatly enhances the utility of what's already a pretty cool pen. Of course, you can always remove that cap and fill it like a normal bottle, with any pen.

It looks nice, but isn't incredibly fancy. It's all plastic, and smaller than the Diamond 50. If you've seen the packaging of the TWSBI Diamond 50, you know how overzealous that is. This one is much smaller and simpler, about 1/4 of the size of the Diamond 50.

Another cool thing about the Vac-20 is that the cap is swappable with the Diamond 50 bottle, so if you already have one of those, you can use the nicer glass base of the Diamond 50 with the same filling capability of the Vac-20. It's definitely not necessary, but it is nice that TWSBI considered that in their design.

For $12.99, it's a pretty handy bottle if you already have a Vac-700. What do you think?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mailbox Monday #42

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I'd like your help/opinion about a pen. I have a Lamy CP-1 that I love but i'd like to buy I fountain pen for everyday since this one has a great sentimental value and I don't want to ruin it on my everyday life (it already fell on the floor once :S). I've been looking at the Safari and Al-Star but i'm afraid the grip is too thick. I'd like to ear from you for a nice everyday pen. If it can help, i can tell you a few things I have and like, but don't focus only on this. I'm opened to any opinion you'll give me. I already have a z24 converter and I do like pens that offer some variety of nibs to change. I have a preference for sober colors but some transparent and more flashy colors sometimes are nice (depending on the model).
There are a lot of different options for you. The only pens that will fit your Z24 converter will be the Lamy Safari, Al-Star, Vista, Joy, Nexx, and ABC. Of all these, you'd probably like the Al-Star the most, but you say you're concerned about the grip being too big. It's true that it's bigger than the CP1, but then just about all pens are bigger than the CP1! The CP1 has about the smallest grip of any fountain pen I know. One tool we have that might help you is our Pen Plaza, it allows you to view all the pens we carry (and some we don't) side by side. This is especially helpful when trying to compare the grip sections of pens.

Two other pens you may want to look at are the Lamy Logo and Pur...they're not quite as nice as the CP1, but they have a similar feel to them, being a thin metal pen with interchangeable nibs.

When do you expect to get more twsbi micartas with a broad nib in?
They're actually in the process of redesigning the inner cap of the Micarta, so it might be a little while. Probably a couple of months, but I don't have an exact eta. You can expect that we're going to slowly run out of all our Micartas until then. 

What black inks and blue-blacks ink bottles can i use without having it bleed or show through the other side of the page in Moleskine journals? What brands and types are good?
Noodler's Black and Heart of Darkness usually work well, from Moleskine people that I talk to. There are a couple of good threads on the Fountain Pen Network that have some recommendations from folks with more Moleskine experience than myself. Check out these links: http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?/topic/220511-ink-for-moleskine-thats-not-blue-or-black/page__p__2332581__hl__moleskine__fromsearch__1#entry2332581



I've enjoyed using the Lamy AL-Star I bought from Goulet last year, and I've been considering adding another Lamy to my collection (I also have a Vista that has been a regular in my rotation). After reading reviews on the site, I'm trying to get a clearer sense of the comparative feel between the Logo and the AL-Star. While I've tended to think the angled grip section on the Vista/Safari/AL-Star design is a bit awkward, I've always found it easy to write and sketch with. How have you found the round Logo design to compare?
The best way to see a visual comparison of the Logo and Al-Star side-by-side is with our Pen Plaza:

The grip on them is quite different. The Logo, while round, is still a smaller grip than the Al-Star is even with the triangle factored in. I personally have very big hands and find both of these pens to be a little small for my own taste, but if you like the Al-Star, I say stick with that. The Logo is thinner overall, but doesn't feel quite as solid as an overall pen. Just my two cents! I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions. 

Do you still have any stock of the fine replacement nibs for the TWSBI 540?
No, but the new TWSBI 580 that's coming out in March will fit the 540 pen body. We should be getting whole 580 pens as well as nib units in the next few weeks. 

I'm actually very interested in the Metal Falcon. I own a TWSBI Diamond 540 with a medium nib and would rather something a little thinner for most of my writing. With that information, would you recommend a fine nib in the Falcon?
Here's a comparison of the two pens, with a writing sample that I did myself in the Nib Nook:

I would definitely recommend the Falcon fine nib for you.  

Got a question for you, and something I wanted to share. I'm sure I'm not your only customer who raves about Diamine and Pilot Iroshizuku inks. In my short (time-wise) experience, I've found these are some of the best-behaving, best-performing, least-troublesome, most worry-free, greatest gosh-darned inks you can find. J. Herbin is right up there, too.

As you know, some pens take those so-called "short international" cartridges, which I gather were originally developed by Montblanc, right? Others take "proprietary" cartridges (Pilot, e.g.), and of course, other pens (our favorites, right?) fill directly from an ink bottle with a "converter" or a built-in piston or bulb mechanism (Pelikan, TWSBI, e.g.). I'm always delighted to see one of my favorite "bottle" inks become available in those "short international" cartridges--for my pens that DON'T have an available converter (Kawecos, e.g.), but WILL accept cartridges.

Unfortunately, despite Goulet's HUGE selection, you don't carry the "shorties" available for some J. Herbin and Diamine colors. :( From a competitor of yours who shall remain nameless (but their initials are Jetpens dot com), I've bought several J. Herbin colors (Perle Noire, Bleu Nuit, Rouge Caroubier, Bleu Myosotis) and Diamine (Imperial Blue, Majestic Blue, and something called Jet Black, which I've never even seen in a *bottle*).

Just count mine as another wish that Goulet Pens carried these. Incidentally, I *have* begun filling empty cartridges from big bottles with my Goulet Ink Syringe :) A standard short cartridge seems to hold 0.6 ml. What a tiny amount, eh? I remember seeing you mention *reservoir* capacities on different pens (converter and built-in)--and the trick for getting a "super-fill" on a Vac 700--in one of your terrific videos.

Diamine and Pilot make great inks, and if you like them, you'll probably enjoy De Atramentis as well. They have a lot of the same qualities.

When it comes to cartridges, you're right that we don't have a lot of them. Many ink makers don't offer cartridges at all (Noodler's, Pilot Iroshizuku, De Atramentis, Caran d'Ache, to name a few). J. Herbin does offer most of their colors in cartridge form (I think they stopped 10 of them, or so), and Diamine offers them for most, if not all of their colors. We don't stock any of them, though. We used to carry Herbin cartridges a couple of years ago, but they really didn't sell well for us, and we were finding that a bunch of them were drying up and half-empty (that's how they were coming to us). We never carried Diamine ones, but we have so little interest in cartridges from our customers that's it's not worth all of the trouble for us to stock 100+ colors and try to keep them 'fresh'.

Diamine Jet Black is available in a bottle, too. So yeah, I understand that you like cartridges, but I really don't think we're going to carry them anytime soon. The combination of the lack of general interest in our carrying them, the huge amount of investment and space to stock them, the potential for us to accidentally mix up shipping a bottle or cartridges of the same color...it's just not something that would be ideal for us to dive into. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Friday, February 22, 2013

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwells

The TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwells came out about a year and a half ago, and for whatever reason I just never got around to shooting a video on how to use it! I finally just sat down and did it, so enjoy!

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwells, in Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Silver, Red, and Purple 
TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, completely disassembled from its packaging

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, closeup of the engraving on the bottom of the glass

This is a 50ml inkwell that is made to fill directly into the body of the TWSBI 530/540/580/Mini, as well as standard international converters. If you don't have one of these pens, you can still enjoy the bottle, though. If you take off the adapter on the top, you can fill any pen directly into the bottle itself, with the handy cone adapter.

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, in black

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, in blue, with top cap removed

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, in red, with entire cap assembly removed

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, in silver, with a TWSBI 540 in place to fill

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, in purple, with standard international converter

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell, showing how a pen fills directly from the bottle

TWSBI Diamond 50 Inkwell cone insert, makes filling a pen easy when the ink gets low

I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions on the Diamond 50! Just hit me up in the comments.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Caran d'Ache Inks: Out With The Old, In With The New

New Caran d'Ache inks

Update 2/19/14: Caran d'Ache Chromatic inks now available for sale at Gouletpens.com.

You may recall I mentioned this blog post in early December 2012 that Caribbean Sea, Carbon, and Blue Night were discontinued. Well, now the whole line of Caran d'Ache inks is discontinued, and will not be available any longer in their current form. This comes as a bit of a surprise to us, and I'm sure to you, too. If you have any existing favorites in the Caran d'Ache ink line, get it now wherever you can, because they really will not be around long, they're already out of them in Switzerland and I doubt many retailers stock large quantities of these inks so they'll run out soon, too.

What's interesting is that Caran d'Ache is completely revamping their ink line. They're coming out with all new colors in what they're calling the Chromatics, with new names, and new bottles. You may or may not have heard rumors floating around about this, and I'm here to say that it is officially true. These are supposed to be available in the US likely around late-May/early-June. Of course, that could always change. Basically, it's going to be a little while.

There are going to be 12 new colors, Cosmic Black, Delicate Green, Divine Pink, Electric Orange, Hypnotic Turquoise, Idyllic Blue, Infinite Grey, Infra Red, Magnetic Blue, Organic Brown, Ultra Violet, and Vibrant Green. I'd really love you hear your thoughts on these ink names. They sure remind me of the Waterman name changes that we saw happen last year, and goodness knows there were some opinions about those!

12 new Caran d'Ache ink colors

Some people loved the old Caran d'Ache bottles because of the heft and attractiveness of the design, others didn't love them because they were kind of hard to fill from. They're making a very interesting change with these new bottles, one that I'm not sure how I feel about. They are going with a slanted bottom, so that the bottle actually tilts when it's sitting on your desk. When it's in the box, it stands straight up, but when out of the box, it slants. What I'm curious about is at what point the bottle is able to tilt without having ink spill out of the bottle. It looks to me like if you have a brand new bottle, then the ink level would be too high to put the slanted bottle straight on your desk and open the cap without spilling it all over the place. It could be that the bottles aren't completely full, and that it'll be okay slanted with a new bottle, but that's something I'm not able to glean from the marketing materials and I probably won't know until I see the bottles for myself. In any case, you will be able to fill from a fresh bottle if you have the bottle sitting in the box, so it appears.

When I originally posted this it was rumored the ink would be $40 a bottle, and I've since gotten confirmation (on 3/5/13) that it will in fact be $40 per bottle list price. That's….pretty expensive, even more than Pilot Iroshizuku. This will be the most expensive fountain pen ink that is currently made, at least in the US. The bottles look nice and packaging looks great, but these are going to have to be some pretty darn impressive inks to justify this price. I don't know anything about what the inks are supposed to be like, so I will be very eager to see for myself.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lamy Neon Yellow Safari, 2013 Limited Edition

Lamy Neon Yellow Safari, 2013 LE

Every year Lamy comes out with special colors on their pens, and for the last several years they've been coming out with a new Safari each year. There were rumors about this year being a neon yellow, and that rumor is entirely true! This pen is called, fittingly, Neon Yellow.

Lamy Neon Yellow Safari, 2013 LE

Lamy Neon Yellow Safari, 2013 LE

Lamy Neon Yellow Safari, 2013 LE

There is a quality to this pen that you can really only appreciate in person. Since I know I'm one of the first to actually see this pen in person, you'll have to trust me on this. But once the pen becomes available this April/May (in the US) and others start to see it, I bet you're going to see a lot of folks posting some pretty wild comments about the color.

Like all other Lamy Safari's, this pen is available with an extra-fine, fine, medium, broad (all in black or steel color), 1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm nib. It'll sell for a list price of $37, with a 'street price' of $29.60 at GouletPens.com and other sites. This might seem like a little higher than you've paid for a Safari in the past, and that's because Lamy recently underwent a (relatively small) price increase across all the Safari's, and other pens.

We are being told the pen will become available in the US around mid-May, of course that could always change. One note about this pen's availability, it's only being made in a single production run. Unlike past limited colors like the Apple Green and Turquoise Safari's that have been produced in multiple runs, the Neon Yellow color is so speculative that Lamy is only doing a one-shot deal. I don't know exactly how many pens they're making worldwide, but you can anticipate that they won't be available as long as previous years' limited colors. It's impossible at this point to predict how long they'll last, but I would just encourage you to buy one within the first few months of the release if you know you want one for sure.

This pen is, to put it mildly, very extreme in color. I think that Lamy is really taking a chance making a pen of this color, and it's likely going to elicit a response of either "I love it!" or "I hate it!". And that's perfectly okay in my book! I love to see companies push the envelope, and Lamy is taking a risk with this color. I like to see a company as popular as Lamy still look to be a little edgy and not always play it safe. Bravo! That said, this color is not really my personal taste, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be putting one in my personal collection. I can use it as an emergency road flare in case my car ever breaks down, haha! I'm just kidding, everyone knows I drive an Aztek and that thing will never break down (Breaking Bad, anyone?).

I don't even think I have to ask, but I will anyway….what do you think?

Write On,
Brian Goulet 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mailbox Monday #41

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

How should the tines lay down on the paper while writing with the pen? I've been holding it at like a 45 degree angle kind of like this / in that the left time is the bottom left and the right tine is the top right but I've seen some people where it's horizontal like --, does this matter or is it preference or depend on the pen and nib etc?
I think I understand what you're asking....there are pretty much three different factors when holding your pen: 1) the angle of the pen in relationship to the writing surface (45 degree angle is good), 2) the rotation of the pen in your hand (you want the surface of the nib to be facing towards the sky, with both nib tines equally touching the paper), and 3) the angle of the pen in relation to the paper, meaning the angle at which the nib is in relation to the lines as they go across the page. The one that varies the most is the last one, and there really isn't so much a right or wrong answer there, but usually a 45 degree angle is typical.

I have a Preppy marker and would like to use bottled ink instead of the cartridge supplied. Is there an ink that matches the Sharpie for quick drying and permanence on smooth surfaces?
Sharpies are made using solvents, which is fundamentally different than fountain pen inks, which are water-based. You won't find any fountain pen inks made today that will be as versatile as a solvent-based Sharpie (or other permanent parker). The only thing that comes close is Noodler's Bluerase or Blackerase. They are whiteboard inks, but they also work on plexiglass, and I think, regular glass. They work best in a marker pen or highlighter (felt tip) pen like the Platinum Preppy Highlighter. But they're not going to be like a Sharpie. 

I'm looking to replace my Mont Blanc Gandhi Saffron Ink, any suggetions? Apache sunset was too brown but loved the shading.
I'm not personally familiar with Mont-Blanc's Saffron, but I did find a review of it here that compares it pretty closely to Diamine Blaze Orange and Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake. I'd recommend taking a look at our Swab Shop as well, to see if you can find a good match, and if you want to be darn sure before you invest in a whole bottle, check out some samples so you can see in person how the ink behaves.

Do you expect to be getting the new Pelikan 2013 Edelstein amber in any time soon? I'm liking this a lot!
It hasn't even "officially" been announced yet, so it's going to be a little while, probably at least a month, maybe longer. We'll have it on order, and get it in as soon as it's available in the US! We'll list it on our site once we get the go-ahead from Pelikan to do so.

Do you typically shake your ink bottles prior to filling a pen? If so, is it important to do this all the time for all inks?
When it comes to shaking inks, some people are of the mentality that it should never be done, others believe it should always be done. Me personally, I always shake my inks (gently) before using them, to ensure a proper mixture of the dye colors. Sometimes, when an ink is sitting for a while, there can be some chemical sedimentation that occurs, especially with the more saturated dye colors. Shaking the ink ensures that the dyes remain properly in suspension when you go to fill your pen. There are a couple of good articles on the fountain pen network that talk about this very issue: here and here. Bottom line, you can do whatever you wish :) But i prefer to shake! 

I am particularly partial to Parker fountain pens and when my current supplies of bottled ink run out, I’d like to maybe order replacements from you. Is your ink range suitable for Parker pens? I’ve been using Parker’s own “Quink” brand but colours other than Blue and Blue/Black (boring!) are very hard (impossible?) to find here. Now that I have my syringe set, I am looking to have some variety and might even venture into mixing my own colours. Do you have any recommendations as to brands that might be suitable?
I'm sorry you have such a hard time finding fun colors! When it comes to mixing inks, you have to recognize that you're entering into somewhat uncharted waters (literally!). The exact chemical formulations of fountain pen inks are proprietary to their manufacturers, but there are definitely some inks that are more compatible than others. As a general rule, it's best to stick to inks within the same brand when mixing, to minimize the chance of a bad reaction between two inks. That's not always a sure thing, though. Noodler's in particular has a range of inks with some very drastic properties, and they aren't always compatible with other Noodler's inks. With those, you're best sticking with inks in the same series. Baystate inks only mix with other Baystate inks, that is for sure. But other inks like the Bernanke Fast-Dry inks, Polar inks, Eternal inks, they're only going to keep their properties intact if they're mixed with other inks that have the same properties.

That said, there are some inks that are known to be quite safe for mixing. The best would be Platinum Mix-Free, they were designed from the ground-up to be mixable, and the easiest way to mix them is to try multiple colors and just mix them 50/50 with each other. To help you get started and have fun, I've even put together a Mix-Free super-sampler package set, with oversized ink samples and the tools you need to start mixing, here.

I even shot a video showing how to use it, here.

Private Reserve is another brand that's pretty good for mixing. All of their inks are made to be mixed with each other (except for Invincible Black). Other brands that I've heard many use for mixing include Waterman, Sheaffer, and Diamine.

Regardless of the brand, whenever you're mixing you have to recognize you're doing something that wasn't necessarily designed by the manufacturer. You have to have a bit of an experimental approach, so it's best to keep your ink mixing to small volumes until you figure out your ideal ratios for ink colors. I've heard that some people like to stick with a CMYK mixture approach, and popular colors for that are Noodler's Navajo Turquoise, Noodler's Shah's Rose, Noodler's Yellow, and Noodler's Black. That approach may work for you if you know specifically what colors you might want, but if you already have a bunch of inks around and just want to "see what happens", it's best to mix the inks in a vial or bottle, let them sit for a few hours, and make sure you don't get any strange reaction (bubbling, congealing, etc) before putting them in your pen. 

I have purchased a medium nib black matte Pilot VP from you recently and I was pleasantly surprised. What a great pen! I am thinking of purchasing a broad nib unit for it. but I saw that you have two types one is rhodium plated broad and the other is not. What is the difference? Which one would you recommend? The same goes for the medium nib, and I don't know which one is mine. Any idea how could I know that?
I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying your VP! That thing is pretty slick, I have one myself and feel like James Bond when I carry it around ;)

There actually isn't any difference between the gold and rhodium VP nibs other than the color. Technically, they're both solid 18k yellow gold, but the rhodium one is plated with rhodium, to give it the silver color. Technically, rhodium is a harder metal than gold and should be more durable than the gold, but I've never heard of any practical difference between the two nibs in terms of how they hold up. I wouldn't really recommend one over the other, it's really just a matter of which one you find most aesthetically appealing.

As far as telling the size, there is a small designation stamped in the nib below the name "Pilot", it should be a single letter that tells what size it is, inside a set of brackets. You can only see it if you remove the nib from your pen. For example, this nib shows that it's a fine:

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lamy Pearl Al-Star, new for 2013

Here it is! The newest Lamy Al-Star, in Pearl.

It's really more of a champagne color, almost an exact match for my and Rachel's two (that's right, two) gold Pontiac Azteks:

The Goulet Aztek Pair

It's a pleasant color, nothing flashy, but just pleasant. It'll come available from Lamy with a steel nib in extra-fine through broad, but you can swap the nibs (check out my video here) to get a black extra-fine through broad, or a steel 1.1mm, 1.5mm, or 1.9mm italic. It comes with a single Lamy Blue cartridge, but can accept a Z24 or Z26 converter for use with bottled ink. 

These pens are supposed to be available in the US by early-March, check around for availability in other countries. They'll be priced the same as the other Al-Stars, list price of $47 (sells for $37.60 on GouletPens.com). They technically aren't a limited edition, they're considered a part of the regular line. So there's no huge rush to pick one up…unless you just can't wait ;) 

What do you think? I'd love to know...

Write On,
Brian Goulet 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Love Letters

Today is Valentine's Day, and I'm definitely feeling the love. For all of this month we're accepting entries into our "Love Letter" contest (details here), and we've already received so many wonderful letters from you all telling the story of why you love fountain pens. I am definitely feeling the love!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How Much Lead Fits In A TWSBI Mechanical Pencil?

I was curious how much lead would fit in a TWSBI mechanical pencil, so I recorded my adventures as I crammed as much lead as I could find into it. Spoiler alert, it's a lot. But it's the journey that is the reward, you're getting to see my unedited reaction to the discovery! It's a pretty silly video, but I had fun making it, and you may enjoy watching it.

I also did a full review of the TWSBI mechanical pencil here, so be sure to check that out.

I do have a question for you pencil folks, how much lead is good to keep in your pencil? It's obviously good to have a pretty hefty amount in there, but too much and it jams. What do you find is ideal? I'm just curious, really.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TWSBI Mechanical Pencils

I'm a fountain pen guy through and through, but I've been getting asked a lot of questions lately about the TWSBI mechanical pencils. TWSBI is a popular brand of fountain pen and I do like the design and functionality of their pens, so I thought "what the heck, I'll check out their pencils". I'm not a pencil aficionado (is there even a thing?), but here's a video of me sharing my impression.

There are two different pencils, fixed and retractable tip. The difference is that one has a fixed lead guide that sticks out of the pen (more stable/accurate), the retractable has a lead guide that can push back into the pen (better for putting in your shirt pocket).

TWSBI Mechanical Pencil, retractable tip (in the retracted position)

TWSBI Mechanical Pencil, fixed tip

The pens come in either black or silver, and also come in .5mm or .7mm. That makes a total of 8 different combinations of pencil features. The one I personally chose for myself was the fixed tip, in black and .7mm. For $25, this seems to me to be a pretty solid performing pencil. But then, I don't have vast pencil knowledge so keep that in mind. 

If you're curious how much lead will fit in these pencils, I made a rather entertaining video here where I discover for myself how much...by jamming as much lead in them as I can!

TWSBI Pencils come with the pencil, two sticks of lead and an eraser (inside the pencil), a spare pack of lead (12 pc), and 3 spare erasers in a tube.

TWSBI logo engraved on the clip

Pencil completely disassembled

Silver Pencil

I'd love to know what you more hardcore pencil folks think about these pencils and pencils in general, just leave your feedback in the comments.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mailbox Monday #40

Wow, #40, really? My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

The TWSBI Vac 20 Ink bottle: it says: "Bottle cap also interchangeable with our Diamond 50 ink bottle." Does that mean I can put the cap from my Diamond 50 ink bottle on the Vac 20 Ink bottle to use with my Diamond 540 fountain pen ?
Yes, you can actually interchange the caps from both the Vac 20 and Vac 50 bottles! It works better with the Vac 20 cap on the Vac 50 bottle, though. The Vac 50 cap is aluminum, and when you put it on the Vac 20 bottom, it's REALLY top-heavy and very easy to knock over. It can be done, you just have to be real careful when using it ;) I'll include this in my video when I shoot it.

Can I use the TWSBI Vac 20 ink bottle to fill a TWSBI mini?
The TWSBI Vac 20 is designed for the Vac-700. The Mini doesn't fit into the cap like the Vac-700 does, because it's a smaller pen. You can still take the cap off the bottle and fill the pen that way (like you would with a normal bottle), but you won't get the advantages of the Vac 20's design unless you're using the Vac-700. I'll be shooting a video on this soon! 

Are the Caran d'Ache empties permanently gone, or are they just out of stock for a while? They're just beautiful, and I regret only buying one when I had the chance. However, if they are gone forever, could you please advise me on another brand of empties which can serve as a shallow-ish inkwell? Some of the fancier shapes make it hard to gauge their utility from a single image. It's a bit ironic that Lamy and Noodler's are go-to brands for so many, yet the converter design makes the deep Noodler's bottles almost impossible to use after a while.
They're not gone, we just don't have them available very often. There aren't a great number of colors (especially now that they discontinued Blue Night, Caribbean Sea, and Carbon), so we just don't go through that many bottles for samples. That said, we should probably have some coming up soon as we just got a shipment of ink in today and we'll probably do samples soon.

Lots of other brands have decent bottles. Waterman, Omas, Pilot, Namiki, and Sailor have the best bottles. It's true that Noodler's bottles aren't the most ideal, but they do certainly maximize efficiency in transit and storage!  

I am looking for a good green ink for my collection. I like Noodler's and Nathan's philosophy, so I try and support Noodlers inks whenever I can. Also, I prefer an ink that isn't wet and has limited feathering and bleeding (and I know this is tough as you noted to me before that looking for a quick dry ink that doesn't bleed is tough). Haven't said that, are there any greens out there that would match those requirements?
Hmmm....quite the challenge! I think you should look at Bad Green Gator....kidding! That would be the opposite of what you want ;) That's real wet, real bleedy/feathery! Whatever you try, I'd definitely recommend samples. These are some pretty specific parameters, but you have options. The first things that come to mind are Noodler's Hunter, possibly Noodler's Zhivago, maybe Green Marine. Scribal Work Shop Cryptid Leviathan is pretty good. The driest green I know is Pelikan Brilliant Green...I hate the color, but it's dry!

I was wondering about the noodlers konrad flexpen. Is it possible to take out the filling mechanism, put an o ring and some grease between the body of the pen and the blind cap, and so make it an eye dropper pen?
What you're describing is an eyedropper conversion, which is common on some cartridge/converter (C/C) pens. The Konrad, however, is a piston fill pen, and therefore isn't quite as easy to convert to an eyedropper, nor is it really necessary. The reason most people like to convert their C/C pens to eyedropper fill pens is because most C/C pens only have about 0.5ml ink capacity, and eyedropper conversion usually gets you around 2ml capacity (depending on the pen, of course). The Konrad already has about 1.4ml of ink capacity, so an eyedropper conversion doesn't buy you as much.

Technically, it could be done by pulling out the piston mechanism, removing the piston rod with the o-rings on it from the pen, and putting silicone grease on the piston mechanism and blind cap when you put the pen back together. The problem you have when pulling out the piston rod with the o-rings, and fill the pen with ink, is that the ink will go back into the remaining parts of the piston mechanism, leak back into the blind cap, and hang out in a lot of nooks and crannies that are tough to clean out when the time comes to change inks or clean the pen thoroughly. I personally don't feel it's worth the trouble, the ink capacity of the Konrad is just fine as it is without the additional trouble of converting the pen to an eyedropper. 

I have a Prera I love. The solid color version. Any plans to carry or can I special order one in a M? 
They're actually not available in the US, I'm not sure if they still make them anymore, but they've never been available to us since we started carrying Pilot 2 years ago. Only the clear ones. 

If you had $600 to spend on a pen would you get the M1005 ?
$600, huh? That'll buy a lot of diapers for my two kids...actually, not really! :P Seriously though, the m1005 is a pretty sweet pen, but I just don't know that it's worth 4 Custom 74's....or 7.5 TWSBI Vac-700's, or 12 TWSBI Minis...there's a law of diminishing returns when it comes to pens, for sure. I think that if I really wanted an m1005 so bad, I would probably have one in my collection....and I don't, so I guess that would answer the question for me ;) I have definitely thought about getting one because I love big pens and that is definitely kind of the heap, but I just can't justify pulling the trigger (by justify, I mean convince Rachel!). Haha.

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Traveler's Notebook

The Midori Traveler's Notebook is something I heard about very early on in my fountain pen journey, but I never quite understood the hype until I actually got one in my hands a few weeks ago. Now that I've had the time to learn the whole "system", I see how cool these things really are, and I'm thrilled to be able to share it with you here. (In May 2016, the Midori Traveler's Notebook was rebranded to the Traveler's Company brand. Learn more about the rebranding here.)

Here's what I cover in the video:
  • Traveler's Notebook "unboxing" (1:23)
  • Replacing the outer strap (2:55)
  • Notebook dimensions (4:19)
  • Accessories, replacement binding straps, adhesive pocket inserts, business card holders (6:00)
  • Pen loop (7:50)
  • How the notebook is assembled (10:00)
  • Putting two notebooks inside (11:55)
  • Putting three notebooks inside (14:32)
  • Testing the paper (17:50)

The essence of the Traveler's Notebook is a removable paper notebook, wrapped in a thick flap of leather, held by an elastic band. That's the very abbreviated version of what it entails. But it's really more than that, because of the accessories it has available.

There are two different sizes of notebooks, available in black, brown, and camel. The leather is tanned using tannins from plants, but it does have kind of a strong smell at first. Once it airs out for a couple of weeks, the strong smell goes away and you get that awesome leather smell. The overall look of the notebook is very rustic, it very much feels like the kind of thing you'd take with you on an excursion. The notebook will undoubtedly build up more character over time, as you knick and scratch the leather, and wear away the edges of the paper a little bit. It will get its own stamp of personality based on how you use it.
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Black Regular
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Black Regular (also comes in Passport size)
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Brown Regular
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Brown Regular (also available in Passport size)

Midori Traveler's Notebook - Camel Regular
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Camel Regular (also available in Passport size)
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Camel in Regular and Passport
Midori Traveler's Notebook - Brown Passport

You can put one, two, or three notebooks in it, and add things like pocket inserts, pen loops, zippered pouches, and business card holders. Check out all the Traveler's Notebook accessories here. Because of all of the unique things you can add to your notebook, it makes it a highly personalized system with a lot of utility and flexibility.

Connecting Rubber Bands - Regular
Connecting Rubber Bands - Regular (also available for Passport sized notebooks)

Zippered Pocket - Regular
Zippered Pocket - Regular (also available for Passport sized notebooks)
Pen Holder - Brown
Pen Holder - Brown (also available in Black and Camel)
Midori Traveler's Notebook repair kit (Includes 6 spare band, 2 strings, and 1 tin fastener.)

There are several different types of paper, and they're basically all really good. They're surprisingly fountain pen friendly (I was expecting there to be some typical bleed through and possibly feathering), I am honestly impressed with how the paper handles.

There are different variations of white, ivory, and kraft paper, with blank, 5x5 graph, 6.5mm lined, and perforated. I don't have information about the specific paper weights, but they seem to be somewhere around 70-80g, with the exception of the sketchbook (100g or so) and the thin paper (around 60g, I'd guess). As of May 2016, there were some changes to the the line of refills, so be sure to check out Gouletpens.com for the latest Traveler’s Brand refill offerings.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Refills
I tried to be as complete as I could in the video, so you can understand how the system works as a whole. I didn't go into great detail about all of the specific notebooks and accessories because it's just way too much to try to cover at once. If you have any specific questions about anything, just ask me in the comments.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

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