pens and paper

Guest Post - Brennan's Jotters

Jotters: All Day, Every Day

In March I asked my friend Brennan to write about his EDC because he's spent a lot of time building it up to be the best possible for him. I work in an office at a desk most of the day and his job in a bike shop is very different from mine. We have a great time talking about what pens work best for his job. He kindly agreed to write a bit more about the pens he reaches for any time he needs to jot something down. Take it away Brennan...

At this point you have seen my EDC, and as pens go I carry a Vanishing Point and a Hex-O-Matic on me. My Vanishing Point is my go to pen, but there are a lot of instances during the day I simply need to jot something down. I am a soft goods buyer at a bike shop, so I am constantly in need of easy access pen and paper to jot down quick notes and reminders about the numerous phone calls, emails, and conversations I have with employees, customers, and brand reps. This is where my jotter comes in, I don't have to use my Vanishing Point or any specific pen — it's whatever pen is easiest to access — any pen on any paper — pocket notebooks, sticky notes, scrap paper, and sometimes receipts. I need pens that work consistently, so I have a collection of pens that just work always in reach.

These are my go-to jotters:

Retro 51 Hex O Matic Ballpoint As I mentioned in my EDC post, this pen lives in my pocket and gets the most use and abuse of any pen I own. The Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 blue refill is currently in this pen, and I have been impressed with its performance. Mike Dudek, of The Clicky Post, has a great review of this pen and refill.

Lamy Al-Star Rollerball This pen is one of my first “nicer” pens I purchased for myself. I love the aesthetic and feel in hand. Lamy’s black M63 Rollerball refill lays a nice smooth consistent line down. My black Al-Star lives at home on my desk and my silver Al-Star lives at work. This pen is awesome at work because it is not intimidating and any one can pick it up and use it comfortably, which cannot always be said about fountain pens. Brad Dowdy, of the Pen Addict, has a nice quick review of the pen if you are interested in more info.

Big Idea Design Solid Aluminum Pen I picked this pen up because I love aluminum bodied pens and the list of refills that this pen can take is huge! I appreciate a well designed pen with flexibility. I have a handful of refills on hand that work in the pen, but currently I have the Mystery Black Mont Blanc Fineliner Broad refill in this pen.

Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Bordeaux Ballpoint My dad gave me this pen recently because he never used it and thought I would appreciate it. I do — this is a pen I would probably never buy, but is a pretty awesome pen to own. The Bordeaux is no longer produced so it is a nice pen to hang onto for the future. The Mont Blanc Pacific Blue Medium Refill lays down a tackier and broader line than I prefer, but the quick dry time and classic look are nice.

Thanks to Brennan for this great write up. The Mont Blanc is gorgeous and I love the Hex O Matic's Rotring inspired vibe. Let me know what your favorite jotter pens are on Twitter or Instagram, I'm always looking for new pens to try.

Indxd - A Memo Book User's Digital Archive

As a person who fills two or more Field Notes/Doane memo books per month, being able to go back and look at what I wrote down is important to me. But, by the time I need to revisit an idea, it's often three or four books back. Until now I've had only one little way to keep track of what's in each of my memo books (more on that next week).

Enter Indxd. Indxd (pronouced Indexed) is an amazing tool from Dave Rea that creates, "a simple, searchable, sortable index of the topics" in all the notebooks you want to keep track of.

The process is amazingly simple.

Add a new book by giving it a name, and if you choose, a start and end date. I use the Field Notes inside cover as the template for the information I put in all of my notebooks, so I always include a start and end date.

From there, you are taken to a simple entry screen where you put in the topic, an optional page number, and hit add. I go through the book and pull any broad ideas, quote attributions, and short phrases I might want to reference in the future. I turn those into "topics" for Indxd to track.

After indexing the contents, it's just a simple Search or browse through the Topics tab to find which book I need to pull from my Field Notes Archival Wooden Box and I've got the page number where I need to look for more information.

For me, Indxd is the perfect system for indexing my notebooks. It's light and simple to add information to, allows for as much or as little organization as I want, backs up all my data, and is quick and easy when I need to find what I'm looking for. I have a running task as part of my Sunday review to add any new completed notebooks to Indxd and, I'm in the process of adding all 25 of the notebooks I filled in 2014.

If you're looking for a way to keep a digital log of the contents of your memo books, but don't want to go through the hassle of scanning them, look no further than Indxd.

Sunset Showdown

In case you haven't noticed, I love orange. My EDC has pops of orange, I have an orange and canvas Filson briefcase (more on that in the future), and I had to come up with a slightly absurd justification to myself to buy the amazing Lamy Al-Star in Copperorange. So, it makes perfect sense that I have a few orange inks to fill my pens with.

I recently got a vial of Diamine Sunset in a sampler pack from Goulet Pens and it was the first ink I ran through my Copperorange Al-Star. I fell in love with it, and I'm apretty sure I'll have a full bottle of it in the future (though Iroshizuku Yu-Yake Sunset is very tempting too).

Prior to getting the Diamine, my only orange ink experience had been with Noodler's Apache Sunset. Since they share the sunset moniker, I thought what better way than to put them together on one page for a wild-west-style sunset showdown.

Once they were on the page side by side, my allegiance to the Diamine Sunset only grew stronger. It's a much darker orange that shades wonderfully, but I think what draws me to it is the richness of the color. Don't get me wrong, Apache Sunset is a lovely orange ink, but in comparison it seems almost thin and watery when writing. The thinness is a double-edge sword. On one hand, it seems almost like there isn't enough ink getting on the paper, but on the other, it allows for beautiful shading that really gives the impression of a sunset in the desert.

I tried to give some variety in my handwriting so you could really see where the letters hold the ink. I do like the range of oranges you can see in the Apache Sunset, but when I look at it all together on the page, I just don't think I like it as a whole.

I'm back to only one orange after I used the last of my Diamine Sunset to fill the Lamy before this showdown. I will still find occasions to use the Apache Sunset in my pens though. It sure looks good in demonstrators like the Pilot Prera and I've enjoyed playing with in my Pilot Parallels. If I don't end up with a bottle of the Diamine soon, I'll probably be buying some more orange samples in the very near future.

Do you have a favorite orange ink you can recommend?

How I Write a Pen Review

Chris Bowler said it best in his Tools & Toys article, On Mindfullness and Quality "...quality items not only endure, but they also endear." I've had an unspoken set of rules for the items I choose to spend money on, and subsequently review. Chris accurately put into words the three things I had been using to determine whether I buy something, how much I use it, and what value it brings to my life. Those three rules: Efficacy, Longevity, Quality.

Efficacy is the capacity or power to produce a desired effect. This is probably the most direct way you can calculate an item's value to your life. Do you reach for this item every time because you know it's going to perform and get the job done exactly the way you want? It boils down to how good is this thing at being a thing?

Longevity is the simplest of these to understand. Is this item made to last? This can be measured a few ways. Materials play a big part in how long something can last. I'm pretty sure my aluminum Karas Kustoms pens are bombproof, and my Saddleback leather wallet will supposedly outlast my lifetime, so the fact that I won't have to spend money to replace because they've broken is a nice feeling.

Quality is probably the hardest thing to measure. You often know it when you see it, and you sure as hell know it when it isn't there. Quality is the feel when you hold it, or when you dig into how a product was designed and produced. Filson bags or Field Notes notebooks are on different ends of the spectrum, but pick each one up and you'll get a feel for what quality means.

Though not all quality goods possess the qualities of efficacy and longevity, it's in the overlap with one or both of those features that magic happens. Those are the products that are worth spending the most time and attention finding, and then spending your money on.

My pen reviews aren't really like a lot of others. You won't find me breaking down the weight and size of the barrel, the engraving on the nib, or the virtues of a cartridge or converter system. There are a lot of reviews from great bloggers like The Pen Addict or Ed Jelly that will help you determine whether or not you should buy a pen. Those are always the first place I go when deciding what my next pen purchase will be too.

Pen reviews for me are about how they fit into my life. With each pen, I'm looking at those three factors, efficacy, longevity, and quality. For the most part, the pens that I buy fill a particular need and there isn't a ton of overlap. I said it in my Vanishing Point review, pens are meant to be used. If I'm going to spend, more than $150 on a pen, I want to know that I'm going to use it, and not just on occasion.

I care about how smoothly a pen writes in a Rhodia, or if a pen can handle being carried in my pocket next to a Benchmade, or if the refills a pen takes can give me the finest blue black line imaginable in my Field Notes. Those are the things you will find in my pen reviews.

That's not to say I don't buy some pens for just plain fun. I collect various Lamy Safari and Al-Star pens because I love the colors they come in, and it's a blast to them with inks of a similar color from my growing collection. Plus, it's always nice to have a reliable pen when someone asks to try a fountain pen for the first time.

At the end of the day, how well a pen meets those three criteria determines how much it is going to be used and how much value it brings to me. The more value a pen brings, the more favorable the review, and the more often I write with it, because, isn't that what pens are for?