Load out: April 2016.

I can’t believe that it is April already. This is another month with just some minor changes to what I carry, plus a bigger one that isn’t related to stationary.

What I have done is that I have re-introduced a A4 notebook into my rotation. It isn’t something I carry everywhere or anywhere. It just stays on my desk. I’m going to get more into that in an upcoming post.

I also have simplified the pens I bring with me everywhere. I have dedicated my TWSBI 580AL as my “on the go” pen, and that is the only pen I bring with me. While my Lamy 2000 is my go to long form writing pen at home. And the rest are using for writing down notes where and there. I’m also going more into this in an upcoming blog post.

Other than that, I still use the Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo in all of my pens, and almost all of my notebook needs are still centred around my Midori Travelers Notebook.

The big change to what I carry everywhere is that I finally pulled the trigger on a camera I have considered to buy for a very long time. Photography is one of my favourite hobbies, and I have been looking for a good camera that is more portable than my Canon, but more enjoyable to use than my iPhone. I bought myself a Fujifilm X100t.

As I said last month, the goal is to have pictures with more or less every single blog post I’m publishing from now on. The exception is my weekly link post.

Two Pens.

The two pens I own that I use more than anything else are my Lamy 2000 and my TWSBI 580AL.

I use them for two very different things.

My 580 is always in my MTN pen holder because it has a screw on cap, never leaks and is the perfect pen for writing a little bit here and there. But still perfectly acceptable to write long form on the go, if I need to.

The Lamy 2000 is a different story. It isn’t the perfect when it comes leaks, and hasn’t a screw on cap. But it is my favourite pen to write with; especially when I sit down to really write for longer periods of time, like I am doing now. The nib is wet and very smooth, and the lack of threading for a screw on cap makes the whole grip section much more comfortable to hold for longer periods.

I’m not that interesting in finding the perfect pen for everything, because that would be almost impossible.

I want the best possible pen to have in my bag, to use both at work and on the go. The most important thing for when it comes to this pen is that the nib is smooth, it never leaks any ink, cap or anywhere else and that it has a screw on cap. This is in many aspects the opposite of what I want from the perfect long form writing pen. I don’t care that much if it leaks a little bit into the cap, and I don’t want a screw on cap, because being comfortable to use it for a long time is much more important.

Are my current pens perfect for their task at hand?

I don’t have any complaints about my Lamy 2000, it does exactly what I want it to do.

My 580 is different story. While I don’t have much to complain about, I still don’t think it is the perfect. The next pen I am going to buy is intended to replace its role. This will be a Pilot Custom Heritage 92. I don’t want one tools that can make a good job everywhere, I want a set of tools that can make an awesome job where they fit.

Finding a place for pen & paper

One of my personal struggles in this digital age is to find a place for pen and paper. There is a time and a place for the digital tools, but there is also a place for the analoge.

There is nothing I love more than to write on good paper with a good (fountain) pen.

The struggle for me is to find the proper balance. I’m obviously not going to code on paper, and I don’t keep my long term notes on paper. The frist, because that would be dumb. And the second, because I need search and update them all the time.

But there are many things that most people use digital tools for, that I prefer using pen and paper to do.

Some of them are tasks and calendaring. My main reason there is efficiency and simplicity.

Long from writing is another area where my impression is that most people do it digital only. I think there are some big advantages to do it on paper first, even though you are going to use it digitally later.

Almost everything I write starts out on a sheet of paper or a page in a notebook. For software development it is about figuring out what to do, and potential parts, before I get started. And then about writing down everything I need to remember as I go. A notebook is the perfect tool because then I don’t need to leave what I am doing to add it to some application.

Regular writing is a little bit different. A large portion of what I write is either published online or sent as e-mails. But I do write a huge amount of stuff that never go anywhere. Either because that was the intent, or because it is crap.

To write it on paper before you bring it over to something else, and in the process, rewriting it takes more time. I think it is a very good idea to do so.

We are all reading, editing, and revising everything we write. Right?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It is just too easy to say: “Fuck it…”. And just publish it before you gave it the proper grooming; or send the e-mail before you gave it the time. I never start to write where it is going to end up.

For example: this blog post is first written in a notebook, before I transacribe(and edit it during the process) into Ulysses on my Mac. Then I make sure all the grammar en spelling is correct. I try to always give it another few rounds of reading and editing before I publish it.

This is more or less the same process I use for everything I write. It might sound like a long and unnecessary process. But it isn’t.

You are right, it takes longer time. But that is fair compromise if it makes sure the end result is better.

Use your pens and paper anywhere you want. Figure out where it works for you, and don’t work for you. The most important thing is to find the place where it improves your work.

On Kickstarter pens and notebooks.

I have written about this before, but like many other things I just mentioned it in passing without going that much into it.

I see interesting projects on kickstarter and alike more or less every week. Kickstarter projects and limited edition products are two things I’m not fund of.

I don’t mind limited edition stuff as long as the only difference is the aesthetic.

I’m not a collector, I’m a user. That means that if I loose or break something I love – I’ll get another of the same model. The same goes for notebooks. I buy more of the same most of the time.

Some people love to pledge and make new and interesting projects happen, and I get it. I’m not that interesting most of the time. The exception is companies that use kickstarter to get a company started. And not just make a few of “X”.

My interest in what comes out of Kickstarter is when they are done with that phase and becomes a real company. Not many of them get that far. But if they make something good, I’ll be more than happy to support them by buying their product when they come that far.

Midori Travelers Notebook: why you should get one.

There are a few stationary products, but not that many though, that I whole heartedly believe everyone should check out. The Midori Travelers Notebook is without doubt one of them. I’m going to get to why in a moment. But let me explain what it is first.

A Midori Travelers Notebook consists of three parts:

  • The Cover
  • Refills
  • Accessories.

You can get two different covers from Midori, one regular sized and one passport sized. There are also a whole community of unofficial third party covers available. So there should be something that fits more or less every aesthetic and practical preference.

The best thing about the MTN in my opinion is the wide variety of refills. You have all the usual stuff: lined, grid and blank. But can also get different calendar refills, and special refills for drawing(heavier paper), thinner paper(if you want more pages per refills) or kraft paper for weirdos and scrapbookers.

You can fit up to six refills in the official cover, and there are unofficial covers that can fit even more.

Accessories for the Midori Travelers Notebook is world for itself. I personally only use one: a pen holder, but I have been thinking about adding a second one. There are plenty of official and unofficial accessories that you can attach to the cover or fit inside it. Everything from my beloved pen holder, to zip pockets, credit card holders, and much much more.

Why is it so great? You can put together a set of refills and accessories that fits exactly what you need, and you can just change the setup when your needs change.

My big problem with all the notebooks I have had before is that I want lined paper 99% of the time, to write long form or to manage tasks and stuff like that, but there are times when I want a blank page. Not that often, but it happens. I solved this problem in my Midori Travelers Notebook by having five lined notebooks, and one blank one at the end.

Another big problem for me in the past, that the MTN solves is the many notebooks problem. I like to have one for journaling, one for tasks, one for miscellaneous, one for studying and one for work. The many notebooks problem is divided in two: you have the two small or too large problem: Field Notes – too small; regular notebook – too heavy and too large(you don’t have enough room in your bag, and you always have many pages left when you don’t need it anymore) & you need to remember to bring them all.

The way this is solved by using a MTN is simple: you have all your different notebooks in one cover, as long as you remember your cover, you remember all your notebooks. And the number of pages is note too small, where you feel like you always need to carry 2 or 3 extras just in case you want to write a lot. While at the same time small enough that you feel like you can use a whole notebook for a project.

A third problem I often face is that what I need or want changes. Most notebooks don’t adept well to change. If I suddenly need a grid for some weird reason? Well, then I just order a few grid refills and start using them. Some regular notebooks have tried to combine blank and lined, or blank and grid paper before. I like the idea of having more than one page formatting in the same package. But I think the way they did it was wrong. It is impossible to find a configuration that works for everyone. I probably use one or two blank pages for every ten lined pages I write. To have them in the same refill or notebook is a mistake. But you can do a lot of interesting things, when you have the option of combining different refills in a cover. If you mostly write on lined paper but sometimes need a blank page, and sometimes need a grid? Just fill 4 slots with lined, and one blank and one grid.

To summarise, you should get one because you can customise everything from the accessories to the combination of refills to something that fits your need right now; and you can change it to what ever your needs are tomorrow without any problems at all. You are only limited by the FedEx delivery time and the number of refills you can fit in the cover.

Lefties and fountain pens.

I’m not sure how many articles I read about being left handed and using a fountain pen when I started to get interested. Some of them were good, and a very few excellent ones have come up since then. But I have always missed a good guide. This is my crack at providing it.

People that write with their right hand are lucky enough to pull their hand away from what they write, this gives them the advantage of having the time they use to write a whole line for the ink to dry. That combined with being the majority seems like a pretty sweet deal.

Being left handed can be difficult for a number of reasons. Writing on a blackboard or whiteboard is very difficult, you have three options: smudge what you write as you go, learn to under or over write or try to write without stabilising your arm.

My biggest annoyance with most of the articles about using fountain pens left handed is that most of them take the “just use this and this” route.

Let me start with the problem left handed writers meet when they try to write with either a fountain pen or any “wet” pen: you start writing and you mess it up by dragging your hand over it.

There are two different ways you can solve this problem, either by limiting the time what you write with takes to dry or by learning a few techniques. The techniques takes a while to get a handle on, you don’t need to learn them, but I recommend it because there are always situations where you need them. They are called over and under writing. The basic principle is that you place your hand in a angle where it instead of dragging over your current line drag either above or below it. I’m not very good at either, but I know how to do both. I prefer overwriting, but underwriting is a must if you have to write on a blackboard or a whiteboard.

Dry time. There are a few factors that plays a role in how long time it take for what you write or draw to dry:

  • Paper: some kinds of paper absorb the ink faster than others. This is a very complicated topic. I usually go after the rule that thick paper in general absorb ink faster, but there are exceptions, like Rhodia’s paper. Most good paper give you a short dry time, without bleed through or feathering. While cheap thick paper can give you should dry time, but often also a lot of feathering and some bleed through. Going for a paper that gives you a minimal dry time is something I think is a very good idea in the beginning.
  • Ink: some inks dry faster than others, and there are a lot of reasons for it. Some brands are made to have very short dry time, some inks have a okay dry time, while some inks have a dry time that makes them almost unusable for left handed writers. Both Goulet and JetPens tell you on the product page if it is a fast drying ink. Going for a ink that dries fast is useful in the beginning. But you should not be discouraged to stay away from a ink just because it has a little bit longer dry time. What is a struggle in a beginning is not a problem at all once you learn to handle it.
  • Pen & Nib. Some fountain pens are wetter than others, this means that it lays down more ink on the page. One prime example of this is the Lamy 2000. The same goes for nibs, thinner nib means less ink. I’m not a huge fan of fine nibs. I love to write with a very wet and broad nib, because of how smooth the writing process, and how my writing looks. While others I know prefer a rougher nib because it lets them control their writing more. Go for the kind of nib and line width you prefer, but remember, the dry time is considerably shorter if you go for a finer nib because it puts way less ink on the page.

Before you get discouraged. You can probably learn how to write without smudging any kind of ink with any kind of pen and nib on any type of paper in not too long if you put your mind to it. The trick is to learn how to under and over writing. There are of course combinations that are more tricky than others, for example a very slow drying ink on the paper Rhdoia uses.

I have some very precise advice when it comes down to what to buy at not to buy, at least in the beginning.

First of all, stay away from the Lamy Safari and any Lamy and other pen that have a moulded grip section. They are made to learn right handed writers how to properly hold their pen. I have one, and I never use it for the reason that it is a pain in the ass to find a way to hold it that is comfortable.

Go for a fast drying ink in the beginning. My advice is to go for the Noodlers Bernanke black or blue is a excellent choice. It dries more or less right away on most paper that aren’t known for long dry time, and the only times I smudged with it was when I was trying to do just that.

Paper is a topic I’m not going to cover to a large extent here. I used to just go to a local book store and pick up anything with thick paper in the beginning, and that usually gave me paper that gave me either immediate dry time, or paper that dried fast enough for me to only smudge here and there. Leuchtturm1917, Midori Travelers Notebook refills and Field Notes have all given me very fast dry time.

I have one neat trick when it comes to notebooks. I have become a huge fan of narrow notebooks over the years. The two notebooks I used to most compared to when I started to use them are Field Notes and Midori Travelers Notebook. The thing that is great about a narrow notebook, is that you can learn how to write without moving your hand much. And that limits smudging a lot. The other thing that I think is great about narrow notebook is that you can, if you want to limit how much space and paper you waste. A empty line in a MTN refill is around half the amount of paper you waste in a regular A4 sized notebook.

How to get started? Just order a pen, the TWSBI Eco or Pilot Metropolitan are good choices and remember to get a converter to the Metropolitan so that you can use ink from a bottle. Get a bottle of Bernanke blue or black, I prefer the black. And just start writing a lot with it. There will be some smudging in the beginning, it is like that for everyone, especially lefties. The important thing is to try to learn how to under and over write.

I remember that I got two bottles of ink when I got my Lamy 2000, one Bernanke Black and one with the Lamy black ink. The latter was absolutely useless for me in the beginning. But the Noodler Bernanke had such a short dry time that I almost never smudged anything, and I had learned the proper technique by the time that bottle was empty. I don’t even think much about dry time and so on these days.

Your first fountain pen.

I have reviewed the three fountain pens that I personally consider to be the best beginner fountain pens. Which one you should get is a difficult question. But I’m going to give some short but straight to the point on why you want it, or don’t want it.

  • Go for the TWSBI Eco if you aren’t afraid of buying ink in bottles.
  • Go for the Pilot Metropolitan if you want something good and cheap as a starting point.
  • Go for the Lamy Safari if you want to test different nibs to figure out what you prefer.

The best buy of the three is in my opinion the TWSBI Eco, while the Pilot Metropolitan is the cheapest place to start, and the Lamy Safari is the thing you want, if you want to experiment; like you did in college.

Review: The Lamy Safari.

There used to be two pens that where the beginner fountain pen; the Lamy Safari and the Pilot Metropolitan. Made by two great companies. And Lamy Safari was the beginner fountain pen before that.

Both of them are highly compromised pens, but most people forgive that when it comes to the Metropolitan because it is much cheaper than the Safari. You can get a TWSBI Eco for the same price, and I would recommend that if you don’t have any problems with buying bottled ink.

I ordered my Lamy Safari a week after I got my first fountain pen: the Pilot Metropolitan. My relationship with this pen is a love-hate one – at the same time. The thing I love about it is how “goofy” it looks. It is this weird plastic thing. And you have a wide variety of colours and styles to chose from. You have a lot more nibs to pick from, than the Metropolitan, and you can just get a pack of all the different Lamy nibs and test out what you prefer. It is a fantastic pen for this exact reason.

I think it is a little bit more expensive than it should be. But my main issue with the pen is the grip section. This is not a Safari problem, but a problem I have with all the cheaper Lamy pens. They have formed the grip to match how you are supposed to hold the pen, and that is fine, by itself, and very useful for when you learn how to write. But, that only works well for right handed people. Most left handed writers like myself, just ignore it and hold it as they please. It is possible, and it works okay. But it has always annoyed the living shit out of me.

Lamy nibs are still to this day the best I have ever used. And I would without doubt carry a few of these if they fixed the damn grip section.