Review: The Pen Addict Retro 51.

I don’t usually buy limited edition products, this might be the first time I have done it. The reason I wanted to buy it is the same reason I support [The Pen Addict](http://penaddict.com) as a member, both on the web site and over at [Relay.fm](http://relay.fm), and because it is the best looking Retro 51 I have ever seen.

This isn’t really the kind of Limited Product that drive me insane, you can get more or less the same thing, the only difference is that it looks different.

The pen looks amazing, and so does the packaging. My favourite design detail is the subtle Pen Addict logo at the top of the pen. I spent a few hours with it when I got it this week(or last week when this is published) and it feel exactly like a Retro 51 should feel. Retro 51 have always had the feeling perfection when you hold the pen and when you twist it.

But the finish of this pen feels much more grippy than the other Retro 51’s I have used, and I like it a lot.

A fantastic pen, and I can’t wait to see what the next Pen Addict Pen will look like.

Small or large?

I always try to use the smallest bag I can get away with. This is the kind of where you have room for what you need, and not much more.

My previous bag was perfect for what I needed then. But it is too small because I have to bring my computer to and from work at my current job, something I didn’t need to at my previous.

The one I am using is way too big, and I haven’t found the new “perfect” yet.

My problem with a large bag is that it leaves room for carrying a lot of junk. The result is two new problems, first it becomes full, and then you can’t find anything, because it is full of junk.

The result is that I have to empty it once a week, put back what I need and figure out what to do with the crap.

The thing I like about using a bag where you don’t have much more room than what you need is that you can’t fill it up with crap, and you need to consider every singe thing you want to add. It comes down to how important that new thing is, and figure out what to do. You could chose to not add it, or you could remove something else or get a bigger bag. It all comes down to how important it is.

It always feels like I am doing better choices when I really have to consider everything up against each other. This is one of the ways I try to force myself to do just that.

On when to buy.

I have written many times before about questioning what you use, as a way of finding the best tools available to do what ever you are trying to do. But I have left one very important slot open, and that is when to do it.

It is very easy to buy every single new and shiny thing out there, just because they are new and shiny. But that is just a very simple way to spend a lot of money, and fill your house with a lot of crap you’ll never use. The alternate approach is to let the need come before, you buy it; instead of trying to find a use for something after you buy it.

For me, everything stationary I order are in one of two categories: new stuff and more of what I already use. What I mean by more of what I already use is things that I need more of(inks, refills, notebooks etc) and things I need to replace, like pens. While new stuff are new pens and other items that I buy to solve a specific problem.

Let me begin with new stuff. I don’t order anything the first time I see them because I know that it is a fairly big chance I won’t use it much unless I have a plan for what it is going to solve for me. But I add everything interesting I see to a list, so that I have a good place to start when I need something to solve a specific problem. And when I decide to buy it, wait a few weeks to see if I really need to pull the trigger. Some problems aren’t big enough to actually justify it, while others are.

The tricky part is when you want more of something you already own and use. For example inks or notebooks. It’s okay to have a few bottles of ink or a nice pile of Field Notes. But you should in general avoid ordering at a higher pace than you are using. My strategy have always been to order a pile of refills for my Travellers Notebook or a pile of Field Notes and then wait until my stock is almost out before I order more. And seriously: how many bottles of ink do you need? When you are getting close to owning more ink that you can use for the rest of your life, is the moment where you should stop buying; and maybe selling a few bottles before you order more?

Everything matters.

I think I first learned about this concept when I started playing guitar, everything has an impact on the sound. From the strings you use, to the picks and everything about how the guitar is made. The same goes for your pens and notebooks.

When you are trying to achieve something, everything that is a part of that something will have an impact. I always find it useful to write down a few sentences about what my goal is.

The most important thing for me is always short enough dry time without any bleed through, while others might think that no feathering is more important than the dry time. My perfect setup would be instant dry time, no bleed through and no feathering. But that is impossible. You could probably get it with a very thin nib, but I’m not a fan of nibs like that because they are way too scratchy for my taste; and I have thing for a thick line.

You need to start with your goal. Before you figure out what the options for getting there are. But you also need to look at where you are willing to compromise.

My personal experience is that you do get something from picking an ink with short dry time combined paper that are known for shorter dry time. But the key factor is the the pen. How broad and wet the nib is the most important factor.

Using a journal to keep track of habit forming.

I’m more interested in habits and how to get yourself to do what you want than the average human.

Let’s say you want to do something, for example read more books, buy more pens or go more to the gym. A typical solution to this a resolution; they usually come in the form of “Work out twice a week”. There are a number of problems with it though.

The problem with it is that you will fail many times, and the typical resolution don’t take this into consideration. A good goal should be achievable, not too hard, while at the same time pushing yourself. It should be hard to fail.

I have taken a different approach to it the last few years. I set a number. For example “I want to go to the gym 100 times this year”. The total number of times you go to the gym is more or less the same, but it takes into consideration that you will skip a week here and there, without breaking it. If you skip a week while on vacation or sick – then you’ll have to make it up by the end of the year.

This is a fantastic way to use that pile of Field Notes you haven’t started using yet. The way I do it is that I write what the goal is on the first page, the next two pages I use to keep track of how many times I have done it. Then I start writing dates; all the days I went to the gym. You can also write some notes about each entry if needed; this is what I do to keep track of all the books I read during a calendar year. I write the date I completed it followed by Author and Title.

Ink Review: J Herbin Caroube de Chypre

[This bottle of ink was sent to me by Pen Chalet, free of charge for the purpose of this review. This does not affect the review in any way. ](https://www.penchalet.com/ink_refills/fountain_pen_ink/j_herbine_1670_bottled_fountain_pen_ink.html)

The bottle is one of the most beautiful bottles I have seen. My only complaint about it is that the bottom of the bottle is flat, many bottles have a hole at the bottom to make sure that you can use as much of the ink as possible. Everything about this bottle is beautiful, but I do miss some information about the name of the ink on it, there isn’t any information at all on the bottle itself. Design is about beauty, usability and practicality, and it leans too much in the beauty direction.

I never do any dry time tests with any of my inks. There are probably some value to them, but I usually start by writing with the ink on the different notebooks I use. My problem with the standard dry time test is that there are so many other factors than the ink that will have an important role in the dry time like pen, nib and paper. The dry time with this ink is not super fast, but still fast enough to not be any issue at all for me. Left handed beginners might struggle a little, but everyone else will not have any issues.

This is not a ink I would have bought myself. But it have gotten me interested in J Herbin and a little bit more “exotic” inks. And it will be something I’m considering in the future.

I usually go for ink colours that are clearly a colour. For example, that is a blue and clearly a blue. This ink has a beautiful brown colour with some hints of red. I would call it a redish-brown. It also have some cool gold shimmer in it.

You can use this ink with, and without the shimmer, shake the bottle before you fill it up, if you want them. They do alter the colour a little bit, I don’t notice much difference. But I clearly see the gold, when I look the the page from an angle.

This is a highly saturated ink, so use it with some caution.

The conclusion is that I really like this ink. The colour is very nice, and it is something I can use both at home and at work without people fussing too much about it. For me, the key thing about any ink is the dry time. To be something I’m going to use, it has to be short enough for me to not notice it, this ink falls in that category. And it’s fun to look at the dried ink from an angle to see the gold.

Great ink. Check it out.

My New Work Notebook.

I have spent a lot of time looking for a good notebook to use at work. My previous work place(I work as a Software Developer Consultant, so I work for as long as they need me, before I move over to the next gig) had a supply cabinet with not great but good enough notebooks, so I used them.

I have been using MYN refills since I started at my current gig, but I don’t think they are the right thing to use at work.

What Do I need?

  • Short dry time
  • Be able to rip out pages
  • A notebook that stays flat, so I can read pages and take notes without having to fiddle with the notebooks.

I considered everything from the Baron Fig stuff to LT1917, Rhodia and so on.

I landed on a notebook that I have been curious about for a very long time: The Field Notes Steno Pad. The paper isn’t the best, but I know it after filling over 50 of the pocket sized Field Notes; they are not the best for fountain pens but work pretty well, everything considered. The dry time is short. It is more or less the perfect notebook for me to use at work.

The format is superior to the “book” format in this context, but I prefer a more book like format if it is a notebook I have to carry in my bag all the time, because they are more durable. But it is perfect for something that just lays around on a desk.

I also think the steno page layout is great for task management; you can use the full width, when needed; but the half width is surprisingly useful while dealing with projects with a lot of simple tasks.

Review Field Notes Wooden Archival Box

I ordered the archival box a while back. This is one of the products I have considered so many times that I don’t know how many times I have almost pulled the trigger. And it have been on my wish list for about two years, probably closer to two and half.

The funny thing is that I have almost filled it up with used notebooks within minutes of getting it.

You get a simple, well designed, but not fancy wooden box. They included some dividers, but I don’t use them. It is a very good solution, if you are looking for a practical way to store your Field Notes, without wasting a lot of space, while still having easy access to the notebooks.

All my previous attempts have been far from effective and straight out annoying and a pain in the ass. They either require ridiculous amounts of space, or makes it very hard to get access to the notebooks.

It is a little bit expensive, but the fact that it works so much better than the other options makes up for it. You have just enough space for the height of the Field Notes, and it it just tall enough for the dividers to fit. The fact that it doesn’t waste any space at all is the thing I appreciate the most about it.

Is it worth the money? Yes!

I’ll probably order another one in a while; but that one will hopefully last me at least two years.

Where to spend your money.

One of the ever lasting, and truly frustrating things about fountain pens is to figure out where to spend your money. It is very tempting to buy something new every single time you have enough in your budget.

I don’t think it is the smartest thing to do so.

The interesting thing about fountain pens is that the value you get isn’t promotional to the price. There are some pens where you get a lot of value for your buck. For example: Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari and TWSBI Eco are pens where you get a ridiculous amount of value for your money.

The TWSBI 580AL is a “better” pen compared to the Eco; at least in some aspects, but not all. While the Lamy Al Star isn’t even a better version of the Lamy Safari, it’s just a heavier version, that in my opinion is less durable, and is more expensive.

It is very easy to spend enough money in cheap fountain pens, where the total amount adds up to what you could have paid for a Lamy 2000.

Where to spend your money? Spend some money, get a few nice pens in the $15 – $30 range. You get a lot of pen for your money, especially if you go for one of the pens I mention above. It is hard to find anything that beats the TWSBI Eco or the Pilot Metropolitan when it comes to what you get for your money.

There are a lot of good pens between $30 and $150, but I would not spend much if any money there if I were you. Save a little bit longer and go for a Lamy 2000 (it’s around $150). And I have heard a lot of fantastic things about the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (between $130 and $225; I don’t get why the prices are so different at Goulet and JetPens on this particular pen).

When you go beyond the $250 mark, that is the moment where you shop after different criteria than value. There are many very cool pens that cost a lot more than $250, but it is more about getting something very cool, instead of how much you get for your money. Are they better than a $150 Lamy 2000? Probably. That much better? I doubt it.

There are some exception to what I am talking about here, and that is custom or special nibs. For example pens with flex nibs can be very expensive. But for most pens above $250, is about a very unique design, high quality products without that much focus on what you get for your money.

I Missed a couple of posts.

I try to keep a reliable schedule here at The Ink Smudge. My goal is to always have a post out every Monday and Wednesday. I tried to do three posts a week for a while, but that became too much, and the result was a short break.

Well, I missed two posts in a row, because I wasn’t feeling that well last week. I’m all better now, but I didn’t get the time to get everything ready for this afternoon. But I’m going to publish the post I planned on posting last Wednesday, and today plus the regular Wednesday post this week.

They are more or less ready to go, and will appear tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.

Enjoy!