A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Many of you are probably already aware that November is "NaNoWriMo," short for National Novel Writing Month. Full details are at the link, but the basic idea is to get a 50,000-word novel written in 30 days by emphasizing consistent daily writing without worrying about quality as you go. Hey, that part sounds fun!

A 50,000 word novel seems somewhat — make that very — ambitious for me. I haven't even come up with an idea yet! But a short story . . . well, that sounds "do-able."

Thus, for me, November will be Short Story Writing Month: "ShoStoWriMo."


Two-pen giveaway! Red Platinum Plaisir Fountain Pen, Medium nib and Red Platinum Preppy, Medium Nib

Platinum Plaisir Fountain Pen with Cap Posted
The Platinum Plaisir: the Japanese pen with the French name

Plaisir is the French word for "pleasure," and I was expecting the $20 Platinum Plaisir fountain pen in a red finish to be a pleasure to look at and a pleasure to write with. It turned out to be neither, but maybe that's just me. Somewhere out there is a good home for this pen, where someone will appreciate it, so I am giving it away (paired with a red Platinum Preppy, for reasons I explain below). Entry instructions are at the end of this post.

First Impressions

Platinum Plaisir Fountain PenIf you are looking for a fountain pen that is sure to be noticed whenever you whip it out, look no further than the red Platinum Plaisir. I cannot convey how bright the red finish on this pen really is. My pictures do not do it justice . . . even the photos at Jet Pens, from whom I purchased it, make it look dull in comparison to what it looks like when you're holding it in your hand. Make no mistake: this pen is to red what the Monteverde Invincia Stealth is to black. Vivid, bright and glossy.

Which is why I am giving it away. I bought it expecting a more understated finish, and every time I look at it, I am reminded of a giant lipstick. This particular finish, to my mind, in combination with the trim, makes for a distinctly feminine look, which did not come through at all in the photos.

Just looking at those photos again, though, I have to wonder, What was I thinking? But I remember exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking that an inexpensive red pen would be perfect for keeping inked up with a red ink for editing documents at work. And I probably spent too much time looking at the photo of all the pens together, in which the pen's finish looks more dull. The final factor in my purchase was probably my penchant for purchasing entry-level pens from high-end pen manufacturers.

In any event, I'm glad I have this blog, because I know this pen can find a good home. If I kept it, it would not come out of the drawer again.

Other design features

Once you get past the red finish on this pen, there are some other design characteristics of note.

The stripe down the center of the clip is color-matched to the finish of he pen barrel. The nib is likewise color-matched, but of course is not the same finish.

Platinum Plaisir Cap Ring
The busy cap ring
The cap ring is very, very shiny — I don't know if it is likewise aluminum or is instead plastic, but I'm sure it could blind you at just the right angle in sunlight. Its design is a little too busy for my tastes. It's broad, which is fine, but it looks like Platinum felt compelled to squeeze as many engraved design elements in there as it could. The Plaisir name is engraved on the cap ring directly below the clip in an outlined font; 180 degrees opposite that are the Platinum logo and the words "Platinum Japan," and the gaps in between are filled with what looks like a chain pattern. Above and below that lettering are hash mark borders, and finally a solid section on the top and bottom of the ring.  That's a lot of engraving packed into that ring.

Overall, the outside of the pen gives the impression of a much more expensive pen, but the plastic section and colored nib are clues that this is a budget model.


Platinum Plaisir and Preppy Sections and Nibs Side-by-Side
Left to right: Preppy, Plaisir
The nib, plastic section, and feed on the $20 Plaisir appear to be identical to those on the $3 Platinum Preppy. They look identical in a side-by-side comparison and the section of one fits perfectly in the other.

The cap posts very securely, but it's another feature of the cap that appears to be the Plaisir's claim to fame. From the product page at the Jet Pens website:
Everyone has experienced the inconvenience of pens drying up after a long period of unuse. It is even more problematic for fountain pens, which require almost daily use to prevent drying. The Plaisir has a specially designed cap which prevents ink from both drying and evaporating even with no use for a whole year. As talked about in Yahoo, World News, and other news sources, this new development makes fountain pens suitable for both everyday and occasional uses. In addition, the ink is preserved without waste.
I'm afraid I don't have the patience to test that claim.

Writing Experience

I have three or four Platinum Preppy fountain pens with fine nibs that I really like to write with. I figured my Plaisir would be an even smoother writer because it has a medium nib, but my experience was exactly the opposite.

It isn't scratchy so much as it's . . . squeaky. The Apica twin-ring notebook I was trying it out in has exceptionally smooth paper, but I tried a couple of other papers, too, just to make sure it wasn't the Apica notebook to blame. It squeaked on Office Depot recycled multipurpose paper and in a Piccadilly notebook. It did not squeak in a Rhodia Webbie or a Moleskine. I also tried a Levenger ink (Shiraz, I think) and Noodler's Navy, one of the most lubricating inks I know. Still got squeaking on some papers. Finally, I took a medium nib from a red Preppy and installed it on the Plaisir, and . . . still squeaky!

I realized then that I had barely used the red Preppy, because I found the "red" ink to be pink. So I tried the Preppy, and it squeaked, too. Which is weird, because I like the fine-nibbed black, blue-black, and blue Preppies I have just fine. Maybe there's something about the red nibs?

I thought about trying to tweak the nib into better performance, but as soon as I decided to give the pen away, I thought I'd better leave the tweaking to the recipient.

As usual, there are more photos in my Flickr photo set for this review.

The Giveaway

To tell you the truth, I've lost track of whether the nib on the Plaisir is the nib that came on it or is the nib from the Preppy. (I feel a little like Dirty Harry.1) So I am going to send them both to the winner. You can mix and match the sections and nibs to your heart's content if you are the winner.

If I haven't talked you out of wanting this pen, here's how you sign up for the giveaway:

1. Leave a comment.
2. Send me an email at notebookeresqATgmail.com. The body of the email must include the name you used to comment and the subject line of the email must read exactly:


I need the email so I can be sure I can contact the winner. If you leave a comment without sending an email or email me without leaving a comment, you will not be entered.

I must receive the comment and email no later than midnight on Halloween night (October 31); the time stamp on the comment and email will be the "official" times of your submission.

Platinum Plaisir Giveaway Package
The Platinum Giveaway Package: red ink cartridges, Preppy fountain pen,
Plaisir fountain pen, and ink cartridge adapter

Good luck, everyone!
1"I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself." — Clint Eastwood as "Dirty Harry" Callaghan in Dirty Harry.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

My struggle with Circa, part 2: What's up with this paper?

Judo European Championship 2010
If you've been reading my blog a while, then you may remember that I posted a very short version of my frustrations with Levenger's Circa notebooks. That post triggered some comments from those who love their Circa, and from others who likewise found them frustrating. I promised to keep trying it out. I am discovering some good, some bad along the way.

In any event, I thought those of you that commented might be curious to see how the experiment is going.

As the title gives away, this post is about the Levenger pre-punched Circa paper. Now, I don't see any explicit claims on the Levenger website that the Circa paper is fountain-pen friendly, but: (1) I have seen reviewers make that claim; (2) Levenger has at least one picture of a fountain pen on a Circa product page; and (3) the pre-punched Circa paper is insanely expensive. With all that, you'd expect it to take fountain open ink well, but I'm here to tell you: if you want to use a fountain pen regularly in a Circa notebook, you should count on buying a Circa punch so you can buy some decent paper for doing so, because the Circa paper I checked out stinks.

I started with a letter-size and junior size Circa starter kits. The paper felt nice and smooth, and its darned heavy (60 lb.) paper. But after trying a variety of pens on it, I was asking myself how they managed to engineer such a thick, smooth piece of paper into a bloody mess. That ink has to travel a long way to bleed through, but this paper apparently makes the trip easy. I tried Rolla brand paper from Staples, too, and it was just as bad.

Circa paper bleed-through
Levenger Circa paper bleed-through

Rolla Paper bleed-through
Rolla brand paper bleed-through
 Curiously (or maybe not so curiously?), the colored Circa papers — grey, yellow and blue — performed much better:

Circa paper colors - bleed-through test
Colored papers did better; Rolla brand paper at top right
Honestly, my office's everyday copy paper performs better.

So there I was, about to write off Circa forever just because the Circa paper did not take fountain pen ink well. The I started reading around Fountain Pen Network and DIY Planner and saw that lots of people are in search of better paper and plenty of people are willing to offer their advice.

Then I realized: I'm not going to be writing with fountain pens in any event. I mean, I love fountain pens, but for my everyday work notebook, keeping track of projects and my calendar, a nice gel pen is fine. But I did not like the layout of the CIrca paper, either. So I settled on some 32 lb Wausau paper, very slick to the touch. My Zebra Sarasa Clip gel pens slide across it like skates on ice. (It doesn't take fountain pen ink all that much better than the Circa paper, but at least I can print my own layouts on it.) So, I''ve kept going with Circa, and will post more about my ups and downs as I go.

And wouldn't you know, just as I get around to bitching about the Circa paper, Biffybeans announces at FPN that Levenger will be carrying Rhodia 90 gsm paper for their letter-sized Circa notebooks. Genuine letter-sized rather than A4? That would be great, except I use a junior size Circa (5.5 in x 8.5 in). But let's give it time and see what develops. (UPDATE: And here it is. But is 90 gsm heavy enough to stand up to repeated page turning and extraction/insertion?)


Friday, October 15, 2010

Let's ride! Booker's review of two Waterman Harley-Davidson Fountain Pens

A different kind of Harley V-twin
Left: Waterman Harley Davidson Horizon Orange Fountain Pen
Right: Waterman Harley-Davidson Free-Wheel Flames Fountain Pen
Ok, they may be kitsch. But they're good kitsch (if there is such a thing). I'm talking about two Harley-Davidson-branded fountain pens from Waterman: the Horizon Orange and Free-Wheel Flames models, both with medium nibs, both of which I saw at ridiculously low prices (I think) at Overstock.com: $23.49 for the Horizon Orange and $17.49 for the Free-Wheel Flames. I couldn't resist!

Waterman and Harley may seem like an odd pairing. A French Harley-branded pen? But Harleys are a world-wide phenomenon. Twenty-five years ago, I was a Marine stationed in Keflavik, Iceland, and was amazed to see on a trip into Reykjavik that the cops there rode Harleys!

Let's start with what's the same between the two, then go into their differences.

So far as I can tell, the nibs are identical in construction, size, and performance. They are very large, and these medium nibs (I'm not sure they come in any other sizes) write broader than my Lamy Safari mediums.

They are also fairly wet writers. This, combined with the nib size, makes them extremely smooth writers. These inexpensive pens probably glide more smoothly across the page than any of my other pens. (I've read, but not confirmed, that the Free-Wheel is essentially a Phileas with Harley branding; if that's true, I now know why there are so many Phileas fans at FPN.)

Nib Sizes Compared
Left to right: Harley Horizon, Monteverde Invincia Stealth,
Harley Free-Wheel Flames
Just how big are the nibs? Well, they're the first I've seen that give my Monteverde Invincia Stealth a run for the money in size. Both nibs have the full Harley-Davidson badge and shield logo, including lettering.

The only other similarity I've observed is that the barrels and caps of both seem to be plastic, but each has a very different feel. The Horizon is a larger and much heavier pen. Despite the plastic body, the Horizon has quite a bit of heft, and feels a little top-heavy with the cap posted. The Free-Wheel, on the other hand, is quite light. It also feels less substantial, more delicate.

The Free-Wheel is slightly more compact than a Safari, and the Horizon slightly larger. With caps posted, though, the Horizon is longer than the Safari because of the Horizon's short relative cap length and the way it posts.

Waterman Harley-Davidson Fountain Pens size comparison
Top to bottom: Horizon, Safari, Free-Wheel
Horizon Pen CaseThe presentation of the Horizon is fun: it ships in a plastic case that is shaped like the teardop of a motorcycle gas tank. (Hey, if you're going to be a little kitschy, why not go all the way?)

The three pens compared with caps posted
Here they are posted
(and shuffled around from the other photo, just to keep you on your toes)
Let's take a closer look at the aesthetics and feel.

Waterman Harley-Davidson Free-Wheel Flames Fountain Pen
Fuzzy letter graphics, but the flames are better

The Free-Wheel flames are a clever idea, and surely more fitting than the Wayne Campbell's flames, but the execution is a little lacking. I think the pen has the right amount of flame (wow, how do you measure that?), but the fuzzy lettering graphics next to the flames kin of bring the overall look of the pen down. I'm not sure one has a right to expect any better for $17.49, but if you are considering the purchase, you should be aware of this.

This pen is very light and easy to write with, but the plastic body does feel a little cheap. The best way I can describe it is that it feels sturdier than a Noodler's piston-filler but not as sturdy as a Lamy Safari. I'm not sure it's a good pen for slipping into your jeans pocket as you walk out the door.

There is nice detail on the cap ring, which bears both the "Waterman Paris" and "Harley-Davidson" marks.

Waterman Harley-Davidson Horizon Orange Fountain Pen

There is quite a bit more detailed relief in the design of the Horizon Orange pen. Unfortunately, by modeling the cap after a cylinder, they had to give up the classic V-twin design (though I seem to remember Harley made a thumper back in the bad old AMF days).

Horizon CapHorizon sectionI don't particularly like the section on this pen. Where it steps up in diameter is placed so that your grip has to take into account that step, unless you grip the pen a long way from the nib. I have seen this design on other pens and don't quite get it. It just doesn't seem like it would be comfortable for anybody. Is there some trick to gripping it that I am missing?

The detailing on the cap is quite nice. It includes a bar and shield logo on the end of the cap.

Of these two pens, I use the Free-Wheel more because I can grip it more comfortably.

So there you have it. These pens aren't nearly as exhilarating as a real bike, but they are as close as I will come for a while!

As usual, I have more photos in my Flickr photo set for this review.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Apica Twin Ring Notebook (7 in. x 10 in.)

Apica Twin Ring Notebook Cover
Add caption
UPDATE: Welcome, Pen Addict readers, and thanks to Brad for the link!

I bought this 7 x 10 inch Apica Twin Ring Notebook precisely because I don't generally like ring bindings.

Yes, I bought this Twin Ring Notebook because I don't generally like ring bindings. I don't like the way they get snagged on things, so I really don;t like rings that seem larger than they need to be to accommodate the pages (especially if I'm going to be removing pages from the notebook anyway, which means the rings will get more and more oversized compared to the remaining pages).

So, when I saw the rings on this notebook seemed to be just big enough to accommodate the pages, I decided to try it out . . . and it turns out my one complaint about this notebook is that the rings are too small. There's just no pleasing some people, eh?

I'll get to the problems with the rings later. Let's cover the things I love first . . . which is pretty much everything else.

The cover is nothing special. It's a somewhat rough cardboard texture. I know this notebook is available in several other colors, so maybe some of them look more impressive. The cover is stiff enough to function as a cover, but not built for durability (though I haven't really tested it in that regard). I think this is a notebook you're going to want to keep at your desk or in a storage pocket in your briefcase rather than popping it loose into your backpack and taking it everywhere with you. I'm not sure it could stand up to that.

I do like the words on the cover, which I've seen on most Apica notebooks.:


There is an odd cadence and not quite right syntax there . . . just enough to let you know that English is not the native language of Apica (these notebooks are from Japan), and I find the effect somewhat charming.

The back cover is the same weight and texture, without the writing. There is no inside pocket on it. When the notebook is folded over on itself, the resulting stiffness isn't quite like writing on a clipboard, but it will do as a writing surface in a pinch.

Apica Twin Ring Notebook - Index PageThe first page is a light blue (could be other colors in notebooks with different colored covers) and ruled for an index. Odd that the index ruling only covers the bottom of the page. A nice odd, though, if you're the artistic type and want to use the top half of the page for designating the contents of your notebook in some fancy lettering or with a drawing.

Apica Twin Ring Notebook Rings - Full Page ViewFollowing the index page are 40 pages of off-white pages with gray ruling. The outside top corner of each page has a space for numbering and dating each page. The top two rules and bottom rule on each page are somewhat heavier with tick marks spaced along them at 1 cm intervals. The ruling is 6.5 mm spacing (near a I can measure), which is just a tad narrower than the ruling in a Rhodia Webbie.

I couldn't find specs on the paper, but it is very smooth to the touch and I'm guessing its in the 80-90 gsm range. It feels thinner than the 90 gsm paper in the Webbie or Quo Vadis Habana but heavier than the 80 gsm paper in my Rhodia pads. It somehow feels more delicate.

It feels delicate, but boy, can this paper handle the ink. I tried LOTS of inks, including some of my wettest fountain pen nib/ink combinations, and this paper took it all with no feathering, no bleeding and almost no show through. Drying time is similar to my Webbie. Some inks dry a little faster in one, some a little faster in the other, but overall, they are very close.

Writing in this notebook is a dream. The pen glides across the page like an ice skate on ice.

There are no perforations on the pages. If you remove them, you're going to have the ragged edges unless you trim them. I like perforations in spiral notebooks in order to avoid that problem.

So, back to the rings. They're actually too small in diameter, in my opinion. The too-small size has the same effect as if you try to jam too many pages into a three ring binder. The inside edges don't have room to turn and they get folded over or don't travel all the way along the ring when you close it.

Apica Twin Ring Notebook Rings - Too Many PagesApica Twin Ring Notebook Rings - Bent Page Edges
Still, that's a very minor gripe. It's easy enough to prevent that problem if you keep in mind the size of the rings and exercise care when closing the notebook.

Everything else on this notebook is stellar, at least so long as you don't require ruggedness. At only $4 to $6, depending where you buy it, this is a solid value.

If you're interested, I have a few more pictures in my Flickr photo set for this review.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fountain Pen at the Water Park

An unlikely combination, wouldn't you say?

You're probably thinking I tested the durability of my Lamy Safari by taking it down a water flume, but I'm referring to something I saw when my family and I visited Knott's Soak City in Palm Springs in August. Imagine my surprise at the fountain pen design of this fill station near the center of the park:

Soak City Fountain Pen
Fountain Pen art at the Soak City water park
Around the base of this "pen" are spigots for filling water shooters, along with a button for shooting water out the top of the "pen." It was my wife that pointed out the fountain pen nib design near the top (thanks, sweetie). As I took the picture, I wondered how many people looked right at that design without any clue as to what it was supposed to imitate.

My guess? Upwards of 95%. But I'm a cynic.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Noodler's Navy Ink Sample Winners

Winners were picked using Random.org's random number generator. Congratulations to the following, each of whom has until midnight on Monday, October 11 to claim his or her ink simple by emailing me his or her mailing address:

Julie (Okami)
Erin C.

Use the the Gmail badge in the sidebar to email me. I may not be able to mail the samples until this weekend, so please be patient.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Noodler's Navy ink review, ink sample giveaway . . . and disclosure of a deep, dark secret (updated with winners)

Noodler's Navy Ink Bottle Label
Nothing particularly "Navy" about that catfish!
I've been sitting on two bottles of ink Jet Pens generously provided me for free for reviews. Here's the first one: Noodler's Navy.

Odd they decided not to call it Navy Blue, but I guess the "blue" is obvious. Nobody's going to think it's Navy orange. Which could explain why they went with a catfish on the label instead of something navy-related. I'll have more to say about "navy blue" when I reveal the secret near the end of this post, and instructions for entering the ink sample giveaway are at the very end of this post.

So, you all know that I'm still earning my ink review chops, but I have a couple of very general observations to make here.

The Review

I did not like this color at all the first time I tried it. It seemed boring, especially compared to my then-favorite blue, Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo. But this ink has really been growing on me. The shading is attractive, and the blue is such a deep midnight color.

Noodler's Navy Ink Writing Sample with auto-adjust applied

You'll see some skipping toward the end of that line written with the 1.5 mm italic nib, but I'm pretty sure that was the fault of the nib, which needed a good soak. This ink has flowed exceptionally well in all three pens I've tried, and it seems well-lubricated. It even made my dry-writing Pilot Knights feel comfortable to write with. It's a wet-writing ink that also tended to make my pens write a little broader than they do with other inks. But the comfort made it worth it, and you just have to remember that characteristic when you ink up.

I must say that I think Noodler's Navy stacks up well against other deep blues in appearance. The deep, deep midnight color is quite attractive.

Noodler's Navy Ink Color Comparisons

I really don't think I've done this ink justice with these photos. Hopefully I'll have a working scanner again by the time I write my next ink review.

The Secret

Now, to make up for these cruddy pictures, it's time for me to let you in on that secret. While this color does indeed resemble what most people think of as "navy blue," there is no "navy blue" in the Navy. I spent four years at the Naval Academy and another five years in the Marine Corps, where I spent plenty of time around squids sailors, and I can tell you on good authority that every Navy uniform you think is blue is . . . black. Not dark, dark, dark, dark blue. Black. Noodler's Heart of Darkness black. Peacoats (which we called "reefers") and overcoats: black. Ties: black. That dark band around the white caps ("covers") and shoulder boards: black. Those double-breasted suit-looking uniforms ("service dress blue"): black, black black.

The dungarees, of course, are blue, as are the ball caps worn with them. And the stripe around the edge of a plebe cover at the Naval Academy ("dixie cup" -- I've still got mine around here, somewhere!) is also blue  . . . but that's about it.

Somewhere in naval history, there must have been more blue. Or maybe the color is named from someone else's navy. Whatever the case, Noodler's Navy is a pleasing deep midnight blue. At least, that's what I call it.

The Giveaway

Jet Pens sent me this bottle of ink for free, and I'm going to share the good fortune by giving away five -- count 'em, five -- ink samples of 2-4 ml each. To enter yourself in the giveaway, all you've got to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight Sunday night, October 3. The time stamp on the comment will determine the timing of your entry. I'll select five comments at random and post the winners here and in a new post on Monday, October 4. Winners will have one week to email me their mailing address.

It helps if you use a distinctive name or leave some unique comment. If three guys named Dan leave a comment, that makes it easier to distinguish the Dan that is the winner.

Update: The Winners!

Winners were picked using Random.org's random number generator. Congratulations to the following, each of whom has until midnight on Monday, October 11 to claim his or her ink simple by emailing me his or her mailing address:

Julie (Okami)
Erin C.

Use the the Gmail badge in the sidebar to email me. I may not be able to mail the samples until this weekend, so please be patient.