The Year In Numbers

As the year ends I thought it would be fun (at least for me) to look as some numbers for the past year.

The Blog

WordPress kicked off this idea by sending the annual report. I had over a quarter million views and about 80,000 visitors. Thanks to you all and I hope you found the site informative and useful. Both visitors and views are considerably higher than 2014 but views per visitor stayed at 3.21 year-over-year.

This will be my 177th post of the year. It’s 10 more than last year and more than I would have guessed, especially when I think of it as nearly one post every other day.

A thanks to my top referrers:

  1. The Pen Addict
  2. The Well-Appointed Desk

Also in the top five were Twitter and a Tumblr I run called Fountain Pen Links which is just firehose of pen related links, some of which end up in my Sunday Notes and Links.

The Pens

I added 11 fountain pens to my accumulation in 2015 and I have one more (Edison Pens group buy) paid for and due in early 2016. This continues the downward trend from last year. I never want to actually do the math to total up how much I spent, but while the number of new pens was lower this year I have to believe this year had the highest average cost per pen.

I sold or gave away 15 pens so there was a net decline in my accumulation.

I cleaned out a fountain pen 59 times during the year and have 13 inked up as I enter 2011. Most pens were cleaned after being written dry although a couple went early due to problems or extended non-use. Some fountain pens got multiple fills before being cleaned.

The Inks

I did not do a good job of keeping track of my inks. There are 156 in my spreadsheet but I suspect a few are missing.

I managed to use two bottles of ink enough to empty them – Montblanc Bordeaux (I still have more) and Montblanc Corn Poppy Red. (Yes, I like Montblanc ink.) The Bordeaux was opened last year while the Corn Poppy Red lost some to evaporation as it spent a year in an inkwell.

Number of Montblanc Bordeaux bottles that are still unopened (the most important number of all): 3

The Notebooks

This is the first year in recent memory that I used a notebook or planner for an entire year. I just wrote about that book – the Hobonichi Planner.

Doane Paper is still my most used paper brand. I filled three Large Jotters this year. Mainly work related and other notes taken while working at my desk. I also went through uncountable large writing tablets.

My pocket-sized notebook usage is way down this year. I don’t recall finishing off any of them although I have several in various stages of use.

Happy New Year

I wish you all the best for 2016. It has potential since there’s an extra day which means more fountain pen usage.


What I Use: Hobonichi Techo Journal

Hobo Techo Planner kept closed by an elastic

I’ve been using a Hobonichi Techo Journal this past year. Well, most of 2015, I did lapse a bit in the middle of the year. I haven’t written about it since I didn’t have anything to say that wasn’t already said in other reviews. That’s still the case so there’s links to other reviews down below. But the Year end is a good time to review the ways I’ve tried using the Techo along with my anticipated use in 2016, since I did buy a 2016 version.

I’ve never been much of a paper paper person, at least not since electronic options have been available. All my attempts at using a paper planner have resulted in quick and complete failure. So I didn’t get the Hobonichi with the intention of using it as a planner. I’d consider it as a planner but I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d use it, and this played out over the year as my usage changed.

I didn’t get a cover or any accessories for the Techo, they can be pricey and I wasn’t confident I would continue using it. I didn’t intend to carry the Hobonichi very often and when I did I thought any cover would add unwanted bulk. I ended up using a large rubber band to keep it closed.

2015 Hobonichi Techo Planner

The Techo is an A6 sized planner which is small. The paper is thin so the book isn’t very thick despite having a page per day plus many additional pages. Each daily page is grid ruled which is not my favorite choice. Sunday’s are a light red while other days are a thin black, and I’ve gotten used to it. There’s an area for a timeline down the left with “12” and dinner utensils preprinted. I wish these weren’t preprinted. While I do like recording a time for each entry I rarely match up to the two preprinted times.

As you may know the Hobonichi uses fountain pen friendly Tomoeo River paper. I used fountain pen exclusively. The paper is thin and while bleed through isn’t a problem there’s some show-through. In general show-through never bothers me and I regularly use both sides of any paper. With my thin nibs the show-through is there but minimal with the Hobionichi. What does bother me is the time it takes for ink to dry on this paper. I cut a piece of blotter paper to fit the Techo and place between the pages. In addition to making my current page easy to fine it keeps the ink from transferring to the facing page when I close the book. Sure, I could wait for the ink to dry but that would require patience. Plus, it provides a bit of a cushion to write on if I’m using a hard thin nib that might leave an imprint on the page below the one I’m writing on.

The Hobonichi contains a monthly section, with each month covering a two page spread. I started the year using this section to plan longer term projects and themes for a week. I never referred back to this information so this section died out in March. This was also my only attempt to use the Techo to actually plan more than a week ahead.

Hobonichi Techo Planner monthly page spread
Hobonichi Techo Planner monthly page spread

It was the daily pages that I used regularly, although in different ways throughout the year. It ended up being more of a journal than a planner. Regular use through the year included tracking goals such as weight and how far I walk each day. I would also track other things for short periods of time, such as my home bandwidth usage when it seemed higher than normal for the month.

One habit that I did develop, and plan to continue, is to start each day with a short entry about what time I woke up, how motivated I’m feeling and what the weather is like. At various times I’ve tried listing accomplishments during the day and a summary at the end of the day, but these never stuck as habits.

Lately I’ve returned to using it as a short term planning. On Sunday night I usually plan my week ahead. As part of this I copy any appointments from my electronic calendar to the Hobonichi. I don’t have many these days so it’s quick to do. Then I pick a theme, project, or client that I’ll concentrate on for each day of the week. This kind of works for me but I won’t be continuing this next year. It helps because I see the info as I make my morning entry first thing, but I never refer to it during the day. If I have the book out near the end of the day I can quickly see what’s on tap for the next day. That’s a big “if” so I’m still in the habit of checking my electronic calendar and OmniFocus to see what’s on tap for the next day.

I never did get into the quotes on each two day spread or any of the other specialized pages. I’d prefer more space to write instead of the quotes but I suppose they are part of the Hobo charm. I might use some of the other pages this year, but probably not.

I did get a Hobonichi Techo for 2016 but I’ll be using it a bit diffently. I bought a Agendio that I intend to use as a traditional planner. Having the Techo for a year helped me work out if I could use a paper planner (yes), and if so what I would want in one (not the Hobo). For me, the drawback of the Techo is that there’s either a month view or a day view. I like to see a week at a time and I don’t need a lot of room for each day. In 2016 I’ll be using the Techo as a journal rather than a planner. I’ll keep doing my morning entries and tracking diet and other health related metrics since I find this is a good incentive to keep me on track and stick to good habits. Despite past failures I plan to end each day with an entry about the day along with anything interesting that I saw or did.

Additional Reading

The Pen Addict – Susan mainly reviews the larger Hobonichi Cousin but there is a comparison. She did not like the Techo for several reasons, so it’s worth reading if you want to avoid surprises.

The Newsprint – Good review with lots of details about the book itself. Great photos.

Gourmet Pens – Azizah was a bit overwelmed by everything in the Hobo (as was I but I just ignored much of it). This review comes after it “clicked” and she’s used it awhile.

There’s a large fan community around Hobonichi planner. Use Ian Hedley’s Pennaquod pen blog searcher or Google to search for enough reading to consume a day (or week).

Ink & Pen Notes: Esterbrook Dip-Less with Montblanc Corn Poppy Red

Esterbrook Inkwell and Displess Pen. Dusty, stained and ready to be cleaned.

I poured a full bottle of Montblanc Corn Poppy Red into the Esterbrook #407 Inkwell back on Feb. 28th of this year. It went dry this past Sunday, after 10 months of use and evaporation. The pen used was exclusively a bright red Esterbrook Dip-less with an #7550 firm extra fine nib. Both the pen and nib are gorgeous. I never get bored with the inkwell and pen on my desk.

I primarily used the pen to mark up documents, a task which suits the nib and ink perfectly. Occasionally I’d use it for short notes. The nib does hold a lot of ink with each dip, living up to its name. I rarely used the pen to write so much that multiple dips were needed. I may not write much at one time, but it does get used nearly every day since it’s so convenient and quick to use.

On the downside, it is a project to clean the pen and inkwell, although I can’t complain since I only need to do it once, maybe twice, a year. I do have to give the nib and pen receptor a quick cleaning every six weeks or so to remove the dried ink. This is more aesthetically annoying rather than something that causes a problems using the pen, although having the pen sticking in the receptor can be a little disconcerting.

The photos below show a nib that hasn’t been cleaned in over 6 weeks while the inkwell was nearing empty. It looks corroded and bad.

But that’s a cruel illusion. A quick pass through running water gets most of the Montblanc Corn Poppy Red out.

Getting all traces of the ink out was a different story. No quick flush here. Although staining wasn’t a problem the ink had plenty of time to work its way into every nook and cranny.

The inkwell soaked for hours and yet traces of red kept appearing. Now the reality is that I could have stopped and everything would have been fine. There wasn’t any staining and any ink left wouldn’t have affected the next ink I picked.

I don’t like pulling the nib out of this pen since I’m paranoid that I’ll break the lever. The last time I was immediately refilling with the same color ink so I just held the pen in the ultrasonic cleaner for short time to remove as much ink as possible. This time I plan to store the pen for a month or so and then refill the inkwell with a different ink color. I wanted a thorough cleaning. So after some time soaking and a pass in the ultrasonic cleaner I figured the dried ink wouldn’t be a problem so I took the pen apart. There was still ink in the feed and more than a couple drops in the pen cavity above the feed.

So now the pen and inkwell sparkle. I’ll let them air-dry a couple days and then store them away. In a month or so the Esterbrook Dip-Less with the #7550 nib will return with a blue-black ink or similar ink. Something suitable for letters or business.

Sunday Notes

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with Montblanc Bordeaux

Like a broken record (for those who remember vinyl) the Visconti Bronze Age with Montblanc Bordeaux ink repeats as my favorite pen. As in previous weeks, I’ve used the pen enough to write it dry so it’s on its second fill of Montblanc Bordeaux.

There’s no current links this week, but since I don’t typically link to retailers I figured I’d comment about the retailers I used in the past. Except possibly for the last few shops, I don’t think there will be many surprises if you’ve shopped for fountain pens on the internet. If there’s any order to the the list it’s the order in which I began buying from them.

But first, Goulet pens published a list of prices due to increase in January. While the prices are specific to them, it’s due to price changes from the distributer so I’d expect all retailers, at least in the US, to be affected. I was most shocked at the price increase for Vanishing Point nib units (up $20, which is a 33% jump) even though I thought they we really inexpensive for gold nibs). There’s also price decreases listed for various paper brands so it may be worth waiting.

Initially, a long time ago, my fountain pens of choice were the Pilot disposables, now the Pilot Varsity but it may have been something different back then In fact, my memory of them being Pilot branded may be wrong too, but I think they were. I bought them in a local office supply store (now long gone). I tried a more expensive “real” fountain, I think it was a Parker but didn’t like it. In retrospect it was inexpensive (maybe $5 at the time, probably less) but I liked the disposables better so avoided new fountain pens as not worth the money. I had a no-brand lever filler that was passed down and used that for bottled inks.

Then just before the turn of the century I worked in New York City for awhile, so I was exposed to a wider variety of fountain pens. During that time I would visit Fountain Pen Hospital and Joon Stationery on a regular, but infrequent basis. I was using fountain pens but I wasn’t buying a lot of them at the time. So it was mostly window shopping or a few bottles of ink for the Lamy Safari I was now using for bottled inks.

I was no longer working in NYC by the time I became interested in adding to my accumulation. I’ve always been conservative when buying online, preferring places I know over the cheapest price from an unknown. Fountain Pen Hospital was a place I knew so I purchased online once I could no longer easily visit their store. They certainly weren’t cheap, but they did have specials on a regular basis so many of my early fountain pens were from them. If I had to guess I’d say I’ve bought more fountain pens (excluding disposable fountain pens) from them than any other single retailer.

Since I knew Joon Stationery they were also an early online destination for my purchases. Like FPH they weren’t cheap but they also had specials, although these were less appealing to me than the ones FPH had. It seems I wasn’t the only one who thought that, since Joon is no longer around.

As I began looking for fountain pen information online I came across Goulet Pens. My early education in ink and paper came from Brian Goulet’s videos and blog. After getting so much information from them, and reading compliments in various forums, I began to buy ink and paper from them. That was about 4 years ago and I’ve been a happy customer since. It’s been mostly ink and paper but I have purchased several fountain pens through them, including my latest obsession. One thing about Goulet Pens that I really like is their lack of coupons or site-wide sales. Sure, I like to save money, but I’ve found if any store (any product) that routinely uses coupons it means they are higher priced the rest of the time. I’ve always found Goulet Pens prices to be reasonable, even when compared to other store’s coupon deals. They do have closeout specials and a “bottom shelf” (slightly used items) but I like knowing anytime I buy from them I’ll be getting their best price without any extra effort.

Later I expanded to shopping at Anderson Pens online store. I had never been to a pen show but I knew they were active and well received at shows so I began shopping there. Eventually I went to a show and bought my first Esterbrook from them. I’ve always found their prices for vintage and NOS pens to be very fair and frequently less expensive than recent sales on eBay. Many of my Esterbrook nibs have come from them. Also, my favorite ink brand is Montblanc which they carry, so much of it has come from them.

Classic Fountain Pens has been my go to destination for expensive fountain pens, if they carry the brand. This way the nib can be tuned and checked before it is sent to me. I have also bought some vintage and NOS pens from them.

JetPens is probably the biggest retailer on this list, concentrating on stationery and inexpensive pens. When I first shopped with them I considered them a U.S. retailer of Japanese brands. That may have been more perception than reality. These days they do carry the major Japanese brands they also carry others, such as Kaweco and Diamine.

Nanami Paper specializes in Japanese brands of stationery products. Most of these items aren’t otherwise available in the US which is related to my main complaint about the shop. It’s difficult to wait and place a combined order for the products I use because many of their items will often go out of stock. Their Seven Seas Writer is my favorite notebook. It uses Tomoe River paper. I tend to buy the factory seconds when they’re available in order to save some money. It’s the same great paper and the defects are minor, if even noticeable. One thing to note – if you’re ordering paper, which is heavy, the shipping charge in your cart at checkout will be high. Their official policy is to charge actual shipping cost so they refund any overpayment. When I’ve ordered from them they’ve always shipped USPS flat-rate and immediately refunded the difference. It’s a small one-man (or family) operation (I’m guessing, but pretty sure) so the online store may be closed on holidays or other times he’s away. But this hasn’t affected shipping, my order has always shipped the next day, or same day if I order during the day.

Other regular, but brand specific retailers include Franklin-Christoph, Doane Paper, Nock Co. and Dudek Modern Goods.

There are plenty of fountain pen and stationery retailers out there these days, although mainly on the internet. Unfortunately I can’t afford to buy pens from all of them. Is your favorite on my list? If not, feel free to mention it in the comments.