Pencils !?!?!?

My current pencil drawer
This is my current pencil drawer. Pencils are consumable, so I shouldn’t need more space. Right?

As I mentioned in the last couple of Trail Logs, I become rather infatuated with the Tennessee Red pencil from Musgrave, triggered by this review. Yes, a pencil post is strange for a blog with this name, but in my defense, I learned about the review in the Pen Addict newsletter. This then revived a dormant interest in pencils. I’d previously had a very short-lived pencil interest about 6 years ago. I sharpened a couple pencils (maybe), and either put the rest into storage or gave them away. After reading that review I added a box of Tennessee Red pencils to my shopping cart at CW Pencils, and left them there. A few days later I was looking forward to their arrival, so I returned to the shopping cart, added a couple of things to my cart, and placed the order. They arrived on Monday.

The main problem I have with pencils is that when I’m using a pencil, I’m not using a fountain pen. The second problem I have is that pencils, and the lead, can be as varied in performance as pen and ink. I’m not going to like them all. And, I’m not about to do all sorts of research before buying them. I much rather learn by doing instead of reading. But a big plus is that pencils are considerably less expensive than pencils fountain pens (with exceptions of course).

I had some pencils still around from my previous foray into pencils, almost all were untouched by my sharpener. I usually write the first drafts of any posts about a pen using the pen I’m writing about. So it would have made sense to write the draft of this one with the Tennessee Red, but I didn’t. Instead, I used one of the pencils from my earlier foray. I’ll include my thoughts about the pencil later in this post. But first, here’s the pencil-related stuff that I’m starting with…

The CW Pencils (full name CW Pencil Enterprises) order that arrived on Monday:

A box of Tennessee Red pencils

A box of 12 Tennessee Red pencils.As the review said:

It is perfectly usable

In regards to the lead, and

It isn’t a good pencil. Yet it is unusual and compelling…

Regarding the pencil overall.

I expected to find the cedar scent pleasing, but I did not. I neither liked, nor disliked the scent. I also would not have identified it as cedar. When I was a kid the house had a cedar closet and my memory is that thoroughly enjoyed the scent. These pencils contain cedar sapwood and cedar heartwood. Maybe the closet contained a different variant. I did pull out all my pencils to organize them, and while I can’t blame the Tennessee Red specifically, over time the scent from the pencils on the table near me did start to bother me. More of a minor throat and nose irritation than a bad smell. That was a bit depressing.

While I knew the pencils had two different wood types, and I had seen pictures, I was still struck by the variations between each pencil in the box.

CWPE Pencil sampler

The CWPE Sample Set with seven different pencils.

I figured that a selection of pencils for comparison would be a good idea so I ordered this sampler set. Of course, this assumes that my pencil interest doesn’t flame out in a week. What clinched this sampler set for me is that I wanted to try a Caran D’Ache Scots Pine pencil, but a box was far too expensive just to satisfy my curiosity. The Scots Pine is made with wood slats that are different than what’s used for other pencils. I can already tell, my interest is being drawn to the bad, and what’s different.

A 12 pack of Cub Mini Jumbo Pencils

Like fountain pens, I thought I might find a girthier pencil more comfortable to use if I started using pencils for longer writing sessions. Besides, six of them are green, my favorite color. Although that’s balanced by the other six being blue, and while there are worse colors, it isn’t a color I seek out or choose.

M+R Brass Bullet Sharpener with keyring

Möbious + Ruppert (M+R) Brass Bullet Sharpener along with a 3-pack of replacement blades

This sharpener was mentioned in the review as one that could handle the Tennessee Red pencil, while others could not. The sharpener is relatively inexpensive, and I have a hard time saying no to anything brass. The replacement blades may be more aspirational than practical, but I tend to buy consumables with the product if they aren’t too expensive or hard to store. I have little doubt, that this will be a lifetime supply of sharpener blades.

Pencils Pulled From Storage

I pulled the following pencils from my storage boxes:

Palimino sample pack

I have a Palomino Sample Pack of 9 pencils: two Prospectors, two Golden Bears, and one each of Forest Choice, Blackwing 602, Palomino HB, Palomino Blackwing (no other description), and Blackwing Pearl.

I also have a small assortment of other miscellaneous pencils from Field Notes, Write Notepads, and some others.

Box of Blackwing 1138 pencils

Blackwing Vol. 1138
This was the third Volumes edition that Blackwing released. I was drawn in by the look of the pencil, along with the story behind it, so I got a box of 12 back in 2015. I removed one from the box to sharpen and still have it. I don’t remember my thoughts back then, but it’s telling that I barely used it. I used this pencil to write the draft of this post, and my thoughts are below.

Blackwing Vol. 1138 Thoughts

I am completely unqualified to do a pencil review, so this isn’t one. Rather, just my experience and thoughts after trying the pencil and lessons learned.

I bought this pencil on looks and back story alone. I like the grey/black ascetic. It’s based on an early Sci-Fi movie that set new standards for movies in general, way back in 1902. While the pencil was already sharpened when I pulled it from storage yesterday, I didn’t remember what it was like to use. The fact that I couldn’t remember, and that it was barely used, meant that I certainly wasn’t inspired to keep using it.

The draft of this post took three 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheets of a Doane Paper Writing Pad. I did not enjoy the experience and had to force myself to finish the draft with the pencil, and not switch to a fountain pen. Rather than switch, I decided to do some basic research to find an explanation for my discomfort, and see if there was a solution. (Spoiler: the solution is a different pencil.)

First off, I found that the pencil uses a soft lead, much more suitable for drawing. I knew the lead was “soft” just from using the pencil, but the pencil and box didn’t have any grading information. My big box store Ticonderoga pencils are certainly preferable, with a harder, pointier lead. The soft lead is the root of all my complaints.

The lead wore down quickly, and I was forever sharpening it. It’s been years since I sharpened a pencil, so I’m sure my lack of practice played a part, but this pencil was a pain to sharpen to a sharp point. And if I did get a sharp point, it didn’t last long, which is depressing and made me feel like I was wasting my time. The constant interruption to my train of thought was also a problem. This pencil wants to be a broad nib, and I hate using broad nibs (to put it in fountain pen terms).

Of the sharpeners that I have, I found that the new M+R Brass Bullet sharpener gave me the most pleasing results. Although that may be because I tried it last, so I had some experience with the others. The Staedtler tub sharpener I tried also did a good job. Two small metal Kum sharpeners of unknown origin were terrible, although that may have been due to my inexperience.

In any case, I had to sharpen this pencil far too often for my tastes. And it annoyed me, even once I got the hang of using the sharpener.

Lessons Learned:

  • Soft leads are not for me. Not at all. Never buy another pencil with lead described as soft. I should probably be referring to this as “cores”, but for now I’ll stick with “lead” since this is the reference my brain wants to use, even though it isn’t made with lead. If for some reason I needed to use a pencil with soft lead I’ll need to sharpen them by the dozen so I can simply pick up the next pencil and keep going. Write by day, sharpen by night.
  • Pencil sharpener performance varies (not unexpected). I’ve little doubt that sharpener performance will also vary by pencil. Since I like thin nibs I’m going to be drawn to sharpeners that can deliver a long, pointy pencil tip. If my interest in pencils sticks around more than a month or two, I may start searching for a long point sharpener. Maybe I’ll switch to using a knife or a Høvel pencil plane.
  • I liked the experience of using the pencil to see what I do and don’t like, then researching the pencil’s characteristics as I use it. Reading about the pencil first could bias my thoughts, or keep me from learning from my mistakes. I like to learn from mistakes since the lessons tend to stick.

Observations:

  • I like the ferrule’s design. A flat erasure that’s easily removed and replaced. Although, my history with pens still has me crossing out, rather than erasing. I did try the eraser, it was fine. I don’t plan to buy spares.

Wrapping Up

I’ve yet to sharpen one of the Tennessee Reds that re-started me down this rabbit hole. My biggest problem with pencils is that when I use one, I’m not using a fountain pen. The process of exploring and learning about pencils will keep me interested for a while. I have plenty of pencils to keep me going, so I don’t plan to buy anymore until I’ve at least tried the ones that I have.

Now I have to decide: do I ink up sharpen several different pencils, or work through them one at a time.

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – April 25, 2021

Lamy Al-Star Bronze

As expected, the Lamy Aion did go dry last weekend. It’s been cleaned out, but not re-inked. I’m going to see how long I can go before it pulls me back. I have a lot of extra-fine nibs inked up, so I can’t use that as an excuse to ink it up.

My primary writer this week was a Lamy AL-Star Bronze with an extra-fine nib and the Lamy cartridge included with the pen. It’s nearly empty and should run dry today. If not, then early in the week. My brain is now locked into writing pens dry, so rather than rotate my pens daily I pick a pen and use it until I can’t. Next up will be the Lamy Terra, which has an extra-fine nib and is still on that included ink cartridge.

The Sailor Ringless Epinard (Zoom) and the Diplomat Green Aero (14k Fine) saw limited use. The Sailor when I needed a thinker line for emphasis and the Diplomat for when I wanted to mark something up in a different color (Montblanc Emerald Green). The Sailor has Sailor Shikiori Yodaki, which is a color I like with the zoom nib.

I’ve been using the Nock Co Lookout to hold my daily pens. I wondered if I would really use it since I rarely venture out these days. But I carry it around between workspaces in the apartment. I’ve taken to sliding my daily index card into the strap as a constant reminder of my task list. This helps keep me on track, at least until it’s been there so long I’ll mentally block it out, like web ads.

Last week I mentioned that reading about the Tennessee Red pencil peaked my interest and I had a box of them sitting in my shopping cart. Earlier this week I found myself looking forward to their arrival. So, I went ahead a ordered them, along with another a sample pack and a pencil sharpener. They’re due to arrive early this week.

I’ve gotten frustrated with having to hunt for items lost in my apartment, so I’ve started adding storage options. The first was the Moppe mini storage chest from IKEA. It’s relatively small and, unlike most IKEA stuff, is prebuilt. I’m using this for small things like loupes, converters, spare nibs, and non-pen things. I also got a KLÄMMEMACKA from them. They call it a “desk organizer”, but that seems wrong. It reminds me of a sewing kit my mother had or a toolbox. This does need to be assembled, which hasn’t been done yet. I plan to use this for pen cleaning and repair supplies.

Finally, I went to Harbor Freight and bought a Windsor Design 8 Drawer Wood Tool Chest. I’m debating how to use this. Ideally, I’d like to use all 8 drawers for pen storage, although I may use the large drawers to store any pen supplies that don’t fit in the Klämmemacka while using the smaller drawers for pens. I already have some slotted pen trays from Go Pens, which I can cut to fit the drawers for pen storage. It looks like the small drawers will hold 11 pens. They won’t be permanent, so I can be flexible and move stuff around. It’s not the best-made piece of storage. There are noticeable chips in the wood and uneven gaps between parts, although it seems sturdy enough for normal use while sitting on a shelf most of the time. At just $80 it seemed like a fair deal to me.

Current Reads, Watches & Listens

Listening: No new audiobooks. I picked up a couple of new podcasts to try. (See links)
Reading: Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson. I’ve made some progress, reaching the halfway point. I still don’t care who did it, although the main character is slightly more interesting. The cop is more interesting which helps a lot since I expect him to be around for the whole book. The book is due back on Tuesday. If I don’t finish it by then, it will still go back to the library. It’s very unlikely I’ll continue with the series or the author.

New Arrivals

None

Incoming

None

Outgoing

None

Out of Rotation

Lamy Aion Dark Green (EF): I love this pen. Proven by the fact that I drained the ink cartridge in about 2 weeks, which is almost unheard of for me, especially since Lamy cartridges hold more ink than standard International cartridges.

Into Rotation

None

Review: Esterbrook Journaler Nib | Rants of The Archer

Ultem and Urushi | UK fountain pens

Another Swan Leverless 4461 – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Maker: Moving into a New Journal | Comfortable Shoes Studio

Podcasts: Talking about pens and other stuff – Chicana Writes // A couple of pen podcasts mentioned and I’m trying them out. The Bent Tines is about an hour long while The Nib Section seems to exceed 90 minutes on a regular basis (but has some episodes closer to an hour). While I did enjoy both, I’m not sure how often I’ll listen to future episodes since there’s a lot of competition for my ears.

Going for a dip with the Moonman glass nib pen. | Fountain pen blog

Replacing the Sac in my Father’s Parker Duofold Senior | dapprman

A Few Thoughts On Getting Started With A Bullet Journal – Fountain Pen Love

Swan Minor No 2 – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – April 18, 2021

Lamy Aion Dark Green repeats as a favorite this wek.
Yes, I’m in a rut. But I really like it here.

My fountain pen usage was way up this week. Almost all the ink was applied with the Lamy Aion Dark Green pen. I also kept the Diplomat Aero (F) and Sailor Ringless Epinard (Zoom) available for when I wanted a different colorer a thicker line. They were rarely used.

In addition to the usual notes and lists, I did journal every day, but only resulting in about five B5 pages. I did write a lot using a Doane Paper Writing Pad, I use the larger size. While the paper can’t be called fountain pen friendly, I like the way my fountain pens perform & feel on it. I also find the pads conducive to writing.

The Aion should run dry later today. That would mean the cartridge was used up in just under two weeks, a real feat for me. If not, it’s already close enough that I won’t feel guilty flushing it out sometime today. When inverted, the remaining ink just fills the tapered section of the Lamy cartridge. I have other already inked pens that I want to use, so I’ll put the Aion aside for a bit. I want to see how long I can go before missing it so much that I have to ink it up. I had said in a previous post, I liked the Aion’s nib so much that I might not follow through on my plan to swap it for a 14k Oblique-Medium. When I do ink it up again, I will be swapping it. I have a new OM that I want to test, so I’ll use this pen. I don’t have any obliques inked up, and I’m missing them.

Current Reads, Watches & Listens

Listening: Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson (audiobook). I finished it. Finally. Despite the length of time it took to read it, I enjoyed it and downloaded the third (and final) volume in the series, but haven’t started it.
Reading: Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson. I haven’t made much more progress. I’m still not engaged with the story. It’s a relatively short book, yet my two-week library loan ran out. I debated, then renewed it since there wasn’t a waiting list for it.

New Arrivals

  1. Retro 51 Vintage Metalsmith, Lincoln Antique Copper (Fine): Over the years I stopped at many tag/garage/yard sales, keeping my eye out for fountain pens, among other things. I don’t remember ever buying one at a tag sale. This year I’ve made two stops, and bought two pens. I already have the stub version of this pen, and was not on the lookout for this pen. But at a tag sale price, and still sealed in the packaging, I bought it.

Incoming

None

Outgoing

None

Out of Rotation

I changed to name of this section since I may remove pens from the rotation before they’re actually written dry, and changed the name of the next section to maintain the theme.

  1. Retro 51 Vintage Metalsmith, Lincoln Antique Copper (stub): Stub nibs, especially 1.1mm stubs, aren’t for me. So, I haven’t used this one in awhile and the ink is mostly evaporated from the cartridge. I cleaned it out before it evaporated completely. One reason I got the pen is to see if the new supplier (for the pen) nib performed more to my liking. It is, much less wet, with an ink line that’s appropriate for the nib. My previous Retro 51 Lincoln stub was a gusher.

Into Rotation

None

Vintage Pen News: Why toothpaste is a bad choice for pen polishing

Divine Design: the Visconti Divina Elegance — Penquisition

Hitting the bottle – Pam Alison Knits

TRU RED Mastery Journal Review – The Poor Penman

On My Desk: A Ton Of Ice | An Inkophile’s Blog

A Swan SF2 – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Pens in Daily Use April 2021 | dapprman

The Sendak Mini Artist Roll by Peg & Awl: A Review — The Pen Addict // I have no use for this, but the photos caught my eye.

News: Maki-e Seven Treasures Limited Edition « The Pelikan’s Perch

Benefits of a daily diary and topic journals | Derek Sivers via The Cramped

The TWSBI Draco: I Had My Doubts | From the Pen Cup

McTavish – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Musgrave and the pencil supply chain – pencil talk | pencil reviews and discussion via Refill – Pen Addict Newsletter. I had little interest in pencils these days, but I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and went down the rabbit hole that was the trail of links, starting from this post. I may also have added a package of these to a shopping cart at CWPE.

Off-topic

Coach, broadcaster, esports icon – Inside the legacy of John Madden

I’m a Red Sox fan, so I had to include this. No link, since this won’t last very long, I had to grab Saturday’s standings for posterity. Especially with that last place team. And yes, I fully expect this to be fodder for ridicule in October.

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – April 11, 2021

This Week’s Favorite: Lamy Aion Dark Green (EF)

My fountain pen usage was up this past week. I did skip a day of journaling, and the total journal pages only numbered five. But I published an article this week, and there were drafts for that. I also did considerable note-taking and made a lot of lists.

The Dark Green Lamy Aion is clearly my favorite fountain pen of the week. Unless I wanted another color or a thicker line, it has been the only fountain pen I’ve used since Tuesday. My first impressions are here, but suffice it to say; I love the Aion.

Missed, But No Regrets

I’ve been cleaning up some issues with the Fountain Pen Quest at its new home, and going through and organizing some photos. This has reminded me of fountain pens that I’ve passed on to others.

I’ve only come across one that I’ve truly missed. But, I have no regrets about selling it. I loved the tactile feel of the pen, along with the look. To top it off, it had a great nib. Despite all that, it was too thin for me to use comfortably.

Caran d'Ache Ivanhoe uncapped on a mirror with the cap standing 2
Caran d’Ache Ivanhoe

Current Reads, Watches & Listens

Listening: Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson (audiobook). I did a lot of driving this past week, which meant a lot of audiobook listening. Since I was in the groove listening to the book, I got some listening in most days, and I’m nearly done with the book. I’m enjoying it as much as any other history book and learning a few new (to me) details of history.
Reading: Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson. I was looking for a new mystery author and this was book 1 in a series that a local book club had on their reading list, so I decided to give it a try. I’m about 20% through, and while I’ll keep going, neither the story nor the main character has pulled me in.

New Arrivals

  1. Lamy Aion Dark Green (EF) – I’ve been using this pen since it arrived. I inked it up with the included ink cartridge.
  2. Lamy Safari Green (F) – This pen still sits unused. I bought it because not was green, but I have enough Safaris already inked.
  3. Lamy 14k Extra-Fine nib. It arrived, but remains unused.
  4. Lamy 14k Oblique-Medium nib. It arrived, but remains unused.
  5. Lamy Aion Red (F) – I came across this locally, at a good price, so bought it since I like the Dark Green Aion so much. It remains unused. I have a little regret about the purchase. I like red, I like the pen design, but I don’t really need another pen begging to be used.

Incoming

None

Outgoing

None

Written Dry

None

Newly Inked

None

Mabie Todd Jackdaw – Goodwriterspens’s Blog

Analog – The desktop notecard productivity system. — Original Content Books

My way or the cahier | Pete Denison

The details we sometimes miss – Pam Alison Knits

canetas e coisas: PENBBS

Crónicas Estilográficas: Kokutan, Year 0

Virtual Vintage Pen Show – April 29 & 30, 2021! | Anderson Pens Blog

This Just In: Lamy Aion Dark Green

Lamy Aion fountain pen

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a This Just In post, and even those last few stretched the meaning of This Just In. It’s time to return to my original intent with these posts, my first impressions within days of a new pens arrival.

The Lamy Aion Dark Green arrived on Monday, I inked it up Tuesday morning, and this post is being written on Thursday evening. Which means, don’t take this as anything resembling a thorough review, or even that my impressions won’t change.

So on to the pen…

The Lamy Aion wasn’t on my radar until I saw the Dark Green, and I immediately wanted it. From the picture it seemed like it could be another thin Lamy pen since there wasn’t anything else in the photo for scale. But the beautiful green color made me do some research.

The Aion reviews that I found were mixed, but seemed weighted on the negative side of the scale. In reading the reviews I found that many of the complaints were actually things I like in a fountain pen. The most common complaint was that the pen was chunky. Merriam-Webster defines chunky as “heavy, solid, and thick or bulky.” I don’t consider those as negative traits, unless taken to an extreme.

The Dark Green is a 2021 special edition, although it’s priced exactly the same as a basic black (or silver) Lamy Aion. Previous special editions are Blue (2019) & Red (2020), both of which can still be found new if you search hard enough. This is a good indicator that I didn’t need to rush the purchase. But I wanted the green, so while I didn’t need to rush, I wasn’t going to dawdle.

The Aion was designed by Jasper Morrison, a British designer of many non-pen products. I was a little concerned that he might do something weird with the design in order to make his mark. While there are design complaints, such as chunky it’s a minimalist, but otherwise valid design.

It was rolling out in the US and several places has it in stock so I could have ordered one, but I did hold off ordering for a bit. Of the retailers I watch, Anderson Pens was the last to list it for sale, which was about the time I decided to buy one. As I mentioned before, it arrived on Monday.

The Lamy Aion arrived in basic packaging and included an ink cartridge, a converter, a marketing/instruction pamphlet and warranty pamphlet. I ordered mine with an extra-fine nib.

Lamy Aion Dark green with packaging

First Inking

Lamy Aion Dark nib comparison
(L->R) Fine-> Lamy Aion extra-fine -> Lamy extra-fine (click for full-size image)

As is my current practice, I popped the included ink cartridge onto the Aion. By the time I grabbed a piece of paper the ink had reached the nib, and was ready to write.

Speaking of the nib; it isn’t the same that’s used in the Safaris, AL-Stars , and other Lamy pens. It will fit the feed of those fountain pens (except the Lamy 2000) so the nibs are interchangeable. The Aion nib starts tapering in to the point further from the barrel.

Writing with the Lamy Aion

Lamy Aion Dark Green, fine nib,uncapped with writing sample

I was shocked with how smooth the extra-fine nib is. It’s terrific. Despite having an aluminum gripping section the pen doesn’t slip in my hand. The section feels like it has an ever so slight texture to it, although it isn’t visible.

For some reason, it takes me a moment or two to settle the pen into my grip as I get ready to write with the nib in the right position. I’ll probably get used to it over time. I use a Penwell Traveller at my desk. I soft cap the pen in the Penwell when I take a break. Since the pen is in the same orientation when I place and remove it, this isn’t a problem when I’m at my desk. It still takes me a moment if the pen has been capped and on my desk in a pen case. It’s a problem I have with hooded or small nibs. But the Aion’s nib is neither hooded or small, so I’m not sure why I have to concentrate when first holding the pen.

The inner cap only reaches about half-way down from the top of the cap. If insert the pen at a slight angle, something I do a lot, the edge of the pen catches on the inner cap. It doesn’t appear capable of bending the nib itself, but it is annoying to have to straighten the barrel on half my capping attempts.

I like pens on the chunky and heavy part of the spectrum, so it’s not that all those reviews are wrong, but I love writing with the Lamy Aion. And I love seeing the color on my desk when I’m not using the pen. I don’t post my pens, and the unposted pen is plenty long enough to be comfortable.

The nib is a smooth, consistent writer. I haven’t experienced any hard starts or skipping.

Wrapping Up

I’m impressed with the Lamy Aion Dark Green and I love it so far. Granted, it’s only been three days. I ordered a 14k gold oblique-medium nib with the attempt to use it on this pen if it was comfortable. Well, it’s comfortable, but the Aion’s steel nib is so good that I’ll probably be forced to find another pen for the oblique-medium.

This pen is definitely a keeper, it needs a little more time in my hand to earn its place as a core pen.