Late breaking stationery news this blog certainly isn’t, however when there is good news to share…
A little over a year ago I wrote about the Monokaki A5 notebook, received from a friend who’d been travelling overseas and picked one up in a Japanese stationery store. Well and truly filled cover to cover some time ago, I occasionally come across it when filing other notebooks away, and usually pick it up and flick through.
In reading over that original post, I’m reminded just how much I loved using that notebook with its Masuya paper, and fabulous overall design and attention to detail.
As luck would have it, the great folk at Bookbinders now have that very notebook in stock, along with its larger B5 sibling. You’ll also find some Masuya Manuscript paper as well. To clarify — the luck is with me, however the collection of stock Bookbinders are assembling shows a real passion for — and understanding of — a pen and paper enthusiast’s needs.
Of course we all have our favourites, whether notebook, paper type, or combination of both. The perfect size and construction; our favourite binding; just the right amount of slide or skate of the nib; perhaps a little tooth (raises hand) to help control things just a little. While our styles and hand are different, you and I, the Masuya Monokaki notebook stakes an overwhelming claim as my all time favourite.
Sure, I’ve not used every notebook out there, though I’ve tried a few, and I’d encourage any keen fountain pen user to at least check these out. If by chance you all do so before I get over to the store — yes, the actual store on the other side of town — I’m sure there will be plenty more coming.
Err… right Bookbinders? Right?
Fine print: Please note I have no affiliation with the Bookbinders company, brand or products. I do however have every known affiliation, connection, and association (both direct or implied) with stationery related products I buy and thoroughly love using.
Though Wiser Web Wednesday is now retired, from time to time I thought I’d share some things I find of interest. After using quite a few third-party read-later services over the past couple of years, I must admit to embracing and enjoying the ubiquity and simplicity of Safari’s Reading List feature.
One aspect of home espresso brewing which cannot be emphasised enough is even grind distribution within the filter basket prior to tamping. While there are commercial products available of considerable merit to assist with this endeavour, the team at Five Senses demonstrate how it can also be done effectively without costing a cent: Level Up – Even Espresso Distribution
Where is Scott Rao?
The terms “espresso roast” or “filter roast” are often displayed on retail coffee bags, as well as referred to in discussions about roast levels for different forms of brewing. Scott Rao weighs in with perhaps a more pertinent question and a slightly different way of thinking:
To me, the difference in roasting for black vs. white coffee is significant; the difference in roasting for filter vs. espresso is modest. That delicate, lightly roasted Yirgacheffe that tastes sublime as a straight espresso may drown in a cappuccino.
The Pelikan’s Perch
I’ve written previously about the cheery Pelikano in my collection, and remember being impressed by the nib performance at the particular price point.
Some news from Joshua at The Pelikan’s Perch of an update for the line, now to include the Pelikano “Up”:
Gone is the plastic of the current P480 and, in its place, the Up will feature an aluminum cap and body along with a metal clip.
Reading the post, it certainly does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for this particular low-cost line of Pelikans: News: The Pelikano Up
Junee lists some pens sporting stainless steel nibs which are worthy of any collection. I’ve considered the relative merits of stainless steel and gold nibs in a previous post myself, and maintain the same opinion today as I held back then. That is, with many great steel nibs around, I’d consider gold provides a different writing experience, though not necessarily a better one on all counts.
In looking at various clipboard managers on both iOS and macOS, I’m yet to nail down a preferred option. Gathering links such as those on this page are often a decent test as far as utility and output options are concerned, with iOS based reading a big part of sourcing those links. That being the case, Copied seems fairly compelling, and syncs across to my Mac: iPad Diaries: Clipboard Management with Copied and Workflow
The Sweet Setup
As I’ve mentioned above though, utilising Safari’s Reading List for saving articles also finds me capturing and editing these links whilst on my Mac, bringing Alfred’s clipboard manager into play.
Whilst I acknowledge I am being a little facetious — okay, perhaps more than a little in pointing this out, I do find it amusing in this post PC world, iPad users have pushed the cutting edge far enough to finally be able to capture notes by handwriting them: iPad Diaries: Apple Pencil, Notability, and the Joy of Note-Taking
Anyone with a keen interest in fountain pens will eventually own more than one. The “more than one” will of course in all likelihood not merely duplicate the original. Most look towards having some variety of experience — different pens, nibs, sizes and designs. A cursory glance through any pen enthusiast’s social media feed will provide an insight into the amazing variety in many collections, be they developing or mature.
Usually, variety also comes with favourites. Those we might prefer to pick up just a little (or perhaps a lot) more than others. “Favourites” however — is not necessarily a category into which all of those great pens will fit into. Such a category is quite personal and subjective after all.
Perhaps “preferred” might be a better term. Horses for courses. Specific pens which may better for certain tasks than others. I’ll touch on this a little more below, however regardless of what title we put on, or how we define it, I think you get the idea.
There are times when I’m writing a post for this blog where I suddenly stop and think: why am I actually writing this? Who really cares about my personal experience or thoughts on x, y, or z? Something which occurs more often than you would think — and certainly more than I would like. This? Definitely one of those times.
When it does occur, one of two things generally happens: (i) The specific reason something might be of value to someone reading becomes clearer, generally resulting in a re-write with a more specific focus; or (ii) I feel like a bit of an idiot for spending so much time only to scrap the entire thing quite late in the piece.
Blog posts I find most valuable have a way of changing how you think about something — not simply make you think about it. How your own situation is — and will be — influenced by your approach to it, and your philosophy behind that approach. There are plenty of posts published on these pages which won’t achieve that, however hopefully on occasion some will.
Of course when I hit a point in my writing as I’ve described above, I tell myself it improves the overall quality of what does end up published here, though I’m not sure I fully buy that. Here’s hoping I’m onto (i) above with what follows.
Not a “favourite pens” post
So, I’m talking about what exactly?
Well, I can only speak from personal experience of course, however perhaps I’d call it the curious case of my static yet evolving fountain pen collection. It is evolving more with time, and as that continues, it is providing quite an intangible change in value — something that is as exciting as it is perhaps a little unusual (to me at least).
I have a fountain pen collection which has not been added to for well over a year now. For those who may be interested, a listing of said collection can be found here. For those unfamiliar with how much of that collection came together, it is explained here. To say I remain grateful for these pens every day I uncap one would be an understatement.
To explain the apparent incongruity in this same, yet different notion — this “evolution” I speak of, is not in the “I’ve moved on” sense of the word. Over time I’ve noticed an ebb and flow of usage and delight within this collection. Granted, not entirely unusual, however I’m talking about pens I had placed (somewhat firmly) in the unsuitable/not my style/not comfortable/just cannot seem to like it category, completely coming around.
This whole pen caper can be a complex one to think about at times. What’s that? Well if you make it complicated it certainly is. I don’t disagree with you. Just pick up a pen and write with it — simple. Again agreed. However that is precisely the essence of what I’m talking about here. Those we choose to pick up, and those we don’t, and what becomes of those we more often than not don’t.
Thinking back on previous pen posts here, most have always contained a few points on my usage patterns, a big part of which is dictated by the size of the pen, and how comfortable it may be over longer periods of use. Most I generally consider to be either shorter note takers, or long form writers. Of course long can be short — though short is usually never long.
Pens which fit into the long form writers category, and by default can of course handle the short stuff, tend to be those “favourites” or “preferred” pens of the bunch.
Over longer writing sessions, the Ambition is probably not quite as comfortable as some larger diameter pens with a tapered form, however here I am referring to a three or four A4 pages before I began to have those thoughts
For me personally, the answer is just about perfect, both from a size and weight perspective. At 122 mm (unposted) the barrel has enough length to provide scope for a higher or lower grip on the section, which I will vary at times during lengthy writing sessions.
For shorter writing sessions or quick notes, it is just about spot on. When in the zone and powering through multiple pages of a longer draft, I’d more likely pick up one of my other pens.
Perhaps some form of size/balance sweet spot or preference appearing over time?
In actual fact, I drafted the beginnings of this post some months ago. Seriously? What have you been doing? Good question for another time — actually no it isn’t. I don’t actually have an answer to that one.
In any event, that original post had a working title of A Pen Sweet Spot. In it I began to wax lyrical about how it wasn’t just about nibs. It was (and is) about weight, dimensions, and overall balance as well. That is often why I pick up what I do on any given writing occasion. About how it isn’t just about numbers and specs. How there is a good deal of the intangible.
It might help at this point to provide a little context of where I was headed with that post.
The original draft
A surviving excerpt from the original:
So, it sits about where this so-called sweet spot?
For reference, it’s around a Pelikan M600; a Sailor 1911 Large; or a Pilot Custom 912. Towards, but firmly within the lower (read smaller) end, it’s a Pilot Custom Heritage 92; a posted (of course) Kaweco Sport; or even a Pilot Kakuno. Aside from the Kaweco, all of the above are used without posting the cap, as are those towards the upper end of the window.
Towards the larger end we have contenders such as the Pelikan M800 series, my OMAS Ogiva Alba, and even the Platinum President.
There are also some notable omissions from that list. If we are simply talking approximate size, then it also should be the Lamy Safari, probably the Lamy 2000, and even the Pilot Metropolitan. To me that suggests there is more at play. Those and a few other pens I’ve never really gelled with. Great pens mind you — each of them, and I do enjoy using them — just not for any significant amount of time.
Some notable omissions? Probably the Pelikan M200 and 400 series, the Faber Castell Ambition, and the Pilot Decimo. Each probably a little on the slender side to keep things completely comfortable over the course of more than a few pages.
Between writing those words in the initial draft and now, a few things happened which I have to admit surprised me. For one – I powered through a number of pages with the Ambition and wondered why I enjoyed it so much. I wrote a lot of the first draft of this very post with the Lamy 2000 – again stopping to think: what happened there? That is, with reference to the above, the short did become the long — and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact, and the pens. It changed my whole perspective on some of the pens I’d not used in a little while.
How did this magic occur?
A few pens with which I’d never managed to end up in “the zone” with, magically appeared there — and appeared there effortlessly. Though we might all have our own word or term, you know what I’m talking about when I refer to “the zone”.
Those writing days where everything just feels right. The pen sits truly in your hand — the nib gliding freely but with precision. The slope uniformly even, the tails curve in symmetry, and no matter how fast the page is filling — it’s all falling into place. You’re in the zone — and it will take a big nudge to bump you out of it.
Somedays it can be found in the first sentence. Perhaps late in the first paragraph or even over the page. Other, more frustrating days? Good luck finding it at all. It’s a Field of Dreams really isn’t it? Putting together a combination of perfect tools: pen, paper and a perfect position will see it somehow magically appear from the corn field. Other times? It’s just you sitting in the empty stand.
Your point exactly Pete?
This (sweeps hand above pen storage boxes) — all of this changes.
This is a journey that goes not from A to B. To borrow a phrase from legendary Australian band Powderfinger, it goes up and down and back again. It isn’t simply a linear spectrum or continuum — there is more to it.
As I mentioned – I’ve not acquired any new fountain pens for some time, yet somehow, I have what I consider a whole “new” group of pens patiently waiting for me. That is as weird to me as it is wonderful. I’d begun thinking a little about my longer term plans in relation to these pens, yet now it’s decided – I’m hanging onto them, for I’m sure those sitting patiently in that drawer are likely to have something more to offer when called upon.
I feel extremely lucky all over again.
If you’ve made it this far I thank you, and apologies if what I’m trying to say remains unclear. The essence of the message is simply that it seems this whole fountain pen journey indeed evolves, however it is equally back to the old as it is on to the new.
So yes, buy on recommendations, however embrace what you own. Love your pens, look after them, and go back to them. You never know when that one at the back of the drawer might become “the one” — at least for a while anyway.
There you have it, over 1900 words that could have been summed up in a tweet. Long form writing though — with fountain pens.
Readers of the blog may recall I have attended the odd coffee tour around Brisbane, run by the friendly, yet professional team at Bean Brewding. I’ve written about some of those occasions in previous posts:
Kicking things off with your choice of either a blend or single origin offering from El Salvador, the recently launched Bean Vault complements the Coffee Tour side of Bean Brewding perfectly. Judging by the tasting notes, either coffee will result in a great tasting cup, and a couple of bags of the aptly titled (and coffee tour themed) Great Day Out blend are on their way to my mailbox. I’m always particularly interested in blend expressions and interpretations, and this combination of Colombian, Brazilian, and Ethiopian origins sounds like a beauty – well worth an extra bag to pass onto a friend.
If you are thinking of sampling what I’d say will be a pretty impressive brew – now is the time to do it. For a limited time, the team are offering a Self-Guided coffee tour from their stable of offerings free with any bean purchase. Why not end up with a glimpse into the Bean Brewding tour portfolio as well as a bag of beans to boot?
With Bean Brewding having been in existence since 2010, George and Glenn’s limitless dedication, passion, and thirst for greater knowledge and understanding of coffee is only surpassed by their desire to share it with the broader Brisbane community.
With ties to the Brisbane coffee community strengthening with each year of tours, there was of course no better way to expand things a little further than with their own line of coffee.
I’d highly recommend giving the coffee a try, and perhaps we can compare tasting notes on a future tour…
In the latter half of 2016, a number of fantastic coffees come through my usual green bean supplier Ministry Grounds. This naturally processed Ethiopian certainly stood out, resulting in a repeat order for an additional couple of kilograms to go into the yearly festive blend given to family and friends at Christmas. There may have also been the expectation a little would be “left-over”, which I would have to take care of myself of course!
In relation to Shakiso and its surrounds, where the Kayon Mountain farm is located — Wikipedia tells us:
Shakiso is a town in Southern Ethiopia, in the Guji zone of the Oromia region, an area known for gold and titanium mining, along with native forests. Guji is bordered on the south by Borena, on the west by the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, on the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale and on the east by the Somali Region. The highest point in this zone is Mount Dara Tiniro. Cities and major towns in this Zone include its administrative center, Negele.
Many outstanding coffees originate in and around Guji, and it is not uncommon to see many pop up in the offerings of speciality roasters as the season comes around each year. Generally, if you are looking for some berry flavours in your cup, just about anything from this region would be a great place to start.
The following information courtesy of Ministry Grounds:
The Kayon Mountain coffee farm is a local family-run enterprise with over 30 years experience in the production of Guji coﬀees.
The family’s rich experience has included many years of seed selection and nurturing of heirloom local varieties. Two spring fed nurseries are maintained to for the planting of seedlings in the loamy-clay soils of Kayon and coﬀee is grown in a semi-forest environment under native Acacia trees.
In the cup: Strawberries & cream, stewed apple, toﬀee & jam aroma, medium acidity, creamy body with notes of strawberry jam, cherry, blueberry, candied fruits & chocolate with a clean ﬁnish
Here, things have been many and varied — from tasting and testing both filter and espresso roasts for the festive blend I’ve referred to above, to full immersion cold brewing, pour overs on ice, and the occasional iced latte (given the usual hot summer weather here in Brisbane).
As I’ve alluded to above, an Ethiopian naturally processed coffee was a good place to start when seeking some berry flavours for the annual festive blend. With this flavour the predominant aim, the Kayon Mountain comprised 60% by weight, with the remaining 40% a washed El Salvador — Finca Patagonia — providing deeper plum notes for the filter roast. For the espresso roast, the remaining 40% was shared equally by the Finca Patagonia, along with Guatemala Ceylan, which added a little more body and chocolate flavours. Overall, the blends were reasonably successful in achieving my aim regarding the overall flavour profiles, and feedback has been positive from those who received some at Christmas.
The Kayon Mountain brewed as a single origin? Equally well received, however I must admit most of the small amount remaining I kept for myself.
When prepared as espresso1, a lovely rich cup resulted, with strawberry and blueberry flavours, followed by a rich chocolate finish. With milk as a latte or flat white, again those berry flavours were at the forefront, and combined with a little chocolate, the overall profile resembled a Cherry Ripe.
Even if purchased with filter brewing in mind, it is certainly worth running through your machine as well, regardless of roast level. I honestly don’t think you would be disappointed.
With filter brewing2, a clean, crisp, full flavoured cup ensued, with flavours of red berries, a hint of blueberry and chocolate with a creamy, medium bodied, lingering finish. Most of my filter brewing was done using a V60, along with kicking off many a December morning in the office with the AeroPress — both providing equally impressive results. As you’d expect, the V60 produced a cleaner, more nuanced cup, however there were no complaints about the AeroPress brew, from either myself, or my office coffee pals Tracey and Andrea, whom I must thank for determining the final ratios for the festive blend.
Last but by no means least cold brewing. Although a couple of 1 litre batches were indeed “cold brewed” using full immersion over 16-18 hours (similar to this method), I’m also partial to hot brewing and flash chilling — using a V60 over a jug of ice. This method simply involves around half of your usual brewing water already in the vessel as ice, with the remaining half off the boil as usual for brewing a V60 (the dose generally being a little higher than what you might otherwise use). If you’re interested and have not yet delved into the world of iced pour over brewing, perhaps use this as a guide.
Depending on your preference, while adding milk to either of these chilled brews is an option, doing so mutes a little of the richer berry flavours. When consumed black (my first preference, with only one test cup consumed with milk), I’d have to say it was definitely one of the more refreshing drinks I consumed over summer. When you have four or five 200ml bottles of cold brew stashed in the fridge, it becomes mighty hard to limit consumption to a reasonable level on those hot days.
I think you get the idea.
I have been quite taken by this fabulous naturally processed coffee from the Kayon Mountain farm in Ethiopia. Having been put through a wide array of brewing methods over the course of the past few months, it handled all with aplomb.
My preference — despite enjoying it across all forms of brewing is probably by filter, although the bias introduced by these long, hot days of summer probably push the cold brew into first place.
If you are able to get your hands on some, I for one highly recommend it.
For reference, espresso brewing was done on a Sunbeam EM7000, using a 1:2 brew ratio – that is 19-21g dose, yielding 40-44g in the cup. ↩︎
My filter brewing is typically done at a 1:17 ratio. ↩︎