Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesdaya weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

The Well Appointed Desk
Whichever pen is regularly in your hand, you will likely need a refill from those listed here. There is an endless amount of Googling required when searching for refills or at least trying to determine compatibility. This post from Ana at the Desk goes a long way towards solving this problem, and is destined to be a classic:
The Epic Pen Refill Guide

Asian Efficiency
This continues a four-part series by Mike Schmitz for AE on the principles and systems of quick capture in the context of a GTD based workflow. A nice integration of nvALT, which is a super fast plain text search and entry Mac application that also supports Markdown. Part 1 is well worth reading also:
Quick Capture, Part 2: nvALT

SBRE Brown YouTube Channel
One of the more experienced fountain pen reviewers out there, and perhaps one of the most prolific as well, presenting us with regular high quality video of various pens, inks and many other things in action. Take it from Stephen, if you’re thinking of doing some reviews yourself – Do it! (whilst reading that, imagine 2 very pointed fingers in your direction straight down the barrel of a HD Webcam). Words from a master that suggest forgoing the second thoughts and writing about what you enjoy – its your duty:
Why aren’t you doing reviews?

The Fountain Pen Quest
With the Nock Co on-line store finally open, no doubt there will be more reviews and views of customers to come, however I thought this was a nice first look of some index cards I will certainly be trying out for myself. Pictures do speak a thousand words, and Ray has put up a great gallery which will give you an excellent idea of what to expect:
Quick Look: Nockco 3 X 5 Dot Dash Note Cards

Whilst at FPQ, also check out Ray’s post looking at the remaining pen cases from Nock Co.’s Kickstarter project, having reviewed The Hightower back in May (a model I have also been enjoying using on a daily basis). No doubt much of this inventory is going up…then down, in Nock Co.’s on-line store:
Review: The rest of the Nock Co Kickstarter Pen Cases

Serious Eats
If you read my previous post, you will know I have a keen interest in learning more about this manual coffee brewing caper. Nick Cho describes many of the principles and processes involved with this method of brewing:
Coffee Science: How To Make the Best Pourover Coffee at Home

Barista Guild of America
A short video (4:46) produced by the author of the article above, demonstrating those very brewing principles. Everyone who watches these videos screenshots the key captions and brew ratios etc right!…er…right?
Kalita Wave Coffee Brewing: Intensive with Nick Cho

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
Now that’s a pen. Ian Hedley’s great review of a gorgeous Franklin-Christoph, with yes, that is correct – 20 different nib options. I’m all for choices though I’m thinking perhaps that’s a paralysing one for some:
Franklin-Christoph Model 02 Intrinsic fountain pen review

Mac Sparky
David Sparks is back with another Field Guide. Although currently for pre-order on the iBooks Store (AUD $11.99) with a release date of 21 July 2014, I’m sure this guide to preparing and giving great presentations will be every bit as good as the previous four Field Guides (of which I own two, Paperless and Markdown):
New MacSparky Field Guide: Presentations

~ PD.

Pens: A Tale of Two Kaweco Sports – Classic and Ice

After planning to write a post on each of these pens separately, I came to the conclusion it would probably be best to combine the two. Although each was purchased for slightly different reasons, I often use them interchangeably, despite one being a rollerball and the other a fountain pen.

Classic Sport Rollerball (L) and Ice Sport Fountain Pen (R)
Classic Sport Rollerball (L) and Ice Sport Fountain Pen (R)

As you will see from the images, I am talking about the Kaweco Classic Sport Rollerball (Black), and the Kaweco Ice Sport Fountain Pen (Green; M Nib). I’ve had both of these pens in regular use for quite some time, with the Classic Sport approximately 12 months old, and the Ice Sport around half that, after a kind member of my family made good on one of my Wish List items last Christmas.

Both pens were purchased (or wish-listed) because they represent great value for money, and German manufacturer Kaweco has quite a good name in pen circles.

My purchase of the Classic Sport Rollerball was made after hearing the Kaweco name mentioned on The Pen Addict podcast, when the episode numbers were still in their 30’s (and orange T-shirts with episode 100 hashtags were unheard of). I believe at the time my intended use suited the Classic Sport rollerball a little more closely, being a compact, easy to carry pen which would write on most paper types without any problems.

My interest in the Ice Sport soon followed after seeing the attractiveness of the Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen line, which in my opinion is even more impressive after the introduction of the new stone washed models. This of course warranted a test run of the Kaweco nib, conveniently achievable at a far lower price point with an Ice Sport model.

After writing many thousands of words with each, I still love both these pens. Here’s why.

Look and feel

If you have not seen a Kaweco pen of this type before, the compact (read short) design is immediately apparent. I was at work when the Classic Sport arrived by post, and still remember my wife calling me and advising it was “very small”, and checking “are you sure that is what you ordered?” Having never had one in my hand at that point either, I was a little concerned, however once I posted the cap and gave it a test run, it was clearly perfect for its intended use.

I love the design of the Kaweco range, and although these lower end models (currently AUD$37.95 for the Sport Classic and AUD$39.95 for the Ice Sport; see links above) have bodies manufactured of plastic, they do not feel cheap in any way. The octagonal shape of the cap and resulting ridges prevent the pen rolling off a desk if used without the clip, which is exactly how I use the Classic Sport (as you can see by the accompanying photos, with the exception of one to demonstrate how it looks with the clip). When capped, these pens measure 10.5cm in length, however when the cap is posted (as intended for writing), the length is a much more writing friendly 13.3cm. Both pens are also quite light at around 10 grams, as you’d expect given the size and construction material. A nice touch on both is the screw-on cap, which in my opinion adds a little more quality to the overall feel.

Kaweco_Ice_crossKaweco_Sport_wclip

The Ice Sport has a transparent plastic body with the grip available in a variety of colours, matching the transparent, coloured cap (mine being green). A silver metal clip, markings, cap inlay and stainless steel iridium tipped nib complete the picture. The Classic Sport, is available in basic solid colour bodies with matching cap, gold coloured clip, cap inlay and markings.

Kaweco_cap_inlayKaweco_nibs

My preference for an EDC (Everyday Carry) type pen is probably the silver (see also the recently introduced Skyline series), as gold in my mind represents a more conservative, classic accessory rather than a rough and tumble “in my pocket” type of one. Perhaps a little silly, however I would feel strange mowing the lawn in a gold watch too. Just me I guess.

Performance and Use

Both pens perform extremely well for their intended purpose. As mentioned above, each was purchased for slightly different reasons, though are often used in much the same circumstances.

Interestingly, both have turned into equally useful EDC type pens, and if I am entirely honest, the Ice Sport gets a little more use, despite it being a fountain pen. More often than not I carry a single pen on my lunch break, usually in conjunction with a Field Notes or some other form of notebook, and it is here a pen of this size really fits the bill. Although the pen goes equally well in my shirt or side pocket, I often find myself turning over the pen in my hand while walking. I simply like the feel of these pens in my hand. There is something comforting in having the familiar feel of the ridges and shape of either Kaweco in my palm. Again, just me I expect, and again, perhaps a little silly. When carried with other pens, it is generally in a Nock Co Hightower, along with two Field Notes, some index cards and more often than not few other folded notes.

Kaweco_side_by_sideAs far as writing performance goes, I have no complaints with either pen. The Classic Sport rollerball has seen many refills, and currently contains a Retro 51 rollerball refill, providing a lovely, consistent deep blue line. The standard Kaweco rollerball that ships inside the pen also performed extremely well from what I recall, and I believe fitted a little more snugly, as there is a small amount of play in the current set-up. Not irritating enough to discourage me from using it however something to be mindful of if you are considering one of these models. It is only through ease of access to a pen store near my office that I have migrated to a Retro 51 refill.

The medium nib of the Ice Sport is fantastic. Having heard and read opinions that the medium nib is probably the least impressive compared with the B or F, I am obviously looking forward to trying out those sizes in the future. As far as the current stainless steel M nib is concerned, ink is laid down well, with no skipping or drag, and if kept capped, will start on the first stroke just about every time. Although probably at its best on my Rhodia Dot Pad, this pen sees most of its use in my Field Notes, and does almost as well there. Admittedly with the seasonal releases of the Field Notes colours editions this will not always be the case, however in the County Fair edition I am currently using there are no problems, and from what I have read, should be safe with the Shelterwood I have coming up next.

Refills for the Ice Sport are standard international cartridges, with Montblanc Irish Green in my current model (yes, matching the green cap and grip). The clear body is a nice touch, keeping the ink visible through the barrel for a nice effect, while providing a visual reference as to the amount of ink remaining. A squeeze converter is available for use with bottled inks at a very reasonable AUD$3.95 from Paper Trader, though for my use case, leaving it as a cartridge refill currently suits my needs.

Conclusion

As you can probably tell, I really enjoy using both of these pens, and using them often. The Classic Sport fits into my day to day office desk pen rotation, however both make the cut equally well as the pen I carry when out and about. If I had to choose between them, I’d probably go with the Ice Sport, simply because I do enjoy writing with a fountain pen, however depending upon what and where you will be writing, a fountain pen may not always be the best choice. If that is the case, the Classic Sport makes a compelling case as the pen you pick up or carry with you.

For a quality, well designed, functional pen that writes really well and is fantastic value for money, either (or both) of these offerings from Kaweco will fit the bill nicely.

~ PD.

Wiser Web Wednesday

Welcome to the first Wiser Web Wednesday (www), a weekly post with links to articles or blog posts from around the web I have found either interesting, beneficial or both. Why run a link post each week?

Firstly, I find these types of posts on other sites I follow extremely useful to broaden my knowledge and awareness of information on the web. Secondly, many links I collect either don’t make it into posts, or due to time constraints, planned posts may never be written, with the links archived in Pinboard rather than shared in a longer form post.

In summary, I’d simply like to share a little more of what interests me with you. Away we go.

Overthought.org
Great advice to follow that appears to have helped many a battery drained iPhone user:
The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain

Out of interest, author Scotty Loveless’ follow up article on just how popular the battery drain article became:
Overwhelmed

Asian Efficiency
As I do 90% of my writing on an iPad mini, another view on going iPad only from Thanh at Asian Efficiency:
Going iPad Only: How to do it with the right apps and accessories

A Fool With a Pen
A review of a pen currently on my shopping list:
A Clear Winner: A review of the TWSBI Diamond 580

The Pen Addict
Jeff Abbott’s review of a notebook I have been meaning to get my hands on and try for some time now:
Leuchtturm 1917 Soft Cover Notebook Review

Field Notes Brand
With two packs of the Shelterwood Edition of these pocket notebooks ordered and on their way, I will write about my impressions once they arrive. In the meantime, watch this fantastic video on how the covers made of real American cherry wood are manufactured:
The Shelterwood Edition for Spring 2014

The Erasable Podcast
Just on 4 episodes old, now is your chance to get in at the beginning and see where this promising show goes. What do you mean a podcast about pencils seems strange? Go on, start:
Episode 1 – The Erasable Podcast.

Also worth a look are the individual sites of the three co-hosts:
– Tim Wasem: The Writing Arsenal
– Johnny Gamber: Pencil Revolution
– Andy Welfle: Woodclinched

Brew on Flipboard
For a varied collection of coffee related articles, I am always happy to share my own Flipboard magazine:
Brew by petedenison

I hope you get something out of the above www links – until next week!

Pen Innovation – All Done?

IMG_4386A recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast touched on innovation, with host Brad Dowdy questioning whether certain categories of the pen market had been “solved”. That is, whether innovation on particular market segments had ceased (namely your ballpoint/gel ink end of the market). As far as my thoughts are concerned on this particular topic, I think it is probably a fair question. The answer? Probably yes. Is this a bad thing? Probably no.

A knowledge base

At it’s core, the pen industry is probably no different to any other. At some level, there are “standards”, which provide an overall frame of reference (to both experts and those less so). For example, when recommending a pen better than the average 99c bulk buy office stick, many might suggest a Uni-ball Jetstream, Pilot G2 or Uni-ball Signo 207. (We could debate all day about precisely which is better, and I have previously given my thoughts on this). Another example might be the popularity of the Lamy Safari as an entry level fountain pen.

Without a certain amount of stability (some may read – lack of innovation) in these “go-to” recommendations, the pen landscape in this particular segment would be constantly shifting, and recommendations moderated: “well, you could try a Jetstream however they have recently changed the …….. so I’m not quite sure if they write the way they used to”. The “standard” or well-known frame of reference would no longer exist.

Innovation or simply variation?

How you define innovation will go a long way towards answering this question for you anyway. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to innovate, is to:

Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products

If we are talking about better versions of the same product, new and exciting products, or simply variety in a typical segment of the market, then your answer on the innovation question will likely be different. The many variations in design, materials, nib sizes and inks available to fountain pen enthusiasts (along with after market possibilities such as converters and nib grinding) typically provide an endless array of choice for the consumer. To me, this is not necessarily innovation, simply variation, customisation, and choice, with many pen lovers going down the road of fountain pen experimentation (and often obsession), even if the starting point was gel inks and rollerballs.

Also, innovation generally occurs at the “pointy end” of an industry, and much of what is considered innovation at a manufacturing level is often concerned with better production techniques, efficiencies and overall productivity. Do these changes necessarily mean anything different for the consumer? Sometimes in the form of price point, possibly a better product, however often there may be no real discernible difference.

Conclusion

Essentially, in many ways, I don’t necessarily believe there is a great deal of innovation occurring in pens, regardless of the market segment we are talking about. However, I equally believe this is not detrimental to either the market itself nor the consumer. What we do have is endless variety in the marketplace, from a few dollars for a consistent, good quality gel ink pen, up to a few hundred dollars (plus) for a fountain pen – with many variations in between.

The good old gel ink standby or the customised fountain pen? Entirely up to you, however I guess if you prefer gel inks and rollerballs, that will be where your searches take you. Or perhaps an early foray into fountain pens. Regardless of which, many discoveries will be made on the back of reviews or blog posts on pens, with many of those pens compared to those that have remained unchanged for some time, and are therefore familiar to you (which is exactly why we need them).

At the end of the day we are after a consistent and familiar writing experience with a little bit of choice as to how we achieve this. If products are created simply to “make something new” without this philosophy at the core, I’m not sure that is the way to go. After all, surely no-one here wants to write with a “multi” fountain pen.

Dept4 – Yesterday and Tomorrow

Over the past few weeks I have been looking back on posts I’ve written on since commencing dept4 in May 2013, and more specifically, thinking about what I plan to spend my time writing about moving forward.

Reflection

For the most part, I have written about coffee, my favourite technology, and miscellaneous pieces about various things on my mind at any given time. A couple of posts hint at a slight obsession with pens, and this is an area certainly in need of more attention. I had initially planned to write more on productivity, workflows and self-improvement – however the productivity and workflow topics remind me a little too much of my office job. Perhaps that makes me well qualified to write on such matters, however to be honest, they are topics I feel least like writing about in my spare time. Self improvement? Perhaps that lies somewhere in between.

Granted, many of my posts touching on technology do indeed have some crossover into the productivity and workflows realm, however most of these have a personal productivity bent, rather than a specific office based one.

Future Plans

IMG_1922As I mentioned above, an area that has only seen a couple of posts to date, though is an area of intense interest for me relates to pens and paper (well actually, think anything in a stationery cupboard). This has been further compounded by embarking recently onInCoWriMo, or International Correspondence Writing Month, to the tune of sending a letter a day for the entire month of February. I have written more about my InCoWriMo experience here.

In this age of Twitter and Instagram, what would possess me to hand-write a letter a day until number 28 is posted? Pen and paper, plain and simple. My decision to participate in InCoWriMo is a point reached along a journey that has come a little way, though has many more miles left to run. A journey to be punctuated (quite literally) by many combinations of fountain pens, inks, rollerballs and even ballpoints, on a varied terrain of notebooks, pads and whatever paper I can reasonably lay my hands on – this I am sure of.

I have always been interested in pens. I distinctly remember the few basic Parker Jotter and Sheaffer pens from high school. My foray into Artline 200 fineliners, and the decision as to whether the 0.4 or 0.2mm version better suited my writing style (neither by the way, we are talking teenage boy penmanship here!). Then, onto the decision of whether I preferred blue or black ink. Throughout my university days the experimentation continued, though at a slower pace, until I received my first fountain pen in 1997 as a wedding gift from my wife. Seemingly that was pretty much it, the be all and end all of pens for me – until about 18 months ago. Don’t get me wrong, there was still much experimentation going on in the sub $10 office supply store pen category, simply not much beyond that.

I’m not exactly sure what piqued my interest again, however I began doing a few internet searches one day and stumbled across some sites recommending Rhodia and Moleskine notebooks (I think through researching the GTD method of productivity, and discovering a few Moleskine pocket notebook “hacks” for analogue versions of this system). One thing led to another and I soon found Brad Dowdy’s The Pen Addict, both blog and podcast, and from there it was all over. A similar fate has befallen many who stumble across Brad and his now infamous “penabler” influence to many followers around the world.

Through listening to the podcast and a little self experimentation, I have since purchased a few pens and notebooks, and am currently researching my next mid priced fountain pen to add to my collection. My Montblanc Meisterstuck will always remain my most valuable pen, both sentimentally, and likely monetary, however I am planning on starting again from the bottom and building a more varied collection. My own “beyond the office supply store” stationery cupboard if you will.

So, what does this mean for this blog moving forward? I would say a continuation of what you have already seen on the coffee and technology fronts, and an increasing amount of pen and paper related articles as my journey continues down this road. Where will these all fit in my current post categories of Thoughts, Improvement, Coffee and Tools? That I am not sure, though some of the categories could become a little more specific, and I will be giving this some more thought as things progress.

Let’s get to it then

Although I have broken and continue to break the cardinal rule of blogging, by writing about a variety of topics rather than focusing on one, I plan to continue, simply because I do not see dept4 as solely a Coffee, Pen or Tech blog, nor do I have any immediate plans to make it such. I have a keen interest in, however am not an expert in any of these topics.

Although there will be common themes running through those areas of interest, I do enjoy the freedom of writing on pretty much anything if the mood strikes me. Who knows, perhaps these topics may become more defined and specialised, spinning off into their own blogs in the future. Whilst I am loathe to rule out anything completely, I have no plans to undertake this in the near future.

As I write this, post number 84, I am pretty happy with most of what I have published over the past 10 months or so, and believe things have come a long way from my initial plans for the site. If being a “jack of all trades and master of none” limits my readership, (which has grown beyond what I could have ever imagined anyway, for which I am eternally grateful), then you may as well start calling me Jack.