Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

The Brooks Review
In his own typical style, Ben Brooks takes the reviewing by numbers system apart, using an article from The Verge as an example. There are many reasons reviews can be questionable, this being yet another:
Why Reviewing by Numbers is a Bullshit Practice and Needs to Stop

Pentorium
I’ve yet to try out Tomoe River paper, and what better way to do just that than with a great looking notebook. As stated in the review, this is exclusive to online store JustWrite and currently available in A5 or A6 with blank pages only (dot grid would be lovely):
Tomoe River Handcrafted Notebooks from JustWrite

Pen Paper Ink Letter
Heath from PPIL outlines a fountain pen and paper starter set with quite a few goodies for $100. I always enjoy these types of posts not only to see if there are any products out there for me to try, but also whether I would recommend the same or similar items if asked:
The PPIL Fountain Pen and Paper Starter Set

The Pen Addict
This is one from the dim, dark past, posted by Brad back in June 2012, outlining a reader submitted Hi-Tec C refill hack into a Retro 51. Why am I poking around in the archives? Well, next up in my Field Notes rotation is the Expedition Edition and as many of you know, to deal with the Yupo synthetic paper, a decent ballpoint is required. Rather than open my wallet, I opened my drawer and found a couple of unused 0.7mm Uni Jetstreams, the refills of which are now snugly hacked into my Retro 51 and Kaweco Classic Sport pens, and performing very well indeed. Now all I need is an actual expedition, upon which to take my new carry:
Hacking a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Refill into a Retro 51

The Gentleman Stationer
No doubt I will try the Kon-Peki myself at some point in my journey through Blue-Black to Blue ink spectrum, however to date have not done so. My most recent purchase being the Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite, which is on the darker end, though indeed a beautiful ink. Until then, I will happily read about others experiences, and keep asking, is that too light for me?:
Ink Review: Iroshizuku Kon-Peki

Inktronics
Of course there is no need to limit things to blue, black or somewhere in between, as I love a good red ink as much as the next penperson. From the image at the beginning of this post, it’s now clear to me that Darth’s light saber is indeed derived of Diamine Ink:
Inktronics Reviews Diamine Red Dragon Fountain Pen Ink

Modern Stationer
Why else do we read reviews, other than for thoughtful, objective views and perhaps some guidance on where to look for our next purchase. When things don’t always go to plan, with enough information (in contrast to The Brooks Review link above) we can all still decide for ourselves. Doug’s review of the Kaweco AL Sport ticks all of these boxes and more. The pen community delivers yet again:
Kaweco AL Sport Review

The Atlantic
Certainly not a short read this one. Here The Atlantic profiles Blue Bottle Coffee and its efforts in scaling production of a specialty iced coffee of sorts. Living in Australia I have obviously not tasted this product, however post this link as I find such endeavours quite interesting. Larger scale production of something like specialty coffee always carries the dangers of a proportional shift away from the original beverage as the magnitude of the scale increases. Perhaps things will be different this time:
The Future of Iced Coffee

Coffee Contrarian
A response to the above article, from Kevin Knox, who describes himself as a “semi-retired veteran of the coffee and tea trade”. The closing paragraph of which probably sums up his thoughts:

At the very least, I shouldn’t be the only one with an industry background pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes – or rather, that there’s (almost) no coffee in this “coffee.”

Probably worth reading both articles, and perhaps a few more before making up your own mind. In the end, it will no doubt be the consumer who decides. In the context of sales figures, whether it actually is “specialty coffee” or not (whilst important to some) will most likely end up irrelevant:
“The Future of Iced Coffee” leaves me cold

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Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

Gourmet Pens
Azizah takes a look at the Rhodia Ice No 16 Notepad. I have linked to a review of one of these previously, however this one is worth having a look at for the gorgeous colourful test writing alone. I was also pleased to read I am not the only one disappointed by “messy tears”:
Review: Rhodia Ice No. 16 Notepad A5

Nock Co.
Nock Co. is fast becoming another one of those sites where you go specifically for one or two items, and checkout with a full cart. Are you kidding me? Now we have TWSBI pens and Organics Studio inks to throw in as we wander the store. Great value too, however the groan you heard was the collective stationery budget around the world stretching a little thinner:
Nock Co. On-line Store

Mac Sparky
Following along nicely from last weeks link to Les Posen’s Presentation Magic, now up for sale on the iBooks Store, is David Sparks latest Field Guide, which will help you create exceptional presentations. It’s also made specifically for the iBooks format. You can read a little more about it on David’s blog:
The Presentations Field Guide is now shipping

The Pen Addict
As I do not own one myself, it was only fitting I read about Brad purchasing his third! No bitterness folks. All jokes aside, I have always been wary of acquiring one of these untried, as I do have concerns the clip position may annoy me a little. This is a great looking pen though, and the title contains two my favourite descriptors, gun-metal and matte:
Pilot Vanishing Point Gun Metal Black Matte Fountain Pen Review

Serious Eats
Another article by Nick Cho for Serious Eats, this time on the science and technique of making French Press coffee. A coarser grind and longer brew time of 6–8 minutes probably a little different to what most are used to:
Coffee Science: How to Make the Best French Press Coffee at Home

Matt Gemmell
What better way to put down some thoughts on the lost art of handwriting than a letter. No, really… a letter.
Handwriting

Pentulant
A review of the Kaweco AL Sport, in a fantastic grey body. Why, it’s almost gun-metal:
Pen Review: Kaweco AL Sport

Kickstarter
If you are anything like me, consideration of various pen and paper related Kickstarter projects is a fairly regular occurrence. This one is a beauty, which I have backed to the tune of two each of both the No 1 and No 2 notebooks. The customisation feature is a winner, and though still deciding on the cover, inside it will be dot grid on Tomoe River paper:
Stateside Co. Notebooks

Ink – Montblanc Meisterstück 90 Years Permanent Grey

Introduction

MB90_EnsembleHaving seen the odd review or two of grey fountain pen inks, I had never considered grey to be one I would buy for everyday use. Blacks, blues and blue-blacks yes, however grey? Probably not for me. When the Montblanc Meisterstück 90th anniversary year got into full swing there were some great looking products circling the internet (all above my budget). Thankfully, amongst them, the Meisterstück 90 Years Permanent Grey ink.

There was never any question I would buy the ink given the special edition, and the beautiful bottle sealed the deal. The opportunity to try some grey ink was also quite a draw. At AUD$30.00, it also provided a way to leave the Montblanc store with an actual purchase rather than merely having drooled over much of what was inside, only to be thwarted by price tags. To the lovely sales lady (whom probably is titled a Pen or Luxury Goods Consultant – meaning absolutely no disrespect) who suggested I also buy a matching 90 Year Meisterstück pen with rose gold accents – thank you, but at AUD$700, not today. Similar to being asked, would you like a Bentley to go with your can of metallic spray paint sir?

As you can see from the images, the bottle (and box) is adorned with the 90th Anniversary markings, and is shaped in what I would call an “older” or “traditional” style, the design of which is apparently inspired by a historic Montblanc label, where it is written:

This ink fulfills all the demands made on it by a durable, good-working fountain pen

MB90_Box_FrontMB90_Box_Label

The 90th Anniversary celebrates the creation of the Meisterstück fountain pen in 1924, which at the time was thought of as having quite an innovative ink feed system, along with a hand engraved gold, iridium tipped nib. This ink would be a perfect companion to my own Meisterstück Classique fountain pen, which is now in it’s seventeenth year of use.

The Ink

Upon opening the elegant 35ml bottle, the ink looks decidedly black to the naked eye. A gentle dip of my finger and smear across a piece of paper confirmed the “greyness” until I had a chance to ink up a pen a couple of days later.

Once in my pen (the Meisterstück Classique of course) to test, it was time to see how ink fared with the written word. My initial thoughts, unsurprisingly were again “this looks black”. Perhaps due to the combination of my lack of experience with other grey inks and the tendency of the ink to dry a little lighter over time. I would imagine the correct name for an ink that looks “off-black”, would be grey, and that same ink needs to be dark enough to be called Permanent Grey, as is the case here.

The written sample was undertaken on a plain Rhodia No. 16 pad, and the ink performed very well. There was some nice shading many of the letters, with pen speed largely dictating the depth of the grey in each pen stroke. My hand written words darker overall, due to the slower speed used to ensure the words were at least semi-legible. As the speed of the pen increased with what I technically call the “squiggle samples”, the ink became far lighter and was probably closer to what I expected out of the bottle.

MB90_ThoughtsMB90_Test_Data

I probably prefer the fact that words written are darker, as the ink will be more suited to many everyday work applications. It might be interesting for those with a dab hand at sketching (sadly not I), given the different shades achievable. For writing, an F or EF nib perhaps may produce a consistently lighter shade of line. The more I look at this ink on the page, the more I think there may be a perception it is a lower quality black rather than a grey, if the ink type is unknown to the viewer.

The ink flowed well, and although a spectrum of shading was evident, no hints of skipping or too-dry a line were apparent. The line was crisp and sharp at the edges, with no feathering or bleed. Dry time was in line with many inks, at around 20–30 seconds, though at times longer depending on the particular line thickness. A smoother, more consistent hand than mine would no doubt achieve a more defined dry time.

Conclusion

Overall, I think Montblanc have a winner here, with the combination of a great ink and very attractive presentation in a bottle worthy of the Meisterstück 90 Year Anniversary occasion. My first impressions lead me to think this ink will see plenty of use, which is great, as although a special edition is nice to own and display, I would be disappointed to look longingly at the bottle knowing I disliked the ink. For me, an ink is there to be used, and a Special Edition even more so, although a suitable rationing system will no doubt be put in place!

In Use – Rhodia No. 12 Ruled Notepad

Anyone with half an interest in pens and paper probably owns at least one Rhodia notepad, however my own usage has always involved the No. 16 size (14.8 x 21cm) and up. However on a recent trip to a local bookstore, my lovely wife recognised the familiar orange Rhodia cover, purchased a ruled No.12 notepad for AUD $4.95, and surprised me with this little pocket gem when she returned home. A win for me, as I had another notepad in my drawer, sans the guilt of buying yet another item of stationery.

I was keen to see how a notepad of this sized fitted my usual workflow.

Look and Feel

The Rhodia No. 12 is a small notepad (8.5 x 12cm or 3.3 x 4.7in) containing 80 sheets of acid free 80gsm paper. As with other Rhodia products, it is made in France to the same high quality usually associated with products bearing this name. Each sheet has micro-perforations across the top for easy removal, and everything is held together by a single reinforced staple.

Rhodia12_Cover

Rhodia12_Back

It is available with a black cover or the classic Rhodia orange, in the usual paper variants of Dot Pad, Graph or Lined paper.

Performance

As expected, writing is the smooth enjoyable experience reminiscent of the larger Rhodia variants. One of the real advantages of the paper used in Rhodia notepads is that pretty much all pen types and of course pencils, are well received by the paper. I often use gel ink or fountain pens, and it is a real joy to know that a quick note taken will be captured the way I intended – crisp and clear with no feathering or bleed, and will generally be dry by the time the cover is closed or the page is torn out. At the outside, fountain pen drying time was less than 10 seconds, most often closer to 5, with liquid or gel ink around 3 seconds or less.

Rhodia12_Note_1Rhodia12_Note_2

Although the size of the No. 12 puts it in the same use category (for me) as index cards, where it really shines is in allowing me to bypass such appalling paper as your standard Post It notes. Although my own use case rarely requires me to actually stick or post one of these notes, given their prevalence in the office and ease of scribbling a quick note for someone, they remain in widespread use by all – myself included. Despite the ongoing use of these tacky (yes I went there) pieces of yellow, I have always loathed the paper, the sticky strip on the reverse side, and the fact that when I write on them my pen invariably skips or doesn’t work on the top third where the glue resides underneath. Thank you Rhodia No.12.

The perforation across the top works flawlessly when tearing off each note, a Rhodia feature I found to be a godsend when undertaking InCoWriMo earlier in the year, with all correspondence for that challenge being written on No.16 Dot Pad. It is also nice to have both sides of each page lined, as occasionally the size dictates a second page for a single note.

Use Case

I must admit I don’t purchase many notebooks this size, however this may now change as I have become accustomed to having this little Rhodia with me and put into use for a good many tasks.

It has clearly become a superior option to the dreaded office Post It note referred to above, providing a much nicer writing experience, and removes the need to fold the notes in half to avoid the sticky portion clinging to everything in its immediate vicinity. Here we are talking short notes for colleagues, phone numbers, ideas “filed” in to my Nock Co. Maryapple for later processing, or quick lists if I am going out to the shops in my lunch break.

Rhodia12_MaryappleRhodia12_Maryapple_Close

Rhodia12_GrindersSpeaking of the Maryapple, as this notepad has become more entrenched in my workflow, I have found this case to be a perfect home for the No 12. When carrying between the office and home, my standard Maryapple case formation now consists of 2 Field Notes and a few index cards on one side and the Rhodia No. 12 in the other. With the cover folded back, the lip across the top fold keeps the notebook perfectly above the top of the case pocket. The more I use the Maryapple, the more uses I find for it, and the more I like it.

When sitting on my desk at home, the size of the No. 12 notes again suit quick lists if I’m heading out to the shops; as reference markers in books or magazines (with notes); for notes on my coffee grinders containing coffee type and grind information; and even a few quick sketches if the notepad was closest to hand when an idea struck.

Conclusion

One aspect of this Rhodia No. 12 Notepad which surprised me a little was seeing just how many more notes I have written since adding it to my workflow. Clearly not having a decent notebook of this size in the past decreased the amount of notes I produced this way – never a good thing! This has certainly changed now, and I can see the No. 12 being put to good use for some time to come. I am still using my Field Notes heavily, which will continue, as the two serve distinctly different purposes – the Field Notes unsuited to producing a quick tear out note of this kind.

Things I would change? Probably going for the Dot Grid option, particularly as many notes I write on a notepad of this size are oriented diagonally corner to corner; perhaps a 40 page option would be nice, as writing certainly becomes more comfortable without the large drop from the page to whatever surface it may be resting on, however this is taken care of soon enough by simply writing more notes!

By now it should be fairly clear I am rather taken by the No. 12 sized offering from Rhodia. Having used the No. 16 Dot Grid pads extensively for some time now, the question was never going to be about the paper, but the uses I may or may not have for the size. Over the past few weeks any doubts about when or where I may use notes of this size have certainly been put to rest, with the answer being anywhere and everywhere, which I must admit was a pleasant surprise.

At less than the cost of a cup of good single origin filter coffee, the Rhodia No. 12 is fantastic value for money. If you are a long time Rhodia user of the larger sized notebooks, you may be surprised by how often this smaller size comes in handy. For someone wishing to test out Rhodia paper and see what all the fuss is about without having to purchase a larger size? Perfect.

Me? I’m off to pick up a few No. 12 Dot Grids to leave lying around wherever I might need them.