Monday, January 15, 2018

FANTASTICPAPER COLOR A5 NOTEBOOK REVIEW

Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
I was very curious to check out this new -to me- notebook brand from Germany called Fantasticpaper. With a name like that, expectations are inevitably through the roof. Skeptical as I am, I expected a big letdown when I bought one from my local pen store Le├źn in Hasselt (no webshop yet, but definitely worth a visit if you are in the area!) 

Luckily I'm often proven wrong, and this is one of those instances. For me, the positive experience actually already starts at the design of the notebook. It's incredibly well-thought out and features some welcome functions in a stylish, minimalist package. 
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper currently makes two different models, the COLOR featured here, and the COUTURE which has silver gilded edges. The Color comes in 6 different two-tone color combinations. I went for grey and red which I think is stylish with just the right amount of color. The cover is made of a relatively thin cardboard that had a very pleasant rubberised texture to it. The corners of both the cover and the paper inside are pointed, as opposed to most notebooks that feature rounded corners. There's minimal branding on the back cover but the rest is slick and clean-looking. 
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
While this cardstock paper softcover is probably not as sturdy as a hardcover, it's definitely thicker than most softcover notebooks. About three seconds after I removed it from the shrink-wrap, I dropped it on a corner and it seemed to survive that pretty well. It can probably withstand a fair share of usage, but I doubt it'll still look like new after a few months of use. Softcover notebooks are usually thinner with less pages, so they don't have to keep up as long. This being a full-sized notebook with 200 pages, it'll have to last a bit, so I could see durability being an issue in the long run.
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Size comparison of the Fantasticpaper A5 (top) with the Leuchtturm A5 notebook (bottom).
Honestly, nothing about this notebook is standard. Sizewise, the Fantasticpaper A5 isn't really that far off from standard dimensions. But the shape of the notebook is somewhat unusual. The dimensions are wider and shorter than most comparable brands' offerings.It measures 15 cm (5.9") by 20 cm (7.9"). Comparing it with a Leuchtturm 1917 A5 notebook, the Fantasticpaper Color is slightly wider and less tall. It's also quite thick, despite the thin paper cover. 
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
The size is odd, but the binding is even more unusual. They call it Swiss binding, which is a combination of bound and glued, and instead of being attached to both sides of the inside of the cover, it's only attached to the back. This means the front cover opens up to lay entirely flat, and for some reason the pages itself also open up perfectly flat.
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
One issue with the binding is that the front cover doesn't support the left sides of the pages, so for the first half of the notebook, the back side of each page is quite difficult to use because it doesn't rest on the cover (I used another notebook stacked underneath it to support it while writing, not ideal).
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
The Fantasticpaper notebook may seem quite 'basic' at first sight, but they actually pack a really clever design feature that adds functionality. Inside the back cover, you'll find a few perforated slots that you have to loosen yourself. The top one is a foldable bookmark, while the bottom slot can accommodate a business card or two. I really like how they incorporated this into the design, while still keeping the overall look of the notebook very clean and simple. 
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
The 96 sheets of lined 90 gsm Munken paper make for quite a thick stack of  surprisingly decent paper. Would I call it fantastic? Well no, it's a bit toothy for my taste (ideal for pencil or ballpoint pen). But it does handle ink surprisingly well.

At first, it seems like the paper wants to soak up the ink entirely and feather like crazy. But surprisingly the feathering is very limited. Ink spreads a little bit, which makes line widths appear a bit wider than usual (not ideal if you like those EEF lines), but the writing looks surprisingly crisp and clear. There's a slight bit of shading to it, but it's not very pronounced (don't even think about sheen, that's a bridge too far). Despite the relatively absorbent paper, I encountered no bleedthrough, and only moderate ghosting (although not up to the point where it interfered with writing on the back of the page.
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Overall, I am quite pleased with the results! The limited amount of ink spread and feathering is acceptable, and the lack of bleedthrough is impressive. It's a strange paper to write on because it sucks up the ink (which makes it feel 'mushy' when you write), but the result is pretty decent and I like it.
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review
Unfortunately they are currently not that widespread available. But if you are in Europe, there are a few online and physical stores that offer them. The best part: they are VERY affordable. Prices vary a bit, but I've seen them go between 10 and 12.5 EUR per book. I guess the lack of a hardcover is a good way to press costs, and in the end the most important part is paper quality (for me at least). That being said, if you are looking for a durable notebook, a hardcover might be the better way to go.
Fantasticpaper Color A5 notebook review

Friday, January 5, 2018

KAWECO STEEL SPORT FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
Ah yes: a new year, a new Kaweco Sport review! Kaweco has made a habit of releasing a new metal version of their classic pen each year, and the latest metal in the line-up of Kaweco's ever-growing collection of Sport pens is stainless steel. Since I'm so terribly late with this review of last year's release (Yeah, it's 2018 already! Anyone else who still thinks it's 2017?), I'm already waiting for what is up next. I really hope they'll go for a copper Kaweco Sport this year.

Anyway, I thought it would still be relevant to talk about the Steel Sport, since it's something a little different to the Brass Sport that came before it (that I still enjoy very much). My thanks to Kaweco for sending one over for this review! 
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
Stainless steel is relatively similar to brass when it comes to density (just slightly lighter), so it's somewhat comparable to the Brass Sport in terms of weight (total weight of 40g). But most importantly, it lacks the smell that so many people absolutely hate. It's the best of both worlds for the most part, but I do miss the awesome patina that brass gets after use. 
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
Instead of patina, the Steel Sport received a brushed finish to give the cold grey surface some visual texture. I quite like how this makes it stand out from the wide variety of other finishes that is available on the Kaweco Sport. It gives the pen a pleasant texture in the hand, and it provides a nice satin look.
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
The threads seem to have received a black finish that contrasts the rest of the pen quite nicely. I don't know if this is a side-effect of the machining of steel, or if it's finished like this on purpose, but either way I think it looks quite good. 
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
L to R: Kaweco Sport mechanical pencil, Kaweco Steel and Brass Sport, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
An 'open' comparison, to show once again how full-sized the Kaweco Sport becomes when posted

In terms of size and dimensions, I realised I always drag on and on about the convenient size. Yet I never actually showed a good comparison of how the Kaweco Sport compares to some other pens when posted. So in the two photos above you can clearly see how it relates to the Lamy Safari and Lamy 2000 (both what I would consider full sized pens). When posted, it's somewhere in between the Safari and 2000, at 12.7 cm (5"), which is the perfect size for my hands.

One thing I noticed in use, is that the cap does not post as securely as my other Kaweco Sport pens. Each metal has different characteristics that can cause differences in the machining process. So I assume the tolerances might be a bit different with this one. A firm push is needed to post the cap, and even then it occasionally pops off. 
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
Since I tried and reviewed most Kaweco nib sizes so far, I opted for one that's usually out of my comfort zone: the extra fine. What nib I prefer depends strongly on my mood and what I am using it for, but this EF actually finds a good use in my daily carry. It's a smooth nib (considering the line width, of course it's not as smooth as a BB!), and it writes a consistent fine line. I like to use it for taking notes on crappy copy paper, which is unfortunately very common when you're a student.

Again I didn't notice any 'shoddy QC' with this nib. It's sort of a bad rep Kaweco has always suffered from, yet in my opinion it's not quite justified. Of course you can always come across a dud (which can happen with every brand), but in general I have always found Kaweco's nibs quite good. They might not be the most exciting steel nibs ever, but they rarely don't do what they are supposed to do. Ink choice is a VERY important aspect of how a nib behaves, so I generally like to keep my Kawecos filled with something a bit more lubricated or wet (My personal favorites being Sailor or KWZ). 
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review
The succes story of the Kaweco Sport continues with the addition of steel to the ridiculously varied offering of metals and other materials to choose from. Each material has a slightly different price, based on the cost of the material itself and production process. Unfortunately, the Steel Sport is the most expensive as of yet (excluding the AC Sport which is a bit of a special case). I suppose that's partially because it's harder to machine compared to brass or aluminium. 

With a price of 85 EUR (from Mostwanted Pens) or 88.5 USD on the US market, it's not exactly cheap for a pocket pen. The Classic Sport, made of plastic, is a more ideal entry-level, and the step up to an aluminium AL Sport is a bit easier to digest (at 57.5 EUR incl. VAT on the european market). The Brass or Steel Sport, and even the AC Sport, are more aimed at those that want to expand the collection, or try something different.

Note: This product was provided by Kaweco, free of charge, so I could write this review.  I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affilate links.
Kaweco Steel Sport fountain pen review

Sunday, December 31, 2017

MY FAVORITES OF 2017

The year has come to an end! So to close off 2017, here are some of my favorite products that I discovered this past year. I try out and review A TON of products each year, but these products just stood out from the crowd.

To give credits where credits are due, I completely stole this idea from Ed Jelley (edjelley.com) who is arguably the master of Lists and Buying Guides! Go check out his blog!

1. FRARA ROAD LEATHER PEN ROLL

My favorites of 2017: Frara Road Leather Pen Roll
The Frara Road Pen Roll has literally been by my side ever since I got it in for review back in August! It's a well-made and beautiful leather product made by a small South African brand. This wrap-style of carrying case is new to me, and it. just. works. The form factor is easy to carry, albeit a bit large, but it still manages to fit in my backpack without any issues. The leather quality is amazing, and it can carry six pens safely. Everywhere I took it with me, people commented on it and wanted to know where to get one. Perhaps this is my favourite product of the year. Period.

2. ENSSO PIUMA

My favorites of 2017: Ensso Piuma fountain pen
MINIMALIST. MACHINED. METAL. Those are perhaps the three keywords that best describe 2017 for me. Pens like the Namisu Nova, Karaskustoms EDK, Baron Fig Squire, Kaweco Brass Sport and perhaps my favorite: The Ensso Piuma! These metal pens have made up a big part of my daily carry in the past year. I just love the solid feeling, and solid performance they deliver. And as a chemist, the metallurgy behind the different metals fascinates me. 

The Ensso Piuma jump out from the rest because they were just so well-designed and well-made. It's not as easy to make a minimal product as people may  think, and Ensso just hit a homerun with these! The design is as sleek as it gets, but at the same time it's also manages to be a very comfortable writer (something the Namisu Nova -The honorable mention- lacked a bit). On top of that, I also like the #6 Bock nibs that you can find on most of these machined metal pens, which I think are excellent writers (especially the titanium ones are a lot of fun!).
(Read my full review)

WHERE TO BUY: ensso.com

3. PILOT CUSTOM 823 

My favourites of 2017: Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen
High-end Pilot pens like the 823 often get flak for being boring and uninspired designs. And while that may be true -The design of the 823 is about as classic as it gets-, it does provide a seriously impressive writing experience. The 823 is a pen you can write with non-stop. It's comfortable, smooth, reliable and it has an ink capacity that will last you several days of intense use. I got mine with a medium nib, and while I generally think medium nibs are boring, this is the most amazing boring medium I've used in a long while! 

True, this pen won't win beauty contests, and it may not win your heart because of that. But it's undeniably a first-class workhorse of a pen. 
WHERE TO BUY: stilografica.it

4. ROBERT OSTER SIGNATURE INKS

My favorites of 2017: Robert Oster Signature Inks

2017 Was the year of the inks apparently. A lot of new brands popped up, and my collection got even further out of hand with 57 new bottles (I'm almost ashamed of myself). 15 Of those new additions were from the hand of Australian brand Robert Oster, which is quite a subtle indication of how much I like them. In general, they are solid inks with excellent flow and behaviour. Some of them shade really well, some have killer sheen, and others I like purely for the color itself. 

WHERE TO BUY: appelboom.com

5. FRANKLIN CHRISTOPH MODEL 66 + MUSIC NIB

My favourites of 2017: Franklin-Christoph Model 66 fountain pen
I had been on the lookout for another Franklin-Christoph for a while. Because they are only available in the US, I kept holding off. But then my good friend Janine (@Janinescribbles on Instagram!) went to the DC pen show, and she was kind enough to bring one home for me! 

I went for an eye-searingly bright orange Model 66, which is a large desk-type pen. And I absolutely love it to bits! It's a large, quirky pen that grabs the attention. But more importantly, it's an amazing writer. The long, lightweight acrylic pen may not be the most practical to take with you (although it still fits my Visconti Dreamtouch pen cases...barely), but it's very comfortable and easygoing.
My favourites of 2017: Franklin-Christoph Model 66 fountain pen
This pen really sings, especially paired with the Franklin-Christoph Shadow Music nib (a three-tine 1.9mm stub). The music nib really brings the whole experience to the next level. The wet flow from the three tines provides a perfect writing experience, where I feel like other stubs often lack consistency and flow. The line is wide and crisp. I keep it inked up with Ky-No-Oto Yamabuki-Iro which has some of the best shading, and this nib takes full advantage of that.
(Full review to come!)

WHERE TO BUY: franklin-christoph.com

 6. EDISON PEARLETTE CANYON TRAIL

My favorites of 2017: Edison Pearlette Canyon Trail fountain pen
Top: Edison Collier Burnished Gold, Bottom: Edison Pearlette Canyon Trail.
Last but not least on my list is another semi-bespoke pen brand from the US: Edison! The Edison Collier surprised me last year, and this year again with the new Burnished Gold version (that I reviewed HERE). But my real favourite was the Pearlette. This was a surprise, and kind of an impulse buy at the Tilburg Pen show, but I haven't had the slightest regret! 

The Pearlette is a smaller pen, which is the main reason why it flew under my radar in the past. But this year's new Canyon Trail finish is downright mesmerizing. The material has an amazing depth to it, and the size is actually much more comfortable than I thought it would be. It's a bit of an adaptation from what I normally use, but it fits my hand just right (YMMV, of course).
(Full review to come!)

WHERE TO BUY: scrittura-elegante.com

To end this post, first of all: Happy New Year everyone! I wish you all a happy and healthy 2018, filled with pens of course! Thanks also, for reading and supporting my blog. You're awesome, and you're the reason I keep doing this!

I think it's also the perfect time to thank my loyal sponsors for their continued support. These sponsors keep this blog going, and provide products for reviews and giveaways. Go give them a follow on social media, browse their webshops, and don't forget to use the discount codes that some of them provide for readers of The Pencilcase Blog! 

Disclaimer: I received some of these products for review. However that doesn't change the fact that I reached for these products the most during the past year, this list is based solely on which products I used and enjoyed most throughout the year. There are no affilate links in this post.