Saturday, December 3, 2016

BARON FIG ARCHER PENCIL REVIEW

Baron Fig started as a Kickstarter project for a minimalist design notebook in 2013, the Baron Fig Confidant. In the few years of being in business, they expanded their product line to where they now offer four minimalist, core products. With one hardcover notebook, a series of softcover notebooks, a pen and now a woodcased pencil, they offer the essentials you need to write, draw or doodle.
The final addition is the Archer, a woodcased pencil, following the same minimalist design found in all Baron Fig products. Minimalism is their core business, and that starts right at the beginning, with the packaging. The dozen pencils are presented in a small grey tube with a clean graphic design of the pencil along the length. The first thing everyone -including me- seems to think when you see the packaging: 'No way twelve pencils are in there!' And yet when you open it: sure thing, twelve pencils tightly packed together!
The cedarwood barrel casing of the Archer pencil is finished with a semi-matte, grey laquer that is advertised as anti-slip. It doesn't have a rubberized feel to it, but it is indeed nice to grip (if it's less slippery than other pencils, I don't necessarily think so). The end of the pencil is topped off with a matte black dipped end. I'm personally a fan of erasers ends on pencils from a practical point of view, but here they chose to go for the most minimal finish.
The baron fig and arrow logos are screen-printed right underneath the black end on opposite sides of the pencil barrel. Whereas I miss the eraser (and wish they went for a slightly less minimal approach in that area), I can definitely appreciate the simple and cleanly stamped logos.
The cedar wood casing sharpens quite well, and the graphite cores sit nicely centered inside. The HB hardness (the only hardness available) is a balanced option for writing and drawing. In comparison with some other pencils (Faber-Castell Grip 2001, Rhodia #2, Palomino Blackwing classic, Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood) I found it to be noticeably more crisp and sharp. It gives a bit more feedback when you write, which makes it feel like writing with a harder H pencil, but the line darkness is comparable to other HB pencils. I personally quite like the more tactile writing experience, point retention is quite good, I could easily write half an A4 page on smooth Rhodia paper without having to sharpen (YMMV if you use different paper), but of course for longer writing sessions you should still keep a sharpener at hand.
For a first venture into pencils, Baron Fig certainly did a great job. Their background of pristine, minimal design shows through in the clean and tidy look of the Archer. Their minimal approach means you won't find an eraser, which is something I missed, but in return you get a well-balanced, light pencil. The HB graphite core isn't the smoothest out there, but it keeps a sharp point and it leaves behind a dark line.

At 15 USD for a dozen pencils, Baron Fig certainly hit a decent price point between the really cheap (but lesser quality) school pencils, and the really expensive pencils (like Blackwings), I'm eager to see more... and in fact there will be more! Baron Fig just launched their subscription system, in which they will release a new special edition of every product they make (that's right, FOUR special edition products every season!), including the Archer, (you can check out the subscriptions HERE).

Note: These pencils were sent to me by Baron Fig, 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.

Friday, November 25, 2016

INKTASTIC: GRAF VON FABER-CASTELL STONE GREY REVIEW

I have over 100 bottles of ink at the moment, yet when it comes to writing down (somewhat) important things or taking notes in class, I rarely use anything but black (Lamy black most of the time). That's boring, I know. So I decided to up my notetaking game by finding an ink that is still subdued, but has a bit more character.

The answer was grey. Grey inks have become an obsession in the past few months, I'm trying to find the perfect grey that isn't too light, has shading, is neutral in color and performs well. In my search so far, Graf von Faber-Castell Stone grey tops the charts.
When does an ink become a favourite? Simple: when it ticks all the boxes!
Stone grey is what I would call a 'neutral' grey (YMMV) . Grey inks can be either colder, more towards blue, or warmer, with a more yellow undertone. In between those two is a neutral zone. It has no color, only different shades of grey. (A black and white photo of it would probably show no difference in color to what you see here) That's what I wanted, and that's what Stone grey delivers.
Another good reason for liking this ink is that it shades quite well. The base color isn't that dark, but because of the shading it appears much darker on the page. Darker also means more legible, so it's a win-win situation. This is definitely an ink worth trying out in a wide, wet nib to get the best possible shading out of it!
Sheen is hard to find, but the shading more than makes up for that. Certain inks just have better sheen than others, and grey inks are in the latter category. Apart from that it does perform as it's supposed to. Graf von Faber-Castell calls it 'indelible' which means it should be smudge-proof, resistant to water, UV and certain chemicals. In my water test it still smudged. But part of it remained somewhat legible, I suppose you could get away with it but I wouldn't recommend trying it on purpose.
Overall -and this is something I found with GvFC Hazelnut brown as well- it's a well-behaved ink: nothing out of the ordinary, but nothing to complain about either. It's good looking but sober, reliable ink, which makes it ideal for daily use. Shading is what makes this, and other grey inks, attractive in my book, and it's something I miss with black ink. I can definitely see this completely replace Lamy black over time as my go-to ink.

I like what Graf von Faber-Castell is doing with their inks, I've tried two so far, and I'm eager to try the other colors in the collection. Price is a downside, at 25 EUR / 30 USD for a 70ml bottle (Really nice glass bottles though!). But the inks are very good quality and the colors that I tried have been great, so I think they are worth a shot.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

PILOT METROPOLITAN FOUNTAIN PEN REVIEW

Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
The Pilot Metropolitan is a pen I've held off from for several years before buying one last summer. I have a couple Pilot Prera's, which are decent writers, but I never really cared much for them. So I figured I'd think the same about the Metropolitan, (or MR as they are called in some places). Spending a couple months with one proved my bias wrong...

Despite being a relatively cheap offering, the Pilot Metropolitan is a serious pen. It can hold its own, even outside that 15-25$ price range. But especially in that economy price range, which is quite a competitive one with a bunch of interesting alternatives, the Metropolitan is perhaps one of the strongest from the bunch. 
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
Starting off with the cigar-shaped metal body. The MR immediately has the edge on many sub-25$ counterparts in terms of durability. That doesn't mean plastic pens like the Lamy Safari or Kaweco Sport aren't sturdy, but the metal build on the metropolitan does give it a more 'premium' feel.
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
The brass cap and barrel have a matte metallic coating that has a very pleasant 'soft' feel in the hand. The center of the pen has a wide decorative band, which has a slightly textured pattern etched or printed on it. I opted for the 'bronze lizzard' colorway, which is a bronze-grey body with a lizzard-pattern on the center band. Along with the long, slender clip, the metropolitan is actually a really refined-looking pen, especially in the more subdued colorways. 
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
Sizewise, the metropolitan measures in at a fairly average length of 13.8cm (5.4 In) closed, and 12.6cm (5 In) open. At 26g capped, it's a well-weighted pen without being too heavy. It's balanced both posted and unposted. For a reference, that's almost identical to the Lamy 2000, both in size and weight. But of course it's in no way comparable in terms of design and functionality (and price!).
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
L to R: TWSBI Diamond Mini, Hero 616, TWSBI Eco, Faber-Castell Loom, Lamy Safari (Vista), Pilot Metropolitan
The outside may be metal, but on the inside you'll still find a plastic section. It feels cheap compared to the rest of the pen, and you can see the seams from where it was moulded. But then again, we're talking about a price point where you shouldn't expect absolute perfection. The section has a well-defined tapered shape to it. 

The step behind the section is quite high and a bit sharp. Depending on how you hold the pen, it can be either bothersome or downright uncomfortable. Of course if you hate the pre-formed section on the Lamy Safari, chances are you'll still find this much better. 
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
Worth pointing out is that there are two versions of the Metropolitan, a Japanese and a European model. They differ only in one area, but it's important to know because otherwise you won't be able to ink up your pen: the European version is made for standard international cartridges and converters, while the Japanese version uses the proprietary Pilot system. I wasn't aware of this until I actually bought one, so it could be wise to double-check before you buy. It was pointed out to me by an observant reader that US stores (or at least most of them) sell the Japanese version!

Pilot is a Japanese brand of course, and you probably know what that means: great nibs! Japanese nibs are usually a bit finer than european counterparts, which makes them ideal for a lot of people that prefer to write smaller (or just prefer finer nibs). 
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review
I'm personally more of a broad nib fan, which is probably why I have so little Japanese pens in my collection, but there's no denying that Pilot does something very right when it comes to manufacturing their nibs. 

Reliability is key with most Japanese pens, and indeed the metropolitan starts right up after the first inking and every single time you pick it up, regardless of how long it had been unused. The steel nib has a nice flow, considerably towards the wet side, and lays down a consistent, crisp medium line. As I said, Japanese nibs usually run slightly finer, the difference with this pen is slightly more nuanced, but I'd still consider this medium on the finer side (especially considering the rather wet flow). If you want a really fine writer, there's also a version with a Fine steel nib, but it's not available everywhere.

It's not the best pen in the world, and it has its flaws, but at an incredibly low price of just 15 USD/ 19 EUR, the Pilot Metropolitan is basically too good to pass up. It's easily one of the best beginner pens I can think of, and I'm pretty sure even the more seasoned pen addict will enjoy them as well.
Note: La Couronne Du Comte is a sponsor of this blog, I received a discount on this purchase, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared here are completely my own! This review does not contain any affilate links.