Saturday, February 16, 2019

QUICK LOOK: BARON FIG SQUIRE COPPER PEN REVIEW

Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review
I know, I know! It's a bit late to do a 'quick look' review when the 'new' copper version of the ever-so popular Baron Fig Squire has already been around for more than three months... In fact I'm so terribly late that -in the meantime- Baron Fig already introduced another iteration of their pen: the Squire Brass (same as the special edition lock & Key, but now part of the standard production line). Better late than never though, right? 
Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review
The Squire may have lost some of its popularity since the original launch back in 2016 (review HERE), and there's some fierce competition from other small makers and brands (Such as Karas Pen Co., Tactile Turn, or even the brand new Mark One by Studio Neat). But in my opinion it still holds strong today. That's in part because Baron Fig managed to keep their lineup of Squire pens fresh by constantly releasing new limited edition colorways and various material options in their so-called Precious Metals collection.

Another reason why I still consider the Squire is its fantastic design. The minimal teardrop-shaped Squire is still one of the sexiest pen designs I've come across. Let's face it, Baron Fig knows how to make a clever-looking and sleek product. It's a clean and uninterrupted, clipless shape, which is of course minimal but not always practical... The shape and size of the Squire lend itself perfectly to being pocket carried, which sometimes makes me wish it has a clip. If you want, Baron Fig sells neat leather pen sleeves, which offer some protection and a place to store your pen without having it roll all over the place. 
Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review
Personally, this solid copper version of the Squire is probably my favorite so far... But then again, I AM quite partial to copper pens. Part of the appeal for me is definitely in the patina it creates. I just love to watch a pristine, shiny pink-colored copper pen create its own unique character after a short while of use, taking on fantastic hues of red, brown and blue. 
Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review
Copper is obviously also a lot heavier than aluminium, and I think the Squire in particular lends itself perfectly to these heavier metals (brass, copper, stainless steel). At 50 grams, it's twice the weight of an aluminium Squire, giving it a very solid feel in the hand. Yet at the same time, it's not too outrageously heavy because of the relatively compact form factor. Contrary to larger, beefier pens made of copper (like the copper Namisu Nova), the Squire never felt like it weighed me down or caused any fatigue while writing. (For a full discussion of dimensions, and size comparison, you can check out my review of the original Squire!) 

If you still want the extra heft, but don't like the smell of pennies that you get from copper or brass pens, the stainless steel version (review HERE) offers a similar heft but with a more industrial, silvery steel look. The choice is up to you. 
Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review
Since my last review of a Squire, my preference has shifted slightly towards gel ink pens, as I've been using the Pilot G2 a lot lately. The Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill that ships with the Squire still comes in at a very strong second place though, and it remains the most consistent performing rollerball refill I've tried to date. It lays down a consistent, black line. The ink dries fast and doesn't smear, but it does tend to bleed through lesser-quality paper (which is the main reason why I switched to gel ink, which is a bit less prone to bleeding and feathering).
Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review
Price-wise, the copper Squire sits at the upper-end of Baron Fig's offerings, coming in at 95$. The upcharge -compared to the brass (75$) or stainless steel (85$) version- seems somewhat high. It's certainly not cheap for a minimal pen, and let's be honest: not everyone is a fan of copper pens (both due to their weight and the penny smell).

That being said, after 3 years the Baron Fig Squire still brings a smile to my face every time I use it. The design is great -from packaging to branding-, it's a comfortable pen to use and you can't really go wrong with the Schmidt rollerball refill. If copper is not your thing, there are plenty of other finishes to choose from, each with their own characteristics and look (at some point I'm hoping they'll also add a titanium version, which would complete the 'precious metals' collection IMHO).

This product was sent to me by Baron Fig 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.
Quick Look: Baron Fig Squire copper pen review

Monday, February 4, 2019

PAPER REVIEW: KUNISAWA FIND NOTEBOOKS

Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Some products start off so strong that you're convinced you'll never find any flaws to them... but then things take a turn for the worse. The Kunisawa Find notebook collection is one of those products. A pity really, because I was really quite was blown away by this extensive selection of Japanese stationery at first!
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
It all started out as a love on first sight-situation. Everything from the design to the precise packaging of the Kunisawa Find products is what I've come to expect from Japanese stationery: minimal design, subtle colors, neat and precise manufacturing,... These have it all. The aesthetic is focused around a business-y monochrome black-grey-white color scheme (with a few exceptions of brown and blue here and there) that are offset by copper accents such as the hot-foiled logo and gilded edges. The result is a stylish and varied set of notebooks, reporter pads, sticky notes,... 'plain' enough to be used in a professional environment, but with a distinct touch that sets them apart from the rest. 
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
One small detail about the design that I particularly enjoy, is that they use different cover materials for their different products. The hardcover notebooks have plastic covers with different textured finishes, while the ring-bound books are made with cardboard and the 'Soft' notebook has a textured PU foam cover -all of them in matching colorways of course. The variety in materials gives each product its own look and feel.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
The logo represents the three-legged crow 'Yatagarasu', a Japanese mythical creature representing the god of guidance.
Then there's the wide range of products to choose from:
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Sticky Memo. A7 size with 80 adhesive sheets, blank.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Block Memo. A7 size with 80 sheets, 2.5mm grid ruled.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Pocket Note. Spiral-bound hardcover notepad, 9x15cm. 50 sheets (100 pages), 5mm grid ruled.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Smart Note. A compact and slim hardcover notebook. 9x17 cm with 40 sheets (80pages) and gilt edges, 2.5mm grid ruled. Lays open completely flat.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Soft Note. A 12x21 cm softcover with flexible PU cover (very flexible!). 96 sheets (192 pages), 5mm grid ruled. Doesn't lay open flat because of the more flexible spine.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Slim Note. A thin A5 softcover notebook. 40 Sheets (80 pages) with gilt edges, 5mm grid ruled. Lays open almost completely flat.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Ring Note. A5 spiral-bound softcover. 80 Sheets (160 pages), 5mm grid ruled. 
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Find Hard Note. Semi-hardcover A5 bound notebook. 96 Sheets (192 pages) with gilt edges, 5mm grid ruled. Lays open almost completely flat.

Functionally, all Kunisawa products follow a very minimalist approach, similar to other Japanese notebooks. All Find notebooks are as barebones as it gets: no numbered pages, no page marker, no elastic closure or back pocket. The only exceptions are the Find Note Soft and Find Note Hard, which come with a thin grey page marker ribbon. If you like your notebooks quite feature-packed, Kunisawa is likely not the brand for you.

Up until this point, I have absolutely zero complaints. I can live without numbered pages or a bookmark, but I expect to find decent paper on the inside. Unfortunately, that's an area where Kunisawa couldn't always live up to my (high) expectations.

All Find stationery utilizes the exact same 'Foolscap' paper (The term Foolscap most likely got lost in translation at some point as it's not a brand name, but rather a type and size of letter paper). The cream-colored paper seems to be around 80 gsm in weight (I couldn't find any actual specs to back this up). It's relatively smooth but not glassy smooth, so it's also suitable for use with pencil. All Find notebooks come with 5mm grid paper, except the Find Block Memo and Smart Note, which have a tiny 2.5mm grid. I wasn't so sure if a grid this small would be usable, but in practice it's really quite enjoyable to write on and I found that my writing would naturally fit inside the ruling. The light grey grid is noticeable, but not too obtrusive in my opinion.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Good vs Bad. Nice crisp lines on the left, feathering and a flat, bland line on the right.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Good vs Bad. Little to no bleedthrough on the left, quite severe bleedthrough on the right.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Excellent shading and sheen on the left. On the right is one of the 'mediochre' samples which shows little to no sheen but still shows decent shading.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Very interesting shading/oxidation effect of Platinum Classic Citrus Black ink swab. This is one of the good paper samples.
As you can probably tell from the photos above, the problem is that -despite all using the same paper- they don't all perform equally well. I tested each different product with various fountain pens, cotton swabs, dip nibs,... and some performed absolutely perfect (zero feathering, almost no bleedthrough and ink dried crisply with nice shading and sheen), where others couldn't hold up to fountain pen use. 

Kunisawa sent samples to a couple different reviewers, and paper quality results seemed to be completely random throughout their product lineup. I'm fairly convinced that it's not a matter of bad paper choice (some samples I tested were legitimately excellent), but rather poor (or lack of) quality control that allowed a faulty batch of paper to slip through the net and get spread across different products. I emailed back and forth with Kunisawa about the paper issues and they in turn communicated it with their paper manufacturer. They acknowledged the issue and seemed to be working to fix it. 
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
"I do not seek, I find."
As it stands now, It's difficult to recommend any of the Kunisawa Find products, since there is no way of knowing which ones will perform well and which ones won't. Especially at their rather premium price point (up to 27$ for the A5 Find Note Hard notebook), there's no room for error. Kunisawa is a promising brand that I'll certainly keep an eye on. Their design philosophy and build quality is already on point, but I really hope they can fix the inconsistency in paper quality. Some of the products I tested had downright excellent paper, so I'd be all on board if they could provide that kind of quality across the board.

This product was sent to me by Kunisawa 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 affiliate links. 
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Good paper left, bad paper right.
Paper review: Kunisawa Find notebooks
Good paper left, bad paper right.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

REVIEW: TACTILE TURN GLIDER BOLT-ACTION PEN

Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
In my fascination for metal pens I've already come across a bunch of interesting brands, and have tried some truly excellent products in the process. Suprisingly, there was one brand that has always been on my radar, yet for some reason it took me until now to finally check them out: Tactile Turn!

A couple months ago, I bought a titanium Tactile Turn Gist fountain pen from Mike Dudek (of The Clicky Post and Dudek Modern Goods fame!). Shortly after, by coincidence, I got in touch with both Will (owner of Tactile Turn) and Sascha (who owns German-based online store 'Writing Turning Flipping', one of few EU-based retailers that stocks Tactile Turn!). Suffice to say you'll encounter quite a few Tactile Turn products here on the blog in the next few months!

I thought I'd start by taking a look at the Glider -sent to me by Writing Turning Flipping-, which has consistently been part of my daily carry in the past couple months. The Glider is something new for me, as I had never used a bolt-action pen (which are quite popular in the EDC community). As the cherry on top, Sascha sent it over in one of my favorite metals: copper!
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
The Glider in beteen the Mover and mechanical pencil, notice the subtle difference in shape of the Glider.
The Glider is one of two bolt-action pens Tactile Turn makes: the Glider and Slider. The Glider is about 0.5" longer and therefore takes another refill, but otherwise they are identical in design. The Glider is a large but sleek and streamlined pen. It strikes a good balance between minimal and industrial design. The barrel tapers gently into the nose cone at the front and at the rear end of the pen is a rounded finial where you'd usually find a knock mechanism.

But this is of course a bolt-action pen, and the mechanism can be found on the right next to the clip. It's a nicely rounded semi-circle shape with a small stainless steel bolt that doesn't protrude too far out from the barrel so it doesn't really sit in the way.
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
The mechanism takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of the 'swooping' motion (in lack of a better explanation) it almost becomes second nature. It's also EXTREMELY addictive to fiddle with. Seriously, once I pick it up, I have a hard time putting it back down. That said, it's not necessarily the most practical mechanism to quickly deploy and jot something down, but it sure does look cool. If I had to really nitpick on this pen, I would've liked to bolt to travel a mm or two further down so that the tip of the refill extends just a hair further. Of course that's easy to fix, I just taped a small piece of plastic to the back to give it that little extra length.

Basically all Tactile Turn pens share two specific design elements: the machined ridged texture across the entire surface of the pen, and the sturdy folded stainless steel clip. While this type of clip is something you can see on a lot of EDC-minded pens, it's attached internally instead of bolted to the outside of the barrel. The 'tactile' surface finish -what's in a name!- gives the pen a unique satin matte appearance from afar, and also provides excellent grip in the hand.

As I said, I chose the copper finish, which is hefty and creates a wonderful patina with use. If you're not a fan of copper, Tactile Turn provides plenty other metal options to choose from (aluminium, brass, titanium, stainless steel, damascus steel or even zirconium!), each with their own unique character and feel.
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
L to R: Karas Pen Co Retrakt, Tactile Turn Gist 1.0, Tactile Turn  Mover, Tactile Turn pencil, Tactile Turn Glider, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000
The Glider is a large pen, measuring in at 14.2cm (5.6"), and with a comfortable 11mm (0.43") diameter across the entire body of the pen. In this copper finish, it's a hefty 65g. For comparison, the aluminium is only 26g, and the titanium comes in at 36g, so that's quite a big difference in weight (there are a few other metal options to choose from, which have slightly different weights). Even though this copper version is heavy, it's very nicely balanced and I rarely had issues with fatigue. The combination of the surface texture, good size and nice heft makes this a very comfortable pen. I've used it for long writing sessions without any issues.

One thing that stands out in all Tactile turn products, is that they are made with an excellent eye for detail. The design is considerate and machining is impeccable. Fit and finish is so good on these pens, that you'll have to look very closely to spot the seam where the two halves of the barrel meet. The knurled texture is consistent across the entire pen, and apart from providing grip it also helps to hide small scuffs and scratches from use.
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
The Pilot G2 gel ink refill? An excellent choice in my book. It has actually surpassed the Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill in my personal rating. Both are fantastic refills, but because the G2 uses gel-based ink, it's less prone to bleeding and feathering on crappy paper. The Tactile Turn pens come stock with a black 0.38mm G2 refill, which lays down a crisp and fine line. On top of that, the G2 refill is available in a ton of colors, and it's a common size that is shared by a bunch of other refills (Tactile Turn provides a list of compatible refills HERE)
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen
The Glider is an allround excellent pen with an impeccable level of detail in the machining. There's really just one caveat: the mechanism on this pen is so addicting to play with... it may drive people around you crazy!

Making it even easier to recommend is the price. The Tactile Turn Glider is competitively priced when compared to direct competitors like the Karas Pen Co. Bolt. Prices obviously vary depending on the metal you choose: the aluminium version starts at 60$ (65€), this copper version is 70$ (75€) and the titanium Glider comes in at 80$ (85€). The more exotic finishes, like DLC-coated titanium, damascus steel and zirconium, obviously command a rather hefty premium.

This product was sent to me by Writing Turning Flipping 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 affiliate links. 
Review: Tactile Turn Glider Bolt-Action pen