Review – Field Notes Bic Pen

Field Notes is a company that makes great notebooks, and they’ve always added a bit of a more personal touch to things. One of the ways they did that was by having branded pens and rubber bands readily available (I believe at some point in their orders, single pens and rubber bands were thrown in for free, but they can be purchased in larger packs easily.) The pens aren’t very expensive and fit very well with the brand’s style just on looks, but do they perform as well as the paper?

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The pen is actually just a branded Bic Clic pen, which isn’t a bad thing really. The entire design is a pleasant taper from the middle, where a ring separates the two halves of the pen. On the top there is a chrome-ish simple clip with Bic’s information on it, and a similarly-colored thin clicking mechanism (which give a very satisfying “click” when used). On the front of the pen, the ballpoint protrudes when the mechanism is depressed and the Field Notes information is printed on the barrel. The only colors of the pen are black, silver, and white, making the whole thing quite understated but also very nice.

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The writing is standard Bic writing. It is smooth enough, black enough, and steady enough to be serviceable in the vast majority of scenarios. It is a medium point, which is usually too broad for me, but definitely is unspectacular and fits with what most people are comfortable with. The ink is, of course, essentially waterproof once dry, with minimal skipping or blotting. I’m not particularly impressed by the writing, but I’m certainly not disappointed.

I’m sure the Field Notes Company did a bunch of research to find both a good enough and inexpensive enough pen for their brand that they wouldn’t have to try to make in-house. And I think they succeeded. The pens are dependable enough, sturdy enough, and simple enough to be almost entirely unremarkable (in both a good and a bad way). They fit the utilitarian image of the company, and are worth having at least as a backup pen.

Review – Poppin Fineliners

Poppin is a company that I don’t know much about, but their pens definitely catch the eye. When I saw this set of fineliners (felt tip pens) from them, I knew I had to pick a set up. The packaging and the feeling of the pens themselves appears quality, but do they live up to their first impressions?

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The outsides themselves are very nice looking. At the bottom is a small inset for posting the cap, which connects via a visible seam to a very smooth and featureless barrel. Underneath the cap are a series of step downs that are quite short and would be uncomfortable to hold, leading quickly to a standard-looking felt tip point, making it more comfortable to hold the pen by the barrel when writing. The cap, when on, has a slight step up from the barrel but is equally pleasantly smooth, and its only features are a dimple in the top and a rather unique u-like clip that looks like a Lamy wire clip that has been flattened.

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Functionally, the clip is about useless. It doesn’t have any dimple with which to grip, and is spaced farther from the cap than the width of most fabrics, meaning friction won’t be holding it in. The tips themselves aren’t that great, either. Like most fineliners, they do write with minimal pressure, but unlike most they do not give a consistent line. Dots very quickly form when writing or drawing due to having a very fluid ink not well controlled, and when writing fast at times skips can even develop, though this is rare.

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The colors of black, blue, and red are very standard, but the two extra colors are very washed out, blue especially. The blue is very pleasant sky blue when controlled well, but becomes darker quickly. But it still sticks out compared to other office blues. Red is nice and vibrant, though its tone is closer to that of a pink. It’s the least prone to problems as the ink is a bit thinner and less likely to dot. The black is fortunately a black and not a very deep purple or gray as some are. It is slightly on the cool side, which is unusual. The colors do match their corresponding pen bodies fairly well, but the inclusion of a 4th pen that has a white body, but also black ink, is slightly confusing. They unfortunately do bleed through the paper, but have minimal shading and resist water (while they do spread slightly when wet, they remain easily readable).

Overall I think the pens aren’t really up to par with what one can get for their office. They are sturdy and the ink works well, but without functional clips, they must remain at the desk or in a case, and their writing performance leaves much to be desired. The user just ends up with a pen that feels slightly rough and dry. If style and durability are your main concerns (and potentially ease of writing as the ink almost jumps from pen to page on contact) these might work for you. But for those looking for the superior, super-smooth and comfortable writing experience, or a portable reliable writer, these can be easily passed up.

Review – Office Depot Ballpoint Pens

Most stores have generic in-store brands or store branded products for various merchandise. That is the case here, with these Office Depot branded ballpoint pens. I don’t know what they cost originally, but they were marked down twice to 50 cents and then 3 packages for $1. Which means I picked up 30 for a $1. There are very few things I wouldn’t say are a good value for that price (I’d probably say stale gum was worth 30 pieces for $1) so it would be hard for these things to let me down. So let’s see how they perform.

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The bodies of the pens are super simple. They are round and straight with a cap on the end to hold the ink cartridge in on the back, and a slight bump (to hold the cap on) followed by a taper and then the point of the front. The cap is fairly generic with an integrated clip that works but isn’t great. They are all made of translucent plastic that matches the ink and have “Office Depot” printed on the side.

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Writing is surprisingly smooth, especially for mediums (they’re a bit broader than normal mediums I would say) and at times they can write with minimal pressure. The packages say “No skip guarantee” which isn’t true, but it wouldn’t be for any pen. It blobs after a certain amount of writing time but I don’t know a pen that wouldn’t, and it’s less than expected. They do tend to have (sometimes severe) startup issues though, especially the longer they are left capped, as do most cheap ballpoint pens.

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The colors are fairly standard office colors, nothing at all natural looking. The black is just off-black and slightly warm. The red is deep and doesn’t shade much, but still very noticeable. And the blue is quite dark, but still differentiate-able from the black except in the lowest of lights. All are essentially waterproof and dry quickly.

Overall, I’d say the pens are probably worth it. They have no frills, and likely a high margin of error. Any problems, though, and the pen can simply be tossed. They do come with wax-sealed tips, meaning they will last longer in storage, but after that they need to be used fast before they dry up. The bodies are sufficiently hardy to last easily for the life expectancy of a pen like this. The cap seals, the clip holds, and the tip writes. Everything’s functional and unspectacular. If you’re running a business where pens are needed frequently by customers or employees, or you’re just forgetful and lose your pen, these are cheap and they work until they disappear. But they won’t be impressing anyone.

Review – Parker Jotter Stainless Steel

There are many pen brands out there, specializing in various things. Most Americans who know more than nothing about pens would recognize the Parker brand as a longtime quality maker. One of the least expensive, most accessible, and longest running products they make is the Jotter ballpoint/gel/rollerball pen that utilizes Parker’s own refill type. I have here the “all stainless steel” version, how does it hold up?

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The pen itself is obviously all stainless steel. At the back is a very pleasantly tapered click button, followed immediately by the clip shaped as the famous Parker arrow. The pen from there slowly bulges and then tapers down to the end where it almost seamlessly meets with the pen’s point when it is not retracted, with only a slight seam 1/3 of the way down the pen where it is unscrewed to be refilled.

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Now I can’t speak to the Parker brand refill this pen came with as I don’t remember how it wrote and I currently have a Monteverde refill inside (that writes very well, as I said in my review). But I can talk about the feel and sturdiness, both of which are superb. The click mechanism is a bit different and it just feels not as advanced as some of the more modern pens, but it is very solid and satisfying. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just feels older (like using one of those drafting pencils that have been in production for 60 years). And the steel finish is very easy to grip, while beings stylish and well-wearing. Scratches and such barely show up, keeping the pen looking nice and professional for some time.

Overall it’s a great pen, and for the price (a little more expensive for the “all stainless” one) it is easily a great value as one pen could last a lifetime (though refills might not be cheap). It’s hardy, with a time tested, solid mechanism, and while it doesn’t look as nice or handle as well (or have as many expensive materials) as the more expensive ballpoints out there it still looks professional, fits in with both modern (stainless) and retro (colors) styling, and can take a rough and tumble life. It’s a tough little trooper.

Blog 11-3-15 – Things are late, and unfortunately will continue to be late

Hello followers and viewers. I value my schedule highly, and I believe I have done a good job over the last long while of keeping up with that schedule. That being said, if you view my content with any regularity you will have seen that I have been late the past few weeks on a few things, and have unfortunately exceeded previous records of my own lateness. This is especially not fun for me with my comics, which I consider the core of my online content.

Now I don’t want to just make excuses, but I have had a few things happen recently that have made progressing more difficult. I moved into a “limbo” situation that has not gotten resolved as quickly as I had hoped, and makes my work and living environments undesirable from a “getting things done” or “moving around comfortably in clear spaces” kind of way. I’ve also had to change jobs to one with irregular hours that prevents me from being in “work mode” for my various comic and article writing/drawing. And finally I have a large project I’ve been working on with a very hard deadline that is very behind schedule. I’ll talk about that more as it nears completion.

So with all of those things I was still able to be on top of things for a while, but it wasn’t going to last. And it looks like things will be problematic for a little while longer. I hope you can bear with me while I work this out, and I hope to have all of the items I have been late on and caught up to all of the new content by the end of November, but it might end up closer to the end of the year. I hope you enjoy the content regardless and I hope your holiday season is less stressful than mine is going to be.

Best Wishes,

Austin Smith

www.Dragoncompany.org

www.Dragonfunnies.com

www.Artsupplycritic.com

Review – Slant Collections Mini Journals Preppy Stripe

I’m not exactly the type of person to be found in Tuesday Morning (the store) but I did find myself in there one day, and there was quite a bit of interesting stuff. And being someone who has been drawn to the stationery aisle since I was little I found myself in the stationery section, where I found a set of Slant Collections mini journals, this particular set in the discontinued “preppy stripe” (it was Tuesday Morning, after all). Let’s take a look.

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The books themselves are 3¼ x 5¼ inches, just smaller than a Moleskine pocket book. The cover feels like plastic-coated cardboard and in this version has a very simple design that comes in 3 colors. It is a single piece bent around and stitch-bound onto the 70 inside pages. These pages are lined with a thin 7mm ruling that is the same color as the main cover color, printed on a very white background.

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The paper itself is quite thick and a medium roughness. It is very bleed-and feathering-resistant despite this. Fountain and other liquid ink pens are handled well, and with most other writing utensils both sides of the paper can be used, though at this size I wouldn’t recommend that. The cover and binding are very well done and hold up (the stitching looks very slightly unsightly at times) and the corners are nicely rounded to prevent the corner bending that some books get. On the table the book lies adequately flat and while the cover does bend out of shape it bends back just as easily.

In the end I have been surprised by these little notebooks. They are hardy, easy to carry, great writing things. It has taken me some time to review them as they weren’t good enough to replace any of the books in my normal rotation (but that’s more because I prize consistency, a book would have to be head and shoulders above to get met to move something out of my rotation). I enjoyed using them very much (even the pink one) and if all of the Slant collection journals are as good as these were I’d consider more in the future.