Review: Tombow Fudenosuke, Brush Pen, Hard Tip

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Brush pens are a tools typically used by calligraphers, and since calligraphy has never been a hobby of mine, it’s fair to say that I’m inexperienced with them. However, brush pens are still fun to write with, and that is doubly true for this hard-tipped version of Tombow’s Fudenosuke. Writing with it feels similar to writing with a porous point pen (e.g. the Sharpie Pen, Bic Intensity, Sakura Pigma Micron, etc.), making it much more practical for every day use.

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Unlike porous point pens, which have needle-like tips, the Fudenosuke’s tip looks more like a very fine paintbrush. Writing with it at different angles will create lines of varying thickness. However, the Fudenosuke’s hard tip makes this line variation less extreme compared to a softer/bigger tip. Moreover, the harder tip seems to make bleed-through and smearing a lot less problematic. For basic handwriting (like I have) it adds a nice flourish, though it takes a little practice.

Anyone who prides him/herself on nice handwriting would enjoy this pen. Whereas porous point pens usually make sloppier handwriting look crisper, this hard-tip brush pen is probably better suited to those who already have nice handwriting. Using the Fudenosuke quickly/sloppily will create a mess, but if you take your time with it, this pen will reward your patience.

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Retro Talk: The Ice-O-Metric Tornado

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There may be no summertime dessert more iconic than the Bomb Pop  – or, depending on your ice-cream truck guy, maybe it’s the Firecracker Popsicle. Either way, if you live in the United States, this dessert will probably conjure up memories of picnics, parks, and purple tongues. So maybe its no accident that this new Retro 51 Tornado, the Ice-O-Metric, was released in the dead of winter, when I find myself most nostalgic for memories of warm weather.

The Ice-O-Metric design – an 8-bit depiction of the above-mentioned dessert – was created by Michael Jacobs, who wrote a fascinating blog post that details its inception and evolution (a worthwhile read for any aspiring graphic designers). Originally, the design was sold on a t-shirt, but it eventually made it to the Tornado via Brad Dowdy, who sells it on the Pen Addict website.

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Aside from the red, white, and blue ice pops wrapped diagonally along the barrel, there is a matching disc atop the twist mechanism, and, as a bonus gimmick, the pen also glows in the dark.  It’s a great design, and an excellent sophomore Tornado release from The Pen Addict – the first being a more basic orange model.

I’d say, get your hands on it if you can. It’s a limited edition of 600 pieces, and there’s apparently a risk that they’ll be run over by delivery trucks.

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Looking Ahead to 2018

There’s no doubt about it, 2017 has been a weird year in ways big and small. There were tons of divisive political stories, of course, and a solar eclipse that briefly brought everyone back together. Apple also released a cool new iPhone that is way too expensive, and the new Star Wars movie turned out to be quite polarizing. As I said, a weird year, but at least things here at the Pens and Junk blog have been good & steady.

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This last year, I managed to publish thirty-three new posts, and the site subsequently saw a modest 11.4% uptick in traffic. Not too bad.

My pick for 2017 Pen of the Year is a tough one, however. Retro 51’s Bioworkz Tornado and Hex-o-Matic both get honorable mentions, but, ultimately, the emerald-green Squire Experiment by Baron Fig takes my top slot. It’s a bright and beautiful pen, and it’s no surprise that it sold out immediately.

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In 2018, the blog will march on. I’ve never liked making New Year’s resolutions, so I thought I’d try a list of goals instead. So, here’s some of what I’ll hopefully accomplish on Pens and Junk this year:

  1. I need to fix all the times I misspelled stationery as “stationary.” That one should be simple.
  2. Finish my Nib Novice Series. I’m so close to being done.
  3. Do a minor site redesign. It’s time.
  4. Do something for charity. I have a couple ideas, though suggestions are always welcome.
  5. Write more book reviews, two or three off-topic posts, and create some index pages to help with organization. That seems straight-forward enough.

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And as always, I don’t want to forget about all the non-pen stuff to look forward to in 2018:

I’m pretty excited about that Han Solo movie (though I will tempter my expectations), as well as a new Avengers movie.  And of course there will be more – too much! – good TV to watch, the new seasons of Jessica Jones and Westworld in particular. I also still have to figure out who I’m rooting for in the 2018 World Cup and which Winter Olympics events to follow (maybe curling?).

And will this be the year George R.R. Martin finally releases the next book in the Game of Thrones (i.e. A Song of Ice and Fire) series? Probably not. But let’s not let that put a damper on our year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 2018!

Notes on Carhartt Field Notes

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Field Notes and Carhartt are a lot alike; Both companies are headquartered in the Midwest. Both companies appeal strongly to the blue-collar and the hipster demographics. And both companies exude pride that their products are manufactured in the U.S.A. It was only a matter of time before the notebook company and the apparel company got together to create a custom set of Field Notes pocket notebooks.

Each pack contains three 3.5” x 5.5” notebooks, and each has its own theme. There’s the orange book for hunting, the green book for camping, and the blue book for fishing.  The covers feature a slick two-tone version of the Carhartt logo (a zoomed-in curlicue “C”), and the back cover tells a short history of the Carhartt company, as well as some general tips for using Field Notes notebooks.

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These notebooks use 100# cover stock and 60# white inner-paper with a brown, lined ruling. In concept, these books seem very similar to the Campfire Edition, though the Carhartt Field Notes seem much simpler overall. And, honestly, I prefer this simpler look. It’s a clean cover design, yet it still pops, and the graphics on the back feel very 1950s retro.

As long as you’re okay using lined paper – I know, I wish they used graph paper too – I definitely recommend grabbing a pack. Most of the time these Field Notes editions are long sold out by the time I write about them, but luckily, these Carhartt books are still available on their website. It’s like a Christmas mini-miracle.

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Additional Notes

  • Each of the three notebooks have (mostly) their own themed “practical applications” list. From the camping book, my favorite is, “06. Sasquatch Composite Sketch.” From the hunting book, my favorite is, “25. Wild Boar Attack Formations.” And from the fishing book, my favorite is, “02. Old Fishermanisms.”
  • Carhartt used to make old-school “field notes” notebooks, apparently.
  • You know who likes lined ruling? Leadfast does. Check out the review of Carhartt Field Notes over there.

Review: Zebra Sarasa Grand, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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It seems that when a gel pen reaches a certain threshold of populairty, it inevitably gets a metallic upgrade: Pentel created an “alloy” version of their Energel, Pilot turned their blockbuster G-2 into the G-2 Limited, and now Zebra has made a “Grand” version of their Sarasa. The barrel of the Sarasa Grand is made of brass, and, as you’d expect, it’s a hefty pen. It is bottom-heavy in particular, so it only takes a light touch to get the ink flowing.

Additionally, the Sarasa Grand has a spring-hinged clip that allows it to clip to thicker notebooks, and doing so more securely.  Perceptive readers might note that Zebra makes another version of the Sarasa with a spring-hinged clip called, obviously, the Sarasa Clip. But the clip isn’t the only similarity between the two pens. Both the Sarasa Grand and the Sarsa Clip include the “Zebra JF” refill, whereas the standard Sarasa uses the “Zebra JLV” refill. The “JF” refill is darker and smoother than the “JLV” refill, so including it with the Sarasa Grand was a good choice by Zebra.

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The barrel comes in four colors: black, navy, pink, or (my choice) gold. There’s also a great accent on top of the knock (a little plastic jewel), and a window underneath the clip that is supposed to allow for a view of the refill’s ink level. However, the view is so limited that we’ll just have to call it a decorative window. Additionally, there are grooves on the grip section that do a good job of increasing friction, which will help to prevent your fingers from slipping while writing.

Generally I really like the Sarasa Grand, though that comes with one major caveat: the lever of the spring-hinged clip extends way too far above the barrel. It sounds like a small complaint, but this lever gets in the way whenever I try to click the pen. Similarly, if you ever click your pen upside-down on a desk, it’s not possible here – the clip blocks you.

If this sounds like a silly complaint, then definitely get yourself a Sarasa Grand. Everything else about this pen is good. But for me, this clip issue is annoying – not enough to make me hate this pen, but enough that it’ll probably end up collecting dust in a pen cup.

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