Squire Sub No. 03 – The Insightful Spectre

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Well, that didn’t last long. On June 27, roughly a month after releasing the second limited edition squire, Baron Fig abruptly announced an intention to end their subscription service. In an email sent to subscribers, the company’s co-founder Joey Cofone stated that the subscription service will cease at the end of 2018. However, my subscription ends at the end of 2017, and, as far as I can tell, there is no way to renew it.

Maybe that’s all for the best. I like this third edition in their series, named The Insightful Spectre Squire, but there’s really nothing new here. It has a dark gray (“phantom black”) body along with an etching of a little ghost on the barrel. Other than that, it has the same size, shape, and refill as the standard Squire, which just makes this edition a bit boring.

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If it’s Baron Fig’s intent to retain the overall design of the Squire while only making aesthetic adjustments, I’m not opposed to it. That is essentially what Retro 51 does, and I love that company’s pens. But with this Insightful Spectre edition, all I can think is that I already have a black Squire and had a charcoal gray Squire (before I lost it), so why would I want another one that looks so similar? At least the Experiment edition, the second in Baron Fig’s subscription series, had a bright color and ink to match.

To put it bluntly: if you already have a Squire, there’s no need for this one. I’d like to see Baron Fig try something a little different and take a risk. Something simple like adding a knurled grip or flat edge would be great. Even doing a full-barrel design, rather than a tiny icon, could go a long way. Baron Fig has a lot of talent and creativity (just take a look at the great copy written for this Squire edition), but with the Squire subscription service ending, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the final installment(s).

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Book Review: The Pencil Perfect by Caroline Weaver

It might sound odd, but when first opening The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon by Caroline Weaver, the detail that immediately struck me was the thickness of the book’s paper stock. These days, every reader has become accustomed to cheap, thin paper, but it seems to me that a bit of thoughtfulness and care was put into the literal pages of The Pencil Perfect. And that thoughtfulness and care is likely a reflection of Weaver’s devotion to the subject matter. After all, it’s impossible to finish this book without being impressed by Weaver’s passion for and fascination with the humble pencil.

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Much of The Pencil Perfect is a history lesson. Weaver traces the origin of the wood-cased pencil from the discovery of graphite (and its first use as a writing instrument) to its eventual industrialization. As Weaver points out, much of this history is unwritten, but she has done a wonderful job of following it regardless. She’s managed to fill this book with amusing stories, great illustrations (by Oriana Fenwick), light technical info, some personal anecdotes, and even a “How to Start a Pencil Collection” guide. It’s a short book, yet it manages to pack in quite a lot.

That’s not to say that the book itself perfect. A handful of typos worked their way into this first printing, and I wasn’t a fan of Weaver’s use of in-text notes. These notes have a tendency to break up the flow of the chapters in a way that footnotes typically do not. However, I can agree to labeling these criticisms as nit-picks.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about the technological or culture history of the pencil, an object that everyone has likely used thousands of times throughout their life, then The Pencil Perfect is a worthwhile purchase. But be warned: though the pencil isn’t typically an object which attracts much devotion, Weaver’s enthusiasm can be contagious.


P.S. I also enjoyed the little Field Notes Easter egg.

Notes on Campfire Field Notes

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Here in North America, a campfire isn’t always just a campfire. For a lot of people, campfires are wrapped up in childhood memories of summer camp, family vacations, and scouts’ outings. As a result, the humble campfire has taken on deeper meaning in American culture, and it’s been wrapped up in its own set of mores and traditions. So, when Field Notes released the Campfire Edition, the company’s 35th quarterly edition of their popular pocket notebooks, they imbued the product with a lot of sentiment and symbolism.

The Campfire Edition comes as a set of three notebooks, each with a different cover. The first is the Dusk/Geometry book, which represents (and explains) the construction of a proper campfire. The second is the Night/Community book, which advocates the virtue of sitting around a fire, telling ghost stories, and listening to someone playing an off-key guitar. The third is the Dawn/Responsibility notebook, which depicts an erstwhile Campfire and implores us to be a responsible campfire master. These notebook  covers are printed using a photographic halftone technique that give them a nostalgic 1950’s look.

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If it sounds like these notebooks are among Field Notes’ more conceptual editions, then you’re right. A lot of thought clearly went into their production. Field Notes even thought to include a merit badge with every 3-pack. Practically, however, there is nothing that sets this edition apart. Beneath the glossy covers, you’ll find what you usually find: 60# paper with a graph ruling.

Of course, Field Notes doesn’t have to go crazy with every quarterly edition, and, frankly, some of my favorite editions have nothing more than particularly cool covers. But for anyone who doesn’t count camping as a hobby or tradition, these notebooks are unlikely to inspire much enthusiasm. Personally, I don’t count Campfire among my favorites, but anyone who loves to camp will probably feel differently.

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Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “04. Clean Camp Songs;” “05. ‘After Hours’ Camp Songs;” and “13. Miles to Go Before Sleep.”
  • I love this note that’s printed on the back of each book: “In a pinch, this memo book can be used as kindling.” Though, at $13 per 3-pack, that’s some expensive kindling.
  • Check out this review at Leadfast from someone who has spent a lot of time around the campfire.

 

Five Pens to Try – August 2017 Update

Almost two years ago, I put together a list of pen recommendations based on the 25 reviews I’d done up to that point. Now with over 100 reviews under my belt, it’s time to update it once again. So let’s get to it. Here are five pens that you should try:

1. If you’re looking for something a little nicer, get yourself a Retro 51 Tornado

Retro 1951 Tornado

At this point, it’s fair to say that I’m a  Retro 51 Tornado addict. If I’m counting correctly, I believe I have a dozen of these pens, and I’ve bought a handful more to give as gifts. Tons of different designs are available, and it’s a great option if you’re thinking about upgrading your writing experience. And while many nicer pens go for $100 or more, you can get a Tornado for as little as $20. It also might be worth checking out the Slim Tornado line, which the company has been expanding lately.

2. Need to fill up your pen cup? Place an order for the Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX

Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX

There are many great gel pens on the market, but the Pentel Energel is arguably the best. It’s durable, it’s comfortable, it has great ink, and it doesn’t cost a whole lot of money. This is really a great pen to have laying about in your work area, and it comes in a variety of colors and tip sizes. And if you really like this pen, you can get a stainless steel version for under $10.

3. For when you’re on the move, grab the Fisher Cap-O-Matic Space Pen

Fisher Cap-O-Matic Space Pen

If you need a compact pen that can write in variety of situations, the Fisher Cap-O-Matic is the way to go. The pressurized Space Pen ink cartridge will write upside-down or on wet paper, if you need it to. Though, I still really like my Tombow Airpress, the slim, metal body of the Cap-O-Matic makes it a bit more pocket friendly.

4. For your everyday writer, you’ll want the Foray Stylemark

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I’m constantly using porous point pens because they produce crisp and clean lines that make anybody’s handwriting look a little bit nicer. My new favorite: the Foray Stylemark. Its soft grip and good-quality clip are features that other porous points pens don’t typically have, making it the best one out there. But if you can’t find a Stylemark, the BIC Intensity comes in at a close second, and the Sharpie Pen will do in a pinch.

5. If you’ve been thinking about fountain pens, check out the TWSBI Eco

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Fountain pens are typically perceived as finicky, old fashioned devices, yet there’s still a large market for them because they provide such a unique and interesting writing experience. So if you or someone you know is looking to try one out, you can’t do much better than the TSBI Eco. It’s about $30, which is rather inexpensive for a fountain pen, and it looks great, writes great, plus it’s easy to use. It’s available in various nib sizes and styles, though I have to say that the stub nib is pretty killer.


So there’s a handful of pens for you to check out. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at atb@pensandjunk.com or just leave a comment below.

Review: Foray Stylemark, Porous Point, 0.5mm

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Ever since the Sharpie Pen began to grow in popularity, it seems like porous point pens have eaten up more and more shelf space. This, honestly, comes as no surprise to me; porous points, even the super cheap ones, tend to write very crisp and clean lines. They make handwriting noticeably nicer and neater.

The Foray Stylemark is definitely among the better porous points out on the market. It has a plastic barrel and cap, but comes with a sturdy clip and a rubber grip. It looks nice, but it’s nothing flashy. Still, it’s a step up from its competitors, which often have short caps, crummy clips, and no grip section to speak of.

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In fact, I think I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Stylemark has ousted the BIC Intensity to become my new favorite porous point pen. The only issue: Foray is an Office Depot house brand. So you’re unlikely to find it outside of that company’s stores. But if you are a fan of porous point pens then it might be worth making the trip.

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