Squire Sub No. 04 – The Key


The Key is latest and, also, possibly the last installment of Baron Fig’s Squire subscription service. Rumor has it that the company will continue making special edition Squire pens – they’ve already produced a bunch of new colors – but without the pressure of meeting a quarterly deadline. The Key, in fact, should have been released in Q4 of 2017, but it wasn’t shipped until early January 2018. I’m inclined to overlook the delay, however, because they managed to put out a pretty good edition this time ’round.

After my disappointment with The Insightful Spectre Squire, an edition that boiled down to a paint job with mildly interesting marketing, I am very happy to see that Baron Fig has attempted something new. Instead of the body being made from the Squire’s standard aluminum, The Key is entirely made of brass. This change is immediately noticeable, as it’s easily twice as heavy as the other Squires I own.


It comes with Baron Fig’s standard 0.6mm refill (a rebranded Schmidt), but the refill included with mine was a dud. This happens occasionally with these refills, but it was no problem for me because I have plenty of extras. It is the same style refill used in the Retro 51 Tornado, after all, and I have a ton of those.

Overall, the pen looks minimalistic and sleek, it has a good (bottom-heavy) balance for being so heavy, and pairing it with the company’s new Lock notebook was a good marketing move. My one complaint, as always, is that this pen likes to roll away, perhaps even more so than the other Squires I own.  On multiple occasions I’ve jumped at the loud “thunk” The Key produces when it falls off my desk and hits the floor. Luckily there has been no noticeable damage (to either the pen or the floor).

If Baron Fig keeps releasing these limited-edition Squires, I can’t say for certain whether or not I would purchase them. There have been ups and downs with this subscription service, after all. So, for the moment, I’m content to take a “wait and see” approach.


Click here to see my review of the original Baron Fig Squire Review.  Click here to see my review of the first limited edition Squire, The Alphabet. Click here for The Experiment Squire. And click here to see The Insightful Spectre,

Review: Tombow Fudenosuke, Brush Pen, Hard Tip


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.


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.



Retro Talk: The Ice-O-Metric Tornado


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.


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.


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.


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.

Baron Fig Experiment Squire

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.


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


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.


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.


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.