Squire Sub No. 01 – The Alphabet Edition

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Late last year, the guys at Baron Fig announced three new subscription services; one for their Confidant notebooks, one for their Archer pencils, and one for their Squire pens. I already have too many notebooks, and I don’t really use pencils. But the Squire pen subscription – that is something I was interested in, especially after my original Squire, from Baron Fig’s Kickstarter campaign, was lost. So I purchased the subscription, and the first of four quarterly edition Squires arrived at my doorstep earlier this week.

With this first limited edition, called “Alphabet,” Baron Fig played it pretty safe. There is very little I can say here that I didn’t already write in my review for the original Squire – it’s identical in regards to size, shape, refill, construction, and twist mechanism. The big difference is that this edition has a matte black body, whereas previous color options were silver and charcoal. And in place of the Squire sword logo, this edition has the 26 characters of the English alphabet printed vertically down the pen’s barrel.

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Besides that,  the packaging has also been updated from a square box to a rounded one (a close resemblance to the current Retro 51 Tornado packaging), and the twist retracting mechanism seems a bit smoother.

Although the ‘alphabet’ theme seems superfluous, I do think it makes sense for the very first pen in the Squire subscription-series to be fairly standard. Frankly, I’d have been just as happy with an all-black “stealth” edition. Still, I wouldn’t mind something a little more exciting next time, such as a bright color or (dare I suggest?) a pocket clip. But whatever Baron Fig ends up doing with the second Squire in this subscription-series, I suppose it’s a good sign that I’m looking forward to finding out.

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Nib Novice, Part 8: Platinum Preppy Conversion

This is the eighth part in a series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.


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For those interested, fountain pens can provide plenty of “DIY” opportunities. Cleaning, nib swapping, and basic restoration projects seem to be fairly commonplace, for example, but an eyedropper conversion was the one project that really peaked my interested. An “eyedropper” refers to a type of fountain pen filling system (or lack thereof) where all you need do is pour or pipette a load of bottled ink into a pen’s barrel. So an eyedropper conversion is just like it sounds, when you take a pen that doesn’t have an eyedropper filling system and modify it to have one.

There are a couple benefits to having an eyedropper fountain pen. First, with the pen’s entire barrel filled, it holds a maximum amount of ink, significantly reducing refill frequency. And second, an eyedropper is easy to manage and clean, as opposed to filling systems that are a little more complicated (I’m looking at you, Parker 51). Additionally, I’m converting a Platinum Preppy, a pen which uses proprietary ink cartridges. So rather than being forced into using Platinum’s inks, I’ll be able to use any ink I’d like in this pen. Incidentally, I’ve decided to go with the gray-ish colored “Charles Dickens” ink by DeAtramentis.

Now to get started…

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The whole process is actually deceptively simple, and a good guide can be found at the JetPens Blog. The basic procedure is this: First, grab a bottle of ink and buy a Platinum Preppy – these pens are widely available for under $5. Then find a #5 O-ring and a small bit of silicone grease. Both these items can be found at most hardware stores, but I took the lazy way out by ordering a 4-pack of O-rings from Goulet Pens, and I’m using the silicone grease that came with my TWSBI Eco.

From there, you simply  (1) unscrew the barrel of the Preppy, (2) get rid of the proprietary ink cartridge, (3) slip the o-ring over the threads, (4) cover the threads will the silicone grease, (5) pour or pipette ink into the barrel of the Preppy, and (6) screw the pen back together. Give it a few shakes, and you’re good to go. Maybe that sounds complicated, but the whole process really only takes about 5 minutes.

The difficult part is more psychological. Thing is, the drawback to doing this eyedropper conversion is that by getting rid of the ink cartridge, I’ve effectively removed one barrier between the outside world and the ink that’s inside the pen. A cheap, plastic barrel is the only thing preventing an inkpocalypse while writing with it. Or, if the barrel’s threading comes loose while the pen is in my pocket, my pants would basically be done for.

So, though I was slightly terrified to do so, I decided to use this pen for the day. I carried it around at work, praying the whole time that I wouldn’t accidentally drop it or crack the plastic somehow. But in the end, well, it worked great! The Preppy’s fine nib writes clean and consistently, and I love any fountain pen with a pull-off cap. Overall, it’s a bit scratchy, but it’s still very good for such an inexpensive fountain pen. And while my fear of getting ink everywhere hasn’t fully evaporated, it has been significantly diminished.

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It turned out to be a fun project, and something I’d recommend to any fountain pen newbie.

Retro Talk: In Vino Veritas

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The Retro 51 Vino Tornado was first sold in 2007, but I didn’t hear about it until late 2015 when it was re-issued and sold by the now defunct Paradise Pen Company. The design immediately caught my eye, but it could only be purchased as a $70 pen and pencil set, and, unfortunately, I was really only interested in the pen half. So I put it to the back of my mind, thinking that I’d eventually find someone who wanted to split their set.

A little over a year later, after I’d mostly forgotten about it, Retro 51 announced via social media that the Vino Tornado (pen only) had once again been revived in a limited quantity for Fahrney’s Pens. So, not being one to hesitate, I jumped on the deal.

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The Vino is undoubtedly distinct from every other Tornado I own. Unlike many of the Tornado designs, which are mostly lacquered wraps, the barrel of the Vino is made of an entirely different material called, according to the marketing material, ‘durable cork.’ The more truthful description might be artificial cork, which feels quite rubbery and soft. (UPDATE: Retro 51 says that it is indeed authentic cork). However, that doesn’t diminish the design. This material makes it a little more comfortable to hold and a little easier to grip. Additionally, the barrel is textured with cracks and divots, giving it a more realistic look and feel.

Aside from the barrel, the remainder of the design is standard for a Retro 51 Tornado. It has silver accents with a tan finial disc, and it comes equipped with the standard 0.7mm Retro 1951 refill. I’m quite happy to own this Tornado, though it would obviously make a great gift for any wine-enthusiast. It pairs well with a tasting book and fancy bottle of shiraz.

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Notes on XOXO 2016 Field Notes

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Every year, the halls of the XOXO Festival – an art and technology conference out of Portland, Oregon –  have been complimented by an exclusive edition of Field Notes pocket-notebooks. In 2015, the conference engaged artist Brendan Monroe to create artwork that adorned the notebooks’ covers, which was a very good decision (it just so happens that the XOXO 2015 Field Notes are one of my favorite editions). So for the XOXO 2016 notebooks, I was happy to see that another artist was again involved, and the resulting designs can justly be described as an explosion of orange and pink.

This marbled/tie-dye cover-art was created by Mark Weaver, a designer and illustrator based out of New York, and from what I’ve seen on his website and Flickr account, he has an artistic style that might be described as ‘funky modern.’ For the XOXO 2016 notebooks, he created artwork that is bright, trippy, eye-catching, and generally just pretty cool. Inside the books, 60# white paper is ruled with bright-orange grid-lines, a color that I’ve found looks particularly good behind bright-blue ink.

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This edition is another win for XOXO, but I hate to talk these notebooks up too much, as they are difficult to find. Attendees of the XOXO conference were easily able to get a 3-pack, but I was able to get mine a few weeks later when extras were made available on the Field Notes website. They sold out quickly, however, and the best bet on finding a set now is through eBay where they will likely be overpriced (though it looks like they might still have some available at their Chicago home base).

So, good luck to you if you’re on the hunt for this Field Notes edition. They are, after all, probably one of the better things to come out of 2016.

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Additional Notes

Review: RNG Products SQ1, Pressurized Ballpoint, Fine Point

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Back in August 2016, the SQ1 by RNG (Rise-N-Grind) Products was successfully funded on Kickstarter to the relatively modest tune of $10,299. To be fair, at $25 per pen, it’s probably one of the least expensive Kickstarter pens I own, yet it’s still a pen that I happen to like. And, frankly, there’s a lot to like about the SQ1, not least of which is the “shipwrecked copper” cap.

Though other color options/combinations were made available through the Kickstarter campaign, I chose these weathered ends against an anodized blue barrel. It’s one of the coolest-looking pens I own, and it’s a killer piece for the pen holder on my desk. It’s pleasant to write with too; the grip section is patterned with divots that add a nice visual and practical touch. It’s comfortable to hold, and the included Fisher Space Pen refill is always a great choice.

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Since the SQ1 is made from CNC-machined aluminum, making it durable and slender, it’s tempting to think of it as an “everyday carry” pen – it is, in fact, advertised as such. However, I think this classification is a mistake. For one thing, the cap screws on and off, requiring four full, squeaky rotations. Though there is threading at the top of the pen that allows for posting, it’s still a little tedious – tedious enough, anyway, that you wont want to be using the SQ1 for taking short, frequent notes.

Additionally, the SQ1 has no clip, a trait that has caused me trouble in the past. If you wish to take this pen out into the world, you must be very mindful of it, lest is roll off a table or fly out of a pocket. Instead, this is a pen that would be good for taking long notes during a lecture or meeting. It can bang around a bag without trouble, yet still be fashionable and functional when it’s time to sit down and write.

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