Notes on Portland Field Notes

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When Field Notes released their Chicago Edition pocket notebooks in 2016, they weren’t marketed as the first in a series. Because the company is based in Chicago, it seemed more like something the Field Notes employees made as a fun little side-project. But fast forward a year, and now we have the Portland Edition, which is the second in what Field Notes is now referring to as the “Hometown Series.”

This Portland edition, like the Chicago edition before it, uses the same 80# cover stock and 50# graph-lined inner-paper as the standard Kraft edition. The only significant difference is that these notebooks have Portland’s municipal flag printed on the cover, adjusted so that the four-pointed star is centered underneath the Field Notes logo.

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Portland has a really great flag design, so I like these pocket notebooks for that reason alone. But they’d mainly be great for anyone who likes the standard Kraft Field Notes, yet wants something a little more interesting than the “packing paper” brown cover. So far, the notebooks in this Hometown Series aren’t “limited” and don’t cost any more than standard Field Notes. So even for someone with no personal connection to Portland, they still might be worth buying over the Kraft books. And for any proud Portlanders (or Portlandians?), these notebooks are literally made for you.

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Additional Notes

Retro Talk: The Bioworkz Edition

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One year ago, Vanness Pens and Retro 51 collaborated to create the first “Artist Series” Tornado, designed by Joey Feldman, and it remains one of my favorite pens for its unique barrel design. Whenever artists are brought into the world of stationery, interesting and one-of-a-kind products are almost always produced. So when Vanness tapped California artist Bioworkz (Ben Kwok) to create the second “Artist Series” Tornado, I was excited and ultimately blown away by the result.

This edition’s barrel design features a trio of flying owls in a style that is reminiscent of henna body art, and two color schemes of the artwork were created as options for purchase: one blue/red, the other orange/turquoise. Overall, these may be the most beautifully designed Retro 51 Tornados I’ve seen. Additionally, the design is ever-so-slightly raised on the barrel, creating a texture that feels good to hold.

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Aside from the difference in the art’s color scheme, there are few other differences between the two versions. The blue/red version comes with dark gray metal accents, whereas the orange/turquoise’s metal accents are a made to look weathered. The inset disc at the top of the twist mechanism also differs in color between the two versions, and the blue/red version comes with a signed and numbered print – hence why it costs an extra $20.  The pens themselves are also individually numbered, and a total of 500 pens were produced (250 of each color scheme).

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So far, the Retro 51 Tornado Artist Series has been great. Besides that, there’s not much more to say, except that I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

Review: Muji, Gel Ink, 0.38mm

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Muji, a Japanese retail company, has been slowly entering the United States from the coasts, with stores in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and California. From across the Ocean, the company has brought its sense of frugalness, selling “no-brand” items like this gel pen that has no proper name, logo, or any such marking, aside from a “0.38” tip-size indicator located on the top of the cap.

This Muji gel pen is lightweight, thick-barreled, and made of a soft plastic that makes it fairly comfortable to grip. On the other hand, the plastic body feels fairly cheap, and even though the cap secures and posts well, it comes with a very flimsy clip. Overall, the style is similar to the Sakura Gelly Roll and the Baoke Simple.

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But one very good feature of this Muji gel pen is its ink. It flows out clean, and it barely smears. It also produces a satisfyingly dark black, and, considering its 0.38mm tip size, it flows out fairly smooth.

This pen is certainly not the best gel you’ll find – I’d consider it middle of the pack. But if you’re a fan of fine-tipped gel pens and happen across a Muji store, it’d be worth your while grab a couple. They are fairly inexpensive, and, if nothing else, it’s different enough from the typical gel pen found in American stores to at least make it interesting.

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Extra Links

Squire Sub No. 02 – Experiment No. 108

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Experiment No. 108 is the second offering from Baron Fig in their quarterly Squire pen subscription series. Besides making for a confusing blog post title (see above), this ‘Experiment Squire’ is meant to conjure up images of a laboratory. It has a emerald-green barrel, reminiscent of Flubber, and the original Squire’s sword logo has been replaced with a bubbling, round-bottom flask.

The overall construction of this Squire hasn’t changed, but smaller, incremental changes are starting to pile up. Besides the body color and the logo (which first changed in the Alphabet Squire), Baron Fig decided to include green ink with this pen. It was an easy change to make, as Schmidt – their supplier – already creates a 0.6mm green refill, but it’s still a nice touch. And when I eventually get tired of the green ink, it wont be a big deal to swap it out.

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Because the Experiment Squire isn’t significantly different from previous versions, there’s no big reason to throw your money at this pen. That is, of course, with the exception of the green barrel, which I love. And based on the fact that this pen is already listed as ‘sold out’ on the Baron Fig website, I’m probably not alone in this feeling.

Though this is only the second in the Squire subscription series, it seems to be going well so far. I remain excited to see what Baron Fig comes up with next, which probably says a lot. Although, I have to admit that I’m still hoping that the next version has some sort of clip.
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Notes on Utility Field Notes

I’ve always thought of pocket-sized notebooks, especially Field Notes, as a utility product. They’re meant to be carried around to jot down small notes or ideas, and they are durable enough to take a bit of abuse. But now, with their 34th Quarterly Edition, Field Notes has formally made a Utility themed notebook. It has a black and safety-yellow color scheme, extra-thick cover stock, and even a pop-out ruler to make it just a little bit more useful.

With this Utility edition, I was especially happy to see that two options available for the ruling of the inner paper: engineer graph and ledger. Graph is my go-to ruling and a pretty standard options with Field Notes, and the engineer graph essentially just adds fatter lines at intervals. The ledger ruling is used less often, but it’s a favorite of mine. It’s a ruling that is meant for bookkeepers but works really well for anybody who makes a lot of lists.

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Overall, it’s bright, durable, and a great edition, but Field Notes did have a couple of quality problems along the way. First, there was some complaints online that the corners of these notebooks were arriving frayed. My notebooks definitely had this issue, but it was to a minor degree. Some other people’s notebooks were a little worse off, but I can’t say I’m bothered by it. My notebooks tend to get abused anyway, so I consider this to be – at worst – a quality hiccup.

Second, the “After Hours Utility Tool” – a key chain/bottle-opener that was given to Field Notes subscribers – is just cheaply made. The front logo decal popped off after some light use, revealing a big “CHINA” inscription. That’s not a good look for a company that prides itself on manufacturing in the U.S.A. Beyond even that, it’s still a pretty crummy bottle opener. However, it’s just a little extra goody, so I’m certainly not overly upset about it.

In fact, I’m more than willing to put these issues aside. I like these notebooks. The Utility theme is neat, the books are extra-durable (with 80# cover stock and 70# inner paper), and I love the ledger ruling. I tend to give a lot of my Field Notes notebooks away, but I’m definitely going to make sure I have a couple of these saved for myself.

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Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “02. Union Dues Owed;” “15. Good Caulk Jokes;” and “16. Riveting Stories.”
  • The only other Field Notes I’ve used with a ledger ruling was the Ambition Edition. Those, unfortunately, have become pretty difficult to find.
  • Concerning the pop-out ruler, it’s one of those “oh – cool!” features that quickly turned into a “but why?” for me. But I never use the ruler that’s usually printed in the back of Field Notes notebooks. Does anybody?
  • Check out more Utility Field Notes reviews at The Well Appointed Desk, Fountain Pen Follies, and Office Supply Geek.