November 27, 2012

My Two Cents on the Gerber Dime

I've wanted a Leatherman multitool thingy for many years, but never pulled the trigger on one because my desire to own one had been driven primarily by the "cool factor" more than the "hey, I could really use a multitool on a daily basis" factor. That said, I've recently changed my attitude about multitools and I convinced myself to buy one for the "just in case you need pliers or a screwdriver in an emergency" factor. That fresh outlook ultimately led me to the Gerber Dime keychain sized multitool.

Once I convinced myself that a multitool must be acquired, I did some research and price comparisons. I was browsing the offerings on the Leatherman website and got a little overwhelmed with all of the different models. So I did what I always do: checked out some online multitool reviews. I went straight to the reviews posted on the awesome Everyday Commentary blog, focused on the highest rated products, and was impressed with this stellar review of the Gerber Dime. Once I saw the 20/20 score, I was sold.

I purchased the Dime from the evil empire known as Amazon (free shipping with my Prime status) for less than $17.00 . . . "not bad" I thought. When I received it a few days later, I was surprised at its tiny size. The Dime truly is an EDC keychain-carry item. I was also surprised that the product looked like a pre-owned item. For example, the printed lettering on the scales was scuffed up and shoddy looking out of the box. Not really a deal breaker, but also not a great first impression.

Of course, I immediately started to fiddle with the Dime in an attempt to discover all of its useful features. Scissors: check (easy to deploy, well made, cuts paper). Knife: check (easy to deploy, sharp enough, interesting blade shape). Flat screwdriver: damn, that thing is jammed in there, let me try again; damn, I just chipped off my thumbnail, let me try again; WTF this thing sucks, does anyone have a Leatherman that I can use to open this screwdriver? Package opener tool: ditto (now there are two shards of thumbnail on the table next to the Dime). File: check (somewhat easy to deploy, and it came in handy to tune up my jagged and severed thumbnail).

I Used This! Twice!
The Dime also has something that is advertised as tweezers. Unfortunately, the tweezers are not very useful because they are biased in the closed position. Fortunately, I was able to use the end of the file as a pry bar to tweak and bend the tweezers open. After performing this tweezers mod, I used them to pick up and discard my thumbnail shards. Alas, the mod was only temporary; the tweezers returned to the closed position after I slid them back into their retaining slot. The tweezers in my little Swiss Army Knife are much better, and they work as intended without modification.

The pliers are well-designed, easy to deploy and fold, and have a nice spring action to them. I can't really complain about the pliers, and I'm tempted to keep the Dime simply for this nice feature. Tempted, but not convinced.

The Dime also has an exposed bottle opener and a split ring for a keychain. I didn't use either of them, but I assume that they work fine. Here's a picture of the Dime in all of its glory:

I honestly think that I may have gotten a unit that was made on a Monday or a Friday, because I refuse to believe that every Dime has tools that are virtually impossible to deploy and/or use properly. It's a shame, because this multitool has an impressive set of features, it looks great, and it seems to be solidly built (other than the tweezers).

These pictures will be saved, but the Dime is going back to Amazon. First impressions go a long way with me, and the Dime just doesn't make the cut. I still want to get a multitool to keep in my car, so it looks like I'll be navigating the Leatherman website again real soon.

November 21, 2012

Blue Ink Pens: A Quick Writing Comparison

By now it should be apparent that I've been buying and sampling a variety of pens for daily use at the office. I like to use blue colored pens at the office, so most of the pens that remain in my collection are inked in various shades of blue. I've intentionally stayed away from ballpoint and rollerball pens, and what I have today is a group of gel ink pens and a few fountain pens. I thought it would be interesting to see writing samples of these pens on one sheet of paper. In hindsight, it's not very interesting at all. In fact, it's rather boring and silly. That said, I feel obligated to upload the scanned sheet of paper, otherwise the previous 100+ words will be completely meaningless. So crack open a beer, click on the picture, and prepare to be totally underwhelmed:

The Blues

November 16, 2012

And Yet Another Keyboard Facelift

A Picture Is Worth Two Words
I recently scored an awesome, stealthy, and gloomy looking set of key caps for my mechanical keyboard. I'm pretty much over the "white key caps on black keyboard" look, primarily because white key caps tend to become brown gunky dirty key caps in just a few days regardless of the cleanliness of the user. Accordingly, I decided to replace my white ninja key caps with a set of dark gray key caps that should do a much better job at hiding the finger gunk that collects over time.

These new key caps are made of polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), which is a preferred material in many keyboard geek circles. PBT key caps are durable, tough, provide a nice finger feel, and can be dye sublimated to create permanent legends that never wear off. The color and white balance are a little off in the pictures; the key caps are actually dark gray with black legends, and they look stellar on my black Filco keyboard. I really like the subtle and sophisticated look of my keyboard with these key caps. Plus, the new colorway of my keyboard matches the color scheme of this blog (at least as of the date of this post).

I really need to stop buying sets of key caps. I now have four complete sets, but I have only one compatible mechanical keyboard. Hmm, maybe I should acquire three more keyboards? It would be a shame to let those extra sets of key caps go to waste.

November 10, 2012

Pelikan M205 Fountain Pen (Part 2)

This is a follow up to my initial post about my recently acquired Pelikan fountain pen. In the previous post I mentioned that the M205 is a piston fill pen, and I admitted that the ink filling routine was pleasant and fun, which really tells me that I need to get out more often. What about the ink itself? For my first ever "fill a pen with ink from a bottle" experience, I used Sailor Jentle Ink (Sky High color). It comes in a cool little glass bottle:

I would say that Sky High is a bright blue color. Brighter and lighter than what I would call a "standard" blue. The next picture shows a more accurate representation of the actual color.

Still interested? Read on after the jump. [Edit: jumps are silly; removed it]

The bottle contains some brilliant Japanese technology, too. You might say "ink is ink, there is no technology in ink." That's a fair statement. However, Sailor's bottle includes a well-designed apparatus that improves the ink filling process. Thankfully, Sailor provides instructions on how to use this inventive and complex bottle of ink:

I don't read Japanese, but the diagrams seem easy enough to understand: (1) turn bottle clockwise; (2) shake bottle; (3) look at bottle; (4) fill pen. This doesn't make any sense, but a quick online translation of Sailor's website is extremely helpful: "We have been well received and installed a reservoir to gentle for fountain pen ink bottle. Buildup of ink, reservoir by tighten the cap, undo the bottle upside down, we inhale it. Conventional but it may be difficult to suction the ink in the bottle will be a small amount, by attaching a reservoir, it is possible to inhalation no waste the ink in the bottle can be underneath." Thank you, Sailor, you've been helpful.

I did a writing sample the day after I got this pen, which was about a month ago. Since that time, I've concluded that the paper in my Moleskine notebook sucks for the extra fine nib on the Pelikan M205. The pen and ink work much better on other types of paper. I've also tried a couple of other ink samples in the M205 thus far (Diamine Oxblood color and Pelikan Edelstein Onyx color), and have had no problems or issues with cleaning the ink reservoir, refilling, ink flow, etc. This pen is a keeper (at least until Christmas), and I'm eager to twist, flip, and inhale the Sailor bottle when the ink gets underneath. LOL.

Here is the writing sample that I created using the M205 inked with the Sailor Jentle Sky High ink:

November 4, 2012

Pelikan M205 Fountain Pen (Part 1)

The title says it all. I broke down and bought a "next step above entry level" fountain pen. I was going to use  "impulsively" as an adverb to modify "bought," but nothing could be further from the truth in this case. Seriously, I must have spent 40+ hours looking at different pens, reading online reviews, adding and subtracting pens from various online vendor shopping carts, talking myself out of it, back into it, and out of it again, etc. I guess you could say that FPAD (fountain pen acquisition disorder) has settled in quite nicely here.

The first picture shows how the Pelikan M205 Blue Demonstrator eye candy is initially revealed to its lucky owner. The presentation is not too shabby (although I'm not really a packaging geek, so meh whatever). The hard shell case and silky taupe colored bed resemble a coffin, with the pen lying in state.

On to the details. This pen has an extra fine nib and it fills via an internal piston mechanism, which is visible through the translucent blue body. As far as I know, this blue demonstrator version is identical in form and function to every other Pelikan M205 pen, regardless of color. Dimensions, specifications, and a number of very good reviews of this pen are available elsewhere on the Internet. In fact, I read this review and this other review before making my purchase, and I thank those writers for their helpful insights.

My quick review and two cents: the pen is smallish and lightweight, but still feels like a high quality instrument; the nib is noticeably broader, wetter, and smoother than the extra fine nib on my Lamy Vista; the nib is more flexible (springy) than the nib on the Vista; the piston filling mechanism is very cool; and I love the design and look of the pen. I'm a sucker for see-through things, and I generally like all things blue, so I really couldn't resist this one.

So . . . here's a picture of the uncapped pen before I filled it with ink:

The end of the piston plunger is clearly visible inside of the body of the pen. Next up is a picture that shows the mama pelican and the baby pelican on the end of the cap. My daughter said "aww, that's so cute" when I showed this to her:

I believe that the clip is designed to emulate a pelican's beak. I've never paid any attention to water fowl rhamphotheca, but it sure does look beakish to me:

I like how you can see the nib and other innards even when the pen is capped. It really does look cool, and I can't believe that I'm actually writing sentences about how nice a pen looks. Yeah, so after staring at the pen and soaking in all of its awesomeness for a few hours, I decided to actually use it! This being my first non-cartridge fountain pen, I must say that I was geeking out a bit about the piston filling experience. Indeed, actuating the piston mechanism and watching the blue ink (of course I used blue) rise into the ink reservoir was something to behold. Well, not nearly as cool as the entry, descent, and landing of the Curiosity earlier this year, but still pretty cool. Here is a picture of the pen all inked up and ready to write:

If you look closely at the nib, you'll see yet another pelican. And the word "Pelikan." The designers at Pelikan are not shy about branding and trademarking.

As I mentioned above, the Pelikan M205 is a very smooth writer even though it has an extra fine nib. This particular extra fine nib is actually broader than what I expected; I prefer the line width of my Lamy Vista extra fine. If Pelikan made an XXF nib, then I think this would be nearly perfect for me. I'll make a follow up post soon, with a writing sample and some comments about the ink I used. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying the writing and piston actuation experiences.