May 30, 2013

"Premium" Writing Paper (Clairefontaine & Rhodia)

I think that I've completed the basic kit for a fountain pen newbie. Fountain pen: check. Converter: check. Ink samples: check. Another fountain pen: check. Bottle of ink: check. The last item in the fountain pen 101 kit? Fountain pen friendly writing paper! Really. I'm serious:

Left to right: Clairefontaine Triomphe writing pad; Rhodia Dot Pad (spiral bound); and Rhodia Dot Pad (staple bound). They are all A5 size, and they all contain really nice paper. Serious reviews of these writing pads can be found all over the Internet, and anything I try to write will be redundant. Personally, I like the feel of the Triomphe paper the best, but I don't like the way that the pages are glued at the top . . . tearing the pages away cleanly can be hit or miss. I prefer the micro perforations on the Dot Pads much better in this regard. The Triomphe paper has lavender or purple-ish colored lines, which are impossible to accurately show due to poor lighting, color balance, and bush league photography skills:

Clairefontaine Triomphe
The Dot Pad paper uses a grid of dots instead of lines. Official specs say that the dots are printed with a 5 mm pitch. I like the dots:

Rhodia Dot Pad
To be honest, my fountain pens work just fine on the standard office copy paper that I use. That said, they write smoother and produce higher quality ink lines on these premium paper products. Even if you don't write with fountain pens, you should try some of this paper just for the experience. You only live once.

By the way, I also acquired a tiny Rhodia pad (No. 10 size, 2 x 3 inches) and feel that it's just too small to be really useful. I also bought one in the No. 11 size, which is 3 x 4 inches. The No. 11 size is perfect for quick notes, to-do lists, reminders, and miniature paper airplanes. I use the No. 11 pad more than the A5 size pads shown in the pictures.

To summarize: I now have fountain pens, converters, ink, and good writing paper. I think my kit is complete. Too bad my handwriting sucks.

May 23, 2013

Pocket Knives

My recent bout of KAD (Knife Acquisition Disorder) is somewhat under control now. I have accumulated an acceptable collection of knives, and I'm not really itching to make another purchase just yet. Of course, I'd love me one of those Chris Reeve Sebenza knives, but the price tag keeps my fiscally responsible side well-grounded in reality. I don't think that last sentence makes sense, so let me rephrase it: I can't afford it.

When I was a wee lad I carried a pocket knife to be cool, carve my initials into wooden objects, and play mumblety-peg with the neighborhood degenerates. I recall having a cheap single blade folder and a medium sized Swiss Army Knife way back when. However, I stopped carrying pocket knives after getting out of high school (yeah, back then pocket knives were allowed in school), and never really missed them or gave them much thought until a few years ago.

So what happened a few years ago? I was on a weekend hike with another family, and my friend broke out an absolutely enormous Swiss Army Knife that I immediately ridiculed and scoffed at. No, it wasn't THIS monstrous, but still. After getting my friend on the defensive, he explained all about the practical utility of having an EDC pocket knife: sawing logs for a lean-to; spontaneous tooth picking; and blah blah emergencies blah blah. He was very convincing. So, I dug my old Swiss Army Classic out of my drawer and started to carry it on the regular. I soon decided to get something different, and that led to the acquisition of a Buck Scholar knife.

KAD took over in 2012, and I really went haywire that year. My knife purchases went like this: Spyderco Dragonfly2 in May; Spyderco Manix2 Blue Lightweight in June; Benchmade Mini-Griptilian in July; Coldsteel Tuff Lite in August; Gerber Dime in November (returned to Amazon in November); Leatherman Juice S2 in early December; and Spyderco Native5 ordered on December 31, 2012. Wow, that's a little overboard, but the lineup looks great:

The knives are shown in chronological order according to when I got them: top row left to right, then bottom row left to right. So my oldest knife is the SAK Classic, and my newest is the Native5. I don't really carry the Classic or the Scholar these days, simply because I prefer the other knives as EDC items. I rarely carry the Manix2 because I don't want to scare or intimidate any sheeple in the neighborhood. Seriously, the Manix2 is only a "pocket" knife in theory or if you're rockin' giant baggy MC Hammer pants.

I guess that I can do some retroactive posts related to the Dragonfly2, Manix2, and Mini-Griptilian knives. So be on the lookout for those posts. Unless, of course, KAD kicks in again and/or a Sebenza magically appears in my mailbox. If that happens, I'll write about it immediately.

May 15, 2013

Real Japan Blues 105BSP Jeans

A few months ago I was willing and ready to pull the trigger on some Momotaro 1005SP jeans, but couldn't decide (with 100% certainty) on the size. Moreover, I couldn't find any reputable domestic vendors, and wasn't too keen on the idea of buying them from a random Japanese website. As a result, I put those Momotaros on my wish list and moved on.

A few weeks after NOT acquiring the Momotaros (No-motaros?), I "coincidentally" found myself randomly wandering into a brick and mortar Self Edge store. I wasn't really looking to buy anything in particular, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to try some different jeans on to see if anything fit well. I tried on several different jeans, and decided buy the 105BSP jeans from Real Japan Blues (tagged size 30).

Brand New! No Soak, No Wash, No Nothing
I like the cut of these jeans because the legs are far from skinny and because the all-important rise measurement is somewhat generous relative to my Roy jeans. The jeans have some cool details, too . . . super important features such as: different colored stitching on the back pockets; a sewn-in red "tag" on the back pocket; an extra deep knife/coin pocket; and doubled denim material along the front pocket openings. The as-new inseam measured 38 inches long! I had Self Edge cut off about five inches and hem them with the goal of having a 30 to 31 inch inseam after shrinking. Self Edge does a great job at hemming jeans, and they even use a vintage Union Special chainstitching machine to do the job right.

I Like These Arcuates

Red "Tag"

Deep Coin Pocket
Doubled Front Pocket Material
After the initial soak/shrink in the bathtub and hang dry, the 105BSPs were slightly on the stiff and crusty side. My understanding is that the post-soak stiffness is caused by the starch that is used during the manufacturing process. I wore them for the first time on January 1, 2013, and they broke in quickly after several wearings. If I'm honest, they were less than comfortable on the first day due to the stiffness.

Post-Soak Magic Pants!
I've been wearing these jeans at least a couple times per week, and they have become quite comfortable. I haven't washed them yet, and they haven't developed any distinctive fading effects or unique wear patterns yet. The sizing is very good, and Self Edge did a great job with the hemming by estimating and compensating for shrinkage of the inseam - the length is spot on. That said, the rise might be a little short, which means they are not a perfect fit. Oh well, I still have the Momotaros on my wish list.

May 6, 2013

My Son's Dragon Fountain Pen

I got my son into fountain pens at an extremely early age, and he's now learning how to do long division using his Pilot Varsity pens. He peers over my shoulder when I'm "researching" pen-related goods on the Internet, and he says things like: "I like that see-through one" and "Can I get a pen that has one of those piston things inside it?" and "I like dragons" and "You know, Dad, I think that the extra fine nib on your Pelikan M205 is slightly more forgiving than the fine nib on your Lamy Vista due to the higher gold content, but you really need to stop whining about the line width and shading variation and simply pony up the big bucks, step up to the plate, and acquire one of those awesome Nakaya pens". OK, the last quote is fake, but he really is very interested in fountain pens. Really.

Being the swell dad that I am, I soon put "dragon pen for kid" on my acquisition list. I found a few cheap and cheesy looking fountain pens with dragon designs on them, along with this outstanding work of art from Nakaya: The Gold Dragon. I wish that pen would magically appear in the mail some day, but it won't. Sorry, son, it won't happen.

One day while browsing the I Sell Pens website for nothing in particular, I caught a glimpse of something that looked like a pen with a snake motif. That seed led to a fountain pen with an Asian dragon motif, and I was all over it. The product description could have read "Dragon Pen For Kid" - it was/is perfect. I was extremely happy about the price point, and immediately clicked the BUY ME, YOU CAN'T RESIST button. A few short days later, and this beauty was delivered to me:

The design and overall look of this pen is exactly what I was hoping to find. Are the quality, workmanship, and choice of materials at the high end of the scale? Of course not. Does it look freaking awesome to a third grader? Hells yeah. Seriously, just look at Awesome Dragon #1 (he lives on the cap):

But wait, there's more. Feast your eyes on Awesome Dragon #2 (he resides on the body):

Let me say a few words about the pen itself. First, the pen is massive, thick, and heavy (it weighs about 105 grams with a full converter of ink). Second, the cap screws onto the body and cannot be posted. Third, it looks awesome. The pewter colored design and clip work very well with the glossy black finish of the cap and body.

I don't know who makes this pen, and don't really care. It came with a converter, and it is compatible with standard international sized ink cartridges. I assume that the pen is made in China or Taiwan, although the nib says "Iridium Point Germany" on it (according to I Sell Pens, the nib is a Medium-Fine).

To be honest, both my son and I really like how this pen writes. The nib size, which seems to write more like a Medium or Medium+ than the advertised Medium-Fine, and generous ink flow contribute to a nice user experience. The pen writes very smoothly, doesn't skip at all, and produces a consistent flow of ink once it starts going. The last caveat relates to my only complaint about the pen; I don't think the cap has a good seal because it tends to dry out if not used every day. In fact, it was difficult to start a few times, but ink flow was great once it began. We loaded the converter with Sailor Jentle Sky High ink for its maiden voyage, but have since retired the converter in favor of ink cartridges (which are easier for my son to use). Here is a scanned writing sample:

PS - I didn't want to spoil the kid with such a cool writing instrument, so I held onto the pen for a while before giving it to him as a gift. The smile on his face when he opened the box was priceless to me. It's his favorite pen at the moment (but I haven't shown him the Nakaya Gold Dragon yet).