Drop + Marvel Infinity Saga Custom Keycap

I’ve been using mechanical keyboards since the early 2000s. At first it was old IBM keyboards that I used while I was in the army, and they were gloriously loud little tanks. Then I bought a few cherry switch mechanical keyboards, until I settled on the tenkeyless Code keyboard with cherry MX clears as my keyboard of choice. I use SA keycaps on it, and after spending way too much on keycaps, I’ve settled on three sets that I rotate between regularly (SA Pulse, SA Carbon and SA Dasher/Dancer). Although I’ve eyed custom keycaps before, their price made me balk before buying.

Until I saw the Drop + Marvel Infinity Saga custom keycap, specifically the Captain America’s Shield & Mjolnir keycap. Yes, it was expensive, but I decided that if I was ever going to splurge on a custom keycap, then this is the one that I want to splurge on.

It arrived yesterday, after a few months of waiting, and it is glorious. I rarely care about packaging, but this keycap came in a box not far from a jewellery box:

The outer box.

The outer packaging of the box has a carbon fibre like print on it, with the Captain America shield, the Drop + Marvel logo and the Marvel studios “The Infinity Saga” title on it.

The Infinity Saga

There’s a ribbon tab that allows you to easily pull the box open. Even the black box underneath the outer wrapper is elegantly made and has the Drop + Marvel logo embossed on it.

Very impressive packaging.

Inside is the keycap itself. It includes Captain America’s broken shield, Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer that the Captain wields, on a background of a broken brick wall and debris. It really evokes the climatic battle of “Avengers: Endgame”.

The keycap is heavier than I expected, but then again, unlike normal keycaps which are hollow, this one is entirely filled with resin. There are a lot of metallic elements in the design, which means that it catches and reflects the light very well.

Side view

The best view is of course the top view, which shows the shield and hammer and debris design the best:

Top view

Even the views that you are less likely to see are well designed and crafted.

Back view

The reverse side of the keycap isn’t as elegantly made, with some resin and paint spillage evident. But that doesn’t matter, as this is never going to be a side of the keycap you look at.

Here is the keycap on my Code keyboard (no backlighting as the keyboard was disconnected as I was replacing its keycaps):

And here it is in all its glory:

And with the full keyboard layout:

I am so glad that I decided to purchase this custom keycap. Yes, with the shipping and taxes that I had to pay for it it came close to buying a full keycap set, which is why I don’t see many custom keycaps in my future. However, this specific keycap is worth it to me, as seeing the shield and Mjolnir gives me a little thrill every time I see them, both because of my memories of the films and because of the sheer craftsmanship invested in the keycap itself.

London: A Trip to a City Emerging From a Pandemic

I was in London for the past two weeks, and it was a strange and unique experience. Until Covid-19 I used to visit London once a year, every year. Once the travel restrictions changed so that I didn’t have to quarantine on the way there or on the way back, I decided to book a trip. It ended up being a good but somewhat bittersweet trip, with a lot of interesting new caveats and restrictions that I had to take into account.

Kensington Gardens on a sunny Sunday with very few people outside.
Kensington Gardens on a sunny Sunday with very few people outside.
  • I was travelling to London from a Green List country. That meant taking a Covid test 72 hours before the flight, filling a Locator Form, and taking a Covid test within 2 days of arrival. On the way back I had to take a Covid test 72 hours before my flight back, as well as another test upon arrival. These were all PCR tests in my case, which were uncomfortable to take (first time I took a Covid test) but not painful. They were expensive, and dealing with them did add an added layer of hassle to the trip. In London I bought a test package from Randox, using the British Airways code to bring the price down (it was still much, much more expensive than local tests here – 60 GBP per test after a 50% discount), and dropped the test at a clinic near the British Museum. I would have said that the experience was smooth, except one of the kits that I ordered had a test tube that wasn’t sealed properly, which meant that all the preserving liquid inside leaked. I got a replacement from Randox, but it was a hassle to get them on the phone and get my test kit replaced.
  • London is not for the spontaneous at the moment. You have to book every museum visit in advance. There are fewer musical and theatre tickets on sale as social distancing requirements are still in effect, and there are less show on, which means you need to book well in advance and there is no lining up for day-of tickets. Exhibitions are also at limited capacity, which means that for the popular ones at the V&A, for instance, you will have to book more than a month in advance. Concerts are the same deal, and many churches no longer offer concerts due to social distancing requirements. If you want to see or hear anything, you’re going to have to plan it out to the minute well before your trip.
  • Places are closed or have closed down. I expected that to some extent, as this was case here as well, but I was taken by surprise by the amount of closures, considering just how much support (relatively) the UK government provided to citizens during the lockdowns. Antique markets seem to have taken most of the brunt, with Portobello being a gutted (many arcades are half or three quarters shuttered), Spitalfields reverted mostly to crafts and food, and Greenwich losing one of its markets. A lot of stores in the most expensive and touristy parts of town (Covent Garden, Oxford/Regent Street) are closed and papered over with posters etc so you won’t notice as much. Some have moved to places with lower rents, most have shut down.
Socially distanced performance of Six: The Musical. Chairs with the cardboard sign remained empty. About half the chairs in the picture are marked with signs.
Socially distanced performance of Six: The Musical. Chairs with the cardboard sign remained empty.
  • There are upsides to visiting London now: there are much fewer tourists, which means much fewer lines to things, accommodation prices are lower, and as long as you book a ticket in advance, museums and attractions are emptier. There’s no shortage of cabs after a show, and you usual can find a place to sit in any restaurant you want to.
  • A lot of places have moved to contactless payment only (i.e. no cash), and restaurants are among the most aggressive of the bunch in terms of movement to no cash payment. In many places you will order your meal via an app or a website, and in almost everywhere you’ll be required to scan in via the NHS covid tracker app, or provide your personal details for tracking purposes. If that’s something you feel uncomfortable with, I understand, but do know that you are in one of the most surveilled cities in the world when you’re in London, so maybe it’s not the city for you.
  • Masks and disinfectants everywhere. Not much else to say about that.
  • Museums and larger stores have designated entrances and exits now, which means that you can’t go in through any door that you want.
Trafalgar Square deserted.
Trafalgar Square deserted.
  • London is still London though: there are a lot of interesting things to see and do, especially if you plan ahead. We saw the refurbished wings of the National Gallery (they take you through one of three set tours across the gallery, or you can do more than one tour. It’s not a guided tour – just a path that they want patrons to follow). It’s well worth the visit. We saw the Alice exhibition in V&A and it was wonderful, and the Fantastic Beasts exhibition the Natural History Museum, and it was nice, especially for children (very interactive).
Covent Garden. very few people outside.
Covent Garden. I have never seen it so empty before.
  • We also heard a jazz concert in St Martin in the Fields, heard Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall, and even managed to see Princess Diana’s dress at Kensington Palace. All in all it was a good, if peculiar trip.
Fantastic Beasts

The Herb Garden, Greenwich, London

My brush got frazzled on the way which made it tough to use. I fixed it later that night with some hot water.

London is weird right now, with Covid-19 measures still in effect and very few tourists around. A lot of places are closed or have closed down. I still love the city, though.

Karas Kustoms Bolt V2

I am a huge fan of Karas Kustoms machined pens, and I have their Render K, Ink, EDK, and Retrakt but I only recently purchased a Bolt v2. Why? For one thing, I was waiting for an interesting colour combination to come along. For another, I have the Bolt v1 one and have found it practically unusable, so I was hesitant to give the v2 a try. But then Karas Kustoms created a bluish-grey and orange Bolt v2, and the colour combination made me decide to give the Bolt a second chance.

I’m glad that I did.

Bolt v1 on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

The Bolt v2 that I bought has a bluish-grey and orange anodization and fluted grooves in the grip. My Bolt v1 is raw aluminium, has no grooves in the grip section, and as you can see, is very, very long. This is the main reason that I couldn’t use the Bolt v1, as I have small hands and the pen is about 15cm long, which makes it unwieldy. The Bolt v2 is about 2cm shorter, and so about standard size of a pen.

Bolt v1 on the left, Bolt v2 on the right, refills extended.

The v1 and v2 Bolt have a similar design, but the Bolt v1 is a much more impressive pen, even with no anodization. Every time I pulled it out, people asked what it was, and said that it looked like a surgical tool. The Bolt v2 is more practical, and while it’s an attractive pen, it (so far) hasn’t been one to draw too much attention to itself. That may be a good thing, because someone did make an attempt to steal my Bolt v1 when I brought it to the office, which is why I stopped bringing it with me.

Bolt v1 mechanism on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

The bolt mechanism on the v1 and v2 are very similar, but the v2’s mechanism has been streamlined and rounded (see the bottom of the cutout) which means that it’s much easier to engage than the v1. It makes the v2 much nicer to use, and as an added bonus, it turns the pen into a great fidget tool.

Bolt v1 on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

I know that the seam between the grip and the body of the Bolt v1 looks tighter and better fitting than the Bolt v2’s but those looks are misleading. Like the rest of Karas Kustoms v1 pens, the threads that connect the pen grip and pen body were the weakest point on the pen. The threads kept unscrewing themselves, at times while I was writing with the pen. It’s no wonder that they have been redesigned from scratch in the v2, as you can see below:

Bolt v2 parts.

The threads start in a shoulder, are much tighter, and there’s an added o-ring at the bottom. All these together prevent the pen from unscrewing itself unless you deliberately want to unscrew it.

Bolt v1 threads on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

If you have an interest in machined pens, and specifically in bolt action machined pens, then a Karas Kustoms Bolt v2 should be high up on your list. It’s been my daily pen for a few weeks, and I don’t see it leaving my rotation any time soon. I would recommend checking out Karas’s special projects, since the colourways there are often more striking than in their regular line.

Night Run

I really like how the two watercolours on this page “melt” together, and in general this is one of my favourite sketchbook spreads created as part of the Sketchbook Design course.

Rob Roy Track, New Zealand

Rob Roy Track, New Zealand

First “serious” watercolour in a while, and another test for my new palette.

DDC Rumpl

Another page out of my sketchbook. I’ve had the DDC Rumpl blanket for over two months and it’s become a house favourite. The only thing I regret is buying only one.

Finished a Pilot-Hi-Tech-C Refill

For the first time ever I managed to write a Pilot High-Tech-C (also known as G-Tech-C) refill dry. The tip didn’t bend to death because someone breathed on it wrong, the refill didn’t have strange bubbles that meant that it just decided not to write any more, and the ball in the tip didn’t break off (thus rendering the pen into a particularly terrible rapidograph). This feels like an achievement and I am going to celebrate — by picking up a brand new High-Tech-C of course.

Empty pen refill.
Just a single crack on the cap from a fall early on, that’s all the damage this pen took.
Empty refill. Didn’t believe that it could be done.

Sweet Box

Catching up on some more sketchbook pages from my Sketchbook Design course as I’m working on giving my palette the largest overhaul it’s had since I started painting with watercolours. This page was inspired by the final box I got from the Tel Aviv muncipality’s “The Box” project, created to support local businesses during the lockdown.

Sketching Tools: Nock Co Sinclair and Tallulah

As I’ve recently overhauled my sketching tools and have grown to like my new setup, I’ve decided to document my current sketching kit, as a reference to myself and others.

Sinclair on top, Tallulah on the bottom.

First up are my pen and pencil cases, the Nock Co Sinclair and Tallulah. I used to use the Sinclair as my main sketching case because:

  1. It can hold much, much more than three pens. Much more. Mine had four Staedtler Fineliners, two or three Japanese brush pens, a white gel ink pen, five Faber Castell Pitt brush pens, a mechanical pencil, an eraser, a woodcase pencil, a sharpener, a waterbrush, and a folded paper towel square.
  2. It has two zippers, which means that you can sneak in extra large pens, like the Sailor Fude ones, or full length pencils, and still zip the case around them.
Partially full Sinclair.

The Sinclair is no longer my main case and I now use it to store a more extensive selection of sketching tools (mostly Faber Castell Pitt brush pens). The reason is that it can hold so many pens that I was tempted to fill it to the brim and bring all those pens with me. As I decided that to gain speed I needed to pair down my sketching tools and expand my watercolour palette, I replaced the Sinclair with the much slimmer Tallulah.

Tallulah ready to work, on top. Sinclair on the bottom.

The Tallulah is marketed as a two pen case. Oh, Brad. I have four Staedtler Fineliners, a Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel ink pen, a woodcased pencil, three (!) Sailor Fude fountain pens and a waterbrush. If the Tallulah had two zippers instead of one I could have closed the case. As it is, I keep it open and propped up in my sketching bag, as sort of a pen organizer. If I need the Tallulah to close, I can pare down my pens to one or two Sailor Fude pens, lose the waterbrush (if I keep two Sailor Fude’s in my kit), and replace the woodcased pencil with a mechanical one, or lose the pencil entirely as I generally work directly in pen and watercolour these days.

See, I can close it if I need to.

The Tallulah is so slim and light that it really works with my low profile sketch kit. It’s actually the anchor around which I built my new kit, with the other two being the Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook that I’m using, and my Schmincke watercolour tin.

If you are an artist looking for a storage solution for your pens and pencils, I highly recommend giving the Nock Co Sinclair and Tallulah a try. They are handsome workhorses that can take a beating (especially the zippers) and can hold many more pens than you would normally imagine.