Out: Field Notes National Parks Mount Rainier (the last of series B that I’ve been using).
In: Field Notes National Parks Grand Teton (the first of series D to be put to use).
National Parks is my favourite Field Notes edition since Two Rivers. I’ve bought additional packs of series B and series C, beyond what I received with my subscription. I highly recommend splurging on a pack or two of these pocket notebooks.
I just finished my first Field Notes of the year. In: Mr. Rainier National Park (Field Notes National Parks), Out: Field Notes Joshua Tree National Park (Field Notes National Parks).
This has become one of my favourite Field Notes editions, right up there with Two Rivers and Balsam Fir. It also wears surprisingly well. This notebook has been bashing around in my bag for the past three months and you can barely tell:
The dent on the side is from where I clip it shut.
The Mt. Rainier is the last of the National Parks C pack (which also included the Grand Canyon) and the cover just brings a smile on my face. What a great edition.
Out: Campfire Dawn. This is one of the editions that I learned to love the more I used it: it just wears out so well.
In: Snowblind. Somewhat ironically this edition shows itself off best in the summer. It’s going to get dinged up and grimy, but that’s just what happens to used notebooks, especially ones with light coloured covers.
In the early 2000s the Tombow Object fountain pen was one of the recommended beginner fountain pens on the market. That was in the pre-Pilot Metropolitan and pre-TWSBI days, when the beginner fountain pen choices were pretty sparse. I have the Tombow Object fountain pen and I’ll review it at a later time, but a few years ago I saw its rollerball counterpart on clearance sale, and so I risked the purchase.
I’m not a rollerball person, since they tend to behave like the worst of fountain pens (ink spreading, feathering, bleeding through and leaking out of the pen) without the good parts (line variation and versatility in ink colour). But the Tombow Object rollerball intrigued me because it shares the same body as the Tombow Object fountain pen but is significantly cheaper, and so I was hoping that even if it turned out to be an annoying pen to use, I could just use it as a way to get some colour variety with my Object fountain pen.
And why would you want that, you ask? Well, just look at that anodization:
The Tombow Object is a metal bodied pen (brushed aluminum body and cap that gives it a great texture) with a plastic section and a steel clip. That gives it some heft, but still keeps it light enough to be comfortable to use both capped and uncapped. There’s a satisfying snap when you cap the pen, and it stays on very securely. The tip doesn’t rattle or wiggle around, and the clip does an admirable job of being a good pocket clip and preventing the pen from rolling about. The pen has a beautifully designed taper on both ends that gives it a bit of character, and an unobtrusive “Tombow” and “Japan” printed in white on the cap. Although this colour is called gold, it’s a coppery-gold, close to a champaign colour you can sometimes see on cars.
The appeal of the Tombow Object has always been the fantastic anodization colours that were offered, each one really vibrant (except for the silver, which was boring). As you can see from the photo above, like all aluminum pens, it can be dented and nicked. This is probably a pen that you want to keep on your desk and not bashing around in your bag or pocket.
Another reason to keep this pen on your desk is that it tends to leak. There’s a slip mechanism in the cap that both prevents the ink from drying out and from leaking beyond the tip of the pen, but as you can see in the photo below, you need to be careful when you start using the pen where you grip it, or just accept ink stains on your fingers (or keep a paper towel at hand).
The pen uses a proprietary Tombow Object refill, which is always a shame. I wish that I could just pop in any fountain pen ink cartridge in there instead.
The slip cap also allows you to easily post this pen, although I don’t recommend it. For one thing, it isn’t necessary as the pen is long enough as it is, and for another, because the pen leaks into the cap you’ll just spread ink on the pen body.
It’s ink test time! Here’s a sampling of how the Tombow Object rollerball behaves on different kinds of paper:
None of this is great, but to be frank, this is generally in keeping with rollerball behaviour, and one of the reasons that I really don’t like the Retro51 Schmidt rollerball refills. The Object behaved best on the Clairefontaine paper, and even displayed some fetching line variation. It’s still a “one side of the page only” type of pen though.
As for the cap-and-body switching hack, it only partially works. You can take the body of a Tombow Object rollerball and switch it with one from a Tombow Object fountain pen, but the plastic insert in the cap that prevents the ink from drying up or leaking is incompatible between models. The pen just won’t snap shut with the “wrong” type of cap. It does still allow for some crazy cap/body combos, but that a whole different ballgame.
So would I recommend this pen? It is beautifully designed, looks great, is comfortable to use and you can find it on the secondary market for the price of a Retro51 or slightly cheaper. The enormous downside to this pen is that it uses a proprietary refill (I have not yet tried to hack it to see if it can accept other refills). So if you like this pen I would recommend stocking up on those refills, because Tombow might not offer them for sale forever. The Tombow Object and the Tombow Egg which use them have both been discontinued for a few years now, which is a great pity.
Field Notes is a major sponsor of the Morning News’ Tournament of Books, and every year they celebrate the tournament by creating a specially themed notebook for the occasion. The notebooks are sold as singles and 100% of the proceeds from them are donated to the 826 National, which provides free educational programs to under-resourced youth. This year, the Rooster Book looks like this:
The party is all in the back, with this year’s ToB Rooster logo:
I really feel like colouring it in crazy psychedelic colours.
The notebook is lined, and the craft front cover is pretty standard for a Field Notes:
Again the back is where it’s at, with a list of this year’s Tournament of Books contenders.
You can check off the books that you’ve read, and I admit it was pretty fun checking almost all of them off.
This is a cool little edition that helps out two wonderful causes. The only thing I would change about it is its publication date. If Field Notes would have issued it at the time the list of contenders was announced then you could really use this notebook to follow along with the tournament. But I bought a few notebooks as a memento of my plan to read all the books in the tournament this year, and excellent for that.
Out: Campfire Night. I loved using this notebook despite my initial apprehensions about the orange grid and the photo covers (my favourite Field Notes Colours edition is “Balsam Fir”). The covers wear really well, and the orange grid isn’t as distracting as I thought it would be. I’ll still use this one for a while, until I finish reading the Tournament of Books books, as it has my logs in it.
In: Fire Spotter. I’ve started this notebook before, filled in two pages and abandoned it (I’m not a fan of dot grid). Decided to start using up the Field Notes notebooks that I started using and haven’t finished because it’s just a shame not to. Firespotter is a great edition if you like dot grid, and I love the debossing on the back cover.
After waiting for over two months, my Mark One (purchased post Kickstarter) finally arrived. The pen, by Studio Neat, is made of aluminium and features a ceramic finish and a custom click mechanism. It also comes with a Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill (the same kind that Retro51 uses in their pens), which is absolutely horrible, so I switched it with an OhtoFlash Dry 0.5 gel ink refill instead.
The pen comes in a cork box that is very pretty, but not really functional. If you have tons of spare room on your desk you can reuse it as a pen tray for the Mark One, but as I don’t the box will just go to recycling. I would have preferred a simpler box, of the kind that TWSBI or Lamy uses, but this is a great box if you plan to give someone the Mark One as a gift.
The Mark One box is held closed by a piece of cardboard that doubles as an instruction sheet for the pen. That’s a nice idea, and the sheet is well designed and clear.
The box without the sheet doesn’t have a sealing mechanism (it’s just two pieces of cork), so it’s not really built to be a pen case, just a pen tray.
I chose the white and copper Mark One, which is very popular based on the waiting times on the Studio Neat website.
The pen is very comfortable to hold and use for long periods of time. It looks heavy but is super light, and the ceramic finish makes it very grippy. The wide barrel helps ensure that you don’t slip into “death grip” mode even if you have a tendency to.
The click mechanism is excellent and very solid and satisfying to use. It’s also very far from silent. The pen tip doesn’t rattle, and the pen looks as gorgeous as the pictures make it appear.
The Ohto Flash Dry 0.5 gel ink refill (PG-105NP) is a needle point, parker refill that dries in a flash. It’s very dark and produces a line that is slightly wider than the Uniball 0.5 gel ink refills, but it somehow doesn’t smudge. Even on Moleskine, Rhodia and Tomoe River paper the OHTO Flash Dry dries almost instantaneously. It’s a left hand writer’s dream, and an excellent gel ink refill in and of itself. I have no idea why this refill hasn’t gotten more reviews, since there are so few parker style gel ink refills to begin with, not to mention good ones or ones that dry in a second or less. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it’s the kind of refill that’s widely available. It is, however, totally worth the price and effort.
Here’s a sample from my journal (which is a Moleskine). New Moleskines don’t have the spidering problem that they used to have, and there is no spreading or smudging with this pen/ink combo. The show through is a more significant than with a Uniball UMR-85 refill (the Signo 207), but the line is also wider and a good deal darker.
Here’s a writing sample on a Field Notes, where the first line (“Mark One”) was written with the original refill, and the rest with the Ohto Flash Dry.
Here’s the refill, which is available at JetPens and CultPens (I am not an affiliate of either):
I highly recommend the Mark One, as it’s a beautiful pen that’s just a joy to use. I would recommend switching the Schmidt refill out for the Ohto Flash Dry 0.5, or just using the Flash Dry in any parker compatible pen that you’ve got. It’s one of the best refills out there, especially if you’re left handed or tend to smudge your writing.
Most stationery blog posts focus on reviewing products and less on how people actually use all the paper, pens and inks that they buy. I thought I’d try to write a bit more about how I use my stuff, and not just on how cool is all the stuff I have.
This is my latest Field Notes, the Campfire Night. I use a binder clip to keep it closed as it bashes around in my backpack. Without the clip the pages get crumpled and torn after a few days of use. The clip used to be nice and copper coloured but now is just nice and worn silver.
Apart from my day to day to do lists, this notebook currently hosts my Tournament of Books trackers. There’s a list of books that are participating in the contest, divided per round. Those that I’ve read are marked off with blue pencil. This is for my personal use, so you’ll not see any Instagram level calligraphy here. I wasn’t planning to photograph this and blog about it when I created these.
This is where I’m logging who I think should win each round. When the tournament starts I’m going to log who actually won each round on the opposite page.
Since doing this challenge means reading 18 books in a very short period, I’m tracking my reading progress in this notebook as well as in my reading journal, just to make sure that I’m on track (I won’t finish reading these in time, as I’ve started too late, but my goal is to finish reading them all by mid April).