Paperchase Fine Liners and Sketching on a Paper Bag

On my last day in London I went to Paperchase, a local stationery chain, and “splurged” on some stickers and a set of fine liners. I say “splurged” with velociraptor quotes as Paperchase branded products are generally inexpensive, even if they do tend to be of middling quality. This set of fine liners proved to be no different: they can be described as OK at best. The caps require some force to snap back on, the clips quite easily (and unintentionally) pop out, and the colours are muted and pale. They would work well as muted, fine lined highlighters, but if you’re planning to sketch or colour with them, I’d opt for something from Staedler instead.

Paperchase Fine Liners. The packaging, as with all Paperchase products, is on point.

The set that I got had the following colours: Sky Blue (which is a turquoise), Deep Blue (which is a teal, and not at all deep or blue), Choc Brown (which is a reddish brown, and far too light to be named after chocolate), Fiery Orange (which is very reddish and not at all fiery), and Hello Yellow (the only aptly named pen of the bunch). You can see a writing sample on Maruman Mnemosyne paper.

Writing sample of Paperchase Fine Liners.

I was inspired to sketch a scene from one of my runs this week using only these fine liners and a used paper bag from the local farmers’ market (it had peppers in it). The set doesn’t have a green, so I layered the Deep Blue on the Hello Yellow to create the green that you see here. I kind of like the result, and as I have a few more used paper bags laying around I may play with them as well.

Sketch of the Reading Power Station on a used paper bag.

Drehgriffel Nr. 1: A Review of the Leuchtturm1917 Gel Ink Pen

London Graphic Centre is one of my favourite stores in London. It’s tucked away in the corner of a street off of Neal street in Covent Garden, and it’s a real haven for artists, designers, architects and anyone who loves stationery and art supplies. I visit it several times whenever I’m in London, and I never fail to find something new and interesting there to try out. This time was no different, and one of the first things that caught my eye while I was there was this:

Rectangular box, Leuchtturm1917 logo, aquamarine colour, unusual pen design – of course I had to check it out.

It was just above the Leuchtturm1917 notebook display, and there were just three or four colours available, but it was obvious that this pen was designed to match the colours on offer in the Leuchtturm notebook lineup. I assumed at first that it was a ballpoint, in which case I wasn’t really interested in it, until I saw that it was prominently labeled as a gel ink pen. Now that was intriguing.

Rectangular cardboard box, with Nr. 1 and “Gel” clearly marked on it, plus the aquamarine colour.

The box was a bit confusingly marked as both “Gel” and “Gel ballpoint”. Checking out the Leuchtturm site clarified that this pen (we’ll get to the name in a minute) is indeed a gel ink pen, with a Japanese refill and a “Ceramic Ball” tip. The refill itself looks very much like the Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel ink refill. My guess would be that this is the same refill, but more on that later.

Several things of interest here: the “Designed in Germany, Made in Taiwan” that is reminiscent of Apple’s packaging. The prominent “Gel” marking and then the confusing “Gel ballpoint” designation. And the “Ceramic Ball” notation.

Somebody really took the time to design this box, but really didn’t consider how illegible the pen’s name is:

I was sure that the pen was called orehgriffel or ovehgriffel.

The pen is called Drehgriffel Nr. 1, a bit of a mouthful. Apparently Drehgriffel means “rotary stylus”, which probably refers to the pen’s twist mechanism.

The pen has an aluminum body, a white twist nob at the end and brass pen tip. It’s well balanced, heavier than a plastic pen but lighter than a Retro 51 or a machined pen. It’s slightly heavier than a metal bodied Caran d’Ache 849, but if they were put in a boxing ring they’d both be in the same weight category.

The Drehgriffel has a very 60’s look, which I happen to like, but other people may find to be dated. Also, the Nr. 1 is a weird designation when you don’t have any other pen on offer. Will there be a Nr. 2? A Nr. 3?

Here’s the pen’s refill and parts. It’s weighted slightly towards the tip because the tip is brass (and, of course, the pen tip will tarnish with time).

The Drehgriffel taken apart.

Here’s the Drehgriffel refill side by side with a Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel refill, and they are exactly the same. Good to know if you’re looking to replace refills, although I suspect that it will take a while to write this pen dry.

Monteverde refill on the top, Leuchtturm refill on the bottom.

The Drehgriffel is similar in size and weight (and price) to the Caran d’Ache 849 metal barrelled pens. It’s a smidge wider and heavier than the 849, but they are very much in the same ballpark. Here they are side by side:

Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel on the left, Caran d’Ache 849 on the right.

Here’s a writing sample of the Drehgriffel against a few other gel refills. It’s noticeably wider than Japanese 0.5 gel in pens, and is closer to 0.7 gel ink refills. I tested it on a Moleskine squared notebook (and further down you can see it on a Leuchtturm1917 notebook).

Writing samples.

Here’s the reverse side of the Moleskine page. The Drehgriffel bled a bit more than its counterparts:

The reverse of the page.

Here’s a writing test on a Leuchtturm1917 80gsm blank notebook:

Leuchtturm1917 writing sample.

Here too there was visible show through an some bleed through, although there was less bleed through than the Moleskine.

The reverse side of the Leuchtturm1917 page.

The Drehgriffel writes smoothly, but there’s nothing in the pen’s smoothness that justifies the advertising. It’s a nice pen, that comes in a variety of colours and that has an interesting design and good refill. In my opinion it would have been more popular if it came with a click mechanism and was a little cheaper, but I still appreciate the fact that Leuchtturm chose to come out with a gel ink pen first and not the more obvious choice of a ballpoint. I like the look and feel of my Drehgriffel, although I would have liked it better if it would have been a little bit wider. As it is if I use it for more than a page or so without pause it causes my hand to ache and cramp up.

Now I’m wondering if there’s going to be a Drehgriffel Nr.2 with a click mechanism perhaps?

Karas Kustoms Machined Pens Grip Section Review

Karas Kustoms makes some of my favourite machined pens, and even with all the great new machined pens in the market I still think that a Kara’s Kustoms Retrakt, Render K or Bolt are the best first machined pens to buy. They are well made, well designed, tough, and well priced. In the past year or so they’ve added a lot of new grip options to the lineup, so I thought that I’d go through the various options and review them, to help those wondering which grip option to try.

Grip options from left to right: shiny anodized fluted, matte anodized fluted, anodized rings, Cerakote “plain”, anodized speed groove, anodized MK II, Cerakote dragonskin.

Not all of the grip options nor all of the finishes are offered in all of Karas Kustoms’ pens, however, if there is a particular combination you are looking for and it isn’t currently available there’s a good chance that it will show up in a limited edition at some point. Kara’s is always experimenting with their pens, so even though you may not be able to purchase any of the specific pens shown here, you’ll likely be able to find something else just as good.

Grip options from left to right: shiny anodized fluted, matte anodized fluted, anodized rings, Cerakote “plain”, anodized speed groove, anodized MK II, Cerakote dragonskin.

The newest of Kara’s grip options are the speed grooves, the MK II and the Dragonskin. Of the three, Karas seem to be issuing more MK II and Dragonskin lately, and these two grip options are the “grippiest” of them all. If you find machined pens problematic to grip because they tend to be slippery, the Dragonskin or the MK II grip options are made for you.

From left to right: speed groove, MK II and dragonskin.

Of the older grip options, the rings seems to be offered only on the EDK, while the fluted options are available on the Bolt and the Retrakt. The fluted options provide decent enough grip, but depending on how tightly how grip the pen you may find them uncomfortable for long writing sessions. They don’t dig into your fingers, they just feel a little “off” if you use the grip of death. The rings on the EDK provide little additional grip beyond what you get from the plain anodized options. I see the rings as more of an aesthetic statement here than something that provides more traction.

From left to right: fluted with shiny anodization, fluted with matte anodization, rings, plain Cerakote and anodized speed groove grip sections.

Karas has started creating more Cerakote (a kind of durable ceramic finish) pens lately, and in general they provide a little more grip than their anodized counterparts. In terms of finish, the shiny anodization and matte anodization are almost the same in terms of grippiness, and the Cerakote is slightly better than them, but not by much. If your hands tend to sweat a lot, these aren’t the best options for you.

Plain Cerakote Bolt V2

The rings on the EDK’s grip are honestly more for aesthetics than for added grip. I like the look and it suits the EDK very much, but don’t expect it to add functionality to the pen.

EDK with a ringed grip.

The fluted grip works, although it works better on the matte finished pens than the super shiny ones. The pen won’t slip from your hand, but it may not be the most comfortable thing to write with over time (depending on your grip). It is one of the more attractive and classy grip options, particularly suited for the longer pens.

Retrakt V2 with matte anodization and a fluted grip.
Bolt V2 with shiny anodization and a fluted grip.

The Speed-Groove grip option looks very slick and is pretty slick. Buy it for the looks, not out of any expectation that it will add to the grippiness of the pen. It’s comfortable, and a bit better than the plain and ring options in term of the traction it offers, but if you have sweaty hands, this is not the grip for you.

Bolt V2 with a Speed-Groove grip

The MK II will speak to those with a penchant for militaria (the grip design is based on the US MK II grenade) and to those looking for a robust grip option. It provides the most grip and has a traditional and understated profile. For a “wilder” option with the same amount of grip, see the Dragonskin below.

Retrakt V2 with an MK II grip.

The newest grip option that Karas offer is the Dragonskin. It’s dramatic, it calls attention to itself, but it’s also comfortable to hold and provides plenty of added grip. I like the look and love using this grip, but if you want the same functionality with a more traditional look, the MK II will probably be the best option for you.

Bolt V2 Cerakote finished pen with a Dragonskin grip.

Ti Click EDC Pen Orange Cerakote Review

I’m a big fan of BigIDesigns pens. I’ve supported many of their kickstarters, I have all of their pens (except for the Ti Ultra), and I enjoy seeing their takes on EDC pens and tools. They have recently started issuing some of their pens with Cerakote coating, so I thought that I’d do a quick review of the Ti Click EDC pen in orange Cerakote, which they made for the Fall (i.e. Halloween).

I’m not a packaging sort of person, but the new packaging the BigIDesign pens come in is clever enough to warrant a note.

Ti Click EDC Pen outer box

The thick cardboard box comes with two compartments, the large one with a slip cover and the other one with a magnetic clasp mechanism.

Large compartment on the left, with the instructions for changing refills. Small compartment on the right. You can see the instructions for the pocket clip removal tool and the logo sticker that came with the pen.

The large compartment houses the pen and part of the clip removal tool, in foam inserts that protect them. The small compartment houses a bag with spare parts (a spring and two o-rings, a very thoughtful addition), and a key ring to be used with the clip removal tool, to add torque to it.

On the left from top to bottom: clip removal tool, Ti Click EDC pen. On the right you can see the key ring and the bag with the spring and the o-rings.

The pen comes in a golden orange Cerakote finish over a titanium body, with the clip and knock in stonewashed titanium. It arrived with a Schneider Gelion 0.7mm gel ink refill which I haven’t tried out. I swapped in my favourite refill instead – the Uni-ball UMR-85N gel ink refill.

Ti Click EDC with its original refill.

The texture on the Cerakote refill is amazing. It’s matte and yet it sparkles, and its grippy without being abrasive. The result is an attractive pen that is comfortable to hold and use, because of the combination of a wide grip section, the textured coating and the grooves on the grip section.

Cerakote finish glowing.

The grip section is also where all the cleverness of this pen design resides: this is what allows you to customize the Ti Click EDC to accept practically every pen refill on the planet.

Grip section closeup.

The clip and knock mechanism are in stonewashed titanium, which suits this finish very well, but not all the new Cerakote finished pens offered come with this finish – some come with raw titanium clips and knocks, so read the description on the pen’s page to make sure you know what you’re getting and that you’re happy with it.

Clip and click.

I love the design on the end of this pen:

Closeup on the knock area.

This is a beautiful pen that is no longer available, but I still recommend buying a BigIDesign pen in Cerakote (green or bronze are now on offer. Navy and orange were on offer in the past) because they are such good EDC pens and the Cerakote finish only adds to their appeal in terms of form and function.

Ti Click EDC

Here’s a size comparison of the Ti Click EDC against a Caran d’Ache Fixpencil and a Sharpie. You can see just how wide the grip section is.

From top to bottom: Fixpencil, Ti Click EDC and Sharpie.

The “weak” spot on the Ti Click EDC is still the click mechanism. It engages successfully every time, but is quiet and gives very little feedback as it engages, making it feel “mushy”. This doesn’t affect its utility (it works every time, unlike in the earlier iterations of this pen), but it does make it an unsatisfying fidget tool. If that’s what you’re looking for in a pen, the Ti Bolt may be a better choice for you. Otherwise, the Cerakote finish just made a great machined pen even better.

Diamine Inkvent 2021: Summary

What a fun and wild ride was Diamine’s 2021 Inkvent calendar. It was tough posting a review of an ink every day for the past 25 days, in particular since my hands weren’t my best friends during many of those days (and even now) because of chemo induced neuropathy.
When comparing the 2019 Inkvent calendar to the 2021 version, I personally like the 2021 version much more. There are more inks that I could see myself regularly using, the inks were more interesting, and there was a better spread of colours.
Here’s a look at the Col-o-Ring swatches of all 25 inks in the Inkvent 2021 calendar, grouped more or less by hue:

A lot of blue for a red calendar.

Blue and blue green dominate this calendar, although there’s a good selection of pinks and purples. There are fewer brown inks this year, which I don’t think will disappoint many people, particularly since the two brown inks that have been included (Winter Spice and Brandy Snap) are interesting and unique.

I expect Diamine to issue full bottles of these samples, like they did with their Diamine Blue edition. These are the inks that I’ll likely be buying once that edition comes out:

Diamine Ash, Harmony, Night Shade, Thunderbolt, Yuletide, Black Ivy, Brandy Snap

I like shading inks more than shimmering or sheening ones, and all these inks have interesting shading properties or a unique shade that I happen to like and not have in my ink collection. Will I be buying 7 new bottles of ink? Maybe, but probably not. I have over 25 fountain pens filled with ink now (the most that I’ve ever had), so my plan is to write them dry and see after a few weeks of use which ones stick and which ones don’t.

An added bonus to the decision to ink up a pen for each sample is that I’ve inked many pens that I haven’t used in months or years. It’s been a lot of fun playing with the Sailor Cross Emperor nib again, or remembering why I liked this pen or the other. If you’re looking for a way to cheer yourself up, allow me to recommend pulling out a few pens that you haven’t used in a while and jotting something down with them or just doodling. I’m pretty sure it will make you smile.

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 25

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 25’s door.

Day 25’s ink, the 30ml bottle, is Diamine All the Best. It’s a deep red/burgundy ink with purple shimmer and a golden sheen.

Diamine All the Best.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine All the Best. The colour fits with the red colour of the calendar, and the ink is festive, saturated, shimmery and shiny. Everything you’d expect from a Christmas ink.

Col-o-Ring swab.

I used a TWSBI Go with a 1.1 stub nib to test out Diamine All the Best, and I kind of regret the choice of pen, but more on that later.

TWSBI Go and Col-o-Ring swab.

I sketched a Christmas tree with presents and a hearth with stockings to test out this ink when the TWSBI GO decided to burp ink on the page and then lay down a ton of ink. You can see the mess on the hearth. My guess is that the feed needs reseating, but I can’t deal with it now with the state of my hands.

Diamine All the Best on Tomoe River paper.

You can see the sheen and some shimmer here:

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

As you can see, there was another unfortunate burp right at the start of the page. The nib also lay down a ton of ink, which is good for showing the properties of the ink, but it makes writing with it quite a risk.

Close up on some sheen and shimmer.

Diamine All the Best is the perfect ink to end the Inkvent 2021 Advent calendar. It fits the theme, fits the calendar colour, has a rich base colour and all the fun extra properties a fountain pen ink can have (shading, shimmering, sheen). If you’re looking for an ink to write Christmas cards with, Diamine All the Best is for you.
I’ll be writing a wrap-up post about the Inkvent 2021 experience and which inks I plan on purchasing. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 24

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 24’s door.

Day 24’s ink is Diamine Yuletide. It’s a teal coloured ink that is supposed to be standard ink but has a lot of shading and a good amount of red sheen. I have no idea why it wasn’t marked as a sheening ink.

Diamine Yuletide.

A standard ink? No. Despite it being marked as such Diamine Yuletide sheens.

A standard ink? I don’t think so.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine Yuletide. The base shade of this ink is lovely, with a ton of shading and some red sheen – it’s one of the more attractive Inkvent inks, and that’s saying a lot.

Col-o-Ring swab.

I used an original Visconti Van Gogh Ocean with a medium 14k gold nib to test Diamine Yuletide out. It took a while to prime the nib after filling it through the converted (the grip and nib section are too big to fill directly from the tiny sample bottle), which is why you can see evidence of hard starts on this Col-o-Ring card.

Visconti Van Gogh and Col-o-Ring swab.

I drew a snowy scene with fir trees, which is about as much as I can draw with my hands being in the state that they are. The shading with Diamine Yuletide is wonderful, and the red sheen comes out as almost a halo.

Diamine Yuletide on Tomoe River paper.

Sorry about the blurry photo, but it does capture the red sheen.

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

A close up on the shading. My camera is de-emphasizing the sheen for some reason, but it’s there, in almost every letter.

After the lackluster Diamine Wonderland it was nice to get an ink like Diamine Yuletide. The base teal shade is wonderful, the ink offers some lovely shading, and the red sheen is a nice added bonus. Diamine Yuletide is definitely a contender for the full bottle purchase later on.

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 23

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 23’s door.

Day 23’s ink is Diamine Wonderland. It’s a standard orange ink that is bright and cheerful, but doesn’t really evoke wonderland or anything particularly Christmas themed in my opinion.

Diamine Wonderland.

It’s a standard ink, which is a bit peculiar. I was expecting it to be a shimmer ink.

A standard ink.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine Wonderland. It’s a classic orange, with a bit of shading. Nothing wild going on:

Col-o-Ring Swab.

I used a Platinum 3776 with a fine nib to test Diamine Wonderland out. A wider nib would have shown a bit more shading, but even so, there is a bit of shading to be seen with this ink. Nothing like the shading in Diamine Candle Light or Diamine Peach Punch.

Platinum 3776 and Col-o-Ring Swab.

Even though Diamine Wonderland isn’t a yellow ink, I was in the mood to sketch daffodils, and so daffodils it is:

Drawing on Tomoe River paper.

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

I admit that I find Diamine Wonderland a bit of a let down. It’s such an uninspired ink colour – a standard orange with a bit of shading and nothing interesting or unique going on. There are much better orange ink shades in the market, even from Diamine itself, so I don’t really see room for an ink like Diamine Wonderland, especially not in a Christmas themed calendar and with a name like that.

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 22

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 22’s door.

Day 22’s ink is Diamine Black Ivy, and it’s another surprising choice for this calendar. It’s a dark green/green black ink with a red sheen. Practically synonymous with Christmas, right? 😉

Diamine Black Ivy.

There’s plenty of red sheen going on with this ink, as advertised:

A sheening ink.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine 

Col-o-Ring swab.

Check out the sheen:

I used a Sailor Pro Gear Slim with a zoom nib to test out Diamine Black Ivy:

Sailor Pro Gear Slim and Col-o-Ring swab.

I drew some ivy with Diamine Black Ivy to test it out on Tomoe River paper. It’s so saturated and full of sheen there’s hardly any colour variation, even on Tomoe River paper:

Diamine Black Ivy on Tomoe River paper.

Here’s a closer look at the sheen:

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

I was really surprised to find Diamine Black Ivy included in this year’s Inkvent. It’s not a very holiday themed ink, but it is a pretty interesting one. It’s dark enough to be used as a “serious” ink, but it’s also unusual in colour and has a lot of character because of its sheen. I’m not sure if I want a full bottle of this, but it’s definitely an ink that I will consider buying later on.

Diamine Inkvent 2021 Day 21

Caveat: this year’s Inkvent appears to have elusive ink colours. I suggest reading my description of the inks and not going by the photos alone, and comparing my results with those of other reviewers. 

The Diamine Inkvent calendar is an advent calendar with 24 tiny (12ml) bottles of fountain pen ink behind 24 doors, and a larger, 30ml, bottle of ink behind the 25th door. All the inks are limited edition, and, at the moment, only available through this calendar.

Day 21’s door.

Day 21’s ink is Diamine Brandy Snap, and it’s a rich caramel brown with plenty of shading.

Diamine Brandy Snap.

A standard ink, but with a lot of shading:

A standard ink.

Here’s a Col-o-Ring swab of Diamine Brandy Snap. You can see the shading here.

Col-o-Ring swab.

I used a Platinum 3776 with a music nib to test out Diamine Brandy Snap, and the nib really allows the ink’s shading to show:

Platinum 3776 and Col-o-Ring swab.

I wasn’t up to drawing today, so an uninspired bottle of brandy and pile of brandy snaps is all I could bring myself to draw. You can see the shading in the text below:

Diamine Brandy Snap on Tomoe River paper.

This was drawn on a Kanso Sasshi 3.5” x 5.5” Tomoe River Paper notebook (the notebooks I have were bought in 2016, and so they contain the old Tomoe River paper).

Finally, I wrote a page in my Midori Journal:

I really like the shading in Diamine Brandy Snap, and its warm, relatively bright colour. Even if you’re not a fan of brown inks, I think that you might like Diamine Brandy Snap, and fans of shading ink will love it.