Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tools for writing and reading.

Most everything I write begins life as ink on paper. While I don't write out entire drafts of long research papers long-hand, I do take notes and make outlines by hand. Although I experimented with one class, for one semester, I never take notes in class electronically. It's always with pen and paper. For me, whether I am reading, preparing a paper or essay, or taking notes in class, there is a connection with having a pen or pencil in my hand and my ability to think more clearly.

If I were reading a book and found myself without any sort of marking tool, I would likely end up re-reading that section because I simply will not retain information in the same way. I can read quite quickly, and perhaps the process of marking slows me down; but I believe it's more about the fact I'm actively interacting with the author through my marks. I have a system of little marginalia I use to indicate what's on my mind. I can revisit a book much later and once I see my annotations, I'm right back where I left off.

In class, I'm often asked by classmates about my pens, so I thought I would share not only about my pens, but also about pencils, paper and my beloved reading ruler.

Fountain Pens and Ink

It's safe to say, at this point, pens are more than a tool for me; they are a hobby. I have quite a few fountain pens, I use all of them often. Below, I will list some of my favorites from inexpensive to more expensive. 

I have linked to the nibs and colors I own for each of these, however many of these are available in many nibs and colors. All links except for the Nemosine Neutrino go to Goulet Pens which is a family owned business and is where I purchase as much of my pens, paper, and ink as possible. I want to note I am not affiliated with them in any way. I've just always been happy with my service from them, and I love supporting small businesses where I can. With each pen, I also share the ink I normally use in that particular pen.

Platinum Preppy: ($3.95) I actually do not own this pen, but I have given them as gifts. They are a great entry point into a refillable fountain pen. Although a pack of two replacement cartridges cost nearly as much as the pen, Goulet offers these with an "eyedropper mod" allowing you to use bottled ink and an eyedropper to refill these making it even more economical!

Pilot Metropolitan: ($15) For most people, either this or a Lamy Safari (mentioned below) is where I suggest to start. They are both great pens, and it really comes down to a matter of style preference. I have a Pilot Metropolitan that originally came with a Fine Nib, but I swapped it out with a Stub Nib later. I normally keep my Metropolitan inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Guri ink which is a dark brown ink that looks great on cream colored paper like what is in some journals.

Nemosine Neutrino: ($24.99) Nemosine pens are a great value, and there is a cheaper option also, the Singularity which has a plastic body and different shape. I'm more hesitant to recommend or gift these as I have had two. One was a total lemon, and I sent it back to the manufacturer who sent me a "hand picked" replacement. I have heard many others say they like these pens and have had good results, but I would recommend buying from somewhere you have the opportunity to return if you are not happy with it, and better yet once you've used a Pilot Metropolitan or Lamy Safari for a while and have some fountain pen basics under your belt. This way you'll be able to tell if something is off with the the pen. I'd hate for a poor performing pen to turn you off to the wonderful experience of writing with a fountain pen! I keep my Neutrino at work (so, it didn't make the photo-op below), and it's usually inked with Diamine Emerald Green which looks and behaves pretty well on the cheap green Steno pads we have around the office.

TWISBI ECO: ($28.99) This pen is one of my favorite pens. Unlike the previous pens which are inked either with a replaceable cartridge or from a bottle using a cartridge converter, this pen is what is known as a piston filler. It has a knob that is twisted on the end of the pen that works a piston which is used to fill the entire body of the pen with ink. This pen has a very large ink capacity and is a pen I often take to class with me for note taking. I keep this pen filled with Diamine Sherwood Green which is a darker green than the Emerald Green mentioned above.

Lamy Al-Star: ($37.60 or the Safari is the same pen in plastic for $29.60): The Lamy Al-Star and Lamy Safari are twins, except for the material. The Al-Star is aluminum and the Safari is plastic. I have an Al-Star but have gifted Safari's before. Mine is an extra-fine nib, and I like to use it on cheaper paper where a broader nib might feather or bleed through, or if I need to write really small. I usually keep this one inked with the Diamine Sherwood Green mentioned above.

Pelikan M205: ($132) This pen is my absolute favorite pen, and will likely remain in that spot until I can afford a gold-nibbed Pelikan (like a M600 or M800). Pelikan pens are very smooth, wet writers that are made impeccably well. Like the TWSBI ECO mentioned above, this one is also a piston filled pen, and has a large ink capacity. I keep this inked with Pelikan Edelstein Topaz ink which is a bright, blue ink.

Pilot Falcon: ($152) This pen is my second favorite, and is in a near tie with the Pelikan, but I just like the Pelikan just a little bit better; I can't help it. What makes this pen extra-special is the nib. The nib has a little flex to it which enables some variation in the size of the line, so generally upstrokes are a bit thinner than downstrokes. Now, vintage fountain pens, such as a Waterman 52, had very soft flexible nibs and an amazing amount of line variation. This pen is just a bit softer than a regular nib, but is a fun pen to write with, and if you write slowly and take your time, you can create very beautiful writing with this pen. However, if you write normally with it, it writes like any other pen. I keep this one inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Kai which is a nice professional blue-black ink.

Pencils and Ruler

I generally do not write with pencils very often, but I almost always read with a pencil. I find that fountain pens and the cheap paper in most books do not get along, and I have heard that graphite archives very well. I'm not super picky about pencils, but I generally like Mitsubishi HB Pencils

I am also a stickler for neat, straight lines in my books when I'm underscoring words or sentences, and I could not function without my handy-dandy flexible blue ruler. I couldn't find a brand on mine (I've had it a very long time) but I suppose these would be similar in function. It's made of a thick flexible plastic that allows it to flex and conform to curves in books.

Notebooks and Paper

When using fountain pens, paper becomes more important. Cheaper paper does not always handle fountain pen ink well. I've had okay success with normal Mead spiral bound notebooks in the past, but I finally decided to start exploring better paper options. I found an affordable line of notebooks by Apica and sold by Goulet. They offer a few sizes, but I have some that are 5.83" X 8.27" and some larger ones that are 7.05" X 9.92". They are very affordable for the paper quality and amount of sheets. They aren't perforated, however. I am also trying out a Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook for journaling. If I want nice paper with a perforated edge (to write a note on, for example) I use a Rhodia No. 16 Notepad. Rhodia paper is my favorite, however I simply can't justify it for everyday note-taking in class.

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