A weekend in Shropshire

To celebrate my 40th birthday we spend the weekend in Shropshire …and of course I couldn’t resist buying more stationery.

 

A dower house form the 1820s, between Weston-under-Redcastle and Hodnet

A dower house form the 1820s, between Weston-under-Redcastle and Hodnet

Independent stationery shops

What a nice weekend it was – and I found an independent stationery shop in Shrewsbury – what a nice surprise. I hardly ever come across independent pen shops these days. The one where I live closed down and one in the town where I’m from closed down, too1. I’d like to visit the Pen Company one day, but it’s several hours away. What’s left nearby is either focusing on art supplies or is part of a chain, which usually means that staff are not really excited about pens.

After buying some souvenir stationery in Shrewsbury Abbey I discovered Write Here. First: stocking up on Koh-I-Noor 1500 pencils – and then a fitting eraser from Koh-I-Noor as well.

Sheep in the country side

Sheep in the countryside

Koh-I-Noor

In the 18th century Jospeh Hardtmuth started the pencil factory in Austria that would become Koh-I-Noor. Koh-I Noor is the name of a famous diamond. I seem to remember reading somewhere, probably in Petroski’s book, there were several pencils named after diamonds because diamonds and graphite both consist of carbon. In the 19th century manufacturing then moved to Bohemia, to Budweis in what is now the Czech Republic.

The Koh-I-Noor 1500, the pencil I bought,  started being produced in 18892. After WWII the factory, in what was then Czechoslovakia, was nationalised and Joseph Hardtmuth’s descendants started manufacturing in Austria again. A few years ago the Austrian ‘branch’ of the company went bankrupt and was taken over by Cretacolor, but the Czech ‘branch’ of the company does still exist under the Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth name.

I have previously bought new old stock Koh-I-Noor 1500s in Shanghai and in my home town, but these are one of my few new ones. Too bad Write Here didn’t have HB and F (yes, you can get the 1500 in F), so I went for the B and H, which I’ve been using all of this week so far.

The shop window of Write Here

The shop window of Write Here

Write Here

Later that day I went back to Write Here, asking whether they have any fountain pens with flexible nibs. I’ve been looking for a nice fountain pen with a flexible nib for a long time now. My Lamy 2000 with an M nib and some of my Pelikan M200 nibs in F are quite flexible, but the line at its thinnest is too wide for me. Noodler’s nibs are nice and flexible, but when using any of my different Noodler fountain pens I usually end up having dirty hands because they spill ink after a while.

Pens in the shop

Pens in the shop

After asking for a pen with a flexible nib it took the owner of the shop a second to think about my request before taking a fountain pen out of his jacket and telling me to try it. What a nice, flexible nib that was. It was a fountain pen from Omas. I knew about Omas, but I never tried one before. When I started writing there was some feathering, but when I tried it on another paper the pen wrote smooth while still producing crisp lines. Unfortunately the pen was far too expensive for me. It turned out that this shop is also the distributor for Omas in the UK and I was told that very soon a cheaper pen with this nib will be released. I say cheaper, but it is still a £300 pen, which would make it more expensive than the most expensive pen I own.

Stationery bought in Shrewsbury

Stationery bought in Shrewsbury

Pen and ink

Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury

I then bought the Monteverde Tool fountain pen – more in my price range, and the owner of the shop told me about Sailor’s pigment ink which contains nano pigments, so it doesn’t clog up the fountain pen.

I’m still not sure what to think about the fountain pen. It seems to skip quite a bit (using the cartridge that came with it), I hope that will get better over time. I also wonder why the scales on the pen incluse 1/200 metre and 1/300 metre. I have seen 1/x inch scales, but 1/x metre scales are certainly not very common and don’t seem to make much sense to me. Is this how imperial users imagine the metric system to work?

The ink can behave very well when used on good paper, but when I use it to fill in forms at work it feathers quite a bit. I think time will tell whether I like this ink, but so far I don’t think I’ll buy another bottle.

  1. There still one left in my home town, but it’s more of a post office / news agent / bit of everything shop. []
  2. see Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth’s history. []
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Adventures in Stationery, again

Last month I sent an email to James Ward, the author of Adventures in Stationery, asking him about his favourite pencil. I’m not surprised that I didn’t hear back from him, but my email might have triggered another reaction (or not): I got an email telling me about a competition where you can win a signed copy of his book.

A quick look at the terms and conditions shows that unfortunately this competition is only open to UK residents.

You can find the competition and a Q&A with the author here.

Adventures in Stationery

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Handicraft with Bleistift V – reusing a pen loop

After my initial disappointment with Leuchtturm’s pen loop, my pen loops caused problems because of protruding plastic with glue at the bottom, I adjusted my pen loops by cutting the bit of the plastic off that put glue on the pens put in the pen loop and that scratched their surface.  I wonder whether the pen loop has improved since 2011, maybe the problem is gone from later version of Leuchtturm’s pen loop. I haven’t found out yet because I haven’t bought new ones, but reused my old pen loops, as you might already have seen in this blog post. This weekend I have reused the last of my original pen loops, so I took some photos along the way.

before

Leuchtturm’s pen loop in my old diary.

removing

Removing the old pen loop. The glue is quite something.

removedThe old pen loop removed

toolsI’ll attach it to the new diary with a paper riveter I bought in Shanghai many years ago.

finishedReady for another year of action…

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Don’t mess with a pencil enthusiast.

After Lexikaliker and Sean: my blog post about the Adventures in Stationery book.

This book must have been mentioned in all the major British newspapers and I have to say that it’s very nice to see that there is such an unexpected interest in stationery. I hope the readers will be as enthusiastic about this book and stationery as the newspapers.

Quality

Unfortunately it took unusually long for my order to arrive, but thanks to Sunday deliveries I got my copy today. I certainly didn’t expect such a well made book for under £10. Let’s take about the non-content aspect first: Hardcover, the rubbery feel to the cover which became popular a few years ago, nice, rounded corners, and  amazingly well put together (and printed and bound in Italy). Even the ‘ribbon’ on the inside of the spine keeps to the outside’s colour theme.

Adventures in Stationery

I didn’t have a good look yet, but I had a quick look at the pencil chapter and my first impressions: the content is extremely exciting.

First thought (pencil chapter): nice – finally all the information that is spread across different sources offline and online in one place. It would have been nice though to see references to the original sources, e.g. Petroski’s book, Derwent’s material, etc. – but then, this isn’t supposed to be an academic article …so references might not go down well with most readers and might interrupt the flow.

Second thought: What’s that – Sean being mentioned That is unexpected. An analogy to Moleskine – what a good way to get the point across. The title of this blog post is a reference to Sean, taken from the book.

I’m very much looking forward to reading more of this book.

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Late back to school offers

Two late back to school offers I picked up this week in Tesco:

A Black n’ Red polynote A7 and a Pilot V Pen.

Black n Red and Pilot

I mentioned the A7 notepad in a previous blog post. What happened since then? They dropped the ‘polynote’ part from the name and the price more than doubled! It usually sells for £2.50, so getting it for £1.25  (~$2.05; €1.60) is a good deal these days. Last time I only paid 60p – but the steep increase in stationery prices in the UK is nothing new…

Unfortunately I only bought one. I should have stocked up. Maybe I’ll be lucky and it will still be on offer next time I go to Tesco.

The other item: a Pilot V Pen for £1 (~$1.62; €1.28). You might be disappointed though if you hope to get a fountain pen with  a ‘mirrored’ nib, as displayed on the packaging 8^P. The actual nib is labelled the normal way round.

Pilot V Pen


Prices and exchange rates: September 2014.

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