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. []

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…

A wooden box for sharpeners

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time in the last few weeks to write blog posts – but just to prove that this blog is still being looked after here’s a very quick post.

Sharpener box

Sean was kind enough to let me know about this box, which was being sold on an auction site. It’s a wooden box that was used to sell Faber-Castell sharpeners.

The closing mechanism.

The closing mechanism.

My guess would be that it’s from the 1950s or 1960s, but I might be wrong there. The window in the lid is plastic/ thick foil, not glass. There’s a sticker at the bottom, listing the prices for the different sharpeners. Not all of these sharpeners have disappeared by now.

The price list.

The price list.


I’d like to thank Sean for telling me about this box.

nu: Tough Paper

nu:'s tough paperI’m not a big fan of spiral bound notebooks or notepads. Spiral binding will usually put me off buying a notepad, but in the case of the spiral bound, Chinese made nu: tough paper I couldn’t resist.

I saw this notebook in the supermarket run by my employer’s /my university’s students’ union and the words “paper made from stone” managed to grab my interest at first sight.

 

Material

The paper is made from 80% ground limestone / chalk and 20% HDPE (many plastic bottles are made from HDPE) and promises to be water-proof, wipeable, tough, durable and, to my surprise, recyclable and biodegradable1

 

nu: Tough Paper

In case you wonder, the Kaweco was filled with non erasable ink from Diamine.

 

How does the paper behave?

..with pencils

Compared to normal paper the pencil line left on this ‘stone paper’ feels much darker . The line also feels wider. Applying less pressure when writing will also produce a fairly dark line, more so than writing with less pressure on normal paper. I suspect this behaviour is caused by a rougher paper surface. You can certainly feel more friction when moving a finger across the ‘stone paper’, compared to normal paper.

How does the ‘stone paper’ compare to similar products? The lines left on this paper are also darker than those a pencil would leave on paper from a Rite in the Rain notepad. Altogether, this paper produces an unusual, but pleasant pencil writing experience.

Left: Rite in the Rain, Right: nu: Tough Paper

Left: Rite in the Rain, Right: nu: Tough Paper

..with fountain pens

Let’s stick to the similar Rite in the Rain notepad for a moment. It’s pretty useless when you want to use it with a fountain pen. The ink just stays on the surface of the paper, it might even form tiny droplets …until it eventually dries. Because the ink didn’t really penetrate the top layer of the paper the colour of the writing is usually quite light. The behaviour of fountain pens and ink on nu:’s tough paper is quite different. The written text even looks very similar to text written on a normal piece of paper, with two differences:

  • there is an absence of visible texture on the ‘stone paper’, in my opinion this does influence the look of ink more than the look of graphite
  • the moment your fountain pen is a wet writer, even if only to a very small degree, the ink will take a really long time to dry.

On the above image you can see text written by a Kaweco Sport with an EF nib. The cartridge was empty and the pen was therefore an extremely  dry writer. Drying took a few seconds. The lines made by the Pentel Tradio on the other hand, not a wet writer when I compare it to some of my other fountain pens, took just under 10 minutes to dry. On normal paper the Tradio‘s lines only take a few seconds to dry.

Left: Rite in the Rain, Right: nu: Tough Paper

Left: Rite in the Rain, Right: nu: Tough Paper

 

How strong it the paper?

The paper seems to cope better with ‘bad conditions’, like wetness and physical impact. When trying the tear it nu:’s tough paper does behave rather unusual. Unlike the Rite in the Rain paper, which provides a similar ripping experience to traditional paper, ripping the tough paper feels a bit like ripping thin sheets of plastic. This is probably cause by the HDPE content. Normal paper usually rips in such a way that a sheet of paper lying horizontally will not be separated by a clear vertical line. Where the traditional paper is separated one half of the torn paper might contain more of the top layer of the paper, while the other half of the paper might contain more of the bottom layer of the torn paper. The tough paper however seems to stretch a bit where you tear, then separate clearly, while the stretched part curls slightly. It feels rather plasticy.

nu: Tough Paper

Left: Rite in the Rain, Right: nu: Tough Paper

 

Conclusion

Altogether a nice notepad. It’s an interesting novelty and I’m sure I’ll enjoy using it, but I’m not sure I’ll buy more once the novelty effect has worn off.

I paid £2.50 for this notepad. It’s spiral bound, has a tough cover and back, and has 160 sheets of paper.


In 2013 Wired published an interesting article about ‘stone paper’.

I bought the Pentel Tradio in 2013 at Müller Markt in Volkach. As far as I remember it was extremely cheap (<€10).

  1. I don’t know much about plastic, so I would very much appreciate if someone could explain biodegradable in the context of HDPE. A quick look on the Internet seems to suggest that you can make HDPE biodegradable by changing the recipe slightly. On a different note: biodegradable plastic reminds me of Dave’s biodegradable pencil test. []

Happy Belgian National Day!

Belgium. Home of our president, home of The Pencil Case Blog, home of the chips (and moules-frites), home of SG-1′s favourite toy, home of many fantastic comic artists and comic strips1, home of some crazy music and home to some of the best2 notebooks in the world…

…and today is the Belgian National Day!

In a perfect world I’d now show you a picture of a Belgian pencil sharpened with a Belgian blade. Unfortunately I have to make do with no Belgian pencil, but at least some fantastic Belgian paper. For the photo I could even choose between different brands, but I picked Atoma paper. Regarding the blade, I chose a Dutch one, from Apeldoorn – the Netherlands is a neighbour of Belgium. About the pencil, I chose a German one, again it’s a neighbour of Belgium, plus the National Day “commemorates the day on which Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium, on July 21st 1831″3. Leopold I of Belgium was born in Coburg, which is in Franconia – and this pencil was made in Franconia, too. Happy Belgian National Day

 

 

  1. from Macherot, Turk, Morris, Hergé, Peyo, … []
  2. imho []
  3. see http://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/country/belgium_in_nutshell/symbols/national_holiday/ []