Blog

The Noodler’s Cinematic Universe: Noodler’s Q’ternity

Let’s expand the NCU with Noodler’s Q’ternity, a fast drying dark blue ink. Q’ternity is part of the Bernanke series, which consists of bulletproof and fast drying inks in office appropriate colors. Ben Bernanke was head of the US Federal Reserve during the Bush and Obama presidencies, and during the 2008 financial crisis. The Bernanke bottle labels are very cryptic with currency and highlighter. These inks are fast drying because the Fed needs quick dry ink to print all that cash.

Image courtesy of Anderson Pens.

The label on the Q’ternity bottle is a bit different as it has the $100,000 bill on it. This particular bill has Woodrow Wilson on it, the racist yet progressive 28th president of the United States. Wilson signed into act the Federal Reserve, began collecting income tax, and he led the US through World War I. His left eye is circled to make him look like he has a black eye, and all the zeroes are slashed through so that there are only ones. I’m sure that the black eye is Nathan Tardiff’s comment on the Fed and income tax. The word “gold” is crossed out and QE3 has been added next to it.

QE3 stands for the third phase of quantitative easing. Quantitative easing is where a central bank will purchase government bonds in order to inject money into an economy to try and boost growth. This has been used in the US during the Great Depression as one of many recovery tools, and during the 2008 financial crisis. Quantitative Easing is similar to how war bonds work, except with war bonds it’s the public purchasing the bonds and not a bank. The money earned by the government from war bond sales helps fund defense production. This was first introduced in World War I by Wilson and were called liberty (or defense) bonds. Bond sales were boosted by propaganda and rallies. These rallies sometimes included movie star appearances. The United States did this again in World War II, using more intense propaganda and the full power of the new Hollywood machine to sell more bonds. Different genres of movies became geared to potentially influence a variety of demographics.

Q’ternity is in the poster too!

There has only been one movie made about Woodrow Wilson, and that is Wilson (1944). It’s about the life of Woodrow Wilson from his time as dean of Princeton to his presidency. The second half of this two and a half hour long movie is focused on Wilson’s struggle to form the League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations. This movie has been largely forgotten today, and it does not hold up well. In its time though, Wilson won several technical Academy Awards and did well at the box office. Wilson had otherwise made his mark on film history by calling 1915’s controversial The Birth Of A Nation, “History written with lightning”.

Q’ternity is the color of many of the suits in Wilson. It’s the color of the studio manufactured moonlight on a White House balcony. It’s the color of some velvet sitting room chairs. It’s the color of the blue stripes on the American Flag, and many signs. It’s also the color of the oval office. There’s a scene that’s just Wilson signing laws and acts, and the ink looks like Q’ternity.

Wilson has just signed the Federal Reserve Act with some kind of blue-black ink.

The production of Wilson by 20th Century Fox and Darryl F. Zanuck is more interesting than the film itself, and this production had a lot riding on it. At the time, it was the first movie to feature living historical figures, and it was the most expensive film at Fox to that date. It premiered during an election year, and there were concerns that Wilson would be considered Roosevelt fourth term propaganda. The film studios mostly felt (at least outwardly) that it was their duty to provide escapist fare for audiences, but they also knew how much power over audiences they could wield. Propaganda movies, or movies that were made to influence public opinion, became more prevalent during World War II, and Wilson can be included among the most heavy handed of its era.

Zanuck got the approval of Wilson’s surviving family and political associates at every step of the production process, and even had a Wilson scholar look at the script. A Technicolor film was expensive to make, so it needed to be able to turn a profit. Zanuck worried that Wilson would only appeal to intellectuals, so the movie was made in Techicolor and promoted as an important epic, a film to prevent the next world war.

At the bottom of the poster it says: “Cooperate with Uncle Sam. WAC recruiting week May 11th thru 17th.” WAC stands for Womens Army Corps, which tells you about who this movie was marketed to.

A studio could never own a Technicolor camera; they had to be leased from the Technicolor company. Along with a giant camera came a special Technicolor cameraman and a color director named Natalie Kalmus. Kalmus supervised every Technicolor movie from the mid 1930’s through the late 1940’s. She and her team would meet with directors, costume designers, set designers, and art directors to understand the appropriate color mood for the film. They would then make a “color score” for the movie, outlining the colors that should be used or emphasized in order to evoke a certain mood to the audience. According to Kalmus in her essay titled “Color Consciousness”, the use of blue was meant to convey truth, calm, science, and hope. This is used generously in the White House set, and Wilson’s home set. With such an uneasy political climate, using as much blue as tastefully possible was a way to subversively bolster the audience’s faith in its appointed leaders.

The blue of the White House set shown above looks more like Baystate Blue, which is interesting considering that BSB is a recreation of Carter’s American Blue that was released in 1941. It’s a true cinematic universe when a character makes multiple appearances. The American Blue bottles had a flying eagle on them, and around 1943 or 1944, were made into V-Mail inks. V-Mail inks had to have certain properties so that letters written with them could be transposed to microfilm. Noodlers has a V-Mail series, and I plan to post about them sometime in the future. American Blue was a distinctly patriotic ink, and the near-monochromatic White House set stands out among the other more standard and period appropriate sets in Wilson. This movie won the Academy Award for best color set design.

The senate chamber in 2009. Look at all that navy!

There are a lot of blue suits in Wilson. The blue suits are a big deal because all of the important political movies that came before Wilson were in black & white. This includes Citizen Kane (1941), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939), and the actual government sponsored WW2 propaganda short film series called Why We Fight. It’s difficult to tell how politicians dressed in the 30’s and 40’s because there are few color photos, or black & white photos have been colorized. Today, many politicians wear navy suits with a white shirt and a red or blue tie. The overall color scheme is of course patriotic, authoritative, and represents calm stability. Coincidentally, the last three presidents have worn a navy suit with some kind of blue tie for their presidential portrait. Because Wilson is the first Hollywood live action political feature film in color, I wonder if this movie had some kind of effect on political fashion in the second half of the 20th century.

This sample is from the day I got this ink in the mail. Paper is Tomoe River from 2019.

As an ink, Q’ternity is pretty great. Unlike most Noodler’s inks, Q’ternity actually dries and hasn’t smudged for me while overwriting. I originally had this ink in my Desiderata BAMF with a 0.6 mm stub, and it always flowed well. That pen writes wet, and this ink still dried in a reasonable amount of time. Q’ternity sheens a little bit, and shades nicely especially with a thick line. On Goulet Pens the Bernanke series is recommended for lefties. Q’ternity is the only ink in this series that I’ve tried, but they might be the only Noodlers inks that lefties can functionally use. This ink lubricates your nib and makes writing left-handed smooth and pleasurable.

From left to right: Q’ternity, Diamine Blue-Black, Colorverse Extra Dimension, Sailor Jentle Blue-Black, Diamine 1864 Blue-Black, and Pilot Blue-Black.

Earlier, I called Q’ternity a dark blue ink because it’s indeed bluer than other blue-blacks. I realize now that there are two types of blue-blacks: dark blue, and blue-grey. Q’ternity sheens less than the blue-blacks pictured above, and the contrast between its lighter and darker shades looks more stark. It’s a beautiful ink, and is a good option if you’re looking for a blue-black that’s fast drying, waterproof, fade-proof, and shades. Q’ternity is available at most pen/ink retailers in very full 3 ounce bottles. Next time on the Noodlers Cinematic Universe: Black Swan in Australian Roses.

Stalogy Planners

A5, B6, A6

Stalogy is a Japanese paper company that makes very minimalist planners in several sizes and colors. I used their 1/2 year A6 and A5 planners for a time, and consider their paper a faster drying alternative to Hobonichi or Midori notebooks. The paper is thin and can handle most fountain pen inks. If you’re transitioning from other thin papers like Tomoe River, it does take time to appreciate and get used to Stalogy paper.

Stalogy paper was the first paper that I tested when I did my Scale of Paper Absorption tests. The average dry time was 14.2 seconds, and I gave this paper a 3 on the scale. This seems like a harsh score in hindsight, and now I would give Stalogy a 7. Noodlers Golden Brown, a super wet ink that can take actual hours to dry, did not bleed or feather on this paper. When I wrote with a Retro 51 rollerball, the ink didn’t feather but it did bleed to the back of the page enough to render that side unusable. As far as smudging during daily writing, I have not. The only smudging has come from me turning a page with my thumb.

The very light printing on each page is unobtrusive and means that you can use these planners as intended or as a regular notebook. My wife has two Stalogy notebooks: one is a B6 365 that she uses for work, and one is an A5 1/2 year that she uses for training/workouts. The left hand side of each page is numbered so that you can use it as a daily time table. The A6 size is numbered for 12 hours, and the A5 size is numbered for 24 hours. All of the 365 and 1/2 year notebooks are part of Stalogy’s Editors series. I used my A6 for actual editing once, and I enjoyed it. The light gridding makes it easy to read your notes again in the future. The date and time formatting on the top and side margins is so tiny that you could easily write over it if you wanted to.

The Gentleman Stationer recently talked about how he cut his A5 1/2 year to be able to fit into a Travelers notebook, and I am considering doing the same. You could cut down an A6 to fit in a passport sized Travelers notebook, but it would require two cuts instead of one.

The covers on these notebooks are very nice. They’re lightly textured, flexible, and are made of coated fabric on thin cardstock. After using my A5 for a few weeks without a protective case there’s a tiny bit of fraying along the edges, and that is pleasing to me. The binding lays flat so that you can leave your notebook open and the pages won’t flop over.

Really, Stalogy notebooks can be whatever you want them to be. The pages have very light printing, but the grid ruling serves as a guide when you need it. You can draw calendars, graphs, write to-do lists, and take notes. Recently, Stalogy has started offering dot grid and blank notebooks that don’t have the date formatting at the top of each page. These notebooks retail for between $17 and $35 USD at most stationers.

The TWSBI Swipe

If you’ve read any of my other TWSBI reviews, you know that I really like their piston fillers. When I heard that TWSBI was coming out with the Swipe, I was skeptical. Why is this company that helped to democratize the piston fill fountain pen making a cartridge pen? What is this Tesla-looking clip? Why is the spring inside the converter? Why not just buy a Go? After reading and watching two reviews of the Swipe, and then buying one, my answer to these questions is why didn’t TWSBI make this pen sooner? The Swipe comes with two converters: one is spring-loaded and the other has a traditional twist mechanism. There is also a black ink cartridge included, along with a spring that holds the cartridge in place. All three of these are thicc, and standard international. I haven’t tested to see if these converters will fit in other standard international pens though.

By giving users a choice of cartridge/ converter style they can decide if they want to spend 4 more dollars for an Eco, 6 less dollars for a Go, or any dollar amount for some other cartridge/ converter pen. With the Swipe, TWSBI has offered an excellent starter fountain pen that is competitive (in price as well as usability) with the Lamy Safari, Kaweco Sport, and Pilot Metropolitan.

The grip section on the Swipe is comfortable, the converter is easy to clean, and the weight is light. I really like that the grip section is crystal clear. It extends far down enough that you can see into the converter, and you can see how much ink is left in the feed while cleaning. I got the smoke color, and that is transparent enough that I can see the whole converter. The cap has a very firm snap; I have splattered ink while uncapping this pen. The barrel is pentagonal shaped, which kind of acts as a roll stop. The clip is low profile enough that it won’t stop the pen from rolling on a low incline. The nib on the Swipe is the same nib that’s on the Eco, Go, Classic, and both Minis. I purchased this pen with an Extra-Fine nib, and it writes quite wet with Diamine Wild Strawberry.

The Swipe comes with the spring converter already in the pen. Unlike in the Go, the spring is inside the barrel of the converter. I’m not sure how the metal would do with ink in it for long periods of time, but if it were to be damaged the spring included to hold cartridges in place works as a replacement. TWSBI is also excellent about sending replacement parts, you just PayPal them $5 USD for shipping.

The spring converter takes so little effort to take apart, it’s wonderful. The spring keeps the piston seal at the back of the converter barrel, so when you unscrew the metal sleeve the rod comes right out. The spring slides out easily as well, you can just tap the converter barrel on a hard surface and the spring slides out. One thing that I didn’t notice until after I took the converter apart is that there’s a small agitator ball that can get lost easily. These converters are definitely some of the easiest on the market to completely disassemble.

The piston converter is a chonk as well. I used a syringe to fill this converter, so I can’t say how well it pulls in ink. The thing that I like about this converter is that the piston is able to go all the way back, so it can hold as much ink as is possible. I haven’t tried the included black cartridge yet, but it is substantial. This seems like an unnecessary amount of plastic, but this cartridge would be a good one to reuse multiple times. I inked the piston converter with Birmingham Chrysanthemum, which is less wet than Wild Strawberry. This ink works a lot better in the Swipe, is less of a gusher, and ink doesn’t splatter when I uncap the pen. This pen writes smoothly, and performs as well as every other TWSBI with this type of nib.

My takeaway from using the Swipe is it’s a great entry level pen. If you want to try TWSBI and don’t know where to start, try the Swipe. If you know you like piston fillers and want a solid pen, try the Eco. If you want a no fuss pen that’s easy to take apart and put back together, try the Swipe or the Go. If you want to try a TWSBI pen but have a $20 USD budget, try the Go. TWSBI has a great lineup of pens at $30 USD and lower, and now they really have a pen for any taste. The Swipe is available at your favorite purveyor of fountain pens.

Learning To Underwrite

I have written hook handed all my handwriting life. As a wee lass in kindergarten it felt most natural to basically write upside down or from the side. Learning to write with a pencil or even a crayon definitely frees someone to hold their instrument however they need to. When I got into fountain pens, I did adapt my grip from a bipod wraparound to something resembling a tripod grip.

After learning more about grip styles, and how they can effect fountain pen writing, I’ve taken notice of other left handed people’s writing style. I had somehow never noticed that my mother, who is left handed, underwrites. She started school in the late 1960’s, and was trained to underwrite. I started school in the late 1990’s, and by that point the public school system had stopped making kids write a certain way. We learned cursive in (I think) 4th grade, and were only allowed to write in cursive in 5th grade.

In the last few weeks, I’ve decided to try and train my hand to be able to underwrite. I decided to do this because I recently tried a Narwhal Schuykill, and their fine nib writes significantly wetter when I underwrite with it. I also want to reduce hand fatigue and not worry about smudging.

Here is how this process is going, along with some observations:

This is from August 17th, written with a Sailor 14k fine nib and Montblanc Lavender Purple, on Doane paper.
This is also from August 17th, written with a Sailor 14k zoom nib, with Sailor Haha, on Doane paper.
This is from August 29th, written with a Narwhal fine nib, with Colorverse Extra Dimension, on Tomoe River paper.
Also from August 29th on Tomoe River paper, but written with a Nemosine medium nib with BPC Boiler Steam.
This is from August 31st, written with a Nemosine 0.6mm stub nib, with Noodler’s Borealis black, on Tomoe River paper.

It’s a lot easier to underwrite legibly with a broader nib. The first sample, done with a Sailor fine nib, has pretty shaky lines. My lettering is especially shaky on the two bottom lines where I tried writing a sentence in print letters and block letters. I generally prefer to write in block letters, so that’s what I’m trying to improve most.

I also noticed that I don’t need to grip the pen as tightly as I do while over-writing. I know that fountain pens generally reduce hand fatigue compared to other types of pens and pencils, and my grip has definitely relaxed since switching to fountain pens. When I write a lot in one sitting though, my hand does get sore. It feels a lot better to not have hand and wrist pain, and I can focus more on lettering.

I am interested in hearing about your experiences of learning to write in school, so I made a short survey. While this blog is generally geared towards the left handed writing experience, anyone can take this survey by clicking the button below. In a few weeks, I’ll share the results.

Birmingham Pen Company Hydrangea

It’s late hydrangea season, which means there’s no better time to review Birmingham Pen Company’s Hydrangea ink. Here are some actual hydrangea bushes from my front yard in June, then August:

They changed to a dusky pink, except for the two pink flowers.

These flowers can change every year depending on your soil acidity and the weather. This year happened to be an exceptional bloom for the bushes in my yard, and the flowers have a nice gradient. Hydrangeas have a special place in my heart because they change with each bloom, and they can even change throughout the season. My mother liked to keep dried hydrangeas in a vase, and their dark purpley grey color reminds me of this Birmingham ink.

The Birmingham Pen Company is located in Western Pennsylvania, and endearingly call themselves “a tiny pen and ink manufacturer”. They make beautiful fountain pens in small batches, and have started manufacturing their own ink in 2021. Starting in 2018, they sold ink that was made in Europe and bottled by hand in Pennsylvania. In January of 2021, they decided to make their own ink. The Well Appointed Desk published an interview with BPC about this transition, which you can read here. The Birmingham name comes from the area of Pittsburg where BPC was originally located. That area of Pittsburg is called “Little Birmingham” after the city in England, because of all the manufacturing done there. Birmingham, England used to produce pens and nibs, which is a nice piece of trivia.

A swatch of Hydrangea next to its chromatography strip.

BPC’s Hydrangea is purple with some blue tones and a hint of pink shading. If you look closely at the June hydrangea photo, there are some purple flowers that match the color of this ink. The chromatography was not surprising. You can’t see in the above photo, but there is a light strip of black where I swabbed the ink, then it spread out to a light pink, then blue. I took a photo of Hydrangea next to some other purple inks that I have swabs of, and it’s kind of a cross between Sailor Manyo Nekoyanagi and Sailor Ink Studio #150.

Hydrangea has a lot more pink than in this photo, but I couldn’t color correct without throwing off the other inks.

Hydrangea is made with BPC’s Crisp formula, which means that it will perform well on most papers regardless of quality. Birmingham has been prolific this year with their ink output, and they’ve quickly become one of my favorite ink brands. They have several different glass bottle sizes (from 30ml to 120ml), so if there’s an ink that you really like you can get a large bottle of it.

I have Hydrangea in a Pilot E95s with a juicy medium nib, and they work well together. The ink flows smoothly and consistently, and has lovely shading on the right paper. To test the claims of the Crisp formula, I tested Hydrangea on Field Notes 70#, Doane, Nock, Apica Premium, and Tomoe River:

On Apica and Tomoe River, Hydrangea dried within 15 seconds. On Nock, Doane, and Field Notes Hydrangea dried within 5 seconds. As with most inks, you’re gonna get better shading on paper like Apica and Tomoe River. Hydrangea did quite well on Nock and Doane, and there was no feathering on either paper. On Nock, there was no bleed-through, but there was some on Doane. On Field Notes, there was considerable feathering and bleed-through onto the back of the page. Hydrangea (or any Crisp formula ink) is good to have if you frequently find yourself using a variety of paper. Since this ink dries pretty fast even out of a wet nib, it’s good for lefties. I purchased a 60 mL bottle of Hydrangea for $16 USD, and you can too here.

Fun With Ballpoints

The little ball tip works like a bearing and is lubricated by oil based ink.

Ballpoints, they’re everywhere. They’re in banks, grocery stores, restaurants, under your car seat, there might even be one wedged in between your couch cushions. Ballpoints were invented as a cheaper, cleaner, maintenance-free alternative to fountain pens with patents dating back to 1888. For more on the history of the ballpoint, please click here. Ironically, people today are switching (entirely, if not partially) to fountain pens because they’re not ballpoints. The pressure required to get many ballpoints to write a legible line leads to hand fatigue, which is problematic if you’ve started to write on paper more. It’s also problematic for lefties who already are contorting their hands. Last year, I made a post about gel pens and how they’re a faster-drying and more convenient fountain pen alternative, which you can read here.

I avoided ballpoints for personal use for a while because I wanted a more comfortable pen. Even though gel pens, rollerballs, and fountain pens are smoother and have better flow, they can only be used on a limited range of surfaces. Ballpoints can go anywhere that a human can go (and survive the trip), and can write on many surfaces. I’ve tried using a gel pen on a tyvek mailing envelope, but the ink tends to bead on the surface and will smudge easily. The only difference between a standard rollerball and a standard ballpoint is the ink. Rollerballs have a liquid ink while ballpoints have an oil based ink. There are some hybrid liquid-oil pens, and many gel pens have a ball tip.

Starting in my early teens, I wrote with a Papermate erasable ballpoint in school because I was tired of all the smudging that came with pencils, but still wanted to be able to erase my writing. Then I started using the Bic multicolor ballpoint, and kept using it until I got a Papermate Inkjoy gel pen. I enjoyed switching colors effortlessly, and the click sound. In school my hand and wrist was used to writing and taking notes every day, so hand fatigue was less of an issue, unless there was a test. Five years out of college, I write in a journal and make to-do lists every day, but there is still much less writing output. This makes hand fatigue an issue for me, so I tend to gravitate towards comfortable pens. I like having a variety of writing instruments around, so I’ve acquired a small collection of ballpoints. Here is a list of ballpoints that I have, in no particular order:

Please ignore the Frixion for now, as it is a gel pen.

The Milan Sway Mix:

This is a purse pen for me. It’s compact and brightly colored, so it’s appropriate for people of all ages. This pen is refillable, but I haven’t looked into where the refills can be bought. The tip is 1 millimeter with blue ink. As with most pens on this list, the darkness of the line depends on the pressure you use. To get a readable line though, I was able to get away with using moderate pressure. I purchased this pen from St Louis Art Supply for $1.69 USD.

The Bic Round Stic:

The Round Stic is the ultimate Pen For The People because you could easily go through life without ever buying one. When you do buy them, they’re available in bulk for about $6 to share and share alike. Bic makes some truly iconic ballpoints, and the Cristal is on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This grey Round Stic has black ink and requires moderate pressure. This pen is the only disposable one on this list.

The Pilot Legno Ballpoint:

The Legno ballpoint is the cousin to the now discontinued Legno 89s fountain pen. The impregnated wood feels nice in the hand and looks attractive. This pen has inner brass components that adds some heft. The weight makes it easy to use this pen with minimal pressure, and it can write under its own weight. The ink flows easily and is a hybrid. I purchased this pen from Jetpens for $16.50 USD. Besides this light colored wood, the Legno also comes in red, brown and dark brown.

The Uni Jetstream Edge 0.28 mm:

My favorite ballpoint! The Jetstream Edge has a design similar to a drafting pen/pencil, with an elongated tip area that makes it easy to use this pen with a ruler or stencil. The grip section is brushed aluminum, which weights the pen towards the tip and makes it easier to write with. The Jetstream refills are great because they come in extra-fine tips and require very little pressure to lay down a dark line. I purchased this Edge from Jetpens with a 0.28 mm tip size in black, but replaced that refill with a blue 0.38 mm as the 0.28 is a bit too fine. The Edge now comes in the 0.38 size, as well as a multi-pen.

The Ohto Horizon Needlepoint:

The Ohto Horizon needlepoint ballpoint is also available in a gel version, and a Euro point. This pen came with a 0.28 mm tip as well, but I got rid of that refill because the tip got gummy and didn’t write very well for me. That original refill did write very smoothly, and this version of the Horizon was voted Best Pen by the New York Times. This pen has a side click mechanism like the Uni Boxy 100, but with a metal body. I was able to hack the 0.28 Jetstream refill to fit in this pen by adding an o-ring for the inner spring to rest on. I purchased the Horizon from Yoseka Stationery for $12 USD. Here is a writing sample with the original Horizon refill:

The jetstream refill produces a more consistent line.

The Zebra Blen:

Zebra wanted to create a clicker pen that’s as quiet as possible, and they did. The Blen is a good pen for anyone with sensory issues. The clip is also the click mechanism, and it doesn’t rattle or slide around. The tip also doesn’t wiggle as you’re writing, and is only a little noisy as it glides on the page. The grip is a soft silicone, and has two narrow indentations as well as two narrow windows. “Blen” is engraved into the plastic body of the pen and feels nice to rub your fingers on. The ink writes smoothly and consistently with a pleasant feedback, and can produce a legible line under its own weight. I purchased this pen from St Louis Art Supply for $2.99 USD.

The Fisher Space Pen Cap-O-Matic:

I’ve had this pen for about 9 years now, and it’s the first nicer pen I ever bought. It’s called cap-o-matic because the metal cap on the back of the pen is the clicker mechanism. The Fisher Space Pen is called that because it will write even after you’ve left Earth’s atmosphere. It can write upside down, on wet paper, and greasy paper. The original Space Pen refill was a black medium tip, and it was in there for roughly 8 years. Even though I didn’t use it much, that refill still wrote until I replaced it with a fine blue one. My favorite part about this version of the Space Pen is that the clip is engraved with the word Space, and a little planet. The Space Pen requires light pressure to write a light but legible line. I purchased this pen on Amazon for $16.85 USD.

The Parker Jotter:

The Parker Jotter is a classic design that’s widely imitated. The Jotter comes in many colors, and is also available in an XL version and a gel version. The standard Quink refill that this pen comes with is not pleasant to use, and requires considerable pressure to lay down a consistent line. Thankfully, there are dozens of better refills available in the Parker size. The Ohto Flash Dry gel refill is flawless and is great for lefties. Right now, I have a Monteverde Soft Roll blue-black refill in my Jotter, and that writes much smoother and requires less pressure. This Jotter is available in a three pack on Amazon for $16.50 USD.

The Caran D’Ache 849 Ballpoint:

The Caran D’Ache has a great body with a not so great refill. The body is brushed aluminum with a hexagonal shape, and comes in 6 standard colors. There have also been several special editions, including ones with N’espresso. The click mechanism on this pen is somewhat mushy with the Goliath refill. The Goliath is a thick refill that’s supposed to last a very long time, but requires moderate pressure to write. It’s also a little shorter than Parker-style refills, so you can’t add a different refill without modifying it. I really like the body of the 849, so I looked at my pile of refills and tried to find one that could fit. The Ohto Flash Dry is about 2 or 3 millimeters longer than the Goliath, but it has a plastic housing that can be sanded (or cut) down. To do this, just remove the cap off the end of the refill and sand off at least 1 mm of plastic. This would be easier with a Dremel or an X-Acto knife, but I was able to fit in the refill by using 600 grit sandpaper. Then, put the cap back on, line up the brass feet on the end of the 849 clicker with the notches in the refill cap, and screw the clicker back on. The Caran D’Ache 849 can be purchased at Yoseka Stationery for $24 USD.

Sanding the plastic refill and lining up the notches with the brass feet makes the Ohto Flash Dry just long enough to fit in the 849.

The Pilot Acroball 3+1 Multipen:

The Acroball 3+1 has red, black, and blue interchangeable tips with a mechanical pencil that’s deployed by pushing down the clip. The Acroball colors are great; the ink in these is pigmented and less viscous than regular ballpoint ink. The Acroball flows very well, and requires almost very little pressure to write. The grip is wide and comfortable to hold. I took out the mechanical pencil component though, because the lead wouldn’t stay retracted. According to Jetpens, the body of this pen is made from 80% recycled plastic. I purchased this pen from Jetpens for $8.25 USD.

Disclaimer: All the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, where if you click on them and make a purchase, I make earn a small commission. All the other links are not affiliated and not sponsored, and you should visit them.

The Noodler’s Cinematic Universe: Six Degrees of Baystate Blue

What do Baystate Blue, Bambi, kittens, and Smokey Bear have in common? Let’s find out!

The most infamous Noodler’s ink is Baystate Blue. It’s so infamous that it has its own Reddit user account. BSB is an intensely saturated ink that will stain whatever pen you put it in, and is water and forgery resistant. This ink has a higher pH level than other modern inks, and can only be mixed with other Baystate inks. I wondered why an ink like BSB exists, so I did some research and found that Baystate Blue is a recreation of a particular Carter’s ink from the 1940’s.

it’s so blue
Photo from munsonpens.wordpress.com

Carter’s Ink was based in Boston and was, at one point, the biggest ink manufacturer in the world. Starting in fall of 1941, Carter’s made an ink called American Blue. In the spirit of patriotism, American Blue was based on inks used in Colonial times. It was a vibrant blue, and the bottle had an eagle on the label. An ad for American Blue touts the oval shaped bottle as “streamlined” and “packaged in the mood of the times”. I’m guessing that the streamlining of the bottle has something to do with the lingering economic effects of the Great Depression. Perhaps the oval bottles used less glass but could hold the same amount of ink as their other bottles. Carter’s regular bottles were cube shaped like modern Sailor bottles, and had really neat labels:

Why can’t we have ink bottles like this now? Photo from munsonpens.wordpress.com

The link above is to a post on Munson Pens called “The Story That Your Ink Bottle Tells”, which takes a look at a promotional book for Carter’s of the same name. This post also looks at Carter’s ads and bottles. A Carter’s ad not included in that post is this one:

Kittens! This ad is from 1944, but there are several kittens ads dating back to 1943.

Carter’s kittens, because these inks are gentle as a kitten. This is a great ad, and the art was done by Albert Staehle. He did many advertising illustrations, as well as some Saturday Evening Post covers and some work for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Program. He is most known for art of various animals including dogs and Elsie the cow for Borden’s Milk.

In August of 1942 Disney released its masterpiece of animation, Bambi. It’s the story of a young deer growing up in the forest. During World War Two, the U.S Forest Service started using wildfire prevention campaigns as a form of propaganda. There were less men around to fight wildfires, and the government was actually concerned that the Axis powers would use wildfire as a mainland attack strategy. Because of Bambi’s hard-hitting message of conservation, Disney allowed for Bambi-inspired characters to be used in a 1943-44 Forest Service fire prevention ad for one year.

Around the same time as the above ad, the Forest Service ran a handful of fire prevention posters by WPA artists. The poster below was created by Albert Staehle, and seems Bambi-inspired as well. In 1944, the Forest Service needed a new animal mascot for when their license expired, so they asked Staehle to design a mascot. He created Smokey Bear, the American icon of the forest.

Poster from pre-August 1944 by Albert Staehle.
Smokey was born on August 9th, 1944.

If Bambi has a similar look to these WPA style posters, that’s because the look of the film was designed by a different WPA artist named Tyrus Wong. Wong’s art style was inspired by Chinese art from the Song dynasty. Bambi has a pretty naturalistic color palette, so I wasn’t sure if an intense blue like BSB could be found in the film, but it is:

The first frame is from a stylized fight scene, and is the closest shade to Baystate Blue. At the top of the second frame in the right hand corner, and in some spots in the stream, you can see BSB as well in its lighter shades. Bambi has lots of blue, but it’s either a darker blue or more of a blue-green.

Above are two of Wong’s works. On the right is a mural titled Dragon Chasing Pearl from 1941. This mural was for the Federal Art Program for a bank in Los Angeles. You can see shades of Baystate Blue on the dragon and in the clouds. On the left is concept art for Bambi, and you can see some BSB in the bottom right hand corner.

Baystate Blue writes silky smooth. I put this ink in a J. Herbin rollerball to test it out, and it’s actually a very nice rollerball ink. The Herbin rollerball needs a wet, lubricated ink to make writing with it at all pleasurable, and BSB does the job. I used a blunt-tipped syringe to fill an empty cartridge. I can normally do this without making a mess but this time I overfilled the cartridge and got ink on my fingers.

I also put Baystate Blue in a Kaweco Perkeo, which offers a much better writing experience than the Herbin rollerball. The tops of my hands are now dotted with blue ink, but I know it’ll come off with a lot of washing. The color of this ink reminds me of the bright blue ink that’s in Stabilo rollerballs, and is definitely unique among fountain pen inks. While I enjoyed using Baystate Blue, I most likely won’t purchase a whole bottle of it because of the staining issues.

The TWSBI Eco 2 Years Later

I’ve already reviewed the Eco, specifically the yellow edition from last spring, but I feel that post didn’t accurately reflect my feelings about this pen. I used to have four Ecos, and now I have one, and I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s my first Eco, the transparent orange edition from 2019. This was my fourth or fifth pen in my collection, and I was so excited about it! It’s a beautiful color, and the Eco is a great beginner pen. There are many people out there who collect every color released of the Eco, but I cannot afford, nor do I want to be one of them. I’m the kind of collector who likes to use all of her pens, and I feel bad if I don’t use a particular pen that I’m fond of. When I had four Ecos, I felt neglectful of my beloved orange. So I sold the other three to a better home.

There has been a lot of writing lately about special edition burnout. It’s come to a point where “special edition” doesn’t really mean anything, and manufacturers are taking advantage of consumer hype. I’ve only been in the fountain pen hobby for two years, but this has definitely gotten worse over the last year or so. Finding a particular model of pen that you like among a growing sea of colors is special, because you form a bond with this tool that can be kept for years and years. The thing about the fountain pen hobby is that FOMO is driven almost purely by social media.

“Buy it for life” is also being used more in the outdoor industry, and I’ve seen it applied to pens occasionally. Many people buy a fountain pen specifically to reduce waste and to have a serviceable writing instrument. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people, and I have more ink than I and my girlfriend will ever use. The Eco is definitely a “buy it for life” pen, it even comes with everything that you need to service it yourself. It seems like there are many people out there that question the durability of TWSBI pens because of cracking. All TWSBI pens have an o-ring on the section threads to make a double seal inside the cap. Unfortunately, this makes it very easy to over-tighten the cap and crack the barrel. You can prevent over-tightening the cap by stopping when you feel resistance from the o-ring. It takes one and a half turns to fully cap the Eco. On TWSBI demonstrators, you can see when the inner cap seal hits the end of the section.

Inner cap

I’ve dropped my Eco quite a few times, from about two feet. These drops did no damage to the body of the pen, but one of the drops misaligned the nib. The height of these drops is minimal and it’s onto a wood floor, but I dropped a Platinum #3776 from the same height and cracked the finial. This was minutes after I got the pen, and it’s the reason I returned it. The cap seal on the Eco is so good that the nib never dries out. My Eco is always ready to write, and has never hard started. This pen has never let me down, and I believe that it never will. Forming emotional attachments to inanimate objects is a very human thing, and it’s important to recognize that in a materialistic hobby. Most pens that people come across everyday are disposable, but a fountain pen gets brought to life every time you fill it and write with it. I don’t care if this is overly sentimental because I’m a Pisces.

Upturned & Downturned Nibs

Take a look at a nib of yours. Is it straight, or does it have a slight upturn or downturn? Is the tipping ball on the top or bottom? There’s an entire spectrum of nibs from an upturned fude all the way to a downturned concord or reverse fude. Fude nibs somewhat resemble a painter’s pallet knife and allow for different line widths based on your writing angle. Reverse fude allows for an extra-fine line while writing normally, and a regular fude while reverse writing. These nibs aren’t for everyone, but the spectrum in between these two poles is very diverse with a nib for any writing angle and preference. I decided to write this post after using the Midori fountain pen, which has a downturned nib. I wasn’t sure how the nib would feel when being used at a high overwriting angle, but it’s very nice. Starting with upturned nibs, lets work our way through the nib spectrum.

Fude~

These nibs are pretty easy to find on Chinese pens on amazon, or Sailor has a fude nib. You can also make one yourself or have one made by a nibmeister. Sailor offers these nibs at 40 and 50 degree angles. I’ve been using a 50 degree fude, which writes like this:

A fude takes some getting used to, and doesn’t have to have such a firm angle. On instagram there are many examples of what a fude can look like along with writing and drawing examples.

Waverly~

A Pilot Custom 912 Waverly

Waverly nibs have a gentle upturn and almost look like they’ve been dropped on the floor. Pilot offers a Waverly nib on their Custom 912 and 742 that is (in my opinion) the best writing experience a lefty overwriter can find. In the 1940’s Sheaffer made their conical triumph nibs that are Waverly nibs. With the gentle upturn, it doesn’t matter how you hold the pen or at what angle. It’s always just right, and I’ve found that my handwriting is neater while using my Pilot Waverly nib. Certain nibmeisters, like on fpnibs.com, can turn a regular nib into a Waverly.

PenBBS~

PenBBS nibs are in between a Waverly and a Kugel. They have a slight upturn with the tipping ball on top, and the very tip of the nib where it meets the paper is rounded. This nibs produce a slightly stubby line that is wider than a traditional fine. I haven’t tried a medium nib from PenBBS, but I saw that they have a rounded medium.

Kugels~

I have two nibs that can be considered kugels, which means ball tip. They’re different so I’ve listed them separately.

Montblanc Stainless Steel Medium:

A Monte Rosa.

I have a vintage Montblanc Monte Rosa with a steel nib that has the tipping ball on top and no upturn, but it’s labeled as a regular medium. The steel has some springiness and looks to have originally been gold plated. These nibs work very well for reverse writing. Even though the nib itself is not upturned, the tipping ball on top creates a wide sweet spot.

Lamy Kugel:

These nibs are not upturned like the previous examples, but the tipping material is rounded to be shaped like a ball. A kugel nib is smooth from most writing angles, and can be pushed across the page. Lamy used to make kugel nibs within the last 20 years, which can be found on eBay. Pelikan used to make kugel nibs as well, but they are harder to find. The only kugel nib that I have right now is a Lamy medium kugel, and it feels different from their regular medium nibs and even their left handed nib. It comes close to Lamy’s 14k gold nibs, but silkier.

Postings~

The following nibs can all be under the posting umbrella, but are different. Different brands manufacturing in different countries and decades have varying standards, and that is very interesting to me.

Esterbrook Ex. Fine Ex. Firm Posting:

When Esterbrook was making their “J” series of pens, they offered an exceptional range of nibs that could be easily swapped out. This made it easy to find the right nib for your purposes without buying a whole new pen. The 9450 EF Ex. Firm Posting nib has very little tipping material with the nib itself being quite thick. This nib has a slight downturn and produces a very fine line. These nibs were made to withstand a firm hand while writing on forms that required carbon copies. If you’ve never had the pleasure of making a carbon copy, you have a regular sheet of paper on top and underneath it is at least one sheet of carbon transfer paper. If you write on the top sheet with enough pressure, your writing is transferred to the bottom page. Today, you could use this nib to write out a check.

Posting:

Regular posting (PO) nibs can be hard to find nowadays, but Pilot offers one on their Custom 912 and 742. A traditional posting nib is designed for the same purpose as the Esterbrook one above, but has more of a downturn. It’s called a posting nib because it was designed for writing on postcards. The Pilot posting nib is still stiff, but has some give because it’s a gold nib. I haven’t tried one of these PO nibs myself, but reviews say that this nib writes without feathering even on copy paper.

Manifold:

A manifold nib is the German version of a posting nib. I have a vintage Pelikan manifold gold nib that is slightly obliqued and super stiff. There are two breather holes that allow for shorter tines, which helps make the nib so stiff. I have to rotate the nib a little to accommodate the left foot oblique, which feels natural. This nib feels very buttery and writes silently.

Pilot Falcon~

The Pilot Falcon is a unique bird. Pilot actually makes two “falcon” nibs: one for the Falcon, and one for their 912 and 742/743 pens called the FA. For the purposes of this post I’ll just be discussing the Falcon nib. Falcons have a small hump in the nib and feed where the tines begin to accommodate extra springiness. These nibs are labeled soft, but I’m not sure how these compare to Pilot’s soft #5 gold nibs. From the hump, the nib is angled downward and the tip remains straight. These nibs can be used while overwriting as long as you use minimal pressure. While underwriting, the springiness is extremely satisfying and you can get about one millimeter of line variation.

Midori MD “Beak”~

Midori added a downturn to the medium nib on their MD fountain pen. It’s advertised as being beak shaped and suitable for all writing angles. This nib has more of a downturn than a PO nib, and really is smooth at different writing angles. It also has more give than a posting nib.

Reverse Fude~

I’ve never written with a reverse fude nib, but I’ve watched Mark Bacas’s instagram videos that show him writing with one. Here is a link to his page.

KUM Pencut Scissors

Scissors can be a sensitive subject with lefties, because we’ve been scarred with a lifetime of embarrassment from trying to wrangle a pair of right-handed scissors. There are many options now for lefty scissors or even ambidextrous scissors that work great, but I’d like to highlight one highly portable pair of scissors by KUM called the Pencut. The Pencut is 5 inches long and half an inch thick, and has a cap with a clip. This size means that the Pencut can easily fit in your pen case or pocket, and that you never have to be without a pair of useable scissors again. The cap clicks on securely and keeps the scissors from opening in your pocket or bag. The Pencut is special because the blades are double edged and can be reversed depending on the user’s handedness. The packaging is in Japanese but has visual instructions for how to orient the blades and finger loops. The slider for the little finger loops can also be reversed. There are other pen sized scissors on the market but I don’t know if they’re ambidextrous.

The plastic on these seems pretty sturdy, and the blades are child-friendly. The size makes these scissors suitable for a wide range of ages, but don’t look ridiculous in adult hands. These would be great to have around for on-the-go crafting emergencies, first aid emergencies (the blades would be okay to sterilize, just don’t get any alcohol on the plastic), or even snack opening emergencies. If you want, you could probably cut hair with these too just don’t quote me on that. In all seriousness, I really like having these scissors around.

The Pencut comes in lime green, fuchsia, and black. They’re $13.50 USD and are available on JetPens. I don’t usually post reviews of non-pen or non-pen-adjacent items but as a site geared toward lefties I wanted to talk about these cool scissors.

%d bloggers like this: