Ask The Desk: ID Protection Stamps

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Sandy asks:

Think this is good idea?
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I assume the question regards any sort of blotting stamp for security purposes. Folks seem to like these as an alternative to paper shredders as they are smaller, quieter and portable for obscuring personal information on printed material. While shredding makes sense for a lot of papers, sometimes you just want to throw those credit card offers in the trash and the only incriminating information is your address. A quick stamp, stamp, stamp might be enough to make it possible to throw the papers in the recycle bin.

The general term to describe these stamps is ID protection stamps or ID Guard stamps. I definitely think that the Max Korkoro model, with the rolling stamp and ability to refill the ink easily makes a good option. The price for any ID protection stamp seems to be about $10 which seems reasonable.

The only thing I don’t know looking at the photos and description is whether the ink is water resistant when dry. That would be the winning feature. If its water-soluble, then someone might be able to wash the ink off reveal your address or account numbers.

So I suppose I ought to order one and put it to the test, huh?

Ask The Desk: Dilli Flex vs. Noodler’s Creaper

Dilli Flex Nib Fountain Pen vs. Noodler's Creaper

M asks:

I’m new to flex pens and am looking to get an inexpensive one. I know this is a common question but was wondering what your thoughts might be on Noodler’s vs FPR? I’m looking to get either the Konrad/Creaper or Dilli/Guru. So far the consensus seems to be that the Noodler’s pens need quite a bit of tweaking and that quality control is variable, while the FPR pens feel cheaper but generally work better out of the box. Some also say that the FPR flex pens are dryer and have less give.

Would appreciate your thoughts on this!

What I discovered upon receiving this question is that I’ve never actually written up a review of the Noodler’s Creaper. I did a review of the Dilli flex though so I thought I’d use this opportunity to dive deeper and share my opinions about both of these pens.

Dilli Flex Nib Fountain Pen vs. Noodler's Creaper

Both pens use a split nib to create flex. The Dilli nib is a brushed finish while the Noodler’s nib is a shiny silver. The Dilli nib is slightly larger nib. Both pens use a twist piston fill mechanism which need to be filled with bottled ink. Neither pen can be fitted with cartridges or converters.

Both pens are lightweight plastic bodied pens. The Creaper has some chrome metal detailing on the pen that  makes it look like a bit higher end and a bit more durable. The Dilli just feels plasticky to me.

The Dilli nib is in a set spot, it seats into the feed in a specific location.

Alternately, there is a lot of play in how low into the pen barrel you can move the Creaper feed, thus allowing for more or less flex. The further into the pen you move the feed though, the more likely the pen is to write dry or not apply ink to the paper. As I cleaned and re-inked it, I could tell that finding the “sweet spot” for the placement of the nib and feed might be a series of trial and error experiments. I did my best to place the nib and feed in a “normal position” comparable to my non-flex nib pens and it worked well.

With both pens, I had no issues getting ink on the paper. Goulet Pens has some detailed information and videos about working with the Creaper pens and notes that they need to be completely flushed upon purchase to remove any traces of machine oil from the manufacturing process.

Dilli Flex Nib Fountain Pen vs. Noodler's Creaper

When writing, the Dilli had less resistance on the paper but I didn’t get as much thick-and-thin line variation on the paper. The lightest line width seemed a little wider than the lightest line with the Creaper. The Creaper had a little more resistance on the paper and a bit more spring but I liked the line variation a lot more.

I prefer the Creaper to the Dilli for a lot of reasons. Part of the joy of fountain pens is a pleasant visual experience and, to me, the Dilli looks and feels cheap. At some point, when filling it, some ink got inside the body of the Dilli pen, between the piston screw and the ink reservoir, and I cannot get it out. It now has dried ink inside a demonstrator body so it looks gross (you can see it in the top photo at the beginning of the post).

There are a few other options fro Noodler’s for the flex nib as well. The slightly larger Noodler’s Konrad can be fitted with one of the Goulet Pens #6 nibs, if your adventures in flexible nibs takes a turn for the worst, so you’ll still have a usable pen.The Ahab was specifically designed to allow for a larger ink reservoir. The Creaper, the Ahab and the Konrad are all available in a wide array of colors and finishes that will create a pleasing visual experience as well.

FPR also offers a few other pen models that feature their flex nib and that might be more visually appealing. The Triveni line look more upscale with prices in the $38-$45 range and available with a flex nib. The Guru is a bit less expensive than the Dilli and looks like it can be completely disassembled which might eliminate my crusty ink issues.

A flex nib Dilli is $18 and the Creaper is only $14.

Ask The Desk: Tea Cup Pen Caddy

Tea Cup Caddy

Lynda sent an email asking where she might find the Tea Cup Caddy featured on the blog back in January 2012.

I tried to email Lynda back directly but the email address must have been mistyped so I’m posting the reply here.

The tea cup caddy was sold through Black + Blum and is listed in their Design Archive so, as far as I can tell, the item is no longer available. For other interesting pen cups, you might check on Modcloth or at Anthropologie.

Ask The Desk: Stamp Pads and Federal Supply Service Notebooks

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Federal Supply Service Notebook

Zack was curious:

Re: Federal Supply Service Notebook
I was wondering if you have ever seen one of those books in a golden color? I have one ins the green but would love to have a few golden colored ones.

It appears that like Henry Ford might have said, “You can have any color Federal Supply notebook you want as long as its green.” That said, if you’re looking for a durable notebook in a golden color, you might want to try Rite in the Rain.

the stamp pad fairy visited today. let the nerd testing begin!

Rachel asks:

 I love the stamps I bought at your store!

I’m a stamping neophyte and have two basic questions about care and storage.  What is the best way to clean a rubber stamp when I want to use a different color ink?  How should I be storing my stamp pads?  I have rubber bands around them now to keep the lids on, but wonder whether I should have them in some sort of air-tight container to keep them from drying out.

Thanks, Rachel! I’m so glad you like the stamps.

To clean stamps, I use a damp paper towel on a ceramic plate to clean my stamps between colors. After stamping, I wipe the stamp gently on the wet towel and then use a dry towel to remove any excess moisture. If a stamp gets left with ink on it, I will add a drop of dishwashing liquid to the wet paper towel to loosen up and remove the dried ink.

I do not recommend submerging the stamps in water or ever using any harsh soaps or detergents to remove ink.

On a particularly crusty stamp, dip an old toothbrush into a cup of water with a couple drops of dishwashing liquid and then gently scrub the stamp to remove ink build-up.

If you use a stamp pad regularly, keeping the lid closed and stored flat, should be enough to keep the pad from drying out.

As for storing stamp pads, I either use a rubber band to keep the lids sealed or bits of tape, depending on how often a particular stamp pad is used. I store my large stamp pads on their ends so tape or rubber bands are a must for keeping them from drying out. But stamp pads, no matter how they are stored, will not stay fresh indefinitely so use them up and re-ink when possible. Happy stamping!

PS: You might enjoy my post about different types of stamp pad ink.

Ask The Desk: Scratchy Pens & Jotter Refills

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Millicent asked two questions and I’ve been mulling over them for a few days:

About fine points of any type, be they fountain, roller, ball pen or even pencil.  While they would not be my first choice, sometimes a medium or broad just won’t work. I have found workarounds for pencils to avoid the 0.3 and 0.5 nightmares. I see all the reviews for fountain pens extolling the virtues of specific nibs.  All I get is scratchy frustration, with no apparent sweet spot. Alternate ink and paper don’t seem to help. There are pens sitting unused in my arsenal that deserve court time. Plus there are always ones waiting to be acquired.  Suggestions and recommendations ???

Fine nib pens are not, as a whole, scratchy. I do find that the teeny tipped gel pens, like the 0.25 Pilot Hi Tec Cs, to be a little scritchy, but overall there may be some other issues to consider.

heavy or light hand writing

The only thing I can think is that you might have a “heavy hand.” This is in no way an insult or anything, it just means that you press your pen more firmly on the paper or that you grip you writing tools tighter than others. With fountain pens, if all pens seem scratchy, I would recommend making sure to use a lighter hand — the least amount of pressure to release ink on the paper. You might want to practice just by making loops on paper with the lightest, loosest grip. Once you find the sweet spot, try actually writing.

I think the same process would work with gel or rollerball pens too.

The only other possibility would be the angle that you are writing. If you have a Lamy Safari or other pen that has a molded grip area  that forces a “correct” hand hold, try using that in combination with your lightest touch. Please let us know if you are still having issues.

Millicent’s second question was:

Many pens come supplied with the Parker Jotter style refills.  The issue is that they are almost always black ink.  The first thing I do is change the refill to blue or green.   I refuse to just toss the black refills in the waste bin since they are brand new. They need a good home, just like puppies and kitties :)   Any ideas?

Parker-style refill

Anyone in need of black Parker Style refills? Or know of any place she can trade or sell them? Leave a comment or email me through the Ask The Desk link and I can put you in touch with Millicent. Thanks!

Ask The Desk: Typist’s Desk and Purse Pens

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Robert asks:

As a writer, I recently purchased an electric typewriter for drafting content. What kind of supplies are appropriate for setting up a vintage typing desk: lamps, pens, paper, erasers, etc.?

(A still from All The President's Men via The Young Folks)

(A still from All The President’s Men via The Young Folks)

If what you are hoping to do is to create a classically vintage workspace, be sure to go through the Vintage posts for recommendations on classic items to add to your space. If you’re looking for specific items designed to function best (vintage or new) with a typewriter set-up, then here are a few recommendations.

  • Remember that the platen travels so you need to have adequate clearance around your typewriter. Don’t set your coffee cup down in the direct path of your typewriter platen or you’ll end up with a big mess (ask me how I know this).
(via Utrecht)

(via Utrecht)

  • A swing-arm or flexible lamp will be a great option to direct light where you need it. I use a Lite-Source Swing Arm Combination Lamp ($89) that is several decades old on my desk at work. It clamps to the edge of the table for stability and moves in all directions. It uses a fluorescent tube plus an incandescent bulb which can each be used alone or in combination for bright light. A less expensive alternative is the Adjustable Swing Arm Lamp ($15.99). Both designs are classic and would be aesthetically comparable to an electric typewriter.
  • For paper, standard 20lb paper from an office supply store should be fine. I would not get paper any heavier than 20lb (like standard black-and-white copier paper). If you’re looking for classic onion skin-style paper, carbon paper, or other classic style, check out Ebay. I put all kinds of paper in my typewriter but I try not to use any paper that’s too heavy. It will end up having a curl to it as a result of being wrapped around the platen.
  • As for erasers, you could try a typewriter eraser or liquid correction fluid but I think modern correction tape is far more effective, easy to use with no odor and no eraser flakes dropping into you typewriter, gumming up the works.
  • Pens are a matter of taste and preference. If you are using standard 20lb paper to type and want a tool to annotate changes and edits, a red or blue pen or pencil would be recommended. Fountain pens might bleed or feather on standard paper so I would say keeping a stash of pencils would be classic, in keeping with your typewriter. Maybe even a red/blue pencil or a mechanical pencil?

Harvest Thick Red/Blue

  • You might also want to consider a copy holder or other method for displaying a previous page while typing. For a vintage look, this one would be particularly nice.

Phil asks:

Looking to pickup a small ballpoint pen to go in my wife’s wristlet (Vera Bradley Pushlock). My thoughts were Monteverde Poquito or maybe Zebra SL-F1.  Gel is okay, but she prefers a no fuss tool above all else.
Suggestions?

I confess that I don’t think I could pull together a better assortment of pocketable/purse-able pens than Jet Pens’ Mini Pens post. And I agree that the Monteverde Poquito Stylus would also be a great choice and it has the added bonus of the stylus at one end for digital devices. If your wife prefers ballpoint pens, she might also like the Kaweco Sport in the ballpoint model. It takes the Zebra 4C refills like the Zebra SL-F1. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic Parker Jotter. Best of luck, Phil!

Ask The Desk: Posterboard Presentation, Orderly Lawyer and Triumph-like Nibs

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I get a lot of Ask The Desk questions these days so I am trying to compile them into weekly digests. And please, if you have ideas or advice for those who’ve sent in questions, please leave your ideas in the comments.  Thanks!

Scott asks:

I am a university student, with a modest budget but an eye for sharp lines.  I need to turn in an A1 size poster with varying sections, basically a mounted essay.  Any top tips or tools that would help a fella, with no cash for print services, produce something that doesn’t look scruffy?

If you are assembling your report on a computer before putting it on the board, you can tile your print outs so that you don’t need to make a late night run to a copy shop for over-priced, over-sized prints.

First, try to find a design student who can loan you an X-Acto blade and a metal straight edge or ruler. This will help you cut your pieces out neatly. In a pinch, a retracting box cutter will also work. A healing cutting mat is a bonus. If you can’t get one, find a large sheet of cardboard to cut on so you don’t scratch your floor (you want your security deposit back, right?).

(image via The Smartest and His Artist)

(image via The Smartest and His Artist)

To mount them to your board, use a glue stick, not Elmer’s liquid glue as it will cause your pages to pucker and wrinkle. When applying the glue stick, lay your pages out on a larger sheet of paper like old newspaper or a paper grocery bag. That way, you can run the glue stick all the way to the edges. Remember to use a fresh sheet of waste paper or flip over the paper or bag each time you glue so you don’t accidentally attach your report to the waste paper.

For ideas on how to best present your sections, check out some of the infographics on Pinterest to inspire your mounted essay to design greatness! Best of luck!


And John asked:

I am a lawyer who, at any given time, has about 15 matters pending at a given time. I take notes every day, usually on tablets; I then tear off those notes and have them put into a file. But I often miss having my notes handy a few days or weeks later when I need to refer back to them. I see other lawyers using notebooks to keep their notes. I am looking for your recommendation on a good notebook that can lay flat, be photocopied fairly easily, look nice and classy (and not like a high school kid getting ready for math class), and also take fountain pen ink. Have you a recommendation? I thought I would like one with sewn-in pages, but I’m not sure that would be best.

My best suggestion for you, John, the Circa or ARC binding system. The Circa system is sold through Levenger and the ARC system is sold through Staples.

And what I really mean is getting the notebook covers, maybe some dividers and a punch and continue using the tablets you love. You can also purchase the pre-punched paper if you want. Or just get some covers and the discs and a punch, just to try it all out. Really, all you need are the discs and the punch. Find a couple sheets of heavy cardstock to punch for covers or use the clear plastic covers. You could even bind the whole thing from the top just like your legal pads but you could group them by client.

By punching and binding the pages into a notebook, you will have a lay-flat notebook that you can easily put into a photocopier, remove or rearrange pages and a slick, professional looking notebook.

And if you want a really upscale look, maybe the zip-up leather Bomber Jacket cover?

Levenger Circa Bomber Jacket Zip Notebook


And Jim asked me a real stumper of a question:

I picked up a couple of old, used Sheaffer snorkel pens with the intent of rebuilding with parts from Anderson Pens.  one of the pens has the “triumph” type nib. a very unique design.  I recently saw a pen ad on the web showing a pen with a nib that looked almost exactly like the triumph  nib.  unfortunately I did not make a note of that pens identity.  can you advise me as to the names of the other pens that carry a nib similar to the triumph design?

(via Pen Hero)

(via Pen Hero)

I found an article about the Sheaffer Snorkel/Triumph nibs on Pen Hero. It’s a very unique nib that looks like the nib wraps around the shaft in a single piece. Jim wants to know if any other pen manufacturer did a nib like this. I’m hopng one of you out there can help him as I don’t know enough about vintage fountain pens to answer his question.

Ask The Desk: Notebook Questions

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Sandy asks:

Can you please explain what is meant by “volant” and “cahier” in regards to noyebook types?  Especially volant, I do not get why a notebook is called by these two names.  What am I looking for when I want one of these?

Moleskine Cahier

Cahier and Volant are terms Moleskine uses to describe two of their soft cover notebooks. The Volant is the perfect bound notebooks with a leatherette cover. The Cahier notebooks have a cardstock cover and are stitch or staple bound. Other companies have used similar terminology to describe their products as well though I would recommend reading the descriptions carefully as neither of these terms are official terminology.

Moleskine Volant


Nick asks:

Maybe you’ve seen the new Doane Paper 3-ring binder pouch. But it made me want to use 3-ring binders more. The problem with binders is that they don’t stack or sit nicely on a bookshelf.

Do you have any tips for binder storage?

Binders are paricularly challenging to store on shelves. I recommend starting with the smallest width binder to start with so that it is fairly full. When it becomes difficult to put more into it, upgrade to a larger width. That way the binders sit a little better on the shelf. A shelf full of 3″ binders with only a few pages in each don’t sit at all nicely.

If anyone has a better idea, let me know!


Melissa asked:

Can you show me a few choices for a budget notebook for fountain pen writing? I want something that’s thick enough not to bleed to the back, under about $15, A5 size, lined preferred (something like narrow ruled filler paper). Bonus points for purple cover, as that’s my favorite colour.

Poppin purple softcover notebook

Poppin is THE source for those with a color fetish. They offer their medium soft cover in their signature plummy purple. The notebook is $9. I tested the softcover notebook and there is a little show through with juicy pens like the Retro 51 and fountain pens but you can’t beat the price.

Scout Books Mega Book

The Scout Books Mega Books are 5×7″ with cardstock covers. While there are not any currently available with purple covers, the tough cardstock would give you a great surface to paint or collage your own ode to purple. Two books are sold in a set for $10. The paper is 70lb text weight so it can hold up to fountain pens but may have some show through with juicy pens.

Paperthinks

Paperthinks is another company I always think of for the color savvy. They stock not one but three different shades of purple to choose from.  Their large notebook is 12 x 17cm (4.7″x6.7″) with recycled leather covers and lined pages.  The regular large notebook has 256 ruled pages (£16) and the slim version has 144 pages (£10) so they are in your price ballpark. When tested, the paper showed a bit of showthrough but the overall quality of the books is good.

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Slightly higher than your price point is the Exacompta Club Leatherette Refillable Journal ($24.50) in lilac purple. Refills are $16.50 and available in lined as well as blank and grid. The paper is good quality 64g so it should handle most fountain pens, as well as any gel, rollerball, ballpoint or pencil you used.


And the last question of the week comes from Aziza:

Anyways, just based on some fun movie trivia, would you say the notebook in the series True Detective that Matthew McConaughey uses is an extra large Moleskine? Just curious of your opinion.

mcconaughey notebook in True Detective

I believe you are right. That looks like the A4 Moleskine Folio book. Its 8.5×12″ but I can’t tell if he’s using the sketchbook or plain paper version. I guess I’ll have to watch the series just for the notebooks!

Thanks for all the great questions!

Ask The Desk: Organizing Correspondence

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I recently received a letter from Paul asking:

What are the best practices for archiving correspondence?

My first recommendation was the Paper & Type Letter Ledger which I use to archive all my correspondence. I use this to track regular correspondence as well as any thank you notes I might send. Christmas cards and thank yous get stored in a list in Field Notes since I really only reference those lists once a year. After some thought, I came up with a couple other ideas.

One idea is to tag letters with a sticky note with notes regarding your reply. You can write a few lines about what your reply stated, the date sent and any other info you think relevant. Then you can file the letter. I do store my letters.

I file my letters in accordion file folders by recipient. When I strike up a new correspondence, I have a folder for “Misc. Correspondence”. Once I’ve received a few letters from the same person, they get their own folder.

I read somewhere (it was ages ago so I’m not sure who does this. If its you, leave a note in the comments!) to store letters in 3-ring binders. You can slide the letter into a plastic sleeve with the envelope if you’re inclined to keep that too. Or simply hole punch the letter. Then you can easily review previous letters. You can add a 3×5″ card or sticky note to the sleeve with information regarding your reply. Add divider tabs for each correspondent.

For a digital solution, I saw this post on Lettermo. K. Tempest Bradford recommended using Evernote to photograph and tag your outgoing letters. You can then tag the photo and Evernote may even recognize words written in the letter depending on how tidy your handwriting is. You could actually photograph your incoming post as well and put both images in a collection so that you have quick access to the history of your correspondence. I think this is absolutely brilliant.

Hope these ideas help. Anyone have a different technique for tracking what you’ve written or how you keep your letters?

Ask The Desk: That’s not a pen!

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I received an actual letter from Leah a week or so ago. She asked lots of different questions about pens and tools so I thought I’d include some of my answers here as well as in a letter to her.

She asked:

What pen/nib did you use for the titles of your 12 Days of Inkmas?

The secret is that I didn’t use a pen at all. I used a brush!

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.44.46 AM

I got the idea to use a brush from seeing some ink “swabs” on European Paper. They were using a brush to create a lovely little ink swab. I like that a brush was easy to clean and I wasn’t creating a landfill full of q-tips in sampling inks each month.

brushes21

I’ve used several different brushes that I’ve accumulated over the years to not only create “swabs” but also to create a more interesting header for the 12 Days of Inkmas. I’ve tried to keep up the habit for future ink samples and reviews as I can see the range of shading with the inks this way.

EDIT: The word “Wide Strokes” was done with the Scharff FINELINE 3000 #3, not the #6. Oops!

brushes22

From left to right: Robert Simmons #2 red Kolinsky hair and synthetic filaments round brush, A. Langnickel 670 #5 Red Sable script brush, Scharff Kolinsky red sable FINELINE 3000 #3 round and #6, and a Silverwhite synthetic 1500S #2 Round.

I’ve acquired brushes over the years from friends, yard sales and various art supply stores. I’m stunned to see how expensive the Scharff #6 brush is ($67)! I’ll definitely take better care of it. I’m confident that any good quality round brush recommended for watercolor, acrylic or oil would make a perfect tool for “swabs” and ink tests. Visit your local art supply or craft shop to pick up a couple.

Just remember to wash out your brushes in water, squeeze dry and reshape the tip to dry. Don’t scrub them and make the bristles flair out  or you risk breaking the fibers and/or hairs. Always dry your brushes with the tip up and don’t leave them sit indefinitely in your wash water or the bristles will bend at a weird angle. If you let them cake with inks or paints, try The Masters brush cleaner. It will save just about all your brushes!