Link Love: Official Mascot and more catch-up

Link Love Link MascotFirst, I’d like you to all admire my new and fully customized Link mascot thanks to my pal and co-worker Adan who, clearly, is a fabulous illustrator. I think I need Link on a t-shirt!

Now, on to the links:







Brush Pen Comparison

Brush Pens comparison

I’ve had a fascination lately with brush pens. There are so many variables with brush pens; tip size and tip material being the biggest factors.

I’ve collected all the brush pens I currently have for a little show-and-tell. I certainly wouldn’t say one of these is better than another but they are all different and you might enjoy a specific aspect of one or more of these pens.

Some of the pens have foam-like tips, some have more like felt-tip points, some have actual filament brush tips.

Brush Pens comparison

From top to bottom:

  1. Staedtler Mars Duo 3000 (purchased my single black marker at a local art supply store, set of 10 different colors available for $29.62)
  2. Copic CIAO Superbrush (part of a set of 6 markers for $23)
  3. Copic Multiliner Brush (mine is a disposable version but a refillable version is available for $9.20)
  4. Kuretake No. 8 Fountain Brush Pen ($13.50)
  5. Pentel Art Brush ($8.25)
  6. Pilot Pocket Brush – Hard ($5.00)
  7. Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – Hard ($2.50)

Brush Pens comparison

As you can see, the pens have a wide range of widths and softnesses that will affect how wide a line you can create and how variable your line widths will be. Most of the brush pens are water soluble, non-waterproof.

My favorite pens are the Staedtler Mars 3000 Duo and the Copic Ciao Superbrush. The foam/polyester brush tips are stiff enough to create a wide range of line weights while putting down a rich black ink. Both are available in a lot of other colors and are water-soluble, blendable inks. The points seem to stand up to all the abuse I throw at them too.

The softest brush pens are the ones with real filament brush tips like the Pentel Color Brush and the Kuretake Fountain Brush Pen.They take a bit more practice to get the hang of using them. The Kuretake came out a little light because it uses a fountain pen style cartridge and I had cleaned it out so there was still a little water in the bristles and feed when I put the new cartridge in it. The Pentel Color Brush has a flexible pen body so that you can squeeze it to force more ink out. Often, when I run out of ink in the Pentel Color Brush Pens, I’ll just dip it into a bottle of black ink and keep going. The bristles will soak up a good deal of ink.

The Tombow Fudenosuke is the finest making the thinnest lines. I tend to use it as my everyday marker for labelling file folders, addressing envelopes and the like. It adds more character to my writing than a Sharpie marker. The Pilot Pocket Brush is similar but with more variation in line weight and a bit more bold.

The felt-tip brush pens like the Copic Multiliner Brush tend to fray out at the tips quickly. Luckily, replacement tips are available and the Copic Multiliner is the one pen that’s waterproof.

I’ve barely scratched the surface at the wide array of brush pens available. Some are refillable, some are cartridge-based, some are not. There are more sizes and ink colors to choose from too. Have you tried any brush pens?

Pens were tested on the Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank Pad.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the items shown here were sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ask The Desk: Scratchy Pens & Jotter Refills

Ask The Desk Header

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

Ask The Desk Header

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.

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!

Review: Nock Co Lookout 3-Pen Holster

Nock Co Lookout Pen Holster

I’ve always been a bit hesitant to invest in a holster-style pen case. Most of my pens retail for less than $50 so it seemed like overkill to invest in an expensive carrying case for my hacked Metropolitan or my TWSBI Mini. But thankfully, the Nock Co Kickstarter campaign put the Lookout Pen Holster in just the right price point for my assortment of loved-but-reasonably-priced pens. I selected the navy blue case with gray lining. Most of my pens are clear, silver, grey or black so the simple, classic color scheme seemed like the right choice. Besides, the initial offering from Nock Co did not include ANY green cases (hint, hint, Mr. Dowdy!).

Nock Co Lookout Pen Holster

The case feels slightly padded which makes me feel like my pens are getting even more protection and the flap tucks easily under the strap. There’s no snap or velcro to make opening and closing the case distracting in a classroom or meeting which is a big plus for me. Even with the padded feel and the three divided slots, this is still a svelte, compact case. Just enough room for your three “daily carry” pens/pencils — nothing more, nothing less.

Nock Co Lookout Pen Holster

My longest pen is the Lamy Studio but I think the clip placement has more to do with how high it sits in the case than the actual pen length. I think the green Karas Kustoms Render K looks especially nice against the grey and blue. I even tested the ginormous INK! fountain pen in the case and there’s plenty of room to spare both in height and in the width of the stitched pockets. The only pens that don’t fit quite so well are my tiny pocket pens like the Kaweco Sports and Monteverde Poquito. Maybe there will be a Little Lookout in the future?

I’m not sure what the pricing will be on the Lookout when the Nock Co store opens but I’d venture to say that $20 seems like a reasonable price for a well-made, made-in-USA pen holster case.

Link Love of Epic Proportions!

Clampersand (via Domesticated Desk)

Clampersand (via Domesticated Desk)




Writing & Letter-Writing:

Paper & Notebooks:

10 Tools I Can’t Live Without


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tools I use everyday, my absolute must-haves. While I love having an assortment of gel pens, fountain pens and a bevvy of different notebooks, I realized that there are a few tools I use everyday, without fail. I also have some tools very specific to my job that might not be of interest to readers but I thought I’d share the everyday go-to tools, in no particular order.

  1. Hobonichi Planner ¥2,500 for the planner, covers start at ¥1,500
  2. 3×5 blank index cards $1.49/100 cards
  3. Field Notes $9.95/3-pack (or comparable pocket-sized notebook. I always have one on me)
  4. Kaweco Sports Fountain Pen $23.50
  5. Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser $1.25 THE eraser by which all other erasers are measured.
  6. Marvy LePen $1.15 (could potentially substitute a standard Sharpie marker here though I’m more likely to use the LePen everyday than a Sharpie)
  7. Palomino Blackwing 602 $19.95/dozen
  8. Tombow Mono Adhesive Permanent $7.29, refills $11.99/3-pack (I know this seems odd but it’s excellent for sealing envelopes and a much tidier way to attach scraps to my planner or notebook)
  9. Evernote FREE (I am now storing all sorts of text bits, digital detritus, links and blog starters here. I can access the content on all my digital devices)
  10. Alfred FREE (Until you’ve used the Alfred App, you don’t know what you’re missing. I hate working on someone else’s computer that doesn’t have Alfred installed. It’s free, go try it)

What are the tools you can’t live without?

Review: Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen

The fine folks over at Pen Chalet gave me the opportunity to try the new Monteverde Poquito fountain pen (Retail price $30; from Pen Chalet, $27). Its a classic looking, teeny tiny pocket pen for sure. This is the first Monteverde pen I’ve tried so I was quite excited for the chance to take my first foray into the Monteverde pen world.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen

The details:

The packaging was on the budget side, just a cardboard box with the pen in a plastic sleeve with an instruction sheet and a single refill cartridge. For the price point, I don’t expect presentation quality packaging but if this is a make or break for you or you were hoping to give this as a gift, I recommend creating your own presentation packaging for this pen.

The branding on this pen is quite subtle. In black on the opposite side of the cap from the clip, in small type, is the Monteverde brand name and below it in smaller text “Poquito”. I know a lot of folks are not fond on the Monteverde logo type and this is some of the most subtle application I’ve seen. Truly unobtrusive. On the top of the clip is a small emboss stamp of the Monteverde crest.

I received the chrome finish version with a “Iridium Point Germany” medium stainless steel nib. The pen has a smooth, tapered shape that made me think, “If a Fisher Space Pen and a Kaweco Sport ever merged…” then this would be the result. Good looks, totally pocketable with some steely-eyed missile man good looks.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen Size Comparison

As the comparison to the Kaweco Sport and Liliput was inevitable, here’s a quick run down of the comparison specs:


Kaweco Sport

Kaweco Liliput

length: closed




length: uncapped




length: posted




weight: filled & capped


12 gms

10 gms

weight: filled, no cap

11 gms

6 gms

7 gms

Monteverde Poquito fountain pensize comparison

Overall, the physical size is quite comparable. For determining the width of the pens, the Poquito feels more like the size of a Uni-Ball Signo capped pen while the Kaweco Sport barrel has the width equivalent of a Sharpie marker. The Liliput is ever-so-slightly narrower than the Poquito and is the same diameter from end-to-end while the Poquito tapers on each end. Does that make sense?

I let my husband try the Poquito to get a “man’s perspective”. He found the pen too small overall but normally he prefers ACME pens. He couldn’t find his Fisher Space Pen so we couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison but he’s pretty confident that, when posted, the Space Pen is about a 0.5″ longer than the Poquito.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen writing sample

The writing experience:

The cap posts easily and does not affect the pen’s weight. The cap actually helps to weight the pen creating a pleasing writing experience. The narrower overall width of the Poquito made it comfortable in my small hands. Its wider than the Kaweco Liliput but obviously narrower than the Kaweco Sport.

The grip section is tiny with a slight ridge where the body and cap snap together. The ridges are smooth so they are not distracting but I imagine this might not be comfortable for extended writing sessions. The cap snaps on with a satisfying click.

The nib was silky smooth out of the box. I seldom use a medium nib fountain pen but this wrote so smoothly and consistently as soon as I put the accompanying cartridge in it. Not one skip or stutter. The line weight was on the finer side of medium for a European/American nib. No lefty issues with getting the ink to flow and on the paper.

The nib is stiff with no flex but I needed only the lightest touch to write and got some nice line variation and even some shading from the black ink. I would probably prefer a fine nib but I like the look and feel of the medium and is not a make-or-break aspect for me with this pen.

If the nib is any indication of Monteverde’s other fountain pens, you’ll definitely be seeing more Monteverde reviews here soon. This pen is “full of awesome” for $30 or less.

Monteverde Poquito fountain pen


The Poquito fountain pen is new for 2014 and is also available in a dark Stone Gray, a bright metallic Turquoise and a metallic Pink finish with silver tone clip (see the colors over at FPGeeks). The Poquito line offers a stylus/ballpoint model in a similar size and an XL version.

Pen Chalet would like to offer a special discount for readers of The Well-Appointed Desk. Receive 10% off any item on their site using the coupon code wellappointeddesk, including the Poquito. Offer is good through March 31, 2014.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Chalet for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Render K + Uni-Ball Signo = LOVE!

Render K Uni Ball Signo Refill Writing Sample

While I was in SF, I found some refills for Uni-Ball Signo. I couldn’t remember if these would fit in my Render K but I was willing to take a chance. It was blue-black ink in my favorite 0.38 size. At less than $2, it was a gamble I was willing to take.

The package was labelled UM-151 0.38mm. Jet Pens does not seem to stock this particular flavor refill but Maido’s online shop, MyMaido does stock them.

UPDATE: Eagle-eyed reader, Adamfmoore found the proper refill on JetPens. It’s the Uni-ball Signo UMR-1 Refill and it sells for $1.65.

Render K Uni Ball Signo Refill

I discovered that the refill was about an 1/8″ too long so I trimmed it down with a trusty X-acto blade. The plastic is quite hard so if you try this yourself, be careful! It would be easy to slice your finger in attempting this. Once trimmed, the Render K screwed closed easily and voila! Deep green pen with blue-black silky ink. JOY!

Render K Uni Ball Signo Refill

Written on Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank Pad. Render K from Karas Kustoms.