2.27.2010

Weekend Pen Spotlight

In worldwide pen news, courts in India snubbed Montblanc and halted sales of the limited edition Ghandi pen. Critics of the expensive pen argue that it is "an inappropriate way of honouring a man who is known for his austerity."

In an op-ed piece for the St. Louis Suburban Journals website, Mike Williams champions for the lost art of using pen and paper.

Pen friend and fellow blogger Officesupplygeek is interviewed on his blogging success.

Tiger Pens Blog teaches a quick history lesson on why a pen is a 'Biro' in the UK.

Earlier in the week, we shared this great "How it's Made" video of Aurora Pens on Facebook and Twitter:



Have a great weekend. For many of us in the Northeast, that entails staying warm and keeping your back straight while shoveling.

2.24.2010

Getting Things Done with Pen and Paper



Thousands, if not millions of people have mastered their workflow thanks to the modern-day Bible of office productivity, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.

In the book, he describes a system of processing all of life's various "inputs" while maintaining peace of mind. When it comes to thinking about organization and adopting a new method of working, many of us can imagine an afternoon spent trolling the aisles at Staples, grabbing everything off of a all-encompassing checklist. Part of the adaptability of Allen's system is that you don't need to overhaul your office with the latest whiz-bang doo-dads and leather-covered "uni-taskers" (as Food Network's Alton Brown says). You simply utilize the equipment you have now in a more efficient manner.

While Allen does acknowledge the usefulness (and our dependence on) technological devices such as PDA's, Palm Pilots, iPods and the like, his main focus is to have your system be dependable and easy to use. It has to adapt to your own preferences for recording information and lists in order for it to be more useful and welcoming to the user. As Allen writes, "great tools can trigger good thinking."

For many of us pen lovers, using a fountain pen or other fine-writing instrument creates a satisfying, pleasing interaction between its user and the task at hand. Although you may be "slowing yourself down" by writing with pen and paper, the satisfaction that is created from the experience positively reinforces your desire to keep organized and stick with the GTD System.

Pen and paper also has another advantage over the digital in the issue of trust. Allen points out that trusting your methods of collection, knowing that your in-box will always be kept in the same place, is essential for peace of mind. The problem with electronic devices is that their information can become inaccessible due to loss of battery power and data corruption. Sure, pen and paper does have its vulnerabilities like fire and water damage. However, psychologically, the tangible aspect of the written word tends to give us more confidence that the work completed retains more permanence over time than the fleeting informational superhighway.

Most adopt a blended approach to input collection, using digital devices and old-fashioned pen and paper. For instant thought collecting, Allen recommends :

Keep good writing tools around all the time so you never have any unconscious resistance to thinking due to not having anything to capture it with. If I don't have something to write with, I can sense that I'm not as comfortable letting myself think about projects and situations.
Conversely, I have done some great thinking and planning at times just because I wanted to use my nice-looking, smooth-writing ballpoint pen! You may not be inspired by cool gear like I am, but if you are, do yourself a favor and invest in quality writing tools.
I also suggest that you keep nice ballpoint pens at the stations where you're likely to want to take notes - particularly near the phones around your house.

For the seasoned GTD professionals that are pen enthusiasts, how does a nice pen work within your personal productivity system? Does your pen service as a note and thought jotter or is it more reserved for specific functions like filling out written forms?

2.22.2010

Review : Parker Premier Silver ST Fountain Pen


Parker Pens' only major product line release of 2009, the Parker Premier offers a high-end feel and classic quality. In the fine-writing community, much has been said about the decline of the Parker brand. Yet, it is still a revered and desired name due to its history. The Premier hails to the old standard and hopes to re-establish Parker as a heavyweight in the fine-writing market.


Each Premier is finely presented in a large gift box with a suede-like interior. The pen rests on a tray platform with three troughs (presumably to fit the other two writing modes of the series). A ribbon sash band drapes over the tray with two small tabs to lift the platform to uncover the bottom of the box. Extra refills and a warranty / instruction booklet are found in this compartment.


The Silver is the most intricate and unique finishes of the series. For those who are looking for a plainer, more elegant, classical style, the Premier offers a black with gold trim and black with silver trim, along with a deluxe black with silver cap. This silver-plated, graduated chiselling deluxe finish mirrors the appeal of a modern skyscraper. The precise engraved pattern gives the impression of velocity while accentuating the pen's grand size.


With all that metal, the pen has a solid weight, assisted by a solid brass inner barrel and cap. The girth and length is generous, but not too cumbersome to the point that it would considered over-sized. The cap pulls open and snaps shut with a satisfying click. The 18k-750 solid gold nib features the signature Parker Arrow as a nib graphic in gold and silver tones. The fountain pen fills via cartridge or converter (included in pen). I opted to fill the converter with Noodler's Standard Brown to test drive this beauty.


As I would have hoped from an 18k nib, the writing experience was smooth as silk and only the slightest touch was needed to generate fluid strokes. The point size I tested was a fine, but wrote a bit on the thicker side, which seemed closer to a medium. The weight and size really doesn't hamper this pen's ability to write and feel well-balanced in hand. True, a lighter mass would feel more comfortable over time if you write pages instead of paragraphs. If you prefer a bit more heft in your writing instrument, this is a perfect pick.

Summary:
  • Writing Quality : 18k nib commands the lightest touch and glides effortlessly across the paper. The weight gives the feeling of exceptional luxury (grade A)
  • Aesthetic Quality : Grande, classic with a modern, business-savvy appeal. The etching on the barrel and cap, along with the mirror-like surface offer a striking appearance. (grade A)
  • Utility : With a more luxurious, hefty design, the overall writing comfort over long periods of time dips a bit, but not a great amount. The deluxe gift box doubles as a pen storage case for up to three writing instruments. (grade A-)
  • Price : Available in fine, or medium nib sizes for $350 (for the Silver Finish; Lacquer finishes are $250), the cost is certainly high, but is certainly a value when compared to other gold nib fountain pens of the same class. Given the collector's market for Parker, the value will probably appreciate over time. (grade A-)

Final Grade : A
Does this series reclaim Parker authority in the fine-writing market with the Premier collection? Not yet, but this is a great start if they can build off of this series and offer a few other designs that are priced between the low-end Sonnets and the high-end Duofolds. Well, by price I also mean that the quality should be commensurate with the dollar amount. The Premier has the makings of a classic; the first step towards re-establishing Parker as a high-quality pen-making company.

2.20.2010

Weekend Pen Spotlight

This week, Goldspot Pens has launched a brand new help section that features interactive question and answer searches that enable you to get quick answers about pens, pen care, store policies and shipping times. You may also ask our customer service a question directly about your order or if your question was not already answered by our knolwedgebase.

Bleubug is celebrating one year of blogging by giving away a vintage Parker Vacumatic fountain pen.

Earlier this week, we posted a video sneak peek of the Visconti Homo Sapiens pen on our Facebook Page.



Inkyjournal reviews a colorful Sheaffer Skrip Red fountain pen ink and rates it as "Moleskine proof." As an owner of a Moleskine that likes to use a variety of fountain pen inks, I can certainly find the rating system useful.

Pocket Blonde is the next host of the Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper, which will be posted Tuesday, March 9th. If you have an article or blog post you would like to submit, use this form.

Fresh off the (word) presses, Brian from Edison Pen Co wrote a great article In Praise of Steel Nibs. I always find myself having the same discussion on a weekly basis as well, "should I spend the extra money for a gold nib on my fountain pen?" If you pick a well-made steel nib, the writing experience can be just as satisfying without having to shell out the high cost.

Lastly, I would like to remind our readers that we are running our "Great, BIG Weekend Sale" until Sunday night at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time. Look out for the blue sale tags to find extra discounts on all your favorite writing instruments, inks and accessories. It took us hours to put the tags on 1,000's of products on our website. And don't forget the free standard shipping within the US for orders of $99 or more. Check out our Weekend Sale Flyer for more deals.

2.17.2010

New FAQ Help Section on Goldspot.com


We have recently set up our new Help Desk on Goldspot.com and it is ready for your pen-related questions. The Knoweldgebase is already stocked with many frequently-asked questions and helpful answers to those questions. You also have the option to ask our customer service department a question regarding your order or any topic that has yet to be covered in our knolwedgebase.

It is in the best interest of our customers that our Q & A database will be as robust and complete as possible to assist you with all of your writing questions. Therefore, we open the floor to everyone out there in the online pen community to ask anything that is on your mind pertaining to pens. Feel free to comment on this post, leave us a message on our Facebook wall or Tweet a question to @goldspotpens.

2.15.2010

Review : Private Reserve Fiesta Red Fountain Pen Ink

With Mardi Gras coming up, we are in the party mood to review the Private Reserve Fiesta Red bottled ink. The test pen is a Cross Sentiment fountain pen in fine point. As with the other Private Reserve inks that have been reviewed lately, the Fiesta Red color is rich with saturated pigmentation. Not quite a burgundy or fire-engine red, the hue can be best described as a rich, blood red.


Drying time is an issue. As you can see by the writing sample, even three seconds is not completely smear-proof. The flow is great and you can see a bit of shading. No feathering, but you can see a bit of show-through on the back of the page. Overall, a beautiful color, but probably best used by right-handed people with a fine or extra-fine nib to prevent as much smear as possible.

2.13.2010

Weekend Pen Spotlight

Pens in the News
Fun Pen Articles
  • Although I don't think it actually writes with coffee ink, this Coffee Ink Pen is a very interesting find and I'm sure pen-loving baristas will enjoy it.
  • Tiger Pens Blog has an inspiring post about how to start writing a journal.

2.10.2010

Review : Cross Sentiment Scarlet Red Fountain Pen


Last year, in conjunction with the fall release of the Affinity line, Cross debuted a series of ladies pens called the Sentiment. The main feature of this Century II look-alike is the removable "heart-lock" charm that adorns the top of the clip. While a nice idea that looks pretty, it does not really hold up as an every-day writer.

As a gift for women, the Sentiment is very presentable. Each pen is sold with both a "heart-lock" charm and a "key" charm. She also has the ability to accessorize with any charm that the owner prefers from their own collection. To protect the pen from hazards that may be lurking in her pocketbook, a small draw-string pen pouch is also included as a "free" gift.


Writing with the fountain pen (a fine point was tested for this review) created a stark contrast in nib quality from the Affinity's performance. While I was simply amazed at the smooth, flowing characteristics of the Affinity nib, the Sentiment was underwhelming. I found the fine point to be a bit toothy, which isn't terrible, but the jangling of the charm against the clip every time the pen moved was extremely annoying.



The overall weight and feel of the pen seemed a bit lacking. The jangling of the charm doesn't have the bright timbre that high-density metals produce when you clang them together. Simply put, the metal appointments feel hollow and cheap. As many pen aficionados may know, the Century II style body is fairly narrow, but does offer a ribbed, black front section, which helps gripping the thinner profile. The Sentiment follows that same design, which is a plus, considering it is marketed as a woman's pen.

Summary:
  • Writing Quality : Steel nib flows well, but is a bit toothy. Charm makes writing with the cap posted annoying. (grade B-)
  • Aesthetic Quality : Rich, lustrous colors with polished accents. The "feel" of the pen is a bit cheap. (grade B-)
  • Utility : Read comments above about posting the cap. Ribbed, black front section offers more grip for fingers. Screw-in converter assures a secure connection to the feed. Pouch is a nice accessory to keep the pen from accidental dings. (grade B+)
  • Price : Available in fine, medium or broad nib sizes for $100 retail ($110 for Ivory w/ gold trim), you are paying a lot for the little accessories. There are several other brands that can offer a more luxurious writing instrument for the same price level. (grade D)

Final Grade : C+
While a nice, lady-friendly design, the Cross Sentiment is all looks and hardly any substance. Aside from the clip charm being a bit cumbersome to people who want to use it daily, the price is too high considering the lacking quality and cheaper feel of the pen.

2.06.2010

Weekend Pen Spotlight

In the spirit of the Oscar nominations being handed out this week, there are a few notes in this week's spotlight that feature nominations within the pen community.

Fine Writing News
  • The Seventh Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper debuted this week on School Supply Dance. Always an interesting mix of writing-related reviews, collections and other fun things that folks post on the internet
  • Some Parker Pen die-hards may have heard rumors that the Janesville, WI service center was closing and that all of the warranty services would have to go overseas to Europe. Not so. Only the street address had changed in Janesville. With the relocation, they pledge improved lead times for repairs.
  • Yafa, the US distributor of the writing brands Monteverde and Delta, has been honored with three nominations in the upcoming Pen World 2010 Reader's Choice awards. The Delta Evolution was nominated for the finest tribute to a historical figure. The Delta Dreidel was nominated for the best pen inspired by a cultural theme. Lastly, the Monteverde Invincia Multi-Function Executive is going up for the "most incredible value" award. The winners will be presented their awards at the NYC National Stationery Show in May.
Blog Reviews
Pen Spotting
  • Inspired by the impending Oscar nominations, Tiger Pens posted a video clip list of nominees for a fictional category of "Fight Scene with a Pen."
  • The Inkophile gets drawn to ads that feature a nice fountain pen. And I believe many other pen lovers do to.
Humor
  • I can remember the first time we received a large shipment from Noodler's that had the excess of "Fragile" warnings plastered all over one side of the box. It was certainly worth a chuckle. Pendemonium shared this photo of their latest shipment on Twitter:

That's it for this week. NJ is getting hit with a big snowstorm this weekend, but our store is always open and accepting visitors at Goldspot.com.

2.04.2010

Review : Cross Affinity Crimson Red Fountain Pen


With Valentine's Day on the horizon, it's time to start spreading the love and show some love toward the new Cross Affinity. This series departs from the Cross pen design philosophy by making the body entirely out of crystalline resin. Lacking a metal base takes some weight out of the pen, which may concern those who prefer a little "heft" to their writing instrument. Considering the size and balance of the pen, the lighter weight provides a higher quality of comfort rather than taking away the luxurious feeling of a heavy pen.



What is impressive about this fountain pen is the ability to write smoothly and comfortably with its steel nib. Sure, the medium was a bit on the broad side, but it was extremely smooth and had an even flow. The lighter weight and wider shape (than a Century II, for example) was a pleasure to write with and complemented the flowing strokes of the nib. The cap posts on the back-end without throwing off the overall balance (length 5 1/8 inches long without cap, 5 5/8 inches long with cap posted on back).



The twist-off cap is another departure from the normal Cross status quo and it throws me off sometimes as I try and pull off a cap that is screwed on. Thankfully, I don't try too hard and break the darn thing.

As you would expect with most Cross pens, the "look" of the color and finish is fantastic. The Crimson Red is rich, lustrous and romantic. The glossy, polished resin is pleasing to hold and warming to the touch.

My only suggestions would be : buy now and remember to buy a converter. We are still under introductory pricing on these models, which may increase (by 20%) within the next month or so. Only a couple of ink cartridges are included inside the gift box with the pen, so be sure to buy a compatible Cross ink converter to use with bottled ink.

Summary:
  • Writing Quality : Steel nib performs above expectations. Very smooth with a generous flow. Great balance and weight. (grade A)
  • Aesthetic Quality : Grande, classic with a modern, sleek appeal. The resin colors are beautiful and rich. (grade A)
  • Utility : Cap screws off, but posts well in the back. Screw-in converter assures a secure connection to the feed. (grade A-)
  • Price : Available in fine, medium or broad nib sizes for $100 retail (introductory special for $80.00 at Goldspot.com), the fountain pen is a bit on the more expensive side, especially for a resin pen with a steel nib. (grade B-)

Final Grade : A-
This Valentine's Day, you can buy your girl the Crimson Red Cross Affinity. Girls, the guys also may like the red, but the Jewel Blue and the Opalescent Black are outstanding choices as well. A great everyday writing pen for everyone.

2.02.2010

Review : Private Reserve Midnight Blues Fountain Pen Ink

This is a joint review (of sorts) between Goldspot Pens and OfficeSupplyGeek. Back on January 22nd, OSG posted a review of Fahrney's EverWrite Midnight Blues ink. Noticing that the names of Fahrney's inks mirror the color nomenclature used by Private Reserve, I commented on OSG's post if he knows whether or not Fahrney's Ink is simply re-labeled Private Reserve. Neither of us knew for certain, so a comparison review was born!

Private Reserve's Midnight Blues, as written with an Edison Herald in fine point, lays down a more-than-generous amount of ink on the page. My fine point is a bit broader than a Pelikan m215 fine, which OSG was using in his review. That being said, my experience testing out the ink was a bit different, as I noticed more show-through on the other side of the page. The dry time is also a bit slower, since more ink is on the page, taking longer to saturate the paper fibers.


The hue is a very rich and saturated blue-black. I know OSG was having a hard time trying to decide if he liked the Midnight Blues over his other favorite blue-black made by Noodler's. I would pick Private Reserve since the darker Noodler's colors tend to not flow as well with finer-sized nibs.

Now, to compare with the Fahrney's ink, we look back at OSG's handwriting sample to gleam any color similarities. Immediately, I noticed an aqua tinge to his color. However, the way that the ink was described led me to believe that there may have been some scanner shinanigans afoot. He says in his description that the ink appears more bluer than most blue-black inks and that there is minimal show-through, which are two observations that I noticed after writing on my Levenger Circa paper as well.

In an e-mail to OSG, I sent him my scan and asked if the color in the image may have been more accurate to what he physically saw on his paper. He wrote back and explained that he did not find any aqua tones in the ink on the page, although they are apparent on the pictured review below.


With the utmost respect and admiration of the high-caliber and technical reviews on Officesupplygeek's blog, I think that the scan may have been a tiny bit off. Hey, it happens and technology is, by no means, perfect. Which is why Goldspot, and most other pen & ink retailers, will disclaim that the colors on your monitor may not exactly align with the real deal.

To recap:
  • Both Private Reserve and Fahrney's Ever-Write Ink share the same color names, going down the line from Midnight Blues to Shell Pink.
  • They have the same capacity per bottle (50ml or 1.5 fl oz).
  • In this test of Midnight Blues, the color and behavior of the ink is virtually the same.
Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that Fahrney's ink is Private Reserve dressed in another label. A good question for Farhney would be, "Why is the same ink more expensive?" OSG paid $9.35 for the same bottle that Goldspot is selling for $7.49. Must be the label.