I am back after a rather long hiatus. I have been playing with the first decent smart pen I have ever tested, the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse. Stay tuned for the review.
I am back after a rather long hiatus. I have been playing with the first decent smart pen I have ever tested, the Moleskine Pen+ Ellipse. Stay tuned for the review.
I thought I would take a departure from my usual pen and paper reviews to talk about another important office product…the office chair.
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time at your desk and know how important it is to be comfortable. I have been using a standing desk for several years now and cannot imagine going back. If you work long hours at a desk you should seriously consider one; it’s healthier and more comfortable (once you get used to it) than a tradition desk and chair which keeps you bent at a 90-degree angle.
I have spent years of my life sitting in a Herman Miller Aeron chair which is now destined to be a classic and for the longest time was the gold standard in ergonomic office seating. The workstation has evolved and the standing desk trend requires an entirely different sort of chair.
My standing desk moves up and down so that it can be used in standing, half seated and seated positions and as such the ideal chair should be highly flexible. Ergonomically you should be changing positions frequently and the more options your workspace has the better off you are.
To find my perfect chair I spent hours doing showroom visits trying out chairs, even visiting a few manufacturers’ production facilities (I love furniture as much as I love pens and paper).
In my search for my perfect office chair I looked at various ergonomic options like sit-stand stools, stability ball chairs and kneeling chairs. Ultimately, I landed on something that is a bit more of a hybrid between a sit-stand stool and a proper office chair, the Håg Capisco. Håg (pronounced “hog”) is an innovative Norwegian company that has been making office chairs for almost 75 years.
The Capisco is a funny looking chair with a saddle seat and a winged backrest. With the Capisco in tandem with my desk I can work standing, perched (half standing) or seated.
With normal chairs you can only sit forward but with the Capisco you can sit backwards and sideways as well. I have found sitting backwards especially useful for reading books as the wings on the seatback support my arms.
The seatback is height adjustable easily moves up and down and the seat bottom slides forward giving you a more normal chair like seat and backwards giving a shallower stool seat. Like most office chairs you can lock and adjust the tilt and tilt tension.
The chair comes on casters and the base has integrated footrests…there is an optional foot ring that I opted for but do not recommend as it encourages you to bend your legs at the knee, bringing you back to that unwanted 90-degree angle that is not considered to be ergonomic.
The chair comes in a large number of fabrics as well as three metal trim options and Håg will do custom fabrics too. Starting price is about $850. I opted for a nice quality leather from southern Germany, silver metal with a 265mm pneumatic lift (the recommend size for standing desks). In total my Capisco cost a bit over $1,100. There are two other versions of the Capisco, one with a headrest and one that is simply a stool (no backrest). I did not go for the headrest version as I always find them to be awkward and it also prevents you from sitting backward in the chair.
In the end the Capisco really won me over because it allows for the most variation in seating positions of any chair I have seen. It is easy to operate and highly adjustable. The starting price is a bit higher than the Aeron but if you spend a lot of time at your desk, it will be money well spent.
Disclaimer: seating is personal and what works best for me may not be the best for you. When buying ergonomic furniture in particular it is always best to spend time trying the product to make sure it is right for you.
Gmund is one of the best paper manufacturers in Europe and while I don’t see many “Gmund” branded products, their paper is often a top choice for use in custom stationery and correspondence as well as high end business brochures and packaging.
Gmund is based in Gmund am Tegernsee, Germany and can trace it’s roots back to 1829. With over thirty product lines (each with numerous variations) there is a wide variety of offerings, everything from the high-tech to the traditional.
The book I am reviewing today is the Bavarian Book with the Vichy-Deer pattern. The linen fabric on the cover is supposed to resemble a fabric that would be used on a Dirndl (a traditional Bavarian dress).
The notebook is an A5 size with 120 blank pages (60 leafs) that are held together with a sewn binding. The softcover is flexible and the linen fabric provides a nice tactile feel.
The Gmund logo is debossed on the back of the cover.
The bright white pages are pretty thick (thicker than 80 GSM Rhodia paper) and hold fountain pen ink well with almost no ghosting. I did notice a hint of bleed-through with the ultra wide 2.4mm Pilot Parallel but for any normal point you should be just fine.
The binding is quite good and with a little use lies flat (as you can see in the pictures).
The design and feel of this notebook are standouts for me and a welcome change from the wonderful Japanese books I have been using a lot lately. The neon green deers, bookmark, and pastedown are great accents to the grey vichy (gingham) cover and bright white pages.
The Bavaria Book costs about $14 and can be purchased at Gmund’s website. Shipping is from Germany and although it isn’t too expensive, it did persuade me to order a few extra things that I will be reviewing in the coming weeks.
Kaweco is famous for its pocket-size pens but they also make a number of nice full-size pens including the Elite I am reviewing today.
I was drawn to the Elite’s large nib, that Kaweco refers to as a size 250 (Bock #6). Most Kaweco pens including many of their other full-size models use a much smaller nib that Kaweco calls size 060, similar to a Bock #5. Kaweco also makes a 14kt solid gold 250 nib but it is not sold with any of their standard pens. You have to buy this nib separately and unlike the steel version, you only get one nib grade, medium.
You may have noticed that my review title says 18kt gold, this is because I ordered a 14kt nib and received an 18kt nib instead. This particular nib is not listed in their parts catalog. From what I can tell the nib I received is an 18kt gold stub nib from the beautiful $1,500 Kaweco King Limited Edition fountain pen. Now that we have sorted out what I am reviewing here, let’s get to the pen.
The Elite features a hand-polished faceted black piano lacquer acrylic body. The acrylic is turned from a single block. I imagine that “black piano lacquer” refers only to the color and high gloss and not the actual use of lacquer. The cap is is chrome and features a black finial with a silver Kaweco “jewel”. This same jewel is also found on the end of the barrel. “Kaweco Elite GERMANY” is printed on the cap in black letters.
I like the design of this pen; it looks modern and professional. The high gloss acrylic feels silky smooth to the touch. The clip is high quality with a clean imprint and no rough areas.
Even under the clip the finish is flawless. I also like the knurling on the bottom of the barrel.
The Kaweco logo “jewels” on the top of the cap and end of the barrel are not as crisp as I would like and when I compared it to my vintage Kaweco Sport there was a noticeable difference; a small gripe but none-the-less worth pointing out.
The Elite weighs approximately 39 grams with the cap responsible for 18.5 of them; this makes the Elite on the heavy side. To use this pen comfortably I had to write with the cap off.
Posting the cap makes the pen very top heavy and the cap does not sit very far down the barrel, so it’s length exacerbates the balance problem.
With the cap off the Elite is very comfortable with its long acrylic grip section. The Elite measures 13.8mm long capped and about 13.4mm uncapped.
The 18kt gold nib is writes smoothly and is a good performer. I find that it does write on the drier side (something I will likely adjust later) and that it can take a bit of work to get the ink flowing when a new cartridge is inserted. Once it starts flowing the nib works great and is a pleasure to write with. The 18kt gold nib has some spring but I wouldn’t say that it’s particularly soft.
The nib shares the same plastic feeder as the steel nib. The nibs are threaded like those from Pelikan and Aurora, making nib swaps a breeze.
The Elite can hold two short international cartridges and interestingly there is a spring inside the barrel, something I haven’t seen on any other fountain pen. This spring is useful in getting the second cartridge out of the barrel.
The Elite is not sold with a converter. I tried a standard Bock converter which fit onto the section but was too fat for the barrel. Luckily I have a Kaweco converter and surprise, surprise, it fit. I did find that the converter regularly removed the spring when I unscrewed the section. I would recommend removing the spring if you use a converter.
The Elite fountain pen has a street price of $150, while the 14kt gold nib (again, only sold separately) costs about $200. In the $150 price bracket there are lots of excellent pens, like the Lamy 2000 and the Pilot Vanishing Point. I find that Kaweco Elite stands up to these pens nicely. It really comes down to preference.
But what about the $200 gold nib? The problem for me is that the steel nib is really good. If we were talking an extra $50 then I would go for the gold but from a writing perspective the gold nib isn’t enough of an improvement to justify it’s high price.
Please note: this pen was provided to me by Kaweco at a subsidized cost for purposes of this review.
Here are some other great reviews of the Kaweco Elite fountain pen:
(I have no affiliation with any of the sites linked below)
Stálogy is a stationery brand that isn’t particularly well known outside of Japan. They have only been around for a few years and while their line is small, they produce unusually well-executed products.
The #018 Editor’s Series 365 Days Notebook (yes, that’s a mouthful) caught my attention with it’s detailed half jacket that highlights its unique features.
When I picked up the sample notebook the first thing I noticed was how thin the pages were. Packing 368 pages (184 sheets) into a 14mm thick notebook is impressive. For comparison, my favorite Kokuyo Century Edition notebook only fits 140 pages (70 sheets) into 11mm and with a little bit of math at 14mm the Kokuyo would only hold 178 pages; that’s less than half the Stálogy.
The next thing I noticed was the thirty dollar price tag, yikes! Naturally I convinced myself into buying it; I mean, it has double the pages so really thirty bucks isn’t that bad…right?
Apart from the thin pages this notebook features a free daily dairy. The top of each page lists months, days of the week, and numbers 1-31 so that you can highlight or circle the appropriate date. The 4mm grey grid has the numbers 0-24 printed on every other line; this is a 24 hour timeline.
I found the calendar to be unobtrusive when I just wanted to take notes but also quite useful when I wanted to keep track of my day.
The paper’s performance was very good but being so thin there are some limitations. I would consider this to be fountain pen friendly paper though with my wider nibs I did notice some bleeding and on the really wide 2.4mm nib on my Pilot Parallel there was feathering.
There is also some show through. It’s not as bad as you get on Tomoe River paper but it’s noticeable.
With the stitched binding, flexible spine and tiny signatures there is no denying that this is a very high quality notebook, one that warrants its high price.
Would I buy another one? For home use there are other notebooks I like better (like the Kokuyo I mentioned above) but if I wanted to carry a lot of pages in a small package this could be a very good choice.
Danitrio is perhaps the biggest name in Maki-e pens outside of the main three Japanese makers (Pilot/Namiki, Platinum/Nakaya and Sailor).
Danitrio Maki-e pens are not an entirely Japanese product. The company is based in California and the pens, as far as I know, are manufactured and painted in Japan but use Bock nibs from Germany…so it’s a multinational effort to put one these pens together.
I have been eyeing a Danitrio for a while as they offer very good value for money. While they are by no means cheap, they are considerably less expensive than most comparable Japanese pens.
One of the great things about Danitrio is that they offer their pens in a large number of shapes and finishes.
Despite having similar dimensions to a Montblanc 149, the Hakkaku is one of Danitrio’s smallest models measuring 13.5cm long and 1.5cm wide.
The ebonite body has a faceted flat top design. The dark Midori-dame finish softens the look of the facets. A lighter color would do a better job of accentuating this pen’s shape.
It is very well balanced and looks great against the green background.
This pen (I am told) uses a Togidashi Maki-e technique.
The finish quality of the Hakkaku is comparable to Nakaya. It’s not perfect like a Namiki pen; it has more of hand made look and feel to it. The threading is smoother than on my Nakayas and unlike my Nakaya Naka-ai Negoro the design always lines up when I put the cap on.
The section is signed with the artist’s signature.
The #6 size nib is solid 18kt gold and produced by Bock in Germany.
The fireball design looks great. The nib has a fine point and is considered one of their “soft” nibs. The nib is soft and if you apply some pressure you can get some line variation but for me with a light hand I don’t notice much.
The fine point is smooth and writes with a medium line width (typical Bock). If you want a true fine you are better off with an extra fine nib. The nib doesn’t have as much character as those made by Pilot or Platinum but it’s a good performer and if you like a smooth soft nib this one is very nice.
The Hakkaku takes standard international cartridges and comes with a Bock converter.
The feed is plastic (and out of alignment, the dealer has since remedied the problem).
This pen has a retail price of $1,900 and I was able to get it for a bit less than half that. By comparison, a plain urushi lacquer Namiki Yukari Royale runs $1,500 and a Maki-e versions range from about $4,000-$10,000. I am not saying this pen is the same quality as a Namiki (it isn’t) but it is a more affordable way to get your hands on a good quality Maki-e pen.
At the end of the day I am really happy with this pen. It looks and writes great and it was reasonable enough that I don’t worry about using it everyday.
Pilot’s most famous fountain pen is without question the Vanishing Point (aka the Capless). This is the best selling and simply the best retractible nib fountain pen ever produced.
Many models have been introduced since the Vanishing Point’s inception in the early 1960s and the one I am reviewing today is a “Namiki” branded model with a faceted black plastic body and white metal trim. This body style was introduced in the 1970s stayed in production until the late 1990s. This particular Vanishing Point was made in 1997 right before the introduction of the current metal bodied Pilot Vanishing Point in 1998.
This older model (which I will refer to from now on as the “faceted VP”) is much more attractive with its elegantly integrated clip and slimmer faceted body. The current Vanishing Point has a much less harmonious design with bloated clumsy look to it.
The faceted VP is lighter and slimmer, weighing in at 18.5 grams and measuring just 11mm wide (clip not included). The current model weighs in at 31 grams. To my hand the faceted VP is much more comfortable to use.
The nib on this faceted VP is 14kt gold instead of 18kt gold on the current production model. The nib started life with a medium point and was ground into a butter line stub by Pendleton Brown.
This particular grind offers a great combination of usability and writing flair. I have done a number of custom grinds on medium nibs and this one my favorite so far. The nib is so smooth with just a hint of feedback…it’s luxurious.
The converter. These faceted VPs use a squeeze sac converter. It doesn’t hold enough ink so I always use cartridges with the metal cartridge cap.
The current model by comparison uses the Pilot Con-50 which is nicer to use and holds a slightly more reasonable amount of ink.
This is an awesome pen. You can find them used ranging from about $80 to $150.