Monday, September 1, 2014

Retro 51 - Tornado Elite Mechanical Pencil

The Retro Tornado Elite mechanical pencil follows the design of the Retro 51 pens. However it is much smaller, measuring only 3 3/8" in length. The Tornado Elite takes 1.1mm lead and comes with a tube of 20 refills, and a tube of six replacement erasers. So, there's no need to buy refills for quite awhile. As expected from Retro 51, the build quality of this little pencil is excellent. Even though it is small, the pencil feels substantial to use. The graphite used for the lead writes smoothly - not scratchy like some poorly made graphite. The eraser is soft and works easily. The pencil fits perfectly with a journal, sketchbook or small pocket.

I brought the Tornado Elite and a small sketchbook to the Chicago Art Institute to sketch some of my favorite pieces of artwork. If you are looking for a compact mechanical pencil, the Tornado Elite is an excellent solution.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Big Pens

I love large pens. However, it is difficult to determine the relative size of a pen online. So, here is a somewhat random assortment of my favorite large pens together for size comparison. They are listed left to right: (1) Jinhao 159, (2) Delta Scrigno, (3) Laban Mento, (4) Levenger Boulevardier, (5) Libelle Siena, (6) Sheaffer Legacy, (7) Pilot Custom 823, (8) Bexley Poseidon, (9) Visconti Rembrandt, (10) Lamy 2000.

If you had never held any of these pens, by looking at the photo, you might think the Libelle Siena or Sheaffer Legacy are relatively small pens. But they are both fairly large. They just look small next to the Jinaho 159, Delta Scrigno and Laban Mento, which are simply immense.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Parker 61 Fountain Pen and Pencil Set

I am probably the only fountain pen collector who doesn't have a Parker 51 or 61.  So, I have had my eyes on them for several years. But up until recently had not found one of the quality/style I would like, and that I could afford.  Yesterday - with the help of a very pleasant eBay seller - I purchased my first Parker 61 (pictured here).  I had been searching for either the black plastic model like this one, or the stainless steel Flighter. I don't care for the gold trim versions, so that limited my choices considerably. This set is in mint condition, and included the mechanical pencil, as well.  While, I have not received it yet - I already find myself with the dilemma of whether or not I should use it. I buy pens to use them, not as collector pieces to be displayed.  But this set almost seems like it should be kept in pristine condition. Plus, from what I have seen from other owners of the capillary fill system, they are not very easy to clean.  Hmmm...I probably won't be able to just store it away, since I originally wanted these as daily writers. My only other matching pen and pencil set is a Cross ATX, before they were made in China - same color scheme: black and chrome. If you have one of these Parker 61 sets, I'd love to read your impressions...please add a comment.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Visconti Rembrandt Calligraphy Set

Occasionally, I will fool myself into thinking I will take the time to learn calligraphy. This is not one of those moments.  I purchased this set because I love Rembrandt pens and it was too good of a deal to pass up. As I am writing this, I think the set can still be found for $160.00 or less.  I purchased my set from Goldspot, who provides excellent customer service.


One Rembrandt pen body and cap of one of the following colors: ivory, black, red, orange, blue or purple; Three palladium steel nibs: .5 italic, 1.5 italic and standard medium (Note: not all sets include the medium nib); A pad of blotting papers; A booklet on calligraphy; A bottle of black ink; And two converters.  The box itself includes a couple of built in nib holders, so that you can alternate between two nibs without removing the converters.


The italic nibs are housed in plastic sections, rather than the steel housing of the standard pen.  This reduces the weight of the pen considerably. I found the lighter weight to be so comfortable that I've been using the .5 Italic nib as a daily writer.

The calligraphy booklet is written in Italian, English and German. It is a brief 24 pages long, four of which are taken by the cleaning, filling and warranty information. The booklet includes samples and instructions for the following alphabets: Italic, Gothic, Uncial, Foundational, Rotunda and English Script.

I find it difficult choosing a pen color online, because I don't trust the accuracy of the colors on the photographs. I already had the black pen and none of the other colors appealed to me.  I prefer dark colors for pens, so that left only the purple pen, which is not a color I'd normally choose. I was pleasantly surprised by the deep rich color and the hint of red in the swirls.  Had I been able to see the pens in person, I might have chosen the red or the blue, but they appeared too light online.


Whether you are a calligrapher, artist, or writer, this is an excellent pen for a reasonable price with a lot of options.

For a thorough review of the standard Rembrandt pen, read my post here from June 28, 2011.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Graphics Tablet Review

Recently, I have been looking to purchase an active graphics tablet - the kind where you can actually see what you are drawing on the tablet.  I have a Wacom Bamboo Create Pen & Touch, which has a lot of nice features, but I find it really difficult to draw on the tablet surface while looking up at the monitor.  It works OK for rough sketches but is difficult for more detailed drawings or paintings.  So, I started looking at the Wacom Cintiq ($2,400), but it was much too expensive for me.  Then I looked at the Yiynova Tablet-Monitor ($450), which was much more affordable but got mixed reviews.  I also considered getting an iPad because I saw some impressive You Tube videos of artists using the iPad Retina ($500) for artwork.

But yesterday I was surprised to find this amazing tablet (pictured) at Krogers grocery store of all places, for $2.50!  The pen-stylus didn't come with it and I had to buy that separately, but since the tablet was so affordable, I really didn't mind.  I chose the upgraded Sharpie with fine and ultrafine points built in one.  It doesn't require batteries either!

+ Absolutely perfect WYSWYG display.
+ saves drawing instantly and flawlessly
+ sizes drawing at 100% every time.
+ wireless
+ zero charge time
+ zero start-up time
+ no batteries, ever!
+ never needs charging.
+ very affordable
+ fully rotational
+ no software to load
+ does not require a computer to operate
+ it can be used anywhere
+ synchronization between the tablet and Sharpie are instant and flawless.

- No layering
- does not include any software
- limited to 50 drawings
- you must supply your own pen, pencil or marker
- requires a scanner to digitize
- this tablet is not designed for painting

In spite of the "CONS", I would gladly buy this tablet again.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Black and White

I realized, once again, how stuck I am on black and white, or silver and black pens.  This photo is actually several years old and I have added a number of pens since then, most of which are black and white or black and silver.  Recently, I was about to purchase another pen, which was black carbon fiber and silver.  I paused and wondered why I would buy another pen of the same color combo as most of my others?  The answer was simple, I still like that color (less) combo!  (Although, I did not buy that pen due to marginal reviews.) No surprise, my favorite ink is basic black - though I note that they are not all equal.  For example, Pearl Noire from J. Herbin is the blackest of blacks, I love that ink.  My pens seem to like Pilot black the best:" it doesn't clog or dry out very easily.  While I would never wear a tuxedo that is not basic black, I do have some pens in other colors, which I enjoy and use often.  But in the end my first choice is always basic black.  By the way, one of the best and most affordable basic black fountain pens is the Levenger Truewriter Obsidian.  It is one of my basic work pens, filled with Noodler's Polar Bulletproof black.  The TW Obsidian is always ready to write, even if I've not used it for several days.  No matter how beautiful a pen is, knowing that it will write the moment you touch it to paper is the best feature of any fountain pen.