Saturday, September 28, 2013

Paper Love IV: X47 MaBook Notebook

Okay, the title is a little misleading for it's more like "leather love" but that just sounded wrong. :-D The X47 MaBook is a modular planner/notebook system not unlike a rather sophisticated Midori Traveler's Notebook. A range of refills is provided by X47, mainly diaries but also notebook inserts with plain or ruled pages. That's about the point where the similarities end!

As I was interested in this book X47 have offered a discount for a review. Thank you, X47! Still trying to be as neutral as possible reviewing this great piece of craftsmanship.

X47 MaBook notebook

X47 products aren't aimed at the youthful traveler but rather the distinguished businessman. Being neither of these I still like both systems and appreciate the variety. The MaBook immediately gives the impression of being extremely well made. The books are sewn by hand here in Germany using fine calfskin. The leather has a glossy surface which doesn't show minor scratches and also should be pretty immune to stains and discoloring. It should keep its pristine look for many years - no patina intended. Still - and very importantly at least to me - there is no plasticky feel to the surface and at the spine or the pen loop you can feel the leather is soft and supple.

The front and back cover seem to have some sort of stiff inlay so the book provides a hard surface to write on even if it's just resting on your legs. Let's look inside!

 X47 MaBook notebook - inside the front cover 

This is the inside of the front cover. There is room to insert an additional A6 notebook which is really neat. The one I'm using right now is slightly smaller than A6 (but it has Tomoe River paper! :D)

I'm not sure what the thing above the notebook space is for. It's a stamp sized opening with a leather flap which you can pull out. I've tried to imagine some use for this but can't really find one. Storing passport photographs maybe? Someone definitely put some thought into this so I'd like to find out. Let me know if you have any ideas!

X47 MaBook notebook - the lower end of the spine and beautiful ribbon bookmarks.

It's plain that there are no Midori-like rubber bands here. Also there's apparently nothing going through the middle of the refill notebooks. So how do you put a refill in there?

The answer lies within these slim metal rods. The curvy parts belong to the MaBook covers. The straight parts can be taken out and have two thorns which go through the spine of the refill. The ready made refills provided by X47 already have a rod attached to them so exchanging them is quick and convenient. They're also not hard to "hack". Remove the rod from the original refill and attach it to any cahier you'd like. All you need to do is punch two small holes into the spines at the right location.

My MaBook now houses a Midori MD light, a Rhodia and a Semikolon cahier. A fourth notebook could be added but as the Rhodia is pretty thick I'll stick with three for the moment.

X47 MaBook notebook - inserts are held by slim  metal rods

Here's the metal rod holding the Midori MD notebook in place next to one not holding a refill. The system is nice because it takes very little space inside the MaBook, much less than rings, and of course looks more elegant than rubber bands. On the other hand it's an additional effort if you want to use your own refills.

As you can see above there are three differently colored ribbon bookmarks sewn into the spine. The ends of those seem to be dipped in resin or glue, they are a little stiff and won't unravel for a long time. Another one of these well thought out and beautiful details.

The X47 MaBook notebook is full of nice details.

There's also a pen loop large enough to hold fountain pens. These last pictures show the color best (the light wasn't too great when I took them), a deep chestnut brown. They also come in black and red with various finishes, even crocodile print if you're into that.

The inside of the back cover has additional room for some business cards. X47 have told me there is already a new generation of the MaBook with extra space for some sticky notes but I'm just as happy with the old one. They come in A5 and A6 size, mine being the A5 one. It weighs 570 grams with 3 refills. The manufacturer can be found here: X47

How do you like the MaBook? I have to say I feel a little intimidated by it sometimes as it's such a nice piece of work and I feel like I'd need to become some bigwig CEO to use one. However the book still appears slim and subtle and unobtrusive enough to use in any daily context - even if you, like me, don't plan ever to be a bigwig of any kind.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Red Pens! The Montegrappa Alfa Romeo

I've got a thing for red pens. I believe I might have more red pens than any other color, though black might follow closely. Brown is great as well, especially when wood, but red just has that special something for me.

On the other hand it needs to be just the right shade of red. It has to be deep and rich, by no means pale and without strong undertones of blue, purple or brown. A bit of yellow is alright as I prefer warm reds to cold ones. On the other hand it mustn't drift in the direction of persimmon... you'll get it, though I love red pens I'm a bit picky when it comes to the actual shade of red.

So far, tame-nuri pens have been spot on for me. Just look at this Nakaya Dorsal Fin... or the Danitrio Genkei Serei-Nuri... Namiki Vermilion is beautiful too. On the other hand I'm still hesitant about a Nakaya unpolished shu because I can't be sure I'd like the color. Hard to see one in the flesh around here!

So, Urushi lacquer makes for some really great shades of red. It's not the only material though: there's also pearlescent celluloid, like this amazing red and black pen by Montegrappa.

Montegrappa Alfa Romeo Carbon
I've had this one for a while and I'm, still and again, totally in love! At first glance it looks like a slightly different Montegrappa Miya and the shape is indeed the same, but where the Miya would be all red and silver this one's barrel sports a black carbon weave pattern: It's the limited edition "Alfa Romeo".

Montegrappa Alfa Romeo Carbon

Usually most LEs of Italian penmakers are way too adorned for my liking. This one is a nice exception. The black carbon balances the red cap and endcap off nicely and it all works really well with the sterling silver accents, clip and section. All in all for me it's an amazingly good looking pen. It also has, like the whole Miya line, a really nice balance and weight (37 g) and a sturdy feel to it.

246 pieces were made; there are also some other editions of it which defintely fall into the "too adorned" category.

Montegrappa Alfa Romeo Carbon

There are actually few and relatively subtle clues as to what this pen is about - which is just as well as I really don't have a passion abut cars. There's the Alfa Romeo logo in silver at the top of the cap, an engraving on the barrel ring - just below "Montegrappa" - and the four leafed clover in gold on the otherwise plain rhodium plated nib. It's a beautiful smooth medium nib.

Montegrappa Alfa Romeo Carbon

Who couldn't love this red? It's amazing.

Funny enough, this one of all my pens suffered an accident with lasting damage: It slipped out of my hand and fell on its nib. After a trip to the grease monkey nibmeister it's a perfect writer once again but a slight dent in the tines remains to tell of its mishap.

Before finishing the review I can't fail to mention that Montegrappa's other celluloid colors are just as gorgeous - even the yellow! Who'd thought I'd ever own a yellow pen... I will show them another time.

Do you like the Alfa Romeo? Why? Why not? What's your opinion about LEs by Montegrappa, Visconti, Omas etc.?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Small Scale DIY: simple handmade notebook

Crafting has never been quite my thing. I'm acting too much on impulse and too little on careful planning to get really nice results. My crafted things always are a bit sloppy and come with a whole bunch of imperfections. I still like most of them.

I made this notebook as a refill for my leather journals - find out more about those here - and to give the 500 sheet ream of Neusiedler Japan Post which arrived at my doorstep lately some perspective of ever being used up.

Japan Post is awesome by the way, mine is the 80 g/sqm weight which is still amazingly fountain pen friendly, with a tiny bit of tooth and a pretty watermark. It's made in Austria and should be widely available in Europe. It only comes in white.

For the notebook I took about 30 sheets of Japan post. Before folding them I made sure to arrange the sheets so the watermark wouldn't always be on the same side. This way I wouldn't have one half of the notebook without any watermarked pages and the other half full of those. It may sound silly, but I like it that way. ;)

For the cover I used a leaf from a wall calender and covered it with some Washi paper which I had decorated with watercolor sprinklings. If you soak the paper first, the color sprinkles will spread nicely. I really like the soft and romantic shades of the watercolors on this paper.

As the cover looked a little too plain by itself I added a ready made label.

After everything was ready I folded sheets and cover - it worked better for me to fold the sheets in small portions, then put them together as opposed to folding the whole wad at once - then punched 4 holes into the spine with hammer and nail and threaded some thick sewing yarn through them. Feels nice and secure and should hold up until the notebook is full and hopefully for some time afterwards.

Ready to write! I really like beautiful watermarks.

The next notebook might get some nice grid printed on the pages. The only problem is I found that some laser printers seem to make paper extra slick and less enjoyable with fountain pens.

Pictures also starring a Caran d'Ache Leman in pink of which I will show some more pictures in due course!

Have you ever made your own notebook? What are your experiences? What did you like most about them?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Golden Autumn: A glimpse at a Danitrio Takumi

I had big plans on taking photos today but all I could manage were a few shots at this beautiful dark green tame-midori Takumi with flexible stub nib.

Danitrio Takumi in tame-midori

Tame-midori is an amazing color, deep and intense. Under cloudy skies or most artificial lighting the color looks quite dark and subtle. To bring out its full range broad daylight is best - on the downside you'll have to deal with dust and fingerprints which, as you can see, are extremely clearly visible on the dark, glossy surface.

Danitrio Takumi in tame-midori

It can also be seen in artificial light (quite a lot of it though) in this post about the Danitrio Octagon.

I am parting with this pen by the way! Very good used condition, minor micro scratches. About the size of a Montblanc 149, cartridge/converter fill, signed by the Urushi artist on the section. Factory flexible stub nib tweaked by John Sorowka for ink flow and smoothness. If you want to give this beautiful piece of art a new home, just drop me a note. :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ink fun: Turquoise

Autumn is here, chilly, rainy and dreary - the time of year where I like to turn to ink in the colors of warm brown, orange, red or green. However, some cheerful turquoise never goes amiss!

Here's a small scale comparison of the three turquoise inks in my possession: Waterman South Sea Blue, Visconti aquamarine and Diamine turqoise.

I played around a bit with Pilot Parallel pens, can't say I'm really a fan yet, I guess I'll have to practice some more... Especially the broader ones are quite demanding when it comes to writing angles and such - not at all like my forgiving stubs and cursive italics!

If not viewed exactly next to each other the inks look very much alike, but there are subtle differences. South Sea Blue is the darkest ink with the most prominent sheen, whereas Vixconti blue is quite light, greener than the other ones and has nearly no sheen at all.

They're all reasonably well behaved - though I've got the feeling that all turquoise inks can a little reluctant flow wise which can lead to trouble when used in pens with the same predisposition. 

I'm planning to do some more comparisons like this one and show you my inks.

Pens: Pilot Parallel Pens 2.4, 3.8 and 6.0 mm
Paper: Le Typographe Belgian Notebook, dot grid (review about Le Typographe)

Pictures also starring a Danitrio Genkai in kuro-tame nuri Urushi.

Do you like and use turquoise inks? Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A glimpse at a Conway Stewart Churchill in Amber

This beauty arrived with me lately. Just a glimpse for now, more to come later. Isn't the color amazing?

Conway Stewart Churchill "Amber"

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Celluloid Goodness: Omas Extra Lucens

Some time has passed since I've written about a pen - but I do have some to show, like this amazing faceted Omas Extra Lucens.

The pen was issued in 2013. 300 pieces were made. The color is labeled as "black" though that hardly covers it. There is black, yes, but it is veined with sparkling golden threads and transparent patches which grant a look at ink reservoir and piston mechanism.

Omas Extra Lucens

I have to say, when I saw it for the first time my thought was "hmm, that's very transparent indeed - do I like that?" Once the large reservoir is full of ink though I like the appearance very much.

Someone on FPN said that it looked like it was made of sugar and felt just as light. I can relate to that thought very much! I think the faceted barrel somehow adds to that. It's only my second modern Omas and I'm hearing their pens generally are on the lightweight side. Also it was very interesting - and, at first, unsettling - to perceive once again what exactly different companies mean by "a quality pen". This mainly reveals itself in details, like the threading of cap and piston. For instance all of my Pelikan's pistons have felt silky smooth. All of my Montblanc's caps have screwed on firmly, soundlessly and felt extremely reassuring. Some of the newer ones even had some added friction fit, as if to say "Okay, you're closing the cap... it's almost fully screwed on, feel the resistance increasing? There... closed. It won't open again unless you choose to, don't worry about that". On the other hand... plastic feeds. "Precious resin". Et cetera.

Omas obviously places their focus on their nibs and the material of cap and barrel. Italian celluloid just seems to be a class for itself and so is this pen. The large, gleaming single-tone nib rests on an equally large ebonite feed. On the other hand, the cap threads have a rough feel to them and the piston knob took quite a bit more than the usual amount of convincing before moving for the first time, and even now that it moves easily enough it's far from the "smooooth" gliding feeling of a German piston filler (or even a TWSBI for that matter).

Omas Extra Lucens

Though I'm usually not a fan of lightweight pens this one is a really nice writer, it's one of those pens that seem to become part of the hand.

Here's a look at the ink reservoir. That turquoise gemstone is Waterman South Sea Blue - which is just the right ink for this pen because the nib is nicely soft, very smooth and very wet. The first ink I filled it with was the very free-flowing Omas Blue and while I like a wet nib as much as anyone the combination was unbearable.

The pen is fitted with a factory broad nib with a negligible amount of line variation. I haven't posted  a writing sample for now because it will make for a nice cursive italic before long.

 Omas Extra Lucens in direct sunlight. 

In direct sunlight the golden veins become very sparkly and prominent; in indirect lighting, however, the pen remains subtle enough to be a daily writer.

Omas Extra Lucens

Next to a Montblanc 149 for reference:

 Omas Extra Lucens and Montblanc Meisterstück 149. 

How do you like this one or Omas pens in general?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sizing up: Namiki Yukari Nightline Moonlight

Someone on FPN asked me for a size comparison of my Namiki Yukari Nightline and I thought I'd share it here as well. The reference pen is a Montblanc 149.

Namiki Yukari Nightline Moonlight and Montblanc 1980's Meisterstück 149.

As you can see they're about equal in length but the Yukari is a little slimmer. Due to its brass body the Yukari still offers a nice weight and beautiful balance. One of these just-perfect pens.