Thursday, February 19, 2009

Buy, Sell & Trade!

If any VPC members have any pens/ink/paper/other writing instrument-related items they would like to buy, sell or trade amongst themselves, please post your item(s) in the Comments section of this post.

I've set up a permanent link to this post in our links list (on the far left of the homepage), so check back frequently to see what new items are added...or better yet---sign up for free email alerts to new blog posts or comments (online form is on our homepage, above the big red Perks logo)

**Please note: this is a VPC club members-only area and any spam and/or solicitations from non-members will be removed immediately. Thank you for your cooperation!**

Monday, February 16, 2009

Exchanging and test-driving inks

Pop quiz! Who can spot the difference between the two vials in the photograph?

Ok, so obviously one has a blue cap and one has a white cap; the one with the blue cap has markings indicating the volume in mL as well as a tapered bottom to accomodate filling even when the ink levels are low; the one with the white cap has a label indicating the brand and colour (the one on the left, incidentally, is Noodler's Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham, made for Sleuth & Statesman in Toronto. When are we going to get a custom ink from Noodler's for Perks, eh? ;)

What won't be obvious to anyone except for me and perhaps a fellow in Cambridge, ON, is that the vial on the left cost over $11.04 to cross this great nation of ours, while the vial on the right, a mere $1.38. That's right, if you were to participate in an ink exchange within Canada, sending a single vial could set you back over $11 (and that's not including the cost of the padded envelope). Strangely, it costs less to send the same vial to the States.

This didn't really sit right with me, and it didn't sit right with dimeotane on the Fountain Pen Network, either. So he decided to do something about it. After I chose one of his inks to try out, he sent out the vial (plus an empty one for me to send back with one of my inks, as I'm fresh out of vials) taped with a bit of painter's tape and placed in a zippered baggie, sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, and stuck in a plain lettermail envelope with three 46 cent stamps (the cost for oversized/irregular mail up to 100g is actually $1.18, but that's ok). And the vials arrived intact, not a drop spilled and not a tear in the envelope. Now it's my turn to send back his choice of ink (Noodler's Eternal Brown, in case you were wondering) and the little experiment is complete!

Of course, this got me thinking, sending out samples of ink is all very fine and well, but I'm pretty sure that the local members probably have a good selection of inks as well. So I'm going to post a link to my ink list on my profile, and if anyone wants to try any of my inks, I'll bring them along to the next meeting. I'll be updating my list as I get more inks, and I invite everyone else to post their list and participate as well!

February meeting details

Date: Thursday February 19th, 2009 (this Thursday)
Time: 6:00 pm --"Meet & Greet" ; 6:30 pm --start of meeting.
Place: Perks pen shop, 5844 Cambie St. (at 42nd), Vancouver, B.C
Theme: Ephemera (in this case: pen store displays, posters, print ads, pamphlets, catalogs, etc.)

Our secondary theme is always "New Acquisitions", so if you have any new pens/paper/inks to show, please bring them along.
Hope to see a good turnout! :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quo Vadis Trinote Agenda Planning Diary

Well, this review is terribly overdue, but a few months back, the lovely folks at Quo Vadis put out a call for reviewers for their diaries and planners. I signed up, but thought I'd gotten overlooked or forgotten in the crowd of eager volunteers as I saw the reviews start to roll in, while my own free planner was nowhere in sight... Turns out our good friends at Canada Post and possibly Canada Customs (and I suppose, the busy Christmas season) were to blame, as I did eventually receive my Trinote, several weeks after the postmarked date. That's life, I suppose. Anyway, I've had a chance to use the Trinote planner for a few weeks now, and here are my impressions.

First of all, the Trinote comes in a few different cover options- I received the black soya, but there's also colourful vinyl and " Club" covers, as well as Chelsea and Nappa leather. The covers are reusable/refillable, so if you were to buy the (presumably more expensive) leather covers, you can just buy the refills or a (possibly cheaper) vinyl covered planner in subsequent years. I'm not sure about the availability of the different cover options in Canada (or at least the Metro Vancouver area). Trinote is offered at Staples, at about $27 CAD, but I think I only saw the vinyl option in black. I have seen other Quo Vadis planners at Chapters with some of the more colourful covers, but I can't recall seeing the Trinote there. The soya cover is lightly textured to mimic leather, and is stitched all the way around. There's a nice thickness to it, and it doesn't have the stickiness that vinyl typically has.

At 18 x 24 cm (or 7.25 inches by 9.5 inches), the Trinote is a bit big for a purse, but would probably fit comfortably in a briefcase or laptop case as it's not too thick. Although I have been carrying it around in my backpack, I think it's really more of a desktop size for me. When I did carry it around with me, I found it too cumbersome to pull out while on the go.

Here you can get a sense of the size relative to a Lamy Safari, a Pelikan M200, and a pocket Moleskine diary.

One interesting thing about the planner is that there's a little blurb that tells you how to effectively use it. Honestly, it's somewhat intuitive, but it's kind of nice to see it in writing, all the same. Of course, it's another matter entirely whether you actually follow the "rules"...

The layout of Trinote really works for me. You get the week across a two page spread, with space for notes and special reminders (who to call, fax, e-mail, things to do, expenses), and daily priorities.

Most important for me is the vertical daily layout, broken down into quarter hour segments. A lot of planners only go down to half hour or even only full hour segments, but I work for a consulting firm where we need to bill our time accordingly to our clients and projects, and sometimes I really do just spend 15 minutes on one thing before having to jump to another project. Admittedly, trying to squeeze in some detail like who I did the work for, and what I did into that bit of space isn't the greatest, but it's better than nothing, and it's usually just a few key words to jog my memory when I'm inputting my hours into the system.

An example of my work week. I attempted to make use of the priorities as well as the "See-Do" sections.

If you squint, you might be able to make out that I had VPC (Vancouver Pen Club!) written in on the 15th- I didn't actually manage to make it to the meeting though. Nor did I attend the a meeting I had written down for the 14th. Does that mean I should have crossed them out? Perhaps...

In amongst the miscellaneous bits of information that planners and agendas often have (maps, phone codes, international holidays, min and max avergae monthly temperatures around the world?? then again Moleskines have things like international shoe sizes, so who am I to say...) the Trinote also has a removable phone book tucked into the back pocket of the cover.

I don't imagine I'll get much use out of it, but I just wanted to draw your attention to this cute little bit of detail in the notes section: a wee little fountain pen motif.

...which begs the question, just how fountain-pen friendly is this paper? Quo Vadis advertises itself as having "absolutely fabulous paper", and apparently it is by Clairefontaine. I've been a Clairefontaine fan for a few years now, and Trinote boasts the bright white, silky smooth paper that I've come to expect.

I think it's a lighter weight paper than in the notebooks I've used in the past, though, as I've experienced some bleed through, as evidenced here.* (I had to turn off the flash to show the bleed through, which is why the paper doesn't look white here).

Note that I do have a preference for wetter pens (this was written with a Richard Binder 0.7 oblique cursive italic VP nib), but even with a drier pen I've noticed some bleed through. I've had very little feathering, although one time I tried to write with a gusher of a flex nib and that did feather quite a bit.

My overall impressions of the Trinote is that the layout and formatting really jives with the way I think and work. Whether it's helping me be better organized is debatable, but really, it's just a tool to do the job, I have to actually put in the effort myself! The paper is a bit on the thin side, but the bleed through is tolerable for me, especially since I'm using the planner mostly to keep track of my time and what I've been working on. If I were getting this kind of bleed through on a journal or notebook, I think I would be more put off.* I'm not a big fan of the reminder section on the right hand side- I either never use it, or else I have to many things in the "See - Do" section. Happily, I've found that a standard Post-It fits nicely in that area without overlapping the vertical formatting of the daily schedule, and let's face it, Post-Its reign supreme in my world, so I tend to jot things down on the yellow stickies and move them along week to week as necessary. I'm also not a big fan of the corners that you're supposed to tear off to keep your place in the planner. I always seem to forget to tear them off, and I would prefer a ribbon bookmark attached to the cover, especially since the covers are reusable. Heck, I might end up stitching a bit of ribbon on there myself.

Another thing I find peculiar is that it's a thirteen month planner, running from December to December. The problem I have is that you're going to be duplicating December, whether you continue to use refills of this planner, or like in my case, you're moving from a different planner brand to this one. I didn't even touch December 2008 in my Trinote because I was still working away in my old planner (and ok, also because I didn't get the Trinote until January, but still). And next year, if I get another Trinote, I'll be neglecting December in either this book or the new one. It just seems kind of wasteful, doesn't it? Finally, the daily schedule runs from 8am to 9pm, so if your day starts or ends beyond those times, then you're out of luck. Personally, I would prefer that the day went a bit shorter (say until 7 or 8pm) but that there was more vertical room per hour and thus more room to write.

So I guess the question is, would I buy this planner for next year? It's debatable. While I like the smoothness of the paper and fact that my hours are broken down into quarters, I'm not sure that it's enough to justify spending close to $30. Then again, I've spent several times that amount this year already on pens that I may never use, so maybe I need to rethink that argument! I do think that I'll buy another Quo Vadis planner next year, even if it's not this one. I might go for something smaller that I can carry around with me in my purse or pocket, if I can find one that still allows for 15 minute breakdowns.

Would I recommend it to someone else? Yes, if paper quality and organizational tips are important to you. Just make sure that your schedule is reflected in the daily formatting, or else it won't be of much use to you!

Thanks again to Karen Doherty and Leah Hoffman at Quo Vadis/Exaclair for giving me this opportunity!

February 16 Update:

Regarding my issues with bleedthrough and my thoughts that the Trinote has thinner paper than standard Clairefontaine notebooks, Karen Doherty (VP Marketing at Exaclair) wrote to me to set me straight on the facts: apparently the Trinote is in fact made with the same 90 g paper that's used in the notebooks! I'm not sure why I noticed the bleedthrough more on the diary, but it could be that in a notebook (like the one I use to copy down recipes into) I tend to write continuously across the entire page, whereas in the journal I may only jot down a few key words or times in "chunks" down the page, leaving gaps of untouched paper which shows the ink through from the other side. And of course it could be the pen and ink combination.

*I went to take a look at my recipe book and sure enough, slight bleedthrough, or at least visibility of what's written on the other side. But obviously it wasn't noticeable enough for me to complain about until now! Funny, isn't it? In any case, I stand corrected and take back my gripes about the paper thinness!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Staples bagasse paper, Cross Townsend Medalist

For anyone who's been reading the FPN posts on the new Staples bagasse ("Eco-Friendly") paper, it's available at the Staples on West Broadway near Granville. They have notebooks, three-ring binder refills, and pads. The paper takes fountain pen ink quite nicely and also dries more quickly than something dense like Clairefontaine or Rhodia.

It's not perfect - there can be a bit of bleed with really wet-writing pens and the paper also tends to rumple up a bit - but it's a lot cheaper than a lot of the alternatives and I think it's definitely worth checking out.

I'll try to remember to bring one of the books to the next VPC meeting.

That Staples also has a single Cross Townsend Medalist for $87, which is a good deal considering the online price seems to be more like US $110-120. There were two but I bought one of them. I may post a couple of pictures. First impressions are good - it's been a little bit skippy but a flush helped, and the M nib is very smooth and actually a little bit stublike. It's a heavy metal-bodied pen, but most of the weight's in the cap and it balances quite nicely in the hand unposted. The nib and trim are gold-plated steel.