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Notebooks from Singaporean brands

While browsing through the stationery section in shops, I came across some local stationary brands that are new to me. So like any curious fountain pen user, I bought some notebooks to try out.

A6 notebooks from wheniwasfour

A6 notebooks from wheniwasfour

First up are the cute notebooks from wheniwasfour.

I bought these A6 notebooks from Tokyu Hands for S$6.50 each. I love the cute covers and and bought more than I need. The Sumoburo series is super cute.

Inside are 96 pages (or 48 if you only write on one side) of 80gsm blank paper. The paper is not totally white and contained a few specks of black sprinkled throughout the page. In light inks, you can still see the black specks showing up in the writing. This makes the writing look spotty and irritates me. So I will only use darker inks with this notebook.

Comparison of writing with different pens on notebook paper

Despite not being meant for fountain pen use, it holds up pretty well. There is a little feathering.There is a bit of bleedthrough in medium nibs so I will keep to EF or F nibs for this notebook. There is also a little bleedthrough from the 0.7mm Pilot Juice gel pen.

I got these notebooks from Tokyo Hands months ago so I’m not sure if the outlets still stock them. The notebooks are also available on wheniwasfour website, where they also sell other non-stationery items like apparels, bags or house decor.

footnotes from Labrador Publishing House

footnotes notebooks from Labrador Publishing House

footnotes are a range of fountain pen friendly A6 notebooks made by Labrador Publishing House. Besides the minimalist-looking series of What’s a Little Rain and It is Only After Noon, there is also the very colourful and nostalgic cover of A Very Curious Cabinet.

Inside cover of footnotes notebook

I bought It is Only After Noon which was sold in a pack of 3 for S$12.90 at Overjoyed. Inside are 96 pages (or 48 if you only write on one side) of 100gsm blank paper. Inside the front cover, it is indicated as being friendly to fountain pen, pencil and watercolour brush and what looks like a gel pen.

Comparison of writing with different pens on notebook paper

I did a quick writing test and there is no feathering or bleedthrough from the fountain pens. There is only a tiny bit of bleedthrough from the Pilot Juice 0.7mm gel pen. I feel the colours also look better on footnotes’ paper. I will do more writing samples in this notebook so look out for those in the future.

The notebooks are available from Labrador Publishing House and CityLuxe. Besides notebooks, Labrador Publishing House also sell books, art prints and cards on their website.

Sticker from Pastel & Pines

Sunfish sticker from Pastel & Pines

This is not a notebook but I bought it at around the same time from Tokyu Hands so I’m adding it in.

Tan Yiling is the Singapore-based illustrator and designer behind Pastel & Pines. I love her sea creatures stickers which are based on her watercolour illustrations. They are so pretty that it’s hard to just buy one. I stood for a long time at the display, choosing which one to buy. Well, you know which one won.

You can see her illustrations on her website and buy the stickers from her etsy shop.

Disclaimer: The items were purchased by me and all opinions/photos are my own. This post was not sponsored.

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One Year Later: The fountain pens I’ve bought

In May 2020, I bought a fountain pen. Well technically, I ordered the pen in April but due to the pandemic, shipping was delayed for a month. At that time, I thought all I needed was just one fountain pen. Then I bought a second one. And a third.

Now one year later, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the fountain pens that I’ve bought in my first year. All of them are steel nibs and apart from one, all are under S$100. The fountain pens below are in chronological order of purchase.

My fountain pens

1) TWSBI ECO-T in Mint Blue

TWSBI ECO-T in mint blue

This is my first fountain pen.

While the general advice for beginners is to start with a cartridge fountain pen, I decided to get a piston filler instead. Too many bad memories of practising calligraphy in secondary school with a cheap calligraphy pen has spoilt my appetite for cartridges.

I love this pen. I love seeing the ink slushing around the transparent barrel. When I was sitting at the desk, I found myself picking up the pen every once in a while to look at the ink flowing in the barrel.

Close up of Jinhao fude/bent nib

This pen is now fitted with a Jinhao fude nib. I lost the original nib by carelessly leaving it in the sink while I was cleaning the pen. A quick turn of the tap and the nib disappeared down the drain. When I bought a fude nib, I decided to put it in this pen.

I’ve tried writing with the nib but it looked better in drawings. I didn’t use it daily but the cap seal was good and I didn’t experienced any hard starts even after leaving it for weeks. The fude nib gave the drawing a brush-like feel which was lovely to look at.

2) TWSBI Diamond 580 ALR in Prussian Blue

TWSBI Diamond 580 ALR in prussian blue

About a month after I bought the TWSBI ECO-T, TWSBI released the Diamond 580 ALR in Prussian Blue. I loved the shade of blue on this pen and struggled for a month before finally giving in and buying it.

I got it in the fine nib which complemented the medium nib on the ECO-T. I love the medium nib, but the line it lays down can be a bit too thick, especially with the passport-size monthly planner layout in the Traveler’s Notebook.

This pen is used daily to note and keep track of stuff.

3) Pilot Kakuno

Pilot Kakuno in red and grey colours

I didn’t need this pen.

But I bought it anyway (on 3 February 2021).

In the beginning of 2021, I was feeling rather stressed and needed some distraction. My hands were itching for a new toy and I wanted something cheerful without spending a lot of money. A fountain pen for kids seemed to fit the bill.

Being a Pilot fan (I love my G1 despite all its flaws), I’ve always wanted a Pilot fountain pen. (I’m actually eyeing a Custom Heritage but I’m not about to pay a few hundreds for a fountain pen yet. *cue ironic laughter* You will see why later) This was one of the cheaper fountain pens available and it helped that the nib was identical to the more expensive Pilot Metropolitan.

Close up of a Pilot Kakuno fine nib

Besides, who can say no to that smiley face?

This pen has a Japanese fine nib. I used the cartridge that came with the pen. When the ink ran out, I refilled the cartridge with Monteverde Jade Noir. This wasn’t one of my preferred inks but I really liked it in this pen.

Because it was fairly cheap (compared to other fountain pens) and made of study plastic, I was comfortable leaving it in the office. I didn’t like the thin lines from this nib at first but found it’s perfect for quickly scribbling down meeting notes on non-fountain-pen-friendly paper.

4) Jinhao X450

Jinhao X450 in marble blue

I ordered this pen soon after buying the Pilot Kakuno. I was looking for a fountain pen with a fude nib and came across an online listing for the Jinhao X450. It was listed as being fitted with a fude nib but when it arrived, it just had an ordinary (medium?) nib.

The nib was a bit scratchy at first. I gently pushed the tines with my fingernail to align them, which seemed to solve the scratchiness problem. It was a wet writer so I decided to keep it, and placed an order for just the fude nib. I thought about putting the fude nib in this pen but I ended up putting it in the nib-less TWSBI ECO-T.

This pen is mainly used for writing in my journal. I used it alternatively with pen no. 6 so it wasn’t inked up all the time.

5) TWSBI ECO-T in Mint Blue no. 2

TWSBI ECO-T in mint blue

I ordered this pen after I lost the nib of the original TWSBI ECO-T. I took a look at all the other colours available for both the ECO and ECO-T but none really appealed to me. Mint blue was still the best colour in my book and why settle for second best? So I got it in the same colour again. I am really not good at making decisions under distress.

This pen is now used for all the writing samples shown on this site.

6) Jason Neil Penworks Tucker model in vintage glass resin

Beginning of 2021, I started following a few artisan fountain pen makers on instagram. I enjoyed looking at the pens they made. While some pens totally fit with my aesthetic, the price for a hand-turned pen is a deterrent. You have to remember that up until now, my pens all cost under S$100 (US$75). Paying over US$200 for a pen, even if it was a beautifully handcrafted one, felt really daunting.

Then Jason Miller from Jason Neil Penworks posted this image on Instagram:

I really, really, REALLY, like the look of the vintage glass resin.

After this post, I kept checking Jason’s instagram to see if if there were any updates to the pen. But cruelly (and totally unintentional on Jason’s part), Jason worked on other pens and didn’t post any more WIP photos of the vintage glass resin pen until about a month later.

I was captivated by the look of the finished pen, but at the same time, I was also really hesitant because it was quite a sum of money. I kept checking back at every opportunity to see if the pen had been sold, thinking that if it was gone, at least I could stop pining for it. I kept talking about the pen until my normally super patient friend ran out of patience and told me to contact the penmaker.

After a few messages with Jason, I bought the pen. It took a while for the pen to arrive, shipping being what they are in these pandemic times.

Tucker model in vintage glass resin from Jason Neil Penworks

This pen look stunning and I love minimalist look of it. (You can see more beautiful photos of this pen on Jason’s instagram. He’s a much better photographer than I am.)

I alternate between this pen and the Jinhao X450 for writing in my journal. Recently I discovered a crack in the nib housing so this pen would be on a break until I managed to get a new housing.

What’s next?

One day I would like to buy a gold nib fountain pen. Perhaps when the pandemic is over, I will fly to Japan for a holiday. It seemed fitting to buy a Japanese gold nib pen (either a Pilot or Sailor/Bungubox) when I am in the country, to commemorate both the end of the pandemic and my trip.

Until that day comes, maybe I’ll buy other nibs to put in the TWSBI Diamond 580 ALR or Tucker model. There are a lot of options out there and I think it will be fun to try out the various nibs.

Disclaimer: The fountain pens were purchased by me and all opinions/photos are my own, except where stated. This post was not sponsored.

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My fountain pen drawings in 2020

A lookback at what I drew using fountain pens last year. Sometimes I am inspired by the ink colour, sometimes I just want to draw. In total, I did 12 drawings which averaged out to one a month. I only post the drawings on my Instagram account because I thought it would be neater this way. Let me know if this is something you would like to see here as well.

I haven’t drawn using pen and paper for a few years. In some ways, it feels like trying to ride a bicycle again. You have done it before, you know how to do it, but your motor skills are rusty and you are afraid of falling. It takes a while to gain the confidence to get going again.

A fountain pen feels different from the gel pens I love so much but the adjustment was more painless than I had expected. The idea of putting ink directly onto paper, without having a pencil draft first, was much more terrifying and even now, I am not entirely comfortable doing so.

Lamy turquoise was the first ink I bought and I still think it is a beautiful colour.

The ink made me drew this.

I haven’t done a version 2 and I really should. It might be better suited as a digital drawing though.

This was one of those times where the ink colour inspired me to draw. I made several mistakes in this picture and it was an exercise in letting go (of the fear of making mistakes) and just rolling with it.

Tried to draw this is in a vintage children’s book style. Not a fan of the ink’s greenish tone but it did lend a vintage air to the picture.

I used a pencil to mark out the spots in the sky for stars, but everything else was drawn directly with ink onto paper. Drawing this picture took so much out of me that I didn’t feel like drawing for the next few weeks.

This picture was drawn using both sides of the nib.

This was not my usual style but I thought it suited the ink colour.

I loved this ink. Never would have thought that I would like orange so much.

Tried to do something different and the results were encouraging. Still a lot to learn though.

Last drawing for the year. A friend commented that the tree looked like a bacteria. Which was somewhat fitting for a year like this? (Yes, I know COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria.)

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My notebook setup for 2021

At the beginning of this year, I bought a Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook in passport size. At that time, I didn’t have high hopes. I haven’t used a notebook since I left school and the thought of using one frequently, much less carrying around with me, would be something that stick.

But stick it did.

My 2021 setup

Now at the end of the year, I am been thinking about how I want to use it for next year. The current setup worked well for what I wanted to do. If not broken, don’t try to fix it, eh?

My setup for 2021 consist of 3 main categories:

  1. Logbook for noting down what happened that day. I bought a few different formats to try out in 2021: grid, blank and dot grid.
  2. Monthly planner. I’ve have been using the undated monthly planner and I decided to replace it with the 2021 dated monthly planner.
  3. Scratch pad for jotting down bits of information that do not fall in the first two. This has to be blank because I will also doodle.

One new thing I wanted to start in 2021 is to keep a diary. I’ve sort of been doing it using the logbook but I wanted to try keeping a proper diary. So I bought a MD Notebook Journal Codex 1 Day 1 Page to use in 2021. There’s 368 pages in the book so it will really force me to think of something to write everyday.

The cover of the codex is made of plain card stock and will patina with use and age. While the idea is appealing, I also like things looking (fairly) new while using them. So I bought a clear plastic cover to protect it. It can age and patina quietly in storage when 2021 is over.

There is a small booklet that comes with the codex. It talks about the making of and types of Midori notebooks. I think it is done well.