Goulet Pen Company

At the bottom of most of my product reviews, you see an affiliate link to Amazon.com. In general, however, this is not where I originally purchased the item I am reviewing. It’s there simply as a quick link to the product for people who may want to order it like, RIGHT NOW.

As I’ve noted in other blog entries, I support shopping locally. Fairbanks, Alaska, where I live, has a great store in If Only…, where I will often grab pens, inks and paper. It is my favorite local store.

But sometimes I want something that they may not have in stock. In those cases I tend to order from the Goulet Pen Company. I swear, if they had an affiliate program, I’d replace that Amazon link in an instant! I absolutely love this company.

Located in Ashland, Virginia (a few miles north of Richmond), the company is primarily an online retailer. I’m not even sure if you can shop at the Ashland location. Their inventory includes pens from many manufacturers, as well as paper, inks and other writing accessories. Overall, they have a great and varied selection.

Customer service and shipping are top notch. I’ve placed three orders from the company so far and each has arrived meticulously packed (you can see some photos below). A personal note is written on each packing slip using one of the inks they have for sale, which they identify. Only rarely have I seen this level of detail and care from a company. Each package also contains a bookmark with the company information, a small card and, for the sweet tooth, a Tootsie pop. What more could you ask for!

So, while I do encourage people to shop locally first, if you can’t find something you are looking for, or if you are interested in a more varied selection, check out Goulet Pen Company.

Goulet Pens Package

A typical package, well padded!

Goulet Pens Wrapped Package

Oooooh, bubblewrap. My inner child is soooo tempted.

Goulet Pens Wrapped Package

Final layer of this onion. A tight plastic wrap prevents things from moving around.

 

 

10 Dec 2013

Diamine Red Dragon

It seems that I am on an ink kick. Most of my reviews, so far, have been about pens. Given the URL of this site, that makes sense, but I have always wanted to do more than just talk about pens. Ink is at the very heart of writing.

Diamine is a British company that has been around since the mid-19th century. They manufacture inks for a number of different purposes, of which pen ink is only one of several. You can also find them in industrial printing and stamp pads. They have a pretty wide spectrum of colors.

Diamine Red Dragon

Overview

Originally, I was going to pick up another Noodler’s Ink in red, but decided it might be more fun to try another company. Diamine has a number of different reds, but I liked the darkness of Red Dragon and ordered a bottle. For this review, I inked up one of my Lamy Joys with a 1.1mm nib.

Diamine Red Dragon SampleIt is, indeed, a dark ink. It’s nearly black in areas that receive a lot of ink. Shading is excellent. Click the image above for a better view. This is another fairly “wet” ink, at least at this line width, still showing some smudging after 15-20 seconds. With a fine nib, there seems to be less shading and the color is noticeably brighter, though still a fairly dark red.

One note: When loaded into a pen with a fine nib, I have noticed that if I have the pen uncapped and I’m not writing for a few minutes, it can dry in the nib. I have to do some quick doodles to get it flowing again. I did not notice this at all with the 1.1mm Lamy Joy.

Final Word

This is another ink that I have fallen in love with. The color is beautiful. I’ve found myself journaling with this ink loaded into a .3mm nib pen (the free pen that came with the Noodler’s Apache Sunset.) The journal has a cream colored paper that doesn’t seem to affect the overall tone of the ink. If you are looking for a dark red ink, this one is a winner.

26 Nov 2013

Noodler’s Apache Sunset

I was first turned on to Noodler’s Ink by a post at the Something Awful forums. I know, that seems like a weird place to get information on ink. However, in the Ask/Tell forum, there is an excellent thread on fountain pens with many experienced pen users. It has been quite informative.

Noodler's Apache Sunset

Now, there are a lot of opinions about the guy who makes these inks, and I’m going to shy away from those here. This is a review of the ink, not the man behind it. Suffice it to say, he creates inks that have a permanence to them. There are numerous “bulletproof” inks in the Noodler’s line that are essentially “removal proof”, meaning you can’t remove the ink through any conventional means. You’d destroy the paper before the ink went away.

This is not one of those inks. But I have no true need of absolute permanence. If you’re curious about which inks are, there is an Ink Properties chart on the Noodler’s website.

Overview

I picked up this ink a simple reason; I love the color. It is actually quite dynamic, ranging from a bright yellow to a darker red depending on the amount of ink put down. In practice, a wetter pen will put down a darker line, but even my fine point Lamy Al-Star showed shading in the letters. It really does remind me of a sunset. A friend of mine also suggested fire, which I can see, as well.

This is a pretty “wet” ink. It can take some time to dry, depending upon the paper you use. In a small Clairefontaine notebook I carry around, it took 20 seconds before the ink stopped smearing. The pen was a TWSBI Diamond 580 M nib.

Noodler's Apache Sunset Writing Sample

Final Word

I love this ink and would definitely recommend it. The color is beautiful and dynamic. Shading is excellent. I have now tried it in my Lamy Al-Star, Lamy Joy and TWSBI Diamond without any issues.

Noodlers Ink 3Oz Apache Sunset


New From: $12.50 USD In Stock

11 Nov 2013

Writing And Essential Tremor

My full time job is writing the code behind websites. As a web developer, one of my favorite things to do is look at how people are finding the pages I create. This extends beyond work to the blogs I run. Key words are important, and seeing what words people search for helps a developer cater sites to specific needs.

In looking at the key words that people finding this site are using, I was surprised to see “essential tremor” pop up enough to be in the top five searches. I have only mentioned it in a couple of posts. I figure it might be a good idea to make a post specific to this topic and how it affects me, specifically, in connection with my fascination with writing.

Let’s start with some background.

What is Essential Tremor?

Wikipedia has an excellent article on essential tremor. At its core, essential tremor is a neuro-muscular disorder which results in the rhythmic shaking of the extremities, particularly during voluntary movement or times of stress. It is one of the most common movement disorders and it’s estimated that 4% of the population age 40 or older have it, though that number may be under-reported as many people who have it may not realize it or attribute it to other things.

No one seems to quite be sure what causes it. Some studies have linked genetic regions to the disorder, but there are others who suggest environmental toxins could be at work.

My Background

I suspect I first began noticing signs of essential tremor during puberty, though I mostly attributed it to caffeine. Caffeine is considered a “trigger” that can worsen the symptoms. Any stimulant can have that affect, but caffeine was my particular vice.

Essential tremor is often degenerative, so over time it gradually got worse. As I got older, I noticed it more frequently, for example, when I was hungry – low blood sugar being a trigger, or during times of (*ahem*) intimacy – physical exertion and strong emotions, more triggers. Eventually, I figured it was time to figure out what the heck was wrong. After a series of movement based tests, I was diagnosed with essential tremor.

So, let’s bring this back to writing

Essential tremor can kill your handwriting. I have always had bad handwriting, even before the onset of essential tremor. I was a pretty lazy learner as a kid, doing only what was necessary and little more. I suppose it didn’t help that I had vision problems and didn’t get glasses until the third or fourth grade (I honestly can’t remember! I know that first pair of glasses where big, thick plastic things with the Pink Panther on the side, but not quite when I got them.) By then, my handwriting was already a disaster.

Now, take that horrible handwriting and begin putting at first imperceptible wobbles in it. Make those wobbles bigger as time goes on. Yeah, you get handwriting that only the writer can read.

A decade ago this month, I started working on improving my handwriting thus sparking an interest in pens leading inevitably to this site. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit… But let’s see where I was then and where I am now.

Handwriting Comparison

I’d say that is an improvement. Back then, to compensate for the tremor, I wrote very quickly. The lettering looks rushed and generally illegible. Below you will find my tips to improving your handwriting if you have essential tremor (or, hey, even if you don’t.)

Roger’s 5 Tips For Improving Your Writing

  1. BUY THIS BOOK! This link is NOT an affiliate link. I gain nothing by recommending it. When I decided to start working on my handwriting, this is the book I picked up. It guides you through italic lettering, a concise, legible letter face. There are many exercises as well as trivia that keeps everything interesting. Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay are handwriting experts who have put out several excellent books. They know their stuff. Your handwriting will be better by the end of the book whether you work with italic or another writing style simply by following their excellent advice.
  2. Slow Down. I used to write fast in the hopes it would overcome the tremor. But writing fast is a poor trade-off. Sure, you get fewer jiggles but you simply can’t write well fast. Everything looks rushed and sloppy. This may not be a problem if you are dashing off notes that only you will read, but it’s a poor choice for letter writing or anything, really, that you want to have longevity.
  3. Use a Wet Pen. A wet pen is one that puts down a lot of ink. Generally, this means using a fountain pen or gel pen, as ball-points tend to have a thicker consistency. A wet pen helps to smooth out lettering as the ink is absorbed by the paper. Some papers don’t take to a wet pen very well, feathering the ink which can make your writing illegible. Test combinations to see what works best for you. A wet pen also helps with point number two, as you will write more slowly as the ink dries.
  4. Write In Comfort. Stress and physical discomfort can make essential tremor worse. This will show up in your writing. Find a comfortable place to write away from distractions. I tend to curl up on my couch or sit at a desk specifically for writing, depending on my mood. Music can be handy if you are in a noisy environment.
  5. Write Frequently. Nothing helps improve your writing like practice. If you don’t already, take up daily journaling. You may not feel like you have something important to say everyday, but don’t worry. No one is telling you that you have to be verbose. Just write something. I have plenty of dull journal entries. The important thing here is simply practicing.

30 Oct 2013

Sheaffer VFM

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Sheaffer. I wanted to make sure I got a review of one of their pens this year, and I’m glad I did!

Sheaffer VFM Fountain Pen

I first saw the Sheaffer VFM while browsing my favorite local store, If Only…, looking for something else. I check the pen cabinets every time I go, and this time this little pen came home with me.

Now, when I say little pen, I mean visually. It is a very simple design that appears unobtrusive; a basic tapered cylinder for barrel and cap, and clip. Not a lot to it, yet even in its simplicity it has a rather elegant style. The barrel comes in a number of different colors.

Details

This is a metal bodied pen with a weight you would expect from a metal pen of this size. The pen body comes in a number of colors to match any preference. I picked up a Maximum Orange body, which suited the Fall mood. The store did not have Shaeffer refills in the Universal cartridge that this pen takes. I filled it with a J. Herbin Universal refill in Bleu Nuit.

The nib is steel and can be found in Fine and Medium. The medium nib I chose writes with about the same width as Lamy’s fine tips.

Sheaffer VFM Nib

The Sheaffer VFM with ink cartridge weighs in at 20.4 grams. Closed, it’s just shy of 5.5″ long. Open and posted, it is a tad over 6″. Don’t post your pens? Open without the cap, it is 4.75″.

In Use

Before I open my mouth and reveal myself as the new-found Sheaffer fan-boy that I am, let me state that I bought this pen purely out of curiosity. I liked its clean looks, but that was all I knew about the pen. That said, this pen has become my daily use pen, pushing aside my Lamy Al-Star at home and my Parker Jotter at work. Let me tell you why…

First and likely foremost, this is one durable pen. The body has a nice, solid feel to it. There are few edges, and no sharp corners that could catch on anything, and this includes the clip. Its edges are all rounded, so nothing to poke. Why is this important to me? It makes it comfortable to carry in pants pockets. This means it is with me where ever I go.

While it took a bit to get the ink to flow the first time I inserted a cartridge, it has never skipped since. Lines are clean and react nicely to differing pressures, laying down a clean line. With the J. Herbin ink, this means you can shade letters and drawings.

Sheaffer VFM writing sample

Pros

Among many, it is an inexpensive pen. I see them on Amazon for between $15 and $17. I paid a bit over $16 locally, which puts it right in that range. Not a fan of fountain pens? The Sheaffer VFM can also be found in ballpoint and roller-ball versions. This is also one tough pen, a thick metal body making up the bulk of the pen. I throw mine in my pocket with loose change and it has yet to scratch the surface.

Cons

I’ve only found two items I would consider cons. First, the cap, when posted, seems a bit loose. I can wobble it around. The cap has a plastic inner liner that should hold it snug against the pen barrel, but even if I press it as tightly as I can, after a while it works loose and begins to wobble again. Not really that big a deal for me as I can write fine, posted or not. Usually, I simply don’t post the cap.

The second may be primarily an issue with local availability. Since this pen takes Universal cartridges, I’ve found myself oddly limited with the local shops. I can only find Universal cartridge ink by J. Herbin locally. While they do have an excellent selection of colors, I’d like to try other brands before settling on an ink. I’ll likely have to shop online to either find other Universal cartridges, or a piston/plunger converter.

Final Word

As noted above, this has become my work-horse pen. I carry it everywhere. If the style fits yours, it is definitely worth picking up. At less than $20, it certainly won’t break the bank.

VFM Strobe Maxiumum Orange Fountain pen 9409-0


New From: $17.99 USD In Stock

26 Oct 2013

Lamy Refill Converter

Part of the fun of owning fountain pens is trying out the many different inks that are available. Unfortunately, if a pen has a specific refill cartridges, you may be stuck to a limited color set. Additionally, those cartridges are generally made of plastic and eventually thrown away. Combined with disposable pens, the amount of pen-based plastic thrown away in a year is likely a depressing statistic.

I love my Lamy pens and decided to order their refill converter for their Al-Star, Joy and Safari pens. It arrived recently and I immediately put it to use.

Lamy Refill Converter Z25

Lamy Converter SlottedThe converter snaps into place in the pen using small posts that fit snugly into small clips on the front portion of the pen. A small rubber gasket at the front of the converter prevents leaks. There is not a lot of wiggle room here, the converter, at least in my pen, was secure with very little movement.

Once inserted, it is very simple to use. Dip the pen in your chosen ink up to the grip. Turn the red portion of the converter counter-clockwise to lower the piston until it stops. Now turn the red portion clockwise, and it will draw in fresh ink. Like I said, pretty simple.

When done, you can wipe off the nib with a soft cloth or tissue. You may need to wipe the grip, as well, if you got it into the ink like I did when I first tried this.

Some things to note about these converters. First, you will not get the volume of ink as you would with a disposable refill. I don’t mind that trade off, since I am no longer wasting plastic. Second, be sure to clean it from time to time, and particularly if you are switching ink types or colors.

Lamy RefilledLamy Converter Installed

I really like this converter and they are now in place in my three Lamy pens. They have opened up a whole new world of inks, all of which I hope to write about in the future.

Lamy Safari Converter Z24 (z24-l)


New From: $4.95 USD In Stock

16 Oct 2013

Zebra Telescopic

A bit of back-story. I was going through some boxes that I’d long ago stashed in a closet when I found a little blue pen. I don’t recall when I purchased it, though it must have been at least 10 years ago. The pen was a blue-bodied Zebra Telescopic, and it still worked. Surprised by this, I went out to see if the pen was still in production. Sure enough, I found them at Office Max.

Zebra Telescopic

Now, I can’t for the life of me think of any situation where having a pen that can make itself two inches shorter would ever be of utmost priority. In fact, it seems really gimmicky to me. That said, it is a nifty little pen.

Details

Zebra Telescopic TipsThe Zebra Telescopic is a steel bodied pen that has a retraction mechanism that both makes the pen about an inch and a half shorter and covers the pen tip for protection. At full length, the pen is 5.25 inches while retracted it is 3.75 inches. Not a horribly big difference, and you can’t write when it is retracted, making me wonder what the point is.

The pen can be refilled, though finding new cartridges can prove difficult if shopping locally. The Zebra Telescopic has a sturdy steel clip. The tip is a 1mm ballpoint. It can be found in blue, black and red ink, though, locally, I have only seen it in black.

 

In Use

Zebra Telescopic Writing SampleThe Zebra Telescopic is a smooth writing ballpoint pen. Lines are clean, though it took a bit to get the ink flowing in the new pen. The Telescopic has a textured metal grip which makes it easy to hold on to. It’s a pretty light pen for being made of stainless steel.

The black ink of the newer pen does appear to be slightly lighter than the old pen. Not sure if that is just a result of the prolonged storage of the old pen, or a difference in ink formulation between the two. The older pen did have some skipping. The newer pen showed some, but considerably less than the older one.

Pros

What can you say for a pen that sits for a decade but still performs well? This pen certainly has longevity on its side. I guess in a way the ability to retract to a smaller size is a pro. It’s certainly not a con, but does seem a bit like a useless gimmick. This pen can be refilled, which is a nice plus.

Cons

Probably the biggest con is the limited number of color options: Black, Blue and Red are your only choices. I’ll add the difficulty in finding refills to that list. I can’t find them locally. You can, however, find them on Amazon.com.

Final Word

The Zebra Telescopic is a fine pen, but I find the ability to “telescope” a pen a useless feature. You can certainly find comparable ballpoints without this feature in the same price range. I’ll admit to finding a pen that still writes like new after sitting for a decade rather cool, though. The stainless steel pen body is quite robust and can take some abuse.

 

08 Oct 2013

TUL GL1 Retractable

I make no secret of my dislike for gel pens. I find the ink dries to slowly making it easy to smear. I have had several that leaked, or often needed the tip cleaned before use. In general, I avoid them.

TUL GL1

There is one, however, that I use often; the TUL GL1. This is my go to pen for editing. When I’m writing on my computer, I will occasionally print out my work and go at it with a red pen. You know, like your teacher used to do to your term papers. A red pen just seems natural for editing.

So, let’s have a look at this pen and why I think of all the gel pens I’ve used, I find it a keeper.

Details

The TUL GL1 is a plastic bodied pen with a rubber grip. It comes in a number of colors and tip sizes, so finding one to match your writing style should be fairly easy. The GL1 is a fairly light pen.

In Use

TUL GL1 writing sample

I use the GL1 primarily in red for editing. I have done some note taking with it, and find that unlike most gel pens I’ve used, the ink dries quickly and does not smear. Ink flows smoothly with no skips. The red ink is vibrant, which is why I use it for edits – they are very easy to spot!

The pen feels good in the hand and has a textured rubberized grip. The retraction mechanism is smooth and I have had no issues with it. Unlike many pens I have used, the clip is extremely sturdy. It is a wide strip of stainless steel with excellent tension. I don’t tend to clip my pens to things, but if I did, I would expect this one to not break or lose tension unless seriously abused.

Pros

Speaking for the red ink, it is bright and clean. This pen does not skip. Lines are smooth and uniform. The ink also dries very fast. The pen, itself, is sturdy. While this is marketed as a disposable pen, refills can be found.

Cons

Refills are only in black, as far as I’ve been able to find. No good for my red pen! Compared to other disposable gel pens, the TUL GL1 is a bit pricy. I could find single pens for just under $2.00. A pack of four different color pens cost me a tad over $6.00.

Final Word

Would I recommend this pen? If you like gel pens, but hate the smearing often associated with them, then definitely yes. This is the only gel pen I currently use, and, admittedly, my use is pretty limited. I typically only use the red pen from the four-pen set I purchased, but the other colors are equally vivid and quick drying. If TUL’s gel pens had been the first gel pens I had ever used, I might not have such a bad opinion of gel pens in general.

05 Oct 2013

A Review of the Review

With this site now being active for a few weeks, I decided to have a look at all of the articles I’ve posted so far. What I have decided is that they are not structured enough. In looking at other websites populated by my fellow pen enthusiasts (perhaps an exercise I should have performed before launching this site!) I see that in general they are considerably better organized.

My pen reviews tend to be about my experience with the pen and a few details here and there about performance and feel. I think I need to expand on those details. Additionally, many of the sites break down their reviews into common topics, making it easy to find, for example, the pros and cons of a selected pen, by putting in section headings. I think this is a great idea that I need to adopt here.

One other thing that has become obvious is that most sites include writing samples with their reviews. This one is a bit embarrassing for me, as my handwriting would be considered by many to be awful! My fellow essential tremor buddies likely know this feeling all to well. However, I do think it is a good idea to include writing samples, as it’s one of the best ways to demonstrate the quality of the pen and ink. Just try not to laugh to hard at my scrawl.

I have also worried about the affiliate links at the bottom of each review. In looking at other sites, I notice many of them, too, include affiliate links to products. But generally, they are linked text within the body of the review. I’m conflicted on that. If it’s the only affiliate links on your site, it seems rather deceptive. A person just clicking the link has no idea it’s an affiliate link. I want my readers to know. In fact, I’ve set up an Affiliate Disclaimer on my site (a requirement, in fact, if you are an Amazon Affiliate.) As stated on that page, I do not let my affiliation affect my reviews. They are based solely on experience with the product.

Anyway, I hope these changes bring about a better, more informative reading experience. I only had one review up this week (but for an excellent pen!), as I was tying up the last bits of my new book Journaling For Kids: A Parent’s Guide. But now that that is complete, I expect to get a few more reviews up in the next few days.

28 Sep 2013

Journal Writing For Kids

Journal Writing For Kids: A Parent's Guide by Roger AsburyJust a quick note to plug my new Kindle book Journal Writing For Kids: A Parent’s Guide. This is a short book (23 pages) to help parents get their children into the habit of keeping a journal.

There are a ton of reasons to get a child into the habit of writing. It can help them deal with complex issues, it’s a great stress reliever, and it provides a perfect outlet for the creativity every child possesses.

I provide several different ideas for what a journal can be, from your standard daily diary to art journals and dream journals. By getting our children into the habit of writing, they develop skills that will help them all of their lives.

27 Sep 2013