Tag Archives: pen

Tools of the trade: Field Notes Campfire Review

As a reminder, I use analogue tools for creative planning (including business strategy, idea generation and note taking). Therefore the items I use have to meet three criteria. They must be:

  • Attractive to use, so they make me want to write
  • Portable, so I can use them at my desk, office or coffee shop
  • Flexible, so they are appropriate in multiple scenarios

So how does the quarterly Field Notes Campfire release shape up against those requirements? Great, actually.

The different cover designs are awesome

Compared to the previous two releases (Utility and Black Ice), this edition feels like a Field Notes book. It has shades of Americana that people expect from a company like Field Notes. It is part of their brand appeal. For me, the two previous editions were innovation over functionality. They reduced the usability of a product that I want to carry with me at all times.

So are they attractive to use? Oh yes. A big tick in the box on that score. The three different covers add variety and they have a beautiful tactile finish on the covers. Nice additional touches include the different shade of grid lines in each book to match the key tones of their respective covers.

Attention to detail with the grid line colours

As for portability, Field Notes always have that covered. Of their 35 quarterly editions, only two have broken away from the pocket book size (Arts and Sciences and Byline). Both were great alternatives, but not as truly portable as the pocket size. Campfire Edition has the portability that we’ve come to expect from Field Notes and fits in all those standard carry cases as well as your back pocket.

Straight into my trusty Nock Co case

Finally, flexibility for use in both personal and business scenarios. Field Notes are never going to be corporate like Moleskine or Leuchtturm1917, but they’re not trying to be. At the same point, neither are they offensive or too gimmicky most of the time. If I had to pull these out in a client meeting, they’re the kind of notebooks that might attract attention, but in good ways. They don’t scream unprofessional.

As for the paper, I haven’t found it to be a problem with fountain pens, as long as I’m not using a big juicy wet nib and ink. There’s very little feathering or bleed through on the page, which means I don’t have to stop and think about the pen I’m using before beginning to write.

Very little bleed through on the page

Overall, I give this one a big thumbs up and can’t wait to see what the next quarterly release is. Fall is subscription renewal time for me, but I have a mountain of pocket notebooks still waiting to be used. It will be interesting to see if Field Notes pull something out of the bag that makes it impossible for me to resist subscribing for another year.

You can buy the Field Notes Campfire Edition here until they’re sold out.

Tools of the trade: Lamy Petrol ink review

As anyone who follows me over on Instagram knows, despite being deeply immersed in the digital world, I use analogue tools for creative planning. This applies to both books in development and business outlining or note taking. Therefore the items I use have to meet three criteria. They must be:

  • Attractive to use, so they make me want to write
  • Portable, so I can use them at my desk, office or coffee shop
  • Flexible, so they are appropriate in multiple scenarios

Lamy seem to be making waves in the stationery world this year, both good and bad. On the side of good, the Limited Edition Lamy Petrol collection has generated a fair bit of hype.

I’ve always been a fan of deep colours, so when I popped back to England recently, I visited Paperchase on the hunch they would have some cartridges available. They did (and probably still do), so I grabbed a couple of boxes.

Although they didn’t have the limited edition Lamy Safari Petrol fountain pen available, I have inked up my Safari medium nib, as this will be roughly the same experience. After nearly a month of constant use, I thought I’d share what makes this a good ink from my perspective.

Lamy’s official description is that Petrol is a dark teal. Teal, for those wondering, is defined as a medium to dark greenish blue. Having used it in a variety of notebooks, my experience of it has been that it is a very dark colour, with few traces of blue. If anything, it is green-black.

To an untrained eye in the boardroom, looking at regular writing rather than a swatch, I suspect that most people would label it as black ink:

It does have some variation and shading, but in most instances, you would need more than a medium nib, plus some good lighting, to bring it out.

Like many Lamy inks, it is quite wet, which works well for me. It means I can write long form quickly without it stuttering to keep up. As a bonus, it’s not so wet that it completely destroys a standard Moleskine page.

In summary, I really enjoy using this ink. It passes the portability test; I don’t hesitate before picking it up, no matter what notebook I have with me. It’s dark enough to switch between personal and professional use without being boring. However, if you’re more of a fan of a lighter, bluer teal, then you are quite likely to be disappointed by this.

At the time of writing, you can still buy Lamy Petrol Cartridges on Amazon but the prices are going up due to the limited stock, so shop around if you can. The Lamy Safari Petrol is still available over there too.

Everyday carry for a writer

Over the past year, I’ve become endlessly fascinated by people photographing and describing their everyday carry. Of course, because I don’t live in America, I still find it odd to see so many knives and guns as part of that. The knives I can understand from a practical sense, but the prospect of having a gun as an integral part of your everyday life still baffles me.

Anywho, I am a person who has a few items with them 99% of the time. I might not have them with me when I go out for a special occasion requiring a little black handbag, but that’s about it. So below is my everyday carry:


I adore my nockco holder. Whenever I have an idea I just pull the whole thing out, rather than having to ferret around in the bottom of my bag to find a fluffy pen and an old receipt to scribble on. I have three notebooks with me most of the time: my current notebook, the Shelterwood Field Notes which contain details of a series I’ve been working on for a decade and the black nockco dot dash contains all the notes for the manuscript I’m currently submitting. For the writing utensils, a mechanical pencil, a retro 51, my sheaffer, pilot metropolitan and a lamy safari. I love to have a reliable selection of varying nib sizes and colours.

I also carry a set of worry dolls down around that were made for me by my sister a looooooooong time ago. They’ve travelled quite literally around the world with me and have huge sentimental value. No matter where I am or what is going on, I always have my family with me that way, all tied up in a little bag. Wait, that sounds sinister. Never mind…

The other things are purely practical: Swiss army card (has got me out of a few scrapes over the years for sure), a wallet ninja, lip balm, ear plugs (a sign I travel so much) and a USB stick, because you never know when you might have to grab documents on the go.

So, no guns or knives, but still the tools of my trade!

Making Notes: Emerald of Chivor

It’s no secret that I find any creative project starts out best when I put good old fashioned pen to paper. The majority of my first drafts are then created in Scrivener, but I’ve never found that plotting and discovering characters really comes alive if they’re not discovered on paper first.

Most people have creative slumps. I know authors, actual real life get paid to write books for a living people, who have found themselves with writer’s block. There are so many ways of getting out of it, but one of the things that works best for me is to find a really engaging tool that makes me want to write something – anything – down. That can be pen, paper or ink. As long as it’s decidedly analogue, I’ll give in to the temptation to try it.

So without further ado, my latest inspirational find: J Herbin Emerald of Chivor:



This ink has taken the pen world by storm and from the moment I saw the samples coming out, I could see why. That sheen! That colour! The hints of red were more intriguing than the flecks of gold. All better than I can capture on an iPhone, but I refuse to buy a better camera for the sake of doing blogposts. Anywho, I needed to go back to an old project and work out some knots that were bogging the whole thing down. So, with a trusty NockCo DotDash black pocket book (I’ll definitely be telling you more about those at some point in the future) and a TWSBI Eco 1.1 Stub (again, a pen worth knowing about), I started to tease apart the strands of my story to work out where it was going so spectacularly wrong:


This is where having such a fascinating tool to play with comes into play. I was so distracted by wanting to put words down, to try and create the different flow using the stub nib, that I worked out what was annoying me the most without even thinking about it. I was too busy thinking about how there were differences when you shook the pen up a little first, how the red wasn’t as strong in my sample as I’d seen in some others and not about the fact that it was a point of view issue I was having.



So, for me, it’s a big thumbs up for Emerald of Chivor. I want to use this so much, I’ve already decided that tomorrow it will be part of my morning pages routine. I think that J Herbin have got this one right (being the fourth in the series of inks using this gold flecking), and so far I haven’t had any issues with it clogging my pens. That being said, I think it definitely needs to be used with at least a broad nib if you want to get full enjoyment out of it.

Feel like kicking your creativity old school? Then this might not be the cheapest place to start, but it gets a huge thumbs up from me.


Sheaffer Prelude Fountain Pen Review

This was an amazing surprise as a Christmas gift from one of my best friends, but I’m not going to let that bias me in writing a review. That said, I have really enjoyed using this pen.

My first tentative step back towards using fountain pens was a Sheaffer, so I think I’ll always have a bit of a soft spot for the brand. I think they’re quite underrated in the pen world, when actually they are a good, reliable every day fountain pen.

Sheaffer Prelide

It is a beautiful looking pen, with a lovely two-tone nib. I particularly like the rubberised grip section – a key bugbear for people with the 100 or 300 models. They have a smooth metal grip, which tends to lead to holding the pen slightly higher in order to compensate for any sliding.

The Prelude also has a slightly weightier feel, which means it feels substantial in the hand. Solid. It creates the sensation of writing with something that is quite serious about its job.

The brushed steel housing does that quite well too, come to think about it.

The lay down of ink is quite wet, so I would suggest using it with a relatively good quality paper. I love using my field notes, but the bleed and feathering in these books is far too well documented for me to need to go into it here. I don’t mind it too much, so have happily used it to plan out my writing for next week in the Ambition Edition 56-Week Date Book:

sheaffer prelude field notes planning


I’ve got a medium nib which is a good compromise for me with this pen. My writing actually should require a fine nib as it is relatively small and jerky, but that always comes at the cost of smoothness. Fine nibs, regardless of material, always feel scratchy to me, so I tend to use them for simple, every day writing. Scribbling, for want of a better word. The medium nib in this pen is smooth and the size simply forces me to make more leisurely notes. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon planning or some idle story plotting.

At the moment I’m using the black ink cartridge it came with, because I think a traditional colour works with the traditional style of the pen. A blue or blue-black would be fine too, but I can’t see myself using turquoise or orange or similar in here. I may be pushed to purple, but that’s because I’d give that colour at least one go with just about everything.

So, if this pen wasn’t a gift, would I have bought it for myself? Hell yes.

Would I recommend it to others? Again, yes. Especially for people starting out. It’s not a ‘shove into your bag’ pen or anything like that. But the grip combined with the nib makes for a writing experience that is encouraging enough to keep people dipping their toes (and nibs) into the fountain pen  world further.




Waterman 512v Fountain Pen Review

It’s no secret that over the past year I have rediscovered my love of longhand writing. Slowly but surely, my fascination with fountain pens has grown, so when I spotted a chance to get my hands on a Waterman 512v I took it:

waterman quote

Forgive the terrible penmanship and focus on the inspiring quote instead.

I was really surprised at how light and small this pen was. Uncapped it comes in at under 4 inches, so I’ve found that I really need to have it posted to make it comfortable. If you don’t like posting your pens, I’m not sure it would be for you. I love the nib though, even if it is second hand and not quite as smooth as it could be. It feels loved.

waterman nib


It’s an old fashioned lever system refill, which isn’t as simple as my Sheaffer convertor, but I’ve only had one accident (and that was with some purple ink all over my fingers, lovely). The flow of ink isn’t too wet and it was surprisingly good as an everyday pen. I tried it for a week with my Field Notes and there was virtually no feathering or bleed through, despite the fact Field Notes paper is not particularly designed to be fountain pen friendly. Even scribbling away in a fast, bullet journal style way of writing didn’t cause any misses or scratches.

waterman bullet

Sadly, I could find very little information out there on the interwebz about the Waterman 512v, so I thought I would do this little review just in case anyone else was considering purchasing one. If you don’t mind fiddling around with ink rather than cartridges, then I would say go for it. I’d happily shove it in my pocket and go.


Sheaffer 100 Fountain Pen Review

Searching the interwebz, it seems as though this pen hasn’t got a lot of love from the pen community at large. Which is a shame really, as it falls quite neatly into the entry level bracket with some success.

I wrote with a fountain pen for years growing up, but then when you enter the real world, the standard Bic seems to take over a lot of the time. I was looking to get back into fountain pens, but without any current experience, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t blowing hundreds of pounds on a Mont Blanc just because I wanted one (still do).

I’ve been using the Sheaffer 100 now for two months, ever since I purchased it on a trip to Canada. The lovely lady at The Vancouver Pen Shop talked me through a whole range of brands and styles before we settled on this one.

shaeffer 100


Forgive both the terrible photo and the equally bad handwriting. It’s a dreary day with bad lighting and only an iPhone for pictures. The handwriting I have no excuses for.

Firstly, the positives. From a cost perspective, this was only $30 + tax, which for a pen of this quality is great. The nib and feed, by all accounts, is exactly the same as what you get in the more expensive Sheaffer 300, which makes it a good way to try it out for size.

The ink flow to paper isn’t too wet, which is also a bonus as I used a variety of notepads from Moleskines to Field Notes to El Cheapo supermarket brands, not all of which are good for fountain pens. It still delivers enough ink to not be too scratchy. In the time I have been using it, it has only skipped a handful of times.

I got the fine nib because my handwriting isn’t conducive to anything thicker, and I found that to work perfectly. Not really any flex as you would expect, but still a smooth write.

The barrel has that more expensive look and feel to it too. I have to be the only person in the world who doesn’t find the aesthetics of Lamy of Kaweco pens pleasing. I definitely prefer the more classic look that comes with this kind of pen. Of course, I still intend to try both of those now I know that I am really enjoying using fountain pens again, so I may yet still be converted.

The only negative for me is the the grip area is super smooth and about an inch deep. That means I have to hold the barrel at a point slightly higher than I normally would, up where the ridge gives a bit of traction. It by no means makes the pen difficult to use though, so I wouldn’t call it a deciding factor.

The best bit about using it has nothing to do with the pen itself. I’ve found a joy in writing creatively in long hand that I hadn’t realised I missed in this day and age of digital devices. It feels subtly different in the care taken for each word choice, and the sense that I am actually crafting something, rather than just banging down on the keys. Especially when I’m travelling, it forces me to slow down and really be in the moment.

Analogue certainly isn’t dead and gone, that’s for sure. If you’ve read this far, you probably agree.