Economical Links for 2017.12.15


Nib Newbs! Review the Sheaffer Pop Star Wars Collection
Apparently the Force is strong with these pens.
Faber-Castell Loom Fountain Pen Review (via Pen Addict)
I really want to try this magical nib, but that section doesn’t look like it’ll work for me. Anyone want to let me borrow your Loom?
8 DIY Leather Gifts That Don’t Take Forever to Make (via Make Magazine)
Instructions for crafting your own leather Midori-style notebook covers and pen sleeves.
Pens for Crappy Paper (via Comfortable Shoes Studio)
We’ve all been trapped in Crappy Paper Hell, so keep one of these pens handy just in case.

A First Look at the Hobonichi 5-Year Techo

While launching this blog at the beginning of the year was a big moment for me, I must admit that starting (and keeping) a daily journal is what I’m most proud of. As the end of the year approaches, I’ve wondered about my soon-to-be-outdated journal. Will I ever pick it up to revisit its contents, or will it get tucked into my bookshelf, never to be seen again?

Those questions become moot with the Hobonichi 5-Year Techo. It’s an interesting riff on the daily journal concept that forces you to confront your past writings by putting them right there on the page. That’s right β€” five years on a single page, in one notebook.

There are other journals that combine multiple years on one page, but the 5-Year Techo is the only one that’s size A6 and filled with Tomoe River paper. A new journal in my favorite size with my favorite paper? Sign. Me. Up.

I ordered my 5-Year Techo exactly three minutes after it became available on the Hobonichi Store, and I’m glad I did because these babies sold like hotcakes. The first printing sold out within a couple of days. There’s a second printing in the works, but those notebooks won’t ship until the end of January. (If you want one sooner than that, keep reading.)

The journal is packaged in a sturdy yellow box.

I’m always impressed by Hobonichi’s attention to detail.

Inside is a small instruction booklet. Alas, it’s in Japanese so I can’t read it.

There’s also a loose sheet of Tomoe River paper that looks like a stray page. I have no idea what it’s for, but it’s a good preview of the page layout used inside the journal.

The cover is a leather-looking plastic with the title embossed in gold. I’m assuming the text says something like “5-Year Techo” but due to my lack of Japanese language skills, it could say “you really smell like dog buns” and I’d be none the wiser.

The years are embossed on the spine, and you can see the ribs where the signatures are sewn together.

Speaking of binding, the journal is stitch-bound so it will lay flat when open. This mostly works except for the pages at the very beginning and end; the book is just too thick.

A slim brown bookmark is attached to the top of the binding. It’s long enough to slide around the edges of the cover, so it’s very usable.

The plastic outer cover is glued to an inner cover made of thick paper. The only manufacturing flaw I’ve found is that the outer cover is not perfectly aligned with the inner book, but it’s only noticeable with close inspection.

Unlike all the pre-matter in the Hobonichi Techo, this journal gets right down to business. The very first page is a full year view of the first year, 2018. Four similar pages follow for 2019 to 2022.

After those full-year pages is where the journal truly begins, with a page spread for January 1st.

Each day is given a two-page spread. The left page is a grid divided into five sections, one for each year. The right page is a grid with no formatting aside from a quote at the bottom. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Hobonichi brand, their notebooks always contain quotes from the web magazine Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun.)

The pages in this journal are a cream colored Tomoe River paper with grey printing. The grid is 3.7mm square.

There are two types of people in the world: those who are reading this and saying HOLY CATS THOSE DAY SPACES ARE SMALL, and those who are asking BUT WHAT ABOUT LEAP DAYS?

Calendar sticklers can breathe easy β€” the 5-Year Techo handles the leap day on February 29, 2020 by adding a page spread specifically for that date. Instead of five spaces on the left, there’s only one marked “2020”. Easy peasy.

As for the amount of writing room this journal provides, the short answer is “not much.” The page on the right makes a nice overflow area, but the spaces on the left are about an inch high. So Ulysses won’t fit in this journal and I’m pretty sure James Joyce had coughs longer than the space you’re given for a single day. Consider this journal a 5-year exercise in brevity.

That’s about all there is to the Hobonichi 5-Year Techo, aside from a few pages of back matter: some grid pages for each year, a page for reminders, a couple of pages for list making, and a brief timeline of world history from the Japanese perspective. (How I wish I could read that.)

There are 752 pages crammed into this tiny tome and that gives it some heft. It feels like an important object in the hand, and it would look just as good on a coffee shop table for your Instagram (#flatlay) as it would on your desk. I mention this because a 5-Year Techo certainly doesn’t come cheap: it’s about $36 without shipping and handling, and north of $50 with all the fees totaled up.

If you’ve read this far and you really want one of these but don’t want to wait until after January to get it, I have two extra 5-Year Techos available for $46 shipped to the US. Both are in brand-new, unopened condition and I’m selling them at cost. (Both have been SOLD, thanks.)

I’m super excited about this journal. I intend to use mine to record a brief summary of my day, and if I stick with it, I’ll see my life changing day by day, year by year, in one tiny but mighty book.

This Hobonichi 5-Year Techo was paid for with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

The Wing Sung 618 Is the Good Kind of Chimera

To behold a Wing Sung 618 is to behold a chimera: that Parker-esque clip, that Sailor-esque cap band, that TWSBI-esque piston mechanism. With all these -esques, is it any surprise this pen is made in China?

But the Wing Sung 618 isn’t the typical Chinese clone, and in fact I hesitate to call it a clone at all. It’s more of a mash-up of good ideas from some very good pens, and the big question is: did Wing Sung put them all together to make a coherent whole?

Let’s start with the basics. The 618 is a plastic pen with a piston filling mechanism. Originally available as a clear demonstrator, there are now several different colors to choose from, all demonstrators, ranging from red and blue to sparkly pink and green. The trim is available in silver or gold. There’s even a 12k gold nib option if you’re feeling extra fancy.

My 618 is the clear version with silver trim and a steel nib.

The cap opens just shy of a single turn, revealing something interesting: a hooded nib in demonstrator form.

A clear feed with a hooded nib? INSTANT HEART EYES. 😍

The section is generally narrow, but its conical shape means the diameter varies depending on where you hold it. I’d say that the section width ranges from a Pilot Metropolitan to the Lamy Safari in size.

In terms of dimensions, the 618 is comparable with the Lamy Safari/Vista.

I found the 618 comfortable to use for all kinds of writing, from short notes to multiple pages. It’s not a heavy pen, but it still feels substantial. When writing with it unposted, it’s nicely balanced in my hand. Posting the cap threw the balance off in a way I found unpleasant. I also couldn’t make the cap post securely without it wiggling loose after a while. Lucky for me, I only post pens for science.

The cap is transparent, accented with silver-colored fittings. The clip is a clear knockoff of the venerable Parker arrow. It’s nothing special, just a simple one-piece with a bend into the finial, but it’s secure without being too tight. The cap finial is a simple silver dome. Inside is a cap liner made from a slightly smoky-colored plastic. It’s one of the better cap liners I’ve seen in a demonstrator because the nib is still easy to see when the pen is capped.

The cap band is another design knockoff, this time from Sailor. It’s engraved with “WING SUNG 618 MADE IN CHINA”.

I don’t know what the fittings are made from, but in the two months I’ve had this pen, they’ve kept their silver color.

Demonstrator fans will enjoy looking at the barrel end of the 618, because there’s a lot to see. There’s a piston mechanism that’s similar to the ones in TWSBI pens, and a blind cap that operates the piston when twisted.

It’s here that Wing Sung has added a feature that I’ve never seen on a piston pen: a locking blind cap. Look closely at the next photo, and note the notch in the silver ring where the blind cap meets the barrel.

This notch has a corresponding mate on the blind cap itself. To unlock the blind cap, pull it away from the barrel. To lock it, line up the notches and push the cap in until it clicks. It’s a simple design that keeps the blind cap from rattling and spinning around.

Once you understand how the blind cap locks and unlocks, filling this pen is a breeze. Unlock the blind cap, dunk the nib into the ink far enough to cover the opening in the hood, and twist until the pen loads up about a gallon of ink. Lock the blind cap and you’ll be writing for a long time before you need a refill.

The nib on this pen is steel, though the 618 is also available with a 12k gold nib for five times the price of the steel nib version ($50 vs $10.)

This pen was advertised as having a fine nib and it makes a line somewhere between a Japanese fine and a Japanese medium. Like most steel nibs, it’s a nail, so don’t expect any flex or line variation. The nib wrote smoothly out of the box and didn’t require any tuning. I enjoy writing with it, though I wish it was a smidge wider. Fine and extra fine nibs are available for the 618, but nothing else, alas.

The overall construction is excellent. The plastic appears to be high-quality, and there were no mold lines or sprue left over from the manufacturing process. In my opinion, this pen is better constructed than the pens offered by the major manufacturers in the $20-$40 price range.

As with most Chinese pens, if you want a 618 and you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll have to look on eBay. Buyer beware: it’s like the Wild West out there, and counterfeits of Wing Sung pens do exist. FPN is a good resource for locating reputable eBay sellers. I purchased my 618 for $12.90 from seller art-pen-book-dy. The price has actually dropped to $9.52 since I bought mine in September, making the 618 an even better deal today. I like my 618 so much I’m not even mad I missed the lower price.

The Wing Sung 618 is like a Parker 51 and a TWSBI ECO got together and made a beautiful baby. It’s the best parts of other pens put together and the end result is perfectly executed. And you can buy one for less than $10! Hot damn, I want to see more of this from Chinese manufacturers. More mashups, less clones!

This Wing Sung 618 was paid for with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.