iPenBox Subscription Boxes Surprise With Stationery Delights

I found myself in a stationery rut earlier this year. There are so many products available, with more announced daily, and being faced with an overwhelming number of choices left me paralyzed with indecision about what to try next. I kept looking at the same familiar pens, papers, and inks — great when your needs are specific and routine, but not so great when you’re a blogger. I needed to branch out.

Then I stumbled across the iPenBox subscription box.

iPenstore offers the iPenBox subscription box for $30 a month, including shipping. The subscription is available for international folks, but at a price of $40 per month. As a subscriber, you receive a small box in the mail every month filled with 5-10 stationery items. These could be fountain pens, pencils, paper, stickers, office and desk supplies. If it’s small, inexpensive, and of interest to stationery lovers, it could show up an iPenBox.

In other words, it sounds perfect for me so I had to give it a try. I’ve received the July and August boxes, and here are my first impressions, as well as how I feel about the service as a whole.

I subscribed in June and received my first shipment the second week of July. Boxes typically arrive the first or second week of the month.

It’s hard not to get excited when this shows up in your mailbox:

The packaging was simple, but secure.

Inside was a whole host of goodies! Apparently each month’s box has a theme, and this one was “Color Pop.”

I’m going to highlight a few items now, but I’m also going to skip a few of the pens and notebooks that deserve in-depth reviews. Look for them in the future. There’s a full listing of all the items in each box at the end of this post.

There were a couple of Pilot Varsity pens with medium nibs, and this cute (in size) but retina-searing mini notebook made by MIQUELRIUS.

I was pleasantly surprised by the paper’s performance with fountain pens.

A little bit of bleedthrough but not terrible.

Also in the box was a pair of tiny novelty erasers. These aren’t very practical so I doubt I’ll end up using them.

There was a sample of Monteverde Purple Reign. This is not a color I would have sought out on my own, but the ink performs well. I’ve only tried a few Monteverde inks, but have been impressed with them so far.

The “main” items in the box were a Sheaffer VFM ballpoint pen and a Jinhao 992.

I’m not a fan of ballpoints so while the pen is nice, it’s not really my thing.

The Jinhao 992 is a wonderful pen that’s felled by an Achilles heel of brittle, crack-prone plastic. If you like to play with fire or ticking time bombs, the 992 is the pen for you.

Rounding out the July box was a Pentel RSVP pen in a GO ‘MURICA! colorway, a small pack of flag-style sticky notes, a sample of Monteverde pen flush, and a lolipop treat. There was also a postcard from Michigan (cool) and a coupon for 10% off at iPenstore.

Overall, I was pleased with the July box. There were a couple pens I didn’t care for due to personal preferences, but most of the items are things I can (and will) use. The items fit the theme, and the total cost of the contents of the box came out ahead of the $30 fee. (There’s a full cost breakdown at the end of this post.)

Next up is the August box, which arrived this week.

ooooh, mysterious packaging… What could this month’s theme be?

Yes, this month’s theme is “Eclipse,” which is appropriate given that the US is experiencing Total Solar Eclipse mania leading up to the big event on August 21st. Anyway, there weren’t as many items in this box, but they made up for lack of numbers with some “ooohhh!” factor.

The first thing I examined was the Schneider Voyage fountain pen (the white pen at the top of the photo above.) The Voyage is a simple plastic pen that takes cartridges. I’ve wanted to try a Schneider pen for a long time so I was happy to see one here.

There was also a Rosetta Notes pocket notebook, a sheet of moon phase stickers from Stickerology, another 10% off coupon, and a Starburst treat. Very cool.

The “main” item in the box was a Retro 51 Tornado “Apollo” rollerball pen. These Tornado pens are a constant presence in the stationery blogosphere, so I’m eager to see if they live up to the hype. Maybe it’ll convert me into a rollerball believer.

There was also a sample of Diamine Eclipse ink, which is an interesting purple-black. Again, another color I wouldn’t have picked out on my own but am glad to have in my collection.

I really enjoyed this month’s box. The theme was perfect and the items were an A+ fit.

So. Two boxes in, the biggest question is “Is the iPenBox subscription box worth the price?” Let’s take a look.

I had to estimate prices for certain items so these totals aren’t exact, but they’re close enough to see that the value of the contents in each box has exceeded the $30 subscription price. And that’s not even factoring in the cost of shipping that you’d have to pay if you bought the items on your own.

Another thing I found helpful is that iPenBox lists the contents of every box they’ve shipped on their website. If you’re thinking about subscribing, peruse some of the past boxes to see if the items catch your fancy. Past items are of course no guarantee of what you’ll get in the future, but it gives you an idea of what you’re signing up for.

With these things in mind, is the iPenBox worth it? I say yes.

I plan to continue my subscription. The boxes are a fun surprise every month, with well-curated contents. Plus, they’re a good value for the money. If you’re looking for something to push you out of your stationery comfort zone, give the iPenBox a try.

I purchased this iPenBox subscription with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

Economical Links for 2017.08.04

So I guess Herbin has a new ink coming out? Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Anyway. Here are some links to the like-minded:

Kaweco Perkeo Fountain Pen Review (via The Pencilcase Blog)
Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Perkeos (via The Well-Appointed Desk)
A couple reviews of Kaweco’s new entry-level pen. I might have to pick one of these up for science.
Pen Review: Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen (via Nibspotter)
That new gunmetal grey colorway is tempting me.
If You’ve Ever Wanted To Try A Pilot Kaküno (via Inkophile)
Ten bucks will get you a Pilot Kaküno and a smiley-face nib.
At The Beginning, Is It Better To Have A Variety of Inks or Pens? (via Goulet Pens)
I don’t always agree with the advice offered on the Goulet Blog but I do agree with this post.
The extraction of lever-filler pressure bars (via David Nishimura)
I’ve been fixing up a few lever filler pens and this post on extracting pressure bars appeared at just the right time.

(Mis)Adventures in Pen Resurrection: Sheaffer Lifetime Balance Valiant

I’ve wanted a Sheaffer pen with a military clip for a while now, so when the opportunity to buy one presented itself at last month’s Northwest Pen Round-up, I jumped at the chance.

This user-grade, lever fill Sheaffer Lifetime Balance Valiant cost $10 in unrestored condition.

The beauty of lever fillers is that they’re relatively easy to fix. The filling mechanism is super simple: a thin latex sac attached to the section sits inside the barrel, and a lever on the outside is used to squeeze the sac so ink can be drawn inside it. It’s the same idea as the Pilot CON-20 converter, without needing to take the pen apart to fill it. Just submerge the nib and feed into ink and flip the lever.

I gave the pen a thorough cleaning and then took it apart to see what I was dealing with. The nib had a broken tine and the sac was ossified inside the barrel, but everything else was in good shape.

The old sac came out with some coaxing from a thin-bladed screwdriver. After that, I cut a new sac down to size and affixed it to the section nipple with shellac.

Replacing a vintage Sheaffer nib can be tricky since there are so many different sizes in the wild. Thankfully, I had another Lifetime Balance the same size that had a good nib but a barrel and trim in poor condition. Time for a nib swap.

The replacement nib is an extra fine. I’m seeing a tiny bit of ink seepage at the edge of the section around the feed, but this can be helped by heat-setting the nib against the feed. I plan to tackle that task once I’ve written the pen dry.

The nib was very scratchy when I first inked up the pen, so I spent a while adjusting the tines. I’m not usually a fan of Sheaffer extra fines, but this one is pretty nice. It’s not perfectly smooth — no extra fine nib is — but it’s more feedback-y than scratchy. It’s an enjoyable pen to write with. The section is comfortable and the Visulated (i.e. translucent) window makes it easy to see how much ink is left in the pen.

Sheaffer introduced the military clip variation of the Balance in 1941, to allow soldiers to conform to the US military regulation that required the flaps on uniform shirt pockets to be closed neatly. Typical pen clips of the time were set low on the cap. When clipped inside a shirt pocket, the clip would push the cap up against the flap, leading to a disheveled look. Richard Binder has an excellent article about the history of military clips if you’d like to wander down this lesser-known path of fountain pen knowledge.

The barrel and imprint are in great shape, but the trim does have some minor brassing. That’s fine with me — I wanted a pen I could use without worrying about keeping it pretty.

I’m pleased with how this pen turned out. It writes well, and the military clip makes it a unique addition to my collection.