Category Archives: Pen, Paper, and Ink

Revisiting My Black n’ Red Review

Based on the search terms used to find this site, a lot of you are looking for opinions about Black n’ Red notebooks. Either that or there’s some other Black n’ Red that I don’t know about.

Assuming it’s the notebooks driving the traffic here, I decided to revisit my review from 2009 and see what, if anything, has changed and maybe take a look at the company history while I was at it.

I still use the spiral bound Black n’ Red notebooks on a regular basis, they’ve become a fixture on my desk at home and work. I use them with all sorts of different pen types and the paper never lets me down.

There are rumors the paper changed some time after my initial review. If I recall, they say the paper became slicker, shinier, perhaps less friendly to fountain pens. I dug through my stash of notebooks and found the notebook used in the 2009 review and a more recent purchase. At the very least, the printing on the back has changed.

Black n' Red Side By Side

You’ll notice the branding changes from John Dickinson to Hamelin, a likely point for the paper to change as well. John Dickinson was purchased by Hamelin in 2005 but they seem to have waited until 2008 to change the Black n’ Red covers. The Dickinson era notebooks claimed “Made in the EU” while Hamelin claim “Made in Germany”. Germany is in the EU but who knows whether they’re manufactured in the same place.

A quick unscientific test of rubbing my index finger over a page of each notebook tells me the Hamelin branded notebook pages feel a bit smoother. That proves almost nothing but it’s worth noting. I can’t say I’ve noticed all that much difference using them with fountain pens but others have, specifically with drying time.

A visit to blacknred.com shows they’ve been busy expanding their product line, at least for the UK market. There are quite a number of great looking notebooks and planners available although I don’t think we can get many of these in the States. They have a link for USA buyers but it takes you to Mead.com where they’re branded as Mead Black n’ Red and the selection is the same as I’ve seen in my local stores. The Mead branding is interesting since ACCO (parent company of Mead) and Hamelin are competitors in the office supply market. Maybe someone can explain that to me.

The prices have gone up as you might expect but occasionally you can catch them on sale and when you do, I suggest you grab them. The spiral and casebound notebooks are widely available at Rite Aid and Staples and if I were to hear whispers of their cancellation, I’d raid every store in the area to stock up for the future. That’s how good they are.

We’re blessed with a ton of great notebooks these days but I count Black n’ Red as one of the best you can find without ordering online. Go forth and buy!

Support the Nock Co Kickstarter!

This was a no-brainer Kickstarter campaign to back.

Brad and Jeffery are making some killer products and they’re cheaper than I expected. If you listened to the last Pen Addict Podcast you heard Brad say they set a sensible goal and he was sure they’d make it. Well, they exceeded their funding goal in a single hour!

Check out their video and incredibly affordable backing options. Let’s make this an even bigger success than it already is.

Panic At The Pen Show

There are a few things I look forward to when summer draws to an end, they are as follows:

  1. The Renaissance Festival
  2. The Michigan Pen Show

I count myself lucky this year of 2013 as I managed to visit both. I can only count my fall as a success if I hit both milestones. Yay me!

Today was the first day of the Michigan Pen Show and since it’s right across the street from where I work, I made a beeline for The Met Hotel as soon as I could.

If you’re someone who has visited the D.C. or Atlanta pen show, I suspect the Michigan show might disappoint. It’s never a large show, never packed (at least when I’ve been there) and from what I can tell, nothing like the larger city shows. That’s not to say it’s lame, it’s quite the opposite!

When you stroll into the conference room, you’re greeted by the same folks you saw last year. I don’t know their names but I recognize their faces and the mood is always light. The entry stamp is a smiley face which matches my own face so that seems appropriate.

Into the next room I saunter, always starting on the right as that seems the only correct way to do this. Counter-clockwise might sound weird to you but my brain says this is the right direction. There are maybe 20 tables at most so it won’t take long unless you let your eyes wander and wander they will.

The majority of pens on these tables are vintage. I hate to say it but vintage just isn’t calling my name these days. Wait, I take that back, if I could find a broad Parker 51 or a flexy Sheaffer of some sort. No. No! I can’t spend that kind of money today so I must resign myself to just looking. Drooling?

I’m wearing a Detroit Dragway t-shirt and it seems to be getting some attention. The majority of the vendors are older gentlemen and several take the time to reminisce of drag racing in an era I can only dream about. I don’t bother telling them the only cars I’ve raced on the track came out of Japan, that might not go over so well.

I came here with the intent of finding a Namiki Falcon but I never actually see one. That’s probably for the best, I don’t have the clearance for that kind of spending. I spy plenty of Pelikans, Pilot VP, and other such exotic offerings but I don’t see a single Falcon. I meant to bring a couple Sailor 1911 M to try to trade but I didn’t, I guess I’m ok with that if there’s no Falcons to be seen.

I move along the tables, some have watches for sale, some have handmade pens, others have a wide assortment of pencils. I feel bad as I skim past the handmade pen tables but honestly, I rarely find them all that interesting. I nod sympathetically to the man or woman behind the table before sliding carefully to the next table. I like to think I’m slick but I’m probably not coming off as such.

I’ve made my way almost 3/4 of the way around the room when a nice gentleman starts reminiscing about attending the Detroit nationals sometime in the 1950’s. It’s fun to see something as simple as a t-shirt spark dormant memories in men who have doubled my time on this earth.

I continue on, I’ve had my eyes on the Anderson Pens table since I walked in. I think maybe I start counter-clockwise because they’re the 2nd to last table and I know I’ll be spending money there. Yeah that must be why, I’m definitely not neurotic or anything.

Their display is a mirror image of last year, plenty of ink, lots of Twsbi and Noodlers pens to chose from, and all manner of fountain pen friendly paper. I don’t know what to do, I didn’t come here with a plan but I feel compelled to buy something. My eye jumps to the Pilot Iroshizuku ink. I’ve been avoiding this particular ink for a very long time, it’s simply too expensive. But maybe today…

Panic sets in, I don’t remember what color I wanted to try. Surely it was kon-peki, right? Wait, was it? The color on the box looks too light, I must be remembering wrong. Flustered, I flip through the pages of their ink sample book but I can’t find kon-peki anywhere. I whip out my phone and consult JetPens to assure myself this is the ink I want. I step away from the inks, maybe there’s something else here I “need”.

It’s easy to skip past the pens — I really only care about the Falcon right now — but they have some notebooks I haven’t tried. What’s this, the new Field Notes Drink Local edition? I haven’t even received mine yet! Mine are in the mail so I relax and move on. They have 3 different sizes of Twsbi notebooks and I decide I need the large one. Need is such a funny word but I’ll use it here. There we have it, a large Twsbi notebook and some Pilot kon-peki, that’s all it will take to make my trip complete.

Then I notice the last table, it’s Brian Gray of Edison Pens. What are they doing here? This is maybe my 3rd or 4th Michigan Pen Show and I may not have been paying attention but I didn’t expect to see them here. He’s busy talking to another pen maker so I peruse the large number of pens on display and watch a video about his process.

I stand there for a few minutes but then I realize I don’t know this guy and he won’t know who I am, I’ll just be some weirdo who knows his name from the internet and that’s kind of weird so I walk back to the Anderson Pens table. I purchase my ink and notebook and head for the door before my wallet vomits any more money into eager hands. I really wanted one of the Twsbi notebooks with the Micarta pen tucked inside but I manage to get away before one jumped in my bag.

I burst out of the hotel into the crisp fall air and breathed a sigh of relief or perhaps it was a sigh of discontent. I didn’t have my Falcon and I know there’s at least one broad Parker 51 or flexy Sheaffer in the building behind me, all I had to do was turn around. I push forward toward my car, those treasures will have to wait for another day.

Einstein’s Zurich Notebook

I love the chance to peek into the notebook of a famous person, don’t you?

Let’s take a look at one of Einstein’s notebooks, specifically the so called Zurich Notebook

This stuff is way over my head but look at the handwriting, it’s so precise! I’m guessing he preferred graph paper as it lends itself to computation and drawing.

I think it’s ok to feel a little self conscious of your notebooks after all, this is Einstein we’re talking about.