Well, we’re about a month in to the new year as I sit down to write this. I’ve settled on a planner system, I’ve got a few new pieces of stationery hardware in the mix, let’s take a look!
The Notebook(s) of 2023
Up first we have the Hobonichi Cousin A5 wrapped up in a Galen Leather cover. This is my calendar, my at-a-glance scheduler, my trip log, and my memory keeper. Longtime readers of the blog may recall that I tried out the Hobonichi Techo A6 back in 2018. I was immediately enamored with the look and feel of that little book, but ultimately it fell out of use before the end of the year. Truth be told that was a fairly turbulent time for me mental health-wise. I lacked the discipline for thoughtful daily journaling, and many of my precious paper peripherals lived under-utilized lives. That’s part of the reason I chose the personal challenge of using the larger Cousin in 2023. My understanding of my own personal foibles has developed to the point that I recognize my need for structure to keep this progress train on track.
The Cousin A5 is a big ol’ book. The 2023 batch is the final edition to be printed and bound in the previous generation of Tomoe River paper after which they will switch to Sanzen TRP for 2024. From a purely structural standpoint, the book is exceptional. The cardstock thread and glue bound cover houses 272 sheets of 52gsm paper, upon which is printed a variety of tables and charts displaying every day of the year, sometimes down to the hour. The book seems designed to be an Everything Planner, and that is my goal for it’s deployment. I’m currently using the monthly calendar as a top-down look at important dates; trips, events, that sort of thing. The next section is an hourly breakdown for every day that has space to track every hour starting at 5am and ending at 4am the next day. This section is a little much for my needs, but it’s a useful meeting tracker. Following that is the majority of the book; the page-a-day planner. Each of these pages bear a minimally-invasive workday time tracker, a small 5-box To-Do list, some form of motivational quote or passage, and a little “You Are Here” calendar legend for quick reference. I’m currently using the the daily pages for a sort of memory-keeping. I’ve been making time to sit with it in the evening and recap the important goings-on of the day while they are still fairly fresh in my mind. Beyond that there are a few more list, tracker, and information-keeping sections that are interesting inclusions for the final sheets, not the least of which is a daily check-off sheet to that is really keeping me accountable when it comes to actually using these things. At sixty dollars retail for a notebook, I had better well use every single page.
Next up is a bit of a weird one. I purchased this from the brand as they were winding down operations and liquidating their inventory of these nice A5 Slim notebooks. Now, several weeks after that sale, the brand seems to be back alive and selling notebooks. Perhaps the Brand changed hands, maybe manufacturing shifted to a different plant. I don’t really know what is going on with these books at present, but I do like what I have here in front of me. And what I have here in front of me is the Soumkine Universal Book No. 307. The book features 170 numbered pages of mostly fountain pen friendly grid-formatted paper. Each page has subtle sections in the margins that make adding manually formatted sections to each page simple and symmetrical. This one started as a weekly calendar in late 2022 while I was patiently waiting to start using my new Hobonichi. It has since fallen off in terms of daily use, but it tends to get brought out for meeting notes or when I have to go into the office like the olden times. The narrow size is very comfortable when you don’t want a full A5 notebook spread out in front of you, and the paper has a slightly rough tactile feel that I just don’t cant get with the Hobo. Once this one is full, I’m not certain I’ll be replacing it with the same thing. But I did buy a spare to possibly give away in the future.
And lastly, wrapping up the trio of paper parcels that make up my selected arsenal, the Plotter Mini 5. Yeah. I caved.
If you follow any stationery nerds on social media, you have almost certainly seen some aesthetic photos of these fancy little leather binders to your front page. Plotters are available in a variety of sizes and types of leather, the smallest (and least expensive) of which being the Mini 5. As the name suggests, it’s foundation is a 5-ring binder spine serving as a platform for Plotter’s variety of inserts and accessories. Mine is kitted out with pen sleeve and elastic band dividers and dot-grid paper. The ring system allows for versatility and adjustability that just isn’t possible with bound books. This is my on-the-go book. My idea catcher. My impermanent paper (mind) palace. I was very skeptical about the Plotter at first, but the exceptional craftsmanship and and versatility have really sold me on the whole concept. Pro tip to anyone considering getting into the Plotter system; get yourself a little hole punch. The plotter refills and accessories are excellent, but there’s a whole wide world of paper out there. Being able to add (and remove) it at will is a notebook game changer.
One final note about the Plotter to any Plotter People who may be reading; I love the pen sleeve, but can we please get an XL size? It’ll fit pencils fine, and the Parker Jotter looks perfectly at home, but anything wider than a Kaweco Liliput is simply a non-starter. The leather will probably stretch and relax with use, but as of right now the roughly 10mm maximum diameter is severely limiting.
The Pen of 2023
After over half a decade of hastily collecting any fountain pen I could afford to get my hands on, I’ve decided that 2023 is the year I’ll really buckle down and stick to one or two pens in rotation at a time… Just kidding! I have about eight pens inked up as I write this, and I’ll probably have more by the time this post goes live. I enjoy collecting pens and having a range of writing experiences available at my fingertips. Occasionally writing about what I learn these implements is pretty fun too. Here are a few notable mentions from what is currently on my desk.
The Ultem Big Dropper by Gravitas Pens. This is my first Ultem pen, and my first Gravitas. I can say pretty confidently that it wont be my last of either. Ben’s got some great designs coming out of his workshop in Ireland, and I look forward to welcoming a couple more into the collection before too long. And hopefully a review for the blog too.
The Original Plus vacuum filler by Nahvalur (formerly Narwhal). Okay listen. I’ve talked about pens from this brand before and I’ve had my share of issues, but I like a good vacuum filler and I’ve just got to throw a few dollars behind any market effort to make that filling system more successful in crowded market. I have thoughts about this pen, and I’ll probably make a full review eventually, but for now I’ll say that it’s a pretty satisfactory experience so far. The price to quality ratio feels a lot better than previous entries from the manufacturer, but I’ll get deeper into that note in the future.
The Model 03 by Franklin-Christoph with a FlexibleNibFactory converted to house a Sailor 14k nib. This pen has been in my collection for a while. I think I picked it up as my first FC pen at my very first pen show several years ago. It’s been in and out of rotation for a while; it just looks so nice I treat it like it’s made of actual glass and keep it safe. Somewhat recently I saw a post from FudeFan in which he had placed a Sailor nib on a Majohn C4 using a version of the aforementioned converter from FNF. What can I say except that it looked like fun, so here we are. My Franklin-Christoph-Sailor-Zoom still doesn’t leave my desk area too often, but it certainly gets more use nowadays.
The Fountain K by Karas Pen Co was my first higher-end fountain pen purchase and their V2 rekindled the torch I’ve been carrying for this brand since I heard about them on a podcast six years ago. They recently released an Anniversary Edition Fountain K that boasts a couple of design features that stand apart from the core line; namely the smooth cap and straightened custom clip. I love Karas pens, I even “loaned” my first Fountain K V2 to my wife in a successful attempt to get her hooked on fancy pens.
Well, I built a new computer in December. Or rather, I hollowed out my decade-old tower and jammed in some modern tech. For the first time since Half-Life 2 I’m getting back in to PC gaming, and I fully intend to start streaming to anyone interested. I don’t have a desk camera yet so I can’t call myself a serious stationery streamer, but there are plenty of games to play until that time comes. Overall I’m hoping to have that as an additional outlet for talking about pens and stuff. Writing reviews is nice and all, but sometimes I just want to talk about this stuff out loud. So follow me on Twitch and come hangout on those rare occasions where my social anxiety let’s me go live. My Plotter has also inspired my crafting bug, so maybe I’ll make some content out of my arts and crafts. Why buy a wallet insert for twenty-three dollars when you could buy materials and tools and make it yourself for fifty?
So that’s it! That’s what I’m equipping myself with on this march into another calendar year. But what about you, dear reader? What are you writing with? What are you writing on? Whatever it is, I hope it helps you tell your story. I know someone out there can’t wait to read it.
Also I’m getting married on February 4th, so if you read this far leave a comment and say congrats. It’s only polite.