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American Vietnamese Monos 4

Even more Vietnamese Monos – this time the Mono without the 100.

Please don’t misunderstand what this blog post is about. It is not a complaint that Tombow’s Monos are now made in Vietnam. It is more of a complaint that Tombow seems to be misleading their customers.

The pack of three Monos from Tombow USA is labelled ‘Made in Japan’, even though the pencils are made in Vietnam.

I assume this is just an oversight, i.e. they forgot to change the print on the back of the cardboard, rather than a planned deception of their customers – but that still doesn’t seem right.


uni star in F

The uni☆star in F

My thanks go to Yumiko for sending me these.


Lamy’s Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean pens 2

Sticking to the Lamy theme from the recent blog post about blue Lamy Safari fountain pens from the 1990s and now we’ve got another Lamy blog post today: Their special edition pens you normally don’t see in the West: the Pirates of the Caribbean (Dead Men Tell no Tales) and the Star Wars pens.

Lamy’s Special Editions

Lady’s special editions follow a similar recipe: Take Lamy’s Line Friends Safari, for example. It’s a Safari with a different colour and a clip attachment. The colour of the special editions isn’t always different and the main difference of these special editions to their ‘normal’ counterparts is the clip attachment. They also often have extras (converter, special packaging) and a higher price.

I’ve shown a few different Lamy shops in Shanghai. Here’s one I haven’t shown yet: The one in the Jing An Kerry Centre1.

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Pirates of the Carribean themed pen looks like a Safari in the current Petrol colour with clip attachement in the shape of a jolly roger skull. You also get a converter and a leather roll as part of your set.

The Pirates pen on the left and the leather roll in the background. Excuse the reflections in the photo. The pen was behind glass.

Star Wars

The Star Wars themed pens are Lamy joy2 fountain pens. If you are not familiar with the joy: the front section is the same as the Safari’s, but the main body is much longer. It is kind of a desk only version of the Safari. Desk only because the long body makes it unsuitable for easy transport3.

The Star Wars joys have ‘normal’ nibs. I mention this because the joy is also available as a calligraphy set with italic nibs of different widths.

The black joy comes with a Vader clip attachment. The white joy comes with a Stormtrooper themed clip attachment.

The price is only slightly higher than the price of a normal Lamy joy in Shanghai: A normal joy is ¥380 (~$56; £44; €50). The Star Wars set is ¥4184 (~$$62; £48; €55). It comes with a converter.

 

You pay more, you get more

The price of the Lamy pens in Shanghai is a bit higher than in the West, but you also get more. The pens I’ve seen in Shanghai often come in nice boxes I haven’t seen in Europe. They also often seem to include converters that would be charged extra in the West.

The special edition pens are only slightly more expensive than the normal editions5.

The Safari Petrol. I believe this version is also available in the West. Excuse the reflections in the photo. The pen was behind glass.

Not in the West

I assume the reason why you normally don’t see these special editions in the West has more to do with licensing than with demand, especially since they are not much more expensive than the normal versions of these pens, so they should sell well anywhere – but that’s just a guess.

As I know most of the readers of my blog I might as well write this publicly: If you want one of these pens let me know and I’ll try to get one for you.

 


Prices and exchange rates: June 2017

If you want to know more about Shanghai’s Lamy stores have a look at this blog post about the store in Raffles City, the stores in this comment or  the one in this blog post.

  1. Fun fact: many years ago Jing An was the only place in Shanghai with a Burger King, but now Burger King is ubiquitous. []
  2. Lamy spells joy lower-case so I’ll stick to that in this this blog post []
  3. You can see one in this Bleistift blog post from 2011. []
  4. This number sounds good in Chinese, a bit like ‘will be fortunate, for sure’. []
  5. Exactly 10% in the case of the Star Wars joy. []

The Lamy Safari – Then and Now 1

Today: a quick look at two blue Lamy Safari fountain pens – one from the early 1990s and one from the mid-2010s.

…and just because people prefer to watch my videos showing normal stuff (like refilling mechanical pencils) I added something about…

  • how to screw the pen body together so that the Lamy logo is at the top
  • how the ‘low ink warning system’ works


The Confidant’s Secret

Today: a quick look at Baron Fig’s Confidant.

The Confidant and the Bleistiftverlängerer

Background

Like many people, I found out about Baron Fig’s 2013 Kickstarter from The Pen Addict podcast (it was episode 71). Back then the notebook didn’t have a name yet.

After the Kickstarter goal was reached the notebooks were sent out, got very good reviews and luckily Baron Fig kept making them post-Kickstarter and even created more products, becoming the Baron Fig company you see today.

Some of the early good reviews can be found at The Pen Addict (2014), Woodclinched (2014)The Well-Appointed Desk (2015) and even Cult of Mac (2014).

The European Perspective

I don’t think there’s is much I can add to the existing reviews in terms of new information, so instead I want to give you the European perspective on this notebook.

Importing and Shipping

The Baron Fig is difficult to get on this side of the pond. I haven’t found a shop selling it in the UK, but luckily shipping from the States is actually quite cheap. Postage for the $12 Confidant Pocket, for example, is only $2.95. This seems to be achieved by sending the notebooks through Germany (Field Notes send their notebooks through Sweden). The problem in the UK is that the moment you spend more than £15 you have to pay VAT1, which usually goes hand in hand with a hefty surcharge, how expensive depends on the carrier. When I was still living in Germany I was less often hit by these charges, but I don’t know whether this is still the case. The point here is that depending on which country you live in there might be unwanted extra charges if you order from the States.

The Count in Disguise

$12 (+$2.95) for a notebook, roughly A6 size2,3 is not cheap, but once you look at this notebook’s competitors the price seems quite reasonable.

The Confidant on previous cloth bound notebooks

Cloth bound notebooks sell for a premium. They’re somehow even more expensive than leather bound notebooks. The closest competitor for the Confidant is probably the Linen Bound Notebook from the late Count’s4 Graf von Faber-Castell5 series, which you can see in this previous blog post.

The GvFC notebook and the Confidant

In fact, they are so similar, the Confidant is basically a version of the linen bound GvFC notebook with rounded edges and perforated pages (that’s where the title of this blog post comes in). I’m not sure whether this is accidental or a result of Baron Fig’s Kickstarter approach of  ‘asking people all over the world what they like in a notebook’. The GvFC notebook has been around for a while6, so some of the people asked might have suggested features based on the GvFC item.

In terms of similarities: both, the Confidant and the GvFC notebook are cloth bound and probably7 use 100g/m2 paper. I have mentioned two of the differences already: the Confidant has rounded edges and perforated edges. Other differences are: the Confidant has more paper to choose from (dot grid, blank, ruled), the GvFC notebook has more colours to choose from (five different linen colours), the bookmark is different (width and colour) and most importantly: the price is different – quite different.

 ConfidantGvFC
A4 / plus$22£30 (~$39)
A5 / flagship$18£25 (~$32)
A6 7 pocket$12£20 (~$26)

My experience

My Confidant is well made, but not as well made as the Graf von Faber-Castell notebook. Inside: mine has some materials/bubbles under the paper inside the lid, making it uneven. Outside: the cloth isn’t tight around the spine and some pages were not separated properly, as you can see in the video below. Stephen from Pencil Talk had the same problem with his Flagship (A5) Confidant8.

One way of looking at his would be to say that it shouldn’t happen to a small notebook that costs $12, but on the other hand, the similar GvFC notebook costs more than twice that amount, so the Confidant still seems good value for money.

First I thought my notebook doesn’t lie flat, a problem also described by Discover Analog, but then I realised that the Baron Fig description of ‘Opens Flat’9 refers to the pages being flat enough to write on, it doesn’t mean that the covers should lie flat on the table.

One more thing to mention about the paper: Andi Talarico from Baron Fig told me that the Vanguard and the Work/Play II use Baron Fig’s new upgraded paper, while the Confidant is still using the previous paper.

The Paper

Graphite Performance

Let’s have a look at the paper in terms of graphite performance.

As part of this comparison I have only compared the paper to Field Notes paper10.

To find more about how the paper is tested, please check the Ingersoll post.

The violin plots show that this is a great paper: It produces very dark lines of graphite (the violin plot for the Confidant’s paper ends very low) while the paper is quite light and bright (the violin plot starts quite high).

The confidant sample used for the violin plot

Violin plots, Confidant on the left

Ink Performance

Most of my inks are quite well behaved. Not surprisingly the paper dealt well with ink.

So I thought I take some of my slightly less well-behaved inks out, in this case, a waterproof ink, just because waterproof ink often goes deeper into the paper. The images below show that the waterproof ink didn’t bleed through and the reverse side of the paper was unaffected (open images in a new tab to see the high-res version).

Conclusion

To sum this blog post up in a few words: Quality control could be better. The paper is excellent. The notebook isn’t cheap, but good value for money compared to similar notebooks.

 

 


Price and exchange rates: June 2017

I would like to thank Andi Talarico from Baron Fig for the review sample I used for this boig post.

  1. ..but sometimes customs forget to charge you []
  2. The Confidants are all a bit smaller than the equivalent A paper size []
  3. ..reminds me of the Lichtenberg drawing from this blog post. []
  4. Usual disclaimer as mentioned in previous blog posts: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of nobility were abolished in the Weimar Republic in 1919. Graf (Count) is just part of his surname. In reality no one seems to care about this rule though. []
  5. Abbreviated: GvFC for easier reading. []
  6. I am not sure when it came out. I got my first one in 2010 []
  7. I am not 100% sure. The Baron Fig Kickstarter mentioned 100g/m2 paper, but in an email I got from Baron Fig they mention 90g/m2 paper. []
  8. Mine is the Pocket one (A6). []
  9. Found at the bottom of this page. []
  10. ..as they are the paper samples I have redone after discovering the colour base paper shift issue discussed in the Black Ice post. []