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. []

Traces of graphite – Oriana Fenwick

Today: a very special traces of graphite post that has been in the making since April. I won’t introduce the artist – if you don’t recognise the name you will soon find out where you might have seen her work.

Bleistift Blog:

Thank you very much for agreeing to answer these questions. Could you please introduce yourself and your work and tell us where people might have seen your work?

Oriana Fenwick:

Hi there. My name is Oriana Fenwick, I am a freelance illustrator from Zimbabwe currently living and working in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. My illustrations are done to 99% using pencil, sometimes I go wild and create the other 1% with colour pencils. I have mainly worked for magazines and newspapers in the past. My clients include Die Zeit, football magazine 11 Freunde, Air Canada, DWELL and publishing house Rowohlt. One recent project I was particularly happy to be involved in was the book “The Pencil Perfect” for Gestalten Books.

Bleistift Blog:

How long does it take to draw an illustration of the size and complexity found in “The Pencil Perfect” and is there an illustration in this book that you are especially proud of?

Oriana Fenwick:

The time I need per illustration can vary immensely. The more simple drawings with straight forward lines and subtle contrasting I could complete in about two hours. The longest I needed for an illustration in this book was about two days. It gets especially tricky when I have to reproduce typo, taking into consideration all the other details that usually go along with that.

I think there are two drawings I had most fun completing in “The Pencil Perfect” and of which I especially liked the outcome. The one is of a series of pencil stubs and the other an image of Walt Disney drawing Mickey Mouse in his studio.

Walt Disney (image © Oriana Fenwick / Gestalten)

Bleistift Blog:

Are there specific techniques you use when drawing and are there any favourite tools / pencils you like to use?

Oriana Fenwick:

My drawing technique is pretty straightforward. I usually go about the main structure of the image using HB pencils, I never use anything harder than that. All of the shading and contrasting is then done afterwards using any grade as of 3B up to 6B. In order to get a surface to look especially smooth I criss-cross the lines until I can’t see the individual strokes anymore. My favourite brand is Faber-Castell1 – I seldom use anything else. And yes: I do rub out sometimes!

If I know that the original drawing is going to be used then I tend to spray the picture after completing it. When I do drawings for digital purposes then I make sure to put them in protective covers once I’ve finished drawing, scanning etc, so I don’t necessarily spray them in that case.

Bleistift Blog:

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions and for giving us a glimpse into the world of a famous illustrator.

Pencil Stubs (image © Oriana Fenwick / Gestalten)


I would like to thank Ms Fenwick for patiently answering my questions. You can find her web site at oriana-fenwick.com.

If you are interested in similar blog posts have a look at the Traces of graphite category.

As usual: please open the images in a new tab to see them in high resolution.

If you are interested in a comparison: Below you will find the photo that was used as a basis for one of the illustrations in the Pencil Perfect book. The photo of Walt Disney is used under the same conditions as the images in Duckipedia, as discussed with Egmon Ehapa.

Walt Disney (image © Disney)

  1. The Castell 9000 specifically. []

Staedtler’s Mars 501 180 – the Wopex sharpener 6

Welcome to a slightly delayed blog post. The video for this blog post was put on YouTube quite a while ago, in February, but the blog post is only out now as a busy period at work meant that I didn’t get round looking for my protractor earlier.1

The Wopex

Unfortunately there’s a lot of Wopex hate going on in some parts of social media where people discuss pencils – and there are very few people defending the Wopex2. Luckily the Wopex can convince in the long term: I was very happy to read Deirdre’s blog post where she turned from a Wopex hater (‘I HATE WOPEX’) to someone not only tolerating the Wopex, but even accepting it and it’s advantages (Some quotes: ‘graphite […] actually isn’t that bad’, ‘point retention is great’, ‘if you are writing on toothy3 paper, the WOPEX really shines’).

Suffice to say4, I love the Wopex.

Just a quick reminder: Unlike normal wood cased pencils the Wopex uses a wood-plastic-composite instead of wood. The wood-plastic-composite consists mainly of wood and is, in my opinion, orders of magnitude better than pencils that use plastic instead of wood. Not only does the Wopex sharpen better, the lead – extruded together with the pencil – is also of much better quality, too.

The pellets before they’re extruded into a pencil

In the vial above you can see how the material looks like before it is extruded into a pencil. I got this vial at the Insights X trade fair. The pellets remind me of a company I worked for during my holidays in the 1990s. They were manufacturing extruded pipes and had similar looking pellets. The recycled pellets smelled very much like washing powder. As far as I remember extruding from recycled material was not easy, the material kept expanding in the wrong place resulting in uneven products. Unrelated – but there must be so much knowledge going into the production of a product like the Wopex…

The new Noris eco pencils in 2B, HB and 2H

The Staedtler 501 180

I first mentioned the 501 180 in a blog post from 2014, but a few months ago I finally got my hands on one – they are not very common and not easy to come by in the UK. The article number has gives some clues to this sharpener’s purpose: Wopex pencils have article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 40). Staedtler has now switched to using the word Wopex to describe the wood-plastic-composite material, and is not using Wopex anymore to describe pencils made from this material, but independent of how the name Wopex is used, the pencils made from Wopex material still use article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 30 for the new Noris eco).

Article numbers for Staedtler’s rotary (i.e. hand crank) sharpener start with 501 (e.g. the Mars 501 20 rotary sharpener) so 501 180 is the perfect5 article number for this sharpener, 501 for a rotary sharpener and 180 for Wopex. The 501 180 was designed by Helmut Hufnagl and is made in Taiwan.

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Video

Here’s a video where I compare the 501 180 to two other rotary sharpeners.

Clipping the pencils’ points off at about 7:30 really hurt and felt rather wasteful, but wasting so much good pencil when the auto stop of the other two sharpeners didn’t work was of course even more wasteful (…even though it didn’t hurt so much, maybe because the machine did the crippling of the pencils).

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

Tip: Open the video in YouTube, you can then play it at higher speeds, e.g. 1.5x.

Here’s a little table comparing the different points created by the three different sharpeners.

Sharpener:Deli 0635Staedtler 501 180Deli 0620
Angle:17°19°17°

..and here are the different points made by the different sharpeners.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Auto Stop

There is just so much less material wasted when the auto stop works. If you don’t have the 501 180 and your sharpener’s auto stop doesn’t work, have a look at the end of the video where I show a way of dealing with this problem. I am mentioning this simple trick here because my simplest videos seem most appreciated (e.g. how to refill a mechanical pencil), while my complex videos (e.g. the DelGuard pen force test) remain rather unloved.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

 


I have added the Wopex Mars 501 180 to the list of sharpeners, sorted by angle.

Many thanks to Benedikt Schindler for his help in getting the 501 180 to me in the UK.

  1. …because I switched to using a protractor when measuring angles I want to stick with this method so that all pencil points are measured the same way. []
  2. …with Johnny being the most determined defender in the Erasable group on Facebook. Thank you for that. []
  3. As expressed previously, for various reasons I am not keen on the expression ‘toothy paper’, but since this is a direct quote it will be one of the few occasions you can find this word in this blog []
  4. Yes, I learned that expression when I watched the English version of Star Trek Voyager. []
  5. I try to avoid using the word perfect, but in this case it is justified, I think. []

Pencil Pot Of The Month – May 2017

Description: A plastic container, used to hold pencils, in this case the famous four Fs

Price: not sure

Material: Plastic

Further information: Our twentieth pencil pot of the month is a plastic container that used to be the lid of a fitness band packaging. It is being used upside down, i.e. with the opening at the top. You can see that the writing on the back is upside down.


Handicraft with Bleistift VII – the Lexikaliker/Pollux/Leather Case™ 3

Time for another Handicraft with Bleistift post.

Pencil point protectors

Since we’re talking about Handicraft posts anyway, my 2010 Handicraft post contained the sentence “my point protector is so simple, you probably thought of it yourself somewhen in the past” – well, there’s proof that people come up with the same idea1, there’s a video on YouTube by tintinonair, explaining how to make these pencil point protectors.

Lexikaliker’s Pollux Case

You might have seen Lexikaliker’s posts about his Pollux cases, first in Basteln mit dem Lexikaliker (14), then a different version in Basteln mit dem Lexikaliker (15).

Well, I went with the more traditional, original version from Basteln… (14).

I have never worked with leather before and don’t have much DIY/craft experience or skills in this area, but Gunther’s drawing and measurements make it very easy to copy his design, which is similar to the leather case you get with the DUX Adjustable Brass Pencil Sharpener DX42774.

Me being inexperienced the whole thing took over an hour, but the time was mainly spent on trying to pull the needle through the holes, using the pliers from my Swiss Army Knife.

Doing the threads both ways, i.e. after sewing through the holes going through them in reverse again, so that the thread is also between two holes on the opposite side of the leather (I bet there’s a word for this) didn’t help speeding things up either.

Disrespecting my Blackwing

Well, I was well entertained, listening to our favourite Scouser’s (Craig Charles) House Party. By the way, Craig Charles previously featured in this blog post. While listening I once thought Arrested Development were singing ‘disrespecting my Blackwing’, but it turns out they were singing ‘disrespecting my black queen’.

Well, the main thing I learned, other than paying more attention to song lyrics, is to try to cut the leather deep enough the first time as the knife I used to cut the leather was so sharp, when cutting a second time the blade won’t end up in the old, but will cut a new ‘channel’.

One thing to do for next time is to get a smaller needle and thinner thread. When I compared the thread to the one on my Rustico I saw that mine is much thicker. With a thin thread and needle the whole ‘pull the needle with pliers, like an ox’ part could have been skipped.

I love the look of vegetable tanned leather and how it slowly changed colour over the years, getting much darker.

Colour comparison (Pollux case on top of a Rustico case) – look how dark my Rustico case darkened over time. I guess the Pollux case will follow soon

The leather cost me £2.25, but there’s enough left to make two more cases. As for the rivet.. unfortunately, I had to buy ten (for £5.49), so I hope I can find a use for the other nine.


I would like to thank Gunther from the Lexikaliker blog for his great plan on how to cut the leather for this case.

You can see the colour of my Rustico case, when it was new, in this blog post.

  1. …from the blog post’s point of view ‘somewhen in the future’ []