Monthly Archives: July 2017


Suspicious Sellers 11

There seem to be a few suspicious sellers on Amazon Marketplace.

Well, I say they are suspicious, but I prefer to tell you what’s going on so that you can judge for yourself.

There are several accounts on Amazon Marketplace selling fountain pens for £7.99, £8.99 and £9.99, but even pens usually selling for several hundreds of Pounds are being offered for under £10.

Some of these sellers have real names, some just have random letters as their seller name. All of them seem to be registered in the USA. I wrote ‘seem’ because I don’t know whether Amazon will actually check the address used by sellers who register.

Why would they sell these pens so cheap, far cheaper than what they’d have to pay from the manufacturer?

..and especially when Amazon offers their “A to Z Guarantee”, which means that if there is a problem the customer won’t be out of pocket (and Amazon will probably chase the seller to get their money back…).

I rule out that this is just a simple mistake form the sellers. All these pens are sold by new sellers on Amazon Marketplace and they put a lot of them online. One wrongly priced pen might be a mistake, but not if all you offer is under £10.

Explanation a) Maybe it’s a bored millionaire who just wants to make people happy by reselling pens with a colossal loss.

Explanation b) Maybe they want to get people’s address details? ..but I guess there are easier ways of collecting people’s addresses

Explanation c) When you pay they get the money from Amazon and keep it for a while. Delivery times are very long (many weeks), so they have many weeks before the customers can complain that the product didn’t arrive (and then the postal service can be blamed), so it will be a long time before they have to return the money. Time they could use to get interest on the money or time to pack it all up and disappear.

Well, the good thing is that if anyone wants to try these sellers out and my suspicion that this is dodgy is right the customers are only out of money for a few weeks – until Amazon reimbursed them, so the risk for customers seems small.


Update: shortly after posting this I have been told that Scribble has discussed this issue a few days ago in Facebook’s Fountain Pens UK group. Thanks Mark Porter, for letting me know.


Handicraft with Bleistift VIII – the Memo Book Leather Pouch 6

 

In the previous handicraft blog post I followed Gunther’s instructions and made a leather case for the Pollux. This was easier than I thought. Putting the case together would have been very fast if it wasn’t for getting the needle through the holes in the leather, when sewing different patches together. That took quite a while.

Exited by the fact that the material wasn’t to expensive while the outcome was quite usable I thought I try to make another ‘leather item’, but this time something bigger.

I even found a use for the Staedtler compass(?) with two metal points, that I got in the past as part of an offer

One of the leather items I am using frequently is a Rustico Field Notes leather cover. It’s great, but doesn’t hold as many Field Notes memo books as I have in use1 – so another, bigger case/pouch would be quite useful to me.

USPS leather pouch (image © cor3y721)

Field Notes Pony Express (image © Field Notes)

There is an official Field Notes leather pouch, called Pony Express, but by the time it is imported into the UK it is rather expensive (>£80). This pouch is based on a leather pouch from the United States Postal Service.

 

Trying to make a similar case seemed like a good idea. The choice was to either make a very similar pouch to the USPS or FN version (using modern language I would call it ‘portrait mode’) or to do a ‘landscape version’ with slits in the back so that it can be easily attached to a belt.

I went for the ‘portrait’ version, mainly because it seemed cheaper to get a piece of leather to fit this version, but also because I thought it would be rather unlikely that i would carry the ‘landcsape’ version on my belt. The size of leather I needed was just a bit bigger than one I saw on eBay, but luckily eBay seller leatherandstuff-shop was happy to accommodate me: size-wise the closest patch of leather they sell is 30cm x 30cm, but they were happy to accommodate me and send me 35cm x 25cm for the same price (I need 35cm length for the pouch to work).

As the length, not the width, of the patch needed was the issue I had more material than needed and just cut the leather I bought in half, meaning that for the £11.95 I spent I can make a second pouch.

Once I got to the stage where I had to get the needle through the holes things got very slow again2, even more so because this time I used thicker leather (officially 3mm, but actually 4mm thick), so getting the needle through the holes was just too difficult. To speed things up I went to the garage and got my variable-speed rotary tool (i.e. a no name Dremel copy) to enlarge the holes. Thanks to this tool enlarging/making the holes was very fast and getting the needle (and the thick thread) through was easy, but I’m not sure whether this is a recommended way of making holes. I don’t know much about working with leather, so who knows, maybe these kind of holes will rip out easily, unlike traditionally made holes. The point I want to make is: it worked for me, but this might or might not be a good way of doing it, I don’t know. It was however an easy way of doing it.

After I finished sewing the pouch together I was trying to get it into shape: instead of being very flat I want it to bulge out in the middle part, to make it easy to put the memo books in and to take them out, especially because the leather is so thick and inflexible.

I read that you can mould leather when it’s wet, so I held the case under a water tap. I then put a plastic bag insert in, made from cut up packaging material, but because I didn’t trust the insert to be completely water and condensation proof I didn’t dare to put my real Field Notes memo books in. Instead I filled it with paper of the same size as Field Notes memo books.

Afterwards the sides of the case were clamped down, so that only the middle part gets bulged out, not the whole case. This setup dried overnight and the case was nearly ready, I used some leather balm after the water torture and then I just had to wait a few more days for the push button for the flap to arrive, two were £1.79. Attaching it was slightly messy, just because I didn’t have the right tools, but in the end it all worked out.

..and here is my finished case. I have been using it for over a month now. It still has a strong leather smell, not sure when that will go away, but it is very sturdy and practical.

  1. I have different Field Notes memo books for different purposes []
  2. Despite Craig Charles cheering me up in the background []

The End of an Era 6

This week I’ve been throwing a few things from my office away: stuff, mainly student assignments, that I don’t need to keep anymore.

I’m what they call a senior lecturer here in the UK, according to Wikipedia that’s an ‘associate professor’ elsewhere, and for that reason I’m involved in marking student work. Old assignments used to get stored centrally, but a few  years ago management decided that we should store them in our office1. We only need to keep them for a few years, then we can get rid of them. During my clear out session I came across some of the last type written feedback sheets I made.

Yes, the assignment is to programme a pencil museum (using PHP, AJAX and MySQL). Parts are pixelated for privacy

Our feedback sheets used to be spaced just right for typewriters2 and used carbonless copy paper. They have since been replaced with new feedback sheets that don’t leave space for feedback.

The real feedback is on the pages with code, this is just for the cover page

To celebrate the end of the typewriter friendly era in my place of work I thought I show you how these sheets looked like (cropped for privacy reasons). I sometimes used them with a portable typewriter I bought second hand in the 1980s, but most times feedback was handwritten.

  1. You might think that means we have less space, but management also took our printers and our waste bins away, so that gave as a cubic metre of extra space back. []
  2. but unfortunately no one else I knew seemed to make use of this feature, or if they did it was before my time, i.e. before I joined in 2001. []

Andreas Dorau’s Pencil 7

If you are from France or the German speaking countries you might have heard of Andreas Dorau. He was in the German charts in 1981 with a NDW song (also released in the UK) and in 1996 he made it into the French charts with Girls in Love.

Well, this week he finally made his wish come true and made it into the German album charts (#56), for the first time, with his album “Die Liebe und der Ärger der Anderen”. One of the songs, “Du stehst auf meiner Liste”, even features a pencil, paper, and erasing.

Congratulations!

PS: If you don’t know the songs, they both have a sad ending. In the 1981 song “Fred vom Jupiter” the womanising alien has to fly back to Jupiter because all the earth men are jealous and the 1996 song “Girls i Love” has an even sadder ending.

PPS: eSyringe has a series of videos of Andreas Dorau live in Tokyo.