Review and Giveaway! Pebble Stationery Co. - Tomoe River Pocket Notebooks

Notebooks, in all of their shapes and sizes are a really important piece in the pen aficionado’s day to day. Actually “paper”, in many ways, is almost more important than the pen… without it, the pen would be useless.

I tend to stick to the same products over and over in my own paper using habits, but I often get the chance to try new things which I always enjoy.

I was recently contacted by Lois Ho of the Pebble Stationery Co, a small business that has a love for writing and fine writing related products. They were kind enough to send me two sets of their dot grid Tomoe River paper pocket notebooks to try: one set for me and another to give away! Special thanks to them.

My personal preference tends to be towards things that are simpler; less flashy. Upon receiving the Pebble books they definitely fit the bill. Their design is clean and simple (maybe even boring to some), but I like them.

The packaging is simple, just a plastic sleeve to keep them protected and a cream colored “belly band” with the details and branding. Debossed on the cover is the name Pebble Stationery Co as a subtle accent.

The covers are made of a pressed card stock that has a “fibrous” texture. Along the lines of a craft style, but in a light gray.

The inside covers are a soft blue (nice contrast) and have a space for your personal details as well as a note from Pebble about their mission.

As far as binding, the books are sewn (vs staples), and the outside cover is glued overtop.

What makes these a bit more special is the use of Tomoe River paper, which is the fountain pen users “dream paper” due to the crisp lines it provides and no feathering. Let’s just say that Tomoe River paper makes your fountain pens look the way we think they should. Like 4K resolution for fountain pens…

Pebble opted for a gray dot grid, which is actually my favorite, and nicely matches the exterior cover for some design continuity.

With all good things there are tradeoffs… Tomoe River paper allows the ink to “float” on the page with each stroke which helps with the crispness of the lines. More porous paper absorbs more of the ink and disperses it through the fibers… allowing it to dry faster, but at a lower visual quality.

Tomoe River requires a really long dry time to completely avoid smear/smudges. If you use broad fountain pens, it may take a long time. As shown in my testing, even with my medium architect nib on a Pilot Vanishing Point is at the greater than 2 minutes mark for drying. (tested with Iroshizuku Kon-Peki).

The paper, of course, performs beautifully with my pens, but if meant to be a place to store quick “pocket” notes, the dry times aren’t ideal for jot and go type scenarios.

I’ve seen others use pencils in Tomoe River as well since it is so smooth, and I found my Blackwing and Blackwing 602s to be a nice alternative. (Pebble actually sells pencils on their site…)

Price wise, the Pebble books aren’t too pricey considering they are using Tomoe. A two pack is $9.99 USD, and shipping in the US is $6. So out the door of about $8 each isn’t crazy.

The bottom line is that these are well made, beautiful books in my opinion and for someone looking for an “upgrade” in pocket books for their fountain pens these might be a good fit. Special thanks to Pebble Stationery Co for sending them!


The Giveaway!

How to Enter (Giveaway “Rules”):

- Giveaway will run through Friday, March 15th and will end at 11:59pm Arizona Time, USA

- To enter, leave a comment below (limited to one entry per person; no cheating!): What is the most recent “new” pen you’ve used lately? What about it did you like or not like?

- I will arrange the entries in numerical order and randomly select a winner.  The winner will be announced on the blog on Saturday, March 16th and will need to connect with me within a week to claim their prize. 

- This giveaway is open to both US and International readers.

Spoke Pen Review - Currently on Kickstarter

If you aren’t familiar with Spoke, they are small design and I’d say “tinkering” studio that have been producing machined goods for the last 6 to 7 years or so. Started by brothers Brian and Dan Conti, they are also the creators of the Baux pens as well as the Strong Like Bull magnet company. So, when I say “tinker”, I mean it in the most complimentary way. These guys just love making cool stuff.

After the release of their Spoke 4 (4th generation) mechanical pencil, they were in touch with fellow blogger (the Godfather of pen blogging really) Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict who said he had some ideas…

Within a few months, the guys worked together to produce the first prototypes of what would be called the Spoke Pen which is currently on Kickstarter and successfully funded. They were kind enough to send me one to check out and I’ve been putting it through its paces over the last few weeks.

As an overview, the pen is an all metal (ALL metal) barrel designed to take the Uni-ball Signo DX refill, one of Brad’s favorites. There are other metal pens that have allowed the Signo DX refill, but this is the first one designed specifically with it in mind and I think they made a solid choice.

The overall design of the pen is very unique and plays nicely into the Spoke aesthetic which they refer to as “geometric-deco” which has inset milling with straight lines and some subtle curves for interest. It was one of the things that drew me to their Spoke 4 pencil specifically since I think it looks awesome.

The pen is made up of several parts, 12 if my count is correct, which is a lot when compared to what you see in most Kickstarter pens. This complexity has its reasons as they’ve also incorporated magnets into the cap and the ability to create a tremendous amount of customization as time goes by. Even with all the parts, everything is tight, sturdy, and intentional.

They sent me over an all black “Ninja” edition of the pen (they must know me pretty well) and I love the design in this scheme. The finish is uniform and well done across all surfaces, even in the tucked away parts.

The grip section on mine is also black being aluminum, but they are also allowing for a titanium grip if you so choose.

While writing, the Signo refill is snug. REALLY snug which makes for a solid writing experience. No wiggles thankfully.

The only part of the pen that isn’t black is the tip which is made from stainless steel so it can attract the magnet in the cap… segue!

Rather than using a threaded or snap cap, the guys opted for a magnet closure which, as mentioned above with their Strong Like Bull brand, is completely appropriate. The magnet is pretty much just the right strength for this application. It is just strong enough to hold the cap and barrel snugly in place, but easy enough to pull apart with very little effort.

When I mentioned I had put the pen through “it’s paces” above I wasn’t kidding. Pretty much from the day I got the prototype in the mail it hasn’t left my pocket. This is for two main reasons: I really like the pen and I wanted to see how it held up to somewhat heavier use.

And, somewhat contrary to how I usually carry pens (almost always in some sort of sleeve), I simply clipped this one to my pants pocket to see how normal use, pocket lint, and occasional “bumps” might interact with it.

Overall, the pen has taken it pretty well in my opinion. I wasn’t intentionally inflicting harm to it, but it has now adopted some weathering in a couple of spots over the past month.

Being the all black version, the steel clip is covered in E-Coat (Electrophoretic Painting Process…) which gave a nice uniform “painted” finish to the part. An area of wear I’ve noticed is on the clip near the edges which are a little sharper where it has met my jeans pocket.

The other place I kindly added some “patina” to the pen was near the top of the cap where I wore through some of the finish to reveal the aluminum below.

These points of wear I would consider “normal” if tucking a pen into your pocket is your regular routine. Throw it in with your keys and you’ll see tremendously more wear (which I didn’t do), especially with black.

The “lint trap”. I try to remove dust during photos…not this time. (sorry)

One thing I suspected would also happen with the design is the accumulation of dust/lint down in the nooks and crannies of the geometric-deco machining points. It is especially so near the end of the pen. I am a clean person, but it was surprising how much lint and dust got caught just from being in my pocket.

Cleaning it out periodically shouldn’t be too much trouble, but is something to call out as some potential ongoing “maintenance” with the pen. Again, being the all black finish makes any spec of anything more pronounced.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the execution. I would honestly expect nothing less from these guys considering their past products I’ve had the pleasure of using.

After using the pen for minutes I knew I would also want to back the project. For my pledge I’ll be opting for a more “raw” metal look with a titanium grip. Seems like a nice contrast to the all black…

As mentioned, the Kickstarter project has already met its goals, but there is still about a week left to hop on. Thanks again to Spoke for sending me over the sample to check out!

The Ajoto Pen 2.0 - Ebony Cerakote Stainless Steel

I’m often surprised at how much time passes when I look back at past reviews. My first review of an Ajoto pen was 18 months ago….doesn’t seem like that much time has passed. My feelings for that pen (positive ones) remain the same, but when I heard last year that Ajoto was making some adjustments to the model I knew I wanted to take a second look with the revised version.

In this instance, I would recommend going back and reading my previous Ajoto review to get a feel for what we’re talking about today.

This time around I stayed with the stainless steel body, but chose to purchase the matte black “Ebony” cerakote finish.

As a quick overview of Ajoto, they are a small design firm in the UK that decided several years back to release their own pen and other EDC type products to the world. One thing that stands out to me is their almost obsessive perspective on quality and detail. There are a lot of people that make pens, but few (in my opinion) that do so with quite the same level of standard.

Upon someone’s first look at the Ajoto product line, what initially stands out is the price. I won’t dance around this subject: Ajoto pens are expensive. When compared to others in the market, the price point can be upwards of two or even three times the price which, at face value, seems ridiculous. A machined pen is a machined pen, right? When using them side by side with others of comparable features, these really are a step up in fit and finish. Some pens feel “mass produced” if that makes sense; the Ajoto doesn’t, and I think you pay for that.

I still hold true to my statement in my previous review that I would consider the Ajoto products under the umbrella of being a luxury item in a sort of Montblanc kind of way, but for machined pens.

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The Ajoto pen deploys a twist mechanism of their own design which, in the first pen, was given some tension via a leather gasket. Over time, and at the recommendation of Ajoto, these parts tend to get a little slow and tough to deploy which requires adding some oil. Once you do that, things smooth right out.

If there is a gripe anyone has ever given me when using my Ajoto pen, it is that the twist takes a bit more effort than others with a snappier mechanism. It is a tactile experience for sure to get the tip deployed, much like opening a folding pocket knife that doesn’t easily flip outward.

In version 2.0, they’ve replaced the leather gasket with an o-ring and added an additional brass section to the twist mechanism. Now, I’m no expert on tension or resistance, but over several months of use I’ve found that the o-ring does perform better with less maintenance which is a plus. And, with an even longer term type of view, rubber o-rings are much easier to come by than custom leather gaskets.

The only other revision that I can see in comparison to the previous version is that the line “knurling” pattern on the mechanism is more spaced out. I’m not certain as to why the change in this area. Perhaps as a visual differentiation to the original, but I haven’t felt a drastic improvement in gripping while using the mechanism.

The Ajoto pen uses the popular Schmidt P8126/7 style refill which provides a smooth experience and is a solid choice. Included with the pen are 3 Ajoto branded refills in black, red, and blue which I thought was nice.

Once deployed, the tip is strong in its placement and has literally no movement while writing. Both the V1 and V2 have the same experience. There are other pens on the market with a similar shape and for a cheaper price, but they tend to have some movement while writing.

As mentioned above, the fit and finish on these pens is pretty fantastic. Every millimeter has been inspected, the angles are tight and precise, and there isn’t a blemish to be found.

Like the original, the packaging for the pen is beautifully done. The pen is encased in a card stock box with a silver AJOTO foil stamp which is opened by pulling a perforated tab. Inside there is an aluminum sleeve (black in this case to match the pen) which holds a molded cork “box” for the pen. The metal sleeve and cork box are definitely “keeper” type packaging.

Being stainless steel, the pen is a bit on the heftier side at 1.8 oz, but the teardrop shape makes it more bottom heavy and therefore comfortable.

The cerakote finish is nice. I’ve had pens with a few different finishes like anodizing, PVD, electroplating, but the cerakote definitely provides a more “solid” coating. To the touch it is smooth, but does provide some slight texture for grip. Cerakote is the same finish that is often applied to high impact parts like on firearms, so I wager it will hold up well, although I don’t see myself beating it up unnecessarily.

While I do like the cerakote finish, I think I might prefer the raw stainless more. I like the cold, metallic feel as well as how the material reflects the light differently. Being all matte black is cool, but it could be made out of plastic for all someone knows. But, the stainless stands out and I’m always of the opinion that a silvery raw metal version of any machined pen represents its “true colors” best.

Due to their price, the Ajoto pen isn’t something I would refer everyone to, but for the right person most certainly. There are definitely more practical options out there to get a somewhat comparable experience, but I can certainly appreciate the difference in how Ajoto creates a higher quality and refinement. Writing with their pens is a true pleasure.

I am definitely grateful that Ajoto has made these and am glad to have them in my collection.

It’s hard to explain… Are there any items that you love that you paid more for, but can appreciate the difference?