This will be an occasional series of posts, in which I talk about things that I find useful. All of the posts can also be found on this page.
Despite being a (mostly) digital native, I have found myself drifting back to analog systems for some things. This may be due to the lack of tangibility of digital content; there’s something to be said for holding a physical book when reading.
In this edition of Things I Find Useful, I’m going to review a few of the physical tools I use to write. There’ll be a future post on the digital tools I use for writing.
GenXers and early Millenials might remember those awesome 4-colour pens. Most of us probably didn’t actually make use of the colours for enhanced note-taking, but that’s something they can be really helpful for. Several years ago, I came across one on JetPens which allowed the user to switch out the different colours, and held up to 5 ink cartridges. As soon as I saw it, I knew that it was the right pen for me: The Uni Style Fit Meister 5 Color Multi Pen. It’s become a near-constant companion, and thanks to the 16-colour refill pack, I was able to experiment and find the best combination of colours for my purposes. For the last couple of years, I’ve had Black, Blue-Black, Red, Orange, and Green loaded up. It can take a little getting used to, as the tips on the refills are fairly small and pointy; I accidentally scratched through the paper the first few times I used it. I don’t consider it an issue, as I really like how fine a line I can draw with it. The only downside to this pen, is that I have to order the refills from away, and shipping can get a little expensive.
For a backup, general pen, I bought a 3-pack of Uni Jetstream Bold Tip pens. I’ve had them for several years, and while they don’t get a ton of use, I have yet to run into any issues like ink drying up, or the tip getting clogged. They write really smoothly, and there’s no bleed-through on any of the paper I’ve used them on so far. They also have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, and easily obtained, should I need to replenish my supply. There are a couple of reasons these aren’t my regular-use pens: They’re mono-colour, and the line they draw is a bit thicker than I like for most of my writing.
There is only one pencil for me, and that’s the Uni Kuru Toga High Grade Mechanical Pencil. I bought this back in 2012, on a trip to Japan, but I’d been wanting one ever since I first read about it on the GeekDad blog (back when Wired still owned it). At the time, I think it might’ve been the only mechanical pencil that would rotate the lead, to ensure that you always had a nice fine point at the end. This model has a really nice heft to it; I’ve tried the model down, which is all plastic, and it just doesn’t sit quite right in my hand. It will take regular .05 lead, but I find that the Uni refills work better, as they seem to be less prone to breakage. Unfortunately, the eraser refills MUST be the Uni ones; I tried hacking some more commonly available ones, and the results were…poor.
Speaking of breakage, I’d like to address why I don’t generally use a regular wooden pencil. While they have some advantages (easy and cheap to obtain, no moving parts to fail), I find the downsides (lead prone to breakage, needs to be sharpened regularly to maintain a fine point, point can’t be retracted at all) outweigh the upsides.
I’ve tried a few different notebooks, as well as a few self-built “notebook-like” setups, and I recently settled on one that I find has a good balance of the cost, versus the features I like: the TRU RED Medium Flexible Cover Dotted Journal. This notebook doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but it’s got it where it counts. The paper is a decent thickness, which means there’s no chance of ink bleed-through, and that you won’t see what’s written on preceeding pages. It’s got 2 built-in ribbon bookmarks, one black and one silver. There’s no large pocket at the back (a la Moleskein), but there’s a small slot in the front for cards, and that’s what I normally used the pocket for on other notebooks. The elastic is, as far as I’m concerned, just the right level of tension – not so tight that it stretches out too much, but tight enough to keep things together and tidy. The fact that it also comes in a smaller and larger format, with the dot grid (my preferred type), makes this line just about perfect for me.
Back to you
Do you like analog writing tools? If so, do you have favourite options for paper, and writing instruments?