Category Archives: Review

ensso Piuma Super Minimal Aluminum Fountain Pen–Initial Impressions

The ensso Piuma is a great pen for three years ago. In 2017, though, I’m not sure how it fits into the market.

The Piuma came in padded black cardboard box with the ensso name stamped on the top. The pen was packed tight enough that I had a hard time getting it out of the foam. (Not a good initial impression, but the pen was definitely secure in the box.)

The ensso logo a decent look at the pan’s finish.

The Piuma is a good looking pen. I chose the black aluminum version with a black steel nib and every one who’s seen it likes the black on black look. In keeping with the “Super Minimal” concept It is a basic cigar shape with no clip. It is 140 mm (5.51 inches) long when capped and 128 mm (5.03 inches) long when uncapped. Because the pen is designed not to post, it is right at the edge of too small to be comfortable for my taste, but my budding pen addict colleague liked how it felt and wrote.

The ensso Piuma.

The Bock #6 nib is smooth and well tuned and although the pen’s black finish is quite slippery, which my colleague also noted, I like the lip at the end of the section. The shaped section puts it ahead of my Namisu Nova Minimal fountain pen which had a fairly fat and slippery section.

Detail of the Bock nib and the lip at the end of the section. The discoloration is the remains of leaked LAMY Petrol.

It is also a very light pen for its size: 1.12 ounces (32 grams) capped and .83 ounces (23 grams) uncapped. I imagine that once the slippery finish breaks in a bit it will be a good pen for longer writing sessions.

The only issue I’ve had, besides getting it out of the packaging, is that in the jostling of my morning commute it leaked ink all over section giving me LAMY Petrol fingers when I started to write with it. I checked the tightness of the feed and nib unit and the problem wasn’t repeated on the commute home.

My other problem at this point is where to put this pen in the market. It is of a style of machined pen that was a big deal a few years ago, but now seems almost retro. Even dubbing it as “minimal” reminds me of pens I already own including one that is nearly identical to the Piuma.

A pen configured the same as mine sells for $79 retail on the ensso website. This seems to me to put it in an odd spot in the market. It is too expensive to be a starter fountain pen and there are cheaper options–TWSBI 580s for example–with more ink capacity for people interested in taking the next step down the fountain pen rabbit hole.

I got mine via a Kickstarter campaign for US $45 (not including shipping) and that seems to be a better price point for a pen of this kind. It looks cool and is comfortable to write with and it does turn heads, but it may be out of date.

That said, these are just initial impressions and the Piuma is now part of my pen testing rotation. I’ll give it a proper review in six months or so once we’ve had the time to get to know each other better.

 

 

Field Notes Utility–End of Book Review

I let my colleague from England handle one of my Field Notes Utility notebooks and he was so impressed by the paper that I gave him one of my copies.

The paper is what I like best about the notebook although there are a few issues with the notebooks themselves.

The Field Notes Utility edition has an attention getting Safety Yellow and black cover that has the interesting touch of showing you what flavor of paper is inside. The Utility comes in two rulings: Ledger and Engineer Grid.

(Note to Field Notes: How about a special set of notebooks served in three bundles of two: Two grid, two lined, and two blank? Or how about just a very special edition with blank pages? You could call it the “Shut-up Lively” Edition.)

The cover of the Field Notes Utility edition with the ledger sample at the bottom.

I started with the ledger version because I figure it’s the version I’ll like the best. It’s the closest to lines and I’m not a huge fan of engineer grid pages. The ledger style also seems like a natural fit for a bullet journal, To-do lists, or 10 Ideas lists.

The paper itself is an impressive 70# “Pure White” Mohawk Via Vellum ruled in something called “Get-It-Done Gray,” (That should be “Git-R-Done” gray as that is what I always call it by accident. I understand that there may be trademark issues involved with that.) The paper makes it one of my favorite Field Notes notebooks as it handles fountain pens and fountain pen inks well. It even handled Wancher Matcha admirably.

It does have a lot of tooth to it, which means the only thing that didn’t feel right, and I found this very odd, were fine tipped gel pens. Also, my Pilot Prera stub nib didn’t work very well, but that may have been because of the Kyo-iro Stone Road of Gion ink which I find to be a rather dry ink, albeit with a terrific color.

Several inks in my horrible handwriting. You also get a good look at the ledger ruling.

The back side of the same page. For Wancher Matcha, that is an excellent result.

Where most people have had problems is with Utility’s covers. First, because the notebook has heavy paper it is thicker than most Field Notes editions. This led to some people opening fresh packs to discover spines split from the first staple to the end. I didn’t have that trouble but it is something to be worried about when buying a pack.

This is the worst damage done to the spine. Note the black staple.

The other issue people have had is the fact the cover comes with a built in fold-out ruler with both inches and centimeters. To accommodate this the back cover doesn’t completely cover the paper as if the cover had been poorly cut during the production process. I haven’t found this to be a problem, although it does feel funny when you flip through pages.

I like having the combined inches/centimeter ruler and plan to cut it off to use a bookmark for future editions.

The underside of the fold-out ruler.

Although the Utility is one of my favorite editions, at least in ledger form, it’s a difficult notebook to recommend for first time Field Notes notebook users. Although the color is great, the cover is odd. I’ve also not tried the engineer grid yet. As I suspect I won’t like it as much, it may be too soon to offer a proper review.

Field Notes Black Ice–End of Book Review

I like everything about the Field Notes Black Ice limited edition except the cover, and even that doesn’t bother me very much.

With the entire cover foil stamped and with orange binding tape on the PUR bound spine, the Black Ice seems designed to attract attention in ways that other Field Notes limited editions aren’t. The America the Beautiful edition is gorgeous and nostalgic, but it won’t flash sunlight in someone’s eyes all the way across the room. You can’t signal a rescue helicopter with it, either.

The foil stamped cover is reflective, but you can’t see your face clearly in it and it doesn’t show finger prints unless you look closely at them.

Finally got Black Ice from @fieldnotesbrand #fieldnotes #selfie #notebooks #penaddict

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The PUR binding is also interesting because it makes the Black Ice the first Field Notes limited edition of this size to be made without staples. (The Byline was a different format.) There isn’t anything particular special about this, except to give the notebook a different look. It does take a little effort to make it open flat though. You have to force the binding flat in a way that would crack the spine of a paperback book but doesn’t damage the Black Ice’s spine. This gets the user an extra bit of space (5 mm)on each page.

What wins my heart, though, is the paper. The 70# “Bright White” Finch Fine Smooth held up well to every ink I used on it. The only exception was Wancher Matcha, of course. It’s a heart breaker. It breaks hearts.

I prefer blank notebooks (are you listening Field Notes people?) but the gray lines are subdued enough they don’t dominate the page. The orange accent lines at the top are nice to look at, but I personally could live without them.

Wancher Matcha breaking hearts. For Matcha, though, this isn’t that bad.

My only complaint about the design is that, over time, the orange inner cover tends to rub color on the first and last pages. Also, because the cover stock is slick, it’s difficult to write on.

I’ve been really pleased with the Black Ice and it’s made its way into my top five Field Notes notebooks–which I will someday post–although this is mostly for the paper and the PUR binding not the foil stamped cover.

The Black Ice is also one of the few special editions that I’ve passed out to colleagues. The one who got Black Ice seems to like it a lot.