Thank You Cal Cedar

Last week, when the news broke that Blackwing Volumes subscribers would have access to the Volume 0 (or 1917 or 100 depending upon who you ask) anniversary pencils, FOMO grabbed me and I headed to their website and threw a subscription in my cart. Then, just before pulling the trigger, I messaged my wife and said that the family was loaning me $175 that I would sell some out of print Field Notes to cover.

Then it hit me. I was paying $175 for 5 dozen pencils. 60 pencils. $175. That’s almost $3 per pencil. Almost $30 per dozen. And, I removed the subscription from my cart and walked away. There was no way on God’s green earth that I could do that.

Now, I’m not going to lecture you and say you should join me in refusing to purchase overpriced stationery. I don’t even think I will say that Blackwings are overpriced. I may purchase them again, but I don’t know that a Vol 211 or 24 or a hybrid of them is ten times better than the dozen of Forest Choice pencils I can get from CW Pencils ($3 per doz, in case you are wondering).

I love stationery. I love pencils, pens, notebooks … but I just couldn’t, on that day, spend that much. So while I still stand by my post from a couple of days ago, I have reflected that I can find as much joy in that $2.50 Blackwing as I can that $0.25 Apsara Joi (figures are estimates, I could do the math, but I was told there would be no math).

I want to thank Cal Cedar for reminding me that enjoyment doesn’t come from how much one spends on a product. It comes from how good the product is. And, yes, Blackwings are nice. But so is a Golden Bear or a Prospector or an Apsara Beauty or a Staedtler Norica. Maybe it’s time to remember why I like the products and that the “coolness” isn’t the most important thing.

I’m baaaack – with a rant!

So, it seems that the online stationery world has been up in arms a lot as of late over limited editions. While I am not going to comment on the kerfuffle with the Abercrombie & Fitch Field Notes, I am going to speak to the recent decision by Cal Cedar aka Palomino aka Blackwing and their decision to release their 100th Anniversary Edition pencils ONLY to their Blackwing Volumes Subscribers. There is a lot to consider on this because, well, this whole thing rubbed me the wrong way.

I suppose it is only fair, at this point, to mention that I have issues with the whole subscription model  and have only grown more so over the past year. I currently do not have any active subscriptions, aside from a couple of magazines, but nothing in the subscription box model. That said, this has nothing to do with them including the limited edition pencil in the subscription boxes. As a true subscriber extra, they would be pretty awesome. And, it may have tipped me to subscribe again.

And, as a tried and true capitalist, I’m all for them doing whatever they want and selling their pencils however they want. However, that also means that I as the consumer can evaluate their product and determine if it is right for me or, in many cases, if I want to support the company making the product, no matter how cool they are. There are many factors that go into that decision for each individual.

All that said … I have issues with this. First, and perhaps foremost, I know that the guys at CalCedar are members of the Erasable Group over on Facebook. In fact, I know that at least one of their higher ups participated in the Secret Santa that I started over there. So, they are aware that the singular most requested item in their lineup is to add a 4th standard edition to the Blackwing lineup with the extra firm core. The cherry on top would be if it was a natural (aka naked) pencil. This has been the request of the community since the 211 and later the 24 came out. So, a limited edition anniversary edition that ticks those boxes? Yeah! Sign us up! Oh, wait … you HAVE to subscribe to make that happen? Well then …. I’ll subscribe. What? Even that isn’t a guarantee that I’d get a box?

Essentially what CalCedar communicated to me, a money paying customer and brand evangelist, is that we care about you only if you are a subscriber and then not even enough to make sure you’d get the limited edition. Never mind the literally hundreds of dollars I have spent on your product over the past two years. Be a subscriber and if you are lucky (and the website doesn’t crash which is another whole issue I won’t get into) you can have the right to purchase these super limited edition pencils that we didn’t even have to dream up – you guys designed for us free of charge.

Some have tried to brush it off by saying “Oh, these are just a test run. They’ll announce the new permanent edition soon enough.” Whether they do or don’t is not the point (and, frankly, if they DO make this a permanent edition, I might be more peeved!). I’m not even peeved if they wanted to give subscribers first crack and they sold out. That’s the price of tea. What I’m mad about is that they decided to celebrate their 100th anniversary by creating a product and saying to many loyal customers “You’re not loyal enough.” That’s what makes me mad. The hundreds upon hundreds I’ve spent with your company over the past 3 years on PENCILS doesn’t make me loyal enough to participate in your 100th Anniversary Party.  And is what will give me great pause to ever purchase one of your products ever again.

Finally … a winner!

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men go astray or something. Life got very … interesting over the past few weeks, but I’m happy to announce our winner for our Field Notes Spring 2016 Colors Edition Prediction giveaway. There were 24 comments …


Congrats spaceghost33! Appropriate for one of the prizes …


I promised a custom, one of a kind FN notebook. In honor of my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes going 12-0 in their regular season, I made the “Perfect Season” Edition. Limited to 1 of 1. Hope you aren’t an Iowa State fan. I’ll also toss in a Pitch Black notebook and a couple of pencils or pens for good measure. Congrats.

I’ll have my thoughts on the Candy Tooth edition in a couple of days … but considering I traded them without trying a one, you can probably guess what my thoughts are.


In other subscription news …


This picture is not a hint on the new edition. Right.

It seems that the next installment of my Field Notes subscription are on their way to me. With that in mind, here are my fearless and bold predictions on what these notebooks will be:

1) They will have a cover.

2) They will have 48 pages.

3) They will have three staples.

4) They will have lines of some sort on the pages.

5) Once they are announced, half the Field Nuts community will rejoice. The other half will wail and gnash their teeth.

How do you think I’ll do? Do you have any fearless predictions on the new Field Notes edition? Leave them in the comment below and I’ll pick a random one to send a unique, one of a kind, Field Notes notebook. Winner announced next Saturday (anyone can comment, but I can only ship to US Addresses – sorry!)

Another Subscription?!

Earlier today, Write Notebooks announced their plans to roll out a new membership. Now, I’m not bashing Write Notebooks. I haven’t used them but I know that the Erasable guys speak highly of them. I’m sure they are right fine notebooks. And I’m all for special editions, like the gang over at Field Notes HQ and the crew at Palomino has with their Volumes editions, but I have to wonder if we’re reaching the limit.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the concept and convenience, but I also know I end up spending more than I normally do. Take Field Notes, for example. I thought the recent Snowblind edition was neat, but I don’t know that I would have purchased a single pack, let alone two. And if the Blackwings are the same core with a different wrap, I really don’t know that I’ll continue that subscription.

Now, the flip side to all of this is that I really like how they are pushing the envelope on a lot of these products. I love the concept of the Blackwing 1138’s and the Field Notes Two Rivers edition. The subscription model puts the pressure on the creatives to continually innovate to create new things – a good thing even if every edition isn’t my cup of tea. The creative streak would probably lag without the pressure to come up with something new.

So, I don’t know if I will subscribe, but I don’t know that I won’t either. I wish Write Notebooks success in their endeavor. Competition is good. But I may have to sit this one out.

First Impressions – Retro 51 Tornado Marlin

IMG_20160220_140954812I fully recognize that I haven’t blogged much here in February. It’s been a little crazy including my wrapping up the requirements for my ministry credentials with my denomination. After I survived my oral interview (which wasn’t too bad, they were really nice, and didn’t want to stump me, mostly…). When I got home that night, my wife shared that she had purchased a new necklace to celebrate her diet going well. I smiled and she sighed. “Yes,” she said, “You can buy a new pen to celebrate.” And who am I to argue?!

So, for the better part of a week, I shopped. And I shopped. And … I shopped. Finally, I decided that I would like my first fountain / rollerball set. I zeroed in on my first Retro 51 Tornado and went with a matching set in their Marlin Acrylic finish.


Now, this isn’t a full review as I’ve had the pen for less than 12 hours in hand, but let’s just say that I’m in love. I really like the way the pen sits in my hand. While I don’t care for the color, the Schmidt refill is smooth as butter. And the color…let’s just say, wow. I showed it to my wife and she said, “Now that is pretty.” I agree. It is just gorgeous – I don’t think the pictures do it justice.

I IMG_20160220_140936523never considered a Retro 51 Tornado before. But after this, I have a feeling I will be picking up a few more. Next up is to try and hack some of my other refills to fit the pen. But even if that doesn’t work, I really like this pen.

But what about you? Have you picked up a Tornado before? Or, what do you think of the finish of this pen? Leave a comment below!


Handwriting is better for learning?

I ran across this article from Business Insider from a couple of years ago that tells us handwriting is better for learning because it forces your brain to engage with the material. Normally, I’d jump up and down, shout “YES!” and say that this is proof that you need to write everything down. Like Field Notes says, “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

But, the more I think about it, the issue isn’t handwriting versus typing. The issue is critical thinking and teaching students how to study. I tell people all the time when I went to Seminary I didn’t learn everything about theology any more than someone who goes to medical school learns everything about the human body. What I learned is a method and a way to approach my given subject matter that helps me do what is expected of me. I learned to slow down and interact with the material to gain a better understanding – and this skill has helped me in much of life.

This is an issue I have with much of education. As Derek Webb says in his song A New Law:

Don’t teach me about politics and Government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music

The issue isn’t handwriting. The issue is slowing down. Yes, pen(cil) and paper force you to do that. They eliminate distractions. And they are just cool. But let’s get to the real issue and remind everyone that life isn’t a sprint but a marathon. It takes time to develop thoughts. It’s time worth taking regardless of if it is on a computer, typewriter, quill, fountain pen or a pencil. The issue isn’t the medium; it’s teaching the critical thinking skills necessary to interact with the materials.

Your Friendly Local Pen Store

Back when I first started out with fountain pens, I needed a lot of help. And I do mean a lot. Thankfully, there was an option just down the street. At the local shopping mall there was a pen store that was able to help. Quill and Nib was where I purchased my first bottle of ink, my first Lamy Safari and my first Rhodia paper.

A few years ago, however, they moved out of the mall and into a historic shopping district here in Central Iowa known as Valley Junction. And, to be honest, I just don’t get to that part of town very often any more. Earlier this week, I found myself driving through town earlier than I anticipated and thought, “Hey, Quill and Nib is just five minutes that way. Maybe I should stop.” So I did.

IMG_20160126_144804018I walked into their new store and quickly struck up a conversation with Peter, the sales associate who was working that day. As I poked around, I noticed that they had expanded from beyond just pens into pencils as well and I quickly snatched up the last two boxes they had of the Blackwing 211’s.

IMG_20160126_144824264The store is well stocked and reasonably priced. While I was there, a young man looking for calligraphy supplies came in. Although they did not have the items on hand, Pete asked him for a list and said the owner would do his very best to get the items in stock. I love that kind of service. Likewise, when another gentleman came in looking for a rollerball refill, not only did Pete find the right one, but made sure it fit and that the customer was happy with the way it wrote. I can’t speak highly enough of the customer service they provided.

IMG_20160126_145114147_HDRNot only do they sell the brands you expect like Conklin, Visconti, Pilot, Lamy and Retro 51 to name a few, but the owner of the store, Rob, is a pen turner and offers his custom work for sale as well. These are gorgeous pens and reasonably priced from what I can tell – although still a bit rich for my blood personally. Still, I loved the bolt action pen that had a gearshifter for the knock mechanism. Very cool. I wonder if he can do one in Dale Jr. colors?

Overall, I spent way too much time (and money!) yesterday but I had a great time chatting with Pete and other customers about something I love so much. I plan to go back to Quill and Nib soon and if you are ever in Des Moines, Iowa, I encourage you to go and take a look. Well worth your time for a visit.

Daily Write Up – 01/24/2016 – Link It Up

Not a lot to write today – working on the final stages of a top-secret project that I hope to announce this week. So, here are a few links to tide you over while we wait.

Owl Ink has a great write up of a Stationary Crawl through New York. Someday, yes, someday…

Gary over at Papernary announced a podcast hiatus due to the business of life. Hope to hear from you again soon, Gary!

Brad shows off what you get with a membership at the Pen Addict blog. Very interesting and I love the fact he is able to leave the corporate world to pursue his dream.

Todd over at That One Pen has a long list of all the writing tools he doesn’t like. I get it. I have a pretty long list as well.

Johnny over at Pencil Revolution talks about a new pencil or pen holder called the Bandynami Organizer. Not sure what to make of it…