Filtering by Author: Brad Dowdy

Pilot Futayaku Double Sided Brush Pen Review

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.)

Here is the crux of my problem with brush pens - they are the imperfect imitation of an attainable thing. They are a cover band. They are the movie version of a beloved book. They are turkey bacon. They are not brushes, they are barely brush-like.

The problem with every felt tip brush pen I have ever used is the lack of "snap" or "spring." Sure, a real brush can be a bit unforgiving at times, but it's worth it for that je ne sais quoi when the ink meets the page and line thickens right where you want it too and as the brush lifts and the tip flicks back to its original shape leaving a line tapered to perfection like a wisp of smoke. Sweet ink bliss.

So, now you know how I feel about this sort of thing. This is a review of the Pilot Futayaku Double Sided Brush Pen. It's tips are felt. Hold on to your butts.

When I picked this thing up I didn’t want to compare it to a brush. I really didn’t. Promise. I figured that I would end up aggravated, so I wanted to take my own advice and treat it as something else. A tool, which it is. A tool that knows it's failures and has a built in compensation. In that way it ceases trying to be an imitation and embraces the functionality it does have.

This pen has, you guessed it, two tips. One large, one small. The small side's largest line width is precisely the thinnest of the wide side. They meet in the middle. The difference between to the two tips is so perfectly divided that it leads to an amount of flexibility I’ve not found in another felt tip brush pen. I know that it sounds lazy, but flipping the pen to use the other side is so much better than stopping to dig for another pen.

It has double caps; one for each side and the large end cap has a clip. You can switch cap sides, the large cap fits the small side and vice versa. The caps also nest within one another, so you can always fit the one on top of the other side you aren't using, stacking two caps on one end. This seems like a no-brainer, but so many dual pens do it wrong or poorly. The pen isn't unwieldy long either. It is lightweight, but not so much that it’s thrown off when one side has both caps.

Ink delivery is smooth and consistent. About a 4 second dry time and you are safe to touch the paper. This helps when re-positioning your hand over previously laid lines to use the other side of the pen, which is great because that is exactly how I was using this pen. The dual nature of the pen works wonders with my workflow and felt like it was the antidote to my problems with other brush pens.

I stopped expecting to get the variance of line width that a real brush would give me and leaned into the predictability of the line widths and their limitations. The damn pen has two tips, make sure you use both. The lines are easier to control and leave a smoother stroke, where sometimes a brush will echo the minor shakes of my hand. In that respect, it actually trumps a brush in performance. This pen could be a more forgiving alternative, not replacement, to a brush. Now, it didn't disappear in my hand like I was suddenly communicating directly to the paper as ink incarnate, like I sometimes feel with brushes (we've all been there, am I right?). But it was like using a well-made tool whose makers understood the limitation of what the tool was and perfected it because of that.

The Futayaku is available at JetPens and is well worth dropping one on your cart to have a new pocket friend ready to ink up a page.

(Disclaimer: This product was provided for me free of cost but I am not otherwise being compensated for this review. The opinions contained are my own.)

Posted on July 30, 2015 and filed under Brush Pen, Pen Reviews, Pilot.

Calepino Graph Paper Memo Book Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

The market of 3.5 x 5.5 memo books is definitely not slim. Field Notes is likely leading the pack, followed by other worthy contenders such as Doane, Word, and many, many others. But Brad sent me one that I'd only seen reviewed several times on other fantastic sites — the Calepino.

The Calepino is a French-made memo book that uses 100% recycled materials. In a word, this notebook is killer. From the understated kraft outside to the resilient, smooth paper on the inside, this book makes me wonder if I should ever buy any more Field Notes (but who am I kidding — I have a problem).

The Calepino notebooks are right up the alley of every other 3.5 x 5.5 memo book out there. A 3-packer will cost around $10 and comes in a nice variety of paper markings, from lined, blank, dot grid, and graph. If you're a big dot grid fan, this is a memo book made especially for you. The only problem I've found so far is that these books can be somewhat difficult to find. CW Pencils and Cult Pens have the full arrangement, and I suggest you check them out.

The look and feel

These notebooks have a thicker, stiffer cardstock than most of the competitors. It has a nice natural look to it and features soft, understated branding that fits the aesthetic perfectly. The staples are heavy duty and hold the book together firmly. I have no doubts that this book will hold up well in your back pocket for several weeks.

The graph lines are printed in a subtle green ink that carries over the nice green ink from the cover art. Inside the covers are the expected blank fields for name, address, etc. The back cover has some information about the notebooks, but it's written in French. C'est la vie.

The paper

To get right to it, this paper is awesome. It's possibly some of the best paper I've seen in a memo book of this size. It handles pens and inks of all types with ease. Let's be honest, the most troubling pens can be wet fountain pens, and this notebook handles those like a champ with no feathering and minimal bleeding and show through. Incredible.

Like a lot of graph paper, some inks change color or sheen when over the graph lines, but it's not very noticeable with this paper and ink. In some papers, the graph lines seem to eat the ink, making it look like the pen is skipping very neatly every 1 cm. Not the case with the Calepino.

After investigating for a minute, I discovered that the Calepino notebooks use 90gsm weight paper. That, folks, is why this paper is so good — I'm just not used to seeing it this format.


If you like pocket memo books and fountain pens, check out Calepino. These are exceptionally well-made products, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Like I mentioned, these aren't incredibly easy to find in the US, but CW Pencils and Cult Pens have them up for sale for around $10 a pack.

Posted on July 29, 2015 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Calepino.

The Pen Addict Podcast: Episode #165 - What Kind of Show Are You Running Here?

I was under the gun this week as I completely forgot to plan out Episode #165! Myke and the community delivered though, and we ended up with an excellent episode if I do say so myself. We touched on my vacation bag dump, the latest with Nock and Karas Pen Co., and some ink thoughts by yours truly.

Show Notes & Download Links

This episode of The Pen Addict is sponsored by:

Fracture: Photos printed in vivid color directly on glass. Use code 'PENADDICT' to get 15% off.

Squarespace: Build it Beautiful. Use code INK for 10% off.

Posted on July 28, 2015 and filed under Podcast.

Sailor Professional Gear Transparent Orange Review

Sailor Pro Gear Transparent Orange.jpg

Being the fan of Japanese pens that I am it’s no surprise how much I enjoy the Sailor brand of pens. I’ve owned or tested most of their main line products, and there is no better fit for me personally than the barrel size, shape, and weight of the Pro Gear.

The Sailor Pro Gear Slim is smaller, lighter, and narrower, as is the 1911 Standard. The 1911 Large is similar in feel and weight, but the rounded end caps aren’t as aesthetically pleasing to me. The only one I haven’t compared side by side to the Pro Gear (King of Pens excluded) are any of the Realo models, which are similar in size to its Professional Gear and 1911 conterparts but use a piston filling system.

All of this is to say that everything about the Pro Gear fits what I am looking for in a pen to a tee.

The Transparent Orange model has been on my shopping list since I became interested in fountain pens several years ago. It’s loud and scary and breaks every traditional fountain pen mold. And I love it for that. The pink and green models are just as vibrant and I would be happy to own any or all of them and flaunt them whenever I could.

Goldspot Pens kindly loaned me this pen with a medium 21k gold nib for review. I inked it up with one of my favorite inks - Sailor Jentle Blue Black - and it wrote perfectly right out of the box. Japanese medium nibs are a sweet spot in my opinion. Fine enough to maintain nice line control, and wide enough to show off the ink on the page. And just look at that nib - it’s beautiful!

Being the fan of demonstrator pens that I am, I’m used to seeing converters and other internal mechanics inside pen barrels. With this Pro Gear, I have to say seeing the converter inside isn’t the greatest visual. Would I prefer a piston mechanism instead? Sure, but this is a small con in what is a pen full of pros. When I’m writing with it I don’t notice it at all.

All in all, borrowing this pen from Goldspot has only confirmed that I want to add one to my collection. It looks great, writes wonderfully, and is an excellent example of a Japanese brand having fun with a traditional writing instrument.

My thanks to Goldspot Pens for loaning me this pen for the purposes of this review.

Posted on July 27, 2015 and filed under Pen Reviews, Sailor.