I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that schools are ALREADY back in session in certain parts of the country (even if research shows that shorter breaks are more conducive to learning). And now that the summer vacation season is also coming to a close, many of us are getting ready to head back to work as well. My daughter’s not yet old enough to have to worry about that, but it still doesn’t mean you can’t have fun getting geared up for the fall. Here are a few of my “picks” for restocking your desk, backpack, or briefcase, whichever the case may be.
Gel/Ballpoint Pens. Don't be caught using a pen from someone else's dentist's office in your next meeting or class. Even if all you want/need is an inexpensive click pen, there are better, more reliable options.
- Uniball Jetstream. For all you ballpoint fans out there, you can't go wrong with Uniball's hybrid-ink Jetstream.
- Pilot G2 or Uni Signo 207. I love the G2, and consider it one of the smoothest writing pens around, but some people find them too wet.
- If you'd like a longer list of options, and especially if you're into ultra-fine point Japanese gel pens, check out this list for further reading.
Fountain Pens. If you're a regular reader of this blog, there are endless options out there for selecting the perfect fountain pen in any price range for any purpose. If you pushed me to make off-the-top-of-my-head recommendations, however, I would go with:
- Work or School: Pilot Metropolitan. I continue to be impressed with the Metropolitan. This is a pen that has made its way in and out of my collection over the years, as I tend to give them away to friends, family, and coworkers who express interest in fountain pens. Available in both a fine and a medium, Pilot's steel nibs are exceptionally smooth and the quality control is top notch. The Metropolitan comes with a converter included, so you are ready to use bottled ink.
- Heavy Notetakers: If you prefer a pen that accepts ink cartridges, go with the Pilot Metropolitan. However, the TWSBI Eco would be an excellent option for a college student that needs an ink tank.
- A Bit More Money: If you're in the "back to work" crowd and looking for an understated pen that won't look out of place at the office, the Lamy 2000 is always a good bet.
- Further reading for pen recommendations at various price points.
Fountain Pen Ink. Unfortunately, if you're a fountain pen user in today's world, you need to pay attention to the ink you use on the cheaper papers most commonly found in today's offices and schools. I tend to stick with Pilot and Sailor inks for my everyday writing.
- Pilot Blue-Black. An often overlooked, versatile ink that is easily available in cartridges (for your Metropolitan), and in VERY LARGE bottles as well if you can find a vendor who will source it from overseas.
- Sailor Ink. Sailor's line of ink is reasonably priced, and the entire line is available at most major pen retailers, including our sponsors at Anderson Pens, Pen Chalet, and Vanness Pens.
- Note that both Sailor and Pilot cartridges are proprietary, meaning that they will only work in Sailor and Pilot Pens, respectively.
Paper (Looseleaf/writing pads). I tend to prefer tear-off writing tablets (8.5 x 11 inch letter size), because I can either leave the pages attached (when I have a one-subject pad) or tear them out to punch holes and stick them in a binder. My choices here are the same for work or school.
- Rhodia Ice Pad (Grid). I prefer grid/graph paper to lined paper because I find it much more versatile. For fountain pen-friendly paper, Rhodia is one of the better values, and I enjoy the white pad with the grey lines. I've gotten more "where did you get THAT?!" comments at work from this pad of paper than any other piece of stationery I carry.
- Staples Sustainable Earth. When I don't want to spend a ton of money, Staples' sugarcane-based Sustainable Earth paper is my go to option, and I always have these in my desk drawer at the office. They handle most fountain pen inks decently, especially with Japanese fine or medium nibs. Unfortunately they are getting hard to find in-store at Staples, so I order them online.
Writing Notebooks. Whether you use them for note-taking, writing your rough drafts, or journaling, you need some good notebooks in your kit. Here's what's normally in my carry.
- Leutchturm 1917. The "black bound notebook with better paper."
- Baron Fig Confidant. A lay-flat clothbound notebook that is exceptional to use with pencil, and works fine with most fountain pens as long as they are not too wet.
- Clairefontaine. A colorful option that's probably better for school than the office (though I use them for both), Clairefontaine is the gold standard for fountain pen-friendly notebooks. They come in both clothbound, staple-bound, and spiral-bound.
Pocket Notebooks. You'll also need a good pocket notebook to capture thoughts, make quick lists, and serve as a scratchpad. I always have at least four on me. (Don't ask.)
- Nock Co. Dot Dash. Staple-bound reporter-style notebooks that I've been using a lot lately. The paper quality is very good, and handles most fountain pen ink well.
- Baron Fig Vanguard. Formerly called "the Apprentice", these pocket notebooks use the same great paper found in the Confidant.
- Field Notes. The ubiquitous staple-bound pocket notebook that you can find at stores in most cities. The paper is not the greatest for fountain pens, but if you're a ballpoint/pencil user, these colorful little notebooks are a lot of fun to use (and collect).
Planners. Even if you're not a "planner person," consider one of these. I don't use planners in the traditional sense, and use my iPhone to handle my schedule, but I still find it very handy to keep a "date book" to log certain things and do short form journaling. My recommendations here would be the same for work or for school:
- A5 Filofax. My go-to when I was in college/university because of how customizable it is. If you don't want to shell out the money for an actual Filofax, Day Runner is another option that I've used, especially when I was in school.
- Hobonichi Techo. My current choice, that serves a combination of personal and professional uses. The One-page-per-day format works if you don't have a crazy, ever-changing schedule. You may want to hold out and start this one in January, as the 2017 version has just been announced.
- Traveler's Notebook. Many people use the Midori planner insert for the Traveler's Notebook so they can use it as a combined planner/daily writer.
Wood case Pencils. I typically reach for a woodcase pencil before a ballpoint pen, especially if I'm editing or I need to write very small. Pencils are in the midst of what seems like a renaissance, with new products being issued regularly. My current stalwarts are:
- Palomino Blackwing 602. Based off of the classic Eberhard Faber pencil, and emblazoned with the slogan "Half the pressure, twice the speed," Palomino's version of the Blackwing 602 holds a point for a very long time, while still leaving a dark line.
- Forest Choice. A super-cheap, very high-quality pencil that will make you abandon your Ticonderogas for good.
Mechanical Pencils. If mechanical pencils are more your style, Rotring and Uni tend to have the high-end market cornered at the moment.
- Rotring 600. The classic hexagonal barrel, German-made mechanical pencil. If you need one mechanical pencil, this is it.
- Uni Kuru-Toga. The Kuru-Toga has a proprietary mechanism that rotates the lead as you write, keeping the point sharp. An excellent, relatively inexpensive mechanical pencil option.
Of course, there are many, many more options for all of these categories, but I thought it would be a fun little exercise to compile this list of recommendations since everyone's getting ready to bring summer to a close (prematurely, IMHO). Enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links.