This category is for all things relating to stationery, pens, pencils, notebooks and anything else.

Uni-ball Air

Last month, I was in my local Tesco and decided to have a look around the stationery section on the off chance that there was something of interest.

I was extremely surprised to see a new, unfamiliar Uni-ball pen, since I’m pretty up-to-date on the latest products from the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. I don’t know how I missed this one, it has even appeared on a couple of the stationery blogs earlier this year.

Uni-ball Air in Tesco

In my defence, the usual places I look for brand new Uni-ball pens are Mitsubishi Pencil’s Japanese website and on Jetpens, a US based reseller specialising in Japanese pens. At time of writing this, the Japanese website still didn’t have it (they just announced they’ll be available in Japan starting 26th of November 2015) and neither does Jetpens. Yet.


The Uni-ball Air is a liquid ink rollerball pen with a unique tip. The tip has stainless steel on the inside and is surrounded by a black plastic that gives it a distinct look and seems to flex with pressure, enabling the pen to write at more angles than the similarly-inked Uni-ball Eye series. The advertising says that the tip gives a similar feel to a fountain pen (without the leaks), because you can get an effect where the line changes in thickness, depending how you hold it.


The tip has stainless steel on the inside, but it’s surrounded by a black plastic which gives it a distinctive look and also seems flex with pressure, enabling the pen to write at more angles than the similarly-inked Uni-ball Eye series of pens.


The thick black line has turned out to be a very good pairing with the Workshop Companion edition of Field Notes. I have enjoyed using it for sketching diagrams on large A4 pages, but for my usual daily note taking activities, I’m going to be continuing to use my 0.7 mm Jetstream Prime for now. I love Jetstream ink too much to give it up.

The Uni-ball Air has made it into my pencil case and will be used as an option whenever I want to use this kind of ink. However, I hope to acquire a thinner version in the not-too-distant future, so that I might have more opportunities to use it.


By the looks of it, the version you get in the US is actually thinner and, in my opinion, better looking. I’m not keen on the stripes they’ve given us in Europe. Why are they even different?

I find it interesting that it came out in the US and Europe first. In fact the slogan they’ve been using on all of their international sites is “West meets east“. It certainly seems like it was released in the West first, for some reason.


  • Interesting and unique tip design
  • Variance in line thickness
  • Super smooth writing
  • Uni-ball’s secure ink


  • Liquid ink is not ideal for all uses
  • Only seems to come in medium/broad in the UK
  • Not thrilled by the stripy look of the barrel

As a final thought, I’d like to say that I’m pleased to see Uni-ball are still innovating. They are my favourite pen and pencil manufacturer and I often worry about their lack of new designs in rollerballs and ballpoints. I’m essentially using the same type of ink refill I was using almost a decade ago. The Air feels like something different to their existing line-up, and that’s good.


The Uni-ball Air is now listed on the Japanese website, and it looks like they have the same designs. The broad ‘stripy’ version, and the cooler black version. The black version is shown with ‘micro‘ branding on the side, and is 0.5 mm. Hopefully I’ll be able to get one soon!

Field Notes

Used Field Notes

A few months ago I tried Field Notes for the first time. I was travelling to America and didn’t want to carry both of my large Moleskine notebooks around.

I was immediately hooked.

In the past I’d tried a number of ways to keep track of notes that seemed too basic to go into my larger notebook, but too complex for my planner; the vague middle ground of half thought ideas and random bits of information. The last thing I tried was 6″ × 4″ index cards. These were a great size, but then I had a stack of index cards to worry about. (I liked index cards so much, I may still find a way to use them moving forward, but that’s another story.)

I decided to try out Field Notes for this exact purpose – anything goes. From Wi-Fi passwords to plans of world domination, in any type of pencil or ink. The Field Notes is where I empty my brain.

Field Notes

Now that I’ve started using them this way, I plan to continue to use Field Notes for this purpose for the foreseeable future, and they’ll feature prominently in my plans for my refreshed analogue setup alongside Japanese notebooks like Hobonichi and Midori. There will be more to come about that over the next few months.

Aside from their actual purpose of note taking, there are a few other things that make Field Notes special for me…

Physically wonderful

First of all I find the dimensions and the number of pages to be just right for what I’m using them for. They’re 3½″ × 5½″ and 48 pages with a card exterior. They are a perfect fit for a jeans pocket or for stuffing inside a another notebook or case. They work well as companion notebooks more than anything else.

Field Notes

The physical design is based on the old memo books and pocket ledgers popular in America’s days gone by. Revived to fill the need of analogue note taking in a digital age, they feel just right for use at home or on the move.

Colors and limited editions

As well as a few stock notebooks, Field Notes provides a ‘Colors‘ subscription service where they release four different designs throughout a year. These designs are unknown until they are released, which can be really fun and exciting. Due to the physical size of the notebook, I’m regularly burning through them and changing the edition I’m using. I really like this pace as it keeps things interesting. Differences in paper, card, and printing technique means there is plenty of variety in more than just the colour of the card stock used.

Field Notes Night Sky

They also do a number of collaborations which means there’s a lot of additional designs out there, in fact there is a very strong community of ‘Field Nuts‘ who are interested in collecting and using these different designs. I have no plans on trying to get them all or to keep them in pristine condition, but it is delightful to have so many options around the same basic notebooks style.

The best of American design

I liked the look of Aaron Draplin’s designs before I even knew who he was. With editions ranging from the classic Americana of America the Beautiful to the eye-popping colours of Unexposed, the work Draplin and the whole of the Field Notes team has done for these notebooks is absolutely outstanding, they’re always on the cutting edge of American design and trying new things.

Field Notes Workshop Companion

The simplicity of purpose and design philosophy also expands to some of the accessories you can get – from leather cases to archive boxes, the use of the Futura typeface, and even the tone of language used in the back of the book.

The Field Notes style is bold and distinct, and something I really enjoy.

They look great used

Finally, one of my favourite things about the Field Notes brand notebooks is how good they look after they’ve been used. Using analogue tools for note taking is very different to digital notes. Microsoft OneNote is always going to be pixel perfect, but my Field Notes are going to get bent, scraped, rubbed and damaged through use.

Used Field Notes

They’re mine and it just adds to the experience.

I go through Field Notes faster than any other notebook I have, so really using them seems perfectly natural. I’m much more careful with my yearly planner because I have to keep it for 12 months. It’s nice to have something I feel comfortable just grabbing and folding over to scribble on.

Kyoei Orions Grid Ruler

Kyoei Orions Grid Ruler

I know what you’re thinking. Who really cares about what kind of ruler they use?

Well, apparently, I do.

I originally purchased a Helix drafting set when I started studying mathematics back in 2008. I mostly used the ruler to draw lines, diagrams, and all the good things you do when you’re studying maths. After I completed my second year, I put my ruler away in one of my pencil cases and forgot about it.

When I started studying again last year, I dug it out and used it in my Moleskine notebook. When procrastinating from my studies, I ended up using it in my weekly journal for drawing extra boxes for health data and other things I found interesting.

I was hooked. Whenever I added an extra table of data to my journal, I wanted it to be nicely lined up with the other sections. I continued to use this ruler for a while, but then I found something pretty amazing, a better ruler. Maybe even the best ruler? (For me, anyway)

From the moment I saw the Kyoei Orions Grid Ruler on JetPens, I knew I wanted to have one. (Feel free to check out the Kyoei site, if you know Japanese).

What’s so special about this ruler I hear you ask?

  • Every edge is used
  • No inches, just metric
  • Horizontal and vertical labels
  • Highlights every 5 cm
  • Starts at both 0 mm and -5 mm
  • 5mm grid lines everywhere

The most important feature is the 5 mm grid, which means that you can align the ruler both vertically and horizontally when drawing lines.

This is much better than most rulers, where you have to use use the small indicators on the side to align the ruler. Generally these don’t even line up with each other anyway, due to each side having a different measurement system. (Also why did Helix put a blue background on the indicators? Madness!)

This isn’t a problem with the Grid Ruler, as everything is metric. The edge-to-edge measurements are great for lining up to the inside of a notebook page too, especially when it also uses a 5 mm grid.

Kyoei Orions Grid Ruler

I like this ruler so much I got a couple of them to use both at work and at home along with my Kuru Togas and Boxy Erasers.

Jetstream Prime

The fact that I love Jetstream ink would be no surprise for anyone that has spoken to me about pens. However, these days I use a lot less ink than I used to. This year, I have only used pencil in my notebooks, and it has almost always been the same 0.5 B lead that I use in both of my daily-use Kuru Toga pencils.
I do still use ink sometimes though, and this is where the lovely new Jetstream Prime comes in. It’s a multi-pen with serious style that is made out of some fantastic materials. The three refills that come with it are black, blue and red – with the ability for you to change it into other types, should you desire. There are both 0.5 and 0.7 options.

Jetstream Prime

Personally, I never write with blue ink, which is why I usually tend to avoid carrying them. Therefore, I cannot really say how good the blue ink is, but with the other two, it is exactly as expected and it is the same high quality that I’ve come to know from the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.
The pen itself has a very nice metal body, with a matte finish on top. The version I have has a chrome-detailed end, though there are a number of other versions. I’m really not a fan of the fake jewel in the end though. It’s certainly not as bad as I thought it would be – but I feel that I would have preferred the design without it.
Talking of other versions, they also make one that includes a pencil. However this one is thicker and includes the pencil as a fourth option. I haven’t tried it out so I can’t say how good it is.
As is always the case with these multi-pens, they’re never quite perfect for what I’m after. The body of this design is very nice, but the useless (for me) blue ink is something that I’ll never use. Yes, I could replace it with another 0.7 of either the red or the black, but I don’t think I’m going to invest in that at this time. I would have liked to see the slimmer three pen version come with a pencil, which would essentially give me the same setup that I have with my StyleFit, but with a nicer body.


  • Great Jetstream ink
  • Fantastic premium feel body
  • Neutral position by un-clicking all pens


  • I don’t write in blue, so it’s wasted on me
  • Not sure about the fake jewel on the end
  • All multi pens rattle, this is no exception

Wacom Bamboo Stylus for Surface Pro

Wacom Bamboo

I have enjoyed using pen input for Windows since my first Tablet PC. Using a pen allows you to draw and make notes using ink, as well as be more precise with the cursor when required. Personally I find the pen that comes with the Surface Pro 2 to be quite agreeable… but I do know that people generally complain about a couple of points.

The first is that you clip the pen on the side where the charging port is – this is a bit like an after thought, but when space is a premium – it’s not a surprise.

The second is that it’s a bit light and plasticky for a £25 pen.

There’s not much you can do about the first one complaint, but the Bamboo Stylus Feel is a good alternative if you want to have a premium pen-like feel.

Wacom Bamboo

As the price of the Bamboo Stylus feel had come down to less than £10, so I thought I’d try it out. If didn’t like it, at least I’d have a spare!

I haven’t had a chance to use it very long yet, but already I can tell that it is well worth the money. The build quality is very high, and it feels a lot more premium than the Surface Pen. The weight is good, and the length is slightly longer than the Surface Pen when you place the cap on the end, or shorter when you put it away.

Wacom Bamboo

It feels great on the screen – slightly softer and less slippery than the Surface Pen. The accuracy is also really good – I had no issues using it right away with the default calibration on the Surface Pro 2, without installing any extra software.

The button on the side (which lets you right-click) is totally flush with the barrel, so it’s a little hard to find by touch alone. There also isn’t an eraser on the other end, a feature which I really enjoy on the Surface Pen.

It’s worth noting that the packaging stated that it was for the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, but it worked on the Surface Pro 2 without any problems. Be sure to check that the one you get includes the ‘Wacom feel IT‘ technology. There’s also a Carbon version – if you’re interested.

This is going to be the stylus I carry around in my bag with me, but when I’m doing art work, I’ll have both handy.


  • Cheaper than the Surface Pen
  • Higher quality than the Surface Pen
  • Feels great when writing on the screen


  • No eraser on the end
  • Button is flush with the barrel

The Great Pencil Debate

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of many different kinds of stationery, but that doesn’t mean I want to have to think about which pen or pencil to use at any specific time. However, there have been two pencils that have been fighting for my top spot for a while now…

Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Roulette


I have used various Kuru Toga pencils since they first appeared on the market, starting with the original all-plastic design, moving to the amazing High Grade and then to the perfected Roulette model. Each of which has been even nicer to use than the last. The main idea behind the Kuru Toga design is for the lead to rotate as you write, ensuring that the pencil end never gets flat on one side – a trait to most mechanical pencils which means that your writing is not consistent. This gives you an amazing thin line, which added with my B grade lead is dark and bold enough for the majority of writing tasks.

Before using a Kuru Toga I used to manually rotate the pencil every now and then just to make sure I was still writing with a sharp tip. While this is not the biggest problem the world needs to solve, I applaud the Mitsubishi Pencil Company for coming up with an elegant and solution to the problem.

The Kuru Toga Roulette is solid, well weighted, and built with high quality plastic. The grip on the Roulette version is a painted metal which could potentially scrape, but at the moment has held up very well. As with most mechanical pencils, there is also a small eraser at the end which can always be used in situations where there is no full sized eraser available to use.

Quite simply, the Kuru Toga Roulette is the most advanced and gorgeous looking pencil I have ever used. But is that enough?

Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder


Enter the 2mm Field Lead Holder. I first started using a lead holder regularly in August 2012, even though I’d had one in my pencil case for a while. On the technical scale it’s pretty much at the opposite end to the Kuru Toga – it’s a stick of 2mm lead with a plastic and metal surround. There’s no rotating lead and not much in the way of fancy technology.

It is also not ideal for writing mathematics or large amounts of text – but I haven’t been doing this much since finishing my university course a couple of years ago. Usually used for drafting, sketching and other art works, the larger 2mm lead actually started to look really nice when set on the Moleskine notebooks I use for my personal and professional endeavours. The thick, bold lines are fantastic for making lists and doing mind maps or diagrams.

Who wins?

Between these two pencils I have decided on both.

Most of the time, I use a squared Moleskine notebook for work. Here the Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder is used to make task lists, draw diagrams and make notes.

The Kuru Toga Roulette is used in my Moleksine weekly diary – making smaller notes, mind maps and task lists.


Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder

Brad Dowdy also reviewed the same pencil this week, great minds think alike!


The Field series of lead holders feel much stronger and more expensive than the original lead holder design I reviewed back in August 2012. The plastic is more solid, the metal seems better, and the mechanism is also a little neater.


I decided to go for the red Field pencil, even though I’m still using my favoured B grade leads. I think the red colour really stands out, and contrasts well with my Moleskine notebooks.



  • Thick bold lines, especially with B lead
  • Feels good in the hand and nicely weighted
  • Has a basic sharpener in the end


  • You need a pencil sharpener and eraser with you
  • The point on the lead gets flat, so you need to rotate it

Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Roulette


I have primarily used mechanical pencils for my note taking more than a decade now, and there are two particular kinds that really stand out in my memory. The older Pentel model that I first really grew to like, and the modern Uni Kuru Toga pencils made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

I have used no less than four different designs of the Kuru Toga (and a number of colours of each) but all of the Kuru Toga pencils share the same important feature – the lead automatically rotates as you use it.


Long term users of mechanical pencils will surely know the biggest problem is that the point of the lead becomes flattened on the edge that is drawing the line. The trick is to manually rotate the pencil in your hand as you write to avoid getting uneven lines. Here’s where the Kuru Toga’s rotating lead mechanism comes in handy – it does all the work for you so that all you need to do is write.

The version I’m currently using is the Kuru Toga Roulette 0.5 mm with 2B NanoDia Lead* – and it is by far the best of an already fine bunch.



  • A true innovation in pencil technology
  • High quality black plastic components
  • High quality painted metal grip
  • High quality silver coloured trimmings


  • Not easy to get in the UK
  • Not super cheap at $16 + tax + shipping

* Mitsubishi actually produce leads specifically designed for the Kuru Toga. I have not tried them out yet though.

Uni Sign Pens

Last time I ordered some Japanese pens from JetPens I got myself two Uni Sign Pens – red and black with the fine tip.

For a while I had been using Uni Brush Pens for making notes on A4 paper, however after prolonged use the tips start to get softer. The Sign pen has a much smaller tip and gives a thinner and much more uniform line while keeping the text nice and bold.

I find the pigment ink to be very good too, and it doesn’t bleed or go through a Moleskine notebook. Though I was disappointed to find that they’d printed the barcode on an otherwise very attractive gold-trimmed barrel.


  • Feels really good to write on both A4 and Moleskine
  • Thick uniform lines
  • Great ink


  • Why would you put a barcode on the barrel?

Uni 2mm Lead Holder

A couple of weeks ago I ran out of B grade lead in my Kuru Toga pencil. Rather than immediately sourcing some more, I decided to try using another B grade pencil.

The B grade Uni 2mm Lead Holder by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. It has a metal end and a bright red red tip, matching the colour of the stopper on the B grade lead. The rest of the body is the standard Uni maroon, which they use on their wooden pencils too.

The quality is very high, and I’ve really enjoyed using it. The lead is strong, dark and doesn’t break easily. Uni provide a pencil sharpener designed to fit the 2mm leads, which is essential for using this pencil.

Unfortunately, I have had it leak into a bag once, but if I was using a pencil case at the time there would have been no problem.

The Uni Lead Holders don’t have an eraser on the end of the pencil, so you’ve got to supply your own. I decided to go to for the Boxy eraser – also made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

The Boxy eraser is really fantastic, it erases even dark lines without too much pressure and leaves no marks – despite the fact it is black. The black colouring also means won’t get grubby after a while. Very handy indeed.

Overall I have really enjoyed using this combination. However I must say it is a little tricky to carry around all three pieces – all the time, especially when compared to the convenience of carrying just a Kuru Toga Roulette.


After using this pencil for a solid few months I’ve found that the chromed metal tip has started to peel, revealing a cheap metal under it. I also got the opportunity to try the Field line of lead holders – and decided that their quality is measurably higher.