Toronto Pen Show 2018

Let’s end the blog’s lengthy recess with a report on a recent event. Scriptus, the Toronto pen show, held their 5th annual show last weekend. It was my second visit to this show, and I enjoyed my time there.

The show’s venue, the Toronto Reference Library, is a special place. I am old enough to recall the predecessor location, which is now the University of Toronto Koffler Student Centre. The old reference library was a grand Carnegie library (one of a number in Toronto, all very nice) with a giant reading room and all the books behind a counter. Patrons had to fill out a form to request a book. (That’s also how the provincial liquor store used to operate. I’ll have to ponder the connection.)

Koffler Student Centre
By SimonPOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The new library represented a remarkable shift. The books were out in the open! For the first time, the public could see and touch the reference books without a gatekeeper. The building was also like no other library the city had seen. It seemed to have no walls. Designed by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, the floors were concentric wavy circles, and the whole building seemed like an open vessel. For better or worse, I spent many hours of my teenage years there.

Toronto Reference Library
By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid EngineOwn work, CC0, Link

The pen show is in one of the areas not regularly open to the public. A theatre, there are some interesting views of downtown from the windows. They also offer quality programming. For example, you can hear John Irving speak next month.

The show is free, and consists mainly of display tables that are rented by vendors. The show was crowded – much too crowded for my taste – but better than 2017.

Vintage pen dealers seemed to use the most space, followed by new pen dealers, often occupying several tables. Then people selling pen accessories, journals, notebooks, and various organizations. I found almost no woodcase pencils at the show.

I did find a number of craftspeople, including people with professional bookbinding skills. I bought a small distressed leather book from Don Taylor Bookbinder. It contains Tomoe river paper. While I now wish I’d bought more, I think the small book will offer a good chance to see if I like the paper and to learn how the binding performs over time.

Don Taylor Bookbinder

Stephanie Raudsepp from Montreal was visiting, and she makes thoughtful notebooks that aren’t just recycled – they are chlorine-free and made with wind power. I bought three, with the idea that a couple of them may become gifts.

Stephanie Raudsepp Notebook

Stephanie Raudsepp Notebook

I also bought a Taroko Design Breeze Notebook, whose packaging was quite professional looking.

Taroko Design Breeze Notebook

All the paper vendors allowed visitors to try their paper. And these weren’t just “staff” – the actual artisans were there in person.

Where did all these skills come from? I enjoyed visiting the table of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild. I bought a very small $2 kit from them, and got some back issues of Book Arts magazine.

Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild

Oh, I said there were no pencils – but there were pencil sharpeners, courtesy of an antique dealer.

Vintage Pencil Sharpeners

Vintage Pencil Sharpeners

And some more about the library itself – exiting the show, I noticed that the library now has 3-D printers, a print your own book machine, notices about an entrepeneur in residence, and other new features on the main floor. That floor used to house core reference materials such as dictionaries, enyclopedia, directories. I’d like to explore that print your own book offering!

Toronto Reference Library Brochures

And – there is a small retail area near the main exit with a coffee shop and a small bookstore. All food and drink (possible excepting water) used to be forbidden from libraries, and a bookstore (not just a small gift shop) inside a library seemed odd. But the businesses are not run by the library – they are tenants in the retail area. And the bookshop has Faber-Castell Document pencils and oversized 870 and 871 Castell marking pencils. These are super rarities of the modern catalogue – and there they were.

The Loot

Some other notes. The event, free and set in a library, could have been accompanied by more education (other than just “retail education”) about pens. I recall being taken to a coin show as a child, and it had lectures, displays, etc. – not just a retail bourse area. I also met other stationery bloggers in person for the first time. The event had various pre-events, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Ana Reinert from The Well-Appointed Desk and Brad Dowdy from The Pen Addict. Hard to believe this took so long. I thought I’d meet another pencil blogger first. I wonder if the show could support a pencil table?

In comparison to buying a handmade notebook or a vintage item online, a show like this is a much better experience due to the ability to test and handle the products in person. Talking to the person who made the product makes it even better.

Have you gone to a pen show? What did you think?

Düller Memo Pad

Düller Memo Pad

An unexpected local find, the Düller Memo Pad.

An elongated notepad, the paper features a dotted grid. The cover is a very nice forest green.

Shown here with a Düller Dietrich Lubs fountain pen:

Düller Memo Pad and Düller Dietrich Lubs fountain pen

Stabilo bionic worker

Stabilo bionic worker

This is a pencil blog, not a marker blog, but I’m still happy that Quo Vadis Canada sent some samples of the Stabilo bionic worker this way. Well, I’m calling it a marker, but it is officially a “liquid ink roller ball”. And I’m not sure if it is the brand that was used by bionic public servant Steve Austin.

As well as representing Rhodia, QVC represents the famous pencil brand Stabilo in Canada. How interesting! (I wonder if they know that I like pencils?)

The bionic worker has two main special features – an ink window and a completely rubberized surface. The ink window doesn’t show me too much. To me, the grip is comfortable. And the all orange appearance can’t be ignored.

Stabilo bionic worker

I admit to not regularly using this type of product, but I think that could change. I’ve previously mentioned paper products that didn’t like graphite, and wondered if they might have another writing instrument as their ideal partner. One confirmed result: the Behance Dot Grid notebook and the Stabilo bionic worker are a fantastic combination. The colours are vibrant and vivid on this paper. I see no feathering, nor marks bleeding through to the paper’s reverse side.

Stabilo bionic worker

The only negative I can see is that I can’t find a place to buy more. These markers seem like a higher end product – not something one will see at most office supply stores.

My thanks to Quo Vadis Canada for sending these samples.

Caran d’Ache 45 multipen

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

This post continues on two other articles about vintage multipencils. (The Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil and the Caran D’ache Tricolor.) I mentioned their quality construction, as well as the relative complexity of their mechanisms.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Well, I got further with them than I did with the Caran d’Ache 45. The 45 was advertised online as a multipencil, but when it arrived, it turned out to be a multipen – three ballpoints and a pencil in a classic looking barley pattern housing.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Octagonal shaped, each writing implement is selected by sliding a corresponding switch. The implement is retracted by clicking the cap.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

So now the fun starts. First the obvious. I can’t find any way to advance or replace the pencil lead, and suspect it is all manual. That’s okay – at least it works.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Now the ballpoints – they are dried up. Easy to replace, right? Unfortunately, no. There seems to be a standard mini-ballpoint format that is used by pocket pens and multipens, but it has two differences from the 45’s format. First, the modern format is longer – which can be remedied with a side-cutter. But, the 45 is a clutch leadholder on the inside, and it wants the format of the original. The 45 does not properly grip the new format.

The original, between modern examples:Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

So, I fear this potentially amazing writing instrument is a paperweight, unless someone out there has some ideas for finding a replacement ballpoint refill.

This post is also a cautionary tale about proprietary formats for writing implement refills – pen, pencil, or other.

Stationery Magazine

Stationery Magazine

I can’t read much of it, yet it seems to speak very well to many interests of mine.

Red and blue pencils, leadholders, quirky office accessories – they’re all here, and featured prominently.

The magazine is in Japanese, with about 150 glossy pages crammed full of photos of woodcase pencils, mechanical pencils, leadholders, erasers, sharpeners, staplers, hole punches, rulers, and much more.

Stationery Magazine

Yes, they have a page on Vernier calipers:

Stationery Magazine

Sharpeners also.

Stationery Magazine

Stationery Magazine

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

There may be hundreds of reviews of the Lamy Safari out on the net. I agree with their general sentiment: the Lamy Safari is an excellent pen in and of itself, and one of the best overall values in fountain pens today.

I have a Pelikano Junior that’s also doing extremely well, but it’s new so I won’t place it in the Lamy’s category just yet. (Nor is the Pelikano even close to the same design level.) I also have other fountain pens that require a regime of rinsing, cleaning, and choosing the right ink. That’s okay, but convenience has some merits. The Safari, though abuse would be unwise, doesn’t require any of that sort of pampering. For me, it always just works. It is a great pen for someone who may be curious about fountain pens, but doesn’t want to spend too much.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

The Safari comes in many colours, and Lamy released a white version last year. The set in the picture also includes a matching ballpoint pen.

The aesthetics of the Lamy are current and modern. I think it’s a great looking pen. The plastic box housing the pens is itself a great piece of design.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

Now let me mention a couple things that you might have to learn the hard way if you buy a pen like this somewhere other than in person at a specialty fountain pen shop (where they typically know their stuff).

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

It will come with a handy ink cartridge. That’s nice, but be aware that this is a proprietary Lamy-only size. If you want to use these cartridges in non-Lamy pens, or use “standard” cartridges, such as from famous ink manufacturer Herbin, you are out of luck. Lamy makes a few colours, and that’s where your choice ends.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen/Ballpoint Pen set

The ballpoint, which is also quite stylish and usable, takes a proprietary Lamy M16 refill. For someone like myself in a small city – the problem is that the local big box office supply store doesn’t carry this item.

Lamy Safari Fountain pen cartridge: T10

For the fountain pen – there is a path to more choices which I recommend – the (again proprietary format) Lamy Z24 format converter allows the use of bottled ink. This is to me a defining merit of the fountain pen – there are hundreds if not thousands of ink varieties available, ranging not just in shade, but density, wetness, drying times, and many other factors. The converter sets you free to try whatever ink you choose.

Lamy Safari Ballpoint refill: M16

To review, the Lamy Safari Fountain pen and ballpoint pen use these refills:

Ballpoint refill: M16
Fountain pen cartridge: T10
Fountain pen converter: Z24

Overall, I think they are great writing implements, but I have just a bit of concern about the non-standard formats – the ballpoint in particular.