Thursday, January 27, 2011

Retro 51: How a Tornado saved 3,740,250 sq feet of Rainforest


Three Million, Seven Hundred Thousand, Two Hundred & Fifty square feet. That's 347480 square metres. 827 Basketball courts worth of rainforest. That deserves a pat on the back!

This is the effort of Retro 51 and their ever benevolent Bamboo Tornado pen - now available at NoteMaker. The pen's barrel is made of Bamboo - the world's fastest growing woody resource. It grows so fast that you can hear the shoots growing - creaking, ever upwards - if you're lucky enough to be amongst Bamboo in the wild.


Retro 51 is an American company who believes that 'Life is too short to carry an ugly pen!". They are also trying to do their bit for the world's rainforests and have created the super cool Bamboo Tornado pen to do this.


The Bamboo Tornado's barrel, as mentioned, is made of 100% Bamboo. And every time somebody purchases a Bamboo Tornado, Retro 51 donate to the Arbor Day Foundation in order to rescue and conserve 250 square feet of Rainforest. That's nice.


The pen itself, dare i say it, is even nicer. It has one of my all time favourite twist mechanisms - it's nice and chunky and substantial. The shape, tapering to a point, is comfy, the length is good and the bamboo barrel is nice and smooth. It has a cute panda engraved on the side and so, all in all, the look and feel is really nice.


But the writing experience, dare i say it, is even really nice-er. The Bamboo Tornado comes with and uses the revolutionary EasyFLOW 9000 ballpoint pen refill. This is made in Germany by Schmidt. It is something else. Even if you don't know that it's in there (which i didn't), you'll notice how smooth it is. It's ballpoint pen ink which has the viscosity of rollerball ink, so it glides over the paper. But, it dries instantly AND has a two-years 'cap off' guarantee...if you leave the tip exposed for two years and then pick your bamboo tornado up again, it will write straight away.


Like all of the amazing Fisher Space Pen qualities we recently gushed over, that seems to be going a bit far...i mean, who is going to forget about a pen for two years and then find it and need to write instantly? But it's still important - it betrays high quality, attention to detail and 'oh, that's nice'-ism. Really, very nice.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Old Faithful - Cavallini & Co Calendars

Every year our Cavallini & Co calendars are one of our most popular items... is it their divine vintage aesthetic? Their timeless endearing appeal? Or their ultimate usefulness that creates a desire that quickly outweighs supply?
Here's a quick look at our favourite Cavallini calendars for 2011.... get yours before February flies around!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The All-Conquering Fisher Space Pens


I sometimes feel a bit for ballpoint pens. They're well meaning, useful and hard working. They're generally taken for granted and their otherwise good name has been sullied by an infestation of cheap and nasty versions - those dime-a-dozen packs which write the first two or three times and then cough and splutter to an inglorious end even though you can see that there is still plenty of ink.

The Ballpoint pen refill which has traversed the Galaxy!

It is the classic case of the baby (seriously handy, versatile pens) being thrown out with the bathwater (i mean, c'mon...it's a dollar for like 5 of them...what can you expect?). But as with all things, there is a niche section of ballpoint pens which deliver an amazing writing experience...enter Fisher Space Pens. I mean amazing in its etymologically faithful sense here of inspiring wonder and astonishment and awe - for what could be more amazing than going to space?! (check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day! and the most inspirational space video ever, narrated by the late great Carl Sagan)



In the 1950s, Paul Fisher invented a Universal Ballpoint pen refill. This was quite novel as it allowed one refill to fit into a myriad of different pens which operate on the 'Parker' twist action system. This is a style of ballpoint pen named after the pen makers Parker whose ballpoint refills work in a particular way. A Parker style ballpoint is one where the refill twists 90 degrees when it is pressed down and thus locks into position with the tip exposed. So, if your ballpoint pen refill has little notches on the side toward the tip, it probably works in this way.

The humble Apollo pen has seen some pretty amazing stuff!

Having conquered ballpoint pens on Earth, Fisher did what any man not content to rest on his laurels would do...he looked to the stars! Until Fisher came along, ballpoint pens had liquid ink refills and so they would only write in their 'down-right' position with gravity working to push the ink out of the pen. This would not do in the Zero Gravity environment of space and Astronauts and Cosmonauts were stuck with pencils on early space missions.

The Original Astronaut (and Cosmonaut) pen

Fisher invented a new refill which used 'thixotropic' ink. This is semi-solid until the friction of the ballpoint liquefied it and allowed writing. It is also pressurised (using nitrogen) so that gravity was no longer needed...the ink would always flow. NASA tested it (for two years...i guess thoroughness is NASA's bag but really...?) and since 1969, a Fisher has been on board all manned space missions, both Russian and American. That's right - Fisher's pen was so amazing that ideological conflicts were disregarded just to get to use it!

The Fisher Zero Gravity - super comfy rubberised barrel

And I know you may be thinking that "I'm not an Astronaut, I'm not going to be an Astronaut, I dont need to write anything in space, Fisher-Smisher." But like everything that goes to space, it comes back with amazing Terrestrial applications.

The Trekker - great for versatility!

Fisher pens can write upside down or on any angle (so you can lean against a wall and write something if there's no desk handy or you can fill in your Wall Calendar without getting annoyed by a failing pen). They can write on greasy or slippery surfaces. They can write on non-paper surfaces like plastic. Just to show off, they can even write under water, in freezing cold and in up to 121 degrees Celsius heat too.

The compact Fisher Bullet pen - the most popular Fisher pen

And if they can do all of that, just think how nicely they write in an air conditioned office (on earth) and with Rhodia paper. It's like the ballpoint pen of the Heavens!

The shuttle pen is all brass!

These tiny little pieces of humility have taken part in some of mankind's greatest conquests...all of those artificial satellites which orbit the earth (there are a few), allowing commercial, scientific and communications revolutions were launched by people taking notes and doing work with a Fisher...that's kind of cool. They probably played a part in bringing Space Food Sticks down to Earth as well (though I have a suspicion these aren't actually for Astronauts, from space or anything other than a standard chewy, awesome childhood snack)

The X-750 is super tiny - a great compact pen

But as we know, it's not so much about how cool space is or how amazing these pens' capacities are...it's about an awesome, reliable and versatile writing instrument for everyday on earth. They won't leak on aeroplanes, you can put them through the washing machine and they won't leak or explode, and they write every time. Perfectly, instantly, and without the slightest suggestion of complaint. They look great, they're compact, the materials used are sturdy and they can be used in situations as infinite as the Universe itself.

Fisher also trade-marked a comfy rubberised grip on the Trekker

Made in the USA, Fisher embodies the optimism and innovation of an era when things were done 'not because they are easy, but because they are hard'...where new discoveries were to be made with technologies not yet dreamed of and when the world, or rather, Galaxy, was forever changed.

Really cool packaging with Fisher Space Pens

So it may have taken a trip to the stars to do it, but the good name of Ballpoint pens does have it's champion and we all have awesome writing instruments for every situation of every day. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just Landed: Field Notes Balsam Fir


Brand new from Field Notes is the 9th quarterly release of limited edition 'Colours' notebooks - the Balsam Fir.


Printed on durable materials in the USA, the Balsam Fir uses high quality Speckletone Olive French made cover stock. The inside covers are printed (in Wet Bark Black) with handy info, practical uses, a ruler and other stuff you'll need away from the safety of your organised desk!


The Speckletone Olive is contrasted nicely with a super glossy, snow white Field Notes hot foil stamp and you can check out the embossing in this video below.


What i like best is the Conifer green graph ruling inside the notebooks - it will do wonders for your ink. A nice black ink will show up really strong against the green and white background and the slightly unconventional ruling colour is a great excuse to get your violets and reds out too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Landed: Delfonics Double Side Pen Clip


This is a very exciting arrival for us as it signifies the return of, or perhaps even improvement on, what I consider to be a stationery classic. The Delfonics Side Pen Clip.


The original side pen clip embodies everything we love in good design - its form is dictated by its function, it's really high quality, it looks great even though understated, and it just works so well. No more searching for pens, losing pens, breaking pens...it's always there for you, right where you need it.


The original side pen clip was clearly a hit with every stationery fan and then, veritable disaster struck - Delfonics stopped making them! And so we mourned the loss of a classic.


But little did we know that there were plans for improvement! And now, triumphantly, indeed messianically, the side pen clip is back...in double form.


You may not be surprised to learn that's it's twice as good as its ancestor!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stationery Determinism


Stationery Determinism!

If you're a Social Scientist, now may be a good time to look away. I'm about to commit two sins; to expound a deterministic theory and to make a mockery of neuroscience.

Firstly, clasp both of your hands together so that the fingers interlock and one thumb rests on top of the other. This is an old trick which tells us which side of your brain is 'dominant'. I imagine it's largely outdated by now - i wouldn't dare seriously suggest that the complexity of 10 billion neurons can be resolved by putting your hands together - but its easy.


If your right thumb rests on top, you are left-brain dominant...like me. You're supposed to be analytical (in my case, analytical is a euphemism for seriously uncreative). If your left thumb rests on top you are right brain dominant and thus, a loose thinking creative genius.


Now, i don't really buy this but i think it may provide some (much needed) anecdotal evidence to support my latest (purely analytical, of course) thought - Stationery Determinism. There is an idea in linguistics which is now a great target for derision called linguistic determinism...that our thoughts are determined by the lexicon available to express them. Whilst that may be poppycock, I and several others (like Nietzsche who said "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts") are willing to say that our thoughts are determined by the stationery on which they are written.


Yesterday i ditched my grid-paper pad for a plain paper pad...there was no structure there, i got lost...i'm not free thinking enough to survive without some kind of framework...needless to say, i spent most of the day on the cusp of action without ever thinking what i had to do next...i was all over the place! You probably love a plain paper pad if your left thumb ends up on top, you listen to Miles Davis and think the city of Amsterdam is draconian, but i end up in the foetal position.


Likewise, you may hate a ruled paper pad...those stupid lines, the 'Narcs' to your Summer of Love. The point is that you need to choose your stationery well, it has to suit you or else you won't know what you're doing! Companies needn't look to their HR department to see better productivity, they just need to re-stock their stationery cupboard.


Along the same lines, if i gave you some beautiful G Lalo Letter Writing Paper or a Correspondence Set, i can almost guarantee that you would write more slowly and carefully, you would probably use more 'proper' english, you certainly wouldn't dare to carelessly split your infinitives (see!...this is a blog post, so i'm being very loose right now). So if you do ever have to write anything where you want to impress, for heaven's sake get the right stationery!

Good for impressing!

Our poor brains are very busy, they have a lot on their mind...don't give them needless battles to fight by writing on or with the wrong stationery. If you need help finding the right stationery, we have this cool finder page and plenty of time, so get in touch! Otherwise, unclasp your hands and enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Made in England...Really?!


Really! Made in England! Oh how that takes us back, back to a time where a very small little island just north of the European landmass practically ran the world.


Indeed England has been described as a lump of coal surrounded by fish and with that natural resource, the Brits started and starred in the Industrial Revolution. The steam engine was invented because England's coal mines needed to be pumped of water and good old horse power wasn't enough.


The Brits made textiles, ships and sailed the world, colonizing more or less every single part of it. In fact, they conquered so many lands that they were forced to come up with such insipid names as the Sandwich Islands.


They gave birth to the USA and played an integral part in winning the war and then, well, nothing happened...


Okay, so nothing is a little bit unfair but manufacturing in England has seen such a big decline in recent decades that the once bustling ports are even more barren than they were when the Beatles had to flee to Hamburg to get a gig!


But even though more or less every gainfully employed Brit is now in the service industry, there are pockets of manufacturing - making things...some of them even by hand - and we have stumbled on one such pocket. Who would have thought it would be in South London?


Barbara Wiggins Designs create amazing leather products and stationery and they have been a huge hit already. Unique, hand crafted and using only incredibly high quality, natural materials, the Barbara Wiggins range is created (in London) using old world techniques of leather-working, with hammer, chisel, stitching et cetera.


From the contemporary Vintage Crackle range, the classic Italian range and the innovative Fresco range, Barbara Wiggins notebooks, albums and diaries restore British manufacturing to its heyday - even if only on a small, hand made scale.


The leather quality is amazing but its the littler things - the font used inside the diaries, the cream paper being crisp and substantial - that make me proud to be a subject of Her Majesty!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peanuts Moleskine - The Beagle Has Landed!

Your favourite beagle, Snoopy has landed at NoteMaker. The classic Charles M. Schulz comic strip Peanuts has been immortalised in this collection of Limited Edition Peanuts Moleskine Notebooks paying homage to a pop culture icon!
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy or Woodstock - who was your favourite?

Limited Edition Peanuts Moleskine Collection

The Peanuts Family Tree

Peanuts Moleskine Notebooks - available in ruled or plain, pocket or large.

All Peanuts Moleskine's come with Peanuts sticker sheets