2017 in Books, So Far

I can't believe it's been 6 months already. With the site's first birthday a little over a month away, I thought I'd do a little Halftime report on 2017, in books.

Top row, left to right:
My Paper Brains Graph - I liked this book a lot, and would love to review it, but I feel like I need to buy one from Seth. This was a tester from his group on Facebook and I'm not sure if it's what he's making at the moment. Used as a daily carry.

Word. Notebooks Charcoal - unless you specifically buy the dot grid book, all the Word. books are lined and have their bullet system in the side margin. They aren't the best for fountain pens, but they do well with graphite and gel / rollerballs. They make beautiful limited editions from time to time. Used as a daily carry.

Write Notepads Royal Blue - I didn't review these when they first came out, but this is a killer pocket carry, just like all their books. It's got their ledger-style ruling and the story behind this one is awesome. Used as a daily carry.

Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple - full review here. Used as a daily carry.

Field Notes Two Rivers - I started this book to use as a weight tracking / food diary book. It is still being used.

Field Notes Shenandoah - I put all my Lead Fast details in this book. I used a bunch of these when they came out. Still a favorite. Still being used.

Field Notes Black Ice - Full review here. I use Black Ice almost exclusively for podcast notes and ideas. This one is finished.

No Brand Notebook - from Less over at Comfortable Shoes Studio. She was getting funds together for a corner rounder, so I bought 2 packs in green from her to help fund it. A rare pre-rounder No Brand! Using it as a mini-journal for things in my past that pop into my mind. I explore them here. Sometimes something embarrassing I said or a date I went on, those type of things that I haven't thought about in years that somehow reared their ugly heads. Two pages from being finished.

Second row, left to right
Field Notes Kraft - I took off the cover and ran this through the ink jet as a test to see if I could customize a book. Turns out, yes I can! I keep my freelance business details here. Still in use.

Field Notes Two Rivers - This was my daily carry that was on the desk when my shelf exploded. It was soaked in Porter. The fountain pen that I had written in disappeared, but my sharpener series notes written in pencil survived. I dried it out and keep it on my desk as a reminder to keep my pack-rat tendencies in check. I don't really use it, but could!

Field Notes Workshop Companion Woodworking - Last year, around this time, I bought a house. When we moved to our current town for Laylie to go to college and I transferred within my (old) company, we found it was cheaper to buy than rent up here! I keep room dimensions, utility bill tracking, and other house-related items in this book. It usually goes with me on a Home Depot trip. Still in use.

Field Notes Carhartt Fishing - Full review here. I keep all the details about the podcast project that I started with my 4 best friends. Still in use.

Field Notes Black Ice - Podcast notes, still in use.

Field Notes Utility Ledger - Full review here. Used as a daily carry.

Field Notes Nixon 2016 - I love the look of these books. I used one last year when they first came out and it blew up in my pocket, the cover coming completely off. This one fared better. Used as a daily carry.

Field Notes Campfire Night - Current daily carry. I started it the day I received mine because I had just finished the Nixon (I was writing in the margins and looking for unused space for a few days!).

Third row, left to right
Field Notes Byline - I started this as a journal to cover the moving we did last year. Things got so busy, I kind of let it slide. I picked it back up and finished it at the beginning of the year, using it to work through my issues with changing careers.

Write Notepads Paper Journal - Full review here. I take movie notes for one of our podcasts, Bad Movie Breakdown. Still in use, it's got about one movie left in it!

Baron Fig Infinity Vanguard - Full review here. When I started my new job at the end of February / beginning of March, I decided I was going to recap each day. One page, one day. On rare occasions I would let myself take up 2. This one is finished.

Baron Fig Charcoal Confidant - My everyday work notebook. This has all my work notes and lives in my bag when it's not on my desk as work.

Write Notepads Traditional Journal - This is part of the Starter Kit I bought last year and reviewed. I put all the meeting notes and website details for the podcast project in here.

Bottom row, left to right
Write Notepads Graph Steno - This is what I use to do all the pencil tests for Lead Fast! I find the paper is a perfect medium between something too smooth (like Field Notes standard paper) and fairly toothy (like Baron Fig paper).

Baron Fig Black Box Vanguard - Full review here. Using this one as Volume 2 of my daily work journal. About halfway to Stitch Day!

Paper-Oh Quadro B6 - Full review here. This is what I'm currently using as my personal journal book. I use pencil only, generally. Never fountain pen.

Nock Co. Dot-Dash Spiral Pad - Full review here. This is my current "next to the mouse" scratch pad.

Write Notepads Pocket Steno - This was my "next to the mouse" scratch pad until it was finished.




I started out the year jobless. I had left my job in December, with no prospects, other than my freelance design work and this site (which COSTS me money! :-D) Of course, when you're in a situation like that, there is a lot of time for introspection. So I dove head first into writing a lot, doing more reviews and journaling than I had really done probably ever. I also starting doing the YouTube channel in earnest, trying to make it part of the whole Lead Fast deal.  While I still don't post as many videos as I'd like, most of the major reviews have an accompanying video. We also got our little French Bulldog, Luna, around this time and my world was changed...I love that little shithead, and I'm probably more obsessed with her than I am with stationery. She was a bright spot in an otherwise dark month.


Shelf destruction! What you don't see is the opposite wall soaked in beer.

I was forced to re-examine exactly WHY I collected so many books and what this hobby meant to me when the shelf that held my pocket notebook collection failed. It happened overnight and I didn't catch it until the morning. I had been working on a beer can label project for my friends at Old Bakery and had some of their cans as a reference. Unopened, full. They were on the desk. The shelf was above the desk. When it fell, it threw the cans off the desk and they exploded everywhere. I had Porter all over my walls. I'm still finding things that have dried beer on them, even though I cleaned the room top to bottom. Not everything was ruined, and a lot of it was salvageable, but maybe not trade-worthy. Luckily, the box where I kept one pack of every Field Notes Colors didn't actually crack or have the top fly off, so that part of the collection wasn't showered in beer. It forced me to think about the joy that I get from this hobby, was the fun more in collecting than using? Why is that? Is it a FOMO itch that I was scratching? Does it make me cooler than the next guy to have a bunch of old editions? Why do I think that way? I ultimately came to the conclusion that using the stuff brought me much more joy than just putting it in a box and looking for the next thing. I still buy way too many packs and I still do have a collection, but I haven't spent big money on old packs of Field Notes since. I did a week-long Sharpener Series that was really fun to do. I plan on doing one for hand-held sharpeners soon.


I finally started a full time day job again in March. I was so used to just spending the days around my pencils and books, writing and playing with Luna whenever I wanted, so getting back into the workforce was a much-needed kick in the ass. It's good too, because my savings were drying up and the bills were racking up. My live-in girlfriend is a full-time student, so unfortunately we couldn't live off of her meager part-time wages. I took a job that I am over-qualified and under-paid for, but that's what you have to do when you change careers. I treated March like Indian Pencil Month and did a lot of reviews of things I had bought in February that started to land in March. To be honest, doing that many reviews almost burned me out, but they seemed to be well-received and that energized me. I just had to re-adjust and get to a new normal with now having a job again.



One of my favorite things in April!

April slowed down, reviews-wise, but there was a lot to talk about because of the quarterly releases having been released from Palomino, Baron Fig, and Write Notepads. I covered those high points and a few other things, but when the only other co-worker on my team abruptly left, I found myself buried in work and not a lot of time to do much else. I also started a podcast project with some friends called the Lunch Table, so setting that up took a lot of the time away from the blog. Luckily, we had been recording podcasts since January, so we were prepared to have to take time off when the inevitable missed week happened. I've missed more recordings than I like to admit because I wanted to spend time on getting content together for Lead Fast!



Barry Nothstine FTW!


Chicago Pen Show! Field Notes Open House! The first weekend in May was pretty awesome and set the scene for the rest of the month. I got to meet Brad Dowdy when he was peddling his Nock Co. wares and saw Draplin and the FN crew at the open house. I tried, in vain, to meet up with Jaclyn from Inkpothesis, but it was not meant to be. I flew solo that weekend, and instead of standing around and staring at people and generally being awkward with no one to talk to, I like to get in, get out, and split! I did get to meet a couple great Nuts at HQ and even got some Bluegrass Cellular books from the man himself, Barry Nothstine! If I couldn't have had any more fun, the next week I was asked to be on the Erasable Podcast to talk about my Indian Pencil series. It was a blast being on with those three lovely gentlemen. I didn't have many reviews, but the ones I did do were the first ones that makers wanted to send me products for review. I wrestled with that for a little while, but determined that I could keep my objectivity. It was also the first month without a pencil review...lots of paper entered my life that month!


Ah, we just closed the first half of the year. I got back on a little bit of a roll again, with my girlfriend out of school and our schedule calmed down a bit. A lot of fun releases came out, the new Blackwings and Archer pencils, for a couple. The pencil world took a bit of a shock when CW Pencils had to temporarily close their brick & mortar shop due to building issues, but online ordering has stayed open. Baron Fig will continue to make limited editions but have ceased doing subscriptions. Subscribers will get everything they paid for, but after all the subscriptions are filled, they are no longer available. Sad to see it go, but I understand.

All in all, it's been a fun 6 months on the blog. As I settle into thinking about Lead Fast's 1st birthday, I'm most grateful for the wonderful friends gained and the community that I have been lucky to be a part of. It's amazing to think that the first 5 months I had this blog (since Aug 2016) I get more visits in a day than that 5 months. I very rarely look at the analytics and don't really care about them, but I'm happy that this thing has grown organically because of you, the reader, liking what I do here and enjoying my point of view.

That being said, nothing is so perfect that it can't be criticized. If there is anything you'd like to see, please feel free to reach out to me using the Contact Form or by leaving a comment below. I do this for two reasons: I love stationery and I love the readers of this site. Whatever you'd like to see, if I can do it, I'd love to. Thanks for making the first 6 months of 2017 pretty damn good.

Started Lunch Table with all his jackass friends. Owner/operator of Hagan Design Co. Blogs about all things stationery over at Lead Fast