Favorites of 2016

In a lot of ways, 2016 was a strange year for me. I started the year in one town, moved to another for work, bought a house, then promptly changed careers. Scary, all this change. One constant has been my girlfriend by my side, supporting me the whole way. I can’t thank her enough. It seemed like every time 2016 took one step forward, it took two steps back. But the Cubs finally won the World Series, so I can’t be too upset.

2016 was also the year that I found an outlet for my obsession with stationery. I found communities online that contained people who are just as crazy about this stuff as I am, and those people helped guide me to find things I never would’ve found otherwise. The people I’ve made trades with this year in the Field Nuts and Erasable Facebook groups have been nothing but generous, helping me jump-start some collecting at little to no cost to me, out of the kindness of their hearts. I’ve loved this stuff for a long time, but never knew quite where to look and what was worth the spend. The reviews, conversation, and trading with these lovely people have been the highlight of my year.

This is NOT a recap of all the things that came out in 2016, as I can’t have possibly used or purchased everything out there. I can save that for the big boys. What I am going to review are my favorite things I used and/or discovered in 2016. Most will have been released in this year, but not all. I’m going over Pocket Notebooks, Standard Notebooks, Pencils, Pens, and other accessories. I’m looking for things that brought me joy…those beautiful, useful, well-designed items that I just couldn’t put down.

Pocket Notebook

Seriously...what's better than Charcoal Bookettes?

There were a ton of new pocket notebooks that came out this year. A couple companies got into the subscription model, some others just put out a ton of limited editions with new cover art, and Field Notes collaborated with a lot of brands this year. But my favorite of the bunch was the Write Notepads Kindred Spirit edition. This was the second in their membership series, and it was a home run. It was the book that sold me on Write Notepads and made me buy a membership. The member package was amazing: it came wrapped in a mini charcoal briquette bag, which had to be torn to get what was inside. There were pencils made to look like matchsticks and a cool trade token. But what I loved most about it was it was all Butcher Orange. 80# cover with 70# text paper that was amazing with pencil, with a cool little flame logo on the cover. It was lined (my fav!) with light orange ink. Instead of doing belly bands, Write makes these little boxes that are badass and look cool as hell. Also, to annoy the collectors and reward the users, they stuffed some of the boxes with Butcher Blue versions of the books, and gave out something special to those who reported they got one…which would force people to open their bags and boxes to check to get the cool thing, but if they decided not to, they wouldn’t know if they had a rare book or would qualify for the cool thing. Clever, and a good way to say these books are for using, not gouging people on eBay.

Honorable Mention: Field Notes x Carhartt

 

Standard Notebook

If you want spoilers about the innards, check out the review.

I’ve just discovered Baron Fig this year, after hearing them on a podcast that I was catching up on…I do that a lot, so I don’t remember from what year, episode, or really even what podcast it was. But I did remember the name, and I downloaded their note taking app to try out. Turns out, I don’t really need another place for notes on my phone. But when I found myself with a need for bigger notebooks with softcovers, they were really getting some props on their subscription service that had just launched. I decided to go for it and for my money, the Baron Fig Mystery Black Box is pretty cool. I just got it, but in initial use, it has already become my favorite softcover notebook this year. Here's my review.

For hardcover, you can’t go wrong with the Write Notepads Traditional Brass Ruled Notebook.  As a righty, I don’t mind the Wire-O binding, and the paper is killer, as all Write Notepads paper is. I have an expanded thought on these in my Write Notepads Starter Kit review.

Pencil

Black on Black on Black...awesome core.

This was the year of the pencil for me. I found so many new pencil brands to fall in love with. This was probably the hardest pick I had to make. I ended up choosing the Palomino Blackwing Vol. 24, the black “John Steinbeck” edition. I don’t ever wear black (more of an earth tones guy) and I rarely buy black products (more of a wood grain guy), so for something completely blacked out to win me over is no small feat. Black lacquer, black ferrule, black eraser, and an imprint, but no foil. The real star, however, is the core. The first “extra firm” core from Blackwing, these keep a point better than any Blackwing before it, but don’t give up any of their trademark darkness or smoothness. This core hasn’t yet been made available for the standard Blackwing line yet, but they have released it again in a second Volumes series pencil, the Winter 2016 Vol. 530…so there’s some hope that this core will stick around. If you’re listening, Palomino…let’s have a year-round natural finish, extra firm core pencil. It will become your best seller.

 

Sharpener

My precious...

There were a couple cool sharpeners that became available this year, but two stand out for me: the KUM Masterpiece and the M+R Pollux. Out of the two, I have to give the Pollux the edge because it give you an equally long point as the Masterpiece without the need for 2-stage sharpening. The Pollux is a single-hole, brass pocket sharpener that gives a concave long point. It’s expensive and hard to come by, but if you find one, do yourself a favor and grab it if you’re into pencils and love a long point.

 

 

Pen

A lot of ink for something I rarely use.

I didn’t have much pen activity this year. I did buy my first fountain pen, however…the Lamy Al-Star. With the Lamy green ink cartridge, it’s taken over as my main pen for writing letters and cards. I’ll always be a pencil-pusher first, but I do love this pen and will be exploring other things in the new year.

 

 

Subscription Extras

In my opinion, there is a tie for best subscription extra: Write Notepads Motel Keychain and the Field Notes Subscriber Personalized Reprint Set. The Write keychain is chock-full of retro-y goodness. This thing isn't a facsimile of those old motel keychains, it's like they found the one person left in the US still making these things and got them made. It's amazing. The Field Notes reprints are great. The were a surprise shipment to subscribers. When I had Draplin sign my blue single at the FNHQ Pop-up Shop, it even fooled him. He said "Is this what I think it is??" and started to flip to the back to look for the edition. I told him it was just the reprint and he said "Man, these things are close!" They also did give away these with a "Commemorative Reprint" belly band at FNHQ if you spent $20 or more in the retail shop...so that made the surprise shipment a little less special, but not by much. People close to FNHQ are going to the shop and buying these up to use as trade bait...I've gotten enough in trades to make my own Butcher Orange and Blue 3 packs if I wanted to.

This is retro-cool overload.

I had to use the orange because when would I ever get to? And why wouldn't I have Draplin sign the blue?


Some other things I loved this year:

Come back, little guy...I need more of you.

This thing got me through a stressful Cubs playoff run.

Seed “Radar” Eraser: I got this in a trade and saw it on CW Pencils, but didn't buy more when they had them in stock. This is my favorite handheld eraser, bar-none.

Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook: check out my review. If you love baseball, get this.

For a lot of people, 2017 can’t get here fast enough. Baron Fig just launched a subscription service, so I look forward to what they have in store. Word. is always good for some cool covers. Field Notes has been experimenting with different sizes and bindings. Write Notepads KILLED IT this year with their first year of subscriptions, so they’ve set a high bar and are surely up to the task. On the pencil front, Blackwing was been the only people really doing anything different, but sticking the 602 core in a new color lacquer pencil is going to get old, they’ll have to keep innovating. Baron Fig’s pencil sub looks interesting. The pencil space is due for some disruption, as much as a pencil can be “disrupted” and still remain a pencil. I plan on scouring the Kickstarter scene a little more, looking for new ideas, particularly with pens and notebooks…that being said, you can’t beat the classics.

More than anything, I hope to continue to be part of this great stationery nerd community, and to the great writing and photos in the little corner of the internet that we’ve seemed to carve out for ourselves.

Eephus League Halfliner Baseball Scorebook

I am a baseball FANATIC. It’s the only sport I ever wanted to play as a kid. But I fell out of love with baseball (and sports in general) during my high school years. In a small town like the one I grew up in, you get pigeon-holed into cliques and “types” of people. You couldn’t be an art kid and be in sports. You couldn’t love punk rock and baseball stats. So when it came time to choose, I chose rock ’n roll, hanging out with the punks and the nerds. They just spoke more to me. But as I grew up, I came back to baseball.

There is something about baseball that attracts the nerds. The stats are there for the numbers geek. The defensive positioning and lineup creation there for the strategy guy. Each battle between a great pitcher and a great hitter is like a chess match…who is looking 5 steps ahead and tricking who? But a chess move is a decision, it is made and there it is. A pitch has to be executed. You decide on your move, but you can’t know whether it’s gonna hit it’s spot or not. If the ball hits the bat just slightly higher or lower than perfect, that’s the difference between a home run or a pop up out. Slightly left or right determines a strike on the corner of the plate, or a ball…there’s also the human element: you have a person making that decision.

Branch Rickey said “Baseball is a game of inches”…I say it’s more like a game of millimeters.

The Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook is as beautiful as the game itself.

The Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook is a sight to behold for baseball nerds like myself, but also a cool item to have for the stationery and design nerd. Scorebooks are traditionally throw away items. I remember my Dad having a ton of these blue-inked Scoremaster books for his softball teams. Spiral bound, they were never closed, so I couldn’t even tell you what the cover looked like. He just threw them into his bat bag and forgot about them until next game. When looking for a scorebook, I asked him about them, and he said he didn’t even remember why he chose that brand, “probably because that’s what they had”. I looked into one, and they’re just like I remember it: blue and an eye chart. And not updated for the modern game. There are only 3 spots for pitchers and 1 sub spot under each batter in the order. The creators of the Halfliner are obviously fans of the National League: there is space for seven pitchers (one starter and six in relief) and 2 subs under each batter. That’s also different from the Original Scorebook, which is smaller and therefore only uses 1 sub per spot.

The Halfliner allows you to score 81 games, half of the 162-game regular season…hence the name. It is spiral bound with heavy Double Wire-O binding. It has a pitch black cover with their logo blind-embossed on the cover. It is made of heavy cover stock, however the specs are not available on their website or inside the book, so I can’t say exactly how heavy. The back is made of a similar-weight light chip board. Black as well.

After opening the cover, you’re greeted with a blast of butcher orange paper, 6 pages explaining how to score a game, if you’re new to scorekeeping or just need a refresher. Then comes the fun part: the actual score card pages.

The layout is clean and modern. The two pages opposite each other are very similar, except that one has a section for Game Day details, like where you’re at, where you sat, how the weather was, who is home and away, and how you’re viewing the game (tv or at the park). The other page has a section for notes, the umpire list (so you can track who is squeezing your pitchers over the season!), and the final box score.

Clean design allows you to score your way.

The individual boxes are void of any extras, so you can score however you choose. There is no set spot for balls and strikes, no hit indicators to circle. It’s just a clean square with a diamond inside. For me, this is preferable. I have bigger handwriting and I like to use a dark, soft pencil. This allows space for me to make the marks I want to make without having to navigate around someone’s idea of what I should be tracking, instead of what I want to track.

I couldn’t find any paper specs, but it feels like at least 60# paper, though I’m not the best judge of that. It has a decent tooth to it, so it tears into a soft pencil like a Blackwing 602 pretty good. If you’re scoring at home, that’s not a big deal, you can just sharpen the pencil. Out at the game, though, I’d recommend bringing an HB at least, if not an F. Or just take your sharpener of choice along for the ride and leave the shavings next to the peanut shells. Use the back couple pages to get an autograph while you’re there.

If it sounds like I like this thing, you’re right, I do. However, there are a few things that I would improve. The Double Wire-O binding is a little too small for the amount of pages. It would be nice to be a bit bigger to give the pages a little room to move more freely, especially at the front and back of the book. I debated pulling out the first few butcher orange directions and the back autograph pages to give it a little more room to turn, but I just decided to be careful with it instead. Maybe I’m spoiled by Write Notepads, but the Double Wire-O binding feels a little weak to survive half the baseball season without getting bent up, especially if you plan on throwing it in your bag and hauling it to the ballpark on a regular basis.

I think that first icon is for night games, but I can't be totally sure.

The other thing I don’t like is the order of the final stats columns. I wish it followed the stat lines in the official box scores on MLB.com. The MLB order is AB - R - H - RBI - BB - SO - LOB. The Halfliner has AB - R - H - BB - LOB - RBI, with no spot for strikeouts. With strikeouts so prevalent in the modern game, it’s a stat worth tracking. I would even argue more important than the Left On Base stat. The instructions on how to score a game are enough to get you started, but if you are a complete newbie to it, you’re going to want to find an additional reference, as these instructions are very introductory.

Overall, the Eephus League Halfliner Scorebook is a hipster baseball nerd’s wet dream. Its cool retro look is great for the Field Notes crowd, but the design of the actual scoring pages is minimalist enough for the stats-nerd to make it their own.

Available at the Eephus League, $30

Disclaimer: I bought this thing myself, so there is nothing to hide!