An inky review of the Baron Fig Squire


Hold on to your hats — you’re about to see a pen review here on Woodclinched. And it’s not a pen that’s arguably a pencil, either — it’s a real, for-sure rollerball ink pen.

I don’t do it lightly, though. It’s definitely relevant to my personal interests, and hopefully to yours, too.

Last week, I got to try out the Baron Fig Squire pen, Baron Fig‘s latest, and massively successful, Kickstarter project.

I was in New York City last week, and I got to hang with some pencil friends. I went to CW Pencils, of course, to see Caroline and Caitlin, and saw my good friend (and Erasable group member) Harry Marks. I also had brunch with June Thomas, who is a listener and active group member, and a journalist and podcaster herself.

AND, I managed to take the N over to Queens to see Joey and Adam at the Baron Fig studio.

We were planning this visit anyway, but it just so happened to take place a couple days after Baron Fig’s Kickstarter launched for the Squire — a new custom-designed rollerball pen. Being the curious person that I am, and them being the passionate, generous guys they are, they let me try it out.

So here it is, folks — the first-ever pen review on this blog, and the first-ever review of the Baron Fig Squire.

A word about the photos

Adam and Joey are obsessive about getting the details right. As soon as I whipped out my iPhone to take some pictures of the pen and the writing, they cringed. So I let Adam take some DSLR pictures of me writing with it, which are included with this review. These may be the best original photos ever displayed at this blog; as Adam is a WAYYY better photographer than I, by a few orders of magnitude.

The Squire’s aesthetic

Since the Kickstarter just, um, kicked off, I’m not sure if the pen among a few advance prototypes that I was using will be the final product. It’ll be hard to match that level of detail, though — the anodized aluminum of that pen body was great. It reminds me of the little iPod Minis from several years ago that came anodized in several colors.

Baron Fig’s will be available in silver and a darker charcoal color. I originally favored the charcoal, but I think Joey convinced me to go with silver. It’s gonna look so good with the base color of Confidante and my MacBook.

(I know, I know. That was a ridiculously hipster thing to say. I heard it too.)

The body of the pen has a slight tapering to the back, so as to be shaped sort of like a long, subtle torpedo. The shape reminds me a bit of a nib holder for a dip fountain pen, which is a pleasant experience.

The length is also pretty great. At five inches long, it’s somewhere between a regular-size pen and a “pocket” pen. If this was a wooden pencil, we’d say it was at the “Steinbeck Stage,” or the point in which the back of the pencil hits the webbing of your hand between your thumb and index finger — John Steinbeck’s sweet spot for pencil length.

The Squire’s performance

It feels weird for me to rate the way the Squire writes — it uses a Parker-style refill, so presumably it writes like any other pen that uses that refill, right? (I’m totally open to any more experienced pen reviewers out there educating me.)

In any case, it writes smooth and dark, like most fine rollerball pens. The tip, if I recall is 0.6 millimeters, which is just great for me. I know a lot of 0.38 millimeter fans other there that think it’s just a little too blunt for their purposes, but I don’t care. It’s still a finer line than most fountain pens, and didn’t skip a bit.

However, I want to dig a little deeper into the performance that the pen body itself gave — the part that makes the Squire unique to Baron Fig.

It’s well balanced, as they demonstrate in some of their marketing materials, and it feels great in my hands.

(While I’m generally a wooden pencil user, I do have some nice fountain pens in my possession that I occasionally use. It feels like that, though I can grip further down on the barrel than with a fountain pen. In pencil terms, it’s a medium-length point instead of a long point.)

The top end of the pen twists to advance the pen’s tip. It was a bit hard at first to turn — Joey’s been carrying around a prototype for a few months now, and in that pen, it twists much more easily, and has a satisfying terminal click once it reaches the end of the process. He thinks — and I agree — that it should wear in a little bit with time, like quality leathergoods.

The only criticism I can offer in the pen’s design is the lack of pocket clip. That’s the primary method through which I carry my pens, probably because I’m a big dork.

The thing is, though, that I completely understand the design choices that they made with excluding a clip — it’s so, so simple and clean. It’s akin to Apple’s very deliberate choice in excluding the floppy disk drive from the iMac, or the optical drive in 2011-on-model MacBooks, or the USB port from the latest MacBook models. They’re stripping it down to its barest essentials, focussing their efforts on designing the core product, aspiring to letting it do what it does very well.

The pen is no different. It writes. It’s a pleasure to hold in your hand from any angle, which a pocket clip might detract from.

I didn’t get to take the advance sample home with me, which is all right. I already pledged for one plus a limited edition Confidante that bears the little sword logo for the Squire. It was an honor enough to be able to try it out!

As a departing gift, the guys gave me a pack of the “studio edition” of Apprentices — available only to those who go visit their studio. The notebooks inside are wine red, bookmark yellow, and their signature neutral grey — all colors that recur in their branding and product design.

How to get your Squire

At the time of publishing, the Kickstarter campaign is 573% over goal, at $86 thousand. For $50, you can score a pen, in silver or charcoal. For $20 more, at $70, you’ll also get a limited edition Confidante, their signature notebook, with a special little Squire logo on it.

Check out the campaign, here.

Unboxing the Field Notes Fall 2015 edition, Shenandoah

TJ Cosgrove from Wood & Graphite and I are falling into a good pattern here, I think — I send him some raw video of an unboxing, and he makes it look good and publishes it! Here’s this month’s release of the newest Field Notes COLORS edition: Shenandoah.

This is one of my favorites for a while, I think. I love the varying shades of green on the outside, with the brighter, “turned” colors duplexed on the inside. Time will tell how well that duplex holds together. This marks the first edition I’m using with my Field Notes Stuff Sheath to keep it nice in my back pocket.

The paper, for pencil, is very nice. It’s a little thicker than the old #50 stock paper, but thinner than the thicker, fountain pen-friendly #70 usually found in the summer editions.

My very favorite thing, though it’s kinda silly, is the belly band. They used a shaved wood on a substrate paper, like with Shelterwood and Cherry Wood, and that natural woodgrain with the green is just gorgeous. I think they captured the look and feel of autumn in the Shenandoah Valley really, really elegantly. This, to me, is why Field Notes stands out — great quality implementations of beautiful, simple themes.

This edition finally got me to convert to a COLORS subscriber, in fact — for the next three releases, I’ll be getting a couple packs automatically, along with a goodie or two. I’m definitely excited about that.

Buy a three-pack for $9.95 or subscribe, starting with this edition, at

Story Supply Co.: the TOMS of the stationery world

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Erasable community? Well, a lot, I’m sure. But this is something special. One of our group members, Vito Grippi, recently launched a (successful!) Kickstarter campaign for his new company, Story Supply Co.

In a nutshell, they source and give away “story supply kits,” for kids to learn the art of creative writing, storytelling and journaling. They’re partnering with 826, a series of fantastic arts nonprofits that help kids with many of the same goals.

Here’s the video from Vito’s Kickstarter campaign:

Did you notice the cameos from a Mitsubishi Hi Uni and a couple Palomino Blackwings? I sure did.

This is the kind of thing I love — admittedly a pocket notebook and a pencil aren’t the most original offerings ever, but they’re tools for creation! It’s not about creating specialized notebooks with one purpose and one layout. It’s about making a good quality notebook, a good quality writing utensil, for a great cause — helping give kids the same opportunity.

I also love that they’re partnering with 826. I have a couple posters from 826LA, and I’m not too far from the original, 826 Valencia, which is in the Mission district of San Francisco.

Full disclosure: I pledged already, and Vito sent me a pack of notebooks and a pencil early for review purposes. So while I haven’t really paid for them, I am already a backer of this campaign.

I’m a bit late to this review (Johnny talked about it over on the venerable Pencil Revolution, and Gary Varner’s very active new upstart paper blog Papernery has a great review,) but I will mention a few things.

The Notebook

I’m definitely loving the simple, navy blue cover with the Story Supply Co. logo on the front. It’s clean, and the navy-over-cream cover stock seems thick and rugged. The cover has a bit of tooth, as I noticed that there’s a subtle fiber interwoven in the paper, sort of like a dollar bill.


I’ll mention that the cover itself is pretty bad at closing completely once opened, and when it’s open, it wants to fold up pretty bad. It’s not dissimilar from Scout Books in that regard, though I know for sure that this is not a Scout Books product.

The inside is a creamy, thick graph paper. According to Gary, it’s a luxurious 70# weight, which is more than enough for the darkest of pencils, and perfect for all but perhaps the thirstiest of fountain pens.


The 5 millimeter grid is a great size, though it’s laid out strangely on the page. It doesn’t quite meet the top of the paper, though there isn’t enough space for a non-gridded headline, and there’s a slightly thicker line running a quarter of the way in from the outside of the page, and a quarter of the way up. See?


Maybe that was intentional? I have no idea.

Still, though. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s a damn fine notebook, especially considering it was their first run. As the company matures, I’m sure it’ll get better and better.

The Pencil


Now, this is an interesting one. Vito was kind enough to include one of their later offerings, a round, natural-finish pencil! It bears the name, tagline, and some other information about the company, and on top of a golden ferrule, it has a navy blue eraser that matches the silkscreen on the barrel! Swoon.

While it physically resembles the Field Notes pencil, I’m convinced it’s better quality. The wood isn’t as splintery when I sharpened it (with my KUM Masterpiece!) and while the pencil itself isn’t as fragrant as the Field Notes pencil, the shavings are more so.


I’m not sure why that is, but I’m guessing that there’s an ever-so-thin layer of clear lacquer or sealant over the Story Supply Co. pencil. It’s thin enough to leave you feeling like you’re gripping a natural-finish pencil, but it’s not splintery at all, like I find the Field Notes pencil to be.

(It’s worth noting that this is a Musgrave-sourced pencil, so there’s a good chance it’s basswood, which seems to be confirmed when the shavings are next to the more pink Field Notes pencil. I also see a definite woodgrain, which makes it seem like the Story Supply Co. pencil isn’t processed wood.)

They leave very similar marks, but the Story Supply Co. pencil is noticeably smoother to write with than the scratchy Field Notes pencil.


In fact, the only things I think the Field Notes pencil has over this one is a) the typography is better (because, duh, Aaron Draplin) and the ferrule is more unique. Though maybe not as effective — a lot of people have told me the eraser comes out easily.

Story Supply Co.’s ferrule isn’t particularly special but it seems to do it’s job, which is what it’s all about, right?

The Kickstarter

The Story Supply Co. Kickstarter campaign successfully reached its $5,000 goal four days after launching, which is impressive and commendable. At the time of this writing, it’s at $7,167, which seems like it’s still got a lot of momentum in it.

For five dollars, you’ll get a sticker and a pencil, which is a pretty fantastic deal. For just double that, you can get a pack of notebooks in plain, ruled, or graph, and donate a kit to “a kid with a story to tell.”

I can’t wait to see Vito’s stretch goals!

This is the way to do it, folks. I’m loving Vito’s vision for the company, and his Kickstarter prowess.

Check out more about Story Supply Co. at their website, or go straight to their Kickstarter page.

If neither pencil nor pen, then what is it? Reviewing the Napkin Prima

Pen Chalet is such a cool online shop. I wish I could give them more love on this blog than I do. But, alas, there are far better fountain pen reviews on other blogs than I could provide, and Pen Chalet is really intended for the fountain pen and finer rollerball market. Wooden pencil blogs lie pretty far outside that market.

I did write about this mechanical pencil, but other than that, there isn’t much I can rightfully cover on this blog.

Here’s something cool they just started carrying recently — something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. It’s often called a “forever pencil”, though that’s kind of a misnomer.

This chopstick-looking thing is called a Prima, made by an Italian company called Napkin. Pen Chalet sells writing utensils in three varieties that writes in a pretty unique way. This is the budget option, at $49.

According to the Napkin brand page on Pen Chalet’s site, it writes “using oxidation when it contacts paper. This leaves a unique mark different from a pen or a pencil and the tip lasts forever.”

From the way this is worded, it’s unclear whether or not:

  1. The alloy tip oxidizes the paper on contact,
  2. or an oxidation forms on the tip, and rubs off when it makes contact with the paper.

Keith McCleary is a chemist, and a lister of the Erasable Podcast. He’s pretty active in our fantastic Facebook group and when we were discussing how the Napkin products work, he postulated the latter, that the alloy quickly oxidizes and rubs off onto the paper. He thinks the tip could be made from a blend of lead, tin and possibly bismuth, all of which have black oxides.

What’s fascinating to me is that, if this is true, it can oxidize fast enough to continuously generate rust to rub off as you’re writing. Keith confirms — that the combination of heat from friction and air can cause that reaction instantly.

So is this thing a pencil? Or a pen? I think it’s still up in the air. It doesn’t leave bits of itself behind to write like a pencil, but it also doesn’t distribute a medium that introduces pigment to a surface, like a pen. It causes a chemical reaction that rubs off to make a mark. It’s a science pen!

Ergonomics and aesthetics

Visually, the Prima is striking. It’s long and skinny, and it gently tapers to a point. The other two products in the Napkin line carried by Pen Chalet are also striking, through in completely different ways.

There’s the $59 cigar-shaped Cuban with a round, blunt tip intended for drawing and shading.

And, at $119 (more than twice the price of the Prima), the Pininfarina Cambiano is (in my opinion), the handsomest and most ergonomically friendly. Its tip seems to be about the same fineness as the Prima, though I admit I’ve never tried this or the Cuban.

The Prima itself comes in aluminum, anodized in seven colors — mine is “Airforce Blue”. It’s just over seven inches long — slightly shorter than an unsharpened Palomino Blackwing — but also much thinner at the writing end than a typical pencil. It’s perhaps too thin to effectively hold and write with. If I could hold it at the opposite end, it would be perfect.


Roger Ebert is said to have reviewed movies based on, not what they are, but if they accomplished what they were trying to be. That’s why he gave good reviews to so many bad movies — they weren’t trying to be some seminal works of art. They were just trying to be mindless diversions. And they were.

That said, I’m no Roger Ebert, but I do try to emulate review process. Should I compare the Napkin Prima to, say, a Palomino Blackwing, or a nice smooth rollerball pen?

I don’t think the Prima is trying to be either. From their website:

Different from all other writing and drawing tools, the mark is achieved by oxidation, due to contact between tip and paper. So the mark left is very particular, it seems like a pencil but it cannot be erased like a pen, and this makes our writing tool unique in the world.

So here’s my conundrum: the Napkin products are “unique in the world,” so how do I tell if they’re good or not?

For my particular use case, it’s not ideal. It lays down a light mark, lighter than a 3 or 4H pencil, and it’s not smooth to write with, even it is just a metal tip. The tip is slightly sticky and laggy while it slides across the page.

After trying it on several kinds of paper, the best kind to use it with is something more toothy than smooth. Think Ampad, rather than Rhodia.

After a tip from Chris Rothe, the proprietor of Write Notepads (and a guest on Episode 30 of Erasable), I tried the paper in a Write pad. It was indeed noticeably better than the other papers I’ve tried. Just as toothy paper grabs more graphite than smoother paper, it seems to grab more oxidization from the Prima, leaving a darker mark.

(Chris, in fact, loves his Pininfarina — he uses it every day to write thank-you notes to those who place orders with him.)

So, what is an ideal use-case for a Napkin product?

I’m just not sure. If you love the novelty and the lack of maintainance that this brings — you never need to sharpen it, refill it, or as far as anyone knows, replace it — it’d be perfect for you. You can write and write and write, and you’ll run out of paper before you run out of Prima.

But personally, I like being able to switch it up a bit. When my pencil is running out, I can switch to a new one. Same thing with pens, though admittedly I usually lose them before they run dry.

Would I buy a Napkin for myself? Probably not. It’s expensive and the performance just doesn’t rival a nice pencil or pen. Am I glad I have one? Absolutely. It was fun to try out, and dang, it beautiful to look at. It’s a novelty for sure, but I’m sure I’ll bring it out to show someone every now and then.

If you want to try one for yourself, head over to and pick one up for $49 here.

Disclaimer: I acquired the Napkin Prima from Pen Chalet for review purposes, and paid no money for it. Other than the product, I have not received any financial recompense whatsoever from Pen Chalet.

Unboxing the Summer 2015 Field Notes Workshop Companion Edition

I’m a bit late posting this one, but for good reason. I’m trying a little something out with pencil friend and professional videographer TJ Cosgrove of the blog Wood & Graphite. He’s a pretty active group member, and has shared his time and talents with the Erasable crew in several ways.

Anyway, here’s an unboxing of the pack of Field Notes Workshop Companion edition that Coudal and Draplin released this summer:

Overall, I like it this edition, but it’s far from my favorite. Part of it is that I don’t really have a workshop, or work on auto repair, plumbing, or gardening projects. Obviously, I don’t need to use each book for this prescribed use, but I prefer the ones that center around a theme aesthetically, rather than a particular use case.

Still, though. That thick paper that seem to be traditionally released in summer is so nice and creamy. The cover, a new “Kraft-Tone” stock by French Paper Company, is thick and wears really well.

Thanks, TJ, for making this video great!