10 Graduation Gifts Under $30

Years of hard work have finally paid off for many students this time of year – graduation has arrived! What will you get as a gift for your favorite graduate? We’ve complied a list of 10 gift ideas that are all $30 and less.

1) The 5 Book. This is an excellent interactive playbook that inspires your grad to think about where they will be 5 years from today. The 5 Book asks thoughtful questions about plans, dreams, and priorities and to help them map out the best years of their life– the next 5.

The Five Book
The Five Book

2) Academic Planner. Keeping on top of a hectic college schedule can be quite a challenge! An academic planner comes to the rescue with a calendar that begins with the start of the school year. For a detailed weekly plan, we’d recommend the Quo Vadis Minister. For something pocket-size try the Quo Vadis University Planner. You can find these and other planners in our Academic Planners section (back in stock soon!).

Quo Vadis Textagenda Academic Planners
Quo Vadis Textagenda Academic Planners

3) LAMY Safari Fountain Pen. The Safari fountain pen is popular in countries all over the world. It’s easy to use, durable and fun! This pen is a great way to introduce your student to the world of fountain pens, or if your grad is already a fan of writing instruments, the Safari will become a treasured part of their collection. It comes in several colors and nib sizes to suit just about any writer.

LAMY Safari Fountain Pen in Blue
LAMY Safari Fountain Pen in Blue

4) Meeting Book. Whether or not your grad is headed to college or the office, the Cornell notes format of a meeting book makes it a valuable tool. The layout is designed for organized and efficient note taking during meetings or school classes. Both Rhodia and Moleskine make excellent meeting notebooks.

Rhodia Meeting Book & Vanishing Point Fountain Pen
Rhodia Meeting Book & Vanishing Point Fountain Pen

5) Pen Case. Whether it’s just one precious writing instrument that needs a little protection or a plethora of writing instruments that need to be corralled, there’s a pen case out there that’s just right for your graduate. The Aston Leather Single Pen Slip Case is an economical option for an individual pen, their rugged Pencil Pouch holds about a dozen pens and pencils.

Aston Leather Pen & Pencil Pouches
Aston Leather Pen & Pencil Pouches

6) Book Darts. These paper-thin metal line-markers are the perfect tool to mark things worth rereading, to note key points as you read them and to help you go back to ideas worth studying. Book Darts can be reused over and over again for a lifetime!

Book Darts
Book Darts

7) Leuchtturm 1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal. Is your grad a book worm? This bound Private Reading Journal is a classy way to create written memories of novels and other books they’ve read.

Leuchtturm 1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal
Leuchtturm 1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal

8) Platinum Preppy Highlighters – Set of 5. Studying at college can mean some of your new best friends are highlighters. Preppy Highlighters are refillable with Platinum highlighting ink cartridges so these pens can outlast many other kinds of highlighters.

Platinum Preppy Refillable Highlighters
Platinum Preppy Refillable Highlighters

9) STAEDTLER triplus fineliners – Set of 20 in a Wrap Case. This fun roll-up case is filled with a bunch of colorful superfine felt tip pens. The case is available in either Black or Pink. A great gift for creative students!

Staedtler Triplus Fineliners - Set of 20 in a Pink Wrap Case
Staedtler Triplus FinelinersSet of 20 in a Pink Wrap Case

10) Coloring Book for Grown-Ups. College and work life both have their daily stresses. Doodling in a coloring book for grown-ups is a great way to unwind at the end of a hectic day. Clairefontaine has bird, flower or nature themed coloring books, or try the Secret Garden Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book that’s inspired by the plants and wildlife found in rural Scotland.

Secret Garden Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book
Secret Garden Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book

What will you buy for your new graduate this year?

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Writer’s Bloc Top 10 Fountain Pens

What are the top ten fountain pens? Anyone that writes with a fountain pen could likely come up with a unique list of their own ten favorite pens. Our list of the top ten fountain pens was created by considering several different factors including our own employee favorites. These fountain pens, as well as others that we choose to make available in our shop, are all carefully selected based on their individual strengths. We decided to number the pens in our top 10 list based on their current price – from the most expensive to the least expensive. See if any of your favorites are listed here:

1) Aurora Optima Demonstrator Fountain Pen – Alan says that writing with this pen is like driving a high performance European sports car. The quality and materials are beautiful and it is a joy write with. He especially loves the character of the nib which he describes as solid and somewhat toothy allowing him feel the “road conditions” as he writes.  Alan also loves fountain pens with a clear body so that you can see all of the parts and inner workings of the pen. The hidden ink reservoir feature has bailed him out near the end of meetings when he is running out of ink.

2) Pilot Custom 74 Fountain Pen – This is another favorite of Alan’s. He is a fan of extra fine nibs and loves the performance of this Japanese fine nib. He likes pens that are not too heavy and for him it has the right balance in his hand and is the perfect writing weight. His favorite Custom 74 colors include Clear and Orange and he says Smoke is a good choice if you like a less clear and more solid looking pen.

3) LAMY 2000 Fountain Pen – Alex says one reason to love the LAMY 2000 is its sleek modern Bauhaus design with its hooded nib and interesting Makrolon body and cap. Superficial reasons aside, this is a great pen to write with!

4) Namiki Falcon Fountain Pen – The Namiki Falcon is outstanding for the reason that it comes equipped with a modern 14K semi-flex nib that gives a soft, flexible feel to your writing experience. It allows for variation of stroke width while you write or draw and really shines when it is paired with ink that has good shading. Alan says that with his Falcon the ink flow is absolutely superb!

5) Pelikan M200/M205 Classic Fountain Pen – This Pelikan fountain pen has a legendary piston filling system and at its price point it is a great first step into the world of piston fill fountain pens. It is consistently a best seller and Pelikan has been in the business of creating high quality fountain pens for many years. This particular pen has a steel nib, but you can upgrade to the Pelikan M400/M405 if you prefer a gold nib. Pelikan offers special limited edition colors of the M200/M205 such as this sophisticated taupe color!

6) Stipula Bon Voyage Fountain Pen – The Bon Voyage fountain pen was specifically created to be eyedropper fill and even comes with an eyedropper for easy filling. When capped it is a compact pocket size and if you happen to be nervous about carrying an eyedropper pen in your pocket you also have the option of using short standard universal ink cartridges. It can easily be converted to a rollerball pen by removing the fountain pen feed (just unscrew it from the barrel) and replacing it with a rollerball feed. This Stipula has some pretty cool features that you can’t find on just any fountain pen!

7) LAMY Safari Fountain Pen – If fountain pens were to have a popularity contest it is pretty likely that this guy would win. I would venture to say that a plethora of writers that regularly use fountain pens have at least one LAMY Safari in their pen case. It’s a favorite everyday writer and its price makes it accessible to students and professionals alike.

8) Platinum Plaisir Fountain Pen – This is Cher’s favorite everyday “purse” fountain pen. She loves the special cap that prevents ink from drying out in the nib. The durable anodized aluminum body has a pearlized finish that comes in several fun colors such as sports car red and pale violet. As a left-handed writer she also appreciates that the grip is suitable for lefties and that the fine nib is the ideal size for her – the fine line of ink dries quickly and i
t is not too “pokey or scratchy” for her strange lefty writing position.

9) Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Great pen, great price. Need we say more? Makes a thoughtful inexpensive gift: it’s less than $20.00, the nib size is easy to write with even for beginners, it’s made from durable materials and it comes with a stylish Pilot gift box.

10) Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen – The lovable Preppy fountain pen is so inexpensive it is an easy introduction into the world of fountain pens. For a disposable fountain pen it offers amazing quality! It comes in seven colors and Platinum designed it so that it can be refilled or even converted to eyedropper fill.

That’s our top 10 list! What’s yours? What fountain pens would you put on your top 10 list? We’d love to hear about your favorites!

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Pen Mods: How to make a long-lasting refillable highlighter pen

Today’s blog post will teach you how to make your own long-lasting highlighter pen that can be refilled with ink and reused many many times. We will talk about two ways to do this, both methods using pen parts from Platinum Pens.

You may wonder why we are doing this since the Platinum Preppy highlighter pen is designed to be refilled and reused and the felt tip can even be replaced when it wears out. Preppy pens are very economical, but they are not meant to last a life time. Sooner or later, the cap and/or the body of the pen will crack making the pen useful only for parts. In contrast, both the cap and the body of the Platinum Plaisir fountain pen are made of durable anodized aluminum that will not crack. As a bonus, the Plasir has an attractive pearlized finish that comes in seven different colors.

(1) The first pen mod is the easiest, most foolproof way to create your highlighter. You will need both a Platinum Preppy highlighter pen and a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen.

Take both of the pens apart by removing the caps and unscrewing the grip section from the pen barrel.

Take the grip section of the Preppy highlighter, screw it into the barrel of the Plaisir fountain pen, add your ink cartridge and you’re done!

(2) For the second pen mod you will need a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen, a Preppy highlighter replacement tip and something rubbery and soft that gives you a good grip. Preppy replacement tips can be purchased separately in a package of 2 tips. For this demo I used a wide rubber band to give me a good grip, but other things can be used such as that rubbery drawer liner stuff etc.

First remove the pen cap. Using the wide rubber band or rubber drawer liner, get a good grip on the base of the fountain pen nib and carefully pull it out of the grip section along with the skinny plastic piece that it is attached to. A couple of notes about this: the amount of effort it takes to remove the nib seems to vary from pen to pen, and be warned that this may or may not remove some of the color coating that is on top of the Plaisir fountain pen nib.

Firmly insert the highlighter replacement tip into the Plaisir grip section, add your ink cartridge and you’re good to go. Voila! A good looking, durable and refillable highlighter pen. The felt tip can be easily replaced if it wears out using Preppy highlighter replacement tips.

What kind of ink should you use to refill this pen? Highlighting ink that is designed for use in fountain pens would be an excellent choice. A very light color of fountain pen ink would work as well.

What kind of ink refills does it take? You can use the Platinum brand of ink cartridges or you can use a Platinum ink converter if you would like to use bottled ink. Another idea is to rinse out your empty Platinum ink cartridges and use a blunt-tip needle bottle to refill them using bottled ink. This pen is not suitable to be eyedropper filled since the barrel of the pen is metal and may cause a negative reaction when it is in constant contact with ink.

What kind of refillable highlighters do you use? Do you have any highlighter pen mods you’d like to share with us?

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The Platinum Plaisir vs The Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen

The Platinum Plaisir fountain pen makes a frequent appearance in my rotation of daily writing instruments. Since it uses the exact same cartridge/converter filling system, feed section and nib as the Platinum Preppy fountain pen it gets a lot of comparison to the popular Preppy. So why spend the extra money on the Plaisir? Perhaps some of the following observations will help you make your own choice.

First of all, the body and cap of the Plaisir fountain pen are make of a light-weight yet durable anodized aluminum that lasts much longer than the recycled polycarbonate cap and body of the Preppy. The plastic Preppy pen is a great beginner fountain pen with a bargain price of less than $5.00, but it is not meant to be a forever pen. Once in a while I’ll give a Preppy to one my friends who has never tried using a fountain pen. When I ask them later how they like using it, sometimes I find that they have cracked the cap or the barrel and are no longer using the pen. If they genuinely like the experience of using a fountain pen, often I’ll give them an “upgrade” to a Plaisir and have received many positive comments on their new Plaisir pen.

I find the scratch-resistant pearlized finish on the Plaisir fountain pen very attractive. It’s very smooth and I like the way it feels in my hand. Since there are seven color choices, there is a color to suit almost everyone. One of my personal favorites is the bright sports car red, or others might call it a bright lipstick red. The pearlized colors range from a conservative black to a delicate and feminine pink. The Preppy pen has a clear body and cap with a clear but colorful clip and top on the cap. Both fountain pens have nib colors that match the pen color. The steel nib and feed section are interchangeable between pens and the nib performance is generally the same.

The cap of the Plaisir has a special design that allows you to let your fountain pen sit for a long period of time without any use, then to uncap it and begin to write smoothly without any hesitation.  This cap also reduces ink loss due to evaporation. I find that the cap on the Preppy works fairly well at keeping my ink from drying out, but eventually it cracks allowing the pen to dry out. To make the cap on my Preppy pens last longer I usually put a piece of clear tape around the bottom of the cap when it is brand new. Once the cap cracks, the tape will not help.

One advantage of the Preppy pen is that it can easily be converted into an eye dropper fill pen with some silicone grease and an optional rubber o-ring. The polycarbonate barrel of the Preppy does not react with ink (although it is possible that it could be stained by some inks) and it does not have any holes in it which makes it work well as an eye dropper fill. The metal barrel of the Plaisir may chemically react with ink so it is not suitable to be converted into an eye dropper fill pen.

Both the Plaisir and the Preppy have a cartridge/converter filling system which is typical for fountain pens in this price range. These pens must be filled with Platinum ink cartridges since universal/standard ink cartridges will not fit. It makes a lot more sense to use the converter with the Plaisir since the converter costs more than double the price of the Preppy pen. If you don’t want to spend the money on the converter or you don’t want to be limited to using Platinum ink, you can always refill empty cartridges yourself using bottled ink and something like a blunt-tip needle bottle.

So which pen will you choose? What are your thoughts on Plaisir vs Preppy fountain pens?

Plaisir Pros:

Much more durable than the Preppy
Special cap design prevents ink from drying out
Attractive pearlized finish in a choice of 7 different colors

Plaisir Cons:

More expensive than the Platinum Preppy (currently about $20.00)
Cannot be converted into eye dropper fill

Preppy Pros:

Bargain price (less than $5.00)
Can be converted into eye dropper fill

Preppy Cons:

Polycarbonate cap and body can crack over time
Limited pen color options
Converter costs about twice as much as the pen

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Clearly, Demonstrator Fountain Pens are Cool!

Modern demonstrator fountain pens are clear, or partially clear writing instruments that allow you to see the inner workings of the pen. Originally, the purpose of these pens was for pen manufacturers or pen sellers to show-off the desirable mechanisms of the pen that were not normally visible from the outside. They were not meant to be sold to the public. Some old demonstrator pens were non-functioning and even had holes cut into the barrel. Eventually, clear plastics came to be used to create very limited numbers of these pens and they became sought after by collectors. Their popularity grew, and now they are commonly used by many as daily writing instruments.

There are many reasons writers are attracted to demonstrator fountain pens. It’s easy to monitor the level of your ink so you’ll know when you need to refill. If you like to use bright, colorful inks a demonstrator pen with a clear, colorless barrel really shows off your ink color. Mechanically minded engineer types like to see how all of the parts that make up the fountain pen function and it’s easier to diagnose pen problems and repair them. Others say that the transparency of these pens reminds them of a crystal.

(Aurora Optima Demonstrator with Red Auroloide Trim)

Some demonstrator fountain pens are very luxurious and are only produced as limited editions. One example is the Aurora Optima demonstrator fountain pen that is available as a limited edition of only 1936 pens, corresponding to the year in which the Optima was first introduced. Because this Optima is a clear demonstrator pen, if you look closely you might be able to spot Aurora’s hidden ink reservoir system that allows an extra page of writing when your normal ink supply runs out.

(Pilot Prera Demonstrator with Orange Trim)

If you like the handsome appearance of the Aurora Optima demonstrator but you aren’t able to splurge on such a pen, an attractive and more affordable alternative is the Pilot Prera demonstrator fountain pen. It also has a clear, colorless body with a colorful contrasting trim on the end of both the cap and the barrel. In addition to red, you can get the Prera with a variety of trim colors, and the Japanese stainless steel fine nib is great especially if you like to write with a very fine line.

(LAMY Vista Demonstrator Fountain Pen)

Since demonstrator fountain pens are clear, when they have a cartridge or converter filling system, the appearance of the converter matters. When we use the LAMY Vista, which is the demonstrator version of the popular Safari fountain pen, we like to think of the red top of its converter as the “heart” inside the pen.

(Platinum President Demonstrator with Gold Trim)

Platinum Pens thoughtfully designed the converter inside this President demonstrator fountain pen to match the color of the gold-plated trim.

(Pilot Custom 74 Demonstrator in Violet)

In addition to clear, colorless barrels, many demonstrator fountain pens are made with clear, colorful barrels and caps. I really like the pale violet color of this Pilot Custom 74 demonstrator fountain pen. It has an easy-to-use piston converter that fills with ink using just a few clicks of a button.

(TWSBI Vac 700 in Sapphire Blue)

The fact that the TWSBI Vac 700 is transparent allows you to see its cool vintage-style vac filling system in action! I love both the amber orange and sapphire blue versions of this demonstrator pen and it also comes in a mysterious smoke black.

(Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens)

Demonstrator fountain pens don’t have to be expensive. At the time of writing this post, the Platinum Preppy fountain pen allows you to give one a try for only $3.00! Other demonstrator pens that can currently be purchased for $25.00 or less include the Kaweco Sport Ice, Kaweco Sport Classic, Noodler’s Ink Ahab flex-nib pen and the Pilot Plumix student calligraphy pen.

We’ve only mentioned just a handful of the large variety of demonstrator fountain pens that are available today. What’s your favorite demonstrator fountain pen and why do you like to use it? Share your favorites with us!

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