Moleskine – Lined, or Unlined?

I love those Moleskine notebooks – I use one as a journal, and another as a carry-around-write-anything-in-it kind of book. We have another that keeps various measurements and notes on our house, and I use the larger size at work. My wife uses another 2 or 3 for various things.

The real challenge, though, is deciding whether to get lined, grid, or unlined. I keep changing my mind. I never seem to write perfectly in the lines, and often ignore them enough to make the book look very untidy, but can’t ignore them enough to make drawing natural.

I started with several grid books – having an engineering background it seemed obvious, as so much of my schooling was done on graph paper. The grid is in black ink, though, and with certain pencils and inks writing and sketches tend to blend in a bit too much. The line spacing is also much narrower than the simple ruled books, so you have to write a bit smaller.

The complete absence of lines makes the book look a little too pristine sometimes, and my lines of writing often develop a slant by the end of the page. Most of us were taught to write using lined paper, and there’s something comforting about having lines to get one started. For drawing, however, a blank page is best.

I prefer unlined but they’re so hard to find in stores. The world seems to prefer the lined, followed by the grid.

What do you think? Lines, grid, or no lines?

Pen Review: Faber-Castell E-Motion

I was in the pen shop a long time ago yearning for something new. I was in a ballpoint frame of mind, as I am now, but I was fixated on the Fisher Space Pen cartridge and was looking for a pen that would hold it.

The pen store guy pulled out a few Parkers, but they weren’t interesting. I looked over the various Fisher models, but wanted something different. Then he handed me this:


The Faber-Castell E-Motion. It’s kind of short, squat pen, like it looks. It’s very pleasant to hold, and to write with. The wood gives it a feel that only wood can, and it will take a Fisher refill – the plain one that the Fisher pens use. I bought it.

It’s reasonably priced ($30 list), and nice enough to use pretty much anywhere.

The Pros:

  • Hinged, alligator-style clip, with just enough teeth to grip fabric without marring it.
  • Short length, easy to carry.
  • Light weight.
  • A thicker barrel is easier to hold, requires less grip pressure which ultimately means less fatigue.
  • The FC cartridge is quite large, but it also take Fisher cartridges if you need them.
  • The reveal (the amount of pen that will stick out of a pocket) is enough to easily grab the pen.
  • The clip doesn’t have any play, and feels very solid – it’s stamped metal not solid, but that’s no problem in this pen.
  • No parts fall out when changing cartridges – always a good thing.

The Cons:

  • It has the dreaded refill click. Every time the pen touches paper, there is a very soft click as the refill rattles in the body. While writing it sounds like a prisoner tapping out a message on the plumbing to his friend down the cell block I’ve thought of getting one of those Morse-code decoders just to see if the clicks actually do tap out some meaningful code. Probably best left alone. Anyway, both the Faber and Fisher refills do the same thing. Check before you buy.
  • The cap, which actuates the twist mechanism to reveal the point, has started to skip on mine when you happen to turn it the wrong way. I don’t know how serious this will become, but every time it happens, I’m reminded that this pen is built perhaps a bit more cheaply than it feels.

Still, for $30 it’s a darn nice pen and I enjoy using it. If I was going to take notes for a very long time – like a 3–day conference – I wouldn’t hesitate to bring this pen. The thick barrel would keep my hand from cramping, and the ambient noise would drown out the clicks.