What We Use | The Cramped

What We Use | The Cramped.

Another new page added to the site — What We Use. This is where we will catalog (with brief reviews) what tools we, the site contributors, are currently using. This is one you should check out from time to time as we will update and change it as the tools change.

Only Patrick’s are there for now. Harry’s should be coming soon Harry’s are up there now.

Thinking slowly – Matt Gemmell

Thinking slowly – Matt Gemmell

These older, simpler tools, with all of their baggage and inefficiencies, compel us to front-load the thinking process. They necessitate a certain concentration and cognitive abstraction. They force us to measure twice. Error-correction becomes a vaguely burdensome eventuality, as it should be, rather than an omnipresent part of the creative process. The slower pace of authorship throttles the hands, allowing the mind some extra breathing room and thus more effective oversight.

A characteristically lovely post from Matt. It echoes a lot of why I choose to use analog writing tools these days. Their very nature forces me to be mindful and measured in my craft.

Review — Clairefontaine Triomphe Stationery Paper

by Patrick Rhone

Clairefontaine Triomphe

I’ve been on the hunt for a while for some great stationery paper to use for my increasingly regular correspondence. Reader and longtime Internet pal Joe Lebo recently sent me a sheet of Clairefontaine Triomphe paper to try out.

My main requirements for such paper is that it be smooth, take fountain pen ink well, and have a certain air of “this matters” to it. I think the Triomphe hits all of these notes. It is beautiful paper — both to use and receive. The pad also comes with a lined guide sheet to help you keep your writing straight. It’s not cheap at $5.00 for a pad of 50 sheets. But, then again, if cheep is what you want then just use a legal pad. Good tools are rarely inexpensive.

If I had any quibble at all it would be that the paper is only available in bright white. I would love it if there was a cream option. My old, tired, eyes would find it easier to read.

Goulet Pens offers it in two sizes (A4 and A5) and also has matching envelopes on offer. I’ll be ordering some up today.

This post was first drafted on a sheet of Clairefontaine Triomphe stationery paper using a Lamy Studio (Black) with an EF nib and Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki ink. A scan of the draft is available for download (PDF).

How to improve your handwriting | Life and style | The Guardian

How to improve your handwriting | Life and style | The Guardian.

Cherrell Avery, once a calligrapher-in-residence at the V&A, gives handwriting lessons to adults, and believes it is perfectly possible, even in adulthood, to change your style completely and adopt, say, an italic hand – although all I’m after are techniques to improve its legibility, make it more attractive on the page, and lessen the discomfort. In a 90-minute introductory class, Cherrell assessed my writing and set me homework. It made an immediate difference, but real change takes daily practice. Here’s what I learned.

Some great tips behind that link. My faves include choosing the right pen and slowing down. I know this is something many struggle with.

Amazing Correspondence Desk

There are a collection of antique shops here in Minneapolis that my wife and I find ourselves near once a month. My daughter takes a monthly class in the area, so we are left for two hours with not much to do other than check them out. We often find cool old wonderful stuff in these shops (the Royal Typewriter photo I posted a few days ago was from one of these) but today I came across a fantastic Correspondence Desk that blew me away.


The handsome blond oak was accentuated with an British green leather writing pad.


Lifting the writing surface reveals ample storage underneath with small drawers.


Underneath the top is storage for inkwells, pens, stationery, envelopes, etc. I especially loved how the inkwell compartments were stained with ink. This was a piece that saw years of practical use.


And even more storage drawers along the side.

It is things like this that the phrase "they just don’t make ’em like that anymore" seems best fitted for. In today’s world, there is no reason for such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship to exist. Very few in this modern age would dedicate a whole desk simply for the act of writing by hand. A computer on such a desk would simply slide off. Only weirdos and freaks such as I (and I suspect many of you) would see the elegance and endless utility of such a piece and be willing to pay top dollar to preserve and use it.

Unfortunately, the shop owner had just received the item and had not yet had a chance to discuss pricing with the owner. So, all I could do was leave my contact information and let him know I would be following up on it in the near future. And, walking out the door of the shop a part of me felt I was, in no small way, walking away from a fate.

Chicago’s Last Tannery — The Distance

Chicago’s Last Tannery — The Distance.

“It needs to be the best it can be because that’s really our competitive advantage,” Skip said. “We’re not cheap. If you came to me and said, ‘Wow, I need a million of something in a really big hurry,’ you’re probably in the wrong place.”

I really enjoyed this profile of Horween Leather Company in the new online magazine, The Distance. I actually have an affinity for fine leather goods and, increasingly, many of the ones that have found their way into my life use Horween. One Star Leather Goods, for instance, makes wonderful wallets and notebook covers — many using Horween Chromexcel. And, the Field Notes Cover from Hellbrand Leatherworks that is on my person daily uses it as well. It makes me that much more appreciative of these items knowing the care that went into them at the source — a US based family-owned and operated business.

You Win, Pilot Metropolitan — The Pen Addict

You Win, Pilot Metropolitan — The Pen Addict

Ever since it was released, the Metropolitan has been gaining steam. I liked what I saw when I reviewed the original medium nib model, and now that the fine nib model has hit mass release I think it is the fountain pen to choose for beginners over my previous favorite, the Lamy Safari.

I have not tried one personally, but who am I to argue with the astute and experienced Mr. Dowdy. I know many folks that would like to get into writing with fountain pens but are unsure where to start. Now, you know.

Analog Markdown — The Newsprint

Analog Markdown — The Newsprint.

Most recently, my written notes have been marked up in Markdown too.

The reason for this is simple: Markdown is so easy to use, so easy to read and so easy to implement that it was a natural progression to transfer the system to analog notes. Obviously, analog notes aren’t actually styled with italicized and bold letters. But the small syntax additions help add context that is otherwise hard to convey.

I often do this as well. Especially to denote italics and bold.

Typewriters in Movies

Typewriters in Movies

If you’ve ever wondered what Geoffrey Rush was pecking at in The King’s Speech, or what Colin Firth was writing his novel on in Love Actually, this website should shed some light on your questions. I know I’ve definitely added some of these to my “must have” list.

New Page: Site Notes

I have added a new page to the site titled Site Notes. I’m using this page to build an evolving set of rules and recommendations The Cramped. A philosophy.txt as it were. This is what constitutes an operating manual for this site. It is also, more than anything, a promise to the readers. As I say on one of my other sites, this is “What we believe in…”

Check it out.