Owl Ink Review: Penwell by Good Made Better


I’m back with another product review! This review has been a long time coming, so I feel like I’ve really gotten to know this product. This is the Penwell by Good Made Better, a relatively new shop on the stationery scene. Based in South Dakota, it’s owned and run by Dan Keller.

The concept behind the Penwell is the ability to turn any pen into a desk pen. Desk pens, like the Platinum Desk Pen or YStudio Desk Pen, are designed to be used with a stand. This allows you to simply grab the pen with one hand and start writing immediately– no unscrewing or unsnapping of caps needed! Dan has a short video that explains this very well.

Dan reached out to me and asked if I’d like to review one of his Penwells. I had seen other reviews by Clickypost and The Gentleman Stationer, so I was definitely intrigued.

A small package arrived shortly after. The packaging is very attractive– Dan did a great job on the branding and presentation of his product. It was a joy to unbox.



As someone with an interest in calligraphy and lettering, the modern-style script logo really spoke to me.



On the reverse, there are simple instructions for using your new Penwell.



Let’s take a closer look at the Penwell itself! I selected the Walnut model, which nicely matches my desk.

The Penwell itself is made of wood, with the logo engraved on the rim. Inside, there is a ring of very firm foam that is mean to cushion and protect your pen caps.



Underneath, you can see the inner mechanism. A metal clip keeps the foam in place, and an microsuction ring keeps the entire unit firmly attached to your desk.

At first, I thought it was adhesive– but after checking out the Penwell’s Use and Care page, I found out that microsuction is entirely different! Instead of using adhesives like glue, the ring is made up of microscopic suction cups. I imagine it’s something like the tiny little sucker feet on a starfish, but thousands of them.

The advantage of microsuction is that, unlike adhesives, it can be moved and re-stuck. It also won’t leave any sticky residue on your desk surface.



Sticking my new Penwell!



I don’t have many fountain pens, but I chose my trusty Lamy Safari. I figure it’s a pretty standard pen– many people own one, so hopefully this will give you an accurate idea of the Penwell’s size and function.

Stick the entire pen, capped, into the Penwell. As the cap is inserted further into the foam, it should feel very secure.



Now when I pull the pen body out, the cap stays firmly stuck inside the Penwell. I can use my pen, jot down something quick, and then stick it right back inside.

The Lamy Safari has a snap cap, and it worked just fine. According to other reviews, pens with twist caps work great as well.



Now I admit I don’t use fountain pens nearly as much as others in the stationery community. I simply do most of my job-related work with gel pens or pencils. When I do calligraphy or art, I use my calligraphy pens and watercolor supplies. This got me thinking… are there other uses for the Penwell?? Well it turns out…

One slight inconvenience I have experienced while doing calligraphy is not having a great solution for holding inked calligraphy pens. If I need to put my pen down briefly to take a phone call or something, I don’t want to just set the inked pen on my desk– it could roll around. Calligraphy nibs also don’t come with caps.

I’ve seen people use chopstick holders or small metal trays as pen rests.Usually I just end up resting the inked nib on an ink bottle lid, and this sometimes gets messy.

But, behold! :D



Since it’s designed to hold chubbier fountain pens, you can even fit two nib holders!



Or you can use it to hold paintbrushes* while you run off to answer the phone, get a snack, or keep your cat from destroying things!

*Note: do NOT let your brushes dry completely like this. This is only a temporary holder. Drying your brushes tip side up with result in water dripping into the metal part and rusting. Trust me on this one.



So there you have it. Two alternative uses for the Penwell. I’ve had mine for almost two months now, and I find that I go back and forth between uses.

It performs great at its intended use– an elegant way to display your fountain pen while also letting you use your pen with only one hand. But if you’re trying out other creative pursuits, you could also adapt it to different uses. If you find that you need it to hold thinner pens, Dan has a helpful video on that too!

You can find the Penwell at the Good Made Better Website. The Walnut model is $49.00. It’s not cheap, but the craftsmanship more than justifies the price, and I imagine any pen enthusiast would be thrilled to get one as a gift. Thanks to Dan for sending one over!



Bonus pic– the microsuction base also means that naughty kitties can’t knock it off my desk with a swipe of a paw.


Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather Zippered Case

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


I’m back! I had to take a Owl Ink hiatus due to my life catching up to me– friends getting married, graduations, and travels. If you have any travels on the horizon, then this is a must-read review.

This is the Galen Leather Zippered Case, and it’s one of many quality wares offered by Galen Leather. Based out of Istanbul, Galen Leather is a brother-sister duo founded on their love for natural materials like leather, wood, and metal. Zeynep and Yusuf create every single article by hand in their workshop, and their small business story is truly inspiring!

Zeynep kindly reached out to me and asked if I’d like to try one of their cases. After browsing through their impressive selection, I decided to go for the Zippered Case. A few weeks later, a small box arrived at my door!


Details and Specs

  • Price: $49.00
  • Dimensions: 6.69″ x 5.03″ x 0.82″
  • 5 Pen Loops and 1 Notebook Pocket
  • Notebook Size: A6 Slim

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


The packaging is impressive– before you even open the box, you just know that it houses a high-quality item. It’s made of durable cardboard and can definitely be repurposed as a box for stamps, stickers, or used Field Notes.

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


In addition to the case itself, the box also includes an information card, a coupon towards a future purchase, and an Evil Eye charm for luck! According to my card, my case was made by Yusuf. Thank you Yusuf!

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


Let’s take a look at the case! In addition to a rich genuine leather smell, it also has a lightly pleasant smell of wax or oils. I assume this is from the burnishing process, which seals the leather edges and leaves the entire piece luxuriously smooth.

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


The zipper feels sturdy and zips smoothly without catching. The little zipper pull is also made of leather, which I thought was a small but nice touch.

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


Upon opening the case, you see that there are five pen loops on the left and a deep pocket on the right. The interior of the case is a soft felt-like material, which should be sufficiently soft if you are holding expensive fountain pens.

I thought about how I wanted to use my new case, and I decided to turn it into a portable lettering/sketching kit!


Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


This particular model is designed to fit pocket notebooks like Field Notes or Word Notebooks. I inserted one of my Field Notes Shelterwood books and it fit snugly.

Next up: pens! The case is designed to fit fountain pens, but since I’m more of an artist/letterer/calligrapher than a fountain pen collector, I decided to add some of my favorite lettering pens.

  • Pentel Fude Touch Brush Pen
  • Kuretake CocoIro Lettering Pen (review here!)
  • Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen
  • Zebra Brush Pen (review here!)
  • Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen

Even though the elastic loops are designed to accommodate larger-barreled fountain pens, they still held my slimmest gel pen.


Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


Now I have a portable note-taking/brainstorming/lettering kit! I can bring it with me on travels, or simply do some sketching or lettering while away from my desk.

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


I realized that I could also put some small memorabilia, like tickets, receipts, or business cards, into the notebook pocket.

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


Zipping up the case with no difficulty. You could probably stuff quite a lot into this case, the zipper feels durable and should be able to handle heavier use.

Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


The compact size fits easily into a small purse!


Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


Many thanks to Zeynep and Yusuf of Galen Leather for letting me review your work!

You can find this specific model here, and similar zippered models here. Be sure to check out their other case offerings! They create covers for all your favorite notebooks– Hobonichi, Traveler’s, Leuchtturm, and more.


Owl Ink Review: Galen Leather


DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


This is a quick and easy tutorial that will teach you how to make DIY envelopes out of scrapbook paper! InCoWriMo is almost over, and this is a fun way to add some color and pattern to your last few letters.

For those unfamiliar with the event, InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) is an annual creative challenge. According to the official website:

“InCoWriMo challenges you to hand-write and mail/deliver one letter, card, note or postcard every day during the month of February.”

It’s definitely a chance for pen and paper lovers to put their favorite tools to use! I’ve participated in InCoWriMo’s daily letter challenge in the past, and I enjoyed connecting with friends the old-fashioned way.

Even though I’ve only been able to send a few letters this year, I still wanted to make them a bit more fun :)

For this project, you will need some sheets of scrapbook paper! If you’re like me, you already have a stash of these pretty patterned papers. If not, you can always find some at Michaels or your local craft store. I’ve consistently found great deals on scrapbook paper at Tuesday Morning as well.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


In addition to paper, you’ll also need the following supplies:

  • Paper trimmer (or plain scissors will do)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil for marking measurements
  • Glue pen or glue stick
  • Pens and markers for writing addresses
  • Stamps
  • Greeting card


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


I made this simple stamped greeting using a 4″ x 5.5″ blank card, but this trick should work for any card dimension.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


First, measure the diagonal of the card. My 4″ x 5.5″ card measures 6.75″ from corner to corner.

Round this up to the nearest whole number– in my case, 7″– and then add 1 inch.

Now we have a measurement of 8″.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Measure and lightly mark an 8″ x 8″ square on your sheet of scrapbook paper.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Using a paper trimmer (or scissors), cut out your 8″ x 8″ square.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


You should have plenty of space around your card!


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Next, rotate the square so it’s oriented like a diamond. Fold the two corners in until the points touch.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Flatten the paper into sharp creases.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Fold the bottom corner up until the point is almost aligned with what will become the top of your envelope.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Using a glue pen (I’m using a Kuretake glue pen) or glue stick, attach the bottom fold to the first two folds. Be careful not to glue the entire envelope shut!


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Fold the pointy corner towards the inside of the envelope and secure it with some more glue.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Once the glue is dry, slide your card into the envelope. It should fit snugly!


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Since these are DIY envelopes, there’s no sticky strip to lick. You can use some washi tape to seal the envelope, or glue the edges shut for added security.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Affix a matching stamp. I’m a big fan of the USPS Botanical Art Stamps (I even stood in line for them on the first day they were released).


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Since scrapbook paper is usually patterned, you may have trouble writing the address lines clearly and legibly. Blank labels or address stickers can help!

You could also write the address on a small piece of blank paper and glue it to the front of the envelope.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Dress up your envelope with additional touches! You can add stickers, tapes, or use a corner punch to create rounded flaps.


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Warning: making these is so simple and fun, you might get carried away and make a bunch!


Owl Ink | DIY Scrapbook Paper Envelopes


Happy InCoWriMo!

Hello 2017!

Owl Ink | Hello 2017


Hope you’ve all had a wonderful New Year holiday :)

I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate and sipped a lot of tea, and now we’re back to busy days at work. While we’re still in the first week of the New Year, I thought I’d share a few of my stationery-related resolutions.


I think one of my greatest struggles in blogging is spending too much time pondering whether a post is worth writing. There’s a lot of content out there, and a lot of material has already been covered… so a lot of ideas end up in blog post purgatory, where I somehow talk myself out of them (“but EVERYONE has reviewed Lamy Dark Lilac already, and it’s not even available anymore…”).

This year, I’ll try to get my posts out the door before that happens!


Owl Ink | Hello 2017

2. Send more mail

I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with my owlfriend for a while now, and at the beginning I would write to him frequently. As we’ve had more opportunities to visit each other, and he’s spent more time at home, my mailing frequency has decreased.

I have quite a stash of envelopes, including a box of colorful ones my friend left when she moved away, so I’m hoping to mail more joy this year. If you’d like to do a letter exchange, please let me know :)

3.  Don’t leave nibs in nib holders

They get rusty. And sad. Just don’t do it :(


Owl Ink | Hello 2017
Cute date stamp by Amy Tangerine 

4. Document the small things

I love scrapbooking, but I only document major events– mostly travels. After reading planner posts by The Gentleman Stationer, The London Parchment, and The Finer Point, I’m inspired to be more mindful about recording the minutiae of my days.

I don’t know how I’ll do this yet– the Hobonichi Techo is a tempting (yet intimidating) choice, but so is a blank sketchbook. I’m sure it will take some experimentation.


Owl Ink | Hello 2017
My new datebook and a vintage Parker Jotter ballpoint pen


Here’s to an amazing 2017!

Owl Ink Review: Zebra Brush Pens

Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review


Zebra brush pens are highly regarded as some of the best brush pens for lettering beginners, and I’d say they deserve that reputation.

They are available in three tip sizes – extra fine, fine, and medium. I own all three, and compare them here.


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review


Extra Fine Brush

The Extra Fine brush is great for those who struggle with thin upstrokes. I think this is the most challenging part about learning brush lettering — I’m STILL figuring out how to be consistent with my upstrokes!

Because the tip is so tiny, even if you are a bit heavy-handed on the upstroke, it still looks fairly thin.

However, the Extra Fine tip size also writes a bit on the dry side. Just as gel pens with 0.3 tips tend to be scratchier and more skip-prone than 0.5 or 0.7, sometimes the ink flow just can’t keep up with the pen.

Fine Brush

In my opinion, the Fine brush is the juiciest of the three. It’s like the Goldilocks porridge of brush pens — the tip is wide enough for smooth ink flow, but still fine enough to easily create hairlines.

Medium Brush

I was not a huge fan of the Medium brush at first. Compared to the dainty Extra Fine tip, the Medium tip felt like a pair of clunky ’90s platform shoes. I kept getting “bottom-heavy” letters, which happens at the the transition between downstroke and upstroke.

However, with some practice, I found that it IS possible to get really nice line variation. It was just harder to achieve than with the firmer Extra Fine.


Waterproof: One really awesome thing about these pens is that they contain waterproof ink! I ran a waterbrush over some scribbles and they stayed completely legible. Not even a smudge. I’m impressed.

Size Variation: With 3 sizes to choose from, I can easily pick the best for the project at hand — whether it’s a quote, an envelope, or a gift tag.


Fraying Tips: These are designed as disposable brush pens and as a result, the felt tip does wear down pretty quickly :/ You can prolong the pen’s life if you write exclusively on butter-smooth Rhodia paper or marker paper, but understand that eventually your tips WILL lose their springy hairline-creating abilities.

Not Refillable: Unfortunately the brushes are not refillable. I’ve heard of people prying off the end cap and syringing black ink into the pen barrel to “refill” the pen, but I haven’t tried this myself.

However, that doesn’t mean you should throw out your dried-up brushes! You can create some pretty cool textured effects with a dry brush.


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review
California is about as dry as this pen right now #CAdrought



Overall I’m a fan of the Zebra brush pens and would definitely recommend them to any beginning lettering artist. They are firm enough that the tips doesn’t squash easily under a heavy hand, but flexible enough to achieve dramatic thicks and thins.

Many experienced artists swear by these as well. Check out Matt Vergotis on Instagram for serious Zebra brush inspiration — he achieves amazing line variation with the Medium brush here.



A quick little demo of yesterday's post

A video posted by Matt Vergotis (@mattvergotis) on


ALSO, an extra tip– if you live within close proximity to a Daiso (it’s like a Japanese dollar store), you might occasionally get lucky and find these brush pens in the arts/stationery aisle. The packaging differs sometimes, but it’s the same pen.

I hope this review has been helpful!

Here are some more of my own brush lettering samples :)


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review


Owl Ink Review | Zebra Brush Pens Review