Brian Greene is on a search for the coolest office supplies. His work in marketing, web development and financial services have given him the opportunity to field test all of the office supplies that he blogs about here and at OfficeSupplyGeek.com
December 2, 2010
Everyone has heard the age-old advice that “it’s the thought that counts” when giving gifts, so I thought it would be fun to prove that advice wrong. The list below can go a long way in eliminating the need for you to think this holiday season, and giving one (or more) of these great gifts will leave your recipient thinking that you searched high and low to make them happy. These gifts are perfect for that person on your list that “has everything” or that just insists on great design and functionality in everything they own.
1. Saddleback Leather Co. Briefcase: Finding that “perfect bag” can be quite the chore, and I should know, it took me almost 3 years of searching until I came across this amazing briefcase from Saddleback Leather Company. The briefcase is made with 100% full grain boot leather, marine grade industrial nylon stitching, and pigskin lining and comes with a 100 year guarantee. As the manufacturer says: “This isn’t your next bag, it is your last bag.” $520-$610 via Saddleback Leather Co.
2. Magnetic Collar Stays by Wurkin’ Stiffs Anyone who owns a dress shirt has no doubt wrestled with some unruly collars at some point. These super strong magnetic collar stays by Wurkin’ Stiffs give you complete control over that collar situation. They are the perfect stocking stuffer for the guy who thinks he has everything. This set comes with three different size collar stays that should fit any dress shirt. $35 via Amazon
3. Contigo Westloop Stainless Steel Double Walled No-Leak Travel Mug These great looking and amazing travel mugs defy logic with their ability to keep hot drinks steaming hot for up to 4 hours, and cold drinks cold for up to 12 hours. Beyond keeping your favorite drink appropriately temperature controlled, you will be hard pressed to have your beverage spill or leak on you. Although it is impossible to make this travel mug leak, it only requires a simple one handed push of the button to get access to the liquid goodness inside. No amount of knocking over or shaking will result in your beverage seeing the light of day. $15 – $20 via Amazon
4. The Longines Master Collection Mens Watch Nothing classes up a nice wardrobe like a great watch. The Longines Master Collection Watch is an amazing looking automatic watch that would look great with your jeans and dress shirt, or your best suit. The stainless steel case, alligator strap, and moon phase display are just a few of the great features that will make this watch a treasured piece for you and probably for some lucky recipient once your own internal clock stops ticking. This is generally considered to be in the “mid-range” as far as luxury watches go, and is a great value for the money. $2,500 via Amazon
5. Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman I’ve only ever had the pleasure of sitting in the Eames Lounge Chair with Ottoman once, but it resulted in one of the best naps I’ve ever had. These chairs are so ridiculously comfortable, that you need to be careful who you let sit in it. If you have a not-so-favorite in-law coming by for the holiday season, I’d strongly recommend keeping them out of this chair so you can spend your evening lounging and sleeping off that holiday feast. $3900-$4800 via Herman Miller
November 16, 2010
With more people looking for environmentally friendly products, bamboo has become a popular material for making all kinds of things. There are definitely some legitimate concerns regarding the processing and possible over use of bamboo, however I stand by the belief that we are better off with as many alternative sources for materials as possible – it’s a good way to ensure we avoid the depletion of any one source. Let’s take a look at some really cool bamboo office supplies.
Three by Three Seattle makes some incredibly well designed and beautiful supplies. Their Large Bamboo Dry-Erase Channel Panel (31.5” x 15.75”) is one of my favorites. This great looking dry erase board is made from real bamboo that is specially treated so it acts as a dry erase board, and it has plenty of extras like a bamboo pen cup, magnetic strips, hooks, and a mail slot to help organize yourself. It is available in two sizes, and also in a plain and accessorized version. $40 – $100 via Three by Three Seattle
Retro 51 makes a line of very popular pens called the Tornado that come in tons of different colors. They recently introduced a bamboo version that I’ve had the privilege to try out, and not only does it look fantastic, but it also writes flawlessly with a super smooth feel as it glides across the paper. For each of these pens that are sold, Retro 51 makes a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation to rescue 250 square feet of rainforest, and the habitat it protects. $40 via Goldspot
You may not be able to tell that these notebooks are made from bamboo just by looking at their colorful covers, but they have a little secret. The pages inside of these notebooks are all made with 100% sustainable bamboo pulp. Unlike some environmentally friendly paper, the paper in these notebooks has a strong sturdy feel, and holds up well to many different inks. They come in multiple sizes ranging from pocket sized to full letter sized. $5 – $10 via Amazon
Chair mats might be one of the ugliest, and one of the most environmentally unfriendly items I can think of, but thankfully the folks at Anji Mountain turned the once ugly item into something that looks so nice that you almost feel bad putting it on the floor. These bamboo chair mats come in a dark and light shade and in multiple sizes and shapes, so you have plenty of options once you ditch that ugly old, yellowing, and probably cracked, plastic chair mat. $120 to $350 via Amazon
Everyone has a USB flash drive, but not everyone has one that is environmentally friendly like this 4 GB Bamboo USB Flash Drive from Staples. With a comfy 4GB of storage, and a magnetized bamboo cap to keep the USB plug securely covered, you cant go wrong with this great looking little storage solution. $25 via Staples
Illustrations by Jordan Awan.
September 17, 2010
I’ve had the misfortune of using some pretty bad highlighters in my life, and all they really highlight is how hard it can be to actually find something that is long lasting, with bright color, and doesn’t have a tip that gets mushy and streaky. Here are cool highlighters that I’ve used that avoid some of those common problems.
If you are an avid note taker, these Post-it Flag Plus Highlighters are for you. Not only do they give you great bright and bold highlighting ability, but they also come stuffed full of Post-it flags to further enhance your note taking. The chunky body and comfortable rubber grip house a pretty generous ink supply as well. $7 for 3 via Amazon
For a more professional and refined highlighting experience, take a look at the Zebra Stainless Steel Refillable Highlighter. With a full stainless steel body, cap, and clip, this highlighter has a very stylish look to it, plus it can take a pretty good beating. Inside the stainless steel body resides a replaceable ink cartridge similar to the ink cartridges in fountain pens. $3 via Buy.com
The Textsurfer Classic Highlighters from Staedtler offer the ability to highlight directly on inkjet print without smearing, which is a very impressive feat. In addition to highlighting inkjet text well, they are also available in a bevy of colors for those of you who like to color code with your highlighters. $8 for 12 via Amazon
Anyone who is a fan of fountain pens has no doubt tried to fashion a highlighter out of one of their fountain pens. Pelikan has made it easier with their new translucent yellow M 205 Demonstrator (Demonstrator is just fancy-talk for see-through in the fountain pen world) that comes with a big wide nib. The nib isn’t quite wide enough to highlight the entire height of a standard 10 or 12 size font, but it will still be wide enough to make your text stand out. Not available in the US quite yet, but it should be here soon. See it at the official Pelikan website and expect to drop about $120 for it when it does become available.
Lastly if it’s durability, environmentally-friendly, long-lasting ink is your thing, check out the Platinum Preppy highlighter with Noodlers Year of the Golden Pig highlighting ink. This one requires a little DIY (Do it Yourself) spirit, but if done correctly, the 4.5 oz bottle of ink and replaceable felt tips should get you through years of highlighting. About $20 via Writers Bloc
Illustrations by Jordan Awan.
August 3, 2010
Let me make this clear from the start, although I do hate writing with pencils, I’ve also got a favorite one that is the only one I’ll probably ever write with. For years I refused to use one because I hate the inconsistent, soft, and fuzzy line and I hate how quickly the points get dull. If those things don’t bother you as much as they do me, here are a five different kinds of pencils based on the type of pencil user you might be.
For the pencil chewer, Smencils are probably your best choice. They are made from newspaper so they are environmentally friendly, but even more important, no wood means no splinters for your tongue or lips. Smencils are scented with 10 different scents, so as you chew on your pencil you can daydream of root beer, watermelon, black cherry, cinnamon, cotton candy, grape, bubble gum, orange, berry, or tropical fruit…P.S. don’t really chew your pencils, it probably isn’t very safe, and I don’t want to get sued. $12 for 10 via Amazon
For the traditionalist, you cant go wrong with the Paper Mate Mirado Black Warrior. High quality lead and premium cedar wood make for an excellent writing experience that is actually surprisingly better than that of your cheap-o low quality pencils. With wood grain that is designed to make sharpening easier, and a Pink Pearl eraser that is highly effective and wont rip your paper, for the price, you really cant go wrong. $4 for 12 via Amazon
For the environmentalists out there, you might want to check out the Dixon Ticonderoga Renew pencils made from recycled car tires. Now to be fair, I don’t know the exact process used to break down the tires and shape them into pencils, but I do know that it doesn’t require cutting down a bunch of trees, and it does something useful with the over 2 billion tires sitting in US landfills alone. $6 for 10 via Amazon
This is where I see myself, the practical pencil user. I want it sharp, I don’t want it to break, and I want it to write with a thin consistent line all the time without stopping to sharpen it. The Uniball Kuru Toga is probably the most technically advanced pencil out there. It is a mechanical pencil that actually has a tiny clutch mechanism built into the point, and as you write, the pressure from writing and then lifting the pencil off the paper engages the clutch mechanism that rotates the lead for you. This auto-rotating mechanism not only ensures a constantly sharp point, but it also results in far fewer broken points because of the evenly worn lead. $9 each via Amazon
A true pencil enthusiast would probably do just about anything to get their hands on even just one unused Eberhard Faber Blackwing Pencil. They stopped making these pencils in 1998, however there is still a bit of an unused stock out there that many people covet, horde and pay dearly for. Why? Well, the motto stamped on this pencil tells the story, they say “Half the pressure, twice the speed” so in other words, these things are supposed to write beautifully and effortlessly. Their soft high quality lead puts down a smooth dark line, and many people are also as fascinated with the simple design as they are the writing experience it provides. You can pay up to $40 for ONE pencil these days, and eBay is your best bet.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan.
Design, Products, Technology
June 20, 2010
For all the time and effort that people put into finding that perfect pen, it’s amazing that they will write on just any old paper. Maybe this was OK when you were in 1st grade learning how to spell your name without backwards letters, but if you are looking to upgrade your overall writing experience, take a look at some of the outstanding notebooks below.
Some of my favorite notebooks for everyday use are from the Black n’ Red brand. Nothing fancy here, however you can’t beat the combination of their simple visual appeal, impeccable quality, and great value. Sturdy covers, with good quality binding, and most importantly high quality paper that won’t have your writing bleed through. There are many options to choose from, but I like the coil bound version with polypropylene cover. $7 via Amazon
If making the decision between traditional ruled paper, and graph paper is just too hard for you, the notebooks from Doane Paper will make your day. The unique design of their notebooks give you graph paper and ruled paper all on one page by using a heavier horizontal line to make up the squares of the graph paper. Doane Paper notebooks are available as standard legal pads, pocket size journals, and hard-cover coil-bound versions. $4.50 to $11 via DoanePaper
Whitelines notebooks come in multiple formats including coil bound and book style binding, with your choice of ruled or graph paper style. The paper itself is a very light gray, while the lines are actually white. The logic behind this design is that the white lines will not distract or interfere with your writing or drawing. Also, when you scan or photocopy the paper, the lines become invisible. My personal favorite is the lined A5 with hard black cover and coil binding. $12 via Amazon
If you are a fountain pen user, or someone who hates when your writing shows through to the other side of the page, the Rhodia Web Notebook is the perfect option for you. These notebooks use a heavy 90 gauge paper that deals well with just about any ink and is also the smoothest paper you will ever write on. $20 via Amazon
For the most professional looking notebooks, you can’t go wrong with the Levenger’s Circa system. These notebooks are not cheap; however their unique disc binding system and high quality cloth or leather covers will make you stand out from the crowd in a meeting. The disc binding system allows you great flexibility in moving and organizing your notes. $49-$129 via Levenger
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
June 8, 2010
With Father’s Day and Graduation season here, I thought it would be fun to talk about a long-lasting gift. Having been the recipient (and admittedly the giver) of some bad gifts, I can tell you that a nice fountain pen will last someone a lifetime and become a prized possession that they either look forward to using every day, or that they cherish and use for special occasions. Here are a few fountain pen suggestions to help you pick just the right one:
First up is the Lamy Safari, which is a very simple and understated fountain pen, but one that is durable and well constructed. It has an all plastic body and stainless steel nib (the nib is the fancy term for the pointy part that you write with) that makes for a pen that is comfortable to write with and that also puts down a nice smooth and consistent line. The Lamy brand is known for its quality German engineering, and the Safari is a hugely popular pen. Great for everyday use, especially in an environment where it might take a bit of abuse. $25 via Amazon.
The Aurora Ipsilon Satin line of fountain pens represent a more stylish choice. Being that this fountain pen is made in Italy, the comparison to a fancy sports car is a hard temptation to resist, but no worries, this fountain pen won’t set you back six figures. Much like a nice Italian sports car, this pen comes in a limited range of colors. You can go with the classic blue or black, or the “hey look at me” bright orange. Regardless of the color, you will find yourself with a well made light-weight fountain pen that will be sure to make other people jealous while they toil away with their .99 cent ballpoint pens. $88 via Amazon.
Next up is the Pelikan M215 Tradition Series. This is a another pen from a highly respected German manufacturer. With its twist off cap, shiny black lacquer finish, and silver accents this fountain pen has a very clean, neat, and professional look. There are a few different bodies to choose from, with slightly different stylings on the silver accents, and even one with a hint of blue. They always say you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have, so consider this pen an extension of that wardrobe that will take your Dad or Grad to the next level. $120 via Goldspot Luxury Gifts.
Then there is the Visconti Homo Sapiens (pictured top). This fountain pen is forged from the volcanic lava of Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy and is probably one of the most unique fountain pens you can buy right now. Using the lava as a base for the body of the pen makes it virtually unbreakable, able to withstand extreme temperatures, and also helps to absorb sweat from the hand while writing. I had the chance to write with one of these pens at the recent National Stationery Show at the Javitz Center in NYC, and that experience had me drooling over the thought of actually purchasing one for myself one day. The palladium nib gives it a bit of flexibility that lets the user drastically change the width of the line with slight amounts of pressure. Bottom line though is that this pen combines the cool factor with incredible writing performance. $595 via Goldspot Luxury Gifts.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
May 11, 2010
[This is the first post from our new contributor, Brian Greene. His blog, Office Supply Geek caught my eye and then his bio clinched it. Anyone who can be funny and relish a Sharpie as much as I do is a much-welcomed Lifework contributor. Cerentha]
I know that lots of people already have their own favorite pens established in their daily routine, but at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I think that the 5 pens below deserve serious consideration as a replacement for whatever pen you may have become comfortable with.
1. Sharpie Pen Grip – The Sharpie Pen is relatively new, and this version with the enhanced grip is the best out of the entire series. This isnt your old-school felt tip pen, it has a highly durable plastic tip to ensure a smooth consistent line that doesn’t spread over time. In addition to the consistent and smooth line, the Sharpie Pen Grip is water resistant, and it wont smear, bleed or feather on most papers. Pack of 3, $7.34.
2. Uniball Gel RT Micro – This is a pen for those of you that like a thinner point than the usual “medium” or .7mm pens that dominate the market. The .38mm tip on this gel ink pen lays down a fantastically smooth, consistent and vividly colored line. These pens have performed so well for me that I’ve even taken the next step and modified the refills so I can fit them in some of my other favorite pen bodies. Pack of 12, $15.19.
3. Pilot Precise V5 RT – This retractable liquid ink pen is ridiculously smooth to write with, and is an updated version of one of my favorite pens from years ago, the Pilot Precise V5. With its updated and more modern design, they managed to improve the comfort AND looks while retaining the incredible performance that it was known for. Beyond all of that I’ve always felt that these pens hold a ton of ink and last forever. Pack of 12, $21.63.
4. Zebra Sarasa RT - The Zebra Sarasa is another gel ink pen that is a super smooth writer, and puts down some very solid and consistent lines with no ink blobs or skipping. In addition to the great performance, they also come in a ton of great colors like blue black which is one of my favorites. Pack of 6, $10.24.
5. Uniball Jetstream – If you are a ballpoint pen person, this is pretty much the only way to go in my opinion. The Uniball Jetstream is a ballpoint, but it writes like no other ballpoint pen you have used before. The line is consistent and smooth, the colors are bright, and there is absolutely no sticky or gummy feeling like you get with normal ballpoints. Pack of 3, $7.29.
If you are sitting their staring at your old G2 or other favorite pen right now, why not give one of these options a shot and breathe some new life into your daily routine. For only a few bucks, you might really surprise yourself.