Review: Yak Leather Pen Case


The folks at Pen Boutique were kind enough to send me a sample of the brown, twelve-pen, Yak Leather pen case to review. It’s a new brand to them, and to me, so I thought it was worth taking a look.

The case arrived in a nondescript cardboard box lightly wrapped in tissue paper - enough packaging to keep it safe, but nothing special - and without any accompanying information. It was just the case and a silica gel packet, if I recall correctly, which is unfortunate, because I can’t find any other information on the brand online - so I don’t know if this is actual yak leather or not.

Whatever animal gave its life to protect my pens should be happy with the result, though. The case is nicely constructed and has some thoughtful touches as well as some areas in need of improvement. The red-brown pebbled leather exterior feels good in the hand, though it is hard to tell how thick or durable the leather is without stress testing it. The zipper has loops to allow for a small lock to be used to secure it. The back of the case has a “Yak Leather” logo embossed in the bottom center.


The interior is where I felt there was room for improvement. The pen loops inside are made with the same leather as the exterior, which looks nice, but doesn’t do a great job of holding in pens without using the pen clip. In contrast to the Monteverde pen case I currently use, which has elastic pen loops, it comes up short. Fortunately, it is sized just right that most standard fountain pens will fit without too much rattling around, and it does fit twelve full sized pens perfectly.


The divider that protects one side of the case from the other is affixed with velcro to the middle of the case, which makes it easy to remove. However, the way the velcro is affixed to both the case and the divider mean that no configuration of the two actually feels secure. It’s an obvious design flaw, as if the divider were a last minute addition to the case.


The size of the case is such that it fits into a day bag without issue. I can carry my laptop, my Traveler’s Notebook, and this case easily inside my Saddleback messenger bag, for example.

If you have a small collection; are interested in yak leather; or have a large collection and just need a case for your daily arsenal, then give the Yak Leather pen case a shot.


Dear Readers,

My blog has been ad-free for most of its life. It's been a great creative outlet. However, with two small children running around, I haven't had much time to write for the last three years. But this site still gets a thousand visitors or so per month. My ink reviews are still useful to a lot of people, so, to offset the cost of hosting the site, I've added ads to the right hand side of the page.

The ads are far enough down the page not to be intrusive, I hope. They're served up by Google AdSense, so I don't have a hand in selecting what appears. Hopefully, they're tailored to you, based upon the reams of personal data the great internet gods have compiled on your interests.

If you do use an ad blocker, consider whitelisting this site so that I get the revenue from your ad impressions. If that seems like too much trouble, I won't mind. I'm not looking to buy a boat from the ad revenue, just to offset the costs of the domain and the hosting.

Hopefully I can sneak in a review or two here or there in the near future.


Ink Review: Noodler's Ink Berning Red

Noodler's Berning Red

Noodler's Berning Red

It’s an immutable karmic law that, when an ink producer creates a new color specifically to mock a presidential candidate, one then must use said ink to write the candidate’s campaign slogan, regardless of how one actually feels about said candidate. In this case, Nathan Tardiff, the man behind the curtain of Noodler’s Ink, created Berning Red in honor of Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, and one of the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination. The tagline for the ink is “a red for lefties that dries fast.” Because Sanders is a socialist, he’s a lefty on the American political spectrum, and left-handed writers need a quick drying ink - get it? Also red, because red is equated with socialism, as evidenced by the Soviet-propogada-inspired label.

Politics aside, Berning Red is quite a good ink. It’s a bright, candy-apple red - it doesn’t lean purple or brown, and no magenta is in sight. It’s a quintessential red that’s easy to read on the page. It has a moderate level of saturation, fading a little in the really broad strokes of a calligraphy pen, but producing a crisp, bold line with low levels of shading when used with a fine nib. It’s easy to write with, having a moderate level of flow and producing no sensation of scratchiness on most paper.

After I was done testing it, it cleaned up easily, flushing quickly from the converter and feed. It did not stain. Berning Red is also an extremely cost-effective ink. Noodler's standard line of ink is the best value on the market - the 3 oz bottles run roughly $12.50, which works out to a cost of $0.14 per milliliter - the lowest of any ink I’m aware of.

Paper Dry Time
Copier 1 second
Bagasse 5 seconds
Rhodia 5 seconds
Midori MD 15 seconds
Carson XL 10 seconds
Leuchtturm 10 seconds

So how does the quick-drying claim stand up? Well, it dries faster than a lot of Noodler’s ink, though not so quickly as I’d have imagined for an ink specifically designed to be fast-drying. Overall, it was dry to the touch and smudge free in less than 15 seconds, with cheap office-grade copier paper being the fastest and Midori MD paper the slowest of those I tested.

It is generally well-behaved across each of the paper types I tested, though it has an increased tendency to show-though on absorbent papers, and to bleed through when used with a really wet nib, like the Pilot Parallel pens. It’s not something you’re likely to encounter if you’re using good quality paper in a fine-nib pen, but it is something to keep in mind.

Noodler's Berning Red water test

Noodler's Berning Red water test

Berning Red held up surprisingly well in the water resistance test, in which I simulate three scenarios: something wet gets dragged across the page, droplets of water fall onto the page and get blotted up, and the paper gets soaked. It smeared easily enough when I ran a wet finger across the page, which resulted in a lovely red smudge - so it is not suitable for painting over with washes or watercolors. However, it didn't completely lift from the page when I blotted it, nor when I soaked it under the faucet, which means that your work won’t be completely obliterated if you do happen to get it wet by accident.

Noodler's Berning Red bottle

Noodler's Berning Red bottle

Noodler’s 3 oz glass bottles are, in and of themselves, utilitarian. They’re stock bottles ordered in bulk in order to keep the cost of production down. It’s the labels that are always interesting, even if they occasionally make you shake your head in bewilderment. Berning Red is certainly one of those cases. The Soviet-style design with hammer and sickle, and Bernie Sanders’ smiling face plastered on it is…fascinating. One cannot deny that it is eye catching. Whether you display the bottle proudly on top of your desk or stuff it in a drawer is likely to be driven more by your politics and sense of irony than by your aesthetic sensibilities.

Berning Red is a great ink. I’m very happy with having had the chance to test it. While it doesn’t displace Diamine Red Dragon as my current favorite red ink, its good behavior, ease of reading, and cost effectiveness make it a go-to choice when I’m in the mood for a vibrant red ink.

This bottle of Noodler’s Ink Berning Red was graciously provided by Pen Boutique.

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. All lines, broad and thin, were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. 

The Power of Intentional Change

Change can be scary. The path between point A and B never seems to be a straight line. It is filled with twists and turns, false starts and false stops, missteps and side steps. It always seems to take longer than you’ve anticipated, and you may not even recognize the destination once you’ve arrived. Sometimes, you may start your journey without knowing where you’re going, and in today’s fast-paced world, just keeping track of where you’ve been can be a challenge.

Faced with the seeming difficulty of change, many people abandon their efforts and resign themselves to the status quo. Businesses spend all of their resources on incremental improvements that don’t drive growth. People sit in front of the TV instead of learning a new skill. Relationships languish because neither partner knows where to start making a difference.

Fortunately, desired, sustainable change doesn’t have to be scary. Intentional Change Theory, developed by Professor Richard Boyatzis at Case Western Reserve University, provides a framework for understanding how change works. Once you understand the process, you can harness its power, reduce uncertainty, and make change work for you.

The Five Discoveries

According to Intentional Change Theory, desired, sustainable change occurs when five steps are completed in a specific order. As we’ve already discussed, most people encounter change as a chaotic, discontinuous process, so when they finally complete each step, often by happenstance, it is usually accompanied by a feeling of epiphany or discovery. Therefore we call these five steps the five discoveries.

However, once you become aware of the process of Intentional Change, and are mindful about applying it, you’ll find that the process will feel controlled and continuous. There is still discovery to be had, but each step will feel like a natural progression from the last.

Ideal Self – discovering the Ideal Self answers the question, “Who do I want to be?” This sounds like an intuitive place to start the process of change, but people often start by looking at where they are now and then asking where they can go. Taking that approach may seem practical, but it is ultimately self-limiting. It is critical to keep an open mind when discovering your Ideal Self.

Worse, some people jump right into action, figuring that doing something is usually better than doing nothing. Unfortunately, all that energy ends up wasted if you’re not moving in the direction that you really want to go.

Real Self – discovering the Real Self requires taking an objective look at yourself to assess which strengths you can build on to achieve your Ideal Self and where you have gaps that you’ll need to bridge. By starting with the Ideal Self, this step in the process will be aspirational, instead of critical. You’ll be moving toward the future instead of being trapped in the past.

Learning Agenda – the third discovery is the development of a concrete set of steps to move you from your Real Self to your Ideal Self. You’ll take the gap analysis and strengths assessment from your discovery of the Real Self and use that to create a plan. Once you have that plan, then it’s time to take action, which brings us to the fourth discovery.

Practice – when we talk about Practice, we mean practicing until mastery. The old adage that amateurs practice until they get it right while professionals practice until they can't get it wrong is the key to sustaining your desired change. The change you seek needs to become intuitive, or else you’re likely to return to old habits when times get tough.

Resonant Relationships – the last discovery is the development of supportive relationships. Change doesn't have to be scary, but it is rarely easy. Resonant relationships will help you to completeeach step of the process as well as to move from one discovery to the next. They can provide an editorial voice when preparing your Learning Agenda, a critical eye when discovering your Real Self, positive energy when discovering your Ideal Self, and emotional support when Practice gets hard.

It’s important to keep in mind that this process is iterative. You should expect to envision your Ideal Self, assess your Real Self, develop a Learning Agenda, and Practice over and over again as you make progress toward your desired change.

Multiple Levels

So far, we’ve talked about Intentional Change using the language of the individual, but the theory applies at all levels of human interaction, from the very intimate to the global stage. From a leadership perspective, we most commonly apply Intentional Change at the following four levels:

Individual – that’s you.

Dyad – two people involved in a sociologically significant relationship: romantic partners, parent and child, manager and employer, business partners, mentor and mentee, and so on. A dyad can apply Intentional Change to the relationship itself – making it stronger or deeper, for example, or to the focus of the relationship: a business, a family, etc…

Where does a dyad find resonant relationships? Business partners might find them out in the larger business community – perhaps as part of a local organization. Romantic partners may rely on family and friends. Managers and employees can look to the rest of their team or to fellow leaders in the organization. Resonant relationships are out there, but we aren’t used to thinking about them in the same way we think about them at an individual level.

Team – a team is a group of people working collaboratively toward a common work product. Teams can use Intentional Change to work on their own team structure and dynamics or to chart the course of their work.

Organization – a team of teams. A business, church, non-profit, or community organization can apply Intentional Change in the same way. The logistics get a bit trickier, with far more cats to herd, but the process remains the same.

By harnessing the power of Intentional Change Theory, you, your team, or your organization can tackle desired change, make it last, and make the process itself positive for everyone involved. Change is scary, but Intentional Change doesn’t have to be.