Sustainable Gear

The first thing that I want to make clear is that I’m still using a lot of the equipment that is listed on my website for my various projects. It’s just that my approach to writing and drawing utensils changed a lot during the past few months and I wanted to talk a bit about my current choices and reasons behind them.

As you know I have been in Japan almost 10 years already and because I’m a huge fan of art supplies it was almost impossible for me not to buy a lot of different stuff just to try them out. Some of these I used a lot (like my watercolors, pencils, brush pens or fineliners) but a lot of my purchases just ended up in my “art stuff” drawers.

Recently I discovered that some of the mechanical pencils and pens that I used during my university time and later swapped for different models were no longer usable. The plastic was discolored, rubber parts turned to a sticky mush and the ink dried-up. I started systematically clearing up my art supplies getting rid of all the things that just got old or that I know I’m not going to use. It pains me every time I have to throw things away but I knew that it’s my fault they ended up in those drawers in the first place.

I decided to change my ways.

When buying art supplies I was more concerned with the new functionality than anything else but now I decided to put more question on my “do I really need this” list, like:

  • Is this pen or pencil re-usable? Can I replace the ink or cartridge so I can use it again and again?
  • Is it long lasting? Will some parts just deteriorate over time?
  • Can it be repaired if I break it?
  • If I need to throw it out can it be recycled?

According to these rules, I changed my “everyday” set of tools I almost always have with me, even if I’m not planning to draw anything:


1: For writing: LAMY AL-star with EF nib.

  • It’s almost all made of aluminum so is really hardwearing but light and easy to write with.
  • I’m using a converter so I don’t have to throw away plastic cartridges and can use any fountain pen ink I want.
  • The nib is really easy to buy and replace so I can fix the pen instead of buying a new one (I already had to do it once after I dropped it accidentally)
  • Comes with 2-year maker warranty. You can also buy spare parts if needed.
  • One downside: there are some plastic parts, unfortunately.

This is a fountain pen I already had – Kana bought it for me some time ago – it even has my name on it. With this fountain pen, I signed a lot of “Tokyo Storefronts” books already and use it often for writing my memos and journal entries when I’m outside. It’s also good for some sketching on good, smooth paper.


2: For writing on stuff: Kaweco Special Ballpoint pen, black

  • As far as I can tell entirely made of metal – durable and recyclable.
  • Can use any ISO standard, Parker G2 type of cartridge which is produced by many makers in various colors and ink types. This should allow me to use the pen without relying on the whims of one company.
  • With a good cartridge, it’s easy to use and doesn’t require so much pressure to write like some ballpoint pens.
  • Comes with a maker warranty.

I have this in my “basic set” to write the things which are hard to do with a fountain pen: a quick sign, address on an envelope, some fast notes. I was surprised that I actually like to write with it (I dislike ballpoint pens in general) the cartridge I bought for it in Itoya is excellent!


3: For sketching: Caran d’Ache 844 mechanical pencil 0.7mm

  • The body of this pencil is made of light aluminum and other components are also made of metal.
  • It uses the standard 0.7mm pencil leads that are made by many companies making it easy to refill. I’m currently using softer, 2B leads made by Mitsubishi.
  • It’s light and easy to use.
  • Comes with maker warranty.

I use this pencil for sketching my ideas when I’m outside but because it’s so nice to use I’m drawing with it at my desk a lot too! It’s light and not to thick. It does not have a fancy rubber grip but that’s all right, the mat paint finish is just great. I have a simple eraser in my pen case to accompany it.

These three writing and drawing instruments are currently in my pen case. I might insert a wooden pencil there if I know I’ll be doing a more serious drawing, but that’s mostly it.
I hope these three will work for me for a long time!

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