March 7, 2021

24. Introducing Evan Harris as the Co-Host of Stationery Orbit

24. Introducing Evan Harris as the Co-Host of Stationery Orbit

In today’s episode, I am happy to be introducing Evan Harris as the co-host of Stationery Orbit.

Welcome, Evan!

End of InCoWriMo, how did your InCoWriMo go?

Address labels

A5 sheets

New postal vehicle/reactions ?

New Pictorial Postmarks

Will you marry me? Postmark and Perseverance on Mars Station Postmark

Anything new on the market?

NockCo waxed canvas Kickstarter

New Parker 51

Safari re-release in Terra and Savanah

Pura – Leonardo Momento Zero Grande

Scribe Inks


Letterlocking YouTube site

Dictionary of Letterlocking

Support the show (


24 Evan intro as co-host

[00:00:00] John: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode 24 of stationary orbit, where we are all here to learn more about creative letter writing. I'm your host John West. And in today's episode, I am happy to be introducing Evan Harris as the co-host of stationary orbit. Welcome Evan.

Evan: [00:00:14] Great to be here again and on a little more permanent basis, hopefully. At least that's the plan. For anyone who doesn't know, I'm very big into letter locking and to have. Done a lot of letter locking and letter writing over the last year. I've been into fountain pens since about 2013. And  I'm an engineer out of Minnesota right now.

John: [00:00:36] Yeah.  That's exactly why I wanted to bring you on as the co-host for the show is because of our very shared interest in letter locking. And  both of us were engineers. I'm an environmental engineer by trade. And I think both of us bring that engineer's mentality and mindset towards letter locking in and trying to determine the best way of doing something in the best material [00:01:00] to do it with.

And so that's a large part of why I wanted to bring you on as a co-host 

Evan: [00:01:05] we're going to talk both about a little today and hopefully in future episodes, new ideas on how to letter lock letters  we want to work on some ways to make your new letter locks based on historical ones that are still mailable in  standard postage rates, as opposed to using things that won't go through the mail.

John: [00:01:23] Yeah. And Evan actually is braver than I am. He will actually send stuff au naturale into the mail. And I haven't quite gotten up the courage to do that. Although that hexagon letter lock that you sent me, it looks like that one will be a fun one to actually send.

Evan: [00:01:39] so the hexagon is really fun. And actually surprisingly for the first time in months, I used an envelope today, but that was just to get a pictorial postmark. So I put six different hexagon locked letters into a larger envelope and sent it off.

John: [00:01:53] One of the things I wanted to start off the show with is we're recording this on March 1st. And a [00:02:00] lot of us have just finished up IncoWriMo last month for February. And I wanted to see how your InCoWriMo went

Evan: [00:02:06] Mine went pretty well. I wasn't actually planning on doing it, but what I did was just replied to everything, I get, which is normal for me.  And ended up having 23 letters if counting the ones that I put in the mail today, which I wrote yesterday.

So I'm counting. How about yours? You? If I recall had a really interesting strategy.

John: [00:02:25] Yeah. I actually made it through the entire month. Some of it was a little bit hectic, but I tried to control things and I was using some of the atomic habits ideas. And I was just trying to make sure that it was easy so that it was doable. So I had pre printed out a bunch of address labels and I was doing it where each of my letters was just a single  A5 sheet.

That way I had no excuse for why I couldn't sit down and. Just pound out an a five quick letter and get it into a pre-addressed envelope and get it out the door. So yeah, [00:03:00] my InCoWriMo was successful. I included a couple of packages through the month to get some pins out and yeah, it had a really great time.

It was definitely nice to get into that habit of writing every day.

Evan: [00:03:11] Yeah, no, I've been journaling for a while as well, so it's nice. Both the mix in at least for me, letters and journaling, a great way to keep writing and also stationary orbit pins are available online.

John: [00:03:25] Yeah. Get all the stationary orbit merch it's online. Yeah. It's definitely a lot of fun to. At least for me to be able to go out and buy stuff that has the stationary orbit logo on it. I love the way that thing turned out. It actually, I think it makes pretty good looking merch but I don't get to be the one who makes that entire a decision that is up to the customers.

Evan: [00:03:48] I think it looked tools. Nice. Matt did it.

John: [00:03:50] Matthew. Yeah. Yeah. Hey Matthew. Yep. And yeah, a great artist in a really amazing the way that turned out. I loved it. Next topic is [00:04:00] getting into some of the  the postal bulletin and remembered seeing several of the different  pictorial postmarks that were in. And you had pointed it out to me and I.

Might've caught this one on my own, but it looks like somebody actually managed to propose via a  postmark in the U S mail.

Evan: [00:04:19] That's correct. So there are there are a lot of fun pictorial postmarks in this latest edition. I personally liked the perseverance on Mars one, but there is the, will you marry me? Postmarked from the San Antonio postal customer council, which given how low a barrier to entry a pictorial postmark really is.

I think somebody proposed via this. And so I started looking into what does this postal customer council, and it seems lots of  Metro areas have them to discuss between postal users normally. Businesses, not individual people and the local post offices. So I'm looking more into that. Hopefully in a future episode, we can go do a deeper dive into that.

I emailed the San [00:05:00] Antonio postal customer council. And haven't heard back yet to ask, did somebody seriously propose? And if so, was it successful because that's just a fun story.

John: [00:05:11] Yeah, no doubt. Yeah. And then there's also the perseverance on Mars. And as I understood the the going joke is that. Now that Rover has to explain to the other Rover that's been on Mars for the last 10, 20 years. What Matthew McConaughey's career rebound has been and what a Tik TOK is.

Evan: [00:05:30] I have not heard that, but I love that. And I just noticed looking at the image again, that it actually includes the helicopter.

John: [00:05:37] Oh yeah. The little drone.

Evan: [00:05:40] Yeah.

John: [00:05:42] Yep. And the other one I wanted to get in  so we have the, a year of the ox, the lunar year stamp, and they actually have the color and black and white  postmarks for that. And one of them I was really intrigued by is the and I apologize to any [00:06:00] Chinese listeners that I offend by this Pronunciation, but Chien-Shiung is a pictorial postmark. That's going to be running until June 11th and she was actually one of the chief scientists in the Manhattan project. And her big contribution to that project was figuring out how to do the uranium separation using magnetic fields  in Tennessee.

So that was a huge deal.

Evan: [00:06:27] the Oak Ridge lab, who's really neat in this.  There are a ton of very interesting stories about the Manhattan project overall. And one of my favorites about the Oak Ridge lab, which we've discussed is that  the male engineers, they brought in to do the separation, got bored or figured they had better uses of their time.

So they brought in a bunch of women to do it. And they were much better to the point that the scientists and engineers who were doing it originally tried it again. And we're still getting beaten because they thought they could do it better. But practice makes perfect

John: [00:06:57] That, and you have, you're playing [00:07:00] to a strength there. The women have a better attention to detail. They have a better attention span.

Evan: [00:07:06] Oh yeah, it is clear that the people who designed it to not have the attention span to run it nowadays, of course, that would all be computerized, but we're talking the  early 1940s. With these first day issue pictorial postmarks. The first 50 of any of the black and white ones are free.  The color ones, you have to pay 5 cents a postmark and you can buy pre stamped items on the USPS store.

One of  my favorite stamps that's coming out soon in April or the espresso drink stamps. Unfortunately there's only a color one for that. I still might have to pay to get some.

John: [00:07:40] Yeah and even more than just the pictorial postmark, you actually have the espresso drink stamps that are being issued by the Seattle post office. And  those are fun. They're just a bunch of different espresso drinks paying homage to the Seattle coffee scene. Yeah. I really liked [00:08:00] that one. 

So the next item on is talking about the new postal vehicles. And I was actually looking at the verge article for this and it was not the first time I had heard  the vehicle referred to as the duck truck.

Evan: [00:08:15] Yeah. Yeah. A lot of people think it looks like a duck or doing a duck face. It is very large volume with a very low front bumper  for visibility mostly. And it's an electric vehicle. No space needed  for a real engine. It is being made by the Oshkosh defense company out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

John: [00:08:34] Yeah. And a few things that not necessarily about the new one, but some things I didn't know about the old one, the old ones have been in the fleet anywhere between 25 and 32 years. They do not have air conditioning or airbags,

Evan: [00:08:47] No, air-conditioning no airbags. I'm not even sure they have a Seatbelt, probably a seatbelt, but they are very old, the [00:09:00] Grumman long life vehicle for anybody who doesn't know Grumman doesn't normally make, or didn't normally make cars,  they made planes and rockets. Yes.

John: [00:09:11] Yep. They knew how to make stuff last. The Grumman F 14 had a huge long life in the Naval fleet. And you can't argue with the fact that those postal trucks have been  out on the roads for 25 to 32 years. That's that's quite a run, but the run is coming to an end.

Thanks to Oshkosh.

Evan: [00:09:27] it is finally coming to an end. The There are a few different companies that were proposed things. A lot of them looked similar to this because this fits very well. The designs specifications, the, some of the comedians had interesting commentaries, I believe it was Stephen Colbert said it was two eyes short of a Pixar.

John: [00:09:44] Yeah. That's yeah, that windshield definitely counts.

Evan: [00:09:47] And John Oliver said, like you said, it was the Disney character in a story about the little car that could, but couldn't,

John: [00:09:55] Yeah. Yeah. The other interesting fact that I took away from a researching on [00:10:00] the new postal vehicle is the fact that the competition to replace the old long-term vehicles was six years long. It was, or five years long. It started in 2016. So yeah, it's a, it took them quite a while to get through that competition.


Evan: [00:10:16] bat when some of the LLVs were still in their service lifetime

John: [00:10:20] Yeah. Yeah. And the group that lost workhorse, apparently, man, they just threw in all their chips and they're going to be a hurting unit on now that they've lost the bid.

Evan: [00:10:33] Oh, that's too bad. But there, I didn't see that one. I saw one from the people who made the Humvee. And somebody else there were interesting designs. There was a second Oshkosh proposal. Actually, there was  co-designed with Ford, but

John: [00:10:48] that's right. Yeah. Actually I think that the design, that one actually was co-designed by Ford. Yeah,

Evan: [00:10:54] There were two with, from Oshkosh. Which is also a fun thing just to say.

John: [00:10:59] yeah, [00:11:00] the truck from Oshkosh. Yeah. Wanted to talk about some of the other stuff that is out in new, on the market. I'll start off with the nock co waxed canvas Kickstarter shipping, which actually just got my shipping notification for that today. So I'm excited to see what Brad has cooked up.

Evan: [00:11:17] yeah they look like really neat cases. I did not buy into the kickstarter. Starting to regret that a little. They look really nice. I don't have any Nock Co cases yet, though.

John: [00:11:27] Okay. I'll fix that for you. I'll see about hooking you up with  one of my old ones. You don't get the unicorn barf one. I'm keeping that one,

Evan: [00:11:34] That's fine.

John: [00:11:35] Mentioning pen cases you have to have pens to put in pen cases is. And I think we were both looking a little bit at the new Parker, 50 ones.

Evan: [00:11:43] Yeah, it looks neat, but not the more I look at it, the more I question it,

John: [00:11:50] Yeah. It didn't take very long for me to find a few things out there. Where they were talking about the fact that the nib is the same thing that is in the  Jotter fountain pens.

[00:12:00] And that's a real big turnoff when you're asking over a hundred dollars for a pen

Evan: [00:12:03] yeah, for the steel nib pen, it's questionable. I also wish that they had designed the nose tone to be a little more encapsulated, like the old  hooded tubular, nib of the original one. I don't mind the threads, honestly. Do some of the reviews I've seen have been very mad that this has a threaded cap versus a slip-on cap.

I honestly don't mind the threads. I think they're integrated. The nose cone bothers me though. As far as both the steel and golden versions seem to be a little overpriced. I would have hoped that the gold nib version would have been closer to the Lamy 2000 or platinum, 37 76  sort of pricing.

John: [00:12:46] yeah, no doubt. Yeah. You're yeah. You're talking about a pen. It's a good hundred dollars more than a 37 76. And that's a hard one to swallow.

Evan: [00:12:54] Yeah, I would say just the 2000 pricing, but  the Lamy 2000 pricing is sometimes just [00:13:00] so great that you can find the, for like a hundred dollars barely used that it's a favorite of mine.

John: [00:13:09] Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. In the  Same time, capsule category. We also have Safari rereleasing there two original colors for the Lamy Safari and in their terra and Savannah colors, which to me is just like a complete throwback to the 1970s kitchen of orange and avocado.

Evan: [00:13:29] I really liked the colors. I think they came out well, though. I did not know prior to this. That's why the pen has told the Safari. I hadn't even thought about why it was named.

John: [00:13:41] Yeah, it was it was originally based off of the two terra and Savannah colors, but yeah, it's unfortunately I was born in the seventies. I grew up in the eighties and it's just a little too close to home for those two colors. So I'll be skipping on that one. The other one that's coming out here is [00:14:00] the Leonardo momentos zero grande, the puro versions, which is going to be very interesting,  having the demonstrator on a piston filler like that.

I don't think I've seen many piston fillers in a demonstrator at that level other than Twsbi. So it's going to be an interesting looking pen. I don't know if I'll pick one up.

Evan: [00:14:21] Yeah, I don't think I'm going to pick them up. One of them either, but they are really. Neat pens. I especially liked the blue, but I like blue as a color a lot. I think they are also releasing some new inks which looked nice, but not necessarily very remarkable, which was fine.

John: [00:14:40] yeah, mentioning new inks. I actually ran across one here. Just Over the weekend, I believe. And it's the scribe inks. And I don't know if you've had a chance to open up that link out to a pen realm, but they actually have a really interesting little story behind them. They [00:15:00] are reminiscent of the Parker Penman fountain pen inks and   The only place I was able to find them online was through Pen realm through with my buddy Kirk up in Berthoud Colorado.

So a little love out to him on this one, but yeah, he found these scribe fountain pen inks, and they've got several different, interesting colors, including Jamoca, which for any of you that are out there that are so hungry, you could eat at Arby's. Jamoca milkshakes are one of my favorite things on the face of the planet.

Evan: [00:15:31] So these things look really nice with a nice sheening to them  in some of the sample images and  I have a pen that Kirk ground, and it is great. TWSBI five 80 Prussian blue with an architect.

John: [00:15:45] Right on. Yeah, I love his architect grind. I've got a actually I've now have several pins that have his architect grind on them. I started with a Pelican M 1000 and then upgraded. I upgraded my [00:16:00] Wancher dream pen. That was the urushi. I upgraded the Leonardo on momentum zero in primary manipulation that I got early last year.

 I take them all up and had all of them ground in person. So that was a nice little getaway for a an evening during the pandemic lockdown.

Evan: [00:16:18] okay. That's nice. Now I ordered mine online and the service is great. So effectively saying go buy stuff from him. It's not sponsored, which is , love his work.

John: [00:16:27] just love his work. And so we're going to go off of. Pen realm and we're going to head over to Vanness pens for their Pannonia ink. And this is another one that looks like it's a fairly new ink maker on the market. And some. Generally unpronounceable names, but some really interesting colors, like the Whoopie blue and the blue light.

I'm a,   blue ink person, but they have sour, cherry and [00:17:00] young wine, poison green.

Evan: [00:17:03] I really liked the selection of colors. The the whoopee blues similar to the Montblanc, UNICEF blue. 

John: [00:17:10] I was thinking a little bit more Robert Oster soda pop blue

Evan: [00:17:13] I have not used that one. I've got, I have the UNICEF blue inked up though. But the whoopie blue is nice. And one of the things I like looking through this is that the labels, I believe  they say Claire Fontaine60 grams per meter squared paper. So they're telling you  the actual ink on it.

So they're telling you what specifically the image is on, and it's a paper similar to one. I use a lot, so I know what it would look like on my paper.

John: [00:17:41] Wow. That's a nice little feature. Another one of their colors in it. This one reminds me a bit of Californio Andrinopal. And it's their cotton candy color.


Evan: [00:17:50] This. Oh, that is a very nice light red, dark pink color.

John: [00:17:55] Yeah, exactly.

Evan: [00:17:56] it looks like cotton candy.

John: [00:17:59] Yeah, and it [00:18:00] does, it reminds me of the Californio Andrinopal, which is one of my favorite colors. Cause it reminds me of a Merlot wine kind of a color

Evan: [00:18:07] Yeah.  They have a red, a Mustovosu Hungarian is a very interesting language and I don't think is a Indo-European language family which makes it even harder to try and pronounce something. But the young wine, it looks like a diamine syrah

John: [00:18:25] yeah, actually Hungarian, if I'm not mistaken, isn't even part of the Russian language family. It's its own unique thing. So this is, I'm not even going to try any of these names.

Evan: [00:18:39] So yeah, if there's an English equivalent, we are using them. And I know that  linguist is a bit of an aside though. It would be though interesting talk discussing letters with linguistic drift. But there is some discussion from something I lazed on earlier today, a video about the Sami people.

Of Northern Scandinavia and their [00:19:00] language is more similar to Hungarian than it is to any of the other Nordic languages or Russian or Hungarian is to any of its surrounding lines.

John: [00:19:08] Yeah it's crazy. Sometimes how languages move around the European continent. The fact that Romania is so far removed from so many of the other romance languages, yet it's a romance language. Yeah, so yeah, Europe's kind of a weird place.

Evan: [00:19:24] Romanian, in some ways I've been told is closer to some of the romance languages than Portuguese is the Spanish.

The validity of that, I'm not sure I'm an engineer, not a linguist.

John: [00:19:36] Yeah, it wouldn't surprise me too much. If Romanian is actually closer to Some of the original Latin that was there, just because it is so far removed, that it didn't have the ability to mix with the other ones between Spanish and French and Portuguese, that it may be its own standalone thing.

Almost the way a Quebecois French is so far removed from Parisian French.

[00:20:00] Evan: [00:19:59] Oh yeah.  Quebecois is very much its own language.

John: [00:20:04] Yep. The next thing I wanted to get into, and as we'd mentioned before, one of the  reasons for me wanting to bring Evan on as a cohost is because of our shared love and. Evangelizing of letter locking. And one of the things that we really wanted to talk about is the fact that there is a YouTube site out there that is done by Jana Dambrogio and her team.

And she's a conservator at the MIT library and she has been studying letter locking for what would you guess? 15, 20 years.

Evan: [00:20:40] At a minimum, I believe.

John: [00:20:42] Yeah. And they have actually been going through and reverse engineering, these historic letter locks, and it is really amazing stuff to see. And they have this entire YouTube site where they go through and show you how these different letter locks work. Jana also put together the dictionary [00:21:00] of letter locking, which Evan and I have both been working our way through here and there.

And one of the things that we're going to be doing going forward. Is we're actually going to start picking up some of these letter lock experiments, and we're going to be going through and looking at the dictionary of letter, locking, looking at the techniques, looking at how these things were done, and then we'll present our findings on how hard it was, how easy it was.

What the challenges were, what some tips are to really get a good result out of it. And that's what we're planning on doing, going forward as a special segment here on the Stationery Orbit podcast. So I just wanted to throw that out and start setting that up

Evan: [00:21:45] Yeah, no, I'm excited to go through this in more detail. And part of what I mentioned earlier in my intro is I really want to take some of the locks and techniques and figure out ways that we'll get them to work properly [00:22:00] for USPS mailing. I imagine other nations postal systems have similar. Requirements.

So both thickness and trying to keep things relatively regular, working with paper sizes, such that they're both there within the size limits. And also at least what I've found with some of them is that using modern supple, mailable, wax doesn't always work the same way for the shellac. And so I'd to me, interesting to see, do I want to try using glue or double-sided tape or even washi tape is one thing, one place where I think it will be really interesting to try out

John: [00:22:39] Yeah, and I, yeah, we had actually discussed that with the Albus Dumbledore letter lock that they did for his will and they actually have a video. On the web on the YouTube channel showing this really cool letter lock that they did for Albus Dumbledoor. Where they were wax ceiling, smaller pages into a much larger sheet.

And [00:23:00] one of the things that  Evan pointed out is that he's actually tried this before, but using the wax seals in it, made it just unyeildy  for the postal service. And I guess there was quite a bit of damage to it. So he's looking at. Redoing the Albus Dumbledore letter lock, but using washi tape to reduce the profile.

Evan: [00:23:19] exactly. And that one, even just I sent it to a pen pal in my Metro area and got pretty destroyed on the inside. Washi tape will work pretty well. I think that lock, especially with work works well with taking a five sheets. Let's say you write a letter. Have several, a five sheets 10 then come up with a pretty long postscript after you've finished the main letter, that would be a great lock to use in that sort of case, because you then take an a four right everything you need, put them in and lock it up.

John: [00:23:49] Yeah. Yeah. That's definitely a good idea. I'm honestly thinking about trying to go back out to Menningers which is my local art supply store and see about finding [00:24:00] some really large Like a four, a three size sheets to be able to really fold these things down and make the folio size covers for it so that I can tape stuff into that.

Evan: [00:24:12] so Rhodia makes an a three plus it's a little bit wider than a standard a three sheets in their dot grid and blank. And it's a very fountain pen, friendly paper. It's Rhodia

John: [00:24:22] yeah. And as you've discovered, it's also very robust against the postal service.

Evan: [00:24:28] Yeah, absolutely. Though.  I've managed to send a lot of different papers.  Will be interesting again, to try mixing papers with locks.

John: [00:24:37] Yeah, and actually I've got a it's a premium taster from fountain pen love and his website John Bosley's website, and he had a premium taster that I picked up. So I've got to start working through some of those papers.

Evan: [00:24:51] is that the Yamamoto one?

John: [00:24:54] It's not it's his own particular variety of it. I'd have to go take a look at all the. Papers that [00:25:00] he put in there. But if I remember right, he's got a Cosmo air light in it, as well as a, I think there's another bank paper in there as well.

Evan: [00:25:08] I have a fountain pen paper sampler that I have started to use, but need to use more? I don't remember who it's by though.

John: [00:25:16] Yeah. So I think on that note again, Evan, I really wanted to thank you for agreeing to come on as a co-host for the show. I think this is going to be a really fun direction to take the podcast in and really help our listeners out and spread the spread the good word of letter locking far and wide.

Evan: [00:25:38] Yeah, it's my pleasure to be here.

John: [00:25:40] So on that note everyone, thank you all very much.