June 27, 2021

33. Letterlocking meets origami

33. Letterlocking meets origami

In today’s episode, we will be talking about postmarks, fun media mentions of fountain pens, the postmark experiment, and the possibility of using origami diagrams for letterlocking .


Seen on Tim Ferris’s newsletter


Shop I’m excited to visit once again —

Fountain Pen Hospital. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’m excited to get back to the Fountain Pen Hospital, which was “founded in 1946 by Phil Wiederlight and Al Wiederlight (the father and grandfather, respectively, of today’s proprietors – Terry and Steve Wiederlight). Terry and Steve have a combined 60 years experience in all phases of vintage and modern writing instruments.” Special thanks to Neil Gaiman for recommending it during our conversation together, in which he described how and why he does so much writing by hand.

The Pigeon Letterlock YR diagram (based on A4 size paper)

The Pigeon Letterlock my instructions (based on A4 size paper)

Fountain Pen Love's Tomoe River replacement options

Also John revised his paper testing:


Here is
Jacob’s original article:

YR diagramming for origami, maybe useful for letter locking?

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/stationeryorbit?fan_landing=true)


[00:00:00] john: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode 33 of stationary orbit, where we are all here to learn more about creative letter writing. I'm your host John West, and I'm joined by our cohost Evan Harris. And in today's episode, we'll be talking about postmarks fun media mentions of fountain pens, the postmark experiment, and the possibility of using origami diagrams for letters. I'm gonna get started here. I've got a. Big news for me, I don't know about big news for everybody else, but I'm going to make a Evan's life more challenging here in the very near future. And I'm actually going to be going to the Philippines for work. So we're going to have to be figuring out our recording schedule in a big hurry.

But one thing I'm looking forward to over in the Philippines is the possibility the Kasama pins are made over there. And I've already reached out to Alvin who's with Kasama pens, and I'm going to try as hard as I can to get, have one of those in my hot little hand, by the time I come home from the Philippines [00:01:00] and I may be coming home with another pen from the Philippines. Just last week, I got a text from Hiroko from Bokumundo and the urushi work that she has done for me is complete. And I had to break the news or the I'm sorry, I can't have you send that to me in the United States. Cause. Be here. And so we're working on that. We might have, try to have her send that to me in the Philippines as well.

And looks like Evan is also on the move. So Evan tell us where you're going. 

evan: [00:01:29] that's right. You're leaving just for work for a little bit as you're leaving the mountains. I'm leaving the lakes and rivers of Minnesota, unfortunately for the foreseeable future to a mountain hideaway, it says we'll only by ski and post

john: [00:01:43] Scan post the post

is the important part. 

evan: [00:01:46] the post of the important part you can get to me on skis. That's I liked Steen, so you can get to me if you're skiing and by the post, there's no other way.

john: [00:01:53] okay. Hopefully it stays snowy cause it's going to be a. 

evan: [00:01:58] it's but yeah I'm moving yeah. [00:02:00] Out towards.

john: [00:02:01] All right. Best of luck to you on your move. And so we're going to go into one of our normal segments and there is a new postal bulletin out. 

evan: [00:02:11] That's right. This postal bulletin has a few different things in it. One new set of, or two new sets of stamps. The first of which is the somewhat annual migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp. This is a, this year, it is a $25. 

john: [00:02:28] Yep. Yeah. That one's

Not normal usage. 

evan: [00:02:31] no, not for normal usage. And it is available for the 20 21 20 22  waterfowl hunting season. 

john: [00:02:39] Yeah. So just in case you want to impress anybody with your overnight USP S envelope, you can always buy one of these and smack it on the overnight. 

evan: [00:02:48] Yeah.  Should you put some of these up to send international mail back?

john: [00:02:51] I certainly hope I don't have to pay $25 to send mail back. I'm going to 

evan: [00:02:55] a plus if you're starting in the Philip, if you're starting in the Philippines, it won't even [00:03:00] matter. 

john: [00:03:00] Yeah, but yeah, I'm hoping to stick to the dollar $20 30 ones. 

evan: [00:03:05] There's also a second new set of stamps that are in the postal bulletin and are now available as a recording. So definitely by the time this is posted, your post office should have them. The tap dancing stamps 

john: [00:03:17] Yep. I was in New York. 

evan: [00:03:19] out of New York city, home of Broadway, celebrating the art of tap dance.

john: [00:03:24] Yeah, I've been a big fan over the years of a show called, so you think you can dance.

and occasionally they get tappers that come into it and someone do pretty well and some struggle a lot. 

evan: [00:03:35] No, it is not a skill. I have either dancing in general or the rhythm required for tap dancing yet, but it is incredible and incredibly physical activities.

john: [00:03:50] Yeah, I have the  standard rhythm of a washing machine. 

evan: [00:03:54] Yeah. That's better than mine, 

john: [00:03:57] . So the other thing that is out in the new postal [00:04:00] bulletin, and I think this is just going to be awesome. Is the Robert E. Howard foundation stamps out of cross Plains, Texas. And Evan had to go look this one up. Cause we had to see who Robert E. Howard is. Evan who's Robert. 

evan: [00:04:16] I had completely forgotten his name. He is the author of Conan, the barbarian.

john: [00:04:20] . And that is what is on the postmark is Conan, the barbarian.

and a very comic book version of him. 

evan: [00:04:28] That's for a T also wrote a bunch of other stuff there coded of course, is his most well-known. Most of it was . Serialized, pulp fiction. 

john: [00:04:36] Yup. 

 evan: [00:04:37] , there are plenty of long articles. If you'd like to learn more about him. I certainly am now somewhat interested.

I don't think I've ever actually read any Conan the barbarian, despite the fact it is part of the cultural zeitgeist.

john: [00:04:50] No. Yeah.

absolutely. And mentioning culture. I'm going to pile this one into the same category, so I was. Pleasantly [00:05:00] surprised to see a mention of fountain pen hospital in the Tim Ferriss newsletter on Friday, his five bullet, Friday newsletter, and Tim, for any of the listeners that are not familiar with him.

Tim Ferris wrote a book called the , four hour work week and has become a . Culture pop icon over the years. And he's come out with a few other books that are four hour, this and four hour that, but he's got his own major podcast. And he does a lot of interviews with business people.

And one of the people that he interviewed not. Level, but definitely one of his bucket list interviews, he actually got it interviewing Neil Gaiman and Neil ended up talking about the fountain pen hospital because he was working with his manager. And she was taking on the responsibility of signing a bunch of his documents for him through a power of attorney.

And he decided that if she was going to be signing documents for Neil Gaiman, she was going to sign them in the [00:06:00] same fashion, Gaiman does and went and bought her a viscosity fountain pen at the fountain pen hospital. So for all of you that are out there, those are the kinds of employers you need.

You'd be looking for. 

evan: [00:06:10] Yeah, no. So I've actually seen clips of the interview. I haven't seen the whole side but Neil Gaiman is how I got into fountain pens out. I think I've mentioned it here before. But he was during your book, tour and signing with fountain pens. I saw him signing with LaMi 2008 now, unfortunately gone pilot custom 

john: [00:06:27] Lost to the 

evan: [00:06:28] W which is this interview is how I learned.

He lost his 8 23. His youngest son put it between the bricks of the fireplace,

john: [00:06:36] Yep. In such a fashion to be on retrievable. 

evan: [00:06:41] which is a very  way for UPenn to be for UPenn. The dye, I think just feels right.

john: [00:06:48] Yeah. Very unexpected. Yet dramatic. Yeah. That's very Neil Gaiman. So we had a, I do have a little bit of an update on my  postmark experiment. And we've, I've [00:07:00] now sent the packages. They've been out in the wild for about a month now. And as I mentioned, I had to revert to the archaic form of check writing in order to get those paid for.

And I have yet to see one of those checks cashed. So the Who knows if the letters have actually gotten to Kansas city yet, but they certainly haven't been processed yet. So we're still on hold. 

evan: [00:07:25] Yeah, it'll be interesting to see when they when they come back, whether I, which returns first, you from the Philippines or your letters from Canada.

john: [00:07:34] Yeah, no,  I have now. Enrolled my wife into the craziness that is stationary orbit and she will be handed the post office box key so that she can go keep an eye on this stuff for me.

evan: [00:07:48] Yeah, it would not surprise me if they show up just after you leave.

john: [00:07:53] Yeah. Yeah. That would be about right. So that's all right. I got it. All everything in due time. 

[00:08:00] evan: [00:08:00] Exactly.

john: [00:08:02] So one of the things I wanted to talk about on this episode, and I want to give a shout out to one of our listeners.

He goes by gopher coder on Instagram, and he sent me a letter that was letter locked and ha. Some instructions on the inside of the letter, lock about how he did it and how the letter lock works. And this actually solved a problem that Evan was trying to think through of how do you get a letter lock to work?

So the there's a fold that comes over the top, so you can seal it using a stamp and a. According to go for coder. He had found a similar company over in the UK called pigeon stationary. And the gentleman that's over there is a graphic design artist and [00:09:00] had figured this leather lockout, and it was making a commercially available product.

And I'll have a link in the show notes for a pigeon post and. Go for coder, went back through and reverse engineered the actual origami behind it, the folding of the paper, and then sent that to me. And I am going to put up a link in the show notes for my noted version of that same letter lock so that everyone can start using it.

It is in my opinion, a strikingly elegant solution for a letter of law. 

evan: [00:09:38] Yeah. I really liked design. I've not you've tested it. I haven't yet. I haven't joined too soon. I think had I brought paper with me. I would have used it while I was traveling recently.

john: [00:09:50] Yep. And I have got myself a significant stack of a four paper to go to the Philippines with. So that'll be my predominant letter coming out of this this [00:10:00] business trip. 

evan: [00:10:01] Yeah. I did not bring a four with me. 

john: [00:10:03] Yep. And the nice thing is that since I'll be in an international destination and in case I do manage to run out of a four paper, they'll have a four paper there versus the United States where you have to really hunt the stuff down. 

evan: [00:10:17] Yeah, no, it, theoretically it would work with any AA size though. You have to fold it into a size that will be separated by the post office. So a three is don't be too large, a 5 72.

john: [00:10:29] Yeah. Yeah. I think a three. It'll be interesting to see how that letter lock actually works on a three.  

evan: [00:10:38] It'll be interesting. I can, I'll try it out.

john: [00:10:40] Yeah, please do excited. I don't think I have any  lying around here. So if you got it please give that a shot. 

evan: [00:10:47] have a half-written paper, a letter on a three 

john: [00:10:50] Okay. 

evan: [00:10:51] in April.

john: [00:10:52] Oh, no. Yup. One, one thing you're not going to find in the not too far off future [00:11:00] is toy river in any shape or color because the folks over at the plant are going to be shutting down the machine that makes toy river and there's of course. Endless speculation throughout the blogosphere for stationary nerds.

But there's a lot of speculation that they are not going to be able to make the transition to an outside source for tomorrow river. So a lot of folks are panicking and trying to find backstops of the old Moyer river or trying to find an alternative to. 

evan: [00:11:36] Yeah, that's right. I think. Your best bet on finding some is going to be a Musubi 

john: [00:11:43] Yep. 

evan: [00:11:43] We'll start up during the first Phase of everything going crazy. But a lot of the best information that we've seen is from Jacob, also known as food, a fan who is on Tokyo inklings.

He's distressed at both on his podcast and he has a great blog post that will be in the show notes. [00:12:00] Going into a lot of what's going on in the background. I know he worked something in the financial market. I don't know exactly what so reading through any works in Japan, reading through the Japanese financial disclosures and business documents, that all of these things have been announced from his wallet more than qualified to do.

So as opposed to a lot of people just speculating based on Google translate claims, he knows what he's talking about. And his blog post is very well written if you'd like to know what's going on, but the machine that they moved it to is going to be shut down and it looks like it should be the end of Tomo to Maury river.

john: [00:12:40] , and I completely agree with Evan that with all the other speculation that is out there Jacob pretty much broke the story on this second machine being well, having the first machine shut down, moving it onto the second machine. Now they're shutting down the second. And yeah, he really has been [00:13:00] leading up the charge on this and following stuff like the sailor acquisition and other stuff in the Japanese fountain pen and stationary markets.

If you're interested at all in that kind of stuff, we're out of the Japanese market please go listen to Tokyo inklings and the that's just a great podcast. They've got a really good dynamic between the two. 

evan: [00:13:21] Yeah. No, it's great. I know this is me speculating something. If this were happening in America, I think what happened in Japan. I'm not as sure. I wouldn't be surprised if after a few years. Something called Tomo river back on the market. I think the LA name ma I would not be surprised if the name gets licensed,

john: [00:13:45] Even out of a similar machine, they were having differences in quality that the American consumers were noting 

evan: [00:13:51] yeah. So it may not happen, but I would not be surprised if we saw something claiming to be told by river on the market. That is nothing like [00:14:00] what is actually produced. But so if you want actual Tomo river by it now if you're, I have a little bit of Tomo river from the, after we talked to Darrell, I bought two musubi note boats, and I haven't even used them yet.

I plan on keeping them and using them.

john: [00:14:13] .

The toy river bandwagon completely passed me by I've seen a few sheets of it and I've written on it a little bit, but that, that particular piece of FOMO never quite got to me. And now I'm glad that I stayed out of the blast radius. For that, but for any of you that are out there that were big to my river fans, I will, we've got a, we're going to have a link in the show notes to a article that John Bosley did for fountain pen love, where he talks about all of the qualities of toy river and potential replacements for those particular qualities.

But I agree with John's summary and the whole thing is the. Really the loss of toy river to the [00:15:00] stationery community is just going to be a really good, like battle cry or like a battle call to get everyone out, to go take a look at some of the other papers that are on the market, because there are actually papers on the market that are for certain qualities are as good or better than what's.

My river was all depending on what you liked and what you look for in a page. 

evan: [00:15:24] Yeah, no, he's got a huge testing matrix. Looks like it's very well done. So if you can figure out which parts of Tomo river you liked, you can identify it's athlete, right?

john: [00:15:37] Yup. And mentioning his testing matrix. John actually just updated his testing regime a little bit to help. Tuned things for some things that he had seen over the last couple of years, cause he's been doing it. He's been doing this kind of testing for a couple of years now. And he's, he started to see some things in there that he would probably have considered to be [00:16:00] problematic.

Maybe not a flaw, but definitely something he wanted to. Correct. And so he's changed a few of the testing inks that he's using and he's used, he's using a new. A different paper for his sheen control test and he's gone through, and he's, rerated a bunch of his papers and most of them stayed pretty close to the same, the higher quality higher price ones tended to actually increase in his new scaling and some of the. Other cheaper ones that have a harder time with QA QC actually dropped in the scales a little bit. If you've relied on this matrix before for going through and looking for. Unique or cool papers to try out. I encourage you to get back out to fountain pen love, go take a look at that again and see what his new ratings are.

And we'll have the link in there for his retesting and rerating article that describes [00:17:00] what he was doing, what he's doing differently now. And it's a good read. It's definitely fun for somebody like me. Who's an engineer to see somebody who is really. Methodically looking at something like paper quality and how it, how fountain pen friendly it is.

So definitely big kudos to John Bosley. 

evan: [00:17:21] Yeah, absolutely. I need to look into it in more depth, but it's. Very thorough piece of work and very well done.

john: [00:17:30] yep. And one last thing that came out of his retesting article. I had not heard of this brand of pens before, but he has introduced me to the Heinz pens company out of Texas. And he was talking about an ebonite pen that he has. It's the Heinz Americana. And it's it's an ebonite pen that he has.

And for his shame, Test he needed something that was going [00:18:00] to really lay down a lot of ink. So he's got this a Americana in ebonite and he refitted it with a Karass customs, titanium, medium nib, which I don't have mine anymore, but I had one before and titanium nib in a medium writes wetter than almost any broad I have.

I think I've had to go to a double broad to get the same kind of ink on the page that the titanium medium has on it. So I'm definitely an interesting pin choice for him to do that. But I wanted to thank him for turning me on to Hines definitely some very interesting materials and. Pretty brave individual to be diving headlong into ebonite like that.

Because as I understand it, that wears through her tools pretty quick.  

evan: [00:18:48] I've looked into working with ebonite before, and I have some where the feeds and speeds it, tears up tools pretty quickly compared to a lot of compared to acrylic, which is the most [00:19:00] popular material. It's not as dangerous as working with a cellulose, nitrate. Doesn't explode like that does.

But it's, it can be tricky material to work with. I also really, I really liked the look of the Karas pens as well. I am the hind spins, the Heinz pens are really neat. But the one he has a Karas customs nib, which I have never had the chance to use at least as of yet.

john: [00:19:20] Yeah. Yeah. It's definitely something to to hunt down. The nice thing about Kara's customs is that they make a pretty regular round of hitting the Colorado pen show that I attend. So I always have an annual chance to go peruse their stock and pick up their prototype stuff almost in the same kind of fashion that Franklin Christophe does for their  their pen 

evan: [00:19:43] on their online pen shows. That's nice. Yeah, no, I really want their was it the ink pen with the clip bolted on from the side? I really liked the look of it.

john: [00:19:55] Oh, one thing I forgot to mention out of the show notes I'm gonna take a quick [00:20:00] step back to the Tim Ferriss mention of fountain pen hospital. One of the wish the found Penn hospital, a happy 75th anniversary. Y'all have survived a lot, especially the last year. So congratulations on making it.

to 75 years old.

It is a still in the family and the current proprietors are the grandsons of the founder of the fountain pen hospital. So if you're ever in New York and you have a chance to go by there no promises of seeing Tim Ferris or Neil Gaiman there, but the, there are two very famous clients that have Been into the fountain pen hospital and both of them love it. 

evan: [00:20:37] Absolutely. I hope to make it there someday. I think I've seen things about Neil deGrasse Tyson there as well. So more, more notable Suchin potentially meet at the fountain pen hospital.

john: [00:20:48] Yeah, Absolutely.


There's there are all kinds of things to love about fountain pens and the people who use them.

evan: [00:20:54] Absolutely.

john: [00:20:55] Last thing on the list for today is we were actually [00:21:00] introduced to a new diagramming , not a new diagramming system, new to mean diagramming system for origami. And it is the Yoshi. system and I'm shortening that down to the yr system, just so I don't continue to slaughter the poor individuals names who put so much effort into coming up with this diagramming system. But when I when I put up my diagram for the pigeon letter lock, I had one of the listeners  chime in for this. Y R diagraming system asking if that was something that was commonly used in the letter locking community? And I had to answer honestly that no, it's not. It's there's no current system for how you fold some of these letter locks there. There's the. Unlocking history categories system, but it really doesn't get [00:22:00] into the individual folds and how they come together to create that letter lock.

So I'm definitely interested to get into looking more at this YR diagramming system and try to play with some of the different letter locks that I've tried to see if that diagramming system really does work well. 

evan: [00:22:19] Yeah I think it will work pretty well until you start cutting. Once you start cutting and making slits, I think that's what the system falls apart, but you can add on. I'm sure I'd not have a pro and come up with tandems to the system, but I've not seen it. And I think part of why we haven't really seen it is making these tied Rams.

It's not the simplest thing. They show very well how to do something, but they're not the simplest diagrams to make. And there has not been so much there's not been so much demand for. That they've gained popularity and that they've been worth the production

john: [00:22:59] yeah.

And I'll [00:23:00] have a link to the Wikipedia site for the yr diagramming system. But one of the things that I really liked about the diagramming system is that they actually specifically talk about doing point to point. Folds and they really describe the difference between a valley fold that's folded toward you and a mountain fold.

That's folded away from you. It's when you start looking at some of the more advanced items where they're like sinking a peak or some of the other advanced techniques that that I think is a level of coordination and skill that I don't know if I'll ever achieve, or if it'll even be required for doing anything with letter locking

but a origami is definitely got a rich tradition and a lot of followers doing that kind of thing. And I'm always in favor of using a system or using a tool that makes your life easier in terms of trying to describe something that's new. So I think that YR diagramming has a [00:24:00] place with letter locking in the future.

It's just going to be, how do we alter it for our needs? 

evan: [00:24:05] Yeah. H how do we alter it for our needs? Because there are a lot of, I do think there's a lot of, and nothing you back. I've actually seen some why our diagrams and engineering papers. There's a lot of modern mecahnical materials work on a relatively small stale utilizes.

 A lot of folding of materials and stretching. So set things at least very similar to why our diagrams have been are used academically. And so figuring out how to best add them to compliment letter locking is something we need to figure out. But I think there's a lot of potential, even though making the diagrams is going to be somewhere.

john: [00:24:42] Yeah that's

just like everything else in life that if you want to push something forward, you want to improve it. You're going to have to put some work into it. But fortunately for us, we've got folks like Yoshi is always on and Mr. Randlett that have paved the way for us with this 

evan: [00:24:59] and [00:25:00] then got a lot of the hard work, a lot of the hard initial work.

john: [00:25:04] Yep. And now it's just going to be a matter of trying to figure it out and see how it works out for some of the letter locking. Cause I know that some of the stuff I've seen come out of the, on unlocking history videos, their stuff gets really complicated, really fast with a lot of accordion folds and those kinds of things.

So it's definitely gonna be interesting to see how that stuff diagrams together. 

evan: [00:25:28] Yep. We will keep everyone updated as we sit here.

john: [00:25:33] Yeah, that's right. That is the mission statement for stationary or wherever. We're all here. to learn more about it. And especially now with the, a new push to learn more about letter locking, sometimes you don't just get to learn about it. Sometimes it turns into a participation sport, so we're we're on our way and we will keep you updated.