Baker’s Dozen

I mentioned in a previous post about the need to expand my inky horizons in 2017 and I haven’t let the grass grow under my feet.  After moaning about poor availability of samples in the UK, it turns out that the Writing Desk offer a pretty good range and 12 new inks duly arrived in the mail this week.

As it’s Friday the 13th, I felt I had to add one more (Diamine Graphite) for the purposes of mildly dramatic effect.  And here they are…

13 ink swatches

Baker’s dozen

Caran d’Ache, Graf von Faber Castell, Monteverde, Rohrer and Klingner and Sailor are all new ink brands to me, so I feel like I’m upholding my new year’s resolution.

Swatches were applied with a cotton bud onto Tomoe River paper, and the names written with my J Herbin glass dip pen.

The Rohrer and Klingner and Sailor inks look really interesting.  In colour terms I particularly like the R&K Alt Goldgrün and Verdigris.  I’ve started using Diamine Graphite a bit, and that looks to be another very interesting ink.

I also bought a Clairefontaine notebook to use as a catalogue  and aide memoire for my inks.  Hopefully it will make writing ink reviews a bit easier too.  As well as the usual swatches and pen tests, I plan to do some simple paper chromatography.  After the issue with my Kaweco Liliput converter and Diamine Twilight, I’ve become quite interested in the dye and pigment combinations used to make the various colours.

I think I’ll be trying more samples this year. The challenge will be affording the full bottles if I decide I like lots of them!  Ho hum.

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Kaweco Liliput Converter – A Review

In the fountain pen world, Kaweco is probably best known for its Sport range of pens.  Renowned for their small, portable size when capped, but fully functional when posted.  True pocket pens.  Not content with this achievement, Kaweco went a step further and introduced the Liliput – a pen with smaller vital statistics, but arguably even more charm.

I own three of these diminutive delights and I’ll talk more about them in another post.  The purpose of this post is to introduce the first converter designed specifically for the Liliput.  Up until now, one notable constraint of the Liliput has been the fact that its size means that it can’t accommodate a converter and has to run on short international cartridges.

Pricing and sources

The good news is that the converter for the Liliput is cheap – around £2.50 in the UK ($3 in the US).  I got mine from Cult Pens, but Bureau Direct and Andy’s Pens in the UK also sell them.  In the US, you can get one from Jet Pens or Pen Chalet.

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Liliput converter with an international short cartridge for comparison

I think it’s fair to say that the converter won’t be winning many design awards.  It’s functional, but no great looker.  The adaptor end is made of polypropylene or a similar plastic.  I haven’t been able to figure out what the soft flexible material is that makes up the bulb, but it does what it is supposed to.  The two elements are joined by a metal collar, engraved with the Kaweco name.

To some extent it reminds me of a stripped-down old school Parker bulb filler, minus its metal frame.

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Converter vs cartridge – Brass vs Copper

In use

The key question is “does it work?”  I’m pleased to say that the answer is – ‘Yes’.  Mostly.

It’s not perfect in use, but let’s face it, the reason for buying this is to use bottled ink in a pen that was previously off-limits.  As such I suspect most people will live with the shortcomings.

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Ink on board

The small volume and softness of the bulb make it very difficult to fill completely by compressing the bulb.  The photo above shows the best result I managed to achieve.  I haven’t measured precisely how much ink I got into the pen, but with what’s in the feed I suspect it’s about what you would get from using a cartridge.

I don’t have a syringe/needle set-up, but if you do it may be an easier route to filling the converter.

For a first outing I inked my brass Liliput with some Diamine Twilight that I got as a Christmas present.

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Using the converter in anger

It’s hard to get too excited about an ink converter, but as someone who has used a Liliput for the last few years, it’s great to know that I can now use my favourite inks in this pen and no longer have to settle for the restrictions imposed by having to use cartridges.

Conclusion (Part 1)

This is the point where I’d be wrapping things up and recommending that, for the sum required to buy one of these, it’s a no-brainer to do so.  If you want a full size pen with a big ink capacity, look elsewhere.  If you’re a fan of the Liliput, it’s pretty much a must-have.  Coupled with the news that Kaweco are issuing a clip for the Liliput, things are on the up for this pen.

This review then became a little more rose-tinted.  Read on to find out more…

Conclusion (Part 2)

As I mentioned, for my first use of the new converter, I inked my Liliput with Diamine Twilight.  It was the first time I had used this ink and I have to report I like the colour and the way it behaves in getting from pen to page.

As I was taking photos for this review of the Liliput converter, I discovered that this ink and converter seem to have a very special relationship.  Around 24 hours after first inking the pen, I opened it up to find that the material that makes up the bulb had turned an interesting shade of pink!

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Pretty in pink

I emptied the pen and flushed it thoroughly with water to find that the pink colour seems to be a permanent fixture.  I contacted Cult Pens, (who I’d bought it from) and they haven’t had any other reports of this.  They kindly sent me a free replacement,though, and have passed my photos on to Kaweco to see if they have any thoughts on the subject.

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Still pink after washing

As this was the first time I had used Diamine’s Twilight, I didn’t have much to go on in terms of the ink’s properties.  Some quick and dirty chromatography identified a dye in this ink that looks a pretty close match to the colour of the converter.  It seems the two have ‘bonded’ in some way.

I’ve emailed Diamine to see if they’ll tell me what this dye is, but as yet, no response.

As far as I can tell, the bulb of the converter is as soft as it was before, so no obvious change in physical properties.  I haven’t had a chance to try washing it with anything other than water, but will try to get hold of some alcohol or acetone to see if that shifts it.

I’ll try the replacement that I was sent with some other inks to see if I get any similar reactions.  It would be nice to hear back from Diamine as to what the troublesome dye is, but I’m not holding my breath.

I have to say I’m enjoying the opportunity to turn detective, even if it is only in a small-time way.  It’s certainly a curiosity that I’d like to get to the bottom of!

 

 

 

Out with the old…

As 2017 gets under way, I thought I would take a moment to look back at how 2016 ended and also to look forward to 2017

What Santa brought me

The festive period at Slightly Unnerved Towers saw me the happy recipient of  several pen-related gifts.

The Pilot MR/Metropolitan is an inexpensive, but very highly rated pen which has so far been missing from my collection.  In the sparkly spirit of Christmas I chose the suitably unsubtle Retro Pop in Ellipse Violet.  I don’t yet have a converter for it, so it’s currently running on a cartridge.  Early scribblings seem very promising.

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Pilot MR Retro Pop

I’m not really a fan of calligraphy, but I was intrigued by J Herbin’s glass dip pens.  They are certainly striking and I thought might be useful as a way of trying out new inks.

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This is the joker in the pack – a ballpoint pen!  Ballpoints are probably my least favourite kind of pen, but I like the minimalist style of this Tombow Zoom.  I knew it was a slim pen, but I was still taken aback when I opened the box.  It’s positively skeletal, but writes surprisingly well.

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Tombow Zoom 707

New pens can look a bit lonely without some ink to keep them company.  Luckily Santa had that covered as well with some goodies from the Diamine stable.  First up is one of their shimmering inks – Enchanted Ocean.  I’m not sure when or where I’ll use this ink, but I was intrigued by the concept and it’s substantially cheaper than the J Herbin alternatives.  I have one of those crazy Sailor Fudé pens with the 55° angled nib and I might team the two up and see what happens.  After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

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Diamine shimmering ink

At a more down to earth level, I also received three bottles of Diamine ink – Graphite, Twilight and Prussian Blue.  Diamine have revamped the desing of their labels and I think I like them.  The swabs look interesting but so far the only one I’ve tried in anger is Twilight.  First impressions are good so far…

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Diamine inks with the new label design

Looking ahead

That was how 2016 ended, what about 2017?

My pen buying has been rather scattergun to date.  If I see something I like, I tend to go ahead and buy it.  This has netted me some great pens, but the focus has been at the more budget end of the market.  Nothing wrong with that in itself, but I have designs on some more expensive pens and need to stop blowing my budget and save up.

Pens that I have my eye on include:

  • Platinum #3776 – although this more or less hits 3 figures in GB£, it still has a reputation for being good value for money in terms of nib quality.  I’d like to find out first hand…
  • Pilot Custom Heritage 912 – I bought a Custom Heritage 91 with a soft fine nib from Japan last year (it’s not available in the UK) and was impressed.  The 912 is intriguing because of the selection of nibs available.  I had originally thought about the PO nib, but from what I understand this is even finer than the soft fine, so is probably a step too far for me (although I do love the shape of it).  I might be tempted by the Waverly nib instead. This has an upward curve reminiscent of Sheaffer nibs, and although being more or less a medium nib, this is Pilot’s version of ‘medium’, so nearer to a western ‘fine’.  This will have to be another order from Japan.
  • A Pelikan of some description.  Such a venerable and respected pen manufacturer, but one I know little about.  Do I buy vintage?  Do I buy new?  I need to think a bit more about this one but it’s definitely on the list, just rather fuzzy.
  • Pilot Vanishing Point – a pen that no-one seems to have a bad word to say about, but one I haven’t quite got my head around.  This is one that I think I’ll need to try in a real shop in order to figure out whether the design works for me or not.
  • Sailor – a bit like Pelikan, this is more a feeling that I should own one at some point, rather than desire to have a specific model.  That said, the Professional Gear range looks good and might the right place to start for me.
  • Sheaffer – I have a bit of a hankering for a vintage Sheaffer of some description.  The design of some of the nibs is really appealing, but I need to do some research first as there is a huge back catalogue to choose from.

Most of these will have to be long term projects as a result of cost, but it’s nice to have something to aspire to.  One brand I don’t feel particularly drawn towards is Montblanc.  I don’t know where my prejudice comes from, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a pen for me (even though I own a dog-eared Montblanc 24).  Maybe one day I’ll see the light, but for now I have plenty of other things to focus on.

Inks

My thoughts on inks are less well-defined than those on pens.  I suspect my Diamine collection will continue to expand.  After all, the pricing of their 30ml bottles makes them hard to resist.

Among my favoured brands I’d like bottles of Iroshizuku Shin-kai and Fuyu Syogun.  I’ve tried samples of both and really like them.  They are premium inks at premium prices, but I have enough of these already to have confidence that they will be worth the investment.

More of a resolution than a plan – I should expand my inky horizons and try some other brands.  Sailor and Graf von Faber Castell are among those that look interesting.  Some other brands are hard to come by in the UK, so maybe I should look further afield.  Also I wish more UK retailers would sell samples or expand the ranges that they offer as samples.  If you’re going to commit £30 to a bottle of ink, you generally want to have an idea that you like the colour and know how it will perform with the pens and papers that you use.

Notebooks and paper

I have a whole shelf filled with unused notebooks – everything from Field Notes, through Clairefontaine and Leuchtturm to Fabriano, Mnemosyne, Nuuna, Life and Nanami Seven Seas.  Maybe I should stop being so reverential and actually get on and use some of these…

I plan to continue tinkering with making my own notebooks.  Each time I make one I see ways to improve the design and also my technique.

Just one or two things to keep me busy in 2017…