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.
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.
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.
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?
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…
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.
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…