P-p-p-pick up a Prefounte? A look at one of Platinum’s budget fountain pens

I stumbled on the Platinum Prefounte as I was browsing Cult Pens’ website a couple of months ago. I’ve previously enjoyed the Plaisir from the more budget-friendly end of Platinum’s line-up and for under £10 (£8.99 to be precise) I thought I’d see how the Prefounte fared. In fact, I bought two – a fine in ‘Vermillion Orange‘ and a medium in ‘Night Sea‘.

In terms of presentation, the Prefounte comes in some fairly simple plastic and card packaging. It’s inoffesnive and appropriate for the price of the pen, but doesn’t really have a second use and mine went straight into the recycling once I’d unpacked the pen.

Prefounte packaging
The Prefounte comes in plain, simple packaging
Two of the Prefounte colour options – Vermillion Orange and Night Sea

Quick on the uptake as ever, I also realised that (with the exception of the very different Curidas), all of Platinum’s readily available steel-nibbed pens have names starting with a ‘P’ – even the PGB-3000A ‘Cool’. Cool name? Definitely. Well…maybe…

Anyway, back to the Prefounte. It’s a fairly slim and lightweight pen with a translucent cap and barrel, which makes it look more up-market than the Preppy and (arguably), not as smart as the Plaisir. Price-wise, between these two pens is exactly where the Prefounte sits – the Preppy is about half the price (around £4-5) and the Plaisir around 50% more expensive (around £13-15). As other reviewers have noted, whether there was a genuine gap in the line-up that needed filling is open to debate.

Of nibs and feeds

Keeping the Preppy and Plaisir in mind, all three pens share a common section, nib and feed, meaning that switching nibs is dead easy. I’ve always been intrigued by Platinum’s approach of incorporating the feed into the grip section. By making the section translucent as well, you can see the arrangement of fins within. This set-up makes the already small nib unit look more like it could be a replacement unit for a fibre-tip pen than a fountain pen, but in practice it all fits together nicely and works well.

Detail of Platinum's steel nib, feed and section
Platinum’s ubiquitous steel nib and feed/section

Staying on the subject of the nib, the business end of this pen is great. It may be small and plain to look at, but I think the simple approach works well here. The key question is ’how does it write?’ The answer to that is – ‘really well!’ I’ve had 5 of these nib units in various pens over the years and all have been excellent writers – very smooth with no scratchiness or hard starts. I did read some reports of problems with the Prefounte, but that doesn’t match my experience.

I’ve mentioned the translucent barrel and cap already, and I have to say I really like both the colours I picked. If neither of these appeal, you can also have Crimson, Dark Emerald or Graphite Blue.

The barrel is smoothly cylindrical, with a slight taper. The cap is a slip fit and snaps on and off crisply. The name ‘Prefounte’ is painted on just below the metal clip and the ‘opposite’ side of the cap tells you the nib width – 03F (or 05M) together with Platinum’s name and logo and the fact that the pen is made in Japan.

Being translucent means you can see the cartridge or converter in the barrel as well as the nib and feed in the section. You can also see the spring inner cap that makes up the ‘Slip and Seal’ mechanism. I like the fact that Platinum has extended this design right the way down its range of pens – even the Preppy has it. Platinum claim that you can leave a pen inked for a year and it won’t dry out. I haven’t fully tested this claim, but it certainly holds true for several months.

Filling options

The Prefounte comes supplied with a Platinum ink cartridge, because as with many Japanese pen brands, Platinum uses a proprietary fitting. This means you’re (mostly) restricted to using their own cartridges which in the UK come in a very limited selection of colours.

If you want to extend your choice of ink, you could clean and refill an empty Platinum cartridge, but that has ‘faff’ written all over it. Another alternative is to use a Platinum converter, but unless you have a spare one lying around the price of buying a new one (£6-9) can be almost as much as the cost of the pen itself! A more economical solution is to consider Platinum’s adapter for international cartridges at around £1.50. These do what the name suggests and open up a much wider set of options in terms of ink brands and colours.

It pays to be adaptable

One of my preferences is to use less expensive Platinum pens like the Prefounte with Platinum’s Carbon Black ink cartridges. Carbon Black is a fantastic waterproof, pigment ink which I love but don’t use a huge amount. A pen like the Prefounte is a great choice here. The basic writing experience is great and worst case, if it does get clogged up because of the ink particles, it’s not going to be too traumatic a loss. So far that hasn’t happened because the Slip and Seal cap is great at preventing the pen from drying out and the ball bearing that’s used to seal the cartridges gets punched out when you fit the cartridge and helps keep the ink in the cartridge agitated.

What/who is the Prefounte for?

This was essentially the theme of some of the reviews that I read. Was it a necessary addition to Platinum’s range of pens? Who is the target market? I did wonder whether the Prefounte is considered to be a school pen. It’s not marketed as such, but maybe that’s its purpose? Within Platinum’s range you already have the Preppy if keeping costs down is your only consideration, or if you have a little more cash available you could have the Plaisir. If you really don’t want a metal pen like the Plaisir, I guess the Prefounte offers something more aesthetically pleasing than the Preppy and made with nicer materials.

Platinum Preppy, Prefounte and Plaisir
Where does the Prefounte fit into Platinum’s line-up? Right there…

The Prefounte is just about smart enough to be used in a work context and you could probably lend it to a friend or colleague and not worry if it got lost or damaged as it’s cheap to replace .

You probably wouldn’t lend some of these pens to a friend or a colleague!

In isolation, I find it really hard to dislike the Prefounte. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it. It’s a nice enough looking pen, without being distinctive and it feels good in the hand. Platinum have got the writing experience with their steel nibs completely sorted, so that’s not an issue. It’s only when you start to think of it alongside other pens that you start to think about why you might buy it. There’s certainly lots of competition at this end of the market.

I bought mine as a bit of an experiment to see what they were like. If you were in the market for your first fountain pen, you could definitely do worse than pick the Prefounte. At least if your usage is going to be low/infrequent you can be comfortably certain that your pen won’t dry out when not in use.

While the usual recommendations for a first fountain pen are the Lamy Safari or Kaweco Perkeo, these will cost you quite a bit more (in relative terms). It’s arguable that you are getting better design and materials for your money and a better selection of inks that can be used with those pens, so there are other factors to consider here besides price.

At almost the same price as for the Prefounte, you could have the Kaco Retro. Based on my experience, deciding between these two is a much more marginal call. Price-wise there’s hardly anything in it. Both are fun designs and remarkably competent performers for such cheap pens. The Retro comes in some fun colours and has a converter as standard, but there’s only one nib size. The Prefounte colour choices may be slightly less fun, but I really like them, plus the Prefounte has interchangeable nibs and Slip and Seal. Here I’d say it really comes down to which one you prefer the look of. Neither has let me down and I’d recommend either.

Platinum Prefounte and Kaco Retro side-by-side
Prefounte or Retro? Your choice.

I’ve always enjoyed writing with Platinum’s budget steel-nibbed pens, and the Prefounte has lived up admirably to those expectations. Whether it has enough going for it in the face of competition is a more tricky question to answer.

Ink Review – Diamine Pelham Blue

Oh no – it’s another blue ink!

One of the upsides to posting so sporadically is that it takes away some of the sense of needing to write about new products or little-known makers.   Pelham Blue is not a new ink and Diamine is definitely not a little-known maker.

Gratuitous pen shot

Gratuitous pen shot

Pelham Blue is one of the Gibson Guitar series of inks.  I believe these were originally a Germany-only exclusive, but they were subsequently made generally available and have become a routine fixture in Diamine’s product line-up.  That’s good news because it means that Pelham Blue is widely available and fits into Diamine’s regular pricing structure.

On to the ink itself.  I’ve struggled to categorise it within the pantheon of blue inks.  Pelham Blue is a bit of a chameleon, looking slightly different according to which pen and paper you use.  I’ve seen ‘blue-black’ inks that are lighter than Pelham Blue.  What I can say is that it’s definitely not out there with azure and sapphire blues and it’s definitely not turquoise.  Before writing this post I read some other reviews and was struck by the difference in appearance between my use of Pelham Blue and the review on the Pen Addict.  That said I had a look at some examples of Gibson guitars that were finished in Pelham Blue and the photos of these were hugely variable too,

Coloring swatches

Some Col-o-ring swatches

If you swatch Pelham Blue, you could convince yourself that there some green in there, but that doesn’t really come through in normal use – i.e. writing.  Cult Pens, who I bought the ink from describe it as a deep, rich blue.  I think that sums it up quite nicely.

Comparison ink swatches

It’s definitely a blue of some description

I don’t see it as my mission in life to categorise and catalogue inks.  The key things for me are: ‘Do I like the colour?’, and ‘Does it suit my pens and the way I write?’

The answer to both of these is a resounding ‘Yes’.

The key things for me are...

Do I like the colour? Yes!

I really like this colour.  Pelham Blue manages to achieve the balance of being dark enough for serious things like work, but lively enough to be pleasant to use rather than utilitarian.

I tend to use Japanese paper in most situations, and this brings out some wonderful shading.  I didn’t think there was any sheen to be had, even on Tomoe Rive paper.  Then I tried some ink splats and these duly showed up some red sheen, but only where a considerable amount of ink had pooled.

Ink splats - sheen

There’s some sheen there if you really look for it

In my experience you won’t see any sheen in regular use, even on papers that normally deliver on that front.  But that’s OK, it’s not promoted as an ink that sheens, and the shading is more than adequate compensation.

Pelham Blue in various pens

You have to love the consistency in nib widths

Pelham Blue works in pretty much any pen.  It’s free-flowing and what I would call a wet ink.  I like inks that are wet, so that probably endears it to me.  I’ve found it works well in  my Montblanc Heritage 1912 – to the extent that I can’t remember the last time I inked this pen with anything else.  As I was writing out this post, my Montblanc ran dry and I had absolutely no hesitation in just filling it up and carrying on.

One benefit of being a ‘regular’ Diamine ink is that Pelham Blue is relatively inexpensive.  I started with a 30ml bottle for £2.35 from Cult Pens, but got increasingly frustrated with trying to fill a piston filler from such a narrow bottle neck.  The only and obvious solution was trading up to an 80ml bottle instead (a massive £5.90).  I gave the 30ml to a friend and am quite prepared to believe that I will empty the 80ml bottle.  It may take me a while, but I can’t see me losing interest in this ink any time soon.

Depending on what you like, Diamine inks can be a bit hit and miss in terms of colour and properties but, as far as I’m concerned, they got it spot on with Pelham Blue.

Definitely not just another blue ink.

Pebble Stationery Co. A5 Chiyogami Notebook review

If you have more than a passing interest in fountain pens, chances are that you will have at least heard of Tomoe River paper.  You may have tried it.  You may love it or you may wonder what all the fuss is about.  I’m firmly in the “love it” camp and have been on a bit of a Tomoe River kick in the past few months.

One of my last notebook reviews was of the Endless Recorder – a hardback A5 notebook based on 68gsm Tomoe River (TR) paper.  In that review, I wished that the growth in people making Tomoe RIver notebooks would extend from 68gsm, where all the action seemed to be, down to the thinner 52gsm version (which I much prefer).

My theory is that the 52gsm TR is so prone to creasing and damage from handling that notebook makers have shied away from it.  Recent experience suggests that might be changing.  It would be nice to think that someone saw my plea and took pity on me, but in all likelihood, it’s just coincidence.  Either way, over the past few months, the opportunity has come my way to acquire some hardback A5 notebooks based on 52gsm TR paper.

Chronologically, the first of these to come my way came with a chunk of air miles and something of a guilt trip about the accompanying carbon footprint.

The books in question came from Pebble Stationery.  I first came across this company when I bought one of their 52gsm TR pocket notebooks from Nero’s Notes.  Since then, Pebble have extended their regular range to include a soft cover A5 book, which is quite widely available.  What caught my eye was a post in Pebble’s Instagram feed of some A5 hardback books, covered with decorative Chiyogami paper (another favourite of mine).

Pebble Stationery Chiyogami Notebook cover details

Can you judge a book by its cover?

Missing out first time round taught me that these handmade books come up as small batches and don’t hang around for long when they do.  I presume this is why they don’t appear for sale through their regular distributors.  As a result, I ended up ordering direct from Pebble which, of course, meant ordering from Australia.

If you’ve ever bought a notebook containing TR paper, you’ll know they’re not the cheapest.  Assessing the value for money of these books is not easy, but to me they’re worth the expense.  The Pebble Chiyogami books weigh in at AUS$28 (about £14 at current exchange rates) for 200 pages in A5 size.  The downside is their location – I had  two of them shipped from Australia and the shipping cost almost as much as a single notebook!

In terms of structure and features, the Pebble Chiyogami books are pretty straightforward and minimalist, but I don’t mean that in any negative sense.  The paper is sewn in small signatures and traditionally bound.  From my experience (n=2), the end papers are chosen to compliment the cover papers – white for the geometric pattern on one and black for the dragonfly design on the other.  Page corners are left square. In terms of extras, you get a ribbon page marker, but no back cover pocket or index pages.

Detail of the notebook binding

Simple, beautiful binding

Chiyogami notebook detail

Square corners are the order of the day

The books are bound by hand, and the website description warns of possible imperfections and creases.  The books I bought were both executed to a very high standard, with no noticeable flaws.  I’ve finished one of them and didn’t find a dud page anywhere.  The binding is very tight, which means that some gentle persuasion was needed at first to get the book to open flat.  After that, I had no issue whatsoever and the book held together without any signs of structural issues.  The Chiyogami paper that I’ve handled has never felt like it was robust enough to survive for long as the cover on a notebook, and I think the covers of the Pebble notebooks are coated with something to make them more durable.  It changes the feel slightly, but is no bother and worth it in terms of making the covers more durable.

What’s inside?

You can have any page layout option you want, as long as what you want is blank.  This is not uncommon with handmade TR notebooks and not something I’d penalise Pebble for. I’m learning to embrace the blank page and use a guide sheet to stop my crappy lefty handwriting nosediving as I work across the page.  With hindsight, it might have been nice to have a guide sheet included with the book, but I just used one from another book so it’s hardly a major issue.

Getting down to use, I could say there’s nothing much to report.  The properties of 52gsm TR paper are described extensively and it is my absolute favourite paper to write on.  It’s unfeasibly thin, but will take pretty much any ink from any nib in any fountain pen with no feathering or bleed through.  If you want to show off shading and sheen in your inks, then this is the paper to do it with.  Both my Pebble books came with off-white/cream paper, but that’s fine as I prefer it to pure white.  The base colour of the paper does affect how some inks look (compared to pure white paper), but you can have great fun figuring out which inks work best!

Showing off ink sheen on Tomoe River paper

There might be a hint of sheen here!

Heretics Detractors will point out the ghosting (show through) and long dry times.  The first is simply a function of the thinness of the paper, and you’ll have to decide whether you can live with that or not.  I have 2 words for the second – BLOTTING PAPER!  In practice, I find I only need to use blotting paper when I’m about to turn a page, so it’s more backup than absolute necessity.

Summary

I know I’m biased, but these Pebble Chiyogami notebooks are beautiful to look at and skilfully made (by hand) to show off some wonderful Japanese papers.  If none of these elements are your thing, you’ll probably find richer pickings elsewhere.  If you like 52gsm Tomoe River paper, these books are a great platform to showcase its properties.  Sure they’re not cheap, but I think the pricing is reasonable and if you want to know what an expensive TR paper notebook looks like, check out Musubi!

One thing I did like about the Pebble notebooks was the page count.  Pebble have avoided the tendency of some 52gsm TR books to counter the thinness of the paper by having a huge page count.  200 pages makes for a manageably slim book that’s easy to write in and transport.

I think high page counts can create practical and psychological problems.  Physically, a notebook that is too thick can be uncomfortable to write in, especially as you get towards the bottom of the page.  Everyone’s tolerances are different, but something resembling a telephone directory will be a challenge.  Psychologically, a book with a high page count can seem a bit daunting to start and can become a marathon chore to complete.

My journaling has become a bit sporadic of late and I found the Pebble notebook to be just about right in this respect – easy to handle, long-lasting enough to justify its price tag but not so long that I came to resent using it.

Do I recommend these books – yes, absolutely!

Will I buy more of these?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I have loved owning and using these books, but the relative cost associated with having to ship them half way round the world is a bit of an issue for me.  If these books were available through a local distributor such as Nero’s, I’d have no qualms in buying them regularly.  This point comes into starker relief following my discovery of Flyght of Fantasy Studio notebooks at the Bristol pen show earlier this year.  Based in Scotland, they hand make notebooks using 52 and 68gsm TR paper and cover the books in some amazing Japanese and Japanese-inspired fabrics.  OK, these have a higher page count (and proportionately higher price tag) than the Pebble notebooks but, in other respects, I’ve may well have found a way to feed my addiction to eye-catching TR paper notebooks from more local sources.

 

 

Fountain Pen Review – Kaco Retro

Kaco is a pen brand that I’m not at all familiar with.  I bought my Retro from Cult Pens as a top-up to an order I was placing.  The Kaco Retro is a cheap Chinese fountain pen.  It’s also very retro in style terms (who’d have thought it?).  Pens of this sort can be a bit hit and miss in terms of quality and whether (or not) they work.  The last one of these I tried was the Moonman M2.  That turned out to be a good buy (and my most read post).  Is the Kaco Retro good enough to recommend as a beginner’s pen?  Does it offer enough to be of interest to a pen aficionado?  Read on to find out what I made of it…

What’s in the box?

For it’s £10 price tag, you get a surprising amount.  Of course there’s the pen and also a couple of anonymous short international cartridges.  So far, so predictable.  What makes the proposition more interesting is the inclusion of a converter.  These aren’t usually included with pens from major manufacturers that cost several times more, so to see one here is a definite bonus.

Contents of Kaco Retro box

I’m not in the box (anymore)

On to the pen itself…

Materials

The Retro is made from some kind of ABS-type plastic, which apparently means that it’s an opaque thermoplastic and an amorphous polymer.  Well that’s good to know.  The really good news is that there’s absolutely no danger of the term ‘precious resin’ being used in the marketing blurb.  It makes for a lightweight pen and one that feels like it was made to a price point – which, of course, it is.

The material and overall weight don’t necessarily inspire a sense that the Kaco Retro will survive long enough to become a family heirloom, but it’s tough enough for the here and now and my guess is that it will be fun while it lasts.

The pen I bought is described as ‘green’, but I’d say that turquoise would be a better description.  That said, the lid of the box says KacoGreen and the ‘KG’ is etched into the cap, so who am I to argue with that?

Form and function

The shape of the Kaco Retro is that of a rather familiar slim cigar.  It also has a hooded nib.  Of course, any resemblance between the Retro and a Parker 51 is entirely coincidental.  To be fair, rather than going all out and ripping off the Parker design in its entirety, Kaco have added one or two touches that are presumably enough to fend off a lawsuit for infringement of design rights.

Photo of capped Kaco Retro

Now which pen do you remind me of?

The hooded nib

Nibz in the hood?

The barrel and the cap are each made in single pieces, so there are no finials and no adornments at either end.  There are small indentations at each end that look like manufacturing artefacts, but these have been tidied up well enough that I have no complaints about them.

Cap detail

That’s one end of it

The section is essentially the same diameter as the barrel, so there is no step-down between the two.  Also, being a slip cap pen there are no threads to get in the way.  This smooth profile, coupled with the materials it’s made from, might make the Kaco Retro a slippery customer, but I’ve experienced no problems holding on to it while I write.  It’s also worth noting that top of the section which screws into the barrel is clear and doubles as an ink window.  I’m not sure how much use this will be, but it breaks up the otherwise uniform colour of the pen.

5A9C4E2A-FA24-4E15-81C5-0B614A9CF743

Size comparison #1 (L-R: Kaweco Perkeo, Kaco Retro, TWSBI Eco)

8790A985-9143-4D84-AD32-C11042AB564E

Size comparison #2

The clip

Normally I don’t worry much about clips on fountain pens.  Their main benefit to me is as a roll-stop to prevent pens sky diving from my desk.  Despite this, I felt it was worth highlighting the clip on the Retro.

From a design point of view, I think the clip works really well.  The simple form suits the pen.  One end vanishes inside the cap with no obvious means of attachment, the other end sports a plastic ball in a colour that contrasts the rest of the pen.  On the green (turquoise) Retro that I have, the ball is orange.  If you buy a blue Retro, you also get an orange ball.  Buy an orange pen and the ball is blue – and so on.

Clip detail

Clippety doo-dah

Where the clip is less successful is in terms of its utility.  I’d go as far as to say that as a clip and all that’s implied by that term, it’s a complete failure.  It’s extremely rigid.  It looks and feels like a nail.  The clip is so rigid, in fact, that it’s hard to lift it to clip the pen to anything.  I wrote the notes for this review in a Paperchase notebook with 100gsm paper and I couldn’t clip the pen to a single sheet of this.  My suspicion is that any attempt to persuade the clip to live up to its name would not end well.  Consequently I haven’t forced the issue.

The nib

The Kaco Retro comes with an extra fine nib.  That’s it.  You don’t get a choice of other widths.  In practice, I’d put the width as being nearer to what I would call a fine and it suits me well enough.  If you like your nibs on the broad side of things, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Handwriting sample comparing nib widths

Extra fine or fine? My money’s on fine!

At the price the Retro comes in at, the most you can hope for is that the nib will write well enough and do so without too much hassle.  It may have been luck, but mine has proved to be an excellent writer.  To be on the safe side, I inked my Retro with Pure Pens’ Celtic Sea.  This was partly to (vaguely) match the colour of the pen, but mainly because it’s a free-flowing ink and I wanted to avoid a writing experience that was dry and scratchy.

The Retro writes well on a range of papers, putting down a smooth and wet line of ink.  I’ve experienced no skipping or hard starts.  To be honest the pen hasn’t lain unused for long, but I’ve had no indications of the nib drying out or being reluctant to start.  This is probably also helped by an insert inside the cap. This incorporates a clutch ring to hold the cap on and a plastic liner that looks like it’s there to help stop the nib from drying out.

In conclusion

I tend to shy away from the ‘best pen for…’ type of recommendation, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised and impressed by the Kaco Retro.  I find it visually appealing.  It also comes with the added bonus of functioning really well as a fountain pen.  Sure, it’s not made from the highest quality materials, but neither does it pretend to be more than it is, and it does only cost £10.

If you like the design and colour scheme, the Kaco Retro is a great place to start with fountain pens.  The fact that you get a converter thrown in is a huge bonus. Being able to buy from a reputable pen retailer like Cult Pens means that if you do have any issues (like a dud nib), you have some customer support to engage with.  All of that said, this pen has something to offer even if you already own a heap of fountain pens and want something a bit different to add to your collection.

I got mine from Cult Pens for £9.99.  Prices on eBay and Amazon look to be broadly similar.  I couldn’t immediately spot a mainstream US retailer that carries them.  If anyone knows of one, let me know and I’ll update this post.  If money is no object, you can buy what appears to be exactly the same pen from Choosing Keeping for £18.00.  Although, if you feel the need to spend the sort of money that Choosing Keeping are charging, I’d suggest sticking with Cult Pens and buying two of them.  The orange one is next on my list…

Notebook Review – Nero’s Notes Basics

I have an interesting relationship with pocket-sized notebooks.  I like the idea and I seem to buy a lot of them, but using them has proved more of a problem.  That’s partly down to the way I use notebooks in everyday life, but it’s also down to an irrational fear of ‘spoiling’ them by writing in them.  The result is a hoard of pocket notebooks, some of which are exquisite in their design and execution.

It’s not a straightforward case of White Page Anxiety, there’s also awe and respect for the (often) handmade nature of books like those from Back Pocket and Dapper Notes.  I know that the people behind these companies intended their notebooks to be used, but I have yet to convince myself that this is entirely OK.

Back Pocket and Field Notes editions

When notebooks look this good, why spoil them?

To try to disrupt this mindset, I’ve decided to force myself to use pocket notebooks more. To help prevent backsliding on my part, I went all in and signed up for the Nero’s Notes pocket notebook subscription.  This means a bunch of pocket notebooks turn up at my door every 3 months and can only be interrupted by active intervention on my part.

Given the difficulties I seem to have using notebooks that feature amazing artwork on their covers, Nero’s came to my rescue – albeit unintentionally.  My first shipment included a set of 3 Nero’s ‘Basics’ notebooks and set of 3 ‘1857’ notebooks (Stuart Lennon who owns Nero’s, is also one of the hosts/presenters of the excellent 1857 podcast).

Structure and Format

The term ‘Basic’ can sometimes be synonymous with cheap and nasty, but not so with these notebooks.  As the information on the inner and outer faces of the cover tells you, these notebooks are handmade in the UK using 240gsm card stock for the covers and 70gsm dot grid paper for the 36 page interior.  The books are saddle-sewn (i.e. stapled), which is pretty common for notebooks of this size.  Corners are rounded, which is a nice touch.

Front cover of Nero’s Notes Basics notebook

Keeping it simple up front…

The outside of the covers is suitably simple – the front cover sports the Nero’s logo and the word ‘Basics’, while the rear cover has the company name, the notebook’s dimensions and a legend telling you that the notebook is handmade in England.  The inside front cover allows you to record some basic information about the contents, while the inside rear cover provides some space to record your details and details of the materials used to make the notebooks.

Nero’s Notes Basics inside front cover detail

Worth making a note of

Nero’s Notes Basics inside rear cover detail

I love the idea that someone might expect a reward for returning the sort of drivel I write in my notebooks

In Use

The term ‘Basics’ distinguishes this notebook from another in the Nero’s line-up – the ‘Ink Friendly’.  The clue is in the name, with the latter being heavier weight, coated and meant to be more fountain pen-friendly.  To be honest, I haven’t found much of a problem using fountain pens with the Basics notebook.  On the face of it, the Basics notebooks are cheaper, but the page count is lower.  When this is factored in, prices are pretty similar between the 2 sets of notebooks.

Testing the ink friendliness of the Basics paper

Testing the ink-friendliness of the Basics paper

Show-through

Show-through but no major bleed-through

The paper performed pretty well, all things considered.  Based on previous experience with notebooks like Field Notes, I didn’t have particularly high expectations, but there was nothing really to complain about at all with the Nero’s notebooks.  All the fountain pens I tried performed just fine, although I didn’t use any particularly broad nibs.  The only obvious sign of feathering in my (non-exhaustive) test came with a thick OHTO Graphic Liner.

There was a fair amount of show-through, with a Sharpie being the worst offender (no real surprise there).  The Sharpie was also the only pen that gave a hint of bleed-through.  Again, not entirely surprising.

Conclusion

Nero’s themselves describe these books as simple, practical and super-stylish.  The first 2 are undoubtedly true.  The third is a little more subjective, but I must admit I like the plain and uncluttered look.  It reminds me slightly of an old school exercise book.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how the Basics notebooks have performed.  At £9 for a set of 3, they’re pretty reasonable value for money.  They’ve definitely helped me get started on using pocket notebooks, and I even left the house once with one stashed in my pocket!  That provoked another crisis about which pen to take with me, but that’s a whole other can of worms best left unopened for now.

 

Notebook Review – Endless Recorder

Front cover shot Endless Recorder

The front end(less)

At first second glance, the Endless Recorder looks like many other A5 hardcover notebooks, with faux leather covers in a range of relatively muted colours.  (The first glance highlights a cream coloured drawstring bag that holds the book.)  What (hopefully) sets the Recorder apart from the also-rans is that they’re put together around Tomoe River paper.  This paper has something between cult and legendary status in the fountain pen world but, even with some recent entrants to the market, there are still relatively few makes of Tomoe River-based notebooks out there (check out GLP Creations and Taroko Designs for some alternative offerings).

Endless notebook storage bag

Are notebook bags your bag?

It’s hard these days to be truly innovative when it comes to design and construction of notebooks, and the Recorder follows a pretty well tried and tested design.  The faux leather hard cover I mentioned earlier comes embossed with the company logo on the front and “ENDLESS” on the back.  It’s all done quite subtly and without ostentation.  This leads quite nicely to the end papers, which feature an open dot layout with a blank space to fill in with the details of your choice,  There is also a repeat of the Endless logo, which adds a touch of class.

Endless Notebook rear cover

The back end(less)

Endless Recorder end papers

Subtle, stylish end papers

Perhaps it won’t set the world alight, but it makes the Recorder smart and subtle enough for use in a work setting, but the design accents are well executed and should satisfy the stationery aficionado.

The business end of the book is made up of small, thread-bound signatures, which help the book to open flat without the need to resort to coercion or physical violence.  Page corners are rounded (as are the corners of the cover).  There is a pocket inside the back cover.  It seems to be de rigeur for this type of notebook, but I can’t recall the last time I actually used one in a notebook.  The pocket is worth exploring when you get your Recorder, because there’s a small goody in there (I won’t give the game away) along with some promotional material.

Details of the binding

In case you lose your thread

There is no index and pages aren’t numbered, but I don’t find it that much of a chore to make my own index and number pages as I go.

Tomoe River 68gsm paper

Round corners, no page numbers

The ribbon and elastic closure come in a pleasantly contrasting turquoise colour.  I bought two Recorders, one in dark blue and one in red, and the ribbon and elastic are the same colour in both books.

The paper itself

There’s not much more to say about Tomoe River paper that hasn’t already been said.  In the case of the Endless Recorder, you get the thicker 68gsm paper, rather than the 52gsm you’ll find in things like the Hobonichi Techo or Seven Seas notebooks.  It takes pretty much any ink you care to throw at it from any width of nib, without feathering or bleed-through.  The coating means that dry times are not particularly quick, and I tend to have a piece of blotting paper to hand when I’m writing my journal.  It will also come as no surprise that there is some show-through, but this is just something you have to embrace if you’re going to write on Tomoe River paper.  It’s certainly less noticeable with the 68gsm than with the 52gsm paper.

Currently inked on Tomoe River paper

I’ll take any ink you can throw at me…

The paper in the Recorder is off-white.  I bought mine from Pen Venture in Romania, which gave me the choice of either blank or with a dot grid layout.  I bought dot gridded ones.  I used to think that dot grids were the best layout since whatever the last best layout was.  Over time, I’m less convinced of this, particularly when I’m using it for journaling.  I can see the merits in some applications, but I’m starting to come back to ruled or even blank for journaling. If you buy the blank notebook, you get a guide sheet included.  If I buy any more Recorders I might well try the blank version.

 

If you buy direct from Endless Works you get a choice of 4 layouts – blank, ruled, grid and dot.

I paid around €24 for each book from Pen Venture, rather than the £18 that Endless Works charge if you buy direct.  My reasoning was that buying from mainland Europe would be cheaper and less hassle than buying from the US.  It may have been less hassle, but my only option was some DHL priority service which added substantially to my bill.  Maybe I’ll buy direct from the US next time.

Practicalities of ownership

I’ve finished one of the two books I bought and didn’t experience any major issues.  I found that there was a little bit of lift on one corner of the cover material cover where it’s gathered and folded over.  My Endless Recorder didn’t travel further than between my desk and the living room sofa, but if you were to take it further afield maybe this points to it being a bit less durable than desired.  The ribbon page marker has also ended up looking a little fluffy and ragged.  This doesn’t bother me too much, but if you like a book that remains pristine looking through thick and thin, you might want to think more carefully.

Beyond that I had no issues with the Endless Recorder.  The book opened flat and the binding has never shown any indication of falling apart.  I mentioned the absence of page numbers or an index.  In practice, most notebooks I’ve ever bought haven’t had page numbers or an index and I haven’t felt like there has been a hole in my life as a consequence.

The Tomoe River paper does its job as you might expect.  I experienced no problems beyond the show-through, which I was expecting.

It’s not a criticism of Endless, but I wish someone would take this approach to notebooks, but with the 52gsm Tomoe River instead.  Whether it’s a cost thing or the sheer hassle of dealing with a paper that creases when you look at it, I don’t know, but I can’t believe there wouldn’t be a demand for it.

I’d certainly buy some.

Update

Since I published this post, Endless Works got in touch to let me know that they’ve recently updated the Recorder so that it now has an index and numbered pages.  There is also a block of perforated pages that allow you to remove them easily, if needed.  I’m happy to set the record straight. 😀

The Lamy 2000 – a long-term companion

I noted the other day that Bauhaus is 100 years old.  Not the pale-faced, pointy-cheekboned goth outfit fronted by Pete Murphy, but the German art and design movement founded by Walter Gropius.

This got me thinking about a pen that has become one of my long-term companions on my particular bus ride – the Lamy 2000.  This is a fountain pen that has often been seen as embodying  the Bauhaus aesthetic, even if technically it missed that particular bus by 30-odd years.  It was also pretty much my first ‘posh’ fountain pen, by which I mean it cost over £100, had a gold nib and filled using a piston mechanism.  This was all unknown territory for me at the time, but the 2000 exuded class and almost everything I read said it was great pen and a classic design that any self-respecting penthusiast should have in their collection.

So it was that I gave Cult Pens what seemed (at the time) like a lot of money and they sent me a pen.  I chose a fine nib and seem to recall that this was the first time that I’d really given consideration to picking a nib size other than medium.  Due to a fortunate combination of personal preference (I think it looks way better) and price, I picked the black Makrolon finish instead of the alternative of brushed steel.

Capped Lamy 2000

The Lamy 2000 in all its sleek, simple beauty

Pens achieve cult status for all kinds of reasons; some more justified than others.  In the case of the Lamy 2000 (first introduced in 1966), I think this is deserved.  Capped, its lines are simple and appealing, with flat ends and a brushed metal clip on which you’ll find the only bit of Lamy branding, subtly etched near where the clip attaches to the cap.

Lamy 2000 clip detail

In case you forget who made the pen…

The only other accent you’ll find is a brushed metal disc at the tip of the barrel.

Piston cap detail

Piston cap inlay

It’s a slip cap, so a slight pull is all that is needed to uncap the pen and get writing.  Removing the cap really reveals what all the fuss is about.  There are no steps between elements or weird changes of angle, just a simple and continuous curve from where the nib emerges from the section to the end of the barrel.

The sleek lines of the Lamy 2000

Follow the lines…

Perhaps the only thing that jars ever so slightly is a pair of tabs that protrude a fraction of a millimetre from either side of the section a little below the ink window.

Lamy 2000 cap clutch tab

If the cap fits… One of the two cap clutch tabs

I was never really sure what these were for, but in doing some background research I discover they are part of a clutch ring for the cap.  In that sense they do their job perfectly well and don’t intrude on the writing experience.  My thumb sits right on top of one of them when I hold the pen and I can’t say I’ve ever really noticed it, let alone felt any discomfort even for long writing sessions.

This also marks the point where the section attaches to the barrel.  The design of this (and the piston cap) is such that you can barely see the join where the two elements meet.  The cleverness of the piston cap end of things was highlighted in a recent post by Anthony over at UK Fountain Pens.

That blind piston cap

Can you spot the join?

I can certainly remember looking at my newly acquired Lamy 2000 and wondering how I was meant to fill it.  As it was my first piston filler, I duly read the instructions, but remained stumped as to where the cap that I was meant to unscrew actually was.  Of course now it seems so easy (it always is when you know how), but what impresses me is that even after several years of use and numerous fills, everything has remained tight and these transitions still appear seamless.  A tribute to the design, the materials and the manufacturing.

As a counter to all that black Makrolon, there is a short brushed metal section which leads the eye down to a small, partially hooded 14K rhodium-plated gold nib.  The only departure from curved lines comes with the underside of the section, which angles up more sharply towards the underside of the feed.  Cunningly, this conceals the breather hole – another good piece of design.

9C381685-DAC5-450A-A7E4-EBF3B89D2909

The 14K nib in all its glory.  Where’s the breather hole?

1475665F-C5A3-4A17-8AE8-7D1CBEB30437

There it is!

2DD95FC0-0C4F-425C-9335-B03CA8F519F7

That slight change of angle…

It may have been good fortune, but the nib on mine has written flawlessly since I got it.  I have read that some people had bad experiences with theirs, but I have absolutely no complaints with mine and I’m not the greatest lover of Lamy nibs.  It’s not the thinnest ‘fine’ I’ve ever owned, but it suits my writing just – well – fine.  Mine copes with pretty much whatever ink I throw at it, but it is a very wet writer, so can be a good choice for use with drier inks.

I have to say it, I really love my Lamy 2000.  It looks fantastic, writes well and seldom goes uninked for any length of time.  It’s also pleasing that Lamy haven’t tried to do anything silly with this pen.  The design wears its age well and has evolved by remaining essentially unchanged over the 53 years of its life so far.

The Lamy 2000 is smart enough to use in any setting and, although not cheap, I’ve never felt uncomfortable taking it with me to work.  Sure it’s not as glamorous as some other pens, but it does its job with quiet efficiency and (I like to think) pride in being able to do its job well.  Definitely a pen where all the plaudits are entirely justified.  If you don’t own one already, I’d recommend giving some serious thought to rectifying that oversight.

If you want to know more about the Lamy 2000, when I was doing some researchI came across this amazingly thorough piece on FPN  It covers pretty much every aspect of the pen from its design origins through to how to strip it down.  Whatever you think of the pen it is well worth a read.

Learning to stay on the bus

When I started my blog, I was in part looking for a creative outlet that could serve as a substitute for photography.  Sure I’ve liked and used fountain pens for years, but it never occurred to me that I would start collecting them in earnest, or writing about them, or (here was the big surprise) finding that other people might actually want to read what I had to say about them.

Black and white photo of a Hosta flower

Hosta flower

I’ve never really taken to digital photography beyond the acceptance that these days it’s a convenient way to take photographs.  And while I still can’t be persuaded to spend hours in front of a computer tweaking images, I never had that problem standing for hours in a cramped, darkened space under a red safelight making prints in a darkroom.  Maybe it was the smell of the chemicals, but I’d like to think it was the childlike wonder of watching an image gradually materialising on the paper as it rocked gently in the tray of developer and thinking “I did that”.  Of course, it applied equally when things went wrong, but I’m pleased to say that this sense of magic has never gone away.

Black and white photo of a waterfall

Waterfall (Cwmorthin, North Wales)

I can’t pretend to be a very good photographer but I need to be able to believe I still am one.  Unfortunately, the time needed for taking and making photographs has not been compatible with work and family commitments in recent years.  I’m hopeful that one day this will change, and that when it does it will actually still be possible to buy film and photographic paper and get back to something that I really love.  In the meantime, my darkroom is mothballed and my beloved Sinar Norma and Mamiya RB67 are more like ornaments in the corner of a room than tools of the trade.  All the gear – no idea when I’m going to get to put it to good use…

Black and white long exposure seascape

Seascape

What does any of this have to do with buses?

On the face of it, not a lot.

I’ve never been to Helsinki and I’ve certainly never seen its bus station, but I’m more familiar with it than any other Scandinavian transportation hub as a result of a lecture given by Amo Rafael Minkkinen a number of years ago.  He was talking about the creative process, the development of one’s own style as a photographer and how it could be compared to taking a journey from Helsinki’s central bus station. You can read a transcript about the Helsinki Bus Station Theory here.  (It’s worth taking the time, I think.)

Old Helsinki main bus terminal

Google tells me this is the old Helsinki bus station… (Courtesy of JIP at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0])

In a nutshell, he argued that you will spend years making photographs that look like the work of others, but eventually (and here’s where the bus analogy punchline arrives) your personal route will start to diverge from these others as the journey progresses and your own style will start to become distinct from those around you.  The trick is to stay on the bus and see the journey through.  Going back to the bus station and starting again on another route to see if that offers a better option will just waste precious time and end up leaving you no further forward than before – just on a different route.

This resonated with me at the time, being inspired by the work of photographers like John Davies, Fay Godwin, John Blakemore, Igor Svibilsky and many others while I tried to work out what sort of photographs I wanted to make.  However, I’ve recently found myself reflecting on it in the context of writing my blog and how the focus of my interest in pens, paper and ink has changed with time, practice and seeing what interests other people.

Do I stick with what I’m doing?

Should I follow what I see going on elsewhere?

Sure, at times I’ve followed the same routes as other people, even jumping on the occasional bandwagon.  What I think I’ve learnt along the way is that you should trust your own judgement, follow what interests you and learn from your experiences as you go.  I’ve also learnt that my list of favourite pens (owned or aspirational) or inks and, to a lesser extent, paper now looks nothing like it did a couple of years ago.  Also, I’m fairly confident that my list will almost certainly never entirely match anyone else’s. At first glance there might be similarities, but look at the detail and you’ll start to see the differences.  That’s one of the wonders of this hobby and the wonderfully diverse group of people out there who practice it.

So, whatever your creative endeavour, whether it be one that you do in private or share publicly, you’ll get where you’re going eventually.  Stick with it and try to enjoy the ride.

As Minkkinen himself said – “Stay on the bus.  Stay on the f*cking bus!”

A Helsinki bus

A Helsinki bus. Consider staying on it… (Courtesy of AleWi [CC0])

Sailor Shikiori Rikyucha Ink Review

Sailor Rikyucha ink doodle

In case you were in any doubt about which ink I’m talking about

Rikyucha (Green Tea Brown) is part of Sailor’s Shikiori (Four Seasons) range of inks.  Although it is a new ink to me, a bit of research suggests it was part of the Sailor line-up for a while, before disappearing to wherever discontinued inks go.  The translation of Rikyucha is a good one in terms of describing what is quite a complex ink.  It’s also a more palatable descriptor than some that might be applied to it.  Any resemblance between this ink and something that you might find lurking at the bottom of a pond is, of course, entirely coincidental…

Lookalikes

My interest in inks of this colour started with a couple of Diamine inks – Safari and Salamander.  While I’ve liked the colour of these inks, I’ve found them a little dry for my liking.  In a quest for something more to my liking I tried Robert Oster Bronze.  I love the colour of this ink, but again it’s a bit too dry for me.

Comparison swatches

Can you pick out the culprit from this lineup?

Close-up of ink swatches

The same swatches in closer detail

As you might expect from an ink made by Sailor, Rikyucha is a well-behaved, low maintenance ink.  That said, I suspect it’s the kind of colour that will polarise opinions.  I may well be biased, but it was appealing enough to make me buy a bottle.  As I’ve used it in anger I’ve grown increasingly fond of it.

As well as these basic properties, Rikyucha has one or two extra tricks up its sleeve.  The most on noticeable thing is that it looks dark green with a slight hint of blue while wet, but dries to a much browner shade.  I tried to capture this difference, but failed miserably so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Sailor Rikyucha writing sample

Some of my favourite literary villains and yet another chance to flaunt my awful handwriting

On top of the colour shift, there’s a cheeky bit of sheen thrown into the package.  Like a number of other Sailor inks I’ve used, it’s not the raison d’etre of this ink, but it’s a nice addition without dominating proceedings.  I used some ink splats to highlight this, but (on the right paper) broader, wetter nibs will also show this off.

Rikyucha ink splats and sheen

The obligatory ink splats to highlight the sheen

As befits an ink with these properties, its make up is a bit complicated and unexpected.  Some simple kitchen chromatography shows a range of colours.  I certainly wasn’t expecting the blue component…

Sailor Rikyucha chromatography

There’s more to Rikyucha than meets the eye

Economics

This is one of the first bottles of Sailor ink that I’ve bought in the new, smaller bottles that are replacing the old 50ml ones.  I like the design of the bottles and I’m generally a fan of smaller ink bottles.  I already have more ink than I’m likely to get through in my lifetime, so not having to add another 50ml to my list of guilty excess is to be welcomed.  What is not so welcome is the big shift in the unit cost of Sailor inks.  In the UK, a 50ml bottle of the old Sailor Jentle Four Seasons ink cost in the order of £16-20, which I thought was pretty good value for money for the quality of the ink.

The new 20ml bottles, however pretty they might be, weigh in at around £11 or £12, which shifts the cost from around 35p per ml to approximately 60p per ml.  Much as I love Sailor inks, this will certainly make me a little more selective about future purchases.

Sailor Shikiori Rikyucha box and bottle

Is it small or just very far away?

 

Conclusion

Overall I really like this ink.  I like the new packaging and bottles and I definitely like how Rikyucha behaves and how it looks on the page.  The colour shift as the ink dries and the sheen add to the interest, so if the colour of this ink appeals I’d recommend checking it out.  The only fly in the ointment is the pricing.  To be frank, the jump in price per ml seems excessive to me.  I get that smaller volumes will be relatively more expensive, but this is going a bit far.  That said, none of the other inks I’ve tried in this corner of the colour chart have worked nearly so well for me, so I’m prepared to live with the relatively high price.

Fountain Pen Review: Faber Castell Loom

The makings of this review have been hanging around for the best part of a year.  I even started a draft back in April of last year, but couldn’t find the right approach.  Fast forward 8 months or so and a comment on Rupert Arzeian’s excellent blog and I figure it’s time to have another go.  After something of a fallow period in terms of posts, I had to start somewhere.  So here it is, a review of the Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen.  Well, 2 of them, actually.

Overview

F-C Loom

Looming on the horizon after 8 months…

For a company with such a long history of making writing instruments, it’s always struck me that the design of a lot of Faber-Castell’s fountain pens is remarkably contemporary.  So it is with the Loom.  Its clean lines and distinctive shape make for an interesting starting point.  I’d admired the Loom for a while before I bought my first one.  Owning that one didn’t deter me and I’ve since bought a second.  My first Loom came in a matt silver finish, but these don’t seem to be very widely available any more.  The second came in a gloss silver finish, which I think looks more stylish.  There are also some options in a gunmetal finish, although these command a premium on price.

The Loom is quite widely available from the usual sources.  In UK pricing terms, the gunmetal version costs around £40, with the silver version coming in at around £30.

A Sense of Proportion

The Loom is not overly long, but looks stocky.  The constant diameter of the barrel coupled with the limited taper of the section make it feel quite chunky.  The photos below show some comparisons.

Pen size comparison

Capped size comparison.  L-R: Sailor Pro Gear Earth, Faber-Castell Loom, Faber-Castell Loom, Pelikan M400 White Tortoise, Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange, Platinum 3776 Kumpoo. (Polar bear not to scale)

Pen size comparison

Uncapped size comparison…

Some Details

If the Loom was a more high end pen, the barrel might be milled from a single rod of metal.  Instead, it comes as a plastic-lined cylinder with a concave plug at the end. It’s all well finished and it gets the job done, but it does look a little unusual.  The plug looks a little less attractive  on the matt version compared to the gloss.  Luckily the pen posts easily and without any negative effects on balance so you can at least cover this up whilst writing.

Once you’ve decided on finish, the only other option to consider is what colour you’d like the cap.  When I bought my orange one there was quite a wide range of colours, but this seems to have reduced over the past couple of years with more of a focus on muted and pastel shades.  Not as much fun, but there are still options.  The lack of threads is a bit of a giveaway – the cap is a snap on, rather than screw-on and it does so with a very satisfying ‘click’.  You’re left in absolutely no doubt when the Loom is safely capped.

Faber-Castell Loom cap detail

If the cap fits…

The cap is engraved with the company name and logo down one ‘side’ (relative to the clip).  There’s no separate finial, but the part of the clip where it fits into the cap is engraved with the Faber-Castell logo as well.  As seems to be the case with a number of Faber-Castell pens, the Loom’s clip is a fully-functional and substantial affair.

F-C Loom cap detail

Cap detail

The cap is slightly bulbous in shape.  From its widest point at mid-height, it tapers slightly towards the base and slightly more markedly towards its tip.  I find the profile easy on the eye, and when the pen is capped it breaks up what would otherwise be a very angular profile to the Loom.

I mentioned the contemporary look of several Faber-Castell fountain pens, and one area the company seems to have gone its own way on is in the design of the section.  On first reading, cylindrical and slightly tapered sounds pretty conventional, but I haven’t  come across a design quite like this before.  On both of my Looms, the finish of the section matches that of the barrel so there’s no concession there to promote grip.  There’s also a slightly disconcerting lack of any flaring to stop your fingers sliding off the end of the section and onto the nib.  The only feature to help keep your hand where it should be is a series of 5 rings that act as ridges to provide something to grip.

F-C Loom section

The section won’t be to everyone’s taste

This works perfectly well in terms of stopping the Loom from sliding out of your grasp.  Even so, I do find the section a bit ‘squirrely’.  It has a slight tendency to try and rotate in your grip.  That persists with use, but you do get used to it and everything settles down.  I wrote the first draft of this review by hand with the Loom (and in 1 sitting) and it was fine.  I don’t find that I have to grip the section any more tightly than normal and I haven’t experienced any noticeable fatigue as a result.

The Sharp End

I’ve spent a bit of time now highlighting some of the Loom’s quirks and (ahem) features, but it does have a trick up its metaphorical sleeve – the nib.

Faber-Castell has a reputation for high quality steel nibs, and the units I’ve got on my Looms are crackers.  The nib is a #5 in size and suits the proportions of the Loom well.  I think it’s the same as used in a number of other Faber-Castell pens, including the Ondoro and eMotion.  Absence of a breather hole and a stippled finish in the form of a chevron add to the attraction, but at the end of the day it’s the performance that counts.

 

F-C Loom nib

Nib details

Nib detail

The nib housing protrudes a bit from the section…

I have a fine and a broad nib and both have worked flawlessly out of the box.  Ink flow is good, even with drier inks.  Both nibs give feedback on a range of papers, but it’s not too intrusive.

Writing samples

The obligatory writing samples

The Loom takes either an international cartridge or converter, meaning there is a wide range of ink options available.  As a slight note of caution, I’ve found that not all international converters fit equally well, so a bit of trial and error might be needed if you’re thinking of re-purposing another brand of converter.

Conclusion

I can see the Faber-Castell Loom being a pen that divides opinions.  I’ve highlighted a number of ‘quirks’ in the design and execution of the Loom.  The overall design might not appeal to everyone.  Similarly the shape of the section won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  While none of them are likely to be killer blows in isolation, I could see how they might start to accumulate in the ‘deficit’ column of any evaluation of the Loom.

My take is that the overall design and feel of the pen, coupled with the quality of the nibs, make the Loom worth having.  To reject it on the grounds of some kind of cumulative scoring system would be rather harsh.

Don’t smash the Loom! (As Ned Ludd almost certainly didn’t say.)