Fountain pen review – TWSBI Eco

In blog terms, things have been rather quiet for some time, here at Slightly Unnerved Towers.  Work and family commitments have conspired to leave me without the time or creative energy to maintain anything resembling a decent output of material.  I’ve been trying to overcome this inertia for a while and get my blog back up and running and thought that Fountain Pen Day would be a good point from which to kick start things.

Happy Fountain Pen Day!

For my first offering in a while, I thought I’d ease myself in gently with a short piece on a recent acquisition – a turquoise TWSBI Eco.

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I have something of a soft spot for TWSBI pens to the extent that I own 5 in total – a Vac700, two Diamond 580ALs, a Diamond Mini, and now an Eco.

The Eco is TWSBI’s entry level pen (it’s the cheapest one available), retailing at around £30 here in the UK and at a similar dollar price in the US.  I got mine for £27.99 from Cult Pens, but it’s pretty widely available.  To put it in context, that’s around half the price of a TWSBI Diamond 580.  On the face of it, a card-carrying piston filling demonstrator for less than £30 seems pretty reasonable, but…

What do you get for your money?

The pen comes nicely presented in a plastic box, which also includes a natty red plastic wrench and a pot of silicon grease and some instructions for servicing the pen, should you feel brave enough.

TWSBI Eco in box

The pen itself is a clear demonstrator with the colour accents limited to the cap and the piston knob.  I chose turquoise, but you can have black, white, clear and lime green as well.  Unlike more expensive TWSBIs, the barrel and section are a single unit.  You can switch nibs, but here it’s a matter of pulling out the nib and feed and friction fitting the replacement, rather than modular approach you get with other TWSBIs.  The sections of my other TWSBIs have solid inserts in them, so it’s actually quite a nice change to have an unobstructed view of the feed here.

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There’s a decent range of nib options available from extra-fine, through broad to a 1.1mm stub.  A replacement TWSBI unit will cost around £16.50.  I read somewhere that it’s a #5 nib, so in theory you could use a non-TWSBI nib if you were so inclined.  I haven’t tested this out, though.

There’s a small step down from the barrel to the section, but I didn’t find it affected the comfort of holding the pen or that it was at all intrusive.  Even if your grip comes to rest on the cap threads, these are not at all uncomfortable.

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TWSBI love their O rings!

The profile of the barrel and section is circular and contrasts nicely with the hexagonal cap and piston knob.  The cap has a single chrome band around it where it screws onto the section.  As with other TWSBI’s this is etched with “TWSBI” and (in this case) “Eco”.  The clip is functional if not overly exciting or inspiring.  Provided they do what they’re supposed to I don’t get too excited about clips.

The TWSBI logo appears in the cap finial.  In this case it’s a simple red plastic insert with the logo in relief, rather than the more elaborate affairs you find on more expensive models.  I’ve always like the design of the logo and the way it’s incorporated into this pen is very effective.

TWSBI Eco cap detail

Cap detail

What’s it like to use?

My overall experience of the Eco has been good.  The Eco comes in at around 14cm capped and 13 cm uncapped.  It sits comfortably in my hand and I’ve had no issues with the performance of the nib or the filling mechanism.  A quick check on Goulet Pens’ Nib Nook suggested that the Eco nibs would tend towards the finer side of their gradings and so it has proved.  I ordered a medium nib and it’s finer than some fine nibs that I have.  That said it has written well from day one, with no hard starts or skipping.  It’s a reasonably wet writer and the feed seems up to the job of keeping the ink flowing.

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The piston mechanism is arguably not as refined as you would find on a more expensive pen, but it does its job perfectly well and without fuss.  So far, I can’t find any reason to complain about it.

In summary

All-in-all, there’s a lot to like about this pen.  Aside from getting a proper piston filler for less than £30, it’s really comfortable to write with.  In my experience, the nib unit performs well.  Due to the filling mechanism you get a decent amount of ink in each fill.  Not so good if you like to switch inks frequently, but great if you write lots.

There are obvious compromises in design and materials compared to other, more expensive TWSBIs, but I think this pen should be judged on its own merits and not just seen as a poor cousin.  I’m almost tempted to say I prefer it in use to the Diamond 580.  The Diamond 580 is a nicer looking pen (particularly in orange), but it has always felt a little awkward in my hand.

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The Eco in a Diamond sandwich

A couple of asides

  1. I wrote the notes for this post in a Fabriano EcoQua exercise book and was really impressed with the quality of the paper.  I suppose that shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise given the manufacturer, but it doesn’t automatically equate to a positive result when it comes to fountain pens.  There was no hint of feathering or bleedthrough and just a little feedback from the nib.
  2. The elephant in the room when it comes to the TWSBI Eco is the Wing Sung 698.  From what I can see it’s “inspired” by the TWSBI Diamond 580, but at a fraction of the price.  From reading a couple of reviews it seems that the nibs are generally reliable, with not too many duff ones.  Of course I now have to get one, just to see what it’s like.

 

 

 

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Rhodia Heritage A5 Notebook Review

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When it comes to discovering and writing about things in the world of pens, inks and paper, I’m usually way behind the curve.  What is new and exciting to me is usually old hat to others.  For once (and more by luck than judgement) I seem to be an early adopter.  The item in question is the Rhodia Heritage notebook.  In reality this is more of a ‘first impressions’ than a full-blown review as I’ve only just got my hands on some, but I suspect that they will be popular and wanted to share my thoughts.

In the fountain pen world, Rhodia is probably best known for its range of notepads.  Pretty much every ink review you read is written on a Rhodia pad of some kind – and with good reason.  Apart from the quality of the paper, the other distinguishing feature of Rhodia pads is their covers: orange, black or white.   It’s these colours that form the basis of the cover designs for the Heritage range.  That said it’s also about the point where any similarity with the notepads finishes.

Rhodia Heritage notebook covers

Escher and Chevron

Rhodia has backed up the Heritage name with a very retro-looking notebook.  Covers come in a choice of geometric patterns – Tartan, Escher, Quadrille and Chevron.  (Rhodia don’t list the Chevron design on their own web pages, but I have one so they must exist, right?).  I like the Tartan most, but the Escher and Chevron are pretty appealing too.  My least favourite is the Quadrille pattern, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.

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Chevrons do exist!

The covers are made from a nicely textured cold pressed papers onto which the design is printed.  Beneath these is a quality codex-bound book made up of multiple signatures.  Each signature is made up of three sheets, by which I mean once the paper is folded and stitched you have 12 pages of A5.  These are well stitched together and bound,  meaning the book opens flat without any need to even threaten the use of force, so a big thumbs up to Rhodia.  Perhaps it’s only to be expected from such a giant of the paper world, but it’s also a relief that they got this absolutely on the money – not everyone does.

Rhodia Heritage notebook covers

Escher cover

Where the binding and finishing differs from most notebooks is that there is no cover on the spine, what Rhodia calls ‘raw’.  Where you might expect to see at least some binding tape, if not something more elaborate, you get nothing.   This differs from pretty much every notebook I’ve ever owned.  The only thing remotely close is a Moo notebook.  Although the Moo is hardbound, when you open the book up, the front cover falls away to reveal the spine.

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The ‘raw’ binding

I suspect this may make the Heritage a little more vulnerable to damage, particularly if you treat your books harshly.  In practice this is only likely to enhance the vintage look and feel.  I guess time will tell, but I’m not unduly worried about this.

So, we have a notebook that looks good and opens properly – what’s it like on the inside?  I suspect reactions will depend on how you like your paper.  If crisp white is your thing, you may struggle with these notebooks.  I prefer my paper off-white and with a bit of warmth and I’m pleased to say that Rhodia has backed up the exterior looks with paper that also looks fantastic and is a joy to write on.  You get 80 sheets (160 pages) of 90g A5 Clairefontaine ivory-coloured vellum paper, which comes as either a 5mm grid or 7mm ruled.

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In case you were in any doubt about the source of paper…

Lines and grids are orange, with an approximately 1cm margin all round (slightly wider on the bound side of the page).  The edge of the page that faces into the binding also has a narrow orange margin, which (I think) further adds to the appeal.  Corners are rounded.  In case you haven’t had enough orange, guess what colour the end papers are.

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In terms of layout the 160 pages breaks down as a 6 page index with 152 numbered pages of notebook.  The top right corner of every other page has a rectangular box you could use for the date or some other reference point for your notes/writing.

Rhodia Heritage Notebook

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In use, the paper performs well with no apparent signs of feathering.  As it’s 90g paper, you get very little show-through.  I did have some issues with show-through using Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki, but that was from my slightly temperamental Onoto semi-flex pen.  It’s nearly 100 years old and has a tendency to ‘sneeze’ from time to time, depositing way more ink than it should.  That said I’m pretty confident that under more normal conditions, this paper will take pretty much whatever you can throw at it.

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The obligatory writing samples

This paper has no problem bringing out shading, if that’s your thing.  Where it struggles is with sheen.  In my experience, pretty much every Rhodia or Clairefontaine paper I’ve tried will suppress sheen, and this one doesn’t seem to be any different.  While I like my sheen, this is not enough to be a deal-breaker for me on these books.

A couple of issues with these notebooks seem to be availability and pricing.  The Rhodia website won’t sell you a Heritage notebook direct – you have to email them for details of a retailer that stocks them.  In the UK, they initially appeared exclusive to Bureau Direct, although Pure Pens have recently announced that they are stocking them.  Prices from Bureau Direct are £12.95 per book (you can get free postage on orders over £10), and from Pure Pens are £9.95 per book (you have to spend over £20 to get free postage).

UpdateCult Pens are now also selling these books, but they are asking £16.95!  It definitely pays to shop around.

While I was waiting for mine to arrive from Bureau Direct, I wandered into The Pen and Paper and found they were selling the same said books at £6.50 a time!  These books aren’t listed on their website at the time of writing and I don’t know if it’s possible to place an order over the phone or by email with them.  I should also say that since I discovered what they were charging, I bought 5 of them!  I didn’t completely empty the display so good luck in bagging a bargain.

Hopefully these books will become more widely available and pricing will settle down a little.  At £12.95 these books are not cheap, but aren’t outrageous when compared to (say) Midori MD or Life Noble notebooks.  At £9.95, they become a much more attractive proposition and if you can pick them up for anything like £6.50 – knock yourself out!

Overall I really like these notebooks.  In terms of function, they deliver what you’d expect from a high end notebook.  In terms of look, they’re really striking and visually appealing.  Rhodia has managed to pull off the trick of producing something that simultaneously fits their product range while managing to look nothing like any of their other offerings.

Ink review – Sailor Jentle Oku-yama

Oku-yama, Vac700 and Clairefontaine notebook

One of those times when pen, ink and notebook come together brilliantly

Sailor Jentle Oku-yama is part of the Four Seasons range of inks.  I believe that it was originally introduced as a limited edition ink, but is now a fixture in the range.  Oku-yama apparently translates as “remote mountain” or “deep mountain”, but that’s not much help in trying to figure out what colour it actually is.  Reading other reviews suggests maroon, pomegranate or cranberry.  Garnet is another possible descriptor.  Take your pick.

Despite all the rave reviews, my first instinct was that this is not the sort of ink colour that I go for.  Blues, greys and the occasional green are much more my normal hunting ground.  I decided to buy a sample to see how I got on, and as you can see from the first photo, I liked it enough to buy a whole bottle.  However you choose to describe it, this ink is striking and a really interesting colour.

I bought my bottle for £16.20 from the nice people at The Writing Desk, but it’s fairly  widely available in the UK.  In the US, Jet Pens will sell you a bottle for $14.25, Anderson Pens for $18.  Wonderpens in Canada also have it listed at Can$24.75.  This is definitely not a budget ink, but it’s still way cheaper than inks like Caran d’Ache, Graf von Faber Castell and Pilot Iroshizuku.

As with other Four Seasons inks, Oku-yama comes in a round and fairly squat 50ml bottle.  The bottle contains an insert that is meant to make filling your pen easier.  With the bottle capped, turn it upside down to fill this internal reservoir.  Turn the bottle the right way up, uncap it and fill your pen.  With larger nibbed pens, filling may be tricky depending on how far you need to insert the pen.  Some people seem to find this insert infuriating to use, but so far I haven’t found it too much of a chore.

What’s it like?

Oku-yama is pretty well saturated, although it does get a bit darker with multiple passes when swabbing it.  As I’ve already said, inks of this colour are off my normal radar, so I don’t have a huge back catalogue to compare it with.  Some internet research throws up names like Diamine Syrah, Montblanc Bordeaux and Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo as being close.  The only inks I have that come remotely close are from a mixed pack of Diamine cartridges.

As you can see, Diamine Claret is nothing like it.  Oxblood is not dissimilar but Oku-yama has more of a red tint to it.

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Oku-yama alongside Diamine Claret and Oxblood on Tomoe River paper

A bit of kitchen chromatography throws up an interesting mix of colours as you might expect for an ink like this.

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Oku-yama in action

I’ve tried this ink out in a Sheaffer Legacy Heritage (medium), a Noodler’s Ahab Flex (fine medium), a TWSBI Vac700 (fine and broad) and a Lamy Safari (1.1mm stub).  As I found with the Vac700, it’s a great ink for a demonstrator pen – the sort of colour you’d want to see and not hide away.

In terms of papers, I’ve used Oku-yama on Tomoe River, Clairefontaine, Life Noble, Rhodia and TWSBI paper.  One observation is that I think it looks better on cream-coloured papers compared to the white of Rhodia and standard-issue Clairefontaine.

It’s most definitely not waterproof, but it doesn’t make itself out to be so.  Dry times are reasonable – a little over 20 seconds on Clairefontaine paper with a broad nib in my Vac700.  Expect it to be longer on something like Tomoe River and allow for quicker drying times with a finer nib/dryer pen.  My non-scientific assessment is that I’ve used it quite extensively for journaling in an A5 notebook and not had any issues with the ink not being dry when it’s time to turn the page.

I’d describe Oku-yama as a “wet” ink, so although it performed well on these papers it won’t come as a surprise to learn that there was some show-through.  There was no bleed-through at all.  In fact the only real surprise was some feathering on Life Noble paper with the Sheaffer.  It’s the first time I’ve experienced feathering on this paper, but the Sheaffer bears more than a passing resemblance to a fire hose in terms of the amount of ink it puts down, so I can forgive that.

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Feathering on Life Noble paper

Aside from the gorgeous colour, Oku-yama has a reputation for two things – shading and sheen.  I found that it will shade without any need for encouragement.  Even with a relatively dry-writing pen like the Safari, I couldn’t have stopped this ink from shading if I’d wanted to.  Similarly, I found that Oku-yama shaded on all the papers I tried it on.IMG_20170526_220257

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Oku-yama on Clairefontaine (top) and Life Noble (bottom) paper

The Sheen, What About The Sheen?

As with a number of other Sailor inks, Oku-yama will produce sheen.  In this case it’s a green/gold sheen.  It will come as absolutely no surprise that the easiest paper to see sheen on is Tomoe River.

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Oku-yama ink splat on Tomoe River paper

It’s there, even with normal writing – you really don’t have to try very hard at all.  My photos don’t show it very well, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Sheen on Tomoe River paper

I also managed to get some sheen on Life Noble and TWSBI papers, but there’s clearly something in the surface finish of Rhodia and Clairefontaine papers that kills it off.

Summary

At the outset, I didn’t know what to expect from Sailor’s Oku-yama or what I would make of it.  In the end I kind of fell for it.  It’s not really a colour for work use, but it’s both cheery and complex and a joy to write with in most other situations.  I’ve used it quite a bit for journal keeping and I haven’t found it to be overpowering when used page after page.

As a measure of how much I like it, I’ve written the Sheaffer dry and am probably down to a fifth of a tank in the Vac700, which has a huge ink capacity.  I’ll certainly refill the Vac700 with it when it runs dry.

This one’s a keeper!

The Hedgehog of Wisdom – using Midori Flash Cards to index inks

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“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  (Archilochus)

…hedgehogs aren’t simpletons; they have a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest.”  (Jim Collins)

At the start of 2017 I resolved to expand the range of inks in my possession and I’m happy to say it’s a resolution I’ve managed to keep to, buying both bottles and samples to test different makes and colours.  This creates its own problems: i) where to keep the ink; and ii) how to keep track of what I’ve got.  I haven’t really solved the first one, but I’ve made a start on the second.  Enter the Hedgehog…

Like many people, when I first discovered the Midori Traveler’s Notebook I also stumbled on the vast array of stationery items that Midori also produces.  They all seemed like a good idea at the time I bought them, but have mostly sat around my desk looking for a purpose in life.  And so it was with a set of flash cards in the shape of a hedgehog.  Nice enough to look at, but what on earth was I going to do with them?

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The Hedgehog of Wisdom

Cataloguing inks

With the number of inks I owned growing fast, I realised I needed to do something to keep a handle on what I had.  My first attempt to catalogue my inks was with a Clairefontaine Age Bag notebook.  Great idea I thought.  Lots of high quality pure-white pages.  What’s not to like?  Well, a couple of things actually…

Sure the paper is good, but I really, really hate the way this book is put together.  To say it’s not a lay-flat binding is an understatement.  Call me squeamish, but I can’t quite bring myself to inflict the level of physical violence on a poor, defenceless book that is necessary to make it stay open at the page I’m interested in.  Also, and presumably to save cost, the faux aged card covers are stuck on top of the spine tape, rather than integral to the binding.

The flaw in the plan with notebooks

There also some practical problems on the horizon.  However you group inks and categorise them, if you use a book you are almost guaranteed to want to compare two inks that are on different pages.  Short of tearing out pages, you’re going to struggle to make all the side-by-side comparisons you’ll want.  Also, unless you’re brilliant at predicting how many inks of each colour you’re going to end up with, allowing enough space for each in (say) the blue section is going to be tricky.

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You can get a lot on a page in a notebook, but the format is not very flexible

Here’s where the Hedgehog comes in.  It’s a stack of 80 flash cards, held together by a metal ring.  The ring can be opened to add, remove, move cards, but you can just add a swatch for each new ink without worrying about any particular sequence.

I’ve taken to numbering each swatch and keeping a list of which ink the number corresponds to.  I also try to “double up” on half of the swatch (i.e. two passes of the cotton bud) as a means of getting an idea about saturation and also to help spot things like sheen.

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Until I put this together, I’d never noticed the sheen that comes with Diamine Teal (if you apply enough of it!)

I like to compare how one ink looks against another.  It helps me figure out what to make of a new ink, if I can look at it alongside one that I already know.  The real utility of the Hedgehog is the ability to pull out several colours and compare them…

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A set of flash cards will cost you around £3/$3.  As well as hedgehogs you can have ducks, cats, dogs, bears, strawberries (you get the picture).  I got mine from the Journal Shop, but Jet Pens and the Tokyo Pen Shop also sell them.  I haven’t managed to figure what weight the paper is, but it’s plenty heavy enough and there’s been no hint of feathering, show-through or bleed-through.

Hedgehogs are truly wise creatures.

Bangwagonesque – Lamy Safari Petrol…

…or a foray into the world of the limited/special edition.  I’ll happily admit to being a cynic (or an advanced realist as I like to think of it) when it comes to this kind of thing.  Rather than rush to fill a gaping void in my life, I tend to file limited editions under ‘marketing ploy’ and move on.  So what’s changed?

Lamy Safari Petrol

Lamy Safari Special Edition (you’ll have to source your own troll)

If you were hoping for news of a Damascene conversion, the reality is far more mundane.  I was given a gift voucher for a local stationery shop.  So far, so good.  Unfortunately, said shop has a limited range of pens that I like (and can afford).  The selection of inks on offer is even more limited.  As a result, the arrival of the new Safari seemed to solve my problem.   I could spend the voucher on a known quantity, besides which another Safari here or there doesn’t really count.  (At least that’s what I’ve told myself.)  So, for a cash cost of about £2.50, I left the shop with a new Safari and a matching pack of 5 T10 cartridges.

Lamy Safari Petrol - cap off

“Oops.  I thought it was a screw cap – it just came off in my hand!  Honest.”

What’s it like?  Well, first and foremost it’s a Lamy Safari.  Much has been written in praise of this pen, and it (almost) always makes it on to the list of pens recommended to someone starting out in the world of fountain pens.  There’s not really much more to add.  That said, although I own four of these pens already, I don’t use them that often.  Their tendency towards being dry writers usually leaves me reaching for other pens in preference.

Lamy Safari Petrol disassembled

This could make a handy spear…

One of the novelties for me here is that this is the first Safari I’ve owned in a matte, textured finish rather than the conventional gloss, polished finish.  It’s nice enough , but in this particular colour I think it cheapens the feel (and the look) of the pen.  Maybe it’s hard to produce this in a gloss finish, but I think I’d like it more.  All the other fittings, including the nib, are finished in black – any other finish would look out of place with this colour.

Cap detail

Cap detail

Black nib close-up

PVD-coated nib in black

 

Two Lamy Safaris

Side by side with a ‘conventional’ Safari

Troll plus Safari

Look into my eyes…deep into my eyes…

The other novelty is in the ink.  Despite the number of Safaris I own, I’ve never tried one with Lamy’s own inks.  I bought a pack of T10 cartridges in the matching colour and so far I’ve been impressed.  The medium-nibbed pen that I went for has written smoothly so far, with no skipping or hard starts.  I haven’t really had the sense of the pen being a dry writer, so maybe I should try combining my other Safaris with Lamy inks to see how they get on.  I’ve noticed a bit of nib creep (visible in the close-ups of the nib), but have no idea whether this is common to all Lamy inks or is specific to the Petrol ink.

The ink is available in bottles, but good luck in finding it.  Bottles of the Petrol ink seem to have sold out everywhere in the UK, mostly on pre-orders from what I can tell.  Various sellers are indicating that there may be further stock arriving in May, so if you haven’t got hold of a bottle yet, you may get another shot at it.

What’s the ink like?

As I mentioned, it flows well and puts down a good line.  I’ve tried it on Life and Rhodia paper and it’s been perfectly happy on both with no sign of feathering.  To be fair, you wouldn’t really expect anything different with these papers.

Writing sample

My awful handwriting on Rhodia paper

In terms of colour, it’s a good match for the pen.  The nearest ink I own to it is Noodler’s Squeteague, but that has a stronger green/teal component to it.  By comparison, the Lamy ink has more of a blue/grey/black component.

Petrol vs Squeteague

Lamy Petrol ink side by side with Noodler’s Squeteague

In conclusion

I like the colour of this pen, the textured finish less so.  The black fittings finish it off well. If you’re in the market for a Lamy Safari, and the colour appeals, then you won’t go too far wrong.  The real revelation for me has been the combination of pen and ink.  Rather than being dry and a bit scratchy as I was expecting, this combination worked really, really well.

Maybe there was something of a Damascene conversion after all…

(I’d also like to thank Trevor the Troll for his work as my glamorous (and unpaid) assistant.  I think you’ll agree that he put in a sterling performance under trying circumstances.)

 

 

Midori MD A5 Notebook Review

For many people, when you mention Midori, they think of the very popular Traveler’s Notebook.  Compared to such a high profile range, the MD notebooks are less well known, which is a shame because they really are great notebooks.  I’ve been using one as a journal of sorts for a few months now and think they deserve a great deal more recognition.

The A5 notebooks can be had plain, rules or with a grid pattern.  They’re fairly widely available with similar £/$ prices.  I bought mine from the Journal Shop for £12.95.

In my (so far) limited experience of Japanese stationery, packaging has tended to be simple but exquisite.  The story is no different for the MD.  The simple but beautiful cream card cover is wrapped in a sheet of glassine paper with a wraparound paper sleeve.  The cover is vulnerable to marking easiliy, so this is pretty much a necessity in packaging terms.

Midori MD notebook packaging front view

A plain version of the MD, fresh out of its wrapper

 

Midori MD notebook packaging rear view

Once you get into using the notebook, the cover is embossed with the MD symbol.  This simple design touch adds to the overall sense of class you get from using these notebooks.

Embossed Midori MD logo

Construction

The MD has sewn binding made up of a large number of small signatures, giving a usable page count of 176.  The main result is that the book opens flat without the need to inflict physical violence on it.  As a left-hander, I’ve really come to appreciate the importance of this property in a notebook.  The quality of the stitching is excellent.  The binding is a little unusual in that mull has been used on the spine instead of regular binding tape.  It’s very neatly finished and further adds to the sense of class that goes with these notebooks.

Such a light-coloured cover is vulnerable to marking, but an inexpensive clear plastic cover is available from most of the stockists who sell the notebooks.

Midori MD notebook binding (#2)

Inside you get gorgeous cream paper with a light blue 5mm grid pattern.  If you like your paper to be a crisp white, this may not appeal to you.  I tend to prefer off-white paper, so this works just fine for me.  Unlike some gridded notebooks, the grid blends nicely with the paper stock meaning it does its job unobtrusively – allowing you to get on with the business of writing.  I couldn’t find any definitive information on the weight of the paper, but I’d hazard a guess at 80gsm.

Midori MD grid detail

What’s it like to use?

Here’s a sample written with a fine nibbed Lamy 2000, inked with J. Herbin Perle Noire…

Midori MD handwriting sample

Trying a range of nib sizes and inks didn’t phase the MD paper in the slightest.  There was no sign of any feathering or bleed-through, even with some very wet pen/ink combinations.  This does mean that drying times are not always the quickest, but I’d say it’s no worse for the MD paper compared to other quality papers.  I even tried a Tombow ABT brush pen and the paper behaved itself impeccably.

The paper does have a bit of tooth to it.  This meant getting feedback with some of the drier pen/ink combinations I tried, but it was never enough to be a problem.  I found that some of these were harder work to write with than others, so you might have a bit of trial and error figuring out which ones work well for you and which ones less so if you write a lot in one sitting.

It won’t come as a surprise that the cream paper base affects the appearance of some inks.  Darker inks fared pretty well, but some lighter inks like Rohrer and Klingner Alt Goldgrun lost a bit of their punch compared to when used on lighter papers.

These are minor niggles, though, and in my opinion are outweighed by the performance and quality of these notebooks.

Midori MD various pen samples

There is some show-through, but I haven’t found it at all intrusive when writing on the reverse of a page.

Midori MD show-through

Wrap-up

In conclusion, these are fantastic quality notebooks which I’ve come to love over the past couple of months of use.  Any negatives are pretty small and vastly outweighed by the positives of design, execution and function.  The paper is exquisite and takes pretty much any ink you might choose to throw at it.  If you haven’t tried one and are looking for a new notebook to try, I thoroughly recommend them.

 

 

Snake eyes

If you suffer from ophidiophobia you might want to look away now.  Here’s what arrived in the post today…

Jinhao 'snake' fountain pen

Snakes on a pen!

I saw this on Amazon and couldn’t resist.  It’s so outrageous that it’s passed all the way through bad taste and emerged the other side with a certain swagger.  It’s a beast of a pen (in more ways than one), weighing in at around 85g.  Half of that is down to the cap alone!

Jinhao 'snake' fountain pen showing nib

Did I mention there are snakes?

The pen itself is quite slim – I guess to allow for the added (ahem) “decoration”.  Perhaps surprisingly it sits quite nicely and comfortably in the hand.  You can post the cap, but the only reason I can think you would want to is if you wanted a mini-staff so you could pretend to be an ancient Egyptian high priest or something.  In the real world posting the cap ruins the balance of the pen.

Jinaho 'snake' fountain pen cap details

I’ve got my eye on you…

Overall quality and finish seem pretty reasonable.  A quick test with some Diamine Twilight suggests the nib is on the fine side, but out of the box it seems a reasonable writer.

I’m looking forward to trying it out properly…

Ink Review – Diamine Graphite

Diamine Graphite bottle and Pilot Custom Heritage 91

Diamine Graphite and Pilot Custom Heritage 91

Here goes with my first ever ink review…

I don’t know whether it has anything to do with the time of year or the weather, but here at Slightly Unnerved Towers darker, more muted ink colours seem to be the flavour of the month.  I’m gradually working through a bunch of these, but Diamine’s Graphite is one that’s caught my eye recently.

Diamine Graphite is a dark grey ink with an element of green to it.  It could have been called slate without raising too many eyebrows.  Either way it’s much darker than other grey inks I’ve tried to date and it lacks the blue tint that a lot of greys seem to have.

A bit of kitchen chromatography confirms that what you see is what you get and there’s nothing out of the ordinary or dramatic about it.

Diamine Graphite chromatogram

That could be seen as a negative if you like your inks filled with drama, but I don’t mind.  In its understated way, Graphite gets on with the job.  It’s subtle and straightforward enough to be used in a work context, but it also shades enough to provide some interest.

This ink is well lubricated and flows nicely.  I’ve used it in several pens and not yet had a bad experience.  Like most Diamine inks, it’s not waterproof, but for my purposes that not a problem.  Particularly with being a left-hander, I haven’t had any issues with drying times – a little over 20 seconds to fully dry on Tomoe River paper.

Here’s what it looks like on Tomoe River paper:

Tomoe River sample

Here’s what it looks like on Clairefontaine 1951 paper:

Diamine Graphite Clairefontaine 1951 paper

As with other Diamine inks, Graphite is pretty widely available in either 30ml or 80ml bottles, with the 80ml size being good value at around £6.00/$15.00 a bottle.  That said I really like the fact that you can buy the smaller bottles.  It’s great for inks that you might only use occasionally or still aren’t quite sure of.  Diamine have revamped the design of their labels, but not their bottles.  The best you can say about the 30ml bottles is that they’re functional.  They certainly won’t win any design awards, but at this price point it’s something most people should be able to live with.

Grey inks are not to everyone’s taste, but if you’re thinking of trying some out Diamine Graphite is well worth putting on the list.

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.

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!