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.)

 

 

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…

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!

 

 

 

Platinum Plaisir – fountain pen review

There’s always a risk when a company gives a product a name that implies a certain quality of experience.  So it is with Platinum’s Plaisir.  Is owning one a pleasure or a pain?  Read on to find out…

Platinum Plaisir Nova Orange

I’ve previously reviewed Platinum’s Preppy – an ultra-cheap, highly usable cartridge pen that has a decent nib (particularly when you factor in the price).

At over three times the price of the Preppy, the Plaisir is the Preppy’s more grown-up, sophisticated cousin.  You get the same transparent plastic grip and nib/feed combo that comes with the Preppy.  (The grip is smoked on the Nova Orange, but clear on the other colour options.)  Where your extra money goes is on an aluminium cap and barrel and the introduction of Platinum’s ‘slip and seal’ cap mechanism which prevents ink from clogging even if the pen sits unused for up to a year.  Having only had the pen a month or two, I’ll have to take Platinum’s word for that.  Still, it’s nice to see this feature down at this price level.

Platinum Preppy and Plaisir

Plaisir and Preppy for comparison

The Plaisir comes in a fairly wide range of colours, including ‘Frosty Blue’ and ‘Gunmetal’ alongside the more usual red and black.  Medium and fine are the most commonly available nibs.  I hung on until the Nova Orange version (I like orange) became available from Cult Pens and, having previously tried a medium, opted this time for a fine nib.

Stats for Plaisir are as follows:

Weight = 14.5g

Length = 142.5 mm

Diameter (max) = 15 mm

The Plaisir cost me £9.45 from Cult Pens (UK).  The US retail price is $22, although Goulet Pens seem to be offering it at a discounted price of around $18.

Plaisir, Kaweco Sport and Lamy Safari for comparison

Real world comparison – Lamy Safari, Kaweco Sport, Platinum Plaisir

As with the Preppy, the only option out of the box is to use Platinum’s proprietary cartridges.  For an extra £1.50 ($5 in the US) you can buy a small plastic adaptor which enables you to use the more readily available short international cartridges.  As I showed with the Preppy, you can also add in Kaweco’s mini piston converter on top to enable you to use bottled ink.  I took the opportunity to try Diamine’s ‘Elegance’ collection – a box of 20 cartridges (Claret, Teal, Midnight, Oxblood and Saddle Brown).

Playing it safe, the first colour I tried was Midnight.  This turns out to be a perfectly reasonable dark blue.

Writing sample

In use the Plaisir puts down a fine, but suitably wet line.  Of the fine-nibbed pens I own, this is one of the finest – maybe matched by my TWSBI Diamond 580.  The fine nibs on my Lamy 2000 and Kaweco Sport don’t really come close in comparison.

So what do I make of the Plaisir overall?  Well, I really like it.

The nib is great.  It’s no less plain than the nib on a Lamy Safari and at this price point you wouldn’t expect a lot to have been spent on making it look more glamorous.  Despite its simple design, it puts down a good line and behaves itself well.  It’s not at all scatchy and I appreciate the good ink flow.  Drier pens can make writing with a fine nib a bit of a chore, but not so here.  The nib and feed can be removed simply by pulling, so you could switch to another nib size quite easily (the Preppy would make a cheap donor).  The grip is most definitely utilitarian rather than a design classic, but it gets the job done.

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Nib detail

The aluminium finish makes it feel a lot more up-market than the all-plastic Preppy.  The Plaisir feels quite slender and light weight in the hand, and although I prefer my pens to be a little chunkier and with a bit more heft, it hasn’t stopped me using this pen on a regular basis.  I don’t normally post pens when I write, but found myself doing so with the Plaisir to get the balance right for me.

Detail of cap band

The embossed, engraved chrome band at the base of the cap takes the opposite approach to the nib in terms of finish.  It’s a little too fancy for my taste and it could be argued that it cheapens the look of the pen a little.  In my opinion, something simpler would have added more class.  That said, I’m being a bit harsh here and I have to keep reminding myself that this is a pen costing less than £10!

That’s what it really comes down to.  Platinum have done a fantastic job producing such a well-made, well-performing pen at this price point.  I haven’t had the opportunity to try one of Platinum’s higher end pens yet, but the Plaisir certainly helps underpin the company’s reputation for producing pens with quality nibs that are good value for money.

So far, owning one has been a pleasure.

Frankenpen – A Platinum-Kaweco hybrid

(Disclaimer: The title of this post may be more dramatic than the content, but I couldn’t resist using it.)

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Platinum Preppy – medium nib in blue

Platinum’s Preppy is a very popular pen.  What’s not to like?  For around £3 in the UK ($3-4 in the US) you get a simple, straightforward cartridge pen with a really decent quality steel nib.  Okay, it probably won’t last long enough to become a family heirloom, but it’s robust enough to be a good first fountain pen that writes well and puts more expensive pens to shame.  You get a choice of nibs from medium to extra fine.  Unlike its low-cost rival, the Pilot V series, you also get a pen that you can re-use.  Straight up, you can use Platinum’s own cartridges that come in a range of colours.  Spend a little money on an adaptor and you can use any short international cartridge, opening up the choice of inks to include the likes of Diamine and J Herbin.  (Both provide a good range of colours in cartridges, but their bottled ink ranges are bigger.)

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Nib, section and international adaptor

Cartridges aren’t the most economical way to buy ink and some inks are only available in bottles.  The solution is obvious, buy a converter!  Platinum handily make a couple of converters, but read the small print and you find they work with ‘most’ Platinum pens.  Unfortunately ‘most’ doesn’t include the Preppy, or its more up-market stablemate the Plaisir (which uses the same section and nib assembly).

That’s OK though, because I bought an international adaptor.  I’ll just plug in an international converter and I’ll be good to go, right?  Not really.  The space taken up by the adaptor, plus the relatively short barrel mean that most converters simply won’t fit.

Step forward Kaweco’s Mini Piston Converter.  This pint-sized converter was developed for use in Kaweco Sport pens.  Handily it also fits the remaining space in the barrel of the Preppy.

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Nib, section, adaptor and converter

It’s not the biggest converter in the world, but it does mean you can use bottled inks in the Preppy.  Admittedly, by the time you’ve added in the adaptor and converter you’ve trebled your initial costs.  That brings you up to around £9 (US$12) – which is still cheaper than a Lamy Safari (which needs its own converter if you want to use bottled ink).  If you’re prepared to spend a bit more money  (around £16/$20 all in) you could go through the same exercise with the higher spec and more robust Platinum Plaisir.  I prefer the Platinum nib to the equivalent Lamy, which I find too dry.  When I can get my hands on an orange Plaisir (yum), I plan to repeat the exercise.  The only other thing I would change is to go for fine nib instead of the medium I chose here.

What’s the worst that can happen?

 

Fountain pen review – Conklin Duragraph

I received this pen as a Christmas present and I’ll admit it, we got off to an awkward start.  However,  with perseverance we’ve since become the best of friends.

I’ll also admit that Conklin was not a brand of pen that I had heard of until I stumbled across the Duragraph on the Cult Pens website. A quick bit of research (i.e. Google) revealed that the name goes back to the late 19th/early 20th century and was a successful and innovative pen company.  However, by the 1930s it had begun to decline and by the late 1940s/early 1950s had ceased to exist.  The name was revived in 2000 and a range of pens issued, intended to reflect the heritage of the original brand.  The original Duragraph was issued in 1924, smack bang in the middle of the Art Deco movement.  The re-issued  Duragraph certainly echoes those times in terms of styling.

On to the pen itself…

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Although I received it as a present, the Duragraph will set you back around £45 in the UK and around the same price in $ in the USA.  The Duragraph comes housed in a substantial, dark blue box, which sits inside a cardboard sleeve.  Other reviews have noted the similarity of the box to a coffin.  Luckily mine didn’t have a satin lining that some seem to, so the resemblance stopped at the outside.  The pen comes supplied with 2 short international cartridges and a converter.  I went straight for the converter and inked the Duragraph with Diamine’s 150th anniversary Silver Fox (more on that later).

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The box is large and (sort of) coffin-like

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Based on Goulet Pens’ Nib Nook (this is such a brilliant resource for getting a feel for what a particular pen/nib will give you), I went for a medium nib.  The nib itself is a two-tone affair, mainly steel with a gold-coloured oval bearing the Conklin name.  The breather hole is a fetching crescent shape.  Overall, the nib is striking without being too ostentatious.

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The two-tone nib

Capped the pen is 140mm long, 125mm uncapped and 175mm posted.  It is 13mm wide and weighs 24g.  I went for the ‘cracked ice’ finish, which goes well with the black end caps, chromed bands and chromed clip.  The end of the cap bears the Conklin name in white and the wider chrome band around the cap is also engraved ‘Conklin’ and ‘Duragraph’.  The name Duragraph is bracketed by an engraved crescent design.

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Overall, I like the design of the pen and think the finish is a nice balance of boldness and subtlety.  Rather then reminding me of anything to do with ice, the finish conjures up terrazzo – a polished, concrete-like material engineered to look like marble.  It may seem weird, but for me that helps with the Art Deco connection as terrazzo was used for flooring in a lot of buildings in the 1920s and 30s.

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If I had sat down to write this review the first time I used this pen, then I would not be recommending it.  Inked with Diamine’s Silver Fox, it was not a pleasure to write with.  The nib scratched and squeaked its way across the paper and struggled to lay down a decent line.  I had read other reviews that suggested quality control was far from brilliant and it was pot luck whether you got a good nib or otherwise.  My initial thoughts were that I had a dud and that this was a pen that was destined for the back of my desk drawer (a kind of naughty step for pens).

Luckily I persevered and switch inks to J Herbin’s Perle Noire.  With this juicy, rich black ink on board, the Duragraph was transformed from a sulky scribbler into a well-behaved writer, delivering a decent and consistent line on the paper.  I have since inked it with Pilot’s Iroshizuku ‘shin kai’ and it performs equally well with this quality ink.

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Not even this pen can help my spidery handwriting!

This is quite a large pen but, being predominantly made of resin, it’s not outrageously heavy.  It sits well in the hand (well mine anyway) without the need to post the cap.  This is just as well, because I didn’t like the way the cap posted.  It was a snug fit on the end cap, too snug as it left a gap.  As a result it didn’t actually feel that secure.  Adding the cap also shifted the weight too far back on the pen for my liking and comfort.

Putting this small niggle aside, I have to say I have been impressed with the Duragraph.  £45 isn’t dirt cheap for a fountain pen, but I think you get a lot of pen for your money, both in terms of real estate and performance.  I’m glad I chose it and it still gets regular use.

I am definitely not unnerved by this pen.

As an aside, I have since tried the Diamine Silver Fox in two other pens – a Lamy Safari and a Sheaffer Legacy.  Both of them struggled, even the Sheaffer, which normally lays down a very wet line.  As a result, I’ve sent this ink to the naughty step instead of the Conklin…