Roll up! Roll up! – Rickshaw Bagworks Hemingway Graphic Pen Roll

If you’re a fountain pen collector/hoarder like me, the question of how to keep them safe can become a bit of an issue.  One potential solution is the humble pen wrap/roll.  Enter the Hemingway from Rickshaw Bagworks.

Hemingway Graphic Pen Roll

Give me a wave

Is it a wrap?  Is it a roll?  Both terms seem to get used for objects of this sort.  In using the Hemingway, there are elements of both wrapping and rolling.  So, like a sightless Cervid, I have no idea.  Rickshaw call the Hemingway a pen roll, so that’s good enough for me.  Pen roll it is.

The Origin Story

The Hemingway, like Rickshaw’s other products is made at their workshop in San Francisco.  It comes in two flavours – Standard and Graphic.  The Standard can be had in a range of colours and retails at $39.  You can customise the finish for an extra $10.  The Graphic also comes in at $49, and you can now have all manner of finishes.  The graphic started out as a series of rolls themed around oriental dragon designs, which Mark from Rickshaw posted on Instagram a while back.  Inspired by this, I asked whether it would be possible to produce a roll based on the famous Hokusai woodblock print of the Great Wave off Kanagawa.

As it turned out, the answer was – “yes”.  Within 2 days of posing the question on Instagram, the fabric had been printed, cut and a prototype stitched.  Pretty impressive.

Outer of Hemingway Graphic pen roll

Block and roll.  Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa – woodblock meets pen roll.

I placed my order and, within a few days, my Hemingway was en route.  Not surprisingly, the longest wait was for various postal organisations to get their act together and move it from the West Coast of the US to the UK.  Eventually it landed safe and sound in the UK and, once I’d paid over the ransome to the Royal Mail to get my goods released, it was duly delivered.

Construction

The cutting and stitching are of high quality and everything is well finished.  The printed fabric is described as a polyester canvas.  It feels a slightly smoother than regular cordura , but there’s nothing to suggest that it lacks the necessary robustness to look after your precious pens.  Rickshaw call their lining material “Royal Plush” and it lives up to the name, being incredibly soft and sumptuous.  Mine comes in dark blue, which matches up nicely with the indigo and Prussian Blue used in the Great Wave.  As you might hope,  the quality of the image itself is also very good.

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Double vision

In use

The Hemingway does all the things you’d expect a pen roll to do.  As with many other pen rolls, it holds 6 pens, although you can get versions that hold 8, 10 or 12 pens.  I like the idea of a roll that can hold more pens, but I can imagine that this might become a bit bulky and cumbersome.  The largest pen I own is a Conklin All American, and the Hemingway swallowed this with room to spare.  How much bigger you can go before things get a little too snug – I can’t really say for sure.

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In all their pampered glory

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Gratuitous detail of the plush lining

 

Rolled up Hemingway

It’s a wrap? On a roll?

Once you’ve finished your wrapping and rolling, the Hemingway is secured by a loop of elastic cord and cord lock which will allow you to cinch the cord up if you need to.  Rickshaw claim that the Hemingway is machine washable, which is handy if things go a bit wrong.  I’m less certain how colour-fast the fabrics are and what you’d end up with after letting your washing machine loose on this.  Still, it’s nice to have as back-up.

Conclusion

If this was “just” a regular Rickshaw Hemingway, I’d be seriously impressed.  Whatever the finish, it’s well made, does its job effectively and the plush lining material is truly sumptuous.  You could rest assured that your pens were being suitably pampered as you went about your business.  That said, I feel a much stronger degree of connection towards this one, because an element of it was my idea.  As an acknowledgement of this, Mark was kind enought to include a dragon pen sleeve in the package at no extra cost.

Hats off to Mark and the team at Rickshaw for both a great product and for their responsiveness.  One of the things that impresses me about the fountain pen world is that there are so many companies willing to engage with their customers and go that bit further.  I definitely put Rickshaw Bagworks in this category.  Based on my experience as a customer and with the range of cool designs they now have on offer, I suspect this may not be the last Hemingway Graphic that I buy.

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…

 

What’s in the bag?

I thought I’d kick things off with a look at what accompanies me to work…

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Pens

My  ‘workhorse’ pens are a TWSBI Vac 700 and a Conklin Duragraph in Cracked Ice finish.  The Vac 700 has so far only been inked with Pilot Iroshizuku kon-peki, but it needs refilling so I’ve cleaned it and will see how it fares with a different ink.  The Duragraph has lived mainly on a diet of J. Herbin Perle Noir, but I’ve recently been trialing another Iroshizuku ink: ku-jaku.

Until recently I hadn’t contemplated the world of vintage pens, but an impulse buy from eBay left me the owner of a slightly dog-eared MontBlanc No. 24.  It’s a piston filler that I  think dates from the 1960s, but I know next to nothing about MontBlancs (never thought I could afford one).  So far I’ve been impressed.

The next pen is both vintage and brand new. Sounds odd, but it’s a 1940’s Eversharp Skyline that never made it out the shop that stocked it.  These pens seem well regarded and the nib supposedly has a bit of flex to it.  I haven’t used it much so far and will write up something more detailed in the near future.

Next up is my collection of Kaweco pens – 2 Liliputs and a Skyline Classic Sport.  The Liliputs are solid brass and copper and I’ve had them a while as you can tell from the patina.  I love these pens, the all metal construction gives these tiny pens some weight.  The Skyline is relatively new and I’m still trying to work it into my pen rotation.

Notebooks

My main journal/notebook is a Hobonichi Techo diary/planner.  I came across this gem a couple of years ago and have been hooked ever since.  At present I don’t use mine for much beyond a work diary and planner, but can’t see myself going back to a standard issue diary.  Its major selling point is the Tomoe River paper it’s made from – ultra thin and beautiful to write on.  Even with a leather cover, at a day to a page it’s still less than 2cm thick.

The two green notebooks are CIAK Appuntinos.  I’ve been experimenting with small to medium format notebooks and this pair caught my eye on the Journal Shop website.  Apart from the textured cover, it was the dot grid paper that took my interest.  I’ll write some more detailed thoughts about these books shortly.

Like many people, I was introduced to Midori through their Traveler’s notebooks.  They also produce a range of other notebooks, all on high quality, fountain pen-friendly paper.  I’m attempting to keep a journal and using this A5 MD Notebook to jot down my thoughts.  I went for grid paper rather than ruled.

Pencils

I’ll confess, I hardly use a pencil these days but I still carry a couple on the off chance I’ll need them.  I bought a Pentel Graphlet for this purpose and then acquired a Uni Kuru Toga M5 from Cult Pens as freebie on top of an order I placed.

Pencil case

My pens and pencils get transported in a Nomadic PN-01 pencil case. For a comparatively simple and straightforward design you can fit a lot in.  I’m still looking for the ideal pencil/pen case, but this does the job for now.