Unexpected Discoveries

Serene Serendipity

Alongside the hours of meticulous research, cross-referencing reviews, finding the best price and generally procrastinating over purchases, I like the occasional moments of serendipitous joy that come with spur-of-the-moment purchases.  Sometimes it’s completely out of the blue, but more often than not it’s the little extra you add to your shopping cart as part of a bigger order.  After all, what’s the harm?

So it was with some recent ink purchases from Fountainfeder in Germany.  My main objective was getting my hands on a couple of German-only inks from Diamine – Skull and Roses and November Rain.

The process from order to delivery was smooth and the wait wasn’t too long.  As well as the ink, I got a nice, hand-written note and some chocolate – always welcome.  Both Skull and Roses and November Rain look interesting in a “sheen-turned-up-to-11” kind of way. Even so, they weren’t the stars of the show.  That honour goes to the contents of an unassuming sample vial – Super 5 Atlantic

From swatches on the web, it looks to be somewhere on the teal spectrum, but as it turns out, the online photos rather undersell Super 5 Atlantic (unless you love teal, of course).

I’m rediscovering my love for the sea in all sorts of ways at the moment, including inks that reflect its myriad colours.  As a result, this ink has struck a chord with me, helped by the massive clue in the name.  Not the Super 5 bit – that sounds like a posh upgrade from the Fantastic 4 (imagine it said in a plummy English accent) – I meant the Atlantic part.

Super 5 Atlantic ink swab

Avast ye swab!

Swabbed, you get a beautiful blue/green/grey kind of colour, which indeed evokes the ocean.  Used in anger, it has plenty of shading to add interest.  On 52 gsm Tomoe River paper, there’s some cheeky sheen.  In fact, there’s wall-to-wall sheen.  It’s a silvery sort of sheen, so it manages to be both subtle and extravagant at the same time.  The sheen doesn’t dominate though and the true colour of the ink shines through.

Super 5 Atlantic writing sample

All at sea

Of course, there are risks and potential pitfalls with these impulse purchases.  Failure to do any meaningful research meant that I didn’t pick up on the fact that it’s a permanent ink.  If I’d known this I might have picked a different pen to my ghostly Franklin-Christoph 45.  The cap has a habit of collecting ink spots that are hard to shift so I’m being a bit wary and handling the pen gingerly until I’ve written it dry.

At around €16 for 30ml, Super 5 Atlantic is not a cheap ink.  It doesn’t seem to be available in the UK, so shipping costs from Europe add to the challenge.  It’s such a beautiful colour though, that I didn’t hesitate and I should have a bottle in a few days.  I can easily see this becoming one of my favourite inks – high praise from someone who has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to sticking with one ink.

TWSBI Precision Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI Precision

The TWSBI Precision in all its glory

I seem to have bought another pen

The Precision is one of  TWSBI’s latest fountain pens and their first truly new model in a while.  I wasn’t going to buy one.  After all I have had 7 TWSBIs and didn’t need another one.  Also, I didn’t really have the spare cash.  As it turned out, I didn’t have the requisite willpower to resist temptation either.  So here I am with another TWSBI.  At least it’s not another demonstrator…

Which of course it isn’t.  If you’ve seen anything of TWSBI’s latest issue, you’ll know it’s an all-metal affair.  In keeping with other TWSBI fountain pens, it’s a piston filler but this time it’s a piston filler that’s channelling the spirit of a Rotring 600.

The clue is kind of in the name – it’s meant to line up with the Precision range of mechanical pencils and you can see some of the design features – like the clip – in both.  Other bits look like they may have started life in other parts of the TWSBI range.  I’ve never used or owned a TWSBI Classic, but just from looking at photos you can get a hint as to where inspiration for the design of the section and piston cap came from.

TWSBI Precision nib and section

The section is similar in profile to the TWSBI Classi

Living with the TWSBI Precision

On to the Precision and what the first few weeks of ownership have been like.

The Precision is a handsome looking pen – all brushed aluminium and chrome.  It comes in the same packaging as the Diamond and Vac pens, including a wrench and small pot of silicone grease if you’re feeling brave enough to dissemble and service your TWSBI.

The barrel and cap are hexagonal, complemented nicely by the circular finial and piston cap.  There’s a nice tapering and change of profile to blend the ends with the middle or the middle with the ends, depending on your point of view.

The barrel, cap and section are brushed aluminium and all finished in what some would call grey and marketing people would call gunmetal.  The finial and piston cap make a nice contrast in chrome.

TWSBI Precision cap details

If the cap fits…

TWSBI Precision piston cap detail

The piston cap, complete with O-rings

In use

The cap unscrews in less than one full turn.  There’s an O-ring (TWSBI do like their O-rings) at the top of the section where it joins the barrel, and this helps to ensure the cap is done up firmly.  This should help prevent the pen from drying out, but it also helps ensure that the facets of the cap and barrel line up when the pen is closed.  TWSBI had to get this right, otherwise the pen would look downright odd when the cap was done up.  It would also be embarrassingly imprecise (if you know what I mean).  You have to use a reasonable amount of force to do this, which makes me wonder how the O-ring will hold up to repeated compression over time.  No problems so far though…

TWSBI Precision cap and barrel aligned

It’s all lining up nicely…

When it comes to inking the pen, the piston mechanism works smoothly and does its job well.

Vital statistics

The quoted weight is 30 grammes, but around a third of that is accounted for by the cap.  This is a little more than for the Diamond 580, but it makes the barrel/section/nib combo proportionately heavier (20 grammes for the Precision vs 14 grammes for the Diamond 580).  It’s not outrageous, but it’s not a featherweight either.  Capped length is 137mm.  The barrel diameter is 12.8mm, while that of the section is 9.5mm.  I always struggle to visualise these sorts of numbers, so here’s what the TWSBI Precision looks like compared to some other pens…

TWSBI Precision size comparison

Can you identify the culprit from this line-up? (L-R – Lamy 2000, TWSBI Eco-T, TWSBI Diamond 580, TWSBI Precision, TWSBI Diamond Mini, ubiquitous Lamy Safari, Moonman M2)

The ergonomics of the Precision are quite interesting.  The hexagonal barrel is quite chunky, but sits comfortably in the hand.  The junction between the barrel and section is quite busy.  Here you’ll find the O-ring I talked about earlier, the thread for the cap and a relatively small ink window.  The section is cylindrical and quite slim compared to the barrel, but it doesn’t feel slippery due to the brushed finish.  The length of the section also means that the thread for the cap didn’t get in the way of my grip, so no comfort issues there.  However, the diameter of the section took a bit of getting used to.  Being a bit thinner than most of the other pens I own, I found myself gripping the section more firmly than usual.  This led to a bit of fatigue and discomfort for a while, but as I’ve got used to the pen, things seem to have settled down.  This could be a bit of an issue, though, if you like your pens on the chunky side.

TWSBI Precision section detail

That busy part of the section

The act of writing

There’s not much to say about the nib – but I mean that in a good way.  The Precision uses the same nib unit as you’ll find in the Diamond 580, and it performs as you would expect.  I’ve yet to have a problem with a TWSBI nib.  The fine nib I chose is a smooth writer with no hint of skipping or hard starts.

TWSBI Precision nib

It’s that nib again

For its first outing, I picked Diamine Graphite. It’s an ink that I like and which I think matches the pen quite nicely.

TWSBI Precision writing sample

There may be a lesson for us all in that first quote…

To round things up, I really like the design and execution of the TWSBI Precision.  It’s not a “pretty” pen, but it has a rugged charm that appeals to me.  The all metal construction makes for a substantial pen that manages to feel comfortable in the hand.  The weight and the narrow section may cause some comfort issues for longer writing sessions, but I’ve got a bit more used to this now.

Price-wise, the Precision is a bit more expensive than the Diamond 580 and a lot more expensive than  the Eco.  I got mine from Cult Pens for £71.  Prices from other UK vendors seem to be in the same ballpark.  US prices seem to be $80+.

If you’re looking to buy your first TWSBI, this is an expensive entry point and you might be better looking at something like the Eco (probably still my favourite TWSBI to write with).  If you know your TWSBIs, the Precision is an interesting addition to the stable and worth a look.  Owning one is a very different experience to other pens in the range, but that’s no bad thing…

 

 

Getting mixed up – into the Wild Blue Yonder

To begin at the beginning…

It started with something innocuous, as these things often do – a seemingly innocent purchase of a 30 ml bottle of Diamine ASA Blue.  At £2.35 it seemed rude not to.  But of course, that’s how they get you.  Added to the Mnemosyne 194 that I wanted, that almost got me to the £10 needed to qualify for free postage.  90p short, I needed something else…

…and that’s how I ended up with a bill for £45!

Enough about my lack of will power.  ASA Blue is great in its own right, carrying off  a passable impersonation of Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki at a fraction of the price.

TWSBI Precision and Diamine ASA Blue

Are you sitting comfortably?

While I was looking for write ups about this ink, I found an old thread on FPN where someone had mixed ASA Blue with Sapphire Blue in equal parts with interesting results.

So, I thought, how hard can it be and what’s the worst that can happen?  The answers are: ‘easy’ and ‘nothing untoward’.  No explosions, fires or gunky messes.  Instead, you get a really nice blue ink for your troubles.

Text from Under Milk Wood

Truly beginning at the beginning

Ink splats showing sheen

There’s sheen there if you look for it

What happens when you mix ASA Blue and Sapphire Blue

…something about a glass and a half?

Not an original idea and I can’t guarantee that I haven’t just made another ink from the Diamine range.  Either way, it was a bit of fun to try.  What I didn’t realise was that I was also demonstrating the pervasive and subliminal power of advertising.  It wasn’t until a couple of days after I’d done it that I realised why the image above looked kind of familiar.  Any resemblance to the logos and advertising imagery of a major UK chocolate manufacturer are entirely coincidental.  Honest.  No, really.

One thing that I do take issue with is the name.  The creator of this mix named it Asphire.  I see the logic and it gets a cheap laugh (or was that just me) but I can’t say I’m entirely impressed with the result.  I came up with was Wild Blue Yonder, but I’m open to suggestions.

Any thoughts?

Fountain pen review – Moonman M2

Moonman M2, Diamine Firefly

If you believed, they put a man on the moon

The Moonman M2 eyedropper fountain pen has been attracting quite a bit of interest recently, so I thought I’d join the bandwagon and find out what the fuss was about.  In trying to write this post, it has has turned into a bit of a hybrid of a review and an account of my first encounter with the world of eyedropper pens.  Please read on to find out how I got on with it.

My Chinese pen history

Chinese fountain pens are cheap and  widely available.  I own a number of them.  Aside from the amazingly bonkers Snake pen, made by Jinhao, most of mine are copies or derivatives of western pens.  Despite being fuelled by naive optimism, none of them have had much merit beyond being cheap to buy.  To give one example I brought a Baoer copy of a Starwalker.  The nib is reasonable enough, but sadly it’s more Mont Clonk than Mont Blanc, requiring a prodigious amount of plumber’s PTFE tape to make the section and barrel fit together.  Of the other Chinese pens that I own, all of them have needed a tweak or two to make work well.  At the prices you pay for these pens, you’re not going to get much in the way of quality control, but the flip side is that it’s a real lottery as to whether you get a good ‘un or a dud.

Thankfully that might be starting to change.  Frank Underwater has done some great work to highlight and introduce a new wave of Chinese pens that seem to be challenging stereotypes and injecting design and quality along the way.  The Moonman M2 is one such of these…

Eyedroppers

In case you didn’t already know it, an eyedropper is a pen that has no filling mechansim.  The barrel itself holds the ink, giving you a much higher ink capacity than a pen that fills by a piston or converter.  Ever since I came across the concept, I’ve been slightly unnerved about trying one.  Most seem to be conversions of standard fountain pens and depend on how well you can seal the joint between the section and barrel.  In the same vein, I’ve never understood why you’d want to do this with a pen where you can’t see the ink.  Fine if your pen is transparent or translucent, but otherwise, why bother?  Surely part of the point is to be able to see your ink of choice sloshing about (and know when it’s about to run dry)?

Is it a demonstrator?

Is it a demonstrator if there’s no filling mechanism to ‘demonstrate’?

I’m also very fickle and like to switch inks around on a regular basis.  Having  a huge ink capacity is not necessarily a bonus – it just means I have to write a lot more before I can change ink.

The ‘open-plan’ approach also means that while you can vastly increase ink capacity, failure of the seal means a lot of spilt ink!  Thankfully there seem to be more pens coming out that are intended to be eyedroppers from the outset.  As a result these come equiped for the purpose.  The Moonman M2 falls into this category, being made of transparent acrylic and set up to be an eyedropper from the outset.

On to the pen itself.

Presentation

In keeping with the clean and simple design of the pen, it comes with a perfectly presentable cardboard sleeve which sports the Moonman logo.  It contains a case made of similar plastic to the one that you get with a TWSBI Eco.  The box contains a striking red foam insert into which are cut slots for the pen and a glass eyedropper.  The pen fits snugly, meaning it can be a bit of a struggle to extract, but that’s no big deal.  If you’re anything like me, that’s the last time the pen will see the box anyway.

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moonman M2 in box

I was too keen to try the pen out and forgot the unboxing shot until after I’d filled the pen.  I hope you like red.

Size and shape

The Moonman M2 is basically a classic, pointy-ended torpedo shape.  Absence of a clip enhances the clean lines.  I’d call it medium-sized in terms of length and diameter, coming in at around 14cm long when capped and 13mm in diameter, with a screw cap (no clip).  Being made of plastic, it’s not too heavy.  My not-very-accurate kitchen scales tell me that it weighs in at 14 grammes.  To put it in a more real-world context, it’s similar in proportion to a Lamy 2000, just a lot pointier.

The nib is a fairly standard looking gold-esque #5, stamped with the immortal words “Iridium Point Germany”.  It’s probably meant to inspire confidence that you’re getting a certain level of quality, but it always makes me think someone is trying too hard to make the point.

Look and feel

I really like the clean, sleek looks of the M2.  Coupled with the way the acrylic has been milled, it looks very smart.  In place of finials and end caps you get tapered, polished acrylic, which catches the light nicely.

Moonman M2 catching the light

Catching some rays with Diamine Firefly

The other thing of note in the appearance of the Moonman M2 is a bright red anodised ring which bears the company’s name.  This won’t be to everyone’s taste, and some will argue that it interferes with the overall clean look of the pen.  I quite like it and certainly don’t find it offensive.  This marks the step-down from the barrel to the section.  Because of the overall proportions of the pen, this is quite moderate and the threads for the cap are also fairly unobtrusive.  I’ve had no issues of discomfort when holding the M2.

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It’s a Moonman, in case you were wondering

Filling

Not surprisingly, filling this pen is pretty straightforward.  Put some ink in the barrel and that’s about it.  The key thing to remember is that everything needs to be done ‘upside down’ to avoid messy accidents and spills.  Keep things ‘nib up’ until the whole thing is assembled.  I haven’t tried the glass pipette (eyedropper) that came with the pen, preferring to use a syringe.  I’ve no reason to doubt that the eyedropper works, but I prefer the control you get with a syringe.

You can get a good 2.5ml of ink into this pen without any trouble, although there’s probably a little bit more headroom to be had.  The top of the section protrudes into the barrel when you assemble the pen, so if you’re over-enthusiastic with the filling you may find yourself re-acquainting yourself with the principles of Archimedes and with ink everywhere!  I’ve erred on the side of caution and managed to avoid that so far.

It’s probably the right point to talk about Leak Prevention System.  OK, there isn’t a system as such, but the Moonman M2 does come with two silicone O-rings installed to keep the ink where it’s meant to be.  One is around the top of the section, where it screws into the barrel and the other at the top of the nib unit.

The second O-ring is very fine, so you will need to keep a particularly close eye on it if you remove it for any reason.  I took it off mine and put it on a piece of kitchen paper (white, textured background – brilliant thinking).  I then spent several minutes trying to work out where I’d put it!

nib and section

Spot the O-rings. (If I had remembered to draw in some arrows, they’d be easier to see!)

In use

I wasn’t certain whether the O-rings would be enough to seal the pen, so my first fill of the M2 was with water.  I left the pen nib-down overnight and was pleased to find that there was no hint of any leakage.  Buoyed up by this, I took the plunge and inked the M2 with Sailor Jentle Yama-dori.  It didn’t take much more than a couple of inversions and gravity to prime the feed and start the pen writing.

The Moonman M2 is available with two choices of nib size – 0.38 or 0.5mm.  These sizes equate roughly to extra fine or fine.  Given how much nib sizes vary in reality, I love the aspiration that nibs can be produced to this level of precision.

I chose the 0.5mm option and it’s a pretty solid fine.  It’s not the smoothest nib I’ve ever used, but I wouldn’t say mine was scratchy either.  I might try smoothing it out a little at some point, but for now I’m happy enough the way it is.  I’ve had no issues at all with skipping or hard starts, so all good there.  Opinion seems to be generally favourable  about the quality of the nibs on the M2, and my experience backs that up.

I’ve written a fair number of pages now on Tomoe River, Clairefontaine and TWSBI paper and the M2 has performed pretty well on all of them.

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Testing the Moonman M2 – Sailor Jentle Yama-dori on Tomoe River

Cleaning

One potential concern about a pen like this is whether it will be easy to clean and how likely it is to stain.  So far, no problems.  I cleaned out the Yama-dori I first inked the M2 with and the barrel cleaned up with no issues at all.  The nib and feed took a bit more work, but came out with a clean bill of health.  A bulb syringe is a helpful tool for this.  Ditto the section, although the O-ring on this could have a tendency to trap ink, so might need particular attention.  I’ve since filled the M2 with Diamine Firefly and again the pen cleaned up after this without issue.  I’ve currently got it inked with Diamine ASA Blue and all looks good so far.

Price and availability

The M2 cost me £12.98 on eBay including shipping from China.  The US price is just shy of $16, so pretty comparable.  There are some being re-sold from the UK, but at around twice the price I paid.  Delivery took just over a week, which was more than acceptable.

Overall impressions

The Moonman M2 is a great pen in its own right, and wipes the floor with all the other Chinese pens I’ve tried.  Factor in the price and it’s an absolute bargain.  I love the design, materials and the quality of the finish.  As a first choice for an eyedropper I certainly could have done a lot worse.  I don’t really need a pen that can hold this much ink, but I’ve enjoyed being distracted by the sight of ink sloshing around in it.  The way the acrylic refracts/reflects light, really adds to the overall effect.  As a bonus, it’s certainly helped overcome my concerns about using eyedroppers.  All I have to do now is remember to handle it differently to all my other pens!

Gratuitous ink shot

Gratuitous ink shot

 

 

 

 

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.

img_20170101_215722

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.

img_20170101_220606

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!

 

 

 

Out with the old…

As 2017 gets under way, I thought I would take a moment to look back at how 2016 ended and also to look forward to 2017

What Santa brought me

The festive period at Slightly Unnerved Towers saw me the happy recipient of  several pen-related gifts.

The Pilot MR/Metropolitan is an inexpensive, but very highly rated pen which has so far been missing from my collection.  In the sparkly spirit of Christmas I chose the suitably unsubtle Retro Pop in Ellipse Violet.  I don’t yet have a converter for it, so it’s currently running on a cartridge.  Early scribblings seem very promising.

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Pilot MR Retro Pop

I’m not really a fan of calligraphy, but I was intrigued by J Herbin’s glass dip pens.  They are certainly striking and I thought might be useful as a way of trying out new inks.

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This is the joker in the pack – a ballpoint pen!  Ballpoints are probably my least favourite kind of pen, but I like the minimalist style of this Tombow Zoom.  I knew it was a slim pen, but I was still taken aback when I opened the box.  It’s positively skeletal, but writes surprisingly well.

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Tombow Zoom 707

New pens can look a bit lonely without some ink to keep them company.  Luckily Santa had that covered as well with some goodies from the Diamine stable.  First up is one of their shimmering inks – Enchanted Ocean.  I’m not sure when or where I’ll use this ink, but I was intrigued by the concept and it’s substantially cheaper than the J Herbin alternatives.  I have one of those crazy Sailor Fudé pens with the 55° angled nib and I might team the two up and see what happens.  After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

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Diamine shimmering ink

At a more down to earth level, I also received three bottles of Diamine ink – Graphite, Twilight and Prussian Blue.  Diamine have revamped the desing of their labels and I think I like them.  The swabs look interesting but so far the only one I’ve tried in anger is Twilight.  First impressions are good so far…

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Diamine inks with the new label design

Looking ahead

That was how 2016 ended, what about 2017?

My pen buying has been rather scattergun to date.  If I see something I like, I tend to go ahead and buy it.  This has netted me some great pens, but the focus has been at the more budget end of the market.  Nothing wrong with that in itself, but I have designs on some more expensive pens and need to stop blowing my budget and save up.

Pens that I have my eye on include:

  • Platinum #3776 – although this more or less hits 3 figures in GB£, it still has a reputation for being good value for money in terms of nib quality.  I’d like to find out first hand…
  • Pilot Custom Heritage 912 – I bought a Custom Heritage 91 with a soft fine nib from Japan last year (it’s not available in the UK) and was impressed.  The 912 is intriguing because of the selection of nibs available.  I had originally thought about the PO nib, but from what I understand this is even finer than the soft fine, so is probably a step too far for me (although I do love the shape of it).  I might be tempted by the Waverly nib instead. This has an upward curve reminiscent of Sheaffer nibs, and although being more or less a medium nib, this is Pilot’s version of ‘medium’, so nearer to a western ‘fine’.  This will have to be another order from Japan.
  • A Pelikan of some description.  Such a venerable and respected pen manufacturer, but one I know little about.  Do I buy vintage?  Do I buy new?  I need to think a bit more about this one but it’s definitely on the list, just rather fuzzy.
  • Pilot Vanishing Point – a pen that no-one seems to have a bad word to say about, but one I haven’t quite got my head around.  This is one that I think I’ll need to try in a real shop in order to figure out whether the design works for me or not.
  • Sailor – a bit like Pelikan, this is more a feeling that I should own one at some point, rather than desire to have a specific model.  That said, the Professional Gear range looks good and might the right place to start for me.
  • Sheaffer – I have a bit of a hankering for a vintage Sheaffer of some description.  The design of some of the nibs is really appealing, but I need to do some research first as there is a huge back catalogue to choose from.

Most of these will have to be long term projects as a result of cost, but it’s nice to have something to aspire to.  One brand I don’t feel particularly drawn towards is Montblanc.  I don’t know where my prejudice comes from, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a pen for me (even though I own a dog-eared Montblanc 24).  Maybe one day I’ll see the light, but for now I have plenty of other things to focus on.

Inks

My thoughts on inks are less well-defined than those on pens.  I suspect my Diamine collection will continue to expand.  After all, the pricing of their 30ml bottles makes them hard to resist.

Among my favoured brands I’d like bottles of Iroshizuku Shin-kai and Fuyu Syogun.  I’ve tried samples of both and really like them.  They are premium inks at premium prices, but I have enough of these already to have confidence that they will be worth the investment.

More of a resolution than a plan – I should expand my inky horizons and try some other brands.  Sailor and Graf von Faber Castell are among those that look interesting.  Some other brands are hard to come by in the UK, so maybe I should look further afield.  Also I wish more UK retailers would sell samples or expand the ranges that they offer as samples.  If you’re going to commit £30 to a bottle of ink, you generally want to have an idea that you like the colour and know how it will perform with the pens and papers that you use.

Notebooks and paper

I have a whole shelf filled with unused notebooks – everything from Field Notes, through Clairefontaine and Leuchtturm to Fabriano, Mnemosyne, Nuuna, Life and Nanami Seven Seas.  Maybe I should stop being so reverential and actually get on and use some of these…

I plan to continue tinkering with making my own notebooks.  Each time I make one I see ways to improve the design and also my technique.

Just one or two things to keep me busy in 2017…