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.

Ink review – Krishna ink round up

Overview

Krishna inks are made in a place called Palakkad in Kerala, India and are the brainchild of a Dr Sreekumar.  Their trademark features are some interesting names and some vivid colours.  There is a reasonably large (and growing) line-up and they are becoming more widely available outside India.

Presentation-wise they come in 20ml glass bottles, which are perfectly functional but which won’t win any design awards.  Packaging is similarly, how shall I put this, simple.

Simple packaging

Prize-winning packaging? Not really

Given that many of the ones I’ve tried are a little (ahem) flamboyant and may not always be suitable for everyday use, the relatively small size makes them quite an attractive proposition.  It also makes it easy to justify buying multiple inks, which is how I’ve ended up with 7 of them so far.

Jungle Volcano, Anokhi and Sumukhi

Rumble in the jungle

Silent Night Sky, Moonview, Snake Boat, Pencil

Bad Moon Rising

My overriding impression of Krishna inks so far is that they flow well and major on sheen.  The latter feature is subject to some confirmation bias in that I mainly chose inks that looked like they would sheen.  If you do like some sheen with your inks, you’ll find plenty to interest you in this range.

I’ve tried these inks over a number of weeks and in a variety of pens, but I’m just going to give a brief summary of each one.  I may get round to writing up more detailed reviews at some point, but given how long it’s taken me to pull this together, hopefully there’s enough here to whet appetites.

Moonview

Krishna Moonview

Krishna Moonview

I’ll kick things off with Moonview as it’s perhaps the easiest one to relate to other inks.  It is a rich blue ink with a strong red/pink sheen.  When I say strong sheen, what I mean is that Moonview is another sheen monster in the same vein as Diamine Skull and Roses or Organics Studio Nitrogen Royal Blue.  It flows well and I’d say it’s better behaved than OS Nitrogen Royal Blue, but you might not feel the need to add it to your collection if you already have a number of inks of this nature.

Anokhi

Krishna Anokhi

I’m not normally a big fan of purple inks, but I’ve quite enjoyed dabbling with this one.  On top of the purple base colour, there’s a hefty dose of green sheen to accompany it.

Snake Boat

Krishna Snake Boat

Aside from the fantastic name, which raises all sorts of questions about its meaning, Snake Boat has a sort of muddy purple as a base colour, but with a green sheen.  Again, there’s a really strong component of sheen, but the resultant combination is intriguing.   Of the two, I’d probably choose this one over Anokhi because it’s not such an obvious purple and the overall result appeals to me much more.

Sumukhi

Krishna Sumukhi

Sumukhi is a bright pink ink with some green sheen to further spice it up.  I’ll come clean – I have no idea why I picked this ink.  It’s definitely not a colour I would ever consider using for normal writing purposes.  I have used it in ink doodles, though, and it’s proved to be quite good fun for that.

Pencil

Krishna Pencil

This is a seemingly random name for an ink, and based on the swatch it seems a bit of a misnomer.  You can see the logic when the ink is wet as there is a grey look to it, but when dry the colour is more of a washed-out purple.  I was drawn to this ink as it reminded me of Robert Oster Summer Storm, an ink that I love the colour of.  My problem with Summer Storm is that I find it dry, verging on arid, and difficult to get on with.  Pencil, on the other hand, has worked well with both fine and broad nibs, giving quite varied properties.

Silent Night Sky

Silent Night Sky is perhaps the most mundane of the Krishna inks that I’ve tried.  So much so that I forgot to photograph it.  To help conjure up a mental image, it’s quite a rich purple, but it’s also quite ‘safe’ compared to some of its stable-mates with only a little sheen.  (That helped, didn’t it?). To be frank I haven’t felt anything resembling a strong urge to do much with this ink.

Jungle Volcano

Krishna Jungle Volcano

Perhaps saving the best until last, Jungle Volcano is ink making at its brilliantly bonkers best.  I seem to recall it got its name as a result of a competition on Instagram, but it’s a name that suits.  It has attracted quite a lot of attention and I have yet to read a review by anyone who didn’t like it.  I love orange inks, but often find them a bit too ‘thin’ in practice.  It may explain why I like darker, more complex inks like Monteverde Fireopal and Diamine Ancient Copper.  Jungle Volcano is a similarly complex orange ink, further enhanced by some crazy green sheen.  Using it is proper fun and brings a smile to your face. I can’t imagine a situation where it would be suitable for work purposes, but it’s an ink you may well find yourself looking for excuses to use.

All fun and games?

Well it is until someone loses an eye (see the book of the same name by Christopher Brookmyre for that one).  While my overriding experience of using Krishna inks has been a positive one, it hasn’t entirely been plain sailing.  It was probably too much to expect that such richly coloured and highly-sheening inks would be trouble-free and I have had a couple of issues.  I inked a TWSBI Eco with Sumukhi and it was fine in use, but when I came to clean the pen I found the feed to be quite gunked up and some staining in the barrel.  They good news is that the staining isn’t permanent, the bad news is that it took about 4 days of soaking and flushing with water to shift this.  I inked another Eco with Snake Boat, and although it has been fascinating to look at the ink while it has sloshed about in the pen, I fully anticipate another pain in the proverbial to clean this out when the time comes.

 

Jungle Volcano was also a little problematic.  I didn’t have any noticeable staining issues, but there was some nib creep (not uncommon with orange inks) and a bit of gunking up of the feed.  Again it took a bit of soaking to shift this.

In the interests of balance, I’ve also cleaned Moonview and Anokhi out of other pens, and these were pretty well behaved and straightforward by comparison.

Availability and pricing

Krishna inks are reasonably widely available.  In the UK, Izods seems to be the only supplier.  Unfortunately, I found their website so frustrating to use that I went a bit further afield, namely Belgium (Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery and Germany (Fountainfeder).  In both instances, the process was smooth and quick with excellent customer service (a hand-written note and some chocolate always helps).  I paid around €8 a bottle, plus shipping, on both occasions.  In the US, you can buy from Vanness at around $8 a bottle.

Summary

Of the 7 Krishna inks I’ve dabbled with, only Silent Night Sky hasn’t really hit the mark.  I’ll probably struggle to get through Sumukhi, but that’s a matter of colour preference.  The remainder will continue to get use.  In terms of favourites, Jungle Volcano is great fun, Moonview is probably the most ‘practical’, while Snake Boat and Pencil are probably the most complex and interesting.

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…

 

 

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.

EFF114CE-292A-42A5-BAEA-00920DE6D3B9

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

 

 

 

 

Platinum Plaisir Bali Citrus Fountain Pen – A Quick Look

Bali Citrus is Platinum’s “limited edition” Plaisir for 2018.  This came as news for me as I wasn’t aware that Platinum issued limited edition Plaisirs.  A bit of digging turns up one possible previous limited edition, the Akajiku, but not much else.  Whether this is an indicator of things to come from Platinum, I guess time will tell.

AA18367E-202A-4AC9-B224-9962F7BDC314

Double Trouble (and not a Rebel MC in sight)

I’ve previously enthused about the Plaisir in Nova Orange.  A metal-bodied pen for less than £10 that does the basics pretty well is a good thing in my book.  This new incarnation is the same pen, just in a different jacket.  As a fountain pen in general, the Plaisir is not everyone’s cup of tea.  In this colour, I suspect opinions might be even more divided.  Bali Citrus turns out to be an acidic greeny-yellowy sort of colour.  You could happily call it citrus, but what makes is particularly Balinese is anyone’s guess.

To rehearse my previous review, the Plaisir comes with a slim, anodised aluminium body and cap and a simple steel nib and plug-in feed.  Impressively at this price, the cap includes “Slip and Seal” technology, which can be found on Platinum’s more expensive pens.  This means that you can leave the pen capped for extended periods of time and it won’t dry out.  I haven’t tested this scientifically, but I’ve left my orange Plaisir inked and unused for several few weeks and it’s written first time without any skipping or hard starts.

Sticking with the cap, the clip is simple, but robust and functional.  Another subtle feature of the cap is a broad, engraved chromed band.  I’m not a huge fan, but can live with it as a “feature” at this price.  I know plenty of people are offended by it, but I’m sure someone somewhere loves it.  I really like a comment on The Finer Point that likened the cap band to a wrestling champion’s belt, which sums it up nicely.  Very bling.

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That subtle cap band – more lightweight than heavyweight

The nib is a simple steel affair and is common between the Plaisir and the ultra-cheap Preppy, so it’s easy to switch between the available sizes (medium, fine and extra-fine).

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The simple, but functional nib and section

I don’t normally post my fountain pens, but the Plaisir is one that I find I have to post to feel right.  It’s not really a balance issue, more that without the cap there’s not enough mass for my liking.

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With apologies to Yoda…

The Plaisir uses Platinum’s proprietary fittings, so won’t take international cartridges unless you buy an adaptor.  I had the impression that the Plaisir wouldn’t work with Platinum’s converter, but Laura from Fountain Pen Follies pointed out that it does work (with a bit of faffing).  If you try to fill the pen by immersing the nib in ink there’s not enough draw to fill more than the section, but if you use a syringe to fill the converter and then flood the section you can get a decent fill.

You can get the Bali Citrus Plaisir from sources like Cult Pens, Goulet Pens and Rakuten.  For some reason, UK pricing seems a bit more wallet-friendly than elsewhere.

I still like Plaisir.  Sure the Plaisir is not without its limitations, but it does the job well and I can’t get away from the value for money argument.  A well made metal pen at that sort of price?  It seems rude not to.

 

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.

 

 

 

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…

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?