Initial thoughts – my first Pelikan

I was going to call this a review, but since it lacks the sort of details that you might expect to find in a review, I’ve gone with something more mundane.

If you have any interest in fountain pens, you’ll have heard of Pelikan.  Some people collect Pelikans to the extent of obsession, owning every regular and limited edition going.  There’s even a collective noun for them – a flock.  (If you want chapter and verse on Pelikan pens, you could do worse than to start with the excellent Pelikans Perch).  I could always see why people liked them – a strong pedigree, well made, (mainly) gold-nibbed and piston filled, but for me something about them never quite clicked.

That’s changed a little in that I now own a Pelikan – an M400 White Tortoise.  Even that wasn’t entirely straightforward…

Pelikan M400 White Tortoise

The seldom spotted White Tortoise

On the one hand, photos of the green tortoiseshell that makes up most of the barrel of this pen were intriguing.  On the other hand, “everyone” (whoever they are) says that the M400 is too small and any right-thinking person would start at the (larger) M600.  One of the reasons for going to the Bristol pen show back in February of this year was to be hands on and get my head round the relative sizing of Pelikans.

Green tortoiseshell detail

That tortoiseshell…

All of this combined to confirm that, despite the looks of the White Tortoise, I shouldn’t buy it.  It was too small and didn’t look right in my hand.

OK…

Fair enough…

Decision made…

Since I didn’t much like any of the options in the M600 range at the time either, it left me concluding that about the only Pelikan I could consider buying was the M805 Stresemann.  Perfectly rational, but the price meant that it got put on the long list of pens to buy one day, rather than anytime soon.

So far, so logical.  But despite this, I couldn’t quite get the White Tortoise out of my head.  Fast forward to the summer of this year and an unfortunate combination of circumstances trampled logic into the dirt, turned and blew a raspberry in its dusty face and led me to buying the same said White Tortoise.  The lure for this particular ambush was set out by Anthony from UK Fountain Pens, who posted a photo on Instagram of a White Tortoise he’d just bought.  The trap was then sprung by Cult Pens, who had the nerve to offer 10% off an already competitive price and throw in a free Pelikan case.

My already non-ferrous will collapsed at this and I gave in to the inevitable and pushed the button.

Pelikan White Tortoise plus case

It was hard enough resisting the pen, the prospect of a free case tipped the balance…

The one thing that photos of pens and even picking them up un-inked can’t tell you is how they will write, and this for me has been the revelation with the White Tortoise.  I have lots of pens that give me pleasure to use, but I own a far smaller number that you feel just “want” to write.  My new Pelikan is one such pen.  The nib is unbelievably smooth, inks flow ridiculously well and actually it feels pretty good in the hand.

Pelikan M400 nib detail

View from the sharp end

My first outing with it involved inking with Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki, a long-time favourite both for colour and for ease of use.  I was wary of anything that might stain the barrel and ruin the looks of the White Tortoise, but Kon-peki has always proved easy to clean out.  This highlighted one “issue”.  With an ink that flows well, output from the nib is so high that the fine nib I bought looked more like a generous medium.  Not unmanageable, but not quite what I wanted.  I’ve since tried some “drier” inks and things are definitely more to my liking with this change.

It still tests the definition of what I’d call ‘fine’, but I can happily live with that.

Sample text

The obligatory writing example

 

I was reflecting recently on one of the first posts I wrote on this blog about the Conklin Duragraph and how I realised that initial troubles I had with that pen were due to the poor flow of the ink I was using – Diamine Silver Fox.  Now I haven’t touched this ink since that fateful trial, but I wondered whether my new Pelikan could be elevated to the status of miracle worker and get something useful from Silver Fox.  It turns out not, but I won’t hold it against the White Tortoise and Silver Fox will just have to forever remain on the inky equivalent of the naughty step.

Back to the White Tortoise.  Since I’ve had it, only a couple of days have gone by when it hasn’t been inked and it continues to be a source of joy and pleasure.  It’s made me realise that Pelikan might know something about pens after all and “made” me put my name on the waiting list for the soon-to-be-released M600 Vibrant Orange.  That is an M600 I could really like.

Conclusion

I suppose I’m meant to draw some kind of conclusion out of this.  Aside from the obvious “Pelikan pens are not what I thought they were”, there’s the wider realisation that “monkey see, monkey want” is not all there is to this wonderful world of fountain pens and all that goes with them.   Sometimes a longer courtship, coupled with denial and, ultimately, ignorance of reasoned argument is required to make you really appreciate what’s in front of you.

Also, temptation from enablers and discounted prices are a wicked (interpret that how you will) combination.

Will that do?

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.