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.

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Must try harder

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Says it all, really

Reading all the highlights and round-up posts from the blogs I follow has highlighted how meagre my output for the last year has been.  In my head I reviewed lots of the things that I forked over my hard-earned cash for, but something got lost in translation and for a variety of reasons only a few made it onto the digital page.

In reflecting on this, I’ve come to realise a couple of things.  Blogs are a little like gardens (no, seriously) in that they are a reflection of you and need to be tended and nurtured.  If you don’t put the time into maintenance and planning, then you don’t get good results.  That said, doing it for the sake of doing it can also be counter-productive.  It needs both head and heart, and maybe I’ve been lacking a little of both.

I’m not much of a fan of resolutions – mainly because I’m terrible at keeping them, but I know that I need to do a bit of nurturing to get things where I’d like them to be.

It’s not all doom and gloom…

There are some positives.  I didn’t have to buy all the pens I acquired last year – I won a set of 3 Lamy Aion pens from the lovely people at The Writing Desk.  All I had to do was to indulge my habit and buy something from them – in this case a TWSBI Diamond Mini limited edition in gold.  First impressions of the Aion fountain pen are good.  If nothing else, it proves that buying more pens has got to be a good thing (doesn’t it?).

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Aion, Lion, Zion

We all have weaknesses and it seems TWSBIs are mine.  The Diamond Mini was one of 5 TWSBI pens I bought last year.  My growing family of TWSBIs now stands at 7 – a Vac700 (currently a little poorly, but fixable), the gold Diamond Mini, an Eco, an Eco-T and three Diamond 580ALs (Lava, Turquoise and Rose).

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We are family

It was an interesting year ink-wise.  I followed the sheen bandwagon, graduating from the likes of Sailor, through Robert Oster to Blackstone and on to the Organics Studio sheen monsters Walden Pond Blue and Nitrogen Royal Blue.  It was fun while it lasted, but perhaps you can have too much of a good thing.  If the sheen obscures the base colour of the ink, maybe things have gone a little too far…

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Shiny

On the notebook front, I’m increasingly convinced that the Far East is where it’s at.  Aside from continuing with the Hobonichi Techo – I’m on my third one (second direct from Japan) – I’ve been exploring the Life range of notebooks.  As well as the Noble range, which is relatively well known, I’ve been impressed by the Tsubame (Swallow), Kappan and Renover books.  Mnemosyne books have become my book of choice for work and I still have a real fondness for Midori’s MD books.  My affection for Tomoe River paper remains undiminished, but it’s getting harder to come by in the UK at a sensible price, and there is still a (relative) dearth of books that use this paper.

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Big in Japan

KWZ’s Polish special edition inks have hit the UK, so time to hammer the bank account (again).

Targets for this year?  Maybe I’ll finally commit to buying a Pelikan.  Then again, I’ve procrastinated for a year already and still haven’t done anything about it.  Birmingham Pen Company’s inks get good write ups, so maybe it’s time to give them a try.  Colorverse inks seem to be the latest Instagram hit, maybe I’ll see what all the fuss is about.

Here’s to 2018. Let’s hope my grades improve…

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.

 

 

 

Ink review – Sailor Jentle Oku-yama

Oku-yama, Vac700 and Clairefontaine notebook

One of those times when pen, ink and notebook come together brilliantly

Sailor Jentle Oku-yama is part of the Four Seasons range of inks.  I believe that it was originally introduced as a limited edition ink, but is now a fixture in the range.  Oku-yama apparently translates as “remote mountain” or “deep mountain”, but that’s not much help in trying to figure out what colour it actually is.  Reading other reviews suggests maroon, pomegranate or cranberry.  Garnet is another possible descriptor.  Take your pick.

Despite all the rave reviews, my first instinct was that this is not the sort of ink colour that I go for.  Blues, greys and the occasional green are much more my normal hunting ground.  I decided to buy a sample to see how I got on, and as you can see from the first photo, I liked it enough to buy a whole bottle.  However you choose to describe it, this ink is striking and a really interesting colour.

I bought my bottle for £16.20 from the nice people at The Writing Desk, but it’s fairly  widely available in the UK.  In the US, Jet Pens will sell you a bottle for $14.25, Anderson Pens for $18.  Wonderpens in Canada also have it listed at Can$24.75.  This is definitely not a budget ink, but it’s still way cheaper than inks like Caran d’Ache, Graf von Faber Castell and Pilot Iroshizuku.

As with other Four Seasons inks, Oku-yama comes in a round and fairly squat 50ml bottle.  The bottle contains an insert that is meant to make filling your pen easier.  With the bottle capped, turn it upside down to fill this internal reservoir.  Turn the bottle the right way up, uncap it and fill your pen.  With larger nibbed pens, filling may be tricky depending on how far you need to insert the pen.  Some people seem to find this insert infuriating to use, but so far I haven’t found it too much of a chore.

What’s it like?

Oku-yama is pretty well saturated, although it does get a bit darker with multiple passes when swabbing it.  As I’ve already said, inks of this colour are off my normal radar, so I don’t have a huge back catalogue to compare it with.  Some internet research throws up names like Diamine Syrah, Montblanc Bordeaux and Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo as being close.  The only inks I have that come remotely close are from a mixed pack of Diamine cartridges.

As you can see, Diamine Claret is nothing like it.  Oxblood is not dissimilar but Oku-yama has more of a red tint to it.

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Oku-yama alongside Diamine Claret and Oxblood on Tomoe River paper

A bit of kitchen chromatography throws up an interesting mix of colours as you might expect for an ink like this.

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Oku-yama in action

I’ve tried this ink out in a Sheaffer Legacy Heritage (medium), a Noodler’s Ahab Flex (fine medium), a TWSBI Vac700 (fine and broad) and a Lamy Safari (1.1mm stub).  As I found with the Vac700, it’s a great ink for a demonstrator pen – the sort of colour you’d want to see and not hide away.

In terms of papers, I’ve used Oku-yama on Tomoe River, Clairefontaine, Life Noble, Rhodia and TWSBI paper.  One observation is that I think it looks better on cream-coloured papers compared to the white of Rhodia and standard-issue Clairefontaine.

It’s most definitely not waterproof, but it doesn’t make itself out to be so.  Dry times are reasonable – a little over 20 seconds on Clairefontaine paper with a broad nib in my Vac700.  Expect it to be longer on something like Tomoe River and allow for quicker drying times with a finer nib/dryer pen.  My non-scientific assessment is that I’ve used it quite extensively for journaling in an A5 notebook and not had any issues with the ink not being dry when it’s time to turn the page.

I’d describe Oku-yama as a “wet” ink, so although it performed well on these papers it won’t come as a surprise to learn that there was some show-through.  There was no bleed-through at all.  In fact the only real surprise was some feathering on Life Noble paper with the Sheaffer.  It’s the first time I’ve experienced feathering on this paper, but the Sheaffer bears more than a passing resemblance to a fire hose in terms of the amount of ink it puts down, so I can forgive that.

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Feathering on Life Noble paper

Aside from the gorgeous colour, Oku-yama has a reputation for two things – shading and sheen.  I found that it will shade without any need for encouragement.  Even with a relatively dry-writing pen like the Safari, I couldn’t have stopped this ink from shading if I’d wanted to.  Similarly, I found that Oku-yama shaded on all the papers I tried it on.IMG_20170526_220257

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Oku-yama on Clairefontaine (top) and Life Noble (bottom) paper

The Sheen, What About The Sheen?

As with a number of other Sailor inks, Oku-yama will produce sheen.  In this case it’s a green/gold sheen.  It will come as absolutely no surprise that the easiest paper to see sheen on is Tomoe River.

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Oku-yama ink splat on Tomoe River paper

It’s there, even with normal writing – you really don’t have to try very hard at all.  My photos don’t show it very well, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Sheen on Tomoe River paper

I also managed to get some sheen on Life Noble and TWSBI papers, but there’s clearly something in the surface finish of Rhodia and Clairefontaine papers that kills it off.

Summary

At the outset, I didn’t know what to expect from Sailor’s Oku-yama or what I would make of it.  In the end I kind of fell for it.  It’s not really a colour for work use, but it’s both cheery and complex and a joy to write with in most other situations.  I’ve used it quite a bit for journal keeping and I haven’t found it to be overpowering when used page after page.

As a measure of how much I like it, I’ve written the Sheaffer dry and am probably down to a fifth of a tank in the Vac700, which has a huge ink capacity.  I’ll certainly refill the Vac700 with it when it runs dry.

This one’s a keeper!

What’s in the bag?

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

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Pens

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

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

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

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

Notebooks

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

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

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

Pencils

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

Pencil case

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