Fountain Pen Review: Faber Castell Loom

The makings of this review have been hanging around for the best part of a year.  I even started a draft back in April of last year, but couldn’t find the right approach.  Fast forward 8 months or so and a comment on Rupert Arzeian’s excellent blog and I figure it’s time to have another go.  After something of a fallow period in terms of posts, I had to start somewhere.  So here it is, a review of the Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen.  Well, 2 of them, actually.

Overview

F-C Loom

Looming on the horizon after 8 months…

For a company with such a long history of making writing instruments, it’s always struck me that the design of a lot of Faber-Castell’s fountain pens is remarkably contemporary.  So it is with the Loom.  Its clean lines and distinctive shape make for an interesting starting point.  I’d admired the Loom for a while before I bought my first one.  Owning that one didn’t deter me and I’ve since bought a second.  My first Loom came in a matt silver finish, but these don’t seem to be very widely available any more.  The second came in a gloss silver finish, which I think looks more stylish.  There are also some options in a gunmetal finish, although these command a premium on price.

The Loom is quite widely available from the usual sources.  In UK pricing terms, the gunmetal version costs around £40, with the silver version coming in at around £30.

A Sense of Proportion

The Loom is not overly long, but looks stocky.  The constant diameter of the barrel coupled with the limited taper of the section make it feel quite chunky.  The photos below show some comparisons.

Pen size comparison

Capped size comparison.  L-R: Sailor Pro Gear Earth, Faber-Castell Loom, Faber-Castell Loom, Pelikan M400 White Tortoise, Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange, Platinum 3776 Kumpoo. (Polar bear not to scale)

Pen size comparison

Uncapped size comparison…

Some Details

If the Loom was a more high end pen, the barrel might be milled from a single rod of metal.  Instead, it comes as a plastic-lined cylinder with a concave plug at the end. It’s all well finished and it gets the job done, but it does look a little unusual.  The plug looks a little less attractive  on the matt version compared to the gloss.  Luckily the pen posts easily and without any negative effects on balance so you can at least cover this up whilst writing.

Once you’ve decided on finish, the only other option to consider is what colour you’d like the cap.  When I bought my orange one there was quite a wide range of colours, but this seems to have reduced over the past couple of years with more of a focus on muted and pastel shades.  Not as much fun, but there are still options.  The lack of threads is a bit of a giveaway – the cap is a snap on, rather than screw-on and it does so with a very satisfying ‘click’.  You’re left in absolutely no doubt when the Loom is safely capped.

Faber-Castell Loom cap detail

If the cap fits…

The cap is engraved with the company name and logo down one ‘side’ (relative to the clip).  There’s no separate finial, but the part of the clip where it fits into the cap is engraved with the Faber-Castell logo as well.  As seems to be the case with a number of Faber-Castell pens, the Loom’s clip is a fully-functional and substantial affair.

F-C Loom cap detail

Cap detail

The cap is slightly bulbous in shape.  From its widest point at mid-height, it tapers slightly towards the base and slightly more markedly towards its tip.  I find the profile easy on the eye, and when the pen is capped it breaks up what would otherwise be a very angular profile to the Loom.

I mentioned the contemporary look of several Faber-Castell fountain pens, and one area the company seems to have gone its own way on is in the design of the section.  On first reading, cylindrical and slightly tapered sounds pretty conventional, but I haven’t  come across a design quite like this before.  On both of my Looms, the finish of the section matches that of the barrel so there’s no concession there to promote grip.  There’s also a slightly disconcerting lack of any flaring to stop your fingers sliding off the end of the section and onto the nib.  The only feature to help keep your hand where it should be is a series of 5 rings that act as ridges to provide something to grip.

F-C Loom section

The section won’t be to everyone’s taste

This works perfectly well in terms of stopping the Loom from sliding out of your grasp.  Even so, I do find the section a bit ‘squirrely’.  It has a slight tendency to try and rotate in your grip.  That persists with use, but you do get used to it and everything settles down.  I wrote the first draft of this review by hand with the Loom (and in 1 sitting) and it was fine.  I don’t find that I have to grip the section any more tightly than normal and I haven’t experienced any noticeable fatigue as a result.

The Sharp End

I’ve spent a bit of time now highlighting some of the Loom’s quirks and (ahem) features, but it does have a trick up its metaphorical sleeve – the nib.

Faber-Castell has a reputation for high quality steel nibs, and the units I’ve got on my Looms are crackers.  The nib is a #5 in size and suits the proportions of the Loom well.  I think it’s the same as used in a number of other Faber-Castell pens, including the Ondoro and eMotion.  Absence of a breather hole and a stippled finish in the form of a chevron add to the attraction, but at the end of the day it’s the performance that counts.

 

F-C Loom nib

Nib details

Nib detail

The nib housing protrudes a bit from the section…

I have a fine and a broad nib and both have worked flawlessly out of the box.  Ink flow is good, even with drier inks.  Both nibs give feedback on a range of papers, but it’s not too intrusive.

Writing samples

The obligatory writing samples

The Loom takes either an international cartridge or converter, meaning there is a wide range of ink options available.  As a slight note of caution, I’ve found that not all international converters fit equally well, so a bit of trial and error might be needed if you’re thinking of re-purposing another brand of converter.

Conclusion

I can see the Faber-Castell Loom being a pen that divides opinions.  I’ve highlighted a number of ‘quirks’ in the design and execution of the Loom.  The overall design might not appeal to everyone.  Similarly the shape of the section won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  While none of them are likely to be killer blows in isolation, I could see how they might start to accumulate in the ‘deficit’ column of any evaluation of the Loom.

My take is that the overall design and feel of the pen, coupled with the quality of the nibs, make the Loom worth having.  To reject it on the grounds of some kind of cumulative scoring system would be rather harsh.

Don’t smash the Loom! (As Ned Ludd almost certainly didn’t say.)

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?

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.