It’s been been 3 and a half years since the last in-person Manila Pen Show, and it was totally worth the wait. As with 2019, there was no shortage of interesting pens, new & exclusive inks (even Sailor’s custom ink mixing!) and lots of fountain pen-adjacent goodies (notebook covers, storage, stamps etc). And of course, a chance to see friends and penable each other!
The MPS team (lead by the amazing Leigh Reyes) pulled in a fantastic set of vendors — there was a selection of local retailers & brands as well as a handful of popular international vendors (Singapore’s Aesthetic Bay and Musubi, Malaysia’s Pen Gallery, and Japan’s Toyooka Craft). And, as if that wasn’t enough, there was a room for nib work — with three options, JP and John from the Philippines, and Sunny from Singapore.
One of my favorite things about the Manila Pen Show (and the Philippine fountain pen community in general) is how many local brands & makers there are, and this show was a great display of that.
Of course, no pen show is complete without its exclusive ink — this year MPS worked with Diamine to create Diamine Suman. If you’re not familiar with suman, it’s a popular Philippine snack made with glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves. This ink is reminiscent of the dark green of banana leaves. Swatches are available on the MPS Instagram, here.
In addition to the show ink, there were also store exclusives from Pen Gallery, Sailor Ink Mixing and new inks from local brands TMKR, On Inks & Vinta. On.Inks is a new brand (I think?) and I’m excited to try the inks I got from them — including the two show exclusives, kare-kare and bagoong alamang (a delicious combo!). Vinta also launched a new ink at the show (to go with their exclusive Franklin Christoph) — Lilac Dawn [Simulan 2015].
There was a broad selection of pens, everything from vintage to Nakaya & AP. Upon arriving, I did a quick walk around the show then zoned in on a Nakaya at Aesthetic Bay (they brought over 50 to the show and were able to swap nibs and clips/rollstops!). After handing over a healthy wad of cash, I noticed that the Kasama table was set up. Their new release for the show was the Takipsilim (“twilight”) — a gorgeous cerakote finish over ultem. I picked a tala and I’m glad I got there early! They were sold out around lunch time on the first day.
MPS was also the launch for the Everything Calligraphy exclusive Franklin Christoph. We’re jokingly calling it the ube cheese model, but clearly I had food on the brain for the entire show! It’s a gorgeous, but hard to photograph translucent swirly and sparkly purple-gold in FC’s Model 31 shape. More information available here. If you’d like to order one, but aren’t in the Philippines, my understanding is that Everything Calligraphy does ship internationally, but I’d reach out to them to find out more.
Another one of my favorite local shops, Scribe, brought in Sailor’s own ink mixing master. Apparently this was the first time they’ve ever done this outside Japan — and his first international flight ever! Wow. I wasn’t able to sign up for a slot, but I tagged along and watched a friend do it. All conversation was done through a translator, and while he asked you for reference photos of the color you wanted, a lot of the conversation was also about what memories and feelings you were trying to capture, with little adjustments to the composition of your ink a along the way. Fun to watch, and I’d definitely sign up if I have the chance at a future show (or trip to Japan…)!
In addition to pens and inks, there were lots of accessories — one of the most unique was Marco‘s roll stops. He makes them sized for Kasama pens (I have a starfish and face-hugger from him) but he also does customs.
There were also three local leather brands selling notebook covers, cases and bags. I picked up two notebook covers from LeatherLibraryPh.
Going into the show, I planned to pick up a Kasama Takipsilim (top/rightmost), and preordered the Pengrafik Primary Manipulation Leonardo Momento Zero (left/bottommost). But when I got to the show I found that Aesthetic Bay had a couple of Nakaya’s in Toki-iro, so I couldn’t pass that up. On day 2 of the show I spent a bit more time at the Kasama table and fell in love with the anodized section, it doesn’t show well in the photo above, but it reminds me of waves, and the beige PEEK, of sand.
All in all, I had a great time at this year’s Manila Pen Show — in terms of vendor count, it’s much smaller than the SF Show (my home show!) but it makes up for that with a wide variety of vendors and plenty of local brands and fun show exclusives (especially the inks!). In addition to buying stuff, there’s a good selection of workshops (I didn’t attend any since I wasn’t sure about my schedule) and the show volunteers are all super friendly and helpful. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, and maybe too much for some of our wallets.
More photos here, official Manila Pen Show IG here. The 2024 Manila Pen Show will be held on March 16-17, 2024.
As some of you know, I spent some of my formative years in Manila — so I was really excited to be home for the Manila Pen Show. (In reality I was home for some family reasons, but the timing was perfect!) I didn’t stay at the show hotel, but before the show opened, I had breakfast with friends at the hotel. They had a nice selection of local and international breakfast options, and Philippine mangos, but only if you ask for them.
First stop was, of course, Kasama! I own three Kasama pens and was excited to see what they had to offer. I had heard that they were taking sign ups for custom orders where you could pick your materials — I made sure to get on that list!
They had a tray of samples so that people could check out materials. Those pens weren’t for sale though. Similarly the first image in this post is a Kasama owned by Leigh — engraved with the Philippine sun. How cool!
They also had their newest model to try (above, in my hand) and for sale (acrylic and aluminum, below).
They had a selection of pens for sale too — some with Stormtrooper roll stops, and several with metal sections and kamagong (a local hardwood) barrels.
Next up was Troublemaker Inks — where you could pay for ink by the ml if you brought your own container! Neat. I picked up vials of those four inks, as well as bottles of a couple others.
Ink, ink, ink! Pierre Cardin attended from Hong Kong — and had quite a selection of inks! (And pens, but tbh I just focused on the inks)
There were also a few folks doing nib work — here is John, who I took home a lovely CI from.
And JP, another regular presence in the Philippine pen community — known for both nib work and pen restoration.
And, of course, you may have guessed from the background of John’s photo — Ralph! (Visiting his motherland, I guess). Spotted here with Dan comparing the smells of Shibui leather cases.
Speaking of cases — I picked up two from ShibuiPH, one in their show exclusive, and another in green leather. Review to come!
There were also a few other case sellers — pictured below are cases from local Filipino fabrics, and Pen Gallery (from Malaysia) had some in batik.
Walking around a bit more… I found the Aesthetic Bay table, which had a lovely selection of Nakaya — all offered at a small discount. Oh my.
The Curious Artisan was also in attendance, with accessories, nib holders, and…
some really cool vintage typewriters. Apparently there had been a CURSIVE typewriter the day before. I didn’t even know that was a thing.
Straits Pen from Singapore was also in attendance — with Mr Sunny Koh doing nib work, and quite a selection of pens & inks. Pictured here are FWI pens from Taiwan, but they had so much more too!
And of course, no show would be complete without some vintage pens…
And a boat load of exclusive inks. More on that below, but these two are both Diamine exclusives to Pen Gallery.
And now… for my haul. Oddly, I bought zero pens. But, I did get two of the Manila Show exclusive inks: Diamine Arkipelago, and TMKR Adarna. I also bought a nifty wooden boxcutter from Pierre Cardin, two cases from Shibui, a bunch more ink (mostly from TMKR) and a FWI Baby Dragon pen from Straits.
I did, sadly (due to arriving on Sunday, when the show started on Saturday), miss the Pierre Cardin Manila Sunset ink as well as the other TMKR show exclusive.
No new pens aside (don’t worry — I’m on the Kasama list), I had a great time and it was great to see friends and make new ones (and match so many names from Facebook and Instagram to real people!).
The Philippine Department of Tourism has been running the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” for several years, and I can enthusiastically say that it’s definitely true for pen shows, as hokey as that sounds. The Philippine Fountain Pen community is so vibrant — I’m excited to see how the MPS grows and changes in the years to come. It’s a fantastically run show (complete with totebags & pins for the first 200 attendees each day) with a wide variety of vendors (I definitely wasn’t able to list them all here, this isn’t even half) and a really amazing raffle (Sunday had 20+ prizes, including a Sailor Pro Gear Slim Supernova AND a Kasama prototype).
I thought Melon Tea would be tastier than it is… But I guess at the end of the day, it’s just ink. It is a nice brown though, not too red — it leans a little green/grey. (But hey, aren’t dogs colorblind? Why are you asking me…)
It flows well in different pens, and has no issues with flexing — I had it in my Pilot FA for a few weeks and it kept up well and had no flow issues. Like most inks, it does smudge after drying.
I really like the color though — it feels different from most of the brown inks I’ve tried. Many of the brown inks I’ve seen and used have tended toward rich golden browns or red browns, whereas Melon Tea tilts toward the cooler green/grey type of browns which feels much more organic to me.
Disclaimer: No dogs were harmed in the making of this review. He didn’t actually lick the ink, and his paws were washed well after being used for the paw prints. He also got lots of treats for his cooperation for this review.
Disclaimer: Katherine has published a partial review — but not all of Franz’s reviews are complete. If you have small hands, we hope this review will be helpful anyway & Franz will catch up when he has time! (But life comes first, sorry!)
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: The Lamy Nexx ain’t my thing. It looks like a cheap disposable pen to me… and while it’s relatively cheap for this “hobby”, I think most of the “uninitiated” would still think $10+ (depending on the source) is pretty steep for the pen. But… I guess if you think of it as a cute school pen, maaaaaybe?
Pam: The Lamy Nexx holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the first pens I owned and the first German nib I used at the start of my journey down the pen rabbit hole. I was drawn to the price, quality of the nib that you hear so much about as a newbie, and the bright color of the design. I found the design to be relatively “cute” by Lamy standards. It’s eye catching and a reliable writer. Not a bad combination for a newbie’s pen.
Franz: This pen has an interesting shape and silhouette! I like how the Nexx tapers from the cap to the barrel. And that bright green cap just pops.
Roz: At first glance, the Lamy Nexx looks so different compared to the Aion and 2000! The shape and colors are cute and fun; the pen itself is also very light compared to its more serious looking siblings. I am, however, a little nervous about the Nexx’s triangular body and grip.
The Business End
Katherine: I found the Lamy Nexx a little too smooth, as I tend to do with Lamys. If smooth and wet is your thing, this pen may be a fit — but I prefer a bit more tooth and character to my nibs.
Pam: I do enjoy the Lamy Nexx has the same nib as the Lamy Safari. I find the “larger” nib sizes like the M and B are super smooth. The EF can provide minimal feedback but not typically. The Lamy ink can seem to run a bit dry and boring, particularly the blue or blue-black from my recollection which does make a marked difference in writing experience with cheaper office paper. The EF nib doesn’t seem to glide as well with drier inks whereas the M nib is effortless.
Franz: The nib on the Nexx is
Roz: As always, I’m starting to notice, Lamy’s nibs are amazing. I was concerned the triangular grip would dictate too much the angle I wrote at, and impact the ink flow as a result – but I was worried for nothing! It doesn’t matter at what angle I wrote, the ink is always consistent and there is little to no scratchiness.
Write It Up
Katherine: Overall, it’s a pretty comfy pen. The rubberized triangular grip fit my hand well, and I had no issues writing with it for long stretches.
Pam: I have no issues with triangular grip and found it be comfortable for long writing session. It was a pleasurable experience and the bright color was a bit of a welcome distraction for me. I preferred to write with this pen capped, like the good ol’ days. I liked the extra weight as little as it was. It was an overall light pen. That being said, the plastic isn’t very impressive to write home about. I felt the other plastic pen from Lamy, the Safari has a much better feel for the body.
Roz: This is where I expected the triangular grip to really impact my writing experience. But the grip – combined with how light the Nexx is – was not as intrusive as I thought it would be. Posted or unposted, the Nexx was comfortable to work with and left almost no impression – even after long writing sessions.
Katherine: It’s a great EDC pen if you don’t mind your coworkers thinking you’re using a kid’s pen. It’s cheap, seems very durable (I didn’t throw it at anything, but it looks like it would hold up) and it’s easy to spot in a crowded backpack.
Pam: I really enjoyed using it at work because the snap cap was so convenient to use. The older version of the pen had a loop on the cap that allowed for it be tied into a lanyard for fast deployment. This iteration doesn’t have that feature which isn’t much of a loss given the lack of practicality. I prefer the clip which seems a bit flimsy.
Roz: I kept the Nexx with my planner mostly and it did very well in my Hobonichi’s pen loops. I carry my planner with me every day and I’m not gentle on it either! I throw it in to my backpack, rummage around for it when I have a moment to brain dump or work on it whenever I have time at the office or on the train – so it really mattered to have a pen paired with my planner that could keep up with all that which the Nexx did with flying colors.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: It’s a solid writer, and if the cap wasn’t so bulbous I’d consider giving these as gifts to friends and family who are new to the world of fountain pens. However, instead I worry that they’ll think I got them a disposable pen and I’ll stick to an Eco, Metro or maybe even a Safari (my least favorite of the three).
Pam: I really like the Lamy Nexx for nostalgic reasons. However, there are better priced options for starter pens. If you are looking for brightly colored, almost cute pen, with a well functioning Safari nib for the youth in you or in your life, the Lamy Nexx isn’t a bad choice. Alternatively, if you want a finer line and something comparable, I would choose the Pilot Kakuno instead.
Roz: I think it’s safe to say I am solidly a Lamy fan girl. Between the Lamy 2000, Aion, and now the Nexx, I have truly enjoyed being able to try them all. The Nexx seems to have found a great role to fill within the Lamy line; it’s light and fun, and even at the end of this review the Nexx is sitting in my line of sight and I still want to pick it up and write with it!
Pen Photos (click to enlarge)
We received this pen free of charge for the purposes of this review. We were not compensated monetarily for our review. Everything you’ve read here is our own opinions.
Hello, it’s Katherine again. In my LA Pen Show Recap I promised I’d do an overview of my haul… so here it is! As I mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be a US show quite like LA for urushi hunting — so, as you can probably guess, I picked up some of that. But, I also picked up a handful of inexpensive flex nibs and a vintage Italian pen.
I’ve put the urushi pens toward the bottom of the post, but a quick warning — there is some, uh, artistic nudity (carved into a pen) further on down. If this ain’t your thing, please skip this post!
I had a lot of luck hunting for flex among dealer’s cheaper trays and even the pens for parts. The first three pens in the photo were all from the same dealer, but I did pass up quite a few other “cheap” flex pens where I wasn’t excited by the exterior. I chose to take these ones home because I thought that, in addition to fun nibs, they looked neat.
Unfortunately, they all have fairly small nibs (part of what makes them inexpensive) so none of them fit a #5 nib unit. Some may fit a Kaweco Sport, but I don’t have a spare Sport to try them with.
While we’re on the topic of fun nibs — I bought this ridiculous 1.9mm Parker 51 stub from Greg Minuskin on Saturday. Just when I thought I was done buying, I realized he had a couple of these fatties left, so one came home with me. I’ve shown it here with the already-juicy factory stub as a point of comparison.
Mine installed with no issues, but I have heard that the hood may need to be filed a bit to accommodate for the enormous tipping — so if you do get one, go slow and carefully when installing! If you tighten the hood and it pushes the tipping, you’re at risk of breaking the tipping off. Oh no!
My one Italian pen for the show — an Electa in Grey (or Platinum) Arco. The pen has some cosmetic damage (see the smudge marks on the barrel right below the cap?) but I’m confident I can buff most of it out. Additionally, the pen sports a semi-flex nib. I love the nibs on vintage Italian pens!
(And ignore the yellow markings, they’ll rub off — I just haven’t gotten around to do it. I think it’s Letizia’s system for keeping track of her pens)
In addition to the barrel damage there is crazing on the end of the blind cap. Did you know that Arco pens could craze? I didn’t either — but now I’ve got proof. Letizia and I noticed the crazing as I was fiddling around with the pen, and she was horrified — the price went down and she included a solid black blind cap so I didn’t have to use (or keep) the damaged one. I chose to keep it, but I won’t store the pen with it.
If you’re unfamiliar with “crazing”, there’s plenty of helpful reading on the web, I found this article particularly helpful. And this one, specific to pens. The TLDR is that celluloid is unstable, and can break down over time. Some celluloids are known to do it, and for some it’s less common. It’s common with certain Wahl Dorics, and the Omas Royal Blue pens are known to do it (first they turn a gorgeous shade of purple, then pink… then disintegrate). This is the first time I’ve seen Arco craze, but apparently it’s not unheard of. Womp.
Bring on the urushi! I joked that there weren’t enough women at pen shows… so I bought some.
All three are carved urushi, with motifs of women in various stages of bathing (and nudity). I’d never seen pens like this, and another vintage dealer suggested that they were likely made after the war, as souvenirs for GIs. All three sport steel nibs and fill via a Japanese eye dropper system. They likely weren’t expensive pens based on the nibs and quality of the carving.
And the rest of my urushi haul. The top (left) three pens are from unknown makers — the first two involve gold and lacquer of some sort. The third may be urushi, and may not be — the dealer I bought it from, Lawrence Prenton, thinks it’s urushi, but it’s so even that I’m not 100% sure. Either way, it has a very nice red glow. The bottom/rightmost pen is likely a ban-ei pen based on the nib.
Ban-ei pens usually weren’t signed, but the nib bears the imprint that identifies it as a “GK” nib. There’s much more to read about Ban-ei & the nib maker (master?) Kabutogi Ginjiro, but that’s a rabbit hole all on it’s own. I own two other pens with nibs by him — but this is the first one I’m comfortable using daily, the other two are more elaborate kamakura-bori pens that I have a tendency to baby.
All the vintage urushi pens are Japanese eyedroppers (like most that are sold) none of them are restored except the black Ban-Ei. If you’re not familiar with Japanese eyedroppers, the mechanism is similar to the Opus 88, where there’s a seal at the back of the pen and a rod that shuts off flow when the blind cap is tightened. The big downside to these pens, as gorgeous as they are, is that very few people restore the mechanisms once the seal goes bad. To my knowledge, no US repairer takes them on — and the only restorer I know of who does it is based in Europe and doesn’t take pens from the US because of customs dues. That said, some people do the repair themselves at home (such was the case with the Ban-Ei), but if buying a pen that’s restorable is key for you — these likely don’t fit the bill.
And, that’s it folks! Did you find what you were looking for at the LA Pen Show?
In August 2018, the Taccia Pen Company released their ink line and currently consists of 13 colors. These inks are manufactured in Japan by the Nakabayashi Co., Ltd. At the 2018 San Francisco Pen Show, Taccia brought the full line and had some bottles for sale. A lot of the show attendees definitely checked them out, HOTP crew included.
For full disclosure purposes, we purchased the Sora and Murasaki bottles with our own funds and the bottle of Ebi was graciously provided to us free of charge by Ms. Shu-Jen Lin of Taccia. Thank you Shu-Jen!
With that, the opinions in this review are always of our own and we were not compensated monetarily for our review.
Katherine: I found these inks very well behaved and pretty. I particularly love Ebi, though I thought ebi means shrimp… and this seems like an awfully maroon/purple leaning shrimp. Either way, shrimp are delicious and the ink is a beautiful purple-maroon-pink. The inks aren’t waterproof, but do have some water resistance, you have to do some repeated wiping (or maybe soaking?) to get them off paper. I haven’t tested this extensively, but I’d be comfortable using this on envelopes when it’s raining (unlike some inks that just waaaaash cleanly off).
Pam: I am a big fan of the Taccia inks. All three colors are well behaved and easy to clean. No real staining of the hands! I really appreciate the range of colors. My favorite was the Murasaki, the cool purple color. It’s closer to a purple with blue undertones. It is similar to the Colorverse Hayabusa which I greatly enjoyed previously. It does have more shading than the more saturated Hayabusa and doesn’t have the gold sheen. It’s such a well behaved ink and preformed well in all of my pens, although I would recommend at least a Japanese F nib to show off this ink’s color. Broader nibs will show off the shading better.
Franz: My favorite of the three inks in review is the Murasaki. The color is in between violet and lilac which provides a feeling of royalty. Or perhaps it’s just me.
To concur with the ladies above, these Taccia inks are great inks to use and very easy to clean out of pens. Their wetness is at a medium level and has great flow. Both the Ebi and Murasaki demonstrated high level of saturation even with a fine nib. As for the Sora, it maintained its low-to-medium saturation even with a triple broad nib. With the dip nib/flex writing, both the Ebi and Murasaki caused feathering on Rhodia 80 gsm and Tomoe River 52 gsm papers. The Sora did not feather at all.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to see this new ink brand perform so well. I do recommend these inks for every day use and with the 13 colors, I’m inclined to say that there’s at least one for you.
This was my first time attending the LA Pen Show. I’d heard a lot about it (good and bad) and was excited to make the trip. I flew in on Thursday morning, and upon arriving the show hotel, was immediately looking through vendors trays and binders — a great Thursday morning!
Then we drove to Magal for Korean BBQ. To be honest, this was a big part of why I made the trip, I’d heard so much about it after every LA show… and it lived up to the hype. Would eat again. (But this isn’t a food blog, so let’s move on…)
Pen-wise, I went into the show focused on vintage urushi, I don’t see a lot of it in the US, and even at the SF Show, there historically hasn’t been a lot. There are a couple of vendors who only go to LA — so I came to them.
And they did not disappoint. Above is a tray of vintage maki-e, but those weren’t even their “high end” pens.
I was severely tempted by this beautiful maki-e cuttlefish. It’s a 1920s hard rubber Japanese eyedropper with modern maki-e, done by a third generation artist. I’ll post a video to Instagram one of these days.
This is maki-e on a Platinum 3776, it wasn’t for sale, but look at how cute it is! The owner of the pen says that it was done for a pen club in Japan.
This pressed celluloid dragon was also pretty cool — I ultimately didn’t purchase it though. (Self control or something)
And, before I move on to non Japanese pens, look at this Pilot White Stripe Myu! I’m told the price was on the high side, but nonetheless it sold quickly. I was excited just to see one.
In addition to Japanese pens, there was also Japanese ebonite! I picked up a couple rods for a friend who turns pens. The ebonite was sold by Eboya, who also had their own pens on display — beautiful and simple Japanese ebonite pens.
And no show is complete without the stunning materials (not for sale) and pens of Classic Pens.
And binders of loose nibs! It’s always fun digging through these. Also, a lot of the vintage vendors had some very reasonably priced flex nibs if you were willing to dig.
And some crazy pens. This one was made by Twiss (I think) — a custom ebonite body around a Sheaffer Triumph nib. I love the look of Triumph nibs, so this was a seriously tempting custom pen…
A neat Wahl slider — apparently this was the last generation of sliders. And, speaking of interesting nibs —
A Montblanc quadruple broad. Wow. I forgot to take a picture of my writing sample, but it’s wider than most of my highlighters. Super cool though I do wonder what people do with this nib other than show it off.
And, as expected, there were trays and binders of pens everywhere. I don’t see much LeBoeuf or Chilton online, but there were quite a few at the show.
And this crazy tray of custom pens by Rossi, Twiss and maybe some other artists. Wow.
I had a chance to meet Pierre of Desiderata Pens and tried out his pens — very nice! And look at that mechanism, I loved how the pieces aren’t made out of boring black materials.
I’m not a kid, but the Pen Collectors of America ran a scavenger hunt for kids — with adorable shark pens! I also (finally) signed up to be a member of the PCA, and picked up my last year’s worth of issues. It made for great reading on the way home, especially the chart on what to look for when shopping for Waterman pens, including size ranges and prices.
I was also lucky enough to get grinds from both Masuyama (left) and Gena. Gena is new to the show circuit — she used to do many of the inhouse grinds at nibs.com, but has recently branched out on her own. Review to come!
And here’s a friend trying to photograph the “super sharp” italic Masuyama put onto a Vanishing Point. He suggested that we try cutting paper with the edge of the nib.
Speaking of friends… I got to meet so many internet pen-friends! It’s always great putting faces to names, and going to a show other than SF means there’s a whole new set of folks to meet!
And some people who you don’t get to make friends with, but are awesome anyway.
All in all, I had a great time — it was my first time traveling for a pen show, and I’d definitely do it again. LA has a very strong vintage pen community, and an unparalleled selection of vintage Japanese pens. However, as many others have said, it isn’t the smoothest show logistically.
Here’s the view from the Straits Pen table (where I was helping out) at 9:45am on Sunday, before the show opened to the public:
And here it is about 30 minutes after opening.
Sunday was packed — there was barely space to walk through the aisles for a few hours, and a handful of thefts were reported. I don’t imagine any vendor can keep an eye on all the pens on their table. For next year, I’ll likely attend the LA Show again, but totally skip Sunday if the schedule and fee structure stays the same.
My wallet barely survived, but I had a great time. I saw a huge variety of pens, ate some great food, hung out with friends new and old and even bought a few pens.
P.S. Another post to come on my haul. Pictures still need to be taken.
Hello! It’s Katherine, and no surprise, I’ve bought another faceted pen…
The PenBBS 380 is (I think? I’m not an expert) one of their newer models — it’s a sleek, aluminum pen that comes in silver and black* (which is anodized), with gold or silver color trim. As soon as I saw this show up on Instagram, I knew I wanted one — I’m a fiend for facets, and at PenBBS’s usual price range, how could I say no? My 380 ended up stuck in customs for a week (thanks to the government shut down, I guess?) — but was otherwise shipped super promptly and made it to me in 2 weeks total, despite me not paying for expedited shipping.
Shipped, the pen cost me $38 from Etsy, but the pen seems to be in an out of stock and more expensive on eBay. It’s a great deal — a solid pen and the nib is smooth and wet, though on the broad side (I’d compare it to a Platinum Broad or a Pelikan Medium). It’s smooth enough that most people would probably consider it glassy, but it’s not the nails-on-chalkboard smoothness I hate with some nibs (ahem, Lamy) but a much more pleasant velvety feeling.
The build quality is solid, but there are little bits to the fit and finish that giveaway the pen’s cheapness — the beveling on the end of the barrel isn’t centered (some corners are more beveled than others, and you can see how it’s off center) and the top of the cap isn’t beveled at all. However, what’s most obvious is that the corners on the clip are really sharp. I’m pretty sure you could snag a sweater or scratch yourself with them (except it’s a clip, so it doesn’t stick out a lot, so that’s not too big of a worry). I ended up sanding mine down slightly with a nail buffer.
The design is very reminiscent of the Nakaya Decapod Twist — so I’ve chosen to show them side by side. The two are almost identical in hand, even down to the flare of the sections, though the facets do twist in opposite directions. The biggest difference (aside from the nibs, more on that later) is that the 380 is heavier — inked up, the decapod twist (just the body, no cap) is 16 grams, the 380 is 21. In hand, the aluminum is cool, and the weight is comfortable. Urushi, in contrast warms to your hand and almost has an organic softness (roundness?) that is all it’s own.
As for the nibs, the 380’s nib is perfectly decent, though a bit broad for me out of the box. If PenBBS made more sizes available, or you were to get the pen ground down (even then, the pen would be $700+ cheaper than it’s urushi counterpart) it could be a fantastic writer. Or… maybe you just love broads.
Here’s an obligatory hand picture. For comparison, a picture of my hand with a Decapod Twist is here.
All in all, if you love facets like me, the PenBBS 380 is a great buy. My only gripe is that the clip edges are so sharp and metal in general is hard enough that I’m not comfortable putting this pen side by side with my other pens without a barrier of some sort. (Yes, I usually let my pens touch.)
* A last note on the black finish, a friend has one and has dropped his — it seems that the finish is pretty permanent, I was worried it would chip off or show where the pen gets damaged, and he reports that that wasn’t the case!
Let’s start this year off right and do a giveaway! The folks over at Goldspot Pens provided us with an Opus 88 Koloro fountain pen to review last year… click here for review just in case you missed it. We wanted to do a giveaway a while back. Things happen… people forget… and well, that’s all in the past now!
It’s a New Year Giveaway y’all! Who’s ready?!! Many, many thanks again to Goldspot Pens for providing this pen!