Katherine: It’s been a busy month, and I haven’t spent as much time playing with pens as I would have hoped. I’ve found that for the last couple weeks, my constant companion has been a Parker 51 Special filled with Diamine Blue Orient. The Parker 51 (review to come!) sports black ishime stripes, courtesy of Bokumondoh. I love the feel of the ishime and the visual variance that it gives an otherwise kind of boring looking pen (sorry!). Diamine Blue Orient is a limited edition ink created for FPN Philippine’s 10 year anniversary — I assume it’s honoring the beautiful oceans surrounding the islands.
Pam: I have been on a bit of a vintage bender recently. Nik Pang introduced me to this understated brown Waterman that is a lever filler last month. I have also been finding out in my ink-splorations what brands of ink I prefer as I keep getting through all the samples. I inked up the Waterman with my favorite green, Montblanc Irish Green. The nib is akin to a Japanese F and writes beautifully. I chose a drier ink to highlight how fine the nib is.
On a side note, has any noticed inconsistent flows in heavily saturated inks? Or is that just me?
Franz: My pen for the month of March may be a vintage pen but it was a new acquisition from the LA pen show in February. My friend Jon S. knew about my apprehension about Sheaffer pens because most of the ones I come across are short and thin pens. So he showed me the Sheaffer 8C flat top pen which was from the 1920’s. And man, I loved it! He restored the pen himself and it’s in great condition as well. I’ve been using this pen at work almost everyday ever since I got it. The 8C fills my hand very well even when unposted so the bear paw is happy. =)
And of course I had to pair it with my favorite ink, the Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. Even if the nib is a fine width, it shows the ink color very very well. In some parts of the writing, some sheen comes through as well. There’s just something about turquoise inks that floats my boat.
Seems like the three of us have been writing with vintage pens lately. What pens have you been writing with?
Katherine: I love the Optima’s aesthetic. I love the flat ends, a taper, but overall it’s short and kind of stubby. And I love stubby pens. Additionally, Aurora makes it in a range of gorgeous materials — including the limited edition pictured here. I’m partial to the gold and green, but have yet to find one at a price I’m comfortable with.
Pam: I really love the Optima’s shape and size. Why you ask? Because, to me, the Aurora Optima 365 is a gaudier Sailor Progear with the use of a wider, more ostentatious cap band. I have hesitated in purchasing an Optima mostly due to the stock material used for the pen body and cap. This limited edition material for the Optima made me eat my words. It’s sooo pretty. The blues, teal and flecks of silver-white is pretty unique and fantastic.
Franz: Wow! That Azzurra is fantastic! Pam’s observation is correct that the Optima is similarly styled as the Sailor Pro Gear. However in the hand, the Optima is definitely larger and the section is longer. That Greek key cap band is quite nice to look at as well. I’ve observed that a lot of Italian pens use this design which is pretty cool especially on the vintage ones.
A Bit of History
The Aurora pen company was established in 1919 in Turin, Italy. Pretty cool to know that they are nearing their 100th year anniversary!
Just like what we learned about the 88 model in our review, the Aurora Optima model has been a part of their model lineup since the 1930’s. The vintage model had the same flat ends kind of style and the greek key cap band as well. The vintage Optima however had the same celluloid material for the whole pen unlike the modern one which has black cap finials, section, and piston knob. Also, the vintage Optima had a vacuum-filler instead of the piston-filler in the modern one.
The Optima that we know nowadays was redesigned in 1992. The Optima is offered in different colors, materials, and limited edition options. As long as you like the shape and style of the pen, there’s gonna be an Optima pen just for you. The Azzurra 365 is a limited edition of 365 units and Franz snagged one when it came out in 2017 from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith. As of March 2018, Dan still has a couple of these in his inventory.
The Business End
Katherine: I’ve been surprised by the Optima nibs I’ve tried — they’re somewhere between a Japanese and a Western nib. Plus they have a wonderful smidge of feedback, reminiscent to me of Sailor nibs. Now that I’ve typed this all out… the Optima nibs feel like a middle ground between a Sailor nib and a typical Western nib in terms of both line width and feedback vs smoothness.
Pam: I have been able to try both an Aurora Optima’s EF and F nib. I have found Aurora’s nibs to be very consistent in line width and feel. The EF is more similar to a Japanese EF. The F nib is more consistent with a Western EF. The nib is quite wet but then again, the ink itself is also quite wet. I really enjoyed the super smooth writing experience. Sheeny inks would really shine with this nib.
Franz: I really love the nib design of the Aurora Optima and the shape is a traditional fountain pen nib. Surprisingly, I didn’t ask for a medium/broad nib from Dan but a fine instead. I’m glad I did because the fine nib is definitely lovely to write with. As Katherine said, there is a pleasant feedback while writing that I like especially on smooth paper like my Rhodia meeting notebook. The 18-karat nib isn’t really flexy nor is it marketed as a flexible nib but with just a little pressure, it does give my signature a little flair.
Write It Up
Katherine: I haven’t measured, but this pen feels like a heavier Pro Gear. Maybe a little bigger? But if it is, not by much. I found it comfortable (and quite enjoyable) to write with for long periods of time.
Pam: It’s a comfortable size pen for a variety of hand sizes. For smaller hands, it would be worth it to post the pen. For smaller sized hands, unposted is slightly better balanced and comfortable. My thumb wraps around the step and threads of the pen, but I hardly notice them. The step and threads aren’t sharp and the step is minimal making for a wonderful “no imprints” writing experience in my iron fist grip.
Franz: Let me just say that writing in my journal with the Optima was such a joy. The Optima is quite light compared to my usual Pelikan M800 and I have not experienced any fatigue at all. Both modes posted and unposted were very comfortable for me. The cap posts deeply onto the barrel and doesn’t affect the balance at all. I’ve already mentioned this but what I really love about the Optima is the lengthy section since I do grip pens farther back than others as seen in the hand comparison photos above.
Katherine: A solid pen that works quite well as an EDC. And the cap takes 1.3 turns to uncap, which is pretty darn fast. I holds up quite comfortably to a life of being used to jot down quick meetings.
Pam: The pen is a great size capped. It should fit into a decent number of pockets. The clip is strong and tight. It should have no problem slipping in and out of shirt pockets. It took a bit more finagling for my white coat pockets with the thicker material. I kept it in my Sinclair case for a majority of my time with it.
Franz: I’ve been using the Optima at my workplace for a couple weeks now and it’s such a nice everyday carry pen. The ball clip fastens to my shirt pocket very securely and uncapping is fairly quick with less than one and a half turn. The fine nib was nice to use on the copier paper in the office too.
Something pretty cool with Aurora’s piston filled pens like the 88 and the Optima is their hidden ink reservoir. If you are running out of ink, just fully extend the piston down and a little bit more ink will be available to use hopefully until you get back home to refill your pen.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: All in all, I really like the Optima. I like the shape, the nibs are fantastic and they are made in beautiful materials. But, I find the MSRP quite high for the pen so I’ve been quite conflicted about purchasing one. As Pam mentioned earlier in the review, also remind me a lot the Pro Gears, though I don’t think the aesthetic is better or worse — just very different.
Pam: I really enjoyed my time with the pen. I enjoyed the nib more. This particular material is exceptional. I know the price of the Aurora Optima reflect the celluloid material used for the pen but that alone isn’t enough for me. That being said, if you can enjoy a beautiful modern celluloid pen with a fantastic nib, I would highly recommend the Aurora Optima.
Franz: I don’t have a lot of Italian pens in my collection but so far, Aurora has been winning my heart over. The Aurora Optima has been a pen model I’ve liked a lot and the 365 Azzurra pushed me to get one. For large-sized hands, I can definitely recommend the Optima and as mentioned earlier, there are lots of finishes that one can choose from. I think with the experience of the two ladies above, the Optima is also a good pen for small and medium sized hands as well. Plus, it’s a piston-filler which holds a lot of ink perfect for daily use.
A little food for thought to end this review, Optima is derived from the word optimus which stands for “Best”. Hmmm… is it the best pen ever? For me, the Optima has jumped into my Top 5 since I got it late last year. Not necessarily my Number One pen (Pelikan still FTW) but it’s up there. Now of course, best pens are very subjective! =)
This week my Midori 10th Anniversary notebooks arrived! In particular, I purchased a couple of the White Grid A5 notebooks. MD paper and A5 sides are well known quantities, the interesting about these (since I didn’t get the set) is the white 5mm grid.
The grid is pretty subtle — it’s fairly hard to see without the black backing sheet (comes with the notebook), but becomes more obvious in bright light, or very direct light since it’s lightly glossy (the lines, not the paper). I really like it — I can’t write in a straight line, but this grid is fairly easy to follow and really easy to ignore.
The big gotcha with this notebook is that the lines show through most ink — so in ink blots or wider nibs, you see white lines cutting through your ink. This doesn’t bother me, but I imagine it may bother some.
To conclude this mini review, I really like this notebook, but if the white lines bug you, you may not love it as much as I do (obviously). But, for my writing style — small and uneven, it’s perfect. I just wish I got one of the 10th Anniversary paper notebook covers.
EDIT: Adding this since I think the zoomed in photos above make the lines way more obvious than they are with normal writing.
Hello Friends! I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2018 Los Angeles International Pen Show that was held on February 15 thru 18. I actually try to make it to the LA pen show every year as kind of like a vacation for myself. Things I look forward to at a pen show: hanging out with pen-minded people, perusing thousands upon thousands of different pens, possibly buying a pen (or two) that I can’t go home without, seeing and visiting with old friends, creating new friends, and just having a fun time!
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Each year, the LA pen show is held at the Manhattan Beach Marriott Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California. This year, they’re in a transition period and changing their name to Westdrift but is still under the Marriott brand. The hotel was still undergoing construction during the pen show. There’s more to be said about that part but I’d rather just focus on the show which was all fun for me!
I arrived on Thursday afternoon just in time as the first day was wrapping up. I immediately checked in and went downstairs to the ballroom.
Walking around, I found a “few” pens that want to be bought! But since it was the first day and the first hour I was at the show, I decided to just take it easy and mull it over until the next day. Basically, if the pen isn’t sold yet then it’s mine. So I didn’t buy anything for myself for Thursday. We left the hotel for dinner with Pen Posse peeps as well as pen dealers from Italy, and Japan. We had great food from Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and Grill. We shared tapas, and pizzas but what we really went there for was the dessert. Salted Caramel Pudding. ‘Nuff said. =)
Back at the hotel, we all congregated to the hotel’s outdoor bar aptly called, “The Tent”. This is the time where pen people sit, relax, talk, and show off their pens.
One of the pen bloggers (code name: Pink Hair) arrived at The Tent and generously let everyone try out the new Wancher Dream Pen. I must say that it is a substantial pen that filled my paws well. I then did a quick comparison in size with a Pelikan M1000. Thank you Agent Pink Hair!
Friday, August 16, 2018
Good morning Los Angeles! It’s a beautiful day for a pen show! I woke up early-ish and got ready for the day. I went down around 8:30am and found that the show was already ongoing. Paid for my Trader Pass and I was on my way. Walked around and visited to say hello to friends (vendors and attendees).
I found the Straits Pen table with some Pelikan pens as well their table’s security detail.
Walked around more and saw the Professional Nib Expert, Mike Masuyama at his table working early. I signed up to get some nibwork done as well. Because of how late I signed up (9:00am), I wasn’t sure if I’ll make the cut for the end of the day. That’s how in demand this gentleman is.
Since Friday morning wasn’t too busy yet, I got the chance to do a Live Instagram video and got to show some of the pen show’s light action on Friday morning. I then uploaded to YouTube for others to watch. I was reading and answering live comments (that you don’t see anymore) so pardon my incoherency at times. Enjoy!
One of the pen dealers who I just met this year at the show was Letizia Iacopini from Italy. I have always heard of her name in the community and how she is an expert of Italian and other pens. She is also an author of several fountain pen books. Her most recent book was, “Parker in Italia: 1900-1960”. Her table at the show had exquisite pens from the vintage and modern era. Majority of her pens were Italian.
Then I turn around and walk 3 steps towards the table of Dayne Nix. He always brings in great vintage pens from different regions. As a side note, I met Dayne at the 2012 SF Pen Show and it was from him that I bought my first flex pen, a Parker Televisor and I still have it. Anyway, Dayne’s table display is fascinating especially his array of Conway Stewart Dinkie pens as well as his demonstration of how a rare Zerollo Dunhill Two Pen worked.
Perhaps one of the most curious pens I’ve seen from Dayne is this Zerollo/Dunhill Two Pen from the 1930s with a matchstick filler. Thank you for showing us this awesome pen Dayne! #onlyatpenshows
At the Armando Simoni Club (ASC) table, a couple large pens caught my eye.
I then walked out of the ballroom to check out the Vanness Pens team in the hallway and look at who I found! Mike Vanness and his awesome suit! He always wears colorful clothing.
In the corner were Lisa Vanness, Joey Feldman, and Ana Reinert. Joey was creating artwork for people who bought journals at the show.
FOOD TRIP: It was almost 11:00am and a few of the pen posse peeps congregated to go out for lunch. A quick-ish drive to Korea town for Magal B.B.Q.! It’s become a tradition for us mainly because of the magic tea they serve.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel for more pen show! It was actually energizing to step out of the show for a relaxed lunch. I need to do that more often.
I stumbled upon the Kenro table with all the Aurora pens on display.
Here’s a Pelikan basking in the sun as well.
Vintage Corner: My friend Janet showed me a Pelikan IBIS in Grey Marbled that Rick Propas was selling and also showed me her Green Marbled one. The Pelikan IBIS was a pen produced from the mid-1930s thru the early 1940s. You don’t see the IBIS often and this was actually my first time to see the marble colored ones. #onlyatpenshows
I then went back to the Vanness Pens table to buy some of their special edition LA Pen Show journals by Curnow Bookbinding with artwork by Joey Feldman. Joey was still there and he drew my Pen Show Persona on the back of the A5 journal I bought. This guy is phenomenal and do you notice what he named my sneakers as? Pelikan M800 FTW! Thanks Joey!
Afterwards, I went up to my room to unload my purchases and rest for a while.
As I went back down, I checked on the progress at Mike Masuyama’s table. As it happens, the “last” person Mike was gonna help was a vendor and did not have the pen with him at the moment and I was the lucky person next on the list. Ricky got to take a picture of me as Masuyamasan was tuning my M800 nib. Thanks Ricky!
Post Show Dinner: Every year, the SF Bay Pen Posse as well as friends from the SoCal contingent hold a dinner at the Tin Roof Bistro and Joi E. graciously organizes this with the restaurant. As seen on the menu, we call it, “Pen Posse: TRB Edition”. Thank you very much once again Joi!
For this meal, it’s all about the Brussel Sprouts! If you’ve had them at Tin Roof Bistro, you know this to be true.
Back at the hotel, it’s Pen Shows After Dark time!
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Woke up early once again to get ready for the show. I think I got to the ballroom at 7:50am (so early) and it was once again busy with activity. A quick side note, a week prior at a Pen Posse meetup, I joked that I wanted to walk around the show wearing a magnifier head gear to look like a legit pen guy. Friday morning, my friend Mike got me one of these and I committed to what I said. Interestingly enough, what started out as a funny gesture became a very useful tool while I was perusing pens. Sometimes you just can’t see the small print on nibs and barrels. So if you’re going to a pen show, I recommend having a lighted magnifier like a loupe, or this head gear. #pro-tip
After signing up again at Mike Masuyama’s table, I did my walk around and found myself at Paul Erano’s table. Paul is the Grand Poobah of the secret-not-so-secret Black Pen Society.
This year, I was fortunate to meet Jesi Coles at the show. She is one of the hosts of the B.Y.O.B. Pen Club Podcast and she also sells pens at shows or on her website. She is known for being a proprietor of vintage Esterbrook pens.
Suddenly, I saw 2 to 3 people doing a beeline from one side of the ballroom to the other. Apparently, a seller just brought out their trays of pens and a few pen buyers saw it from afar. #onlyatpenshows
Visited the Peyton Street Pens table and found some vintage Pilot Pens from the 1950s. Sent my friend photos and a message if interested, and boom! Pen show muling… done. OPM points!
Afterwards, I went up to the hotel’s mezzanine level to attend two seminars. This was my first time to sit in a seminar in LA. The first seminar was about writing books on pens by Mr. Andreas Lambrou. He described his process when he was starting to write his Fountain Pens of Japan book as well as the Fountain Pens of the World. I was so into his topic that I forgot to take a photo. The second seminar was about fantastic nibs by Mr. John Mottishaw. He was demonstrating how to tweak nibs to make it write a little better. He asked people to bring up pens that didn’t write quite right and showed them simple tricks to make it better.
After the seminars, we stepped out for brunch at the Shake Shack across the street from the hotel. First time to have their food and it was good!
After brunch, it’s back to the show and I got to stop at the Artus Pens table and chat with Maxim. Artus Pen always has beautiful art pens painted by Russian artists. Their lacquer work is phenomenal and the artwork is just stunning.
One of the usually busy tables at a pen show is the Franklin-Christoph team. I barely got to see them yesterday because of people being at their table so I took advantage of a slower moment on Saturday. I got to peruse their show prototype pens and saw a “few” that I liked.
Pens from Dale Beebe’s table. Pentooling.com
More Pelikan pens…
I saw Eric Sands of Atelier Lusso who was also at last year’s SF Pen Show. He is a pen maker and he does great work as well. The clips on most of his pens were fashioned by Eric himself.
Back at Mike Masuyama’s table, Mike called me over and I had him do an italic grind on one nib as well as tune a vintage Pilot pen. A friend of mine was listed before my turn but had to leave the show so he entrusted me with 2 of his pens for Mike to work on. I spent a little over an hour sitting and chatting with Mike and other pen friends who walk by. This is one of the best ways to spend a Saturday afternoon at the pen show.
After sitting with Mike, I walked around once again and just enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. We went to dinner just outside the hotel and came back to “The Tent” for more hanging out.
A friend of mine showed me her newly purchased Franklin-Christoph Model 65.
We were admiring different pens with my LED light panel then something happened. A certain brand of urushi lacquered pens kept on appearing under the light and we decided to take a family photo.
Called it a night and went to bed. Sunday is the busiest day and I am helping out at a table so I had to get some rest.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Last day of the pen show! Woke up around 6:30 to catch the sunrise. I swear, pen shows are the only time I sleep late, and wake up earlier than when I have to go to work. Pen Show Time Zone! =)
The show opens to the general public by 10:00am so the Trader Pass holders had 2 hours of last minute shopping before the crowd gets in. I took advantage to take a few photos before I had to work at a table so here are some photos as I walked around.
The PENguin Rick Propas‘ table had a lot of pens for sale and these were a few pens that caught my fancy. He is also a “fountain” of knowledge about pens and is always willing to share it.
The Wahl-Eversharp table was manned by Syd and Judi Saperstein
Pendemonium’s Sam and Frank were ready for the Sunday crowd
Bill Weakley’s table had beautiful discontinued Pelikan pens for sale.
The Andersons always brings paper, pen cases, pens, and inks to the shows.
Vintage Wahl-Eversharp pens found at table of The Write Shoppe
Not just fountain pens… Stabilo markers found at Carla M.’s table for kids attending the show.
Ray Walters from the United Kingdom was at the show as well.
Alright, 10:00am arrives and the crowd is let in. I didn’t get to take photos of the line this year but it was pretty long as usual. Having one public day at a pen show honestly causes the big rush. Sometimes people wish that public was allowed to get in on Saturday as well. Will that change? Maybe. Not sure. I hope so. Anyway, here are my shots of the ballroom while I was helping out at a table around 10:30 so the full force of people haven’t really cleared the line yet.
Around 1:00pm, the crowd let up a bit and I got a chance to walk around and do a live Instagram video once again. Enjoy!
And with that, 5:00pm arrived and the 2018 LA Pen Show was over. Helped a couple vendors pack up, and went to dinner to end a tiring but fun weekend.
Pen shows are definitely a fun event to attend. Being in the pen community forges friendships and pen shows are way for you to see your friends. It can never be said enough, if you are near a pen show or can afford to attend one, do it. You find out how a certain pen feels in your hand, you learn about different pens, you find pens you didn’t know existed, but more importantly, you meet people who are as enthusiastic as you are with stationery and pens. To these people, these aren’t just sticks that hold ink. =P
As I’ve said before, pen shows for me have evolved into a social event and honestly is what I treasure more than what pens I bought. To all my friends, it was great to see you as always and to all the new people I’ve met, Instagram people I’ve finally met in real life, hope to see you all more often as well. Until next year!
Thank you for your time in reading my report!
“Pen shows are about the people and the stories between each other. The pens start the story and the people get closer.”
Katherine: My pairing for this month is a Danitrio Hakkaku in some sort of red urushi (I’m guessing it’s aka-tamenuri, but I don’t know what Danitrio actually calls it) and Kyo-no-oto (06) Adzuki-iro. Clearly red because Valentines day and Chinese New Years! Not because I got a new ink and put it in a pen that matches…
I’ve had this Hakkaku for a little bit now, but I never found it a perfect ink pairing, but now I have and I’m really enjoying it. The Adzuki-iro is a wonderful dark red without too much orange or purple and it pairs wonderfully with the deep red Hakkaku’s urushi. I’m not Pam, so I don’t think I can declare this a “one true pairing,” but we’ll see if I keep these two together over time. (Maybe I’ll report back next year when red is the thematically appropriate color of the season again…)
Pam: I am not a fan of Valentines Day, but February does have alot to do with love and a great reminder to appreciate those that you love. Therefore, it would seem fitting that I show an appreciation for one of my favorite literary figures, Sherlock Holmes. I obtained the lined vintage celluloid pen from John Albert of Romulus pens and named it Sherlock in the process of designing the pen with him. The black and gray lines reminded me of the now infamous Belstaff coat that is donned by the most recent reincarnation of Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series. I searched for a while before I found my perfect pairing of ink. Montblanc Lavender Purple is very reminiscent of the purple scarf Cumberbatch-Sherlock is fond of wearing. As I told my fellow pen bloggers, I heart Cumberbatch-Sherlock as much as Katherine loves faceted pens. What better time of year to express my love in pen form than this month? Thanks John for such an amazing pen!
Franz: It’s a blue pen… shocking! =) It has been said before that February is the month of love and well, #iLoveBluePens! So for this month, I chose to ink up and feature this Parker Vacumatic Maxima in Azure Blue Pearl. According to the date code, this Vacumatic was made in the last quarter of 1941. I’ve seriously been getting deeper into the vintage pen realm and loving it. Honestly, any fountain pen lover must own at least one Parker Vacumatic. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the feel of it as well as the coolness of the vacuum pump filler. For about 15 years, Parker produced the Vacumatic in a handful of different sizes for almost every hand size. Having the bear-paw among the 3 of us, the Maxima (the largest) size fits my hand well even with the cap unposted.
Paired with this beautiful blue pen is the limited edition Montblanc Meisterstück Blue Hour/Twilight Blue ink. I love how the pen matches the blue color of the ink when you lay it down on paper and then as it dries, it changes to a blue-green color. I learned about this ink about 3 years ago from reading Azizah’s review on her site: Gourmet Pens-Montblanc Blue Hour.
So a cool blue pen, paired up with a cool blue ink. What else can I ask for? Oh, wait… more blue pens! ;-P
Katherine: This pen is adorable. But it does bug me a little that the end of the barrel isn’t black (I’m picky, I know). But oh, it is so cute. (Contrary to what Pam says, they’re still available on Rakuten)
Pam: CHIBI BUMBLEBEE SAILOR for the win!!! It’s a petite Progear that is small enough that the pen gets posted by screwing on the end of the pen. Sailor pocket pen are three words that send my heart swooning; great things come in small packages. Unfortunately, these are not being made anymore. They are available on the secondary market.
Franz: The Sailor Pro Gear Mini is so tiny and charming especially in this yellow finish! Pam calls it bumblebee and I can see that too but in my mind, I refer to it as a banana pen. I don’t know… it’s just something about that black cap finial that makes me think of one of my favorite fruits.
The Business End
Katherine: It’s the the same Sailor MF 14k as a Pro Gear Slim (it’s really just a Pro Gear Slim with a shorter barrel, after all) — and unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed it. It’s broad enough that I can see the color of the ink, but fine enough that I can stick to my usual tiny hand writing.
Pam: It’s a Sailor MF (medium-fine) nib. It’s in the great sweet spot of a slightly wetter/broader line that isn’t too wet. I would recommend putting in an ink that you want to show off. Perhaps an ink with some sheen. I don’t find as much feedback with this Sailor nib, which makes sense given that the MF nib is a bit broader.
Franz: The Mini’s medium-fine nib is very nice to write with. Just like most Sailor nibs I’ve tried, it was very smooth. The M-F line width is actually a good one for me as I find Sailor’s fine nibs just “a little” too thin of a line for me. The design on this nib is different from any other Sailor pen because this was a pen commissioned and sold by the Nagasawa Kobe stores in Japan.
Write It Up
Katherine: I found this pen usable, but slightly short when unposted. It’s one of the few pens that I prefer posted to unposted. Like the Kaweco Sport, when unposted, this pen makes my hand a bit tired after a while because it’s just barely long enough to fit in my hand and I have to be careful about how I position my hand. Posted though, it’s fantastic — like a slightly longer Pro Gear Slim!
Pam: The size of the pen posted is similar to the Sailor Progear Slim. The width of the pen is exactly that of the Sailor Progear Slim actually. They section and body are swappable amongst the Sailor Progear Slim and Mini. Other than the length, if you find the width of the Sailor Progear Slim comfortable, this pen won’t be a problem for you.
Franz: I wrote in my journal with the Mini only in the posted mode because it was quite difficult to write with the cap unposted. I found that the posted length made it a little more comfortable for me. The girth of the section was quite thin for me so I end up gripping the pen on the threads. They weren’t too sharp and I barely noticed them.
Katherine: It’s great for quick notes and pocket use. It’s tiny, brightly colored (and hard to lose…) and seems plenty durable, not that I threw it against a wall or anything.
Pam: I kept this pen with my Hobonichi A6 notebook cover and it kept up with my adventures in my bag. It’s really portable. It’s not the best for quick notes given that you have to screw the cap onto the body to post, However, if you have particularly petite hands and don’t need to post it, a which quick twist of 1.5 rotations, will get you writing pretty quick.
Franz: Ahh… every day carry. It is definitely a pen that fits in your pockets. The M-F nib is actually very appropriate for use on cheap copier papers as the line is thin and the ink spread is minimal. But I don’t think I can recommend this pen for large handed writers because after 2 or 3 words, it’s hard to write with the pen unposted. This is due to the pen falling into the crook of my hand and is uncomfortable. I’d need to post the cap and screw it onto the barrel which takes quite a bit of time if you are constantly needing to cap and uncap for quick usage. It takes almost 2 turns to uncap the pen and then another turn or two for posting the cap. Small hands? No problem as you can see from the two ladies’ experience.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: This pen is really cute — but between this and the Pro Gear Slim, I’d prefer the latter. It’s just a little more flexible and accommodating for my hand. But if short pens are your thing — this is definitely a great fit.
Pam: It’s a chibi Sailor for chibi hands. It’s a solid Sailor pen, albeit small. If you are into challenging yourself on how small of a pen you can comfortably write with (like Franz), this is a great pen to borrow from smaller hand friends. If you are looking for a great pocket pen and don’t mind the extra work posting, you will be rewarded with this Sailor.
Franz: I really like the Pro Gear Mini a lot, and want one for myself. But to be honest, this is more because of me just hoarding wanting the pen in my collection. As a journal, or letter writing pen, I’d use this pen again.
The Mini is a pen more suited for people with a small, or medium hand size. This is coming from a guy who uses his King of Pen Pro Gear a lot in the workplace and for daily use. As well as a guy who constantly annoys pen friends by singing, “I like big pens and I cannot lie…!”.
But one, including myself, cannot deny that the Sailor Pro Gear Mini is an adorable pen to behold. #ChibiPen
Sailor Professional Gear Comparisons (Left to right: Pro Gear Sapporo/Mini, Pro Gear Slim, Pro Gear Classic, and Pro Gear King of Pen)
We would like to thank Pen Chalet and Ron M. for sending us this Pilot Custom 912 as a review loaner pen. Pen Chalet has been a great company that sells pens and stationery items at competitive prices. They also frequently run promos for specially priced items as well as provide discount coupons. Check them out if you haven’t yet.
That being said, the opinions below are our own and we were not compensated (monetarily, or otherwise) for this review.
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: I like the way this pen looks. Flat ends, with some taper, and silver rhodium hardware. It’s nothing flashy, but I much prefer this look to cigar shaped pens.
Pam: This pen hits several check boxes for me in terms of aesthetics. Flat top, check. Rhodium trim, check. Non-garish clip, check. It’s perfectly understated and professional. Oh, what fun this pen hides!
Franz: A lot of Pilot pens have a simple look and this is one of them. The shape of the 912 reminds me of a Parker 75, a Lamy 2000, and maybe even a Sailor Pro Gear. A flat top pen with slight taper. And do you notice how the clip’s shape looks like a sword? The pen is mightier than the sword, right? =)
Here’s a quick informational tip. A lot of Pilot pens are assigned numbers as their model names. I’ve come to know that the first 2 numbers of the model name indicates the company year when the pen model was released. In the case of the Pilot Custom 912, it was released within the 91st year of the Namiki/Pilot company which was founded in 1918. So, 1918+91 years means the 912 was introduced in the year 2009. The last digit was/is the manufacturer suggested retail price for the pen in 10,000 Japanese Yen. So 2 x 10,000 = ¥20,000.
The Business End
Katherine: Ooooh the FA nib! This is the second #10 (the smaller size) FA nib I’ve used, and just like the other, it was a delight. I love the flex and softness of FA nibs — they don’t have quite the snap back that some vintage gold nibs have, but they’re plenty for my untrained hand and ultra reliable (see the EDC portion). The one caveat is that the stock feed with the 912/742 tends to have a hard time keeping up if you flex a lot. To solve this, I widened the feed channel on my FA nib (the 912 was a loaner, so I didn’t, but I made the modification to my 742) and rarely have rail roading problems. With the improved flow the 742 is a fantastic, fun writer.
Pam: The FA nib is really really fun. It’s one of the best softer/flexier modern nibs. It’s a great alternative to those who don’t want to tempt fate with vintage gold nibs or on a more modest budget. (If you are a newb like I am with vintage pens and find the idea daunting.) The nib can take quite a bit of pressure and allows for some generous line variation. Yes, the nib survived my writing pressure.
Franz: Pilot nibs in general are so good out of the box whether it be the steel nib of a Pilot Metropolitan, or the 14k gold nib of a Pilot Stargazer. The Pilot Custom 912 just follows suit and is a very smooth writing nib. The FA nib has that soft bounce and it was a pleasure writing with it. I don’t do much “flex” writing and the nib and feed kept up with my writing doodling. So it’s a great one for me!
Did you know that some of Pilot’s nibs are date stamped? You can barely see it in the photo below but this nib is stamped “315” which means the nib was manufactured in March of 2015. #justoneofthosethings =)
Write It Up
Katherine: This pen is plenty comfortable for me. It’s well balanced, not too thick and not too thin. The nib is also stiff enough that it’s easy to write with for pages on pages (versus some really soft nibs where super light pressure is a must) but soft enough that it’s easy to add some flair to my writing when I want to (or for whole pages at a time, if I must admit).
Pam: I am reminded of how reliable and wonderful Pilot pens each time I pick one up. It’s a pretty light pen, well balanced and had a good width. I can’t use my usual grip with this pen given how this nib performs, but even in the tripod grip, it’s a good comfortable section.
Franz: Comfy posted or unposted. Nuff said. Thanks. =) Yep, writing with the Custom 912 was such fun. Unposted, the length was sufficient and I was writing along fine. The cap posted deeply onto the barrel and didn’t change the balance very much but I appreciated the longer length.
Katherine: What really makes the Pilot FA nibbed pens stand out to me over vintage flex is how incredibly reliable they are. I carried this 912 in my backpack for a few days, and I never had a leak or found ink in the cap — it’s a durable pen that has all the conveniences of modern pens, but with a fun flexy nib.
Pam: This is a great pen for lettering in planners to add a pop or a flourish to your dailies or to do lists. The clip worked well in my Hobonichi A6 notebook. One of the perks of modern pens is that I know that it will perform well and consistently. It survives the transit in my daily bag without any issues. I didn’t really use this pen at work, but it’s a great companion for “planner time.”
Franz: I got to use the Custom 912 at work for about 3 days and found it to be a great pen for daily use. The clip secured the 912 on my shirt pocket nicely. Pilot supplies the 912 with a Con-70 ink converter and it holds a decent amount of ink.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: If I didn’t already have a 742, I’d be asking Pen Chalet how much they want for the pen so I’d never have to send it back. I really like it (and prefer the way it looks to the 742). But… alas, a girl cannot have every pen that catches her eye. Overall, the 912 is a comfortable, non flashy daily driver AND a fun pen for doodling and dabbling in calligraphy.
Now back to telling myself I don’t need a second FA nib. I don’t need a second FA nib.I don’t need a second FA nib.I don’t need a second FA nib. Ugh.
Pam: If you are looking for a modern “flex” nib or want to start practicing your hand letter/calligraphy from a consistent and reliable writer, I would highly recommend the 912. If you are a newb like me and just want to have the fun of a softer nib without delving too deep into your wallet or the vintage world, this is a great pen to start with. Granted, that being said, there is almost no alternative to a flexy vintage gold nib. One of the great things about fountain pens is that there is a pen to suit anyone. This pen hits a particular spot for me as the best of both worlds, soft nib with a reliable performance and good body. It’s a “happy writing” spot.
Franz: To state the obvious, I really liked the Pilot Custom 912. It has been on my list for a while now but I haven’t been able to acquire one. Reviewing this loaner from Pen Chalet could be the helpful nudge I’ve been needing.
Even if the term “solid” may be overused in reviews, I have to say it. The Pilot Custom 912 is a SOLID pen to use and recommend. It isn’t an inexpensive pen, but there is value in it. The nib is a great writer, the build seems durable, the threads are smooth, and the pen’s silhouette is beautiful. However, there is one caveat/drawback with the 912. As of this writing, the pen has only been offered in a black finish. For me, I love black pens and don’t mind the lack of options (would love to have a blue though). But knowing the awesome people in the pen community, a lot of pen folks want color options for the pens. So if the aesthetics of the 912 appeal to you, go get one and try it out!
Once again Ron, we appreciate your lending this Pilot Custom 912 for review!
Katherine: The grey frosty cap reminds me of dirty snow, and the dusty purple ink of cold winter nights… just kidding. I just really like this pairing, and the pen is new to me, so I’m really excited and using it a lot. I first saw this pen over a year and a half ago (on May 12th, 2016 — I don’t remember many dates, but I remember important ones!), in the pen case of a friend (who shall remain nameless), and I fell in love. I tried other pens in the meantime, a black FC 45 IPO (which we reviewed) and a Wonderpens Model 20 in the same “bronze” material… but it wasn’t quite the same. To me the combination of this smokey material and compact form factor (with a sprinkle of nostalgia) is magical. Don’t judge. Anyway, friend decided to buy some fancy urushi pen or something, and offered me this pen… and now it’s MINE.
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Wow, I’m dramatic tonight. Time to go to bed… Waiting wasn’t really that bitter. Just lots of scoping FC tables at shows and on IG.)
Pam: This has been one of the worst winters at work within recent memory for me. Between medication shortages and the flu vaccine being practically ineffective (twice I have gotten the flu… twice!), it has been an incredibly busy season at the hospital. Thus, my homage to this season is the Pilot Prera (in white) paired with Pelikan Turquoise. The Pilot Prera is a workhorse pen for me given that the F nib works wonderfully on office paper. Pelikan Turquoise a wonderfully vibrant ink that pops off the page of my rather dull reports at work. As people say, it’s the little things in life. Stay warm, healthy and safe this season everyone. (Please be patient with your local pharmacies and pharmacists as we troubleshoot the ridiculously long list of medication shortages.)
Franz: The first month of the new year is represented by a vintage Pelikan! Actually, this is my oldest Pelikan pen and it’s a Pelikan 400 in black-striped finish. This was actually one of the last pens I received in 2017 so it’s more of a recent acquisition. Upon my review, this 400 was manufactured around the year 1953 due to the lack of engraving on the cap band and the nib imprint without the Pelikan logo. The black stripes are between green translucent strips that let you see your ink level very subtly and I find it very captivating. It took me almost a year to find this pen at a reasonable price and be in decent condition. And having an oblique medium nib allows me to use it at work and for my journaling as well.
When I received the pen in December 2017, it took me three days to decide what to ink it up with… three days! I’m sure you fountain pen folk will understand. Anyway, I decided to ink it up with Pilot Blue Black which is very familiar to me and usable at work. Since Pilot Blue Black is water resistant, if not waterproof, it’s what I use at my workplace for documents to alternate with Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium.
It’s almost the end of January and I find myself placing this Pelikan 400 in my pocket on a daily basis and have just reinked it a couple days ago. Even if it’s smaller than what I prefer in pens, I just post the cap and write away. I do alternate it during the day with my Pelikan M805 with a medium cursive italic nib though, but that’s for another pairing post. =)
What favorite pen and ink combo have you been writing with for the month of January?
Katherine: I love the materials and finish of this pen. The warm, rich wood paired with a turquoise finial is a beautifully organic pairing! However, I think the pens proportions are a weeee bit off? The barrel looks a little too long to me. But, I do tend to prefer stubbier pens.
Pam: This is one big pen. Even for someone who loves the Pelikan M800 and the Sailor King of Pen. The craftsmanship on this pen is obvious. From the warm and super smooth finish of the wood, the subtly engraved Ryan Krusac logo, and the turquoise inset, you can see the care that has been put into this pen. It’s a work of art.
Franz: The Legend L-16 is quite impressive in the hand as it is the largest in Ryan Krusac’s Legend pen line. The L-16 denotes that the barrel’s diameter is 16mm and then another size is the L-14 which is 14mm. Ryan had also announced the L-15 size (15mm) but that is still unavailable at the time of this review. The Legend pen can either be ordered from his website or at any pen show that he attends. I happen to have snagged this Legend in Cocobolo from Ryan at the 2017 Atlanta Pen Show. The dark Cocobolo finish is complemented by the turquoise inlays on the cap and barrel.
Being a wood pen, the Legend gets warmer while writing as well as the ebonite section. I must mention that Ryan pays attention to details with each pen he creates. When you are writing with the Legend, the best looking grain of the wood faces you as you write and also, the cap and barrel aligns perfectly each time. Smart move to make it a single thread!
The Business End
Katherine: The pen fits a Jowo #6 nib. The nib on this one had a nice BCI, unlike many of Franz’s other BCIs, this one had a little bit of tooth. It’s unlike most of the Masuyama grinds I’ve used, but it was a perfectly usable nib with some character. Would borrow (from Franz) again!
Pam: It’s a great CI. I find the nib to be crisp and wet. It is pretty toothy, but I greatly appreciate the feedback. It makes for a unique writing experience. It did show off the sheen of Pelikan Turquoise fantastically.
Franz: When you buy a pen from Ryan, you have a choice of steel nibs or 18-karat gold nibs. I opted for a broad steel nib with the intention of having it ground by Mr. Mike Masuyama at the same pen show. Needless to say, the juicy broad nib was transformed into a crisp, juicy cursive italic. The broad nib can go through ink quite fast but the included standard international cartridge/converter does its job as it should. Also, I really love Ryan’s logo on the nib as it makes a “generic” Jowo nib match the pen.
Write It Up
Katherine: This pen is quite long for me… but surprisingly light. As a result, it’s a very comfortable pen for me to write with despite its size.
Pam: I am surprised how comfortable I found this pen. The length and width/girth of the pen is similar to the Sailor King of Pen. The Krusac is lighter for me. Due to the width of the pen, it’s quite comfortable to hold in the tripod grip. However, for those with the iron fist grip, the step and the threads are right below where I would place my thumb. No thread imprints for the win.
Franz: The Legend fits my hand very well and my journaling of about 15 minutes was very enjoyable. We may have taken a hand comparison photo of the pen with the cap posted but neither of us wrote in that mode. Reason being? I don’t believe this pen was made to be posted as the cap threads can mar the wood finish. Also, the cap only touches less than half an inch of the barrel which makes for a very long unwieldy pen, and the cap is unsecured and can wiggle off while writing. Unposted, this pen is plenty long even for my bear paw.
Katherine: The lack of a clip or rollstop makes this one a bit of a danger to EDC… I imagine it doesn’t do well when hitting the ground. (Don’t worry Franz, I didn’t test that!) Additionally, it takes a full three turns to uncap — so I found this pen was a suboptimal EDC. But a lovely home desk-living pen!
Pam: Honestly, it didn’t occur to me to try out the EDC-ness of this pen other than have it live in the Nock Sinclair. My hesitation was that it didn’t have a clip and I can’t imagine dropping this pen out of my coat pocket, especially since it’s not mine to drop. This is a “savor the journaling moment” pen where one would enjoy the finer things and slower moments in life. Keep it at the desk or in a case is my recommendation.
Franz: I do echo the ladies above that the Legend pen being clipless is a risk for ROFY. (Rolling-On-Floor-Yikes!) So I’m a bit more conscious when I am using this pen at work and avoid walking around with it. I do enjoy writing with it while I’m at my desk during a call or something else that doesn’t require me to move around.
And because the pen is single-threaded to maintain the cap and barrel alignment, the trade-off is taking 3 full turns to uncap for use. Not really the best for on-the-go purposes.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: If the proportions of this pen were a little bit different, I think this would be love. But, thankfully for my wallet, they’re not, and while it’s a nice pen, it’s not aesthetically balanced to me. Despite that though, it’s very usable even for my small hands — light and comfortable!
Pam: If you appreciate the craftsmanship and the beauty of natural materials like wood, I would highly recommend this pen to you. For many, it’s a worthy grail pen to covet. If this pen is too big for you, the good news is that Ryan Krusac has other sizes available! Be sure to check Ryan Krusac out at your nearest pen show to see what works best for you.
Franz: As I started my review above, the Legend L-16 is an impressive pen — size-wise as well as aesthetics-wise. Anyone who is interested in this pen must try it out and see if it’s for you. Ryan is currently based in Georgia so he will always be at the Atlanta pen show but he travels to several U.S. pen shows including the Los Angeles pen show, and the San Francisco pen show.
One of the best parts of buying a pen from Ryan is that you get a handmade pen sleeve by his two daughters, Zoe and Sylvia. They even have their own handmade brand, zoia.co. The grey and black pen sleeve pictured above was included when I got the Legend in Atlanta.
What else can I say about the Legend L-16? I like it… a lot! So much that when Cary (Fountain Pen Day), and Ryan collaborated on a pen to raise funds for Shawn Newton, I jumped on the opportunity to get the FPD Legend pen in the L-16 size as well. The limited edition pen is made with Gaboon Ebony wood (pictures below).
Hello! Franz here and I wanted to share a story about the two vintage pens above. From top to bottom they are: Parker 75 in Sterling Cicelé, and a Sheaffer Flat-Top in Jade Green celluloid.
December 9, 2017
On a Saturday while I was at work, a very good customer looked for me and astonished me. Let’s call him Dr. M, Jr. since he is a dentist. He said that he knew I liked fountain pens and showed me his father’s pens that he found at home. He asked me about them and I shared my little knowledge of vintage pens and told him that the silver one was a Parker 75 likely from the mid-’60s and the green one was a Sheaffer flat-top pen probably from the ’20s or ’30s. I told him that the Sheaffer’s cap and barrel were in beautiful condition and just needs a restoration of the internals. As for the Parker, the internals would just need cleaning from dried up ink and it would write like new.
Dr. M, Jr. shared that his father was a veterinarian and he always saw him with either of these pens clipped onto his shirt pocket just like I do when he sees me. He then said that he would be happy to give these pens to me. At first, I declined and said that these were his father’s pens and he should keep it. But Dr M, Jr. insisted that I be the one to keep them since I am more likely to use Dr. M Sr.’s pens. So I accepted his gift with a very wide smile on my face, and with a promise that these pens will be restored and be put to good use.
After Dr. M, Jr. left, I was so ecstatic and I immediately shared the story on the Facebook group of the San Francisco Bay Pen Posse. Below was my post and a lot of people responded with kind and heartwarming words.
Pen Condition and Characteristics
After doing some light research and examining the two pens , I found that the Sheaffer was probably made around 1938-1940 by looking at the imprint on the barrel and nib as well as the comb underside of the feed. The cap’s condition is almost pristine and the barrel is just a little darker. I think this darkening was caused by the rubber sac’s off-gassing thru the years but I could be wrong on that.
As for the Parker 75, even though I could not find a date code on the barrel, it was made around 1966-1968 due to the “flat tassies”, and the zero engraving on the section. The patina developed on the sterling silver is just uniform and beautiful. I would not dare polish the patina off the pen and keep its aged and used look.
December 10, 2017
So the next day, I attended the Pen Posse meetup and brought the two pens. As I walked in, Farmboy aka Todd, immediately told me that he won’t restore the Sheaffer and effectively no other pen posse member will restore it as well. He said that since the pen was given to me, no one else should restore the pen but me. That definitely makes sense since it will be a more meaningful repair. BUT… I was petrified because in my 5 years of being into fountain pens, I’ve never restored a pen before. I’ve never even seen one done nor even read a repair book. I was afraid that I might mess it up and break the section, or barrel, or whatever. Well, I accepted the challenge and told them I shall restore the Sheaffer next week under their supervision.
I immediately searched “sheaffer pen resaccing” on YouTube. Learned a few things but I knew the hardest part was getting the section off the barrel without breaking it. So all I really did during the week was soak the section in water to clear out the dried ink as much as possible.
December 17, 2017
Resaccing the Sheaffer
Fast forward a whole week and the day has come for me to face my fears. Gary, a pen posse member, guided me along the whole process and he actually brought most of his pen restoration tools. I first had to heat the section so that I can gently pull it off the barrel. This probably took the longest time and it’s the one part of the process that requires patience. Basically, enough heat will expand the barrel so you can slowly take out the section. Emphasis on “slowly” because you risk breaking the barrel due to excessive force if you rush it.
After some coaxing, the section finally came off and I had to clean out the old dried up sac from the section, and the barrel. There were bits of the sac that was onto the inside of the barrel that needed some encouragement with different scraping tools but it eventually cleaned off. The photo on the left below still shows the shellacked part of the sac still on the section and the photo on the right shows the cleaning of the section.
After cleaning both section and barrel, a new sac was measured and cut to fit. I’ve learned from Gary that it’s easier to have different sizes of rubber sacs and trial fit them into the barrel rather than looking for a specific size for each pen. Most of the process here was not documented though, so my apologies. After cutting the sac, I applied shellac on the section and slowly placed the sac. I applied more shellac over the seam to ensure there were no gaps and let it dry. After about 30 minutes, I applied some pure talc on the sac for lubrication, and inserted the section in the pen barrel with a snug fit. Et voila! The Sheaffer has been restored! I waited 24 hours before inking it up though.
Reconditioning the Parker 75
The Parker 75 was a straight-forward restoration in which I’ve done before. I just soaked the section and nib overnight in water to loosen up the dried up ink. Afterwards, I took the nib out from section and flushed water to continue clearing out the ink. The section of a Parker 75 seems to hold A LOT of ink but with just a little patience it eventually cleared out. The converter’s rubber sac had holes and needed to be replaced so my friend Nik P. graciously swapped a “newer” converter for the old one. The sacs on these vintage Parker converters are replaceable.
And that’s about it for the Parker 75!
Well, thank you for letting me share my proud pen story. It feels great when you restore your own pens but restoring gifted pens with a history definitely holds more meaning and gives the pen a more personal (to me) story. Thanks to Farmboy and the Pen Posse for the encouragement, Nik for the help, and special thanks to Gary for the guidance from start to finish!
I’ve been using these two pens since December and love them! I haven’t seen Dr. M, Jr. since I restored the pens but when I do, it will certainly be a proud moment.