Review: Lamy Nexx (Lime, Fine Nib)

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.

In the Hand: Lamy Nexx (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, Pam, and Roz
In the Hand: Lamy Nexx (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, Pam, and Roz

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.

Writing sample on a 68 gsm cream Tomoe River paper (Hippo Noto)

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.

Franz:

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.

EDC-ness

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.

Franz:

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.

Franz:

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 Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: Franklin-Christoph Model 20, Pilot Vanishing Point, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Go, *Lamy Nexx*, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000, and Pelikan M805
Posted pens from left to right: Franklin-Christoph Model 20, Pilot Vanishing Point, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Go, *Lamy Nexx*, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000, and Pelikan M805
Unposted pens from left to right: Franklin-Christoph Model 20, Pilot Vanishing Point, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Go, *Lamy Nexx*, Lamy Safari, Lamy 2000, and Pelikan M805

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.

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2019 New Year Pen Giveaway!

A happy and prosperous 2019 everybody!

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!

To Enter:

  1. Follow us on Instagram, @handoverthatpen, and/or Facebook,
    Hand Over That Pen, and tag a friend to share this giveaway. or —
  2. Comment on this blog with your stationery related resolutions for 2019, if you have none, just let us know what pen and ink you’re currently writing with.

Other Details:

  • This giveaway will be open for entries from now, 01/09/2019 until 01/15/2019, 11:59pm Pacific Time.
  • Winner will be drawn and announced shortly within the month of January.
  • Each person can potentially have 3 entries for this giveaway. Only one entry per person in each platform please.
  • This giveaway is open internationally, however we are not responsible for any taxes, customs fees or duties that may be applied, and will be shipping without tracking due to cost.
137 Comments

Review: Benu Essence (Mint Ice, Fine Nib)

We thank Lisa and Mike Vanness of Vanness Incorporated for lending us this Benu Pen Essence fountain pen for review. The Vanness family has had a pen shop in Little Rock, Arkansas since 1938 and is celebrating 80 years of being in business. Check their store out if you can or they could also be attending a pen show near you.

The opinions in this review are always our own and we were not compensated (monetarily or otherwise) for this review.

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: Aesthetically, this pen is not my jam… but I do know some people who love it. So, to each their own. But, robin’s egg blue and glitter aside — it’s a well finished pen that feels sturdy in hand.

Pam:  This pen is “rich” in decor and chunks of glitter which borders on obscene in my more minimalist preferences/opinions. However, to those who find this aesthetic pleasing, it is definitely an eye catching and bold pen.

Franz: The Benu Essence is surely tugging on my color palette for I love the minty, turquoisey tone! Sans the glitter/ice part though for it makes it a bit garish. I really like the swirly bits of color in the acrylic. The Essence’s torpedo shape is plain which balances the material’s garishness.

 

In the Hand: Benu Essence (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

In the Hand: Benu Essence (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

The Business End

Katherine: Like the other Benu pens, this one sports a Schmidt nib. It’s a well behaved nib that puts ink to paper just fine, but doesn’t have a lot of character. It would be a great candidate for a grind or a swap with something more interesting (like the Benu Chameleon, this one is also a loaner, so no experimental nib swaps for me…).

Pam:  I really have no complaints or major compliments about the Schmidt nib.  It’s a fully functional, works well out of the box, and not very memorable nib. Aesthetically, the nib to be a bit small relative to the rest of the pen.  Currently, it’s a #5 sized nib, which makes me wonder if a #6 nib would be more balanced.

Franz: The Benu’s fine nib wrote well out of the box and I enjoyed using it for my daily writing. It was pretty smooth and with Pilot Iroshizuku Syo-ro, the flow was moderate to generous.

Contrary to Pam’s thoughts, I feel that the current nib complements the shape of the pen and tapers with the section. I placed a #6 Schmidt nib beside the Essence and it became somewhat too small. However, I do wish that Benu could stamp their name/logo onto their nibs. I know it’s an aesthetic thing but I always prefer the nib branding to match my pen.

Franz’s writing sample on a 80 gsm Rhodia grid paper

 

Write It Up

Katherine: I found the pen comfortable in hand for long periods of time — the section is a smidge small for me, but still perfectly usable. I had no issues with this pen for either journaling or writing quick notes.

Pam:  The section and the step are right at the “sweet” spot of the tender bit between thumb and pointer finger.  The step wasn’t particularly sharp, but it wasn’t comfortable if I tightened my grip like I inevitably do during a long writing session.  The pen was balanced closer to the nib end and comfortable for a longer writing session.  I appreciate the added girth of the pen, so it might be pretty comfortable for someone with larger hands (if it wasn’t for the length.)

Franz: The length of the Essence was quite comfortable for me even unposted. I feel that the balance is better when the cap is posted so I wrote with this pen posted for a while. The cap is definitely secure and the grooves on the back of the pen helps it so. When the cap was not aligned to the grooves, it still posted but it wasn’t as stable.

 

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: It’s a small-ish pen that fits easily in a pocket. Additionally the clip felt strong and I didn’t hesitate to clip it to my skirt pocket for the day. My one hesitation is that it’s so glittery that I didn’t think customers might take me seriously if I used it in a meeting… but that’s true of a lot of pens, even my beloved raden and maki-e pens. So, coworkers’ raised eyebrows aside, I’d give this a thumbs up as an EDC.

Pam:  Due to this pen being a loaner pen, I didn’t have it in my lab coat pocket.  And like Katherine, looking young with a blingy pen only adds to an image akin to Doogie Howser sans medical degree.

The clip was strong and was snug within my pen case.

Franz: The Essence was a great pen to use on the daily. I used it at work and the clip secured the pen in my shirt pocket. I appreciate that I don’t need to post the cap to be use it comfortably for a longer period.

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: To buy or not to buy? In the end it comes down to the aesthetic. Like the Benu Chameleon we reviewed a few months ago, it’s a solid pen, it all comes down to aesthetics, if you love it, you won’t be disappointed.

Pam:  The pen is a serviceable pen for those who appreciate the aesthetic.  My reception of the pen is lukewarm, but I see those who appreciate the over the top decor of the pen to enjoy this writing instrument.

Franz: The Benu pen company create pens that stand out from others. The acrylic designs catch your attention and then their different pen shapes will intrigue you. The Essence collection is probably one of the more conservatively shaped pens in their lineup and is great to use.

In the beginning, I was apprehensive when I saw the taper of the Essence’s section. I was worried that it may be too small for my larger hand, but I ended up really liking the pen. The pen has a good medium to large size to it that I appreciate very much.

Once again, thanks to the Vanness Incorporated team especially to Lisa Vanness for lending us this Benu pen. We really appreciate your support!

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, Taccia Spectrum, Platinum 3776, *Benu Essence*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, Taccia Spectrum, Platinum 3776, *Benu Essence*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, Taccia Spectrum, Platinum 3776, *Benu Essence*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

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2018 San Francisco Pen Show Quick Recap: Pay-It-Forward Table & Pen Dash Mixer

Hello pen friends and folk! Franz here, and I’m writing a quick recap to highlight two great things that happened at the 2018 San Francisco Pen Show this past weekend of August 24 thru 26. That would be the Pay-It-Forward Project Table, and the Pen Dash Mixer hosted by Lisa Vanness.

There were lots of events that happened at the show that I will definitely include in my lengthier annual SF Pen Show Report. But I really wanted to highlight these two before my pen show report comes out in the next couple of weeks.

Before anything else, I would like to thank the  San Francisco Pen Show organizers for allowing the Pay-It-Forward table, as well as the Pen Dash Mixer to happen at the show this year. And also for continuing to have a bigger, and “funner” pen show each year!

 

Pay-It-Forward Project

This was the second year that the Pay-It-Forward (PIF) table made an appearance at the SF Pen Show. Even if we were not able to do a blog post, or even a social media post asking for physical and monetary donations, a LOT of generous people have donated to the table this year. Actually, some friends who weren’t even at the show and some out-of-state messaged me for a shipping address and sent oodles and oodles of pens, ink samples, and other stationery items. To all of you who have donated, you know who you are. A VERY BIG THANK YOU from myself, the Pay-It-Forward Project team, and the San Francisco Pen Show!!!

We are happy to report that we have given out 100 PIF Starter Kits (pen, ink sample, and paper) to beginners. And more than 60 donated pens were given away via the Give a Pen, Take a Pen initiative. It is definitely heartwarming to see smiles of excited newbies when they realize that they can choose a pen for free and learn from our volunteers. Makes it all worth the effort to Pay It Forward.

Now I’d be remiss if I did not mention this. The PIF table was staffed by a number of volunteers this year and I would like to give a shout-out of thanks to all that helped out this year. Thank you Sarah M., Carrie H., Andy D., Pam T., Tommy S., and Jim K.! If I missed anyone else who volunteered, please accept my sincere apologies. And last but not the least, a big thank you Kimberly L. for being my co-host of the PIF table this year. She did a lot of things to help prep for the PIF table at this show! And the PIF photos are by Kimberly as well.

If you want to find out more information, or donate either items or funds, please check out www.stationerypif.com for details. You can also check the schedule for the next pen show a PIF table might appear! Thank you for making this community of ours a fun and caring one!

 

 

Pen Dash Mixer

Last year’s SF Pen Show was the first time Lisa Vanness and company tried to have the Pen Dash and ever since then, they hosted it at different pen shows. This year, we had to make sure that this event continued at The Fun Pen Show. So the Pen Dash happened on Saturday at 5:30pm and it was a great success!

Wait, what is a Pen Dash you may ask! In a nutshell, it’s an effort to create a way for people in the community to interact with each other. But more importantly, to learn from selected table leaders or as I called them, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The participants will stay at the table and listen to the SMEs talk about their topic and then after a certain amount of time, the participants then change tables. So it’s kind of Speed Dating except that there is no anxiety and lots of learning.

We had 13 tables separated between 3 rooms and each table had a SME to talk about a certain topic. Topics ranged from vintage and modern pens, pen customization, Japanese urushi pens, paper types, bookbinding, nib styles, creating art pieces, etc. In a span of 10-15 minutes, the SMEs will talk about their topics and answer any questions. After each time frame, the participants switched to another table to learn from another SME. The participants stayed in their respective groups within the room so each person had an equal opportunity to learn from a leader.

At the Pen Dash, we had a little over 100 participants at different ages and different levels of involvement in the stationery community. At the end of the mixer, Lisa took a chair and gave closing remarks in each room and some prizes were given away! Here’s a quick video showing some prize winners!

 

On behalf of Lisa Vanness and myself, Franz Dimson, we would like to thank Ana Reinert, Pam Tien, Claire Rice, and other Pen Posse volunteers for helping to make this Pen Dash a success!

And we are giving a huge shout-out of appreciation to all the table leaders/SMEs who volunteered their time, knowledge, and effort:

Bob Atkins

Tom Baley

Jesi Coles

Steve Curnow

Paul Erano

Dan Hoizner

Susan Ito

Daryl Lim

Teri Morris

Leigh Reyes

Ralph Reyes

Mike Vanness

Ms. A. or @colors_and_beads on Instagram

 

 

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Ink Review: Robert Oster Pacific Ocean Teal: 2018 SF Pen Show Exclusive Signature Ink

 

We are very thankful to have received a bottle of this Pacific Ocean Teal ink from the San Francisco Pen Show group for review. They have commissioned Robert Oster Signature Inks in Australia to create an exclusive ink for the 2018 San Francisco International Pen Show to commemorate their Fifth Anniversary. They wanted a nice teal that shades and Robert Oster delivered!

The Pacific Ocean Teal ink bottles will be on sale at the pen show happening this weekend, Friday August 24 until Sunday August 26. We are told that supplies are limited so act fast! They will be sold near the show’s registration desk in the foyer area of the Pullman SF Bay Hotel in Redwood City, California.

For more information and details of the San Francisco Pen Show, check their website at: www.sfpenshow.com.

Paper: Tomoe River, 52 gsm

Paper: Tomoe River Dot Grid, 68 gsm (Hippo Noto Notebook)

 

Inky Dispositions

Katherine: It’s pretty! 😀 I prefer it in drier nibs (as pictured below) where it’s lighter and shows more shading. In  wet nibs it just looks black. Overall it seems well behaved, and maybe a touch on the wet side. And oddly hard to photograph!

 

Franz: Teal, this color is in the realm of my favorite color which is blue. I say that like nobody knows it. hehe.. Anyway, inks made by Robert Oster are always well-behaved and are a treat to write with. This Pacific Ocean Teal is no exception. I’ve used the ink in different pens and they all wrote well consistently. My writing samples shown below were made via a Pelikan M800 because of the full range of nibs but I actually used a medium nibbed Vanishing Point at work with this ink and it was great as well.

The color of this ink is very close to what you find when you do an internet search for teal and that’s pretty cool. This ink may be at the medium to high in wetness for me but the dry-time isn’t too long. Some folks look for sheen and it’s there but not too much. It does show up in broad nibs or in flex writing if people really want that. But what I really like with this ink? It’s the shading for sure. You can use an extra fine nib up to even a triple broad nib and the shading is there!

Overall, I really love this ink! I don’t have many teal inks because my taste in ink color seems to lean more towards the blue side but this color is a fantastic one. I hope to get a bottle (or two) for myself at the show.

Paper: Tomoe River, 52 gsm (Musubi Diary)

Paper: Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted B5, 80 gsm

Paper: Rhodia Graph No. 16, 80 gsm

 

Pam:  I had my reservations when I heard that the SF anniversary ink would be “teal.”  Not another blue ink!  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s. definitely within the blue family.  It has the warmth and clarity of color that I loved about Iroshizuku Tsuya-kusa.  The color reminds of Pelikan Turquoise.  Albeit, it’s lighter than Turquoise and capable of some shading.  I didn’t detect sheen when I have been using it.

The ink is well behaved in my book, producing lines that are as expected.  It may lean wet, but only by a smidge.  It runs really well through EF and F nibs, which is greatly appreciated.  I don’t see a loss in color or saturation unless I am using in a really dry nib like my architect.

Overall, I would recommend this ink.  It’s a beautiful color, reminiscent of the ocean blue waters surround our Golden Gate.  I can see it being very dynamic for a calligrapher or any that experiment with a dip nib.  The shading would be pretty great with this ink.  Yet, it’s still readable, pleasing to the eye and can be used on a regular basis for your flair of “blue” in the office.

 

Ink Circles and Comparisons

Paper: Rhodia Graph No. 16, 80 gsm

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Pen Review: Faber-Castell Ondoro (Orange, F Nib)

 

In this review, we are once again joined by our friend, Roz. She’s volunteered to be our left-handed reviewer and we love having her back. Especially when she brings us cupcakes. Thanks again Roz!

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: I have a thing for faceted pens, and this is no exception. I love the chunky, stubby look of the Ondoro paired with clean faceted lines. I really want a white Ondoro… but they appear to be discontinued, so for now I have an orange one. I like the bright playful orange and the contrast with the chrome cap. The bright orange paired with the chunky look reminds me of those big grip pencils that little kids get.

Pam:  The Ondoro’s unique design and eye catching color did make me curious to pick one up.  I am glad that Katherine ultimately decided to get one.  The shape of the barrel reminds me of an oversized pencil.  I mean, a fountain pen is an adulting pencil right?  The chrome barrel is a great cherry on top to this design in my opinion.

Franz: Stout! That’s one word I’d describe the Ondoro. Its shortness in length is balanced by the girth of the barrel and cap though. The hexagonal facets make this pen interesting and different from others. The shiny cap is cool looking but is a fingerprint magnet for sure.

Roz: Wow, my eyes! The Ondoro is definitely an attention getter. The bright orange with shiny silver cap, I’m awake and excited to experience this pen. I’m still not sure about my opinions on facets – but I feel like a pen of this size benefits from the facets breaking up the amount of solid colors there would be otherwise.

In the Hand: Faber-Castell Ondoro (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, Pam, and Roz

In the Hand: Faber-Castell Ondoro (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, Pam, and Roz

Cap and Barrel ends.

 

The Business End

Katherine: This was my first experience with a Faber Castell nib. I like the nib and it’s pleasant to write with, but nothing particularly notable. It’s a western fine with a nice balance in wetness — wet enough to be comfortable for writing, but dry enough to see lots of shading with the right inks. The feedback on the nib is a smidge feedbacky — which I really like. Hurray for nibs that aren’t super smooth and “buttery”.

Pam:  I do really enjoy the Faber Castell nib.  It’s a pleasant nib to write with and does somewhat remind me of a pencil in terms of feedback.  It’s not super smooth, but the feedback isn’t distracting either. The nib performed well and had more feedback on Midori paper than Tomoe River paper in my opinion.  The nib is a good balance between dry and wet.  It’s dry enough for a decent consistent line, however, you also get to enjoy the ink color you have put into the Ondoro.  I would prefer a more saturated ink in this instance given that I shading inks make my handwriting look messier, especially if it’s beyond a couple of sentences.

Franz: Aesthetically, the smaller nib size (#5?) looks good on this pen. I also love the design of dots with chevron shape. As for nib performance, the fine nib has a bit more feedbacl tha I refer. But I am the medium/broad nib kinda guy so not a biggie for me. It did write with a consistent ink flow though.

Roz: The nib was a bit scratchy for me at first, it took me a while to find a good angle – but I did find it! Once I got my angle down, the nib was pretty easy to write with. Additionally, the nib made a sound while writing that I really liked.

 

Write It Up

Katherine: I was initially hesitant about this pen (why I never bought a white one) because of the narrowed section. However, it’s surprisingly comfortable, but does force me to hold my pen slightly further back than I usually do (probably more like a normal person). I use the pen unposted and it’s well balanced and pleasant to write with for extended periods.

Pam:  The short section was a bit of a concern for my dinky iron grip initially, however, I had no reasons to worry.  The smooth transition from body to section meant that the entire pen is one big grip for me!  The angles on the pen is soft enough that no corner actually bites into my hand and the section being tapered doesn’t detract from my capacity to grip the pen.  I do get sweaty hands so there are times that I have to reposition a bit.  Surprisingly, slippage was relatively minimal.  That’s more my hand sweat problem and less about that pen.

Franz: Okay… writing with the Ondoro for 20 minutes, I’ve come up with some issues. Probably it’s just specific to me but I didn’t find the Ondoro comfortable to write with either posted or unposted. Posted, the cap definitely makes it unbalanced and top heavy. I seemed to have to exert some force to counterweight the cap to put the nib to paper. Unposted, the length is barely enough for my usual higher grip. With the Ondoro’s pinched/concave section, I needed to grip it higher because of the smaller diameter of the section.

Now here comes the probably just specific to me part and you as a reader shouldn’t worry too much about. Gripping the Ondoro higher above the section wasn’t comfortable for me either because my usual writing angle causes my fingers to land on the edges and not on the flat side of the facets. This bothered me a bit and when I adjust my grip to the flat sides of the facet, either the writing angle felt weird to me, or one of the nib’s tines was not hitting the paper optimally and caused me to feel scratchiness or more feedback. Again, this is possibly just me.

Roz: My grip tends to move around a lot when I write; so having to keep to a narrower range of angles, I really expected my hand to tire quickly. But I didn’t! The girth of the pen kept my hand from cramping up and the grip dipped in such a way that it really helped with my writing fatigue. Writing with the Ondoro unposted was a bit unbalanced for me. While I preferred to write posted, the cap does add a good amount of weight to be wielded.

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: It’s a snap cap! Hurray! My only complaint with this pen as an EDC is that the snap isn’t satisfying — it doesn’t have that clean click that makes me think “now my pen is capped”. I’m not sure if all Ondoros are like this, or if it’s because this one came to me used. That being said, I’ve never had it uncap itself, so it seems pretty secure and my gripes about an unsatisfying snap are purely aesthetic. (Does the word “aesthetic” still apply to how satisfying something is to hear and feel?)

Pam: I love a good snap cap!  I makes me so happy that it’s so quick and easy to deploy at work.  The snap does leave a bit to be desired in terms of “aesthetics”, but on the flip side, it’s a quiet snap cap action so it’s not going to announce to the world that your capping and uncapping your pen.   The clip worked pretty well in my white coat pocket, nothing crazy notable in terms of tightness or looseness when it came down to it snagging on the fabric.

Franz: Echoing the ladies here, snap cap FTW. =) It definitely is a good pen for on-the-go, quick notes kind of writing. And the fine nib performed very well with copier paper found in our office.

Roz: I kept the Ondoro snugly in my Nock case during transport. I don’t get to write a ton during my work day, so it was really fun to bust this pen out for random thoughts, meeting notes, and quick breakdowns.

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: I like this pen! At $150 MSRP, I think it’s a little steep for a steel nib, but it has a unique look and often shows up slightly discounted. It’s a solid pen with a solid nib that makes a great sturdy EDC.

Pam: I honestly really like the Faber Castell Ondoro.  It’s a great pen for those who enjoy faceted pens, an industrial aesthetic, and a snap cap.  The nib is a great bonus. With the different colors available, it’s a great statement pen for those looking for a good pizazz in their pockets.

Franz: Here’s another plus one for liking the Ondoro’s aesthetics and its faceted disposition. I love the nib’s looks and performance, and that orange is very pleasing. I have stated (with some length) how I feel about writing with the pen for a longer period of time and I’m thankful that I got to try it without buying one. I’ve concluded that because of my larger paw, and kinda picky writing angle, this pen isn’t really for me. And that means I won’t steal… er… borrow the pen for a long time from Katherine. =)

Roz: Overall, the Faber Castell Ondoro was an interesting one for me to try out. Without a doubt the Ondoro is a pen that makes a statement, but in the end I think it was too much pen for me. And I’m still not sure about my opinion on facets!

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Pilot Custom 823, Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Faber Castell Ondoro*, Edison Beaumont, Lamy Safari, and Pelikan M805

Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Pilot Custom 823, Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Faber Castell Ondoro*, Edison Beaumont, Lamy Safari, and Pelikan M805

Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Pilot Custom 823, Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Faber Castell Ondoro*, Edison Beaumont, Lamy Safari, and Pelikan M805

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

5 Comments

Review: Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20 (Brooks EPW, 14k Fine Cursive Italic)

In this review, we are once again joined by our friend, Roz. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this pen Roz!

For this post, we are reviewing a color prototype finish of Franklin-Christoph’s Pocket 20 model. This pen was acquired at the 2016 San Francisco Pen Show and seems to be one of the first pens they made with the EPW (Emerald, Purple, White) acrylic created by Mr. Jonathon Brooks. These EPW and other Brooks acrylics are seemingly used by Franklin-Christoph to produce different models in a small batch fashion and is usually only sold at pen shows when available.

As mentioned before, we primarily produce reviews to reflect our different hand sized perspectives. We thank you for your continued readership!

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: The Pocket 20 is so cute! And this material is gorgeous. Overall, I prefer the look of its longer sibling, the Model 20, but the P20, especially in a nifty material like this is quite nice too. My one gripe, as with the Model 20 is that the engraved lines are a little weird to me — I’d prefer this pen if it didn’t have those and was just a smooth cylinder. But, the busier material on this pen does a good job of hiding them.

Pam: The material on this pen is outstanding. It has a lot of color, depth and patterning.  I believe that the material is from the now famed Jonathon Brooks.  His “blanks” are breathtaking.  The shape doesn’t take away from the material and really let you see it in all it’s glory.  I really enjoy the Pocket 20 for its unique shape and portability.

Franz: That Pocket 20 is small! It definitely is a “pocket” pen. I honestly love F-C’s bevel designs on their cap and barrel and the Pocket 20’s silhouette shows them very well. The carved rings leading to the beveled edges are just so cool.

As for the pen’s EPW acrylic finish? What else can I say that the ladies haven’t mentioned yet? A fabulous shimmery nebula? I have to admit, I frequently caught myself admiring the beautiful finish and at times distracted me from my writing time. Hehehe… =)

Roz: I have to say, as someone who shies away from the shiny and glittery, the Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20 does a pretty good job balancing a subtle glimmer while still having distinct flecks of shine in its pen. It’s more a galaxy sparkle versus a disco ball.

In the Hand: Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20 (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, Pam, and Roz

In the Hand: Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20 (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, Pam, and Roz

 

The Business End

Katherine: I love the F-C Masuyama FCIs. And this one was no different. A wonderful balance between smoothness and line variation — this is the nib that first got me thinking about line variation and how much fun it could be. Everyone should try this nib at least once.

Pam:  I am really partial to cursive italics for their crisp line variation.  The fine cursive italic is a well tuned nib with the right amount of ink on paper.  I agree with Katherine that this nib is worth trying for yourself, particularly with a gold nib.  I am a firm believer in steel nibs (particularly in my newly dubbed “tiger grip”) however, this is an example in which having a “springier” material is beneficial to the line created and the writing experience.

Franz: I must mention that recessed nib/section designs float my boat. The Pocket 20 and its bigger brother, Model 20 Marietta, have the same design and fits a #6 nib size. This fine cursive italic was tuned perfectly with beautiful line variation. I definitely enjoyed writing with it.

Roz: The nib on the Pocket 20 took me a while to get used to. Even though I find it maybe too scratchy for me to write comfortably, the lines are very sharp and crisp.

Franz’ writing sample on a Rhodia Meeting Notebook

 

Write It Up

Katherine: I find the Model 20 quite comfortable, and the Pocket 20 is no different. It’s shorter, but because the Model 20 is so light, the Pocket 20 feels very similar. The big upside is I can imagine eyedropper filling a P20, but not a Model 20 (I’d just NEVER write it dry) — and eyedroppering could give it a little more heft, if that’s what you’re looking for. Personally though, I enjoy the way it feels like a light extension of my hand.

Pam: I prefer both the look and the feel of the Pocket 20 compared to the original model 20.  Due to the slip cap, I find the pen to be really comfortable.  Even more comfortable than the pocket 66 due to the lack of a step and threads. I think the only other F-C pen that I find comparably comfortable is the model 45.  So if you like the model 45, the Pocket 20 is a winner.

Franz: I wrote with the Pocket 20 posted for about 15 minutes and I love that it posts deeply and provides a balanced weight. It weighs almost next to nothing and I did not feel fatigued at all. There’s pretty much no step between the section and the barrel and I gripped the pen comfortably. Unposted mode for the bear paw? It’s a short pen for comfort and I’ll just take another half a second to post the cap for longer writing sessions.

Roz: Super light! The Pocket 20 was so light I almost lost track of how long I would be writing. I did need some adjustment time getting used to the engraved rings near the start of the pen’s grip, but it wasn’t any deal breaker – just something my thumb had to get used to.

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: No clip! This pen loves running away… but it does do great tucked into my zip hobonichi case or dropped into a pocket. The slip cap is super convenient for notes on the go — but I did notice that there were a few instances where I didn’t cap the pen tightly enough and almost put an inky disaster into my pocket. After a couple scares, I got much better at capping it tightly — but it’s still something I worry about.

Pam:  It’s difficult to justify adding a clip to the pen because the material and lines of the pen already is a complete package visually.  However, on a utilitarian point of view, a clip would greatly enhance the EDC-ness of the pen.  I kept losing the pen to the bottom of my white coat pocket and always feared getting ink all over the section and nib from all the jostling.  Definitely kept the pen in a case after half a shift.

Franz: In my workplace, the Pocket 20 is a decent Every Day Carry pen. No twisting of the cap needed so it was quick to open and sign my name, or take a phone number down. The fine cursive italic wrote nicely on the copier paper we use and gave line variation to differentiate from my co-workers’ gel pen writing. As for carry-ability, just like Pam I found the pen always lying down in the bottom of my pocket and had to fish it out often because of the lack of a clip. Franklin-Christoph does provide the option of purchasing the pen with or without a clip so no biggie.

Filling system options? Unfortunately, the short length of the pen does not allow a converter to fit so you are limited to either inserting a short international cartridge, or eyedropper filled for more ink options as long as you apply silicon grease on the appropriate areas. Although, you can do what I did and empty out a cartridge and syringe fill it with any of your favorite fountain pen inks. =)

Roz: I’m not confident enough to carry a pen with no clip in anything but my lovely Nock case, but I really enjoyed using this pen throughout the work day. I spend a lot of time stuck on a keyboard, so it’s nice to take a break from typing position and pick up a light pen and go to town!

EPW material close up of the cap and barrel

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: If this was my only pen, would I use it and love doing so? Yeah. Do I own one? Nope. Where’s the disconnect? Welllll — It’s a perfectly solid and reasonable pen, but the aesthetic doesn’t stand out to me. It’s a pen that gets the job done and I enjoy writing with (I do own two FC+MM FCIs) but given all the pen choices out there (even just from Franklin-Christoph!) I like other pens more.

Pam:  I really miss the beautiful utilitarian-ness of the Pocket 20. Honestly, the slip cap and clip (should there be one), makes this pen a great pen for quick and easy deployment.  It’s not as great for “rough” play like a Kaweco Sport due to the lack of threads to cap the pen, but it’s the perfect pen for my specific use case at work.  If you are in the market for a beautiful pen that is really convenient to use for quick note taking without rough and tumbles throughout the day, this pen is for you.  Bonus, there are enough materials this pen is made in to match any person or setting.

Franz: The Pocket 20 is a neat pen to have and if pocket pens are your jam, you gotta have one of these. For my pen habit, this wouldn’t be a pen I’d always have in my pocket due to the smaller size however, I would keep it inked up and kept in my daily bag for portability and emergency use.

Roz: I admit I started off unsure about the look, the nib, and the grip of the Pocket 20. However, at the end of my time with the Franklin-Christoph, I must say this pen really grew on me. It was a pleasant pen to write with and I enjoyed having a chance to really try the Pocket 20 out!

 

Small/Pocket Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: Peilkan 140, Wahl-Evershap Skyline, Sailor Pro Gear Slim, Pilot Prera, *Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20*, Franklin-Christoph Model 45, Kaweco Sport, and Pelikan M300

Posted pens from left to right: Peilkan 140, Wahl-Evershap Skyline, Sailor Pro Gear Slim, Pilot Prera, *Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20*, Franklin-Christoph Model 45, Kaweco Sport, and Pelikan M300

Unposted pens from left to right: Peilkan 140, Wahl-Evershap Skyline, Sailor Pro Gear Slim, Pilot Prera, *Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20*, Franklin-Christoph Model 45, Kaweco Sport, and Pelikan M300

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: Pilot Vanishing Point, TWSBI Eco, Edison Beaumont, Franklin-Christoph Model 20, *Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20*, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari, Pelikan M805

Posted pens from left to right: Pilot Vanishing Point, TWSBI Eco, Edison Beaumont, Franklin-Christoph Model 20, *Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20*, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari, Pelikan M805

Unposted pens from left to right: Pilot Vanishing Point, TWSBI Eco, Edison Beaumont, Franklin-Christoph Model 20, *Franklin-Christoph Pocket 20*, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari, Pelikan M805

 

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

3 Comments

Review: Pilot Custom 823

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: This is a serious looking pen. But not too serious. All three finishes (amber, smoke and clear) are demonstrators, but the amber and smoke aren’t obviously so. As usual, the cigar shape isn’t my favorite, but I like the way the translucent amber and smoke materials look with ink sloshing around. My long time gripe with the clear one was that the cap liner (on all three, but most obvious on the black) is black… and very obvious. BUT, I’ve recently discovered that it’s not hard to remove the cap liner — a fat eraser (like one of the ones on those easy grip chubby kids pencils) can easily pull it out. Then it looks oh-so-much cleaner! If this pen came in the 912’s styling (flat ends, rhodium trim), it would be a must-own for me, instead I very much enjoy it, but I’m not in love with the way it looks.

Pam:  Le sigh.  It’s another cigar shape pen.  Its saving grace is due to the demonstrator quality of them.  The clip is… not aesthetically pleasing to me. I really enjoy the black and transparent material.  Per usual, I am more fond of rhodium trim, however I don’t think that trim is available in the 823 model.  Oh, what I would give for a ruthenium trim on the clear/transparent model.  I will admit that the vanity in me prevent me picking up this pen.  (Spoiler alert:  I regret not picking up this pen sooner.)

Franz: Now I feel out of place. I love cigar shaped pens but the Pilot Custom 823 is more torpedo shaped, no? Hihihi… Either way, I love the 823’s shape and for some reason, that smoke finish is a winner for me! The 823’s size is substantial in the hand but at the same time it’s not too big, if that makes sense.

Just like what we learned in our review of the Pilot Custom 912, Pilot assigned a lot of their pen model names according to the company’s year when they were introduced. Namiki/Pilot was founded in 1918 and they are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year as well. So for the Pilot Custom 823, the first two digits (82) mean that the pen was released in Pilot’s 82nd year, 2000. The third digit represents the manufacturer suggested retail price in 10,000 Japanese Yen, ¥30,000.

In the Hand: Pilot Custom 823 (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

In the Hand: Pilot Custom 823 (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

The Business End

Katherine: Yay for Pilot #15 nibs! I really enjoy them. The medium on this pen was no different — a wonderful balance of smooth and wet, but not overly so in either direction. I’ve also had the pleasure of using a handful of other nib sizes on 823s and have been quite happy with all of them. Personally, I own a #15 FA, and love the bounce (the #10 I own is softer/flexier) and smooth writing it gives me.

Pam:  Franz was kind enough to allow me to borrow a 823 with a fine nib.  What a nib!!! It’s honestly everything one could love about a Pilot nib.  Granted, my experience with Pilot is limited to a few select pens (Elite, Myu, m90, Murex, Volex) and I typically use the Pilot Prera and Vanishing Point at work.  What was quite different about this particular nib is the size; it’s so big!! It’s also a great “upgrade” in both size, material and performance.

Franz: The 823’s nibs are very pleasant to write with. No adjustments were necessary to provide a great writing experience. However, among the three, the broad nib was modified by Mr. Dan Smith into a juicy stub. The medium and fine nibs had a good flow as well. The 823 nibs definitely have the bounce to give that flair in your writing.

Writing sample on Nanami Cross Field A5 Journal

Write It Up

Katherine: I thought the 823 was overhyped until I borrowed one from Franz for this review. As I wrote with it (and stared at it, trying to settle my feelings on its aesthetic) I realized why it’s such a popular pen… It’s a solid workhorse of a pen that writes wonderfully and feels solid and comfortable in the hand. It’s not too big, not too small, not too smooth, not too feedbacky… Somehow it’s a fantastic balance on so many axes (plural of axis, not that I’m balancing pens on wood chopping implements). I guess it’s implied, but I had a great time writing with it — though I did forget to loosen the knob the first time and was momentarily vexed as I wrote the feed dry.

Pam:  I didn’t just write with this pen for an extended period of time.  I “borrowed” this pen from Franz for an extended period of time.  It’s has just enough stiffness and give from the material and size to make the writing experience tactically enjoyable for me.  I found the pen to be very well balanced unposted.  It’s a bit tall for me posted.  The ink in the chamber is a bit mesmerizing.

The nib was Pilot smooth with little/no feedback.  The nib performed surprisingly better than I expected on cheap office paper.  It didn’t feather as much as usual.  Ink used was Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku. The pen and ink combo shined in both my Midori insert and Hobonichi (Tomoe River paper).

The writing experience of this nib is quite unique to this nib/pen.  I am a bit addicted to the particular writing experience that this pen provides.  I would highly recommend trying this pen out yourself.  Just remember, the first taste is free. ;P

Franz: The biggest thing that I love about the Pilot 823 is that there isn’t a step between the barrel and section and that the threads aren’t sharp. When the cap is posted it is plenty long for my large hand but like Pam, I prefer to write with the pen unposted because the weight is more balanced. So with fingers on the threads, the unposted length is very comfy for me.

EDC-ness

Katherine: Solid clip, 1.75 turns to uncap and an ink capacity that lasts pages and pages and pages. And it low-key looks so your boss doesn’t wonder why you’re writing with a glitter stick. But some oooh and aah when your teammates notice the ink sloshing around inside.

Pam: I loved this pen at work.  It was less than two turns to get you writing and as previously stated, the F nib does a pretty good job on office paper.  The clip was just enough to easily slip in and out of a my white coat pocket with little issues.  The ink capacity of this pen is fantastic and by far exceeds my other EDCs for work.  For quick note taking, the VP is the height of convenience.  However, for end of the day wrapping up “thought gathering” and where you have an extended note-taking session, I kept reaching for the 823.  I may be adding another Pilot to my pocket for work at the rate we are going.

Franz: The 823 is a great companion for use at work and when I’m out and about. The fine and/or medium nib was great for the copier paper in the office and it just wrote well. The ball clip is sturdy and fits onto my shirt pocket as well as my jeans pocket. The biggest advantage of the 823 is its ink capacity. When you operate the vacuum filler (pictured below), the pen gets about 75% filled up. There is a maneuver you can do to fill the pen 100% of ink which is about 2.5ml. Dan Smith shows this in his video review of the Pilot Custom 823 here.

As Katherine described earlier, the 823 does have a shut-off valve (second picture below) and you need to unscrew the knob to make sure the ink flows freely onto the reservoir and feed. Gotta make sure that it is unscrewed or else you’ll find the nib writing dry after a page or two of journaling (trust me, I know). The shut-off valve helps contain the ink when you are flying, or if you are shipping the pen filled with ink. I received my 823 filled with ink in the mail from my friend and aside from ink spots in the cap, no other ink was wasted.

Vacuum plunger knob pulled all the way back ready for inking

The plunger knob is unscrewed and the shut-off valve is open for ink to flow onto the reservoir/feed

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: The 823 is a solid pen. It’s not my favorite aesthetically, but I’m more than willing to forgive it that for how well balanced of a pen and nib it is. However, at $250-300 new, it’s not a pen I’m in a hurry to acquire (well, also because I arguably have more than enough pens…) but I do one day want to own one with an FA nib. I’m sure this will upset someone, but the 823 reminds me a lot of another pen I love, the Pelikan M800 — solid workhorse pens with an ink capacity for days and a clean professional vibe (assuming you aren’t sporting a maki-e M800 or something). If you like cigar shaped pens and gold trim, I don’t think you can go wrong with the 823.

Pam:  #PenAddictProTip I agree with Brad. As in you should try the 823 for yourself.  I believe that this pen is in the “everyone should try it or own it” category, like the Lamy 2000.  You may not like it, but it’s a pen that is so easily and quickly reference for what it brings to the table:  a LARGE gold nib, piston filler, a classic shape with a modern twist and a fantastic writing experience.  It is well deserving of the “pens you should know” pantheon. The price maybe a sticking point, but I have had such a great writing experience with this pen that if you enjoy it as much as I did, it may well justify the price for you.

Franz: Well, if you haven’t noticed yet, the Pilot Custom 823 is a definite win among the three of us. It is a decently sized pen with great balance and is a great fit for small to large handed writers. Currently in the United States, only the Amber finish is available. I really wish that the Smoke and the Clear finishes would be made available in the market. You may purchase the two finishes from Japan sources if you are patient and knowledgeable enough to do so. I was lucky enough to secure my Pilot Custom 823 in Smoke from the secondary market.

You can call it a cigar-shaped, or a torpedo-shaped pen, it doesn’t matter as long as you try one. It’s a fantastic pen for me and I’m happy I own one.

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: Parker 75, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911 Large, *Pilot Custom 823*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

Posted pens from left to right: Parker 75, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911 Large, *Pilot Custom 823*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

Unposted pens from left to right: Parker 75, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Vanishing Point, Sailor 1911 Large, *Pilot Custom 823*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

 

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

Amber

Clear

Smoke

8 Comments

Pen and Ink Pairing: March 2018 (Vintage Edition)

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?

 

Writing Samples and Detail Photos

No Comments

Review: Aurora Optima (365 Azzurra, Fine Nib)

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

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.

In the Hand: Aurora Optima (posted) – from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

In the Hand: Aurora Optima (unposted) – from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

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.

Beautiful Azzurra celluloid engraved with Aurora’s full company name: Fabbrica Italiana di Penne a Serbatoio – Aurora

 

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.

Franz’ writing sample on a Rhodia Meeting Notebook

 

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.

 

EDC-ness

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.

The black stem behind the feed is where ink is fed through. The piston has a hole that will fit around the black stem.

Piston midway onto Stem: When the piston goes over the black stem, a couple drops of ink underneath will be displaced and fed up to the stem.

When the piston knob is extended, it is a reminder for you to refill the 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! =)

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Aurora Optima*, Pelikan M805, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, and Lamy Safari

Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Aurora Optima*, Pelikan M805, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, and Lamy Safari

Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Aurora Optima*, Pelikan M805, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, and Lamy Safari

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

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