Wajima Relief Donation Links

Here are the donation links that I’ve seen recommended by folks I trust who are affiliated with the industry —

https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-wajima-lacquerware-from-the-recent-disaster (from Senshudo)

https://donation.yahoo.co.jp/promo/20240101.html?cpt_n=noto2024_20240101&cpt_s=yj_news&cpt_m=feature&cpt_c=noto2024_20240101_yj_news_feature_%E3%80%80 (might be a little more complicated for us foreigners…)

https://www.gofundme.com/f/japanese-craft-revival-after-earthquake (recommended by Stylo Art)

https://bungubox.shop/en/pages/%e3%81%94%e6%94%af%e6%8f%b4%e3%81%ae%e3%81%8a%e9%a1%98%e3%81%84-%e6%97%a5%e9%87%8e%e8%92%94%e7%b5%b5%e5%b7%a5%e6%88%bf%e5%86%8d%e9%96%8b%e3%81%ab%e5%90%91%e3%81%91%e3%81%a6 (Taking donations until 1/31 – run by Bungubox, we all know who they are)

Less specific to urushi, but there’s always the Japanese Red Cross https://www.jrc.or.jp/english/donate/

And to donate directly to Wajima: https://www.city.wajima.ishikawa.jp/article/2024010500020/

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Manila Pen Show 2023 Recap

MPS haul 2023
My MPS 2023 haul: pens, inks & notebook covers

It’s been been 3 and a half years since the last in-person Manila Pen Show, and it was totally worth the wait. As with 2019, there was no shortage of interesting pens, new & exclusive inks (even Sailor’s custom ink mixing!) and lots of fountain pen-adjacent goodies (notebook covers, storage, stamps etc). And of course, a chance to see friends and penable each other!

Manila Pen Show 2023 vendors
This year’s vendor list

The MPS team (lead by the amazing Leigh Reyes) pulled in a fantastic set of vendors — there was a selection of local retailers & brands as well as a handful of popular international vendors (Singapore’s Aesthetic Bay and Musubi, Malaysia’s Pen Gallery, and Japan’s Toyooka Craft). And, as if that wasn’t enough, there was a room for nib work — with three options, JP and John from the Philippines, and Sunny from Singapore.

One of my favorite things about the Manila Pen Show (and the Philippine fountain pen community in general) is how many local brands & makers there are, and this show was a great display of that.

Diamine Suman
Diamine Suman — the exclusive show ink

Of course, no pen show is complete without its exclusive ink — this year MPS worked with Diamine to create Diamine Suman. If you’re not familiar with suman, it’s a popular Philippine snack made with glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves. This ink is reminiscent of the dark green of banana leaves. Swatches are available on the MPS Instagram, here.

On.Inks selection

In addition to the show ink, there were also store exclusives from Pen Gallery, Sailor Ink Mixing and new inks from local brands TMKR, On Inks & Vinta. On.Inks is a new brand (I think?) and I’m excited to try the inks I got from them — including the two show exclusives, kare-kare and bagoong alamang (a delicious combo!). Vinta also launched a new ink at the show (to go with their exclusive Franklin Christoph) — Lilac Dawn [Simulan 2015].

Kasama Takipsilim
Kasama’s new Takipsilim in two sizes — the Una (front) and Tala (back)

There was a broad selection of pens, everything from vintage to Nakaya & AP. Upon arriving, I did a quick walk around the show then zoned in on a Nakaya at Aesthetic Bay (they brought over 50 to the show and were able to swap nibs and clips/rollstops!). After handing over a healthy wad of cash, I noticed that the Kasama table was set up. Their new release for the show was the Takipsilim (“twilight”) — a gorgeous cerakote finish over ultem. I picked a tala and I’m glad I got there early! They were sold out around lunch time on the first day.

Everything Calligraphy x Franklin Christoph

MPS was also the launch for the Everything Calligraphy exclusive Franklin Christoph. We’re jokingly calling it the ube cheese model, but clearly I had food on the brain for the entire show! It’s a gorgeous, but hard to photograph translucent swirly and sparkly purple-gold in FC’s Model 31 shape. More information available here. If you’d like to order one, but aren’t in the Philippines, my understanding is that Everything Calligraphy does ship internationally, but I’d reach out to them to find out more.

Sailor Ink Mixing
Sailor Ink Mixing

Another one of my favorite local shops, Scribe, brought in Sailor’s own ink mixing master. Apparently this was the first time they’ve ever done this outside Japan — and his first international flight ever! Wow. I wasn’t able to sign up for a slot, but I tagged along and watched a friend do it. All conversation was done through a translator, and while he asked you for reference photos of the color you wanted, a lot of the conversation was also about what memories and feelings you were trying to capture, with little adjustments to the composition of your ink a along the way. Fun to watch, and I’d definitely sign up if I have the chance at a future show (or trip to Japan…)!

Custom rollstops by kustommagz

In addition to pens and inks, there were lots of accessories — one of the most unique was Marco‘s roll stops. He makes them sized for Kasama pens (I have a starfish and face-hugger from him) but he also does customs.

There were also three local leather brands selling notebook covers, cases and bags. I picked up two notebook covers from LeatherLibraryPh.

My MPS Pen Haul
My MPS 2023 Pen Haul

Going into the show, I planned to pick up a Kasama Takipsilim (top/rightmost), and preordered the Pengrafik Primary Manipulation Leonardo Momento Zero (left/bottommost). But when I got to the show I found that Aesthetic Bay had a couple of Nakaya’s in Toki-iro, so I couldn’t pass that up. On day 2 of the show I spent a bit more time at the Kasama table and fell in love with the anodized section, it doesn’t show well in the photo above, but it reminds me of waves, and the beige PEEK, of sand.

All in all, I had a great time at this year’s Manila Pen Show — in terms of vendor count, it’s much smaller than the SF Show (my home show!) but it makes up for that with a wide variety of vendors and plenty of local brands and fun show exclusives (especially the inks!). In addition to buying stuff, there’s a good selection of workshops (I didn’t attend any since I wasn’t sure about my schedule) and the show volunteers are all super friendly and helpful. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, and maybe too much for some of our wallets.

More photos here, official Manila Pen Show IG here. The 2024 Manila Pen Show will be held on March 16-17, 2024.


Manila Pen Show 2019 Recap

As some of you know, I spent some of my formative years in Manila — so I was really excited to be home for the Manila Pen Show. (In reality I was home for some family reasons, but the timing was perfect!) I didn’t stay at the show hotel, but before the show opened, I had breakfast with friends at the hotel. They had a nice selection of local and international breakfast options, and Philippine mangos, but only if you ask for them.

First stop was, of course, Kasama! I own three Kasama pens and was excited to see what they had to offer. I had heard that they were taking sign ups for custom orders where you could pick your materials — I made sure to get on that list!

They had a tray of samples so that people could check out materials. Those pens weren’t for sale though. Similarly the first image in this post is a Kasama owned by Leigh — engraved with the Philippine sun. How cool!

They also had their newest model to try (above, in my hand) and for sale (acrylic and aluminum, below).

They had a selection of pens for sale too — some with Stormtrooper roll stops, and several with metal sections and kamagong (a local hardwood) barrels.

Next up was Troublemaker Inks — where you could pay for ink by the ml if you brought your own container! Neat. I picked up vials of those four inks, as well as bottles of a couple others.

Ink, ink, ink! Pierre Cardin attended from Hong Kong — and had quite a selection of inks! (And pens, but tbh I just focused on the inks)

There were also a few folks doing nib work — here is John, who I took home a lovely CI from.

And JP, another regular presence in the Philippine pen community — known for both nib work and pen restoration.

And, of course, you may have guessed from the background of John’s photo — Ralph! (Visiting his motherland, I guess). Spotted here with Dan comparing the smells of Shibui leather cases.

Speaking of cases — I picked up two from ShibuiPH, one in their show exclusive, and another in green leather. Review to come!

There were also a few other case sellers — pictured below are cases from local Filipino fabrics, and Pen Gallery (from Malaysia) had some in batik.

Walking around a bit more… I found the Aesthetic Bay table, which had a lovely selection of Nakaya — all offered at a small discount. Oh my.

The Curious Artisan was also in attendance, with accessories, nib holders, and…

some really cool vintage typewriters. Apparently there had been a CURSIVE typewriter the day before. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Straits Pen from Singapore was also in attendance — with Mr Sunny Koh doing nib work, and quite a selection of pens & inks. Pictured here are FWI pens from Taiwan, but they had so much more too!

And of course, no show would be complete without some vintage pens…

And a boat load of exclusive inks. More on that below, but these two are both Diamine exclusives to Pen Gallery.

And now… for my haul. Oddly, I bought zero pens. But, I did get two of the Manila Show exclusive inks: Diamine Arkipelago, and TMKR Adarna. I also bought a nifty wooden boxcutter from Pierre Cardin, two cases from Shibui, a bunch more ink (mostly from TMKR) and a FWI Baby Dragon pen from Straits.

I did, sadly (due to arriving on Sunday, when the show started on Saturday), miss the Pierre Cardin Manila Sunset ink as well as the other TMKR show exclusive.

No new pens aside (don’t worry — I’m on the Kasama list), I had a great time and it was great to see friends and make new ones (and match so many names from Facebook and Instagram to real people!).

The Philippine Department of Tourism has been running the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” for several years, and I can enthusiastically say that it’s definitely true for pen shows, as hokey as that sounds. The Philippine Fountain Pen community is so vibrant — I’m excited to see how the MPS grows and changes in the years to come. It’s a fantastically run show (complete with totebags & pins for the first 200 attendees each day) with a wide variety of vendors (I definitely wasn’t able to list them all here, this isn’t even half) and a really amazing raffle (Sunday had 20+ prizes, including a Sailor Pro Gear Slim Supernova AND a Kasama prototype).


Ink Review: Robert Oster Melon Tea

Woof, woof woof.

Sniff, sniff.

I thought Melon Tea would be tastier than it is… But I guess at the end of the day, it’s just ink. It is a nice brown though, not too red — it leans a little green/grey. (But hey, aren’t dogs colorblind? Why are you asking me…)

It flows well in different pens, and has no issues with flexing — I had it in my Pilot FA for a few weeks and it kept up well and had no flow issues. Like most inks, it does smudge after drying.

I really like the color though — it feels different from most of the brown inks I’ve tried. Many of the brown inks I’ve seen and used have tended toward rich golden browns or red browns, whereas Melon Tea tilts toward the cooler green/grey type of browns which feels much more organic to me.

Disclaimer: No dogs were harmed in the making of this review. He didn’t actually lick the ink, and his paws were washed well after being used for the paw prints. He also got lots of treats for his cooperation for this review.

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2019 LA Pen Show Haul

Hello, it’s Katherine again. In my LA Pen Show Recap I promised I’d do an overview of my haul… so here it is! As I mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be a US show quite like LA for urushi hunting — so, as you can probably guess, I picked up some of that. But, I also picked up a handful of inexpensive flex nibs and a vintage Italian pen.

I’ve put the urushi pens toward the bottom of the post, but a quick warning — there is some, uh, artistic nudity (carved into a pen) further on down. If this ain’t your thing, please skip this post!

Inexpensive vintage flex pens. The brands are as listed — though some of the pens may not have nibs that match the exterior branding of the pen.

I had a lot of luck hunting for flex among dealer’s cheaper trays and even the pens for parts. The first three pens in the photo were all from the same dealer, but I did pass up quite a few other “cheap” flex pens where I wasn’t excited by the exterior. I chose to take these ones home because I thought that, in addition to fun nibs, they looked neat.

Unfortunately, they all have fairly small nibs (part of what makes them inexpensive) so none of them fit a #5 nib unit. Some may fit a Kaweco Sport, but I don’t have a spare Sport to try them with.

Left: Minuskin 1.9mm stub, Right: factory octanium stub

While we’re on the topic of fun nibs — I bought this ridiculous 1.9mm Parker 51 stub from Greg Minuskin on Saturday. Just when I thought I was done buying, I realized he had a couple of these fatties left, so one came home with me. I’ve shown it here with the already-juicy factory stub as a point of comparison.

Mine installed with no issues, but I have heard that the hood may need to be filed a bit to accommodate for the enormous tipping — so if you do get one, go slow and carefully when installing! If you tighten the hood and it pushes the tipping, you’re at risk of breaking the tipping off. Oh no!

Grey Arco, with some cosmetic damage

My one Italian pen for the show — an Electa in Grey (or Platinum) Arco. The pen has some cosmetic damage (see the smudge marks on the barrel right below the cap?) but I’m confident I can buff most of it out. Additionally, the pen sports a semi-flex nib. I love the nibs on vintage Italian pens!

(And ignore the yellow markings, they’ll rub off — I just haven’t gotten around to do it. I think it’s Letizia’s system for keeping track of her pens)

Damage on the blind cap

In addition to the barrel damage there is crazing on the end of the blind cap. Did you know that Arco pens could craze? I didn’t either — but now I’ve got proof. Letizia and I noticed the crazing as I was fiddling around with the pen, and she was horrified — the price went down and she included a solid black blind cap so I didn’t have to use (or keep) the damaged one. I chose to keep it, but I won’t store the pen with it.

If you’re unfamiliar with “crazing”, there’s plenty of helpful reading on the web, I found this article particularly helpful. And this one, specific to pens. The TLDR is that celluloid is unstable, and can break down over time. Some celluloids are known to do it, and for some it’s less common. It’s common with certain Wahl Dorics, and the Omas Royal Blue pens are known to do it (first they turn a gorgeous shade of purple, then pink… then disintegrate). This is the first time I’ve seen Arco craze, but apparently it’s not unheard of. Womp.

Choushitsu: Carved urushi

Bring on the urushi! I joked that there weren’t enough women at pen shows… so I bought some.

All three are carved urushi, with motifs of women in various stages of bathing (and nudity). I’d never seen pens like this, and another vintage dealer suggested that they were likely made after the war, as souvenirs for GIs. All three sport steel nibs and fill via a Japanese eye dropper system. They likely weren’t expensive pens based on the nibs and quality of the carving.

three unknowns & a ban-ei

And the rest of my urushi haul. The top (left) three pens are from unknown makers — the first two involve gold and lacquer of some sort. The third may be urushi, and may not be — the dealer I bought it from, Lawrence Prenton, thinks it’s urushi, but it’s so even that I’m not 100% sure. Either way, it has a very nice red glow. The bottom/rightmost pen is likely a ban-ei pen based on the nib.

Ban-ei pens usually weren’t signed, but the nib bears the imprint that identifies it as a “GK” nib. There’s much more to read about Ban-ei & the nib maker (master?) Kabutogi Ginjiro, but that’s a rabbit hole all on it’s own. I own two other pens with nibs by him — but this is the first one I’m comfortable using daily, the other two are more elaborate kamakura-bori pens that I have a tendency to baby.

All the vintage urushi pens are Japanese eyedroppers (like most that are sold) none of them are restored except the black Ban-Ei. If you’re not familiar with Japanese eyedroppers, the mechanism is similar to the Opus 88, where there’s a seal at the back of the pen and a rod that shuts off flow when the blind cap is tightened. The big downside to these pens, as gorgeous as they are, is that very few people restore the mechanisms once the seal goes bad. To my knowledge, no US repairer takes them on — and the only restorer I know of who does it is based in Europe and doesn’t take pens from the US because of customs dues. That said, some people do the repair themselves at home (such was the case with the Ban-Ei), but if buying a pen that’s restorable is key for you — these likely don’t fit the bill.

And, that’s it folks! Did you find what you were looking for at the LA Pen Show?

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Ink Review: Taccia Murasaki, Ebi & Sora

In August 2018, the Taccia Pen Company released their ink line and currently consists of 13 colors. These inks are manufactured in Japan by the Nakabayashi Co., Ltd. At the 2018 San Francisco Pen Show, Taccia brought the full line and had some bottles for sale. A lot of the show attendees definitely checked them out, HOTP crew included. 

For full disclosure purposes, we purchased the Sora and Murasaki bottles with our own funds and the bottle of Ebi was graciously provided to us free of charge by Ms. Shu-Jen Lin of Taccia. Thank you Shu-Jen!

With that, the opinions in this review are always of our own and we were not compensated monetarily for our review.


Inky Swatches

Ebi on Rhodia Graph, 80 gsm
Murasaki on Rhodia Graph, 80 gsm
Sora on Rhodia Graph, 80 gsm


Inky Dispositions

Katherine: I found these inks very well behaved and pretty. I particularly love Ebi, though I thought ebi means shrimp… and this seems like an awfully maroon/purple leaning shrimp. Either way, shrimp are delicious and the ink is a beautiful purple-maroon-pink. The inks aren’t waterproof, but do have some water resistance, you have to do some repeated wiping (or maybe soaking?) to get them off paper. I haven’t tested this extensively, but I’d be comfortable using this on envelopes when it’s raining (unlike some inks that just waaaaash cleanly off).

Pam:  I am a big fan of the Taccia inks.  All three colors are well behaved and easy to clean.  No real staining of the hands!  I really appreciate the range of colors.  My favorite was the Murasaki, the cool purple color.  It’s closer to a purple with blue undertones.  It is similar to the Colorverse Hayabusa which I greatly enjoyed previously.  It does have more shading than the more saturated Hayabusa and doesn’t have the gold sheen.  It’s such a well behaved ink and preformed well in all of my pens, although I would recommend at least a Japanese F nib to show off this ink’s color.  Broader nibs will show off the shading better.

Franz: My favorite of the three inks in review is the Murasaki. The color is in between violet and lilac which provides a feeling of royalty. Or perhaps it’s just me. 

To concur with the ladies above, these Taccia inks are great inks to use and very easy to clean out of pens. Their wetness is at a medium level and has great flow. Both the Ebi and Murasaki demonstrated high level of saturation even with a fine nib. As for the Sora, it maintained its low-to-medium saturation even with a triple broad nib. With the dip nib/flex writing, both the Ebi and Murasaki caused feathering on Rhodia 80 gsm and Tomoe River 52 gsm papers. The Sora did not feather at all.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to see this new ink brand perform so well. I do recommend these inks for every day use and with the 13 colors, I’m inclined to say that there’s at least one for you. 


Writing Samples

Taccia Ebi Ink: Rhodia Graph No. 16, 80 gsm paper
Taccia Ebi Ink: Tomoe River, Cream, 52 gsm paper
Taccia Murasaki Ink: Rhodia Graph No. 16, 80 gsm paper
Taccia Murasaki Ink: Tomoe River, Cream, 52 gsm paper
Taccia Sora Ink: Rhodia Graph No. 16, 80 gsm paper
Taccia Sora Ink: Tomoe River, Cream, 52 gsm paper


Ink Circles and Comparisons


Paper: Tomoe River, Cream, 52 gsm


Paper: Tomoe River, Cream, 52 gsm


Paper: Tomoe River, Cream, 52 gsm


Taccia Ink Line Up

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2019 LA Pen Show Recap

This was my first time attending the LA Pen Show. I’d heard a lot about it (good and bad) and was excited to make the trip. I flew in on Thursday morning, and upon arriving the show hotel, was immediately looking through vendors trays and binders — a great Thursday morning! 

Then we drove to Magal for Korean BBQ. To be honest, this was a big part of why I made the trip, I’d heard so much about it after every LA show… and it lived up to the hype. Would eat again. (But this isn’t a food blog, so let’s move on…)

Pen-wise, I went into the show focused on vintage urushi, I don’t see a lot of it in the US, and even at the SF Show, there historically hasn’t been a lot. There are a couple of vendors who only go to LA — so I came to them.

And they did not disappoint. Above is a tray of vintage maki-e, but those weren’t even their “high end” pens. 

I was severely tempted by this beautiful maki-e cuttlefish. It’s a 1920s hard rubber Japanese eyedropper with modern maki-e, done by a third generation artist. I’ll post a video to Instagram one of these days. 

This is maki-e on a Platinum 3776, it wasn’t for sale, but look at how cute it is! The owner of the pen says that it was done for a pen club in Japan. 

This pressed celluloid dragon was also pretty cool — I ultimately didn’t purchase it though. (Self control or something)

And, before I move on to non Japanese pens, look at this Pilot White Stripe Myu! I’m told the price was on the high side, but nonetheless it sold quickly. I was excited just to see one. 

In addition to Japanese pens, there was also Japanese ebonite! I picked up a couple rods for a friend who turns pens. The ebonite was sold by Eboya, who also had their own pens on display — beautiful and simple Japanese ebonite pens.

And no show is complete without the stunning materials (not for sale) and pens of Classic Pens

And binders of loose nibs! It’s always fun digging through these. Also, a lot of the vintage vendors had some very reasonably priced flex nibs if you were willing to dig. 

And some crazy pens. This one was made by Twiss (I think) — a custom ebonite body around a Sheaffer Triumph nib. I love the look of Triumph nibs, so this was a seriously tempting custom pen… 

A neat Wahl slider — apparently this was the last generation of sliders. And, speaking of interesting nibs — 

A Montblanc quadruple broad. Wow. I forgot to take a picture of my writing sample, but it’s wider than most of my highlighters. Super cool though I do wonder what people do with this nib other than show it off. 

And, as expected, there were trays and binders of pens everywhere. I don’t see much LeBoeuf or Chilton online, but there were quite a few at the show. 

And this crazy tray of custom pens by Rossi, Twiss and maybe some other artists. Wow. 

I had a chance to meet Pierre of Desiderata Pens and tried out his pens — very nice! And look at that mechanism, I loved how the pieces aren’t made out of boring black materials. 

I’m not a kid, but the Pen Collectors of America ran a scavenger hunt for kids — with adorable shark pens! I also (finally) signed up to be a member of the PCA, and picked up my last year’s worth of issues. It made for great reading on the way home, especially the chart on what to look for when shopping for Waterman pens, including size ranges and prices. 

I was also lucky enough to get grinds from both Masuyama (left) and Gena. Gena is new to the show circuit — she used to do many of the inhouse grinds at nibs.com, but has recently branched out on her own. Review to come! 

And here’s a friend trying to photograph the “super sharp” italic Masuyama put onto a Vanishing Point. He suggested that we try cutting paper with the edge of the nib.  

Speaking of friends… I got to meet so many internet pen-friends! It’s always great putting faces to names, and going to a show other than SF means there’s a whole new set of folks to meet! 

And some people who you don’t get to make friends with, but are awesome anyway. 

All in all, I had a great time — it was my first time traveling for a pen show, and I’d definitely do it again. LA has a very strong vintage pen community, and an unparalleled selection of vintage Japanese pens. However, as many others have said, it isn’t the smoothest show logistically. 

Here’s the view from the Straits Pen table (where I was helping out) at 9:45am on Sunday, before the show opened to the public: 

And here it is about 30 minutes after opening.  

Sunday was packed — there was barely space to walk through the aisles for a few hours, and a handful of thefts were reported. I don’t imagine any vendor can keep an eye on all the pens on their table. For next year, I’ll likely attend the LA Show again, but totally skip Sunday if the schedule and fee structure stays the same. 

My wallet barely survived, but I had a great time. I saw a huge variety of pens, ate some great food, hung out with friends new and old and even bought a few pens. 

P.S. Another post to come on my haul. Pictures still need to be taken. 


Mini Review: Nakaya Decapod Twist vs PenBBS 380

Hello! It’s Katherine, and no surprise, I’ve bought another faceted pen…

The PenBBS 380 is (I think? I’m not an expert) one of their newer models — it’s a sleek, aluminum pen that comes in silver and black* (which is anodized), with gold or silver color trim. As soon as I saw this show up on Instagram, I knew I wanted one — I’m a fiend for facets, and at PenBBS’s usual price range, how could I say no? My 380 ended up stuck in customs for a week (thanks to the government shut down, I guess?) — but was otherwise shipped super promptly and made it to me in 2 weeks total, despite me not paying for expedited shipping.

Shipped, the pen cost me $38 from Etsy, but the pen seems to be in an out of stock and more expensive on eBay. It’s a great deal — a solid pen and the nib is smooth and wet, though on the broad side (I’d compare it to a Platinum Broad or a Pelikan Medium). It’s smooth enough that most people would probably consider it glassy, but it’s not the nails-on-chalkboard smoothness I hate with some nibs (ahem, Lamy) but a much more pleasant velvety feeling.

Top: Top of the cap, notice the lack of a bevel. Bottom: End of the barrel, notice that the bevel is slightly off center.

The build quality is solid, but there are little bits to the fit and finish that giveaway the pen’s cheapness — the beveling on the end of the barrel isn’t centered (some corners are more beveled than others, and you can see how it’s off center) and the top of the cap isn’t beveled at all. However, what’s most obvious is that the corners on the clip are really sharp. I’m pretty sure you could snag a sweater or scratch yourself with them (except it’s a clip, so it doesn’t stick out a lot, so that’s not too big of a worry). I ended up sanding mine down slightly with a nail buffer. 

The design is very reminiscent of the Nakaya Decapod Twist — so I’ve chosen to show them side by side. The two are almost identical in hand, even down to the flare of the sections, though the facets do twist in opposite directions. The biggest difference (aside from the nibs, more on that later) is that the 380 is heavier — inked up, the decapod twist (just the body, no cap) is 16 grams, the 380 is 21. In hand, the aluminum is cool, and the weight is comfortable. Urushi, in contrast warms to your hand and almost has an organic softness (roundness?) that is all it’s own. 

As for the nibs, the 380’s nib is perfectly decent, though a bit broad for me out of the box. If PenBBS made more sizes available, or you were to get the pen ground down (even then, the pen would be $700+ cheaper than it’s urushi counterpart) it could be a fantastic writer. Or… maybe you just love broads. 

Here’s an obligatory hand picture. For comparison, a picture of my hand with a Decapod Twist is here

All in all, if you love facets like me, the PenBBS 380 is a great buy. My only gripe is that the clip edges are so sharp and metal in general is hard enough that I’m not comfortable putting this pen side by side with my other pens without a barrier of some sort. (Yes, I usually let my pens touch.)

* A last note on the black finish, a friend has one and has dropped his — it seems that the finish is pretty permanent, I was worried it would chip off or show where the pen gets damaged, and he reports that that wasn’t the case! 


Katherine’s 2018 New Maker Recap

While taking a shower and considering which pens would make the cut for my “Top 5” for 2018, I realized that I’ve gone pretty deep on a couple new (to me) makers/brands this year. It’s about time I branched out! It’s well known in the addict enthusiast community that I’m a bit Nakaya obsessed (see our 2017 Wrap-up for proof) so I’m excited to be diversifying.

Maker 1: Stylo Art Karuizawa

Run by a husband & wife team, Stylo Art is well known for their beautiful wood, urushi and wood & urushi pens. Kazuno-san (Mr. Stylo Art, I guess?) turns the pens himself out of ebonite or interesting woods, including some less common Japanese species. The pens are then fitted with Pilot nibs (and often sections). I’ve admired their pens from a distance for a couple years, but this year I went from zero… to three. (And I have my eye on a fourth, but that’s for 2019)

Top to bottom: Tanabata (raden and urushi), Taki-Sansui (maki-e), purple saiun-nuri

The three I have are all in the “Asama” shape, the only one available for most of the urushi finishes. All three are fitted with Pilot #15 nibs, an FA, WA and PO from top to bottom. The Pilot nibs (and Kazuno-san’s tuning) make them all fantastic writers. Paired with unique and gorgeous finishes, what more could an urushi fangirl like me ask for?

Maker 2: Kasama

Like the Stylos, I’d admired the Kasama pens before I owned one, but… also before Kasama became a brand. I’d seen a handful of prototypes during a FPN-Ph mini meet and loved the chunky, short shape and the interesting materials. Several months later, Kasama was born and my brother gifted me my first one for my birthday.

Left to right: Ultem, Micarta, FPN-PH exclusive in acrylic, acrylic and delin (my first one!)

I tend to prefer the look of short pens, and the Kasama Una (the shape of all their pens so far) is short, but not narrow. To make matters worse, they’ve continued to experiment with models and color combinations… so I constantly find myself fighting the urge to collect them like Pokemon. (I’m not sure I’m winning) And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re made in the Philippines — I love the idea of putting my thoughts to paper with an implement that is hopefully the start of a new niche, craft and tradition in my (kind of) home country.

Maker 3: Bokumondoh

Urushi Studio Bokumondoh is made up of a single artist, Hiroko. She’s not a pen person herself, but she’s more than happy to do custom urushi work on pens you send her (the one caveat is that she can’t get under a clip, so either send pens with removable clips, or pick a design that leave the clip area plain). For my first order, I sent her one pen, for my second, I sent four.

Batch 2 of pens with Bokumondoh urushi finishes

I’ve had a fantastic time working with her on my pens — I had specific for some, and for others I asked her to do what she thought would be interesting. The results have been great all around. I’m currently thinking about sending her a third round, but I haven’t decided what should be in it. Perhaps a pen from Kasama? (She did do a couple pens with Stylo Art that were sold at the SF show this year)

What did you discover in 2018? What are you excited to carry forward into the New Year?

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2018 Pen Wrap Up (Top 5s!)

Franz: Another fantastic year has come and gone and 2018 has been an interesting year for me in terms of refining my pen focus. I believe I can categorize this year as both the Custom/One-Off Exploration, and the Vintage Search/Education type. I’ve actually bought less pens this year against any other year however it has been more deliberate and selective. This may be an influence from Katherine. Haha!

And here are my Top 5 Pens for 2018. This isn’t my greatest pens of all time however these are the pens that have been acquired within the year and has been inked up ever since I got it. Also a quick note, one of my invaluable stationery finds for the year is the Musubi pen case (pictured above). This has been a daily carry case for me at work and it secures my pens well.

  • Newton Pens Moody (Fine M800 Cursive Italic Nib) – I got the chance to be on Shawn’s wait list and it took me a while to figure out what I wanted. I supplied the M800 nib to Shawn, I asked him for a longer section, and also found this fantastic material. I got this early on in the year and it’s been a favorite ever since.
  • Pelikan M800 (Medium Nib) – I got this from the LA Pen Show from one of the trusted vendors. He said that this was a one-off and it took a long time for him to decide on selling this pen. He dubbed it “Pelimatic” even if the material in the binde used was from a Visconti Wall Street celluloid. I found it on Thursday night but I did not buy it until Friday afternoon. So I know that this pen was for me.
  • Pelikan M805 (Broad Nib) – This is sort of a cheat. This pen was a Black M805 and has been with me since 2014. However this year, the pen took a trip to Japan around September and came back in November with new clothes! =) The entire barrel and cap was customized with urushi lacquer by Hiroko of Bokumondoh. The technique/finish is called Ginpaku (silver leaf). I love everything about it!
  • Pilot Custom (Broad Nib) – Here’s a vintage pen that’s always been on my list. I love the Pilot MYU Black Stripe but I found that posting and unposting wasn’t the best for work. Now this Custom Black Stripe is pretty much a perfect Every Day Carry pen for me. A snap-cap, smooth juicy nib, and a simple aesthetic.
  • Parker Vacumatic Oversize – Hello Parker! =) Parker Vacumatics have always been a pen model that I love. I started getting into Vacumatics even way before I got into Pelikan. But I’ve always had the Major/Demi models which are quite small for my hand. I then decided on just getting the Maxima/Oversize models. This Burgundy Oversize model was an unexpected find while helping out with Mr. Rick Propas’ new website photos. I couldn’t stop ogling and fondling… er… admiring the pen while photographing it. So… this pen eventually found its way to my hands during a pen posse meetup. Aside from the pen itself, the nib is so good as well. Nib was customized to an italic and was provided to have some flex to it. #lovethispen

However, the biggest find for me in 2018 are my Pen Friends! I was lucky enough to be able to once again attend both the San Francisco and Los Angeles pen shows and was able to meet new people either just from the show or via online. The San Francisco Bay Pen Posse pen group has also grown and I’ve met great people whom I see at least once a month. I really love that there is an active pen group that is local to me as it lets me talk to like-minded people in this hobby. So here’s to 2019 for more pen adventures, more learnings, and more fun! Thank you for your readership dear friends!

Katherine: It’s been a crazy year for me — both personally and in terms of pens. In 2018 I discovered a couple new brands and makers (a post about this to follow!) and hoarded acquired more pens than was probably responsible. Whoops.

For my top 5 I’ve chosen a mix of both interesting and super-functional pens: Nakaya ao-tamenuri decapod mini, Japanese vintage (kamakura-bori), Nakaya heki-tamenuri dragon thingy, Parker 51 with ishime by Bokumondoh & Stylo Art Saiun-nuri.

All of them are reliable and solid writers, but honestly some are more practical than others. The Saiun-nuri sports a fantastic PO nib that’s great for my small handwriting and all sorts of paper. On the other end of the spectrum, the carved floral pen is a lever filler, a decent writer but not a pen I’d choose to EDC any time soon. (Though some of that is due to how uncommon it is, I’ve never seen another one like it… nor has anyone I know)

They’re also from a variety of sources, which adds to the fun. The Dragon Nakaya was from my July trip to Singapore for the Aesthetic Bay Nakaya fair. The floral kamakura-bori was muled from LA by a friend who sent me a picture of a dealer’s case, which I zoomed in on and fell in love, and Paypaled them the money… all while brushing my teeth. The funniest story is the Ao Decapod Mini’s — it had been a grail pen of mine for a while, and one day I woke up to a message “This is really silly, but I think I’ve had your grail pen in a drawer all this time, do you want it?” (Clearly, the answer was YES OMG HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT FOR IT… then I ran around my parents house squeeing for a while while my brother’s corgi chased me. Yep, that’s my life.)

I’m excited to see what 2019 brings, and how my hoard evolves! And, I think it goes without saying, if you happen to find a decapod mini in your drawer and want to send it to a new home, you know how to reach me! ♥

Pam: 2018 was a year of big changes for me, which included in less acquisitions (darn adulting!) and exploring what was already in my collection. At least, that’s what my top 5 pens are reflecting to me as we wrap up 2018.

Pilot Custom 823, F nib. I haven’t explored Pilots more expensive pens despite my love of the Pilot Prera. I have become a bit addicted to using this pen when it comes to a writing experience. It’s such a comfortable and smooth writer. It’s also my first vac! Now, if only I could find it’s one true ink pairing…

Lamy 2000, needlepoint grind by Mottishaw. An oldie but a goodie. You know you love a pen when you part with it only to buy it again. I parted with my original Lamy 2000 with the EF nib to a friend who loved it more than I did, only to miss it. I was fortunate enough to find someone at the SF pen show who was willing to part with the needlepoint Lamy 2000 that I coveted since the 2017 SF pen show. It was fated! Yes, I absolutely inked it with Sailor Yama-dori.

Sailor Blue Cosmos, MF nib is a bit of a surprise to me in terms of how much I enjoyed writing with the pen despite it’s broader, relatively speaking, nib size. It is currently paired with my new blue obsession, Iroshizuku Tsuya-Kusa. I can’t get enough of this warm blue which reminds me of bright summer skies. The MF nib shows off the color beautifully. This is my favorite pen and ink pairing in 2018.

Platinum 3776, UEF nib was a gift by the infamous Thomas Hall who is also known for his tiny “hantwriting.” From one tiny handwriting person to another, I am so grateful for this pen. It has been inked with Pilot Blue Black, my ode to Thomas Hall himself. Platinum is a brand that I was introduced to through Katherine who has a bit of a Nakaya obsession and now, I definitely understand why so many love the Platinum nibs as much as they do. I greatly appreciate how different the nibs of the big 3 Japanese brands feel and how they distinguish themselves. I find that to be particularly true in the super fine and extra fine sized nibs. The difference may appear to be minute, but when nib hits the paper, it’s a whole new world.

Brute Force Pequeno with Montblanc 144 nib became one of my favorite SF pen show memories this year and resulted in one of my favorite pens of 2018. I loved the body of the Pequeno but found the standard nib to be lackluster. I really wanted to write with the Montblanc 144 nib more, but hated the skinny body. Claire came to my rescue by notifying me that the 144 nib would fit a Jowo housing if I could acquire one. The hunt was on at the SF pen show! It resulted in trips down memory lane for both Troy and me as I showed him the new improved Pequeno. I paired with with Sailor Rikyu-cha because the broader, wetter Montblanc nib showed off the green-brown color so well. I am still intrigued and mesmerized with this ink color.

2018 was the year of me getting over the Sailor limited edition FOMO. It was a tough year for resisting temptation! It also is making me reconsider parts of my collection that I don’t use out of fear of losing or damaging the pen, particularly when it comes to the vintage fountain pens. In 2019, we are going to fix that! I am going to start rotating in my vintage collection and continue to fine tune my collection. To more inky and pen adventures in the upcoming year!

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