Review: Platinum Izumo (Soratame, Broad Nib)

We would like to thank Pen Chalet for lending us this Platinum Izumo fountain pen for review. Pen Chalet is based in Mesa, Arizona and has been a company that sells pens and stationery items at competitive prices. They also frequently run promos for specially priced items as well as provide discount coupons. Check them out if you haven’t yet.

That being said, the opinions below are our own and we were not compensated (monetarily, or otherwise) for this review.

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: The shape of the Izumo isn’t my jam… but I have a general bias against bulbous caps. Tapered? Maybe that’s a less graphic word. Anyway, general shape aside, the Izumo comes in many beautiful finishes (ugh I really wish I liked their base shape more!) this one is soratame, a green and black tamenuri, pretty subtle, but quite nice when you look closely. The pen also comes in a variety of other finishes, some of which are really quite breathtaking.

Pam:  Whoa!  This is a big pen!  The urushi finish is flawless on a classic cigar shaped pen.  At first glance, pen is really intimidating based on it’s size and finish. It’s not my aesthetic.  To my untrained eye, I wouldn’t know that this pen had urushi on it because it’s just a boring black cigar shaped pen.  The nib is a very business like nib.  The design is either really retro or modern.

Franz: The Platinum Izumo is quite large, curvy and seems to create a grand stature. It’s like the pen says, “Hey look at me!” whilst flexing its muscles. I believe in the closed position, the pen is just a little over 6 inches. I’m one to appreciate urushi lacquered pens and this Soratame is beautiful and simple. I love the hints of color in the seams of the pen.

A close up of the Soratame finish

 

In the Hand: Platinum Izumo — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

The Business End

Katherine: The Izumo nib feels much more “western” to me than the 3776 nib, but that’s a sample size of one. It’s smooth, wet and stiff — a great nib to get things done with, but not one I’m excited to write with.

Pam: I am going to enter a “expectations management” disclaimer. Given that this is a Platinum nib and my only experience with Platinum is through the 3776 nibs so my expectations included a characteristic and unique Platinum nib.  I am biased.  That being said, the Izumo nib is… serviceable.  It’s just not memorable and lacks any characteristic that makes me want to pick it up again.  It’s really really smooth which is fantastic for those looking that kind of writing experience.  However, that’s not what I was expecting.

Franz: It was my first time to write with a President nib from Platinum and I echo the ladies’ comments above. It wrote smoothly, a good flow, and did not skip like any good nib should. I always love the heart-shaped breather holes of Platinum nibs.

The Platinum President nib

 

Write It Up

Katherine: The section of the Izumo is very comfortable (though that gold ring at the very front bugs me, especially on the dark and subtle soratame finish) — though it doesn’t have the “flare” at the very end that I prefer. It’s a heavier pen than I expected (a little heavier than the m800?) but very manageable, I’m just used to urushi pens being super light. All in all a comfortable and usable pen, but not outstandingly so.

Pam:  The nib is fantastically smooth.  Almost too smooth.  There is no feedback and it lays down a nice saturated line without being overly wet.

Franz: Being an ebonite pen, the Izumo was very pleasant to write with and was balanced. The cap is “post-able” however we did not attempt to do that since it is a loaner and posting generally mars the urushi finish. One thing though, my index finger naturally lands on the threads in the middle of the section and they’re kinda sharp. It doesn’t hurt at all but you can definitely feel them. But I’ll live with it because the urushi’s green underlayer shows very nicely. Needless to say, I did not experience any fatigue while writing in my journal.

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: Super fast uncap (1 turn) and a strong clip — it’s a little big for me, but definitely EDC-able if you like the size.

Pam:  Given the size of the pen and the finish, I didn’t take this pen to work.  The clip works well and keeps it secure in a case.

Franz: The Izumo was a very lovely pen to use at work for jotting down notes as well as for signatures. The pen just stayed on my desk for most of the the day, but I did clip it onto my shirt pocket for safekeeping as well.

Like other Platinum pens, the Izumo is cartridge/converter filled and the supplied Platinum converter was very sufficient. If I were to use this pen every day at work, I’d probably refill it with ink every 3 days or so.

The cap and clip have interesting curves in them.

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: The Izumo has all the pieces — a beautiful finish, a solid nib and solidly built. At the end of it all though, half of this hobby is about the aesthetics and the Izumo just ain’t my thing. If you love the aesthetic, it won’t disappoint!

Pam:  This a great pen for those who can appreciate the classic look, the nuances of the urushi and a very smooth writing experience.  That being said, this is not the urushi pen for me.  Perhaps I have been ruined by Nakaya, just maybe.

Franz: Overall, the Izumo is a great pen to use. Ebonite pens have always been a favorite of mine and this seems to be one of them. I do love the stealthy tamenuri finish of the Soratame. As I said in the beginning of this review, the Izumo’s size and shape makes a statement. And something that’s true with every pen one holds, does that pen speak to you?

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 02, Sailor Professional Gear, Platinum 3776, *Platinum Izumo*, Nakaya Dorsal Fin, Pelikan M1000, and Lamy Safari
Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 02, Sailor Professional Gear, Platinum 3776, *Platinum Izumo* (unposted), Nakaya Dorsal Fin (unposted), Pelikan M1000, and Lamy Safari
Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 02, Sailor Professional Gear, Platinum 3776, *Platinum Izumo*, Nakaya Dorsal Fin, Pelikan M1000, and Lamy Safari

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

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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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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)

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Opus 88 Koloro (Blue, Medium Nib)

Before anything else, a big shout out of appreciation to Goldspot Pens, and Tom for providing this Opus 88 Koloro fountain pen for review. Goldspot Pens is an online shop for pens, and stationery goods and they are an authorized retailer for diverse brands that we love!

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: Like many, this pen ain’t my thing aesthetically. I’m not a big fan of the solid matte blue paired with the shinier blue green — the two colors are too close for me (I also can’t stand denim on denim… or blue shirts with blue denim, but that’s besides the point). The demonstrator version looks neat though — but once again… this is all personal preference. 🙂

Pam:  The demonstrator version is very striking, however, I am relieved to see different colors for the Koloro.  All I see on Instagram is the demonstrator version! The slight translucency of the blue makes the material more interesting than a matte plastic.  That said, why not just maintain the same material throughout, like the demonstrator?  Lastly, the demonstrator version of the pen is pretty modern, and I wish the clip would reflect that.  But then again, I am heavily influenced by the Lamy 2000 clip.

Franz: The Koloro is an interesting looking pen. The acrylic parts of the barrel and cap has a cloudy transparency and allows me to see inside with a bit of light behind. The dark blue ebonite is quite spectacular to look at and hold (and smell). When you look closely, you’ll notice that there are black bits in the ebonite and gives it a sandblasted effect. And finally, the dome shape of the cap’s finial makes me smile for some reason. =)

In the Hand: Opus 88 Koloro (posted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam
In the Hand: Opus 88 Koloro (unposted) — from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

Pen Details

In the box: The Koloro is shipped in a box with foam cutouts. An eyedropper is supplied along with the needed instructions for filling and using the pen. The presentation is very nice.
The Koloro is mostly an acrylic pen with blue ebonite accents on the cap. and blind cap on the barrel.
A close up of the blue ebonite on the cap. The blue-green acrylic in the middle is translucent.

 

The Business End

Katherine: The pen takes a #5 Jowo nib, which is nice. The one that came with this pen is smooth and well adjusted out of the box. I love that this takes a #5 though, since it seems like it would be a good candidate for frankenpenning with a vintage flex nib and nibs that fit aren’t hard to find.

Pam:  At first, the nib felt really dry and was unpleasant to write with.  However, a special feature of the pen is the shut off valve.  After we opened up the valve and saturated the feed, it was a much more pleasant writer.  (Thank you Katherine & Franz!) The #5 Jowo nib performed consistently and as expected.

Franz: There is a taper to the section that makes the #5 nib size suitable however, a part of me wishes it came with a #6. That’s just me though. As for the writing experience, it was smooth as can be and wrote nicely.

I noticed that the medium nib on the Koloro seems finer than my usual medium Jowo nibs. So I took a loupe and compared it to my other medium #5 Jowo nib. The tipping was slightly smaller/finer than on my Franklin-Christoph Model 45. Of course, this is only from one Opus 88 nib unit but I can’t help but think that since these are Taiwanese pens, could it be that their nib line widths are more towards the Japanese size?

Franz’s writing sample on a Hippo Noto Pocket A5 notebook with 68 gsm Tomoe River cream paper.

 

Write It Up

Katherine: The section is maybe a smidge slimmer than perfect, but overall it’s a comfortable pen that’s well balanced in my hand (unposted). I found it comfortable for long writing sessions, but my one gripe is that once the feed runs dry (because I forgot to open the knob and wrote for a while) it takes a while for the ink to make its way down. When loosened, it’s great… when I forget, it can be a little annoying, though the pen does keep writing, just more dry.

Pam:  I had no problem with the width of the pen.  I found it to be pretty comfortable actually.  The threads and the mild step was a bit sharp for me and had some bite in the tender area where thumb meets palm. It wasn’t painful, but it was very noticable.  I had to loosen my grip and readjust multiple times during the prolonged writing session.

Franz: I wrote in my journal with the Koloro for a good chunk of time and I did not experience any fatigue. I do prefer writing with the cap posted but it’s perfectly usable even when unposted due to the length of the section. It was my first time to use a Japanese-style eyedropper and as long as the blind cap was unscrewed, the ink flows as it should.

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: Sorry, three cap turns is just too many. I take a lot of stop and go notes… and this just doesn’t work. Otherwise, the clip feels strong and is maybe a smidge tight, but seems secure and comfortable.

Pam:  I couldn’t use this pen at work since it took far too many turns to uncap to be a good EDC at work.  It is definitely a 2 hand operation.  If that’s not a hinderance for you, the clip did keep the pen secure in my pen case.

Franz: Like the ladies above, uncapping the Koloro took a while and with a work setting of having the need to constantly cap and uncap, definitely was an irritation. As long as one doesn’t have the need for quick deploy, the Koloro is a great pen to use on the daily. I actually liked using this pen while taking notes on a conference call. The build of the pen seems sturdy and can withstand being jostled around in a pocket or a bag. The eyedropper filling system allows the pen to have a little over 2 milliliters of ink for a lot of writing.

The photo below shows the Koloro’s ink chamber and eyedropper’s plunger rod slightly pulled back. The section does have an O-ring which prevents ink from leaking out.

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: I’m really excited that a modern maker has chosen to build a pen with the Japanese Eyedropper mechanism! This pen doesn’t do it for me aesthetically, but it’s solidly made and writes well — I can’t wait to see what else Opus 88 comes up with!

Pam:  The price is fair for what you get in this pen.  If you like the aesthetic, want a relatively novel eyedropper with shut off valve, and a reliable nib, you will be hard pressed to find a better alternative.  This pen is not for me mostly due to personal preferences, however, as an introduction to Opus 88, it’s a solid opening volley.  Bring it on Opus 88!

Franz: One thing I would say that’s a negative (for me) is because the Koloro’s barrel is acrylic, I don’t get the warm ebonite feel while writing. I only have a few ebonite pens but the warm feel is something that I’ve come to expect. That’s just my personal thing though.

The Koloro is a fantastic pen to use as it has a lot going for it (fairly large size, Japanese eyedropper filling system, different color choices) and as Pam mentioned, it’s at a fair price. It is a pen I find myself using a lot for my journal time whenever I do get the time.

 

Once again, thank you to Goldspot Pens for providing this pen for review. If you’re interested in the Koloro, check out the other options on their site, here.

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy Safari, Edison Beaumont, Franklin-Christoph Model 20, *Opus 88 Koloro*, Platinum 3776, Lamy 2000, and Pelikan M805
Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy Safari, Edison Beaumont, Franklin-Christoph Model 20, *Opus 88 Koloro*, Platinum 3776, Lamy 2000, and Pelikan M805
Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy Safari, Edison Beaumont, Franklin-Christoph Model 20, *Opus 88 Koloro*, Platinum 3776, 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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June 2018 Pen & Ink Pairing

Katherine: I didn’t have a pen and ink pairing for June — I had 30! I kept up with the #30inks30days challenge on Instagram and had quite a lot of fun.I repurposed the (empty) June page from my 2017 Hobonichi to track my progress. I own more ink samples than I’d care to admit, and I had a lot of fun trying new ones and revisiting old favorites. I also own more pens than I can use regularly, and this gave me a chance to get some of them inked up and writing!

 

Pam: As luck would have it, ’tis the season to reveal an ink in my stash that I have been hoarding.  It has patiently waited for a pen-mate.  Thankfully, my minty dreams have come true with the Vanness edition of the Franklin Christoph Model 45 which is the perfect color match to Papier de Plume’s Lake Michigan Summer. The minty color sings of happy summer days as well as the soothing waters of a lake shore in both ink and pen.

I have typically avoided minty inks due to the a possible brightness that detracts from the readability of an ink.  I don’t have any problem with this ink.  It’s dark and well saturated to make reading a breeze. The comfort of the model 45 rivals that of my Pilot Prera which is practically a daily carry at work.  Not only is the ink and pen pairing a dream come true for me; I can’t imagine a better color than the minty Vanness edition Model 45.

 

Franz: Hellooo BLUE-tiful! I have had this M800 Blue o’ blue for a while now and figured to ink it up just for practicing and improving my novice italic calligraphy skills. The Blue o’ blue (Blue over blue) was a Special Edition pen by Pelikan in 2010 and I was fortunate to have gotten this pen early in my collecting days. The translucency of this material never ceases to amaze me. #ilovebluepens

I also inked up the M800 Blue o’ blue to match with the Maruzen Athena Eternal Blue ink that I have been growing to like. The Eternal Blue ink has shading that mimics the Blue o’ blue’s material. The double broad italic nib is a fitting nib for this ink because it helps bring out the shading even more.

 

Pam’s writing sample
Franz’s writing sample
2 Comments

Benu Chameleon (Charming Chameleon, Medium Nib)

We want to thank Lisa and Mike Vanness of Vanness Incorporated for lending us this Benu Pen Chameleon fountain pen for review. And sorry it has taken a while Lisa! 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. They also travel to pen shows in the United States and one of the shows that we will see them at is the upcoming San Francisco Pen Show in August.

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: This pen is… very purple. The unique shape of many of the Benu pens has intrigued me since I started to see them on Instagram. Many thanks to Vanness for lending us one so I could finally try one! And such a cool purple material too. Off the bat, I suspect the looks of this pen will be very polarizing — you either love it or you don’t. Personally, I like the galaxy-ish purple material and the unique shape. However, I couldn’t get the triangular sides to line up, which bugged me (I could also just be incompetent EDIT: Franz confirmed — I’m incompetent and it lines up for him).

Pam:  It’s a very unique pen in terms of aesthetics.  The material is “loud” to me but the shape is intriguing.  It’s not often that we get to see a triangular shape in the world of fountain pens.  I will admit that I am not particularly fond of the material as I find it very distracting and detracts from the cool shape of the pen.

Franz: Yep, this Benu Chameleon pen definitely has a distinctive design. It reminds me of the crystal that Superman used to create his Fortress of Solitude except that it’s blue and purple (blurple) and not a glowing green. Hmm… I hope that wasn’t too geeky of a reference. Hehehe… =P

 

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

 

Details

Benu’s packaging is pretty nice and simple. The white box seems perfect for the colorful pens they make. An instruction booklet also comes with the package.
A close up of the Charming Chameleon’s finish.

 

The Business End

Katherine: It contains a Schmidt nib, which is perfectly usable, but not particularly memorable. It’s on the smaller side though — so I bet you might be able to swap a vintage nib into it (though I didn’t try, so proceed at your own risk!).

Pam:  I do find the Schmidt nib to be small relative to the rest of the pen.  It’s not ideal for my angle of writing with this particular set up.  It puts my hand closer to the paper than I would like it.  The Schmidt nib is a reliable nib, writing smoothly and well right out of the box.

Franz: This Chameleon has a medium steel nib and is smooth out of the box. The smaller #5 nib complements the taper of the barrel and section nicely. This nib wrote nicely as it should and I liked it. I believe Benu pens currently have F, M, and B as nib size choices.

As Katherine alluded to, you can “gently” pull out the nib and feed to swap a similarly sized nib. Please remember that any modification you make to any pen may void any warranty there may be.

 

Write It Up 

Katherine: When I uncapped it, I was initially worried about the size of the step from section to barrel, but the section is long enough and I hold my pen far enough forward that it wasn’t an issue at all. The section is on the narrower side, and the pen is on the heavier side, which generally isn’t a combination I love. This pen was no different — usable, but not a pen that feels perfect in hand.

Pam:  The triangular shape surprisingly doesn’t detract from the comfort during the writing experience, however, the step does for me.  It’s not very sharp, but that does depend on how heavily you grip the pen.  I was left with some indentations on my hands based on my typical grip.  I do think Benu created this pen for those with a traditional grip in mind.

The cap does post rather deeply and the material is light enough that it doesn’t add too significant of a weight to the back end of the pen.  Posting the pen may be beneficial for those with the larger hands.  I found it did upset my balance, especially since the nib is relatively small and it threw off my typical writing angle slightly.

Franz: I comfortably wrote with this pen unposted for a long time and it’s due to the longer than usual section. My grip ends up on the threads and they are not sharp at all. Posted, the Chameleon definitely becomes longer. And I really love the notches on the barrel to keep the cap in place. I surprisingly prefer writing with the Chameleon unposted.

Unposted, one can see the notch on the barrel for the cap to latch on to. The longer section allows for the step to be further back.
Posted, the cap covers about an inch of the barrel and is very secure.

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: Upside: it doesn’t roll. Downside: it doesn’t have a clip. It takes two turns to uncap, but they’re two wonderfully smooth turns.

Pam:  The pen did well in my Nock Sinclair case for EDC-ness, however, it wasn’t user friendly for me at work being clipless.  On the flip side, it was quick to uncap and the nib performed admirably well on crappy office paper. The cap does post relatively securely for those quick notes.  My biggest hesitation with this being my EDC is that the material is also quite loud which made me hesitate bringing it out in the hospital setting.

Franz: In the workplace, I used the Chameleon either on the go stored in my shirt pocket or on my desk. I found that this pen is the sit-down-and-write kind due to the number of cap turns (2 and a quarter), as well as the facets that made sure the pen did not roll away. The medium nib wrote nicely on the copier paper and was all around nice.

This pen is also fun-ny because my coworkers thought I was holding a mascara tube or something. Technically, it applies color to a surface, right? ;-P

Chameleon sitting on one of its facets ready to pounce… er… write!

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: The unique shapes and materials are the big draw with this pen. If it’s not your thing, this isn’t the pen for you. But, if you’re like me and you’ve been curious about them for a while, it’s a bit of a relief to find out that while it isn’t the most comfortable and perfect pen for my hand, it’s definitely a usable and reliable writer. My one peeve is that the facets/sides don’t line up.

Pam:  Benu is willing to break tradition with unique materials and shapes.  This pen is best suited for those with a traditional tripod grip.  So if you are looking for a pen with a unique aesthetic and reliable nib, this might be the pen for you.  Based on the material and how it works out with my grip, this pen just isn’t for me.

Franz: Hey Katherine!!! The cap and barrel’s facets do line up. You just gotta give it a gentle twist. 😉 Overall, the Chameleon pen is a good size pen and the shape definitely stands out against other pen designs. What also captivates me is the “Charming” finish on this pen. Blue and purple are my two favorite colors and this is a great example of a blurple pen. I do like this pen a lot and if it is up your aesthetical alley, try it out!

Another shout out of appreciation to Lisa and Mike Vanness for the opportunity to review this Benu pen! The Chameleon pen in this finish and others can be found over at their site, www.vanness1938.com.

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Platinum 3776, Pilot Vanishing Point, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, *Benu Chameleon*, Edison Beaumont, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari
Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Platinum 3776, Pilot Vanishing Point, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, *Benu Chameleon*, Edison Beaumont, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari
Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Platinum 3776, Pilot Vanishing Point, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, *Benu Chameleon*, Edison Beaumont, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

 

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

2 Comments

May 2018 Pen & Ink Pairing

Katherine: I’m another year older and (supposedly) another year wiser this year… so I’ve chosen to celebrate with a Platinum 3776 Yamanaka, paired with Edelstein Olivine. I’ve loved the texture on the Yamanaka for a while, and was finally lucky enough to pick one up last month. It sat uninked for a couple weeks while I wanted to find it a wonderful partner (pretty uncommon for me, I usually ink things up immediately!). Franz brought over a bottle of Olivine and it seemed like a perfect match. The deep green reminds me of plants, and the textured transparent body of a terrarium — a perfect pairing for the middle of spring.

Here’s to another year of friendship, adventure and pens. (And maybe a few more plants)

Pam: I had struggled to find the perfect ink color for Pelikan’s Ocean Swirl. The teals were either too blue or too green. I originally attempted Organic Studio’s Walden but found the flow of the Ink to be too wet for an already broad EF.

My last attempt with Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku was a serendipitous hit. The Pelikan nib is wet enough that the ink color shines though and the line width is within the expected range of an EF. Also, like all well behaved inks, it is much faster drying with little concern for smearing in my Midori’s travelers notebook.

I am glad to return to my first inky loves in the last couple of months. Can’t wait to try more of the “oldies but goodies.” Are there any new ink brands that are comparable to the staples like Pilot and Sailor?

Franz: This month, I finally inked up my Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV Vanness Exclusive pen. The mint color of this pen really just appeals to me even if I know that it’s a small pen for my hand. But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve used the pen in conjunction with my Starbucks Philippines Weekly Planner and so far it’s a nice complement to it. I’m “trying” to be a bit more organized in scheduling tasks and events and by using this combo, it’s been enjoyable for me.

Since this is a Vanness Exclusive pen, I figured to ink with one of Lisa Vanness’ favorite colors, turquoise. The Sheaffer Skrip Peacock Blue is a nice vintage ink to complement this pen. I know for a fact that there are inks out there that would match the color of the pen however, this is a more personal ink to me for various personal reasons. Let’s just say that this ink is a homage to a couple people. One of those people used to say, “An italic gives you traction…”. And come on, who doesn’t like turquoise ink? Hmm? Hmm? ;-P

Writing Samples

3 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)

2 Comments

Pen & Ink Pairing: April 2018

Katherine: It’s late in the month and I’m looking back thinking “What have I written with the most this month?” and the winner, hands down, is this funky combination of a Pelikan with a custom urushi finish by Bokumondoh and a Straits Pen custom ink. Honestly, the Pelikan (originally a M200) holds so much ink that I’m getting a little sick of this purple-ish blue. It’s a lovely color… but after staring at it week after week, I’m ready for something new (good thing May is just around the corner!).

Before we hop into my birthday month, here are some quick thoughts on April’s pen and ink —

First, the pen. I sent this M200 to Bokumondoh despite her warnings that this particular finish ends up pretty thick. I love the beige and black polka dots, and the sparkle of the raden. It came back about a month later, and the finish is, as promised, quite thick — but the serendipitous thing is that now I can use my M200 as a slip cap. Game changer! I can still thread the cap if I need to, but the barrel is now thick enough that I use it as a slip cap 90% of the time.

Second, the ink. This is a custom ink that the folks over at Straits Pen cooked up — it’s a wonderful shade of purple-blue that flows well and dries reasonably quickly. I hope to see it in production soon. Perhaps at the SF Pen Show?

Katherine’s Writing Sample

 

Pam: Thank you Anderson Pens for your ink match up giveaway.  I was a lucky winner of the Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuya-Kusa, a new blue (for me.)  I will admit that I have been lax in my admiration of the Pilot Iroshizuku inks as of late, however I plan on rectifying that.  Starting with pairing this beautiful cornflower blue ink with the Brute Force Design Writer in Sea Glass.  The beautiful and deep blue of Tsuya-kusa is deeper and more nuanced than a turquoise or sky blue.  (That’s right, I said it.  I like it better than Iroshizuku Kon-Peki.)  It’s also a warmer blue with more red tones based on my amateur comparison.

Creator in Chief behind Brute Force Design, Troy, is a wonderful artist in pairing metals and woods in his signature pen designs.  I chose a lighter version of the Writer model due to the beautiful transparency and seafoam green tint of the material. The nib of choice for Brute Force is a Bock nib.  The one I have here is really wet and very well displays the color and depth of Tsuya-kusu to the fullest extent.

Bring on the spring/summer, world!  My inked pens, allergy meds and I are ready for you.

Pam’s Writing Sample

 

Franz: For the month of April, I thought of inking up my Ryan Krusac Legend L-16 with the limited edition Montlbanc Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ink. I haven’t used the L-16 ever since our review of the pen and I also inked it for two main reasons. First reason is to mark the pen’s first year anniversary with me since I got it at the Atlanta Pen Show in April 2017. Second, the broad cursive italic is very nice to practice my italic calligraphy writing. I’ve been using this pen to write some quotes and post them on instagram. If you’re interested, you may check out #FTDquotes tag on Instagram. =)

As for the MB Saint-Exupéry ink, this was my first time inking a pen with it and the burgundy color is quite rich and has purplish tones. I don’t have many burgundy inks and I find this ink to possess some beautiful shading, and the broad nib brings out the saturation very well. There is no sheen that I can see in the writing which is fine and the flow is very wet. Even if the ink does not match the cocobolo finish of the pen, the ink color complements it well.

What pens and inks have you written with lately this month?

Franz’ Writing Sample

 

Pen Closeups (click to enlarge)

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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

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