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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Katherine: It’s been a busy month, and I haven’t spent as much time playing with pens as I would have hoped. I’ve found that for the last couple weeks, my constant companion has been a Parker 51 Special filled with Diamine Blue Orient. The Parker 51 (review to come!) sports black ishime stripes, courtesy of Bokumondoh. I love the feel of the ishime and the visual variance that it gives an otherwise kind of boring looking pen (sorry!). Diamine Blue Orient is a limited edition ink created for FPN Philippine’s 10 year anniversary — I assume it’s honoring the beautiful oceans surrounding the islands.
Pam: I have been on a bit of a vintage bender recently. Nik Pang introduced me to this understated brown Waterman that is a lever filler last month. I have also been finding out in my ink-splorations what brands of ink I prefer as I keep getting through all the samples. I inked up the Waterman with my favorite green, Montblanc Irish Green. The nib is akin to a Japanese F and writes beautifully. I chose a drier ink to highlight how fine the nib is.
On a side note, has any noticed inconsistent flows in heavily saturated inks? Or is that just me?
Franz: My pen for the month of March may be a vintage pen but it was a new acquisition from the LA pen show in February. My friend Jon S. knew about my apprehension about Sheaffer pens because most of the ones I come across are short and thin pens. So he showed me the Sheaffer 8C flat top pen which was from the 1920’s. And man, I loved it! He restored the pen himself and it’s in great condition as well. I’ve been using this pen at work almost everyday ever since I got it. The 8C fills my hand very well even when unposted so the bear paw is happy. =)
And of course I had to pair it with my favorite ink, the Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. Even if the nib is a fine width, it shows the ink color very very well. In some parts of the writing, some sheen comes through as well. There’s just something about turquoise inks that floats my boat.
Seems like the three of us have been writing with vintage pens lately. What pens have you been writing with?
Katherine: I love the Optima’s aesthetic. I love the flat ends, a taper, but overall it’s short and kind of stubby. And I love stubby pens. Additionally, Aurora makes it in a range of gorgeous materials — including the limited edition pictured here. I’m partial to the gold and green, but have yet to find one at a price I’m comfortable with.
Pam: I really love the Optima’s shape and size. Why you ask? Because, to me, the Aurora Optima 365 is a gaudier Sailor Progear with the use of a wider, more ostentatious cap band. I have hesitated in purchasing an Optima mostly due to the stock material used for the pen body and cap. This limited edition material for the Optima made me eat my words. It’s sooo pretty. The blues, teal and flecks of silver-white is pretty unique and fantastic.
Franz: Wow! That Azzurra is fantastic! Pam’s observation is correct that the Optima is similarly styled as the Sailor Pro Gear. However in the hand, the Optima is definitely larger and the section is longer. That Greek key cap band is quite nice to look at as well. I’ve observed that a lot of Italian pens use this design which is pretty cool especially on the vintage ones.
A Bit of History
The Aurora pen company was established in 1919 in Turin, Italy. Pretty cool to know that they are nearing their 100th year anniversary!
Just like what we learned about the 88 model in our review, the Aurora Optima model has been a part of their model lineup since the 1930’s. The vintage model had the same flat ends kind of style and the greek key cap band as well. The vintage Optima however had the same celluloid material for the whole pen unlike the modern one which has black cap finials, section, and piston knob. Also, the vintage Optima had a vacuum-filler instead of the piston-filler in the modern one.
The Optima that we know nowadays was redesigned in 1992. The Optima is offered in different colors, materials, and limited edition options. As long as you like the shape and style of the pen, there’s gonna be an Optima pen just for you. The Azzurra 365 is a limited edition of 365 units and Franz snagged one when it came out in 2017 from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith. As of March 2018, Dan still has a couple of these in his inventory.
The Business End
Katherine: I’ve been surprised by the Optima nibs I’ve tried — they’re somewhere between a Japanese and a Western nib. Plus they have a wonderful smidge of feedback, reminiscent to me of Sailor nibs. Now that I’ve typed this all out… the Optima nibs feel like a middle ground between a Sailor nib and a typical Western nib in terms of both line width and feedback vs smoothness.
Pam: I have been able to try both an Aurora Optima’s EF and F nib. I have found Aurora’s nibs to be very consistent in line width and feel. The EF is more similar to a Japanese EF. The F nib is more consistent with a Western EF. The nib is quite wet but then again, the ink itself is also quite wet. I really enjoyed the super smooth writing experience. Sheeny inks would really shine with this nib.
Franz: I really love the nib design of the Aurora Optima and the shape is a traditional fountain pen nib. Surprisingly, I didn’t ask for a medium/broad nib from Dan but a fine instead. I’m glad I did because the fine nib is definitely lovely to write with. As Katherine said, there is a pleasant feedback while writing that I like especially on smooth paper like my Rhodia meeting notebook. The 18-karat nib isn’t really flexy nor is it marketed as a flexible nib but with just a little pressure, it does give my signature a little flair.
Write It Up
Katherine: I haven’t measured, but this pen feels like a heavier Pro Gear. Maybe a little bigger? But if it is, not by much. I found it comfortable (and quite enjoyable) to write with for long periods of time.
Pam: It’s a comfortable size pen for a variety of hand sizes. For smaller hands, it would be worth it to post the pen. For smaller sized hands, unposted is slightly better balanced and comfortable. My thumb wraps around the step and threads of the pen, but I hardly notice them. The step and threads aren’t sharp and the step is minimal making for a wonderful “no imprints” writing experience in my iron fist grip.
Franz: Let me just say that writing in my journal with the Optima was such a joy. The Optima is quite light compared to my usual Pelikan M800 and I have not experienced any fatigue at all. Both modes posted and unposted were very comfortable for me. The cap posts deeply onto the barrel and doesn’t affect the balance at all. I’ve already mentioned this but what I really love about the Optima is the lengthy section since I do grip pens farther back than others as seen in the hand comparison photos above.
Katherine: A solid pen that works quite well as an EDC. And the cap takes 1.3 turns to uncap, which is pretty darn fast. I holds up quite comfortably to a life of being used to jot down quick meetings.
Pam: The pen is a great size capped. It should fit into a decent number of pockets. The clip is strong and tight. It should have no problem slipping in and out of shirt pockets. It took a bit more finagling for my white coat pockets with the thicker material. I kept it in my Sinclair case for a majority of my time with it.
Franz: I’ve been using the Optima at my workplace for a couple weeks now and it’s such a nice everyday carry pen. The ball clip fastens to my shirt pocket very securely and uncapping is fairly quick with less than one and a half turn. The fine nib was nice to use on the copier paper in the office too.
Something pretty cool with Aurora’s piston filled pens like the 88 and the Optima is their hidden ink reservoir. If you are running out of ink, just fully extend the piston down and a little bit more ink will be available to use hopefully until you get back home to refill your pen.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: All in all, I really like the Optima. I like the shape, the nibs are fantastic and they are made in beautiful materials. But, I find the MSRP quite high for the pen so I’ve been quite conflicted about purchasing one. As Pam mentioned earlier in the review, also remind me a lot the Pro Gears, though I don’t think the aesthetic is better or worse — just very different.
Pam: I really enjoyed my time with the pen. I enjoyed the nib more. This particular material is exceptional. I know the price of the Aurora Optima reflect the celluloid material used for the pen but that alone isn’t enough for me. That being said, if you can enjoy a beautiful modern celluloid pen with a fantastic nib, I would highly recommend the Aurora Optima.
Franz: I don’t have a lot of Italian pens in my collection but so far, Aurora has been winning my heart over. The Aurora Optima has been a pen model I’ve liked a lot and the 365 Azzurra pushed me to get one. For large-sized hands, I can definitely recommend the Optima and as mentioned earlier, there are lots of finishes that one can choose from. I think with the experience of the two ladies above, the Optima is also a good pen for small and medium sized hands as well. Plus, it’s a piston-filler which holds a lot of ink perfect for daily use.
A little food for thought to end this review, Optima is derived from the word optimus which stands for “Best”. Hmmm… is it the best pen ever? For me, the Optima has jumped into my Top 5 since I got it late last year. Not necessarily my Number One pen (Pelikan still FTW) but it’s up there. Now of course, best pens are very subjective! =)
Katherine: My pairing for this month is a Danitrio Hakkaku in some sort of red urushi (I’m guessing it’s aka-tamenuri, but I don’t know what Danitrio actually calls it) and Kyo-no-oto (06) Adzuki-iro. Clearly red because Valentines day and Chinese New Years! Not because I got a new ink and put it in a pen that matches…
I’ve had this Hakkaku for a little bit now, but I never found it a perfect ink pairing, but now I have and I’m really enjoying it. The Adzuki-iro is a wonderful dark red without too much orange or purple and it pairs wonderfully with the deep red Hakkaku’s urushi. I’m not Pam, so I don’t think I can declare this a “one true pairing,” but we’ll see if I keep these two together over time. (Maybe I’ll report back next year when red is the thematically appropriate color of the season again…)
Pam: I am not a fan of Valentines Day, but February does have alot to do with love and a great reminder to appreciate those that you love. Therefore, it would seem fitting that I show an appreciation for one of my favorite literary figures, Sherlock Holmes. I obtained the lined vintage celluloid pen from John Albert of Romulus pens and named it Sherlock in the process of designing the pen with him. The black and gray lines reminded me of the now infamous Belstaff coat that is donned by the most recent reincarnation of Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series. I searched for a while before I found my perfect pairing of ink. Montblanc Lavender Purple is very reminiscent of the purple scarf Cumberbatch-Sherlock is fond of wearing. As I told my fellow pen bloggers, I heart Cumberbatch-Sherlock as much as Katherine loves faceted pens. What better time of year to express my love in pen form than this month? Thanks John for such an amazing pen!
Franz: It’s a blue pen… shocking! =) It has been said before that February is the month of love and well, #iLoveBluePens! So for this month, I chose to ink up and feature this Parker Vacumatic Maxima in Azure Blue Pearl. According to the date code, this Vacumatic was made in the last quarter of 1941. I’ve seriously been getting deeper into the vintage pen realm and loving it. Honestly, any fountain pen lover must own at least one Parker Vacumatic. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the feel of it as well as the coolness of the vacuum pump filler. For about 15 years, Parker produced the Vacumatic in a handful of different sizes for almost every hand size. Having the bear-paw among the 3 of us, the Maxima (the largest) size fits my hand well even with the cap unposted.
Paired with this beautiful blue pen is the limited edition Montblanc Meisterstück Blue Hour/Twilight Blue ink. I love how the pen matches the blue color of the ink when you lay it down on paper and then as it dries, it changes to a blue-green color. I learned about this ink about 3 years ago from reading Azizah’s review on her site: Gourmet Pens-Montblanc Blue Hour.
So a cool blue pen, paired up with a cool blue ink. What else can I ask for? Oh, wait… more blue pens! ;-P
Katherine: This pen is adorable. But it does bug me a little that the end of the barrel isn’t black (I’m picky, I know). But oh, it is so cute. (Contrary to what Pam says, they’re still available on Rakuten)
Pam: CHIBI BUMBLEBEE SAILOR for the win!!! It’s a petite Progear that is small enough that the pen gets posted by screwing on the end of the pen. Sailor pocket pen are three words that send my heart swooning; great things come in small packages. Unfortunately, these are not being made anymore. They are available on the secondary market.
Franz: The Sailor Pro Gear Mini is so tiny and charming especially in this yellow finish! Pam calls it bumblebee and I can see that too but in my mind, I refer to it as a banana pen. I don’t know… it’s just something about that black cap finial that makes me think of one of my favorite fruits.
The Business End
Katherine: It’s the the same Sailor MF 14k as a Pro Gear Slim (it’s really just a Pro Gear Slim with a shorter barrel, after all) — and unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed it. It’s broad enough that I can see the color of the ink, but fine enough that I can stick to my usual tiny hand writing.
Pam: It’s a Sailor MF (medium-fine) nib. It’s in the great sweet spot of a slightly wetter/broader line that isn’t too wet. I would recommend putting in an ink that you want to show off. Perhaps an ink with some sheen. I don’t find as much feedback with this Sailor nib, which makes sense given that the MF nib is a bit broader.
Franz: The Mini’s medium-fine nib is very nice to write with. Just like most Sailor nibs I’ve tried, it was very smooth. The M-F line width is actually a good one for me as I find Sailor’s fine nibs just “a little” too thin of a line for me. The design on this nib is different from any other Sailor pen because this was a pen commissioned and sold by the Nagasawa Kobe stores in Japan.
Write It Up
Katherine: I found this pen usable, but slightly short when unposted. It’s one of the few pens that I prefer posted to unposted. Like the Kaweco Sport, when unposted, this pen makes my hand a bit tired after a while because it’s just barely long enough to fit in my hand and I have to be careful about how I position my hand. Posted though, it’s fantastic — like a slightly longer Pro Gear Slim!
Pam: The size of the pen posted is similar to the Sailor Progear Slim. The width of the pen is exactly that of the Sailor Progear Slim actually. They section and body are swappable amongst the Sailor Progear Slim and Mini. Other than the length, if you find the width of the Sailor Progear Slim comfortable, this pen won’t be a problem for you.
Franz: I wrote in my journal with the Mini only in the posted mode because it was quite difficult to write with the cap unposted. I found that the posted length made it a little more comfortable for me. The girth of the section was quite thin for me so I end up gripping the pen on the threads. They weren’t too sharp and I barely noticed them.
Katherine: It’s great for quick notes and pocket use. It’s tiny, brightly colored (and hard to lose…) and seems plenty durable, not that I threw it against a wall or anything.
Pam: I kept this pen with my Hobonichi A6 notebook cover and it kept up with my adventures in my bag. It’s really portable. It’s not the best for quick notes given that you have to screw the cap onto the body to post, However, if you have particularly petite hands and don’t need to post it, a which quick twist of 1.5 rotations, will get you writing pretty quick.
Franz: Ahh… every day carry. It is definitely a pen that fits in your pockets. The M-F nib is actually very appropriate for use on cheap copier papers as the line is thin and the ink spread is minimal. But I don’t think I can recommend this pen for large handed writers because after 2 or 3 words, it’s hard to write with the pen unposted. This is due to the pen falling into the crook of my hand and is uncomfortable. I’d need to post the cap and screw it onto the barrel which takes quite a bit of time if you are constantly needing to cap and uncap for quick usage. It takes almost 2 turns to uncap the pen and then another turn or two for posting the cap. Small hands? No problem as you can see from the two ladies’ experience.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: This pen is really cute — but between this and the Pro Gear Slim, I’d prefer the latter. It’s just a little more flexible and accommodating for my hand. But if short pens are your thing — this is definitely a great fit.
Pam: It’s a chibi Sailor for chibi hands. It’s a solid Sailor pen, albeit small. If you are into challenging yourself on how small of a pen you can comfortably write with (like Franz), this is a great pen to borrow from smaller hand friends. If you are looking for a great pocket pen and don’t mind the extra work posting, you will be rewarded with this Sailor.
Franz: I really like the Pro Gear Mini a lot, and want one for myself. But to be honest, this is more because of me just hoarding wanting the pen in my collection. As a journal, or letter writing pen, I’d use this pen again.
The Mini is a pen more suited for people with a small, or medium hand size. This is coming from a guy who uses his King of Pen Pro Gear a lot in the workplace and for daily use. As well as a guy who constantly annoys pen friends by singing, “I like big pens and I cannot lie…!”.
But one, including myself, cannot deny that the Sailor Pro Gear Mini is an adorable pen to behold. #ChibiPen
Sailor Professional Gear Comparisons (Left to right: Pro Gear Sapporo/Mini, Pro Gear Slim, Pro Gear Classic, and Pro Gear King of Pen)
We would like to thank Pen Chalet and Ron M. for sending us this Pilot Custom 912 as a review loaner pen. Pen Chalet has been a great company that sells pens and stationery items at competitive prices. They also frequently run promos for specially priced items as well as provide discount coupons. Check them out if you haven’t yet.
That being said, the opinions below are our own and we were not compensated (monetarily, or otherwise) for this review.
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: I like the way this pen looks. Flat ends, with some taper, and silver rhodium hardware. It’s nothing flashy, but I much prefer this look to cigar shaped pens.
Pam: This pen hits several check boxes for me in terms of aesthetics. Flat top, check. Rhodium trim, check. Non-garish clip, check. It’s perfectly understated and professional. Oh, what fun this pen hides!
Franz: A lot of Pilot pens have a simple look and this is one of them. The shape of the 912 reminds me of a Parker 75, a Lamy 2000, and maybe even a Sailor Pro Gear. A flat top pen with slight taper. And do you notice how the clip’s shape looks like a sword? The pen is mightier than the sword, right? =)
Here’s a quick informational tip. A lot of Pilot pens are assigned numbers as their model names. I’ve come to know that the first 2 numbers of the model name indicates the company year when the pen model was released. In the case of the Pilot Custom 912, it was released within the 91st year of the Namiki/Pilot company which was founded in 1918. So, 1918+91 years means the 912 was introduced in the year 2009. The last digit was/is the manufacturer suggested retail price for the pen in 10,000 Japanese Yen. So 2 x 10,000 = ¥20,000.
The Business End
Katherine: Ooooh the FA nib! This is the second #10 (the smaller size) FA nib I’ve used, and just like the other, it was a delight. I love the flex and softness of FA nibs — they don’t have quite the snap back that some vintage gold nibs have, but they’re plenty for my untrained hand and ultra reliable (see the EDC portion). The one caveat is that the stock feed with the 912/742 tends to have a hard time keeping up if you flex a lot. To solve this, I widened the feed channel on my FA nib (the 912 was a loaner, so I didn’t, but I made the modification to my 742) and rarely have rail roading problems. With the improved flow the 742 is a fantastic, fun writer.
Pam: The FA nib is really really fun. It’s one of the best softer/flexier modern nibs. It’s a great alternative to those who don’t want to tempt fate with vintage gold nibs or on a more modest budget. (If you are a newb like I am with vintage pens and find the idea daunting.) The nib can take quite a bit of pressure and allows for some generous line variation. Yes, the nib survived my writing pressure.
Franz: Pilot nibs in general are so good out of the box whether it be the steel nib of a Pilot Metropolitan, or the 14k gold nib of a Pilot Stargazer. The Pilot Custom 912 just follows suit and is a very smooth writing nib. The FA nib has that soft bounce and it was a pleasure writing with it. I don’t do much “flex” writing and the nib and feed kept up with my writing doodling. So it’s a great one for me!
Did you know that some of Pilot’s nibs are date stamped? You can barely see it in the photo below but this nib is stamped “315” which means the nib was manufactured in March of 2015. #justoneofthosethings =)
Write It Up
Katherine: This pen is plenty comfortable for me. It’s well balanced, not too thick and not too thin. The nib is also stiff enough that it’s easy to write with for pages on pages (versus some really soft nibs where super light pressure is a must) but soft enough that it’s easy to add some flair to my writing when I want to (or for whole pages at a time, if I must admit).
Pam: I am reminded of how reliable and wonderful Pilot pens each time I pick one up. It’s a pretty light pen, well balanced and had a good width. I can’t use my usual grip with this pen given how this nib performs, but even in the tripod grip, it’s a good comfortable section.
Franz: Comfy posted or unposted. Nuff said. Thanks. =) Yep, writing with the Custom 912 was such fun. Unposted, the length was sufficient and I was writing along fine. The cap posted deeply onto the barrel and didn’t change the balance very much but I appreciated the longer length.
Katherine: What really makes the Pilot FA nibbed pens stand out to me over vintage flex is how incredibly reliable they are. I carried this 912 in my backpack for a few days, and I never had a leak or found ink in the cap — it’s a durable pen that has all the conveniences of modern pens, but with a fun flexy nib.
Pam: This is a great pen for lettering in planners to add a pop or a flourish to your dailies or to do lists. The clip worked well in my Hobonichi A6 notebook. One of the perks of modern pens is that I know that it will perform well and consistently. It survives the transit in my daily bag without any issues. I didn’t really use this pen at work, but it’s a great companion for “planner time.”
Franz: I got to use the Custom 912 at work for about 3 days and found it to be a great pen for daily use. The clip secured the 912 on my shirt pocket nicely. Pilot supplies the 912 with a Con-70 ink converter and it holds a decent amount of ink.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: If I didn’t already have a 742, I’d be asking Pen Chalet how much they want for the pen so I’d never have to send it back. I really like it (and prefer the way it looks to the 742). But… alas, a girl cannot have every pen that catches her eye. Overall, the 912 is a comfortable, non flashy daily driver AND a fun pen for doodling and dabbling in calligraphy.
Now back to telling myself I don’t need a second FA nib. I don’t need a second FA nib.I don’t need a second FA nib.I don’t need a second FA nib. Ugh.
Pam: If you are looking for a modern “flex” nib or want to start practicing your hand letter/calligraphy from a consistent and reliable writer, I would highly recommend the 912. If you are a newb like me and just want to have the fun of a softer nib without delving too deep into your wallet or the vintage world, this is a great pen to start with. Granted, that being said, there is almost no alternative to a flexy vintage gold nib. One of the great things about fountain pens is that there is a pen to suit anyone. This pen hits a particular spot for me as the best of both worlds, soft nib with a reliable performance and good body. It’s a “happy writing” spot.
Franz: To state the obvious, I really liked the Pilot Custom 912. It has been on my list for a while now but I haven’t been able to acquire one. Reviewing this loaner from Pen Chalet could be the helpful nudge I’ve been needing.
Even if the term “solid” may be overused in reviews, I have to say it. The Pilot Custom 912 is a SOLID pen to use and recommend. It isn’t an inexpensive pen, but there is value in it. The nib is a great writer, the build seems durable, the threads are smooth, and the pen’s silhouette is beautiful. However, there is one caveat/drawback with the 912. As of this writing, the pen has only been offered in a black finish. For me, I love black pens and don’t mind the lack of options (would love to have a blue though). But knowing the awesome people in the pen community, a lot of pen folks want color options for the pens. So if the aesthetics of the 912 appeal to you, go get one and try it out!
Once again Ron, we appreciate your lending this Pilot Custom 912 for review!
Katherine: The grey frosty cap reminds me of dirty snow, and the dusty purple ink of cold winter nights… just kidding. I just really like this pairing, and the pen is new to me, so I’m really excited and using it a lot. I first saw this pen over a year and a half ago (on May 12th, 2016 — I don’t remember many dates, but I remember important ones!), in the pen case of a friend (who shall remain nameless), and I fell in love. I tried other pens in the meantime, a black FC 45 IPO (which we reviewed) and a Wonderpens Model 20 in the same “bronze” material… but it wasn’t quite the same. To me the combination of this smokey material and compact form factor (with a sprinkle of nostalgia) is magical. Don’t judge. Anyway, friend decided to buy some fancy urushi pen or something, and offered me this pen… and now it’s MINE.
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Wow, I’m dramatic tonight. Time to go to bed… Waiting wasn’t really that bitter. Just lots of scoping FC tables at shows and on IG.)
Pam: This has been one of the worst winters at work within recent memory for me. Between medication shortages and the flu vaccine being practically ineffective (twice I have gotten the flu… twice!), it has been an incredibly busy season at the hospital. Thus, my homage to this season is the Pilot Prera (in white) paired with Pelikan Turquoise. The Pilot Prera is a workhorse pen for me given that the F nib works wonderfully on office paper. Pelikan Turquoise a wonderfully vibrant ink that pops off the page of my rather dull reports at work. As people say, it’s the little things in life. Stay warm, healthy and safe this season everyone. (Please be patient with your local pharmacies and pharmacists as we troubleshoot the ridiculously long list of medication shortages.)
Franz: The first month of the new year is represented by a vintage Pelikan! Actually, this is my oldest Pelikan pen and it’s a Pelikan 400 in black-striped finish. This was actually one of the last pens I received in 2017 so it’s more of a recent acquisition. Upon my review, this 400 was manufactured around the year 1953 due to the lack of engraving on the cap band and the nib imprint without the Pelikan logo. The black stripes are between green translucent strips that let you see your ink level very subtly and I find it very captivating. It took me almost a year to find this pen at a reasonable price and be in decent condition. And having an oblique medium nib allows me to use it at work and for my journaling as well.
When I received the pen in December 2017, it took me three days to decide what to ink it up with… three days! I’m sure you fountain pen folk will understand. Anyway, I decided to ink it up with Pilot Blue Black which is very familiar to me and usable at work. Since Pilot Blue Black is water resistant, if not waterproof, it’s what I use at my workplace for documents to alternate with Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium.
It’s almost the end of January and I find myself placing this Pelikan 400 in my pocket on a daily basis and have just reinked it a couple days ago. Even if it’s smaller than what I prefer in pens, I just post the cap and write away. I do alternate it during the day with my Pelikan M805 with a medium cursive italic nib though, but that’s for another pairing post. =)
What favorite pen and ink combo have you been writing with for the month of January?