Mini Review: Minted’s Signature Paper

It’s that time of the year again — holiday cards! I ordered this year’s batch of cards from Minted, so I thought I’d share a quick writing sample incase other folks were interested —

The paper seems to be coated, so many inks seem to sit on top of it, the exceptions are Pilot Blue Black (but feathered quite a bit when wet), Platinum Carbon Black (a little feathering, but much less) and Sailor inks, other than Sei-Boku.

Wetter pens seem to saturate the paper enough to get through the coating, but some do feather.

A tiny bit of feathering with PCB when it’s really wet, but it’s overall easily readable, and I wouldn’t hesitate about putting it in the mail when it’s wet and rainy. (I ordered post cards)

All in all, these aren’t fountain-pen friendly, but are tolerant if you’re willing to do a little experimentation and find a nib and ink that work for you. If you want to play it safe, Platinum Carbon Black delivers.

Have you ordered from another online card printer? Want to do a guest post, let us know!

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The Great Nakaya Size Comparison, Addendum I

The Nakaya Clinic at Aesthetic Bay brought us a new shape — the finless dorsal fin. Thomas of Penucopia was was kind enough to lend us his for some photos.

Left to right: Piccolo, Long Piccolo, Naka-ai, Finless Dorsal Fin, Pelikan M800

The Long Piccolo is exclusive to Aesthetic Bay, and the Naka-Ai is exclusive to nibs.com

Left to right: Pelikan M800, Naka-ai, Long Piccolo, Piccolo, finless Dorsal Fin

The Pelikan was added in in case you have no other Nakaya to compare against. It’s what I had on hand, sorry.

Left to right: Pelikan M800, Naka-ai, Long Piccolo, Piccolo, finless Dorsal Fin

Unfortunately I don’t have a Dorsal Fin version 1 or 2 to compare against in photos. However, I was able to compare the two in person and it’s the same section on both. The big difference is the fins.

Sorry for the mediocre phone photo quality. The borrowed pens are on their way to their new home and it didn’t feel right to delay them for better photos.

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Aesthetic Bay Nakaya Clinic: Day 2

Continuing on my recap after Day 1 of Aesthetic Bay’s Nakaya Pen Clinic, here’s day 2:

I got to Aesthetic Bay at 10am, in preparation for an 11am appointment. The slots, predictability, ran late. Yoshida-san got to my pens at about 2:30. But, it was more than worth the wait. (Also waiting with fellow Nakaya fans is a lot of fun)

While waiting, I met several other Nakaya enthusiasts, oggled their collections, egged people on into buying their own Nakaya, talked about notebooks… etc etc. It turns out that I don’t get hungry as fast when standing around with a bunch of other rabid pen folks. Pen clinic adrenaline?

At the clinic, Yoshida-san and his assistant (I think her name is Sanae-san, but I’m not 100% sure) will tune or adjust any Nakaya or Platinum pen. However, they will not grind Platinum pens, only Nakaya. And some grinds take a while, so they don’t do them at the clinic, they need to be brought back to Japan and will be shipped back to their owner (someone asked for an Architect and that was the response, I’m not sure which other grinds fall into that category).

My first request was a stub on a BB nib. It’s a joy to watch Yoshida-san work, he uses no power tools — only traditional whetstones and some elbow grease. Additionally he has made a lot of his own tools — special feeds for grinding, a steamer with silicon blocks for warming feeds and a bunch of other things that we didn’t see in action.

My pen (the stub) compared with the music nib from their nib testing set. The two nibs put down similar-ish lines, but feel very different when writing. The BB stub is extremely smooth on both sides, possibly even smoother when used upside down. Sorcery.

After this Yoshida-san tuned and tweaked a couple nibs for me, and installed a wisteria roll stop on a kuro-tamenuri Decapod Mini for me. The first picture in this post is all the pens he worked on for me. (I guess people like me are why all the slots ran late…)

Nakaya also brought out this super cool yatate in the morning, a wooden single pen holder. It’s made of wood, with fabric cushioning on the inside and finished with urushi.

Unfortunately it also costs more than many entry level Nakaya… so I’m sticking to my Musubi two pen case (which is also far more practical). Speaking of Musubi,

I had a chance to oggle the new Musubi sizes — here they are compared against a Nakaya Piccolo. So cute!

Here’s a last photo of Yoshida-san, installing my rollstop, but more importantly, you can see his customized kettle for warming feeds. Steam comes up between the white silicon blocks and warms the feed, while the nibs never get scratched.

I don’t know when the next pen clinic will be, but if you love Nakaya as much as I do, I highly recommend going. Many thanks to Aesthetic Bay for putting this together and hosting!

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Aesthetic Bay Nakaya Clinic: Day 1

Hello again, it’s Katherine and I’ve gone rogue with the mediocre iPhone pictures. (Sorry)

I’m at the Nakaya Clinic hosted by Aesthetic Bay in Singapore. It’s a three day event where the Nakaya team (Yoshida-san, his assistant, and a translator) brings pens and offers time to get your Nakaya and Platinum nibs tuned and adjusted (by appointment). They are willing to do some grinds, but generally grinds take a lot of time so not all grinds are available. Additionally, each slot is 15 minutes long — so there isn’t a lot of time for multiple grinds, the focus is really on getting pens tuned.

Above is the tray of “fancier” pens — there are some really interesting urushi techniques in that case, how many can you identify?

New to this clinic is a new shape — a Dorsal Fin without the fin (on the right. The left pen is a Naka-ai for comparison). These are list at $800 USD for the tamenuris, and $900 for a variation of hairline.

They sold pretty quickly. (As Nakaya tend to do…)

And a selection of stoppers and nibs. They can be added to existing pens, or newly purchased ones! (For a fee, obviously)

When you buy a pen, they’ll tune and adjust it for you. The stand on the front left are their nib testers — each stock Nakaya nib is represented and available to try. Now I really want a music nib. Yikes.

My appointment is tomorrow still, so I’ll be back with updates on getting my pen(s) tuned and adjusted.

Lastly, I finished off the day with dinner with some of the Aesthetic Bay team and the Nakaya team (and a handful of other Nakaya fans!). Yoshida-san showed us some of his personal Nakaya pens… and my wish list just grew a whole lot longer.

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Mini Review: Moleskine Chapters Dotted Journal

It’s Mini Review time! As usual, it’s Katherine writing about another bit of fountain peripheral stuff, this time the Moleskine Chapters notebook. I was gifted one because they’ve dropped to being pretty cheap on Amazon, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. (Also it seems a little inconsiderate to not try something you’re gifted… no matter how bad the reputation of Moleskine paper)

It’s a notebook with six sections plus a set of lists (space for 13) at the very back. Each section has a title spread, and the last section and the lists are perforated. Neat in theory, but I’m not yet sure what I’ll use this for — if you have six things going on in your life, this could be great. For me, I’m not sure.

I know all you really care about is the paper, so here it goes — it’s the typical (I think?) Moleskine paper which is kinda fountain pen tolerant, but not quite friendly. If you prefer drier and narrower nibs, it’s totally fine, with wetter and broader nibs, less so.  What surprised me was that even my rollerball showed through — what are you supposed to use? Pencils? Just the driest fountain pens? (Notice the Perkeo barely shows through)

And, there’s a fair amount of show through… which isn’t great. Moleskine products are so cute, I wish they did better with fountain pens! Alas, they aren’t, but this layout could be perfect for something, I’m just not sure what yet…

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Rome Store Recap

Following up on my Naples Store Recap, here are my photos and notes from my time pen shopping in Rome.

To start with — almost everything (both touristy and pen related) seem to be clustered in the same area. I’m not sure if that’s actually the case, or if the things I could find were biased because I’m searching in English. But, here are the stores I visited —

First up, Stilo Fetti! This store is super close to the Pantheon (about a block away) and very much in the center of the main tourist area.

They had quite the selection of pens — including drawers upon drawers that you had to ask to see. A huge selection, but prices were on the higher end of the spectrum for new pens.

And a small selection of Omas celluloids. The larger ones are all rollerballs, but the smaller ones were fountain pens. They had a handful of new celluloid Omas pens, but none of them came cheap (though I also don’t think the prices were necessarily absurd, Omas celluloid just isn’t cheap these days).

Second, Novelli. This is a pen and pipe store, featuring a smaller selection than Stilo Fetti, but still worth a visit.

A selection of vintage pens under a glass case — Derek was more than happy to show them to me and answer any questions I had. The third Aurora on the bottom was plenty tempting. Derek also tipped me off on the fact that I could get my tax refund in the city, in cash! Nifty. You end up getting 11% of your purchase price back via the VAT refund (the provider eats the rest of it as profit). All the stores on this list will do a tax refund for purchases over €150 (or maybe 155?).

In addition to vintage they also stock quite a few modern pens at reasonable prices. On new pens, the prices seemed a smidge lower than Stilo Fetti (though I didn’t compare extensively across brands). Here’s a selection of M600s and M400s.

Corsani was our third stop — though it’s further out from all the other stores on this list. But if you visit the Vatican (or St Peter’s Basilica) then Corsani is only a short walk away.

I think Corsani is one of the most famous Roman shops, or at least the one I’d read about most before visiting. It’s also a more modern feeling shop than Stilo Fetti or Novelli and carries a wide range of pens across price points — from cheap to high end.

I don’t know much about these, but I saw them in the window and they looked interesting. The staff here were very friendly and happy to test nibs and let you dip pens. My brother ended up buying a Visconti here and they were more than happy to let him pick a nib and (hopefully) avoid the inconsistent QA Visconti is known for.

Fourth, C’Art, which isn’t really a pen store but does sell pens. It was on sale when we visited and the selection wasn’t particularly interesting, but it is there if you’re looking for a pen, any pen. Waterman, Parker, at ST Dupont all had quite a few pens on display.

Fifth was Vertecchi. They sell an assortment of school-supply-ish stuff, cute pouches, backpacks, calligraphy supplies, notebooks and have a dedicated room for fountain pens!

Some of their calligraphy supplies. I was on the lookout for a glass dip pen, but I’ve realized I don’t like the brightly colored swirly ones. They also had glass cases for pens, all the usual suspects, but also Pilot! (though Pilot was pretty expensive). Price wise, higher than Corsani or Novelli, probably on part with Stilo Fetti for the items they both sell. The selection is pretty boring, entirely modern fairly easy to find stuff, but I did almost buy a bunch of cute boxes/pouches/pencil case things.

Lastly, Campo Marzio, which is the name of both a street (where one of it’s branches is) and a store is a “fashion accessories” (read: synthetic leather) brand. But, they also carry a bunch of cheap colorful pens.

The bulk of their pens are rebranded Chinese pens, but the small striped pens and the faceted pens below were both new to me (though definitely both Chinese made). The pens above are €24 for a fountain pen, €17 for the rollerball. Ignore the price tag. The faceted pens below, I forgot to double check if the price tag was right.

True to the theme of this blog, here’s Katherine’s hand with the small pen unposted. They’re very small!

And the last note, the Vatican museum gift shops carry this Delta pen (and a black RB counterpart). The Vatican definitely isn’t a pen store, but I thought I’d note this for those looking for a souvenir pen.

All in all, Rome has quite a few pen stores all within walking distance. Prices here aren’t a steal compared to buying online or in the US (not sure about other locations) even for Italian brands. However, some stores (Corsani!) have brands I don’t typically see, and many of the stores (Fetti, Corsani, Novelli) have quite a selection of pens that you may not find in store — Omas, lots of Delta, vintage, etc. And, because the pens stores are all clumped together, you can eat gelato or other delicious things while walking from one to the next (I had a delicious burrata and anchovy “stuffed pizza” after Corsani, on my way back to Stilo Fetti).

All in all, my Rome (and Italy overall) pen haul was one fountain pen, one rollerball and two bottles of Omas ink. I didn’t call out the store where I bought them because I bought the last two. The only other store where I saw Omas bottles was Novelli, but I think they were part of the display. Corsani had lots of Omas cartridges.

Happy pen shopping!

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Naples (and Amalfi Coast) Pen Store Recap

Hi there! It’s that time again, another recap of pen shopping by Katherine. Previous ones include Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

I spent a couple days in Naples and on the Amalfi Coast last week, and had a chance to do a little bit of pen shopping — but not much buying. (A post about Rome, where my wallet bled, will follow)

First stop: Casa Della Penna, really the only store that shows up when you search for pen stores in Naples.

They have a pretty good selection of several brands — mostly mid and higher end ones. Montblanc, Aurora, Omas, Pelikan, pretty standard fare.

They still have Omas in stock — but their prices seem to be pretty standard retail prices, so no deals here. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit, but if you’re in the area (or live in Naples) it’s a pretty neat store to have near by. Beats anything we have locally in San Francisco!

Second stop: Amodio, I found this one by accident, I was walking around the “old” part of Naples being a tourist (and eating some fried seafood out of a paper cone) and the pens in the window caught my eye —

This is much more of a general office supply store than a pen store, but they do carry a selection of Pelikan, Delta and Lamy pens.

Here’s the lovely M205 in the window display. They also had quite a few other M200-ish Pelikans. I don’t think they carry any pens over €200.

But lots of notebooks and paper! Including quite a few fountain pen friendly brands.

Third stop: stores in Amalfi. There were a couple of these stores in the town of Amalfi (I suspect they exist in other towns along the Amalfi coast, but I didn’t run into them) — stationary stores that sell primarily dip pens and Italian paper. The pen selection isn’t particularly interesting, as they mostly look like cheap souveniers — though a few had interesting glass dip pens, but those were easily €30-5o.

But the paper selection was gorgeous! Beautiful patterns, and available in every usage — postcards, notebook, sheets (embossed with the Amatruda logo!), envelopes and cards… etc.

All in all, it’s always fun to shop for pens, but don’t go out of your way, there’s more to life than buying pens. While in Naples, eat lots of pizza, sfogliatella, cuppo (fried food in a paper cone). And in Amalfi, drink limoncello (or buy some so you can drink it after you spend all your money in Rome…) and enjoy the view!

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Mini Review: Atelier Musubi Pen Case

Atelier Musubi is known for their handmade Tomoe River diaries. They recently released these two pen cases in two sizes, a large and a small. I bought a large for myself, and a smaller one for my mom for mother’s day (ssssh — good thing I know she doesn’t read any blogs!).

True to the Musubi description, the small one is a great size for short pens. The long, perfect for longer pens. The long comfortably fits Nakaya Decapods, a Newton Shinobi, an old style Paragon and my Montblanc 146. I’ve only had this for a couple days, so I haven’t tried too many pens!

I haven’t tried too many pens in either case yet, but most of my pens fit in the shorter size, but some, like the Montblanc 146, fit but make the flap slightly harder to close. The 3776 fits perfectly in the short case though!

Overall, I really like the case, it’s very well made and seems very sturdy. My one complaint is that the pens do touch each other in the case. The tab at the top keeps the two pens from touching at the top. In the small size, fatter pens (including Piccolos and the caps of the 3776 and MB 146) they do rub as you slide pens in and out. In the larger case, the above pens don’t rub, but do clatter against each other if you shake the case. I stuffed a small piece of cotton at the bottom of the long case with a bump in the middle, and it seems to hold the pens apart at the bottom too. (They might still rub a little, but at least they don’t clatter against each other when I shake the case)

It’s hard to photograph, but that’s a 3776 and Montblanc 146 in a large case… probably touching.

TLDR: Great cases, but not for you if you want a healthy space between all your pens at all times.

Edit: Musubi is rethinking their design to add a separator between pens. Keep an eye out on their social media for updates!

Edit 2 (July 29, 2018): The Musubi divider is here! It’s an easy removable strip in fabric that matches the case and slides in for the length of your pen. No more touching! New pictures to come.

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Mini Review: Nakaya Nib Size Comparison

Hello again, it’s me, Katherine, going rogue on one of these mini reviews (complete with unadjusted iPhone photos — sorry). This time I sat down and did writing samples with every Nakaya and Platinum 3776 nib I had on hand.

The method: I chose three inks — Sailor Okuyama, Waterman Serenity Blue and Montblanc Lavender Purple. For each pen and ink combo, I dipped the nib, up to the breather hole, kept it there for ten seconds, then wrote a line and a half in my notebook so the feed wouldn’t be too saturated — then did the writing sample. This is all done in a Hobonichi, with 3.8mm grid.

About the nibs: (from top to bottom, here are some notes)

Nakaya SF + Mottishaw’s Spencerian Grind – very fine, has quite a bit of softness. I think this is fairly close to the stock UEF in line width… But I don’t have one of those, so i can’t do a side by side.

Nakaya Fine – stock nib.

Nakaya Medium – stock nib.

Platinum Medium – stock nib. Overly dry to start, but after adjusting, writes much like the Nakaya stock medium. I’ve had a few Platinum 3776s show up with overly dry nibs out of the box. Nakaya doesn’t have this problem since each is tuned.

Nakaya Medium + Masuyama Formal Italic – A sharp well-defined italic. Great for me because I use very little pressure, but can be scratchy and paper-tearing if the angle doesn’t suit you or you use a lot of pressure.

Nakaya Soft Medium + Mottishaw Cursive Italic – A more forgiving grind than the formal italic, but still not an easy nib — the CI is relatively sharp, but the softness means that it’s extra easy to catch paper edges. This nib works well for my hand, but some people (like Franz) just can’t get it to cooperate. Additionally, it’s tuned on the dry side so you don’t get the forgiveness and slickness of a lubricating ink.

Platinum Broad * – This is very close to a stock Broad, but I’ve ground it down to be a little stubby since I have a hard time writing with round Broads.

Nakaya BB + Mottishaw Stub, taken to .8mm – a nice smooth stub, nice line variation but very easy to write with.

Nakaya BB (also known as C) – stock nib

Nakaya BB (C) – written with upside down

My favorites: My favorite width is the medium — wide enough to show off an ink, narrow enough to suit my small hand writing and doodling. My favorite stock nib is probably a Soft Medium, but I don’t own an unmodified one — time to change that? My favorite nib out of the bunch above is the Soft Medium with the CI grind — I love the way it writes and it demands just enough attention of me to keep me awake. Fun.

There’s not much of a conclusion here — everyone has different nib preferences. Are there any other writing samples or comparisons that would be helpful? Feel free to suggest things! I’m sure Pam and Franz will let me pillage their collections for pens to compare against! 🙂

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Mini Review: Midori 10th Anniversary White Grid Notebook

This week my Midori 10th Anniversary notebooks arrived! In particular, I purchased a couple of the White Grid A5 notebooks. MD paper and A5 sides are well known quantities, the interesting about these (since I didn’t get the set) is the white 5mm grid.

The grid is pretty subtle — it’s fairly hard to see without the black backing sheet (comes with the notebook), but becomes more obvious in bright light, or very direct light since it’s lightly glossy (the lines, not the paper). I really like it — I can’t write in a straight line, but this grid is fairly easy to follow and really easy to ignore.

The big gotcha with this notebook is that the lines show through most ink — so in ink blots or wider nibs, you see white lines cutting through your ink. This doesn’t bother me, but I imagine it may bother some.

To conclude this mini review, I really like this notebook, but if the white lines bug you, you may not love it as much as I do (obviously). But, for my writing style — small and uneven, it’s perfect. I just wish I got one of the 10th Anniversary paper notebook covers.

EDIT: Adding this since I think the zoomed in photos above make the lines way more obvious than they are with normal writing.

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