This is a new series of posts for us. Each month we’ll pick a pen an ink pairing and share why we love it. What are your favorite pairings? And please give us feedback — we love comments!
Pam: I tend to make pen and ink “one true pairings,” as in, once a pen and ink are well paired, they are almost permanently paired for me. My first OTP was the Lamy 2000, EF nib with Sailor Yama-dori. The Lamy 2000 didn’t sing, and arguably, a disappointment due to my original ink choice. I thought the nib was too wide, too wet, and created a “weird” line. However, once I put in Sailor Yama-dori, thie “too wet” was just right to show off the beautiful red sheen on the perfectly teal ink. The “too wide” and “weird line” became a semi-architect because I could actually see the difference between my vertical and horizontal strokes. I haven’t inked up the Lamy 2000 with any other ink since its second inking.
Katherine: If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I got my first Nakaya (unboxing video here). Nibs.com had ONE ao-tamenuri (blue-green) Piccolo left, and I couldn’t resist. When the pen arrived I waffled over what ink to ink it with — something I knew I loved, or a totally new ink? I went with Akkerman #24 Zuiderpark Blauw-Groen, which I suspected would match the blue-green accents on the pen — and I was right! The ink flows well, but is on the dry side and matches the pen perfectly. After reveling in my perfect match, I found out that Franz (who I got my sample of Akkerman #24 from) bought the ink to match his Ao-Tamenuri pen… great minds think alike!
Franz: I’m excited about this post because I know that most pen folk are particular about the inks they use on their pens. I mean, that’s one of the biggest appeal of using fountain pens. It’s the ability of being able to choose your preferred ink, your own nib size/grind, and the perfect size of the pen for your hand. We’re not even tackling paper choices yet. That may be for another kind of blog post. Haha!
So for this month of January, I’d like to feature my pairing of my custom Edison Huron in Flecked Tortoise and the Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. The Pelikan Turquoise has become one of my top 5 favorite inks for the past years and I’ve become accustomed to its properties. The color of this ink is a nice complement to the rich brown tortoiseshell acrylic. The Huron sports a broad cursive italic customized by Mr. Brian Gray and the width of the line shows off the ink’s color and sometimes its sheen. Following Pam’s strategy, this may be my O.T.P. for this pen.
Here’s a writing sample.
Don’t forget to let us know what your favorite pairings are! Thank you!
Katherine: This Conid is… minimalist. Surprise! It’s a sleek, subtle black pen with a couple of nice touches. It’s beautifully made and very clean to look at. You can see faint horizontal marks on the delrin, I assume a remnant of the machining — I like it, it adds a handmade feel to the pen. Additionally the clip is a solid piece — no seams, how cool is that?
Pam: I can’t help but compare the Conid to my favorite minimalistic pen, the Lamy 2000. The sharp lines of the clip and the shape is very similar. Although, the Conid is longer in hand and wider in girth. The quality of the pen can be felt in hand and has a good heft to it.
Franz: Conid pens have been a brand that I’ve always wanted to try out and write with. Thankfully, Katherine was able to obtain one. The Minimalistica model feels fantastic in the hand because of the Delrin material. And the tidiness of the design is what makes this simple pen pleasing to the eyes.
The feature that Conid pens are well known for is their bulkfiller system that utilizes the full barrel as its ink reservoir. According to their website, the Minimalistica can hold up to 2.5ml of ink and that’s some serious ink supply! My Pelikan M805 that I use at work daily have a capacity of about 1.2ml and lasts about a week for me. With the extra fine nib grade of this specific pen, a full inking will probably last me a month!
The Business End
Katherine: The nib on this particular one is a Bock Titanium EF. It’s a smidge more wet than I’d prefer, but still lots of fun. I like the unique feel that titanium nibs have — an interesting sort of feedback (perhaps vibration is the better term?) that isn’t quite the pencil-like feedback of a Japanese EF, but isn’t the buttery smoothness of many German nibs. In addition to being a nib that feels very much alive as you write with it, the titanium nib is quite soft. The softness isn’t the same as one experiences with a soft gold nib, but the line variation can be similar (though the spring back is quite different). All in all, it’s an interesting nib and I would consider getting a Bock Ti nib in the future!
Pam: I really enjoy the titanium EF nib which surprised me. It felt smoother and more consistent in line than the nib in my Gist (prior to the needlepoint grind). Maybe the line consistency is due to my practice of not bearing down on my pens. (The iron grip is still a work in progress….)
The nib itself was pretty wet, smooth and wonderful on Tomoe River paper in my Hobonichi. I would be happy to consider another pen with the EF titanium nib again.
Franz: I generally prefer medium, and broad nibs but this extra fine titanium nib was a nice experience for me. The ink flow was just right for my light writing pressure and the springiness added a bit of flair to my writing if I press a little more. Additionally, the color of the titanium nib complemented the titanium clip very well.
Write It Up
Katherine: I hate to say it, but unfortunately, this is where the pen fell apart for me. I found that as I wrote it felt like my fingers were slipping. Initially I thought it was because the section was too wide for me, but after writing a couple pages more, I noticed that the slippery delrin and the smooth section were causing my fingers to slowly slide down the section, and I’d unintentionally wiggle my fingers back up to maintain a comfortable writing angle. Have you ever worn jeans that were just a smiiidge too big and you have to pull them up as you walk around? It’s a lot like that. Except that’s pretty tiring for my fingers.
All in alll, the nib is lots of fun, it’s well suited to long writing sessions due to the monstrous ink capacity, but the smooth section and material just don’t work for me. It’s worth noting that it’s been cold lately, which makes my normally dry skin even drier… so ymmv.
Pam: The width of the pen makes longer writing instances very comfortable, even in the unusual tripod grip (for me). I did find the pen to be too long to post for balance. It is much better unposted. I found the quality of the pen to be very evident in pen. The overall writing experience is great and I had alot of fun. Given the size, though, I prefer the length of the Lamy 2000 or the Gist by Tactile Turn.
Franz: Contrary to Katherine’s writing experience, I had such a fun time writing with the Minimalistica. The Delrin material made the pen just stay within my grip and the girth was just right for my hand. I wrote with the pen unposted for the first ten minutes and it was very comfortable. It was most comfortable for me with the cap posted because my grip went further up and the pen fit snugly between my thumb and index finger. This can be seen in the In The Hand photo above.
The comfortable grip, and the extra fine titanium nib made an enjoyable journaling session that lasted a little over twenty minutes.
Katherine: I carried this pen at work for a few days. It was great when I was sitting at my desk, the slip cap makes uncapping to take notes very easy. The downside is that the slip cap doesn’t have a clear point at which it’s firmly on — so if I’m running around between conference rooms and meetings, I was worried that I hadn’t capped it securely enough and that I might drop the pen or the cap (I didn’t, but I worried anyway). In using this pen I’ve realized that I prefer snap caps or fast screw-caps for EDCs. Slip caps sound convenient, but I’m often left worrying that I haven’t capped the pen snugly.
Pam: The clip was very sturdy and great for EDC. However, I didn’t feel that the cap was as secure as other slip cap pens. The large ink volume of this pen makes it a great candidate for long business trips, especially if your travel plans include aviation. The extra reservoir with the EF nib almost ensures that you will have enough ink to get through the day if necessary.
Franz: I got to use the Minimalistica at work for two days and it was a great experience. No need to screw off the cap to deploy quickly and the clip was secure in my shirt pocket. I can see myself using this pen as a daily writer especially since the ink capacity beats any piston-filled pen.
Here are photos of the Minimalistica with the filler rod extended. This mechanism ensures that the barrel gets a full fill after 1 or 2 operations.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: I expected to love this pen, but unfortunately I really don’t. I love the way it looks and the filling system is really cool (it took me like five tries to figure out… but once I did, it’s magical), but the slippery section just doesn’t work for me. For science, I tried wrapping a thin strip of washi tape around the section and that small amount of texture made it a much more comfortable writer for me — but at the price point of this pen (over $300, even buying one used) I can’t justify a pen that isn’t comfortable to hold. If this pen was cheaper I might keep it and rough up the section with sandpaper… but I’m not willing to risk that.
Pam: I really enjoyed my experience with the pen, however, I don’t find the pen compelling enough to recommend due to the price. The Conid does have the unique filling mechanism, but I didn’t even try to experiment with it. For the price of the Conid, you could easily get the Lamy 2000 AND a Gist with the Bock EF titanium nib. So unless you are greatly interested or compelled the bulk filler system, I would recommend getting two pens for the price of this one.
Franz: The Conid Minimalistica is a very nice looking pen (as long as you like black pens). My bear paw is definitely impressed by the size and material of it. This is a well made pen and their bulkfiller system sets them apart from other similarly priced pens.
To summarize my experience with the Minimalistica in one sentence, it is a beefed-up version of the Lamy 2000!You can see the similarities and size difference of these two pens below. For a person who loves the feel in the hand of the Lamy 2000, it’s safe to say that I love the Conid pen as well. It was unfortunate that Katherine traded the Minimalistica shortly after the three of us used it. But I consider myself lucky to have tried out the Minimalisitica so much so that it is now on my list of pens to acquire. Thanks Katherine! =)
2016 was a whirlwind of a year for me with fountain pens. It’s really the first time I’ve expanded beyond just having a pen or two. I started out the year buying quite a few pens in quick succession, then in May, after impulse ordering a Nakaya and buying a Danitrio within the same week, I decided to set a 15 pen limit for myself. (More on that some other day) So, with that in mind — looking back at the last year, here is my top third:
Pelikan M805, EF nib. I had eyed this pen but considered it ridiculously expensive (It’s $700 on nibs.com!) — but Franz, being the fantastic enabler that he is, lent me his to borrow. Over the week that I had it, I discovered that the M800’s size wasn’t too big nor too heavy (worries of the small-handed). Additionally, it’s the only fountain pen my non-hobbyist boyfriend has ever complimented. I picked up one used about a month later and it’s been a love affair ever since. The size is perfect, it’s looks really cool AND it holds a boatload of ink. It also helps that the Pelikan EF is easy for me to use — it’s not too wet, yet still shows sheening and shading with the right inks.
Romulus Pens Custom, M Pelikan M600 nib. This is my first custom pen, and I had a great experience working with John Albert on designing this pen. I got to pick every aspect of the pen — from the yellow accents, to the nib (a delightfully wet, but not firehose-y Pelikan M600 Medium), to the size (a smidge narrower than the M800, but just as long) to the filling capacity (a little larger than an international short, so I can change inks often). The result is a fantastic companion to my M805 — a wider wetter nib for headers and more interesting inks, and a completely different look.
Wahl Doric, #9 Adjustable Broad Stub. Of the four vintage pens I currently own and the dozens that have passed through my hands in the last year, this Doric is the one I have to have. To start with, the nib is amazing and unlike anything else I own, it’s a semi-flex, super smooth broad and wet factory stub. In addition to a very interesting nib, it’s in great shape (no dings, scratches or tarnishing) and is a nifty vac-filler (I’m not a big fan of sacs and levers, so this is a big deal to me!). And, of course, it appeals to me aesthetically — I picked this over an Omas, and haven’t regretted it. I love the faceted design, the subtle striped pattern and the contrast of the gold hardware.
Platinum 3776, Soft Fine. This one is actually a cheat as I no longer own this pen. I owned two 3776s, a Bourgogne and a Sai, and I have since sold both. However, I do love the nibs and am eagerly waiting their more expensive sibling, a Nakaya. The 3776 was the first nib that I tried that really opened my eyes to how different a nib could be without being super flexy or having a crazy grind.
Pilot Vanishing Point. While I’ve found that the VP is a super-solid convenient pen, it hasn’t been a daily carry for me. But, it has been a fantastic base for all sorts of experiments. An easy to remove clip and clearly demarcated barrel makes it an ideal candidate for experimenting with raden and other finishes. And, if things turn out well, it’s not hard to use the pen!
L to R: Pelikan M805, Romulus Pens custom, Eversharp Doric & Pilot Vanishing Point
2016 marked the birth of my friendships with Katherine and Franz which led to the creation of this blog which has opened me to the best parts of being part of the pen community. Good people, good ink, good pens and great conversations. Thank you Katherine and Franz for adopting me and being there with great pens and ink through “broad” and “needlepoint” this year.
It also marked the year that I broke any “savings” resolutions I had as I bought pens from my “grail” list, from different eras (modern and vintage), from different brands (Pelikan, Nemosine, Brute Force Designs, Tactile Turn etc.), and had my first custom nib grind completed by Dan Smith!
Sailor Pro Gear Slim, EF nib. The limited edition Galaxy finish from 2015 was a grail pen of mine. The nib is amazingly smooth for an EF and it is a joy to use. It has been inked since I received it. In quick summary, the EF nib on this pen, by Sailor, is a must try. Even for those who don’t enjoy such a fine line, it’s a great nib in how it feels on paper and provides a perfectly saturated line. This nib on Midori or Tomoe River paper is heavenly.
Lamy 2000, EF nib. The Lamy 2000 is my most recommended pen this year. My fellow pen addict physician still raves about this pen. This pen taught me that loving a pen doesn’t mean I need to love it no matter what. When I first received the pen, I didn’t love for work because the line wasn’t what I wanted on the copy paper. However, the more I wrote with it on Midori paper, the more the “mini-architect-like” line variation grew on me. Pairing it with a fantastic ink like Yama-dori doesn’t hurt either. I primarily use it with my B6 sized planner, that has paper similar to Midori paper, on a daily basis. Maybe it’s Franz’s influence on me, but now, the EF nib on copy paper isn’t so bad either.
Pilot Prera, F nib. Of all the “beginner” pens that I have tried, the Prera has been with me the longest. It harkens back to the “good ol’ days” for me. The nib is still wonderful and it still writes well, even on copy paper. I use it regularly for work and in my Hobonichi. For the relatively affordable price and beautiful colors, I am surprised that I don’t have multiples of this pen.
Pelikan M200, B architect grind by Dan Smith. This pen was “adopted” by me from Franz, which provides it with extra sentimental value. The architect grind is probably one of my favorite discoveries this year. Despite seeing multiple writing samples with this nib grind, it wasn’t until I tried it, that I was smitten. Due to how I hold my pen, the architect grind becomes more of a stub or cursive italic. The lines are not as crisp as a cursive italic but the line variation is undeniable. Bonus, no hand cramps and the Pelikan M200 is the perfect size and fit. This pen has it all.
Pilot Myu, F nib. This was the year that I branched out into the vintage realm seeking the Myu. (Thanks Mike Dudek.) Thanks to Katherine, I got my hands on this beauty, that is so unique in design and amazing on paper. Katherine has been introducing me to more vintage pens like Sheaffer and Esterbrook. So we will see what 2017 will bring!
For 2017, I am probably going to be selling some of my pens and refine my collection. It’s a bit hard to sell any pen, but I also enjoy using pens. So pens that don’t “spark joy” when used will (probably) find a happier home (maybe).
Another year has passed and I am still very much into this fountain pen hobby, if not, even deeper. What really makes this hobby more enjoyable are the people I share the fun with. Throughout the year, I’ve been fortunate to spend time and meet with people I’ve only known via the interwebs. And of course, who would’ve thought that I’d be part of a pen blog with Pam and Katherine? This definitely raised it up a notch or two.
Anyway, this post is about our top 5 pens. The way I approached this is I thought of the 5 pens that I’ve always kept inked up and write with for the most of 2016. So, here they are:
Pelikan M805, Blue Striated, M cursive italic. Ah yes, this is the Franz pen. I’ve had this pen since 2013 and it’s what I use at work and for personal writing. At the 2014 SF Pen Show, Mike Masuyama-san (mikeitwork.com) transformed this medium nib into a cursive italic and this has been my nib of all nibs ever since. My signature, and writing looks best with this nib. Aside from the nib, I regard the Pelikan M800/805 model the most perfect pen for my hand. So this nib and the pen body has been a powerhouse of a combo for me. Paired since 2013 with Noodlers Liberty’s Elysium ink.
Classic Pens LB5, Tairiku (continent) in Amethyst Mauve, B nib. I acquired this specific LB5 from Mr. Andy Lambrou (lambroupens.com) at the 2015 LA Pen Show since I fell in love with the material. The broad 21k gold nib is quite springy and gives my writing a little bit of character. The LB5 was made 5mm longer than the Sailor King of Pen and even if the difference is minor in scale, the difference in the hand was quite major. The length and girth of this pen is quite perfect for my hand. Paired with Pelikan Edelstein Amethyst ink. An Amethyst ink for the Amethyst Mauve.
Edison Pen Custom Huron Pump Filler, Flecked Tortoise, B cursive italic. I’ve always had the flecked tortoise material on my mind ever since Goulet Pens offered the limited edition Edison Nouveau Encore in 2012. At the 2016 LA Pen Show, I finally sat down with Mr. Brian Gray of the Edison Pen Co. (edisonpen.com) and discussed my order from his Signature Line and asked him to make the broad nib into a cursive italic. And after 8 long weeks, it arrived! It’s one of my 2016 purchases that I’m very proud of. Paired with Pelikan 4001 Turquoise ink since April 2016.
Parker Vacumatic Maxima, Silver Pearl, M nib. Since I started this hobby, I have always loved Parker Vacumatic pens. The fourth generation Vacumatic in Major size was one of the first vintage pens I acquired but it was a little too small for me. At the 2016 SF Pen Show, I’ve set out and purchased my first Vacumatic Maxima at a reasonable price. It has a medium springy nib and perfect for my hand. I’ve had this pen inked up since August 2016 and I use it at work regularly. Paired with Pilot Blue Black.
TWSBI Eco, Black, M nib. This pen surprisingly became one of my favorite pens within a very short span of time. Ever since I used and reviewed Pam’s TWSBI Eco in August, I’ve had this pen on my mind and just struggled with deciding if I wanted the transparent version, or the black version. I finally decided to get the black version in November and since then, it’s been my daily user pen in tandem with my Pelikan M805 at work. I may, or may not have this nib turned into a cursive italic the next time I see Masuyama-san. Currently paired with Sailor Jentle Yama-Dori ink.
Here’s to more fun with friends and pens in 2017! Happy New Year!!
Katherine: The Lamy Safari is a commonly recommended “beginner” pen. I didn’t try one until I had been using fountain pens pretty regularly for over a year — the design was never a “gotta have” for me, and I had always heard the nibs ran broad, which wasn’t what I thought I preferred. When I finally acquired a Safari (won it in a raffle at a local art supply store), I was pleasantly surprised by how well made it seemed, but quickly grew frustrated with the triangular grip. Of the common “beginner” pens, it’s the one I like least — I much prefer the TWSBI Eco and Pilot Metro, but that’s personal preference.
Pam: The Lamy Safari’s unique design makes it a definite standout among all the fountain pens, let alone an introductory pen. I have picked up the Lamy Safari and the Lamy Joy in the past, and they have since found happier homes. However, picking up Katherine’s Lamy Safari brought back some great memories and reasons why I was drawn to that pen in the first place.
The oddly shaped grip didn’t initially bother me, it’s only an issue when I grip too tight and the softer corners of the grip can dig into my fingers and the soft spot between my thumb and pointer finger. The color of the dark lilac with the black trim is quite awesome. In general, I do prefer the shiny chrome trim. The texture of the dark lilac is also quite different given that it has a more matte finish to the “shiny” and slick Safaris. The extra “grippier” texture does add to a good hand feel. I haven’t had the chance to try the AL (aluminum) version of the Safari and I would be curious to see if the feel in hand would be different.
Franz: When I started using fountain pens, I noticed that there is a disparity between pen people about the Lamy Safari through my online research. This was mainly due to the triangular grip that kind of forces one how to grip the pen. But because I liked how the charcoal version of the Safari looks, (and it was on sale on Amazon) I eventually got one when I was six months into the hobby. The grip actually did not bother me and I found that my fingers just rested almost parallel to the pen. This can be seen below in the unposted In the Hand photo.
I’m loving the Dark Lilac color with the black trim and the matte finish lets me hold the pen without my fingers slipping off.
The Business End
Katherine: The Safari nib is smooth and pretty straightforward. I’ve tried a couple now and found that they have been pretty consistent. However, in general, I don’t prefer super-smooth nibs, so I find the Lamy Safari nib a little “too smooth” and would prefer something with a touch more feedback.
Pam: I am reminded and also surprised how much I enjoyed the medium nib on Tomoe River paper/Hobonichi and Midori paper. Maybe it’s Franz’s influence, but the broader line didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Instead, I found the nib to be smooth and really easy to use. I enjoy stiffer nibs and I do feel that the Safari’s nibs are quite stiff. The line is always consistent and clean. I have had some experience that the nib can be on the drier side.
Franz: I love the black nib on this Safari however, it may develop scratches and eventually the coating will peel from use as you can already see some in the photo below.
This was my first medium Safari nib and it was quite smooth with a good flow. My first Safari had a fine nib and the ink flow was a bit dry. For those who don’t know, you can actually buy separate nibs in different sizes for cheap and switch it out ofthe feed. So you can have multiple nib widths with just one pen.
Please note that the Safari is cartridge/converter filled and they include one cartridge when you buy the pen, but they do not include the Z24 converter so that would be an added expense.
Write It Up
Katherine: The Safari is, overall, a comfortable size. The triangle grip was initially a huge turn-off for me, but after forcing myself to use it for a longer writing session I found that it wasn’t nearly as annoying as I thought. I still wouldn’t actively seek out a pen with a grip like this, but it isn’t as unusable as I thought it would be. Instead I found that I wrote very consistently since my angle never changed. Overall I found it usable and comfortable — but, like Franz, I wish it was a little bit heavier.
Pam: I found the Safari to be slightly top heavy when posted, but too light when unposted. Like the Eco, the length was just a tad too long, especially when posted. If the Safari was closer to the size of the Prera, or even the Pelikan M200s/M400s, it probably would have stayed in my collection. The plastic does make the pen really light, which can lead to comfort when writing for an extended period of time. It can also lend to feeling too insubstantial, like the Kaweco Sport. I very much enjoyed my time with the Safari and being reacquainted with the nib on paper. I was also reminded that I didn’t enjoy the body of the pen as much as I do the nib.
Franz: The length of the Safari is adequate for my hand in either posted, or unposted modes. The width of the grip section felt nice especially since I hold it higher. I really just wish the pen was a little heavier though. For 20 minutes, I wrote with the cap posted to give a little bit more weight. It was an enjoyable journaling moment.
Katherine: The Lamy shines on this front — the snap cap makes it easy to grab and go, and the triangular grip helps you get yourself into the right position for writing quickly. If I needed to keep a fountain pen at my desk for quick notes or for people to borrow, the Lamy Safari would be a strong contender.
Pam: Snap cap and durability of the plastic makes the Safari a great work pen. The design is also really interesting and sure to spark a few conversations among your pen-curious co-workers. The medium nib is dry enough to work relatively well on copy paper with minimal bleeding or feathering.
Franz: The Lamy Safari is actually a great pen to use on a daily basis for its plastic ruggedness makes it easy to just bring along even without a case. The slip cap definitely made it a quick deploy pen and the medium nib was good for the copy paper at work as well. The Dark Lilac color also was admired by a customer of mine and had me talk a little about fountain pens. Yeah!
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: The Lamy Safari just isn’t my cup of tea. The triangular grip and lightness add up to a pen that I don’t actively dislike, but am not excited to use. Overall, I think of it as a very bland pen — it works, but doesn’t bring me joy.
Pam: I would recommend the Lamy Safari to those who enjoy the TWSBI Eco for the size and want to enjoy the versatility of swapping out nibs. The design is unique, the pen is relatively affordable, and a great introduction to Lamy as a brand and to fountain pens as a whole. My only quibble, which is a personal preference was in the size and weight. Those nibs though… definitely worth a try in any Lamy pen that will accommodate them.
Franz: Pam has listed some great reasons as to why the Lamy Safari has been recommended to fountain pen beginners, and doing these pen reviews made me appreciate this pen for what it is. The Safari is a pen that is a gateway for new users and is also great for experienced pen folk.
I like this pen a lot but it just seems a little light for me. It’s really the only negative thing for me. Granted, since I own three Safari versions at the present time, it’s not a very big negative for me. Haha!
If you had $500 and you can buy three pens, what pens would those be?
And, to clarify, this should be MSRP/fair prices for the pens — not 50-cent flea market Montblanc finds. (Katherine has only managed to do this twice…)
I’ll be honest — I didn’t listen to the podcast, but when Pam first asked me, my immediate question was “MSRP, or how much I paid for the pen used?” But, I guess to be fair, we’re going with fair prices, not crazy deals. 🙂 My three would be my Doric (I paid $275 for it at a pen show, so I assume that’s fair? :P), a Pilot Vanishing Point with a fine nib ($90ish off eBay) and a vintage Pelikan 400 with a fine nib, ideally a soft one (~$120 in green most likely, since I’ve never seen a Tortie one below $140 ish, but I have purchased two greens and a black for $120 or under).
If I was only allowed modern pens… A Pelikan M805 in extra fine (EF) nib (~$350 from the UK), a Pilot Vanishing Point also with an EF nib (~$90ish), a Kaweco Sport with a broad nib ($25), and, if it’s allowed, a 1.1 calligraphy nib for the Kaweco ($12).
I loved the idea of the $500 game because it really highlighted to me what pens I would recommend to a budding pen lover who is on a relatively limited budget. Or the better question for me was what would be the three pens I would want to buy and use regularly if I only had $500 to spend on pens for the foreseeable future. (This is a possible future since my “new year’s resolution” for 2017 is to “Save more and eff up less.”) I don’t see the “savings” part standing for very long when I am surrounded by such amazing pen friends, writing instruments, ink and stationery.
My choices are the Lamy 2000 in an EF nib (~$160 via Goulet Pens), a Sailor Pro Gear Slim, transparent model with rhodium trim, in EF nib (~$160 via Anderson’s Pens) and Brute Force Design’s Pequeño in Amber Tortoise acrylic with a fine or medium nib so that Katherine can experiment grinding the nib (~$145 from Brute Force Designs aka Troy Clark).
Leftover money would be for ink from Vanness. My choices for ink would be: Bungbox Omaezaki Sea, Sailor Yama-dori, Pilot Tsuki-yo.
This is sooo easy! Pelikan M805 Blue-Black with a medium cursive italic by Mr. Mike Masuyama… BOOM!! hahaha… I know, I know, that’s against the rule of the game. ;-P
Okay, it definitely was a difficult task but I think it became a learning experience and taught me what I would want other than Pelikan pens. So the first pen would be an Edison Huron from the Signature Line of the Edison Pen Co. ($250), and I will ask him to do a cursive italic grind on a broad nib ($40). Next would be the Franklin-Christoph Model 03 Anderson Pens Special Edition with a medium nib ($165). That blue marble acrylic is just something else! And the last pen would be a black TWSBI Eco with a fine nib (~$30 from Goulet Pens). And I still have $15 for a nice bottle of Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium, or Sailor Yama-Dori.
What would you choose for the $500 game? Better yet, what are you getting for the pen lover in your life?
Today we’re taking a break from our usual reviews for a quick tutorial! This is my first time writing a tutorial, so please let me know if there are any questions or things I could explain to make this more helpful!
Your neighborhood VP modifier,
To start with — you pick a pen to modify.
I chose to use a Pilot Vanishing Point. I did this for three reasons — 1. they’re easy to find lightly used, though not terribly cheap (I paid $37 for one with no nib, and $60 for the other, with a nib), 2. the cylindrical shape makes it easier to get an even finish. I don’t have to worry about the curved end of most pens and, 3. the clip is removable — it’s really hard to get UNDER a clip to sand and buff if you can’t remove it. (I guess you could hope no one notices your imperfect finish around the clip, but meh)
Next — remove the clip. If you chose to go with a Vanishing Point, I found Richard Binder’s tutorial here quite helpful. I used a piece of bike inner tube and a normal pair of pliers (I’m a cheapskate who doesn’t own section pliers) to wiggle the clip off.
If you chose to use a VP, you’ll now have the rubber trapdoor exposed — I found it helpful to wrap that in a cylinder of masking tape. This means that you can hold the area and not worry about damaging the trapdoor. During my first modification, I did push the wire that holds the trapdoor in out at some point… and spent 20 minutes squinting with a pair of tweezers to get it back in. Avoid that.
And, before you start, find a way that you can dry your pen so that none of the wet parts of the finish will touch anything. For the VPs, if you find a perfect sized box, it can be balanced on the clicky part and the masking tape cone. For other pens, you may need to take a box, stick some holes in it and have chopsticks hold up the pieces. (Assuming they have closed ends)
(bottom left is abalone shell, top right is glitter nail polish)
Now for the fun part — your new finish! You have a couple of options:
Glitter nail polish (I used Revlon’s discontinued Moon Candy glitter flakes. I went for something with iridescent but not opaque flakes that came in irregular sizes. I’d love suggestions for other options!) Lots of pictures of this finish are in our Decimo review.
Abalone shell (like actual raden!) — I suspect you could use any number of other types of shell that contain nacre, but I don’t know how well they flake, so it’s up to you to try. Oysters and certain mussels are apparently the common sources for mother of pearl. I’m a weirdo who ate a bunch of abalones a few months ago and kept the shells, so I used abalone shell.
Something else — if you do a bunch of Googling and eBaying, you can buy pre-cut mother of pearl sheets that may be actual MOP (nacre) or mica, depending on what you buy. This tutorial should work with either.
(some of the dust from my abalone shell as I flaked it with a dremel… then you get to pick through it with tweezers for the bigger pieces)
How to flake abalone (ymmv with other types of shell, but I suspect it’ll be similar) — I found it easiest to work with a dremel and dremel off pieces of the shell, bit by bit, sometimes straight down, sometimes at an angle. Then, when you have a decent pile of abalone-shell dust (most of it will be dust), pick through the pile with tweezers and put them on a piece of black paper (in my case I used a dark grey plastic dinner plate). You want to separate out as much dust as possible, since you don’t want the dust on your pen. If you don’t have a dremel, you can probabbbbly hammer it into small pieces and pick through the fragments. (I haven’t tried it, but it seems like it should work!)
EDIT: Make sure you wear a respirator while doing this! Otherwise you’re breathing in a lot of icky dust and abalone powder.
And other supplies you’ll want:
Micromesh (I used a lot of 2000 grit sandpaper, but having some variety will help you achieve exactly the look you want)
Tiny brushes (I stole the brushes out of my mom’s Latisse kits, but any small brushes that don’t shed bristles should be good)
A quick note on polyacrylic vs polyurethane — polyacrylic is what I initially used for both pens, it’s easy to work with — washes out of brushes with soap and water and sands and buffs quickly. However, it’s not a very hard finish. This is fine on a matte finish pen, since small dings and scratches don’t stand out. However, if you want a high-gloss, glass-like finish, you have to work with polyurethane. It smells worse, is hard to wash out, harder to sand… but is much harder (even then, it’s not as hard as urushi or many other pen finishes, I’m still working on figuring out what my other options are). Also, polyacrylic dries clear, and polyurethane has an “amber” tone — so if you’re layering over a very blue finish, it could look weird.
I found that acrylic paint mixes into polyacrylic fairly well and gives it a nice tint — I used this to hide the blemishes in the base finish of the matte black VP I started with for the abalone-finish pen. This isn’t necessary, but I imagine some cool layering could be done.
Once you have everything… (some general instructions)
Do a quick layer of sanding on the original finish. I used 800 grit sand paper and just did a quick pass.
Apply the first layer of the finish (more on this below)
Apply the second layer of the finish
Apply the first layer of clear polyacrylic/urethane and let it dry for 6-12 hours minimum. I know the can says it’s dry in 2 hours or something, but it’s probably a lie.
Apply another layer of poly
Sand lightly — does the finish still feel very bumpy? If so, repeat layering and sanding until it’s reasonably smooth, then:
Buff using successively higher grits of micromesh to get a mirror-like shine or be lazy and get lucky with a layer of polyurethane being smooth and glossy
And you’re done!
How to apply the glitter finish:
I used two different “colors” of glitter, one that spanned most of the body (a mostly purple/blue glitter) and a multicolor one that I focused on the middle of the pen, to give it that “gradient” look. I did a layer of the purple glitter first, let it dry, then did the second multicolor layer. Then I let both layers dry and de-gas for a day. I’m not sure if such a long drying period is necessary, but something I read on the internet (and the internet never lies) said that drying nail polish releases gasses, and you want all of that gone before you seal it further. Seems plausible. After those two layers dry, you can start step 4 above. (I think it took me three “top” coats to get the pen more or less smooth)
How to apply a “raden” or abalone-flake finish: (Even getting flakes aside, this one is much more involved)
I first did two layers of tinted polyacrylic to cover up the wear in the finish. That’s totally optional, but gave me a very even base to work with. Then, I used a small brush and painted on a very small thin patch of tinted (you could use clear) poly, then placed flakes one by one using my damp finger and tweezers. You really want just flakes on a dark surface, ideally roughly sorted by size. If you go for the gradient look, you’ll want the larger flakes toward the middle and the thin layer of poly stops being tacky enough to hold a flake in a couple minutes, so work in small areas. I found that my damp fingertip was easier to get the flake on where I wanted it, then if necessary, tweezers could push the flake around. I finished the entire pen (patch by patch) in about an hour of lots of squinting with a bright table lamp. From here, you can go to step 4 above. (I think it took me 4-6 layers to get it smooth)
Tada! You’re done. Let the pen dry for a couple days (unless you’ve actually been spacing out each layer and letting things dry reallly well), reattach your clip (I used a smidge of sac shellac) and enjoy!
Every year, in a handful of countries, Starbucks releases a planner. This is a review of one of the 2017 designs for the Philippines. The planner can’t be purchased, and can only be redeemed by buying 18 drinks — or eBay, but prices there seem pretty crazy.
When you redeem the planner, everything is in a sealed box — a pouch, an erasable pen, the planner itself, a magnetic bookmark & a sheet of stickers. Additionally the planner has two pages of coupons in the back, but they can only be used in the Philippines.
The planner starts with a year overview.
Then there’s a cover page for each month — each with different art. All in this watercolor style — some have goals to write in or space to stick pictures, and some are just art.
Then a monthly calendar spread.
Then a page per week, with a blank page facing for notes. Philippine holidays are marked, conveniently many of these (but not all!) overlap with US holidays. Many of the pages are also decorated with small illustrations that match the theme for that month. (February is full of delicate but not too cheesy pink hearts)
The cover of this design is foiled. And there’s the magnetic bookmark — supposed to look like the top of a coffee cup, I guess? This picture was taken in bright lighting, meant to caption the foil.
I tested some pens — overall, the paper is pretty good. You can see there’s a little bit of feathering with the wetter pens (Pelikan BB, MT Swan) but overall it’s usable with most pens. The paper allows for shading, but I haven’t seen any sheen on it at all — even with heavily sheening inks like Akkerman Shocking Blue and Diamine Lapis.
Here’s the opposite side — basically no show-through.
I initially thought the planner might be made by Moleskin, but upon comparing closer with another Moleskin notebook I own, the paper doesn’t look the same. And this paper holds up to ink better — though not quite as good as the Tomoe River I’ve become used to.
I’m really excited to use this planner going into the New Year. I really like the layout of having an area for each day then a section for notes for that week. That’s the same layout I used to use in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook.
Katherine: I think clear pens are pretty cool looking — and the Nemosine Singularity is no exception. I love demonstrators and this is a pretty straightforward and clean looking one, though I’m particularly fond of the tinted versions. That being said, while I like the way this pen looks, I don’t think it could pass as a high-end pen… But, I’m totally fine with that!
Pamela: I bought the Nemosine on a whim because the 0.6 mm stub interested me. Most other pen brands have a 1.1 mm or 1.5 mm stub. It’s a great looking demonstrator pen. I currently have a converter in the pen, but it does appear that the pen can be converted to an eyedropper for the free-flowing look. Interestingly, the threads to the cap is on the section itself, rather than the body. My only complaint about the pen is that the cap has small cracks under the silver ring, likely from the stress of being tightened on the threads. It’s a good looking pen for the price, particularly, a demonstrator model.
Franz: The Nemosine Singularity pen has been on my list for the longest time. I finally got to use Pam’s pen and I like this clear demonstrator a lot. I do like the width of the grip section and is totally comfortable. For some reason though, I thought that this pen would be larger than it actually is. Unposted, the pen seems too small but the cap posts deeply and becomes a nice pen to hold with my larger hands.
Note: This is where we usually post our hand comparisons while holding the pen in review but unfortunately we were not able to get this in our queue. When we get the chance, we will take that photo and post it here. Thanks for your understanding! 🙂
The Business End
Katherine: The nib on the Nemosine I tried was the 0.6mm stub. This is one of the first broad stubs I’d used — and while not quite wide enough for calligraphy, it was plenty wide for visible line variation. I enjoyed writing with it and found that it was smooth and the feed kept up quite well.
Pamela: I really enjoy the 0.6 mm stub. The line is reminiscent of the Pilot Plumix nib. It’s wide enough to provide line variation, yet thin enough to be work friendly. I found this nib to be just right, not too wet, not too dry. I prefer this stub nib over the Pilot Plumix as I find it be more fun and smoother to write with.
Franz: The nib has a smooth feel to it and a middle of the road ink flow. If you’ve written with a TWSBI mini 1.1mm stub nib, you’ll know the smoothness I’m talking about but it just has a narrower line width. Having it in a 0.6mm width is rather nice and perfect as I use a cursive italic nib at work with a similar width except that the horizontal line is less crisp.
And c’mon! That nib design is absolutely cool to look at.
Write It Up
Katherine: This pen was easy for me to use for 20 minutes. It’s comfortable, and I prefer it unposted. It was comfortable in hand and while I had to think about writing a little bigger than usual, the pen itself posed no issues.
Pamela: One of my favorite aspect of this pen is how comfortable it is to write with. The threads are not noticeable to me as I write. I have no problem journaling with this pen for an extended period of time. The width of the pen was comfortable to hold in the traditional tripod position and I didn’t notice any particular issues with slippage. I really enjoy the line variation and taking the time to get the lines crisp and clean. My handwriting is required to be bigger and I prefer to savor the writing experiences with my stub and cursive italic nibs.
Franz: I used the Singularity with its cap posted as I wrote on my journal for 20 minutes. Normally, as long as the pen is long enough and section thick enough, I would enjoy writing with it. But for some reason, this pen was “too light” for me to write with it comfortably. I loved the writing that the nib laid down on paper and I wrote a lot but I kept on thinking of its lightness which kinda interrupted my train of thought.
EDC-ness (Every Day Carry)
Katherine: The nib on the particular pen I used made it an impractical EDC. I have to write a little bit too big for it to be a good pen for me to grab and take fast notes with. However, nib aside, it was a reasonable EDC pen that I wasn’t afraid to carry around and use. The clip on this pen is surprisingly solid and I was very comfortable clipping it to a notebook, then letting them float around together in the vast expanse of my backpack. (Sorry Pam. I promise there were no keys in my backpack!)
Pamela: The screw cap is surprisingly solid and I haven’t had any issues with leakage despite throwing it into my white coat or being floated in Katherine’s backpack. Some people do report that they have accidentally unscrewed the section from the nib due to the odd placement of the threads for the cap. I haven’t had that issue either. Due to the screw cap, this isn’t my choice EDC pen. It does take about 1.5-2 rotations which just isn’t as convenient as a snap cap.
Franz: I actually liked using this pen at my work setting and I had it in my shirt pocket for two days. The stub nib wrote surprisingly well on the copy paper we use. My co-worker got to try the pen and commented that it’s easier to write with than my usual pens (cursive italic nibs). I think my co-worker wanted it for herself. haha!
Anyway, yes, I would recommend this as an EDC pen as it seems to be a durable and versatile pen.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: Overall, I thought this was a solid pen. It’s an interesting nib with a solid body for a very fair price. However, nothing about the pen really made me fall in love. I enjoyed writing with it, but in a world where I’ve limited myself to owning fifteen pens (more about that another day) — this pen (like many others) simply doesn’t make the cut. The nib is interesting, but for not much more money, I found the TWSBI Eco much more satisfying to hold (and it’s a piston filler that looks cool!). But, if your goal is to try a stub around the size of the Nemosine, it’s not a bad deal at all.
Pamela: The Nemosine is a good pen if you are looking for a 0.6 mm stub and a pen body that comes in a large variety of colors, including demonstrator hues, at a relatively low introductory price. The company also sells spare nibs for the Nemosine. So given that it’s around the same price as the Pilot Metropolitan, it’s a versatile introductory pen at a good price. Given my preference for snap caps for quick deployment at work and finer nibs for daily note taking, I would recommend the Metropolitan over the Nemosine. Although, I do prefer the Nemosine’s 0.6 mm stub over the Pilot Plumix, both in body and nib.
Franz: To echo the two ladies’ impressions, The Nemosine Singularity is a nice pen especially when you’re just starting out your fountain pen craziness… er… adventures. I like that they have an array of nib choices to choose from. The Singularity also has a nice selection of pen body colors and have colored demonstrators. I actually fancy the Black Marble version and I won’t be surprised if I get that for myself down the line.
However, the Singularity pen is priced similarly to the Pilot Metropolitan which seems to have a better build quality. And this Singularity looks like the TWSBI Eco to me and makes me want to just put in another $10 or so to have a piston filler pen instead.
That being said, this is a good pen to have especially that 0.6mm stub. Cheers!
Katherine: The Metro was my first pen as an adult (and therefore first pen in ~15 years). It’s a sleek, practical pen that is comfortable for me to write with. However, I don’t love the metallic finish and how light the pen is. I’ve commented before that if the TWSBI Eco was my first pen I may never have gone off the deep end, but it wasn’t, the Metro was my first pen. It’s a good enough pen that it lead me to love fountain pens and keep exploring — but wasn’t a pen I loved enough to be comfortable sticking with (as cliche as “buy it for life” is, that was my initial goal). But, to the Metro’s credit, I used it for nearly a year before I decided I was willing to spend more money to try another pen.
Pam: I was really interested and excited to get my hands on a Pilot Metropolitan once I found out from the Pen Addict Podcast that the nibs on the Pilot Metropolitan were interchangable with the nibs on the Pilot Prera, Pilot Plumix (a stub nib), Penmanship (a EF nib) and Kakuno (the smiley face nib). I bought an all black Metropolitan and was a workhorse pen for me at work. It was a great gateway pen as I learned to use a fountain pen more on a daily basis. The Metropolitan taught me how to swap out nibs, clean the pen and the differences between using a cartridge and a converter.
Franz: The Pilot Metropolitan is a neat looking pen with a satiny finish that I enjoy holding. Its torpedo shape gives it a timeless look that I’ve seen in the majority of Pilot’s pens. If you search for this pen on the net, you’ll find that this pen varies either by the overall color or the accent design on the barrel. These accents give the pen some personality but still maintains its simplicity and subtlety.
The Business End
Katherine: I have had both a Fine and a Medium, and both have been smooth writers that are on the dry side — but not annoyingly dry. A great dryness for taking notes at work without having to worry about smudges. However these nibs don’t have a lot of character — I’ve never thought “wow, I’m EXCITED to write with this Metro!”
Pam: I preferred to use the Pilot Metropolitan with the EF steel nib from the Pilot Penmanship. It was the nib that worked best with cheap paper. My ink of choice “back in the day” was Private Reserve DC Electric Blue. The dark color was great professionally, however, there would be instances that the sheen would still come through, which is a treat for me! The EF nib had some feedback as one would expect, but surprisingly smooth for a $6-8 dollar pen nib. I suspect that if you like the Pilot Prera nib, you will like the EF steel nib. Both nibs state “Superior Quality” on them which gives me the impression that they are possible similar?
Franz: This medium nib is a very nice smooth writer with a little bit of feedback. I got to try out a fine nib before and even though it was a very good writer, my preference is a thicker line. I’ve always had good experiences with Pilot nibs out of the box.
Write It Up
Katherine: Now that I’ve explored more pens, I know that I prefer slightly larger and heavier pens. However the Metro is sufficiently comfortable for me to use it for extended periods of time. I’ve journaled with it quite a bit and drawn with it. (No choice really when you only have one pen…)
Pam: I really enjoyed carrying the Metropolitan for quick notes and for journaling. It was overall, a very well rounded pen for daily use and carry. I actually prefer writing with this pen posted. Yes, it can feel a bit top heavy, but I really enjoyed the total weight of the pen when writing. My only complaint because I write with a “white-knuckle-grip-that-horrified-THE-Micheal-Sull” is that based on my hand placement, the step on the Metropolitan is quite noticeable for me. Depending on my stress level, the step may leave an impression in the area between my thumb and index finger. Yeah… I knew when I had a stressful day at work…
Franz: Because the Metropolitan is lightweight and has a thinner section, I prefer to post the cap and grip it higher. Writing with this pen for twenty minutes wasn’t really unpleasant but I felt my hand cramp a bit.
Just like Pam, the step from the barrel and section can be a bit sharp and dug into my fingers. So this pen isn’t an ideal journal pen for me.
Katherine: +10 points for being a snap cap — easy to grab and get writing. Additionally, the metal body of this pen is durable — by the time I retired it, I had a small dent or two on either end, but no noticeable damage. It held up well to being thrown in my backpack (hopefully clipped to a notebook, but not always) day after day. However — of all the pens I own, somehow the Metro and the Prera (same feed, same nib, go figure) are the pens that spit the most into their caps when I fly with them. I’ve flown with at least a dozen pens at this point, and as long as I keep them nib up, other pens have been fine.
Pam: The Metropolitan was my most used “beginner” pen for it’s durability and snap cap. The versatility of the pen with interchangable nibs compelled me to purchase another Metropolitan when the retro pop ones were released so I can swap between the F nib and the stub nib (from the Pilot Plumix).
Franz: This pen is great to use on a daily basis for quick note-taking at work or on the go. I found no fuss when I used this at work as it easily clipped onto either my shirt or jacket pocket, and there was no delay in uncapping the pen.
I have to share that I found myself one-handedly capping and uncapping the pen compulsively at my desk. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this with snap cap pens.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: The Metro is a solid entry-level pen. I personally didn’t find it particularly charming, but that’s just a personal opinion. It felt a little too sterile (and now we know why most of my pens are vintage. Complete with germs of generations past!) but checks all the boxes for a solid writer — good nib, durable body and comfortable to write with.
Pam: Up until the Pilot Prera or the Pilot Vanishing Point (oh, you will be missed my dear lost pen), the Pilot Metropolitan was my go to pen. Yes, the aesthetics of the pen may be bland as it doesn’t have the modernity of the Lamy Safari or the demonstrator quality of the TWSBI Eco (which wasn’t available when I first started dipping into the FP world), but it’s a solid pen for a GREAT price point. The price point is one of the best factors of this pen, as the threshold for entry of the FP rabbit hole is low. The pen even comes with a cartridge of ink! For a beginner “beater” pen that you can learn a lot from as one needs to get more comfortable with getting ink on their fingers, the Metropolitan is a wonderful introduction.
Franz: The Pilot Metropolitan is a great pen to have in your collection as it is a reliable pen that just writes when you need it to. This is a pen I recommend for no matter what hand size you may have. Of course, not every single person may like it so if you can, try before you buy.
In our TWSBI Eco review, I recommended the Eco as a second or third pen for beginners. The Metropolitan was actually the first pen recommendation I had in mind. I bought my silver Pilot Metropolitan from Goulet Pens in January 2013, and wrote with it for about four months until I gave it to a co-worker as she became interested in writing with fountain pens.(#Penvangelized!) This year, I gifted a Pilot Metro in Retro Pop Red Wave to another co-worker as her first fountain pen and she loved it as well.
Thanks for your time and hope you enjoyed our review of this cool pen!