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 souvenirs — though a few had interesting glass dip pens, but those were easily €30-5o.
EDIT on August 24, 2020: Tabula, Amalfi Handmade has requested that we remove pictures of their store. (Well, now I know the name of the store at least!) If you’re heading to this part of the world and are making plans, send Katherine a note on IG and she can send you some pictures.
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.
EDIT on August 24, 2020: Second photo here was also removed.
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!
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!
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.
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 (no longer an issue, see my edit at the top of the review). 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. (So use the supplied divider if you care!)
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!
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?
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! 🙂
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! =)
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.
Hello Friends! I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2018 Los Angeles International Pen Show that was held on February 15 thru 18. I actually try to make it to the LA pen show every year as kind of like a vacation for myself. Things I look forward to at a pen show: hanging out with pen-minded people, perusing thousands upon thousands of different pens, possibly buying a pen (or two) that I can’t go home without, seeing and visiting with old friends, creating new friends, and just having a fun time!
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Each year, the LA pen show is held at the Manhattan Beach Marriott Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California. This year, they’re in a transition period and changing their name to Westdrift but is still under the Marriott brand. The hotel was still undergoing construction during the pen show. There’s more to be said about that part but I’d rather just focus on the show which was all fun for me!
I arrived on Thursday afternoon just in time as the first day was wrapping up. I immediately checked in and went downstairs to the ballroom.
Walking around, I found a “few” pens that want to be bought! But since it was the first day and the first hour I was at the show, I decided to just take it easy and mull it over until the next day. Basically, if the pen isn’t sold yet then it’s mine. So I didn’t buy anything for myself for Thursday. We left the hotel for dinner with Pen Posse peeps as well as pen dealers from Italy, and Japan. We had great food from Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and Grill. We shared tapas, and pizzas but what we really went there for was the dessert. Salted Caramel Pudding. ‘Nuff said. =)
Back at the hotel, we all congregated to the hotel’s outdoor bar aptly called, “The Tent”. This is the time where pen people sit, relax, talk, and show off their pens.
One of the pen bloggers (code name: Pink Hair) arrived at The Tent and generously let everyone try out the new Wancher Dream Pen. I must say that it is a substantial pen that filled my paws well. I then did a quick comparison in size with a Pelikan M1000. Thank you Agent Pink Hair!
Friday, August 16, 2018
Good morning Los Angeles! It’s a beautiful day for a pen show! I woke up early-ish and got ready for the day. I went down around 8:30am and found that the show was already ongoing. Paid for my Trader Pass and I was on my way. Walked around and visited to say hello to friends (vendors and attendees).
I found the Straits Pen table with some Pelikan pens as well their table’s security detail.
Walked around more and saw the Professional Nib Expert, Mike Masuyama at his table working early. I signed up to get some nibwork done as well. Because of how late I signed up (9:00am), I wasn’t sure if I’ll make the cut for the end of the day. That’s how in demand this gentleman is.
Since Friday morning wasn’t too busy yet, I got the chance to do a Live Instagram video and got to show some of the pen show’s light action on Friday morning. I then uploaded to YouTube for others to watch. I was reading and answering live comments (that you don’t see anymore) so pardon my incoherency at times. Enjoy!
One of the pen dealers who I just met this year at the show was Letizia Iacopini from Italy. I have always heard of her name in the community and how she is an expert of Italian and other pens. She is also an author of several fountain pen books. Her most recent book was, “Parker in Italia: 1900-1960”. Her table at the show had exquisite pens from the vintage and modern era. Majority of her pens were Italian.
Then I turn around and walk 3 steps towards the table of Dayne Nix. He always brings in great vintage pens from different regions. As a side note, I met Dayne at the 2012 SF Pen Show and it was from him that I bought my first flex pen, a Parker Televisor and I still have it. Anyway, Dayne’s table display is fascinating especially his array of Conway Stewart Dinkie pens as well as his demonstration of how a rare Zerollo Dunhill Two Pen worked.
Perhaps one of the most curious pens I’ve seen from Dayne is this Zerollo/Dunhill Two Pen from the 1930s with a matchstick filler. Thank you for showing us this awesome pen Dayne! #onlyatpenshows
At the Armando Simoni Club (ASC) table, a couple large pens caught my eye.
I then walked out of the ballroom to check out the Vanness Pens team in the hallway and look at who I found! Mike Vanness and his awesome suit! He always wears colorful clothing.
In the corner were Lisa Vanness, Joey Feldman, and Ana Reinert. Joey was creating artwork for people who bought journals at the show.
FOOD TRIP: It was almost 11:00am and a few of the pen posse peeps congregated to go out for lunch. A quick-ish drive to Korea town for Magal B.B.Q.! It’s become a tradition for us mainly because of the magic tea they serve.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel for more pen show! It was actually energizing to step out of the show for a relaxed lunch. I need to do that more often.
I stumbled upon the Kenro table with all the Aurora pens on display.
Here’s a Pelikan basking in the sun as well.
Vintage Corner: My friend Janet showed me a Pelikan IBIS in Grey Marbled that Rick Propas was selling and also showed me her Green Marbled one. The Pelikan IBIS was a pen produced from the mid-1930s thru the early 1940s. You don’t see the IBIS often and this was actually my first time to see the marble colored ones. #onlyatpenshows
I then went back to the Vanness Pens table to buy some of their special edition LA Pen Show journals by Curnow Bookbinding with artwork by Joey Feldman. Joey was still there and he drew my Pen Show Persona on the back of the A5 journal I bought. This guy is phenomenal and do you notice what he named my sneakers as? Pelikan M800 FTW! Thanks Joey!
Afterwards, I went up to my room to unload my purchases and rest for a while.
As I went back down, I checked on the progress at Mike Masuyama’s table. As it happens, the “last” person Mike was gonna help was a vendor and did not have the pen with him at the moment and I was the lucky person next on the list. Ricky got to take a picture of me as Masuyamasan was tuning my M800 nib. Thanks Ricky!
Post Show Dinner: Every year, the SF Bay Pen Posse as well as friends from the SoCal contingent hold a dinner at the Tin Roof Bistro and Joi E. graciously organizes this with the restaurant. As seen on the menu, we call it, “Pen Posse: TRB Edition”. Thank you very much once again Joi!
For this meal, it’s all about the Brussel Sprouts! If you’ve had them at Tin Roof Bistro, you know this to be true.
Back at the hotel, it’s Pen Shows After Dark time!
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Woke up early once again to get ready for the show. I think I got to the ballroom at 7:50am (so early) and it was once again busy with activity. A quick side note, a week prior at a Pen Posse meetup, I joked that I wanted to walk around the show wearing a magnifier head gear to look like a legit pen guy. Friday morning, my friend Mike got me one of these and I committed to what I said. Interestingly enough, what started out as a funny gesture became a very useful tool while I was perusing pens. Sometimes you just can’t see the small print on nibs and barrels. So if you’re going to a pen show, I recommend having a lighted magnifier like a loupe, or this head gear. #pro-tip
After signing up again at Mike Masuyama’s table, I did my walk around and found myself at Paul Erano’s table. Paul is the Grand Poobah of the secret-not-so-secret Black Pen Society.
This year, I was fortunate to meet Jesi Coles at the show. She is one of the hosts of the B.Y.O.B. Pen Club Podcast and she also sells pens at shows or on her website. She is known for being a proprietor of vintage Esterbrook pens.
Suddenly, I saw 2 to 3 people doing a beeline from one side of the ballroom to the other. Apparently, a seller just brought out their trays of pens and a few pen buyers saw it from afar. #onlyatpenshows
Visited the Peyton Street Pens table and found some vintage Pilot Pens from the 1950s. Sent my friend photos and a message if interested, and boom! Pen show muling… done. OPM points!
Afterwards, I went up to the hotel’s mezzanine level to attend two seminars. This was my first time to sit in a seminar in LA. The first seminar was about writing books on pens by Mr. Andreas Lambrou. He described his process when he was starting to write his Fountain Pens of Japan book as well as the Fountain Pens of the World. I was so into his topic that I forgot to take a photo. The second seminar was about fantastic nibs by Mr. John Mottishaw. He was demonstrating how to tweak nibs to make it write a little better. He asked people to bring up pens that didn’t write quite right and showed them simple tricks to make it better.
After the seminars, we stepped out for brunch at the Shake Shack across the street from the hotel. First time to have their food and it was good!
After brunch, it’s back to the show and I got to stop at the Artus Pens table and chat with Maxim. Artus Pen always has beautiful art pens painted by Russian artists. Their lacquer work is phenomenal and the artwork is just stunning.
One of the usually busy tables at a pen show is the Franklin-Christoph team. I barely got to see them yesterday because of people being at their table so I took advantage of a slower moment on Saturday. I got to peruse their show prototype pens and saw a “few” that I liked.
Pens from Dale Beebe’s table. Pentooling.com
More Pelikan pens…
I saw Eric Sands of Atelier Lusso who was also at last year’s SF Pen Show. He is a pen maker and he does great work as well. The clips on most of his pens were fashioned by Eric himself.
Back at Mike Masuyama’s table, Mike called me over and I had him do an italic grind on one nib as well as tune a vintage Pilot pen. A friend of mine was listed before my turn but had to leave the show so he entrusted me with 2 of his pens for Mike to work on. I spent a little over an hour sitting and chatting with Mike and other pen friends who walk by. This is one of the best ways to spend a Saturday afternoon at the pen show.
After sitting with Mike, I walked around once again and just enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. We went to dinner just outside the hotel and came back to “The Tent” for more hanging out.
A friend of mine showed me her newly purchased Franklin-Christoph Model 65.
We were admiring different pens with my LED light panel then something happened. A certain brand of urushi lacquered pens kept on appearing under the light and we decided to take a family photo.
Called it a night and went to bed. Sunday is the busiest day and I am helping out at a table so I had to get some rest.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Last day of the pen show! Woke up around 6:30 to catch the sunrise. I swear, pen shows are the only time I sleep late, and wake up earlier than when I have to go to work. Pen Show Time Zone! =)
The show opens to the general public by 10:00am so the Trader Pass holders had 2 hours of last minute shopping before the crowd gets in. I took advantage to take a few photos before I had to work at a table so here are some photos as I walked around.
The PENguin Rick Propas‘ table had a lot of pens for sale and these were a few pens that caught my fancy. He is also a “fountain” of knowledge about pens and is always willing to share it.
The Wahl-Eversharp table was manned by Syd and Judi Saperstein
Pendemonium’s Sam and Frank were ready for the Sunday crowd
Bill Weakley’s table had beautiful discontinued Pelikan pens for sale.
The Andersons always brings paper, pen cases, pens, and inks to the shows.
Vintage Wahl-Eversharp pens found at table of The Write Shoppe
Not just fountain pens… Stabilo markers found at Carla M.’s table for kids attending the show.
Ray Walters from the United Kingdom was at the show as well.
Alright, 10:00am arrives and the crowd is let in. I didn’t get to take photos of the line this year but it was pretty long as usual. Having one public day at a pen show honestly causes the big rush. Sometimes people wish that public was allowed to get in on Saturday as well. Will that change? Maybe. Not sure. I hope so. Anyway, here are my shots of the ballroom while I was helping out at a table around 10:30 so the full force of people haven’t really cleared the line yet.
Around 1:00pm, the crowd let up a bit and I got a chance to walk around and do a live Instagram video once again. Enjoy!
And with that, 5:00pm arrived and the 2018 LA Pen Show was over. Helped a couple vendors pack up, and went to dinner to end a tiring but fun weekend.
Pen shows are definitely a fun event to attend. Being in the pen community forges friendships and pen shows are way for you to see your friends. It can never be said enough, if you are near a pen show or can afford to attend one, do it. You find out how a certain pen feels in your hand, you learn about different pens, you find pens you didn’t know existed, but more importantly, you meet people who are as enthusiastic as you are with stationery and pens. To these people, these aren’t just sticks that hold ink. =P
As I’ve said before, pen shows for me have evolved into a social event and honestly is what I treasure more than what pens I bought. To all my friends, it was great to see you as always and to all the new people I’ve met, Instagram people I’ve finally met in real life, hope to see you all more often as well. Until next year!
Thank you for your time in reading my report!
“Pen shows are about the people and the stories between each other. The pens start the story and the people get closer.”