Review: Benu Essence (Mint Ice, Fine Nib)

We thank Lisa and Mike Vanness of Vanness Incorporated for lending us this Benu Pen Essence fountain pen for review. The Vanness family has had a pen shop in Little Rock, Arkansas since 1938 and is celebrating 80 years of being in business. Check their store out if you can or they could also be attending a pen show near you.

The opinions in this review are always our own and we were not compensated (monetarily or otherwise) for this review.

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: Aesthetically, this pen is not my jam… but I do know some people who love it. So, to each their own. But, robin’s egg blue and glitter aside — it’s a well finished pen that feels sturdy in hand.

Pam:  This pen is “rich” in decor and chunks of glitter which borders on obscene in my more minimalist preferences/opinions. However, to those who find this aesthetic pleasing, it is definitely an eye catching and bold pen.

Franz: The Benu Essence is surely tugging on my color palette for I love the minty, turquoisey tone! Sans the glitter/ice part though for it makes it a bit garish. I really like the swirly bits of color in the acrylic. The Essence’s torpedo shape is plain which balances the material’s garishness.

 

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

 

The Business End

Katherine: Like the other Benu pens, this one sports a Schmidt nib. It’s a well behaved nib that puts ink to paper just fine, but doesn’t have a lot of character. It would be a great candidate for a grind or a swap with something more interesting (like the Benu Chameleon, this one is also a loaner, so no experimental nib swaps for me…).

Pam:  I really have no complaints or major compliments about the Schmidt nib.  It’s a fully functional, works well out of the box, and not very memorable nib. Aesthetically, the nib to be a bit small relative to the rest of the pen.  Currently, it’s a #5 sized nib, which makes me wonder if a #6 nib would be more balanced.

Franz: The Benu’s fine nib wrote well out of the box and I enjoyed using it for my daily writing. It was pretty smooth and with Pilot Iroshizuku Syo-ro, the flow was moderate to generous.

Contrary to Pam’s thoughts, I feel that the current nib complements the shape of the pen and tapers with the section. I placed a #6 Schmidt nib beside the Essence and it became somewhat too small. However, I do wish that Benu could stamp their name/logo onto their nibs. I know it’s an aesthetic thing but I always prefer the nib branding to match my pen.

Franz’s writing sample on a 80 gsm Rhodia grid paper

 

Write It Up

Katherine: I found the pen comfortable in hand for long periods of time — the section is a smidge small for me, but still perfectly usable. I had no issues with this pen for either journaling or writing quick notes.

Pam:  The section and the step are right at the “sweet” spot of the tender bit between thumb and pointer finger.  The step wasn’t particularly sharp, but it wasn’t comfortable if I tightened my grip like I inevitably do during a long writing session.  The pen was balanced closer to the nib end and comfortable for a longer writing session.  I appreciate the added girth of the pen, so it might be pretty comfortable for someone with larger hands (if it wasn’t for the length.)

Franz: The length of the Essence was quite comfortable for me even unposted. I feel that the balance is better when the cap is posted so I wrote with this pen posted for a while. The cap is definitely secure and the grooves on the back of the pen helps it so. When the cap was not aligned to the grooves, it still posted but it wasn’t as stable.

 

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: It’s a small-ish pen that fits easily in a pocket. Additionally the clip felt strong and I didn’t hesitate to clip it to my skirt pocket for the day. My one hesitation is that it’s so glittery that I didn’t think customers might take me seriously if I used it in a meeting… but that’s true of a lot of pens, even my beloved raden and maki-e pens. So, coworkers’ raised eyebrows aside, I’d give this a thumbs up as an EDC.

Pam:  Due to this pen being a loaner pen, I didn’t have it in my lab coat pocket.  And like Katherine, looking young with a blingy pen only adds to an image akin to Doogie Howser sans medical degree.

The clip was strong and was snug within my pen case.

Franz: The Essence was a great pen to use on the daily. I used it at work and the clip secured the pen in my shirt pocket. I appreciate that I don’t need to post the cap to be use it comfortably for a longer period.

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: To buy or not to buy? In the end it comes down to the aesthetic. Like the Benu Chameleon we reviewed a few months ago, it’s a solid pen, it all comes down to aesthetics, if you love it, you won’t be disappointed.

Pam:  The pen is a serviceable pen for those who appreciate the aesthetic.  My reception of the pen is lukewarm, but I see those who appreciate the over the top decor of the pen to enjoy this writing instrument.

Franz: The Benu pen company create pens that stand out from others. The acrylic designs catch your attention and then their different pen shapes will intrigue you. The Essence collection is probably one of the more conservatively shaped pens in their lineup and is great to use.

In the beginning, I was apprehensive when I saw the taper of the Essence’s section. I was worried that it may be too small for my larger hand, but I ended up really liking the pen. The pen has a good medium to large size to it that I appreciate very much.

Once again, thanks to the Vanness Incorporated team especially to Lisa Vanness for lending us this Benu pen. We really appreciate your support!

 

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, Taccia Spectrum, Platinum 3776, *Benu Essence*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari
Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, Taccia Spectrum, Platinum 3776, *Benu Essence*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari
Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, Taccia Spectrum, Platinum 3776, *Benu Essence*, Pelikan M805, Lamy 2000, and Lamy Safari

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

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2018 San Francisco Pen Show Quick Recap: Pay-It-Forward Table & Pen Dash Mixer

Hello pen friends and folk! Franz here, and I’m writing a quick recap to highlight two great things that happened at the 2018 San Francisco Pen Show this past weekend of August 24 thru 26. That would be the Pay-It-Forward Project Table, and the Pen Dash Mixer hosted by Lisa Vanness.

There were lots of events that happened at the show that I will definitely include in my lengthier annual SF Pen Show Report. But I really wanted to highlight these two before my pen show report comes out in the next couple of weeks.

Before anything else, I would like to thank the  San Francisco Pen Show organizers for allowing the Pay-It-Forward table, as well as the Pen Dash Mixer to happen at the show this year. And also for continuing to have a bigger, and “funner” pen show each year!

 

Pay-It-Forward Project

This was the second year that the Pay-It-Forward (PIF) table made an appearance at the SF Pen Show. Even if we were not able to do a blog post, or even a social media post asking for physical and monetary donations, a LOT of generous people have donated to the table this year. Actually, some friends who weren’t even at the show and some out-of-state messaged me for a shipping address and sent oodles and oodles of pens, ink samples, and other stationery items. To all of you who have donated, you know who you are. A VERY BIG THANK YOU from myself, the Pay-It-Forward Project team, and the San Francisco Pen Show!!!

We are happy to report that we have given out 100 PIF Starter Kits (pen, ink sample, and paper) to beginners. And more than 60 donated pens were given away via the Give a Pen, Take a Pen initiative. It is definitely heartwarming to see smiles of excited newbies when they realize that they can choose a pen for free and learn from our volunteers. Makes it all worth the effort to Pay It Forward.

Now I’d be remiss if I did not mention this. The PIF table was staffed by a number of volunteers this year and I would like to give a shout-out of thanks to all that helped out this year. Thank you Sarah M., Carrie H., Andy D., Pam T., Tommy S., and Jim K.! If I missed anyone else who volunteered, please accept my sincere apologies. And last but not the least, a big thank you Kimberly L. for being my co-host of the PIF table this year. She did a lot of things to help prep for the PIF table at this show! And the PIF photos are by Kimberly as well.

If you want to find out more information, or donate either items or funds, please check out www.stationerypif.com for details. You can also check the schedule for the next pen show a PIF table might appear! Thank you for making this community of ours a fun and caring one!

 

 

Pen Dash Mixer

Last year’s SF Pen Show was the first time Lisa Vanness and company tried to have the Pen Dash and ever since then, they hosted it at different pen shows. This year, we had to make sure that this event continued at The Fun Pen Show. So the Pen Dash happened on Saturday at 5:30pm and it was a great success!

Wait, what is a Pen Dash you may ask! In a nutshell, it’s an effort to create a way for people in the community to interact with each other. But more importantly, to learn from selected table leaders or as I called them, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The participants will stay at the table and listen to the SMEs talk about their topic and then after a certain amount of time, the participants then change tables. So it’s kind of Speed Dating except that there is no anxiety and lots of learning.

We had 13 tables separated between 3 rooms and each table had a SME to talk about a certain topic. Topics ranged from vintage and modern pens, pen customization, Japanese urushi pens, paper types, bookbinding, nib styles, creating art pieces, etc. In a span of 10-15 minutes, the SMEs will talk about their topics and answer any questions. After each time frame, the participants switched to another table to learn from another SME. The participants stayed in their respective groups within the room so each person had an equal opportunity to learn from a leader.

At the Pen Dash, we had a little over 100 participants at different ages and different levels of involvement in the stationery community. At the end of the mixer, Lisa took a chair and gave closing remarks in each room and some prizes were given away! Here’s a quick video showing some prize winners!

 

On behalf of Lisa Vanness and myself, Franz Dimson, we would like to thank Ana Reinert, Pam Tien, Claire Rice, and other Pen Posse volunteers for helping to make this Pen Dash a success!

And we are giving a huge shout-out of appreciation to all the table leaders/SMEs who volunteered their time, knowledge, and effort:

Bob Atkins

Tom Baley

Jesi Coles

Steve Curnow

Paul Erano

Dan Hoizner

Susan Ito

Daryl Lim

Teri Morris

Leigh Reyes

Ralph Reyes

Mike Vanness

Ms. A. or @colors_and_beads on Instagram

 

 

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Benu Chameleon (Charming Chameleon, Medium Nib)

We want to thank Lisa and Mike Vanness of Vanness Incorporated for lending us this Benu Pen Chameleon fountain pen for review. And sorry it has taken a while Lisa! The Vanness family has had a pen shop in Little Rock, Arkansas since 1938 and is celebrating 80 years of being in business. Check their store out if you can. They also travel to pen shows in the United States and one of the shows that we will see them at is the upcoming San Francisco Pen Show in August.

The opinions in this review are always our own and we were not compensated (monetarily or otherwise) for this review.

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

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

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

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

 

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

 

Details

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

 

The Business End

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

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

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

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

 

Write It Up 

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

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

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

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

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

 

EDC-ness

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

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

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

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

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

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

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

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

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

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

 

Pen Comparisons

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

 

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

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May 2018 Pen & Ink Pairing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Samples

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