Some early thoughts on the Parker Duofold International Big Red fountain pen.

This iconic beauty had been on my wish list for six months, although I was not actively looking for one and was deterred by the price. Then my interest was reawakened recently on reading “A day with a Duofold” on Anthony’s blog “UK fountain pens.” I was particularly interested in his comments on the similarity between the Duofold International and the Kaweco Dia2, as the latter is one of my most comfortable pens.

I could not believe my luck when browsing in John Lewis’ pen department, in London’s Oxford Street. A new Duofold, in Big Red colours, was reduced to less than half price to clear. A black model with gold furniture was still at full price.

It was not clear to me at the time, whether it was a Centennial or an International since there was nothing to compare it with. In fact I had forgotten again which was which. (The Centennial is the bigger of the two versions). There was no help from the packaging. I was amused to notice that where the words “Duofold Red FP” had been written on the outer box, someone had crossed out “Red” and written “Orange”. Bless.

Notwithstanding this question, I decided to snap it up. I had looked at the nib with my loupe and the indications were that it would be smooth and reasonably wet. This was confirmed when I dipped it, but a dipped nib is not representative of how a pen will write when filled normally. I could not wait to get it home and try it out.

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Unboxing the Duofold. A converter is inside the pen. Two black cartridges were included beneath the booklet.

Appearance and design

This is an acrylic pen, not very much changed in overall appearance since it was introduced in 1921, although there have been many changes, such as to the finial, the cap bands, the nib scroll work and the barrel text. The shape and proportions are as classic as they come. The cap has a black crown to it with an inset metal finial bearing the name Duofold and the shape of an ace of spades in fancy scroll work. Then there is the classic 1920’s Parker arrow clip. The current model Duofold has a single, wide cap band with the Parker name and logo.

The cap screws off in just over two full rotations. The threads have a reassuring grip at the end and so there is no worry of the cap coming lose. The barrel is of the same orange acrylic, reminiscent of the red lacquer original of the twenties, then made of a supposedly indestructible material called Permanite. A nice feature, dating from the original is the engraved text on the barrel, now reading DUOFOLD Geo. S. Parker, Fountain pen, and in a little banner, Parker Pen . There is a black grip section and black end cap, although only for decoration, this now being a cartridge-converter pen.

Unscrewing the barrel, I was pleased to spot what appears to be a serial number, 16210079, FRANCE on the metal holder for the converter. I believe this pen to be the 2016 edition. Apart from this number, I have not found the usual Parker date code anywhere.

The nib

My pen came with a medium nib, in 18k gold with bi-colour finish. The text says Duofold, Parker 18k 750. The tines looked to be very nicely set up. It has a huge blob of tipping material, particularly for a medium nib and so looked to be built to last. The plastic feed has an unusually slim profile and is smooth, with no fins visible.

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Serious tippage.
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The business-end of the Parker Duofold International.

Filling

The pen was supplied with a very superior, Parker branded converter with a smoked grey ink reservoir, knurled black plastic turning knob and knurled metal collar. The plunger had a nice tight feel to it and the black plunger has a red O ring in it. I have not had any leaks from it.

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Parker Converter. Also showing what I hope is a serial number.

Weights and measurements

When I got home, I looked at the specifications given for the Centennial and the International, on The Writing Desk web site. This is how I found out that my pen is the International. It is 132mm long capped, 124.5mm uncapped, and has a barrel diameter of 11.8mm. Posted, it is 164.6mm. The visible part of the nib is 20mm long. It weighs around 23g of which about 8g is the cap.

Personally, I find it just a little too short to use unposted. Also, if I do hold it unposted, it means that I hold it around the section which is a bit too narrow. So instead, I post the cap and then hold it a bit higher up, around the cap threads, with the section resting on my second finger. This, I find comfortable for longer writing sessions and is how I use my Kaweco Dia2. Incidentally, to those who say that the nib of the Dia2 is disproportionately small, the Duofold might be what you are looking for!

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Parker Duofold International (top), with Kaweco Dia2 below.

Although the Duofold’s cap does post securely, it only just covers the black end piece and ring. It does not go on very deeply. It does leave the pen looking rather long and if you were to hold it lower down than I do, you would probably find it too unbalanced and top heavy.

Writing performance and conclusions

There was no way I was going home without this. In use, I filled it the first couple of times with Parker Quink blue-black, which flowed well. I know that people say that when filling a pen, you should turn the the piston back a little at the end to release a drop of ink back into the bottle, and then wind it up again so that you do not have a saturated feed. I tend not to bother. However with this pen, you will get a very saturated feed and it does then write very wet for the first couple of pages. In fact, this has suited my purposes well because the nib was otherwise a bit skippy at first. I remember the advice that I read on buying my Pelikan M800, that you do need to let it wear in, by using it for a few weeks or a month to get rid of any “baby’s bottom”. It is already improving and the nib is now settling down nicely.

I now have it inked with Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine and rather prefer this darker blue-black to the Parker version.

I am very much enjoying the pen. Although smooth, it has a distinctive feedback which can be heard on my Leuchtturm paper. It is very firm with very little flex. I have had several hour-long sessions, filling pages with it just for the pleasure of feeling and watching the words go down on the page in glistening new ink.

I have also enjoyed looking at the old advertisements for the 1920’s Duofolds. You can spend an entertaining evening Googling “Parker Duofold Advertisements.” I also learned that it was the most expensive pen of its day, at $7.00 back then. So confident were Parker of their nib (the tip of which involved over twenty separate operations) that they offered the pen with a 25 year guarantee. The tip was supposedly three times harder than the usual, and three times more expensive, so that you could lend the pen without any qualms. I lap up all this stuff. (As a ten year old, I once wrote off to Parker, to ask for some more information about the Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian man image that they were using in their magazine advertisements for the Parker Jotter at the time. But enough about me). Here is the pen again.

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The Parker Duofold International, Big Red. The current version of an old classic.

Some silly mistakes with the Faber-Castell Basic (black carbon) and how to avoid them.

Whilst at Victoria Station recently, with ten minutes to spare before my train was due to leave, I popped in to WH Smiths to have a browse around their stationery section. There I made the happy discovery that they sell Faber-Castell fountain pens.

I bought a Faber-Castell Loom earlier this year and have been using it as my every day carry. It is my most successful of the Faber-Castells that I have tried. I found the Emotion too short for me and too heavy; the Ambition (black resin version) also too short and too slippery, or too back-heavy if posted. However, their steel nibs had all been excellent.  Even on their £5.00 plastic school pens, the nibs were very enjoyable.

I spotted a pen which looked similar to my Loom, but with a slightly different shaped cap and which had a shiny, black carbon-fibre look to the barrel. Also, the long, cylindrical section was of grippy black rubber. There was even a smoky grey ink window. I now know this to be the Faber-Castell Basic, black carbon version.

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Faber-Castell Loom (above) and Faber-Castell Basic, (below).

I asked to have a look at it and was immediately impressed by the length of the pen when uncapped,  (about 134mm) which was considerably longer than my Loom, which I took out of my pocket, to compare.  The familiar stainless steel nib looked in good shape and I decided to buy it. The sales assistant apologised that it did not have a cartridge with it but that did not bother me. A new Faber-Castell, like my Loom but longer! What could possibly go wrong?

Later inspecting my purchase, I unscrewed the barrel and found a spent blue cartridge inserted in the pen. Either someone had been testing the pen rather too extensively in the store, or it had had a previous owner and was a return. Never mind, the nib looked promising and I was not bothered about having to clean it first.

At home that evening, I flushed the pen. I planned to fill it with Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red. It is important to remove all traces of blue ink from the nib and feed first, otherwise you lose that lovely deep orangey-red colour in the Garnet, and instead it turns to a burgundy. (Ask me how I know this).

So after flushing the section several times I unscrewed the nib and feed unit from the section and patiently left it to soak in a jar of water overnight.

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The screw-fit nib unit for the Faber-Castell Basic

The next day, when screwing the nib unit back into the grip, (having carefully flushed it again, dried it and applied a little silicone grease on the threads) I realised that I had forgotten what it was supposed to look like. Or rather, I did not realise that I had forgotten and went on screwing it in, expecting to get the unit to fit flush into the grip, right up to the start of the nib, like the Loom. (DO NOT DO THIS!) Needless to say, it did not want to go in any further.

Next I got out a standard international converter. None was supplied with the pen, but I had a few different brands. The first I tried, did not grip onto the coupling at all. The next one, (actually a screw-fit converter, from a Conklin Duragraph) gripped nicely so I gleefully filled it with my Garnet Red ink.

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The wrong size converter. (This is NOT a Faber-Castell converter).

Next, on trying to replace the barrel, I found that it was a very tight fit over the converter, although it did just fit, so I screwed the barrel into place. (DO NOT DO THIS EITHER!) I then tried unscrewing the barrel again and was alarmed to find that, in unscrewing the barrel, the metal collar of the converter had unscrewed and was now firmly wedged inside the barrel.

The only way to retrieve this was to offer the converter back into the barrel (losing the ink first), screw it back into its collar, and pull. This operation, thankfully, was a success. I also learned how to disassemble, clean and re-grease a Conklin Duragraph converter in the process.

I found a different converter to use, this time checking not only that it would grip on the coupling, but also that the barrel would fit over it without touching the sides, before filling. I inserted a Kaweco converter (not the mini one but from a Dia 2) which worked fine.

So I filled the pen, replaced the barrel and thought that all would be well. However, the next discovery was that the cap had become an uncomfortably snug fit, when capping and uncapping the pen. Closer inspection revealed the apparent cause of this to be that the rubber grip had several stress cracks at the nib end and the rubber had actually flared out very slightly and was rubbing on the inside of the cap. This probably happened when I had been trying to screw the nib unit too deeply into the grip.

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Damaged rubber grip section, cracked and slightly flared.

Conclusion.

I think the Basic will be great pen, once I have obtained a replacement rubber grip. However it is not fool proof. I have since enjoyed watching old reviews of the pen by Stephen Brown and Brian Goulet who both spoke very highly of it. As a veteran of over 200 pen purchases, I had become sloppy and made a series of mistakes. Did you spot them all?

Notes to self:-

  • Do not rush a fountain purchase, if you have a train to catch;
  • Inspect the pen properly before purchase, including under the barrel;
  • Before removing a nib, perhaps take a photo as a record of how it looked before;
  • Do not use force when screwing a nib and feed back into a section;
  • Before filling a converter, (if it did not come with the pen) check that the barrel will fit over it.
  • If the barrel is going to be a tight fit over the converter, use a converter that fits properly.
  • You are only as good as your last pen purchase.

I hope that Faber-Castell will not mind sending me a replacement rubber grip and I can then start to use and enjoy the pen, with a fresh start.

 

The Visconti Rembrandt v The Pineider Avatar fountain pen.

One of my favourite pen purchases of 2018, has undoubtedly been the Pineider Avatar, in Lipstick Red from Harrods last May. At the time I bought it, I was vaguely aware of the rather similar Visconti Rembrandt but had never owned or handled one.

The pens share a number of similarities. They are both Italian, both from Florence, both I think designed by Dante del Vecchio (but while at different companies), both are resin bodied, steel nibbed, cartridge-converter fountain pens at what you might say, is the “entry level” for the luxury pen market. I recently heard someone describe the Ferrari California as entry level, so it is all relative. They both feature magnetic, pull off caps, and weighty, shiny, plated grip sections.

I looked at the Pineider Avatar in my post Pineider Avatar fountain pen review. At the time, newly besotted with the Avatar I commented that compared to the Rembrandt, I rather preferred the Avatar’s overall flair.

Four months on, I am still besotted with the Avatar. However I was curious to learn more about the Rembrandt and after watching a few reviews, I succumbed to the temptation to buy one. I felt that it would be sufficiently similar to the Avatar for me to enjoy it for all the same reasons whilst being sufficiently different to make it a worthwhile purchase. What finally tipped me over the edge was a range of new colours, including the Twilight (which I chose) with swirls of purple and glimpses of pink and white like you see when you examine the brush strokes of an oil painting up close. I also blame the magnifying viewer which you can move with your mouse over different areas of the pen, as you deliberate feebly on whether to “Add to basket.” I opted for the Medium nib.

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Visconti Rembrandt Twilight

When the Rembrandt arrived, my first impression was that the purple colours did not seem quite so spectacularly vivid in real life. But the pen felt very solid and well made.

It may be helpful to identify a few differences between the Avatar and the Rembrandt, for anyone considering whether to buy one, or both.

Packaging.

The Avatar came in an impressive and unusual gift box, shaped like a writing desk with a fold down top, in dark green faux leather with a padded creamy interior and a set of Pineider stationery inside. The Rembrandt came in a nice, perfectly acceptable but unexciting lidded cardboard box with padded cushion pen rest.

Construction and appearance.

The Rembrandt has the familiar Visconti pocket clip modelled on the Ponte Vecchio, the arched bridge over the River Arno in Florence. It is a hinged clip but needs to be pinched and lifted to slide over a pocket. It has VISCONTI, laser-etched on both sides, not the fancy enamel of loftier versions. The finial has the Visconti “my pen” system whereby you can replace the metal button held in place by a magnet, with a jeweled finial or a pair of initials.

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The Visconti clip and cap ring

The cap band is smooth and well finished and says VISCONTI on the front and MADE IN ITALY in smaller letters on the back.

The barrel of the Rembrandt is cylindrical, without any tapering until the torpedo-like rounding off at the end, with a shiny, plated metal nose cone, for decoration and to stand on in the pen cup, which is a nice touch.

The magnetic force holding the cap on, is stronger on the Rembrandt and more typical of the effort needed to remove most pull-off caps. It feels reassuringly firm. It is also fun that, with the cap resting on your desk, you can offer the pen slowly into it with one hand and watch the cap leap back on. (I rest my case: it’s worth it just for that).

The plated metal grip section has a slightly raised area just before the nib, to stop your finger sliding onto the nib or feed.

The barrel of the Rembrandt has metal threads inside, to screw onto the metal threads of the section. The Avatar lacks metal threads here.

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Metal threads in the barrel of the Rembrandt only.

The Avatar’s finish is of a most gorgeous, deep red, (like cherry flavour cough sweets called “Tunes”) and has light and dark tones like velvet. The clip is a slender, sprung quill shape, easier to slide onto fabric than the Rembrandt (although I carry them in leather pen cases). The Avatar’s barrel also tapers towards to the foot and then rounds off, with no metal furniture added.

The nib.

This is where the real difference lies. The nib of the Rembrandt is much smaller than the Avatar’s, best shown in a photograph. On my pen, it was smooth but slightly dry. Fortunately, I was able to adjust it to open up the tines just ever so slightly and this made a great improvement to ink flow and lubrication which are now ideal for my preferences.

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Pineider Avater (left), Visconti Rembrandt (right)

The Rembrandt’s nib is very good but lacks those long sweeping curves of the Avatar which give it slightly more flex and line width variation and which make the Avatar such a joy to use.

Weights and measurements (approximate),

Pineider Avatar Visconti Rembrandt
Length closed 142mm 139mm
Length open 130mm 122mm
Length posted 161mm 157mm
Weight, total (capped or posted) 27.5g 33g
Weight uncapped 17.0g 20g
Weight, cap only 10.5g 13g

As can be seen, the Avatar is longer when uncapped. However, I still prefer to use them both with caps posted, holding them at the barrel rather than around the metal section. This avoids both the potential issues of slippery sections or of the pens becoming back heavy due to posting and I find them both perfectly comfortable posted. Neither of them has any cap threads, but there is a slight step on the Avatar. The Rembrandt is smoother to hold.

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Visconti Rembrandt (top) and Pineider Avatar.

Writing performance.

Both pens write wonderfully, with good ink flow, smooth and well lubricated for effortless writing. The Avatar feels the more expressive, simply because of the longer nib.

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Pineider Avatar writing sample after receiving CPR (Corn Poppy Red in this context).
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Visconti Rembrandt writing sample.

Cost and value.

Prices may vary depending where you look but I paid £148.00 for the Avatar and £125.00 for the Rembrandt. I felt that these prices were fair.

Conclusion.

So which is better? Which should you buy? I am delighted with them both. Most people, I think, would be happy to own either one of them. It is only when you have used them both that you notice little advantages in one over the other but they are like brothers from different mothers. If pushed I would say that the Rembrandt feels stronger, heavier, more substantial and robust, whilst the Avatar is prettier, longer, more delicate and has a more enjoyable nib. Perversely, I would conclude that the Rembrandt is the better pen but go and buy the Avatar. It’s beautiful. Here is my favourite nib pic again if you are still not convinced.

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The long steel, Rhodium plated nib of the Pineider Avatar. After my early worries about scratching the barrel, I soon decided that the pen felt better with cap posted.

Back to School with the Stabilo EASYbuddy fountain pen.

It has been hot and sunny in London this weekend but the cool morning air reminds me of my school days and the start of a new autumn term after those long summer holidays.

In Rymans’ Back to School special offers, I spotted this Stabilo fountain pen, called the EASYbuddy, reduced from £14.99 to £5.99. It comes in a blister pack. There were two other colour options available apart from this two-tone blue version, namely purple and pink, or black and hi-viz yellow.

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Stabilo EASYbuddy fountain pen.

I was very pleased to see that it had such a long body. It measures about 135mm when uncapped which is longer than a Lamy Safari and appreciably longer than a similar looking Bic Easy-clic.

It is made of a very tough-looking plastic, with a snap on cap and an ergonomic rubberised section, which is rounded and tapering but with three facets to aid correct grip. (That is, assuming you wish to grip the pen symmetrically and not with the nib rotated either to the left or right in relation to the paper).

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The cap pulls off with a firm click, secured by a three small raised edges at the top of the section, (farthest from the nib) which are not obtrusive when the pen is in use. Unlike some pens that I have used, the cap does not need a huge effort to be removed but is firm enough to give reassurance that it will not slip off accidentally. The cap does not post.

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The pocket clip is of moulded plastic, a continuation of the cap material and springy enough to clip onto a thick pocket or bag. The Stabilo swan logo is on the finial.

Removed, the cap does feel very strong and well made. It is a double thickness, having differing colours inside and out. It can be squeezed a little but feels as though it would need a lot of effort to break it accidentally while fiddling with it.

The nib is stainless steel medium, with an iridium tip but no breather hole. Mine was nicely aligned and wrote well from the start. It is fairly firm but with just a little give, to allow some line width variation.

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The barrel has two long transparent plastic viewing windows, one on each side, when the barrel is screwed on. It is pleasing that the threads are made such that the barrel comes to rest in this symmetrical position.

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Clear window on each side of he barrel to check on your ink levels. Room for a spare cartridge in the back too.

It takes a standard international cartridge with room for a spare which is a very useful feature. I immediately tried mine out with the one royal blue cartridge supplied. It began to write almost instantly. However I noticed the ink seemed to feather out on Leuchtturm notebook paper  (not usually susceptible to feathering) if I held the pen and allowed the nib to linger in one spot. But this was not a problem in ordinary writing. It is the fault of the runny ink and can easily be rectified by trying another ink next time.

Holding the pen, you do feel strongly urged to hold it with thumb and forefinger on the facets either side of the centre line and with the pen resting on your second finger. The rubberised grip means that once held in position, it is not very easy to make small adjustments to the angle of the pen to find a sweet spot, as the rubber prevents the pen from being slipped around in your hand.

At this time of year, there must be lot of competition with the likes of the Lamy, Faber Castell Grip and Pelikan vying for a slice of the school market for entry level pens. This one certainly feels very durable and well made. Mine writes well and with a change of ink will be even better. At full price it would be a tougher choice but while available at the sale price, it makes a great value, robust pen to carry around.

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Stabilo EASYbuddy on left, with a Bic Easy-clic for size comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

Some early thoughts on the Lamy accent fountain pen.

Working within walking distance of a stationery shop is a bit of a hazard for the pen-prone. As a recent lunch hour indulgence, I treated myself to a new Lamy accent fountain pen from Rymans, one of the few bricks and mortar pen shops I know of which sells them.

I had seen the pen there before, but had never really given it a second glance. Uncapped, in the display cabinet, it was a bit odd-looking. However, I was intrigued by the wooden grip section and asked to see it. I was quite surprised at what I found.

Design and construction

This is a metal, cartridge/converter pen, with a short, screw cap. I think the barrel and cap material is aluminium, (possibly Palladium coated?). The pocket clip is sprung (and even has GERMANY engraved on a recess on the underside). The only visible branding is the name LAMY in small letters on the cap, alongside the top end of the clip. The cap sits flush with the barrel when the pen is closed but is also designed to be posted, on a little prominence to stay flush with the barrel. The cap posts securely, held on by two little black plastic lugs.

But the distinguishing feature of the pen, is the grip section, made of a grey coloured wood with a black irregular natural grain. It is also slightly curved and is wider in the middle than the two ends. Also, it can easily be removed and then swapped for a different material, such as a black rubber version although finding one might be a challenge.

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Lamy accent fountain pen with Karelia wood grip.

According to Lamy’s web site, this is Karelia wood. However, this is not a tree I have heard of and so far I have been unable to find any reference online to a tree of this species although there are many references to a brand named Karelia Wood which specialises in engineered wood flooring.

The nib and filling system

The pen has the standard Lamy Safari stainless steel nib, and so is easy to replace or swap for other widths. But unlike the Safari this one has a black plastic mount, about 10mm long, between the nib and the wooden grip section.

You might be worrying that the lovely wood finish might get stained, the first time you dip it in an ink bottle. But no, to fill the pen, you remove the cap, hold the wooden grip section with one hand and then rotate the barrel with the other: this unscrews and releases the nib and feed unit which slowly starts to emerge out of the section, rather like a Graf von Faber Castell Intuition. Once removed, you only need to dip the nib unit in the ink, up to the black plastic mount and fill your converter in the usual way, and there is no risk to the woodwork if using bottled ink.

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Lamy accent with nib section removed for filling. You do not have to take the wooden grip collar off the barrel but this is just to show that you can.

The pen was supplied with a Lamy converter and one blue Lamy cartridge. However I wanted to use a blue black Lamy cartridge which I had at home.

Weights and measurements

The pen is about 144 mm closed, 125mm open or a generous 163mm posted. Capped or posted it weighs about 26g, being 16g for the uncapped pen and 10g for the cap. This is quite a pleasant weight, having a bit of substance but not being overly weighty. I did not find it back heavy when posted, but then I generally hold my pens quite high up from the nib.

Writing performance

The nib will be familiar to anyone who has used a Lamy Safari (which is anyone), namely smooth but firm. Mine was a little on the stingy side in terms of ink flow, but acceptable. I found it to be wetter when writing “underarm” than when writing “overarm” (my left-handed slanting style with the back of the pen pointing away from me). I am used to finding that nibs are not so well lubricated this way.

I tried writing for an hour in a Paperchase notebook. I found the pen comfortable to hold when posted, being just slightly short for me if not. It was nice to have a wooden section to hold as this is rare in fountain pens.

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Writing sample

But my blue black cartridge was producing a very pale line, given the rather dry nib and my light touch and very smooth paper. I later switched out the cartridge and put a black one in and this made a big improvement in readability.

Likes and dislikes

This is an unusual pen. If you enjoy the plain form and function of the Safari, then this makes a nice change and feels like an upgrade. Lamy does also make a version called the accent Brilliant with 14k nib, a glossy black lacquer barrel and polished briarwood collar, which looks like the dashboard material of an expensive car. I have not seen anyone with one of these pens, or even this Karelia wood version, come to think of it.

For those who bemoan the faceted grip section of the Lamy Safari and AL Star, here is a chance to use the same nib in a facet-free section. The wood is pleasant to hold.

However, I found that the black plastic rim of the cap is sharp and I could feel it rubbing on my hand as I wrote. I might try to smooth it down or round it off a little, if I can do so without ruining it.

Also, whilst I like screw caps, this one has one of the shortest travels that I have used, needing not quite half a turn to come off. However, once on, it does bite quite firmly and I have not had it come loose unintentionally as yet. Also I mostly carry pens in a leather pen case. The issue is remembering that it is a screw cap at one end and push on at the other.

Conclusion and Value

The shop price was £54.99, including the supplied converter and so similar in price to a Lamy Studio or Aion. I later found that it is currently £49.50 on Cult Pens, and they are also offering a further 10% off this and many other enthusiasts’ pens at the moment. But that is the difference that we pay to support our bricks and mortar stores and keep our High Streets alive!

It is a quite a special pen, well made and durable with unusual materials and for those who like the Lamy design ethos, it is an interesting addition to the collection.

Update: I have since smoothed the sharp edges of the black plastic cap rim. I pared them down to rounded edges with a knife and then smoothed and polished the rim by rubbing it on an envelope. This has resolved the issue.

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Lamy accent

A year with the Kaweco Perkeo.

In June of last year, I stumbled across the new Kaweco Perkeo fountain pen, in Paperchase in St Peter Port, Guernsey. I bought one in each of the two available colours. My subsequent blog posts about them (A peek at the Perkeo and Kaweco Perkeo, a brief update.) attracted more views than any of my other posts, (after being mentioned on FPN) and so there has evidently been much interest in this model.

For almost a year, it seemed that only those two colours (Old Chambray and Cotton Candy) were stocked in the shops, although two more colour combinations were available online. But in May 2018 I first spotted the “Indian Summer” version, again at a branch of Paperchase (this time, in London’s Brent Cross shopping centre) and bought one on the spot. This is the mustard coloured barrel with the black cap. However it also differed from my previous two models, in having a black nib (or rather a stealthy gun-metal blue-black) in a Fine.

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Kaweco Perkeo Indian Summer, with Fine nib.

I have heard it said that Kaweco’s nibs are not always correctly aligned out of the box, but mine was perfect with an ideal flow and I really enjoy its smooth, fine line. Admittedly, the mustard colour is unusual but actually I rather like it.  I have been using it with black ink cartridges, of the sort that you buy in a bag of thirty and the pen loves them!

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Writing sample from Kaweco Perkeo Indian Summer, provided by my cousin Becca during a family day at the beach.

And then just a month ago, I found the fourth colour also in a Paperchase, (Swiss Cottage, London branch), the aptly named “Bad Taste” which has a black barrel and a bubble-gum pink cap. Again, this came with a black nib in a Fine. This one seems to write a little broader than the Indian Summer nib but again, flow was good and it needed no adjustment.

Quality wise, there was some issue with my Perkeo Bad Taste, in that the inner cap has a slight obstruction. It will still snap on and off, but there is a distinct resistance to overcome, before you reach the second ridge for the cap to click onto. I pondered whether to exchange it but haven’t bothered and it might improve with use.

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Kaweco Perkeo Bad Taste. I wouldn’t argue with that.

Looking back at my previous Perkeo posts, I mentioned the three facets on the grip section. In fact they no longer bother me at all as I always grip the pen around the coloured ring, with the section resting on my second finger. I hold my pens quite high up from the nib, which I suppose is why I like longer pens, or pens that can be used with caps posted. In the case of the Perkeo, it is about 128mm long unposted and long enough to use that way, although the cap will post securely if you want extra length and weight.

I also mentioned that the nib and feed can be pulled out (they are friction fit) from the section. However, I since learned that whilst there is no obvious flat edge requiring you to realign them when replacing them in the section, I believe that there is a flat step right at the far end once you have pushed the feed almost all the way back, so that it may not be possible to push the feed in fully unless the feed is aligned symmetrically with the grip facets. Sorry about that.

Conclusion

I have been lucky that all four of my Perkeos write very nicely. They are great for not drying out. The inner cap does a good job at avoiding hard starts. My first two Perkeos have remained inked pretty much constantly since I bought them in June 2017. I have kept one of them at work and it is an easy pen to grab for a quick signature or for making notes. For blue ink, I mostly used it with Kaweco’s own royal blue cartridges which are excellent.

The fact that I have now acquired all four colour options is the best testament I can provide of my enjoyment of this pen. It is great value and a good alternative to the similarly priced Lamy Safari.

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The Perkeo squad: Old Chambray, Cotton Candy, Indian Summer and Bad Taste. You can mix and match the caps if you like.

 

 

 

 

Mystery pen update. Mystery solved!

Some readers may remember my post Wanted: an identity for this pen from 8 February 2018, about a fountain pen that I bought at the London Pen Show which was devoid of any branding. It is a large and comfortable pen with a size 6 nib, featuring a clear demonstrator barrel (with coloured bullet-shaped end) and the options of cartridge, converter or eye-dropper filling.

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I bought two of these, based on their own merits, without knowing who made them.

Now, six months on, a reader Anthony K from Australia, kindly got in touch with me through the blog, to share some information that he had found on these pens. Thanks to him I can now update you with the following:-

  1. A Japanese online store, called Engeika, sells its own brand of pens under the name of Wancher.
  2. This particular model, is branded as the Wancher Crystal. It is available in five colours, named after precious stones, namely Emerald, Indigo Sapphire, Fire Opal, Smoky Quartz and Light Smoke Topaz. Pens sold under this name have “Wancher” on the cap band. (Mine do not).
  3. As well as this version with the pointed end, there is a flat ended version.
  4. However, the pens are manufactured by a Taiwan company, Fine Writing International (Shang Yu Tang), said to be the second largest or most well known pen company in Taiwan (after TWSBI). The nibs are from Germany (a Jowo, number 6 steel nib).
  5. The pen is also sold as the Wancher Crystal, by Jet Pens, priced at $70 US.
  6. The pens are also sold unbranded, online through TwiCo currently priced at £37.50 (see https://www.twico.uk/store/p54/Pointy-Demonstrator-Fine).

My first model was bought from John Twiss, a seller at the London Pen Show last October and the second one when I met him again at the Cambridge Pen Show in March, at a show price of £30.00.

I particularly like the pen due to its 140mm long body when opened, (about 5 1/2 inches) and also its very smooth and pleasant nib. The cap also features a sprung inner cap, which seems to stop the problem of dry-out and hard starts sometimes associated with large nibs. All in all, you get a lot of good features and a big pen for not a very big price. Thanks again to Anthony for the detective work and for cracking the mystery.

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An unbranded eye-dropper fountain pen otherwise known as the Wancher Cystal, Indigo Sapphire.

Another look at the Wing Sung 601 fountain pen.

Here is another pen that I bought while on holiday in Italy. Except that this one was bought on ebay and has just arrived in the post, four weeks later.

“What were you thinking, ordering pens online while away on holiday?” you might ask. I had taken a new Wing Sung 601 demonstrator with me on the trip, and was delighted with it but still had the urge to have one in a colour seen on a friend’s Instagram post (@jonr1971). I think it is called Lake Blue although the names of the colour descriptions can be a bit puzzling.

Appearance and Design.

This is the Wing Sung model that looks very much like the well loved, vintage Parker 51, with a slip-on metal cap with arrow pocket clip and the distinctive hooded nib, but in stainless steel rather than gold.  I will not argue the rights or wrongs of this being a Chinese version of a classic Parker pen. It does not claim to be a Parker and is named Wing Sung (written in Chinese characters) 601 on the front of the cap band, with “Made in China” at the back. Unlike the Parker, it has six ink windows in the barrel, which are hidden when the pen is capped.

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Wing Sung 601 vacumatic fountain pen.

Construction and Quality.

I was very impressed with my first, demonstrator version. The materials and finish all seemed commendable. I recall that the nib needed just a slight tweak to align the tines for smooth writing. On my new one, again the materials and finish all seemed to be to a good standard. There was no issue with the tines being uneven, but the nib was not quite symmetrical with the black plastic feed. As the nib is hooded, this is barely noticeable unless you look closely (which I did).  It does not seem to impair the ink flow, but it would be nice to remove the nib and line it up centered around the feed.

Under the blind cap, you have a metal plunger rod, to operate the vacumatic filling system. At the foot of this rod you have a black, hexagonal nut, which you may unscrew to remove the whole filler unit. The nut looks like black metal but I have heard that it is plastic and therefore gets chewed up and deformed if you use a metal wrench on it. Best to use plastic on plastic. I have not tried removing it yet.

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Blind cap unscrewed to reveal metal push-button plunger for the vacumatic filler unit.

Weight and Dimensions.

I would call this a medium-sized pen and fairly light. Closed, it measures about 138mm. Uncapped, it is about 127mm long, which many would find long enough to use unposted. However, I prefer the look, feel and weight of the pen with the metal cap posted, which increases the length to 147mm. I do not find it to be unbalanced as the cap posts deeply and securely and I then grip the pen a little higher up.

Uncapped the pen weighs around about 12.5 grams (including some ink in mine). The cap alone weighs 7.5 grams and so capped, or posted the total is 20 grams, which is still on the light side.

Nib and Performance.

The nib is a Fine, or possibly Extra Fine. I could not see any marking on the visible part of the nib. Being so small, and with only about 2mm of nib protruding under the shell, it is firm and does not provide any significant line variation. Like a rollerball, it does not give much character to your writing. But on both of mine, the ink flow has been good, giving sufficient lubrication to the nib to allow for effortless writing. Being a Fine nib, it does not have the smoothness of a generously tipped broad nib but it is smooth and also has sufficient “tooth” to enable the pen to cope with ease on smooth papers without any skipping. You might find that you need to rotate the pen a little to find the “sweet spot” and with a hooded nib, it is not so easy to see how your pen is rotated, when you are writing. It helps to post the cap with the arrow clip in line with the nib to see the alignment of nib to paper in the writing position and make adjustments as necessary.

I did test my first nib with Conway Stewart Tavy, blue-black ink by Diamine and was pleased to find that it wrote well in all directions, never skipping and needing no pressure. I had the same success with Waterman Mysterious Blue in my latest pen.

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No skips or hard starts. Waterman Mysterious Blue on smooth Paperchase note book paper.

Filling System and Maintenance.

This is a vacumatic filler; you immerse the nib in ink, press and release the spring-loaded button a few times, expelling air and allowing ink to be drawn into the reservoir. In the demonstrator version you can observe this fascinating process, with the ink level rising a little higher in the reservoir with each press of the button.  “I pressed down down down and the ink went higher” as Johnny Cash might have sung. In the non-demonstrators, it is not so spectacular but you can easily check that you have a good fill using the ink windows.

As for maintenance, the pen is not easy to flush. I experimented first with water and found that pressing the button repeatedly does not expel all the water from the pen. If this were ink, and you were changing colours, you could contaminate a bottle of ink with the ink residue from the pen. So, to clean the pen you therefore need to unscrew the shell, pull out the nib and ink collector unit (which is friction fit) from the barrel and then rinse out any residue.

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Collector, pulled from the barrel. Before you push it back in, you need to mark on the barrel, where the protruding lip of the shell will finish up once screwed back on, and then position the collector so that the nib is in line with this point.

I have not yet found a way to separate the metal nib from the collector unit. I tried pulling it out but it would not budge and I was wary of distorting either the nib or the fins on the collector and so suspended my efforts. The little nib is just too tiny to get a hold of, even with “grippy material”.

When pushing  the collector back into the barrel, it is necessary to line it up so that, when the shell is screwed back on fully, the protruding lip of the shell will end up  precisely in line with the nib. This can be done by marking on the barrel, the position where the nib needs to be, or just by holding the barrel horizontal in one hand imagining that the top is the 12 o’clock position. You soon find out if you have got it wrong;  if the nib is not in the right place, look at which direction it needs to be moved and by roughly what distance. Repeat as necessary.

A little silicone grease on the plastic threads is a good idea. One of my 601’s actually came with a little container of grease and so you are encouraged to disassemble and maintain your pen.

Cost and Value.

These can be found new on ebay for prices of around £10, and so come in well under the price of a Lamy Safari, currently about £17.00 here in the UK. That is excellent value for a vacumatic filler fountain pen.

Conclusion.

I enjoyed my first 601 sufficiently to want to buy another. The familiar design is obviously well-known and loved. It is great that these are now available with a Vacumatic filling system. The fine nib combined with the large ink capacity, mean that you can write for ages on one fill. Whether you chose the demonstrator or ink windows version you can see when you are getting low on ink and top up accordingly.

It is probably best not to change ink colours too frequently unless you are prepared to disassemble the pen for cleaning first. Another option is to decant some ink into a receptacle with a pipette or syringe and to fill from there, rather than from a bottle to avoid the risk of contaminating the rest of the bottle.

As a smart, classic and reliable pen, light enough to carry in a shirt pocket, I can see how it can become the daily writer of choice. This is a pen that you will want to show people.

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The Wing Sung 601 would grace any table. Seen here on a train.

Travelling with ink: pen shopping in Lake Garda.

Once again it has been holiday time and an opportunity to visit a beautiful part of the world, that is northern Italy. My wife and I and mother-in-law were to spend a week at Garda Town, on the eastern side of Lake Garda (or Lago di Garda).

My forward planning had consisted of chosing what pens to bring for journaling and deciding upon a Wing Sung 601 (clear demonstrator, vacumatic filler), plus a Kaweco Dia 2 and a Perkeo. Rather than bring bottled ink this time I brought some cartridges for the Kawecos. I also packed a WH Smith exercise book. However, at the last minute, at Stanstead airport, I spotted a soft cover Leuchtturm plain paper journal with elastic loop closure. I stuffed it in my bag and took to the skies feeling like an Ernest Hemingway.

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Wing Sung 601, vac filler.

I had also googled “pen shop Verona” and jotted down the name of a shop on the via Mazzini called Manella, to check out when we got there.

Lake Garda, set among the spectacular backdrop of the Dolomites, has a perimeter of 158km (98 miles). Early in our holiday, we joined a coach tour to go all the way round, visiting four of the lakeside towns, Sirmione, Limone, Riva and Malcesine.

Sirmione is located at the tip of a narrow peninsula, on the southern banks of the lake, and famed for its thermal baths, a medieval castle and the remains of a Roman villa. We arrived via a motor launch for the short journey to the tip of the peninsula and cruised into the castle, which was very cool. Busy with tourists on this hot June day, I did stumble across a stationery shop with some attractive fountain pens in the window and went to investigate. I did not recognise any of the brands on display but was drawn to a red resin pen with shiny chrome lattice work around the cap, sold with a converter and a bottle of black ink and one standard cartridge. The brand was La Kaligrafica and at under 30 euros and with a nice steel nib it seemed like a good buy.

Later, inking the pen up with the supplied cartridge, I was quite content with the nib (the ubiquitous “Iridium point, Germany”) but found that the pen was a little short to use unposted. It was clearly designed to have the cap posted, where it sits flush with the barrel. But the problems were (a) the metal furniture on the cap makes the pen a bit top heavy and (b) the cap does not grip securely on the barrel and very easily works loose as you write, which is very irritating. There is a risk of it falling onto a hard floor and breaking or disappearing over a balcony. I tried wedging a scrap of paper under the cap but this did not seem to help. I think this pen is destined for someone with smaller hands who will not need to post the cap.

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La Kaligrafica, Italian cartridge-converter fountain pen.

We travelled up the west side of the lake by coach, passing through many tunnels, built in the 1930s by Mussolini. Lunch was at another pretty town, Limone, before taking a ferry up to Riva on the northern bank, from where there were marvellous views down the lake. Having some free time to explore Riva, I found another stationery shop, selling leather bound journals, ornate glass handled dip pens (with steel nibs) for calligraphy or for display and a few inexpensive Italian fountain pens geared for the tourist trade at between 20 to 30 euros. I was able to resist these.

The final visit on the lake tour was Malcesine on the eastern side, with another castle and also boasting a cable car to the top of Mount Baldo. The cable car gondola is round and actually revolves very slowly as it ascends. (We returned to do the cable car trip another day).

The lake tour was a very good start to our holiday, giving a good introduction and a taster, to plan trips by ferry during the rest of the week.

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Typical scene on Lake Garda

Later in the week we took a bus to Verona which is only an hour away. The bus terminates in the centre of the city right next to the impressive arena, a Roman amphitheatre, still used as a venue for opera. The scenery for a performance of Aida was laid out in the square.

We walked down the via Mazzini, the pedestrian shopping street which takes you from the arena to the piazza delle Erbe, a beautiful square with a bustling market.

I found the Manella pen shop, under a Pelikan sign! Unfortunately it was closed so I was resigned to missing it this time. I had to content myself with pressing my nose up to the windows and taking a few photos (marred by reflections from the busy street) of the displays of Pelikans, Auroras, Delta, Montegrappa and other delights.

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Manella, fountain pen shop, Via Mazzini 5, Verona.

However, after spending some time exploring Verona, including a visit to the casa di Giuletta (the “house” of Shakespeare’s Juliet) and the impressive Cathedral, we passed the pen shop again and this time it was open! The very cordial proprietor told me that this shop had been here since 1940 and run by his father before him. On telling him that I was keen on fountain pens he kept getting things out to show me,such as a Montegrappa Fortuna although I had to tell him that I had one already.

I was interested to try an Aurora, not having owned one and he showed me the Aurora Ipsilon Deluxe, in red resin with a gold nib. However, he had some more colours and models in his other, larger shop, literally just around the corner and together we walked around to look at some more pens.

There he also had an Aurora Ipsilon Lacca, the metal lacquer version, in a new dark blue and black finish and also with a gold nib, which looked to be rhodium plated with matching furniture. This I chose as my souvenir from Verona. Oh, and I spotted a display of “Pelikano Up” pens and one of those went home with me as well.

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Aurora Ipsilon Lacca.

Back in London, I filled the Aurora, rather unimaginatively with Aurora blue. It is a smallish pen but weighs a solid 31.5g. It is short when uncapped, at around 118mm, but the cap posts well with a secure click.

My Fine nib version wrote well. But the nib is small and firm without much give. I was also a bit troubled by what looked like rows of tiny mysterious scratches right across the mid part of the nib, from edge to edge, although only visible with a loupe. Also the nib was not precisely centred over the feed and I have not yet figured out how to remove the nib and line it up more symmetrically. However neither of these issues affects writing performance.

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Detail of the Fine, 14k gold nib, Aurora Ipsilon Lacca.

I must confess, that I did find the pen a bit bland, particularly matched with royal blue ink. I then flushed it and refilled it with Monteverde Napa Burgundy, which has injected some more life into it. I think it is a decent pen but on reflection, I enjoyed the buying experience more than the pen itself. Perhaps it is just that I am “penned out” at the moment and spoilt from a surfeit of other very satisfying aquisitions in recent weeks. I had been happier with the Montegrappa Fortuna and Pineider Avatar pens bought earlier this year, two Italian pens which both have steel nibs.

Finally, the modest Wing Sung 601 served me well on the trip, as did the Leuchtturm journal. After about 35 pages the Wing Sung (with its fine nib) still had half a fill of ink remaining and I had no need of my two Kawecos or spare cartridges which came to Italy for the ride.

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View of Lake Garda, from Riva on the north bank.

Some early thoughts on the Pelikan M120 special edition, green and black fountain pen.

Within the last few weeks, I have been on the receiving end of three wonderful, unexpected, unconnected and very generous gifts.

First, a Methodist minister retiring from her post at a city church in London, and moving from the manse to smaller accommodation, offered me an old camera that she no longer used. This turned out to be a Nikon F, the very first of Nikon’s line of single lens reflex cameras introduced in 1959. Well travelled but well looked after, the camera was in good working order and I have enjoyed taking it out and about, remembering the way that we used to take photographs: winding on, setting speed, aperture and focus and then hearing the shutter release and the mirror returning. Before the fountain pen hobby grew and took over, I had built up an accumulation of classic cameras (particularly Voigtlander and Zeiss) but had never owned a Nikon 35mm film camera. I am now thrilled to have this classic model.

Then, a reader of my blog, whom I met up with for the first time in London recently, kindly passed on to me a bunch of his fabulous pens as mentioned in my post Inky Pursuits: a recent round-up. I am greatly enjoying the Pilot Custom 74 and Custom Heritage 92, the nibs and comfort of which give a writing experience amongst the best I have ever known.

And then on returning from holiday recently, I had a parcel waiting for collection. This was the size of a small pillow, and contained a very well wrapped, new and unused Pelikan M120, in classic green and black, complete with presentation gift box, a bottle of Pelikan 4001 royal blue ink, and the guarantee and guide to the Pelikan range.

This generous gift was from another reader of my blog and a fellow blogger, but from another country and whom I have never met. I am most grateful but also humbled that people can be so generous even to a total stranger. Events like this make the world seem a friendlier place and help to redress the balance when so much world news is so troubling. Indeed, in the last few years, I have found the online fountain pen community, to be a wonderful bunch, from all over the world and from all walks of life, united by a common passion for fountain pens, inks and stationery.

Returning to work after a week away, (into a tumultuous week including World Cup football, Wimbledon tennis, and President Trump’s visit to the UK) it has taken me a little while to adjust and get back into my routine. However, I have now had a closer look at this pen and have been using it with the lovely Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz (which I did not pay for either, as it came from last year’s Pelikan Hub).

I understand that this model, in green and black, is a 2016 re-issue of a classic Pelikan from 1955 but with a few improvements.

Appearance and design

This is a vintagey-looking cigar shaped pen, with a green body and black grip section and piston knob and rounded ends. There is a good sized ink window with a green tint. The black cap screws on securely, needing only half a rotation. The gold plated pocket clip features the Pelikan bill. A gold plated cap band reads “PELIKAN GERMANY”. But one feature that is not so obvious is the logo of pelikan and chick on the finial, very subtle in black with no colouring so that you would hardly notice it.

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Pelikan M120, special edition (2016) in green and black.

Construction and quality

Being a resin pen it is lightweight but looks and feels to be of good quality, not plasticky. I cannot find any fault in the construction.

Weight and dimensions

With ink, the pen weighs only 16g capped or posted, or 10g for the body only, and 6g for the cap. Capped, it measures 130mm (not too long for a shirt pocket), whilst open it is 120mm (a bit short; I prefer 130mm plus, to use un-posted); with cap posted it is a very comfortable 155mm and this is how I like to use it. The cap grips quite deeply and securely on the back of the pen without upsetting balance. Also the clip will then stop the pen from rolling if put down on a sloping surface.

Nib and performance

Ah! Thanks for asking! This is a steel nib, (mine is a Fine) with gold plating to match the cap furniture (or vice versa). A special feature of the pen is that the scroll work on the nib is based upon a Pelikan price-list from 1889 and looks very attractive under a loupe (although, like the logo on the finial, it is not noticeable in ordinary use but it is nice just to know it is there). The nib wrote beautifully out of the box and has a pleasant bit of springiness or softness to it (although not a flex nib). It has a very pleasant touch on the paper, a little feedback but no scratchiness. I would say that the line is more towards the Medium side, than a true Fine and is perfect for me. Also, the nib and feed unit can be easily unscrewed for rinsing or swapping with any nib from the M200 or M400 pens, should you wish to do so.

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Curlicues borrowed from an 1889 Pelikan price list.

Filling system and maintenance

This is a piston filler and is very smooth and effective and holds a good supply of ink although I have not measured it. For cleaning I would just fill and empty the pen a few times in clean water until all traces of ink are gone from the water. It is good to be able to unscrew the nib and feed units to wash them or soak overnight if need be, if changing ink colours. I am not sure whether or how you can remove the piston mechanism but it should be good for many years yet.

Cost and value

This pen, in green and black, was a special edition to be made for a limited period. I remember seeing them for sale on Cult Pens at the time. Currently there is a similar model but in blue with blue cap and blue ink window for sale at £128.00 and I think the green and black model used to be a similar price.

This puts it somewhat higher than the regular M200 models which are currently offered in the £70.00’s and £80.00’s on Cult Pens, which is lower than they used to be.

Is it worth it? This is a tough question. Several reviewers concluded that it was a great pen but let down only by being rather over-priced for what it is, when based on a school pen from the 1950’s. Personally, I would recommend the pen if you like the nostalgic style combined with modern Pelikan materials and reliability.

Certainly it is a pretty pen, with vintage looks from a bygone era, very well made and if like my other modern Pelikans, perfectly reliable and always ready. And it makes a good companion for my Nikon F.

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Nikon F with Pelikan M120.