Some early thoughts on the Pilot metal Falcon (SF) fountain pen.

For the past two weeks I have enjoyed getting acquainted with this pen, bought new at the Cambridge pen show.

If you are new to the Pilot Falcon, as I was, there are a few things that might cause some initial confusion, as follows:-

  1. This the Pilot Falcon. In the past, they were branded as the Namiki Falcon (Namiki being Pilot’s brand for its high-end pens).
  2. The Falcon can be found in either resin or a metal body with lacquer finish.
  3. The nib on the Falcon is a semi-flex nib, with the markings SEF, SF, SM or SB (for soft extra fine, soft fine, soft medium of soft broad), also denoted by a removable silver sticker on the barrel. However, when people refer to the “Falcon nib” they may instead mean an entirely different shaped nib, with distinctive cut-aways on the sides to help it flex, with the markings FA and which is not found on the Falcon pen at all but on a different Pilot pen.
  4. The nib called the Falcon (FA) nib, is more soft (flexy) than the soft nibs made for the Pilot Falcon.

See what I mean? Anyhow, the model that I have is the Pilot metal Falcon, in black with a Soft Fine (SF) nib, which is 14k gold, rhodium plated. The pens branded as Pilot are clearly identified by the name Pilot stamped on the nib and on the cap, just above the shiny plain cap band.

Pilot metal Falcon, in black lacquer over steel.

There have been other modifcations too, such as the change from a resin to a metal finial and barrel end cap and the addition of another metal ring, so that there are now two rhodium plated rings on the grip section and a third on the barrel, just after the cap threads. These do give this smart but ordinary looking Pilot’s uniform a bit of panache, rather like the rings on the sleeves of an airline pilot’s jacket.

The nib

When I chose my Falcon, there was a Soft Fine or Soft Medium nib available. Both looked nicely finished, under a loupe but I chose the Soft Fine as I have come to appreciate Fine nibs more, in the past year or so and because I have relatively few of them, compared to the number of pens with medium nibs.

Soft Fine nib, in 14k gold, rhodium plated. Writes like a western extra fine. Wet and effortless. 

I had read that Pilot nibs had a good reputation for being well made and for great performance straight out of the box, which is always a delight. This one lived up to expectations.

The unique nib of the Pilot Falcon, is the main draw for this pen. Shaped more like a nib that you might find for a dip pen, it is long and slender with a bulge half way down, as if the nib had been pushed into a wall and had buckled. It is rare nowadays to find a new pen sold with a flexy nib. This is not a “full flex” nib but has more softness to it than most. In the right hands, this can be used to apply a little downward pressure to the nib on the down stroke, to open up the tines a little and create some thicker lines, for attractive line variation.

I say “in the right hands” as (a) it does take some skill and practice to achieve this and (b) it is more difficult for left handers, particularly lefty overwriters, (such as myself) as the nib does not like to have pressure applied when being pushed forward, but only when being pulled backward. Indeed, you have to be careful on the upstroke to keep a light touch and avoid the nib jabbing into the paper.

In this regard, possibly a medium or broad nib might have been a more sensible and forgiving option for me if buying a flexy nib. However the fine nib certainly does have its advantages. It is not necessary to flex the nib and the pen can be used to write quite normally, without any downward pressure. The remarkable thing is that the pen requires no pressure at all and the tines are so responsive, that the pen will write as soon as the pen touches the paper – and with no skipping. Smooth paper is preferred.

Because the nib is so soft, it takes only the slightest touch to paper, to open the tines and lay down ink. I have found that it is important to keep the nib flat to the paper (rather than rotated left or right), so that both tines remain level on the paper. If the pen is tilted, one tine will lift higher than the other, causing the inner edge of the other to catch on the paper and make the nib feel scratchy.

I have also read that the nib needs to “break in” and become softer and more flexy in time. Meanwhile I have been careful not to push it too far for fear of springing the nib, bending it past the point of no return.

One of my favourite discoveries with the nib, was to find that the numbers in the lower right corner, and barely readable with the naked eye, denote the date of production of the nib. Mine is 917, that is September 2017. I have since looked at pictures of numerous others online to compare when they were made. I do enjoy it when pens can be dated.

Date marking on nib, for September 2017.

Filling mechanism. The pros and cons of the CON 70

The Falcon (be it the Pilot or Namiki) is a cartridge – converter pen but has evolved through several filling systems. I understand that originally, the pen had the CON 20 press-bar converter, unpopular for its small ink capacity which soon ran out especially if one was doing much flexing of nib for broader strokes. The next generation had the CON 50 piston converter. Both are now discontinued according to Cult Pens. The current metal Falcon has the CON 70 push button converter, which is relatively large capacity, efficient and fun to operate.

I have not yet fully grasped how this works. The converter has a button at one end. Inside, you can see a thin metal rod, with a rubber plug at the end, but which does not reach the open end of the converter and which can slide up and down the metal rod.

The CON 70 push button converter.

To fill your pen, with converter attached to the section, you simply place the nib in the ink, give the button a quick press and release, and ink is drawn into the reservoir. Repeat a few times and each time, the ink reaches a higher level. Within about four quick presses, you have a full reservoir.

From watching a Brian Goulet video on this converter, I gathered that pressing the button pushes the rubber plug downwards; air is expelled and the plug seals off the opening so that a vacuum is created. With the nib immersed in ink, the vacuum then draws ink up into the pen. It is all over very quickly.

The CON 70, refuelled with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo.

On close inspection, it can be seen that the metal shaft inside the reservoir is a hollow tube. I have not yet deduced whether it is this tube through which air is expelled or ink is drawn in. But it works.

There are some issues to be aware of , with this design of converter. (a) It is rather a faff to clean if you are changing ink colours. You can try pushing the button repeatedly to fill and empty the pen with clean water. Or it is quicker to remove the converter and squirt water into the opening with a syringe or pipette. I have read that ink can lodge inside the metal tubular rod and that this can contaminate inks of a different colour, if you fill the pen before cleaning the converter thoroughly. (b) Also the action seems to make the ink go bubbly so that you are left with lots of tiny bubbles sticking to the inside of the converter, stopping you from seeing the new ink sloshing around from end to end with a single air bubble like a spirit level. The bubbles or tiny air pockets disperse a day or two after filling.

Straight after filling. Perhaps it just needs a flush with some detergent. 

In use

The pen is very comfortable to hold, being a good medium sized pen with a nice weight to it. It weighs around 33g (20g uncapped, and 13g for the cap).I prefer to use it with the cap posted, although at 126mm unposted, many people would find it long enough without posting. One criticism that was made of the resin version, was that it felt too light. This is no longer an issue in the metal Falcon. Also, there was criticism of the small ink capacity converter but the CON 70 resolves this.

A few days after buying the pen, I had the opportunity to use it to take notes at a full day of training lectures. At the time it was filled with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo which I was sure it would like. The fine nib proved very good for annotating typed hand-outs and marginal notes. It can be used for fast writing so long as you remember to avoid pressure on the nib. Sitting with the pen uncapped, it did stop writing on me a couple of times during the day, but this could just have been due to the ink drying in the nib while uncapped, rather than any issues with the feed. I have read that when used a lot for flex writing, the nib can railroad and also stop writing if the nib is flexed upwards away from the feed for too long, which is hardly surprising. I have not found any such difficulties in normal use.

In conclusion, the Pilot Falcon might not suit everyone, due to its softer nib but is a great quality, well finished precision writing tool, for those who enjoy pens with an extremely light touch for effortless writing , having the option of some flex writing if desired.

Soft Fine nib, Yama-budo on Tomoe River paper.






So what happens now? Another pen show, another haul.

A week ago, it looked unlikely that I would make it to the Eastern Pen Show (Cambridge) on Sunday, 4th March, as snow and freezing temperatures had caused disruption to transport. Fortunately, this cleared just in time and a good rail service to Cambridge was running.

London Kings Cross station, at 7.30 on a Sunday morning.

This was my first visit to the Cambridge pen show and I was much looking forward to it. Arriving early, I had time to walk from the station to the venue, the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, on the River Cam. This proved to be a good decision as those travelling by car were delayed by road closures and diversions for the Cambridge Half Marathon.

The venue, situated next to the River Cam.

The enjoyment of the day was as much down to the people, as the pens. First, I was pleased to find Marisa (@illustriouscactus on Instagram) and Faisal, two members from our monthly London UK Fountain Pen Club gatherings, as we waited in the lounge for the show to open. Also I had arranged to meet Jon (@jonr1971 on Instagram) and he introduced me to two of his Instagram friends, @fountainpensandink and @theclumsypenman. Jon later guided me as to the features of some Montegrappa pens which we saw at the show.

Bright and roomy venue.

The venue was excellent, a bright, spacious ground floor room with rows of tables on three sides, and more down the middle, which lent itself to doing “laps”.

In prime position was Sarj Minhas, with several tables of enticing vintage and modern pens. Immediately, a green Sheaffer (a Crest, I believe) on his table caught my eye, as I already have the matching ball-point which I use daily. The fountain pen has a distinctive conical bi-colour nib in 18k gold. This proved irresistible and I thought it best to pick it up at my first pass, rather than risk losing out. Sarj also showed me some beautiful Sheaffer Balances, which will be added to the “wish list” as the price seemed a bit too high just for an impulse buy.  While at Sarj’s tables it was good to examine some Urushi lacquer pens and an Arco pen which hitherto I had seen only on the internet.

A Sheaffer Crest with conical 18k bi-colour nib, for which I have the matching ball-point pen.

I had not planned to hunt for anything in particular although I was hoping that the vendor of my London Pen Show “mystery pen”, would be there so that I could buy another! He was. I learned that he is John Twiss of Twiss Pens ( and that the blue and clear demonstrator eyedropper pen that I had bought at the London Show, (see blog post: Wanted: an identity for this pen. ) from his supplier is deliberatly left unbranded. John also sells his own handmade pens and produces these at his Nottinghamshire studio. I bought another of the eye-dropper pens as I liked the last one so much and also picked up a gorgeous purple and black cartridge/converter pen with a size 6 nib for my wife (purple being her colour).

Having now attended the London pen show several years running, I now recognise many of the vendors and I enjoyed talking again to Graham Jasper (of Penestates) who had helped me to select one of his Parker 51 Aerometrics a few shows ago, and Kirit Dal who is a dealer for Aurora. I handled a beautiful Aurora 88 Mineralis demonstrator, but reluctantly put it down again and decided to content myself with a bottle of Robert Oster Aqua ink, at a show price of £10.00.

The Aurora table.

John Hall of “Write Here” showed me a Scribo fountain pen and told me about the brand. Trying the smooth, wet nib was a revelation. Again, this would have to wait for another occasion but I did not leave his table before buying a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo,  a beautiful magenta ink.

Next at the table of The Hamilton Pen Company, (Nigel Simpson-Stern) I was shown a Pilot Falcon, which I had seen online but was yet to handle. I have harboured an urge to pick up a Pilot (so to speak) and have tried the Custom 823 and the Custom 74 at our pen club gatherings and been impressed by the feel of the gold nibs. The Falcon is different and has a rather uniquely shaped flexible nib. The models for sale were of lacquer over a steel body and therefore heavier than the resin versions and also featured the interesting, large capacity, CON 70 push-button vacuum converter. With my resistance weakening, I chose the metal Falcon in black with a Soft Fine nib and was excited to try it out. I later spotted Marisa again and she kindly allowed me to dip my new Falcon in a blob of wet ink which she made, in her notebook. The smooth, fine, wet flexible nib was wonderful.

Pilot metal Falcon with 14k Rhodium plated SF (soft fine) flexible nib. The most quill-like nib I have experienced.

At the same table  I bought another ink, the Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red, which I have wanted for a long time, having enjoyed their Cobalt Blue and Moss Green very much.  Oh, and I could not resist a leather three-pen case and chose the red one.

My final pen purchase of the show was a little green vintage Parker Junior Duofold with a broad, 14k gold nib and aero filler. Why? Because this is a close equivalent to the pen that my mother bought me in 1970, to take to my new boarding school and which I lost within the first few weeks. It was my first quality fountain pen and I remember to this day, the sales lady telling me that gold nibs give more expression to your handwriting. I was fascinated, although rather puzzled, knowing that the tipping material was not gold and so why did gold nibs matter? It was to be many more years before I began to appreciate the delights of line variation and inks that shade.

Outside the show I met Jon and his two friends again, for coffee in the hotel lounge where we had a very enjoyable time trying each other’s pens, and sharing our pen stories and experiences.

Left to right: Sheaffer Crest, Parker Junior Duofold, Pilot Falcon, eye-dropper pen from John Twiss, another un-named pen from John Twiss and a Lanbitou give-away from @fountainpensandink.

All in all, I had a great show. It was somewhat smaller and quieter than the London pen show in October but considerably less crowded. The relaxed atmosphere was perhaps more conducive to some memorable conversations and purchases.

My haul.

An admiring look at the Italix Captain’s Commission fountain pen.

I have a soft spot for pens with shiny chrome caps. This one is particularly handsome and comes from Mr Pen, an online pen maker and seller, based in Ruislip, on the outskirts of North West London (web site:

The Italix Captain’s Commission

Mr Pen is the trading name of P J Ford & Associates Ltd. As well as selling pens of many  well-known brands, the firm also has its own brand, “Italix”,  manufactured in England, Germany and the Far East. As the guarantee states, all Italix pens are hand finished in the UK. The nibs are ground in their own workshops in Ruislip.

As I grew up in Ickenham, less than two miles from Ruislip, it feels nice to deal with a local company, which provides a high quality personal service, even though Italix pens are now known the world over. The Italix Parson’s Essential is very well-regarded and was one of the first pens that I bought online, when my interest in fountain pens began to expand into the world of the internet.

Appearance and design.

The Captain’s Commission, from the same stable as the Parson’s Essential, is a larger pen and quite heavy, with a brass barrel and cap. The barrel is finished in glossy black lacquer, whilst the cap has shiny chrome plating with a very attractive guilloche pattern and a black domed finial. A burgundy version is also available.

The Italix Captain’s Commission, with the smaller Parson’s Essential above.

An unusual feature is that the pen when capped, tapers gently down from the top to the bottom, with the cap fitting perfectly flush with the barrel, to create a very smooth and elegant piece, rather suggestive of a silver topped walking cane. The pocket clip is firm and springy and should secure the pen in a jacket pocket, against the hazards of being pulled out accidently with other items (as I did recently with another pen, sending it scuttling across the floor of a busy airport terminal).

Lovely detail in the cap.

Uncapping the pen was a surprise.  First, what looks like a cap band with the Italix name, is actually fixed to the barrel and so the cap separates above it. Secondly, there was an uncommonly smooth, cushioned feel to the uncapping. I think that this may be in part due to what appear to be, two rubber O rings on the inside of the cap. In any event, the cap unscrews very smoothly, although the cap needs about three and half full revolutions (or about five twists) before coming away from the threads. Some might have issues with this but I do not mind it at all. It adds to the feeling of handling a well made, good quality writing instrument. The cap does tighten with reassuring bite. However you do need to take care at first, not to put the cap on cross-threaded.

There seems to be no risk of inadvertently unscrewing the barrel  when you think you are unscrewing the cap, as can happen with some pens. The threads to unscrew the section, are on the underside of the threads which unscrew the cap; so you would have to remove the cap first, otherwise you could not anchor the nib and section while unscrewing the barrel.

Beneath the cap, is an impressive, large (size six) nib with attractive scroll work and the Italix brand name.

Size 6 F nib, ground to Italic Fine by Mr Pen.

A Schmidt converter was included although the pen also takes standard international cartridges.

Schmidt converter included. The nib and feed are friction fit.

Nib and performance.

Mr Pen offers a huge choice of nib options, (I think, 27), mostly steel but with one gold option. I chose the steel Italic Fine, having a width of approximately 0.85mm. I hoped that this might suit me better than a 1.1mm stub, given that my handwriting is not large and I have to be careful to avoid filling in all the loops when I use a broader nib. I was a little apprehensive that an italic nib would have sharp edges and dig into paper unless handled very carefully, whereas cursive, or stub options have more rounded edges. An hour or so after putting in my order online, I telephoned Mr Pen and spoke to proprietor Peter Ford who gave me further advice about the nib choices. By this time, my order had already been packed and franked ready for dispatch! However, he offers a nib exchange within 30 days and so there is no need to worry if you do change your mind.

My pen arrived in the post the following day.  I need not have worried about my nib choice. This was my first ever custom grind nib. The only previous experience that I had with italic nibs was on cheap calligraphy sets, where the nibs do have sharp edges that can dig into the paper unless held at a very  precise and consistent angle.

With gift box.

There were no such problems with the Captain’s Commission. I flushed it first with water before filling with my usual Conway Stewart Tavy, blue-black ink. Putting pen to paper for the first time, was a delight and has been ever since. It was smooth from the word go, firm but with a decent flow which allowed me to write in my left-handed, overhand, slanting handwriting and still have a smooth writing experience, with suitable paper.

From the hymn book. The words seemed appropriate.

I mention this as being left handed and writing the way I do, sometimes means a drier writing experience, as the pen is doing more pushing upwards and sideways, than down strokes where more ink is released. To cater for this, I have also developed an “elbows in”, upright style of writing too, but find it harder to write neatly in this way.

From West Side Story.

Size and Weight (approximate).

The pen is 145mm long capped, 131mm when opened or 160mm when posted. It weighs around 53 grams in all (including converter and ink) or 28g uncapped. The cap weighs around 24.5 grams, by my scales.

The cap can be posted securely. (The rubber O rings inside the cap keep the cap from slipping off when posted and also protect the lacquer, I presume). However, in practice I would envisage the cap only being posted for ceremonial purposes or photo shoots. It adds a lot of weight to the back end and causes imbalance, unless you hold the pen quite high up. So in general, you have an uncapped pen of 131mm and 28 grams, which is very nice indeed.

Conclusions and value.

I have been using the pen for just a week now and have been thrilled with it. It looks stunning, feels weighty and substantial and writes among the best of steel nibs that I have experienced. I have had no hard starts. The writing experience will differ depending upon inks and papers chosen, as with any pen, but I have already found some winning combinations.

The cost (including the ground italic fine nib) with post and packaging and vat came to £57.22. My delight at the pen has been far in excess of what this price might warrant. For comparisons, there are many steel nibbed pens such as the Cross Bailey or Sheaffer 300  but none that I can readily think of, certainly at this price, which has the elegance and vast choice of ground nibs as the Captain’s Commission.

Now, who shall I write to?



Wanted: an identity for this pen.

This fountain pen was one of my lucky finds at the London Pen Show, in October 2017. Unfortunately I cannot tell you what it is called, since the pen, the nib and the packaging are devoid of any branding. I have been calling it “my Mystery pen”. I hope that someone reading this might recognise the make or model and let me know by commenting on this post. Meanwhile, if you want one, all I can suggest is that you come to the London UK Pen Show next time and hopefully the seller might be there again. I hope so, as I would like to buy another one.

Construction and appearance

This is a large, cartridge/converter/eye-dropper pen, with a suitably large stainless steel nib, in a plastic body. It has a clear demonstrator barrel, with a distinctive bullet shaped end cap in an attractive, marbled blue and black. The grip section is of the same blue and black pattern. The cap is black, but with a rounded finial also in the blue and black. Other colours were available.

Uncapped and inked for action.

The cap screws on and off in two twists. There is a sprung inner-cap (like on a Platinum 3776 Century) and so as you cap and uncap the pen, you feel the resistance of the spring inside.

There is a sturdy, metal pocket clip, a shiny chrome cap band (no branding) and one chrome ring separating the clear part of the barrel from the end cap. Presumably, there was intended to be some branding on the cap band.

The packaging consisted of a black cardboard tray, with a foam insert with cutaways for the pen and a syringe for eye-dropper filling, in a black cardboard sleeve. There was a page of instructions for each of the filling options, but again with no brand name or address.

Mystery pen in box with syringe for eye-dropper filling.

The syringe did have a brand name, Terumo, which seems to be a medical supplier and nothing to do with pens.

Nib and filling mechanism

The nib is stainless steel, and looks like a size 6. There is some scroll work on it and the letter M for medium, but a smooth empty space in the middle, where presumably a brand name was to be inserted.

The plastic feed and the nib are friction fit and can be pulled out for cleaning or adjustment.

The pen came with a converter but also accepts standard international cartridges, or can be eye-dropper filled.

Disassembled. Nib and feed are friction fit.

Size and weight

The beauty of this pen is its generous size making for a very comfortable writing experience and no need to post the cap. Sizes and weights are approximate.

Length closed: 151mm (6″)

Length open: 140mm (5 1/2″)

Length posted: 174mm (6 9/10″)

Weight closed/posted: 25g

Weight uncapped: 15g

Weight of cap only: 10g.

My favourite figure above is the length open, 140mm. What a treat. I am happy with 130mm (a Lamy Safari) but this is even nicer, even allowing for tapering of the end cap.

Making the Lamy Vista look small.

Likes and Dislikes

Since I bought the pen, it has remained inked, mostly with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue but more recently with Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine. There is such a lot to like about this pen and here are a few points, in no particular order:

  • nib writes smoothly with no effort at all (I even wrote “dreamtouch” in my ink journal, in a nod to the vastly more expensive Visconti);
  • very comfortable to hold and grip, leading to neater writing;
  • a great size for me, especially that 140mm unposted length;
  • sprung inner cap. I have not had any problems of hard starts;
  • screw cap, rather than push on;
  • excellent value; I paid £30.00 for it.
  • a good low-cost way to test whether you like this size of pen, before buying a more costly one.
  • Smooth and tactile.

As for dislikes, there are none to speak of, really. I just wish I knew who made it and what model it is.

Writing sample, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue on a Paperchase notebook. Words from Shakespeare, Sonnet 27.


As you can tell, I am very pleased with this pen. I enjoy writing with it. I have so far used it only with the supplied converter and have not tried to eye-dropper it. I imagine it would hold a vast amount of ink. I have no real need to do that. Using the pen, especially with the lovely Cobalt ink, I noticed that my usually rushed handwriting looked a little more tidy and legible (what I might call the Pelikan effect), from slowing down and writing a little more carefully and deliberately. And that has got to be a good thing. I will be on the look-out for one or two more of these in other colours, if I get the chance.

Medium nib, gives some shading with Tavy ink.

A look at the Faber-Castell E-motion fountain pen.

On a day of beautiful autumn sunshine in September 2015, I went into central London to look in a few pen shops. I bought a bottle of Waterman Harmonious Green ink at Pen Friend in the Burlington Arcade, before going into Fortnum & Mason to visit their fountain pen department.

As I hovered over the displays, the sales assistant Robert asked “What’s caught your eye?” I had found the Faber-Castells and was rather taken with the  striking looks of the E-motion, with its combination of natural wood and shiny metal.  A delivery had just come in and he went to find one in the dark Pearwood finish. I preferred this to the lighter brown version or the all black “stealth” model. After trying the pen on a pad of Graf von Faber-Castell paper, I bought one. It was rather an impulsive buy and at £87.99 was one of the more expensive pens that I had bought.

Faber-Castell E-motion fountain pen.

I was delighted with my choice. Before leaving the shop, with my pen and a much appreciated complimentary Graf von Faber-Castell note pad, in a distinctive Fortnum and Mason carrier bag, I went to ink the pen with my new Harmonious Green, then went to the Royal Academy across the road, to try it out.

First inking. Waterman Harmonious Green.

In the years that followed, it has been a pen for which I have mixed emotions. I have bought four more Faber-Castell fountain pens (an Ambition, two school pens and a Loom) and have always found their stainless steel nibs, even on the entry-level school pens, to be very pleasing. The Ambition, E-motion and Loom share the same nib unit. Today I will look back at the E-motion, my first foray into Faber-Castell fountain pens.

Construction and Appearance

This is a metal pen, rather short and tapering at each end, with a large, heavy, shiny polished metal cap. There is a smooth, curved pocket clip, which is sprung and can be operated one-handed.  The cap is tastefully embellished with the Faber-Castell name and logo and the words “since 1761”.

Cap detail.

Removing the screw cap, in two short twists, you have the nib and section in shiny steel. There is also a tapered finial (perhaps nugget or lump of metal would be a better description) in shiny polished steel at the end of the barrel. The main part of the barrel is very attractively finished with a layer of dark brown Pearwood, with its beautiful, natural dark wood grain and patina. There is no discernible join around the wood and so I suppose it to be a carefully drilled tube of wood, slid over the metal barrel, before the end finial is put in place. Correct me if I am wrong.

The barrel unscrews to reveal metal threads on both the section and inside of the barrel. Everything fits together very well and gives an impression of sturdiness and good quality. A converter was included with my pen but it also takes standard international cartridges.

With Faber-Castell converter.

The Nib

This is stainless steel, in an attractive shape and finish. There is no breather hole, but the nib features a pattern of dimples, which are subtle yet catch the light sometimes in a most pleasing way. My nib is a medium, but writes on the fine side of medium, which suits me. I later discovered that the nib and feed unit can be easily unscrewed from the section and that the nibs are interchangeable with those of the Ambition or Loom.

That nib though. 🙂

Dimensions and weights

Length closed: 138mm

Length opened: 117mm

Length posted: 148mm

Weight capped or posted: 53g

Weight uncapped: 31g

Weight of cap: 22g.

DSCN1622 (2)
Faber-Castell E-motion, below a Lamy Safari, (the standard unit of pen measurement).

Handling and performance

The pen writes very well. The tines were level, the tipping material was symmetrical, and the ink flow on all the papers I tried, was just right, neither too dry nor too wet. The nib gives a smooth writing experience, but not overly so; there is enough tooth for the pen to cope with smoother paper and to give a pleasant degree of feedback. Of all the stainless steel nibs that I have used, I would say that these have been consistently among the best. It also provides good “cap-off” time, remaining ready to write even if the pen is left uncapped for a few minutes.

On the downside, for my hands, the pen is just too short to use comfortably unposted. If I were to use it unposted, I would try to grip it low down around the section, but this does not work for me because the shiny metal section is slippery to hold and cannot be gripped steadily.

The cap can be posted (although it needs a hard push and a twist – with a worry of cracking the inner cap or marking the lovely wood covered barrel) and whilst this solves the length problem, this makes for a very heavy pen. You are carrying the full 53 grams as you write.


I do like to be flexible and accommodating to my pens, to allow for their idiosyncrasies and to celebrate their diversity. In the case of the E-motion, I found that the best way to use it was to post a light weight cap from another pen. This means the pen is probably confined to home use, but I have used this method to good effect on at least three pens now  (the E-motion, the Faber-Castell Ambition and the Bic Easy-Click). You might have to rummage around to find the best match of size, weight (and even colour if you are lucky) and try several tops before you find the best fit.

DSCN1623 (2)
Not you Scary. I said try several tops.

It is a good idea to keep some pen tops when roller balls or marker pens such as the Sharpie run out, for this very reason. For the E-motion or the Bic Easy-Click, the Lamy Safari caps work well.  For the Faber-Castell Ambition, I use a Sharpie cap. Obviously it looks unfashionable and eccentric, but it is better than leaving the pen unfilled and unfulfilled.

I find that when I post a Safari cap on the E-motion, I naturally grip the pen higher up and around the warm wooden barrel with only my second finger used as a rest for the metal section. Consequently there is no issue of the section being slippery to hold. And the pen is not too heavy or too short, although still on the heavy side. Length with a Safari cap posted is a comfortable 152mm and the Safari cap weighs just 8.5g as opposed to the E-motion’s hefty 22g.

E-motion with a cap from a Safari posted. It posts well to add length without adding much weight.

So this, for me, was the way to deal with my E-motions. YMMV. It is an attractive and good quality pen and it is worth persevering to make use of the excellent nib.




A peek at the office pen cup.

My current office fountain pens: Lamy Safari Petrol, TWSBI Diamond 580, TWSBI Eco, Faber-Castell Loom and Kaweco Perkeo.

When counting how many fountain pens I have currently inked and congratulating myself on how the numbers are down on previous levels, I tend to count only those at home and forget the ones left in the workplace. It feels a bit like (I imagine) having undisclosed hidden funds sitting in an offshore account.

So in the interests of disclosure, here is the current office line-up. (The pen cup does not actually look like this;  I removed all the dusty ball points, pencils and other junk which were not of relevance to this post).

First there is the Lamy Safari Petrol. I was thrilled with this colour (both pen and ink) when it was launched last year. But for some reason, I did not make very much use of it at home. I recently took one of the Lamy Petrol cartridges and tried it in my Lamy Aion for a little while, before taking it out again and putting it in its matching fountain pen.  I decided to bring it to work to use for making notes.

The TWSBI Diamond 580 is an old favourite. Currently with a Medium nib (although it had a Broad for while), this is a deliciously smooth, wet, firm, writer and always reliable. The size suits me nicely and it is long enough to use unposted. Currently inked with Conway Stewart Tavy (by Diamine).

The TWSBI Eco is a newer acquisition from last year. Mine has a Fine nib, which is very firm but writes well. It is filled with Cross Black and is very useful for form filling as the ink behaves well.

Next, there is my newest pen, the Faber-Castell Loom, shiny gunmetal version with a Medium nib. This is not yet two weeks old and hence I still carry it back and forth to use at home and work. This is inked with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, in cartridge form. Great for notes, signing letters, carrying as an EDC.

Finally the Kaweco Perkeo in Old Chambray with a Medium nib and inked with Kaweco blue cartridges that were included with the pen. I was a little bit critical of this pen when I first reviewed it last summer. But actually, I find myself reaching for it a lot. It is long enough to be comfortable to hold unposted but also posts very nicely too. The faceted grip has long since ceased to bother me. There is no need for a pocket clip on a pen cup pen. Best of all, the Kaweco steel nib on these pens is slightly bouncy and springy making a very pleasant writing experience and allows for some nice line width variation, for signing letters and documents, to give that unmistakable “fountain pen look”. On the other hand, the build quality is not fantastic. The barrel does not screw on to the section tightly. (When it has been screwed down as far as it will go, it still can still be moved left and right a little bit).

So there we have it. Obviously no gaudy colours as this is a law firm. Actually a fountain pen with red ink would be useful. I will vary the rotation from time to time. There are lots more pens at home which could benefit from some work experience.


A look at the Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen.

If you are trying to resist the temptation to buy more fountain pens for a while, then drifting into Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street and heading for their new pen department, is probably not going to help.

The pen department has moved, from the ground floor to the lower ground floor, near Dolly’s cafe (for afternoon teas). There is a Mont Blanc area and then, next to it, another section with a generous area of brightly lit and enticing glass counters and wall displays, for all the other fountain pen brands that they stock.

As I was not looking for anything in particular, I made the customary lap of the cabinets, admiring but resisting the expensive offerings, but then hesitated at the display of Faber-Castells. These looked particularly good value, after a circuit of all the other brands. I asked to see the Loom fountain pen which I had not handled before. On a previous visit a year or two ago, I had looked at a Loom but at that time, they had only the roller ball version.

Now, there were numerous Loom fountain pens to chose from. Typically, these have a grey coloured metal barrel and section, with a coloured plastic cap in a range of colours. The section is reasonably wide but tapers towards the nib and has five raised rings, to aid grip.

In addition to several models like this, I saw one with a shiny silver chrome barrel and glossy black cap and another, with shiny gunmetal grey barrel and section, and matte black cap. It was this latter model that I was to go for.

Faber-Castell Loom, shiny gunmetal version.

I was particularly interested to try holding the pen and to see whether the metal section was slippy or whether the raised rings solved that.

What I found was that the standard, silver coloured metal sections are still a bit on the slippery side for me. However, the shiny gunmetal version was not slippery at all. It seems to have some sort of thin plastic coating over the barrel and section. If you press on it hard with your thumb and then try to slide your thumb on the section, it judders along and squeaks, as it overcomes the surface resistance.

The shiny gunmetal version cost a little more than the others, (£45.00 as opposed to £37.50, I think) but seemed the better option to me, both in aesthetics and handling. I have learned since, that there is also a matte gunmetal version which I have seen online only. I also bought a box of 20 Graf von Faber-Castell cartridges in Cobalt Blue because (a) I love this ink and (b) I loved the orderly ranks of five rows of four cartridges in this handy dispenser, like a box of bullets, and which can be used again.

A box of 20 cartridges to go with your gunmetal pen.

The pen comes in a decent, white cardboard gift box with a slide out tray in a sleeve and also a cardboard outer sleeve. It comes with one royal blue cartridge plus a dummy cartridge, (showing that there is room for a spare in the barrel) but no converter. There is also a little instruction manual which is now date stamped, 6 January 2018, Selfridges, London. Naturally you pay a bit more than with online-only dealers, but you get personal service, an opportunity to handle the pen (and try it if you wish) and a memorable buying experience.

Faber-Castell Loom with gift box

Examining it more closely at home, the shiny gunmetal finish is interesting, as it appears to have under the plastic coating, an oily finish of patches of dark red and dark green which reflect the light, like a gun that has just been oiled, except that the surface does not feel oily and on the contrary, can be gripped very well.

Loom posted, trying to show the oil-like reflections under the coating.

The pull-off cap is very stiff. (Lips pursed, eye-brows furrowed, elbows a quiver, “Pop” – there it goes!) and also snaps closed with a reassuring click. This stiffness of the cap, so far, is my only negative about the pen but I find that it can be “soft-capped” if in use for extended but intermittent note taking and which I now do. Also the nib and feed are much better than most, at remaining ready to perform, even when left uncapped for several minutes. The pocket clip is, I think, metal but plastic-coated and is hinged, although it lacks the ability to be opened one handed by pressing down at the top.

Unscrewing the relatively weighty metal section, I discovered a tiny code “f7” on mine. I have not yet been able to find any information about these codes but I am guessing it is a production date code, the 7 being for 2017. I think this because each of my 20 Cobalt Blue cartridges also has f7 stamped on them, in black. Also, I looked again at a Faber-Castell Ambition that I bought two years ago and discovered that it also had a stamp near the threads for the barrel, reading “d4” and so I guess that would indicate a manufacturing date in 2014. If anyone has any further information about these codes I would be interested to hear. I do like a production date code. Next best thing to a serial number.

Loom section, showing code f7.

In use, the metal barrel and section initially feel cold to the touch but swiftly warm up. The cap posts quite deeply and securely, making for an extremely comfortable and nicely balanced pen. At 120mm opened and unposted, it could be used without posting but my preference is to post the cap, bringing the length to around 155mm. Weights are 33g in all (including two cartridges), or 26.5g uncapped. The cap alone weighs 6.5g.

The best thing about this pen though, is the Faber-Castell stainless steel nib. This is a traditional shape, but with an attractive dimpled pattern and no breather hole. There is the Faber-Castell logo of jousting knights (although you need a magnifying glass to make this out) and an M for medium. Mine performed perfectly, glassy smooth and with ideal ink flow, straight out of the box. This has also been my experience with the same medium nibs of the Faber-Castell e-motion and Ambition. Some reviewers find the nib to be too smooth, so that it runs away with you. I do not think this is a fault but you do need to slow down, particularly if you are used to writing with a ball pen. It is not a feedbacky nib and so it might skip on very smooth papers.

Loom uncapped.

Incidentally, the nib and feed are within a black plastic collar and the whole nib unit can be easily unscrewed from the section. You may then extract the nib and feed from the collar, which are friction fit, if you ever need to. I refer to SBRE Brown’s useful Disassembly Line videos which demonstrate this process. When replacing, take care to a line up the nib and feed correctly with the air replacement channel.

Disassembled. The additional nib and Faber-Castell converter were from previous purchases.

Using the pen extensively at work and at home this week I found that the weight, balance and feel of the pen in the hand were so comfortable, that I soon stopped being aware that I was holding a new pen and was aware only of what I was writing. It is rather like having a very comfortable new pair of shoes.

I used up the supplied royal blue cartridge first, rather impatient to get on to my Cobalt Blue cartridges. The Cobalt Blue is one of my all time favourite inks, being a rich dark blue but without being blue-black.

So, the New Year pen fast has been broken. But I have no regrets and am delighted with this pen, which I personally find more comfortable than both my Faber-Castell e-motion or Ambition. At this price level, other comparables for a metal-bodied, stainless steel nib cartridge converter pen would include a Lamy Aion, a new model Parker IM, or Sheaffer Sagaris, but which all use their own proprietary cartridges. But for handling and nib performance, I would recommend the shiny gunmetal Loom.

The New Year diary.

Rymans 2018 Soft Cover Diary. Kaweco Dia2 fountain pen with Extra Fine nib.

I am usually wary of buying a journal which is sealed in cellophane so that you cannot examine the paper before buying. This now seems to be the way many diaries and notebooks are sold in Rymans.

I enjoy writing a diary, for many reasons. I like to keep a record of the day, for my future reference. But the act of writing it is a chance to reflect on the day and to order your thoughts and put them into writing which is therapeutic. And then there is the sheer joy of writing, with a fountain pen.

For the past few years, I have used A5, page a day diaries from Rymans. This year, after browsing around their shelves, I decided to play it safe and go for the same version that I used last year.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I got it home and unwrapped it, to find that the line spacing had been reduced. In 2017, we had 23 rows per page, at 7.91mm. Now this year, there are 28 rows per page, at 6.5mm. That is a reduction of 1.41mm, or 17.82%.

I did not want to go to the trouble of exchanging it and also doubted whether they had anything better. So, I had to decide quickly whether I could live with it.

I tend to chose a fountain pen to use for my diary and then stick to it for the year. Last year, it was the Pelikan M800 with a medium nib, (which is on the broader side of medium). This year, in view of the reduction in row height, I plan to use my Kaweco Dia2, with an Extra Fine nib. Dropping a nib width or two, is a good solution for dealing with narrow line spacing. So, having a range of nibs to chose from can save the day. Or year.

On the plus side, the new diary gives five extra rows a day. For day one, I used them to vent my annoyance with Rymans. Also, I do like that this diary has a full page each for Saturday and Sunday. And at least the line spacing is not as bad as in 2016 when it was just 5.8mm. I should mention that my preferred line spacing, from experience, is 8.0mm although I do have some note books with a very generous 10.0mm.

Aside from the daily diary for home use, I also keep a bullet journal, on a simple, ruled notebook on which I have made up two page spreads for each month. I started this last year. As 2017 only used up 24 pages plus some extra pages for specific topics, there were plenty of pages left to continue in the same book in 2018.

Obviously, with my new year resolutions still fresh on the page, it is too early in the year to be thinking about buying another pen. (I do have a page in the bullet journal for the “wish list”). But if I had been thinking of doing so, then the Edison Collier is tempting me at the moment. I had put it on the list and noted the price as £129.00, with a steel nib. However, when I happened to look at the price again very recently, at The Writing Desk, I saw that the price had changed to £152.00. That is an increase of £23.00, which is 17.82%. Hmmm, coincidence. I suppose the lesson here is that nothing stays the same or the same price forever.

For now, I am resisting the Edison Collier. I am not convinced that it is sufficiently different from another pen that I have, the Campo Marzio Ambassador, to warrant the expense. The Ambassador is just slightly short for my liking but the cap can be posted, whereas the Collier’s cap can not. But I might ask whether anyone has got one at our next monthly gathering of the London Fountain Pen Club. Just to make sure.

2017: Some of my fountain pen highlights.

Cleo Skribent Classic Metal piston filler. Gorgeous.

As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on some of the year’s highlights of my fountain pen hobby.  In what was a busy and eventful year, this is a continuing source of relaxation and enjoyment. I include in this, not only using fountain pens but all the related activity of filling, cleaning and general tinkering with pens; hours of pen, ink and paper sampling; reading and writing about new pens, photographing them and shopping for pens and supplies.

Before writing this, I looked at my end of year review from 2016. During that year I had bought 40 new pens for myself and concluded that in 2017, I expected to buy a lot less. Oh dear. Let me admit right away that this did not happen.

I have kept a record of pen acquisitions. In 2017, the gross number acquired, was 52 (gasp). That sounds like one every week. I can imagine detectives in an incident room, huddled around a map and predicting when and where I am likely to strike next.

Well, it wasn’t quite like that. Two were for bought for other people. Another, a Visconti, I returned the following day as I decided that I was not suited to it, and so that doesn’t count. Then towards the end of the year, while on holiday in China I was given two pens by a cousin and eight, mostly Heroes, from an uncle who was a retired teacher, who insisted that he did not need them anymore.   So that brings it down to 39.

And of these, only three (the ones with gold nibs) cost over £100.00 and the most expensive was £159. These were the vintage Pelikan M400, Sailor Magellan Lapis Lazuli and the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold.  My total pen spend came to around £1,300.00. Many of the pens cost little more than a trip to a cinema or a meal out and have given me hours of enjoyment. Some were in sales at irresistible prices.

Anyway, without further excuses, here are some highlights, in no particular order.

New Pens

In view of the number, I am not going to post one photograph showing them all. It would be a bit like seeing all the food I have eaten in a year.

To summarise the main acquisitions by brand, these are:

  • Cleo Skribent: (2) – Classic Metal and Classic Gold. I am delighted with them both. The nibs, whether steel or gold, are wonderful.
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    Cleo Skribent Classic Metal piston filler.
  • Conklin: (2) – Mark Twain Crescent Fillers, in coral chase and red chase, from the London pen show. Lovely to use and to fill.
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    Conklin Mark Twain crescent filler, in red chase.
  • Faber Castell: (2) a pair of cheap school pens, one red and one blue, with good nibs.
  • Hero (9): either bought or given to me while in China.
  • Kaweco (5): I bought the Allrounder, the Dia2, two of the newly released Perkeos and one Sport Skyline Mint. Of these, the Dia2 is my favourite and one of the most comfortable and reliable pens I have, at any price. The Perkeos have grown on me, as I like the length and the slightly bouncy nibs. The aluminium Allrounder is well made and solid, but for just slightly more money, I would still prefer the Dia2.
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    Kaweco Dia2. Pretty much the ideal pen for me and a firm favourite of 2017.
  • Lamy (5): I picked up the new 2017 special edition Safari in Petrol and AL-Star in Pacific Blue. Both came with a pack of matching cartridges. I was more thrilled with the Petrol (dark teal) with its lovely shading and closely matched pen and ink, although in practice, I did not use it very much. The Aion was a journey; I read and watched lots of online reviews, deliberated over the grip and then succumbed. I posted some thoughts on it at the time. I do like it but find that it needs a different way of writing; you need to “let go” and not grip too firmly as the surface won’t let you.
  • Parker (4): I bought three Sonnets, because they were greatly reduced in a Rymans sale. I got one in red and gold, one in black and one in brushed stainless steel. I rather like using the black one with the cap from the brushed stainless steel one. Then in November I picked up a simple, blue plastic Parker Reflex which writes effortlessly. I read that the caps are prone to cracking in time but I am not worried as I have already found several other pen caps which would fit if need be (such as a Kaweco Sport).
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    Black Parker Sonnet, with the cap from the brushed stainless steel model. “Let me not to the marriage of two pens, admit impediments.”
  • Sheaffer (4): I bought a Sheaffer 100 with Translucent Blue barrel and steel cap, which I think looks stunning and has a good nib. It looks more attractive than its modest £35.00 cost would suggest. I also bought another Sagaris (medium) in black, since I like my burgundy one so much. Then I spotted the Sheaffer Pop in blister packs, reduced to half price and bought two.
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    Sheaffer 100 translucent blue. That nib though!
  • TWSBI (2): I bought an Eco with a fine nib and a new Classic in white with medium nib. These are both great, as low-cost, high-capacity piston fillers and both perform well. I now have four different TWSBIs in all.

So, in number, Hero were the pens that I got the most of this year, although many were gifts. Of my purchases, Kaweco and Lamy were the brands that I bought the most of (with five of each) closely followed by Parker and Sheaffer both on four.

New old pens

I bought a vintage Pelikan M400 tortoise at auction, with a fine and rather flexy 14k gold Rover nib. I enjoyed cleaning this and was thrilled when after a night’s soaking in water, I was able to unscrew the nib and ebonite feed. At the same auction, buoyed by my newfound bidding success, I went on rather impulsively to bid for a Sailor Magellan Lapis Lazuli, limited edition, with a 21k zoom nib.

Pelikan M400 vintage, tortoise. My first auction purchase.


I have kept a diary for years. This year, I used an A5 page a day diary from Rymans. I find that the best time for me to write is early in the morning, to write up my record of the previous day. I used my Pelikan M800, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, a favourite combination.  I also finished writing up a volume of memories, purely for my own amusement, of being at boarding school in England in the 1970’s. For this I used a selection of different pens and inks over the year, really as a writing exercise and at the same time, to try out pens and inks for longer writing sessions with some sort of purpose, rather than writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”   I also enjoy writing letters and picking up whatever pen I fancy from the pen cup.

One pen, one ink, one hour

I have struggled all year with the dilemma of having too many fountain pens inked at once. Do you keep them all in use until you write them dry, or strive for an impressively minimal number of pens in the cup at the expense of flushing away good ink ? I am now less fussy than I was, about washing pens half full of ink but even so, I think my pen cup occupancy peaked at around thirty at one point.  Part of me longed for the days when I possessed only one pen and one ink. As a break from having too many pens to hand, I made up an activity which I cleverly named “One pen, one ink, one hour” which involves retreating, generally to a coffee shop and then writing more or less continuously in a notebook for an hour, with one pen. It is a good test of how a pen feels, whether the shape or the weight make your hand ache, how the feed keeps up and how you like the nib and the ink. You can write about anything, the pen itself, the fellow customers or whatever you like. No one is going to read it, thankfully.

Giving pens and advice

I mentioned that I bought a couple of pens for other people. One was a Kaweco Dia2, for my neice’s birthday. I had bought one for myself earlier and was so utterly delighted with it that I wanted to spread the joy. It is one of my favourite new pens of the year, along with the two Cleo Skribents and Conklin Crescent fillers. Another pen bought for someone else, was a Manuscript Clarity, requested by a reader of my blog, living in Vietnam.

In the summer I was flattered to be asked secretly by a cousin, to advise her on buying a fountain pen for her husband on their wedding anniversary. That would be my dream question in an exam. I sent back rather a long reply but narrowed it down to about three suggestions, based on the budget. In the end, she ordered a Pelikan M600 in blue with a fine nib. Later she sent me the most beautifully written thank you note, in her cursive italic handwriting, written with the pen that she had chosen and which was a great success.

Fountain pen blog

This blog celebrated its first birthday on 5 November 2017. Born in a few hours of playing on the WordPress web site, it was a bold step into the unknown. I had aimed loosely to post about once a week, just writing about whatever pen-related topic interested me. Now, I have just passed 50 posts. The number of followers gradually grew, roughly in tandem with the number of posts. I find the whole experience, of writing and publishing posts and getting feedback from readers, most enjoyable. This week the total views nudged past 7,000 and from over 80 countries, which I find astonishing.  I am not trying to boast here as I am sure many reading this have far higher numbers, but I am genuinely amazed at this exposure. In the summer, I published two posts about the newly released Kaweco Perkeo and these have between them been viewed over 900 times, largely because someone on FPN kindly put a link to my post in his.

Meeting people

It is easy to spend too long online reading about pens, what with WordPress, Instagram, YouTube and various online pen shops, such as Cult Pens and The Writing Desk. So it is particularly nice when the opportunity arises to meet pen people. This year, I attended my first Pelikan Hub event in September, which I enjoyed, closely followed by the London Writing Equipment Show in October when I came away with five new pens. Then in November, I met some of the same people at the monthly gathering of the London UK Fountain Pen Club.

Travelling with ink

When the opportunity arises, I enjoy looking in stationery shops overseas to see a different range of pens. I was interested to shop in China while on a holiday earlier this month, as covered in my most recent posts.


For me, this is the continuation and escalation of a hobby that began when I was about ten years old. The fountain pen community, I find, are very decent and not judgmental of others. Perhaps we are our own fiercest critics and there is a lot of self-guilt which goes with buying too many pens. Our favourite pen, when asked, is often “the next one”. It is addictively enjoyable, when it goes well. But I am reminded of lines in the song Beauty for brokenness (Graham Kendrick), which read “Lord end our madness, carelessness, greed;  make us content with the things that we need.” I am aware that my accumulation of pens (I haven’t mentioned the thirty or more new notebooks that I have “in stock” and the drawer full of ink) is hard to justify, even to myself. Indeed there are times when I would prefer to have fewer and appreciate them more, as in my coffee shop exercise. For 2018, I will simply repeat 2017’s resolution, to aim to buy a lot less pens and use and appreciate those that I have, all the more. Wish me luck, everybody.

Happy New Year to all and thanks for reading.

Tinkering with the tortoise.




Travelling with ink, China 2017. Part 3: The Pens from Uncle

During a recent holiday to visit my wife’s relatives in China, I was given a bag of eight old fountain pens, by an elderly uncle who assured me that he had no further use for them.

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From left to right: 1. Hero 716 (teal); 2. Hero 329 (grey); 3. Hero 616 (burgundy); 4. Hero, black (number unknown); 5. Hero 443 chrome; 6. Brushed stainless steel pen with fude nib, make unknown; 7. Jin Rong; 8 Jin Rong.

Over the Christmas holidays I have had a chance to have a play with these and try them all out. All were Chinese made pens, all with steel nibs and all with the Parker 51 Aerometric style (squeeze bar) filler. Four of them are what I loosely call Parker 51 copies, with the distinctive hooded nib, resin barrel and section and a metal cap. It is perhaps not correct to describe them as copies since they are unashamedly branded as Hero pens of various models and not all even have the arrow clip. However the origins of the design are unmistakable.

Hero 716 fountain pen.

Then there were two metal pens, one being a Hero 443 in chrome finish with black section, the other a brushed stainless steel pen, with an attractive light blue reflective inlay and a letter “Y” on the pocket clip and an interesting looking curved nib. I do not know the make.

The final two were a pair of lacquered metal pens one cream coloured and one black, bearing the name Jin Rong.

I uncapped all the pens, posted the caps (taking care not to get the caps mixed up), unscrewed the barrels then took them all to be washed. With a sac filler, you do not immerse the sac in water but just the nib section and then operate the squeeze bar a few times to flush water in and out of the pen until the water runs clear. I was pleased to find that they all produced a small stream of air bubbles when I squeezed the bars, which I took to be sign that the sacs were air tight. Furthermore, all were clean. It was good to know that uncle had washed the pens before putting them away. Only the burgundy model produced a pale wisp of red ink in the water. This made me smile. So uncle also matched his pens and inks. I do that too. Perhaps this one had been used for marking school work.

After flushing and drying them all, I then tried dipping and testing each of the nibs and writing a few lines, to see which might be usable. I used Waterman Serenity Blue ink.  All of them wrote although they tended to be firm, feedbacky and not the smoothest of writing experiences that money can buy. But I was pleased that they all at least wrote and could be used.

I have since chosen to ink the teal Hero 716 and the stainless steel one with the curved nib both with KWZ Azure #4.

The curved nib pen is rather unusual. At first glance, the nib appears to be a gold coloured piece of metal with a fold down the centre. On closer inspection, this is not the bit that does the writing. Beneath this sits the stainless steel nib, with the tip curving upwards at about 45 degrees and beneath it, the feed unit. The gold coloured part serves to stop the nib from bending upwards any further. Perhaps it might also serve as an ink reservoir since there is a gap between it and the nib, if you are using this as a dip pen.

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Make unknown; a souvenir pen from a mountain beauty spot. Fude nib.

This nib produces a fine line on the downstroke and a broad line on the cross-stroke. This is rather unusual and is the opposite of what you get from a stub nib. This is similar to the writing experience from an “architect grind” nib. I found it fun to try although it takes a bit of experimenting to find the correct angle at which to hold the pen. Also, I need to write a little larger than usual to avoid loops all being blocked in.

Fude nib on the brushed stainless steel pen.
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Writing sample from the fude nib. Ink is KWZ Azure #4.

As for the teal Hero 716, I am enjoying it, particularly with the KWZ Azure #4 ink that seems a good  match for the pen. My only reservation would be that the sac did not seem to be drawing up much ink. Perhaps the breather tube was blocked or the rubber sac had insufficient vacuum-pulling power when resuming its shape. Next time I will try to measure the ink up-take.

Trying the Hero 716, with KWZ Azure #4. A good match.

It is a pity that original Parker 51s are no longer made and that you can no longer visit a local stationery store and purchase a brand new one with gold nib, but times have moved on. Fortunately, used models can readily be found at pen shows. I am told that the original aerometric filler sacs rarely have anything wrong with them, although if need be, the sac can be replaced.

It is rather old fashioned nowadays in this digital age to be using a fountain pen at all and particularly to be filling from a bottle with a squeeze bar. But as we know, this is all part of the joy of fountain pen ownership. The satisfaction of filling a pen from a bottle more than makes up for the inconvenience. For me, anyway.   I will enjoy picking up one of uncle’s old pens to use from time to time, along with my other pens. Thank you uncle. I will take good care of them.