Regular readers may recall that I was fortunate enough to find a new Parker Duofold International, Big Red on sale at half price, in John Lewis, Oxford Street branch in October. I wrote a post about it here.
I have been very much enjoying the pen, these past two months. What had aroused my interest in the pen, just before I bought mine, was a post by Anthony on UK fountain pens blog entitled A Day with a Duofold.
Fast forwarding two months, Anthony advertised his Duofold for sale, as he was not getting along with the very firm nib. I pondered buying it myself and, after sleeping on it, was sure that this was the right thing to do. (“There is a Duofold out there and it needs my help!”). At 07:42am the next day, I sent Anthony a DM offering to buy it, if it had not already gone. Within moments, he had replied that the pen was mine. He kindly sent it out to me that day and it arrived the next day.
I felt like I knew the pen already. It is not often that you get a chance to own a pen not just of a type that you have read about online, but that very one.
This differed from mine sufficiently to make it a very worthwhile addition. First, it is black, and a gleaming glossy black at that. Secondly it is a 2006 model and had a few subtle differences from my 2016 model. And also the metal furniture on it is gold coloured as opposed to silver on mine.
They both have 18k gold, bi-colour medium nibs, but the silver and gold colours are reversed in the two versions:-
I knew already that I would like the size, shape and weight of the pen. I use it with the cap posted, holding near the cap threads (which are not sharp) and find it very comfortable like this.
The nibs ought to feel similar. My Big Red had been a bit skippy at first but, like my Pelikan M800 nib, I had written it in, a few pages a day and within a week or so, the skipping subsided until it was all but gone completely. It is now a joy to write with and has a distinctively pencil-like feedback. I use it with Conway Stewart Tavy, a blue black ink now made by Diamine.
Anthony had commented in his post about how the nib drooped or dips downwards, which it does. The nib of my Big Red has a more level profile. Perhaps this is what contributes to the nib on Anthony’s being quite so stiff. I recall hearing Stephen Brown say in an old YouTube review that the Duofold nibs were reputedly stiff in order to make carbon copies, through two layers of paper (back in the day) and hence the name “Duofold”. Also the tipping material, at least on the old vintage model Duofolds, was advertised by Parker as being harder than others. Perhaps the gold is thicker too than on other pen nibs and this is no bad thing.
I do not mind the stiff nib. I have spent some time each day writing with Anthony’s Duofold (I must stop calling it that now) and am thrilled to have it. The tines are aligned. The tipping material is huge and so there is a lot of mileage in this nib yet. The nib is smooth, provided that you hold it level; if I rotate it clockwise a little, it starts to scrape the paper, which suggests that the outer edge of the tipping needs smoothing. I do not think this is such a problem as an inner edge being prominent (which causes not only scratchiness but a build up of paper fibres in the nib slit). I have a sense that the tipping material is shaped slightly like a garden roller with flat sides, rather than rounded like a ball. I am exaggerating but you get the idea. I am wary of doing any harm to the nib by my ham-fisted grinding and so for now I will continue to use it with nib angled the way it likes.
Notwithstanding the stiffness of the nib, there is some very pleasant shading apparent, just from writing quite normally with no pressure. Looked at this under the loupe, the shading from this blue black ink has a lovely vintagey iron-gall look which is in keeping with the whole 1920’s vibe of the pen. Thank you Anthony for passing this one on. I am delighted with it.
Does anyone remember the Cross pen billboard advertisement, late 1990’s, which featured a Cross fountain pen, with cap posted, against a plain white background? The slogan went something like “Twelve jobs; five homes; three marriages; one pen.” I cannot recall the wording exactly but the message was that, for this owner, through life’s changes, a Cross fountain pen had been the one constant.
I guess that message appealed to me, the thought of having the ideal pen and not needing any others.
I notice that we do not see very many Cross fountain pen reviews online, at least not many in proportion to the availability of Cross pens almost everywhere. I have visited department stores with hardly any fountain pens at all except for a display of Cross. And for those stores that do stock a range of brands, the Cross displays seem to dominate. Perhaps we just see too many of them.
My local shopping centre, with its large John Lewis department store, is a typical example, with glass counters displaying Cross, Sheaffer, Waterman and Parker plus a couple of other brands such as Hugo Boss and Ted Baker. Lamy Safaris and AL-Stars hang in their blister packs on a shelf behind with the inks and refills, with a few calligraphy pens from Manuscript and Sheaffer. I practically know them by heart.
To buy a fountain pen with a gold nib from here, your only options are a Cross Townsend or a Waterman Carene, both priced around £235.00 usually. For a year or more I had been glancing at these whenever I passed by, but had not been sufficiently tempted by either at this price.
However, a recent promotion around the time of the Black Friday sales, offering 30% off almost all fountain pens on display, was enough to melt my resolve and I took a closer look at the Cross Townsend. There was a choice of black or quartz blue, both with rhodium plated fittings. Both were appealing but I chose blue as a more interesting and unusual finish and with less presidential associations.
Appearance and construction.
This is a sturdy, brass lacquered pen, long and sleek, with a slip on cap and an interesting patterned blue finish. If you look down the length of the pen it appears almost black. But in good light, the finish is a lovely glossy gleaming blue. If under bright lights, you see thousands of tiny pinpricks of light. Also the combination of the blue lacquer with the rhodium trim is very pleasing.
The elegant shape of the cap, cylindrical with a torpedo shaped top and a shiny metal finial is classic Cross, smart and elegant. Aside from the unmistakable iconic cap, the name CROSS appears on the clip and, less obviously, on the back of the cap (if you look closely) just above the two cap rings. The clip is usefully strong and springy and works well if pinched between finger and thumb, to lift it as you slide the pen into a pocket, although I usually carry mine in a pen case.
The cap closure is very firm and secure, (thankfully not so tight as a Cross Bailey medalist that I have, which is almost impossible to uncap without violence and expletives). The inner cap fastens with the metal lip at the nib end of the section, but as you push the cap on you feel the gradual increase of resistance , until it clicks over this lip.
The cap can also be posted deeply and securely, where a black plastic ring located between the blue barrel and rhodium end piece, serves the same function of fastening the cap on.
The pen comes in quite a nice large box somewhere between the usual size pen box and the extra large one for the top-of-the-range Cross Peerless. It is a hinged box, with a black velvety bed for the pen, which can flap up to reveal a compartment below, where you find a cardboard envelope containing two black proprietary cartridges. The box also contains the guarantee brochure and the whole box is protected in a cardboard sleeve. All in all a very presentable package.
The nib, filling and writing performance.
The nib is 18k gold, bi-colour with rhodium plating. Mine is a medium. I examined it as best I could in the shop and all looked well, which indeed it was. The nib is long and rather narrow, in keeping with the rest of the pen, making for an aesthetically pleasing look. It bears the Cross name and logo, 18k – 750, and the letters ACT, a reference to Alfonzo Townsend Cross, from whom the pen takes its name, being the son of founder Richard Cross. The nib also has the name Sté which I have not yet deciphered – perhaps a form of gold hallmark.
The lovely gold nib is smooth, with a very pleasant softness and a good wet flow. This was a relief as I have sometimes found Cross steel nibs to be dry and difficult to correct.
The pen takes Cross cartridges or a Cross converter. None was included in the box but the sales assistant kindly gave one to me. The Townsend, along with the Aventura, takes the push-in converters whereas the Apogee, Bailey, and Century take the screw-in converters.
Size and weight.
The pen is long, at 150mm capped. Uncapped it measures 131mm, which I am very happy with, although I still prefer the feel of it posted, at 157mm. As I hold the pen quite high up (with my thumb at the barrel, just before the section) I do not find it back heavy.
It weighs around 39.5g (freshly inked) or 22g uncapped. The cap alone is around 17.5g.
Likes and dislikes.
I have been using this pen for three weeks now, with Montblanc Royal blue bottled ink. Personally I have not found any serious dislikes. But trying to be objective, I list a few points that might bother some people.
Some may find the pen slightly slender, if accustomed to modern oversized pens; but it is a good bit wider than a Cross Century II;
Some may find the pen a little unbalanced if posting the cap and gripping the pen low on the section. However I think anyone who wishes to grip the pen low, would probably find it long enough without posting;
If you stroke the finial with your thumb, the join with the blue lacquered cap feels slightly rough, but this is not a big point and I mention it only for those expecting Rolls Royce perfection. Likewise, at the other end, you feel the slight prominence of the black plastic ring which secures the cap when posted;
The worry of whether the slip on cap will wear loose in time. Happily all Cross pens carry a lifetime guarantee so no worries there.
There are far more factors to like than to dislike, thankfully.
The smooth, soft, wet nib with a hint of feedback. The generous flow means that I, as left hander, also have the option of writing in my slanting “lefty overwriter” style which demands better flow and nib lubrication than some pens allow;
Comfort! Total absence of step or cap threads where I grip the pen;
The attractive blue lacquer finish next to rhodium accents;
Generous long barrel; pen can be used unposted for shorter notes;
Tall pen, stands out in the pen cup yet the pocket clip starts a little way down the cap so that the pen is not too long to clip in a pocket;
A date code. Mine was 0917;
Reassuringly secure cap mechanism.
This is a sturdy, durable and attractive pen that is comfortable and reliable and which writes extremely well. And so it could become the only pen you will ever need, if you are the sort of person envisaged by that billboard ad. Personally, I love mine but I am not yet ready to forsake all others.
I am pushing out this “first impressions” review with unseemly haste, as the pen has been with me for only half a day. However I saw that there had been some speculation and eager anticipation on Fountain Pen Network about this new model, although the thread Platinum Procyon New Modeldigresses into discussions of Platinum nibs generally and people’s differing experiences with the gold nib of the Platinum 3776.
I first learned of the Procyon while browsing on Cult Pens’ web site a few nights ago and was intrigued by the promotional video, showing the pen sucking up the last drops from an ink bottle, by means of the newly designed feed. And how nice to have a promotional video at all! The pen also benefits from Platinum’s slip and seal inner cap, which supposedly prevents ink drying out for up to 2 years. Also it boasts a steel nib offering flexible writing like a gold nib. With Cult Pens currently offering 10% off, and a free Platinum Preppy thrown in, it seemed worth a go.
The pen arrived in a plain black cardboard box and separate lid, with a foam insert, and protected by a cardboard outer sleeve. The pen was in a polythene sheath. Also in the box were a sample set of three Platinum coloured ink cartridges, in Gold Ochre, Aqua Emerald and Dark Violet, plus one blue one and a fold out Instruction Manual. The box seems perfectly sensible and proportionate at this price point.
Construction and appearance.
The Procyon, or PNS 5000 as it is also called, is an aluminium pen, feeling solid but not overly heavy. The finish is matte, not glossy and feels pleasantly smooth and yet is not slippery. It has a screw cap (which is to be applauded) and despite the rather large area of screw threads on the section, the cap is removed in less than one full turn.
It is available in a choice of five colours. I chose Citron Yellow but the others are Deep Sea, Porcelain White, Turquoise Blue and Persimmon Orange.
The metal pocket clip is springy and moderately firm, and quite easy to use albeit not giving great security. There is a shiny cap ring, which is not sharp to the touch and the cap has the name PROCYON on the front, below the clip and PLATINUM, MADE IN JAPAN on the reverse.
The cap closes to be almost flush with the barrel, but is just slightly wider. This is achieved by having a small step down from barrel to section and to the shiny plated cap threads. The step and the threads are a bit sharp and uncomfortable and so you will probably want to find a grip which is either above or below the threads. Personally, I like to post the pen and hold it higher up so that my thumb is on the barrel. It is therefore important for me that the barrel material is not slippery (which this is not) in order to be able to anchor the pen with my thumb and keep the pen at the same angle.
The section is of a smokey grey translucent plastic, with a small lip at the nib end.
Unscrewing the barrel, with durable metal threads on both barrel and section, there is a generously long housing for the cartridge or else for a Platinum converter (not included but £4.99 from Cult Pens).
The cap can be posted, deeply and securely and being aluminium does not upset the balance.
Nib and Feed.
At first glance, the nib looks rather like those on the Lamy Safari and AL-Star. I chose a Medium. It does offer a little bit of flex but this is not very pronounced and it is not what I would describe as a flex nib. It does however have a pleasing softness or bounce, whereas Lamy steel nibs tend to be on the firm side. There is no breather hole on the nib, which features just the P for Platinum and M for medium.
The black plastic feed does not have any fins but does have a noticeable inlet, about half way up the nib. This is the breather hole which is also used to fill the pen from a bottle and so the nib needs only to be dipped in the ink sufficiently to cover the hole. This means less mess when filling and also that you can still fill the pen when the bottle has only a puddle of ink left, by tilting the bottle and positioning the feed in the ink, as in the promotional video.
I first tried the nib dipped in Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz and was immediately impressed with its smoothness, good flow and some pleasant shading. For those who worried that the nib might be scratchy or dry I can say that my nib wrote smoothly and well, straight out of the box, with no skipping and was adequately wet. Of course I have only this one pen to go on and YMMV.
After trying the pen for a while on one dip of ink, I inserted one of the three coloured cartridges and went for the Gold Ochre, which is a nice autumnal dark orange.
This is a cartridge-converter pen, taking either Platinum’s proprietary cartridges or else the Platinum converter. It is slightly disappointing that a converter is not included at this price, particular as the ability to draw up the last dregs from a bottle is a feature of this pen. I do already have a converter from my Platinum Century 3776, which I might put to use once I have used up the cartridges. Another option is to recycle the old cartridges and syringe-fill them with ink of your choice.
Sizes and weights.
Closed, the pen is reasonably large and at 140mm is about the same length as a Lamy Studio and a bit wider. However, uncapped it is a bit on the short side at 118mm but posts well, to give a length of 155mm. It weighs 24g, which is quite a nice happy medium, neither too heavy nor too light.
Likes and dislikes.
It is exciting to try a completely new design, from a respected and long-established Japanese pen maker. With the proviso that my pen is only hours old, I venture the following:
The uncomfortable step and threads, which mean that you may want to adjust your grip to work around these;
I am still coming to terms with the colour I chose, which is a sort of pastel lemon, giving the impression of an old and rather faded hi-viz jacket, but it is unusual and distinctive.
Smooth and effortless writing;
Comfortable weight and balance;
That feed! I am looking forward to experimenting with near empty ink bottles.
It is early days but overall I am pleased with the pen, particularly how nicely it writes. Having a screw cap and a slightly softer nib plus the innovative feed feature lift it above the Lamy AL-Star, although it costs about twice as much as an AL-Star in the UK. It represents a step up from the entry level pens and a welcome change from the usual offerings of the big brands here. As to value, it is priced a little higher than a Cross Bailey or Parker Urban, which are metal and lacquer steel nib pens. For the writing experience that I have seen so far, (and my nib was perfect, out of the box) I think it is a good new option.
I have been very fortunate this year, to have been given some superb fountain pens by generous friends in the fountain pen community. The most recent of these was a 1960’s Montblanc Meisterstuck No.12, given by a pen pal who was leaving London to work in Melbourne. I have been using it for a few weeks now and the pen is truly delightful.
I knew very little about vintage Montblancs. I had seen one or two at our monthly pen club gatherings in London. Coincidentally, back in the summer, I was shown one whilst visiting my late godfather’s wife, Mary. She said “You might be interested in Brian’s old pen” and went to find it from a writing desk drawer.
First, a few words about my “Uncle Brian.” He had been my father’s best friend and cycling companion at school and later his Best Man. Brian was a tall man, hale and hearty with a bellowing loud voice. He was a surveyor and was probably one of Vespa scooter’s most loyal customers and had ridden over a million kilometres on them over the years.
I was therefore a little surprised initially, to see that his chosen fountain pen was a rather small and unassuming black pen. However it was a Montblanc. I established that it was a cartridge-converter pen, with a semi-hooded nib. I told Mary that she ought to keep it in the family and took a few photos of it before handing it back.
I think it was a 22x series although I am not sure which. It had a shiny black body, a single cap ring and a was a cartridge-converter filler:
After seeing this, I thought of looking for one at a pen show in memory of Uncle Brian but had not yet done so. Imagine my delight then, when last month over a coffee, my friend offered me his Meisterstuck No. 12 adding that I had remarked upon what a nice line it produced when he had used it to write to me.
Appearance and Design
I gather that the No.12 formed part of a range, introduced in around 1959, with model numbers identifying where they sat in the hierarchy, their size and their filling type. For an authoritative account, visit FPN and “A thorough report on Montblanc 12/14/22/24/32/34 Series.”
Model numbers beginning with a figure 3 were the economy range. Model numbers beginning with a 2 were the medium range. Those beginning with a 1 were the superior range, the Meisterstuck, or masterpiece, the flagship range.
This is a piston filler, with a black resin body and the trademark white star at both ends. There is a gold coloured pocket clip (which can be removed by unscrewing the finial) and a distinctive cap band known as the bishop’s mitre. This has a chamfered edge around which are the words “MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK No.12.”
The cap pulls off, is reassuringly firm and secures with a click. There is an amber coloured ink window, with some decorative striations and a metal ring either side, a long tapering section and a semi-hooded 18k gold nib.
At the other end, the the barrel tapers gently, to a flat base with a decorative gold coloured ring and a white star, so that you can enjoy the Montblanc emblem whilst writing with the pen, whether the cap is posted or not.
Hardly noticeable in the barrel, is the join where the piston turning knob blends in to the barrel. It is all very subtle and understated.
Weights and measurements
Capped, the pen is 129mm long. Uncapped it is 117mm and so quite usable unposted for those who hold their pens low down near the nib. However I prefer to add a little length and weight and to hold it higher up, with my thumb on the ink window. The cap posts deeply and securely to give a length of 144mm.
The whole pens weighs only around 15g, of which 6g is the cap, so the pen weighs just 9g if you are using it unposted.
My friend had mentioned that the section could be unscrewed and also that the piston was a bit stiff. At home, I watched a YouTube video by Peter Unbehauen on cleaning the section of a Monblanc No.12. I was happy to learn that it is quite easy. You simply unscrew the section, being careful with the delicate plastic amber ring that forms the ink window and the two metal rings, one each side of the window. Then, the nib unit (comprising the gold nib, the feed and a surrounding plastic housing) can simply be pushed out through the back of the section, rather like removing the nib of a Lamy 2000.
Once the nib unit is removed, you can see that the grip section, or shell, is very thin and translucent. It is rather fragile when separated.
From the video, I saw that you can disassemble the nib unit quite easily, by sliding the clear plastic housing back off nib and then separate the nib and feed. When you put it all back together you just need to align everything correctly and then screw the section back in place and not over-tighten it. It is great to know that the pen can be stripped for cleaning so easily, unlike the modern Meisterstuck 146 where such DIY exploits are discouraged.
I did not completely disassemble the nib unit but left it to soak in water overnight. But while the section was off, with access to the ink reservoir, I took the opportunity, after flushing with water a few times, to introduce a little silicone grease on the end of a plastic stick, to the inner walls of the ink chamber and then operated the piston up and down a few times. Within moments the piston was gliding up and down, silky smooth again. The pen is like new! I got this tip from an old Brian Goulet video.
Nib and writing performance
As I mentioned, the nib is 18k gold. I think it is a medium but it has a wonderful stub-like quality to it and a very pleasant softness. I filled the pen with Montblanc Royal Blue, an excellent combination which I will stick with.
The ink flow is sufficiently generous to make for a very pleasing smooth writing experience. It is not too wet but does have ample lubrication for the nib to cope with my lefty-overwriter handwriting style, (which requires a wetter nib than if writing in the more conventional “underwriter” style). I have tried a few longer writing sessions with it and am extremely pleased with its performance. It is comfortable and light in the hand. It certainly makes for more characterful writing than a standard round medium nib as you get a subtle variation of line width between your down strokes and cross strokes.
I am thrilled to own this pen and love using it. It shows no signs of being nearly 60 years old. It is a superb writer, with a large ink capacity and a really enjoyable soft gold nib. It is interesting to observe that there are elements in the design which were to appear in the Lamy 2000.
I would recommend trying one, if you get a chance to pick one up at a pen show. For those who find it too slender, there was the Meisterstuck No.14 offering slightly more girth. But my No.12 is the same size as my Uncle Brian’s and if it was big enough for him, it is big enough for me.
For a London based fountain pen addict, the annual London Pen Show is probably the biggest date in the calendar, for meeting dealers, fellow enthusiasts and some pen shopping. I had been looking forward to it for months.
It is sensible to have some sort of plan or list if you intend to buy something, as the day can be intense. I didn’t do this. I had only a vague idea, perhaps to look at some vintage Parker pens, a Duofold such as a Standard or a Senior, a bit larger than the Junior that I picked up at the Cambridge pen show in March. I was also interested to look at a Big Red, a proper vintage one, having bought a modern Duofold International just the week before. But mostly I came with an open mind and was not looking for anything in particular to buy.
I arrived at the Holiday Inn just after 9.00am, to discover that even the “early bird” admission did not start until 9.30am and that the regular admission was from 10.30am. I headed over to the lounge and met Penultimate Dave from our pen club, who showed me his latest acquisitions.
We paid the extra for early admission and enjoyed the relative quiet of the halls before they got crowded.
Throughout the day, I was to run into numerous other regular members of our London fountain pen club and a few others from further afield, such as Jon, Vijay and Mateusz and so it was a very social occasion. Every time I came out of the halls for a break, there would be a different group of friends to join in the coffee lounge, chatting over their purchases.
In the course of the day, I was to buy five new pens, none of them Parkers, as it turned out. Here is a brief summary.
Delta Fantasia Vintage.
My first stop was the enticing table of Stefano and his wife, of Stilograph Corsani. I had heard great reports of his Delta Fantasia Vintage, his collaboration with Delta to produce a small number of beautiful, traditional looking cartridge-converter fountain pens in celluloid, with steel nibs. My friend Jon has one in turquoise which looks stunning in photographs. I had looked at them online and pondered on ordering one unseen. And then suddenly, here they were in front of me on the table, in the range of five colours. They are limited editions, with only 25 made in each colour.
In my wish list, I had thought of choosing the burgundy version. However, in the flesh, albeit under the artificial lighting of the hotel passageway, it was the dark green which most appealed to me. The celluloid has a most luxurious, distinctive feel. Stefano assured me that it is a pen which is meant to be used and that you will not harm the pen by posting the cap if you wish. I was smitten by the patterns in the dark green celluloid, where beautiful parabolas appear as the barrel tapers, yet the pen appears almost black if you revolve it a little. It felt extremely smooth and comfortable in the hand. The nib is firm but very smooth.
My friend Anthony had brought his 6 year old daughter along, who decided that my pen looked like snake skin. I cannot top that. Coincidentally Anthony had just had the pleasure of hiring Jon’s turquoise version, under Jon’s recently launched online Pensharing scheme.
Opus 88 Demonstrator.
My next stop was to see John Hall of Write Here. I am yet to visit his shop in Shrewsbury but have spoken to him several times at pen shows. I was aware that he sells Opus 88 eyedropper pens, from Taiwan but which tend to sell out quickly and take a while to come back in stock. I had tried one at our pen club (Penultimate Dave again) who had bought one and bought two more to ink in different colours. He tends to prefer broad nibs and this makes sense with such a large pen with a voluminous ink capacity.
John Hall had brought just a couple of these along (and this is the real benefit of the early admission) and so I was able to handle one and clinch my purchase of it, beating the crowds.
Like Dave, I opted for a broad nib. I have been using it with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue, thinking that I want to have an ink that I will not get bored with! I can honestly say that the pen is a joy. It is big, wide and long. The cap does not post but it is very long already at 137mm and the nib is quite possibly the smoothest I have ever used. The great thing is that you can write on ridged paper (white laid writing paper for example) and the large nib will ride over the bumps like a beach buggy over sand dunes.
Wancher Crystal flat top.
My next purchase was at John Twiss’ table, where he had some of his hand-turned fountain pen creations in beautiful colours and some other exotic wares, such as a red urushi Danitrio Bamboo Tamenuri. I witnessed in awe as Dave decided upon and bought that stunning pen, in the same time as it took me to chose one of John’s more accessible £30.00 Wancher Crystal flat-top eyedropper/cartridge converter pens, in a mix of blue and clear plastic of some sort, with a nice size 6 steel nib. I have two of these from John already, but with the bullet shaped ends and so this is essentially the same pen, with all the same great features (sprung inner cap, demonstrator barrel, optional eyedropper or cartridge/converter filling) which I love. They are to my mind extremely good value. Somehow, the large comfortable proportions seem automatically to improve my handwriting.
TWSBI Diamond 580 AL R, with 1.1mm stub nib.
This year, Martin Roberts of The Writing Desk was back at the London Pen Show. I had bought my very first TWSBI from him at the same event 4 years ago, a Vac 700, which remains one my most fun pens! I have since gone on to add a Diamond 580, an Eco, and a Classic to my TWSBI line-up, all of which have performed well. This year, the novelty was the TWSBI Go, in grey or sapphire, with a quick and easy push button sprung filling mechanism. However, I let that one go (no pun intended) and instead asked for the new AL-R version Diamond 580 piston filler, with a 1.1mm stub nib. I had not tried this nib before but thought it a good option for the large capacity pen.
At home I have also inked this one with the GvF-C Cobalt Blue and am enjoying the stub nib a lot. I am finding it more like a crisp italic nib, a little sharp at the edges but if you hold it right at the sweet spot and keep to that grip, it is smooth and gives a gorgeous amount of line variation, with no effort.
Leonado Officina Italia, Momento Zero Collection
My last purchase of the day, on that fatal “just one more lap” of the halls was this beautiful resin pen with steel nib, from the table of iZods Ink (Roy). He had a selection of colours on display. Prices were displayed for both the celluloid and the resin models. At first I picked up one of resin ones, so impressed by the beautiful finish that I thought it must be one of the pricey celluloid models. When Roy told me that it was the resin pen (and accordingly a very reasonable £135.00) it was irresistible and the only decision remaining was whether to go for dark red marbled or dark blue marbled finish. Both looked stunningly attractive and resistance was futile. I would have been very happy with either but went for the dark red.
At home I filled it with Conway Stewart Tavy, my faithful favourite for an attractive blue black which flows well. With cap posted, it is a sizeable but comfortable and well balanced pen. I have since enjoyed watching Emy’s review of it on Youtube and his film of visiting the founder, Salvatore at his factory in Italy.
Apart from these five lovely pens, I bought an A4 Leuchtturm journal and two bottles of ink, (or three if you count the bottle of Delta black that was included inside the gift box of my Fantasia Vintage). I chose the Pure Pens Cadwaladr red (recommended by Anthony) and a bottle of Mont Blanc Royal Blue, that will perhaps be used to feed my thirsty Opus in the winter months ahead.
If this all sounds like pen-saturation, well yes it was. I vowed that I did not need to buy any more fountain pens for the foreseeable future. And that decision served me well, for almost nine full days until I happened to come across a solid brass pen, a Monograph Mgcc 099 sold at the Barbican Centre gift shop in the City of London while there to see a Richard Thompson concert last week. So, never say never.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 pen 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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),
Weight, total (capped or posted)
Weight, cap only
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.