Cross, but no longer alone.

Here is a short, true story with a happy ending.

Back in November, I bought a Cross Century II fountain pen, the black lacquer with chrome cap version. This was the subject of my blog post of 30 November (see link:  Cross Century II, black lacquer and chrome cap ). I had bought only the fountain pen, although I had seen them offered for sale previously with a matching ballpoint pen.

I loved the look and the weight of the fountain pen and enjoyed using it, despite the very slender grip section. Currently, I have it inked with Waterman Mysterious Blue. The nib seems to have a rather narrow sweet-spot and so is better for sustained use, where you can hold it at a consistent angle, rather than for picking up, writing little notes and putting down again frequently.

A month or so later, I visited the same shop where I had bought it and spotted the matching ballpoint pen offered for sale, at £40.00. I thought about it for a while but resisted.

However, on later trips to the shop, I kept checking to see whether the ballpoint pen was still there and kept seeing it at the back of a glass display case, gleaming under the little spot-lamps. It began to bother me, that I had the fountain pen but not the ballpoint.

I rather surprised myself at how much this bothered me, such that after three months, I finally decided to buy the ballpoint and got out my £40.00. However, the assistant was unable to find the box and without this to show the necessary bar code, was unable to process the sale. Another lady came downstairs to help but despite a thorough search of the pen cupboard, they could not locate the missing box.

It occurred to me that I might have it, since the fountain pen that I had bought in November does come as part of a set. I told them this and they asked that I please bring in the box to show them.

And so the following day, I brought in my Cross Century II box and there found that the sticker on the box and the receipt (which I had put inside) clearly referred to the item being a fountain pen and ballpoint pen set. And so it turned out that my box was the one that it should have been in. Not only that, but I had already paid for the set. Yes, I should have studied the receipt more closely.

Faced with this evidence, the staff cheerfully told me that the pen was mine and that no further payment was required. The fountain pen and ballpoint pen had been separated for three months but are now reunited.

See how nice they look together.




Cleo Skribent Classic Metal, Piston fountain pen review.


It was a joy for me to find another German brand of very nice fountain pens recently. If  you have not heard of these pens before, then I recommend them to you.

My story begins a week ago when I was browsing on Cult Pens’ web site, looking at the long list of brands and noticed the name and logo of Cleo Skribent. Clicking on this out of curiosity I was taken to the page showing some of their range of pens.

The one that caught my eye particularly, (and which is the subject of this review) was a piston filler, with black barrel and brushed stainless steel cap, described by Cult Pens as a beautiful lightweight piston-filling fountain pen.

Some decision making is required as there were three options. The steel cap version comes with a stainless steel nib. But for a little extra, you may buy the 14k gold nib version. However, you no longer get the brushed stainless steel cap and instead have an all black pen with palladium fittings. This will not match the gold nib (if that is important to you)  but there is a further option, for another increase in price, to have the 14k gold nib, all black pen and gold coloured fittings.

All three versions have the same large clear ink window, which appealed to me. What was not apparent from the Cult Pens pictures is that the pen has a blind cap which you unscrew to access the piston turning knob inside.


I successfully resisted ordering the pen on first viewing, to weigh up the pros and cons of the three similar models. Instead, I added a Cleo Skribent to my “wish list”. (This is not just a figure of speech but is now a spread in a bullet journal where the Cleo Skribent had to compete with, amongst other things, a Kaweco Dia 2 and a Pelikan M120N).

Meanwhile I looked for more information about Cleo Skribent. I found some favourable reviews where the stainless steel nibs were given particular praise. I found on Amazon that there was also a bordeaux option and some cartridge-converter options although I preferred the piston filler. I also found the company’s own web site and another very informative article by Jim Mamoulides on including the company’s history.(See link: Cleo Skribent history).

The choice of gold or steel nib, particularly given the fairly modest difference in price, was a case of head versus heart (head saying go for gold but heart saying that I prefer the brushed steel cap with steel nib) but in the end it was the brushed steel cap paired with the black barrel which won me over. Although this meant settling for the stainless steel nib, the positives were (a) I had read good reviews of the stainless steel nib, (b) its colour would match the brushed stainless steel cap (c) it was in my eyes, the most pleasing of the three to look at and (d) also the least expensive.

After the Cleo emerged victorious from its brief stay in the wish list, I looked again at the Cult Pens site. The prices of all three piston filler models had come down, since I had last looked! So on the Thursday night, I put in my order.

The parcel arrived on Saturday morning, which was ideal. First impressions were all very favourable. There is a nice black gift box with plush grey lining and colour booklet.The glossy black barrel does look very handsome paired with brushed stainless steel cap. In the cap, there is a finial with the Cleo Skribent logo in red on a black background. The pocket clip is usefully tight with a generous range of movement. The polished cap band, contrasting with the brushed finish of the cap itself, reads “CLEO  made in Germany”.


The cap unscrews with two twists, to reveal the plastic threads on the section and the large clear ink window, which is fully concealed when the cap is on. The black, grip section tapers down towards the nib, ending with a chrome decorative ring.

The nib looked very nicely made. I had chosen a Fine. There is some attractive scroll work and the markings “Cleo Skribent F” beneath the logo. All looked good. The tines were even and symmetrical and the slit narrowed from the breather hole down to the tip. The black plastic feed looked streamlined with the delicate fins housed on the inside so that the exposed side of the feed was smooth. I do not yet know whether the nib and feed are friction fit and can be pulled out for cleaning or nib swapping but if so, then the absence of delicate fins on the feed reduces the risk of damage.

This is an unusually long pen. Capped, the pen stands at around 145mm which is taller than a Lamy Safari. Uncapped, the pen measures around 135mm which, for me, is very comfortable in the hand to use unposted. If you find that holding a pen helps you concentrate, then this one seems ideal for that. Somehow, holding the long slender instrument with its fine precision nib seems to aid the thought processes. It very quickly becomes comfortable and familiar in the hand. I tend to grip it with my thumb over the ink window and my first finger on the threads, which are not at all sharp.

The blind cap unscrews to reveal the knurled, black plastic turning knob of the piston. The cap can be posted, securely and deeply but does grip the blind cap and so you need to be careful not to turn the cap once posted, which would either unscrew the blind cap or over-tighten it with a  risk of damage. With care, you can avoid this but I have found that the pen is very comfortable to use unposted.

The pen weighs a total of 25g inked, but remove the cap and it is then just 11.5g, which is light for a pen but with its length and build quality it does not feel insubstantial.

I tried dipping the pen first, in a new bottle of Aurora Blue. My initial reaction was that the nib was smooth but on the dry side, not because there was any downward pressure needed or any lack of lubrication but simply because the line appeared so fine and pale. I had expected the line to be a darker, more vibrant royal blue. I then flushed the pen, and filled it enjoying the first sight of the blue ink in the window.


The paleness of the line troubled me at first and I feared that this may be one of those nibs that is not perfectly tuned “out of the box” but needs some adjustment to perform correctly. However I found the pen extremely enjoyable to use and  could produce very small, intricate lettering with the beautifully crafted steel nib.

I then examined the nib closely with a x7 illuminated loupe whilst writing. I realised that the nib was not dry at all. It lays down ink effortlessly and you can observe the ink glistening for several seconds before it dries. The line variation and shading are all there. The steel nib is smooth but has a little, pleasant feedback. It is firm but has just a little flex to give some variation with downward pressure. What I had wrongly thought to be due to dryness, is just a very fine line with an ink flow proportionate to the narrowness of this nib.  You might class this as an extra fine if accustomed to more generous western fines.


This nib is as wet as it needs to be and if it were any wetter, it may not produce such a fine line and small lettering without ink pooling in all your loops. I concluded that there is nothing wrong with the nib at all and that the good people at Cleo Skribent know better than I. Thankfully I had not tinkered with the nib to make it any wetter, before coming to this conclusion.

I am enjoying every opportunity to use the pen. The fine point is great for making small marginal notes in printed text. It is also nice to have something a little less commonplace. Mine is currently the only one that I have seen.

It would be good to find out whether the nibs are easily interchangeable. And if not, there is always the gold nib option for next time.










The Bic EasyClic: a brief review (in which we find a novel posting suggestion)


Having written about my Pelikan M400 vintage tortoise for three posts in a row last month, I thought today, for balance, I would celebrate a pen from the lower end of the price spectrum.

So, how would you like to see a pen that loads like a shotgun? I thought so. Take a look at the Bic EasyClic.

I first learned of these from one of Stephen Brown’s YouTube videos, in which he reviewed the red “Hello Kitty” version, giving it the same systematic treatment as he might give a Visconti. I was intrigued enough to seek one out and found them in our local Ryman stationer, sold in a blister pack, for just £3.99.

This is primarily a child’s pen, available in a range of colours and measuring about 12.7cm capped and 11.8 uncapped. It has matching, transparent coloured push-on cap, the plastic pocket clip of which looks rather fragile.

The section has two rubbery facets, left and right of centre, to aid grip. Between these, if you look closely, (I only spotted this today) is the Bic logo. The plastic barrel is in two parts, with a sliding section which you pull back using the ridged gripping areas and then tilt by about 30 degrees, to expose the cartridge holder. Inside this sliding section, there is a metal insert to hold a cartridge. You simply push in a standard international cartridge, push the narrow end into the metal collar and then tilt and push the holder back into place with an easy click which gives the pen its name. It is tempting to point it at the sky and shout “Pull!”



The nib is  stainless steel  with the Bic name and logo but no other markings. There is no breather hole. This is a butterfly nib with the tip formed by folding the ends of the tines back on each other, rather than having a pellet of tipping material. However, if the tines are level, the nib is capable of writing very smoothly.

Over the following few weeks, I amassed four more of these in other colours. On checking the nibs with a loupe, some needed slight adjustment to align the tines but this was easily accomplished. Two of my five models have TUNISIA on the barrel, while the other three have FRANCE.


The pen, being designed for a child’s hand, is short  when uncapped. The cap can be placed on the back but does not post securely. As an adult with medium to large hands, and what with the tapering of the barrel, I found the pen too short to be comfortable for all but the briefest of notes.

However, after trying on a few different caps, I found that the cap of a Lamy Safari posts deeply and securely giving a posted length of 14cm and making this little pen much more comfortable and easier to control. The Safari cap also gives it more weight, without upsetting balance and stops the pen from rolling off a desk. So pleased was I at this simple discovery that I wrote to tell Stephen Brown, who said it was a cool suggestion. Of course, it does mean that you have an unused Lamy Safari and arguably you may have a better writing experience using the Safari which costs four times as much but that is not the point.

The pen weighs around 9.5 grams inked and uncapped, but posting a Lamy Safari cap brings this up to a comfortable 17 grams.

For disassembly, if desired, you can detach the section by pulling it hard, while holding the barrel firmly by the sides, (the non-sliding part) in the other hand. It snaps on and off. Beyond this I have not tried to remove the nib and feed from the section.

Mine have given various levels of success. I paired them up with matching coloured ink cartridges. The blue pen has the smoothest nib and this has been inked constantly. It is particularly impressive at starting immediately, even after a week or more without use. This is due to the cap forming a good airtight seal, with some rubber O rings on the section. You can easily slide open the barrel to check the remaining ink.


Clearly this pen will not appeal to those whose interest is only in higher end pens for serious grown ups. But if, like me, you do not discriminate on price or target age group and enjoy the merits of the pen, I think it is a fun pen and well worth a look. I like that it is a re-usable pen at this price and cheap to run on a bag of 50 cartridges for £2.00. For me the unusual loading mechanism alone is already worth the purchase price. And to find one which writes well with good flow and no hard starts at such a low price is great. If you are prepared to use better quality ink cartridges such as Diamine, Graf von Faber-Castell or Kaweco, this will improve the writing experience.

I do enjoy keeping an eye on what fountain pens are available, including school pens, in stationery shops and supermarkets both here and when travelling. It is great when you find a bargain which is also a good performer.


Combo of the week: Lamy AL-star and Sailor Kiwa-guro


I have begun to appreciate that a good ink is just as important as a good pen, in finding  an optimum writing experience. It is great when you do find a combination of pen and ink that not only works, but enables both pen and ink to bring out the best in themselves and each other.

After reading great things about Sailor Kiwa-guro black pigment ink from other bloggers, I was excited to try it for myself and ordered a bottle from The Writing Desk.

This is said to be safe to use in fountain pens and has several useful attributes. First, it is largely waterproof. Secondly, it resists feathering, where other inks fail. Thirdly, it also resists bleeding and show-through.

As well as all this, it seems to be a clean and well-behaved ink, that does not leave a residue on the insides of the converter.

The bottle contains a plastic conical insert, which is filled by turning the bottle upside down and then righting it again, for ease of filling your pen when the ink level is low.

When you look at the ink in the open bottle and swill it around a little bit, it does not leave any trace on the plastic insert but keeps to itself, rather like mercury back in my school science class days.

I decided to try the ink first in my black Lamy AL-star. The matte-black barrel and cap, the black nib and black clip all pointed to this pen being a good choice.

The ink flow of the Lamy is known for being on the dry side and my medium nib is smooth and firm. Paired with the Sailor Kiwa-guro, the lubrication of the nib is wonderful, rather like the feel of a plastic spatula in a non-stick saucepan and with no skipping.

Naturally I was eager to try the ink for water resistance. I wrote a few lines and then immersed the paper in a basin of water. There was a very slight lift-off of ink but when removing the paper and allowing it to dry, the writing looked as good as new. This would be a great ink to use for addressing envelopes or any use where there is a risk of the paper getting wet.

My next test was to try the pen on an unused notebook, (a Paperchase Agenzio soft black, ruled notebook) that I had previously given up on, as being unusable with fountain pens.To my great delight, there was no bleeding with this ink. I recommend this ink if you have notebooks that you cannot use (for writing on both sides of the paper) with other inks.

As for feathering, I had tried a new black Sheaffer Sagaris recently with the supplied black Sheaffer Skrip cartridge and was surprised at how much this feathered on a reporter’s inexpensive spiral bound note book. This same paper had been good to use with a Lamy blue ink cartridge.

Sure enough, when trying the Kiwa-guro on this paper, there was no feathering. The lines remain very crisp, whereas the Skrip black ink has gone very woolly. Admittedly the Sheaffer Sagaris is a wetter writer than the AL-star so this is not a level playing field.


I have used the black AL-star with Sailor Kiwa-guro at work for over a week now, for writing notes, forms and documents and signing letters and enjoy the silky feel of the nib gliding over the paper.

On the downside, I had hoped that it might be possible to go over the writing with a yellow highlighter pen without smudging but this was not entirely successful. There is an element of the ink that is not waterproof and which will smudge if you go over it with a highlighter pen even though the writing remains very dark. Some black ink will transfer to the felt tip of the highlighter. For this reason it is probably not suited to  being used for drawing in conjunction with water colour paints, but then this is not its intended use.

The other downside is the price, at £21.60 for the 50ml bottle, making this a premium ink, but given its useful properties I have no regrets about the expense.

I have not yet tried it in any other pen. As a pigment ink, I still thought it best to keep it to one pen at a time which I then use regularly. However, it may well be that my concerns over ink drying out in the pen and being difficult to clean up, are unjustified. From my brief experience of  this ink so far I am certainly tempted to try it in a different pen next time, particularly one of those which might benefit from a more lubricating ink.


My current EDC fountain pen


Today’s post is dedicated to my current Every Day Carry pen, a Sheaffer Sagaris. More particularly, I was reflecting upon what are the necessary qualities that we require in an EDC. Of course, people’s needs will differ and almost any pen could be carried for use every day although with differing levels of suitability. Here is my list.

Reliable. First and foremost, you will need a pen that will not leak in your bag or pocket whilst in transit, will not let you down and will not hard-start. If you get out your pen to make a quick note, you do not want to wait for two minutes while you coax the ink down to the nib. I was once at a charity event when a well-known TV actress was asked for her autograph and I overheard her reply that she had not got a pen. Standing nearby, I offered her my blue  1990’s Waterman Expert, prompting her to say “This is a posh pen, this must be a posh man!” Thankfully the pen wrote.

Robust. The pen must be tough enough to withstand being carted around in the wild, rather than being cosseted in a plush cabinet or pen cup.  It should within reason be able to survive being accidentally dropped or sat upon.

Secure. It must not come apart in your pocket, either coming adrift from its cap or the barrel unscrewing itself from the section.I have had a pen with a screw cap, which lacked bite so that the pen once came loose in my pocket, which can be messy. Note that this does not entirely rule out carrying the pen, as you can of course use a pen pouch or case. Also the pocket clip is important, as it needs to be sufficiently tight to keep the pen in your jacket pocket, in the event that you remove your jacket in a dark theatre and in folding it, turn the pocket upside down. But the clip should not be so aggressive as to chew holes in your clothing.

Expendable. Although too awful for pen-enthusiasts to contemplate, your EDC could, despite your best efforts, be lost or damaged in the call of duty. It is sensible not to carry your most valuable pens around unless you happen to be very careful.

Comfortable. The pen should not be too heavy or bulky. If it is to be carried in a shirt pocket, it will need to be short enough to fit. In a jacket, a slimmer pen has the advantage of not making unsightly bulges in your smart business attire. I was told in a store that the slender Diplomat Traveller was popular with gentlemen for this very reason.

Re-fillable. It is very useful to be able to check the level of ink before you leave your home or work place where your supplies of ink are kept. Cartridges are easy to bring, if you remember. If your pen is filled from a bottle, then you can always refill it beforehand, if it might otherwise run dry while you are out.

Presentable. Depending upon where you plan to use the pen, it will need to strike the right balance of quality and professionalism but without being ostentatious.

Enjoyable. Let’s not forget how much we enjoy using a fountain pen and so bring with you, one that brings you joy and brightens your day.

I think my Sheaffer Sagaris embodies all these attributes. It is a fairly simple, slim metal bodied pen with a laquer finish (I think the colour was called grape) with a steel medium nib which never fails to delight. The cap snaps on firmly to give confidence that it will not come off. I have been using the pen regularly for over a year. I used it a lot as a journal pen with Skrip blue cartridges, one of my favourite blue inks, but currently am using the converter with Caran D’Ache Idyllic Blue. The pen also reminds me fondly of my late mother, who had a Sheaffer Touchdown in a similar colour.