Cleo Skribent Classic Gold, Piston fountain pen; first impressions.

Cleo Skribent is a German manufacturer of writing instruments, based at Bad Wilsnack, which is between Berlin and Hamburg. It was founded immediately after the Second World War, from small beginnings in a backyard car park. The first collection of writing instruments was called Cleopatra, which later became Cleo. Today, it is one of the few remaining companies to manufacture exclusively in Germany.

Readers of this blog may recall my review in February 2017 of the Cleo Skribent Classic Metal piston fountain pen, (click here: Cleo Skribent Classic Metal Piston fountain pen) a sleek, black resin pen with a brushed metal cap and a stainless steel nib. My fine nib model continues to be a delight.

So, what do you do when you find a pen that is near perfect for you? Do you stop looking for pens? No, it turns out you buy another one the same. Well, not quite the same. The differences (a.k.a. justifications) this time are (1) that it has a 14k gold nib; (2) the nib is a Medium; (3) it is all black resin, with gold coloured fittings and (4) lighter than the metal cap version.  So, totally different. Yet retaining the design and feel which I loved in the metal cap version.


Once again I bought through Cult Pens, one of the handful of UK dealers of Cleo Skribent instruments. The company is much less well known here than Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Lamy or Faber Castell, but prides itself in making high quality writing instruments, with emphasis on quality rather than quantity and (as their booklet says) “instead of fully automatic machines, we employ people who understand their craft.”

Cult Pens refers to this model as being astonishingly light, for fatigue-free writing and ease of handling. Newly filled with ink, mine weighs around 19g capped, or 12g uncapped. It measures 145mm capped or 135mm uncapped, which I have found to be a comfortable length to use un-posted. However, you could post the resin cap, quite deeply and securely to add some weight without making the pen back heavy, but just bear in mind that it grips on the blind cap (not the barrel) and so be careful not to rotate the cap whilst posted in case you over-tighten and damage the blind cap.

The body and cap are of a beautiful, glossy black resin. I opted for the version with gold coloured fittings. There is also a version with palladium fittings which costs less, (why,  I do not know, as the pen is otherwise identical, with both having a 14k gold nib). I am not particularly averse to mixing my metals, when it comes to pen finishes. It is purely cosmetic, I know, but on this occasion, I decided on the gold coloured furniture as being indicative of the gold nib within.


The nib is the heart of a pen. I have been delighted with the Fine stainless steel nib in my metal capped version, which is superbly set up, being responsive to the slightest touch and having a marvelous feed back. A joy to use.

I had read in reviews that their gold nibs were even better, with some flex. So when mine arrived, I was eager to examine it and give it a try. First, under the x7 loupe, the gold nib had everything that you look and hope for in a new nib. It looked to be set up perfectly, with the nib slit narrowing just so, the tipping material being even and the tines level. Admittedly I have only two Cleo Skribent pens to go on, but I believe the brochure and can imagine that they take care in sending out well finished products, which as we know, is not always the case these days.


Whilst waiting for the pen to arrive (which was not very long, less than 24 hours) I enjoyed pondering what ink to use. I tend to use blues mostly for work. I love to see the blue ink on scanned signed documents on my computer screen. I narrowed it down to Waterman Serenity Blue, Caran d’Ache Idyllic Blue or Aurora Blue and went for the latter.

At first, dipping the pen, the writing experience was so smooth and pleasant and so pleased was I at the Medium nib width for this gold nib, that I happily continued writing for a full page on the first dip. I then inked it properly with the piston filler, one of life’s simple pleasures. I was using a spiral-bound pad of smooth, white, lined paper from Cherry Press, an independent stationer and print shop in Chipping Campden, in the Cotswolds. This showed off the blue ink beautifully. The ink flow, on this paper, is pretty much ideal being neither too wet nor too dry. The nib does have a little bit of flex, to allow for some line variation but it is certainly not too soft. As a left hander, I fare better with a firm nib.


To summarise what I like about this pen (at the risk of sounding too gushing):-

  • Attractive, long and sleek design;
  • Handsome, glossy black resin body;
  • Piston filler, with blind cap covering the turning knob;
  • Large clear ink window;
  • Large ink capacity;
  • Superb 14k gold nib;
  • “Reverse writing” also smooth, for extra fine writing or drawing;
  • Nib and feed are friction fit and can be removed if desired for cleaning;
  • Comfortable length to use unposted (but can post cap if desired);
  • Good value for a high quality pen, in comparison with well-known German brands;
  • Lifetime warranty.

What about dislikes? Well, I have not found any major failings. Rather, I would mention the following points:-

  • Remember that this is a screw-cap pen; do not forget (as I did at first) and try to pull the cap off or hand it to someone who might do so, as this will exert force on the glued joints around the clear ink window. (The cap threads are located on the nib-side of the ink window);
  • Be careful not to inadvertently over-tighten the blind cap by posting the cap and then rotating it;
  • The piston mechanism works well but feels less smooth in operation than my Pelikans; it is too soon to say how this will perform in the long term, but there is a lifetime warranty;
  • The glossy black body does show up dust, as I have tried to demonstrate on my photos 🙂

Although I have no affiliation with Cleo Skribent, or Cult Pens, I am pleased to recommend them both.



Converting a Platinum Preppy to eyedropper.


If you had asked me about this a few years ago, I would not have known what you were talking about. It is one of those things that I picked up from the internet. Sensing that it seemed to be one of the rites of passage of fountain pen enthusiasts, I gave it a try today for the first time.

For the benefit of other newbies, we are talking about taking a fountain pen that is a typical cartridge/converter type filler and instead removing the cartridge or converter and filling the barrel directly with ink. The benefit, supposedly, is that you have a greatly increased ink capacity and do not need to fill the pen as often.

In order for a pen to be suitable, it needs to have a plastic barrel and plastic threads and for there to be no metal parts which might otherwise corrode from sustained contact with ink. Also the barrel must have no hole at the end, for obvious reasons.

The Platinum Preppy meets all these criteria and is a good choice. It is a very inexpensive pen, (mine was £2.79 from Cult Pens) but with a good nib available in a range of widths. The clear demonstrator barrels also mean that you can enjoy the sight of your ink sloshing around inside.

On the other hand, arguments against filling the barrel with ink are that there is a risk of greater mess if anything goes wrong. Perhaps if you were going travelling and did not want to take a bottle of ink, then having an eyedroppered Preppy would keep you writing for a good while but travelling with such a pen would be a worry. So you might want to keep your eyedropper for use at home or at work. But then given that you are likely to have a ready supply of ink on hand at home and work, it seems that there is not much of a case for an eyedroppered pen either for travelling or for home/work use. Maybe it would suit students who write large amounts of lecture notes every day, provided the pen is carried with care.

For the benefit of anyone who wants to try it, there are just a few items that you will need, as well as a suitable pen and some bottled ink, as follows:

  1. Pure silicone grease, to put in the threads.
  2. An O ring, to prevent leakage.
  3. A pipette, or syringe to transfer ink from a bottle to the barrel of your pen.

Gathering all of these items takes a little bit of hunting. I had heard that Silicone grease could be purchased from dive shops and as luck would have it, we have a dive shop in my corner of London.  The O rings can be bought in packs from the plumbing section of DIY stores. And the pipette I spotted in an art supply shop in a pack of ten.

The operation is very simple. You take an O ring,  stretch it over the threads and roll it down until it is seated at the end. I tried one of the large ones to start with, but then found that the smaller one will stretch over the threads making the rubber slightly narrower so I went with that size instead. You then take just a small amount of the pure silicone grease on your finger and smear it into the threads. Then, using the pipette, draw up some of your chosen ink and release it into the barrel.

According to an instruction video from Brian Goulet that I have just re-watched,  it is recommended that you keep the pen at least half full of ink. Also, I read on an information sheet that came with a Noodler’s Ahab pen (another good candidate for eyedropper conversion) that air in the chamber may expand from the heat of your hand and that refilling is required when the pen is down to two thirds air, in order to inhibit excessive flow.


I have a Preppy with a medium (0.5) nib which writes very nicely. I had been using it recently with Sailor Kiwa-guro, permanent black ink in a cartridge which I filled with a syringe. I now planned to use this ink in the pen as an eyedropper.

On my first attempt this afternoon I had a few little issues. First I nearly forgot that the Preppy has a push on cap and I automatically started to “unscrew” the cap a few turns before realising that I was undoing the barrel and was perilously close to pouring permanent black ink all over myself. Secondly I then noticed that despite my generous application of silicone grease, ink had still worked its way part of the way down the clear plastic threads. Thirdly, the O ring was still rather too fat and so it protruded just where I grip the pen, although it did a good job of ensuring the barrel was secured pretty well. You do not want to overtighten the barrel as there would then be a risk of cracking the pen. Fourthly when I tried writing with the pen, I had a few wet blobs of ink suddenly appear on the paper.

I wondered whether this might possibly be due to a build up of air pressure as you screw the barrel onto the section, but then read the Noodlers’ advice about keeping the ink level up. I had filled the pen only half way up the barrel but went back and topped it up with some more ink until it was about three quarters full and I hope that this solves the problem.

It is rather too early to see how this is going to work out. I am very impressed with the Sailor Kiwa-guro ink and like to keep one pen inked with this, as it so useful for writing cheques or addressing envelopes. I know it is said to be fountain pen friendly, but I still feel a bit wary of having it in more than one pen at a time with the risk that it might get left to dry in the feed. I had washed it out of my Lamy AL-star and decided to use it in the Preppy instead. I like the way it moves around in the Preppy, without leaving much trace on the barrel. And unlike cartridge ink, the eyedropper method means that you do not get ink staying at the wrong end of a cartridge and causing ink starvation.

I am not sure yet whether I am going to keep the Preppy eyedroppered or go back to using cartridges. But at least it is another milestone in the fountain pen journey, to mark off the list.

My Pelikan M205 fountain pen, one year on.

This past week marked 12 months since my purchase of a Pelikan M205. This was the 2016 special edition, blue demonstrator version. (The cropped name tag reads “Demonstrator M205, Blau/Trans. B”)

Recently I read a criticism made on FPN, levelled at some of those who provide reviews of fountain pens online, that they were often produced after the reviewer had spent little time with the pen. The inference was that the reviewer was too biased in favour of a pen still in its honeymoon period. (The thread was entitled “The Rampant Inaccuracy of Fountain Pen Reviews”; just go to FPN and search “rampant”). This ran to 125 comments when I last looked and so had clearly prompted some lively debate.

Personally, I much enjoy looking at reviews of fountain pens online, including enthusiastic ones when someone is excited with a new acquisition.  I am sure that we all make allowances for any bias that might be apparent, in order to form our own opinions, weighing up comments from multiple sources.

Nevertheless, I do take the point. I thought today would be a good opportunity to offer my reflections on the Pelikan M205 after a year’s ownership.

This was my first Pelikan. Having read much about the Pelikan M series piston filler pens, my expectations were high. And all the points that I liked about the pen when I received it, still apply a year on:-


  • Attractive, neat and petite demonstrator body, in a sky blue see-through material, being a little more discreet and less distracting than a clear demonstrator;
  • Piston filler; a smooth, simple, reliable, large capacity ink reservoir and with no worries of running out of ink unexpectedly; a fountain pen in the true sense, not a cartridge/converter pen;
  • Wonderful stainless steel nib, (mine is a Broad), which is smooth, wet and just nicely springy for my liking;
  • Easily removable nib and feed unit, for easy cleaning or nib-swapping with replacement nib units currently available in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium or Broad at £11.25 from Cult Pens;
  • Screw cap, which posts deeply and securely, giving a comfortable posted length of around 148mm;
  • No hard starts: the nib, feed and inner cap design and screw threads located a third of the way up the cap, combine to make a pen that is always ready, even after standing idle for several days;
  • No problems with air travel;
  • The Pelikan heritage and quality name, even though this is not part of the Souveran range.



“Dislikes” is perhaps too strong a word when discussing a Pelikan pen, but for want of a better one, I offer the following:-

  • I felt that its looks, at least to the uninitiated, meant that it could too easily be mistaken for an inexpensive pen like a Platinum Preppy or a single use or roller-ball type pen;
  • It is very lightweight and lacks “heft” although this is not necessarily a bad thing;
  • When filling, ink gets “under the skin” of the nib section. In this pen, the section is not detachable but is all part of the barrel. However there seem to be two layers of the acrylic body material, the space between them being unsealed, allowing ink to seep in,  which you cannot easily clean out, even with the nib unit removed although soaking in water does clear this. I am not sure whether this is common to all M205’s or whether this is just a fault of my pen; I consulted SBRE Brown, who was aware of the issue;
  • Being aware that this was perhaps an entry level Pelikan I still harboured an urge to try one of the familiar, striped models in the Souveran range with a gold nib and one with the heavier, brass piston mechanism which meant going for an M800 or M1000.
  • The price, at the time I bought mine from The Writing Desk, was £95.00 which is approximately double the price of a TWSBI Diamond 580. The TWSBI gives the appearance of being a better quality pen, with its faceted, polished barrel and larger proportions. I do however appreciate that it is unfair to compare pricing of German made pens with those from the Far East.

From a quick glance at my pen cup, (sixteen pens today), I note that the M205 is the only one of these that has remained inked continuously for the past 12 months, while others have been in rotation. I had used it exclusively with Waterman Serenity Blue ink, which in my view is an excellently behaved ink and reasonably priced.

On its 12 months’ anniversary, I filled the pen with Waterman Harmonious Green, an ink which I also like very much. However, in the blue M205 it just seems “wrong” and I plan to go back to the Serenity blue, ironically, to restore harmony to my pen cup.

Perhaps the greatest testimony of my appreciation of Pelikans, is that I have since bought a new M800 and a vintage M400 for myself, plus another M205 (in Aquamarine) as a getting-a-place-at-University gift for my neice.

I do enjoy my M800 and M400 too and each has its particular attributes. Yet the M205 still retains a special place in my collection and will always be my first Pelikan.


My Sailor Lapis Lazuli Limited Edition with 21k Zoom nib.


I have put off doing a post about this pen because, frankly, I did not know quite what it was. I bought it on a bit of an impulse, during a live auction in January without having inspected it.  It is not a current model.

I did know that Sailor fountain pens and nibs are very well regarded. I have not owned one before, but had a brief look at a new Sailor Pro Gear at the London Pen Show in October and was very taken with the 21k gold nib.

There was brief description of the pen on the auction web site and a few photos. It was described as a limited edition, number 114 of 150, with a 21k gold nib. The pen was boxed, with original Sailor cleaning cloth, two packets of two cartridges and the Instruction Manual. It included a converter and was said to be inked, which was a worry but also rather appealing to someone who loves to clean pens.


Having successfully bid for the pen at auction, I went to Hampstead Auctions the following day to collect it. At the same auction I had bought the lovely 1950’s Pelikan M400 tortoise and over the following days it was the Pelikan that got more of my attention.

The Sailor was in a good condition, save that the nib and feed were encrusted in dried ink and the converter almost cemented into the section. However, with a bit of soaking, the 21k gold nib cleaned up spectacularly, like new. I was also able to get the converter out and give it a good clean, as it still had remnants of blue ink inside. I was not familiar with the Sailor converter which has an unusually large opening, like the proprietary Sailor cartridges.

The cap, section and barrel are all of a mottled light and dark blue resin. The number 114/150 is stamped on the barrel. The cap band reads “Sailor Japan founded 1911.”  The barrel does screw on very securely to the section, as a result of an O ring and so there is no danger of it coming unscrewed in your pocket. The pocket clip ends in a large ball, which gives a bit of a clue in this case, as to what you find at the tip of the nib.

The nib, bearing the Sailor name and anchor emblem and “21K” has a “Z”on the side although I confess that at first I thought this might be an “N” the other way up. Clearly, the nib looked to be very broad, with a giant blob of tipping material. I assumed it to be a Japanese double broad or similar.

I filled the pen with Diamine Oxblood and gave it a go. Immediate impressions were that the nib was (a) extremely smooth and (b) extremely broad. In fact it was too broad to use for my usual smallish handwriting but well suited to writing headings in capital letters. Apart from trying it out a bit, I did not put the pen into regular use and instead, cleaned it again and returned it to its box.

I was keen to try to find out what model it was and how old it was. The Instruction Manual was generic for a range of different writing implements. It did have a number in the corner, 99-3027-000 which I guessed might perhaps indicate that it was issued in 1999.

Revisiting the pen earlier this week, I googled “How to identify a Sailor fountain pen” and was taken to a thread on Fountain Pen Network. Following the trail I was thrilled to find an entry from 22 June 2005 by “The Noble Savage” with photos of the same model, described as a Sailor Lapis Lazuli Limited Editions, bearing number 127/150! I understand that it is based on the Sailor Magellan but with a different colour and name. It is unclear when it was introduced but I read opinions that it was in the mid 1990’s or early 2000’s.

I was also interested to discover (and you probably knew this already) that the nib, with the “Z” mark,  is called a Zoom. Rather like a zoom lens gives you a range of options, this nib has multiple surfaces which give differing line widths. It has a large blob of tipping material and the main writing surface on the underside, is in a triangular shape and slightly convex, with the apex of the triangle at the tip of the nib. Thus, if you hold the pen towards the vertical as you write, there is a narrower surface touching the paper whereas if you lay the pen down low, there is a very wide surface area of tipping material in contact with the paper, giving you a very broad line.

Naturally, as soon as I read this, I could not wait to ink the pen again and try this out for myself. This time I went for the familiar Waterman Serenity Blue. The serene sailor.

Well, it certainly works. What you have is a gadget, a handy multi-purpose nib that you can use to create a range of lines from fine to double or triple broad. I found that using the reverse side of the nib gave a nice fine line for general purpose writing whilst the normal writing position gave a broad line, which can be made even more broad by lowering the back of the pen towards the paper. It is fun to try.


FPN-ers had varying experiences with this. Some did not get on with it and preferred to exchange the nib. Others compared it to a music nib, such as is available from another Japanese pen company, Platinum, but which has two slits and gives a wide, crisp line one way or a very narrow line the other way.

I can see that it has its uses. Perhaps it is more suited to writing Japanese characters or for being held upright like a calligraphy ink brush.

Whilst they had not appeared on my radar until now, I see that Sailor Zoom nibs are still available although the Sailor Magellan is no longer made. I gather that it was sold with the option of a Titanium nib or 14k or 21k gold. Like a music nib, the Zoom nib is good for blocking in large areas of ink quickly if drawing but is rather a specialised tool and not ideally suited to normal writing unless you happen to have huge hand writing and like a double broad line.

I would be interested to hear your comments if anyone can provide more information on this model or share their experiences of the Sailor Zoom nib.