When counting how many fountain pens I have currently inked and congratulating myself on how the numbers are down on previous levels, I tend to count only those at home and forget the ones left in the workplace. It feels a bit like (I imagine) having undisclosed hidden funds sitting in an offshore account.
So in the interests of disclosure, here is the current office line-up. (The pen cup does not actually look like this; I removed all the dusty ball points, pencils and other junk which were not of relevance to this post).
First there is the Lamy Safari Petrol. I was thrilled with this colour (both pen and ink) when it was launched last year. But for some reason, I did not make very much use of it at home. I recently took one of the Lamy Petrol cartridges and tried it in my Lamy Aion for a little while, before taking it out again and putting it in its matching fountain pen. I decided to bring it to work to use for making notes.
The TWSBI Diamond 580 is an old favourite. Currently with a Medium nib (although it had a Broad for while), this is a deliciously smooth, wet, firm, writer and always reliable. The size suits me nicely and it is long enough to use unposted. Currently inked with Conway Stewart Tavy (by Diamine).
The TWSBI Eco is a newer acquisition from last year. Mine has a Fine nib, which is very firm but writes well. It is filled with Cross Black and is very useful for form filling as the ink behaves well.
Next, there is my newest pen, the Faber-Castell Loom, shiny gunmetal version with a Medium nib. This is not yet two weeks old and hence I still carry it back and forth to use at home and work. This is inked with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, in cartridge form. Great for notes, signing letters, carrying as an EDC.
Finally the Kaweco Perkeo in Old Chambray with a Medium nib and inked with Kaweco blue cartridges that were included with the pen. I was a little bit critical of this pen when I first reviewed it last summer. But actually, I find myself reaching for it a lot. It is long enough to be comfortable to hold unposted but also posts very nicely too. The faceted grip has long since ceased to bother me. There is no need for a pocket clip on a pen cup pen. Best of all, the Kaweco steel nib on these pens is slightly bouncy and springy making a very pleasant writing experience and allows for some nice line width variation, for signing letters and documents, to give that unmistakable “fountain pen look”. On the other hand, the build quality is not fantastic. The barrel does not screw on to the section tightly. (When it has been screwed down as far as it will go, it still can still be moved left and right a little bit).
So there we have it. Obviously no gaudy colours as this is a law firm. Actually a fountain pen with red ink would be useful. I will vary the rotation from time to time. There are lots more pens at home which could benefit from some work experience.
If you are trying to resist the temptation to buy more fountain pens for a while, then drifting into Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street and heading for their new pen department, is probably not going to help.
The pen department has moved, from the ground floor to the lower ground floor, near Dolly’s cafe (for afternoon teas). There is a Mont Blanc area and then, next to it, another section with a generous area of brightly lit and enticing glass counters and wall displays, for all the other fountain pen brands that they stock.
As I was not looking for anything in particular, I made the customary lap of the cabinets, admiring but resisting the expensive offerings, but then hesitated at the display of Faber-Castells. These looked particularly good value, after a circuit of all the other brands. I asked to see the Loom fountain pen which I had not handled before. On a previous visit a year or two ago, I had looked at a Loom but at that time, they had only the roller ball version.
Now, there were numerous Loom fountain pens to chose from. Typically, these have a grey coloured metal barrel and section, with a coloured plastic cap in a range of colours. The section is reasonably wide but tapers towards the nib and has five raised rings, to aid grip.
In addition to several models like this, I saw one with a shiny silver chrome barrel and glossy black cap and another, with shiny gunmetal grey barrel and section, and matte black cap. It was this latter model that I was to go for.
I was particularly interested to try holding the pen and to see whether the metal section was slippy or whether the raised rings solved that.
What I found was that the standard, silver coloured metal sections are still a bit on the slippery side for me. However, the shiny gunmetal version was not slippery at all. It seems to have some sort of thin plastic coating over the barrel and section. If you press on it hard with your thumb and then try to slide your thumb on the section, it judders along and squeaks, as it overcomes the surface resistance.
The shiny gunmetal version cost a little more than the others, (£45.00 as opposed to £37.50, I think) but seemed the better option to me, both in aesthetics and handling. I have learned since, that there is also a matte gunmetal version which I have seen online only. I also bought a box of 20 Graf von Faber-Castell cartridges in Cobalt Blue because (a) I love this ink and (b) I loved the orderly ranks of five rows of four cartridges in this handy dispenser, like a box of bullets, and which can be used again.
The pen comes in a decent, white cardboard gift box with a slide out tray in a sleeve and also a cardboard outer sleeve. It comes with one royal blue cartridge plus a dummy cartridge, (showing that there is room for a spare in the barrel) but no converter. There is also a little instruction manual which is now date stamped, 6 January 2018, Selfridges, London. Naturally you pay a bit more than with online-only dealers, but you get personal service, an opportunity to handle the pen (and try it if you wish) and a memorable buying experience.
Examining it more closely at home, the shiny gunmetal finish is interesting, as it appears to have under the plastic coating, an oily finish of patches of dark red and dark green which reflect the light, like a gun that has just been oiled, except that the surface does not feel oily and on the contrary, can be gripped very well.
The pull-off cap is very stiff. (Lips pursed, eye-brows furrowed, elbows a quiver, “Pop” – there it goes!) and also snaps closed with a reassuring click. This stiffness of the cap, so far, is my only negative about the pen but I find that it can be “soft-capped” if in use for extended but intermittent note taking and which I now do. Also the nib and feed are much better than most, at remaining ready to perform, even when left uncapped for several minutes. The pocket clip is, I think, metal but plastic-coated and is hinged, although it lacks the ability to be opened one handed by pressing down at the top.
Unscrewing the relatively weighty metal section, I discovered a tiny code “f7” on mine. I have not yet been able to find any information about these codes but I am guessing it is a production date code, the 7 being for 2017. I think this because each of my 20 Cobalt Blue cartridges also has f7 stamped on them, in black. Also, I looked again at a Faber-Castell Ambition that I bought two years ago and discovered that it also had a stamp near the threads for the barrel, reading “d4” and so I guess that would indicate a manufacturing date in 2014. If anyone has any further information about these codes I would be interested to hear. I do like a production date code. Next best thing to a serial number.
In use, the metal barrel and section initially feel cold to the touch but swiftly warm up. The cap posts quite deeply and securely, making for an extremely comfortable and nicely balanced pen. At 120mm opened and unposted, it could be used without posting but my preference is to post the cap, bringing the length to around 155mm. Weights are 33g in all (including two cartridges), or 26.5g uncapped. The cap alone weighs 6.5g.
The best thing about this pen though, is the Faber-Castell stainless steel nib. This is a traditional shape, but with an attractive dimpled pattern and no breather hole. There is the Faber-Castell logo of jousting knights (although you need a magnifying glass to make this out) and an M for medium. Mine performed perfectly, glassy smooth and with ideal ink flow, straight out of the box. This has also been my experience with the same medium nibs of the Faber-Castell e-motion and Ambition. Some reviewers find the nib to be too smooth, so that it runs away with you. I do not think this is a fault but you do need to slow down, particularly if you are used to writing with a ball pen. It is not a feedbacky nib and so it might skip on very smooth papers.
Incidentally, the nib and feed are within a black plastic collar and the whole nib unit can be easily unscrewed from the section. You may then extract the nib and feed from the collar, which are friction fit, if you ever need to. I refer to SBRE Brown’s useful Disassembly Line videos which demonstrate this process. When replacing, take care to a line up the nib and feed correctly with the air replacement channel.
Using the pen extensively at work and at home this week I found that the weight, balance and feel of the pen in the hand were so comfortable, that I soon stopped being aware that I was holding a new pen and was aware only of what I was writing. It is rather like having a very comfortable new pair of shoes.
I used up the supplied royal blue cartridge first, rather impatient to get on to my Cobalt Blue cartridges. The Cobalt Blue is one of my all time favourite inks, being a rich dark blue but without being blue-black.
So, the New Year pen fast has been broken. But I have no regrets and am delighted with this pen, which I personally find more comfortable than both my Faber-Castell e-motion or Ambition. At this price level, other comparables for a metal-bodied, stainless steel nib cartridge converter pen would include a Lamy Aion, a new model Parker IM, or Sheaffer Sagaris, but which all use their own proprietary cartridges. But for handling and nib performance, I would recommend the shiny gunmetal Loom.
I am usually wary of buying a journal which is sealed in cellophane so that you cannot examine the paper before buying. This now seems to be the way many diaries and notebooks are sold in Rymans.
I enjoy writing a diary, for many reasons. I like to keep a record of the day, for my future reference. But the act of writing it is a chance to reflect on the day and to order your thoughts and put them into writing which is therapeutic. And then there is the sheer joy of writing, with a fountain pen.
For the past few years, I have used A5, page a day diaries from Rymans. This year, after browsing around their shelves, I decided to play it safe and go for the same version that I used last year.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I got it home and unwrapped it, to find that the line spacing had been reduced. In 2017, we had 23 rows per page, at 7.91mm. Now this year, there are 28 rows per page, at 6.5mm. That is a reduction of 1.41mm, or 17.82%.
I did not want to go to the trouble of exchanging it and also doubted whether they had anything better. So, I had to decide quickly whether I could live with it.
I tend to chose a fountain pen to use for my diary and then stick to it for the year. Last year, it was the Pelikan M800 with a medium nib, (which is on the broader side of medium). This year, in view of the reduction in row height, I plan to use my Kaweco Dia2, with an Extra Fine nib. Dropping a nib width or two, is a good solution for dealing with narrow line spacing. So, having a range of nibs to chose from can save the day. Or year.
On the plus side, the new diary gives five extra rows a day. For day one, I used them to vent my annoyance with Rymans. Also, I do like that this diary has a full page each for Saturday and Sunday. And at least the line spacing is not as bad as in 2016 when it was just 5.8mm. I should mention that my preferred line spacing, from experience, is 8.0mm although I do have some note books with a very generous 10.0mm.
Aside from the daily diary for home use, I also keep a bullet journal, on a simple, ruled notebook on which I have made up two page spreads for each month. I started this last year. As 2017 only used up 24 pages plus some extra pages for specific topics, there were plenty of pages left to continue in the same book in 2018.
Obviously, with my new year resolutions still fresh on the page, it is too early in the year to be thinking about buying another pen. (I do have a page in the bullet journal for the “wish list”). But if I had been thinking of doing so, then the Edison Collier is tempting me at the moment. I had put it on the list and noted the price as £129.00, with a steel nib. However, when I happened to look at the price again very recently, at The Writing Desk, I saw that the price had changed to £152.00. That is an increase of £23.00, which is 17.82%. Hmmm, coincidence. I suppose the lesson here is that nothing stays the same or the same price forever.
For now, I am resisting the Edison Collier. I am not convinced that it is sufficiently different from another pen that I have, the Campo Marzio Ambassador, to warrant the expense. The Ambassador is just slightly short for my liking but the cap can be posted, whereas the Collier’s cap can not. But I might ask whether anyone has got one at our next monthly gathering of the London Fountain Pen Club. Just to make sure.