Early thoughts on the Geha 715 fountain pen.

Recently I was the happy recipient of another unexpected gift of pens, from my friend in Melbourne. As you can imagine, for a fountain pen enthusiast, it is exciting to receive such a package and to discover its contents.

One of them was this Geha 715, a vintage German piston-filler dating from around the 1960’s. My friend had bought it on ebay.

Geha 715 fountain pen.

This name was new to me. I have since read that Geha was founded in 1918 by two brothers, Heinrich and Conrad Hartmann. The name was a contraction of Gebruder-Hartmann, – Hartmann Brothers. Based in Hannover, the firm initially dealt in stationery and office supplies and began making pens in 1950. They made fountain pens for the student market until ultimately the company was bought by Pelikan in around 1990.

This particular model, the 715, is in a classic black resin with gold coloured trim. The model name Geha 715 is engraved in the side of the cap. The cap finial is a plain gold-coloured flat disc. There is a functional gold coloured pocket clip and a single cap-ring engraved with “Geha, Made in Germany, Rolled gold.”

Rolled Gold cap ring.

The cap unscrews, in one full turn. This reveals a gold coloured, semi-hooded nib. To my delight, this one has an Oblique Broad nib. My friend sent it to me, knowing of my liking for such nibs.

Geha 715 engraved on the cap.

There is an ink window in blue plastic. The barrel then tapers gracefully up to the piston turning knob and another gold coloured disc at the base.

The pen is on the slim side, but comfortable to hold and can be used with or without the cap being posted. Unposted, it is already 123mm long, but the cap posts deeply and firmly to increase the length to about 147mm, which feels very comfortable.

I flushed the pen, and tried the piston. It felt a bit stiff to lower the plunger, but smooth and easy when raising the plunger again.

The nib looks like gold, but my friend tells me it is steel. There are no visible markings on the exposed part of the nib. I presume that both nib and cap ring are plated in rolled gold. The nib shows no sign of any rust or staining, although a slight kink just behind the tipping suggests that the pen may have been dropped at some point and the nib straightened out again.

I inked it up with Waterman Absolute Brown ink. Initially the pen wrote rather dry and pale and needed pressure on the nib to keep ink flowing. I decided to try flossing the tines. I then tried widening the tine gap just marginally by bending the tip upwards, before trying again to widen the tine gap by means of inserting the blade of a craft knife in the gap and wriggling it very gently from side to side, until the pen wrote smoothly and with only minimal downward pressure.

Trying the Oblique Broad nib with some Waterman Absolute Brown.

Looking online, I found some Youtube videos on other Geha models, by The Pen Collector. I also learned that the Geha pens had a special feature – an ink reserve, which could be released by pressing a button on the underside of the feed. On some pens, this was a small round button, but on the 715, there is a shiny rod like the hull of a boat, which can be slid inwards towards the section.

The button to release the ink reserve

Having succeeded in sliding the button in, I then had an anxious few minutes worrying how to slide it back again. However it transpires that the button resets itself when the piston is next lowered. As you turn the piston knob to lower the piston down before re-filling, the piston can be lowered further, pushing against some resistance, to push the ink reserve tube back down into the section again.

It is arguable whether an ink reserve is necessary when you have a piston filler with an ink window. It seems to have been a gimmick. But I admit that I would have loved this as a school boy, like having a secret gadget in your pencil case. The idea was that if you were taken by surprise at running out of ink in your main tank, you could activate the reserve, releasing enough ink for another two or three pages of writing, which might get you to the end of your exam without having to re-fill! No doubt my 1960’s self would have pushed the ink reserve button in with my finger nail, getting inky fingers in the process, but I have just read in another Geha review, that the instruction manual suggested using your pen cap for this task. Of course.

Size comparison: from left to right – Montblanc 12, Montblanc 34 and Geha 715

All in all, it is a gorgeous pen. Although produced as a school pen, the black resin body remains just as smart and glossy as on my Montblancs of this era. It is nice to think that it may have belonged to a school boy, or girl, in 1960’s Germany and I wonder at the pen’s unknown history before it found me.

Update: 21 May 2022

Following a suggestion by Gasquolet in the comments to the above post, I learned that the section unscrews, just before the cap threads. This exposed a rather delicate looking feed, protruding from the section, with a small collar piece at the top. I lifted off the collar, pushed the delicate feed channel out through the front, and was then able to pull the nib out. Sure enough the nib is gold. It is clearly marked Geha 14k 585, but you do not see any markings when the nib is in situ.

Disassembling.

I took the opportunity to do a little more flossing of the nib with a fine brass shim, before putting everything back together. Some care is needed to re-align the tines, after pushing the nib back into the section.

Geha 14k gold nib. This one is an oblique broad although not marked as such.

I also applied a little grease to the threads for the section. This might have been the first time that the section had ever been unscrewed and the nib removed in the pen’s 60 year life, for all I know.

Nib extracted from the grip section.

I refilled the pen with Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz and tried some writing samples.

Writing samples. The nib needs a little pressure and is clearly wetter when in underwriting mode.

Hardstarting. Evaporation or gravity?

Over the last couple of months I have been much enjoying the Delike New Moon fude nib fountain pen. I am on my second, after giving the first one away.

The fine fude nib on the Delike New Moon.

The main reason why I enjoy this inexpensive pen so much, comes down to writing pleasure from the nib and the way it compliments my handwriting. The fine fude stainless steel nib, (with its upturned tip), writes very smoothly and provides some subtle line width variation in my usual style (whether underwriting or overwriting). Also it has the versatility of providing several different line widths when required, simply by changing the way I hold the pen.

Looking back over the pages of my notebooks for the past few weeks, where I often write a few lines of nonsense just for the pleasure of putting pen to paper from any of the dozen or so currently inked pens in the pen cups, I noticed that the Delike had produced a more interesting line: my handwriting seemed to look more attractive from this pen, than from many others.

My writing looking neater and more legible than usual.

Nothing is ever perfect. Recently I noticed that my Delike had taken to hardstarting: not writing immediately when I picked up the pen after an interval of a few hours. I keep my currently inked pens upright in pen cups and write something with most of them fairly frequently. But I started to notice that if the Delike was left overnight in the pen cup, it might hesitate to start the next day. The nib would be dry. I might get a word or two out of it, but some letters would be incomplete (skipping) and then the nib would run dry completely. I would hold the pen nib down and give it a few shakes. After a few bouts of shaking, ink would flow, dark and wet again, and the nib would feel super-smooth and lubricated. I would be cooking on gas and all would be forgiven and forgotten.

This was not due to ink starvation, which is sometimes caused by surface tension causing ink to remain at the back end of the cartridge or converter, when it should flow to the nib. The Delike’s converter includes a little coil of metal as an ink agitator which slides up and down to combat that.

At first I thought that the problem was one of ink evaporation. This can occur when the cap does not create an airtight seal around the nib. Some pens are brilliant at avoiding this, such as some Platinums with their slip and seal sprung inner caps, or the Esterbrook Estie which also has a sprung inner cap. My Aurora 88 and Aurora Optima both have ebonite feeds which, together with well designed caps, mean hard starts do not happen.

To see if your cap is airtight, a crude test is to place your mouth over the rim and try to blow: if air escapes it is not airtight. If your cheeks puff out and nothing happens, then it is. The Delike cap passed this test.

This led me to think that the hardstarting may not be due to ink evaporation but instead have another cause, that the ink drained away from the nib and/or feed overnight, back into the cartridge or converter. This would simply be due to gravity, whilst the pen is left upright in the pen cup. If that is the cause, then an easy solution is not to stand the pen in a pen cup but leave it horizontal.

This week I have been testing my theory on the Delike. Does this work? It is early days but I am cautiously optimistic that the problem may have been solved. I have not been very (or at all) scientific in my method. I have only one Delike New Moon pen, not a whole bunch of them to put into two groups, to leave some horizontal while another, control group stays upright. I also try only one ink at a time. Temperatures may make a big difference if evaporation is at play. However, I shall continue to monitor how this goes.

As for inks tried, I am on my seventh, having inked my first New Moon with Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz, Montlanc Toffee Brown, and Parker Quink Blue Black: my second New Moon has had Waterman Serenity Blue, Robert Oster Aqua and currently Montlanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red. A fill with the gorgeous Velvet Red is a luxury usually only afforded to my Montblanc Classique and so I hope that the pen behaves itself. So far so good.

With Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, on Semikolon journal paper.

Inky Pursuits, April 2022 round-up.

Here it has been an extraordinary week for new arrivals. I have just totted up that, of about 13 fountain pens acquired so far this year, six arrived in the last week.

I have been feeling very satisfied with my pen accumulation and had resolved to try not to buy more pens this year, (or inks or note books for that matter). Indeed it is very nice to be able to reduce the number sometimes. Four of the pens that I bought early this year, have been gifted to others, which gives joy to both parties.

But in case this sounds boastful, the pens that I gave away were all modestly-priced (but in my opinion, very presentable) pens, namely two Online Campus Fluffy Cat editions, one Cross Bailey Light (of which I am a big fan) and one Delike New Moon, the latter being a spontaneous give-away for which I immediately bought myself a replacement.

Compare this then, with my good penfriend and penefactor in Australia, who sent me an unexpected package containing three vintage Montblanc pens and a Waterman, knowing that I had been feeling under pressure at work lately.

Some of these pens will be given their own early thoughts reviews in due course, but for now here is a look at the recently incoming!

Speedball 1.1mm calligraphy pen.

This was a spontaneous purchase, which came about whilst browsing in a large art supplies store called Great Art, Kingsland Road, in London’s trendy Shoreditch. Speedball is a new name to me but an American brand established in 1899. I saw some of their dip pens hanging up on the shelves, and then found their Calligraphy pen sets, available in either 1.1, 1.5 or 1.9mm stubs. I have a hard time resisting a cheap calligraphy pen, as this purchase shows. Also it was reduced from £11.99 to £8.99. I chose the 1.1, thinking it would be good for letter writing. It came with two standard cartridges, of black ink. I couldn’t wait to try it out and even popped a cartridge in whilst waiting for the train home.

A Speedball, calligraphy pen with 1.1mm stub.

Ink soon started to flow, and the nib looked to be well set up, and ground to a comfortable writing angle, and with corners that were not too sharp. The pen is rather plasticky, with two gaping holes as ink windows in the barrel. The section is of plastic, and has four “ribs” to aid grip. One annoyance was that with one of the supplied cartridges installed, the section would no longer screw back fully into the barrel but left a tiny gap. It transpired that the cartridge nozzle was just slightly longer than usual. I ditched the cartridge and popped in a cartridge of Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, and suddenly all was well and the section screwed in all the way.

Also the name of a cocktail of drugs, I was horrified to learn on Googling.

Delike New Moon, fude nib pen.

This pen has been a revelation, a surprise discovery of the year so far. Having given mine away I ordered a replacement and more photos of this can be seen in my previous post.

Majohn P135, fude nib pen.

Whilst ordering the replacement Delike New Moon on Amazon, I came across this interesting pen. It had a fude nib, (similar to the Delike New Moon’s nib) but was in a blue barrel with a shiny metal end piece, and a hefty metal cap, deeply engraved with some shapes. The design was very suggestive of the Montblanc 146 “the Little Prince” edition which features references to the well loved book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Let’s say the P135 is a “homage” to that.

Majohn P135 fountain pen.

The pen is more weighty than the Delike New Moon. I have not used it very much yet (mainly because the Delike New Moon is so good). It is just a little on the short side unposted, whilst posting the metal cap makes it back heavy. The nib tines were not completely level and there was a slight prominence on one side with a sharp leading inside edge to the tipping which caused it to feel scratchy in cross-strokes. It can probably be improved easily by a little smoothing on the micromesh pads.

Another homage pen.

Montblanc 34.

And now here is a proper Montblanc! This was in a wondrous package, which arrived out of the blue from my friend in Melbourne, who knows of my new-found liking for oblique nibs. This one has a juicy oblique double broad in 14k gold, and is a piston filler, with a screw cap and a blue plastic ink window. It may date from the 1960’s and yet seems to be in great condition. I have inked it with Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau and it promises to be a great letter writer.

Montblanc 34, piston filler with an OBB nib.

Montblanc Carrera.

As well as the Montblanc 34, I was given a Montblanc Carrera fountain pen, with a matching ball point and a new Montblanc refill! This model was unknown to me but I am told they were “cheap” school pens, at the time, with stainless steel nibs but which are now sought after on ebay. It has a brushed steel barrel, a metal cap which has a smart gun-metal finish, a distinctive pocket clip with holes in it (as I imagine an accelerator pedal on a feisty Italian sports car) and the Montblanc white star emblem on the finial. This one is a cartridge converter pen. I have popped in a cartridge of a dark orange in from Paperchase. It writes well for me, in my lefty-overwriter mode although you need to find and keep it at the best angle, or sweet spot for smooth writing.

Montblanc Carrera with steel OB nib.

The matching ball pen is very nice to have and is unusual for Montblanc in having a clicky action rather than twist action. I have never owned a Montblanc ball pen before. The metal grip section is slippy and also tapers towards the tip, whilst the top part of the pen is of black plastic. The blue refill writes super smoothly and needs barely any pressure. Again, it has the Montblanc emblem on the push button, which is very cool.

With matching ball pen.

Waterman Hemisphere, Havana brown.

Finally, I was given this Hemisphere, which my friend tells me is a pre-2010 model and slightly wider than the current Hemisphere models. The mottled brown lacquered barrel and gold coloured trim look very elegant and vintagey. It has a steel nib, a medium which writes very well. Early impressions are very favourable and I can see myself enjoying this one too. I plan to ink it up with some Waterman Absolute Brown.

Waterman Hemisphere.

And so, my pen cups runneth over. I feel extremely fortunate. Many of these pens would be enough for anyone and would last a lifetime, but having them all to pick from, is an abundance of riches.

A good mail day! 🙂

More thoughts on the Delike New Moon fude nib fountain pen.

My previous post was about my Delike New Moon, a fude nib fountain pen that I had bought on Amazon not long ago. That pen was a great success and I enjoyed using it.

I no longer have it, as I gave it away to a young lady who was serving me in the phone shop, helping me to renew my mobile phone contract. Fountain pens came up in the discussion as I mentioned that I probably used the phone more for Instagram and the internet and other functions such as photographing pens, than I did for making phone calls. She immediately lit up and told me that she liked to use a fountain pen too. I showed her the couple of pens that I had with me, one of which was the New Moon with its unusual fude nib. After I had talked about the pen so enthusiastically, it seemed a good idea to give it to her and I knew that I could easily replace it.

Writing sample – all from one Delike New Moon with fude nib.

The best endorsement I can give for the New Moon is to say that once I no longer had one, I immediately ordered another one. I would not say that about all of my pens.

The delivery time from China was estimated at about six to eight weeks but as before, the pen arrived about a month earlier than expected. I was glad to see that my second New Moon’s nib was also set up perfectly and wrote every bit as wonderfully as the first one. The acrylic body of the pen, with its random patches of green, brown, purple and turquoise was of course different as each one is unique but the overall look was the same.

My second Delike New Moon pen.

I have only these two New Moon purchases to go on but have been delighted with them both. As a lefty overwriter, I have a number of pens which work well for me in overwriter mode, and others that write better in an underwriter style, but the New Moon is equally at home whichever way I write with it. You also have the option of producing several different line widths, all from one nib which is very useful but also a lot of fun. For its modest cost it represents great value. I shall try to hold on to this one.

Early thoughts on the Delike New Moon bent nib fude pen.

This pen came to my attention through reading a post on Margana’s “An Inkophile’s Blog” on 9 February 2022, entitled 20 Refills Without Cleaning My Pen. I was impressed, also in that she had found a relatively modest fountain pen that she liked using so much that she had used it every day for 6 months and written 200 pages with it.

I tracked down the pen in question on Amazon and ordered one immediately, such was the persuasive force of reading Margana’s blog post. It took a bit of searching on the web site, as the pen seems to be attributed to Majohn, Langxivi and Delike. I have not worked out quite what the connection is between brands. Also the pen is available in a few different colours and with either a “bent” nib or a regular one. I particularly wanted to try the bent nib version and went for the marbled green colour, with silver trim. The seller was JianHang Office and the price, £21.49 plus £3.00 postage from China.

I was delighted when it arrived, considerably earlier than estimated and just as my wife and I were about to depart for a weekend hotel break in Old Windsor.

Delike New Moon bent nib fountain pen.

Description.

This is an acrylic pen, in a striking green marbled effect with flakes including blue, brown and purple which come to life in good light. There is an acrylic finial, a silver coloured ring for the sturdy, very stiff, metal pocket clip, a cap band which reads DELIKE New Moon and another silver coloured decorative ring near the end of the tapered barrel.

The cap unscrews, needing just over three full rotations, to reveal a section in the same marbled acrylic pattern and that bent nib and metal ring at each end of the section.

Good fit and finish throughout.

Under the barrel, a cartridge-converter was included. I was impressed that the converter included a metal collar which could be unscrewed to disassemble the converter, should you wish to clean and grease the plunger. It also contained a small metal coil agitator, which avoids the annoying problem of ink starvation, whereby ink clings to the far end of the reservoir. The pen also came with a small soft black velvety pouch. For a pen of this price, the materials and finish all seemed to be of a very pleasing quality.

Converter, disassembled.

Size and Weight.

I measured the pen to be approximately 133mm closed, 120mm open or 157mm posted. The cap can be posted securely (with a little twist to grip the barrel) and I prefer to use it posted, as I then grip it higher up and the pen lays more comfortably in the hand. I would call it a small to medium sized pen.

It weighs around 22g including the converter, comprised as to 15g uncapped and 7g for the cap alone. For comparison, a Esterbrook Estie which is larger, weighs around 26g.

Delike New Moon shown below an Esterbrook Estie standard. (Both need good light to show off the colours).

The nib and writing performance.

I had not used a deliberately bent nib before and was excited to see what it could do. The silver coloured nib has a little decorative scroll work and the text “Dlike” (sic) “SUPER QUALITY, EF”.

The upturned “bent” nib.

The magic is in the up-turned tip of the nib. Angled upwards, and very smooth and rounded, it presents a flat surface to write with. The effect of this on paper depends how you hold your pen. Used in the conventional “underwriter” style, the nib will give you narrow down strokes, and broad cross strokes. This is rather like the effect of an architect-grind nib and is the opposite of a more common stub nib which would give broad down strokes and narrow cross strokes.

Then again, if you are a lefty and an overwriter, (like me most of the time) the effect is different as you get broad ascenders and descenders, and narrower lines when you make strokes such as to cross your T’s.

Whichever way you hold your pen in relation to the paper, you have the options to have the pen lay back in the crook of your hand finding a sweet spot where the bent nib writes smoothly and lays a broad line from side to side, or more vertically, where the line becomes a medium or a fine. There is also a third option, which is to flip the pen over and use “reverse writing”, using the tip of the upturned nib to give an extra fine line. I easily found three distinct line widths available.

Also, by varying the amount of pressure on the nib, I found that a little heavier pressure could be applied (except with reverse writing) to produce a darker line, assuming that you have a nice shading ink. I am using Montblanc toffee brown at the moment which shades well. Looking back over my notebook, I find that I had, after experimenting with different line widths and shading, written “all of this with ONE pen! Easy line variation all from ONE nib! Just experiment – to find out how to get the BEST out of it. Be familiar with your tools. Know how to USE them.” (The capital letters were where I was pushing the nib a bit to get bolder darker lines. I could not put it down. Later I wrote “Just how much fun is it possible to have from one nib?”

Writing samples: experimenting with the variety of line widths.

Conclusions.

All in all, the nib is very versatile and is a huge amount of fun. Certainly, more fun than I had any right to expect for the price. The quality too seemed excellent and I could not fault the nib at all.

Occasionally, in this fountain pen hobby, we can lay out a large sum of money for a pen which disappoints. But occasionally the opposite occurs and the resulting joy should rightfully be recognised and celebrated.

A New Moon in the wild.

Early thoughts on the Esterbrook Estie Nouveau Bleu fountain pen.

It was probably a mistake to imagine that I could attend the London Spring Pen Show without succumbing to the temptation to buy at least one fountain pen.  I have been feeling very contented with the pens that I own and in particular, with many of those less expensive models in my accumulation. In a recent count-up, I found that about half of my 16 currently inked fountain pens had cost under £30.00 each.

The pen show took place on 6 March 2022, once again at the spacious Novotel in Hammersmith. I had been looking forward to this, but planned to refrain from spending lots of money on pens that I did not need. However, there is another principle, which is to keep an open mind.

First, it was great to see all the gang again. Within moments of arriving, I met many friends from the London pen club and the online community including John, Philip, Gary, Dave and Anthony. I was to run into many others throughout the day. It was a pleasure to see Jon from Pensharing and to say hi to many of the familiar dealers.

I snagged a few great stationery bargains: a bottle of Waterman Serenity blue (my only ink purchase at the show) and some A4-plus Leuchtturm journals in end-of-the line colours. I also discovered a journal from Semikolon, which I gather is a sister brand to Leuchtturm, with less of the features (no pagination, stickers, or contents pages) but focusing on premium quality watermarked paper, hand-sewn binding and linen covers. I could not say no to one of these, reduced from £30.00 to £10.00. (I spent a happy half hour that evening, paginating it myself: 304 pages, thanks for asking).

My little haul.

But this is turning into a pen show post. I had intended to write about the pen that came home with me. That pen was an Esterbrook Estie, in the Nouveau Bleu edition.

This year for the first time, Esterbrook was represented at the London Pen Show. As well as Esterbrook’s own table, their pens were also being sold by their UK outlets, Cult Pens and Niche Pens.

I hovered at the Esterbrook table: they had a tray of sample Esties to try with different nib options. I asked to try the stub. After trying this and following a conversation with the helpful gentleman (sorry – I do not know his name) about my writing style, he suggested that I try a broad nib. I am a lefty-overwriter, who rotates the paper 90 degrees anti-clockwise and “writes uphill” rather than hooking my wrist.  In the absense of an oblique option, we agreed that the broad nib seemed to work well for me.

I like this slogan.

I have not owned an Esterbrook before. Whilst I did not grow up with the name, I know it to be a much loved American brand, established in 1858 and reborn not long ago after a hiatus and now making pens again in classic vintage designs and with a vast range of attractive acrylic colours.

I had looked at these online and had been tempted by some of  the colours – the cobalt blue, the lilac, the golden honeycombe models in particular but had not handled an Estie in the flesh or the oversize version.

At the show, the colour that particularly stood out to me was called Nouveau Bleu (although I did not know that at the time). I later read that it was inspired by the colour pallette of art nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha.  The pen looks, to a casual glance in poor light, like a vintagey mottled dark brown colour but on closer inspection features flakes of light blue and light brown, which have a lovely pearlescent quality, seeming to blink on and off as you rotate the pen in your hands. In bright light, particularly sunlight, it is a joy to behold. It is also beautifully smooth and polished and feels lovely too. The standard size is plenty big enough for me and I did not try an oversize.

Trying to do justice to the gorgeous colours

The pen is available with either gold or silver coloured trim (being the pocket clip, two metal rings – one each side of the cap threads and the colour-filled lettering of the name Esterbrook on the cap). I preferred the gold with this finish. Esterbrook did not have one with the Broad nib on their table, but this was no problem as I was taken to Niche Pens’ table (from Newport, South Wales and represented by Ross Adams and his wife Vicky) where a broad nib was swapped into “my” pen.  My Nouveau Bleu pen also included an A5 notebook with an attractive Esterbrook poster cover.

The Estie is a cartridge-converter pen, with a steel Jowo number 6 nib and an acrylic body.  There are plenty of things to like about this successful model, such as:

Likes:

– The colours and pattern of the acrylic body;

– The sprung inner cap; the push and twist routine of  capping the pen is a special pleasure and the inner cap prevents ink evaporation and hard starts;

– The fact that the cap screws on;

– The metal to metal threads, of barrel and section;

– The rubber O ring on the section threads, to stop the barrel from coming loose by itself and to help protect against leaks;

– An Esterbrook-branded converter included;

– Comfortable and solid in size, shape and weight including length and girth; 127mm long unposted; (150mm closed);

– Cap can be posted securely but the pen becomes very long at 172mm;

– The Jowo nib unit (nib, feed and housing) can be unscrewed and swapped easily;

– Presented in a nice red, cloth-covered gift box.

Note the brass threads in the barrel and O ring on the section.

On the other hand, any dislikes?

Although the cap does post securely,  with a little push and a twist, I worry that there is no protective metal cap band and that the cap might start to crack if “posted” too hard.  Some care is needed to push the cap on just hard enough so that it does not work loose, but not so hard as to stress the acrylic.

The cap. My only slight worry is the absence of a metal cap band.

My broad nib looked to be nicely finished, with a tiny gap between the tines and tines level and symmetrical. It writes smoothly and with good flow (filled with Serenity Blue) although I think it will improve in the coming weeks as the nib wears in.

I have since learned that the pen is available with some special nib grinds, including a needlepoint which Anthony of UKFountainPens chose.

Sometimes after a pen purchase, particularly in my “over £30.00” category, buyer’s remorse can present itself in the following days, leading to a battle with the conscience to find justifications for the purchase. Fortunately here, there are ample plus points to this pen, including buying in to the American heritage brand. But for all the spec, perhaps the greated test comes down simply to this: does remembering that you own the pen, make you happy? I am glad to say that it does.

In good light the colour comes to life.

Some long term thoughts on the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold fountain pen.

One of my fun projects of 2021 was to watch every episode of the Columbo detective series, starring the late Peter Falk. There were 69 in all, including two pilots. Such an endeavour lends itself to a double-page spread in a bullet journal, with columns for Series and Episode numbers, episode Titles and a column for any comments on guest stars or plot. It was satisfying to tick them off each week as we made our way through whichever episodes were showing on “5USA”. Spanning decades, they were first aired from 1971 and the last episode was shown in 2003. I have now seen all but one.

Another project was to listen to every one of Elton John’s albums, from those on Spotify. Like many of us, I have enjoyed his music right from the beginning, although not all to my taste. I have seen him live three times: Hammersmith Odeon at Christmas 1974, Highclere Castle in June 2000 and once at Earl’s Court, some time in between. His albums are another bullet journal spread. This is a challenge that I can leave for a while and keep coming back to. I was well aware that I had never heard many of his albums, or had heard only the odd track from them, so I wanted to work systematically through the entire back catalogue. This takes time. It does not do to listen to an album only once. To enjoy and appreciate an album, I need to play it several times and let it get under my skin, otherwise I will have little or no recollection of it.

At the moment, I have got up to The Road to El Dorado, an album of songs from the animated film in 2000. This film and the soundtrack album escaped me completely at the time. There are several great, stand-out tracks which I am greatly enjoying. I have probably played the album over six times and still have no desire to move on.

This brings me to the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold fountain pen. I posted a couple of reviews of my Cleo Skribent fountain pens when I bought them, in 2017 which are listed in my Index of Pen Posts or can be seen from here: Cleo Skribent Classic Gold, Piston fountain pen; first impressions and Cleo Skribent Classic Metal, Piston fountain pen review (about the steel nib version). In the following years, I continued down a path of trying lots of different pens and bought dozens every year. The Cleo Skribent Classic Gold rather got side-lined. However last autumn I tuned the 14k gold nib a little bit, to increase flow and lubrication. It just took a few minutes to open up the tine gap very slightly.

Cleo Skribent Classic Gold, piston filler fountain pen, being useful again.

I then started to enjoy the pen all over again. I used it for the month of December 2021 for my journal, for which I had been switching pen and ink combinations every month. I had intended to start a different pen in January. However, nearly half way through February I still have no desire to change pens. I do have a dozen inked but it is the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold that I reach for each morning for my diary. I also enjoy it for notes and letter writing. It is now on its third fill with Waterman Serenity blue ink since November.

Looking back at my first impressions review five years ago, I was not then aware of whether the nib could be easily removed. I since learned that the nib and feed are friction fit and can be pulled out together quite easily for a more thorough clean or if changing inks, rather than just relying on the piston to flush the nib and feed.

I still love the features that appealed to me then. It is a long, elegant pen, extremely comfortable to hold with a smooth gold nib which has a very pleasing degree of softness on the paper. The glossy black resin of the body looks to me just as “precious” as that found on other more famous, German black fountain pens.

14k gold nib, medium. Small but perfectly formed.

I commented in 2017 that the piston seemed less smooth than in my other pens but that it was too soon to tell how this would stand up over time. Well, the piston is stiff in places. I would very much like to be able to introduce some silicone grease to the inside walls of the ink reservoir, to ease the piston plunger on its travels. I do not think it possible to remove the piston mechanism to grease it outside the pen. (If I am mistaken on this, I will be very pleased to hear from anyone who can put me right).

My only real criticism of the pen is that it does not seem possible to grease the piston. With a Lamy 2000 for instance, you can unscrew the section from the barrel and introduce a little grease to the barrel using a cocktail stick or tooth pick – a useful tip that I saw on a Brian Goulet video. Not so with the Cleo. The barrel does not separate from the section. Even with the nib and feed removed, I have been unable to poke anything through the opening and bend to reach the barrel sides.

Ultimately, if the plunger does become too stiff I fear that the piston shaft could break. I assume that it is plastic, as the pen is so light. Hopefully, being inked regularly with a well behaved ink like Serenity blue will be good for the pen and keep the piston working. That said, it has not happened yet and the pen does have a lifetime warranty. Also, it was not hugely expensive at £129.00 and even if the piston mechanism fails, the nib, feed and cap could all be salvaged.

But the message of today’s post is that, as with an Elton John album, it is ok to get stuck on enjoying one pen. A good fountain pen is like a wonderful view: uplifting and good for the soul, but you do not need to see every one there is.

Black and gold. Never out of fashion.

My Aurora Ipsilon fountain pen and I.

In recent years I have become a fan of Aurora fountain pens. Certainly my black and gold Aurora 88 with its medium nib and my red Aurora Optima with an oblique broad, are among the most prized in my accumulation. But neither of these was the first Aurora that I had bought. That honour goes to the Ipsilon.

Aurora Ipsilon, marbled blue lacquer.

It is true to say that I did not immediately take to the Ipsilon. The buying experience was memorable and hard to beat. My wife and I were on holiday in Italy in July 2018 staying near Lake Garda and took a bus for a day’s visit to Verona. There I found a delightful fountain pen shop called Manella, in the via Guiseppe Mazzini – a pedestrian thoroughfare in a shopping district and thronged with tourists like myself heading from the stunning Roman amphitheatre, towards the Case di Giulietta, to visit Juliet’s famous balcony from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The shop was easily spotted by its vintage Pelikan pen sign. Unfortunately it was closed for the day (or so I thought) and I contented myself with looking at the displays in the window and peering into the shady depths of the shop within.

Some hours later, on passing the small shop again, I was thrilled to discover that it was now open and went inside. I asked to see a red Aurora Ipsilon which had caught my eye in the window. The genial proprietor seemed pleased to have a keen customer and I was eager not to leave empty handed! He told me that he had a larger selection in his other shop close by and so locked up this one and took me to see it, in an arcade literally just around a corner but off the beaten track. It was much less cramped and had displays of leather goods as well as pens.

As for the Ipsilon, he recommended a superior version being of lacquered metal and which had a14k gold nib. He showed me a new edition, in a marbled dark blue and black lacquer and with a fine nib, which seemed to tick all the boxes as a suitable souvenir from Italy. I added a Pelikano to my purchases and the proprietor kindly included an orange ball point pen for my wife. Genius.

Aurora nibs are handmade in Turin.

The Ipsilon comes in various different versions. From an old catalogue, I see that the metal lacquered model was also available in a marbled tortoise or grey finish. It is a cartridge converter pen, taking the Aurora proprietary cartridges. A useful tip is that Parker Quink cartridges also fit and are easier to come by. It has a snap on cap, which also posts securely with a polite click, to make a very comfortable package. The pen measures about 137mm closed, 118mm open (slightly short for my preference) but a decent 148mm with cap posted. It weighs about 31 grams, being 19g when uncapped and 12g for the cap alone.

Well matched with Parker Quink blue black cartridges.

After such auspicious beginnings, you would think that I would be delighted with my new Italian fountain pen. However, perhaps for a combination of reasons, I did not bond with it sufficiently in those important early weeks after purchase. On close inspection of the nib under a powerful loupe, I noticed some mystery parallel lines or scratches across the face of the nib. Perhaps it had been held in pliers during or after the plating process. These were only cosmetic and not visible to the naked eye. Secondly I had an unfortunate experience with the included converter, which seemed to be leaking and made a mess. With hindsight, I should have been more systematic in my diagnosis of this problem but I was further put off the pen. Thirdly, and perhaps the biggest issue was that the fine nib was rather on the dry side for my liking. And so, rather embarrassingly, I put the pen away and hardly looked at it for three years.

Fast forwarding to last autumn, by which time I was enjoying my Aurora 88 and Optima, I got out the Ipsilon again. I have been revisiting lesser-used pens and tweaking the nibs with brass shims in some instances, now that I have gathered a little experience and confidence in this area. Often it is a very quick and easy fix to just open up the tine gap very minimally, to improve ink flow, lubrication and smoothness which makes a big difference to your experience with a pen.

I also bought a pack of Parker Quink blue black cartridges (reduced in a sale at WH Smiths) which fit perfectly, removing the risk of leaky converters. The colour is an ideal match for the pen. And the mystery striations on the nib plating no longer bother me at all. There are bigger things to worry about in life.

The net result is that I now have an enjoyable and reliable pen and a trio of Auroras, with fine, medium and oblique broad nibs. It is currently filled and always starts up immediately. The moral of this little tale is not to overlook the bonding phase when you have a precious new fountain pen arrival. But even if you do, all is not lost and you and your pen may still achieve fulfilment at a later stage.

The Aurora Ipsilon, 88 and Optima.

A look back at Basildon Bond writing paper.

As a child at a boarding school in Reading in the 1970’s, our Sunday morning routine included an hour of letter writing. Every boy was expected to write a letter home.

Throughout my seven years there, I used Basildon Bond writing paper and envelopes. I have done so ever since. That means I have been a customer for over 50 years.

Today in the UK, Basildon Bond pads of letter writing paper and matching envelopes are still readily available, in stationers and book shops such as Rymans and WH Smiths. Basildon Bond is a now part of Hamelin Brands Limited, a French, family-owned business. However, many will remember Basildon Bond as a John Dickinson & Co Ltd product, along with Lion Brand exercise books.

Basildon Bond writing paper and envelopes at WH Smiths.

John Dickinson & Co Ltd.

I have just finished reading an excellent book called “The Endless Web” by Joan Evans, published by Jonathan Cape, which tells the story of John Dickinson & Co Ltd from 1804 – 1954. The book was first published in 1955. I think my new copy of the book is a facsimile of the first edition, as the blue dust jacket still bears the price in our old, pre-decimal currency, as 32s. 6d. net.

It is quite a heavy book, in both senses. First, as befits a book about a successful manufacturer of paper, it is beautifully bound and printed on Croxley Antique Wove paper, with text set in Monotype Caslon Old Face. Secondly, it is a detailed work packed with facts and figures, names and dates, and inside stories only available from family letters and diaries and the paper mills’ records. It provides a chronological account of the rise of this company and the characters who built and ran it. The inside front cover contains a vast family tree of the John Dickinson dynasty. The author Joan Evans was John Dickinson’s great-niece and wrote the book to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary.

I bought my copy of the book at the Frogmore Paper Mill gift shop, while away for a weekend last month, staying at Shendish Manor Hotel, in Apsley, near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Apsley had been the site of one of John Dickinson’s vast paper mills. It turns out that the nearby Shendish Manor had belonged to John Dickinson’s business partner Charles Longman, who in 1853 bought the Shendish estate on the western side of the valley in Apsley and built the house there in 1854-56.

Later, in 1936, the house and grounds were bought by the firm and opened in 1937 as the Dickinson Guild of Sport. This was a club-house for the workers and their families, with facilities for football, cricket, tennis, hockey, bowls and swimming with parks and gardens. In 1948 a new Sports Pavilion was opened.

Shendish Manor Hotel

Basildon Bond

I was keen to find some background in the book, to my favourite letter writing paper. There are a handful of references, towards the end of the period covered. In brief, in 1911 a rival company, Millingtons (founded in 1824) introduced under the name “Basildon Bond”, the first “bond” notepaper to be marketed at 1 shilling a unit. It comprised about 30% fine quality rag content. According to Joan Evans’ book, the notepaper was remarkably good value and was an immediate success. Another of Millingtons’ achievements was that in 1905 they acquired the UK rights in “window envelopes” and were their only manufacturers. I had no idea that these had been around for so long.

In 1918, Dickinsons agreed to buy Millington’s shares, in return for debenture stock and shares in Dickinsons allotted to the Millington shareholders and directors. Joan Evans writes that the Millington business “remained practically autonomous” and that Basildon Bond steadily increased in popularity, stimulated by an advertising campaign authorized in 1924. Later, she writes, in 1932 Basildon Bond was the best-selling notepaper in the UK. There was another advertising campaign in 1934.

Today, the website of hamelinbrands.com states simply that Basildon Bond is the leading brand in personal stationery in the UK, was established in 1911 by Millington & Sons, then acquired by John Dickinson’s in 1918.

The paper, 90gsm and featuring the Basildon Bond (BB) watermark is said to be of the highest quality, and the web site states that “our smooth paper allows the pen to glide effortlessly across the page, creating a more enjoyable writing experience.”

For my part, as a consumer, I can vouch that the paper is indeed smooth and pleasant to write on with fountain pens without feathering or bleedthrough. I learned that the size I now buy, is called “post quarto”, (abbreviated to “P4TO”) and is an old imperial size, (178mm, x 229mm). The pad contains 40 sheets of paper, plus a guide sheet. I tend to save the guide sheets, after the pad is finished. The current ones give an 8mm row height. I sometimes use 9mm. They used to include a sheet of blotting paper too but this seems to have been dropped. I also buy the packs of 20 matching envelopes.

The familiar branding of Basildon Bond, established in 1911.

I have had very little trouble using Basildon Bond paper, with a variety of pens and inks, over the years. I recall that my Waterman Carene skipped badly on the paper, as its very smooth nib could not get a grip on the equally smooth paper. But generally, the paper has served me well.

It is good to know that Basildon Bond notepaper is still available and still thriving, over 110 years since it began, albeit under different ownership now.

Visitors to Apsley can visit Frogmore Paper Mill, which claims to be “Birthplace of paper’s industrial revolution” and tours are available on certain days. Or, for some rest and relaxation and to feel closer to the John Dickinson history, you may book a stay at the Shendish Manor Hotel.

Early thoughts on the Online Campus Fluffy Cats fountain pen.

Well, I made it to 7 January 2022 before buying any pens this year. So much for resolve. To be fair, I did say in my last post “I always start the year with good intentions to buy less pens…”, not no pens.

So, what made me cave in so easily? Allow me to introduce the Online Campus, a school pen from Germany, in the “Fluffy Cat” design.

Online Campus Fluffy Cats fountain pen.

I was first aware of these a couple of years ago. A visiting pen friend showed me his Online College that he was carrying and, when I commented on how nice it was to write with, and how flattering it was to my rather awkward lefty-overwriter hand writing, he said I could keep it and gave it to me on the spot. It had an 0.8mm stub nib and a pink design featuring melons and pineapples. He told me of his other Online “Fluffy Cats” pen, which he claimed to be one of his favourite pens. Coming from someone who had spent years acquiring pens such as Pelikans, Pilots, Lamys and Montblancs of much greater cost, this carried some weight.

I had not seen a Fluffy Cats version for sale, until idly scrolling through Amazon’s offerings last weekend when, to my surprise, I found an Online Campus in a Fluffy Cats version, with a Medium nib, for £14.99. Also I had not tried an Online Campus, but enjoyed the College and the Bachelor, both of which were fitted with the 0.8mm stub nib. I was keen to try the standard Medium nib which I had heard is also very good.

I ordered two, to make the delivery more worthwhile and for the option of having a second one to use in a different location, or with a different ink, or to give away.

Unboxing.

They arrived within 24 hours, in a brown cardboard envelope, with the two pens loose inside. There was no other packaging at all. There was no paperwork but the pens each had a sticker on the cap, with the address of Online Schreibgerate, a bar code and a symbol to indicate that the nib was a Medium. They each came with one Online long blue cartridge, (with a standard international cartridge fitting at one end and a cheeky Lamy fit at the other!) but no converter this time.

Fluffy Cats

First impressions were favourable. The body of the pen features ten rows of cute, cartoon cats, with various colours and expressions which remind me of the extended family of five feral cats that inhabit our garden, and which we feed every day.

I also noticed that the Campus pen feels slightly bigger and heavier than the College, that the pocket clip is stainless steel instead of plastic and that the body of the pen has a “soft touch”, slightly rubbery feel.

The two ends of the pen are plastic but painted silver to look like metal.

The flush cap snaps on and off firmly with a pop and a click. It is very light and is designed to post where it remains completely flush with the barrel. This makes for a very ample length without upsetting balance.

With cap posted

As most of my currently inked pens are filled with blue or blue black inks, I decided to try the Campus with a cartridge of Kaweco ruby red. It pops in to the section nicely with room for a second cartridge in the barrel, if you use the short variety. The section also features the clear plastic ink window which lets you see the cartridge and ink inside.

Inked with Kaweco ruby red plus a spare.

Size and weight.

Closed, the Campus measures 141mm; uncapped it is 123mm and posted it is a very lengthy 173mm. The barrel is about 13mm at its widest, and the grip section tapers from 11mm down to 9mm nearest the nib.

The complete pen, uninked, weighs 13g or just 8g uncapped and about 5g for the cap alone. This total weight compares with the Online College at 10g.

Nib and writing performance.

The stainless steel nib, with iridium tip, is a Medium. The selling description stated it to be “right handed” although the tipping looks symmetrical to me, as far as I can tell. I do not know if there is a left handed version or how it would differ. The nib has a slight springiness to it and is not a nail. You can get a little line variation from it if you push it a bit. But the main message is that it writes perfectly. Straight out of the box (except that there was no box). There is no nib work required and the pen is ready for use right away, (which may come as a surprise to people used to buying faulty pens at forty times this price!). I was delighted with the smoothness and the degree of ink flow, even for this lefty-overwriter who needs nibs a little wetter sometimes.

Stainless steel medium nib, iridium tip.

I do not yet know whether this Fluffy Cat version is a reissue of a previously popular design. I thought that they had been discontinued. I could not find a Fluffy Cat version in a brief check of the company’s web site today (Online-pen.com). It may be that they are still made after all, or have been reintroduced or it may be that Amazon had some new old stock. Whichever it is, I am glad to have it and now find myself looking forward to getting home to write with my Fluffy Cats.

The real thing. (Photo: Ling Arzeian)

Postscript:

Here is a size comparison photo, of the Online Bachelor, College and Campus pens:

Online Bachelor (top), Online College (middle) and Online Campus (bottom).