Back in early January, I found myself in a party situation at a flat in London overlooking the River Thames, near Tower Bridge. It so happened that my wife was unable to make it and I went alone.
Like the hosts, many of the guests had six-year old children and so the general ambience was on the noisy side.
Seeing me on my own at one point, a young woman about half my age engaged me in conversation. Her name was Esther. Breaking the ice, she asked me if I had any hobbies. Caught off guard, I ‘fessed up to having a guilty pleasure, which was collecting fountain pens. I didn’t go into the distinction between collecting and accumulating but spared her this detail.
“Are those the pens with a separate capsule for the ink, that you puncture?” asked Esther, grimacing at the memory from her school days. “Yes, cartridges” I said, nerdishly adding that people generally refer to cartridge pens as fountain pens although technically a fountain pen is one which does not have a cartridge but has its own system of filling from an ink bottle, such as a piston, or lever or vac filling plunger.
“What is the attraction?” she asked. I tried to explain about finding the ideal combinations of pen, nib, ink and paper and the joy of effortless writing with no downward pressure and letting the words flow, with glistening wet ink and a comfortable pen. I babbled on about the joys of going back to analogue, like wearing a mechanical wristwatch instead of a battery one.
“So what do you write with these pens?” I said that I liked to keep a journal, a habit that I had continued for decades and also to write travelogues and to write letters. Also, I liked to write up memories. For example I had enjoyed reflecting on memories of my parents, listing key words as writing prompts and then going back to write up these memories in notebooks.
“But isn’t it easier to amend, edit and correct on a computer?” she asked, quite reasonably. Fair comment. “Yes it is” I replied. I said that perhaps writing with a pen made you more careful, rather like taking photographs on film, especially if you are shooting on medium format and have only 12 frames on a roll which makes you a better photographer. I thought back to letter writing sessions at boarding school when picking up a fountain pen and starting to write seemed to help ideas flow.
“What’s your favourite pen?” I said that many addicts would answer “My next one” which is only partly a joke. It seems that no matter how many fountain pens you have, you are always after the next one, a sign of obsession. I did then try to answer, but said it was difficult to say which was the favourite. I could perhaps try to list the favourite from each brand that I own, to narrow it down. I told Esther that lately I had discovered a pen called the Cross Bailey Light, which was inexpensive, comfortable and wrote well and had gone on to buy six of these, one in each of the available colours.
“Perhaps what you need to do is think which you like best and want to keep and then give all the rest to someone who will sell them for you on ebay.” I think I may have blacked out for a moment at this point as my mind digested this trauma. I might have said in my defence that most of my pens were not expensive ones and so it was not worth selling them. What’s more, I was rather attached to them (which is a bit silly if they are not being used regularly).
“What does your wife think about all this?” I had the answer to this one. “She thinks I am storing up problems for her for when I die.” I know that she is bothered about matching up pens with their boxes in the event of my untimely demise.
The moral of this little tale is that it can be difficult to describe and justify your hobby to a normal person. How do you explain that after a stressful day, you take pleasure in picking up a fountain pen and putting pen to paper, or even just thinking about which inks to try next in a certain pen? When fountain pen enthusiasts are together, all of this goes without saying.
The reality is that taking a disproportionate amount of pleasure from a pen, or any other day-to-day object is a bit of escapism. It is something that we do to make the bad stuff go away, to find happiness and which is cheaper than therapy.
On reflection, I did not handle the conversation with this charming young woman as well as I might. It is shameful that even on my chosen subject, when unprepared I led myself down a one way street, rather than perhaps winning another convert to join the pen club. Next time, I’ll say “I enjoy fountain pens. Now tell me about your hobbies, which no doubt will be far more interesting.” Another drink anyone?
As fountain pen users know, finding another dream combination of pen, ink and paper is one of life’s pleasures. And we could all use some of those now.
A month ago, whilst spending a weekend away in Cambridge my wife was browsing the sales in Radley, the handbag shop, when I came across a display of A5 notebooks. These were reduced from a rather ambitious £28.00, to £6.00 and so I cheerfully added a couple to our purchases.
It turned out that the notebook was remarkably good and I wished I had bought a few more to keep in stock. Many reading this post may not have access to a Radley shop, but nevertheless I hope some comments about my approach to notebooks may be of interest.
This is an A5, soft cover journal, with 160 ruled pages (80 sheets). The pages provide 21 rows at 8mm line spacing, which I find ideal. The lines are dotted, in grey, on a cream paper and so not obtrusive. Each page features the little Radley dog logo at the foot of the page, which is not in the way.
The cover is a vibrant red with rounded corners and a pleasing texture that feels like leather but is not. “Radley, London” is stamped elegantly in gold letters on the front. The cover can be flexed although it offers some support and protection. Of particular benefit, the pages are stitched, so that the book can be opened flat without risk of pages popping out. There are two page markers, in matching red ribbon. However there is no elastic band or expandable pocket that you would find with a Leuchtturm notebook.
Trying a different notebook can be a risk, if you intend to use a fountain pen. Those first few strokes will tell you whether the paper is “fountain pen friendly” or not. Does the ink bleed through? Is there feathering? Is there show-through at levels which mean you can use only one side of the paper? How does the pen feel on the paper surface? Is it too rough, or too smooth, or is there a squeaky coating and feeling of resistance?
Happily, I was delighted with the paper in all of these respects. I tried first with my recently bought Platinum Curidas, with a Japanese medium nib and Platinum blue black ink. The paper surface felt silky smooth. There was no feathering, no bleed through and although some show-through, this was perfectly acceptable. The nib is on the fine side for a medium.
The one point to note however, was that the line width was slightly wider on the Radley paper, than with the same nib on my customary Leuchtturm journal paper. This implies that the paper is perhaps more absorbent, or less or differently coated than Leuchtturm. Yet when I looked with the loupe, there was no feathering to give the tell-tale woolly edges as if writing on blotting paper.
I do enjoy buying a new notebook. For the last few years I have been using Leuchtturm journals a lot, which are paginated and available with plain paper, ruled (rather too narrow for me) or dotted or square grid. For unpaginated notebooks, I often paginate them, measure the line spacing, and test out the paper on the back page with a variety of inks and pens from my “currently inked” pen cups to see what works and what does not.
I tried the Radley notebook paper with various other pen and ink combinations. There was no bleedthrough with Waterman Serenity blue. Monblack Irish Green did bleed through quite badly in places where pressure was applied. Some roller-ball pens also did not do so well: the Uniball Air micro black ink did bleed through, whereas the Uniball Signo 307 retractable gel pen did not.
Rohrer & Klingner, Salix iron gall blue black ink.
So, what was that dream team combination that I mentioned? I recently discovered Rohrer & Klingner’s Salix, an iron gall blue black ink, sold in London at Choosing Keeping, in Covent Garden. I have been using it at work recently, in one of my Cross Bailey Light cartridge pens. (Ahem, confession: I bought six of these pens, a few months ago as soon as I heard about them!)
The Cross Bailey Light is a fairly humble entry level Cross cartridge- converter fountain pen with a steel medium nib. I have been careful to check the nibs on all those I bought and they have all been smooth, wet writers. This works particularly nicely with Rohrer & Klingner’s Salix ink, a classic blue-black which darkens as it oxidises, as the blue turns to a grey-blue black.
The Salix ink is also water resistant, a useful quality when addressing envelopes but also giving some protection against spills or other liquid related incidents.
A water resistant ink will often perform well on papers which at first do not seem fountain pen friendly due to bleedthrough and so it is worth trying this before giving up on the notebook for fountain pen use. Another advantage of R&K Salix is that you can go over it with a highlighter pen, which is great for study notes. It also flows well, looks nice and gives a lovely shading and performs well on the Radley notebook paper.
Finally, I went back to the Cambridge Radley shop another day but they were out of these notebooks. But then I later came across another Radley store in London’s O2 Arena shopping centre (a brand outlet mall) where, not only did they have plenty in stock but they were discounted even further to £4.00. Let’s just say I bought a reasonable number.
The Paperchase store near my office no longer has a glass display cabinet of fountain pens. Its fountain pen offerings are now limited to a good selection of Lamy Safaris and Al-Stars, Kaweco Perkeos and Faber-Castell Grips, although it is good that these are still available. I enjoy browsing around the shop and often buy notebooks there.
Whilst visiting the shop one lunchtime recently, I came across a cup full of Pilot retractable pens, in a mix of blue or black, called the Synergy Point. These are not new pens but were new to me. I now gather that in other places they are called the Pilot Juice Up.
To my naked eye, the writing tip looked so fine that I thought it was a fineliner, although it is in fact a tiny rollerball and one of Pilot’s gel pens. I liked the look of the pen, with its rubber grip section and rather superior metal nose cone. I bought one each in blue and black.
So, this is an inexpensive, retractable, gel pen, with a fine point. It delivers a smooth line (depending upon the type of paper you are using) with minimal pressure. Pilot’s catalogue entry states “A unique pen which, thanks to the innovative “Synergy tip”, combines a fine line with a very smooth writing experience.” Although labelled as 0.5mm, this is the tip size. The line width is said to be 0.25mm. It is also refillable, (using Pilot’s BLS-SNP5 refill).
The gel ink in the blue version, is a pleasing shade of blue, which dries almost instantly and is also waterproof and so does not smudge.
When the tip is retracted, the push-button does not rattle, but it goes slack once the tip is deployed, which means that the button will rattle if you shake or turn the pen up and down. Also, there is an indicator window at the top of the barrel, just below the clip, comprised of five square dots, arranged like on a dice. If you look closely these are white when the nib is retracted and then go dark when the button is pressed down. As an indicator of whether the tip is out or not, you are better off looking at the tip itself or even the position of the button.
The pocket clip is plastic and rather soft and bendy and so not very secure and best not relied upon.
Size and weight.
The pen is about 140mm long when in writing mode. It weights about 12g. The girth is about 9mm. However the rubbery grip section and stepless barrel design make this a comfortable pen to use. The metal nose cone also places the centre of gravity further down towards the tip.
The writing experience.
The comfortable rubber grip, combined with the weighty metal nose cone and the lack of any wobble from the very narrow writing tip, all make for a feeling of precision when you are writing. Also, very little downward pressure is needed, although you do need a little to avoid skipping.
I have tried the pen on about half a dozen different notebooks. It is best suited to smooth papers without much texture as you do not have a large tip area to ride the bumps. However the ink flowed well. On all the papers I tried, any showthrough was minimal and there was no bleedthrough, even on papers which often struggle with ink. For example an Agenzio notebook (from Paperchase) has paper which suffers bleedthrough even with Waterman Serenity blue, but not with Montblanc Permanent Blue, Sailor Kiwa-guro or Platinum blue black, all of which are waterproof inks. The Synergy Point now gives me another bleed-free option for this brand of notebook.
Disassembly and refilling.
At first, before checking online, I tried to unscrew the nose cone. However I later learned that the pen unscrews at the barrel, and you just hold the grip section in one hand and the smooth plastic barrel in the other. It was tight the first time and I was worried about destroying the pen, but was encouraged by seeing photos online of the two parts separated. I anticipate that the refill will last for ages but it is good to know that refills can be purchased.
Likes and dislikes.
Plus points are the attractive design, sturdy build (aside from the flimsy clip and the rattling button) and the unusually fine writing tip for fine work. Having a waterproof ink is also useful. The familiar retractable design is obviously convenient and practical.
On the negative side, there is the feeble pocket clip and the rattling buttton. Also I would have preferred not to have a permanent bar code and a 13 digit number on the barrel but these are minor issues.
Pricewise, the blue model registered £4.25 on the cash till but then the black one registered as £5.00 which was slightly annoying. I would expect them to be the same price, whichever figure is correct, but it seemed fruitless to pursue this.
I use ballpoint pens a lot for notes at work and a gel pen makes a pleasant alternative. The writing looks nicer and there is typically less pressure required yet you have all the convenience of a ballpoint pen. It is not a substitute for a fountain pen, which is still far ahead for line variation, shading and general writing pleasure. But the gel pen is a very useful writing tool to have and has its own merits.
Today was Day 6 of my ownership of the Platinum Curidas, as discussed in my previous post.
I have been using the pen with the metal pocket clip removed, which improved comfort but I was still irritated by the protrusion on the top of the pen, where the clip had been. For a lefty overwriter, this bump sits just where I want to place my thumb when I grip the pen. I have been deliberating on whether to try to remove it, but was worried about the risk of cracking the pen in the process.
Apart from this issue, the pen is great. I appreciate that it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. FPNers were critical of the overly long push button (some call it a knock) to operate the pen, which is odd-looking when the nib is retracted. However this is a necessary consequence of the nib mechanism having such a long travel and the button all but disappears when the pen is in writing mode.
This morning I sat down to write a letter with it. Honestly, the writing experience of the smooth medium nib, with Platinum Blue Black ink on Basildon Bond writing paper, was joyous. If only the bump could be removed!
Over the past few days I have been pondering on how to file acrylic safely. I watched a few videos on YouTube and even popped into a nail bar today to get some tips from those who work on acrylic nails.
Fortune favours the brave. I finally decided to have a go. I applied masking tape around the four sides of the bump, just leaving the bump exposed and then very carefully applied a few strokes of a file, which came in a craft kit with various grades of micro-mesh. I started filing the top, with very light pressure and going in one direction only, not backwards and forwards.
After the first few strokes, the top of the bump was scuffed and no longer shiny. There was no turning back now. White powder deposits on my file told me that it was working.
Every 10 minutes or so I stopped to unmask the pen and examine my handiwork with a loupe. I was encouraged that there was no evidence of cracking and that the masking tape was doing a good job of protecting the surrounding area. Towards the end I switched to a finer grade of file.
Eventually, having almost reduced the bump to the level of the barrel, I stopped. I decided not to remove any more material, for fear of scuffing the glossy barrel. Also it was quite nice to leave a very slight prominence, for texture to help in gripping the pen.
The whole exercise took about 45 minutes. I am very happy with the result. I am now going to enjoy the pen even more.
Last week I spent a most delightful evening at Choosing Keeping, a lovely stationery shop in London’s Covent Garden. They were hosting an event to launch Platinum’s new retractable nib fountain pen, the Curidas. It was also a celebration of the Platinum pen company, attended by senior representatives of the company over from Japan and with a display of rarely seen fountain pens from the company’s 100 year history.
The new Curidas was on display, in each of the five colours (red, blue, green, smoky grey and clear). Also there were test pens on the counter to try out, in both the fine and medium nib options.
The Curidas is a fountain pen with a retractable nib operated by pressing the button that extends from the end of the barrel. Press once and the nib pops out through a trap door, with a satisfying click. Press again and the nib retreats and the door closes, to seal off the nib and keep it from drying out.
At first glance it is similar to Pilot’s Vanishing Point or Capless fountain pen, except that the Curidas is made of plastic and has a stainless steel nib. Also, the steel pocket clip is removable.
Disassembly and filling the pen.
As fountain pens go, this is a fun mechanism to play with and a very clever design. To fill the pen, you first unscrew and remove the barrel. Next you withdraw the entire nib, feed and ink housing. Simply push it inwards and then twist (like unscrewing a light bulb) and out it comes in one piece. Next you do a similar twist and pull operation, to remove the ink reservoir cover from the nib and feed unit.
Next you can attach either a Platinum ink cartridge to the feed, or a Platinum converter, before putting back the shiny chrome cover, inserting the whole unit back into the pen and screwing the barrel back on. It is easier than it sounds.
The pen is available with choice of medium or fine steel nib. I tried the fine nib first on the test pen and was immediately struck by how beautifully smooth and precise it was. I wanted to go on and on writing with it! I then tried the medium which was slightly broader but still on the fine side. The Curidas fine and medium nib options could perhaps be said to equate to a western extra fine and fine, or leaning towards it. After trying both, I decided to buy the pen, in blue, with the medium nib.
The nib is small and some might say, too small for the large pen. However, it is necessary to remember the practicalities of designing a nib that will retract into a pen barrel of this size.
The writing experience.
The medium nib on my model proved to be superb. Examined under a loupe, the tines were even and symmetrical and there was a slight gap between the tines. This is how I Iike them for good flow, with smooth, well lubricated writing with no downward pressure required. This suits my lefty over-writer style of writing.
At home, I loaded the supplied Platinum Blue Black cartridge. I clicked open the nib and was delighted that the pen wrote immediately from the first touch of nib to paper.
I was also thrilled with the Platinum Blue Black ink. The special promotion included a pack of 10 of these superb cartridges. The box features a picture of Mt Fuji and and states that the ink contains 5% natural water sourced from the base of Mt Fuji. The ink is a lovely shade of blue and water resistant. There is also a metal agitator ball.
I was very happy with the nib and the ink. However in terms of comfort there are a couple of potential issues to be aware of. First on the underside of the barrel, there is a rounded protrusion which accommodates part of the nib’s trap door when opened. It is quite far forward on the underside of the barrel but you may still find your second finger rubbing against this as you grip the pen if you hold the pen low, towards the nib
But the bigger problem for me, was the metal pocket clip. This is aligned with the nib and so if you hold the pen with finger and thumb symetrically placed, either side of the 12 o’clock point then the clip may not be in your way. But if like me, you rotate the nib slightly inwards, the pocket clip may then fall directly below your thumb which is not very comfortable.
The good news is that the metal pocket clip can be removed. A plastic tool for this purposes is included in the box. It works by being placed around the underside of the barrel and then being pushed inwards so that the chamfered edges slide under the metal clip and lift it off the raised locating pegs. In theory, you then slide the clip along and off the pen. In practice I found this very fiddly and awkward and I spent a frustrating few minutes pushing and shoving whilst worrying that something might break. I did eventually get the clip off but need to spend a bit more time practising the technique.
The bad news is that even with the pocket clip removed, there is still the issue of a plastic nodule protruding at the top of the barrel, which is to keep the clip in place.
At the moment, I am using the pen with the clip removed and waiting to see whether my grip adapts to this protrusion in time. Alternatively, I will have to think how I might remove it safely without risk of cracking the barrel and ruining the pen. But I do wish it was not there. For me the pen would be so much more comfortable without it: just try holding the pen by the opposite end of the barrel, to see how it would feel.
Weights and measurements.
The pen with a cartridge weighs about 26.5g of which about 2g is the pocket clip. Lengthwise, it is about 154mm closed but reduces to about 142mm when the nib is extended when most of the button retreats into the barrel. The girth of the barrel is roughly 13mm in diameter.
Likes and dislikes.
There is a lot to be said in favour of this new pen. The generous length, girth and weight are pleasing. The nib (on my model and the two test pens that I tried) is a delight and writes beautifully. The mechanism to extend and retract the nib is a marvellous design, save perhaps for the need to have a lump on the barrel for part of the trap door mechanism to go into. This does serve as a roll stop, if you have removed the pocket clip.
The pen seems very well made and comes in a range of attractive semi transparent colours and a clear demonstrator version. It has a good ink capacity: the Platinum cartridges hold 1.2ml and there is the converter option too (although sold separately). The cartridge or converter metal housing has cutaways to serve as an ink window.
On the down side, my only real complaint is the lumps and bumps on the barrel where you want to grip. It is a big help that you have the option of removing the clip. I found this a rather awkward operation and was disappointed that even with the clip removed, there is a still a plastic protrusion at the top of the barrel just where I would like to rest my thumb. There are a couple of other tiny locating bumps for the clip too but these are far enough out of the way not to be a problem.
It is a pity to have a dilemma of whether and how to file off a protruding piece of the pen barrel, to make the pen comfortable to hold. But perhaps this is just me because of my unusual way of holding the pen. I know that many people use the Pilot Vanishing Point or Lamy Dialog without such issues.
On balance, I found the positive points about this pen more than made up for the negatives. Admittedly it is only a few days old and still well within the new pen honeymoon period but I know I am going to like it.
The retractable nib and single-handed operation make this an ideal pen for quick notes while out and about, such as in a theatre or while standing without a place to put your pen cap. Ironically, these situations are also when a pocket clip is useful to carry the pen in a jacket pocket. If you have removed the clip to make the pen comfortable and then carry the pen in a pen case or sleeve, it rather defeats the object of being quick and easy. You cannot remove the pen from a pen case single handed and you will still need to find somewhere to put the pen case down while you write.
Perhaps I am in the minority here with my unusual grip style. The retractable nib is fun and a novelty. Above all, the pen writes superbly and so I will find a way to make it work for me. I am sure that it will prove to be a great success.
First, I appreciate that this is a fountain pen blog. The Parker Ingenuity is not what most people would call a fountain pen. “It is a pen, Jim, but not as we know it”.
Instead of applying ink to paper with a nib, this uses Parker’s “5th generation” cartridge refills, and is a fineliner, or fibre-tip pen.
Construction and design.
The model I have, called the Core Black and gold, is a large pen, in metal with a glossy black lacquer finish and gold plated fittings. I believe the gold areas to be PVD coated, rather than plated, although I read that this process creates a more durable finish. On the outside the pen looks quite traditional, even rather vintage perhaps, with a gold coloured finial, Parker arrow and cap band, which bears only the name Parker and logo. The gold colour disk in the finial feels textured and on closer inspection appears to have a spiral groove, like a vinyl record.
I gather that the Ingenuity has been around now since 2011, in various designs, featuring the 5th generation refill housed under a distinctive metal hood, which looks rather like a fountain pen nib. The underside of this looks rather like a feed, with rows of fins but these are not part of the pen but are part of the refill. They are also clean and dry and not inky!
The gently tapering barrel has a flat end, with another gold coloured disk but this time it is smooth and shiny.
The cap pulls off, quite stiffly and is pushed back on, with a click. When closed, it is snug and flush with the barrel. It can be posted securely but not very deeply (only covering about 16mm of the barrel) but the pen is long enough to use unposted.
Removing the cap reveals a long, metal, gently tapering and grooved grip section, then a raised rim (for the cap closing mechanism) and then, rather controversially, what looks like a fountain pen nib but is not, all in the same gold finish.
The “nib” bears the Parker name and some elegant decorative pattern, and there is a slit, between two tines. However, this is not a nib at all and protruding at the end of it, is a fineliner tip, with about 1.3mm of the tip showing beyond a metal collar.
So, this is a fineliner then, but there are some differences. The metal hood is instead a housing to lock the refill into the same position every time. When a refill is inserted, with its feed-like fins, it will rotate itself into the correct position and can only go in one way round. The tip will therefore always stay at the same writing angle.
Also, if you apply pressure as you write, there is a little give or flex available but the refill is then braced against the metal hood. If you hold the pen vertically and apply pressure then there is some bounce, from a spring located in the back of the barrel.
The section unscrews from the barrel. Plastic threads on the section meet more plastic threads on the inside of the metal barrel. I found the date code “IY” just after the plastic threads, which I believe denotes the third quarter of 2016 (the system being that “Y” is the 7th letter of QUALITYPEN counting from zero and that the “I” means that there is one quarter of the year remaining). I read that the Ingenuity was revised in 2015 and so mine is one of the later versions although I do not know what changes were made. Now that we are in 2020 I would like to see a new Parker with a Q date code, the first letter of the date series.
5th generation refills.
Replacement fineliner cartridges for the Ingenuity are made only by Parker. Also they are available only in black or blue and in two widths, Medium and Fine.
The writing experience.
This is a fineliner with a difference. First, it is contained in a much larger, heavier, more luxurious body. The black lacquer and the gold PVD coated section create an air of luxury. It is supposed to be like a fountain pen but without the fuss and so is presumably not targeted at fountain pen enthusiasts who actually like the fuss.
Secondly, the idea is that the refill will very quickly adjust to your angle of writing and will then form a flat writing surface, for smooth, lubricated, effortless writing. This is interesting for a fineliner. We are all familiar with the Parker Jotter ball point pens, the refills of which are designed to rotate each time the button is pressed, so as to allow for even wear on the ball. With the Ingenuity the opposite is true: it does not write with a ball but with a fibre tip point which is intended to adjust to form a flattened surface at the writer’s angle (like a fountain pen, but much faster) and to always present that same edge to the paper if you hold the pen consistently.
Thirdly there is supposed to be some interraction between the refill and the metal hood, bracing the tip against the “tines”and allowing some pressure to be applied although it would take a lot of pressure to get the tines to flex.
Weights and measurements.
This model is around 140mm closed, 127mm open, and weighs a substantial 43 grams with a refill inside. Uncapped, it weighs around 29.5 grams (including refill) and the cap on its own weighs around 12.5g. I find the size and weight very comfortable.
Likes and dislikes.
I must admit, that when I first encountered the Ingenuity some years ago, with a high price tag, I took no interest. It was only upon seeing this one at John Lewis in the January clearance sale, at well below half price, that I was tempted to finally give one a try. As well as the very generous price reduction, John Lewis offers a 35 days period in which to return the item, so there is little to worry about.
At full price, this is an expensive pen, arguably perhaps, too expensive for what it is. The bit that writes costs only about £6.00 and so you are paying a lot for the cap, barrel and section.
The refills are made only by Parker and so we have to hope that they go on making them. Also they are not as readily available as Parker ink cartridges or bottled ink.
The refills are available only in two colours, blue or black and in only two widths, Medium and Fine. (Bear in mind though that once the nib has adjusted to your angle, you can always turn the pen over and get a thinner line by “reverse writing”).
The cap is quite stiff. (Open the pen with your thumbs parallel to the barrel, not at right angles to it, that is my advice), which may detract a little from its practicality for quick notes, or any short writing session. Perhaps soft-capping is the answer here, when making occasional notes.
The biggest issue however, is the tendency of the ink to feather and to bleed through on some types of paper if you are not careful, especially if you hold the pen in one place and let it linger on the paper.
This is a good sized pen, comfortable and pleasant to hold.
The textured grip works well and the pen does not slip in the hand.
The PVD gold coating is attractive and gives a luxurious hard-wearing finish.
The tip very quickly molds to the writer’s angle of writing and so becomes more smooth and lubricated. I hope that this is achieved by a compression of the fibres and not by wear, otherwise the tip is going to wear down to the metal collar very quickly.
The pen writes effortlessly and gives a pleasant line, more attractive than ball-point pen and also requiring no downward pressure.
There are times when it is not very practical to use a fountain pen and the fineliner might be a good alternative.
There are some papers which, although smooth, have a draggy resistances when using fountain pens and I have found some paper which provides a much better writing experience with the Ingenuity than when using a fountain pen.
You can very easily switch refills, between blue and black and they all come with a clear plastic cap to prevent them from drying out.
I would not have bought one of these pens at their full price. Having bought it, I did encounter some “Buyer’s remorse” initially. However this soon passed as I got to appreciate the pen and it has swiftly grown on me, as I enjoy the smooth writing experience, which is even smoother on some papers, than my fountain pens.
This turning point came when I convinced myself that although the pen was (even at less than half price), still more expensive than I thought reasonable, it was perhaps not so much more. The full list price of this model is over £190.00. I could not see why it was so much more expensive than, say, a Parker IM in black lacquered metal with a steel nib. However the Ingenuity does have a large area of PVD gold coating, and is also a much larger pen.
So instead of harbouring thoughts of returning the pen, I invested in a few more 5th generation refills (which were on a special offer from Cult Pens, with 20% off). The pen came with a single black medium refill but I bought a fine tip version and also a couple of blue ones.
The pen has aroused my curiosity. I am interested to see how the tips will wear after extended use and also, for how many pages the ink may last. Paired with the right paper, this is a useful and enjoyable pen and I am glad to have overcome my prejudices and finally bought one. It will not replace my fountain pens but it is a useful tool and can be pleasurable to use, on suitable paper.
As another year draws to a close, it is an opportunity to take stock on where the fountain pen hobby has taken me and what has been achieved over the year. Once again, the hobby has provided me with a real, absorbing source of relaxation. I spend a lot of my free time in journaling, letter writing, trying out pens, ink and paper combinations, and other pen-related activities.
Again, I have kept a record of pens added to my accumulation. This year there were 44 new arrivals. Of these, seven were received as gifts (including a Sailor Pro Gear Slim that I won in a competition!) which leaves a balance of 37 pens that I bought for myself over the year at a total cost of £2,013.91. However a lot of these were inexpensive pens, such as Faber Castell Grips, Kaweco Perkeos and Cross Bailey Lights, that I was unable to resist for various reasons.
If I just extract those pens for which I spent more than £100.00, there are in fact only six significant buys:
Waterman Carene, in red, 18k gold nib, Medium, £151.20;
Visconti Van Gogh, Starry Night, steel nib, Fine: £120.00;
Aurora 88, black resin with gold plated cap, 14k gold nib, Medium:£344.50.
I have not included the Montegrappa Monte Grappa, that I bought in Harrods but then returned.
Thus, two thirds of my annual spend was on just six significant pens, which is not a huge number for the whole year. Also, my total pen expenditure was down on 2018’s total of £3,303.73, which is a reduction of around 39%.
Part of the reason for this is that I was fortunate to be given several very desirable previously owned pens as gifts from a friend and fellow fountain pen enthusiast during the year, including a Pilot Custom 823, a Montblanc Heritage 1912, a 1970’s Montblanc Meisterstuck 146 (with a soft broad nib) and a Graf von Faber-Castell Guilloche in black with a broad 18k gold nib.
Then in November, I was thrilled to win the Sailor Pro Gear Slim, with a music nib in a generous giveaway/competition from John Hall of Write Here in Shrewsbury. This is a delightful pen, one that I had not owned before and which I am much enjoying, not only for its performance but also for the happy associations that it has for me.
Apart from the enjoyment of new pens, the year has been punctuated with monthly gatherings of the London fountain pen club, although the group became fragmented with a move to a different location and so numbers have been down and it is not what it used to be. Still, it has still been nice to meet up, to enthuse over each other’s pens and have a chat for a couple of hours once a month.
In March, I attended the London Pen Show and came away with a very restrained total of two pens – the Diplomat Excellence with a gold nib and the Leonardo Furore, in vibrant orange and bearing serial number 001 for this colour.
I enjoyed taking a few pens on holidays for journaling during the year – to Dubai, Italy and Menorca. I have established a new tradition of bringing my Montblanc Classique as a travel pen for any overseas trips. Keeping an eye open for pen shops whilst abroad, is another of my habits.
In September the Pelikan Hub came round once again and was a rather expanded version of our pen club meets, but with a few extra visitors from further afield. We all got to take home a bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Star Ruby, a Pelikan magazine a writing pad and reignited our appreciation of all things Pelikan. Reading the write ups aftewards on social media, of Hubs all over the world was fun.
I have enjoyed putting out the occasional post to this blog, for another year. These are not planned very far in advance and depend upon (a) having something to say and (b) the time and energy to write it! This has not come together as much as I would have liked.
When the energy is not there, it is easier to relax and read other blogs and be inspired and entertained by posts on WordPress, Instagram and YouTube. It is all too easy to allow hours to pass in this way, which makes it all the more valuable to have some real human contact with the monthly pen meets.
I do appreciate the time and effort that others put in to creating new content for their blogs. I was sorry to see in November that Anthony had decided to call time on his blog, UK Fountain Pens after three prolific years but fully understood his reasons for doing so.
As for inks, I have not been very adventurous this year and have bought very little. My most used bottled inks are probably Conway Stewart Tavy, (a blue black now made by Diamine), Waterman Serenity Blue and Montblanc Royal Blue. At the pen show I bought a bottle of Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, which I have settled on for use exclusively with my Montblanc Classique.
I also discovered Montblanc Permanent Blue. I have been using this with a Platinum Procyon, as it has a good slip-and-seal inner cap that resists drying out. I have also put it in one of my Cross Bailey Lights.
I am impressed with the Permanent Blue. At Christmas my neice gave me an A5 soft cover journal, from “Agenzio by Paperchase.” As is my custom, I first tried out a range of different inks (from my currently inked pen cups) on the back page, to see which were best suited. The paper is pleasant to write on but is prone to bleedthrough with many of my inks. However I found that with Montblanc Permanent Blue, there was no bleedthrough and also hardly any show through, or ghosting. Likewise with Sailor Kiwa-guro permanent black and so these will be my choices for this note book.
Pen favourites of 2019.
I really have spoilt myself with pens this year and have had some great additions. I also count myself as very fortunate, among the pen community, to be capable of getting just as excited with an inexpensive pen if it is comfortable, well made and good looking and writes well, as an expensive one. But that is not to say that I do not appreciate great pens as having special value. A few of the stand-out pens for me in 2019 were the following:-
Montblanc Heritage 1912: this is the special edition, retractable nib, piston filling pen that came out a few years ago but is no longer made. It has a unique Montblanc nib that is softer than those on the current Meisterstuck range and is a pen to cherish and enjoy.
The Aurora 88: this was bought online from Iguanasell of Spain, when a particularly attractive price was available back in the summer. It is a piston filling pen, in black resin with gold plated cap and has a real presence. The 14k gold nib is supposedly a Medium but writes more like a Fine in my view and is very comfortable and enjoyable, paired currently with Tavy.
The Sailor Pro Gear Slim, with 14k music nib: The music nib provides a very pleasing italic line for general writing, when held at a consistent angle and when you keep it at the sweet spot. I think the “Slim” name is rather a misnomer and could be off-putting for some. The girth is not particularly slim, although it is smaller than the classic or the King of Pen, which are progressively larger. However it is a short pen at around 124mm capped, almost pocket-pen size, yet makes a very comfortable length when the cap is posted. This pen has won a special place in my heart.
The year’s best cheap pens.
I have enjoyed discovering plenty of very affordable and well-performing pens over the year. There is the Faber-Castell Grip, now sold in Paperchase at £15.00 with a smooth steel nib. In Dubai I came across a Pilot cartridge or eye-dropper pen called the AMS 86 G3 ASTD, sold on a blister pack for about £6.00 which was fun, although I made a mistake to start with in trying to force in the cartridge the wrong way round.
Towards the end of the year I was introduced to the new Cross Bailey Light, by Patrick, of John Lewis’ pen department. Over the following few weeks I went on to buy six of these, one in each of the available colours and now have them each inked in different inks. Patrick joked that he would have to send me on to the furniture department, to have somewhere to put all these pens.
Perhaps the greatest value though, has to be the Wing Sung 699, a vac filler and homage to the Pilot Custom 823 but with a steel nib and costing around £16 to £20 on ebay. I learned of these from Daniel at our pen club and now have two of them, one with a fine nib and one with a medium.
Sitting down to write with a fountain pen, is one of life’s pleasures. Finding combinations of pen, ink and paper that go togther well, is part of the enjoyment. The act of “thinking with a pen”, remembering, reflecting and organising your thoughts on pen and paper is immensely satisfying.
I now find myself owning a large selection of excellent pens in a wide variety of brands and at all price levels up to around £400.00. I do not have a strong desire to go above that ceiling, although if I did, the ones that tempt me are the Scribo 3 , Pelikan M1000 or the Montblanc 149. At a lower level, I could easily be tempted to try other pens and nibs from Sailor, perhaps a Pro Gear Classic or a 1911 Large. If I can stop myself from buying quite so many pens next year, I could aim for a select few special pens and still come under my total spend figure for this year.
For all this talk of pens, the hobby would be rather shallow but for the people who make up the fountain pen community of enthusiasts, users, collectors, reviewers, bloggers and Instagrammers and YouTubers, plus the manufacturers, dealers, the friendly sales staff I have dealt with in shops over the year and those who run all the enticing sites such as Cult Pens, The Writing Desk, Iguanasell and the like. A big thank you to them too and for all who read and support this blog. I wish you a Happy New Year!
I have a friend at our London UK Fountain Pen Club, Daniel, to thank for introducing me to this exciting pen. At our November meet up, he brought his along. I was so impressed with it, that I promptly ordered one. I found a UK seller on ebay and it arrived within about four days. This is a large, vacuum filling fountain pen, from Chinese brand Wing Sung, presumably based upon the renowned Japanese Pilot Custom 823, but with a steel nib and at a fraction of the price. Wing Sung 699 fountain pen.
Appearance and construction.
I ordered the amber demonstrator version, with gold coloured fittings. There is a finial (which unscrews if you wish to disassemble the cap for cleaning) and a pocket clip, which is firm and springy and has the Wing Sung logo. The cap ring bears the inscription WING SUNG 699 MADE IN CHINA.The cap unscrews, in one full rotation. The section, on mine is of the matching amber demonstrator, clear plastic but there is an option to purchase an opaque section if preferred. The nib, which appears to be a size 6, is steel and bicoloured. I believe it is friction fit but I have not tried to remove it for fear of causing damage. Mine is a Fine nib, (0.5mm) which is what most of the sellers were selling on ebay. This bears the Wing Sung logo and the name “WING S” followed by F for fine.Bicolour steel nib in a Fine. The section is separated from the barrel by a gold ring. Be careful not to lose this when the section is unscrewed for cleaning. At the other end of the barrel, is the turning knob which unscrews to operate the filling plunger. There is another gold ring at this point.
The pen when capped measures 150mm making it one of the tallest in my pen cup. Uncapped, it is around 133mm which is a good, generous length to use unposted, in comfort. The cap can be posted but not very securely and also it makes the pen very long, at around 170mm.Wing Sung 699 (right), alongside a Pilot Custom 823.
Filling the pen.
This is the fun part. You unscrew the end button and draw back the plunger which is at the end of a metal rod. Immerse the nib in ink. Then, whilst supporting the pen to protect the nib, push down on the plunger. You feel the resistance, as the air is pushed out of the barrel and a vacuum builds behind the plunger. Then, as the plunger reaches the end of its travel, the ink chamber widens, the vacuum is broken and ink whooshes in. It is fast and thrilling. One attempt is usually enough to get a good quantity of ink, provided that the nib was sufficiently immersed. You then screw the plunger knob back down again, wipe off any ink residue on the nib and you are ready to go. Being a demonstrator, you get to see the pen filling, although the amber finish also means that the ink sloshing around in the barrel is not distracting in use. The pen holds a large quantity of ink, even allowing for the fact that it might come only half way up the barrel on one attempt. For anyone brave enough who wants a bigger fill and thrill, you can go back for seconds. To do this, hold the pen, nib uppermost, and, very carefully pull back your plunger again and then slowly push it inwards, (and I emphasize, VERY CAREFULLY) to expel some air from the barrel, and push the plunger and the ink, upwards until it reaches close to the top of the ink chamber. Then, while still holding the plunger in the same position, invert the pen, immerse the nib in the ink bottle again and push the plunger down the rest of the way. This should result in a near complete fill of the barrel capacity and keep you writing for probably 100 pages or so! The plunger, when screwed down, seals off the ink reservoir from the nib and feed. Therefore, if writing more than a page or two you may need to unscrew the end button just enough to raise the plunger a little and allow ink to replenish the feed. You may leave it unscrewed if writing a lot or else allow it to recharge the feed and then screw it back down again if preferred. This handy feature helps avoid leaks when travelling.
The nib and writing performance.
As mentioned, I chose the fine nib. This proved to be nicely set up, right out of the box and needed no adjustment. The tines were nicely even and there was a narrow nib slit visible under the loupe, to indicate the prospect of good ink flow and effortless writing which I appreciate, especially as a lefty overwriter. The nib has a slight bit of bounce, sufficient to allow some shading when a little downward pressure is applied but being a fine, steel nib, there is not a lot of noticeable line width variation. The nib is not overly wet. Indeed it may feel dry but bear in mind that this is a fine nib. When viewed under an illuminated loupe whilst writing, you see that it is wet enough and that the fresh ink emerges, wet and gleaming. It has a distinctive toothy feedback which I very much enjoy and which helps enable the pen to cope with very smooth writing paper.Nib and feed.
I am very excited with this pen. I do now have an original Pilot Custom 823, which had been on my wish list for a long time but hard to come by in the UK. Earlier this year I received one as a gift from a very generous pen friend in Melbourne, in black with a beautifully buttery smooth 14k gold nib, in Pilot’s size 15. That is a fantastic pen and a wonderful thing to have. The Wing Sung 699 gives you the same advantages, in size, comfort and filling mechanism. In some respects the Wing Sung even scores more highly as:
the nib is toothy, whereas some people find the Pilot nibs too smooth;
the section can be unscrewed easily making cleaning easy
the Wing Sung costs only around 16.00 pounds (as opposed to over 200.00 pounds for the Pilot).
At our December get together of the pen club, I brought my new Wing Sung along. History repeated itself and a friend John had the same reaction to it that I had and promptly ordered one for himself. Meanwhile I have ordered another, in blue this time and with a medium (0.7mm)nib. It is coming from China this time and I will look forward to receiving it in a few more weeks.A lovely specimen and unbelievably great value.
I have been tinkering with blending my own inks lately with quite pleasing results.
Its funny how one thing leads to another. Things started when I was impressed by a lovely writing sample on Instagram from a TWSBI Diamond 580 with a 1.1 stub nib and a grey ink. I got out my own TWSBI with a 1.1 stub and inked it with the closest equivalent ink that I had, being Montblanc Oyster Grey. However, aside from not having such accomplished handwriting, the ink didn’t appeal to me and almost instantly I wanted to flush it out.
I happened to have a Pineider Travelling Inkwell to hand, in which I had put the last one or two mililitres from a bottle of Conway Stewart Tavy. It occurred to me to flush the Oyster Grey into this and mix them together.
I posted a review of the Pineider Travelling Inkwell in December 2018 and commented that one of the advantages is that you can combine inks in it without contaminating a whole bottle. Also if you flush your pen into this, you may create something useful and also avoid wasting ink. It is a win win situation. You can happily clean out a pen, put it away and not feel guilty about wasting half a converter of good ink.
So, I flushed the Oyster Grey into the inkwell with the existing Tavy and shook up the contents. I then refilled the TWSBI from this new brew and found that I had a pleasant blue black.
Recently I have been enjoying the new Cross Bailey Light fountain pen. I was so pleased with my first one of these, in grey, that I went back to buy another and picked up the turquoise version. I had envisaged it filled with a matching turquoise or teal ink.
I filled the pen with Robert Oster Signature Aqua. However there was something about the combination of this ink and the colour of the pen that made me a bit queasy. Perhaps it was too matchy matchy, or maybe the clash of not-quite-matching colours was jarring.
So, I decided to flush the Aqua into the inkwell of Tavy and Oyster Grey, shook it around and then immediately refilled the Cross pen. This produced a much darker teal ink, easier on the eye than the neat Aqua. I temporarily named this TavOyAq.
This fill was rather shortlived though, as a few days later, I decided to flush out a few more pens. One was a Wing Sung 601 clear demonstrator, which had been inked for months with Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red, but little used and still contained a good quantity of ink. I also had a couple of pens in the pen cup with the residue of a standard international cartridge, one of blue ink and one of black.
The temptation to live dangerously got the better of me and I flushed the Garnet Red, the anonymous blue and black, all into my travelling inkwell.
Miraculously, this gave rise to a very dark blue black which I liked very much. The black ink had been minimal, otherwise this would have overpowered everything else. The bright aqua was well subdued. There was no trace of the red. But I had half expected to get a dark brown and was delighted to find that I had a blue black instead. It was so dark as to be almost like an iron gall, registrar’s ink. I do not have a name for this six ink blend. The best I can suggest is dark inky blue-black.
I immediately filled my Cross pen back up again with the new brew. I have been using this mix happily for a week at work now and still have about 3 ml left, probably enough for another 4 – 5 fills for a Cross converter. It flows and shades well and seems well behaved.
It is a bit of a gamble, I know. You need to decide when to stop. You could go too far and blow it all, in an ugly mess. There is a risk that the inks will be incompatible and congeal into something horrible. The smarter thing to do would be to leave the ink overnight or longer in the inkwell, checking it once in a while for any signs of solidifying, before putting the mix in your pen. However I was too excited and impatient for this approach and also figured that the Cross Bailey Light was an inexpensive and simple pen on which to experiment. If anything went wrong, I could flush it out and leave the nib section to soak. This pen is also ideally suited for use with the Pineider Travelling Inkwell, having just the sort of section that the inkwell likes, namely fairly wide, smooth, tapering and not faceted.
Of course I have not been at all scientific about measurements and keeping records. I have some samples from looking back at my Leuchtturm notebook which gets used for tinkering with pens and inks. But as for quantities, I do not have any precise details of the amounts or proportions that went into my mix.
It is satisfying to create a unique and very limited edition blend of ink, especially if the colour is pleasing. Everyone’s creations will be different.
To summarise, the advantages of the Pineider Inkwell are, being able to use your last 1ml of ink; providing a receptacle for emptying pens of unwanted ink; avoiding waste; and potentially coming up with some new and satisfying inky blends. The moral of the tale is that you do not need to be overly cautious about fears of incompatible inks having a bad reaction. Perhaps some do but I have been ok in my limited experience so far and this is something that you can try out on your cheap pens first. Happy mixing!
Before I soldier on with my blog as if nothing has happened, it seems rude not to say a few words of thanks to Anthony for his excellent blog, ukfountainpens.com.
On 16 November 2019, in a post entitled (with characteristic humour) “It’s not you, it’s me,” Anthony announced his decision to end his blog, after almost three years. This post was met with an outpouring of comments from his many shocked readers, expressing sadness at his decision but also, understanding at his reasons, which he had laid out and explained with honesty and undeniable logic.
During this time, it seems that he has done it all. Having long since exhausted the mainstream options, he had bought pens from every conceivable source, tried every sort of nib, published numerous detailed and authoritative reviews, set himself challenges, met them, not met them, published interviews, travels with pens stories, currently inked lists, buying guides, news round-ups, pen show write-ups and editorials.
I, like many of his blog followers, will miss his posts. Since January 2017, Anthony has published some 319 posts, bringing us on his journey through the world of stationery and in particular, his passion for fountain pens and inks.
I am not setting out here to review the reviewer, which would be patronising, but just to acknowledge the achievement and work that has gone into this. Since New Year’s Day in 2017, Anthony has grown the blog to achieve around half a million views.
His blog was always interesting, entertaining, informative and written in his engaging style. Being a writer by profession must have helped, with a keen interest in product photography too, but it is still a lot of work to be a frequent blogger. From September to November alone he published some 47 posts.
Anthony has an insatiable appetite for the best that the world of fountain pens has to offer. To some extent, he bought, tried and reviewed these pens so that we did not have to. At times it was staggering to hear how many ever more fabulous pens were incoming. The rate at which he bought and then sold some of his high end pens if they did not make the grade, also became staggering. And all this, while trying to reconcile his temptations with a longing for minimalism, tidiness and order.
Anthony probably tried harder than anyone else I know in the fountain pen community, to keep his collection of quality pens to around thirty to fit his storage facility and to move any pens on, which he was not using. He also went to unusual lengths to control his ink stockpile, by selling boxes containing a random selection of almost full bottles of inks, to buyers happy to take the gamble on a mystery selection. That sounded a lot of fun to be a part of.
One of the nice things I find about the fountain pen community generally, is that we take people as we find them. Everyone is different, has different tastes, budgets, talents and foibles. Anthony admits to having an obsessive tendency and recognised that his pen buying habit had become unhealthy and that the demands of maintaining his blog were fuelling this. He chose to take decisive action and call time on his blogging, at the height of its success.
Anthony’s posts were often thought provoking. On occasions, I made notes from his posts, leaving a column to insert and compare my opinions next to his. One such post was “Are we pen-compatible?” of 3 February 2019. Here he detailed his fountain pen likes and dislikes. We are both left handed over-writers. He never posts his pens. I mostly do. The most telling distinction between us was that he generally did not use pens costing under £150 and his pens were mostly to be found in the range of £300 to £500. For me, whilst I have a handful of what I call valuable pens, such as Montblancs, a Pelikan M800 and recently an Aurora 88, the majority of my pen accumulation falls in the “below £150” category.
Our paths did run in parallel, to some extent. My blog was started in November 2016, a couple of months before his. However I seldom produce more than three posts a month and my viewing figures were dwarfed by Anthony’s. But it never felt as though we were competing. Our interests lay at opposite ends of the spectrum, although occasionally they converged in the middle (for example, over the excellent Waterman Carene).
Through Anthony’s post on the Parker Duofold International, my interest in this pen was aroused and I went on to buy from Anthony, the very model that he had reviewed. On another occasion, Anthony bought a Kaweco Dia2 partly on the strength of my review. However, he later found that the pen did not suit him and I bought it from him.
After reading that there would be no more posts, I trawled the archives on his web site to compile a list of all his back catalogue by number, date and title. I wanted to make a checklist against which I could record which I had read and to help catch up on those I had missed. The list runs to 13 A4 pages. Many warrant a second reading and bring a smile to my face, such as the line in his review of the Montblanc Heritage 1912 ” I recently went on a business trip, and found myself unable to get in the taxi to the airport until I had it safely in my jacket pocket, like a weighty talisman”. I now have a 1912 of my own.
I appreciate that some of these posts will have taken several hours to create. We do well to remember that what readers may take 10 minutes to devour, may have taken the writer half a day or more to plan, photograph, draft and edit. It is a labour of love and if it stops being fun for the writer, it is time to stop.
I hope that Anthony’s blog will remain up for the foreseeable future, for everyone to enjoy as it represents a huge body of work. Three years is a good chunk of time. I would have started writing this piece a few hours ago but have just been enjoying again some of his older issues, back to back.
So, thank you Anthony for this legacy to the online pen community and best wishes for the future, wherever the journey takes you.