Pineider Avatar fountain pen review.

After attending our monthly pen club meet in London recently, I took myself off to Harrods to have a browse around The Great Writing Room. It is wonderful to see their large selection of luxury fountain pens from so many leading brands.

A new name to me, was Pineider, an Italian brand established in 1774, whose pens and stationery were displayed in a corner of the large room. Under the glass counter, one pen was shown in a gift box which immediately caught my eye as it opened like a miniature writing desk. I asked to see the pen, with an attractive green marbled body and a silver section. However, it had an 18k gold nib and was five hundred and something pounds and so I hastily handed it back.

But next to this pen was a display of, what I now know to be the Pineider Avatar fountain pens, in their four available colour options of saffron yellow, pacific blue, lipstick red and coal grey. These looked very striking, particularly the yellow and the red versions.

DSCN2173
Pineider Avatar in gift box including samples of Pineider stationery.

I must say, I am generally wary of pens with shiny metal sections as they can be slippery to hold. The salesman got the red one out to show me and produced some ink and paper. I fell in love with it pretty much instantly.

As this is a relatively new pen on the market and there do not seem to be all that many reviews or photographs online I will attempt an FPN-style review, save for giving marks out of ten.

RSCN2029
The long steel, Rhodium plated nib of the Pineider Avatar. After my early worries about scratching the barrel, I soon decided that the pen felt better with cap posted.

First impressions, appearance and design.

This is a stunning-looking pen. The highly polished, bright red marbled resin with contrasting silver coloured clip and cap band, with rounded ends, make the pen a joy to hold and to look at. The resin has light and dark shades which give a beautiful chatoyance as you turn the pen in your hands.

The pocket clip (in marine steel) is long and slender, engraved to suggest a quill. It is bowed in the middle and is sprung, giving a good reach to clip onto thicker material if needed although the spring tension is not very firm.

DSCN2175
Distinctive clip in the shape of a quill.

A surprise awaits when you come to remove the cap. It is a pull-off cap, but secured by a magnet inside the cap which meets a metal ring around the barrel. When you cap the pen, offering it up slowly as it nears the barrel, it jumps into place with a little click. The magnetic power is enough to keep the cap in place. Removing the cap requires perhaps rather less force than you might be used to and I would not be overly confident about carrying the pen in a suit pocket for fear that the pen may slip out of the cap.

Another lovely feature is the cap band, which features the name Pineider above a stylised engraving of the Florence skyline recalling to mind the many domes and towers of that beautiful city.

DSCN2158
Better than just writing “Florence” on the cap band.

Under the cap, you have a long, sleek, elegantly shaped nib and some attractive engraving, which includes on closer inspection, the name Pineider in capital letters, written normally along one edge of the nib and in mirror image along the other edge. Put like that, it might sound off-putting but it is only noticeable when examined under a magnifying glass.

The section is of a shiny metal finish, and gives the front end of the pen a pleasant weight, which you notice and appreciate as soon as the cap is removed. The metal section tapers slightly save for the last five millimetres or so where it straightens, to give a barely visible but effective, curved, finger rest, when the pen is held in the writing position.

Construction and Quality.

The pen seems very nicely made and I have no complaints with my model. The resin barrel screws firmly onto the metal threads of the section. Everything fits together well. If looking for faults, you could say that the rim of the cap band is a little sharp to the touch, but this has not been noticeable in normal use. The pocket clip, whilst attractive, looks rather delicate (compared, for example to the mighty and barely lift-able clip on my Montegrappa Fortuna), but this is not a problem for me as I carry the pen in a leather pen case, not a pocket.

Weight and dimensions (approximate).

Capped: 142mm

Uncapped: 130mm

Posted: 161mm

The pen weighs around 27.5g, capped or posted. Uncapped, it is about 17g and the cap alone weighs 10.5g.  These weights are ideal, being neither too heavy nor too light.

The uncapped length of 130mm makes this about the same as a Lamy Safari. But whilst I find the Safari comfortable to use unposted, I much prefer to use the Avatar with the cap posted. Perhaps this is because I hold it higher up, (due to the shiny section) or due to the fact that the barrel tapers slightly, but it feels very comfortable posted. It is long, but the cap is light and does not upset the balance. I worried a little at first about whether posting the cap with its magnet inside, would leave scratches on the barrel. However, I found the pen so much more comfortable when posted and soon decided not to worry about this. The pen is meant to be used. I think it does actually cause some scratches but they are only visible under a loupe.

Nib and Performance.

I love this nib! It is Rhodium plated steel, with no breather hole and having a very polished finish that matches the section. The long sweeping curves look stylish. Mine is a medium. A fine is also available. I had tried the pen before buying and was delighted that it wrote so smoothly. It is on the finer side of medium and ideal for me. Flow is wet, but not gushy. Overall, it provides a really pleasant writing experience with some feedback. There is some softness or flex available to give some pleasing line variation in normal writing, and this suits me nicely as my handwriting style is not compatible with more flexible nibs.  I like that the nib is steel and not gold as this keeps the cost down.

DSCN2183
Writing sample, medium nib. Ink is Conway Stewart Tavy.

Filling system and maintenance.

This is a cartridge converter pen taking standard international cartridges, or bottled ink from the Pineider branded, push-fit converter that is included.  Cleaning of such pens is straightforward: you just run water through the section until it comes clear, or leave the whole section, with nib and feed inside, to soak in water overnight if needed before rinsing again.

I have not tried going any further, removing the nib from the section. The fins on the underside of the feed look quite fine and delicate and I would be worried about damaging them or upsetting the nib alignment.

Cost and value.

The price in Harrods was £148.00, which I thought was fair. I was thrilled to learn that it came in the same type of gift box as the much more expensive model. A converter is inside, but the box also includes a sample of Pineider’s famous stationery – a set of six cards with matching envelopes.  It is probably towards the top end of what you would want to pay for a steel nibbed pen before moving up to a gold nib.

DSCN2180
Free stationery!

Conclusion.

This pen was an impulse buy from a brand that was unknown to me, and therefore bought entirely on its own merits and on the basis of what I learned in the store. This absence of homework is not always recommended but on this occasion I am really pleased with the pen. Trying the nib in the shop makes a big difference in lowering the risk.

I have since learned a little bit more about the company behind the pen. The Pineider company was founded in Florence in 1774, and for many years was known for its high quality stationery, which it supplied to the Vatican and to royalty.  Luciano Pavarotti was also a customer. The company also sold luxury leather goods, but was not noted for its pens. However, Dante Del Vecchio, pen designer of Italian brand Visconti left that company and moved to Pineider where for the last year,  he has set about making the fountain pen line more prominent. Thus it is no accident that the Avatar bears similarities to the Visconti Rembrandt. There are some differences too, and whilst I do not have experience of the Rembrandt, I rather preferred the Avatar’s overall flair.

I am greatly enjoying the pen. There are few pens that actually make you want to get up in the morning, to write with. This one is a keeper and I look forward to writing with it for many years to come.

 

A fresh look at the Lamy Studio 65 fountain pen.

This is not so much a review, as an admission that our first impressions are not always correct and we can change our minds about pens.

The Lamy Studio is a pen that, for a long time, I did not think I needed. Certainly, I liked the idea of the pen, namely a nib of a Lamy Safari or AL-Star, but housed in a more business-like and slightly more up market body. I do possess numerous colourful Safaris and several AL-Stars, as they are good value, decent sized without posting and perform well, despite my not being a fan of the faceted section.

DSCN1977
Lamy Studio 65 fountain pen, with Lamy Safari above

So when I first learned of the Studio, having all the benefits of the stainless steel nib that I like but without the faceted section, I was quite keen. But then I handled the pen and was put off by the shiny chrome tapering section, which I could imagine being slippery to hold. Apart from that, when handling the pen in a shop, I noticed that the rim of the cap seemed rather sharp (almost as though you could use it to cut holes in leather) giving the impression that it was unfinished.

So I was able to put the Studio out of my mind quite easily, without hankering to own one.

However, fast-forwarding several years, I realise now that not all Studios are equal. Whilst the dark Imperial Blue or the Black versions (named the 67) have the shiny chrome section, there is also a steel version with a black section (called the 65).  And whilst I had assumed these to be priced the same, it transpires that the steel version without a chrome section, actually costs a little less.

RSCN1975
Lamy Studio 65, with soft-touch grip.

When in our local WH Smiths recently, I saw the steel Studio offered for sale at just £39 and decided to take a closer look. And there I discovered that the black grip section on this model is not finished in metal but in a rubbery material which is not at all slippery. And so for this modest outlay, I gave it a go.

DSCN1969
Unboxing. A cartridge and a converter are included.

First, about the grip: I cannot tell you exactly what it is made of. It could be a plastic with a soft-touch finish. But I rather suspect that the rubbery feel might be formed from a thin transparent skin of silicone or similar synthetic rubber. I have another fountain pen with a similar feel to the grip, an old Parker Frontier in brushed stainless steel finish, which served me well for several years, but the grip material eventually wore away in places, leaving a very smooth (and slippery) plastic underneath.

So the Studio 65 might have a similar material. If so then a more normal moulded plastic, perhaps textured like some of the Safaris, (but without the facets) would I think have been preferable.

But the purpose of this post is to say that I have been using the Studio now for several weeks, and am finding it to be great as a day to day work pen and an EDC. It is comfortable to hold. It is pleasant to use either posted or not posted. Yes, the rim of the cap is a bit thin and sharp but I appreciate that this is a consequence of the pen having a cap which is perfectly flush with the barrel when capped, and with just a minimal step down from barrel to section when the cap is removed.

RSCN1984
Cap forms flush fit with barrel. Also, thin cap material means a minimal step between barrel and section.

Any post about the Lamy Studio would not be complete without some mention of the pocket clip. It is attractive and unusual and sometimes described as being like a blade of a propeller (although this is not strictly correct). It is appealing to look at and does well at stopping the pen from rolling on a flat surface. But as a pocket clip, (to actually clip the pen into a pocket) it is awkward to lift over material. It does not bother me as I carry it in a pen case. Some may like it but I fear that it was a triumph of looks over function.

RSCN1979
The famous Lamy Studio clip.

Having said all of that, I do enjoy using the pen. I found recently that I had accumulated a dozen or so pens over the years with an all steel finish, including the Parker Frontier mentioned above, but I think that this Studio 65 may prove to be my favourite of these, in terms of size, writing performance, reliability and comfort.

DSCN1972

Some early thoughts on the Montegrappa Fortuna fountain pen.

The Elmo & Montegrappa S.p.A. (public company) traces its origins to the Italian city of Bassano del Grappa in 1912, a date commemorated in the finial of this pen. Fortuna was the Roman name for the goddess of fortune (chance, luck and fate), so I gather.

My experience of Montegrappa fountain pens has until now been minimal. I had noticed them a few times in recent years when browsing in Harrods or Selfridges in London but had never owned one. However, I had heard good reports and on my latest visit to Selfridges I decided to give them a closer look. I was drawn to the Fortuna, in black which looked to be a good sized, un-fussy model with a stainless steel nib. Initially I was interested to hold it to see whether the metal cap threads and step from the barrel to the section, would be uncomfortable. They do coincide with where I hold the pen but the threads are not sharp and I was satisfied that they would not cause discomfort.

RSCN1922
Montegrappa Fortuna fountain pen.

I then had a closer look at the nib. It looked to be very nicely set up but I was also impressed by the decorative work in a sort of geometrical honeycomb pattern. I then tried writing with it. Wow! It felt beautifully smooth. It was a steel medium although the sales assistant explained that these were on the finer side of medium. This sounded ideal for me as I am sometimes unsure which to chose, between a fine and a medium.

After comparing the alternative models in the range, I settled on the black one that I had tried and also picked up a bottle of Montegrappa ink, in blue black.

DSCN1897
My writing paw.

Description

The Fortuna is constructed of resin in a gleaming, polished black finish and is a cartridge-converter pen taking standard international cartridges. The cap is rather torpedo shaped after which the cap and barrel taper down . The two ends of the pen are flattened. The pocket clip is extremely stiff but ends in a metal wheel which rolls as the clip slides over the side of a leather pen pouch, for example. The cap screws on, in about one and a quarter turns.  The section is of the same, glossy back resin as the cap and barrel. All threads are steel, except for those inside the cap. Under the barrel, a Montegrappa converter is included although the package also included two black cartridges.

DSCN1894
Montegrappa screw-fit converter included.

Size and weight (approximate)

Capped, the pen measures 135mm. Uncapped, it is 127mm but the cap posts deeply and securely to give a length of 157mm. Being a resin pen, this does not make the pen too back heavy, in my opinion, and I tend to prefer using it posted for all but the shortest of notes.  The exposed part of the nib measures 24mm.

Capped or posted, the total weight is around 30.5g, which I find to be neither too heavy nor too light. Uncapped it was 18.5g and the cap alone was around 12g.

The nib

As mentioned this is a stainless steel nib, and will suit those who like their nibs firm, but smooth. It bears the inscription,  Montegrappa, ITALIA, and an M for medium. I was thrilled to find the nib so well adjusted, giving what I consider an ideal flow, generously wet without being overly so and providing a lovely smooth writing experience.

RSCN1903
After filling, ink pools in the patterns and lettering of the nib. Quite lovely.

Likes

Getting the pen home, I spent some time making pleasant surprise discoveries, apart from the obvious pleasure of the writing experience with the Montegrappa blue black ink. To list them all here may need a spoiler alert. Skip this paragraph if you prefer to be surprised by joy!

  • Detailing in the finial, with the year 1912, a laurel wreath pattern and other decoration. It looks distinctive in the pen cup;
  • Unusual rolling wheel design at the end of the pocket clip;
  • Attractive pattern on the nib; after dipping the pen, the nib emerges with the lettering filled with ink;
  • Nice quality, screw-in converter, with Montegrappa branding, and a metal coil ink agitator inside; this should avoid ink starvation, from ink staying at the top end of the converter;
  • Montegrappa name in silver, on the two supplied cartridges;
  • Particularly nice, dark blue gift box, with silver coloured (metal?) Montegrappa name plate on the top and the name in blue on the inside.  Removable pen tray, reveals warranty and information booklet below; but lower section of box is also lined, making this a nice storage box to keep for future use;
  • The gift box is protected in a separate blue cardboard box and lid, with a hinged front flap for ease of access and a separate paper outer sleeve. Both boxes (and the ink box) bear the same geometric pattern as appears on the nib;
  • Attractive, octagonal glass ink bottle with plastic lid and silver coloured centre badge with “1912”.
  • Secure packaging of ink bottle, with cardboard insert in box; bottle and lid wrapped in protective layer and also sealed in clear plastic.
  • 24 months’ guarantee against manufacturing defects;
  • I will not review the ink here but suffice it to say, that Montegrappa Blue Black performs beautifully paired with this lovely smooth wet nib and I have found this combination to work better on the paper of some of my Paperchase journals than many other pen and ink combinations.
RSCN1921
Cap and finial

Dislikes

  • Pocket clip is very stiff; whilst it is good that the pen is unlikely to fall out of a pocket, this does make it rather hard to use and I am more likely to carry the pen in a leather pen pouch than a jacket pocket;
  • The rolling wheel in the pocket clip could fall out and get lost;
  • The steel-into-plastic cap threads need care not to over-tighten but also feel a little too easy to undo. Another good reason for carrying the pen in a pouch rather than straight in a pocket;
  • Whilst I have been fortunate (ha!) to get such a well adjusted nib, it is fair to mention that in a blue mosaic model reviewed by SBRE Brown, he found the nib to be very feedbacky and the step from barrel to section, to be sharp to the touch;
  • He also commented that the price is perhaps high, for a stainless steel nibbed cartridge converter pen and compared the pen to a Conklin All American which was approximately one half of the price.
DSCN1913
Two branded Montegrappa cartridges included

Conclusion

I have been very impressed so far with the nib performance, which seems to give as pleasurable a writing experience as any pen I have used, regardless of price range. I can imagine this quickly becoming a favourite, for home and work use.

Whether or not, at £170.00, it is the best use of the money, given the competition at this price level, is a matter of personal choice. Certainly there are gold nibbed pens to be had for less. You could go for a steel nibbed Edison Collier for a little less or a Sailor Pro Gear, with a gold nib (and from a company one year older!) for a little more, to name but two. But as pen enthusiasts will know, a higher price does not always go hand in hand with a better writing experience. Much will depend upon whether fortune is smiling upon you, as you make your purchase.

RSCN1933
Enough packaging to create your own shop display. Lovely box though.

 

 

 

An Easter weekend of Gold, Frankenpens and Mirth. Rediscovering the Parker Urban fountain pen.

DSCN1889
Parker Urban mash-up.

This holiday weekend, I spent Saturday in Colchester visiting family. There was also time to explore the town centre for pen shops. The best option seems to be the Fenwick department store, (formerly Williams & Griffins) in the High Street, with gleaming glass counters including Cross, Waterman, Parker and Mont Blanc and a revolving rack of Lamys. I witnessed the sale of a Waterman Hemisphere as I bobbed around the nearby glass cabinets but did not make any purchases.

In the evening after a meal with my sister’s family, (always accompanied by much laughter) I sat with my neice who tried out my Pilot Falcon and who, being right-handed and having a natural flair for calligraphy, was able immediately to produce beautiful script from its soft flexy gold nib, far better than any of my efforts. Some of her pieces are on Instagram at simple_inkings (although she might change that name, in case people think it is for tattoos).

Back in London for Easter Day, which coincided with April Fools’ Day, I found a picture of Brian Goulet on Instagram with the caption “In the strangest move yet…Brian switches to Ballpoints!” I was not fooled by that.

Checking out our local Rymans, to see whether anything new had appeared on the pen shelves, I found  reductions on low-end Parkers, with 50% off the Parker Vector. (Annoyingly I had paid full price there for the new teal version just two weeks ago, although it is a great match for my Robert Oster Signature “Aqua” ink!)

Scanning the shelves, I noticed the Parker Urban, reduced from £32.99 to £14.99 and now to £7.49. This is not a pen that I am keen on, but figuring that this amounted to more than 75% off, I decided that a brushed stainless steel model might be useful. I do think the ergonomic, contoured barrel is ugly and find that the Vector-type steel nibs can be hit or miss, so that buying one is a bit of a gamble. The blister packs do not enable you to examine the nib before purchase. I had bought an Urban a few years ago in matte black and had to work at the nib to get an adequate ink flow.

DSCN1887
Parker Urban (left) and Parker Vector (right).

Deciding that for the price, it was a no brainer and worth the risk, I made my purchase and went off to  give it a try in a nearby coffee shop.  I found the production date code on the cap band, IIA, (second quarter of 2012), so this pen had been languishing somewhere for up to six years before finding me. (Conversely, my teal Vector was IIIE: first quarter of 2018 and still warm from the factory!)

Initial impressions from the brushed stainless steel Urban were mixed. The nib looked to be decent on close inspection. The pen was a reasonable length when opened (125mm) but the cap posts securely for extra length, which I prefer. I do not find it a very comfortable pen to hold. It does have a much less skinny section than the Vector, but there is still a rather sharp step down from the barrel to the section, just where my fingers want to go.

RSCN1881
The Parker Urban medium nib. The groove in the housing is an ink trap if bottle-filling.

I shoved in the supplied blue Quink cartridge. (Yes, flushing the section first might have been more sensible). I love it when you put a cartridge in a new pen and it writes immediately. This did not happen and it took an age before it would write anything, with much shaking and squeezing of the cartridge (and fear of splitting it) before it finally started to flow. Fortunately, it did then write pretty well, with the rounded medium nib being quite smooth in all directions. Given time to wear in, I think it will prove to be a good basic writer. Also, the cap passed my “blow test” for air-tightness, and so I hope that the nib will not suffer from dry-out when left capped and unused for a day or two. If you have one with a good nib and can tolerate the design, then it is quite a durable workhorse and, having a metal construction, will not suffer from cracking of the barrel or cap as can happen with a Vector or Reflex.

At home I got out the matte black Parker Urban that I had bought a few years earlier. I had never really taken to it and it had seen little use. It then occurred to me to borrow the matte black barrel to put on my new brushed stainless steel pen to make a Frankenpen mash-up, of black barrel with brushed stainless steel cap. This was an improvement, IMHO, both when capped and when posted, (in a Parker 51 sort of way) and so this is how I propose to use it, for the time being. Also, I will try some nice bottled ink once the Quink blue cartridge is finished.

DSCN1888
Parker Urban in brushed stainless steel with barrel from a matte black version.

One email this weekend, which was not an April Fool joke I hope, advised of a discount code on Bureau Direct’s online orders to receive a 15% discount, on anything, so long as you order before Tuesday! It so happened that I had been deliberating whether to treat myself to the Lamy Dialog 3, which I had seen on their web site. In fact I had been watching YouTube reviews just the previous day! Having been tempted now by several favourable reviews and with the timely added incentive of the discount, and being in holiday mood, I pulled the trigger on the Dialog 3, in glossy piano black with a Medium 14k gold nib. My experience of Lamy Safari and AL-star medium nibs is that they have been very pleasant, (smooth, if rather firm) and I hope for even more smoothness from the Dialog but with a little softness too. I am now looking forward to its arrival and pondering which ink to try first.

Happy Easter everyone.

20160104_220742

Back to basics, with the Parker Junior Duofold and a bottle of Quink.

One of my lucky finds at the recent Cambridge pen show was this lovely Parker Junior Duofold, in dark green with gold fittings.

DSCN1855
Parker Junior Duofold

The pen is lovely in its own right, but had a particular attraction for me, being a close match to the pen that my mother bought for me in 1970 on the occasion of going to a new school. Sadly and inevitably, I managed to lose it within a few weeks and for the next seven school years, used a succession of less valuable Parker fountain pens.

Description

The pen has a classic, timeless look, in British Racing Green resin (think of a 1920’s Bentley at Le Mans), with a 14k gold nib, which looks like a Broad but has no width description showing, and a simple, fixed aerometric type squeeze bar filler. It has a screw cap, a shortish gold coloured arrow clip and a single gold coloured cap band with some engraved pattern but no text. The cap has two small drilled air holes in the sides which I presume are to avoid air pressure building in the cap. It is not a particularly big pen, by today’s standards but forms a generous length when posted and is smooth, light and comfortable to hold. The nib reads “PARKER, 14K, ENGLAND, 10”.

RSCN1863
Still lots of mileage in this nib.

The pen measures 135mm long capped, 120mm open, or 160mm posted. It weighs just 15.5g closed or posted. Uncapped it is 10.5g and the cap alone weighs 5.0g.

Buying a vintage fountain pen can be a bit daunting. At a pen show, tables filled with row upon row of vintage pens can seem rather overwhelming unless you are looking specifically for something. There is the worry (assuming that you are buying a pen to use) of whether the nib writes well, whether the filling mechanism is still working and (unless you have researched any given model before hand) whether the price is right.

Being at least slightly prepared, I had a magnifying glass with me and was able to have a look at the nib and the tipping material, which looked to be in great shape. I also looked at the barrel and there found the very faint imprint, barely visible to the naked eye, “PARKER, JUNIOR DUOFOLD, MADE IN ENGLAND”. That clinched it.

RSCN1861
I had to hold a torch in one hand while holding the camera in the other.

I have heard it said that the Parker aerometric sacs rarely have anything wrong with them. You can test them by removing the cap and barrel, putting the nib to your ear and giving the squeeze bar a press, to feel a small puff of air, assuming that it is not inked, of course.

At home, I flushed the pen in clean water a few times. I was pleased to see that the sac filled easily with a few presses.

The writing experience

I filled the pen with Parker Quink, Blue-black, a rather obvious choice, I know. The glass bottles with their chunky plastic caps and 57ml of inky goodness, seem not to have changed much (if at all) since I was a child, except that they are now sold in ugly blister packs instead of carboard boxes.

DSCN1867
Parker Quink Blue Black suits it well.

To my great pleasure and delight, this little pen wrote like a dream. It has a lot of what fountain pen enthusiasts crave, namely a buttery smooth nib, ideal ink flow, a little softness to the nib giving beautiful shading, comfortable handling, reliability and a bit of historical interest too.

DSCN1864

A bit of Keats. Beautiful shading with Parker Quink Blue Black on Tomoe River paper. [should read “but still will keep”, not “with”, demonstrating that errors are only visible after publication].

In fact, looking across at my (ahem) 18 other currently inked pens, I could almost convince myself to put all the others away and just enjoy the Parker with its bottle of Quink. That is all I need, really.

I did not know very much about this range before buying one. Reading up afterwards on FPN, in a post by Malcy, I learned that Parker Duofolds of the 1950’s came in a range of models, with a corresponding number on the nib as follows:-

  • Lady (4)
  • Slimfold (5)
  • Junior (10)
  • Demi (15)
  • Standard (25)
  • Senior (35)
  • Maxima (50)

Conclusion

Armed with this information I am interested now to handle some of the others in the range. It is nice to have something specific in mind to hunt for next time a pen show comes to town. Parker Duofold pens have been made for a long time and I feel that I have a lot more to learn.

Last Saturday I had another browse in the sumptious fountain pen department at Selfridges in Oxford Street. (No, I managed to resist buying anything this time). I did linger in front of the current Parker Duofold, International, Big Red in a glass display case, but at £500.00 it is a lot of money. Happily, my vintage Junior Duofold cost me only £50.00 which seems a small price to pay for the pleasure it gives and for entry to the Duofold owners’ club.

DSCN1852
My work here is done.

Some early thoughts on the Pilot metal Falcon (SF) fountain pen.

For the past two weeks I have enjoyed getting acquainted with this pen, bought new at the Cambridge pen show.

If you are new to the Pilot Falcon, as I was, there are a few things that might cause some initial confusion, as follows:-

  1. This the Pilot Falcon. In the past, they were branded as the Namiki Falcon (Namiki being Pilot’s brand for its high-end pens).
  2. The Falcon can be found in either resin or a metal body with lacquer finish.
  3. The nib on the Falcon is a semi-flex nib, with the markings SEF, SF, SM or SB (for soft extra fine, soft fine, soft medium of soft broad), also denoted by a removable silver sticker on the barrel. However, when people refer to the “Falcon nib” they may instead mean an entirely different shaped nib, with distinctive cut-aways on the sides to help it flex, with the markings FA and which is not found on the Falcon pen at all but on a different Pilot pen.
  4. The nib called the Falcon (FA) nib, is more soft (flexy) than the soft nibs made for the Pilot Falcon.

See what I mean? Anyhow, the model that I have is the Pilot metal Falcon, in black with a Soft Fine (SF) nib, which is 14k gold, rhodium plated. The pens branded as Pilot are clearly identified by the name Pilot stamped on the nib and on the cap, just above the shiny plain cap band.

DSCN1773
Pilot metal Falcon, in black lacquer over steel.

There have been other modifcations too, such as the change from a resin to a metal finial and barrel end cap and the addition of another metal ring, so that there are now two rhodium plated rings on the grip section and a third on the barrel, just after the cap threads. These do give this smart but ordinary looking Pilot’s uniform a bit of panache, rather like the rings on the sleeves of an airline pilot’s jacket.

The nib

When I chose my Falcon, there was a Soft Fine or Soft Medium nib available. Both looked nicely finished, under a loupe but I chose the Soft Fine as I have come to appreciate Fine nibs more, in the past year or so and because I have relatively few of them, compared to the number of pens with medium nibs.

RSCN1779
Soft Fine nib, in 14k gold, rhodium plated. Writes like a western extra fine. Wet and effortless. 

I had read that Pilot nibs had a good reputation for being well made and for great performance straight out of the box, which is always a delight. This one lived up to expectations.

The unique nib of the Pilot Falcon, is the main draw for this pen. Shaped more like a nib that you might find for a dip pen, it is long and slender with a bulge half way down, as if the nib had been pushed into a wall and had buckled. It is rare nowadays to find a new pen sold with a flexy nib. This is not a “full flex” nib but has more softness to it than most. In the right hands, this can be used to apply a little downward pressure to the nib on the down stroke, to open up the tines a little and create some thicker lines, for attractive line variation.

I say “in the right hands” as (a) it does take some skill and practice to achieve this and (b) it is more difficult for left handers, particularly lefty overwriters, (such as myself) as the nib does not like to have pressure applied when being pushed forward, but only when being pulled backward. Indeed, you have to be careful on the upstroke to keep a light touch and avoid the nib jabbing into the paper.

In this regard, possibly a medium or broad nib might have been a more sensible and forgiving option for me if buying a flexy nib. However the fine nib certainly does have its advantages. It is not necessary to flex the nib and the pen can be used to write quite normally, without any downward pressure. The remarkable thing is that the pen requires no pressure at all and the tines are so responsive, that the pen will write as soon as the pen touches the paper – and with no skipping. Smooth paper is preferred.

Because the nib is so soft, it takes only the slightest touch to paper, to open the tines and lay down ink. I have found that it is important to keep the nib flat to the paper (rather than rotated left or right), so that both tines remain level on the paper. If the pen is tilted, one tine will lift higher than the other, causing the inner edge of the other to catch on the paper and make the nib feel scratchy.

I have also read that the nib needs to “break in” and become softer and more flexy in time. Meanwhile I have been careful not to push it too far for fear of springing the nib, bending it past the point of no return.

One of my favourite discoveries with the nib, was to find that the numbers in the lower right corner, and barely readable with the naked eye, denote the date of production of the nib. Mine is 917, that is September 2017. I have since looked at pictures of numerous others online to compare when they were made. I do enjoy it when pens can be dated.

RSCN1833
Date marking on nib, for September 2017.

Filling mechanism. The pros and cons of the CON 70

The Falcon (be it the Pilot or Namiki) is a cartridge – converter pen but has evolved through several filling systems. I understand that originally, the pen had the CON 20 press-bar converter, unpopular for its small ink capacity which soon ran out especially if one was doing much flexing of nib for broader strokes. The next generation had the CON 50 piston converter. Both are now discontinued according to Cult Pens. The current metal Falcon has the CON 70 push button converter, which is relatively large capacity, efficient and fun to operate.

I have not yet fully grasped how this works. The converter has a button at one end. Inside, you can see a thin metal rod, with a rubber plug at the end, but which does not reach the open end of the converter and which can slide up and down the metal rod.

DSCN1781
The CON 70 push button converter.

To fill your pen, with converter attached to the section, you simply place the nib in the ink, give the button a quick press and release, and ink is drawn into the reservoir. Repeat a few times and each time, the ink reaches a higher level. Within about four quick presses, you have a full reservoir.

From watching a Brian Goulet video on this converter, I gathered that pressing the button pushes the rubber plug downwards; air is expelled and the plug seals off the opening so that a vacuum is created. With the nib immersed in ink, the vacuum then draws ink up into the pen. It is all over very quickly.

20180306_122050_001
The CON 70, refuelled with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo.

On close inspection, it can be seen that the metal shaft inside the reservoir is a hollow tube. I have not yet deduced whether it is this tube through which air is expelled or ink is drawn in. But it works.

There are some issues to be aware of , with this design of converter. (a) It is rather a faff to clean if you are changing ink colours. You can try pushing the button repeatedly to fill and empty the pen with clean water. Or it is quicker to remove the converter and squirt water into the opening with a syringe or pipette. I have read that ink can lodge inside the metal tubular rod and that this can contaminate inks of a different colour, if you fill the pen before cleaning the converter thoroughly. (b) Also the action seems to make the ink go bubbly so that you are left with lots of tiny bubbles sticking to the inside of the converter, stopping you from seeing the new ink sloshing around from end to end with a single air bubble like a spirit level. The bubbles or tiny air pockets disperse a day or two after filling.

RSCN1823
Straight after filling. Perhaps it just needs a flush with some detergent. 

In use

The pen is very comfortable to hold, being a good medium sized pen with a nice weight to it. It weighs around 33g (20g uncapped, and 13g for the cap).I prefer to use it with the cap posted, although at 126mm unposted, many people would find it long enough without posting. One criticism that was made of the resin version, was that it felt too light. This is no longer an issue in the metal Falcon. Also, there was criticism of the small ink capacity converter but the CON 70 resolves this.

A few days after buying the pen, I had the opportunity to use it to take notes at a full day of training lectures. At the time it was filled with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo which I was sure it would like. The fine nib proved very good for annotating typed hand-outs and marginal notes. It can be used for fast writing so long as you remember to avoid pressure on the nib. Sitting with the pen uncapped, it did stop writing on me a couple of times during the day, but this could just have been due to the ink drying in the nib while uncapped, rather than any issues with the feed. I have read that when used a lot for flex writing, the nib can railroad and also stop writing if the nib is flexed upwards away from the feed for too long, which is hardly surprising. I have not found any such difficulties in normal use.

In conclusion, the Pilot Falcon might not suit everyone, due to its softer nib but is a great quality, well finished precision writing tool, for those who enjoy pens with an extremely light touch for effortless writing , having the option of some flex writing if desired.

DSCN1838
Soft Fine nib, Yama-budo on Tomoe River paper.

 

 

 

 

 

So what happens now? Another pen show, another haul.

A week ago, it looked unlikely that I would make it to the Eastern Pen Show (Cambridge) on Sunday, 4th March, as snow and freezing temperatures had caused disruption to transport. Fortunately, this cleared just in time and a good rail service to Cambridge was running.

20180304_073951
London Kings Cross station, at 7.30 on a Sunday morning.

This was my first visit to the Cambridge pen show and I was much looking forward to it. Arriving early, I had time to walk from the station to the venue, the Doubletree Hilton Hotel, on the River Cam. This proved to be a good decision as those travelling by car were delayed by road closures and diversions for the Cambridge Half Marathon.

20180304_093219_001
The venue, situated next to the River Cam.

The enjoyment of the day was as much down to the people, as the pens. First, I was pleased to find Marisa (@illustriouscactus on Instagram) and Faisal, two members from our monthly London UK Fountain Pen Club gatherings, as we waited in the lounge for the show to open. Also I had arranged to meet Jon (@jonr1971 on Instagram) and he introduced me to two of his Instagram friends, @fountainpensandink and @theclumsypenman. Jon later guided me as to the features of some Montegrappa pens which we saw at the show.

20180304_111906
Bright and roomy venue.

The venue was excellent, a bright, spacious ground floor room with rows of tables on three sides, and more down the middle, which lent itself to doing “laps”.

In prime position was Sarj Minhas, with several tables of enticing vintage and modern pens. Immediately, a green Sheaffer (a Crest, I believe) on his table caught my eye, as I already have the matching ball-point which I use daily. The fountain pen has a distinctive conical bi-colour nib in 18k gold. This proved irresistible and I thought it best to pick it up at my first pass, rather than risk losing out. Sarj also showed me some beautiful Sheaffer Balances, which will be added to the “wish list” as the price seemed a bit too high just for an impulse buy.  While at Sarj’s tables it was good to examine some Urushi lacquer pens and an Arco pen which hitherto I had seen only on the internet.

DSCN1782
A Sheaffer Crest with conical 18k bi-colour nib, for which I have the matching ball-point pen.

I had not planned to hunt for anything in particular although I was hoping that the vendor of my London Pen Show “mystery pen”, would be there so that I could buy another! He was. I learned that he is John Twiss of Twiss Pens (twisspens.co.uk) and that the blue and clear demonstrator eyedropper pen that I had bought at the London Show, (see blog post: Wanted: an identity for this pen. ) from his supplier is deliberatly left unbranded. John also sells his own handmade pens and produces these at his Nottinghamshire studio. I bought another of the eye-dropper pens as I liked the last one so much and also picked up a gorgeous purple and black cartridge/converter pen with a size 6 nib for my wife (purple being her colour).

Having now attended the London pen show several years running, I now recognise many of the vendors and I enjoyed talking again to Graham Jasper (of Penestates) who had helped me to select one of his Parker 51 Aerometrics a few shows ago, and Kirit Dal who is a dealer for Aurora. I handled a beautiful Aurora 88 Mineralis demonstrator, but reluctantly put it down again and decided to content myself with a bottle of Robert Oster Aqua ink, at a show price of £10.00.

20180304_121024
The Aurora table.

John Hall of “Write Here” showed me a Scribo fountain pen and told me about the brand. Trying the smooth, wet nib was a revelation. Again, this would have to wait for another occasion but I did not leave his table before buying a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo,  a beautiful magenta ink.

Next at the table of The Hamilton Pen Company, (Nigel Simpson-Stern) I was shown a Pilot Falcon, which I had seen online but was yet to handle. I have harboured an urge to pick up a Pilot (so to speak) and have tried the Custom 823 and the Custom 74 at our pen club gatherings and been impressed by the feel of the gold nibs. The Falcon is different and has a rather uniquely shaped flexible nib. The models for sale were of lacquer over a steel body and therefore heavier than the resin versions and also featured the interesting, large capacity, CON 70 push-button vacuum converter. With my resistance weakening, I chose the metal Falcon in black with a Soft Fine nib and was excited to try it out. I later spotted Marisa again and she kindly allowed me to dip my new Falcon in a blob of wet ink which she made, in her notebook. The smooth, fine, wet flexible nib was wonderful.

DSCN1776
Pilot metal Falcon with 14k Rhodium plated SF (soft fine) flexible nib. The most quill-like nib I have experienced.

At the same table  I bought another ink, the Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red, which I have wanted for a long time, having enjoyed their Cobalt Blue and Moss Green very much.  Oh, and I could not resist a leather three-pen case and chose the red one.

My final pen purchase of the show was a little green vintage Parker Junior Duofold with a broad, 14k gold nib and aero filler. Why? Because this is a close equivalent to the pen that my mother bought me in 1970, to take to my new boarding school and which I lost within the first few weeks. It was my first quality fountain pen and I remember to this day, the sales lady telling me that gold nibs give more expression to your handwriting. I was fascinated, although rather puzzled, knowing that the tipping material was not gold and so why did gold nibs matter? It was to be many more years before I began to appreciate the delights of line variation and inks that shade.

Outside the show I met Jon and his two friends again, for coffee in the hotel lounge where we had a very enjoyable time trying each other’s pens, and sharing our pen stories and experiences.

DSCN1799
Left to right: Sheaffer Crest, Parker Junior Duofold, Pilot Falcon, eye-dropper pen from John Twiss, another un-named pen from John Twiss and a Lanbitou give-away from @fountainpensandink.

All in all, I had a great show. It was somewhat smaller and quieter than the London pen show in October but considerably less crowded. The relaxed atmosphere was perhaps more conducive to some memorable conversations and purchases.

DSCN1791
My haul.

An admiring look at the Italix Captain’s Commission fountain pen.

I have a soft spot for pens with shiny chrome caps. This one is particularly handsome and comes from Mr Pen, an online pen maker and seller, based in Ruislip, on the outskirts of North West London (web site: mrpen.co.uk).

DSCN1707
The Italix Captain’s Commission

Mr Pen is the trading name of P J Ford & Associates Ltd. As well as selling pens of many  well-known brands, the firm also has its own brand, “Italix”,  manufactured in England, Germany and the Far East. As the guarantee states, all Italix pens are hand finished in the UK. The nibs are ground in their own workshops in Ruislip.

As I grew up in Ickenham, less than two miles from Ruislip, it feels nice to deal with a local company, which provides a high quality personal service, even though Italix pens are now known the world over. The Italix Parson’s Essential is very well-regarded and was one of the first pens that I bought online, when my interest in fountain pens began to expand into the world of the internet.

Appearance and design.

The Captain’s Commission, from the same stable as the Parson’s Essential, is a larger pen and quite heavy, with a brass barrel and cap. The barrel is finished in glossy black lacquer, whilst the cap has shiny chrome plating with a very attractive guilloche pattern and a black domed finial. A burgundy version is also available.

DSCN1758
The Italix Captain’s Commission, with the smaller Parson’s Essential above.

An unusual feature is that the pen when capped, tapers gently down from the top to the bottom, with the cap fitting perfectly flush with the barrel, to create a very smooth and elegant piece, rather suggestive of a silver topped walking cane. The pocket clip is firm and springy and should secure the pen in a jacket pocket, against the hazards of being pulled out accidently with other items (as I did recently with another pen, sending it scuttling across the floor of a busy airport terminal).

RSCN1713
Lovely detail in the cap.

Uncapping the pen was a surprise.  First, what looks like a cap band with the Italix name, is actually fixed to the barrel and so the cap separates above it. Secondly, there was an uncommonly smooth, cushioned feel to the uncapping. I think that this may be in part due to what appear to be, two rubber O rings on the inside of the cap. In any event, the cap unscrews very smoothly, although the cap needs about three and half full revolutions (or about five twists) before coming away from the threads. Some might have issues with this but I do not mind it at all. It adds to the feeling of handling a well made, good quality writing instrument. The cap does tighten with reassuring bite. However you do need to take care at first, not to put the cap on cross-threaded.

There seems to be no risk of inadvertently unscrewing the barrel  when you think you are unscrewing the cap, as can happen with some pens. The threads to unscrew the section, are on the underside of the threads which unscrew the cap; so you would have to remove the cap first, otherwise you could not anchor the nib and section while unscrewing the barrel.

Beneath the cap, is an impressive, large (size six) nib with attractive scroll work and the Italix brand name.

DSCN1702
Size 6 F nib, ground to Italic Fine by Mr Pen.

A Schmidt converter was included although the pen also takes standard international cartridges.

DSCN1700
Schmidt converter included. The nib and feed are friction fit.

Nib and performance.

Mr Pen offers a huge choice of nib options, (I think, 27), mostly steel but with one gold option. I chose the steel Italic Fine, having a width of approximately 0.85mm. I hoped that this might suit me better than a 1.1mm stub, given that my handwriting is not large and I have to be careful to avoid filling in all the loops when I use a broader nib. I was a little apprehensive that an italic nib would have sharp edges and dig into paper unless handled very carefully, whereas cursive, or stub options have more rounded edges. An hour or so after putting in my order online, I telephoned Mr Pen and spoke to proprietor Peter Ford who gave me further advice about the nib choices. By this time, my order had already been packed and franked ready for dispatch! However, he offers a nib exchange within 30 days and so there is no need to worry if you do change your mind.

My pen arrived in the post the following day.  I need not have worried about my nib choice. This was my first ever custom grind nib. The only previous experience that I had with italic nibs was on cheap calligraphy sets, where the nibs do have sharp edges that can dig into the paper unless held at a very  precise and consistent angle.

DSCN1764
With gift box.

There were no such problems with the Captain’s Commission. I flushed it first with water before filling with my usual Conway Stewart Tavy, blue-black ink. Putting pen to paper for the first time, was a delight and has been ever since. It was smooth from the word go, firm but with a decent flow which allowed me to write in my left-handed, overhand, slanting handwriting and still have a smooth writing experience, with suitable paper.

DSCN1753
From the hymn book. The words seemed appropriate.

I mention this as being left handed and writing the way I do, sometimes means a drier writing experience, as the pen is doing more pushing upwards and sideways, than down strokes where more ink is released. To cater for this, I have also developed an “elbows in”, upright style of writing too, but find it harder to write neatly in this way.

DSCN1729
From West Side Story.

Size and Weight (approximate).

The pen is 145mm long capped, 131mm when opened or 160mm when posted. It weighs around 53 grams in all (including converter and ink) or 28g uncapped. The cap weighs around 24.5 grams, by my scales.

The cap can be posted securely. (The rubber O rings inside the cap keep the cap from slipping off when posted and also protect the lacquer, I presume). However, in practice I would envisage the cap only being posted for ceremonial purposes or photo shoots. It adds a lot of weight to the back end and causes imbalance, unless you hold the pen quite high up. So in general, you have an uncapped pen of 131mm and 28 grams, which is very nice indeed.

Conclusions and value.

I have been using the pen for just a week now and have been thrilled with it. It looks stunning, feels weighty and substantial and writes among the best of steel nibs that I have experienced. I have had no hard starts. The writing experience will differ depending upon inks and papers chosen, as with any pen, but I have already found some winning combinations.

The cost (including the ground italic fine nib) with post and packaging and vat came to £57.22. My delight at the pen has been far in excess of what this price might warrant. For comparisons, there are many steel nibbed pens such as the Cross Bailey or Sheaffer 300  but none that I can readily think of, certainly at this price, which has the elegance and vast choice of ground nibs as the Captain’s Commission.

DSCN1706
Now, who shall I write to?

 

 

Wanted: an identity for this pen.

This fountain pen was one of my lucky finds at the London Pen Show, in October 2017. Unfortunately I cannot tell you what it is called, since the pen, the nib and the packaging are devoid of any branding. I have been calling it “my Mystery pen”. I hope that someone reading this might recognise the make or model and let me know by commenting on this post. Meanwhile, if you want one, all I can suggest is that you come to the London UK Pen Show next time and hopefully the seller might be there again. I hope so, as I would like to buy another one.

Construction and appearance

This is a large, cartridge/converter/eye-dropper pen, with a suitably large stainless steel nib, in a plastic body. It has a clear demonstrator barrel, with a distinctive bullet shaped end cap in an attractive, marbled blue and black. The grip section is of the same blue and black pattern. The cap is black, but with a rounded finial also in the blue and black. Other colours were available.

20171003_082738
Uncapped and inked for action.

The cap screws on and off in two twists. There is a sprung inner-cap (like on a Platinum 3776 Century) and so as you cap and uncap the pen, you feel the resistance of the spring inside.

There is a sturdy, metal pocket clip, a shiny chrome cap band (no branding) and one chrome ring separating the clear part of the barrel from the end cap. Presumably, there was intended to be some branding on the cap band.

The packaging consisted of a black cardboard tray, with a foam insert with cutaways for the pen and a syringe for eye-dropper filling, in a black cardboard sleeve. There was a page of instructions for each of the filling options, but again with no brand name or address.

20171003_082653
Mystery pen in box with syringe for eye-dropper filling.

The syringe did have a brand name, Terumo, which seems to be a medical supplier and nothing to do with pens.

Nib and filling mechanism

The nib is stainless steel, and looks like a size 6. There is some scroll work on it and the letter M for medium, but a smooth empty space in the middle, where presumably a brand name was to be inserted.

The plastic feed and the nib are friction fit and can be pulled out for cleaning or adjustment.

The pen came with a converter but also accepts standard international cartridges, or can be eye-dropper filled.

DSCN1647
Disassembled. Nib and feed are friction fit.

Size and weight

The beauty of this pen is its generous size making for a very comfortable writing experience and no need to post the cap. Sizes and weights are approximate.

Length closed: 151mm (6″)

Length open: 140mm (5 1/2″)

Length posted: 174mm (6 9/10″)

Weight closed/posted: 25g

Weight uncapped: 15g

Weight of cap only: 10g.

My favourite figure above is the length open, 140mm. What a treat. I am happy with 130mm (a Lamy Safari) but this is even nicer, even allowing for tapering of the end cap.

20171003_083245.jpg
Making the Lamy Vista look small.

Likes and Dislikes

Since I bought the pen, it has remained inked, mostly with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue but more recently with Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine. There is such a lot to like about this pen and here are a few points, in no particular order:

  • nib writes smoothly with no effort at all (I even wrote “dreamtouch” in my ink journal, in a nod to the vastly more expensive Visconti);
  • very comfortable to hold and grip, leading to neater writing;
  • a great size for me, especially that 140mm unposted length;
  • sprung inner cap. I have not had any problems of hard starts;
  • screw cap, rather than push on;
  • excellent value; I paid £30.00 for it.
  • a good low-cost way to test whether you like this size of pen, before buying a more costly one.
  • Smooth and tactile.

As for dislikes, there are none to speak of, really. I just wish I knew who made it and what model it is.

DSCN1679
Writing sample, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue on a Paperchase notebook. Words from Shakespeare, Sonnet 27.

Conclusion

As you can tell, I am very pleased with this pen. I enjoy writing with it. I have so far used it only with the supplied converter and have not tried to eye-dropper it. I imagine it would hold a vast amount of ink. I have no real need to do that. Using the pen, especially with the lovely Cobalt ink, I noticed that my usually rushed handwriting looked a little more tidy and legible (what I might call the Pelikan effect), from slowing down and writing a little more carefully and deliberately. And that has got to be a good thing. I will be on the look-out for one or two more of these in other colours, if I get the chance.

RSCN1656
Medium nib, gives some shading with Tavy ink.

A look at the Faber-Castell E-motion fountain pen.

On a day of beautiful autumn sunshine in September 2015, I went into central London to look in a few pen shops. I bought a bottle of Waterman Harmonious Green ink at Pen Friend in the Burlington Arcade, before going into Fortnum & Mason to visit their fountain pen department.

As I hovered over the displays, the sales assistant Robert asked “What’s caught your eye?” I had found the Faber-Castells and was rather taken with the  striking looks of the E-motion, with its combination of natural wood and shiny metal.  A delivery had just come in and he went to find one in the dark Pearwood finish. I preferred this to the lighter brown version or the all black “stealth” model. After trying the pen on a pad of Graf von Faber-Castell paper, I bought one. It was rather an impulsive buy and at £87.99 was one of the more expensive pens that I had bought.

DSCN1613
Faber-Castell E-motion fountain pen.

I was delighted with my choice. Before leaving the shop, with my pen and a much appreciated complimentary Graf von Faber-Castell note pad, in a distinctive Fortnum and Mason carrier bag, I went to ink the pen with my new Harmonious Green, then went to the Royal Academy across the road, to try it out.

20150926_134711
First inking. Waterman Harmonious Green.

In the years that followed, it has been a pen for which I have mixed emotions. I have bought four more Faber-Castell fountain pens (an Ambition, two school pens and a Loom) and have always found their stainless steel nibs, even on the entry-level school pens, to be very pleasing. The Ambition, E-motion and Loom share the same nib unit. Today I will look back at the E-motion, my first foray into Faber-Castell fountain pens.

Construction and Appearance

This is a metal pen, rather short and tapering at each end, with a large, heavy, shiny polished metal cap. There is a smooth, curved pocket clip, which is sprung and can be operated one-handed.  The cap is tastefully embellished with the Faber-Castell name and logo and the words “since 1761”.

RSCN1607
Cap detail.

Removing the screw cap, in two short twists, you have the nib and section in shiny steel. There is also a tapered finial (perhaps nugget or lump of metal would be a better description) in shiny polished steel at the end of the barrel. The main part of the barrel is very attractively finished with a layer of dark brown Pearwood, with its beautiful, natural dark wood grain and patina. There is no discernible join around the wood and so I suppose it to be a carefully drilled tube of wood, slid over the metal barrel, before the end finial is put in place. Correct me if I am wrong.

The barrel unscrews to reveal metal threads on both the section and inside of the barrel. Everything fits together very well and gives an impression of sturdiness and good quality. A converter was included with my pen but it also takes standard international cartridges.

DSCN1642
With Faber-Castell converter.

The Nib

This is stainless steel, in an attractive shape and finish. There is no breather hole, but the nib features a pattern of dimples, which are subtle yet catch the light sometimes in a most pleasing way. My nib is a medium, but writes on the fine side of medium, which suits me. I later discovered that the nib and feed unit can be easily unscrewed from the section and that the nibs are interchangeable with those of the Ambition or Loom.

RSCN1617
That nib though. 🙂

Dimensions and weights

Length closed: 138mm

Length opened: 117mm

Length posted: 148mm

Weight capped or posted: 53g

Weight uncapped: 31g

Weight of cap: 22g.

DSCN1622 (2)
Faber-Castell E-motion, below a Lamy Safari, (the standard unit of pen measurement).

Handling and performance

The pen writes very well. The tines were level, the tipping material was symmetrical, and the ink flow on all the papers I tried, was just right, neither too dry nor too wet. The nib gives a smooth writing experience, but not overly so; there is enough tooth for the pen to cope with smoother paper and to give a pleasant degree of feedback. Of all the stainless steel nibs that I have used, I would say that these have been consistently among the best. It also provides good “cap-off” time, remaining ready to write even if the pen is left uncapped for a few minutes.

On the downside, for my hands, the pen is just too short to use comfortably unposted. If I were to use it unposted, I would try to grip it low down around the section, but this does not work for me because the shiny metal section is slippery to hold and cannot be gripped steadily.

The cap can be posted (although it needs a hard push and a twist – with a worry of cracking the inner cap or marking the lovely wood covered barrel) and whilst this solves the length problem, this makes for a very heavy pen. You are carrying the full 53 grams as you write.

Conclusion

I do like to be flexible and accommodating to my pens, to allow for their idiosyncrasies and to celebrate their diversity. In the case of the E-motion, I found that the best way to use it was to post a light weight cap from another pen. This means the pen is probably confined to home use, but I have used this method to good effect on at least three pens now  (the E-motion, the Faber-Castell Ambition and the Bic Easy-Click). You might have to rummage around to find the best match of size, weight (and even colour if you are lucky) and try several tops before you find the best fit.

DSCN1623 (2)
Not you Scary. I said try several tops.

It is a good idea to keep some pen tops when roller balls or marker pens such as the Sharpie run out, for this very reason. For the E-motion or the Bic Easy-Click, the Lamy Safari caps work well.  For the Faber-Castell Ambition, I use a Sharpie cap. Obviously it looks unfashionable and eccentric, but it is better than leaving the pen unfilled and unfulfilled.

I find that when I post a Safari cap on the E-motion, I naturally grip the pen higher up and around the warm wooden barrel with only my second finger used as a rest for the metal section. Consequently there is no issue of the section being slippery to hold. And the pen is not too heavy or too short, although still on the heavy side. Length with a Safari cap posted is a comfortable 152mm and the Safari cap weighs just 8.5g as opposed to the E-motion’s hefty 22g.

20150927_232235
E-motion with a cap from a Safari posted. It posts well to add length without adding much weight.

So this, for me, was the way to deal with my E-motions. YMMV. It is an attractive and good quality pen and it is worth persevering to make use of the excellent nib.