Well, that wasn’t too terrible. Being confronted with my own greed and folly was never going to be comfortable. But it was not as bad as I feared.
During the week I took part in Anthony’s online survey of the pen community, on UK Fountain pens. One of the multiple choice questions was how many bottles of ink you have. I honestly did not know and had not counted but suspected it might be nudging past the hundred mark. I resolved to find out.
I used to own only a few bottles of ink, Parker Quink generally. Getting through a whole bottle of ink takes time, particularly if you often use cartridges instead. Assuming, very roughly, that a 50ml bottle might give you fifty fills and that each fill would last you for, say 20 pages of A4 writing, that is 1,000 pages. Fortunately most bottled ink keeps well. The exception, ironically, is iron gall ink which needs to be used up within around 18 months of opening the bottle, or else it loses its colour and darkening properties.
I have a couple of old bottles of Monbtblanc ink, still in their boxes with a price sticker saying £4.95. Now they cost about £18.00 I think.
It was perhaps around 2014 that things escalated with my fountain pen hobby getting hooked on pen reviews on the internet. That was the first year in which I attended the London Pen Show, coming away with a TSWBI Vac 700 and a bottle of Omas blue ink. Should I have stopped there? In November 2016 this blog was launched to share the journey.
Since then I have been adding steadily to the fountain pen stash and accumulating a fair amount of ink along the way. I was curious to see quite how bad it had become.
A couple of years back I bought a plastic storage unit, with four nice deep drawers for my stationery stash. The top drawer has some accessories, like pen wraps and pouches, micromesh kit, some dip pens and a few boxed pens. The second drawer is my stock of unused journals, mostly A5 size but with a few smaller ones. And then the third and fourth drawer down are for ink. That is not to say that all of my ink is in these drawers: some frequently used bottles are on my desk (AKA the dining table) and others on the book shelves behind me.
It was not difficult to do a stock take. They are all in one room, (except for an emergency bottle of Cross black which lives in my desk drawer at work).
I created a spreadsheet, with columns for the Brand, the Colour or name, and finally, a simple name for the group which that colour falls into (for example Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, Waterman Serenity Blue and KWZ Azure number 4 all come under “Blue”).
It was interesting (to me at least) to see them sorted by brands too and which were the most represented brands in my stash. It turns out to be Montblanc with nine bottles, closely followed by Waterman with eight and then Pelikan Edelstein with five (mostly gleaned from the annual Pelikan Hub events).
My final tally came to 65 bottles. As I was expecting it to be around one hundred I was pleasantly surprised. So I have enough ink for 65 years and not 100! Phew!
By colour group, it came as no surprise to me that I had 16 bottles of blue ink plus another 11 of blue black, almost enough to form a Democrat government. Next were 8 browns, 7 blacks and 7 greens, 6 reds, 3 pinks (What?!) 2 Burgundies, 2 green-blacks, and finally 1 each of Magenta, Purple and Orange.
What lessons can I learn from this?
I need no more ink for a while;
It is good to know what you have;
I have been buying ink faster than I have been using it.
I have not included a stash of ink cartridges in this count. Nor have I included a half dozen or so ink samples which are not in original bottles.
It is satisfying to finish a bottle ink. Last week I came to the end of a very enjoyable bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-kai blue black which I had been given by a friend. Once it got down to the last 5ml or so, I decanted it to my Pineider Travelling Inkwell, so that I could go on filling my Diplomat Excellence easily, without wasting a drop.
For anyone in a similar boat who has put off counting, I recommend it. It might not be as bad as you think.
This morning I made a list of the currently inked pens that I have at home, knowing that the result would be embarrassingly uniform. I arranged them in order of colour, making it even more apparent that of the 20 pens shown, 15 are inked with either blue or blue black.
For some months now, I have been juggling 20 inked pens on the go. This does not include a further two (both Cross Bailey Lights) which I keep at my office, since returning to work after lockdown, in July.
Twenty pens is a lot to use at any one time. I have tried to keep the number from growing any higher and have imposed a “one out one in” rule. But even so, assuming that the average cartridge or converter might manage around 20 pages of writing, (more if a piston filler), that is 400 pages of writing, sitting on the table. Pens are not running dry fast enough to keep the cups from becoming stale.
On one hand, I do enjoy having a lot of pens available simultaneously and I enjoy the variety that they offer. But on the other hand, part of me craves a simpler existence of running just one fountain pen (flashback to me aged 12…) and just filling it up, with the same ink usually, whenever it needed ink. It is possible to re-create this simplicity, temporarily, by getting away from the desk and going to write in a coffee shop taking just a single pen and notebook. Of course you cannot then enjoy the option of selecting any one or more of 20 pens from the pen cups as the fancy takes you, but you cannot have your cake and eat it.
But the bigger problem I see from my list is that 75% of the pens are inked with blue or blue black. No greens. No bright reds. No turquoise, or orange. This highlights the fact that the pens and their inks have each been selected individually without regard to the bigger picture of the pallette that is being created. Who of us, given an empty paint box, would set out to equip himself with 75% of the space given to blue and blue black?
When a pen runs dry, unless it is one of those to keep in circulation, I enjoy picking another pen to replace it. I generally pick the pen first and then decide which ink to use. Very rarely do I start with the ink and then decide which pen to put it in, except perhaps with iron gall ink.
There is always the option, to remove a bunch of pens and give them an early bath, to keep the pen cups fresh and varied but at the expense of jettisoning some good ink.
It is, after all just a hobby. The pen cups do not stand up to a lot of scrutiny. Why for example am I using a Waterman Allure when I have two empty Carenes at my disposal? Why not use only my best pens, all the time?
Perhaps by mixing in some entry level pens we appreciate the difference more when picking up the Montblanc.
There are no right and wrong answers. I am sure each one of us has his own principles and systems for managing the currently inked. But one simple lesson to take away, (for me at least) is not to loose sight of the bigger picture when filling the pen cups, to ensure you have more than just blue and blue black at hand.
I have always enjoyed buying a new notebook. Like many fountain pen enthusiasts, I have a several notebooks on the go as well as a stash of new ones of various types waiting to be used.
My used notebooks could be divided into two broad categories: those which I have used for a specific purpose and would want to keep, or those which I have just filled for the joy of writing, consisting mostly of pen and ink samples or note taking.
When I buy a new notebook, I often paginate it first, except of course for those when this task has been done for you, such as the Leuchtturm A5 or Taroko Design Breeze. Next I try out my currently inked pens on the last page. This has two purposes. First, it is a useful exercise to see which inks are suited to the paper and write without bleedthrough, feathering or excessive amounts of show through. I can also see how different nibs feel on the paper. It is about establishing the right tools for the job.
Secondly, it breaks the ice of starting a new book, without having to dive straight into the blank first page and risk spoiling it.
However, I have found that on some occasions I have started a notebook at the back and continued happily, with random pen and ink samples all the way to the front of the book!
It occurred to me that my stash of old notebooks from the last few years, even if they contain little writing of any significance, are at least an accumulation of pen and ink tests which I have not followed through in any methodical, let alone scientific manner.
Many hundreds of hours have been whiled away, in picking up a pen from my pen cups and writing a few lines or paragraphs, purely for relaxation and the momentary enjoyment of feeling the nib glide along the paper.
Paper types in notebooks are very variable. If you use only the best, such as Tomoe River, there may be no need to test for bleedthrough as this will not be an issue, nor will there be a feeling of draggy resistance from an overly coated surface. For other types of untried notebooks, it is useful to find out which inks can be used and which are best avoided – unless you are happy to write on one side only.
Although I do try out pens and inks and try to keep a mental note of the outcomes, I have not recorded the findings in a consistent way. Perhaps there are just too many variables of pens, nibs and inks and papers that I have accumulated.
However today I decided to try a slightly new format for recording my little experiments. Starting with a Radley A5 notebook, I set up a double page spread, with one side with columns for the ink and the pen: the facing page to show the degree of showthrough and bleedthrough (if any) – written from the other side of that page – and a column for comments, such as my subjective impressions of the sensation of the nib on the paper, the feedback and so on and whether the combination is successful. There is one constant in the test, namely the paper of that particular notebook.
I do not want to turn a relaxing enjoyable hobby into an onerous project of recording a vast combination of variables and test results. But on the other hand it seems useful to me to record the simplest of conclusions, to avoid having to repeat the same tests and reinvent the wheel. Once we settle on a favourite type of notebook and stick to it, we can also pick a palette of coloured inks to use in it.
In conclusion, some preliminary lessons for the Radley notebook are to avoid Waterman Tender Purple, Pure Pens Cadwaladr Red and Pelikan Edelstein Star Ruby due to bleedthrough. Good choices are Waterman Serenity Blue, Pilot Blue Black and Montblanc Velvet Red. In the case of the Radley, I have three more bought in a sale and so it is well worth knowing which inks it prefers.
Whatever else I have in my pen cup, I like to keep one pen inked with a waterproof ink. For a few years, it was Sailor Kiwa-guro; then I tried Montblanc Permanent Blue. For the past three months, I have been using Rohrer & Klingner’s Salix in a Cross Bailey Light.
This is an ink from Germany, sold in glass 50ml bottles without a cardboard box. The label on the bottle states “For fountain pens, steel nibbed pens, dip pens and individual writing utensils for calligraphy.”
Some benefits of this ink are as follows:-
1. It is an iron gall ink.
As such it has greater permanence than regular inks and should be suitable for documents which need to be kept for many years. It goes on like a pale royal blue when wet but darkens as it dries and oxidises over time, to a darker blue black. This change can be seen in both the light and dark tones:
2. It shades well.
Salix has an attractive, pronouncedshading in blue black tones, which has a pleasing, vintage style.
3. It is waterproof.
It is useful to have a waterproof ink when addressing envelopes but also to protect against spillages and smudges.
4. Less bleed through.
It can often be used on types of paper that would otherwise be subject to bleed through and feathering with normal inks, such as photocopying paper. Thus some notebooks that might have been put aside for being not fountain pen friendly, can be used for double-sided writing after all.
5. You can highlight over it!
Being waterproof once dry, it does not smudge if you go over it with a highlighter pen. Ink is not transferred to the tip of the highlighter. I was excited to discover this. Being able to highlight sections of your own handwritten notes opens up new possibilities, for example for use in a work diary.
6. It is good value.
The ink is not expensive. I bought mine at Choosing Keeping, a stationery shop in London. According to their web site, their current price is £8.00 for a 50ml bottle.
The downside is that iron gall inks are regarded as being higher-maintenance than normal inks. They are more acidic and may cause staining and corrosion of steel nibs. Rohrer & Kingner recommend that you clean your pen once a week. This advice is also given by Goulet Pens on their web site. Jet Pens recommend cleaning every four weeks or so.
For this reason I have been using it in an inexpensive pen so far but I am encouraged that I have not yet noticed any ill effects. Cleaning of the pen has been quick and easy. Also, the ink flows back and forth freely in the converter, leaving a nice even film on the sides and does not get stuck at the far end. Because of concerns over corrosion and staining of the nib, the natural response is to use it in an inexpensive pen with a steel nib. However, a gold nib will actually be more suitable as gold does not corrode. I plan to try it in my Sailor Pro-Gear slim, for its next fill.
My only prior experience of iron gall ink has been with the registrar’s ink from Ecclesiastical Stationery Supplies prescribed for use on marriage registers. I learned that once opened, their ink needed to be used up within around 18 months or so. Certainly, if kept for years after opening, the ink loses its colour and turns to a pale grey. Once that happens it is time to throw it out and order a fresh bottle. I do not know whether Salix also does this but will try to make regular use of my bottle.
Rohrer & Klingner also have one other iron gall ink in their range, called Scabiosa, which is a dusty purple. I believe that it will have similar properties to the blue black Salix. I am keen to try it when I can get my hands on a bottle.
After writing up my history with the Lamy 2000 recently, (My Lamy 2000 fountain pen and I), I made a fairly simple do-it-yourself adjustment to the nib to increase the flow. Mine has a broad nib. Being left-handed and writing in an “overwriter” style, I need a slightly wetter flow.
This involved carefully bending the small nib upwards very slightly to widen the gap between the tines. The result was a wetter flow, better lubrication and a generally far happier and less frustrating writing experience. No longer was it necessary to maintain pressure on the nib to write. The gap between the tines is now clearly visible when viewed under a loupe, although in profile, any upward bend of the nib is barely evident.
I happily wrote more than 12 pages of A4 paper before getting through one fill of Waterman Serenity Blue ink, which gives you an idea of the wetness of the nib. If anything it was perhaps a little too much on the wet side.
I found that trying to close the gap is more difficult than opening it. Instead, it occurred to me to try a drier ink and I recalled that Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue (“Konigsblau”) is such an ink.
Once again, the Lamy 2000 went upstairs for a bath. It is an easy and enjoyable pen to clean. For the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with this, my routine is as follows:-
Unscrew the section from the barrel. Lift off the metal horse-shoe shaped ring which sits in a recess at this join, which is the clip to hold the cap on. Do not lose it or let it go down the plug hole.
Then, holding the nib between finger and thumb (above and below the nib, not at the sides), gently push the nib inwards, so that the entire nib and feed unit comes out through the back of the section; note that there is a thick rubber washer towards the back of the feed, which you must also be careful not to lose.
The nib and feed unit can then be rinsed in water to remove all traces of the last used ink. If desired the nib can be slid off the feed, as this simply clips over the sides, just like a Lamy Safari nib. Be extra careful not to lose this either, as it is quite small and fiddly on its own.
Wash the ink reservoir by drawing water up and down a few times until this runs clear. If desired, to lubricate the piston, (although I do not do this every time), introduce a tiny amount of silicone grease to the inside walls of the reservoir, with a toothpick or similar implement and wind the piston up and down a few times to spread the grease. Thank you, to an old Goulet Pens video for this advice.
I filled the pen with Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau and, low and behold, the flow now seems to be spot on for me. It is still sufficiently wet to give great flow and lubrication, for effortless writing with minimal pressure, but the flow is not excessive.
The Konigsblau is an ink that I have not used very much before. I have had two bottles of it hanging around for a long time. I had never really liked the shade of blue all that much as it seemed to me rather pale and lacking the vibrance of say Waterman Serenity Blue or Montblanc Royal Blue. And yet now, in a wetter pen with a broad nib, this Pelikan ink comes into its own. It does seem paler than Serenity Blue but gives an elegant look, with some subtle shading. With the stubby broad nibbed Lamy, you benefit from this shading and also a degree of line width variation.
I could easily have given up on the Lamy or left it dormant as I had not got on with it for so long. Similarly, the Pelikan ink had been little used and was always passed over when I wanted a royal blue, as I would pick another from Waterman, Montblanc, Aurora, or Caran d’Ache from my ink drawer.
I am now using and enjoying my Lamy 2000 more than at any time since I bought it almost six years ago. The conclusion is that not only pens, but inks too, can enjoy a renaissance if we give them (or ourselves) another chance.
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.
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.
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!
Whenever I go to our local John Lewis department store, I always pay a visit to the friendly and helpful staff in the Stationery department and take a look at the displays of fountain pens in the glass counters.
These contain the usual suspects from Parker, Waterman, Cross and Sheaffer. But this time, although I must have seen them countless times before, my eyes were drawn to a tray of Sheaffer Prelude fountain pens. They were in several different colours, including some metallic finishes, but the only one I really noticed was a beautiful deep, dark blue, accentuated by rose gold plated furniture. It demanded a closer look.
I am not a big fan of faceted grip sections, which this pen has. I do not generally like them because (a) they make the section narrower and (b) they do not cater for lefty overwriters such as myself, who may want to rotate the nib inwards a little, whereupon the facets are no longer under your thumb and forefinger and instead you find yourself gripping a sharp edge. However, I tried the Prelude and found that with the cap posted, I naturally gripped the pen higher up, at the join of the barrel and the section so that the facets were not a problem at all.
I do very much like the shape of Sheaffer nibs and the attractive scroll work on them. I took a close look at the nib with a loupe and was excited to see perfectly aligned tines and a nib slit, with light visible between the tines, narrowing perfectly to the tip. It promised to be a smooth and responsive writer. I have since read that the rose gold coating is a PVD, or Physical Vapour Deposition. The science is beyond me but it looks lovely.
I decided to liberate the pen and was pleased that it came with a converter as well as a proprietary Sheaffer cartridge in blue and black and a lifetime warranty.
At home I filled the pen via the converter, from a bottle of Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink, which I have decided is probably my favourite blue ink. It is a rich dark blue, like the traditional colour of a Guernsey woollen jumper (which had for two years been part of my school uniform in the early 1970’s).
The medium nib wrote smoothly and effortlessly as I expected but produced a line that was closer to a Fine than a Medium. I was quite happy with that.
But this combination of Sheaffer Prelude, Cobalt Blue ink and a Leuchtturm A5 journal was so enjoyable that I could not stop writing with it and quickly filled 14 pages of my notebook. The smooth, fine, wet nib leaving a wake of deep dark blue ink emanating from the rose gold coated nib were so appealing that it was hard to put it down.
I did eventually stop, but only to take some photos of the pen and a few comparison shots with similar pens. Then, like having a new baby, I came down in the middle of the night to test it for hard starts (none) and to write a little more with it.
The pen is a of metal build, with a lacquer coat. There is an attractive white inlay in the finial, which helps to distinguish the pen in the pen cup. The pocket clip (topped with the Sheaffer white dot) is very firm. The snap-on cap posts securely and closes with a reassuring click. The barrel has metal threads on the inside, which are extremely long. I counted fifteen twists to get to the end of the threads and remove the barrel. The section, with its two grip pads, has a black cylindrical plastic housing to support the cartridge or converter, which I liked as I have seen another Sheaffer, the 100, with no such side support and just a platform with the tube sticking up to puncture your cartridge.
Priced at £75.00, the Sheaffer Prelude is a superior model to the Sheaffer Sagaris, the 100 and the 300. In terms of its specification, it seems on a par with the steel nibbed Parker Sonnet which for a time was my best and costliest pen.
I am pleased to have discovered the Sheaffer Prelude and very glad that I stopped to give it a proper look. It is reliable, enjoyable, attractive and robust which all go to make it a great daily carry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.