My new approach to notebooks.

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.

A selection of my currently inked, now paired with findings on the facing page. The column for bleedthrough is written from the other side.

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.

The third page of the pen and ink test – the column to demonstrate bleedthrough.

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.

Six reasons to like Rohrer and Klingner Salix ink.

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.

Cross Bailey Light with a medium stainless steel nib and a bottle of Rohrer & Klingner Salix, iron gall ink. I chose the white pen as it is suggestive of weddings and marriage registers.

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:

Salix iron gall ink. This photo was taken immediately after writing the second line. The top line was written about 15 hours earlier. Basildon Bond letter writing paper.

2. It shades well.

Salix has an attractive, pronounced shading in blue black tones, which has a pleasing, vintage style.

Ink journal entry, on Radley A5 notebook paper.

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.

Testing out my Sharpie highlighters over some handwriting with Salix. Note the absence of any smudging of the Salix ink. Tomoe River paper.

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.

My Lamy 2000, a brief update.

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.

Lamy 2000 Broad nib, 14k gold and platinum plated. Now with tines a little wider than before.

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.

Showing front section, nib and feed, disassembled for cleaning.

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.
The small bits – cap locking ring, the nib and feed washer. The washer makes a handy support for nib photos.

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.

Writing sample, Lamy 2000 with Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau on Basildon Bond letter writing paper.

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.

Writing sample on John Lewis Script, Post quarto laid writing pad, Ivory, 100gsm.

Radley A5 notebook. A mini review.

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.

Description.

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.

Radley A5, 160 page notebook. With Cross Bailey Light fountain pen.

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.

Neatly sewn pages with lined, cream paper.

Paper quality.

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.

Saturday morning activity.

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.

Random poem selection, from William Wordworth. Cross Bailey Light with Rohrer & Klingner Salix, iron gall blue black in.

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.

Discovering that you can go over R&K Salix ink with a Sharpie highlighter, without smudging.

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.

Early thoughts on the Platinum Curidas fountain pen.

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.

Choosing Keeping, a wonderful stationery shop in London.

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.

Description.

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.

The Platinum Curidas.

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.

Disassembled for fitting cartridge to nib and feed unit.

The nib.

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.

With nib extended. This was how the pen looked before I removed the pocket clip.

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.

In profile, with pocket clip removed. Note the offending protrusion at the top.

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.

Apologies for poor lighting. The pen is a good 140mm long with nib extended, which is great.

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.

Medium nib. Platinum Blue Black cartridge ink. A most enjoyable ink!

Conclusion.

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.

That new pen feeling.

The slops bucket experiment.

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. 

Two ink blend. Tavy and Oyster Grey.

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.

Cross Bailey Light, teal edition.

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.

Three ink blend. Tavy, Oyster Grey and Aqua.

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.

My six ink concoction, (Tavy, Oyster Grey, Aqua, Garnet red plus some blue and black cartridge ink).

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!

Pindeider Travelling Inkwell. Where the magic happens.

Early thoughts on the Sheaffer Prelude cobalt blue fountain pen.

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.

Sheaffer Prelude, cobalt blue with rose gold PVD trim.

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.

The rather vintagey-looking nib of the Sheaffer Prelude.

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).

Cobalt blue pen with Cobalt blue ink. Genius.

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.

My favourite Prelude pic. Look at that paper texture!

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 Sheaffer Prelude (right) beside a near equivalent, the Parker Sonnet. Both with steel nibs but each taking its own proprietary cartridge or converter.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

 

 

My first Pelikan Hub, London UK, 2017.

On 22 September 2017, in cities around the world, the annual Pelikan Hub event took place. This is an occasion for fans of Pelikan fountain pens and inks to gather and meet each other. Anyone who wishes to attend, can register. A Hub Master is then nominated for each city, who books a venue and notifies those in his or her group of where it will take place. The Hub Master also receives gifts donated by Pelikan, to distribute on the night. It is a wonderful idea and I know of no other fountain pen company that does this.

Here in London, our Hub Master, Naresh had arranged for our group to meet at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, in Portman Square, close to Oxford Street. The spacious public bar area on the ground floor was comfortable and relaxing. Naresh welcomed us and gave out the Pelikan gifts as people arrived. I was delighted to receive a bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz ink, a very useful, generous and unexpected present.

Our group spread out around a few tables around a fireplace. Then, getting straight down to business, people got out the pens that they had brought along. Soon the table was sporting an impressive array of pens, pen cases and pen rolls and journals of various sizes.

I am a newcomer to Pelikan pens, buying my first in April 2016, the M205 blue demonstrator with a broad nib, which I love. I went on to buy an M800 in blue and black in November (which I use every day) and then, earlier this year, at auction, a vintage M400 tortoise from the 1950’s. These, my modest “flock” of Pelikans, I brought to the hub.

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My flock: the M800, M400 vintage tortoise and M205 blue demonstrator.

Many at our table had brought along very impressive pens. I was able to handle an M600 (claimed by some to be the ideal size Pelikan) and some limited editions. Our table included Katherine, visiting from San Francisco and Jonathan, a member of Fountain Pen Network – Philippines. Marisa was a member of the London UK Fountain Pen Club and encouraged others to come to their monthly gatherings.

I was struck afterwards by how quickly and easily, people had started talking about their pens, passing them around, inviting others to try them. Little or no introductions were needed. We all had a common interest. It was unusual and refreshing, with the same absence of formality as a child starting a conversation in a school playground.

A few slightly guilty conversations took place on the subject of how many pens one had. Someone was asked “When did you last buy a pen?” and replied “Yesterday!”

Trying other people’s vintage pens was an education. The feel of the softer, flexy nibs gives a very different writing experience. Everyone was very knowledgeable and discerning in their choices of pens and nibs.

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The joy of trying each other’s pens.

Soon, fascinating conversations were taking place on all sides. A gentleman at our table was telling us about his gorgeous Pelikan M800 Renaissance Brown and was planning to buy only one more pen this year, the Pelikan Ocean Swirl. Another of the group had planned not to buy any pens in September. There was much to learn about pens and their interesting owners.

As well as sharing stories and experiences of their Pelikan pens, some other beautiful pens were produced and I was able to try a Nakaya Piccolo, a Pilot vanishing point (or Capless) and a Conid bulkfiller.

The time flew by and all too soon it was time to leave. I left wanting more! Before dispersing, a few group photos were taken around the Pelikan Hubs banner. Similar photos can now be seen on social media from cities all round the world and it is rather nice and special to think that fellow fountain pen enhusiasts were sharing their stories on the same day, in so many countries and cities.

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Pelikan Hubs 2017 London UK.

I picked up a lot from talking to people and had a wonderful evening. Thanks to Naresh our Hub Master for arranging the venue, to the Hyatt Regency Hotel for their hospitality and to Pelikan for instigating this marvelous event – and for the beautiful ink.

I could not wait to try the ink when I got home. I have put it in two pens. I am thrilled with the unusual colour and its attractive shading. Many of our group – me included – plan to visit the London Pen Show on 1 October 2017 and look forward to meeting again then.

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A look at the Sheaffer 100 Translucent blue and chrome fountain pen

What is it about the combination of electric blue and chrome which makes it so captivating and (to me) irresistible?

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This year marks the 225th anniversary of WH Smith, the high street  book shop, newsagent and stationer chain that is a familiar sight in our towns and cities. Our local branch, at Brent Cross shopping centre, North London has reinvigorated its fountain pen display cabinets. This was a welcome find, when I visited recently. I enjoy looking around for anything new. This time I was rewarded with their dedicated self contained glass display cabinet showing a range of fountain pens from Parker, Cross, Waterman and Sheaffer each arranged in a fan shape although closer inspection revealed that the brands were intermixed.

It was there that I spotted what I now know to be the Sheaffer 100, in translucent blue, with polished chrome section and a brushed stainless steel cap, featuring the trademark Sheaffer white dot. The pen, with cap posted, looked stunning with its vibrant blue barrel and contrasting silver coloured section and cap. The nib, with its decorative scroll work, harks back to the glory days of Sheaffer when they were made in Fort Madison, Iowa.

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Sheaffer 100 Translucent blue and chrome

The pen looked to be good value, particularly in comparison with some of the other offerings on display with similar specification. With its striking good looks, needless to say, I succumbed to buying another pen.

The pen comes in a decently made and typical, black gift box with a removable padded tray, underneath which is a Use and Care Guide and 1 year warranty leaflet. Whilst this is for a Sheaffer pen, the name on the back of the leaflet nowadays reads A.T.Cross Company. You also get two Sheaffer Skrip cartridges, one blue and one black but no converter.

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A feature of this pen is the shiny grip section. But there we have a contradiction in terms. Shiny sections are difficult for me to grip. I know this. I have a Cross Aventura with the same issue. The section looks pretty and photogenic but slips around in my hand.

Why is this important? We look at writing samples to see how nibs perform, how wide the line is, how dry or wet the ink flow is, whether it skips and so on. But there is another factor at work here. Is the pen comfortable to hold? And part of feeling comfortable with a pen, means being able to hold it securely and confidently so that you can exercise sufficient control of the pen as you write. At the same time, you do not want to be overly aware of how you are holding the pen, which you will be if you are gripping too tight as your hand will tell you after a little while.

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A pen which cannot be gripped securely will manifest itself in shaky and erratic writing. Happiness does not shine through.

In the case of the Sheaffer 100, I have been writing with it for a few weeks now and have become accustomed to holding the pen just above the join of the section and the barrel. In this way, I can hold the blue barrel between finger and thumb, whilst the cool and shiny section rests on my second finger. This works for me. It feels slightly higher than I would normally hold a pen, but not too much higher like chopsticks.

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Holding the pen further back from the nib also means that you still need sufficient length for the back of the pen to rest in the crook of your hand. The pen unposted measures 120mm (4 3/4 inches) but happily, the cap posts securely (if you give it a firm push) and brings the pen up to 149mm (about 5 7/8ths inches) which is a very comfortable length, for me. The pen weighs 28g capped or posted. Uncapped it is 18g, with the cap weighing 10g.  I like to use it posted and this is not too heavy.

As for the writing experience, I tried the pen first with the supplied blue Sheaffer Skrip cartridge. The medium nib wrote a nice wet line, on the fine side of medium. The nib looks very attractive. However, seen under a loupe, the tipping on my nib looked just a little off, with the nib slit at the tip being not quite perpendicular when viewed head on, but leaning towards a 1 o’clock to 7 o’clock line. I decided to leave it to wear in naturally and I think it will wear smooth as I use the pen.

Whilst having a lovely ink flow, the blue Skrip did bleed through quite badly on a particular Paperchase notebook that was using such that when I finished the first cartridge I syringe-filled it with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue, which I am using now and without the bleedthrough.

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Sheaffer 100 with Medium stainless steel nib and Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue ink on Rhodia 90gsm paper. Words by William Wordsworth.

I have adapted to holding the pen a little higher than I might otherwise, in view of the slippy no-go area of chrome section. But it is good to adapt and be comfortable with using different pens, rather like being able to drive different types of car.

If I had not liked the look of the pen I would not have persevered with it but I am fond of Sheaffers and it has been worth the effort.

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My grandmother had a sugar bowl like this one.