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.

 

 

 

A peek at the Perkeo; first impressions of the new Kaweco cartridge pen.

A cruise ship holiday offers a wonderful opportunity for the fountain pen enthusiast, to spend a little time away, in new surroundings with a few select pens for journaling on the trip.

Our recent one-week cruise departed from Southampton, with visits to La Rochelle in France, Bilboa in Spain and finally, St Peter Port, Guernsey.  Being a novice at the modern cruise ship experience, I had not prepared myself much beyond planning which pens to bring.  While my wife was happily picking out which evening dresses to pack, I was looking forward particularly to sitting in our balcony cabin, with notebook and pen, to “unpack” a few thoughts and impressions of our travels.

Choosing which pens to bring from the “currently inked” selection in my pen cups, was a challenge, but an enjoyable one. I settled on the following:

  1. Lamy AL-star, Pacific Blue (with Lamy turquoise ink cartridges);
  2. Lamy AL-star, Charged Green (with syringe-filled cartridge of Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green ink);
  3. Cleo Skribent, Classic Gold piston filler, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink); the ink colour reminds me of a Guernsey pullover;
  4. Cleo Skribent, Classic Metal piston filler, with Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green ink);
  5. Faber-Castell School pen, with blue ink cartridge. A light-weight and reliable shirt pocket pen for the hasty note.

Admittedly, any one of these would have been sufficient on its own to use for a week, but I enjoyed each of them in turn.

I had hoped that the shore excursions might afford an opportunity to stumble across a charming local pen shop and browse among some unfamiliar brands of fountain pens and inks. However, having chosen to join guided tours for our visits to La Rochelle and Bilbao, there was limited time available for shopping.

It was not until day six, when spending a day wandering on our own at St Peter Port, that I spotted the familiar “Paperchase” shop sign and found a stationery shop looking just like any of their other branches in London. Nevertheless, starved of pen shops for almost a week I was interested to check whether their stock was any different from ours at home.

The glass cabinets displays of Cross, Kaweco and Parker pens and the hanging displays of Lamy Safaris and AL-stars were all very familiar. But then I had my first sighting of a Kaweco Perkeo, a recently released model, news of which had not yet reached me.

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Displayed in a clear plastic clam-shell style pack, I first noticed the “Cotton Candy” version, with a contrasting taupe coloured cap. I understand that cotton candy is the spun sugar confection that in the UK is known as candy floss. To me however, the colour of this pen puts me more in mind of salmon which would be a truer although perhaps less appealing description.

Beside this on the rack, there was another version called “Old Chambray” which denotes a blue-grey colour for the cap, with white barrel and section.

The pen has a stainless steel nib (made by Bock) familiar from the Kaweco Sport pocket pens. Indeed the pen is similar to the Kaweco Sport but larger all round and with a broader cap. The cap is eight sided whilst the barrel is sixteen sided. I have read that it is based upon another old Kaweco fountain pen.

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The main and most obvious difference is the length, with the Perkeo having a length, opened and unposted, of about 128mm (or 160mm posted), whilst the Kaweco Sport measures just around 100mm opened and unposted, (or around 133mm posted, as it is intended to be used). Thus the Perkeo is almost as long unposted, as the Sport is posted. Other differences are that the Perkeo section has three flat surfaces, or facets, intended to improve correct grip and that the cap of the Perkeo is broader and shorter than on the Sport and snaps on rather than being threaded.

The packaging shows three cartridges included although there are in fact four, since you find one more in the barrel, plus a blank, dummy cartridge already fitted in the section.

Deciding to buy one of each colour, I was keen to have a closer look at home and to ink them up. The nibs on both proved to be very smooth, with tines well-adjusted “out of the box” with a good ink flow thus giving a very pleasing, well lubricated writing experience. No complaints there.

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I have since read online that there are two other colour options, namely “Indian Summer” which is yellow and black, or “Bad Taste” which is coral pink and black.

I inked the Old Chambray model with one of the supplied cartridges of Kaweco blue ink. This is an excellent ink, a rich, dark royal blue. As for the Cotton Candy model, as I have rather too many pens already inked with blue, I inserted a dark blood-orange cartridge from an old bag of standard international cartridges in assorted colours from Paperchase that I had at home. (At £2.50 for a bag of 50, these are great value and give your pens a low running cost for high mileage writing).

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In summary my initial impressions are:-

Likes

  • good length, comfortable to use posted or unposted;
  • barrel has room for a spare cartridge;
  • strong resin material; a tough pen to use and carry around every day, such as for school use;
  • excellent stainless steel nib; smooth, optimum flow (wet but not overly so);
  • four Kaweco ink cartridges included with the pen;
  • firm snap on cap, with good inner cap fitted and an attractive metal Kaweco badge for the finial;
  • reasonable price; similar to the Lamy Safari.

Dislikes

  • three facets in the section; I would have preferred the section without these; however they are shorter than those on the Lamy Safari or AL-star and the pen barrel is sufficiently long, to avoid the facets and grip the pen higher up with thumb and forefinger over the contrasting coloured band at the end of the section and still have the barrel resting in the crook of your hand; or you may post the cap for even greater length;
  • colours are a bit garish and weird, unlike the more standard colours available for the Safari;
  • tough resin material and the snap-on cap (with no pocket clip) combine to give a functional but rather charmless, clunky, white board marker-pen feel.

Conclusions

Overall, this is a pen that writes very well, with a good quality German stainless steel nib. If you like the Kaweco Sport but wish it was a full sized pen that you could use unposted, then this may be the answer, being bigger and longer than the little Sport. For me, I would have preferred it without the facets on the grip section. As there are three of them they do narrow the grip and also do not quite coincide with the angle at which I like to hold the nib to the page. However I liked the pen despite this feature.

Finally, the irony of choosing a German pen as a souvenir from Guernsey, has not escaped me. Guernsey was occupied by Germany during the war and was not liberated until 9 May 1945, a date commemorated on several monuments around the pretty harbour area of St Peter Port.  The pens will still remind me of a brief and pleasant visit to the island. I did also buy some Guernsey Cream Fudge.

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Converting a Platinum Preppy to eyedropper.

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If you had asked me about this a few years ago, I would not have known what you were talking about. It is one of those things that I picked up from the internet. Sensing that it seemed to be one of the rites of passage of fountain pen enthusiasts, I gave it a try today for the first time.

For the benefit of other newbies, we are talking about taking a fountain pen that is a typical cartridge/converter type filler and instead removing the cartridge or converter and filling the barrel directly with ink. The benefit, supposedly, is that you have a greatly increased ink capacity and do not need to fill the pen as often.

In order for a pen to be suitable, it needs to have a plastic barrel and plastic threads and for there to be no metal parts which might otherwise corrode from sustained contact with ink. Also the barrel must have no hole at the end, for obvious reasons.

The Platinum Preppy meets all these criteria and is a good choice. It is a very inexpensive pen, (mine was £2.79 from Cult Pens) but with a good nib available in a range of widths. The clear demonstrator barrels also mean that you can enjoy the sight of your ink sloshing around inside.

On the other hand, arguments against filling the barrel with ink are that there is a risk of greater mess if anything goes wrong. Perhaps if you were going travelling and did not want to take a bottle of ink, then having an eyedroppered Preppy would keep you writing for a good while but travelling with such a pen would be a worry. So you might want to keep your eyedropper for use at home or at work. But then given that you are likely to have a ready supply of ink on hand at home and work, it seems that there is not much of a case for an eyedroppered pen either for travelling or for home/work use. Maybe it would suit students who write large amounts of lecture notes every day, provided the pen is carried with care.

For the benefit of anyone who wants to try it, there are just a few items that you will need, as well as a suitable pen and some bottled ink, as follows:

  1. Pure silicone grease, to put in the threads.
  2. An O ring, to prevent leakage.
  3. A pipette, or syringe to transfer ink from a bottle to the barrel of your pen.

Gathering all of these items takes a little bit of hunting. I had heard that Silicone grease could be purchased from dive shops and as luck would have it, we have a dive shop in my corner of London.  The O rings can be bought in packs from the plumbing section of DIY stores. And the pipette I spotted in an art supply shop in a pack of ten.

The operation is very simple. You take an O ring,  stretch it over the threads and roll it down until it is seated at the end. I tried one of the large ones to start with, but then found that the smaller one will stretch over the threads making the rubber slightly narrower so I went with that size instead. You then take just a small amount of the pure silicone grease on your finger and smear it into the threads. Then, using the pipette, draw up some of your chosen ink and release it into the barrel.

According to an instruction video from Brian Goulet that I have just re-watched,  it is recommended that you keep the pen at least half full of ink. Also, I read on an information sheet that came with a Noodler’s Ahab pen (another good candidate for eyedropper conversion) that air in the chamber may expand from the heat of your hand and that refilling is required when the pen is down to two thirds air, in order to inhibit excessive flow.

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I have a Preppy with a medium (0.5) nib which writes very nicely. I had been using it recently with Sailor Kiwa-guro, permanent black ink in a cartridge which I filled with a syringe. I now planned to use this ink in the pen as an eyedropper.

On my first attempt this afternoon I had a few little issues. First I nearly forgot that the Preppy has a push on cap and I automatically started to “unscrew” the cap a few turns before realising that I was undoing the barrel and was perilously close to pouring permanent black ink all over myself. Secondly I then noticed that despite my generous application of silicone grease, ink had still worked its way part of the way down the clear plastic threads. Thirdly, the O ring was still rather too fat and so it protruded just where I grip the pen, although it did a good job of ensuring the barrel was secured pretty well. You do not want to overtighten the barrel as there would then be a risk of cracking the pen. Fourthly when I tried writing with the pen, I had a few wet blobs of ink suddenly appear on the paper.

I wondered whether this might possibly be due to a build up of air pressure as you screw the barrel onto the section, but then read the Noodlers’ advice about keeping the ink level up. I had filled the pen only half way up the barrel but went back and topped it up with some more ink until it was about three quarters full and I hope that this solves the problem.

It is rather too early to see how this is going to work out. I am very impressed with the Sailor Kiwa-guro ink and like to keep one pen inked with this, as it so useful for writing cheques or addressing envelopes. I know it is said to be fountain pen friendly, but I still feel a bit wary of having it in more than one pen at a time with the risk that it might get left to dry in the feed. I had washed it out of my Lamy AL-star and decided to use it in the Preppy instead. I like the way it moves around in the Preppy, without leaving much trace on the barrel. And unlike cartridge ink, the eyedropper method means that you do not get ink staying at the wrong end of a cartridge and causing ink starvation.

I am not sure yet whether I am going to keep the Preppy eyedroppered or go back to using cartridges. But at least it is another milestone in the fountain pen journey, to mark off the list.

Inky pursuits: my weekend round-up (2)

This weekend has seen some more inky goings-on which, taken on their own, might not be blog-worthy but together seem worth sharing in a round-up.

I am still delighted with the Cleo Skribent, piston filler fountain pen, four weeks in. I can genuinely say that I feel happy every time I remember it. The first fill, with Aurora Blue was still not quite finished when I ordered a bottle of Monteverde Napa Burgundy and decided to flush the remains of the blue, to have an ink change.

While flushing the pen, I decided to try removing the nib and feed. I had not yet found any guidance on doing this and was anxious not to cause any damage. I found that they are friction fit and came out very easily, when gripped together in tissue paper and pulled out straight. It is great to be able to rinse a nib and feed or remove the nib for any minor adjustments. To replace them, you just need to line up the nib and feed correctly, holding the nib on top of the feed centrally and with the right length of tines protruding beyond the end of the feed and then gently rotate them in the grip section until you locate the right way to push them back in.

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Whilst the pen was empty, I dipped it in three different inks to see how they would each look from the fine (more like extra fine) nib of the Cleo Skribent. I tried Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite, Waterman Harmonious Green and then Diamine Conway Stewart Tavy, which is one of my favourite blue-black inks. I tried these on three different papers in turn. The Tavy gave a slightly bluer shade than the Tanzanite.

I then had the idea of seeing whether any of my pens had nibs which were interchangeable with the Cleo Skribent. The nib looked to be about the same size as the nib on a Kaweco Sport, a Cross Apogee or a Monteverde Artista Crystal. All of these are friction fit and are removed just by a careful pull of the nib and feed together, taking care not to damage the delicate feed. The nib on the Cross Apogee is 18k gold with a silver-coloured plating. However, once removed from the pens, the nibs of the Cross Apogee and the Kaweco Sport were both shorter than that of the Cleo Skribent.

The nib on the Monteverde Artista Crystal appears to be same length as the Cleo Skribent and so I think it would be possible to use that in the Cleo, if I wanted a Medium nib option. However, for now, I kept to the Cleo’s own nib.

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On Friday, I received an exciting package from Cult Pens, including the Monteverde Napa Burgundy ink that I had ordered. It came in a 90ml bottle and boasts a special formula, which they call ITF (Ink Treatment Formula). This, it is claimed, “drastically improves ink-flow quality, extends cap-off time, lubricates and protects the ink-feeding systems from corrosion and clogging and improves ink-drying time on papers.”

Whilst this all sounds very commendable, I soon found that the colour when paired with the very fine nib of the Cleo Skribent, looked a rather pale pinky-brown rather than the rich dark burgundy red that I had hoped for. I will try it in a pen with a broader and wetter nib but meanwhile decided to flush it from the Cleo.

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Furthermore, I did a very quick swab test comparison of the Monteverde Napa Burgundy with a Mont Blanc Burgundy and found that they appear pretty much the same colour. Others may conduct a proper and thorough comparison but to my eyes there is little to distinguish them in terms of colour on the page and if I was shown a sample of only one of them, I would be hard put to say which one it was. Of course, the other qualities listed above should also be evaluated and not only the colour. Anyway, happiness was soon restored once I refilled the Cleo, with the Tavy ink that I had sampled earlier.

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On Saturday, I spent the day at a church in Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire, hearing first hand about all the excellent work of a UK registered charity, Jubilee Society of Mongolia. The talk was hosted by the church which has supported the organisation since it was founded. Two Mongolian ladies from the organisation had come over to give a presentation, celebrating its 15th anniversary.

After hearing about all the very important and valuable work that the charity is doing in Mongolia, it seems rather shallow to tell you only that I took notes all day, using a Sheaffer Sagaris in the morning and then the Cleo Skribent in the afternoon. Both pens were excellent for note-taking and did not dry out if uncapped for a while.

Also in that package from Cult Pens, as well as the burgundy ink, was my new Lamy AL-star in the Pacific Blue, special edition for 2017. I had not seen these in the shops yet. The colour and finish are very appealing. Cult Pens offers a choice of nibs, in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad and Left Handed. I was rather intrigued by this last option and telephoned to ask what it meant, before ordering. Was it an oblique nib? Or one which was adjusted to write wetter for lefties? And what nib width was it? I was told that it is simply a bit more rounded and forgiving for people to hold the pen at different angles. Being a leftie, I decided to try one. I also ordered a pack of the matching Pacific Blue cartridges.

I tried the new pen and ink as soon as they arrived. I love the colour of the pen and the ink. I thought the ink to be quite similar to Pilot Iroshizuku ama-iro. However on comparing them side by side, the Pacific Blue is clearly lighter than the Ama-iro.

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As for the nib, I had  close look at it under the loupe. It has the letters LH on. There is generous amount of tipping material and the nib was usable straight out of the box, but a little skippy. I suspect it just needed to wear in. However, being impatient to enjoy the new pen and ink, I swapped over the LH nib for a medium nib from one of my Safaris and this is now writing very nicely and is the nib used for the writing sample pictured.

With this new Pacific Blue AL-star to brighten my pen cups, I now have seventeen fountain pens currently inked and need to bring this down.

This week I have one day out on a continuing professional development course. I am looking forward to taking notes with the Cleo Skribent again and possibly the Lamy AL-star Pacific Blue for annotating the handouts.

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Combo of the week: Lamy AL-star and Sailor Kiwa-guro

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I have begun to appreciate that a good ink is just as important as a good pen, in finding  an optimum writing experience. It is great when you do find a combination of pen and ink that not only works, but enables both pen and ink to bring out the best in themselves and each other.

After reading great things about Sailor Kiwa-guro black pigment ink from other bloggers, I was excited to try it for myself and ordered a bottle from The Writing Desk.

This is said to be safe to use in fountain pens and has several useful attributes. First, it is largely waterproof. Secondly, it resists feathering, where other inks fail. Thirdly, it also resists bleeding and show-through.

As well as all this, it seems to be a clean and well-behaved ink, that does not leave a residue on the insides of the converter.

The bottle contains a plastic conical insert, which is filled by turning the bottle upside down and then righting it again, for ease of filling your pen when the ink level is low.

When you look at the ink in the open bottle and swill it around a little bit, it does not leave any trace on the plastic insert but keeps to itself, rather like mercury back in my school science class days.

I decided to try the ink first in my black Lamy AL-star. The matte-black barrel and cap, the black nib and black clip all pointed to this pen being a good choice.

The ink flow of the Lamy is known for being on the dry side and my medium nib is smooth and firm. Paired with the Sailor Kiwa-guro, the lubrication of the nib is wonderful, rather like the feel of a plastic spatula in a non-stick saucepan and with no skipping.

Naturally I was eager to try the ink for water resistance. I wrote a few lines and then immersed the paper in a basin of water. There was a very slight lift-off of ink but when removing the paper and allowing it to dry, the writing looked as good as new. This would be a great ink to use for addressing envelopes or any use where there is a risk of the paper getting wet.

My next test was to try the pen on an unused notebook, (a Paperchase Agenzio soft black, ruled notebook) that I had previously given up on, as being unusable with fountain pens.To my great delight, there was no bleeding with this ink. I recommend this ink if you have notebooks that you cannot use (for writing on both sides of the paper) with other inks.

As for feathering, I had tried a new black Sheaffer Sagaris recently with the supplied black Sheaffer Skrip cartridge and was surprised at how much this feathered on a reporter’s inexpensive spiral bound note book. This same paper had been good to use with a Lamy blue ink cartridge.

Sure enough, when trying the Kiwa-guro on this paper, there was no feathering. The lines remain very crisp, whereas the Skrip black ink has gone very woolly. Admittedly the Sheaffer Sagaris is a wetter writer than the AL-star so this is not a level playing field.

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I have used the black AL-star with Sailor Kiwa-guro at work for over a week now, for writing notes, forms and documents and signing letters and enjoy the silky feel of the nib gliding over the paper.

On the downside, I had hoped that it might be possible to go over the writing with a yellow highlighter pen without smudging but this was not entirely successful. There is an element of the ink that is not waterproof and which will smudge if you go over it with a highlighter pen even though the writing remains very dark. Some black ink will transfer to the felt tip of the highlighter. For this reason it is probably not suited to  being used for drawing in conjunction with water colour paints, but then this is not its intended use.

The other downside is the price, at £21.60 for the 50ml bottle, making this a premium ink, but given its useful properties I have no regrets about the expense.

I have not yet tried it in any other pen. As a pigment ink, I still thought it best to keep it to one pen at a time which I then use regularly. However, it may well be that my concerns over ink drying out in the pen and being difficult to clean up, are unjustified. From my brief experience of  this ink so far I am certainly tempted to try it in a different pen next time, particularly one of those which might benefit from a more lubricating ink.

 

Rover 14k Extra Fine nib: a writing sample

Further to my post yesterday about the vintage Pelikan M400, here is a writing sample to show the versatility of the extra fine nib.

The nib is a Rover, 14k gold, in extra fine. (update: a “Rover 585 EXTRA PO.45” to be precise).The ink is Conway Stewart Tavy by Diamine, which I like a lot.


The paper is from a Silvine exercise book. It was written on my knee in the park in Golders Green, basking in 5 degrees Celsius today, while last night’s frost and ice lingers in the shade.

Having a wonderful pen and ink combination like this makes me yearn for better handwriting.