Early thoughts on the Aurora Optima Rossa fountain pen.

This week a new Italian beauty came into my life. Was this sensible? How did this happen? Does it end well? Read on to find out.

It was exactly one week ago today, that I placed an order for an Aurora Optima. This was rather sudden but not entirely without reason. The splendid Aurora 88 that I bought two years ago became one of my favourite pens. I had been curious to try an Optima which has the same range of nibs, same piston filling system but housed in a body with rather more of that Italian flair. I knew it to be a favourite of Laura, whose blog fountain pen follies I greatly admired. (See her review here). But the triggering factors were (a) I noticed that it was available with an Oblique Broad nib and (b) it was in the Iguanasell summer sale with 20% off.

The wait was an anxious time. I fretted over whether I had made the right nib choice. Would it be suitable? Would it be to my liking? Would it be too broad, too firm, too feedbacky, too dry? I know of only a handful of pen companies offering pens with oblique nibs now, including Montblanc and Lamy. Aurora pens are not readily found in shops in the UK. It is therefore necessary to take a chance on ordering online and to hope that you pick a suitable nib from the 11 options. Iguanasell do offer easy returns if you change your mind.

The pen arrived, from Spain via FedEx, in just four days which was impressive. My order, placed on a Saturday, was despatched on Monday and with me by Wednesday.

The unboxing.

Once the pen arrives the anxieties of the wait are soon forgotten. The package was in a sturdy brown cardboard box, protected in bubble wrap. Inside this, was the glossy black Aurora cardboard box, with a fold-down flap at the front. Finally, inside this is the large, black gift box with a hinged lid and a padded black interior. The pen rests on a black padded tray, in a cellophone sleeve. A little metal badge proclaims 14K solid gold nib. Under the tray is the booklet, comprising the instructions for use, care guide and guarantee (two years against any defective materials and workmanship). It is certainly a very impressive and presentable package and gives confidence that you have bought a top quality item.

The Aurora Optima rossa in its gift box.

Design and construction.

The model I chose features a barrel and cap made of red “Auroloide” which is Aurora’s name for its modern celluloid material, cellulose acetate. Some more information about this can be found in Pen Review: Aurora Optima Auroloide by Matt Armstrong of The Pen Habit . It has a marbled or variegated pattern which looks very pretty as you turn it in your hand to see the different tones. It is also slightly translucent so that, when held against the light, you can make out the shape of the nib inside the cap. There is a darker area in the barrel when the pen is inked although it is not so obvious as to be unsightly.

The cap has a glossy black plain finial. There is a sturdy and firm metal pocket clip ending in smooth hollow ball of folded metal. It is very functional but I would worry about letting it spring back violently against the cap in case of cracking the material.

The red temptress.

The cap band is a feature of the pen, with two rows of Greek key pattern filled in black, between which are the names AURORA at the front and ITALY on the back, in smooth and shiny relief against a lined, textured background. The cap ring blends very smoothly with the cap.

The cap unscrews in about one and a quarter turns. The threads of the Auroloide cap meet the threads of the black resin grip section.

Removing the cap, you find Aurora’s famously in-house made 14k gold nib, (Rhodium plated on my model), an ebonite feed and a long comfortable grip section. This ends in a large clear ink window, with chrome rings either side. The ink window is concealed by the cap when the pen is closed, which I find tidier than having the ink window visible when the pen is capped.

The barrel, in red Auroloide, has some text engraved, a feature that I like very much. This has the Aurora logo with “AURORA ITALIA inside and the words “FABBRICA ITALIANA, DI PENNE A SERBATOIO. This last slogan can be found on advertising images of old and translates, I think, to something like “the tank pen” or “the pen with a reservoir.” As an added bonus, the words can be read with the pen in the left hand! This is a rare and joyous thing. (Good luck finding any left handed pencils).

The barrel engraving for lefties!

At the end of the barrel, is a black resin piston knob, separated from the Auroloide by another chrome ring.

The Auroloide is produced from coloured pellets. I am not certain whether it is then injection moulded to make the barrels and caps or whether it is formed into solid rods which are turned on a lathe. I expect someone can help me out on this. In any event, there are no discernible seams in the barrel, cap or section and the finished product is beautifully smooth and polished.

Filling system.

The pen is filled from a bottle by turning the piston knob, to expel the air and then draw up ink. The piston operates very smoothly.

The instructions advise letting go of three drops of ink at the end of filling, turning the pen upright and then turning the piston back to the home position to draw up any surplus ink. This will help if you do not want the feed too saturated after filling. Personally I do not find this essential as the feed seems to do an excellent job of regulating the flow of ink to the paper.

The Aurora piston filler has another feature, a hidden reservoir or reserve to use if you “run out” of ink. Simply operate the piston up and down again and the reserve is released into the feed and you have enough ink for another page or so, to keep you writing until you can get to your ink bottle.

This reminds me of the feature in Parker Quink cartridges, called “tap tank” whereby you were to give the cartridge a gentle flick to dislodge the ink reserve and let it run down into the section. In the Aurora, with its large ink window, a reserve seems a bit unnecessary as you are unlikely to get caught out with no ink when you have an ink window. Unless changing ink colour, you do not need to wait until it is empty and can refill before a trip. I worry that the hidden reservoir means a trap for ink when you are flushing the pen, although operating the piston a few times, with the nib immersed in warm water should be enough. For a quicker clean, you can unscrew the nib and feed unit and wash them separately or leave them to soak overnight, but you need to take great care not to grip them too tightly to alter the alignment or tine gap, or damage the delicate ebonite feed, when doing this.

According to Aurora the pen needs no special maintenance, other than to flush the pen with warm water if you are to change ink colour or if the ink should stop flowing. They advise that the pen be kept with nib pointing up if travelling by car or aeroplane but “If you bear this little advice in mind your Aurora will be your faithful writing companion throughout your life,” a very appealing sentiment.

Size and weight.

I measured the pen to be around 127mm long when capped, or 123mm uncapped. The cap posts very nicely to bring the length up to around 152mm. The girth is about 14mm maximum at the barrel.

The pen is light, at around 15g uncapped (including about half a tank of ink in my case), plus 7g for the cap or 22g in total.

At 123mm, the pen is longer than it looks.

In Matt Armstrong’s review, he mentions his initial disappointment at finding the pen “so short”. The pen does appear short but I think that, to some extent at least, this is an optical illusion, caused by the coloured Auroloide being sandwiched between a very long black section and black piston knob. The girth is quite wide, which might also make the pen look short and chubby. On paper, an uncapped length of 123mm is not unduly short. I have been using the pen unposted, very comfortably. When compared with other pens, it is interesting to see that that the uncapped length is not so different from a Montblanc 146 or a Montegrappa Fortuna, and these are not usually accused of being short pens. In any event, Matt’s pen “grew” to become one of his top five pens.

Size comparison with the Pineider Avatar. See how the Opitima’s black ends and wider girth exaggerate the shortness.
Some more size comparisons: with Diplomat Excellence, Montegrappa Fortuna, Cross Peerless 125, Montblanc 146 and Pelikan M800.

The nib and writing performance.

One of the main draws of this pen for me, was the option to choose an oblique broad nib. For the past 9 months, I have been enjoying an OB nib on a humble Moonman S5, a Taiwanese eye-dropper pen costing just £27.50 (including two other nib units!) and have found it to be wonderfully suited to my way of writing. I have been curious to try another OB from Montblanc or Lamy although with some trepidation in case these might not prove as great for me as the Moonman! Finally the opportunity to buy the pretty Optima came along and I took the plunge.

The Aurora OB nib is a left-foot oblique, a stub with the tip cut at a slant of about 15 degrees. Aurora nibs are known to be firm (except the flex nib) and to have a distinctive feedback, which is not to everyone’s taste.

Aurora 14k gold, Rhodium plated, OB nib.

My last experience, of the 14k gold medium nib on my Aurora 88 was that it was smooth but a little on the dry side and not as wide as I had expected. However I had been able to adjust it myself to widen the tine gap marginally, which made just enough difference and now it writes wonderfully. Filled with Aurora Blue, the ebonite feed keeps the nib in a permanent state of readiness.

Ebonite feed, a rare luxury.

The OB nib on my new Optima was great, right out of the box and has not needed any such tinkering from me. Under the loupe, there was a very slender gap between the tines, even at the tip which promised good flow with no pressure required. The line it produces varies according to the angle of rotation: the principle is that you hold the pen at a constant angle, with the tip of the nib flat on the paper (the “sweet spot”) and then enjoy effortless line width variation according to the direction of the stroke. If you make a cross stroke, left or right then you get the thinnest possible line. If you move directly down, you get the widest. There are degrees of thickness to be had between these extremes according to the angle. I found that I could produce about 5 different thicknesses, from 1 to 5. In ordinary writing you might not see the extremes of this range 1 to 5 but more likely a more subtle range from about 2 to 4.

Range of line widths available from OB nib.

The edges of the nib are a bit sharp, as an italic nib. Care is needed to keep the nib on the sweet spot for smooth writing and so the corners do not dig into the paper. As the nib is Rhodium plated, it is hard to tell where the gold nib ends and the Iridium tipping material begins, but I hope that the nib will hold up well and last me a good long time.

The nib was chosen for my specific needs when writing in my “lefty overwriter” mode, a rather awkward habit which involves rotating the paper 90 degrees anti-clockwise and then writing with my pen over (above) the line, rather than below it. This style evolved for me as an alternative to bending my wrist to avoid smudging and has been called by some people, “writing up-hill”.

A few favourite stubby nibs: Sailor Pro-Gear slim music nib, Aurora Optima OB, Moonman S5 OB, and Italix Captain’s Commission Italic Fine.

I have practised writing in an underwriter style too when occasion requires but experience tells me (including copying out Marcus Aurelius’ book Meditations) that I cannot write very uniformly in this style and my ascenders and descenders tend to lean all over the place.

Conclusion.

I am enjoying my new toy. I am happy with my choice of OB nib. It may be that an OM or even an OF (both of which were available) might have suited me too and it would have been good to try them all in a bricks and mortar shop, as you can with Montblanc’s range at their boutiques. Compared to my Moonman, I am glad to say that that the Aurora stands up well in comparison (with its 14k nib, ebonite feed, piston filler and Auroloide body and exquisite finish and elegance) but I love them both.

New pen, with some old Aurora catalogues.

Early thoughts on the Ryman soft cover notebook.

Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of Leuchtturm A5 journals. I like the format, the paper, the quality and the wide range of colours. They are readily available from my local branch of Ryman stationers. Over the last three years, I have filled about ten of them.

The one issue that I have with them, is that the line spacing is a bit too narrow for me. They have versions with dot grids, but these are at 5mm intervals and so would give you either a 5mm row height, which I find too narrow or 10mm if using two rows, which is a bit too wide. About 8mm would be just right. I prefer to buy the Leuchtturm with plain pages and then use a guide sheet or rule my own pencil lines, when and where I want them.

Yesterday, on a visit to Rymans I decided to try one of their own brand journals. Whereas the Leuchtturm journal costs typically around £16.99, the Ryman alternative is just £7.99. Ryman also make a larger one, which is approximately A4 size.

Ryman small, soft cover notebook.

As it is sealed in plastic shrink-wrap, you cannot inspect it fully. The labelling tells you that it has 192 pages of lined, cream, 70gsm paper.

Features.

  • 192 pages;
  • cream paper;
  • 70 gsm paper;
  • ruled lines (7mm row height)
  • one ribbon page marker;
  • expandable pocket in rear cover;
  • hardback;
  • soft-touch finish;
  • a selection of colours;
  • stitched binding, (book can be opened flat);
  • elastic pen loop.

When they say “soft cover”, this means soft-to-the-touch, not soft as in floppy like a paperback. It is a soft touch hard cover. It has the look and feel of leather.

The pages are not paginated. I did not mind and quite enjoyed paginating the book myself in pencil, especially when reaching the end and finding that I also arrived at 192, rather than, as sometimes happens, having to go back and look for where I had made a mistake.

Each page gives you 26 rows at 7mm spacing. The page numbers are my own.

The colours for the Ryman book included a pastel pink, and a pastel turquoise which did not particularly appeal to me and which I thought would get grubby in time. I chose the grey which seemed the most inoccuous.

The size.

The book is not A5 size and does not claim to be. An A5 page would be 148.5mm wide, by 210mm. This book’s pages are considerably narrower, at around 126mm and so your rows are around 22.5mm (almost one inch) shorter than A5. The page height is 207mm, which is only slightly less than 210mm A5 size. It is about the same as the Moleskine format.

When I compared the Ryman notebook with one that I had bought from the same shop about 7 years ago, I was surprised to see that the old one had much wider pages. I preferred the old one. I cannot see any advantage to the consumer in making the book narrower, except perhaps that it would be easier to fit in a coat pocket. It seems that, like many familiar chocolate bars, products are now being sold in smaller sizes.

Ryman notebook 2021 version, with an old version below for size comparison.

The paper quality.

The cream paper, with grey lines, is pleasant enough to write on with a fountain pen. The weight of 70gsm means it is a little on the thin side, and so you can expect some show-through. However it is bleed-through that renders a paper unsuitable for double-sided writing with a fountain pen. I tested a selection of pens and inks from my currently inked pen cups, to see which could be used and which could not.

Some bleed-through with certain inks. You need to choose your inks with care.

Those (from my initial test batch so far) that did not exhibit any bleed-through were Aurora blue, Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue, Waterman Serenity blue, Noodler’s black and Platinum black cartridge.

On the other hand, those inks that the paper did not cope with so well, were Waterman Harmonious green, Conway Stewart Tavy by Diamine, Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo, and Onoto Meditteranean blue.

I realise that it is not just the ink that determines whether it will bleed through papers, but how wet it is applied, which depends upon the individual pen.

I quite enjoyed sampling a few different pens and inks on the back pages of the notebook to see which I could use without bleed-through. This was no hardship and I anticipate that most fountain pen enthusiasts can find several combinations that work well from their own selections. It may be disappointing if you have a particular ink that you want to use in the notebook and then find that you cannot, or at least that you cannot use both sides of the page. It is necessary to test out the ink first.

Ticks for pen and ink combinations that do not bleed through. Crosses for those that do.

Conclusions.

Compared to the Leuchtturm, the pages are smaller, there are less of them, and the paper is less resistant to bleed-through from certain inks. Whilst it might look superficially to be an alternative to the Leuchtturm, (with its elastic closure and expandable pocket), it loses out to the Leuchtturm in size, paper quality and the number of pages.

Still, if you have lots of fountain pens and enjoy writing, then you need notebooks to write in. I shall enjoy using this one. It is not perfect for me. I would prefer that the line spaces were 8mm rather than 7mm and that the page width not been cropped since the last version I bought.

I have in mind to use it to write up some memories, little fragments of life remembered. Sitting down with one pen and one notebook, and one hour of quiet time, is something I find relaxing. Perhaps it is my equivalent of going to the pub for a pint.

The not-quite A5 journal with a Sailor Procolor 500 fountain pen.

A London odyssey and early thoughts on the Platinum Plaisir fountain pen.

This weekend, with Covid restrictions having eased in the UK of late, I enjoyed an excursion into London’s West End for the first time in many months and visited a few of my favourite haunts.

Beginning at Choosing Keeping, a wonderful store for stationery, I found that they have an exciting range of fountain pen inks, including Pilot Iroshizuku, Sailor, and Rohrer & Klingner, a refreshing change from the usual chain store selection. I was able to handle a Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Blue Dwarf limited edition pen, of which they have plenty in stock with a range of nibs. This is a great shop for attractive journals and for boxes of Japanese pencils too.

I visited some guitar shops in Denmark Street. Rose Morris has a good range of Taylor acoustic guitars on display. Another shop across the road sells Martin guitars. For mandolins and a huge variety of other stringed instruments, Hobgoblin Music in Rathbone Place is a gem and it was good to have a browse. I discovered and bought my baritone Ukulele there a few years ago.

Also in Rathbone Place, is Park Cameras, where I tried some Nikon Monarch binoculars and compared them with the Zeiss Terra ED, 10×42, of similar price. Either would be an upgrade from my current Nikon Prostaff 10×30 binos although I am very happy with them and they are excellent value.

Walking along London’s Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, weaving through the crowds of shoppers, it was good to find things getting back to normal. A lot of American Candy stores have appeared in Oxford Street, which I do not remember seeing before. At John Lewis, I had a look at the stationery department on the lower ground floor. The island of fountain pen display cases seemed to have shrunk a bit from days of old, but the usual suspects (Cross, Sheaffer, Waterman and Parker) were all there.

Finally I reached Selfridges. The Fine Writing department is also on their lower ground floor although it had moved position sometime before the pandemic. Montblanc has its own area. A short glide down on the escalator and you enter a world of Montegrappas, Graf, Caran d’Ache and other exotica.

There is also a stationery corner for more ordinary items and it was here that I found a row of Platinum Plaisir fountain pens, hanging on a rack in a selection of colours, with matching coloured packaging. It was the first time I had seen them in a bricks and mortar shop. My usual source for such items would be Cult Pens.

Not having tried the Plaisir before, and given that they were only £13.00, it was simply a question of choosing between black, dark blue, red, orange, citrus yellow, light frosty blue or silver. All had the same Medium (0.5) nib. I went with red.

Platinum Plaisir. It is very red.

Description.

The Platinum Plaisir is an aluminium pen, making for a more attractive and durable body than Platinum’s entry level plastic demonstrator Preppy, but with the same nib and a feed which is visible through the transparent grip section. You get a strong metal pocket clip, a shiny chrome cap band and a barrel which is not covered with text and bar code.

The cap pulls off, needing a very determined effort, made more difficult by the hard-to-grip finish of the barrel and cap. The cap features the Platinum “slip and seal” sprung inner cap which supposedly allows the pen to be left inked for up to a year without drying out.

Unboxing. Each colour pen has its own colour package but not one that you would want to keep.

The pen came with one Platinum black cartridge but no converter. Cult Pens sell Platinum converters separately in either silver or gold coloured finish but with a notice that whilst they will fit inside a Preppy or Plaisir, ink will only be drawn into the feed and not the converter and so you may need to fill the converter separately, outside the pen. Another filling option is to purchase an adaptor to enable use of standard international cartridges.

With cartridge inserted.

Size and weight.

The Plaisir is a good medium size, at 142mm long capped, or 122mm uncapped. The cap posts well bringing the length up to around 151mm whilst still remaining very light. Capped or posted, it weighs about 17.5g with a cartridge, or uncapped 9.5g and 8g for the cap alone.

The nib and writing experience.

The steel nib is of the wrap-around variety, like a Lamy Safari nib. It has no breather hole. The nib set-up looked promising under the loupe, with nice symmetrical tipping and a visible but minimal gap between the tines right down to the tip. I pushed in the supplied black cartridge. It popped in decisively and ink immediately splattered onto the feed. I put pen to paper and it started to write almost straightaway. Ink flow to the nib was consistent and ample, even for lefty-overwriting but without being too wet.

The M05 nib. Plenty of tipping.

The medium nib with rounded tipping provided a very smooth writing experience. It has a little bit of give but no “tooth” to give feedback. Like a Preppy nib, it works well. On the Leuchtturm and Rymans notebook papers I have tried so far, it did not skip but might struggle with very shiny papers. It did not have the same “Wow” factor as the medium nib on my Platinum Curidas which seemed more crisp and stubby, but as a general purpose writing tool at this price it provides a very adequate service.

The writing is as you would expect from a round tip medium nib. A fine line can be obtained from the reverse side.

Likes and dislikes.

Before being critical, it is worth remembering that this is a £13.00 pen which is probably about as good as it can be at that price.

At first I was a bit disappointed by the cap being so hard to pull off. However this is probably necessary to help create an air tight seal around the nib in conjunction with the slip and seal inner cap. It does shut firmly with no wobble. Also, I have a knack for this, to minimise the effort and avoid mess: grip pen firmly with thumb tips side by side and parallel to the barrel; then push two forefingers against each other in a controlled pull, and stop as soon as the cap clicks (not ripping the pen and cap apart and sending ink splashing on clothing and surroundings etc).

The proprietory ink cartridges are a bit limiting but there are other options as mentioned above. Also the nib, whilst smooth and reliable, is rather bland and basic.

On the plus side, you get a good sized pen, competitively priced, well made in Japan, with durable metal body, in a wide choice of colours, a grip section which is not marred by facets or a sharp step, which writes reliably, with the admirable slip and seal capping feature, all making for a pen that is robust and ready to be carried around as an EDC or chucked in a bag without worry. It is a good rival to the Lamy Al-star, for those opposed to faceted grips.

A good true red, high gloss finish.

Before getting the tube home, I walked over to see the new Marble Arch Mound, a green hill that has been created in a corner of Hyde Park, next to Marble Arch. It has been in the news this week as the project costs ran to double its initial budget, finishing up at £6 million and the minister in charge at Wesminster City Council resigned. It is not, as I first thought, a huge mound of earth but a hollow structure made from scaffolding poles and then with an outer shell and covered with turf and real grass. An external metal staircase allows visitors to climb up to a viewing platform at the top. It is well worth the climb to gain a new viewpoint over the London skyline. It is a temporary installation and currently free to visit although tickets are booked online.

A view from the Marble Arch Mound. Looking down on Park Lane, with the London Eye and the Shard on the horizon.

I do not doubt that it must have taken a lot of work to design and create this empty hill. I am glad that I was able to go up it without pre-booking (it was late afternoon) and that it was free. Also, it made the new Platinum Plaisir in my bag seem even better value for money.

The London Spring Pen Show: my haul.

Well, what a lovely day this has been. Sunday 25 July 2021 and the first pen show since March 2020, before our first lockdown.

Instead of the Holiday Inn near Russell Square, the event had moved to a new venue: the Novotel London West, at 1, Shortlands, Hammersmith, London W6 8DR. This provided many advantages, being four times larger than the previous room, 150 nicely spaced out tables and all vendors in the same room. Most importantly, it felt roomy and safe, with ample space between the aisles, cool and airy, less crowded, and generally more relaxed, notwithstanding the face coverings and hand sanitisers.

Having seen a short video of the hall being set up, from Penultimate Dave on Instagram the night before, I was looking forward to the new venue. I had got out some spending money – although for the most part, dealers were taking card payments to avoid handling money.

Very soon, I started to see familiar faces. Most of these friends, from pen meets and pen shows as well as some from Instagram I had not met in 16 months and so there was an air of reunion on top of the usual buzz of excitement for the pen show itself.

It was a real joy to see all these folk again, as we emerge from a series of lockdowns and there was much to catch up on, in how life had treated everyone as well as sharing pen news and comparing notes on our shopping priorities for the day.

One thing was plain to me before today: I did not need any more fountain pens – or ink or notebooks for that matter. I brought along a few of my lesser used pens to re-home with Jon of Pensharing.com where they can be put to better use than by me in recent years.

I have been largely successful in fighting the constant temptation to acquire more fountain pens this year, aside from a few modestly priced acquisitions such as the Moonman S5 (I have three now) and another Cross Bailey Light in dark green. I am slowly realising that adding more pens will only reduce the use that I can make of my current hoard, plus I tell myself that I am unlikely to find any pens, within my budget, that provide a more suitable writing experience than many of those that I already have.

In my armoury against temptation, I brought along a pen-roll of 8 of my currently inked favourites which included my Aurora 88, Montegrappa Fortuna, Cross Peerless 125, blue Diplomat Excellence A plus and the humble Moonman S5 with its oblique broad nib which works so well for my lefty overwriting.

My other weapon was to remind myself of just how difficult it had been to maintain an earned income over the past year and how much chargeable time I needed to expend to receive the percentage that ends up in my pay packet! With these thoughts in mind I hardly needed to go to step three which was going to be writing an essay entitled “I do not need a new pen because….”

Having said all of that, I was still excited to see the tables and in particular the luxurious editions from Onoto, whose Magna Classic range has been on my grail pen radar for a while. I also had a good browse at the Aurora table, and at John Hall’s table, from Write Here of Shrewsbury and admired his Scribo pens. These included the latest colour called the Mariana: swirly dark blue, green and black tones representing the ocean trench. I am still yet to pull the trigger on a Scribo, which, although obviously desirable and gorgeous, is priced at the outer reaches of my comfort zone. Also, even with the less soft of the two nib options, I fear that the nib may be a bit too delicate and flexy for work and my day to day writing sessions. Maybe one day.

John Hall also had some of the lovely new Sailor Pro-Gears on display in the blue with translucent orange ends called “Sunset over the ocean” and I was tempted to buy a second PG slim with music nib as I so much enjoy my black and gold model.

In between making several laps of the hall, stopping for numerous conversations with friends and friendly dealers and a break for lunch, the outcome was that I still came home with four new and very useful fountain pens, coincidentally equalling the number that I gave away and so remaining “pen neutral” without increasing my fountain pen footprint (if that is a thing). Here they are:-

Jinhao 100

This, a little guilty pleasure, is an homage to the Parker Duofold Centennial, in the classic “big red” body colour and silver coloured nib and fittings. In my defence, I do own two “real” modern Parker Duofolds although of the “International” size, slightly slimmer than the Centennial and so this Jinhao will scratch the itch of having a full size version. It is a cartridge converter pen (unlike the early button fillers of the 1920’s) and aside from lacking the Parker’s current 18k gold nib, otherwise offers a similar shape and size. Jinhao steel nibs have, in my experience, been smooth and enjoyable and I am hoping that ink flow will be consistent in this one. I have not yet inked it up.

A Jinhao 100
An attractive and nicely set-up Jinhao nib.

Narwhal Schuylkill, Marlin Blue (fine).

This is my second Narwhal, also from Derek of Stonecott Fine Writing, the first being the limited edition one year anniversary model in red stripe ebonite with a gold coloured medium nib. In contrast, today’s purchase, has an irresistible, blue swirly body with silver coloured fittings and a fine nib. Their nibs come a little wider than their stated grade (my medium being more like a broad) and so I went for a fine this time.

Narwhal Schuylkill Blue Marlin. A stunningly pretty and fascinating material.

I was thrilled to find that on rotating the pen, the patterns revealed what with a little imagination, could be a leaping bright blue Marlin in the resin! Given that this is large size, piston filling pen at £55.00 you get a lot of pen for your money.

Watch for the blue Marlin, just below the ink window!

Diplomat Excellence A2, chrome plated fountain pen (steel medium) and ball pen set.

The Diplomat Excellence is one of my all time favourite pens. I have a Marrakesh and a rather less common blue and black harlequin edition and now today picked up a handsome shiny chromium plated guilloche patterned model. As my previous Excellences are both fine nibs, this medium will be a useful addition and was on sale from John Twiss with a matching ball pen for a very favourable price.

The underrated Diplomat…this time in chrome guilloche stripe pattern.
Diplomat Excellence A2, chrome plated.
Superbly comfortable, with heft, girth and no step.

Sailor Procolor 500, blue demonstrator, fine.

Finally, also spotted on John Twiss’s table, was this Sailor. Sailor nibs are a grade finer than their western equivalents and hence a Sailor fine is like a western extra fine. I was keen to try one – being firm and precise and toothy- but had always hesitated at buying a gold nibbed Pro Gear just to see if I like such a fine nib. However, this steel nibbed pen, in an attractive blue demonstrator version, seemed a perfect opportunity to experience some Sailor fine nibbage at an entry-level price of £35 (and John kindly reduced this as I bought the Diplomat too).

Sailor Procolor 500, blue demo, fine steel nib.
That deliciously crisp fine Sailor nib.

So, those are my purchases. So far I have only inked the Sailor and am thrilled with it. I first dipped and then filled it with Noodlers bullet proof black ink, which was my only other purchase of the day. I had heard good things about its water proof qualities for highlighting or water-colour painting over.

The Sailor again.

I do not want to ink up all four new pens in one day. That would seem like opening all one’s Christmas presents at once. I have flushed them all with water and had a good look at their nibs with a loupe. All look promising and I have no concerns. I am very happy with my purchases, even though my resolve was not as bullet proof as my Noodlers ink.

An extremely full bottle of inky black goodness from the Pure Pens table.

But today was not just about the purchases but about seeing friends again after a long absence, with a palpable sense of thankfulness at coming through the pandemic (so far!) and the renewal of hope in this step towards normality.

Today’s haul, group photo.

Cross Bailey Light fountain pen: an update.

Those who know me or follow this blog may be aware that I am a fan of the Cross Bailey Light fountain pen. I posted some early thoughts on these inexpensive fountain pens, on 19 October 2019 soon after buying my first one.

I had bought the grey version, which had appealed to me most from the colours then available. In the following months I bought one of each of the other colours too, being royal blue, black, white, coral and turquoise (which they call teal).

My plan, you might have guessed, was to use them with different colour inks. I bought the optional Cross push-in converters with each one, except the black pen which I planned to use with my stock of Cross black cartridges. I used the white pen with Rohrer & Klingner Salix, iron gall ink.

I used the royal blue pen at work for a while, with Waterman Serenity blue. This is in many ways an ideal office tool, with its quick pull-off cap, comfortable body and smooth, firm nib. The girth of the pen is ideal for me. It is also long enough to use comfortably without posting the cap, but you can post the cap securely if you wish.

Sometimes it is not what a pen has, that makes it a success, but what it has not: in the case of Bailey Light, the grip area has no step, (a sharp-edged drop in diameter from barrel to section), no facets (such as the Lamy Safari) and no slippery metal to deprive you of grip and control.

Whilst soft, expressive nibs may be enjoyable for those who can use them well for beautiful leisurely calligraphy, I personally find the Bailey Light’s hard nib better for work, when I need something nicer than a ballpoint to sign a letter or make some notes. (As a left-hander, when I want line width variation, I use a stub nib, like the oblique broad on my Moonman S5 and not a flex nib).

I had no trouble using the Bailey Lights with the push-in type of Cross converter. A few people reported in the comments on my blog post, that they could not get the converter to go in. Their problem turned out to be easily remedied: they had not realised that there was already a cartridge wedged in tight at the back of the barrel. If you do not realise it is up there, and try to screw the barrel on over a converter and a spare cartridge, obviously the barrel will not fit.

Rather confusingly, Cross makes both a push-in and a screw-in converter and tells you on its web site to use the screw fit version for the Bailey Light. But the Bailey Light does not have the benefit of a threaded collar to make use of the screw-in converter, but the screw-in converter can still be used: just push it home securely.

As well as the fountain pens, there is a ball point pen available in the same range of colours. I bought a grey one to try. It has the same pleasing aesthetics as the fountain pen and is operated by twisting the cap.

Cross Bailey Light fountain pen with matching ballpoint.

It came to my notice some months ago that Cross had introduced some new colours to the range of Bailey Lights, including a dark green and a burgundy, both with gold plated nib and furniture instead of the silver coloured finish of the originals. I had seen these online. The fountain pens with gold coloured trim tended to be priced slightly higher at around £25.00 as opposed to £20.00 for the silver trim, but still very good value in my opinion.

The Bailey Light fountain pen: new colour scheme of green and gold.

What with the lockdowns, being busy at work and with limited shopping excursions to our local John Lewis, it was not until last weekend that I found myself there with a first opportunity to see the dark green Bailey Light in person.

A dark green fountain pen with gold coloured furniture has a special association for me, reminding me of my mother buying a Parker with a gold nib for me, from Arthur Bird’s, our local Ickenham stationer, to take to my new school in 1970. So I simply had to have one of Bailey Lights in this colour.

A particularly enjoyable medium nib on my green Bailey Light.

I also bought a gel pen to try, in the burgundy and gold, which looks really gorgeous! The gel pen writes well but needs to be held more upright to write smoothly, whereas a fountain pen can rest in the web of the hand.

A gorgeous burgundy and gold plated gel pen (before removing the protective blob from the tip).

Having laid out above, my credentials as a reasonably experienced user and fan of the Bailey Light fountain pen, I have to report that I have experienced my first problem! My green and gold model would not accept a converter, for some reason. It was not that I could not put the barrel back on, but rather that the converter would not attach securely to the pen. I tried pushing one onto the section as I have done many times, but it would not stay on. I also tried the screw-fit version (just in case there had been some change to the pen’s specifications) but this one could not even get close to the feed. This was disappointing as I had been looking forward to inking the green pen with a blue black ink for a vintage vibe.

Currently, I am using the green pen with the included Cross black cartridge. This pushed in nicely, with the usual “pop” as the seal punctured. The black ink flows well. The nib writes very nicely (firm, smooth and with ideal flow) and so I am reluctant to send the pen back.

My green pen, which will take a cartridge but not a converter, it seems.

But being unable to use a converter in this pen would mean being tied to buying Cross cartridges. This is a costly way to buy ink, at almost £1.00 per cartridge – rather like paying pub prices for a glass of wine when you could buy a bottle. Also, you are limited to Cross Black or Cross Blue and have the plastic waste on your conscience.

I am hoping that there is a simple explanation of why I cannot attach a converter to my green pen. If and when I find out, I will let you know. If anyone else has had a similar experience and knows the answer I will be glad to hear it.

The fountain pen, ballpoint and gel pen family.

Update: 22 July 2021.

After using my green Cross Bailey Light with a cartridge for a while, I thought I would have one more go at fitting a Cross converter. I found another, push-in converter. Pulling out the cartridge, I first marked how deep it sat in the converter by holding a thumbnail against the cartridge at the point where it disappears from view behind the metal collar, and then placing it beside the pen, to measure how far in it had gone into the section.

I then pushed in this converter. Lo-and-behold, this one did go into the section and to the same depth as the cartridge as it should, meaning that it was sitting over the coupling. It did not grip very securely, but securely enough to work, I think.

For completeness, I tried again fitting a screw-fit converter but still this type would not fit into the collar. However I was very happy that I can use my pen with a converter after all. I guess that the converters that I had tried previously may have just have become loose at the nozzle.

Early thoughts on the Diplomat Traveller fountain pen.

Just occasionally I manage to find myself in the right place at the right time. On passing Rymans stationery shop in Hampstead recently, I noticed the large red “SALE” sign and returned a couple of days later to investigate.

The pen display cabinet showed some very generous discounts. I could not resist a Waterman Hemisphere and Parker Urban fountain pen, and a Sheaffer Prelude ball point pen in Cobalt blue with rose gold trim (for which I have the accompanying fountain pen) all heavily discounted. The helpful lady shop assistant, somehow sensing my appetite for pens, told me that she had more pens at the back which they did not have room to put out on display. Would I like her to get them out to show me? Yes please!

She reappeared with a few Diplomat Traveller fountain pens, in a pastel turquoise or purple which I now know to be called Lapis raspberry. On checking the current price at the till, she told me that the raspberry one, usually around £20.00, was now just £5.00, putting it firmly into the “no brainer” category of purchases.

The Diplomat Traveller in Lapis rasperry

I have not had one of these before. I recall being shown them in John Lewis, some years ago when they used to sell Diplomat pens, and being told that they were popular with business people as they could be slipped into a suit pocket without disturbing the line of the cloth. There are merits to slender pens.

A very nicely set-up nib, performing perfectly out of the box.

The Traveller is the smallest of a series of three pens, its larger brothers being the Esteem and then the Excellence. I had acquired the other two. The Excellence A Plus, with its smooth steel nib, heft, wide girth and twist cap ranks as one of my GOAT fountain pens.

Diplomat Traveller, Esteem and Excellence for comparison.

The Traveller, in contrast is much smaller and slimmer pen, with a smaller nib. The barrel is only around 10mm at its widest, and the plastic grip section tapers from 9mm down to 7mm. The length is 135mm capped, or 117mm uncapped. The cap does not post securely.

However, the metal body feels robust. The matte finish is pretty. I like the distinctive Diplomat finial of black petals on a white background. There is a strong metal pocket clip. It comes in a metal gift box.

The cap is a snap-on one but is reassuringly firm, fits flush with the barrel with no wobble and has a plastic inner cap.

Filling is by standard international cartridge or a converter (not included, although I borrowed one from another of my Diplomats).

These seem made for each other.

Diplomat were established in 1922 (as the nib reminds us). The brand is commonly described in the pen community as being much under-rated. It is rare to find them advertised or for sale in shops in the UK yet everyone who has one appreciates the quality and excellent nibs. There is a five year guarantee and the booklet tells us that the nib of every fountain pen is tested and professionally run or “written in” by hand. We can all think of a few brands that could benefit from this example.

At home, still glowing from my good fortune, I held a gathering of my Diplomats, to compare their dimensions and have some group photos. I had planned to ink the newcomer with Waterman Tender Purple but at the last minute spotted a bottle of Yama-budo and went with that instead. It is a good match.

Summoning all my Diplomats

Conclusion: likes and dislikes.

The Diplomat Traveller is undeniably a small and slender pen. Over the years, I have discovered that I generally prefer larger pens, like the Diplomat Excellence, Cross Peerless, Aurora 88 or Montegrappa Fortuna (to name a few from a brief glance at my pen cups). However, to criticise the Traveller for being small misses the point of the pen, which is to be a small and lightweight, convenient and portable pen when on the move. Still, it is slightly disappointing that the cap does not post.

On the plus side, you get a sturdy and well made pen, with a very smooth steel nib, the convenience of using standard international cartridges or a converter and some fun colours to chose from. It is ideal to carry in a bag or shirt pocket. You would be hard pressed to do any better for £5.00 (while stocks last at Rymans in store or online).

Writing samples with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo.

Travelling with ink: Blackwood Forest

One of the things I hope for when travelling, is a desk by a window, with natural light and preferably a nice view. Perhaps this desire comes from spending my working days in an office with no natural light.

Having come through a particularly busy few months at work, I was looking forward to a long weekend break in a forest cabin. Set in the heart of Blackwood Forest, Hampshire I am not sure if this still counts as part of the New Forest, but I am on holiday so who cares?

Picking some fountain pens for the trip is one of the pleasures. However this time I found myself a bit torn between (a) the usual urge to bring a selection of pens to enjoy, with different nibs, different inks, different sizes, weights and materials or (b) to go minimal, travel light and just pick one pen, perhaps even one that I did not like very much, to get more use from it. In the event, the usual option of bringing a selection was the winning one.

The final eight.

This was my first experience of a forest cabin holiday and I had not expected our cabin to have such a “Wow” factor on arrival. Imagine my delight on finding it to have such a spacious living room/ kitchen/ dining room with an entire wall of windows, looking onto the beech tree forest, beyond the decking (with table and chairs, and even our own outdoor hot tub).

Our forest cabin

I am a morning person and enjoy my writing most in the morning when my brain is fresh and rested. That tends to be the time I find best for journaling, usually off-loading the events of the previous day. One of the ironies of journaling is that when life is at its most busy and eventful you have the least time and energy to write about it, but if you are freed from the pressure to get through endless to-do lists of tasks, you have plenty of time to write about very little. I then like to refer to my lists of writing prompts, neatly and alphabetically saved on a notepad app on my phone called Colornote – often comprising a few words or phrases which I can come back to and write up when I feel like it.

Our cabin in the woods.

I set my alarm early, hoping for some time when the household (that is my wife and mother in law who was holidaying with us) had not yet risen and I could sit at my window and pour out thousands of words like an imagined Ernest Hemingway, the creative juices running at full throttle. Obviously that did not happen. But I did enjoy some light tinkering with the pens, reminding myself which ones I had brought along, which inks they had and then having just enough time to summarise each day in a few brief headings. Sitting out at the table on the decking, enjoying the tranquility was restful and restorative.

A short drive from our base, was the city of Winchester, which we visited for a sunny afternoon’s excursion. My wife spotted a stall at the outdoor market with leather goods including some lovely notebook covers, for A5 or A4 notebooks. I use both sizes but have been looking unsuccessfully for about five years for a nice leather A5 size cover, after passing up a chance to buy one once in the Cotswolds. I did once buy a cover which did not work for me as it featured a pen loop which got in my way and had bulky and unnecessary credit card slots which meant that pages would not lay flat. In short it was unusable and was returned.

In contrast these market ones from “redleathers”, an ethically sound business run by Kirk Newton, (@redleathershandmade) were attractive, simple and functional. Unable to narrow down my choice between a dark green and a cherry colour, I opted for both.

Oooh! New leather notebook covers.

Another pleasure for the stationery enthusiast in Winchester, is Warren & Co, a stationery shop at 85 High Street, selling a good selection of stationery and pens mostly from Lamy and Cross, plus inks from Parker, Waterman, Cross, Pelikan and J Herbin. The display of Lamy pens was comprehensive, with racks of Safari and Al-Stars, Vistas, Nexx and then glass cabinets of Studios, 2000s, CP1s and even a few Imporiums. I toyed with the idea of buying the Aion again as the dark green edition looked so appealing, with either M, F or EFnibs, but I had found the black one too slippery to grip and gave mine away. I resisted and told myself that I had been down that road before. As it was almost time for the shop to close for the day, I left without buying anything this time but it is a wonderful shop to visit and was a real joy to see so many pens in the flesh rather than just online for a change and to chat with the charming proprietor.

Warren & Co of Winchester.

Back in the secluded forest, it was fun to put notebooks in the new leather covers. The Leuchtturm 1917 A5 books fit in very well and I shall enjoy using them.

We enjoyed a very restful weekend stay – with good food and walks and let the forest work its magic in sending us home rested and refreshed.

With my trusty Nikon Prostaff 10×30 bino’s.

And as for that desk by the window, the truth is that I did not sit there writing all that much. Sometimes it is nicer just to lift up your eyes to what is around you. Perhaps it is one of those things where the anticipation is better than the reality. There will be time to reflect and to write when the holiday is over.

A new era for marriage registrations.

On May the Fourth this year, while many on Instagram were marking Star Wars day in their posts, there was another event which might have slipped under the radar. This was the coming into force of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act, 2019.

I awoke to a 6.30am radio news item from the BBC that for the first time, mothers’ details would also be included in the registration of a marriage, this being just one of the changes introduced by the Act, hailed as the biggest modernisation of marriage registration since 1837.

A Register of Marriages, with a bottle of Registrar’s ink and my two Parker Frontier fountain pens.

I mention this as for the past 10 years, I have been the Authorised Person from our church in Golders Green, London, to register marriages taking place at the church. I was quite proud of this role, although a little apprehensive at the responsibility involved to get it right. The Guidebook for Authorised Persons, issued by the General Register Office at that time, ran to 40 pages. I was particularly worried about the lengthy procedure to be followed in the event of a mistake being made in the registers after signing. Whenever registering a marriage, I drafted all the entries on a separate sheet first, in the same format, looking out for any unusual names and ensuring that addresses would fit in the required boxes.

I learned what I could from a brief conversation with a departing minister. I also attended a couple of annual workshops for Authorised Persons, hosted by our local Register Office which were helpful and lively, and included such topics as sham marriages, entered into to derive some advantage in immigration status for one or other of the parties.

I enjoyed familiarising myself with the conventions of recording details in the marriage registers, such as writing clearly and legibly, avoiding fancy flourishes; using capital letters for surnames and entering the groom’s details above those of the bride. I was excited to use Registrar’s ink, an iron gall blue black ink, from Ecclesiastical Stationery Supplies. I find the way that it darkens from a grey blue, almost to black, endlessly fascinating in a way that other more fountain-pen friendly blue black inks can not match.

I soon learned that Registrar’s ink needs to be used within about 18 months of opening a bottle and exposing it to air. After this, it gradually loses its colour and ends up a weak grey. I found this out by using an old bottle of ink at the church, which was past its best. However, I would never get through a 110ml bottle of ink in this time. I decanted some of the ink into a bottle to use at home and had to buy a new bottle when it had lost its properties.

In the very first marriage that I registered, arriving at the church very early to prepare, I found from the printed orders of service that the bride’s middle name differed from my notes and so was glad to have spotted this. Being early reduces last minute panics.

Registrar’s ink, apart from being permanent, is not kind to fountain pens and it pays to flush the pens promptly after use. I was told of one minister shaking a fountain pen to get it started and splashing Registrar’s ink on a bride’s white dress.

Ours is small church and over the past decade, having very few weddings, I was called into action only a handful of times. Mostly my role was to submit the quarterly returns to the Register Office, declaring that the number of marriages in the past quarter to be “Nil”, or if there had been one or more weddings, copying out all the details again by hand, and certifying these, in Registrar’s ink on the returns form.

Now, the new procedure means that the old Marriage Register books, completed in duplicate, are redundant. I was instructed to cross through all unused entries and to hand in one of the books to the local Register Office along with any unused stock of marriage certificates (drawn up and issued to couples on their wedding day), or any surplus quarterly return forms. The other copy of the Marriage Register remains at the church for record purposes.

Under the new procedure, paper marriage registers are withdrawn: it will no longer be necessary to fill out all the details of the marriage by hand in a Marriage Register. Instead, couples will be issued with a Schedule printed in advance. This will be checked and signed by the couple, the witnesses and the Authorised Person on the day of the wedding (still using Registrar’s ink). It is later returned to the Register Office, for the details to be uploaded on the electronic register.

I am relieved, that this occasional duty has been lifted from me, even though I was so seldom required to perform it. The anxiety of entering all the details quickly and accurately, twice in the Marriage Registers and then once more on a Certificate, whilst the wedding couple and their supporters and photographer waited in excited anticipation, was stressful to a non-professional Authorised Person, in a way that is hard to describe. For Authorised Persons, the changes are:-

  • We are no longer required to register marriages;
  • We no longer issue marriage certificates;
  • We no longer need to complete quarterly returns;
  • We no longer have to undertake corrections in marriage registers (these instead being carried out by registration officers).

One young bride-to-be has already commented to me that the new system seems a bit of a shame and less romantic in a way but a sign of the times. Perhaps it is the end of an era, but the dawn of a new one.

Other colours are available.

It is probably safe to say that blue is my preferred colour when it comes to fountain pens. A quick glance at my pen cups shows blue pens to be the most prevalent. And looking back at my pen buying over the past few decades, I have generally gone for a blue, if there was a choice.

The pens above, from left to right are:

  • (1) Campo Marzio Accropolis;
  • (2) Cross Peerless 125;
  • (3) Cross Bailey Light;
  • (4) Diplomat Excellence A Plus;
  • (5) Parker 51 aerometric;
  • (6) Pelikan M205, blue demonstrator;
  • (7) Pelikan M800;
  • (8) Platinum Curidas, Abyss Blue;
  • (9) Sheaffer Prelude, cobalt blue with rose gold trim;
  • (10)Waterman Expert, (1990’s).

I have had no regrets about choosing blue for any of the above. The Cross Peerless, in quartz blue, is possibly the most handsome pen that I own, along with my Aurora 88 (black and gold) and the Pelikan M800. Nevertheless I remain tempted by the Peerless in titanium grey, imagining how nice this would be with a burgundy or dark red ink.

It is not just fountain pens in blue that I prefer, but inks too. Whilst I have accumulated a stash of ink of many colours, blues are by far the most numerous and of these, I tend to fall back on the same favourites time and time again, including Waterman Serenity Blue, Montblanc Royal Blue, or Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue. When I want a blue black, I usually reach for the Diamine Conway Stewart Tavy.

I have a fair number of other colours too. I sometimes feel like trying a turquoise, but usually seem to go off it before the end of a fill. But flushing a pen does not always have to mean jettisoning the remaining ink, when there is an option to use it in a mix.

Occasionally I experiment with new (to me) colours to broaden my horizons. This year I have been enjoying one pen and ink combination per calendar month for my A5 page a day diary. In April, it was a Moonman S5 filled with Diamine Scribble Purple – which looked, to my eyes, rather less “Deep Purple” and more “Black Sabbath.” I was looking forward to the May changeover However, rather than ditch the remaining Scribble Purple, I simply added some Robert Oster Fire and Ice, plus a little Serenity Blue, and found that I had made myself a very acceptable blue black. I was happier with this than with either the Scribble Purple or the Fire and Ice on their own.

One of the many things that I love about the Moonman S5 is its ability to receive top-ups of ink from half-spent cartridges or converters in pens that I want to clean, or ink samples, into its clear demonstrator eye-dropper barrel. The see-through acrylic lets you keep an eye on the reservoir for any signs of inks clashing.

A rather fetching pencil.

Recently, visiting a delightful stationery shop in Eton, I found a display of the Lamy Crystal range of inks, which I had not tried before and bought a bottle of Lamy Azurite, which looked promising as a vibrant rich blue, although I had not done my homework and had not appreciated that it also has purple leanings. I also bought the classic, Pentel P207 (0.7mm) mechanical pencil, which is a pleasing blue. I think my blue credentials are clear!

Lamy Azurite, Crystal Ink.

I suppose that we all learn more about ourselves as we get older. One conclusion for myself is that I would not mind too much if I had to restrict myself to a royal blue ink, in a blue pen. I just never tire of that.

Gratuitous final image of a back-lit blue stripe M800.

Going for a dip with the Moonman glass nib pen.

One risk you take in the fountain pen hobby, is splashing out a large sum of money only to find that it is a disappointment and poor value. On the other hand, occasionally you can buy an inexpensive pen and be genuinely delighted with it exceeding your expectations.

Fortunately this is the case with my newest arrival, a Moonman glass nib pen. This story began when I read a review of the Moonman n6 by Anne on her blog Weirdoforest Pens, a few weeks ago. I was thrilled at the potential of a glass nib housed in a conventional fountain pen body, with a cap, that could be easily transported. I promptly set about finding and ordering one from ebay.

I thought that what I ordered was the same model as Anne’s pen, but evidently I had not paid close enough attention. If hers is the n6, then mine must be something else! Anyway, I will show you what I bought:-

Moonman glass nib dip pen, in Autumn Leaf acrylic.

When ordering the pen, there was a choice of four colours: the names of the colours differ somewhat depending where you order but the choices were Black Ice Flowers, Red Ice Flowers (both of which looked like Koi fish colours), New Rose (the pink version like the colour of the pen in Anne’s review) or the one I chose, called Aurora or Autumn Leaf or Gradient Green. I have since learned that the same acrylic can be found on some Pen BBS models too. It is gorgeous blend of colours and in one of the marketing photos, the pen can be can be seen against an avenue of trees in their autumn colours.

Secondly, apart from chosing your colour, you also have the option to chose a steel nib unit too. There were a few choices but I opted for the “bent nib” or what I would call a fude nib, as something a bit different. Whilst the glass nib has to be dipped in ink, it can easily be unscrewed from the section and replaced with a steel nib, and inked by a cartridge or converter or (although I have not tried), as an eyedropper.

When my pen arrived, it came in a box marked Delike. The glass nib was fitted in the pen, but there was a separate little cellophane sleeve containing my fude nib and a simple converter, with a sliding plunger and a coiled spring ink agitator inside.

It was not until revisiting Anne’s review, that I realised that our pens were not quite the same. Her n6 was 125mm long, or under 120mm uncapped and not postable.

My pen, on the other hand was just 102mm long when capped, a tiny 95mm when uncapped but a super generous 140mm long when posted. As can be seen in my photo, there are screw threads at the end of the barrel, to screw the cap onto the back, where is sits flush with the barrel:

Now with cap posted to make a 140mm beauty!

I was excited to try the glass nib. I dipped it in a nearby bottle of Waterman Serenity blue and tried it on a pad of file paper. For a glass nib pen, the result was very pleasing! It wrote with a fine line and a bit of audible feedback but not scratchiness. The ink flowed evenly and I found that I was able to get a good ten lines of A4 paper on one dip!

I tried a few other inks. That is the beauty of a glass nib pen: you just dip it in water, swish it around a bit and then dry it on a tissue and you are ready to dip again! It is great for sampling a few different inks.

I found that some inks worked better than others with the dip nib. I think it depends on the viscosity and how well the ink sits in the channels in the nib but it is fun to try a few different inks and see how it goes.

When I looked at the steel nib, my first thought was that they had made a mistake or else run out of bent nibs and had given me a standard fine nib instead. However, on closer inspection, I saw that it was I who was mistaken and that the nib was indeed bent.

Dlike EF bent nib. Interchangeable with the glass dip nib. Spelt “Dlike” on the nib but is “Delike” on the box.

I was a little wary of unscrewing the glass nib as I did not want to snap the lovely bulbous nib off. However, it came out quite easily.

Dlike steel bent EF nib and converter, in front of the glass dip nib.

Here is a little writing sample, my first jottings with the glass nib:-

Writing sample, Glass nib and Waterman Serenity Blue. One one dip!

I also had a quick dip with the bent nib but have not yet inked it with the converter. Once it started, it was pleasant to use just writing normally as the bent tip gives narrow down strokes and broad cross strokes, like an architect grind. I will experiment some more with this shortly when I am done with testing the glass nib.

What you get in total, for a modest £21.00.

I am very excited at the possibilities of the cap-able glass dip nib. It is great to be able to sample lots of inks with minimal fuss, without having to ink up a pen and then wash it out thoroughly. Secondly, this one is so easily transportable, unlike my previous all-glass dip pen which is rather delicate and lives in its cardboard box and is anchored inside with elastic loops at both ends.

This pen is about the same size when capped, as a Kaweco Sport and as such, it fits nicely into a Kaweco Sport sleeve. Once our pen club re-convenes, I shall make a nuisance of myself dipping into inks that I have not tried before. A dip nib gives you the option to sample an ink, write for a few lines, or a few pages and then carry on or else try a different ink: no big decisions on whether to ink up a pen and to have to get through 20 or more pages before you can have a change.

Also, it is great for trying a little bit of mixing, without any fears of the inks being incompatible and gumming up your feed. Or you can re-discover inks that had been put aside due to causing nib creep: I can think of an orange ink and a yellow-green that I enjoy but do not use, because of that.

Finally a size comparison of the posted pen against the ubiquitous Safari:-

Moonman glass nib dip pen next to a Lamy Safari. The Moonman is about 10mm longer.

As you can see, the Moonman is a good comfortable length yet not heavy and the section is a good size for comfort while not too big for some ink bottles. I am a happy customer.