Early thoughts on the Jinhao 80 fountain pen.

Don’t judge me. I found this by accident whilst innocently scrolling for pens, on Amazon (don’t judge me, again).

To give it its full description, this is the Jinhao 80 Gray Fiber Brushed Fountain Pen. I chose the Fine nib version. There were also options for a black pen with either a silver coloured or black clip and options of Fine or Ultra Fine nib.

Jinhao 80 fountain pen.

To acknowledge the elephant in the room, this is clearly based upon a certain well known iconic, much loved German fountain pen designed in the 1960’s although there are many key differences, including as to body material, nib and feed design, grip section material and filling system. The snap capping is also simplified.

Conveniently leaving aside the ethical considerations of purchasing such a pen, I will describe the pen and give you my opinion of it on its own merits. Let’s call this a homage to the Lamy 2000.

Matte finish finial, and solid steel, sprung pocket clip.

I was curious as to how the pen would feel, compared to the unique, tough and textured Makrolon of the Lamy. I have to say, that the plastic used does look and feel good and there is a textured finish in the plastic, which is pleasant to the touch.

The cap features a chunky, brushed steel clip which is sprung and works very well and is really quite astonishing given the price by western standards. There is no visible branding on the pen body or the clip, until you get to the nib. The cap finial is also just like that of the Lamy 2000, except in a matte finish rather than glossy.

Uncapped.

The cap pulls off with a click. It is secured by the raised lip at the at the nib-end of the grip section clicking into the inner cap, as opposed to the horse-shoe metal ring (with its two protruding ears) of the Lamy. There is a plastic inner cap and I have not encountered any nib-drying and hard starting so far.

The grip section is of the same textured plastic as the cap and barrel and is very comfortable to hold. Where it joins the barrel, there is a shiny plated metal ring on the barrel. The absence of any step makes for a comfortable grip, wherever you wish to grip the pen.

On the Lamy 2000, the join between the barrel and piston knob is famously almost invisible. On the Jinhao 80, you cannot see the join either, but this is because there is none: it is a cartridge-converter pen, not a piston filler.

At the foot of the barrel, there is a steel disc inset, which presumably is just cosmetic here but gives the pen a distinctive look on a desk and shows attention to detail in this homage.

Metal disc in the end of the barrel.

Unscrewing the barrel, the pen comes with a converter which works ok although I would have liked it to contain a metal coil ink agitator. This would help prevent ink sometimes sticking at the back end with surface tension rather than sloshing down to the nib and feed. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the barrel had metal screw threads inside and so you have metal-to-metal threads for the barrel to grip section.

Metal threads in the barrel.

And so to the nib. The pen came with a Jinhao steel Fine nib. There is no pretence of making a Lamy 2000 style semi-hooded nib, but rather Jinhao has adopted the design of a Lamy Safari or Al-Star nib, which has its advantages.

Jinhao nib, Fine.

On mine, the nib wrote a fine line which was very dry. The nib was smooth with nice even and level tines but they were too tightly together for my taste. As I had chosen an ink that was also new to me (Rohrer & Klingner Isatis, limited edition of 2021) I soon found that in such a dry nib, the very thin single coat of Isatis, with no back-wash, looked very pale indeed.

It may be that the nib set-up would have suited someone with a more conventional writing style, but as a lefty overwriter needing a wetter flow, I tried to ease the tines a little, with brass shims. This proved to be quite difficult, there being no breather hole and the face of the nib being flat, rather than curved over the feed. After struggling with this for some minutes, I gave up and instead swapped the nib for one from a Lamy Al-Star. This operation was quite easy, using a piece of Selotape wrapped over the nib to pull it directly off the feed.

With nib removed, prior to installing a Lamy nib.

Now, with a Lamy steel nib, the pen is writing very nicely. I have refilled it with Waterman Serenity Blue, filled from a bottle, which is the ink that I normally use when trying out a new pen.

The cap posts, both deeply and securely and the pen feels comfortable and well balanced whether the cap is posted or not. It feels comfortable, lightweight and solid and writes very well.

Giving credit where it is due, the pen has been made to a good standard of quality. Whilst the supplied nib was a bit too dry for me, the pen makes an excellent vehicle for a Lamy Safari-style nib which can be enjoyed without the Safari’s faceted grip. You could even fit a Lamy gold nib if you were so minded.

For its very modest price, which was just £9.49, the pen is undeniably good quality and value. The only issue is whether your scruples allow you to live with yourself for supporting what some would call a “knock-off”. In my case, I did not buy it because I wanted people to think I have a Lamy 2000. I can flaunt my own Lamy 2000 to do that. But for a low cost writing tool and now benefiting from a Lamy nib, this is, leaving aside the ethical debates, a great pen. There are plenty of examples of pen homages for those who would like a low-cost alternative to a Parker 51 or Duofold, Pilot Capless, a Montblanc Rouge et noir, or even a Lamy Safari, perhaps to use as body double whilst our originals stay at home.

A London walk in a time of national mourning.

Today there was a special atmosphere in London. With blue skies and warm sunshine, thousands came to central London to see Buckingham Palace and The Mall, Green Park or St James’s Park, some to lay flowers in memory of HM The Queen. Others have come to queue to see her coffin lying in state at Westminster Hall, ahead of the state funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday 19 September 2022. It is a moving sight, even on television, with guards in splendid uniforms standing in silent vigil, 24 hours a day, whilst members of the public pay their respects.

For those wishing to see the lying in state, there is a huge queue stretching back to Southwark Park. The authorities are prepared for this to reach 10 miles long. There are constant updates online but at one time today there was an estimated queuing time of 24 hours, and as I write this the current estimate is 13 hours. A colleague of mine at work joined the queue on Thursday evening and reached Westminster Hall at around 7am on Friday. Total estimates were of 400,000 people filing past the coffin, over four days, some travelling from great distances to do so.

I did not wish to visit Westminster Hall but wanted to come to London to mark this rare occasion and experience the atmosphere. I began at Trafalgar Square and joined the many people walking along The Mall. There were a lot of families with young children, and many bringing flowers. Much of the area was closed to traffic. In the quiet without the usual traffic noise, I found myself noticing the architecture of so many grand buildings and it was poignant to see so many flags flying at half-mast.

The police were doing a good job of controlling the crowds. You could not simply wander about where you liked and could only cross some roads at special crossing points, and there were some one-way systems in place for pedestrians. People accepted this and cooperated, chatting to the police. There was a sense that we were all there for the same reason, united by our common loss.

We paused to watch a group of mounted guardsmen ride past, with a police escort. Often helicopters could be heard high overhead. There were tv cameras and reporters everywhere and it seemed as if the attention of the world was focussed on London at this time.

The Mall: preparations for the state funeral.

Because of the volume of people, we could not walk directly up the Mall to Buckingham Palace but had to cross St James’s Park and join long queues down one side of the road and back up the other for those wishing to go to the Palace. With even this queue likely to take a few hours I was feeling a little bit hemmed in by the sheer number of visitors, although there was no pushing and shoving. I decided to change direction and take a path of less resistance away from the main attractions.

Buckingham Palace from St James’s Park.

From Birdcage Walk, I continued on to Buckingham Gate passing the Rubens hotel (where I had enjoyed a weekend break a few months ago) opposite The Royal Mews. Souvenir shops had portraits of the Queen in the window with her dates. There were mugs with the Queen’s picture and dates 1926 to 2022 and messages such as “Forever in our hearts.”

I cut through to Victoria Street, where there was more space to walk normally and headed towards Parliament Square. I was sorry to note that the landmark department store, House of Fraser on Victoria Street had closed down. I ventured down Artillery Row and came to Horseferry Road and found a cafe for some lunch. A man at the next table had just been to Westminster Hall after queuing for 14 hours. A group of police came in for coffee and takeaway lunches, taking these back to their minibus.

At Lambeth Bridge I saw sections of the epic queue heading for Westminster, like a pilgrimage. Not being a part of this, I could walk freely along Millbank and see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben as I neared Parliament Square.

Houses of Parliament.

It was extraordinary to see and hear Parliament Square without any traffic. I passed Westminster Abbey where all eyes will be on the proceedings in two days’ time. There are already stands erected for tv camera crews.

Big Ben in the autumn sunshine.

Once inside Parliament Square, there was a pedestrian one-way system again and so it was necessary to go with the flow. First though, I enjoyed sitting in the sun to write down some impressions of the day, with my new Tibaldi fountain pen and the “traveller” style notebooks from Flying Tiger. I like the Tibaldi more and more and appreciate everything about it, particularly the retro zest green colours, its generous size, firm nib and the ebonite feed.

My journaling companion today, the Tibaldi N.60.

A young woman busker named Harmonie London set up a keyboard and began to sing the national anthem and soon drew a big audience. Without the traffic noise, her beautiful voice and playing could be heard from quite a distance and her set captured the collective mood perfectly. Many videoed her with their phones.

I made my way up Great George Street, passing the impressive Treasury building, and along Horse Guards Road, before cutting across Horse Guards Parade to emerge in Whitehall and back to where I had started.

Whitehall at entrance to Horse Guards Parade.

Before returning home, I headed up to Leicester Square to visit Choosing Keeping at Tower Street, surely one of London’s most delightful stationery shops. I browsed the Japanese pencils, Tomoe River paper notebooks, and a display case of fountain pens including Sailor, Pilot, Lamy, Kaweco and Pelikan. Resisting these I still found myself buying a bottle of Rohrer & Klingner ink in a dark blue or blue black called Isatis tinctoria, their limited edition of 2021. In my relaxed state I had forgotten all the golden rules of ink buying, which are to ask yourself “Do I actually need any ink at the moment?”; “Do I need this colour?”; “Is this sufficiently different from all the other inks that I already have?” and “Would my spouse approve?” and “What is WRONG with me?!” However, it is lovely ink, and it is important to support such wonderful shops.

All in all it had been a remarkable and memorable day. And my phone tells me I walked 7.87 miles so that’s good.

Early thoughts on the Tibaldi N.60 fountain pen.

I do not buy an expensive pen so often now. This has been only my third in 2022, the others being my Esterbrook Estie and then an Aurora Talentum, both of which proved successful purchases.

Purchase backstory

I first saw a Tibaldi N.60 in the flesh, whilst browsing in Selfridges some months ago. They had the Ruby red edition on display. It was a little too pricey for an impulse buy, and felt too similar in specification to my marbled red Leonardo Momento Zero. But the memory of it stayed with me. I read some reviews online which further whetted my appetite. I found that the pen was also available in Emerald green, Amber yellow, Samarkand blue or Rich black, with Palladium trim.

And then came the tempting Iguanasell summer sales. I had already bought three Aurora fountain pens online from Iguanasell. Their keen prices and fast service are hard to resist and receiving the parcel from FedEx is exciting. It was whilst scrolling through their sale pens, that I spotted the Tibaldi N.60, but not in any of the versions I knew of: this was called Retro Zest green and featured an 18k gold plated nib and trim, instead of the Palladium. I was immediately taken with this edition. In the photos the cap looked a lighter green than the body. After a few days I eventually and inevitably caved in and pulled the trigger. I opted for a medium nib.

The history

Tibaldi was founded in Italy in 1916 by Guiseppi Tibaldi, being amongst Italy’s earliest pen manufacturers. I believe it continued in business until 1965. I found images of a vintage Tibaldi online, which my pen closely resembles, save that the original was made of celluloid, had a solid gold nib and was a piston filler. Like many pen companies, for example Esterbrook, the company brand was later reborn. The headquarters was moved from Florence to Bassana del Grappa in 2004, which readers may recognise as the home of Montegrappa fountain pens. I gather that Tibaldi shares the same management as Montegrappa, in the Aquila family. Other models in the Tibaldi line are the Bononia, the Infrangible and the Perfecta.

Unboxing

The pen comes in a simple but sturdy black cardboard box, with a tray sliding out from an outer black sleeve, all within an orange paper outer sleeve. The pen cushion lifts out, to reveal a 2 year warranty card and a sealed pack containing two Tibaldi branded cartridges.

Tibaldi N.60 Retro Zest fountain pen.

Description

The Retro Zest green material was far more spectacular in real life than in the photos. On my model, the cap was not a lighter green than the barrel, but there are stripes of light and dark tones, from a very light green-gold to a dark green that is almost black. The colours look stunning as you rotate the pen in your hands. The pen body has the appearance of being faceted, yet is not and is entirely rounded and polished.

Catching the chatoyance in the cap.

It is a large pen. There is a distinctive, pointed finial in the same green acrylic material as the body, surrounded by a gold trim ring; a very stiff, tie-shaped pocket clip; three gold plated cap bands; Tibaldi on the front and Made in Italy on the back. The cap unscrews in one full rotation.

Uncapped

The section is of the same coloured material as the cap and barrel on this edition, whereas on the other colours mentioned earlier there is a black section. The section is rather short, before meeting the cap threads on the barrel but these are not sharp or uncomfortable if you grip the pen there. The section and barrel are very girthy however at around 12mm at its widest point.

The barrel unscrews and there is a gold-plated metal mount for a cartridge or converter. A Tibaldi branded converter is supplied, which is screw fit, a feature which I always enjoy. The other end of the barrel ends with another finial with a green acrylic “jewel” matching that on the cap.

Tibaldi screw-fit converter included.

Nib and feed

The stainless steel nib is gold plated and has the name Tibaldi, the bird’s wing logo and an M for medium. A particularly welcome feature at this price point, is the ebonite feed rather than plastic. This is semi-porous and partly absorbs ink, helping the flow of ink between nib and feed and also helps to ensure that the nib stays ready to write, even if the pen is unused for a few days.

Nib and the cap finial.

On my model, the nib was smooth and wrote right out of the box. It is a very firm nib. My early trials with the nib found it to be rather on the dry side. This may suit the majority of right-handed under-writers but I prefer a slightly wetter nib for greater lubrication and a darker line even when writing without any downward pressure, this being my usual lefty over-writer syle. I therefore set about easing the tines apart just minimally, first with brass shims and then with a gentle wiggle of a craft knife. This had the desired effect and I am now enjoying good flow and effortless writing.

Size and Weight

The pen measures 148mm end to end, including the raised finials. Uncapped it remains a generous 132mm which is plenty long enough to use unposted. The cap can be posted but brings the length to 173mm. It weighs aground 27.5g, 17g uncapped and 10g for the cap alone.

Size comparison with the Montblanc Meisterstuck 146.

Likes and dislikes

On the plus side, the colour and finish of this pen’s material has a big appeal for me. To a casual glance in poor light it might look like a black or very dark green, but on closer inspection as you turn the pen in the hand the polished feel and the strips of different shades of green reveal themselves having the appearance of an exotic vintage celluloid of pens of old. The pen is of a generous length and girth, without being unduly heavy. The ebonite feed (as found on my Aurora Talentum, Optima, and 88) is a rare delight in a steel nibbed pen at this price. Having a steel nib keeps the cost down.

On the negative side, the section is short. Some may find it too wide. The pocket clip is very stiff which means it grips securely but is not so easy to use. I would have liked to see “Tibaldi Model 60, Made in Italy” engraved on the barrel, in the manner of an Aurora Optima or Parker Duofold but I am probably asking too much now. Finally, one could argue that the pen is pretending to be something it is not, with a body which looks like celluloid and a nib which looks like gold. I do not see it that way and think that even without comparison to the pre-1965 model which it resembles, the pen stands up well in its own right for a modern, safe and convenient equivalent.

I recently saw a review by SBRE Brown of the Tibaldi N.60 in Emerald green. His only complaint was that the grip section was black, not of the same colour as the rest of the body. That is not an issue on the Retro Zest edition.

Size comparison with a (dusty) Montegrappa Fortuna

Conclusions

It is sometimes said (at least, in fountain pen circles) that if you find a pen you like and in a finish that you like, then buy it! Tibaldi pens are not very easy to find in the UK. Cult Pens sells them, including the N.60 but not currently the Retro Zest edition. Iguanasell has served me well now on several occasions even including a surprise free gift with this order and I would recommend them.

Perhaps some comparables below £200.00 might be an Edison Collier, a Conklin All American, Leonardo Momento Zero or a Montegrappa Fortuna. In terms of size and girth, the N.60 could be a good test of whether you will get along with such a large pen, before splashing out on a Pelikan M1000 or Montblanc 149.

Some final thoughts. This has been a momentous and sombre week in the UK: HM Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September 2022 at the age of 96, after serving as monarch for over 70 years and just two days after greeting our new Prime Minister Liz Truss and inviting her to form a new government. The Queen was of my parents’ generation and hugely loved and respected. She had been the Queen for all of my life and so there is a sense of loss here. The N.60 was the last pen I bought whilst our Queen was alive. We are in period of mourning, which I will record in my journal. We have a new King and a new Prime Minister. Amidst all this change the N.60 Retro Zest is a good tool for such reflections and an echo of another age.

Long term thoughts on the Visconti Rembrandt fountain pen.

It has been four years since I wrote a post The Visconti Rembrandt v The Pineider Avatar fountain pen (8 September 2018). At the time, I had owned the Rembrandt for less than a week. I think my comments then were fair and still hold good. As to which one of those two pens you prefer, that is subjective and each has its merits.

It has been my habit for decades, to write a daily entry in my diary. Currently I use an A5 page-a-day diary from Rymans. This year, it was my intention to use a different pen and ink combination each month. I started out with a Cleo Skribent Classic Gold in January but was enjoying it so much that I continued with it for February too. Then, forcing myself to have a change, I started March with the Visconti Rembrandt. I am still using it now. By the end of August, I had been using the Rembrandt almost every day for six months, barring a few days when I went away and took other pens for holiday journaling.

My Visconti Rembrandt Twilight, at four years old.

As for ink, I have been using it with Kaweco blue cartridges. I had a stash of these, acquired on buying Kaweco pens, particularly the Perkeo of which I have several. With each purchase, there would be four new Kaweco blue cartridges, with the Kaweco name along the side. I particularly liked this ink and kept these cartridges in a Kaweco tin, separate from my hoard of generic blue standard international cartridges.

This adorable Kaweco tin lives on my desk and held my stash of Kaweco blue cartridges.

Since 9 February 2022, I have filled the Rembrandt eight times with these cartridges and am down to my last one. I plan to switch to Kaweco midnight blue next, as I have a box waiting. I will never get through all my ink, but it feels satisfying to have used up these Kaweco blues, at least.

Whilst using a standard international cartridge, the Rembrandt has space to carry a spare. The spare cartridge does rattle around though, and to stop this I cut a small cube of rubber from an eraser and dropped it into the back of the barrel. Be careful with this however: too large a piece and it will jam inside and you will not be able to get it out again unless you break it up with a cocktail stick.

I should mention the chrome section of the Rembrandt. Generally, I am not a fan of slippery metal sections. For this reason I have avoided the Lamy Studio (apart from the brushed steel version with the black rubberised grip section). But in all fairness, the Rembrandt’s shiny plated metal section has not been a problem for me at all. My grip on the pen does not slip. I do not have trouble controlling the nib or stopping it from rotating left or right. I think that this may be partly because the section and the nib are both relatively short and when I hold the pen, my thumb still rests on the purple barrel, serving to anchor the pen and stop it from rotating in my hands.

The shiny plated business-end of the Rembrandt.

When I first got the pen, I preferred using it with the cap posted, but my habit has changed and I now use it unposted. If I had been put off buying the Rembrandt because of its metal section, then I would have missed out. The magnetic cap fastening still works well and is quick and convenient. It makes for a grip area free of any sharp step or screw threads.

Above, all, the pen writes really well. I get no hard starts. I did adjust the nib slightly when it first arrived, to ease open the gap between the tines to improve flow to my taste, but having done this in the first few days, the pen has written smoothly and effortlessly ever since and works well with the Kaweco blue cartridges.

As for the Pineider Avatar in its vibrant Lipstick Red, I still have it and it is a beauty. It has the “Wow factor” which the Rembrandt lacks and got the best admiring looks at our London pen club. Yet the Rembrandt has proved itself a solid performer over time and deserves credit for that.

It is hard to show that it is actually purple, with subtle “brush strokes” of lighter colours in the material.

Early thoughts on the Flying Tiger traveller notebook.

On a recent visit to London’s Canary Wharf, I found a branch of Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and popped in for a browse.

Right near the entrance, I spotted an olive colour, traveller-style notebook cover with elasticated loop, containing three notebooks, each with different paper. It was simply labelled Notebook, or Notesbog in Danish. The cover was not leather, but felt like a soft, fibrous cardstock with a brown faux-suede backing. Inside this, a removable brown card (which slips in behind the notebooks, between the books and the outer cover) provides an expandable wallet with cotton fastening on one side and another little pouch, to keep tickets or receipts or such like on the other side. As the ticket pouch needs to be the right way up, this has to be at the back, whilst the expandable wallet will be at the front of your notebooks. However if you do not need these, or prefer not to feel the uneven lumps and bumps below the paper when writing, you can slide it out.

Traveller-style notebook from Flying Tiger. Delike New Moon fountain pen for scale.

I was very taken with this, especially the olive colour. The notebooks looked tall and slim, rather taller than the red Silvine memo book that I usually carry when out and about, but the same page width. The paper in the first notebook was squared, the second book had lined pages and the third had dot grid. The paper felt reasonably thick and good quality. The notebooks were each stitched, rather than stapled and with plain brown card covers. Each book was held in place with an elasticated loop.

Size comparison with my usual carry, a Silvine pocket notebook.

The cover includes two elasticated loops inside the spine. You could slide one notebook under each loop if you just wished to carry two. However there are three notebooks in total, the first two attached to each other by a separate elasticated loop and then slid under the first of the two loops attached to the cover.

Three slim notebooks inside.

Having picked up one to buy, I made my way toward the cash tills, following the one-way route around all the aisles so that you get to pass every item in the shop. I soon found another display of these notebooks, but this time the covers were available in blue-grey, (which I will call blue) or dark green. This threw me slightly, and to confuse matters further, these blue or green versions were fatter and heavier. On closer inspection, I noticed that whilst the covers were all of the same size, there were more pages in the blue and the green cover notebooks, than in the olive one that I had seen first. Yet they were the same price, still only £4.00. Was the olive one over-priced, or were the blue and the green ones underpriced? I decided to hedge my bets and buy one of each size.

I’ll take these two please.

Specifications:

Olive green version:

  • 1 x outer cover, olive green with one elasticated loop closure and two loops in the spine
  • 1 x cardboard insert, with expandable pouch and a slot for tickets;
  • 1 x notebook with squared paper, 48 pages, squares are 2.7mm, or 10 squares = 2.7cm;
  • 1 x notebook with lined paper, 48 pages, 20 rows per page, 8.2mm row height;
  • 1 x notebook with dot-grid paper, 48 pages, 5mm squares;
  • The notebook size is 19.5cm x 9.5cm. The paper is 80 gsm.
  • Total 72 leaves, or 144 pages. Total weight: approximately 177 grams.

Blue version:

  • 1 x outer cover, blue, with one elasticated loop closure and two loops in the spine
  • 1 x cardboard insert, with expandable pouch and a slot for tickets;
  • 1 x notebook with squared paper, 64 pages, squares are 2.7mm, or 10 squares = 2.7cm;
  • 1 x notebook with lined paper, 64 pages, 20 rows per page, 8.2mm row height;
  • 1 x notebook with dot-grid paper, 64 pages, 5mm squares;
  • The notebook size is 19.5cm x 9.5cm. The paper is 80 gsm.

Total 96 leaves, or 192 pages. Total weight: approximately 258 grams.

Traveller notebook. Lined pages are 8.2mm row height.

Finally, the difference in weight of these two options is not entirely due to the extra number of pages: the cover of the blue version feels slightly thicker and stiffer than on the olive one. This led me to disassemble both sets to weigh the component parts individually. Even I felt a bit nerdy doing this. But sure enough, the olive cover weighed approximately 26.5 grams, whilst the blue cover weighed around 30.5 grams.

The component parts. All for a very reasonable £4.00.

So in summary, you have a choice, one with a total of 144 pages, and one with 192 pages and a stiffer cover.

The paper is pleasant to use and is fountain pen friendly. The set will be great to chuck in my green canvas shoulder bag. It remains to be seen how each cover will fare over time, after being carried about. The elastic loop may in time bite into the covers – more likely with the thinner cover of the olive version. You get more for your money with the blue version, whilst the olive version is thinner and lighter to carry. Of course, you can mix and match the contents or replace them as you wish. But both seemed good value to me. Buying one of each in order to reap the average value seemed the right choice.

I’ve got the notebook. Now I just need the travel.

Travelling with ink: Suffolk, August 2022 edition.

How many pens do you need for a two night hotel break in Suffolk. One? Yes, possibly. And how many pens did I need? Answer: five fountain pens, plus a Lamy 2000 multi-colour ball pen and a Pentel P207 mechanical pencil (just in case I ran into difficulties with the Wordle).

The cap bands. (The Lamy 2000 sat this one out).

I always enjoy thinking about what pens to bring on a holiday. Whilst there is an attraction in the simplicity of bringing just one, I rarely (or never) take that option. This time, I chose the following:-

Lamy 2000 (Fine): recently back from a nib exchange with Lamy and newly filled with Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green. I am loving this pairing especially on my holiday journal which is a Leuchtturm A5 hard cover notebook. (The hard cover helps if you do not want to sit at a table and need to write with the book on your knees).

The Lamy 2000 fountain pen and multipen, plus a Pentel pencil.

Aurora Talentum, Oblique Medium: a recent purchase this summer and one that I am delighted with. Now that a little initial skipping has been cured, the pen is a joy and I think it may be one of the best buys around in its price range. Currently inked with Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau. The OM nib is a game changer for me as a lefty overwriter. The pen works for my style, and I do not have to adapt my writing style to suit the pen.

Parker Duofold International, Big red edition, Medium nib: now inked with a Quink blue black cartridge. Recently I had inserted a blue black cartridge in my new Vector XL. Flow problems ensued and I removed the cartridge to investigate. It turned out to be a simple case of the plastic which gets punched out when you puncture the cartridge, had not broken off completely and was still blocking the flow. I poked it away with a toothpick. Then I had the thought: why put this cartridge back in the Vector when I have a Duofold sitting idle? And so it went in the Duofold, with great results. This is a “forever ink” for this pen.

Oranges and lemons: the Duofold and Talentum.

Delike Newmoon, green marbled acrylic pen with fude nib and Waterman Harmonious Green. I am thrilled with this pen, out of all proportion to its modest price. The nib is so enjoyable, being usable in a variety of styles and having four distinct line widths up its sleeve, depending on how you hold it. For these reasons, it would actually be a good choice if you were to take only one pen with you.

That was nearly enough, and then at the last minute I spotted my Sailor Pro-Color 500 blue demonstrator steel nibbed pen, in my pen cup. This has a fine nib (extra fine by western standards) and is filled with Noodlers Bulletproof Black. Another “forever-ink” pairing. People speak of Sailor nibs having a pencil-like feedback, in terms of feel and sound on the paper. But this combo goes a step further and the line also looks like the writing from a sharp, soft pencil. And it has the added quality of being waterproof and so you can go over it with a highlighter is you so wish, without it smudging.

Delike Newmoon and Sailor Pro-Color 500.

In the event, despite having the choice of five fountain pens, it was the new Lamy 2000 that I chose to use for the quiet half hour of writing before the days got started.

But the Sailor came into its own as a shirt-pocket pen when out during the day, excellent for a quick note to aid the memory, in my red Silvine A6 pocket notebook which lives in my shoulder bag when out and about.

Barely there. The Sailor Pro-Color 500 slips into a shirt pocket.

When visiting seaside towns, I always enjoy coming across an RNLI lifeboat station and will visit them if they are open. It is good to know that they are there, even if you do not need them – which was a little bit like the rest of my fountain pens on this trip. As for the pencil, I did not need it for the Wordle. But I did buy a souvenir notebook from the wonderful Suffolk Owl Sanctuary which I might just paginate.

Whether you bring pens or not, a few days’ break in Suffolk to visit the lovely coastal towns or to drive around the beautiful countryside and enjoy the landscape, is strongly recommended.

Big skies and laid back beachy vibes at Aldeburgh.
Southwold. The seafront is just beyond the shops.

My big red ink swab fest.

In recent posts, I have been looking at my fountain pen ink accumulation. Today it is the turn of my red inks to be in the spotlight.

I like red ink but do not use it very much. As somebody who uses mostly blue or blue black inks, it came as a surprise to see quite how many different bottles of red ink I have. This is due to the temptation to try new shades of red, combined with the fact that finishing a bottle, at my rate of use, takes forever.

Every fountain pen enthusiast needs at least one bottle of red ink. A Waterman Audacious Red, for example, would probably do. You cannot go wrong with Waterman ink. Rummaging through my ink drawers, I had forgotten that I owned a bottle of Lamy red and cannot now remember buying it. Others triggered happy memories – such as buying the Beefeater Red from KWZ Inks at the London Pen Show one year, or the Pure Pens Cadwaladr Red, also at the Pen Show.

The little bottle of Campo Marzio Bordeaux was purchased at the delightful Campo Marzio shop in Piccadilly which I recently heard sadly may not be there any more.

The Montblanc Corn Poppy Red was an ink that I had heard about a lot on the internet and had to buy for myself – probably from Harrods, whilst Graf von Faber-Castell’s lovely Garnet Red came either from Harrods or Selfridges in London. I was thrilled with Garnet Red when I first discovered it. It was just what I had been looking for as it had a very pleasing orangey brown hue to it. But when using it more recently, it seemed to have lost this feature that I particularly liked and seemed to have changed from how I remembered it, to a Burgundy. I fear that I may have accidentally contaminated my bottle by filling a pen which still had traces of another ink inside. Time to buy another bottle perhaps.

However, I later purchased a bottle of Montblanc’s William Shakespeare Velvet Red, a premium ink in a 35ml bottle, which I was fortunate to bag at a London Pen Show for a mere £10.00. This also has the special orangey hints that I had liked so much in the Garnet Red.

Today, to illustrate the differences (and also the similarities, to be fair) in my red inks I have swabbed them all. This was an exercise that turned my writing desk briefly into something resembling a science lab. I swabbed the inks with cotton buds, onto a spread in a Tomoe River paper note book which I keep for ink sampling. Also for good measure I swabbed them on a SemiKolon Grand Voyage journal, which uses a cream coloured laid paper and is, I was told, related to Leuchtturm.

Red ink swabs on Tomoe River paper.

I used a Moonman glass nib dip pen for the writing samples, although this is not a good representation of how an ink may appear from the more controlled flow of a fountain pen nib

While gathering my red inks together for this exercise, I thought that I would include a few ink samples that I was given, such as a scented ink by Campo Marzio, given to me by a dear friend in the fountain pen community and a sample of Diamine Sunset, a well regarded ink, given to me by Jon of Pensharing. The Onoto Passion Red was one of three inks, generously given to me by James Boddy of Onoto.

Red ink swabs on a SemiKolon Grand Voyage journal as well as a Tomoe River journal.

Ironically, the only pen in which I have red ink at present, (out of around 18 fountain pens inked) is an Online Campus Fluffy Cats edition, in which I am using the excellent Kaweco Ruby Red in cartridges, not bottled ink. I was therefore unable to do a swab but have included it in the spread nonetheless.

I am conscious of there being a great many excellent red inks that I do not have and am yet to try, such as Sheaffer Skrip red, or Diamine Red Dragon, to name but two, but you can’t have them all. It is the wanting that has led to my present predicament and I am already at saturation point and ready for any eventuality calling for a massive amount of red ink writing.

Some of my bottled red ink stash.

My current top 5 inks.

It is not very often that I take stock of what bottled inks I have. Until now, the most recent count up was in 2020, which I posted about in The Great Bottled Ink Count on 21 November 2020. At that time I had 65 bottles. It has since grown to around 82 bottles.

Whilst it is nice to have such a variety to choose from when inking a pen, there is also a nagging feeling that I have got more than I need and will never use it all. If we chop and change inks every time we fill a pen, and have multiple pens inked at once, we very rarely manage to finish a bottle. It takes sustained use and many repeat fills, to drain a typical 50ml bottle.

When I got all my inks out recently, it was hard to make them all fit back in their drawers again. Having them stacked on top of each other in drawers means that you forget what is underneath. It leads me to fantasise about having just one ink, or say one of each main colour. How much simpler that would be. The same goes for fountain pens and notebooks. Imagine having only one pen, one ink and one notebook. No difficult decisions about which to take! You can temporarily create a such a position by going on a retreat or even just going to a coffee shop, bringing only one pen, one ink and one notebook with you.

This was me last weekend, sorting the ink stash by colour.

I am unlikely to reduce my ink stash unless I have to. I am set up for life! But meanwhile it can be a fun exercise to reflect on which inks I would select, if I could keep only five of them. Currently, if it came to this, I would nominate the following.

Waterman Serenity Blue

An attractive royal blue ink, that is readily available, inexpensive, and behaves well. An excellent general purpose ink. It flows well in a pen, dries quickly, doesn’t stain and is easy to wash out of a pen. It can also help to clean a pen that has had something less well-behaved in it before. If I could keep only one ink, this would probably be it. But I would miss not having Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue.

Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine

This is blue black ink and named after the River Tavy in the county of Devon where Conway Stewart at one time was based. I first discovered the ink at a London Pen Show and it became an instant favourite. I recall later buying a spare bottle.

But the memory plays tricks on us. When laying out all my inks on view recently, I discovered that I actually had three bottles of Tavy. I had written their dates of purchase inside the lids: October 2017, March 2019 and October 2021. All were at pen shows. But when I opened the bottles recently to check how much was left, I could not understand why they were all full, or nearly full. And then I spotted an empty Tavy ink bottle on the book shelf behind my desk, and remembered that I had been through a whole bottle. It turns out that after that first bottle of Tavy, I had bought three spare bottles, not one.

It turns out that every two years I buy another bottle of Tavy.

Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red

This is a gorgeous orangey red, like a Venetian red and is a premium ink from Montblanc in a 35ml bottle. I was fortunate to find a bottle for £10.00 at a pen show. For a long time I used it exclusively in my Montblanc 145 Classique, although now I am a little more relaxed about letting other pens share it.

Graf von Faber-Castell, Moss Green

As green inks go, this is a dark, rich green which shades well, rather than the viridian shades of some others.

Pelikan Edelstein, Smoky Quartz

This ink was a free gift at the London Pelikan Hub gathering one year. It is a distinctive earthy light brown, very different from say the Montblanc Toffee Brown. It is described on the box as a softer ink and has a tendency to bleed through certain papers and so needs to be used with care but is a gorgeous colour and shades beautifully too.

As well as being very pleasing inks used on their own, these five also have the advantage of looking good on a page together, as if they all came from the same set.

But trying to decide which Inks I would keep and which I would part with, is surprisingly painful. I am clearly not yet ready to let go.

A look at my brown ink stash.

In my previous post, I rounded up my green inks to remind myself of what I had. It was also done in part to assess the task of how much ink I still have to get through in my life time. I think we all know that that is not going to happen! There were seven green bottles alone. And since writing that post, I found that I had missed one, a bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Olivine.

I thought that today, I would continue the exercise, and see what brown inks I have. And to avoid the risk of missing any, I got out all of my bottled ink and put them into groups, so no-one got forgotten.

Two drawers of inks from my storage chest of drawers.

As soon as you start this, you run into problems of classification. I had to make a few policy decisions, such as separating my blue ink into (a) royal blue (b) blue black and (c) light blues, including turquoise. As for the brown inks I had to decide whether to include Cult Pens Deep Dark Red, and Diamine Oxblood, or whether to put them in the reds or the Burgundies. Without getting too bogged down in deliberating, I put the Oxblood in with the browns, and Deed Dark Red with the Burgundy. I am sure many would disagree.

Making an attempt at classification.

And then, where do you group Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo? I put it with my Waterman Tender Purple, which was lonely in its Purple category of one.

Another category that consisted of only one ink, was orange. I put Diamine Pumpkin there. I had two pinks (although they were duplicate bottles of Pelikan Edelstein Star Ruby), three Burgundies, a surprisingly high number of nine black inks given that I do not regularly use black ink, and an even more surprising number of nine red inks. It is nice to have so many different shades and from different brands, but do I really need nine bottles of red?

For someone who does not use brown ink regularly, I have a respectable seven bottles. Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz, a freebee from the Pelikan Hub one year, remains a firm favourite. It is great in my Montegrappa Fortuna with a fine steel nib. Another favourite is Diamine Cherry Sunburst, with its musical connotations as part of the Gibson Les Paul guitar series. I use that sometimes in the gold Lamy Lx.

The brown team from my ink stash. I forgot to include the Smoky Quartz in the picture.

Since getting into the fountain pen hobby, I have kept a record of pen acquisitions but have been in a fog of denial about the ink situation, having only a vague idea of what I have accumulated. Sometimes it is quite nice not knowing the numbers.

Given that for the most part, I prefer blue and blue black inks, it is rather surprising that I have gathered so many other colours, which tend to be for “recreation” and occasional correspondence with other pen and ink users rather than regular work use.

I think it was some time around 2014 that I fell into the rabbit hole, when the internet kindled my long-standing enjoyment of fountain pens. I lapped up Stephen Brown’s pen review videos and discovered a few blogs, and went to the London Pen show for the first time. And over that time, my bottled ink ownership has quietly grown from only a handful, to its current tally of 82 (including a few duplicates). I seem to have massively overestimated my life expectancy. And this is not even taking into account the stash of ink cartridges.

It is not all bad of course. I do get a lot of enjoyment and relaxation from my pen hobby. Even when not actually using my pens, I can unwind just by thinking about them and pondering some future combinations of pens and inks to try. As hobbies go, it is cheaper and takes up less space than many others I can think of.

Relaxation in a bottle.

Finishing my greens: a look at my green ink stash.

Like many others in this hobby with a passion for fountain pens, I have suffered from Gear Acquisition Syndrome and now find myself with an embarrassing number of pens, unused notebooks and bottles of ink. From time to time I need to remind myself of what I have “in stock.”

When my late Godfather (“Uncle Brian”) died, his wife Mary offered me his almost full bottle of ink. It was Cross Blue. I gladly took it to finish and have been getting through it in the pen that I use at work, a Cross Bailey Light. It is now on its tenth fill, since last December.

Unlike Uncle Brian, I have two drawers full of bottled inks in various colours and will never get through it unless I decide to paint the walls with it. Of course it is nice to have a good selection of different inks to play with and most inks keep well for years. (One exception is registrar’s blue black iron gall ink, which once opened, is best used within 18 months or so, before it starts to lose its darkening ability).

I may at last be reaching the age where my desire not to fill my house with extra possessions, can sometimes outweigh the attraction of the thing itself. As I try to to use and enjoy what I have, it can help to break this down into smaller goals. Green inks are a category of inks that I have relatively few of. I can count my bottles on the fingers of, well, two hands.

The Green Team, from my ink stash

The only one of these that I have finished, and which was for many years my only green ink, was a bottle of Parker Quink. I still have the classic bottle and its cardboard box. Sadly these bottled inks are sold in plastic blister packs now. My bottle has a faded price label and I can still see that it came from WHSmiths.

I did eventually finish this but had had it for so long that I could not part with the bottle.

A modern equivalent, for a good day-to-day green ink might be Waterman’s Harmonious Green. Nowadays, I like to write the date of purchase inside the box lid. Mine bears the date 26 September 2015 and I bought it in the Burlington Arcade, off Piccadilly in London. It is still a good two thirds full. However I am now using it regularly in my Delike New Moon, fude nib pen. It is a good combination for the marbled green acrylic pen. It is an inexpensive ink for an inexpensive pen.

My Delike New Moon, fude nib pen with its current pairing of Waterman Harmonious Green.

I have some more up-market green inks: Montblanc Irish Green and, probably my favourite, Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green in its attractive heavy bottle.

I have a 30ml plastic bottle of Diamine’s Deep Dark Green, which I bought at the same time as their Deep Dark Blue and Deep Dark Red. I used the Deed Dark Blue by far the most and finished the bottle, often using it in a TWSBI Vac 700 or Diamond 580.

Some less common greens are my Noodler’s Sequoia: a brim-full glass bottle containing 3oz of this green-black ink. Unfortunately, although I was very taken with the colour, I found it all but unusable for a lefty-overwriter as it is so slow-drying and smudges long after I would expect it to be dry.

Seven bottles. That is still a lot of writing.

At the London Pen Show one year, I picked up a cute little bottle of Conway Stewart green ink, made by Diamine. I do not know the name of the colour but think it was of the same series as Conway Stewart Tavy, which is a nice blue black. However I bought it more for the bottle, nice for travelling, than the ink.

Finally, I have a bottle of Krishna Inks Ghat Green, which is an attractive khaki green-gold. I did not use it much at first as I suspected it of causing unsightly and disturbing nib crud on my Montegrappa Fortuna’s steel nib. But I later gave it another chance, in my Sailor Pro-Gear with a 21k gold nib and have had no problems with it at all.

If you want to get through ink faster, using a pen with broad, stub or music nib will help. Or you could use it for drawing. For some years I could not settle to using a green ink as I would soon have the urge to flush it out and refill with a blue. But I now appreciate a green ink from time to time and it is well worth having at least one green-inked pen! I heard it said that there is, or was, a convention in the Royal Navy, of different colour inks being used by different ranks of officer. I have not been able to verify that. I do remember that green was the colour of correspondence from Rolex, if you got a typed letter from them in the 1960’s. It also makes a good colour for amending and editing typed drafts, rather than red.

A green ink can look attractive, particularly on cream coloured paper and paired with the right pen and can make a refreshing change from the usual blues. I don’t know when I will next finish a bottle or whether I will ever own just one bottle but I am at least trying not to buy more.