2022: Some of my fountain pen highlights.

As another year end approaches, it is time for a round-up. Against the background of a tumultuous year in national and world events, I had a busy year and took comfort in my fountain pens, whilst trying to curb my temptation to buy more.

In 2022, I had 24 fountain pens incoming. These included five that I bought and gifted, and coincidentally, another five that were given to me. This leaves 14 fountain pens bought for myself over the year. My total spend on these came to around £976.00.

My biggest single purchase was an Aurora Talentum in yellow, with a 14k gold, oblique medium nib. I am delighted with it and consider it one of the best value gold nib pens on the market. Aside from a vintage Parker 17 Lady, a £10.00 impulse buy at a pen show, the Talentum was the only pen that I bought with a gold nib.

Aurora Talentum, with oblique medium 14k gold nib, rhodium plated

I notice that a theme of my 2022 pen purchases, has been in relatively high-end steel nib pens. These included a Tibaldi N.60, an Esterbrook Estie Nouveau bleu, an Onoto Scholar and an Otto Hut Design 06. In each case, the pen was the first and only model that I have of each brand.

Esterbrook Estie, Aurora Talentum, Tibaldi N.60 and Onoto Scholar.

Another theme to note is that I bought myself three Delike New Moon fountain pens, with fude (bent) nibs, in green, blue and finally red acrylic. I am very taken with these. They are inexpensive cartridge-converter fillers, with screw caps and steel nibs, in attractive finishes and with a very versatile smooth nib. This can be used to produce a line from broad to extra fine, depending upon how you hold the pen. I have them filled with matching inks and enjoy them a lot.

Delike New Moon fude nib fountain pens. Great value.

Receiving a surprise parcel in the post with a gift of pens from a friend overseas, is always a thrill. A friend in Australia sent me five fountain pens, namely a Geha 715, Montblanc Carrera, a Montblanc 34, a Lamy 2000 and an old version Waterman Hemisphere in tobacco brown. There were also two Montblanc ballpoint pens (a matching ball pen for the Carrera, plus a Meisterstuck ball pen, both with new refills). It was exciting to try them all out. The Geha 715 was a German, black resin, piston fill pen which had an ink reserve feature, activated by sliding a switch in the feed, under the nib. The Carrera was a steel nib pen, mine being a cartridge converter version. Aside from the Waterman, the others all had oblique nibs, which I have found to be suited to my lefty overwriter hand-writing style.

Some gifts from Australia! Montblanc 34; Montblanc Carrera fountain pen and ballpoint pen; Waterman Hemisphere.

The Lamy 2000 was new and had an oblique broad nib. Unfortunately I found that this one did not suit me. Held at my usual writing angle, it produced too broad a line for me, both in down strokes and cross strokes. Perhaps looking back I needed to adjust my angle of grip for this particular nib to use it properly. However, I asked Lamy whether they would agree to exchange this nib for a Fine. They kindly agreed and I sent the pen to Germany.

I wrote a blog post at the time about sending the Lamy 2000 back for a nib swap. An extraordinary thing then happened and this post received over 14,000 views in the first month. My blog received it’s highest ever numbers of daily and monthly views.

I attended both the London Spring and Autumn Pen Shows, in March and October. These were most enjoyable and it was good to see so many friends particularly as we had not resumed the London pen club meets since Covid restrictions were lifted.

It was at the Spring pen show that I bought my Esterbrook Estie. I had seen a lot of buzz about these online and was a late-comer to the party. Then at the Autumn pen show, I bought my Onoto Scholar, in navy blue with gold plated trim. The bicolour steel, number 7 medium nib is a joy to use and is the same as the standard steel nib that you would receive on an Onoto Magna, a pen costing more than twice the price of a Scholar, although there is an option to upgrade to a gold nib.

My final pen purchase of the year came in November whilst on a short break in Portugal. I found a wonderful, long-established fountain pen shop called Araujo & Sobrinho and enjoyed meeting the proprietor and buying an Otto Hutt Design 06, in black lacquer with silver colour trim. I am thrilled with it. I hope to give it a blog post to itself soon.

Otto Hutt Design 06 fountain pen.

At home, my pen cups typically have around a dozen pens currently inked. At my office, I limit my work fountain pens to two. A Cross Bailey Light, royal blue model has been in constant use with bottled Cross Blue ink all year, which I am using up for my late Godfather Brian. My other work pen is a Moonman S5 eyedropper, with oblique broad nib. This gets only occasional use and as a result has not needed refilling all year.

I have continued to use fountain pens for my daily A5 page-a-day journal. I cherish the ten minutes or so, spent recalling and summarising the previous day. I think my intention was to change pen each month. In the event, I used the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold for both January and February. I then switched to the Visconti Rembrandt from March right through to September inclusive. In October, I used the Esterbrook Estie. Then for November and December it was the Onoto Scholar. When travelling, I take a different notebook for holiday journaling.

With the year almost over, I am very content with my accumulated pens and ink stash. I have ample to last me out! Also, I am equally well stocked for new notebooks, of all shapes and sizes. My resolution for 2023 will be to remember to use the pens, inks and notebooks I have and not keep buying more. I always say that.

One of my resolutions last year was to walk 1,500 miles, an average of 125 miles per month. Mostly, this consists of walking to and from my office. Ultimately, my pedometer app has counted about 1,200 miles, a slightly disappointing 80% of my annual target. Still, as with my stationery hopes, it is good to leave some room for improvement in the future. A Happy New Year to all.

Onoto Scholar. An exquisite steel nib.

A few bloggiversary thoughts.

Today, Fountain pen blog turns six! It seems like a good moment to take stock, share a few statistics and to reflect on where I am at on this journey.

Born on 5 November 2016, there have now been 218 posts, which makes an average of around 36 per year. There have been 360,000 views, 212,000 visitors and 1,761 comments.

The posts have for the most part been a record of my personal journey through the world of fountain pens, inks and paper. They provide a snapshot of what was on my mind at the time they were written. The blog is an outlet to share my thoughts on recent purchases. I do not plan these posts very far in advance (in case that was not obvious). I have not so far received items for review. Just this week, after some consideration, I declined a friendly and flattering invitation from a well-respected notebook company to feature a product in the blog. It has been my preference, to write reviews only on items that I have bought. Naturally I would have been only too happy to receive a free journal to try but I worry about feeling some obligation to write favourably about a product in those circumstances. Perhaps this will change. I know many others have overcome such reservations.

Meanwhile, the journey of discovering and learning about different makes and types of pen is a long and interesting one. There is a risk that you are constantly tempted to buy ever more expensive pens and that the amount that you feel reasonable to spend on a pen will escalate. I do not think I have fallen too far into that trap. I can think of only three occasions when I spent over £400.00 on a pen: one was a Visconti which I promptly returned a couple of days later. Another, a Montegrappa Monte Grappa I also returned. Finally, a Montblanc 145 Classique, I have had for three years now was an impulse buy but outside my usual comfort zone.

My annual expenditure on fountain pens and the number of pens bought, did rise for a time but is under better control now. Looking back on 2022, I have had 22 pens incoming. Of these, five were gifted to me, which leaves 17 purchases. But of my purchases, four were gifted to other people. Total spent: £931.60.

I am still learning about what pens and nibs best suit me and my writing styles. I am left-handed and for the most part, an overwriter at that. This means writing with little or no downward pressure. Without that downward pressure the nib still needs to have a good ink flow. In recent years, I have found that oblique nibs work well for me and I have enjoyed nibs on a Moonman S5 eyedropper, an Aurora Optima (oblique broad), an Aurora Talentum (oblique medium) and some vintage Montblanc and Geha models that were kindly given to me by a friend knowing of my liking for such nibs.

I do also write in a lefty-underwriter mode sometimes, particularly for short notes since this is less comfortable and natural for me. I am usually not happy with how my writing looks in this style, chiefly because it is so hard to keep the upstrokes vertical. The good news is that fountain pens are much happier in this mode and the natural pressure that you apply in a downstroke, opens the tines, enhances ink flow and lubrication and you get a silky, smooth writing experience (assuming you have a smooth nib and suitable paper).

For underwriting style, I am happy to use standard nibs with fine, medium or broad rounded tipping. I have learned that Sailor’s standard nibs, with the tipping flattened at the sides, have a sharp and unforgiving edge and are not the best option for my style. This year, I have discovered the “bent” (fude) nibs of the Delike/Majohn New Moon fountain pens. As told in my last piece, I have three of them now and am very pleased with their flattering influence on my handwriting, particularly in my lefty-underwriter style.

My three Delike New Moon, fude nib pens. Currently my most-reached for pens!

Over the years I have learned that you do not need to spend more than a certain amount, to enjoy a really pleasant writing experience. You need to spend a bit, of course, to get something which is of decent quality, well made and appealing. The great news, in my opinion, is that the amount you need to spend is probably no more than £30.00. I am thinking here of the Moonman S5, the Cross Bailey Light or the Delike/Majohn New Moon, for example, which make up my most oft-used pens.

I realise that I am probably getting “off message” here for a fountain pen blog and risk not being taken seriously. Well, I do also enjoy my slightly more valuable pens. This year, my four most costly pen purchases were an Aurora Talentum at £240.00 (possibly one of the best value gold nib pens that I know of), an Esterbrook Estie (£140.00), a Tibaldi N.60 (£157.25) and, most recently the entry level Onoto Scholar (£150.00 pen show price). Of these, only the Aurora has a gold nib.

This year’s “big four” purchases: Esterbrook Estie, Aurora Talentum, Tibaldi N.60 and Onoto Scholar.

My fountain pen hobby did not begin with the blog but has always been there since I was a child. I remember cleaning my Parker pens, twisting tissue paper tightly to dry the inside of the cap. I still do this. I once (aged about 10) sent a letter to Parker, to ask about a Leonardo da Vinci drawing used in their advert (what I now know to be the Vitruvian man).

My fountain pen, ink and notebook obsession shows no signs of going anywhere. I still derive a lot of pleasure from using them or even just thinking about using them! And this blog has been a joy, as a platform to share some thoughts and pictures. I enjoy the interaction that it brings with this wonderful fountain pen community. I have made many lasting friends, both at home and abroad through the blog.

Whilst I still get excited about a new bottle of ink, I am now at an age when I also get excited about finishing one. It takes a long time to get to the end of a bottle, when you are using multiple pens and inks simultaneously. This year I have got through my stash of Kaweco blue cartridges and am now working through my Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue cartridges, in my Onoto Scholar (an excellent match for the navy blue body).

Although I do not get to do it very often, a favourite occupation is to take a break from the abundant choice of pens, inks and notebooks that surrounds me at home and to focus on one of each for a while in a writing session, say in a coffee shop somewhere. Perhaps this need for simplicity is to balance the modern-day problem of too much choice, or else is a yearning to return to simpler times when we had only one pen. The wish to buy more, whilst also wishing to have less, are clearly conflicting aims. The journey continues.

Travelling with ink: Forest of Dean.

For our mid-summer break this year my wife, mother-in-law and I spent a week in the woods. This was not camping, but staying in one of the comfortable, self-catering cabins on a site run by Forest Holidays.

Whereas last year we had chosen a location near Winchester, Hampshire, as recounted in my post Travelling with ink: Blackwood Forest, this time we chose the Forest of Dean, Gloucestshire, and also went for a full seven days rather than three. It proved to be a good choice and we had also picked a week of warm sunny weather.

With the happy prospect of having some time to write, I enjoyed picking the line-up for a week away. After much deliberation (or dithering) I settled upon the yellow Aurora Talentum (my most recent pen purchase), a vintage Montblanc 34, Esterbrook Estie, Delike New Moon, and a Duke 552 bamboo barrel pen. Also I brought the Lamy 2000 multi-pen, a Sailor multi-pen/pencil and finally a Pentel 120 A3 0.7mm pencil, making eight writing implements in all.

The 8 writing implements for the trip.

To write on, or in, I brought a fresh Leuchtturm A5 notebook for daily journal writing, another A5 notebook for everything else, one A4 notebook (good for planning and drafting) and finally a small Silvine pocket notebook – which is always handy for jotting down addresses, phone numbers, directions or any notes made while out and about.

The fountain pens were inked with various colours but I decided to bring only one bottle of ink, Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau and so if any of them needed refilling, it would be royal blue or nothing. In the event, I did refill the Talentum mid-week. Whilst I like the Konigsblau, I did notice that the pen seemed to write a little drier and with less lubrication than with the Montblanc Royal Blue that it had started with. But it is useful to have a drier ink sometimes, to compensate for pens that might otherwise write very wet.

Our cabin was very spacious and slept six people, (as my sister and her family were to join us for part of the week). The open plan sitting/dining room had a large oak table with floor-to-ceiling windows and was a lovely bright place to sit, especially in the early morning when the room was cool. It did become very warm in the afternoons but we were generally out then.

The living area. There is a hot tub (with a chair lift) outside.

From our base, it was about a two-mile walk, through tranquil forest paths, to the stunning views from Symonds Yat rock, looking down on a beautiful section of the Wye Valley.

The Wye Valley, at Symonds Yat.

Our nearest small town was Coleford. Here in a local newsagents, I was pleased to find some A5 notebooks called Companion, with nicely textured soft covers in bright colours, and 240 pages of unlined, 80gsm cream paper. I knew of these from purchasing one in blue last year in a post office in Surrey. It turned out to be very pleasing and I wished I had picked up the other colours (red and yellow). Here was the chance to rectify that oversight.

Coleford town centre.

For a larger town, we were about 20 minutes drive from Ross-on-Wye. Whenever visiting another town and exploring the shops I do keep one eye open for any fountain pen shops. It is rare to find one of course, although Ross-on-Wye has a WH Smiths. I had a cursory look at the Fountain Pen section, in particular to see whether they had the newish Parker Vector XL, which I had seen recently in London – not that I would necessarily have bought one, but just as a bit of research. I was not to find one all week.

New notebooks to add to the stash.

A similar distance drive took us to Monmouth, another pretty and colourful high street, and lined with bunting for the Queen’s platinum jubilee, and with some attractive side streets and river views and plenty of history, although not the best choice for fountain pen shopping.

Monmouth’s famous medieval gate tower, on the Monnow Bridge.

A bit further afield, along scenic country roads, we also spent a day in Ledbury, Herefordshire. This is a very attractive town, famed for its half-timbered buildings and historic market building and some nice independent shops for books and clothes, but I did not find any specialist fountain pen shops in evidence.

Ledbury’s market building.

On our last full day, we visited Tintern Abbey, the impressive ruins of a Cistercian monastery beside the Wye River with wooded hillsides making a picture postcard backdrop. Once there, it seemed silly not to drive on for the short distance to visit Chepstow.

A view inside Tintern Abbey

Here, I did find a shop called First Stop Stationery, with displays of Lamy, Schreiber and other pens and a large glass display cabinet for the more expensive pens. On closer inspection, these were from Cross, Parker, Waterman, Sheaffer, Lamy, Pilot, Faber-Castell and possibly some others. Some notable examples were the Waterman Carene, Faber-Castell Ondorro, several pilot Vanishing Points, a smart Lamy Accent in the glossy black with ringed section and even the newly revived Parker 51 gold nib version which I had not previously seen in the flesh although I was not sufficiently tempted to buy one. I did at least buy some Parker cartridges in blue black.

A row of houses on Castle Terrace, Chepstow.

In our final hours of retail therapy, we headed back up to Ross-on-Wye where I had spotted a mandolin a few days earlier, in the window of River Music, in Broad Street. It was still there. I had felt in need of a mandolin, having accidently broken my old one recently when falling off a stool, whilst passing items up to the attic. It had fallen down the stairs, in its soft gig-bag but the neck was broken in two and I adjudged it to be a write-off.

The music shop had a display of ukuleles and a banjolele but it was the Tanglewood mandolin in “Wine red” that tempted me. I am very much a beginner and can play only a few chords, but recently have been captivated watching musicians such as Sierra Hull, Josh Turner, Sam Bush and Chris Thile and whilst they are all in another league, there is a lot of fun to be had from making music, trying to improve and getting to know your way around the fingerboard.

The shop owner told me how he had lowered the action on this instrument, by paring off some wood from the base of the bridge so that the strings sat closer to the neck. He had done a good job, making it much nicer to play, but without overdoing it so that the strings buzzed on the frets. This was a real bonus, rather like buying a fountain pen when the nib has been expertly tuned. At a similar price to an Esterbrook Estie, you get a lot for your money, (although he had me at “Wine red”). And so it was to come home to London with me.

A Tanglewood mandolin in Wine red.

It is probably just as well that there were not more fountain pens shops in this lovely part of the world and I am glad not to have purchased any more. But when a mandolin calls you, somehow nothing else will do.

Early thoughts on the Aurora Talentum fountain pen and OM nib.

This pen has been in my thoughts a lot in its first week with me. Here is the story so far.

The decision to buy.

There were several factors that prompted me to shell out on another Aurora fountain pen, overcoming the voice of reason that tells me that I am very contented with the pens I own and do not need any more. The main ones were:

  • I enjoy my Aurora Optima with Oblique Broad nib and was curious to try to an Oblique Medium;
  • The Talentum features the same gold nib and ebonite feed units as the Aurora 88 or Optima, but in a less costly body and with a cartridge converter system instead of a piston, making it good value. The price compares favourably to some other large pens which cost significantly more but do not come with a gold nib.
  • I was attracted to the bold yellow body, like a classic Parker Duofold in Mandarin Yellow from the 1920’s. Or at least, an upgrade from my favourite colour Lamy Safari.
  • The prices on Iguanasell seemed favourable and I had ordered through them for two previous Auroras.

The unboxing.

The package arrived very swiftly and conveniently via FedEx, at 08.15am before I had left for work. It arrived in the same large presentation box as the 88 or the Optima, which surprised me given that it is a much less costly pen. There is a shiny black, lidded carboard box with a fold down front flap. Inside this is the gift box, which may be of wood, covered with a black faux-leather material and with the Aurora name and logo on the top. There is a padded black tray for the pen, which can be lifted out to reveal the Instruction manual and a box containing two cartridges. The converter was already in the pen. It is a special box to have but once you have bought too many pens, such boxes become a bit of a storage problem and I would be quite happy to dispense with this packaging.

Aurora Talentum fountain pen.

Obviously the first thing you notice is that the pen is very yellow! The chrome trims on the clip, cap finial and end of the barrel look good against the yellow. The fit and finish are all very impressive.

The Oblique Medium nib.

I was keen to see how this compared to my Oblique Broad on my red Optima. The answer is, that the difference is very small. I placed the two oblique nibs up against each other and whilst the OM was a tad narrower, there was not much in it. Perhaps I should have chosen the Oblique Fine instead.

I then tried dipping the pen. I noticed a little bit of “railroading” where you have two lines with a gap in between. I thought perhaps, on examining the nib’s writing edge, there might be a very slight prominence at one end as the edge looked to be very slightly crescent-shaped, like a gently curved bay, rather than an exactly straight edge. However, it really was so slight that I thought it would wear in with normal use and I decided against smoothing it.

However, a bigger issue, once I had filled the pen for the first time, was that it seemed to skip or hard start, and quite a lot. Under the loupe, the nib looked right, with a visible tine gap until coming together at the tip. I deduced that the tines were perhaps a little two tightly together and in need of spreading a little, to increase the ink flow. Then again, it could have been a problem of air not getting up to the ink reservoir, rather than ink not getting down.

I wrote for several pages of A4, and at each hard start, I would draw some capital O’s. Looking back on these pages now, these O’s were occurring after every three or four lines. I also noticed that if I kept writing without a pause, the pen would keep up but if I held the nib poised in mid-air for more than 5 seconds, it would hard start on me.

My first fill had been with Waterman Absolute Brown. I then switched to my familiar Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine, which is a blue black that flows well. I tried again for several pages, and on different types of paper. There were still lots of frustrating skips.

A few days into my new pen, a difficult decision had to be made, of whether to try to return it or else to take the plunge, and try to rectify it myself – knowing that this may or may not succeed and that it would then be past the point of no return.

The way I write.

To be fair, I am left handed and generally use an “overwriter” style, with my hand above the line I am writing on and the nib pointing towards me. Instead of hooking my wrist, I rotate the paper 90 degrees to the left, keeping my wrist straight. In writing in this way, I use a very light touch on the nib and cannot apply pressure while the nib is pushing forwards, rather than doing downstrokes. So I need a pen with a generous ink flow, to keep the nib lubricated and the writing from being too pale.

I do also sometimes use an “underwriter” style, with my left arm tucked into my side and the nib pointing away from me, in a more “normal” fashion and immediately notice how much smoother and wetter pens are for the lucky people who write in this way!

I recalled how in the past, I had managed to transform the nib on my Aurora 88 by opening up the tines very slightly, with brass shims and the blade of a craft knife. Sometimes you can manage to remedy a nib problem in a few minutes. I therefore resolved to have a session on the Talentum and to try to increase the flow and hopefully reduce the skips and hard starts.

With a few tentative goes at this, I was able to ease the tine gap a little and to feel the brass shims moving more loosely between the tines. I stopped frequently to examine the nib under the loupe and was careful not to overdo things. I had bought the Talentum to compare the slightly narrower OM line to my existing OB nib, and so it would defeat the object if I simply made the nib broader – or worse still, ruined it and stopped it from writing at all.

I also changed the ink again, this time to Montblanc Royal Blue, a good rich blue which lubricates well.

The outcome.

The good news, is that by day 5 of my ownership, I was writing happily with the pen. I filled a page of an A5 journal without drama. I liked the line from the pen very much, being crisp and with pronounced line width variation between cross strokes and forward strokes.

Conclusions.

In the course of all this, I was also reading blogs and threads on Fountain Pen Network. I came across a thread about Aurora nibs where I learned that ebonite feeds do take a few days to absorb ink. My understanding is that ebonite, a vulcanized rubber, partly absorbs some ink which helps ink to flow through the nib. Perhaps my repeated flushing and ink changing had hindered this absorption process.

I was also reminded by reading a recent post from Gary, on the Scribo Write Here Tropea with 1.4mm stub nib, that you do need to write slower with a stub nib and not expect skip-free performance if writing at a fast pace. Also, this being an oblique nib, it does take some careful positioning to hold the pen at the “sweet spot” for best writing performance. Finding this takes a bit of practice until it is familiar. The moral of this “tale of the Talentum” is not to be too hasty to adjust a nib before spending ample time to allow the nib to settle down and to get used to writing with it.

Size and weight.

The Talentum is big pen, by usual standards. It measures around 135mm capped, 132mm uncapped, which is long enough to use comfortably without posting, or 160mm if you do want to post it. The weight is substantial without being burdensome, at 30.5g with ink and converter, or 20g uncapped in writing mode. The cap alone weights around 11g.

Final thoughts.

I have been interested in the Talentum for a few years now. My Aurora 88 and Aurora Optima are among my favourite special pens and so it was probably inevitable that I would succumb to the temptation to add a Talentum at some point. I had great service from Iguanasell and did not trouble them to seek a return of the pen. A little nib adjustment, although risky, has improved its performance for my style of writing. I like the effect on my handwriting.

This week has been special too, in celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years’ reign since 1952. And in a less publicised milestone, this post is my 200th since starting this blog in 2016. Thank you for still reading.