2017: Some of my fountain pen highlights.

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Cleo Skribent Classic Metal piston filler. Gorgeous.

As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on some of the year’s highlights of my fountain pen hobby.  In what was a busy and eventful year, this is a continuing source of relaxation and enjoyment. I include in this, not only using fountain pens but all the related activity of filling, cleaning and general tinkering with pens; hours of pen, ink and paper sampling; reading and writing about new pens, photographing them and shopping for pens and supplies.

Before writing this, I looked at my end of year review from 2016. During that year I had bought 40 new pens for myself and concluded that in 2017, I expected to buy a lot less. Oh dear. Let me admit right away that this did not happen.

I have kept a record of pen acquisitions. In 2017, the gross number acquired, was 52 (gasp). That sounds like one every week. I can imagine detectives in an incident room, huddled around a map and predicting when and where I am likely to strike next.

Well, it wasn’t quite like that. Two were for bought for other people. Another, a Visconti, I returned the following day as I decided that I was not suited to it, and so that doesn’t count. Then towards the end of the year, while on holiday in China I was given two pens by a cousin and eight, mostly Heroes, from an uncle who was a retired teacher, who insisted that he did not need them anymore.   So that brings it down to 39.

And of these, only three (the ones with gold nibs) cost over £100.00 and the most expensive was £159. These were the vintage Pelikan M400, Sailor Magellan Lapis Lazuli and the Cleo Skribent Classic Gold.  My total pen spend came to around £1,300.00. Many of the pens cost little more than a trip to a cinema or a meal out and have given me hours of enjoyment. Some were in sales at irresistible prices.

Anyway, without further excuses, here are some highlights, in no particular order.

New Pens

In view of the number, I am not going to post one photograph showing them all. It would be a bit like seeing all the food I have eaten in a year.

To summarise the main acquisitions by brand, these are:

  • Cleo Skribent: (2) – Classic Metal and Classic Gold. I am delighted with them both. The nibs, whether steel or gold, are wonderful.
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    Cleo Skribent Classic Metal piston filler.
  • Conklin: (2) – Mark Twain Crescent Fillers, in coral chase and red chase, from the London pen show. Lovely to use and to fill.
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    Conklin Mark Twain crescent filler, in red chase.
  • Faber Castell: (2) a pair of cheap school pens, one red and one blue, with good nibs.
  • Hero (9): either bought or given to me while in China.
  • Kaweco (5): I bought the Allrounder, the Dia2, two of the newly released Perkeos and one Sport Skyline Mint. Of these, the Dia2 is my favourite and one of the most comfortable and reliable pens I have, at any price. The Perkeos have grown on me, as I like the length and the slightly bouncy nibs. The aluminium Allrounder is well made and solid, but for just slightly more money, I would still prefer the Dia2.
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    Kaweco Dia2. Pretty much the ideal pen for me and a firm favourite of 2017.
  • Lamy (5): I picked up the new 2017 special edition Safari in Petrol and AL-Star in Pacific Blue. Both came with a pack of matching cartridges. I was more thrilled with the Petrol (dark teal) with its lovely shading and closely matched pen and ink, although in practice, I did not use it very much. The Aion was a journey; I read and watched lots of online reviews, deliberated over the grip and then succumbed. I posted some thoughts on it at the time. I do like it but find that it needs a different way of writing; you need to “let go” and not grip too firmly as the surface won’t let you.
  • Parker (4): I bought three Sonnets, because they were greatly reduced in a Rymans sale. I got one in red and gold, one in black and one in brushed stainless steel. I rather like using the black one with the cap from the brushed stainless steel one. Then in November I picked up a simple, blue plastic Parker Reflex which writes effortlessly. I read that the caps are prone to cracking in time but I am not worried as I have already found several other pen caps which would fit if need be (such as a Kaweco Sport).
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    Black Parker Sonnet, with the cap from the brushed stainless steel model. “Let me not to the marriage of two pens, admit impediments.”
  • Sheaffer (4): I bought a Sheaffer 100 with Translucent Blue barrel and steel cap, which I think looks stunning and has a good nib. It looks more attractive than its modest £35.00 cost would suggest. I also bought another Sagaris (medium) in black, since I like my burgundy one so much. Then I spotted the Sheaffer Pop in blister packs, reduced to half price and bought two.
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    Sheaffer 100 translucent blue. That nib though!
  • TWSBI (2): I bought an Eco with a fine nib and a new Classic in white with medium nib. These are both great, as low-cost, high-capacity piston fillers and both perform well. I now have four different TWSBIs in all.

So, in number, Hero were the pens that I got the most of this year, although many were gifts. Of my purchases, Kaweco and Lamy were the brands that I bought the most of (with five of each) closely followed by Parker and Sheaffer both on four.

New old pens

I bought a vintage Pelikan M400 tortoise at auction, with a fine and rather flexy 14k gold Rover nib. I enjoyed cleaning this and was thrilled when after a night’s soaking in water, I was able to unscrew the nib and ebonite feed. At the same auction, buoyed by my newfound bidding success, I went on rather impulsively to bid for a Sailor Magellan Lapis Lazuli, limited edition, with a 21k zoom nib.

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Pelikan M400 vintage, tortoise. My first auction purchase.

Writing

I have kept a diary for years. This year, I used an A5 page a day diary from Rymans. I find that the best time for me to write is early in the morning, to write up my record of the previous day. I used my Pelikan M800, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, a favourite combination.  I also finished writing up a volume of memories, purely for my own amusement, of being at boarding school in England in the 1970’s. For this I used a selection of different pens and inks over the year, really as a writing exercise and at the same time, to try out pens and inks for longer writing sessions with some sort of purpose, rather than writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”   I also enjoy writing letters and picking up whatever pen I fancy from the pen cup.

One pen, one ink, one hour

I have struggled all year with the dilemma of having too many fountain pens inked at once. Do you keep them all in use until you write them dry, or strive for an impressively minimal number of pens in the cup at the expense of flushing away good ink ? I am now less fussy than I was, about washing pens half full of ink but even so, I think my pen cup occupancy peaked at around thirty at one point.  Part of me longed for the days when I possessed only one pen and one ink. As a break from having too many pens to hand, I made up an activity which I cleverly named “One pen, one ink, one hour” which involves retreating, generally to a coffee shop and then writing more or less continuously in a notebook for an hour, with one pen. It is a good test of how a pen feels, whether the shape or the weight make your hand ache, how the feed keeps up and how you like the nib and the ink. You can write about anything, the pen itself, the fellow customers or whatever you like. No one is going to read it, thankfully.

Giving pens and advice

I mentioned that I bought a couple of pens for other people. One was a Kaweco Dia2, for my neice’s birthday. I had bought one for myself earlier and was so utterly delighted with it that I wanted to spread the joy. It is one of my favourite new pens of the year, along with the two Cleo Skribents and Conklin Crescent fillers. Another pen bought for someone else, was a Manuscript Clarity, requested by a reader of my blog, living in Vietnam.

In the summer I was flattered to be asked secretly by a cousin, to advise her on buying a fountain pen for her husband on their wedding anniversary. That would be my dream question in an exam. I sent back rather a long reply but narrowed it down to about three suggestions, based on the budget. In the end, she ordered a Pelikan M600 in blue with a fine nib. Later she sent me the most beautifully written thank you note, in her cursive italic handwriting, written with the pen that she had chosen and which was a great success.

Fountain pen blog

This blog celebrated its first birthday on 5 November 2017. Born in a few hours of playing on the WordPress web site, it was a bold step into the unknown. I had aimed loosely to post about once a week, just writing about whatever pen-related topic interested me. Now, I have just passed 50 posts. The number of followers gradually grew, roughly in tandem with the number of posts. I find the whole experience, of writing and publishing posts and getting feedback from readers, most enjoyable. This week the total views nudged past 7,000 and from over 80 countries, which I find astonishing.  I am not trying to boast here as I am sure many reading this have far higher numbers, but I am genuinely amazed at this exposure. In the summer, I published two posts about the newly released Kaweco Perkeo and these have between them been viewed over 900 times, largely because someone on FPN kindly put a link to my post in his.

Meeting people

It is easy to spend too long online reading about pens, what with WordPress, Instagram, YouTube and various online pen shops, such as Cult Pens and The Writing Desk. So it is particularly nice when the opportunity arises to meet pen people. This year, I attended my first Pelikan Hub event in September, which I enjoyed, closely followed by the London Writing Equipment Show in October when I came away with five new pens. Then in November, I met some of the same people at the monthly gathering of the London UK Fountain Pen Club.

Travelling with ink

When the opportunity arises, I enjoy looking in stationery shops overseas to see a different range of pens. I was interested to shop in China while on a holiday earlier this month, as covered in my most recent posts.

Conclusions

For me, this is the continuation and escalation of a hobby that began when I was about ten years old. The fountain pen community, I find, are very decent and not judgmental of others. Perhaps we are our own fiercest critics and there is a lot of self-guilt which goes with buying too many pens. Our favourite pen, when asked, is often “the next one”. It is addictively enjoyable, when it goes well. But I am reminded of lines in the song Beauty for brokenness (Graham Kendrick), which read “Lord end our madness, carelessness, greed;  make us content with the things that we need.” I am aware that my accumulation of pens (I haven’t mentioned the thirty or more new notebooks that I have “in stock” and the drawer full of ink) is hard to justify, even to myself. Indeed there are times when I would prefer to have fewer and appreciate them more, as in my coffee shop exercise. For 2018, I will simply repeat 2017’s resolution, to aim to buy a lot less pens and use and appreciate those that I have, all the more. Wish me luck, everybody.

Happy New Year to all and thanks for reading.

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Tinkering with the tortoise.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In summary my initial impressions are:-

Likes

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

Dislikes

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

Conclusions

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

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

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Cleo Skribent Classic Gold, Piston fountain pen; first impressions.

Cleo Skribent is a German manufacturer of writing instruments, based at Bad Wilsnack, which is between Berlin and Hamburg. It was founded immediately after the Second World War, from small beginnings in a backyard car park. The first collection of writing instruments was called Cleopatra, which later became Cleo. Today, it is one of the few remaining companies to manufacture exclusively in Germany.

Readers of this blog may recall my review in February 2017 of the Cleo Skribent Classic Metal piston fountain pen, (click here: Cleo Skribent Classic Metal Piston fountain pen) a sleek, black resin pen with a brushed metal cap and a stainless steel nib. My fine nib model continues to be a delight.

So, what do you do when you find a pen that is near perfect for you? Do you stop looking for pens? No, it turns out you buy another one the same. Well, not quite the same. The differences (a.k.a. justifications) this time are (1) that it has a 14k gold nib; (2) the nib is a Medium; (3) it is all black resin, with gold coloured fittings and (4) lighter than the metal cap version.  So, totally different. Yet retaining the design and feel which I loved in the metal cap version.

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Once again I bought through Cult Pens, one of the handful of UK dealers of Cleo Skribent instruments. The company is much less well known here than Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Lamy or Faber Castell, but prides itself in making high quality writing instruments, with emphasis on quality rather than quantity and (as their booklet says) “instead of fully automatic machines, we employ people who understand their craft.”

Cult Pens refers to this model as being astonishingly light, for fatigue-free writing and ease of handling. Newly filled with ink, mine weighs around 19g capped, or 12g uncapped. It measures 145mm capped or 135mm uncapped, which I have found to be a comfortable length to use un-posted. However, you could post the resin cap, quite deeply and securely to add some weight without making the pen back heavy, but just bear in mind that it grips on the blind cap (not the barrel) and so be careful not to rotate the cap whilst posted in case you over-tighten and damage the blind cap.

The body and cap are of a beautiful, glossy black resin. I opted for the version with gold coloured fittings. There is also a version with palladium fittings which costs less, (why,  I do not know, as the pen is otherwise identical, with both having a 14k gold nib). I am not particularly averse to mixing my metals, when it comes to pen finishes. It is purely cosmetic, I know, but on this occasion, I decided on the gold coloured furniture as being indicative of the gold nib within.

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The nib is the heart of a pen. I have been delighted with the Fine stainless steel nib in my metal capped version, which is superbly set up, being responsive to the slightest touch and having a marvelous feed back. A joy to use.

I had read in reviews that their gold nibs were even better, with some flex. So when mine arrived, I was eager to examine it and give it a try. First, under the x7 loupe, the gold nib had everything that you look and hope for in a new nib. It looked to be set up perfectly, with the nib slit narrowing just so, the tipping material being even and the tines level. Admittedly I have only two Cleo Skribent pens to go on, but I believe the brochure and can imagine that they take care in sending out well finished products, which as we know, is not always the case these days.

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Whilst waiting for the pen to arrive (which was not very long, less than 24 hours) I enjoyed pondering what ink to use. I tend to use blues mostly for work. I love to see the blue ink on scanned signed documents on my computer screen. I narrowed it down to Waterman Serenity Blue, Caran d’Ache Idyllic Blue or Aurora Blue and went for the latter.

At first, dipping the pen, the writing experience was so smooth and pleasant and so pleased was I at the Medium nib width for this gold nib, that I happily continued writing for a full page on the first dip. I then inked it properly with the piston filler, one of life’s simple pleasures. I was using a spiral-bound pad of smooth, white, lined paper from Cherry Press, an independent stationer and print shop in Chipping Campden, in the Cotswolds. This showed off the blue ink beautifully. The ink flow, on this paper, is pretty much ideal being neither too wet nor too dry. The nib does have a little bit of flex, to allow for some line variation but it is certainly not too soft. As a left hander, I fare better with a firm nib.

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To summarise what I like about this pen (at the risk of sounding too gushing):-

  • Attractive, long and sleek design;
  • Handsome, glossy black resin body;
  • Piston filler, with blind cap covering the turning knob;
  • Large clear ink window;
  • Large ink capacity;
  • Superb 14k gold nib;
  • “Reverse writing” also smooth, for extra fine writing or drawing;
  • Nib and feed are friction fit and can be removed if desired for cleaning;
  • Comfortable length to use unposted (but can post cap if desired);
  • Good value for a high quality pen, in comparison with well-known German brands;
  • Lifetime warranty.

What about dislikes? Well, I have not found any major failings. Rather, I would mention the following points:-

  • Remember that this is a screw-cap pen; do not forget (as I did at first) and try to pull the cap off or hand it to someone who might do so, as this will exert force on the glued joints around the clear ink window. (The cap threads are located on the nib-side of the ink window);
  • Be careful not to inadvertently over-tighten the blind cap by posting the cap and then rotating it;
  • The piston mechanism works well but feels less smooth in operation than my Pelikans; it is too soon to say how this will perform in the long term, but there is a lifetime warranty;
  • The glossy black body does show up dust, as I have tried to demonstrate on my photos 🙂

Although I have no affiliation with Cleo Skribent, or Cult Pens, I am pleased to recommend them both.

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Inky pursuits: my weekend round-up (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cleo Skribent Classic Metal, Piston fountain pen review.

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It was a joy for me to find another German brand of very nice fountain pens recently. If  you have not heard of these pens before, then I recommend them to you.

My story begins a week ago when I was browsing on Cult Pens’ web site, looking at the long list of brands and noticed the name and logo of Cleo Skribent. Clicking on this out of curiosity I was taken to the page showing some of their range of pens.

The one that caught my eye particularly, (and which is the subject of this review) was a piston filler, with black barrel and brushed stainless steel cap, described by Cult Pens as a beautiful lightweight piston-filling fountain pen.

Some decision making is required as there were three options. The steel cap version comes with a stainless steel nib. But for a little extra, you may buy the 14k gold nib version. However, you no longer get the brushed stainless steel cap and instead have an all black pen with palladium fittings. This will not match the gold nib (if that is important to you)  but there is a further option, for another increase in price, to have the 14k gold nib, all black pen and gold coloured fittings.

All three versions have the same large clear ink window, which appealed to me. What was not apparent from the Cult Pens pictures is that the pen has a blind cap which you unscrew to access the piston turning knob inside.

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I successfully resisted ordering the pen on first viewing, to weigh up the pros and cons of the three similar models. Instead, I added a Cleo Skribent to my “wish list”. (This is not just a figure of speech but is now a spread in a bullet journal where the Cleo Skribent had to compete with, amongst other things, a Kaweco Dia 2 and a Pelikan M120N).

Meanwhile I looked for more information about Cleo Skribent. I found some favourable reviews where the stainless steel nibs were given particular praise. I found on Amazon that there was also a bordeaux option and some cartridge-converter options although I preferred the piston filler. I also found the company’s own web site and another very informative article by Jim Mamoulides on PenHero.com including the company’s history.(See link: Cleo Skribent history).

The choice of gold or steel nib, particularly given the fairly modest difference in price, was a case of head versus heart (head saying go for gold but heart saying that I prefer the brushed steel cap with steel nib) but in the end it was the brushed steel cap paired with the black barrel which won me over. Although this meant settling for the stainless steel nib, the positives were (a) I had read good reviews of the stainless steel nib, (b) its colour would match the brushed stainless steel cap (c) it was in my eyes, the most pleasing of the three to look at and (d) also the least expensive.

After the Cleo emerged victorious from its brief stay in the wish list, I looked again at the Cult Pens site. The prices of all three piston filler models had come down, since I had last looked! So on the Thursday night, I put in my order.

The parcel arrived on Saturday morning, which was ideal. First impressions were all very favourable. There is a nice black gift box with plush grey lining and colour booklet.The glossy black barrel does look very handsome paired with brushed stainless steel cap. In the cap, there is a finial with the Cleo Skribent logo in red on a black background. The pocket clip is usefully tight with a generous range of movement. The polished cap band, contrasting with the brushed finish of the cap itself, reads “CLEO  made in Germany”.

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The cap unscrews with two twists, to reveal the plastic threads on the section and the large clear ink window, which is fully concealed when the cap is on. The black, grip section tapers down towards the nib, ending with a chrome decorative ring.

The nib looked very nicely made. I had chosen a Fine. There is some attractive scroll work and the markings “Cleo Skribent F” beneath the logo. All looked good. The tines were even and symmetrical and the slit narrowed from the breather hole down to the tip. The black plastic feed looked streamlined with the delicate fins housed on the inside so that the exposed side of the feed was smooth. I do not yet know whether the nib and feed are friction fit and can be pulled out for cleaning or nib swapping but if so, then the absence of delicate fins on the feed reduces the risk of damage.

This is an unusually long pen. Capped, the pen stands at around 145mm which is taller than a Lamy Safari. Uncapped, the pen measures around 135mm which, for me, is very comfortable in the hand to use unposted. If you find that holding a pen helps you concentrate, then this one seems ideal for that. Somehow, holding the long slender instrument with its fine precision nib seems to aid the thought processes. It very quickly becomes comfortable and familiar in the hand. I tend to grip it with my thumb over the ink window and my first finger on the threads, which are not at all sharp.

The blind cap unscrews to reveal the knurled, black plastic turning knob of the piston. The cap can be posted, securely and deeply but does grip the blind cap and so you need to be careful not to turn the cap once posted, which would either unscrew the blind cap or over-tighten it with a  risk of damage. With care, you can avoid this but I have found that the pen is very comfortable to use unposted.

The pen weighs a total of 25g inked, but remove the cap and it is then just 11.5g, which is light for a pen but with its length and build quality it does not feel insubstantial.

I tried dipping the pen first, in a new bottle of Aurora Blue. My initial reaction was that the nib was smooth but on the dry side, not because there was any downward pressure needed or any lack of lubrication but simply because the line appeared so fine and pale. I had expected the line to be a darker, more vibrant royal blue. I then flushed the pen, and filled it enjoying the first sight of the blue ink in the window.

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The paleness of the line troubled me at first and I feared that this may be one of those nibs that is not perfectly tuned “out of the box” but needs some adjustment to perform correctly. However I found the pen extremely enjoyable to use and  could produce very small, intricate lettering with the beautifully crafted steel nib.

I then examined the nib closely with a x7 illuminated loupe whilst writing. I realised that the nib was not dry at all. It lays down ink effortlessly and you can observe the ink glistening for several seconds before it dries. The line variation and shading are all there. The steel nib is smooth but has a little, pleasant feedback. It is firm but has just a little flex to give some variation with downward pressure. What I had wrongly thought to be due to dryness, is just a very fine line with an ink flow proportionate to the narrowness of this nib.  You might class this as an extra fine if accustomed to more generous western fines.

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This nib is as wet as it needs to be and if it were any wetter, it may not produce such a fine line and small lettering without ink pooling in all your loops. I concluded that there is nothing wrong with the nib at all and that the good people at Cleo Skribent know better than I. Thankfully I had not tinkered with the nib to make it any wetter, before coming to this conclusion.

I am enjoying every opportunity to use the pen. The fine point is great for making small marginal notes in printed text. It is also nice to have something a little less commonplace. Mine is currently the only one that I have seen.

It would be good to find out whether the nibs are easily interchangeable. And if not, there is always the gold nib option for next time.

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