A quick look at the Kaweco Perkeo, All Black fountain pen.

There has been a recent flurry of matte-black fountain pens, with black nibs and furniture, known to enthusiasts as stealth pens. These have come from the likes of Aurora, Lamy and Sailor. Now there is also a new All Black version of the Kaweco Perkeo. I bring this to your attention in case it has slipped in under the radar.

Kaweco Perkeo, All Black

The Kaweco Perkeo has been around for a couple of years now and is a decent, affordable, entry level pen, of comfortable proportions. Initially this was available in four colour combinations. Somehow I ended up buying them all plus a few extra of the mustard and black “Indian Summer” version which I liked the most and which came with a black, Fine nib. I have one in my pen cup at the office and another at home, filled with a black cartridge. I must confess that I had experimented, in swapping the caps around to pair a black barrel with a black cap, but you still end up with a coloured band in the centre. Thus, when I first laid eyes on the new All Black edition, I bought one instantly without a moment’s thought.

Packaging. There are three cartridges shown, plus one included in the barrel.

The Perkeo, which I have reviewed previously in this blog, is made of a tough plastic with a sixteen sided barrel and an eight sided, pull-off cap. There is no pocket clip, but there is a black, metal finial. It takes standard international cartridges, with room to carry a spare.

Cap and barrel ends.

I know that some people are critical of Kaweco for poor quality control. My own experience with the Perkeo has been ok. The nibs generally write well in my limited experience. However it is worth examining the nib through the packaging if you can, as your enjoyment of this pen (and any in this price range, for that matter) will depend much upon whether you get a good nib or not. What I look for is a little bit of light between the tines, to indicate that the nib will not be a dry writer. Perhaps being a left hander, I am more sensitive to having a nib on the wet side, particularly for lefty overwriting.

A glimpse of light between the tines, bodes well.

The pen comes with four cartridges of lovely, rich dark Kaweco blue ink. I keep my stash of Kaweco cartridges separate from other unbranded ones. Kaweco cartridges have Kaweco on the side.

Chunky plastic barrel threads. Kaweco cartridge.

Talking of quality control, I did have an issue with one of my Perkeos, in that the inner cap was defective. Basically, you could cap the pen but it took two distinct clicks to cap it, rather than just one, which was a bit disconcerting. Something was catching inside. Aside from this, I have another on which the barrel does not screw on to the section tightly and seamlessly and ends up with a little bit of play and a slight gap.

Overall however, I have been pleased enough with the Perkeos to buy several. The nibs are the key. The great thing is that they seem to be a bit softer than the nibs of the Kaweco Sport pens. Also, I have found that the Fine versions have a delightful feedback to them which I enjoy, on smooth paper. They also resist hard starts, very well.

I sometimes find myself pondering that if I arrived in an unfamiliar town, in need of a pen but had forgotten to bring one, and had a budget of only £20.00, what would be a good stand-by. Aside from the ubiquitous Lamy Safari, and depending upon where you go, there is now the new Cross Bailey Light and the Faber-Castell Grip, as well as the Kaweco Perkeo which costs around £16.00. The Lamy and the Cross will each need their own proprietary cartridges or converters, whereas the Kaweco and the Faber-Castell accept standard international cartridges. Chosen with a little care, the Kaweco Perkeo makes a good option.

Kaweco Dia 2 fountain pen review.

I know well the pleasure of receiving a new fountain pen. There is an element of risk as sometimes the pen might not live up to expectations and the initial excitement can turn to disappointment.

The Kaweco Dia 2 had been on my wish list for over a year. Eventually I succumbed. This was in part triggered by my recent experience of the new Kaweco Perkeo. I fully appreciate that the Perkeo is an inexpensive, entry level pen. I do not like to be negative about it and would feel awful if anything I wrote caused anyone who had just received a Perkeo, to like it any the less.

I liked the nib of the Perkeo and it certainly has a place as a robust, reliable, decent quality writing tool. But I came to realise, as I looked again at favourable reviews of the Kaweco Dia 2, that the various aspects of the Perkeo that I liked less were all remedied in the Dia 2 and that perhaps this was the pen for me.

I did not have the opportunity of handling a Dia 2 before buying, as I do not know anyone nearby who owns one and they are not found in the shops here. Paperchase do sell Kawecos but these seem to be limited to the Sport models including some aluminium and brass versions, (and now the Perkeo too).

I ordered my Dia 2 from Cult Pens and enjoyed their excellent service as usual. I received the pen on a Friday evening, with the happy prospect of a weekend ahead to get acquainted with it.

To get to the point, the pen is simply gorgeous. I have seldom been so thrilled with a new pen (and I have bought a few).

Admittedly, a fountain pen, like a wristwatch, is a personal thing and what appeals to one person does not appeal to everyone. But as someone who appreciates nice quality design, features and materials in a fountain pen, I found lots of detail to enjoy in the Dia 2 and very little to dislike. It seems to embody an excellent compromise, of being not too heavy, not too light, not too large, not too small, not too cheap and (dare I say) not 2 dia.

The pen is based on a classic design from the 1930’s. What immediately impresses, is the glossy black finish, with contrasting chrome coloured fittings, the classic subtle beauty of the shape, the gentle curves to the cap and barrel and the section where the pen rests comfortably on your finger as you write. Also the elegant knurled end caps and metal Kaweco badge at each end.

My pen arrived in a smallish black, hinged box with a push-button catch and a cushioned white satin interior, like a jewellery case. This was in a cardboard sleeve, with the Kaweco logo and slogan “License to write, Germany since 1883”. However I have heard the pen is sometimes packaged in the Kaweco tin instead (which I am familiar with, from purchasing a Kaweco Al-Sport).

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The Dia 2 is a black, cartridge-converter fountain pen, taking standard international cartridges with a stainless steel nib. There is a 14k gold nib unit available. There is an option of the chrome coloured fittings, or gold coloured at a little extra cost. In the hand, the pen feels reassuringly solid, beautifully balanced and particularly tactile. It wants to be picked up.

The pen measures (approximately) 133mm capped, 124mm open (not counting the raised badge at the end of the barrel) and 158mm posted. I weighed it at 28g (including two cartridges on board) of which around 18g is the pen unposted and 10g is the cap.

For me, this puts the length as being adequate to use unposted, although it is a little shorter unposted than the generous 130mm of a Lamy Safari or AL-Star, or the 135mm of my Cleo Skribent Classic. However, I do prefer to use the Dia 2 posted. It still feels nicely balanced this way, is not too long or back heavy and has the advantage that you can put it down on a desk without it rolling off.

The stainless steel nib is part of a unit, which unscrews from the section when you want to clean it or swap nibs (rather like a Pelikan). Spare nib and feed units are very affordable, and available from Cult Pens in EF, F, M, B and BB widths. Currently these are priced at £8.40 each except for the Extra Fine or Double Broad which are £10.49. There is also a 14k gold option for £99.00, (all widths) if you want extra luxury.

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I have been genuinely delighted with my Dia 2. I ordered mine with a Fine nib, in stainless steel. I tried this for a day or two but found mine a little skippy and not as effortless as it should be. Perhaps it just needed tweaking or running in but I was impatient. I then swapped this with the medium nib unit from my Kaweco Al-Sport, the shiny aluminium one, that looks stunning but which I find slippery to hold. With the medium nib installed, the Dia 2 came into its own and wrote superbly.

Nothing is perfect but, being reasonable and taking account of the moderate price tag, I cannot really think of many improvements that could be made. To summarise likes and dislikes:

Likes:

  • Aesthetically very pleasing; a classic, 30’s design;
  • Combination of metal and acrylic materials for beauty and strength;
  • Nice design flourishes, such as the knurled end caps, the metal Kaweco badge at both ends, the sweeping curve of the pocket clip and the very subtle tapering curves on cap, barrel and section;
  • The inscription in white lettering, “Kaweco Dia GERMANY” at the back of the black cap, rather than on any of the rings;
  • Good quality yet very affordable Bock stainless steel nib, in an easy-to-change, screw in unit;
  • Commendable performance for an inexpensive nib. Pleasant feedback. No skips or hard starts. (I am using Caran d’Ache blue cartridges in mine);
  • Comfort. The gentle curve at the middle of the section, makes for a comfortable and natural way to rest the pen on your finger as you write; the weighty section balances the pen nicely when the cap is posted;
  • Screw-on cap with minimal turns, with a good secure bite at the end; it is not going to uncap itself in your pocket or bag;
  • The cap threads are not sharp and there is no step down from barrel to section;
  • Removing the barrel, reveals nice metal threads on both the section and the interior of the barrel, for durability;
  • There is an O-ring at the base of the threads, on the section, which is a nice touch, preventing the barrel from coming unscrewed in a pocket;
  • The cartridge is inserted into a deep, chrome collar (about 15mm long, including the screw threads), unlike some pens where the cartridge can wobble from side to side;
  • The barrel can carry a spare cartridge – a benefit if you are out and about;
  • There is a spring inside the barrel, which compresses when you have two cartridges on board, so that the spare does not rattle;
  • I loved the box that mine came in, with its push-button clasp.

Dislikes:

  • The pocket clip is very tight. If you clip it in a pocket, it is not going to fall out, which is a good thing, but it takes a bit of practice to find a way to release it; I tend to put my thumb-nail under the end of the clip to pull it away from the cap, before trying to pull the pen out of a pocket;
  • I have read a criticism that the nib size looks a little bit too small for the pen; personally, I do not have any problem with this;
  • Also I have read comments that for the price, it should be a piston filler, like a Pelikan M200 for example. Well, that would make it a different pen altogether. Personally I like it just as it is. I have a hoard of standard international cartridges at home and am glad of having an enjoyable pen in which to use them.
  • Again, other reviewers have said that the cap does not post deeply enough for them. I think a lot of engineering design has gone into the cap and inner cap. If it had been made wider, to post deeper, then this might have thrown up other problems. As it is , it does cover about 27mm of the barrel when posted and is not perched precariously on the tip of the barrel. I have no problem with it. I enjoy using the pen posted, it does not make for an uncomfortable, back-heavy pen and the overall posted length is not too long, in my opinion. It does post securely;
  • I have read that some converters do not fit, (due to the spring inside the barrel) but a Kaweco converter (not included with the pen) costs only £2.99 from Cult Pens. Interestingly, if you do not tighten the nib and feed unit enough, and then refit the barrel, with cartridge and a spare on board, you will have the disconcerting experience of seeing the nib unscrew itself as the barrel goes on! Simply tighten the nib and feed a bit more, to resolve this.

Conclusion.

I have been using the Dia 2 at work now for several weeks, for taking notes on pads of file paper. It is a joy to look at and to hold. For a work pen, the ability to start immediately if left uncapped for a while, is appreciated.

If we were playing the “If you could only keep one pen” game, then currently this Kaweco Dia 2 would be a contender. It has very quickly become a daily companion for me. I cannot imagine getting bored of the classy design. For anyone looking for a well designed, well made cartridge converter pen that is smart and attractive enough to treasure but which does not cost a fortune, this is well worth considering.

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Kaweco Perkeo, a brief update.

Following my recent post A peek at the Perkeo; first impressions of the new Kaweco cartridge pen. I wished to add a few comments after my first week of ownership.

The good news and the main message to take away, is that the performance of the Bock, stainless steel medium nibs on both of the pens that I bought is quite superb, with a lovely smooth writing experience far beyond what you might expect at this price level. Yes, perhaps the size 5 nib is a little more firm than a larger, size 6 might have been but overall I am delighted with it.

My biggest gripe had been with the faceted grip section. After all it is probably targeted by its price tag as being a beginner’s pen or close to it. But having medium to large hands myself, I have very quickly found that I automatically grip the pen higher up the body than the facets (save for the third facet on the underside, where the pen conveniently rests on my second finger) and so the facets were not an issue for me in practice. Within a few days of use, I barely noticed them.

On the downside, I have received one comment from a work colleague, who saw my Old Chambray coloured Perkeo on my desk, and said that it looked like an insulin pen. Admittedly, the colour scheme, size, shape and material of this pen do give it a slightly clinical look.

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This week I did try removing the nib and feed. I had expected them to unscrew, as a unit (as on the Kaweco Al sport). However this is not the case. The nib and feed of the Perkeo are friction fit and push directly into the coloured section.

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As I tried in vain the unscrew them, I was simply rotating them in the section.

There is no flattened edge of the circular opening, to give any guide to locating the nib and feed. To replace them you just seat the nib on top of the feed, align them with a centre line between two facets and then push them home.

For the benefit of anyone new to the art of nib removal, (a noble and relaxing pass-time which I whole-heartedly recommend) then there are few rules which I have gleaned online and from experience:

  • take care to grip the nib and feed together firmly, between thumb and the first joint of your finger (with thumb over the nib) using some grippy material or else a tissue or cloth;
  • for nib and feeds which are friction-fit (as with the Perkeo), grip firmly and then pull in a straight line, taking care not to bend or distort the nib or damage the delicate fins on the feed;
  • if doing this over a basin, do have the plug in place, in case the small nib or feed drop down the plug hole;
  • once removed, it is very easy and satisfying to rinse the nib and feed and the section in water and dry them, before reassembling;
  • the nib can be examined under a magnifying glass or loupe to check that the tines are aligned and adjustments can be made (very gently and by hand) before reassembling;
  • for nib units which unscrew, (such as the Kaweco Al-sport, or Pelikan M series, for example) then grip the nib and feed as described above but rotate the barrel, not the nib, to unscrew;
  • It is good practice to clean a nib and feed from time to time, particularly before changing inks. A short cut, rather than removing the nib and feed, is to leave the entire nib section to soak in water overnight and then rinse under a tap or use a rubber squeezy blower to squirt water through it, until it runs clear.

Coming back to the Perkeo, since there is no set position to align the nib and feed in the section, this means that you are free to align them how you wish, in relation to the facets. You can offset the nib if you wish.  There is no need to feel that you are forced to have the nib centred between two facets. With trial and error, if the centred nib does not conform to your preferred grip, you can customise your pen – rather than feeling that you have to adjust your grip to suit the pen.

In conclusion, I think that the Perkeo is a pen that I shall use and enjoy, for its excellent stainless steel nib and writing performance, if not for its looks.

 

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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