2020: Some of my fountain pen highlights.

I feel very fortunate, to have derived so much enjoyment from my fountain pen hobby for another year. It has been a different year in many ways – no pen shows or pen club meets since March, no journaling on foreign holidays or discovering interesting pen shops overseas – but there have been plenty of other compensations.

Acquisitions.

I spent far less money on fountain pens this year. I acquired 16 pens of which six were given to me leaving 10 which I bought for myself. I began the year with a hope of becoming “fountain pen neutral” – selling or giving away as many pens as I bought. This did not happen although I did give away five and sell one. The sale was of my Delta Fantasia Vintage in dark green celluloid, one of only 25 made in that colour. The sale came about as a fortuitous bit of matchmaking by my friend Jon, of pensharing.com who saw on Instagram that someone was looking for this model. Knowing I had one, he put us in touch. My Delta has now been rehomed to Taiwan.

Taking account of this sale, my total net spend on fountains this year was a comparatively frugal £499, a healthy reduction on last year’s £2,000.

Pen favourites of 2020.

It was the same Jon who alerted me to an event in February at the delightful London stationery shop, Choosing Keeping, for the launch of the Platinum Curidas, an exciting new retractable fountain pen from Japan, before they were available from other dealers here. I bought one. I loved how it wrote and the rather intricate way of filling the pen, but found it more comfortable with the metal pocket clip removed. The clip was detachable but this left a keel-like bump of acrylic, making it impossible for me to grip the pen comfortably. After a few days, I filed it off. This act and my blog post about it brought me to the attention of The Pen Addict podcast and I got a surprise mention in Episode 399. I think it is a terrific pen although I am aware that some people had problems of the feed cracking beneath the nib.

After buying the Curidas I bought my first Pilot Capless in the stealthy matte black finish with a medium nib. The nib is a joy. It is a remarkable pen but again, for my lefty overwriter style the clip is in my way. I can use it in underwriter mode. In overwriter mode, I cannot rotate the nib to the paper as I normally would to find the sweet spot, but the 18k nib is so soft and forgiving that it writes almost as well. I would still prefer it without the clip. I have read up on the “clipectomy” procedure but this requires tools and is rather more tricky than I can do myself.

I am still discovering what I like and what I do not like in a fountain pen. I have said before, that it is nice to be able to use and experience pens of all shapes and types. But this year I was given a Diplomat Excellence A Plus by my wife for my birthday and it is one of those pens that feels just the right size, shape and weight for me and also has a superb steel nib (a fine) which is smooth and firm. I enjoy picking it up every day for my diary.

Another pen which is similar to the Diplomat and equally comfortable is the Cross Peerless 125 but with an 18k gold nib made by Sailor. The quartz blue model is both gorgeous to look at and to hold! This year I also bought my first Sailor Pro-Gear classic and later, a 1911 standard, having been so impressed by the Pro-Gear Slim that I acquired last year.

The Cross Peerless 125 in quartz blue (left), next to the Cross Townsend.

Favourite inexpensive pens of 2020.

I still have a weakness and optimism for inexpensive pens. This year’s intake included a Lamy Nexx, Waterman Allure, Faber-Castell Hexo and a Jinhao 159. I was given a Platinum Prefounte and converter, with a fine 0.3mm nib which is a very useful addition. My most successful find was the Moonman S5, clear demonstrator eyedropper pen which comes with three nib units. One of these was an oblique which I found beautifully smooth and enjoyable and flattering to my handwriting. I have learned this year that for me, (speaking as a lefty overwriter), pens fall into two categories: there are those that make you adjust your grip and your handwriting to conform to them: the Pilot Capless and the Lamy Safari are examples. Then there are other pens that conform to the way I write and bring out the best in my writing: the Moonman S5 with oblique nib is an example of this. It has nothing to do with price.

The Moonman S5 acrylic demonstrator eyedropper. With a to-die-for oblique nib.

Other highlights.

Having additional time at home during the lockdown allowed me more time for pen-related activities. I acquired a set of brass shims and set about trying to improve a few problem nibs. The most notable success was with my Aurora 88, a stunning pen which should be the pride and joy of my accumulation but which wrote rather more fine and dry than I liked. With a few minutes of tweaking and a fortuitous bit of controlled recklessness (which included wriggling a craft knife blade between the 14k gold tines) I was able to transform the nib into a slightly wetter and more truly “medium” but still smooth writer, which I now love using.

During this strange time I was able to be a bit more productive with the blog. Whilst on furlough from work from April to June inclusive, I published 16 posts. The blog has been a lifeline – a source of satisfaction, relaxation and enjoyment and a bit of escapism I suppose, during the troubling year. I enjoy receiving comments and am always glad and flattered to be asked for help from readers on their pen-related issues. Two separate readers both had the same problem of being unable to fit a converter in the barrel of a new Cross Bailey Light: the solution was to remove the supplied second cartridge which gets wedged tight in the back! Questions about the best starter fountain pen, or a suitable good fountain pen for a Christmas gift are often harder to answer than you might think but I do my best.

With pen club meets disbanded, there have been a few Zoom meetings to catch up and to talk pens, although of course without being able to try each other’s. It has been good to keep in touch in this way, with a few pen friends from Instagram as well.

Personally though, I feel better able to marshal my thoughts in a letter and I have enjoyed some old fashioned pen and ink correspondence with pen friends here and abroad over the year. For the latter, I write the letter by hand and then scan and send it by email.

Another writing project has seen me copying out Marcus Aurelius’ book “Meditations” in my pseudo-typewriter font style of underwriting. I enjoy reading and copying the text and changing pens after every two page spread. I am about three quarters of the way through.

Conclusions.

So, that was my year in pens. Thanks once again to my fellow bloggers, correspondents and instagrammers for their friendship. My year ended as it began with surprise gifts from my pen friend in Australia. In January I received two lesser-spotted Pelikans: a “P55 Future” and a “Go!” neither of which I knew about and I have enjoyed trying them. Then a few days ago, I was given the pre-loved Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Anello, which I had been keeping until such a time as he could get over to collect it. I am yet to match such feats of generosity. But I am learning that the pursuit of even more pens for oneself, as a path to happiness, is destined to be endless and doomed to failure. The real trick is to learn contentment with, and to enjoy using fully, what you have.

My Moonman S5 – a brief update.

Since it arrived, only five days ago, I have been hugely pleased with this pen. It continues to behave well and to write beautifully. All indications are that we will be well suited to each other. Just a few items to report, by way of update:-

Having established that this eyedropper pen showed no signs of blobbing ink whilst only a third full, I topped it up to test whether that would invite any trouble. Still there has been no blobbing, despite the added pressure of a full tank of ink. The feed does a good job of holding back the tide.

Moonman S5 with a good fill of ink on board.

I took another look at the other two nibs, the extra fine and the medium included in the set. I had been reluctant to take out the lovely oblique broad nib in case of spoiling the magic, but it is simple enough to unscrew one nib unit and insert another. I tried the extra fine first. Once the ink had made its way down, it was still a very fine line and the nib was firm too. It may have its uses but in terms of enjoyment it fell far short of oblique broad. I have flossed it with brass shims to ease the gap between the tines a little.

The medium nib was somewhat better. I found that it wrote reasonably well in my occasional lefty-underwriter mode, but for overwriting it was not very pleasant. Having confirmed this, I was pleased to get back to using the oblique broad.

Comparing the extra fine, medium and oblique broad nibs.

The nib units can be disassembled. The nib and feed are friction fit in the housing and can be pulled out if necessary. However they will only go back in one way, so my suggestion of rotating them in the housing to offset the nib in relation to the roll stop jewel on the barrel, is not possible.

The extra fine nib unit, disassembled.

Luckily with the oblique broad fitted, the multi-faceted jewel roll stop was well out of the way of my grip. However, I still decided to file it down a little, so that my fingers would not keep finding it. The jewel is not particularly effective as a roll stop anyway and it is much safer to put the pen down on a pen rest so that it will not go anywhere.

The faceted jewel roll stop, now filed down a bit, but not completely flush.

I use the pen with the cap posted as this is the most comfortable. There is no metal on the cap at all – it is a piece of clear acrylic. The absence of a cap band to give it some strength does worry me slightly and I fear that it could crack if forced onto the barrel. I will be careful not to overdo it when posting but a little shove and a twist is enough to fix it on securely.

Having fun measuring the line width of the OB nib. About 0.7mm max, but if it is rotated a little, you do not see the full width in the verticals.

All in all I remain delighted with the pen and especially its oblique nib, even though the other two nibs are rather surplus to my requirements.

Early thoughts on the Moonman S5 fountain pen.

Occasionally a pen comes along that looks so enticing, full of potential and such good value that I am unable to resist buying it. Well, quite often, tbh. In this case, it was the Moonman S5, a clear acrylic demonstrator, eye-dropper pen which comes with an eye-dropper and three different nibs all for under £24.00.

What interested me particularly was the statement that it had an Extra Fine nib and two additional nibs in Medium and Broad. After watching one YouTube review, I gathered that the Broad nib was a stub of about 1mm width. But subsequently, from examining the nib and watching some more reviews, it transpires that the Broad nib is in fact an Oblique, which for me as a lefty overwriter, turns out to be brilliant news.

The Unboxing.

The pen comes in a nice black tin with gold lettering, held shut by a cardboard sleeve, with a nib motif and an M for Moonman.

The set comes in this black tin.

Inside the tin, in sturdy cushioned recesses, are the pen (in a polythene sleeve), the eye-dropper and the two additional nibs. There is a folding sheet of diagrams for filling various types of fountain pen, including eye-droppered pens.

What’s in the tin. (Also some instructions, not shown).

Description.

This is a clear, acrylic pen, with a screw on cap (taking three complete turns), no pocket clip but a jewel-like roll stop set in a metal band on the barrel. The band has the name MOONMAN laser-etched against the shiny background. The grip section is comfortably shaped with a very slight hour-glass contour and is in a patterned acrylic with a crazy-paving effect, in a mixture of colours – green, blue, purple, white and brown against a black background. I thought it looked a bit incongruous at first, as though it was for a different pen but I quite like it now. It comes alive and sparkles under the bright light of a loupe.

The Extra Fine nib. The roll-stop jewel is centred in this picture.

The barrel has a distinctive taper to it before flaring out at the end like a fishtail, into a flat base, on which the pen can be stood up. It looks a bit like a lava lamp when upright. The cap also has a flat top, which is useful if you wish to stand the pen upside down for a minute or two, to allow ink to make its way to the feed after filling.

The pen standing in lava-lamp mode.

The barrel shape actually makes the pen very comfortable to hold unposted but for me, I prefer to post the cap whereupon the slight extra weight, length and girth at the back end, make it supremely comfortable. The cap posts very deeply and securely, if given a little twist.

The S5 with cap posted.

Size and weight.

I would call this a medium sized pen. It measures approximately 136mm closed, 123mm uncapped and 136mm posted. Weight (when about one third full of ink) is around 18g, as to 14g for the pen uncapped and 4g for the cap.

The three nibs.

I tried the Extra Fine nib first, dipped but not filled. This one has gold coloured plating, some scroll work and logo and the words MOONMAN SUPER QUALITY.E I am not sure what the E is for. On a brief dip test, the nib wrote smoothly but with an extremely fine line. I wrote about four lines with it but did not leave it on for very long and in hindsight, did not push it to try for any line variation, before unscrewing it and fitting the Medium nib.

The fitted Extra Fine nib is seriously fine, but YMMV, as one YouTube reviewer found little difference between the fine and medium.

The Medium nib had rather less markings on the nib – just a pattern within a circle but no text or width designation. It wrote well – significantly darker than the Extra Fine and with a typical medium-fine width. Again, in my excitement to try them all, I wrote only about four lines before switching to the widest of the three nibs.

The two additional nib units, each with a housing and a grey rubber O ring. Be careful not to lose the ring.

The Broad nib (again with only the floral pattern in a circle and no markings) is an Oblique. Looking at the face of the nib, tip upwards, the tip slants downwards to the left about 15 degrees and is what I believe is called a Left Foot Oblque, looking like a left foot. It produces a line of roughly 0.6 – 0.8mm maximum width, which is lovely.

This was for me, the best of the three nibs and I liked it so much that I have not taken if off since. It was like Goldilocks finding the bed that suited her best, or the glass slipper finding Cinderella.

For me, the Oblique nib writes super-smoothly, with a nice flow. I inked the pen (as I ink most of my pens the first time), with Waterman Serenity Blue. It provides a broad line with some subtle line variation. It takes just a little practice to find its sweet spot and then to keep it at the same angle as you write.

Writing sample with the Oblique broad nib, Waterman Serenity Blue ink and a Leuchtturm A5 journal. Bliss.

Filling.

Filling is simplicity itself. You just unscrew the barrel and drop some ink into it with an eye-dropper or a syringe if you prefer. I use large soft plastic pipettes bought from an art shop. I put a little silicone grease on the threads before re-attaching the barrel although there is a O ring there and the grease might not be necessary. Then leave the pen to stand, nib down for a minute or so while the ink fills the feed. I have not yet measured the capacity.

A dream combo.

Likes and dislikes.

The only negative I found so far, is the jewel roll-stop. It is not that I have anything against the jewel itself, but I found that it gets in the way of my grip. When the pen arrived, it was aligned with the nib but once I started fitting different nibs into the section, and then screwing the section back on to the barrel, it was “jewel roulette” to see where the jewel would end up, in relation to the top of the nib: not that being in the 12 o’clock position would necessarily be the best position for me. But, by good fortune, I found that when the oblique nib is screwed in, the jewel finishes up at about the nine o’clock position (viewed facing the nib head-on) which for me is perfect and the jewel is completely out of the way.

If this does not work for you, I hope it may be possible to prise the jewel out of the cap band, or even to file it flat. Alernatively perhaps with the preferred nib unit screwed in, the nib and feed could be pulled out of the housing and replaced in different alignment to the jewel. I have not tried this yet.

Note the roll-stop jewel seen here at about the 9 o’clock position which is ideal for me.

Conclusion.

This is my first foray into the Moonman brand. I seem to have struck gold first time. I am thrilled with the pen and its Oblique nib. Writing with this, with Waterman Serenity Blue and my Leuchtturm A5 journal is a dream combination.

I have not filled the pen completely as I will try some more adventurous colours next. It is easy enough to swap out the nibs too and I need to give the others a proper go at some stage. Having found that the Oblique nib is capable of such smooth and pleasurable writing it just remains to test longer term for hard starts and for possible burping of ink, which eye-dropper pens sometimes suffer from. I hope I have not spoken too soon but so far all is looking good. At £23.99 I think this represents great value. If any bad behaviour occurs to take this grin off my face, I shall add an update.

Lovely smooth writer, with effortless line variation (see the capital A and V).