Newsnibs 009

Summer is flying by fast, and the real world is more than a little scary, but in the stationery universe there’s still plenty happening – so here’s an update on some of the good stuff!

We start with a hat-tip to fellow stationery bloggers who run a news and update service of their own – but we don’t see them as competitors, because it’s a small world out there – positively a nanosphere, in fact. A subscription to the Nanosphere email service conveys a regular fresh wave of pens, paper and even stationery walking tours (NB not stationary), and the eye for a novel product which previously made Bureau Direct such an interesting site is now roving all across the interwebs…

Talking of hat-tips, the Fountain Pens UK group on Farcebook have collaborated with Diamine to produce two terrific inks, Scribble Purple and Monboddo’s Hat. This supply of purple goodness has brought great utility to Scribble Monboddo even if the United Inkdom style guide forbids the use of first person singular, thus constraining effusive expressions of joy.  They’re available from Diamine directly or from any good fountain pen specialist, and we’ll try to provide a proper meta-review here once everyone has had a chance to play with them. Don’t forget the apostrophe, mind!

Diamine are all over the electric high street at the moment, with a new ink to celebrate fifteen years of Cymru’s finest nibtacular retail establishment, Pure Pens. Their Alexandrite is a bit of a sheen monster, apparently, and even comes in a shimmering version too. Sheen and shimmer – now you’re really spoiling us.

Not be outdone, Cult Pens have exercised Diamine’s finest minds and then named inks after them – and thus Chris and Phil can now now fill your converters as well as answering your emails. Philip, in particular, is a seriously gorgeous purple, but it’s fair to say that the whole ‘Iridescink’ collection is worth a look.

Staying with purple but moving on to pens, The Writing Desk have found another beauty from Sailor

…while Andy’s Pens now include a cheeky Vac700 impersonator, the Wing Sung 3013. It’s currently available at a well-known auction site for £3.01 and a wait of a few weeks, or from Andy at lightning speed for £7.20 – and there are some colours other than purple, but why would you want that now that you’ve seen this?

Write Here’s ex-OMAS friends at ScriBo are sticking with greens and blues so far, but the latest incarnation is looking close to irresistible, if you have the cash.

Beyond  these shores, Californian firm Ensso are back on Kickstarter with a very tempting metal offering, the Italia. Kickstarter’s artificial intelligence seems to have been somewhat bamboozled by the name into displaying sundry site text in, err, Italian, but that’s hardly a problem for most dedicated nib fans. Meanwhile, following some customer service and quality control issues with the Ixion it appears that Namisu have paid the price and had to accept defeat with their most recent attempt at a Kickstarter, the unusual Stratos; we wish them better luck next time.

Finally, something to look forward to if we survive Hallowe’en after all. Roy from the mighty Izods is organising a new pen show just south of Marylebone on the 13th June 2020, and there are even rumours of Robert Oster flying in himself! Watch this space…

Summer Solstice Competition! Kaweco Sport Highlighter | Rhodia Pocket Notebook

Time for another competition from those generous sorts at United Inkdom!

For the Summer Solstice giveaway, we have another Kaweko – this time the very BRIGHT Kaweko Sport Highlighter AND a  pink Rhodia Pocket Notebook!

There will only be one prize per applicant, so please state in your email entry which of the two prizes you are interested in.

As ever, the questions are very easy, with all the answers either in the United Inkdom review for the pen or from the manufacturer’s website for Rhodia or the pen manufacturer’s website  www.kaweco-pen.com/en 

 

To enter all you have to do is:

a) be resident in the UK
b) subscribe to the United Inkdom blog for email updates
c) Answer the following questions:

  1.  How many colours does the Rhodiarama soft cover journal come in?
  2. How many sheets in the Rhodia Spine Sewn Notbeook?
  3. How many UK distributors do Rhodia have listed, on their website?
  4. What kind of nib does this Sport Highlighter have?
  5. Is the clip included in the price?
  6. Why do you need this pen in your fountain pen collection?  Maximum of 50 words please 🙂

That wasn’t too tricky was it?  Get your answers to me at unitedinkdomprizes@gmail.com by 6pm on  Thursday, 25th July and we’ll contact you by email to let you know that you’ve won!

 

Kaweco Ice Sport Glow highlighter fountain pen review

A little bit of history  On the other side of the Atlantic, different religious sects still have their own universities; you can, if you so wish, attend seats of learning gathered under the sway of belief systems not even recognised by the rest of the world, but we shall name no names. A Jesuit university is a relatively mainstream concept compared with some of the more outré outliers, albeit perhaps a surprising place to train as an industrial chemist – but Frank Honn graduated from one such, and went on to discover a novel use for the fluorescent dye pyranine as the first highlighting ink. It was a success, by any standards, and generations of pupils have grown up with felt-tip pens full of the stuff ever since. But felt-tips are horrible, and fountain pens are not, so Kaweco set out to make a highlighter that persons of taste might actually be able to contemplate using.How it looks  Did we say this was tasteful? Well, maybe it depends upon your own taste! It’s certainly rather loud – but there’s no mistaking what it’s for.

How it feels  Light and comfortable, like one of the more affordable plastic variants of the extensive Sport range – which is what it is, really.How it fills  Via  cartridges specially filled with unworldly glowing fluids.

Crucially, how it writes…  It writes like a fountain pen with a 1.9mm italic nib. For anyone who already has a calligraphy Sport this will be familiar enough, but if you’re used to the old felt-tip highlighters then switching to a steel tip can take a little getting used to.Pen! What is it good for?  It’s good for making up documents for editing or review, of course. It would probably also be good for baffling pen thieves in the work place; this is one pen which the ballpoint brigade won’t know where to even start with!VFM  Shop around a bit and you can get this set, complete with a box of cartridges, for less than £30.  Admittedly that would buy a lot of nasty cheap disposable highlighters, but you’d hate them – and this will probably last for decades. Fair value, then.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Pelikan make a special M205 which does a similar job, albeit at about five times the price. Alternatively, if you like the concept but would just like a more conservatively-hued Kaweco, any wide-nibbed Sport Calligraphy will suffice; the highlighter ink cartridges are available separately.Our overall recommendation  Think about whether you really do all that much highlighting, and perhaps invest in a pack of the highlighter ink cartridges first to see if you take to using an italic fountain pen for this purpose – but if the answer to both is yes then this is, like pyranine, a ready solution.

Where to get hold of one  Most of your usual favourite retailers have this one in stock, and you won’t find it difficult to locate. The best price we’ve seen in the UK is at The Writing Desk.This meta-review references:

Thanks to Kaweco for the review sample.

 

Newsnibs 008

Greetings, fountain pen fans. ‘Time for another brief news update…

First up, whatever happened to Bureau Direct? Well, maybe this isn’t the place for yet another dissection of current trading conditions. But the founders have moved on and established a customised stationery business called Ferrotype. ‘Worth a look, especially if you happen to need a job lot of FP-friendly notebooks with your own logo on the front.

If it’s a fountain pen you’re after and you’re having trouble deciding which one to go for, Florian is your friend. He’s set up an enterprising new website called Fountain Pen Finder, which helps would-be owners locate just the right pen – in terms of colour, materials, size weight and everything else. Take a look and, if you can, consider adding to the collection; this one could grow and grow wiki-style if there’s enough interest!

Should your pen tastes extend to the luxurious, the former OMAS operatives behind the bewilderingly lovely SCRIBO brand have even more sculpted goodness to thrust your way. The ‘Feel’ pen is not cheap, but you might still be very, very tempted.

United Inkdom itself is going to be taking things a little easier in the coming months as attempting to keep up a weekly schedule was putting a bit of a strain on our small band of volunteers. So we’re aiming for a monthly meta-review and, perhaps, a few more news updates like this. ‘Hopefully as interesting and/or useful as ever – but volunteers welcome.

Finally, we leave you with another blast from masters of the absurd Montegrappa, never knowingly understated and now the providers of a fountain pen which costs as much as a car but claims to be able to actually land on the Moon. It’s one small step for a pen, but one giant leap for penkind! There is, if you really need a good laugh, even the customary ludicrous video to tickle your funny bone too. Do enjoy responsibly.

Montegrappa Fortuna Rainbow fountain pen review

A little bit of history  The ancient Italian art of distilling pomace brandy is so deeply ingrained in the culture of the Veneto that there is even a town named after it, Bassano del Grappa, and here in 1912 a pen firm was founded. Montegrappa has been through interesting times since, including a period under dubious corporate parentage (which they now seem to have escaped from) and an unintentionally hilarious collaboration with Sylvester Stallone, but is now one of a number of European ‘luxury’ manufacturers. We’ve been meaning to get around to reviewing one of their fountain pens for a while, but they didn’t want to help so we had to wait until someone bought one. Then this happened:

How it looks  Yes, that is rather colourful, isn’t it? ‘Terrifically well-packaged, too.

How it feels  Large-ish, but still comfortable enough.

How it fills  With a cartridge, or a converter, one of which was provided with this pen – but it was broken. Lose a mark, Monty.

Crucially, how it writes…  Here we had rather different views, ranging from ‘OK’ to outright damnation. It just goes to show how individual our writing experience can be.

Pen! What is it good for?  Staring at lovingly, brandishing on a Pride march, or pointing admiringly at rainbows. It’s not, honestly, the absolute tops for writing though – at least not in its standard form.

VFM Even if you really love the material, £230 for a mass-produced pen with a steel nib is pretty much indefensible. If you can find it on special offer, as the owner of this very pen did at TK Maxx, then you might be more tempted at around £130 – still a lot for a pen without even a trace of gold dust, but moderately less absurd.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Get one as cheaply as you can and fit a better nib – it’s a #6, so there are plenty of options. Alternatively, ask a custom pen maker to find you some similarly full-spectrum material.

Our overall recommendation  If you love the look, and can find it on special offer, go for it – then switch to a JoWo or Bock business end.

Where to get hold of one  If you want to spend £230 on this steel-nibbed pen – and, admittedly, get a pashmina thrown-in to the deal – then try Andy’s Pens.

This meta-review references:

 

 

Kaweco Deep Red AL Sport fountain pen review

A little bit of history  If you’re a regular reader, you probably already know that we’re quite keen on the Kaweco Sport. It’s a classic design, and works well in a bewilderingly wide range of different materials. Between the mighty heft of the steel and brass versions, and the featherweight lightness of the plastic entry-level models, the pen is also available in sturdy, solid yet far from unwieldy aluminium – and when this Deep Red version hit the shops, we had to give it a go. Kaweco very kindly let us play with the fountain pen along with its mechanical pencil cousin.

How it looks  Very deep red, matt, lustrous and slightly shiny. Paired with the pencil and popped into a ‘chilli red’ sleeve, it looks irresistibly good.

How it feels  Light but tactile. Unless you specifically prefer heavier pens like the brass Sport (as some of us do!), this is a good mid-point on the mass spectrum.

How it fills  As with all Sports this is a straightforward short international cartridge number. There is a converter, and it does work, but the fluid capacity is so limited that investing in a syringe is often the best tactic for long-term cohabitation with this petite performer. The pencil takes 0.7mm lead, and there’s plenty of that around.Crucially, how it writes…  We rather decadently dropped a gold nib into the test pen, and it wrote very nicely; not much springiness, but just a touch of softness. The standard nibs are getting better these days, too!

Pen! What is it good for?  This is one for showing off with, and why not? It gets a lot of envious looks …

VFM  Middling, honestly.  At around £60 this is not a cheap pen, and it will probably cost you more than that on top to get the gold nib. Having said that, this is not a crazily overpriced pen either.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  One of the hundred or so other Sport finishes might well be. Have a browse…

Our overall recommendation  If you’re taken with this finish, get one while you can; although we think it’s excellent, it was a special edition so it may not be available forever.

Where to get hold of one  Kaweco has a good dealership network and the pen and pencil aren’t too difficult to find from your retailer of choice. To get the whole set, with pouch and gold nib, may take a more specialist seller, and for that our tip is to try Most Wanted.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Kaweco for the rather tempting review sample pack; our calligrapher couldn’t bear to let it go!

Easter Give Away! Kaweco Skyline Sport | Fox

We have a quickie give away for you this month – the prize is the Kaweco Fox!

 

As ever, the questions are very easy, with all the answers either in the United Inkdom bloggers’ review blog posts for the pen or from the manufacturer’s website  www.kaweco-pen.com/en

To enter all you have to do is:

a) be resident in the UK
b) subscribe to the United Inkdom blog for email updates
c) Answer the following questions:

1  What’s the accent colour on the Kaweco Fox Sport that we reviewed?

2  How does the nib fit – screw in or friction fit?

3  What is the RRP for this pen?

4 How many colourways does the Kaweco Skyline Sport come in?

5  How many nib choices are there to select from?

6  In which country are Kaweco based?

That wasn’t too tricky was it?  Get your answers to me at unitedinkdomprizes@gmail.com by 6pm on Sunday 21 April and we’ll contact you by email to let you know that you’ve won!

Good luck!

Fa Vo notebooks

A little bit of history  Fa Vo is a brand that is new to the scene and originates from Portugal (the name means “honeycomb” in Portuguese). The company’s stated mission is to produce simplistic designs that are not just well priced but also environmentally friendly, and we first came across them at the London Stationery Show last April.

How it looks  This is very much a plain, no-nonsense presentation. From a distance the notebooks look fairly standard and plain, but the real magic is when you get up close to them and notice the minute details, like the lie-flat sewn binding. It’s also been noted that the small grains you see in the notebook (we’ve been sent the “vanilla” flavour colour) gives the notebook character.

How it feels  Initially it would appear that the notebook would have a slight rough texture to it, but the cover is very smooth. Oddly enough, even though made from recycled paper, the pages themselves are smooth – definitely more textured than the likes of Rhodia, but smoother than is typical for recycled paper.

Crucially, how it handles a fountain pen…  As previously mentioned, the notebook uses recycled paper – so what you’re getting isn’t going to be akin to the great writing experience of, say, Clairefontaine. However, it was pleasantly surprising, because for recycled paper this did quite well. We noticed some bleed and minor show-through, but we could also see some shading and a slight amount of sheen on certain tests. So it’s reassuring that the writing won’t look ‘flat’ and without dimension on the page.

Pulp! What is it good for?  This is the perfect notebook for throwing in a bag and using on the go. Great if you want something bigger than a pocket notebook, but without breaking the bank or getting something too fancy that you would be worried about getting scuffed up. It also handles graphite very well indeed, so it has plenty of potential as a small portable sketchbook or design workbook.

VFM You can pick this up for £11, which isn’t bad. You get a well-made notebook that handles ink well, looks good and doesn’t break the bank. Further to this, you get 140 pages (front and back, so 70 individual), which makes it come in at under £0.08 a page (a Leuchtturm 1917 would be £0.06, for reference).

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  It depends what you’d like more or less of.  If it’s the design aspect then Paperblanks might be what you want, if it’s paper quality then it’s probably Clairefontaine, Tomoe River or the Madefor.ink range that we’d point you to first.

Our overall recommendation  Thumbs-up from us; a good book for working in.

Where to get hold of one  We got ours from Nero’s Notes, and they’re also available direct from FaVo, on Etsy and more recently from Cult Pens too.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Nero’s Notes for the review samples

Kaweco Fox Sport

A little bit of history  There are so many varieties of Kaweco Sport that it can be hard to keep up, sometimes – so a Sport that looks like something you might have to pursue at speed (were you of a bloodthirsty disposition) is perhaps appropriate. This vulpine edition of the Skyline series of Sports is a recent addition to the more affordable end of the range. So how does it behave when you catch one?

How it looks  The shape is, of course, the same as for all Sports. The colour is a reliably foxy dark orange (don’t show it a beagle), with a few silvery highlights. It’s a classy presentation.

How it feels  Light and, inevitably, not as substantial as the metal Sports – but it’s not going to fall apart any time soon, and it won’t give you an aching hand after long writing sessions either.

How it fills  The Sport has a legion of fans who also own a syringe, and refilling a cartridge is probably the best way to get a decent supply of ink. There is also a tiny push-rod converter, and it actually does work, but the ink capacity is very modest.

Crucially, how it writes…  This really does depend upon the nib you choose. Our feeling is that quality control has improved for Kaweco’s standard steel nibs, but for a bit of fun we swapped-in an italic nib from one of the calligraphy Sports (a fairly simple friction-fit operation). That wrote with a with a pleasantly distinctive line which belied the modest price, and we’d love to see it made a standard option in future.

Pen! What is it good for?  With a round nib it’s probably a good starter pen, and with an italic nib it could appeal to the more grown-up customer base too.

VFM  At under £20, this is decent value – no complaints there.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Pick a different Sport; there are dozens to choose from!

Our overall recommendation  If you like the colour, and you’re already a happy owner of a Sport or two, get one before it bounds over the hedge.

Where to get hold of one  There are plenty of online sources for this pen, and even a few bricks-and-mortar sellers too; you’re unlikely to have any difficulty finding one.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Kaweco for providing some of us with a review sample – Ant liked it so much he bought his own!

Italix Chaplain’s Tankard

A little bit of history  Italix is an increasingly legendary name in fountain pen circles, having been made famous by the Parson’s Essential model in particular, and we’ve reviewed a couple of their models very positively before. The usual modus operandi is to commission an inexpensively-manufactured body from China and fit it with a high-quality German (generally JoWo) nib which has been ground, fettled and finished by the proprietor – Mr.Pen himself. It’s been a winning formula previously, so we were keen to get our hands on the latest offering…

How it looks  This is very much a black resin and gold trim affair, which looks like it could have come straight out of Miss Marple’s drawing room. It is the very essence of the ‘classic’ look. No alternative trims or finishes are available yet so it’s a case of ‘like it or lump it’, but our reviewers certainly approved.

How it feels  A fairly light pen, this is well-balanced in the hand and there are no distractions from the feel of the nib on the paper – which is just as it should be. What it doesn’t feel is cheap , and that might be a pleasant surprise when you see the price tag.

How it fills  The tankard in question is, in this case, not a pewter beer-jug but a captured converter, which adds a bit of variety to filling procedures. You can take off the whole barrel and twist the converter as normal, but if you prefer there is a blind cap at the end of the barrel which exposes a substantial turning knob. This harks back to old-fashioned piston-fillers, and is quite handy if you’re trying to siphon up the last drops of ink at the bottom of a bottle. There was a moment of confusion when this pen first came out and it was advertised as a button-filler, which is properly a quite different mechanism, but don’t let that worry you.

Crucially, how it writes…  As ever that depends upon which nib you opt for, but the italic nib our test pen  was fitted wrote impressively smoothly, to the point that it could actually be a ‘daily driver’ pen if you wished. Not too many people have the chutzpah to do that these days, but if you want to stand out from the crowd this is an affordable way to do so!

Pen! What is it good for?  While it’s tempting to suggest that the Chaplain’s Tankard would look the part on stage at your next am-dram Agatha Christie staging, that would be a bit of a waste of such an enjoyable nib. We’d suggest it’s one to take to work if you feel you can get away with it, or keep at home for writing letters if you want to impress family and friends.

VFM  For a mere £28 this is, frankly, an absolute bargain. You’d be hard-pressed to find a mid-range pen with a top-flight range of steel nibs like this from other marques, and the personal service available if you have any specialist needs or preferences around italic or oblique nibs really puts the cherry on the cake.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then the chances are that one of the other Italix designs will be more to your taste.

Our overall recommendation  While the filling system is not a huge novelty really, this is a nicely balanced pen with such a targeted range of nibs that you’ll almost certainly be able to find one which is a real pleasure to use. For such a modest sum we’d encourage you to give it a try, especially if you don’t have an italic nib in your collection yet.

Where to get hold of one  This is available straight from the source and that’s just how we’d recommend buying it. There are sometimes ways to access Italix pens on other platforms, but cutting out the middle-man makes sense and eases the path to after-care if needed.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Mr. Pen for kindly providing this review sample.