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.

 

Kaweco Student 70s Soul fountain pen meta-review

A little bit of history  The original nineteenth-century Kaweco sold its wares from a shop adjacent to the University of Heidelberg, whose students had an unfortunate habit of slicing wedges out of each others’ cheeks to prove their prowess (or, presumably, lack of it) at fencing.  The pen, as we all know, is mightier than the sword, and the Student is on sale still. QED.

How it looks  As regards the shape, the pen looks much like any other Kaweco Student; a traditional form in good quality plastics, with the 060 (small #5) Bock nib already known to many writers from the Sport and Lilliput pens. But things go a little zany when it comes to the colour scheme, which in this case appears to have been inspired by the furnishings of a hotel lobby, circa 1976. It walked into the party, like it was walking onto a yacht, its hat strategically dipped below one eye, its scarf, it was apricot. You get the picture.

How it feels  This is a comfortable pen to hold, and the slightly concave grip section helps with that. The cap is light enough to post when writing, although unlike the Sport the Student doesn’t require this for the pen to be usable. 

How it fills  This is a straightforward cartridge filler, but there is space enough in the barrel for a standard push-fit converter if you prefer.

Crucially, how it writes…The ’70s Soul’ edition comes with a gold-plated steel nib which writes very nicely – indeed, the units we tested had one of the best small steel nibs that we’d encountered in a Kaweco.

Pen! What is it good for?  Obviously it’s great for swanning onto a yacht with a floppy beret and an apricot scarf, but apart from that it seems just the thing for the more flamboyant sort of workplace, or possibly even the side of the catwalk. Perhaps not one to take to a duel, though…

VFM  So-so. The usual Student is pretty sound value, usually at around £40 on the UK market. The 70s Soul adds a 50% up-lift to that, and £60 is a bit harder to justify unless this nostalgic costume strongly appeals; for that sort of money, you can obtain the aluminium or brass versions of the Sport, which use the same nib but are made from essentially indestructible materials.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then you have most individual tastes! For a colour scheme along these lines, the vintage market is probably the best place to look. But if you like the shape and just don’t consider the 1970s the decade of peak elegance, the main Student range is worth a look – our tip is the demonstrator version.

Our overall recommendation  If you’re buying a present for someone who still owns some Fleetwood Mac on vinyl, or a hipster who is under the impression that a classic MGB is a viable means of transport, this is a winner. Unlike the old turntables and wheezing sports cars, it actually works rather well, too!

Where to get hold of one  Kaweco has a good network of stockists throughout Europe, including the UK, and  you’re unlikely to have any difficulty finding a retailer who can sell you a Student. If you particularly want this colour scheme, though, you may need to act sooner rather than later.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Kaweco for sending us this interesting retro curiosity to try.

 

February Giveaway!

It’s time for our first Give Away of 2019 and what a classy act we are kicking off with – the LAMY Aion!

 

 

 

To take part in the February Give Away, you must be resident in the UK and answer the following questions. The answers to these questions can be found here on the United Inkdom metablog for the pen, the LAMY website area for the pen or in the reviews provided by the United Inkdom reviewers.

And although not a prerequisite of taking part in the LAMY Aion Give Away, if you wanted to sign up to receive email notifications of updates on the United Inkdom blog, that would be a super-wonderful thing to do that we reviewers would greatly appreciate!

We have one pen to give away and the competition will close on the Spring Equinox (20th March). The winner will be selected at random and notified by email.

Ready?

  1. How many nib options are there for the LAMY Aion?

  2. What colours does the LAMY Aion come in?

  3. Does it have a screw cap or a pop-off cap?

  4. Although LAMY is a German brand, what nationality is the Aion’s designer?

  5. Is the UK RRP over or under £50?

  6. What is LAMY’s magazine called?

Send your answers to us at unitedinkdomprizes@gmail.com

Many thanks to our friends at LAMY for providing us with the pen to review and generously allowing us to offer it as a giveaway!

 

Lamy Aion fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Lamy is a staple name in the pen community. They have the entry-level fountain pen market well-covered with the Al-Star and Safari, bringing out annual releases of those in different colours (as well as some highly coveted inks). They also have the starter gold nib niche covered with the Lamy 2000, a Bauhaus design from the 1960s which has barely changed since its conception; a real workhorse of a pen. Now we are graced with a mid-level offering from the German giants…but how does it compare?

Aion writing sample2

How it looks Daniel sees this as a “budget Lamy 2000”, while Scribble describes it as “modern – in a Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 sense”. However you see it, this pen is a sleek, business-appropriate pen while still remaining attractive enough that you’d be tempted to use it even at home. The pen currently comes in two options of black and silver, but Lamy are shaking things up in the not-too-distant future by adding dark blue and red flavours to the Aion line-up, which will give it the feeling of something a bit more fun and not as serious (or business-y), as is the case with the Lamy Al-Star and Safari pens.

How it feels This pen seemed to be quite polarising for our pool of reviewers. Scribble wasn’t too taken by the way the pen feels in the hand and had an issue with the grip section, pointing out nevertheless that how one grips a pen is a very personal thing. The pen has a coating on it that gives it a really interesting texture. Perhaps this is one you might want to try in the flesh, or certainly from a reputable retailer who’ll accept returns (make sure not to ink the pen, however!).

How it fills This is a cartridge/converter pen. Lamy have their own range of cartridges, and Monteverde also make cartridges that fit Lamy pens. You will have to use brand-specific as the filling mechanism is proprietary (so you can’t use standard international converters either). This is an irritation which we think Lamy could easily rectify by supplying a converter as a standard part of the package.

Crucially, how it writes…  While the feel of the barrel was polarising, we all agreed that this pen wrote well. The nib itself may not offer all that much in terms of aesthetic, but it does its job, and it does it well. Sometimes Lamy nibs can be hit-or-miss, but we were able to sample more than one of these pens and none of us ran into any problems (even with the finer nib grades). The nibs can also be swapped with Lamy Safari/Al-Star nibs if you prefer their more angular design to the Aion nib’s rounded profile.

Pen! What is it good for? This certainly has a business feel to it. Created by British designer Jasper Morrison, the aesthetic is something to be admired. As mentioned earlier, with the new colours that are finding their way into the market (and hopefully more in the future) this could be an interesting pen to collect, as well as giving it a more light-hearted feel. For now, though, this is a pen to take to work.

Aion writing sample3

VFM This pen comes in at £47 – so it could be seen as either a “budget 2000” or, perhaps, an “upmarket Safari”. Our view is that this is a fair price for a well-built, functional pen, although we do think it would be reasonable to expect a converter to be included at this point.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… Lamy already have pens in the ‘affordable’ niche. This pen comes in at £47, which makes it trickier to evaluate because not too many pens are in this range. There is of course the TWSBI Eco which will save you £20 and gives you a piston filler and demonstrator design, or for the same price you could get a TWSBI 580. If you want something a bit more “fun” then you could always go for the Lamy Al-Star/Safari range and find something more suited to you there.

Our overall recommendation A thumbs-up from the United Inkdom crew, generally! Initially several of us were rather sceptical about the pen; Ant even thought it a boring offering until he tried it. But it writes well, looks distinctive and feels good if you have big hands. While this might be one that you want to try in the flesh, it may be worth the risk by pulling the trigger anyway.

Where to get hold of one Any of your favourite pen retailers are likely to have this, especially if they’re already supplying the lower-end Lamy pens.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Lamy HQ for providing an Aion for three of us to test (the other two bought their own).