Monthly Archives: November 2015

Platinum Plaisir fountain pen review

A little bit of history By now most of us have come across or used a Platinum Preppy – it has that smooth nib and a well-earned reputation for great value for money.  There is, however, no getting away from the cheap feel that the pen has, particularly due to the printed barrel.  The Plaisir is the natural next step up, and it’s been recently updated by removing the matching coloured nibs, giving it a more professional look.Red Plaisir profile

How it looks  There is a wide choice of colours available and we were each sent a different one to take a look at.  The cap and barrel has a nice sheen to it, and the grip section is translucent allowing you to see the ink flowing through to the nib.  Whether you like this combination or not is a matter of taste, but there are definitely members of each of our households that have a keen eye on this pen.

Silver Plaisir profile

How it feels  For an inexpensive pen we all felt it was well built.  It’s a very lightweight pen with a secure seal on the cap.

Blue Plaisir profile

How it fills  This can either be used with dedicated Platinum cartridges or with a Platinum converter which needs to be purchased separately.

Platinum Plaisir nib

Crucially, how it writes…  The Plaisir is available with either a 0.5mm or 0.3mm nib. Great writing experiences were had by us all with both nib sizes.  It wrote very, very smoothly. This pen costs less than £10 … for this price we haven’t had a better writing experience.

Plaisir in action

Pen! What is it good for?  A great starter fountain pen which will give users a pleasurable experience, and an everyday workhorse for daily duties.Plaisir writing sample

VFM  Well … the question almost doesn’t need answering.  It’s fantastic value for money.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  You won’t find better for the bucks!  If it’s a little too ‘sparkly’ for your tastes you could look at the Lamy Safari range or the Faber Castell Basic, but you will have to part with a few more Pounds for these two.  It is Christmas soon,  however, and for that reason sparkle should always be welcomed!

0.3 nib

Our overall recommendation  Go for it.  Whether you are looking to buy a gift for a friend at Christmas who is starting out, or just looking for a good writing experience in a pen you wouldn’t worry too much about if it was ‘accidentally’ picked up by a colleague or family member.Champagne Plaisir& ink

Where to get hold of one  We got our models from Cult Pens, who are one of a few on-line retailers here in the UK offering this model.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Cult Pens for providing us with samples and ink for this review.

Diplomat Aero fountain pen review

A little bit of history  War, according the the Prussian theorist Carl von Clausewitz, is the continuation of diplomacy by other means – and it’s just as well that he created that memorable quote or the idea of a German brand named Diplomat launching a pen shaped like a Zeppelin would seem awfully ironic.  Maybe it’s a just a very subtle joke.  But the design does make for a highly desirable pen, and when Diplomat tipped us off that they were making a gold nib available, and launching a third colour-scheme for the pen too, we had to fire up the engines.

Black Aero profile

How it looks  Like an iconic Teutonic dirigible with a payload of serious nibbage – and in this case, appearances do not deceive.  Seriously though, this is an instantly recognisable design, but still a huge departure from Diplomat’s usual clean, sober business lines.  At least one of these has sauntered down the Thames during the test period (without being shot at this time), but it’s probably still fair to say that you’ll either love the design or loathe it.  Having said that, we’ve yet to encounter anyone who thinks it’s anything other than massively cool, and that goes for the handsome aluminium box it comes in, too.  That matt finish does make it hard to take a decent snap of, though!

Brown Aero

How it feels  Sturdy, and solid; the body is aluminium all the way.  That cap can take a bit of effort to lift off, but then again it does make it less likely to come loose in your pocket. But the grip is quite tactile and the weight is not extreme, by any means.  Long writing sessions are comfortable, and despite the showy looks this is still a pen built for real writing.  ‘Just the thing for recording notes during those long flights over the Atlantic, then.

White Aero

How it fills  With a cartridge or a converter.  The supplied converter is well-made and holds enough ink for a typical day in the office.

Crucially, how it writes…  This is what Diplomat are famous for; their steel nibs are an advert for steel nibs!  We tried every size going and found them all splendiferously smooth. The gold nib (no prizes for guessing which of us bagged that) is a different proposition altogether; it’s still smooth, but it sings while it slides and produces a modest amount of line variation too.  All four options came out well in our tests.

Aero gold nib writing sample

Pen! What is it good for?  Come on, you have to take this to work, don’t you?  Next time some bore is banging on about their new mobile phone, put an Aero into action and watch everyone’s attention wander over to some old-tech.  It may be shaped like a bomber but it’s not one for, erm, stealth…

F nib in action

VFM  Well, it’s not cheap, and for most of us this will be a pen to save up for.  On the strength of this four-person review, we think you’re unlikely to feel disappointed, even if the prices tend to be right at the upper end of what it would be reasonable to pay for a steel nib – usually £100 to £120 (although some very competitive deals are available on-line).  We don’t have official UK retail prices for the gold nibbed Aero yet, but our recommendation to retailers would be to avoid a big mark-up; if the price can be kept down to around £150 for the gold nib these ought to fly off the shelves while still making a fair return.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then perhaps you shouldn’t don’t buy a fountain pen shaped like a hydrogen-filled balloon.  The alternative options include… every other fountain pen ever made!  But if you like the Diplomat style generally and those very smooth steel nibs, they do have less airborne designs, some of them for prices down at ground level, too.  There is also a pencil variant of the Aero, which they really should have called the Lead Zeppelin, but someone didn’t get the memo (communication breakdown – it’s always the same).Broad nib

Our overall recommendation  Happy Christmas, war is over – spend the peace dividend on one of these!  Put it this way; we all purchased one (admittedly with a much-appreciated discount) to carry out this meta-review, and none of us are surrendering ours. If you’ve lusted after one of these for ages and were just waiting the white and brown finishes to be joined by a black version, your wait is over.

Where to get hold of one  Cardington Sheds 1 and 2, or failing that, any good pen retailer. Many of our favourite UK pen shops already carry the steel-tipped Aero, and we hope some will start selling the gold-nibbed version soon.

Medium nib

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  The very helpful team at Helit (the company which owns the Diplomat brand) for getting a sample of every nib and every colour to us, just as the black finish was released – and for a little assistance in making the review affordable too.

FPR Jaipur fountain pen review

A little bit of history  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a succession of European countries established footholds in the East Indies, and eventually consolidated to the point that a small island off the coast of one continent ‘owned’ a whole sub-continent half way around the globe. Dark deeds were done. Eventually the mists cleared, and India was left with the aftermath of the old Empire, and there were one or two advantages; the railways, English language, the civil service…. OK, maybe not the civil service, but you get the point – it wasn’t all bad. Then a few decades later, a nice chap from Arkansas was travelling in India and found another curious carry-over; people were still using fountain pens – and making them, too. Kevin was so impressed he set up a business to bring these craftily-created pens to an international audience, and so the Fountain Pen Revolution was fomented. The Jaipur is the latest in the line of FPR specials, and when United Inkdom was asked to put them through their paces we gladly took delivery of several different colours and nibs so that we could test the whole range.

How it looks  The Jaipur is available in two main costumes; business suit or party frock. The plain-coloured version looks suitably formal, and includes an ink window which gives a functional view of what’s in the fuel tank. The demonstrator comes in a range of finishes, all of which shout ‘this is a pen for having fun with’. The two-tone nib pulls off the clever trick of fitting in with either message.

How it feels  The natural resin is warm and comfortable to the touch – and, like the Noodlers pens, ever so slightly fruity to the nose (but you get used to that pretty quickly). It’s a fairly light pen of a comfortable size for the majority of users.

Jaipurs in action

How it fills  Now here’s a novel thing; these are hand-made piston-fillers. They look like nothing else, and the workings visible in the demonstrator body in particular appear almost organic. If the famed Pelikan is a CD, this is the 78rpm vinyl alternative. But it all works, can be dismantled for cleaning, and holds plenty enough ink. Being made by humans rather than laser-guided robots, the Jaipur can experience the occasional minor leak, so it’s perhaps not going to be our top choice for a pen to take to work – but when used at home, a quick wipe with a tissue is all that’s ever required before getting down to writing.

Crucially, how it writes…  Extraordinarily well. The standard round-ended nibs are firm and impressively smooth, and would be a good introduction to the difference a fountain pen makes, should you need to convert anyone languishing in the slough of ballpoint despond. The flex nibs are justly famous as the most affordable flex that money can buy; they produce line variation without enormous effort and no special expertise is required to get started; even some of our reviewers who are not usually flex fans were almost won over!

FPR Jaipur flex

Pen! What is it good for?  This is a seriously affordable pen, so it’s fairly good for beginners (occasional dribbles notwithstanding), and the ink capacity makes it a strong contender for an artist’s pen too. As a low-risk way of trying out a flex nib, it’s unbeatable; the cost is so low that there’s really nothing to lose, and if you’re at all unsure about whether you’ll like it you can ask for a standard firm nib to be included in the package – the feed is a simple friction-fit affair so swapping them is a straightforward operation.

Writing sample F

VFM  These pens give you a chance to play, tinker and experiment, to have fun writing and to support sustainable employment in a developing economy, all for about £16. There is really just no reason to quibble – all our reviewers consider the Jaipur brilliant value.

FPR-Jaipur-nibs

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Have a mooch around the FPR website and size up a few of their other models; there is quite a range, and most offer the same options as regards nibs. With the possible exception of the Noodlers Ahab, for flex enthusiasts, there is little on offer elsewhere which really competes.

Jaipur demo ink window copy

Our overall recommendation  Just buy one already! If you enjoy getting to know how a fountain pen works, want to give flex a try, or just want something a bit different in the pen-pot, there’s just no reason not to. These are not hi-tech over-produced pens, certainly, but if something does go wrong FPR’s customer service is fast and friendly. Aside from preparing you for a minor ink leak here and there, we really have no reservations!

Where to get hold of one  Direct is the only way; head straight to Fountain Pen Revolution’s site and fill your boots.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Kevin and the whole family at Fountain Pen Revolution.

Giveaway!  Two lucky readers were given a chance to win a Jaipur in the colour of their choice (with their preferred nib, too) in this week’s piston-powered bonus bonanza (is that a tautology?). We asked entrants to drop us a line in the comments box with their wildest ideas about what the next clever product from FPR should be called, and some of them were very creative indeed! We picked two winners – Mike Church and Rai Toffoletto –  via random.org on 15 November, and Kevin will get the booty winging its way as soon as we have their delivery details.

Platinum Carbon Pen review

A little bit of history One day in the 1920s, Hungarian journalist László József Bíró was musing on the strange properties of newspaper printing ink, which could adhere to any sort of paper and dried quickly. Naturally enough, he tried putting some in a fountain pen, but it gummed up the feed and he got nowhere. So, he tinkered and tweaked and redesigned the old ink pencil with a rotating sphere applicator, and thus the ballpoint was born… and generations of children didn’t learn to write properly. Hey ho, these things happen. Now though, thanks to a bit of a breakthrough from Platinum, we know that Bíró just exercised his admirable creativity in the wrong direction, opting for mechanical engineering when chemical engineering would have done just fine. The Carbon Ink is permanent, fast-drying and writes on almost anything, and Platinum have produced a pen to go with it – which can supposedly withstand any propensity to carboniferously pigmentoid agglomerations (or ‘sticky stuff’ as we call it technically). Three of us decided to put the Carbon Pen to the test.How it looks It’s long; very, very, long. ‘Slim, too. It looks classy with its shiny black barrel and gold accents. Sat in the desk holder (an optional extra) it looks very sophisticated and is, perhaps intentionally, reminiscent of a quill. The included temporary cap, though, is an ugly hexagonal thing which is best disposed of quickly – the best thing that can be said about it is that it’s very functional.

How it feels The Carbon Pen is light and the length makes it sit nicely in the hand. It’s easy enough to hold for long periods of time.  You can often feel the nib tackling the texture of the paper too – which can be a mixed blessing, depending upon the purpose you acquire the pen for.Carbon Pen in use

How it fills It’s a proprietary cartridge/converter filler. Although designed with Platinum’s Carbon Ink in mind, get a syringe and there’s nothing to prevent you from using any ink you like.

Crucially, how it writes… We found it a little tricky to actually write with as the extremely fine and very stiff steel nib does provide a lot of ‘feedback’ – which some people like, but wasn’t so much to our tastes. It was a different matter when it came to drawing, though, as the ultra thin line it gives, using waterproof ink, is perfect for ink and watercolour sketching.Writing sample

Pen! What is it good for? The Platinum Carbon Pen is very good for drawing, but probably not so good for writing a novel. It would be useful for making notes, maybe working out some maths, or other tasks where small writing or precision is important (such as designing fonts, we’ve discovered!). Because it writes on just about anything it can also come in handy in situations where submitting to Mr. Biro’s invention would otherwise be necessary; for example, it writes on glossy wall calendars and can even handle a newspaper crossword.Carbonn doodle

VFM Oddly, the stand costs more than the pen itself – perhaps on the understanding that the pen unit can be affordably replaced if it does ‘gum up’. But to buy both together shouldn’t set you back much more than £20, and for a pen this unique (and useful) we think that’s quite decent value.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… There is not much to compete with this really, at least at this price point. Some of Platinum’s gold-nibbed fountain pens like the #3776 can handle permanent inks, but these cost ten times as much and need very thorough rinsing-through afterwards. If it’s an affordable ultra-fine nib you’re after, the Pilot Penmanship is also worth a look.Carbonara

Our overall recommendation We feel this is a pen that’s absolutely great for one purpose (sketching and drawing) but not so good for another (writing). It’s a fantastic price, though, and definitely worth considering if you’re after something a little different to add to your artistic arsenal.

Where to get hold of one Cult Pens sent us these review samples and they are one of just a few places in the UK where they can be found. They’re much more commonly available overseas.

Carbon sketching in progress

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to Cult Pens for supplying us with three test units. At the time of writing they are offering 20% off all Platinum products, making this pen even more of a bargain.