Monthly Archives: December 2016

Diamine Shimmertastic inks review

shimmerdrops2A little bit of history

A couple of years ago there was a lot of buzz about another brand (you all know which one) putting shiny sparkles into a handful of their inks. It looked fun, but it was expensive, and Diamine don’t do things by halves.  They brought out a whole set of ten, then followed it up this year with twelve more shimmering inks, each sporting a healthy dose of gold or silver coloured glitter.  What could be more fitting for our Christmas meta-review?

Ink! What is it good for?

Well let’s be honest, this isn’t one you’re likely to take to work, unless your job involves writing Christmas cards (it’s absolutely brilliant for that).  This is ink for having fun with!  If you treat it wisely, it will work in ordinary fountain pens and there are only two modest caveats.  Firstly, always give the bottle a very thorough shake before filling the pen, and ideally use a pen which can stand a gentle perturbation before writing too; the glitter is in suspension, not in solution, and will laze on the bottom unless stirred into life.  Secondly, any particulate matter can gum-up pen parts in time, so pick a pen which you can thoroughly dismantle for the occasional clean, including the converter or piston (TWSBIs and most Platinums are therefore a good choice).  Other than that, you can sparkly-scribble to your heart’s content.


The going rate is about £9 for 50ml, which makes this noticeably more expensive than the standard fountain pen inks from Diamine, but still very good value compared to some of the more ‘exotic’ inks around.  The base colours are for the most part very nice inks in their own right, and other than occasionally bleeding-through with very wet nibs, or feathering on cheap paper, they’re pretty well-behaved too.  You really can’t go too far wrong.

 OK now, that’s enough chat – show me the shiny!

The bright blueslight-blues

We start with a couple of absolute crackers.  Blue Lightning, a very bright blue with silver sparkles, has a loyal following from the original collection, while Tropical Glow has become an immediate favourite with almost everyone who’s tried it, even making the ‘Too Many Peacocks‘ Christmas Day hit list.  ‘Not a bad way to start, eh?tropicalglow2


The dark bluesrich-blues

Blue Flame and Blue Pearl are fairly traditional royal blues, with gold or silver sparkles respectively; the effect is predictable but pleasing.blueflame2bluepearl2Enchanted Ocean and Shimmering Seas are a little harder to categorise – like the sea, they keep changing colour as the light shifts. But both are broadly blue-black with either green or purple hints, with a spot of iridescence from bioluminescent plankton at the surface.


The reds


Pink Glitz is, unusually for a pink, so riotously butch that you could put it in a PFM and get away with it, while Red Lustre could safely be spilled all over the Christmas tablecloth without anyone noticing.  Firestorm Red and Inferno Orange look a lot like the open fire you’re meant to be roasting some chestnuts on right now (but thanks for taking a break to read this instead).pink1 redlustre3 firestorm1infernoorange2

The browns


This civilised set of browns goes all the way from molten chocolate to wet beach, and the sparkles really add something to what can otherwise be a somewhat drab colour for inks. They really do work surprisingly well on the page.brandydazzle2 caramel3

The greens


Green ink has its devoted fans, and here are a couple of splendid stocking fillers for any you encounter.  Magical Forest is almost perfect for writing the price list in  your neighbourhood crystal healing emporium, while the lime green with golden sparkles of Golden Oasis looks for all the world like a gecko flitting by.golden-oasis2

magicalforest3 magicalforest2

The greys



While not everyone feels that grey is quite the colour for the festive season, re-brand it as silver and everything’s fine.  So here we have dark silver with bright silver sparkles (hmm, subtle) darker silver with golden sparkles (less subtle), and silver with the lights off (OK, OK, it’s black).  The dark base ink does show the sparkles up quite effectively.nightsky2

The purples


Of course we’ve saved the best for last – for those into a spot of purple action at least!  Two of these have already featured on Too Many Purples and the third will follow soon.  Purple Pazzazz is a warm purple which is quite reminiscent of Lamy’s much-trumpeted dark lilac, but easier to get hold of and with golden sparkles to boot; what’s not to like?  Lilac Satin is not unlike Diamine’s earlier Iris from the flowers box set, with added silvery shine, and that’s a rather splendid finish too. Finally, Magenta Flash is a very purpley sort of magenta for a change (no pinks in disguise here), and looks rather spectacular in a wet-nibbed pen of your choice.



Come and get it!

You can get hold of your own Shimmertastic supplies in all of the usual favourite online sources, or direct from Diamine themselves.  Easy peasy.

This meta-review draws upon:

Thanks to:

Pure Pens for samples of the original ten flavours, Diamine themselves for samples of the new twelve colours, and Cult Pens for sponsorship-in-kind to get big bottles of some of the best for sharing-around.


Tactile Turn Gist meta-review

A little bit of history  Once upon a time there was a nice chap from Texas called Will Hodges, who had amassed a rather spiffing collection of lathes and was wondering just what sort of toys to make for good boys and girls all over the world – not necessarily just for Christmas, you understand, but the sort of thing that you’d definitely have to be on your very best behaviour to deserve.  Flirting with the seductive magic mirror, or ‘Kickstarter’ as it is known to all the elves, he had immediate success with dark ballpoint doings which shall not be spoken of here – and then stepped into the light and started making proper pens!  Will’s first fountain pen, the Gist, is now available in a truly legendary array of materials including pretty much everything bar kryptonite, and has become a hit on both sides of the Pond.  Several of us had initially obtained one through aforementioned conjuring device, and then a wise stallholder in ye olde Ipswich Bazaar started selling them to passing scribblers here too…

polybrassfinialHow it looks  As the brand name suggests (just for once, it’s entirely relevant and accurate) the whole pen has been precision-turned to make it a tactile pleasure to use – but we’ll come on to how it feels in a moment.  How it looks is, frankly, pretty much like the stereotypical alien mind-probe; with those eerily-accurate ripples and space-age materials, it wouldn’t look out place in Captain Kirk’s hands (its uses are far less sinister, though, unless you write left-handed of course). The very sharp-eyed may be able to spot some light marks from the lathe chuck on the barrel of the polycarbonate version (as depicted below), but it doesn’t greatly detract from the overall effect.

barrelHow it feels  Those ripples and ridges provide a good grip without discomfort, and most users have found this a pleasure to pick up and get writing with.  The weight varies considerably depending upon the materials chosen; the all-brass version is without doubt a nicely weighty pen, the all-polycarbonate version is feather-light, and the combinations of polycarbonate barrel and metal section concentrate the weight just where you most want it, near the nib.  Which feels best for you depends largely upon personal taste.  The only catch we detected was that the copper grip can be a little slippery on a warm day.

How it fills  This fills with a straightforward Schmidt converter (provided as standard), or international cartridges if you prefer.  For everyday practicality there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Crucially, how it writes…  The Gist employs a big #6 Bock nib, available from Tactile Turn in steel, titanium and gold versions.  Bock’s steel nibs are firm but widely admired, and we’ve had no reports of any problems there.  The titanium nib is a bit more of an acquired taste as there is flex, but not always as much smoothness as flex fans generally like. The #6 Bock gold nib writes beautifully (as also seen on the Diplomat Aero and Kaweco Elite/Supra, for instance), albeit following quite an outlay.  If that range of options doesn’t suit, it is also possible to transplant a JoWo #6 into the Bock feed, as seen in the modified example below (displaying rhodium, ruthenium and zirconium from left to right).gistpolycarbonitezirconium

Pen! What is it good for?  This is a well thought-through ‘every-day carry’ pen which can be comfortably used for long writing sessions and will serve as a sturdy workhorse.  Some of the all-metal versions are probably great for exhibitionist bling, too, but we’re not going to admit to being interested in that around here, oh no…

gistbrass1VFM  The Gist has to cope with transatlantic tariffs and the buffeting of currency exchange rates, so competing on price with European offerings is not always going to be easy. With a simple steel nib, the all-polycarbonate looks to us like fair, albeit perhaps not stellar, value at £70 – whereas just £30 more will get you the all-copper version which seems an absolute steal.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  There’s nothing quite like the Gist, really, although there other pens which bear some comparison on the basis of the materials.  If you love the polycarbonate finish then the Lamy 2000 employs similar material, albeit with a much less visible nib. If you really want the brass Gist but are struggling with the import logistics, Kaweco’s Supra has a similar heft and also uses the Bock #6 nib. There are no other Tactile Turn fountain pen designs yet – although just imagine this shape scaled-up to fit JoWo’s #8 nib… hmm, maybe next Christmas.

Our overall recommendation  Try a friend’s Gist first – it’s a bit of a ‘Marmite proposition’ in some guises – but if you like it, buy one.  Individual pen-makers who connect with writers and adapt to their needs like Will does deserve their success – and maybe, just maybe, you’ve been good enough to deserve one of his pens.

gistbrass2Where to get hold of one  Newcomer e-tailer iZods is stocking a broad sample of the Gist range in the UK, including the titanium and copper versions here.  If you want the full range including all the stock options, you can also buy direct from Will here, although beware of those import taxes.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Roy at iZods for lending John a Gist to play with.

Saturnalia Shopping

OK, it’s not the C-word quite yet, but it’s creeping up fast, and it’s handy to have a few fountain pen options up your sleeve!  Thanks to Nikki and John  we have a handy set of ideas below, divided into products available at less than £25 (handy for family who want to know what to get for you) and products priced under £125 (in case the Elves leave you some pocket money to spend on yourself!), so read on and break out the wrapping paper…

Under £25


sport-metallic-purpleKaweco Sport A pen which looks like no other – and which no self-respecting fountain pen fan’s collection is complete without – and all for under £20.  Available very widely, including at The Writing DeskCult Pens (including the special edition in metallic purple above), and Bureau Direct.

Lamy Safari Back to School Bundle  While it’s perhaps a little cruel to remind the kids that the yuletide break will be over all too soon, this is a great-value job-lot including the ubiquitous Lamy Safari fountain pen, a box of five matching ink cartridges and an ink eradicator for £15.71 – £17.45 from The Writing Desk) – and yes, there’s Dark Lilac option.

Dex by Kingsley Smooth Fountain Pen  An extraordinarily good fountain pen available at a bargain entry-level price in a wide range of colours – and our budget would stretch to a converter and a nice bottle of ink to go with one!  A nice little introduction to the world of fountain pens. (£9.60 at Penwrite or £12 at The Pen Shop).

J.Herbin Glass Pen & Ink Set  This set is great for anyone who would like to try a glass dip-pen! The glass pen comes with your choice of two J.Herbin inks. There’s no need to fiddle about with loading your pen with ink, you simply dip and write away! (£25 from Bureau Direct).


new-shimmersDiamine Shimmer Inks  Diamine are many people’s favourite brand when it comes to inks, being both easy on the pocket and on the eye – but their Shimmer inks are something special. These delightful inks have gold or silver coloured particles suspended in the ink, leaving a wonderful shimmer on the paper when you write. A new batch of colours have recently been released, so look out for a review on them here soon! (from £8.95 at Bureau DirectCult PensThe Writing DeskPure Pens).

Diamine Inks  Don’t want the Shimmer? Then check out Diamine’s standard inks, available in pretty much any colour imaginable! It’s a bargain at £2.35 for 30ml bottles and £5.50 – £7 for 80ml bottles (from Bureau DirectCult PensThe Writing Desk, Pure Pens or Diamine directly).

kwzisKWZ Ink  Konrad Żurawski has been creating fountain pen inks since 2013. The inks are handmade in Poland, but despite being made on a small scale, there are already quite a number of colours to choose from. With excellent flow properties, they do a great job with flex nibs (and we hope to review a handful next year!), although be warned that the smell is not to absolutely everyone’s taste. (From £12.95 at Bureau Direct)

Ink Samples  Not sure what ink to buy someone? Why not choose a handful of ink samples?! This handy service means you can get 2.5ml samples of ink to try (plenty to fill a pen) and they make great stocking fillers. There are so many brands and colours to choose from that it’s hard to go wrong, and both The Writing Desk and Pure Pens are on hand to help.


archivesetWilliam Hannah binder + refills  William Hannah paper seems to be universally admired by fountain pen users and is available in plain, lined, grid, dotted, to-do list, planner and weekly diary format – plus our budget will just about stretch to an A5 ‘archive set’ so there’s something to put it in! Available direct from William Hannah.

Pocket Notebooks  Perfect for putting in a pocket (hence the name!) or for slotting into a traveller’s notebook. Buy a set of 3 or a subscription, there’s plenty to choose from! (From £8.95)

Rhodiarama Notebook (A5 – Dot Grid)  Available in a range of colours, these notebooks are perfect for using as a bullet journal. The soft leatherette cover comes in a range of colours, it has a ribbon marker and a pocket at the back for keeping mementos in. The Rhodia 90gsm brushed vellum lined paper works great with fountain pens. (From £11.69 at Bureau Direct , The Writing Desk, or Pure Pens).

Clairefontaine 1951 Vintage-style Pocket Exercise Books  These lovely little pocket exercise books (90x140mm) are perfect stocking fillers. The Clairefontaine Satin-smooth 90gsm paper works well with fountain pens and small notebooks always come in handy when out and about. (From £1.25 at Bureau Direct or Cult Pens).

Books etc.

Nib + Ink: The New Art of Modern Calligraphy Book by Chiara Perano  Modern calligraphy has taken off this year, so why not treat a loved one to this book to help them on their way to learning how to do it themselves?! Written by the founder of Lamplighter London studio, specialising in modern and decorative calligraphy and illustration.  We’re aiming to review this book here on United Inkdom soon, too! (£9.09).

Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy Book by Elizabeth Winters  An easy-to-follow, practical manual for those wanting to learn how to write in copperplate calligraphy. Who doesn’t want to write so beautifully?! (£9.99).

startbaya7The Start Bay Compass A7 Notebook – a handmade leather notebook cover with two A7 notebook inserts (Rhodiarama A7 lined notebooks) and including an option free charm (all packages in an unbleached cotton bag).  A great introduction to the world of traveller’s notebooks (£25).

Under £125

The Pro Gear Slim is the most affordable introduction to Sailor’s much-admired gold nibs. They tend to be fairly firm, so not for flex fans, but they write smoothly with just a touch of spring.  The price is only just below our price limit, but fortunately The Writing Desk offer free postage on them.

Pilot’s Capless/Vanishing Point is the original clickable fountain pen, and although a bit soulless it is also clever and really rather useful. Official UK prices tend to be too inflated to meet our budget challenge, but there are often plenty at much more sensible prices on Amazon or the current £/$ exchange rate may even warrant popping over to Goulet Pens

l2kThe LAMY 2000 is widely heralded as a design classic, and WHSmith have become wildly popular for offering these for £100 recently.  Inevitably, they’ve just sold out at this time of year (although watch this space), but Amazon has some for just 30p over our limit so let’s sneak it in to the collection.

Edison Colliers are popular with fans of big pens, and although the UK prices are just above our limit, the currency conversion again makes a treat from Goulet Pens possible.   Mind you, with the £25 customs fee and the £8 handling charge added on, you might prefer to stump up an extra £4 and buy one from The Writing Desk instead.

aeroThe Diplomat Aero is, of course, the fountain pen that looks like a Zeppelin, and very nice it is too.  Official UK prices exceed our limit, but Amazon has a promising selection at more sensible levels.

3776Platinum’s 3776 is rightly famed as a brilliant gold-nibbed everyday writer, and although the more exotic tips like the ‘Music’ variant exceed our limit, the Bourgogne or Chartres finishes with the excellent Soft Fine nib are certainly accessible within our budget.  Quality control can be a little variable, so this is one worth buying from a reputable dealer rather than talking your chances on Amazon – we’d recommend trying Cult Pens if you’d like the classic Fuji-topping stylus in your pocket.

gistcopperThe Tactile Turn Gist will be a subject of a meta-review here soon, but the signs so far are that it’s a future classic in the making, and a Kickstarter project that has gone mainstream for all the right reasons.  Some of the finishes inevitably go well over our budget, but if you’re happy with a steel nib then both the poly-carbonate and, amazingly, all-copper versions are available within our price range from UK distributor Izods.

William Hannah notebooks are a properly British contribution to this collection, and absolutely the nicest thing you’ll ever write in.  Yes, they’re not cheap, but they don’t feel cheap either – owners universally rate them as worth every penny.  There are copious customisation options, and the budget here will even stretch to a fully bespoke notebook if you order one right away!