Monthly Archives: December 2018

Manuscript Lettering Pencil

A little bit of history:  The Manuscript Pen Co Ltd are based in Shropshire, where they have been producing nibs and calligraphy pens since 1856. Despite their vintage they evidently love coming up with new products and this holder with interchangeable leads set is one of their latest.

manuscript pack

How it looks:  The big pack arrives in one of those tricksy-to-open plastic blisters, packed with everything that you need to get cracking on your pencil calligraphy; a lead-holder, five different lead colours (including graphite) for you to play with and a nifty glass ‘sharpener’ to help you keep a good edge on your leads. There’s also a more select pack for those who just want a lead-holder and some italic graphite.

Crucially, how it writes:  Uniquely! When have you ever seen big wide italic lead before? It takes some getting used to, and perhaps as a factor of the rectangular manufacturing  process the graphite/crayon is remarkably hard. While our reviewers had fun with it and it DOES work, some felt that their own calligraphy skills were not good enough to show the product off to its best advantage. The coloured lines produced were quite faint. So, while it could be fun for kids, a concern might be whether the results will look smart enough to encourage them to take calligraphy further. However, a good calligrapher could create something special with this.

scribble.jpg

Lead! What is it good for? It’s an innovative product that offers a less messy way for beginners to try their hand at calligraphy. It could be especially fun for children and using the coloured leads instead of inks means that parents can relax without worrying about their soft furnishings being ruined.  In the hands of a good calligrapher, the results from this pack could be a contemporary blend of the rustic and the stylish.

manuscript colour

VFM: At the moment, a version of this product can be purchased from John Lewis for £20.00. We think that’s quite steep for a pencil, but also not crazy money for a product as unusual as this.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost: then why not try calligraphy with an ordinary pencil? Any pencil that is blacker, rather than harder (ie B rather than H) will be fun to try calligraphy with. Try anything from 2B to 5B or maybe 6B. But watch out for smudges! The softer the lead, the more smudges you can make, so protect your paper as you work. Or just let the kids go crazy – the choice is yours!

Alternatively, it is possible to buy the italic leads on their own from Manuscript direct, and they should work with any 5.6mm lead-holder you already have.

Our overall recommendation:  The Manuscript Calligraphy Lettering Pencil is a fun and innovative product for a style of writing that has remained popular for hundreds of years.  In the hands of a good calligrapher it could perform marvels – but we think caution is advised for beginners, as if your lettering skills aren’t that wonderful, the initial results may leave you less than enthusiastic to pursue calligraphy further.

See our reviewers’ individual reviews:

Diamine Shimmers – new colours for 2018

A little bit of history This is a festive tradition now, so the British ink legends Diamine  strike the market again with another of eight Shimmering inks, which complement the 32 inks in the series already released over last three years (we reviewed them here and here). This makes an impressive family of 40 shimmering inks in total, covering a wide palette of base colours combined with either gold or silver flecks suspended in their depths.

How it looks  

Mystique

Dragon Blood

Neon Lime

Peacock Flare

Pink Champagne

Razzmatazz

Rockin’ Rio

Starlit Sea

Crucially, how it writes… Diamine inks are very good indeed. This company has a long tradition (over 150 years!) and knows clearly  how to make good-quality and well-saturated ink which flows. Shimmering inks are no exception here, however due to their specific nature some precautions have to be taken. Because shimmering inks are in fact suspensions, before filling the bottle should be shaken so the glittery particles will be evenly distributed. The same rule applies once your fountain pen is filled; gently agitate the pen before you use it (read it the economic news, or twiddle it between your fingers, whichever you prefer). It may not be a bad idea to prime the feed before writing. To get the full effect, a broad and ‘juicy’ nib is often a good choice, although the shimmering effect can be achieved using finer nibs as well.  To get the best results then good, smooth and fountain-pen-friendly paper is a must!

Ink! What is it good for? These are not ‘standard’ inks by any means, but Shimmering inks are in fact suitable for use in almost any modern fountain pen. However, suspended particles can potentially clog your precious feed, so our recommendation is to use inexpensive fountain pens which are easy to dismantle and clean. Glass pens or dip pens may be a good alternative here. We also do not recommend leaving pens filled with this type of ink for a prolonged period of time since it may leave deposits and dry out between the fins of the feeder – and it can then take some hard work to clean it up properly.   Diamine Shimmer ink can be used on daily basis, but it may look a little unusual on business or legal documents (unless you work for Santa), so we would not recommend use for these purposes.  Diamine Shimmering inks are, however, absolutely ideal for all festive occasions including wedding invitations or Christmas cards (yes, be quick Christmas is coming very soon!).  If you wish to practise fancy Copperplate or Spencerian calligraphy,  these inks are perfect for it. They will definitely add a ‘shiny’ dimension to your hand-writing and lift it up to higher level.  We have also seen shimmering inks regularly used in personal diaries or journals. The possibilities may be endless, depending upon how creative or adventurous you are.

VFM  Considering the fact that Diamine inks are well made and the writing experience is generally very positive, a 50ml bottle filled with beautiful glittery ink for less than £10 is very good value for money (the official price is £9.95 at Diamine’s own web shop). Some UK retailers are selling it for even less (£ 8.95). ‘Sounds good… and it is!

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  If you feel uncomfortable using this type of inks with your fountain pen, you can always try them out with glass pens. It is definitely a safe alternative and the effects are still very good. If you’d prefer to try pearlescent inks from a different manufacturer, then J. Herbin, De Atramentis and more recently Robert Oster all have alternatives worth considering – albeit at significantly higher prices.

Our overall recommendation These inks are really fun to use and the shimmering effects are extremely pleasing. Diamine have proved again that they can deliver affordable, great-quality products, and with a broad selection of 40 colours there is plenty to play with. An unqualified thumbs-up from us!

Where to get hold of some  Diamine Shimmering inks are available directly from the Diamine web-shop, or all the usual retailers including Cult Pens, Pure Pens, The Writing Desk or Bureau Direct.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to Diamine for the samples.