All posts by Scribble

Schon DSGN insert-laboured-pun-here Brass in Pocket 6

A little bit of history  The pocket pen used to be a veritable institution, albeit a sexist one. The assumption was that a big ‘manly’ pen would not fit into the small, unaccommodating sort of pocket with which ladies’ attire was furnished, and so in the early twentieth century many a manufacturer competed to fulfil this niche demand, in a manner which was, infuriatingly, both aesthetically pleasing and massively patronising. Nowadays such nonsense no long prevails and a pocket pen is a handy thing for anyone who likes pens and has, err, pockets. But slung into the side pocket of a pair of jeans, for instance, it’s going to take some punishment  – so Ian Schon, an enterprising Philadelphian, set out to engineer a durable solution.How it looks  It’s a short featureless tube, basically. If you’re still stuck in gender discrimination mode, it could conceivably be mistaken for a portable mascara applicator, or an emergency Spitfire cockpit canopy removal tool. Obviously these are both foolish misperceptions, but such is the fate of the common-or-garden dinosaur. The rest of us can either polish the brass or let it elegantly corrode (‘patina’ is a lovely euphemism for brass rust, isn’t it?), while wondering what lurks within.

How it feels  Heavy, obviously – it’s made of brass. No messing (k-bmm, tssk!). But when the Pocket 6 is fully assembled, which is easy enough with the screw-in cap posting arrangement, it both looks and feels like a fairly full-sized pen. If the weight is a bother, which it seemed to be for some of our reviewers, then lighter aluminium versions are also available – with some eye-popping paint jobs.

How it fills  This is a straightforward ‘short international cartridge’ affair – although there is always the trusty syringe for added variety.

Crucially, how it writes…  Pretty well, for this has a nice big #6 steel JoWo nib. Very few pocket pens house a full #6, and indeed only the Kaweco Supra comes close, so this is the essential MacGuffin which makes the Pocket 6 so unusual – and, obviously, which provides its name.Pen! What is it good for?  Errm, putting in your pocket, maybe? It will take some bashing-about and still write well when you need it to – although the time involved in reassembling the pen before writing might not make this the ideal jotter for very quick notes.

VFM  Reasonably competitive. in our view. With price tags usually well into triple figures this is certainly not cheap, but for a well-engineered and meticulously produced pen which is likely to outlast most purchasers, it’s certainly no rip-off either.

The only way is ethics  These are made by Ian Schon himself, without masses of added packaging  and with no obvious risk of poor labour conditions.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  The Kaweco Supra, without the extension tube, does a similar job – albeit with a Bock nib instead.

Our overall recommendation  If you want a pocket pen which last for a century and has a ‘proper’ nib on the front, this does the job in style. Just beware that the brass version is hefty, and the aluminium version seems to be very popular too, quite possibly for that reason.

Where to get hold of one  Ours came from Nero’s Notes, but in the UK Izods also stocks them.  Alternatively, you could go straight to the source.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Nero’s Notes for furnishing us with this remarkable pocket pen.

One’s Estie-mable Friend

A little bit of history  Cornwall has exported many a mining engineer to the world beyond, and many a Davy lamp too, but Richard Esterbrook left the peninsula with a rather smaller and more refined form of engineering in mind. Relocating to the US in 1856, he founded a long-running pen brand, supposedly even making a pen for Abraham Lincoln himself. The marque went from strength to strength for much of the following century, and is still well-respected in vintage pen circles for its dizzying range of specialist nibs. As was the case for most US-made pens, though, by the end of the twentieth century cheaper manufacturing elsewhere marked the end of the line. The reborn Esterbrook brand is just that – a brand, owned by firm called Kenro. But the products, largely unrelated to the old Esterbrook as they may be, look good enough to eat… or at least to write with. We thought we ought to give the flagship Estie a try.

How it looks  The Estie, in any size, is a classic ogive-ended cylinder, with a plain clip and subtle branding on the cap. What really distinguishes one from another is the colouring of the material; the plain black is plain indeed, but the lilac is spectacular in either chrome or gold trim, and occasional special editions like the ‘evergreen’ really look the business.

 

How it feels  About the right size in the hand, as long as you go for the shape best for you. Most of us eschewed the ‘slim’ version (with its humble #5 nib) for the standard edition, which is a happy medium. If you like a pen which is just a bit fatter without being unwieldy, though, the ‘oversize’ version delivers without looking disproportionate, at least by modern standards. As Mick found, however, the new Estie looks quite formidable compared to the more modest dimensions of many a vintage Esterbrook, so brand afficionados might be in for a bit of a surprise.

How it fills  The Estie is a straightforward cartridge/converter number, and as customary there’s a basic cartridge in the excellent packaging (along with a rather terrific red cleaning cloth) – but you’ll probably prefer to fit the included adapter and employ whatever ink you please.

 

Crucially, how it writes…  Esties are fitted with a JoWo #6 nib, which makes for ample adaptability. The Esterbrook-branded steel nibs work well in all the usual point sizes, as well as a good 1.1mm italic option. If spoiling your Estie rotten is on the agenda, you could even screw-in a gold nib unit instead. But the really clever party piece is the retro-compatible alternative section, sold as a ‘nib connector’, into which you can fit a vintage Esterbrook nib which was actually, ya know, made by Esterbrook. It’s only available in black, but it works, and that nod to the brand’s roots is to be applauded.

Pen! What is it good for?  The black version could certainly be carried to an office, if any of us ever set foot in one again, while the very colourful cracked-ice variants would look good at home or, as Ania rightly points out, on the Orient Express. Thanks to the internal sprung cap this won’t dry out in a hurry, so it’s a good choice for infrequent or occasional use too.

VFM  Here’s where the Estie struggles a bit at the moment, in our view. It’s a good pen which looks the part and feels well put together too, but a custom instrument hand-made by an artisan this ain’t. At the moment Esties are promoted at £150 for the standard size and £185 for the ‘oversize’ version, which is quite a big ask; at those prices, a gold nib really wouldn’t be too much to expect in return. With a steel nib, we think that around £85 and £95 respectively would have been reasonable price tags.

The only way is ethics  The packaging delights in trumpeting Esterbrook as ‘America’s original’, but as far as we can discern the nib is made in Germany and the rest of the pen in China. That doesn’t necessarily indicate a major problem, and we have no immediate evidence of poor labour conditions in the factory, but then again neither do we have much in the way of reassurance. This is perhaps an area in which the brand owner would be wise to be a little more proactive.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  We really like the Estie a lot, but if for some reason you can’t find one in exactly the colour you want it shouldn’t be difficult to find alternatives; this is not a complicated or unusual shape, and #6-nibbed pens are available from almost every manufacturer. Most custom pen-turners will be delighted to run a similar-shaped pen off the lathe, while The Writing Desk’s range of Edison Colliers are US-made pens taking a #6 at a very similar price to what the born again Esterbrook are asking for. It’s fair to say that the pen fan has plenty of options here.

Our overall recommendation  If there’s a material you really love the look of, and you can justify paying a little over the odds for it, you’re not going to be disappointed. If you have an old Esterbrook nib fitted to a pen which has seen better days, the ‘nib connector’ is a clever way to give it new life. Should the shape alone appeal, it’s not unreasonable to shop around or, possibly, wait for the price to regulate downwards somewhat.

Where to get hold of one  Most of your favourite online sellers have the Estie in stock – and in the far distant future, we may even dream of visiting shops which display them, in the flesh, there in front of our eyes.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Studio Pens, Esterbrook’s distributor, for easing access to test pens for four of our penthusiasts.

Supra Dupra Steel

A little bit of history  Kaweco’s Lilliput is beautifully minimalist but, as we’ve mentioned before, tiny. A scaled-up version with a #6 nib would be more like the thing for adult hands, surely? Kaweco agreed, and so the Supra was born, with a twist we’ll come on to in a moment. At first it was only available in brass, which looks great but isn’t absolutely everyone’s olfactory cup of tea. Then the steel version was born, and we just had to have a play!

How it looks  The Supra appears, from a distance, to be a Lilliput with a cinched waist. Up close, it’s evident that, if anything, it’s a Lilliput which has been to sumo training camp and bulked-up mightily; this thing has a nice big #6 nib, for starters! Then, if you remove the extension tube, it suddenly looks like a tiddler again. Hmm.

How it feels  That extension is the Supra MacGuffin. Fit it between barrel and section, and the result is a standard-length pen which feels about right in the hand, albeit a little long with the cap posted. Omit the extension tube, and the Supra is a pocket pen which feels about right with the cap posted, even if the large #6 nib can be a bit of a surprise to anyone more used to the dainty 060 (small #5) of the Lilliput and Sport models. Once you’ve worked out which length works for you, this feels solid and well-balanced, although the somewhat short grip section might not suit everyone.

How it fills  In short form, one can either syringe-fill a standard ‘international’ cartridge or use one of Kaweco’s tiny plunger converters. In long form, a normal converter fits perfectly. There’s little drama either way, and thankfully this is not a leak-prone pen either.

Crucially, how it writes…  As is usual for the more ‘premium’ Kaweco models these days, the Supra is equipped with a screw-fit Bock nib, so how it writes depends largely upon what hardware you choose to install. Our test unit was equipped with a Kaweco-branded steel M, which complemented the material of the pen itself and wrote without fault for our testers. So, nothing to complain about there, and there are ample options for upgrading too, not least the Kaweco-branded two-tone gold nib – or any Bock 250 unit, actually.

Pen! What is it good for?  The full-length Supra has no clip, so it is perhaps best carried in pen sling attached to a book – as one of our reviewers did with the brass version for a year. The shortened Supra is perfect as a pocket pen. In either incarnation, once you get the right posted or unposted length for you, it can serve for extended writing sessions should you need it to – as long as you get on OK with that short section and those exposed screw threads.

VFM  This isn’t cheap, with current retail prices getting dangerously near three figures. It’s a good, solid, reliable fountain pen which will probably outlast most purchasers, but that’s still quite a lot of money for a moderately stylised length of plumbing. Whether the value proposition adds up largely depends upon whether the feel of the pen works for you so well that you want to pick it up again and again. We’d really like to see Kaweco sell the unadorned short-form Supra for those who just want this, with the extension tube available as an optional secondary purchase, both to reduce waste and get that price down a little. In the mean-time, while half of our testers found the pen a bit too heavy and ‘industrial’ for their tastes, the other half loved it and two are now proud owners.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  That largely depends upon what it is that doesn’t quite float your boat. If the pocket configuration still feels a bit bulky but you like the looks, Kaweco’s own Lilliput might suit you better. If you warm to the full-length configuration but find the extension tube a bit fiddly, then there are other metal pen makers we can introduce you to, even if they are perhaps best not named here following some mutterings of potential litigious unpleasantness (which all involved have hopefully now stepped smartly aside from). If you just want a pen this shape but made of plastic, though, the options are almost endless.

Our overall recommendation  As is so often the case, try before you by. As a heavy, uncompromising and essentially indestructible pen it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re the sort of rugged EDC fan who likes to be able to smash your way out of a burning car using the same pen that you deploy to write a note to the insurers immediately afterwards, a Bauhaus-toting art-school grad with strong hands, or just a sniper with literary aspirations, this is absolutely the pen for you.

Where to get hold of one  All your favourite fountain pen specialists are likely to stock this. You won’t have trouble finding one if you want it – indeed, the only challenge is likely to be in deciding between the steel you see here and the equally splendid brass version.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Kaweco for the kind review sample – which has travelled well!

It’s the most colourful time of the year

A little bit of history  Advent calendars started in Germany, or possibly Austria, but at any rate fairly close to one of the great homes of nibmeisters then and now. Beloved of Lutherans in particular, the versions with pretty pictures cheered up the home in winter, and the versions with sweets made up for that monotonous Diet of Worms. But it took Scousers to come up with a version of the advent calendar which would brighten your life for the rest of the year without threatening one’s waistline, and thus in 2019 the Inkvent calendar was born. Twenty-five little bottles of ink, all of them new, behind cardboard doors. Some of us gave in immediately. Some of us waited until we could buy full bottles individually. But all of us wanted to share the results.

How it looks  It looks much like an ordinary advent calendar with something boring like chocolate inside, but that’s just a cunning disguise. There’s a jolly snowman design printed in blue, which might be why the inks are now labelled as ‘Blue Edition’… but that’s probably not what you wanted to know about. The new bottles are amazing four-legged contraptions which look like they could canter away at any moment if you don’t put down that wretched ballpoint and play with a real pen. But perhaps that’s not what you’re after either? Oh – the inks!! Well they look amazing as a range, don’t they? We were a little surprised to find quite so many browns and dark greens, but the whole palette of midwinter hues is here. There are also plenty of traditionally festive reds, some very groovy blues, a gold, a silver, two cracking purples and a terrific turquoise. Unusually for a set released together, some are ‘solid colours’ but many feature sheen, shimmer or both, which is showing off really, but if you can’t do that on special days when can you?

Crucially, how it writes…  These all seemed to be fairly well-behaved inks for our expanded testing team (these are very popular inks), although the usual caveat about shimmering inks applies; i.e. use these only in pens which can be readily dismantled for full cleaning (and, preferably, reassembled without consulting a Haynes manual).

Ink! What is it good for?  These aren’t inks for taking to the office, to be honest, but as those are all closed at the time of writing perhaps that’s no bad thing. They’re inks for having fun with – and they’re just right for it!

VFM  These are not the cheapest inks Diamine has ever produced, but they’re nevertheless admirably affordable by international standards. The prices are variable depending upon complexity, too, so the standard inks are about £8 , and the shimmery sheen monsters about £11, depending as ever upon where you shop. For 50ml that’s not bad value, especially when the results look this snazzy.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Seriously? Come on, there a lot of really interesting inks here. If there isn’t a single thing which takes your fancy, we’re probably not going to be friends. But if you want a second chance, there’s a fair bet that another one is on the cards for this Yule, when we’ll all need some more cheering-up after all.

Our overall recommendation  Have a meander around the detailed reviews which this article draws upon – links below – and see what grabs you. Something will! Top tips from our gang include sheeny blue Polar Glow, teal/red sheen monster Season’s Greetings, robust red Fire Embers, tinsel-turquoise Blue Peppermint and shiny dark Winter Miracle, which looks like Scribble Purple with bright blue glitter and is none the worse for it.

Where to get hold of some  These are new, but they’re not limited editions; available then, at any good stationery shop – and until those are open, on all decent fountain pen retail websites.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Diamine for inundating us with a postcard from quite near North Wales, actually, and an awful lot of sample pots.

Take Five

Bedoooby-dooby-doooooby-doo, doobedy do do, doobedy-dooo, as Mr. Brubeck so memorably put it. But back in the non-jazz world, we know and love #5 as denoting one of the most popular sizes of nibs. But is it one size or two? No, it’s three. Hmm. Maybe we should give you the long version…

OK, here we go – and be warned, this will get geeky. Firstly, let’s cover what distinguishes a #5 nib from, say, a #6, or even a #8. An obscure mystery, surely? Well not really; the feed is 5 millimetres wide. That’s it.

So how can there be so much confusion between small #5s, large #5s, and sort-of in-between #5s? Possibly because we don’t have clearly established names for them. But it turns out that, actually we do.  In the language of nib-smiths Bock AG, they are the 060, the 180 and the 076, which might not be memorable labels but they could grow on you (you’ve read this far without dozing off, so there’s hope at least). The simple thing would be to just refer you to the handy guide on the Bock website, but that’s hardly the basis of a riveting article either.

Instead of just reeling out some not-terribly-vital statistics, then, we turned to Phil from Beaufort nibs, who has many advantages over Peter Bock, not least still being with us in the land of the living, a convenient base in Devon, and the lack of a dubious toothbrush moustache (top tip: avoid this unless you actually are Charlie Chaplin). Phil kindly supplied a sample of each, which we fitted to appropriate products from another company which started out in Heidelberg, and filled with various shades of Beaufort ink.

So, let’s start with the version of #5 which you’re probably most familiar with, the humble but sturdy ‘short’ #5 which Bock calls the 060. The reason you’ll know it is, in all likelihood, because you’ve encountered one of two Kawecos; a Sport or a Lilliput. In both cases, the diminutive nib looks the part on a small pen, and with little space to spare in the cap it’s really the only practical choice. Nibs aren’t always perfectly tuned when straight from the factory, so a hands-on supplier like Phil can be good to know if you have one of these pens and fancy changing the business end. We fitted one to a ‘stonewashed’ Sport to put it through its paces. With a short slit measuring 0.85mm from tip to centre of the breather hole, there’s not much wiggle room here so line variation is rare in the steel version, although gold can have a bit of bounce if you ask nicely.

The middle option, sometimes referred to as a ‘standard’ #5 in the trade, is the 180, which is just as narrow as the 060 and with a slit only a millimetre longer, but a more generous tail on the back. You may have seen these on pens like the late lamented Dex, the affordably splendid Super 5 (the name’s a clue), and of course the TWSBI Eco. It can be fitted to Kaweco pens which are narrow but have longer caps, like the Special – so that’s what we did. ‘Worked a treat.

Last but literally not least, there’s the big bold 076, which despite boasting a smaller number than the 180 has considerably wider shoulders. More importantly, it has the longest slit of all three (10.5mm), and thus naturally more flexible tines, whatever the material. You’ll be used to this size of nib in pens like the TWSBI 580, and it also fits many of the larger Kawecos, including the sadly missed All-rounder, the Student and the Dia. On these fairly big pens it looks correctly proportioned, and works better too. Maybe Kaweco should fit them in the first place – although with a minimum order of 5,000 pieces, it’s perhaps understandable that they haven’t yet rushed. In the meantime, have fun experimenting yourself!

In the spirit of fairness we should also mention that lots of other manufacturers offer #5 nibs too, sometimes even in new shapes like JoWo’s ‘arrow’ unit – but by golly life would be simpler if they’d adopt a straightforward numbering system…

 

 

 

 

 

FPUK special inks

A little bit of history When the jurist Lord Monboddo – who we perhaps have to admit was a bit of an eccentric – was in London for one of his yearly visits in 1787, he attended a hearing of the Court of King’s Bench which he, trained in Roman-based law, had relatively little to contribute to. According to legend, the structure started to collapse, plaster rained from the ceiling and everyone rushed from the building, wigs flying, only to realise their esteemed guest had been left behind. Monboddo was entreated to stir himself and asked why he had not already done so; his response was simply that he had assumed this was “an annual ceremony, with which, as an alien, he had nothing to do”.

Perhaps he may have had a point; bubbles come, and bubbles go.  When the investment bubble of the Darien Gap scheme bankrupted Scotland in the late seventeenth century, it either sought aid from, or was forced to go cap-in-hand to (depending upon your interpretation) England, and the 1707 Act of Union followed. That Union soon fell prey to its own difficulties with the South Sea Bubble, generating debts so massive that they were only finally paid off in 2015, just in time for a new have-cake-and-eat-it bubble to arise in its place the next year. The latter looks likely to put paid to the local market for luxury writing equipment, and indeed those united kingdoms that this site was named in tribute to. But, thanks to a similarly endangered enterprise entitled ‘Fountain Pens UK’ on social media, we can perhaps at least have one last inky hurrah.

Earlier in 2019, the members of FPUK starting collaborating with Diamine, a brand which has itself been around long enough to have been formally set in a few different countries without actually relocating. The collaboration was fulsome and detailed, with Nick Stewart testing no less than ten prototypes and Scribble then trying the three which made the shortlist. The FPUK group voted on the final formula for production and, in an example of what can happen in properly regulated democracy (perhaps we’d best steer clear of that one here), decided that two should share the winner’s podium. The administrators insisted that one should be named in honour of a certain purple ink enthusiast, and the other as a tribute to his hat, which is somewhat embarrassing for the author of this piece but we’ve got this far using first person plural and it’s too late to come over all gushing now. Lord Monboddo didn’t have a purple hat, because both the millinery style in question and synthesised aniline purple dye came about in the mid nineteenth century, a good fifty years or more after his demise, but the extremely distantly related (probably) Scribble Monboddo does – and is wearing it whilst writing this piece. Pictures or it didn’t happen, eh? 

Bubbles come, and bubbles go. Let’s waft this one around for a bit before it pops…

How it looks  Purple, astonishingly enough! Scribble Purple, which started life as prototype #765, is a rich, dark purple with, rather unusually, a golden sheen when it is laid on especially thickly. Prototype #768x became Monboddo’s Hat, a brighter pinkish-red (but not wishy-washy) purple with more of a green sheen. 

How it smells  Nothing to sniff here – move along benodorously now.

How it travels  These inks are available in both of Diamine’s standard carriers, the 30ml plastic Bradgate bottle (incidentally named after the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, if you fancy another little bit of history) and the 80ml ‘chicken pox’ glass flask. Both are practical conveyances for the ink, and the larger 80ml size also come with collectable cards designed by Nick Stewart himself.

Crucially, how it writes…  Now, there are some differences here, which may helpfully justify buying both.  Scribble Purple is saturated but nevertheless flows as well as standard fountain pen ink usually does, with no sin to report. Monboddo’s Hat is noticeably drier, so perhaps not so ideal for everyday purposes – but excellent if you have an overly-wet feed to tame, or if you are working on slowly-written calligraphic masterpieces.

Ink! What is it good for?  If you’re lucky enough to find work in the lean years ahead, Scribble Purple is probably an ink which you can take with you; it’s so dark that the uninitiated probably won’t distinguish the difference from boring blue-black from a distance, while cognoscenti will be quietly impressed. Monboddo’s Hat is an ink for creative purposes, as writers of doodle-laden journals and the like are already discovering.

VFM  Diamine have a reputation as one of best-value manufacturers of ink anywhere, and these two special editions are no exception. Writers in what is left of Britain once Scotland departs and the borders go up should be able to enjoy access as long as funds allow. Moderate stockpiling may be wise elsewhere, but don’t go overboard – it may look delicious, but you really shouldn’t drink it.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then buy the other one!

Our overall recommendation  If you want a purple ink which you can use for writing with any fountain pen, without interruptions other than refilling, bag some Scribble Purple. If you enjoy experimenting with calligraphy or have an absolute fire-hose of a vintage pen and wish to, erm, take back control (oh dear) then Monboddo’s Hat is a great choice too.

Where to get hold of some  All of your favourite fountain pen retailers and etailers sell these inks, which have now made it to the standard Diamine range internationally. It’s also possible to buy from Diamine directly.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Bernardo and all the members of the FPUK group for the initiative, Diamine for the enthusiastic collaboration – and all our readers and contributors for making the Inkdom, while it lasted, a kinder, gentler and more creative place.

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…

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: