Category Archives: Meta-review

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.

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.

 

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!

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.

 

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).

Nettuno 1911

A little bit of history Nettuno 1911 (named after Neptune – a God of the Sea) are beautifully hand-crafted Itanian fountain pens, made in Bologna under the supervision of Nino Marino – a former president of the famous Delta Pen Company. Nettuno pens have a very long history originating  in the last century and perhaps Nettuno as a brand was one of the first (if not the first) fountain pen companies established in Italy.  One of their advertisements from 1911 showed Neptune holding the fountain pens as if they were his iconic trident; the model for the company’s logo was based on a famous statue of Neptune in Bologna. The 1911 series celebrates the Italian heritage of the reborn Nettuno brand.

How it looks  The finish of the Nettuno 1911 models we tested is called Tritone. It features a pearlescent shimmering silvery grey resin body with grip section and finials made from dark blue resin. These are complemented with rhodium accents. On the cap there are three polished bands whereas the barrel contains two wider rings, with the relief patterns of arched windows referring to ancient Roman architecture. These bands are made from the same metal as the clip and have a matte texture. The finial on the cap has a metal ring with a wave pattern. The pen is equipped with a rhodium-plated steel nib.

The ornaments on the nib are rather minimalist, but effective. There is a large stylised capital ‘N’ from the Nettuno logo left on the etched, matte-textured surface, which matches nicely with the other trims present on the barrel. All parts are very well-made, with real attention to detail; the resin elements, for instance, are nicely smooth with a glossy finish.  The Nettuno 1911 Tritone is a very elegant fountain pen indeed. 

The Nettuno 1911 comes in a black cardboard sleeve and aesthetically pleasing presentation box. The box is rather unusual; a beautifully printed cover lid has to be rotated around a pin to open it, while an elastic band keeps lid and the box tightly closed . Each pen is numbered but not limited. The Netunno 1911 collection consista of ten different models currently available . The type of resin, finish and trim colour and nib coating vary from one model to another.

How it fills The Nettuno 1911 uses a threaded converter, which can be accessed via the ‘blind cap’ on the barrel (which gives access to the converter knob). Because the cartridge converter is screwed into the section, it stays in place during refilling. This is a simple but quite effective solution which effectively produces a captured converter filling solution – much like a piston mechanism, in use.

How it feels Despite its fair weight (36g capped), the Netunno 1911 feels comfortable in the hand. We found its weight to be balanced, but if you lean more towards light-weight Japanese pens (e.g. Sailor or Pilot) then the Nettuno 1911 may feel a little on the heavy side.  The step on the barrel/section as well as the threads are rather smooth, but the deeply-etched trim may became noticeable during longer writing sessions, especially to those who tend to hold pens on the upper part of the grip section. Theoretically the pen can be used with the cap posted, although this makes it too heavy and unbalanced in our view.

Crucially, how it writes…  The fitted steel nib writes well, and the writing experience we all had was positive. This nib is not quite as rigid as might often be expected from steel. There is a decent amount of springiness which enhances the overall writing experience. The model we tested was equipped withe a medium nib. If pressed gently,  some line variation may be achieved but with regular pressure the line width is rather consistent. Interestingly,  we have noticed some small problems with the ink flow which manifested as occasional ‘skipping’, which may be attributable to many things including ink properties, paper quality, etc. It may be just this unit, too. Overall, the Nettuno 1911 writes well, but on the other hand there is nothing really special and exciting about this nib either.

Pen! What is it good for?The Netunno 1911 is definitely a pen to have on the table during important business meetings. It looks elegant and shows its class. It is definitely a good ‘general use’ fountain pen, including for note taking, but perhaps not ideal as a daily, ‘all task work-horse’ pen. For those purposes it should have exceptionally good ink flow, be very ergonomic and perhaps lightweight too – and here the emphasis is a bit more upon show. There is, however, plenty that owners will want to show.

VFM £219.00 feels quite expensive for a pen with a humble steel nib; for this price many customers would expect either a full piston-filling mechanism and/or a gold nib. The nib size is unfortunately limited to western medium (M) and fine (F) only. However, the Nettuno 1911 Tritone is very well-built and the materials used are great quality too. The overall design is quite distinctive with great attention to detail, especially as regards trims.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  If this particular design is not not to your taste but you still fancy a beautiful Italian pen which performs well albeit for significantly less money, then the Leonardo Officina Italiana Momento Zero or Furore may be worth a look.

Our overall recommendation  If you are looking for an interesting well-made pen with a characteristic themed design then the Nettuno 1911 could be a good choice. The craftsmanship and choice of materials are excellent, giving this pen a premium feel.  Beautiful and somehow unique presentation enhances its ‘high street’ appearance. However, if writing experience is more important to you than the aesthetics then there are many significantly less expensive pens equipped with good quality steel nibs out there. 

Where to get hold of one Nettuno 1911 is available in the UK from iZods Ink who are the official Nettuno 1911 official retailer. The price tag on this pen and other models in the series is £219.99.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to  Roy at Izods for sending us this pen to play with.