Category Archives: News

Newsnibs special – Made For Ink!

Hot news – well, as hot as it can reasonably get in this unseasonably frosty weather… Rutland’s very own stationery supremo, known to us all for his previous exploits as the provider of Personalised Stationery, has just branched-out into a line of notebooks specifically crafted for fountain pens and tested by several members of the Fountain Pens UK Facebook group.  Logically enough, it’s called madefor.ink!

We’ll get a meta-review of some of these products together as soon as testing schedules allow, but in the meantime there’s a quick review of the EDC pocket notebook already up and, more importantly, the site is celebrating World Fountain Pen Day with a handy discount: use the code PENSAREGREAT to get 20% off. Well, that’s a message we can all agree with.

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The name’s Monb, Scribble Monb.  No it doesn’t work, really, does it? But this is edition 007, nevertheless! A break from meta-reviews, this weekend as we regroup on a few pens which merit further scrutiny. But of course the world doesn’t stand still and there are interesting things out there to tell you about. So, in no particular order….

The darkness rises once more as the Lamy Safari gets a new Umbra special edition. Umbra is Latin for shadow or shade, as you knew already of course (a little shade is an umbrella, but let’s not talk of such things indoors), and this does seem to be rocking the stealth look with some determination. The matt surface will deter fingerprints, reflections from bright lights and, presumably, surface-to-air radar detection systems if one fits the optional wings and propulsion system. The nib, of course, comes from a workshop that did a Jagger and decided to Paint It Black – so it looks the part, although what it does to ink flow may be up for debate. Yours for a mere £17.02, though, which is not be sneezed at.

If that all looks a bit threatening, how about something nice and floral and soothing but still rather cool? British notebook maker Esmie has that covered, by the looks of it. The size is a bit unusual (10mm wider than the standard 90X140mm), and we’ve no word yet as to whether the paper is FP-friendly, but we’ll try to find out. In the meantime, feast your eyes and, if you want some, take a peek at the full range.

Now, since we’re back on the brighter side of the palette, prepare to don sunglasses. TWSBI are at it again. Firstly, the humble ECO is coming out soon in eyeball-walloping pink, which is someone’s cup of tea, erm, somewhere.

Slightly confusingly, there’s also a ‘training’ version of the Eco, which eschews the hexagonal ends and veers towards the triangular. Apparently this is easier for small hands, which does seem plausible. Small eyes are not spared the full terror of neon, however.

OK, let’s calm down now. Or try to. For lo, the war for the congested market that is the traveller’s notebook is getting ever more heated. We already have the excellent Start Bay, and numerous indie producers on Etsy (some of whom may yet feature here), but now Cult Pens is getting in on the action too. Not cheap, but the Ruitertassen offerings do look rather nice.

Finally, speculation rages about what William Hannah is up to. All we have seen so far is a glimpse of a third, smaller packaging box, which seems to fit the 90x140mm format. Could it be Leicestershire’s very own contribution to the traveller’s notebook contest? If so, bring it on – we shall report back as soon as we can get our hands on them. Muse over those mysterious boxes meanwhile…

 

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We’ve survived the Valentine’s Day web-promotion fandango! Phew – congratulations all ’round. Amidst all the rosy-hued retreads there was probably a decent fountain pen or two somewhere, but for a bit of variety we’ll just mention Lamy’s ‘Vibrant Pink’ ink. Another of their limited-edition offerings, it follows hard on the heels of the well-received but infuriatingly unobtainable Dark Lilac and the widely remaindered Petrol. So, good for obsessive pink fans, but the question remains; if there’s no chance of buying it again when you run out, why buy it once? Available at all the usual emporia while you ponder that conundrum.If you want to make your inks work harder, you can do remarkable things with a squirt of bleach. If that sounds like the sort of thing best left to professionals, now you can get some professional training – for the Inkdom’s very own master of the art is running a workshop on the 17th of March! Click poster below for more details.

If you’re looking for something to put future ink purchases in, some of us are already rather excited about the forthcoming offering from Ensso. One of their exotic Piumas is doing the rounds of United Inkdom reviewers as we speak, but the ‘XS’ pocket pen in the works looks even more temptingly portable – and the Kickstarter price is more tempting still (link on the pic).

While the XS will be coming all the way from California, sadly there’s no sign yet of Robert Oster’s new pearlescent Shake’n’Shimmy inks making it here from Australia. Nevertheless, here are some depressingly sparkly images of what we can’t have. We’re never short of cheer!

Finally, as increasingly customary here’s something you won’t want. Yes, it looks colourful, thanks to using the same technique as Kaweco’s famous ‘fireblue’ pens. Yes, it’s named after a very naughty drink which is going to compete with even your finest inks for interestingness [not actually a word]. But no, Montegrappa, a steel nib is really not OK on a pen which costs over £300. What were they thinking?

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It’s been another busy week of ups and downs – but which is which, you have to choose for yourself!

First, let’s start with some unalloyed good news. The company formerly known as Pocket Notebooks still sells pocket notebooks but is now branded in honour of its honorary canine CEO, so a huge bark of approval please for Nero’s Notes! It’s hard not to feel that Nero’s designated biped feeding unit has been awfully clever.

Less cleverly, the Kickstarter of Doom has started to grind to a messy end with the trickled dispatch of the benighted Namisu Ixion. Some United Inkdom readers (and contributors) have it in their hands now, and early reports suggest that, in the end, a jolly decent fountain pen turned up. We’ll publish a meta-review here if we can. The customer service experience, sadly, has left some vocal disgruntlement in its wake.

Surprisingly, another retailer we know and love has been making moves this week, with Cult Pens announcing that it has been bought out by WHSmith. For international readers, WHSmith is a long-established general stationer, which used to be as ubiquitous as Woolworth on every high street and still sells newspapers and snacks at most railway stations and airports. It does stock a few basic fountain pens, but combining this broad offer with the USP of a specialist pen boutique is, well, an ‘interesting development’. The move’s raised a few eyebrows amongst enthusiasts, but fingers crossed that it works out.

Finally, we have been completely baffled this week by a Korean ink which costs three times as much as a good fountain pen. We have plenty of time for the retailers, who know their stuff and sell some cracking gear, but seriously – £45? Shiver me timbers! Colorverse is  offering an 80ml package for that handsome sum, with some of the sets featuring two different hues. This one is highly unlikely to end up on a United Inkdom meta-review, though, for the simple reason that none of us can afford it. Can you?

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It’s cold out there, but it’s still busy in the never-stationary world of stationery! Firstly, we have responded to some vigorous nagging from our supportive readers and finally installed a subscription box. It’s immediately to the right of this post, so please do put your email address in. As well as ensuring that you never miss a thing, you’ll be helping to show potential sponsors the size of audience they can expect when they send anything to us for review – we get to see the stats, so we know there’s a loyal readership, but this sort of public sign-up is a big help too.

Back in real life, there’s an actual physical pen show to kick off the year’s retail penthusiasm, in Bristol this Sunday. To whet your appetite, here’s a picture of some of the mouth-watering pens that the great John Twiss has made for the occasion, including more of that funky green lizard action:

Meanwhile, the mighty Pocket Notebooks are apparently considering all sort of shenanigans, up to and including a change of name apparently, a spot of podcasting and, perhaps most excitingly of all, the dipping of a toe into the world of bricks-and-mortar pen shopping. All thoroughly attention-grabbing… but not quite so visual just yet, so instead here’s a pic of an interesting product that CEO Nero and his biped assistants are sending us to play with; a recycled notebook from Berlin which claims to be able to handle fountain pens. Now there’s bravery for you!

In the social media whirl, debate has raged on the Fountain Pens UK Facebook group about where Beaufort Ink gets their actual ink from. Research has so far been technically inconclusive – in that we think we know, but can’t say for absolutely certain – but nevertheless full marks go to the proprietor who responded by volunteering to put test samples in the hands of the ‘usual suspects’ amongst United Inkdom’s contributors. Cue a meta-review before too long!

Finally, if you’re finding winter’s greyness a bit disappointing, there is relief from a couple of new special editions in colours so bold as to be positively, erm, brave. Platinum’s new venomous bile (sorry, ‘Bali Citrus’) Plaisir and the eyeball-searing Vibrant Pink Safari. Well, they are presumably someone’s cup of tea…

For those who’ve been following us for a while, you might like to know that the usual profile pieces and meta-reviews are coming back soon. We’ve been talking to the splendid Pen Chalet (and they’ve sent us some interesting pens to review too), and we have review projects under way for products from Start Bay, Scrikss, Karas Kustoms, Italix, and Kaweco to name just a few. Hold on to your hats!

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Time flies like an arrow (and yes, fruit flies like a banana), and a lot has happened in just a week! Here’s more interesting news to whet your appetites for another fix of inky goodness.

First up, the unique aesthetics of Jake Lazzari, who continues to turn out remarkable functional eye-candy. Using feedback from United Inkdom readers, Jake has tweaked the style recipe of the classic Streamline and added a roll-stopper which appears to flow organically from the cap. There’s more eye-popping exotica like this at Jake’s Etsy site, and if you still have Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket it’s definitely worth a look.

For something to put in one, The Pen Shop has an interesting-looking range of inks from Campo Marzio, with a special offer on at the moment: anyone buying two bottles of ink gets the second at half price. There seem to have been very few tests just yet, but rumour has it that the purple one will be experimented upon with gusto rather shortly…

If you’re looking for something interesting to write on, Leuchtturm have an interesting twist on the dot-grid concept – red dots! How much difference that makes to writing is debatable, perhaps, but it certainly looks cool.

If you prefer the classic exercise book format, then Start Bay have something new; they’ve added a softer, thinner leather to their range, calling it ‘vintage lite‘, and it looks rather splendid. But better still, for this weekend there’s 10% of anything on the site if you enter this code: WHATIREALLYREALLYWANT.

Finally, and thrillingly, an affordable new fountain pen from a British firm. OK, so the bodies are made in ‘Asia’, but the nibs are fettled by Italix here and they’re almost legendary for working well. Justly renowned for a range of churchily-titled pens like the Parson’s Essential and indeed the English Curate (which we reviewed back in 2015), ‘Mr Pen’ has added a modelwhich slots right into the ‘budget’ category in price – but wipes the floor with most other pens you can get for £15. Available with a good medium nib, a rather lovely italic nib or even a ballpoint (well, someone has to love them), the solid metal-bodied Deacons’s Doodle is already shaping up to be the bargain of the year – and we’ll put together a meta-review of it here as soon as we can.

 

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Well, the year has well and truly got going, all that festive palaver is right behind us and creative new things are popping up all over the place. Here we have the genius, the dubious, the even more genius and the splendidly unobtainable – surely the perfect mix!

Genius first, then. Ever since United Inkdom’s most popular post so far there have been calls for an affordable disc-bound notebook with fountain pen friendly paper. Now, partly in response to those many requests, that product exists! Rutland-based Personalised Stationery have just released their first batch of A6, A5 and A4 disc-bound notebooks. Made with paper which has survived every sort of nib we’ve been able to throw at it so far (like this), they’re also available in an impressively wide variety of rulings – and more individual specifications can be accommodated too. To get in on the first wave, click through here.

Then on to dubiosity. Last year many of us enjoyed the Jinhao 992, also known as the Spiral – a playfully unsubtle ‘homage’ to  a Sailor design, available for 99p. They’re pretty basic and they tend to leak if you try an eye-dropper conversion, but the included converter isn’t bad, the nibs are decent and for a quid you certainly can’t complain. What’s so dubious about that? Not much, to be fair. But then Monteverde decided to rebrand the already, ahem, unoriginal design as the ‘Monza’, inexplicably suggesting a link with an Italian city. Other than replacing the Jinhao cap band engraving with a Monteverde logo, nothing appears to have changed – except the price. You can compare the simply  Chinese, and still-Chinese-but-despatched-from-the-US-with-an-Italian-name, versions in the composite photo below. Of course, if you really want to pay another £19 to get this cheap pen in a plastic box, rather than a plastic bag, then this is absolutely the badge-engineered product for you… but we’ll spare the blushes of the handful of retailers who fell for the hustle.

But there is more genius to rectify the sorry tale above, because one of our readers has been using dip pens and drawing inks to bring appalling puns to life on the page, and the book is now out! The Anomalous Animals Mostly Great Animals of History is a little tricky to describe in words, which is part of the reason you need to buy a copy really, but as a sneak preview of the format Emmy has prepared an exclusive companion to the likes of Amelia Bearheart and Isambard Kingdom Brunowl, in the shape of a hat-tip to, err, well we couldn’t possibly imagine.  Head to Etsy for your slice of majestically hand-tooled hilarity.

Finally, The Pen Shop has rootled around in their vaults and found a whole stash of limited edition pens, and they’re worth ogling even if not too many of us will be in a position to buy one – they all have four-figure price tags! There’s a surprisingly military note to several of these special editions, including pieces of melted-down AK47, recycled Spitfire parts, and both X-wings and TIE fighters for those cognoscenti who are aware that, all things being equal, a light sabre is nothing compared to a serious fountain pen. Have an admiring look for yourself here

 

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

Pens

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).

Inks

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.

Paper

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!

The TWSBI 580 AL probably needs no introduction – an affordable, reliable piston-filler which comes with the required tools to strip it down, service it and get it back on the road in next yourself.  But now you can buy one from fpnibs.com, who will also sell you a #5 gold JoWo nib and fit it for you, too – making for a well-engineered, gold-nibbed pen of Pelikan quality but still within our budget.  This is the combination used to produce the Too Many Purples project, if you’re curious.  You’ll need to drop them an email after purchasing pen and nib to ask them to fit one to the other, but you’ll be glad you did… it’ll be like all your Christmases came at once.

 

 

 

Fountain Pens UK Facebook Group

Fountain Pens UK is a Facebook Group for talking about all things fountain pens: stories, photos, retail experiences (good and bad), and anything and everything else penny or inky. It will obviously take a little while to build up a head of steam but please do come along and help get the conversation started.

Everyone’s welcome, wherever you are in the world, but the focus will be very much on the UK.

Please, also, share the link (facebook.com/groups/fountainpensuk) to the group as much as you can.