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London Stationery Show report

Your dogged correspondent trekked down to the London Stationery Show for a second year, and as previously there was an embarrassment of riches.  Many of this year’s ‘finds’ are ones we’ll come back to, so here’s a quick report to whet your appetite.

There is no escape from Noris; resistance is futile

Highlights included:

  1. The Manuscript stand, with hands-on calligraphy area and of course the rather splendid new ML1856 – which we’re hoping to review before too long.

  2. Kaweco – having now seen the brass version of the Special it’s obvious why it immediately sold out, but we’ll be back to review it when we can get our hands on a few.

  3. Meeting Stuart, who now runs the excellent Pocket Notebooks site – a great guy to talk to, and we’ll be reviewing his wares very soon.

  4. Encountering the revamped Silvine red notebooks; pictures don’t really do them justice.

  5. Playing with the very nice brass pens and pencils from Ystudio.  We’ll get some to review if we can.

  6. Flipping through the new Rhodia Heritage Collection; they really do look the business and we are endeavouring to acquire some to test.

  7. Discovering that Fabriano notebooks are coming back to our high streets soon; good-quality dot grids which you don’t have to go online for sound like they could be very handy.

  8. Meeting the owner of the new bricks-and-mortar shop in lovely Hexham, Penfax.

  9. Admiring the refillable notebooks for people who know that ‘traveller’ has two Ls, from Paper Republic – and yes, we’re aiming to review those too.

  10. Discovering that Sheaffer still make some proper posh pens.  We can’t be so certain of getting some of those to play with, but we’ll see.

  11. Wading through a veritable forest of shiny new Leuchtturm notebooks, with a lot of understandable fuss about how 1917 was, y’know, a whole century ago and everything, and watching their portable embossing machine and old-school Gutenberg lettering rack in progress (see below for more on how to bag the results).

Lowlights included:

  1. Heating which threatened to boil all exhibitors alive, until a merciful cool-down after lunch.

  2. A certain rather well-known manufacturer whose representatives didn’t recognise one of their own pens, got confused about how flex nibs worked and had to be given a brief lecture on model numbers and the difference between push-button converters and piston filling systems.  We shall leave them unidentified to spare their blushes… don’t mess with penthusiasts, people!

Win the notebook

Leuchtturm kindly embossed our name in a silver on a unique United Inkdom A6 notebook, and with only one of them in the whole world we couldn’t possibly divide it between our team so we decide to hand it over to you!  We asked for comments with weird and wonderful ideas about what you’d do with such notebook in your pocket (or indeed in your hand), and the winning answer was, well, world domination.  How could we argue?

 

 

 

 

Super5 pens and inks

A little bit of history  Last year we made contact (via Matthias) with the remarkable Super5 in Germany, and a select band of bloggers got to grips with their novel range of pens and inks.  It’s such a distinctive collection that just this once we’re reviewing a whole brand, rather than just one product. The range includes fountain pens, rollerballs, and FP-friendly permanent inks – you can see why we couldn’t resist!newandoldSuper5s

How it looks  The Super5 pen, in all its variants, looks a lot like the Kingsley Dex and the Manuscript Master, which is hardly surprising as it shares its basic Helit body with both. Like the Master, it has a nice metal sections too, and the useless but fun screw-off blind cap which could, just about, allow access to the turning knob of a converter if you wanted it to (but you won’t want it to, honestly).  This is a comfortable, appealing shape and there’s a decent range of colour schemes too.  The inks looks like they come in Rohrer&Klingner bottles, because that’s precisely what they are.orangeonblack

How it feels  The pen’s body is a combination of warm plastic and firm but comfortable metal (in the section).  ‘Nothing to complain about there.Super 5 FP

How it fills  Pop in a cartridge, or if you want to make the most of the Super5 ink range, a normal ‘international’ converter.  It’s all very straightforward.Super5 07FP

Crucially, how it writes…  Very well, and quite differently from many other affordable fountain pens.  The round nib has iridium tipping but the italic versions have none – just polished steel.  Of course, that’s just fine if calligraphy is your style. If you really can’t handle fountain pens, which seems unlikely if you’re reading this but let’s roll with it anyway, there’s also a rollerball version which accepts the same cartridges or converters so you can use fountain pen ink.orangeonwhite

Pen! What is it good for?  The italic nibs (0.5mm and 0.7mm respectively) are particularly good for fast semi-calligraphic writing.  They work with the Super5 permanent inks, too, so they’re pretty handy.Atlantic

Ink! What is it good for?  While the names of some of the inks baffled us a bit, we all thought they worked very well in the Super5 pens, flowing impressively well for such a thick ink.  So, it’s good stuff for calligraphy – as long as you give your pen an occasional flush-through afterwards.Australia

VFM  These have to be imported, and they are only procured in relatively small batches, so the pens are inevitably not going to be quite as affordable as the humble Dex – indeed, they’re about twice the price.  That’s still not ridiculous money for pens which work well and can handle some punishment, though.  The ink is a little steeper, but still fair value if a coloured permanent ink is just what you need.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  The Dex and Manuscript Master are pens worth a look instead.  KWZ are working on some permanent inks which could prove competition in the refill department.Super5 Rollerball

Our overall recommendation  It’s all worth a look – and if you want something no-one else in the office is likely to have, this is a sure-fire bet.

Where to get hold of one  Direct from ‘Papierlabor‘ is the only way.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to Super5 for the generous set of test samples.

 

Namisu Nova fountain pen meta-review

01 Brass at the castleA little bit of history  Glaciers, weathering and tectonic plates were all involved to a greater or lesser extent in separating the Lothian volcanoes from the kingdom of Fife, but ever since the Forth Bridge became the world’s largest project management metaphor, both sides of the firth have been part of an on-and-off industrial heartland.  That engineering heritage was recently sparked in to life in one local business unit by the Kickstarter project which brought Namisu into being, and they’re now producing a couple of models in an increasingly diverse range of materials.  Some of us have been interested since those heady Kickstarter days, but the word is spreading fast…01 Alu goes Forth

How it looks  Like a streamlined version of the Nakaya-esque ‘bullet’ shape, polished-up for use as a prop in 1950s sci-fi B-movies – which is a long way round to saying that it’s minimalist, and we like that very much.  It looks exceedingly cool, whatever the material it’s cast in. The only catch is that said minimalist tube does rather like to roll off any surface you place it on!ClumsyPenmanship

How it feels  Large but really rather comfortable.  Obviously, the different materials available make a quite a difference; the aluminium version is sturdy and light, the ebonite version is very warm to the touch, and the brass version is satisfyingly heavy – probably too heavy for many writers, but marvellous if you like a weightier pen.02 Laura's Alu

How it smells  This criterion doesn’t feature in every meta-review, but appears here thanks to the ebonite version which Namisu kindly lent several of us to test.  Ebonite is a rather old-school material for a fountain pen, and it’s essentially just very hard rubber. That makes it tactile, light and warm to hold, which are all good things, but for those with sensitive noses there is also the detectable whiff of burnt tyres on a warm summer’s day. Of course, whether that’s a noxious pong or a nostalgic aroma is very much a matter of olfactory taste.03 Scribble's alu

How it fills  Cartridge/converter.  There should be space in there for a longer international cartridge, and Namisu often provide a good Schmitt converter with the Nova too.04 Rob's Back in black

Crucially, how it writes…  This is very much dependent upon whether you go for one of Namisu’s nibs or fit your own.  Namisu stocks Bock nibs, usually either the standard steel (occasionally black-coated, as above) or titanium.  The Bock #6 steel nibs are firm but quite pleasant to use, while the titanium option offers a bit of flex – although we had mixed feelings as to how smooth they were on the paper.  The feed and collar unscrew, and any other Bock #6 assembly will screw back in, so if you happen to have spare nibs from the larger Kaweco or Diplomat pens, for example, they’ll be easy to swap.  It’s also possible to buy unbranded Bock replacement nibs from sources such as Beaufort, although the gold option is as pricey as you might expect.  Helpfully, the actual metal is a standard shape, so other #6 nibs, for instance those made by JoWo, can be transplanted into the Bock feed and collar assembly without too much difficulty; these can be acquired more affordably from FPnibs.com.08 Ruth's ebonite

Pen! What is it good for?  The aluminium and ebonite versions are both good for longer writing sessions or quick note-taking  – as long as you put the cap somewhere safe!  The brass version could probably double up as some form of defensive weapon, but we wouldn’t recommend doing that with it.05 Ian's Alu&Ebonite

VFM  At £45 the aluminium version is really very good value for a distinctive British-built fountain pen.  The brass and titanium versions get pricier, but are both still quite competitive for enthusiasts of those metals.  Ebonite nudges the ticket into three figures, which seemed a little steep to us for a pen which only has a basic steel nib, but it’s an unusual material, and while rather expensive this is hardly daylight robbery.  Match a Nova with a really good nib of your choice and you get something truly splendid for the outlay.06 Dan's Ebonite

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Namisu also make the Orion, a fairly similar shape but one which hasn’t appealed so much to us.  Or, if you like the look of the titanium Nova and want to spend ten times as much, there’s a Nakaya made from the same material.  Hmm.nib again

Our overall recommendation  Go ahead and get one while you can!  The aluminium version is an affordable design classic, and you can always upgrade to other materials later on.  If you covet the brass version, though, move fast; Namisu took some persuading to make it at all and we understand that it is intended as a one-off at the moment (you could prove them wrong, of course).cap endWhere to get hold of one  Right now, buying from Namisu directly is the only way.10 Scribble's brass

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Namisu for lending several of us an ebonite Nova to play with.  The rest we bought with our own money!07 Nova-nib

Robert Oster fountain pen ink review

Here in the United Inkdom, us poms and near neighbours are sometimes lucky enough to receive some bonzer gear to play with – sometimes pens, sometimes paper, and sometimes…  sometimes ink!

Bottles

And here’s the thing about that; a pen will convey the message, the paper will carry the message, but it’s the ink that brings the message to life.  So when we get inks to play with, all of us tend to get a bit over-excited.

Robert Oster Signature inks are fairly new to Blighty, but an Australian brand that’s quickly developing a strong following over here, and it’s easy to see why.

They’re not the fastest drying of inks, averaging between ten and fifteen seconds for full dryness on good paper.  As you might expect from an ink that wet the flow on them is superb, coverage on the page is complete, there’s no stutter, even from very fine nibs, but when you have an ink as rich and fulsome as these, you want something a little thicker to enjoy the tones upon the paper.

It’s also rare that all of us agree on the nature and quality of an ink – we’re an eclectic bunch with a wide variety of tastes – but universally, these colours have us inspired.  The inks have interesting names which give a nod to the inspiration of the creator, and as you’ll see in the many individual reviews linked below, they don’t disappoint.

But as a little teaser…

Direct Sun

Direct Sun

Barossa Grape

Barossa Grape

Emerald

Emerald

Claret

Claret

Summer Storm

Summer Storm

Grün Schwarz

Grun Schwarz

Blue-black

Blue Black

Deep Sea

Deep Sea

Blue SeaBlue Sea

 

The full range isn’t available in the UK yet, but it will be soon, and we’re both anticipating that (because these really are to die for), and dreading it (because we all have to eat sometime…) in equal measure.  They’re not the cheapest of inks, retailing at £14.50 for a single bottle, but with the viscosity of the ink in question, that bottle will last some time.  They can be found at iZods, who kindly donated some samples for this review exercise (thanks again Roy), and we gather other suppliers are also coming on-stream as we speak.

So without further ado, we present the combined reviews of United Inkdom for the Robert Oster Signature inks…

Gillian Jack’s review of Claret and Emerald

Daniel Oakey’s maritime meanderings in Blue Sea and Deep Sea

Sarah Goodall’s test of Emerald and Summer Storm

James Lake’s bathe in Direct Sun with a dash of Grün-Schwarz

Scribble’s bejiggering with the whole flamin’ lot

The Clumsy Penman’s barby in Direct Sun with a tinny of Barossa Grape

The Pen and Inkwell’s billabongful of Summer Storm, Blue Black, Blue Denim, Bondi Blue, Fire & Ice, Blue Sea and Deep Sea too.

 

Nib&Ink book review

When we first heard about this book from the excellent All Things Stationery blog, we knew we had to take a look – and thankfully the publishers (part of Penguin) were kind enough to send some review copies our way.  Here’s what we made of it…

nibinkpublicityshots

New Year’s Resolutions can involve all sorts of horrid self-denying ordinances and temporary punishments, but a rather better promise to yourself is to take the time to develop handwriting that you’re happy with, and maybe even a little bit proud of!  Dipping a toe into the world of ‘modern calligraphy’ is not a bad way to get started, and Chiara Perano has been offering direct assistance through the day courses she runs at her base, mysteriously entitled ‘Lamplighter’, in London. This book sprang from those courses, apparently, and like them aims to offer a user-friendly and accessible way in to going beyond hasty squiggle to mastery of the mystic curve.

how-to-hold-the-pen

Modern calligraphy is a little hard to define exactly, but broadly speaking it’s calligraphy which you can use in the here and now, without the hours and hours of tiresome exercises that stylistic dictators like Spencer would require, and with results that look a bit less like an obscure nineteenth-century legal text.  This book assumes that readers will attempt to follow Chiara’s letter-forms with a dip pen, and provides plenty of practical advice on how to do so.  Alternatively,  it’s perfectly possible to play along using a flex-nibbed fountain pen (as Sarah and Scribble did with their Heritage 912s),nibink-writing-sample

This is fun to work with, and the encouragement to write directly in the book feels nicely transgressive.  The number of letter-form options doesn’t become overwhelming, and the examples map out just what route the nib should take – it’s easy to follow, and there is lots of encouragement to practice, experiment, practice some more, and arrive at a style which is very much your own.sarahs

There are a few improvements which we’d like to see in the next edition including more FP-friendly paper (we’re told this is in hand already), a better proportion of content to filler (there are a rather cheeky number of practice pages), and perhaps a move to a loose-leaf format (maybe bound with Atoma discs?) so that it can properly fold-flat for writing in.  But these are relatively minor quibbles in what we felt was, overall, a…great-book

Getting hold of a copy for yourself is easy enough either straight from the author’s own website or via your book retailer of choice; the ‘street price’ is around £9, which looks like decent value to us.  You can download the handy guide sheets to print here.guidesheettop

For more detail see:

Thanks to Ebury Publishing for sending some review copies to us in time for Christmas experimentation!

 

Diamine Shimmertastic inks review

shimmerdrops2A little bit of history

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

Ink! What is it good for?

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

VFM

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

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

The bright blueslight-blues

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

lightning2

The dark bluesrich-blues

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

shimmeringsea2

The reds

reds

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

The browns

browns

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

The greens

greens2

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

magicalforest3 magicalforest2

The greys

greys2

moondust2

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

The purples

purples

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

magenta3

pazzazz2

Come and get it!

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

This meta-review draws upon:

Thanks to:

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

 

Tactile Turn Gist meta-review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This meta-reviews references:

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

Saturnalia Shopping

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

Under £25

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.

 

 

 

Izods profile

title-barThis week, we profile a brand new name in the fountain pen retail firmament – the exotically-monikered Izods, of exotic (OK, we’re stretching a point here) Ipswich.  Izods has come to many readers’ attention as a result of the growing interest in Robert Oster inks, which we’ll come on to below.  But we start by catching up with Roy, the founder of the company.osterpalette2

So, where does that curious name come from?  Well, I wanted a name which was short and snappy, and my grandfather had a yard in Birmingham called Izods – somehow it just seemed to fit!  I got into selling vintage pens the way many people do in this world; I like fixing things, and after preparing a few fountain pens for my own use found I had rather more on my hands than I’d planned, then one thing led to another.

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You’re obviously fond of Montblanc, a brand which not everyone in the fountain pen world has kind words for – so what does it for you?  MB is a big conglomerate selling all sorts of things these days, and that’s perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea of course.  But many of the vintage pens were made of really good-quality materials which hold their value and usability for a long time, and even people who aren’t fountain pen fans say they have something of an ‘aura’ about them.  The trouble is, buying vintage Montblancs on the internet can be a fraught business, with some in variable condition and even counterfeits to trap the unwary.  That’s where I come in; I check everything properly, including the provenance, and carry out any cleaning, minor repairs etc. if needed so that I can be sure that anything I put on sale is in top-notch condition.  My favourites are the special editions like the Agatha Christie pen (pictured above), but they all seem to have their fans.

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How did Australia’s Robert Oster inks come your way?  After selling pens for a while, ink seemed the logical next step – but I wanted to offer something a little different.  There was already quite a bit of interest in Robert’s range of inks on this side of the planet, and few outlets, so that seemed a niche which needed filling.  Robert was great to talk to and we got on immediately – he even found himself buying a couple of pens from me! We’ve just picked nine inks so far – there are plenty more colours where they came from – but they do seem to be selling like hot cakes already.

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How did Tactile Turn join the collection?  Again, like Robert this was a personal connection as much as anything; Will from Tactile Turn is a real enthusiast who takes such a pride in being hands-on, and the Gist is a lovely pen – it looks and feels different, in a good way! We’re stocking most of the materials Will makes the Gist in at present and may well broaden out to a wider selection of nib options, and perhaps even some of Will’s other models, if demand is as strong as we expect it to be.

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United Inkdom will be reviewing the Tactile Turn Gist and a selection of Robert Oster inks soon. Meanwhile, you can see all of Roy’s wares, including the Darkstar notebooks above, at the Izods website.

Kaweco fountain pen inks review

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We’re joined by the Clumsy Penman himself for this week’s review, so what better way to start than with a collection of his underwater ink pics?

It’s off to Nuremberg we must go next, though, for this is where the marvellous Kaweco are based.  A small name which packs a big punch in the fountain pen world, we all have a Sport or two from Kaweco tucked-away in a pocket somewhere. They actually have their own range of inks made in Austria (as does Montblanc, curiously enough), but wherever they hail from it was high time that we put their own range of inks to the test too!  An adventurous band of United Inkdom reviewers new and old (hey, less of the old) broke out the nibs and got busy.

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Sunrise Orange is one of the newer additions to the range, and reactions from our testers suggest that it was a very welcome one.  Mateusz found this not only a worthy rival to the well-know Apache Sunset, but in many respects rather better, and Scribble liked the orange-tinged sunrise so much that a bottle of tequila is back on the shopping list, while Ian was soon lusting for a spot of caramel. Either way, it’s tasty – and just look at that shading.

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Paradise Blue has quite a fan base, as a good sturdy (or ‘solid’ as James says) turquoise/teal.  Scribble likes it a lot, and Ian can live with the modest shading too. The flow is good but, as Mateusz points out, there is a price to pay in this particular ink’s tendency to sink rapidly into paper, which is only really useful if you want to read your genius-like thoughts back-to-front from the reverse page.

royalblue02royalblue01Royal Blue is perhaps not the most original colour, and Ian and Scribble were both reminded of school-room days.  Matthias set out to find what mystical qualities might have put this in the same class as the now-deceased Rotring ink, without definite result – although he did like it.  James, though, found something others hadn’t spotted; a sheen. Now you’ve done it, James – that’ll open the floodgates.

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Midnight Blue is a fairly standard dark blue or blue-black.  Honestly, there’s not a lot to say about this as a colour, although as Ian points out it does still have reliably good flow.

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Pearl Black, similarly, is a rather everyday black.  Any self-respecting ink range does have to have a black, and there is a limit to what anyone can do to make it interesting, although Ian thought this one was on a par with Aurora black, which sounds like a compliment at least.

caramel02 caramel01Caramel Brown seems to be one of the least popular colours.  There’s nothing especially wrong with it as an ink, if you like browns – but if you’re not a fan of brown inks in the first place, then this may not tempt you to the earthy side.  Ian even found it ‘sludgy‘ (in colour rather than consistency), and it’s hard to hear that as a good thing.

summer05summer02 summer04 Summer Purple returns the Kaweco ink range to popularity, with a juicy flow and a juicy colour to boot.  Mateusz found it a good performer, James enjoyed the subtle sheen, Scribble added it to the never-ending collection of Too Many Purples.  Even Ian, who is not  the world’s biggest fan of purples, thought this a good one.

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rubyred03 rubyred04Ruby Red seems to have impressed people just as much as Montblanc’s Corn-poppy Red did (we’re back to wondering about that Austrian factory again). Ian felt it had a good bit of character, while both James and Mateusz noted more than a hint of rosy magenta in the mix.

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Palm Green looks like a forest green to James or a ‘textbook’ green to Mateusz, which just goes to show the benefit of taking more than one opinion.  Ian spotted potential for quite pronounced shading, too.

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Smoky Grey is last, and probably on this occasion least, given that only two reviewers have put it to the test.  Grey is not everyone’s cup of tea, to be fair, but this one does seem to behave quite well and offer more shading interest than the average.

scribblesquaresVFM Can be something of  a challenge with this collection, to  be honest.  The bottles contain only 30ml, and are sold at ‘premium’ prices in the UK – although this is at least in part a self-inflicted exchange rate problem for us Brits to deal with. Price competition looks particularly tough when compared with our home-grown Diamine, who provide 80ml bottles of ink for little more than half the price.  Few retailers stock both brands at present, but to cite the example of one with the lowest prices for both, at the time of publication The Writing Desk were charging  a little over 7 pence per millilitre for Diamine, and 35p/ml for Kaweco ink.  That effectively knocks Kaweco inks out of consideration for everyday colours like Royal Blue, which both brands provide; even if you like the look of that sheen, it’s unlikely that many fountain pen users would consider the Kaweco version five times better than the Diamine.  But some of the highly distinctive shades such as Sunrise Orange, Paradise Blue and Smoky Grey have qualities which really make them worth seeking out, in our opinion – and they’re hardly going to break the bank!jameslakepanoramaOur overall recommendation is to choose carefully and invest in one or two of these which particularly take your fancy.  If you like purple, Summer Purple is warm and user-friendly. If you’re a turquoise fan and can stand the ink sinking-in to the paper rather enthusiastically, Paradise Blue is a lovely colour.  Ruby Red and Palm Green beat any teacher’s homework-marking ballpoint any day… and Sunrise Orange eats Apache Sunset for breakfast.  If you just want a well-behaved Austrian everyday black or royal blue, you don’t really need to spend so much; even Montblanc will provide you with twice as much ink for the same money.  But we like this collection; suffice it to say that there are several Sports, Lilliputs and at least one Supra which will now be filled with ink from the same stable for quite some time.

Thanks to Kaweco for kindly providing generous samples for this meta-review exercise.

For more reviews of the whole range see: