Tag Archives: fountain pen review

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

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.

Twiss Pens ‘Green Lizard’ fountain pen review

A little bit of history The process of making cellulose acetate (the barrel and cap material of this pen) dates back to 1865.  Whilst not quite as old, this pen is made from materials rescued from a château in Le Mans that were made in the 1930s-40s. The pen has been expertly crafted by John Twiss of Twiss Pens (see the recent profile piece on United Inkdom) from a mixture of this material, ebonite for the grip and a black acrylic for the finials.Lizard posted

How it looks Like a reptile all dressed up for a night out at a 1970s-themed nightclub, the spiral pattern is sure to impress even those who don’t take to green in general. The black finials give a modern look & complement the pen nicely, and the clip is short & functional giving the pen a retro vintage feel (although this pen could definitely pull off something fancier). The striped ebonite grip section complements the lizard skin nicely and stops it from being overpowering. It is finished beautifully and whilst the pen is branded it is very subtle.Green-Lizard-acrylic-join

How it feels This is a very light pen, only 17g capped and filled but the balance on the pen is excellent. Despite being rather thin, it is comfortable in hand and is long enough to remain suitably usable even though it doesn’t post. The slightly shaped ebonite grip section is comfortable to hold and all the materials feel superb. We couldn’t figure out exactly how many times you needed to turn the cap to remove it, but it’s unlikely to swivel-off without a deliberate effort.

Polymers2
Polymers explained, using the 1.1mm nib

How it fills The pen takes a standard international cartridge or the supplied Schmidt converter – just be careful not to pull too hard, as it screws-in to the grip section. The converter isn’t going to come loose in a hurry either.Green-Lizard-clip-and-cap

Crucially, how it writes… The pen fits a #6 JoWo nib, and it was supplied with a fine nib which was buttery smooth, a medium nib which was great, if a bit broader than expected and a 1.1mm nib that gave plenty of line variation and a smooth writing experience. JoWo nibs tend to be consistently good and if you want something special then it is always possible to fit a gold nib, something this pen probably deserves.

RuthWritingFnib
Putting the F nib through its paces

Pen! What is it good for? Possibly not the best pen if you need to grab it quickly for jotting down a quick note, but for long writing sessions this is a gem. Definitely not a pen to be kept in the dark, this is a fancy pen but with an air of sophistication so it needs to be used.

The M nib, busy looking reptilian

VFM This is a one-of-a-kind pen.  John lovingly crafts each pen by hand, and based on the quality of finish this one is up to his usual high standards. You can buy cheaper pens, or even get pens at this price with a gold nib, but nothing that looks quite this special – so it still ticks our good-value-for-money box!

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… Just pop John an email and discuss what you like and don’t like in a pen.  The waiting list is long, but it’s for a good reason.

Green-Lizard-nib
The 1.1mm italic nib, about to snap-up a passing dragonfly for supper

Our overall recommendation Twiss pens are admired by all of us due to the high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail. This pen is excellent to use and looks very special, it even has a bit of history attached. No-one wanted to give this one away however…

Where to get hold of one This is a one-of-a-kind pen, but if you want to commission something like it, the place to go is John’s  website.

Rarely seen in the wild, this green lizard requires a special licence to be kept as a domestic pen.

This meta-review references:

Thanks to John Twiss for making us (and one lucky winner) this amazing pen. Drop John a line and we are sure that he will be more than happy to craft you your own Twiss gem.

Giveaway  We did something a little special for this very special pen, asking would-be owners to leave here on this review as well as visiting our individual sites.  The competition has now closed and we’ve identified a winner!  Eric, we’ll be in touch to get your delivery details…

Profile of John Twiss

Meeting-Mr-Twiss

A couple of years after taking early retirement, in search of something to do, John Twiss splurged out on an ancient lathe and some firewood, spent a week “producing some smaller bits of … round firewood”, came across a video of someone making a pen and decided to give it a go himself. That was five years ago and I think it’s safe to say that John is now the UK’s premier maker of handmade custom pens.

John’s based at Sherwood Forest Art and Craft Centre on the edge of that famous and ancient woodland. His studio is full of beautiful pens in every stage of completeness, from blocks of resin, wood or casein to the finished article. He can make pens from almost anything… although he did once turn down a request to create a pen from someone’s brother’s ashes.

Twiss-Patriotic-Acrylic-fountain-pen-cap

John doesn’t use any computer-aided machinery, making all his pens by hand on manual lathes. An individual pen can take up to a few days to make. If you’re interested, and in the Nottinghamshire area, you can stop by to see how it’s done.

Workshop

Although many pre-made pens are available through the website you really need to take advantage of John’s ability to make a pen to your exact requirements, using (almost, see above) any material you like, including Irish Bog Oak or custom-cast resin, in any shape, with or with a clip, using a range of nibs . . . well, you can see how this can get addictive.

 

Twiss-Marmalade-capped

None of this would matter if the finished product wasn’t good but the quality is in fact outstanding. Between us, your United Inkdom correspondents have bought or reviewed upwards of ten Twiss pens and they have all been exceptional.

You can follow John on https://twitter.com/twisspens and browse his  website here.

We will soon be reviewing, and then giving away, a very special handmade Twiss pen, so check back soon for details!

Twiss-Green-Lizard-clip-and-cap

Edison Collier

Edison-Collier-review

A little bit of history Edison Pens is based in Milan, Ohio and was founded in 2007 by Brian and Andrea Gray, in their garage. The company is named after Thomas Edison who was also born in Milan, Ohio and some of their pen models are named after people or locations related to him. They produce a range of ‘Signature Line’ pens which are completely custom made and cover a large range of models, including some unusual and fascinating filling mechanisms. The Collier is part of their ‘Production Line’ range, available in the UK exclusively from The Writing Desk. Production Line pens are more affordable than the Signature Line range but come without customisation options.

How it looks This is a fine-looking pen. Between us we were able to look at the Persimmon Swirl (bought by Rob with his very own money) and the Blue Steel (loaned to us by The Writing Desk). Both acrylics are gorgeous. The shape is both original and classic – a tough combination to pull off.

22bbbf24b73cfaec7825386eb31ac5be0ff66229-7

How it feels The barrel is quite wide but tapers to a much slimmer section. This makes for a pen that’s very comfortable in the hand, particularly as it combines both a light weight and good length. It doesn’t really post. (It’s possible but a little precarious.)

How it fills It’s a standard cartridge/converter pen but it’s possible to use it as an eye-dropper too. If you choose the latter option you can fill it with enough ink to last a lifetime.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 13.31.19

Crucially, how it writes… The Collier uses a JoWo nib engraved with Edison’s bulb/nib logo. We were able to try out a few different steel nibs and they were all lovely (although one needed a little adjustment first). JoWo make great steel nibs but if gold is your thing, then that’s an option on the Collier too.

Edison-Collier-nib-and-shaped-section

Pen! What is it good for? Whatever you want, really. It’s a pen that would look great adorning your desk but it’s a pen that’s been made to be used.

VFM This isn’t a cheap pen but it’s been made to a high standard. You’re getting a pen that’s been made to custom-pen quality but at a much-reduced cost, which in our eyes makes the Collier good value.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… If the Collier is almost your perfect pen but not quite then it might be worth looking into Edison’s ‘Signature Line’ and customising the basic model to make it exactly what you want. Alternatively Edison have a couple of other models available in the ‘Production Line’ range.

Our overall recommendation We love this pen! It writes well, looks beautiful and is made with obvious care and attention to detail.

Where to get hold of one If you’re in the UK then The Writing Desk is the only place you can get one. If you’re elsewhere then Edison has a list of distributors on their website.

This meta-reviews references:

136 Edison Collier

Thanks to The Writing Desk for giving us the opportunity to try out this pen. None of us wanted to send it back!

Yard-O-Led Viceory Grand Victorian Fountain Pen

nib and cap 2

A little bit of history  Yard-O-Led have been making writing instruments, primarily of the mechanical pencil persuasion, since 1822. Although fountain pens are a relatively recent development, all that experience and craftsmanship counts for a lot. We wrote a profile of Yard-O-Led quite recently.

The pen, and the box it comes in

How it looks  Oh my goodness this is a fine looking pen. All of the almost 200 years of knowledge has gone into the designing and the crafting of this pen. The cap and barrel are made from hallmarked sterling silver and the pattern is painstakingly applied by hand. The effect is one of the utmost quality that celebrates the heritage of the company. This is a pen that looks as if it has been around for a hundred years and feels as if it will be around for a hundred more.

Yard-O-Led-Grand-Viceroy-Victorian-hallmark

How it feels  This is not a light pen; it’s made from solid silver after all. However the balance is such that it doesn’t feel too heavy in the hand. Silver is quite a warm metal, too. There’s more than comfort though – when you hold this pen, the size (it’s big) and the weight combine to the overall feeling of quality. The section is metal, of course, which doesn’t suit everyone, but its contour aids grip and reduces the likelihood of slipperiness.

Yard-O-Led-Grand-Viceroy-Victorian-cap

How it fills  It’s a standard international cartridge/converter affair. The supplied converter isn’t anything special but is perfectly functional.

nib and cap

Crucially, how it writes…  The rhodium-plated 18k nib is firm and very smooth. Between us we’ve been able to try all three of the available options (fine, medium and broad) and have enjoyed them all.

Yard-O-Led screenshot

Pen! What is it good for?   This is not a pen for throwing in your pocket when you’re off to the beach. It is a pen to keep and cherish and use and pass on to your favourite child to keep and cherish and use and pass on again. It’s a pen to appreciate and admire.

VFM  This is a very expensive pen. It’s impossible to say definitively whether it offers value for money or not. The important question is: is this pen worth it to you? We all feel the same: we would buy this pen in a moment, if we had the money.hallmarks2

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Yard-O-Led make two smaller (the pocket and the standard) pens too, if you love this design but would prefer something less…grand… (and a little more affordable, relatively speaking).  There are also one or two other purveyors of silver fountain pens starting to come onto the market which we hope to explore in coming months.

mirror 2

Our overall recommendation  This is a gorgeous pen. It’s a work of art  which is also wonderful to write with. If you are in the market for a pen to last for generations, this is a pen you should seriously consider.

Where to get hold of one  From some of your favourite online stockists or direct from Yard-O-Led themselves.

whole pen

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to Yard-O-Led for giving us the opportunity to try out this pen. None of us wanted to send it back, so we’re glad they trusted us!

mirror 4

Dex big ‘soft’ pens

A little bit of history  The Pen Shop have been going since 1858 or thereabouts, but it didn’t quite take that long to produce this meta-review.  In fact, we’ve already reviewed the younger sibling of the Dex and it passed with flying colours, so to follow-up the Pen Shop profile from last week it was the natural place to go next.

How it looks  Nicely rounded.  It’s a straightforward, simple and pretty classic shape.  So it immediately competes with the styling of many popular pens, and that’s a good thing – it looks like a fountain pen ought to.    The body is made by Helit, who own the Diplomat brand – so they know their stuff.

Dex acid green

How it feels  Warm and nicely textured; it’s light plastic, and not especially squishy but it does indeed feel fairly ‘soft’.Ruth's pink Dex

How it fills  This is one of those designs which takes two small ‘international’ cartridges, and indeed two are provided with each pen – but it will also thandle a converter quite comfortably.  NB long Waterman cartridges have a bit of a habit of getting stuck.

Crucially, how it writes…  Tucked-away into that plain black section is a Bock nib, and the standard M is a real treat, as you’d expect from the same stable as Diplomat really.  It readily competes with any other similarly-priced starter pen, and at least two of our reviewing team have had one ‘borrowed’ by our better halves because it wrote so nicely.  F, B italic and left-handed nibs are also available, but at the moment only in person at Pen Shop branches – a bit less convenient, but it does make it easier to make sure you get a nice smooth one again.  A prototype purple nib also came our way; there’s no word yet on whether that’s joining the range, but it’s getting lots of attention already.  There’s also a left-handed nib (presumably known as the Sin).

F and M nibs side-by-side

Pen! What is it good for?   We’re often asked (particularly via the Fountain Pens UK Facebook group) for starter pen recommendations, and usually the same two stand-by solutions come up; the Lamy Safari and the Pilot MR (or Metropolitan, in some markets). But this as Rob pointed out in his comprehensive review (link below), that’s a hotly-contested niche, and to it we now need to add the Dex.  The standard Dex M nib is impressively smooth, it looks good and is uncomplicated to use, it’s cheaper by far than the MR, and unlike the Safari uses cartridges which are available everywhere.  That’s not to say that the other two are bad pens – far from it – but this is arguably a safer, and more interesting, place to start.  The Dex is robust enough to put up with some demanding professional purposes, too – and has been seen marking huge piles of homework, for instance.

VFM  The big Dex is extremely good value for money at £12, and exceeds in quality anything you’re likely to find in a high street stationery shop for that sort of money. It’s not a luxury pen, of course, and you may find the odd bit of extruded plastic which needs smoothing-off or even, very occasionally, a less than perfect nib, but the key strength is that despite being a budget pen it’s backed up by strong customer service; if you’re unlucky and a duffer gets through, The Pen Shop just whizz into action and replace it without further ado.  The range of colours has something for all tastes, and to get a good Bock nib at this price is definitely not to be sneezed at.

A prototype Uber-Dex with metal section (borrowed from the Manuscript Master) and experimental purple nib

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Well, if the medium-sized proportions of the Dex by Kingsley Plum Smooth Soft Fountain Pen don’t appeal – even if it takes the best part of a week to say the name out loud – you could try the shorter Dex by Kingsley Purple Compact Soft Fountain Pen.  The names could perhaps do with some shortening too, but essentially it’s the same proposition in a slightly more compact body.  If you like either size of Dex but fancy a different nib, work is under way to make that possible, we’re told; it’s a pity that swaps can only be carried-out at Pen Shop shops at the moment, but on the plus side at least there’s no extra charge for the service.

Our overall recommendation  For this money, you can’t go wrong really.  For the person in your life who finds your interest in fountain pens hard to understand, this is a simple way to reel them in.

Where to get hold of one  From a branch of The Pen Shop, their website or the new Penwrite project, where there’s an introductory 10% discount offer at the moment.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to Hannah and Louise at The Pen Shop for getting some Dex samples out to us.

If you’d like to win one then Ian put together a tempting ‘starter kit’ including both sizes of Dex, with double the chance of winning by leaving comments before here and there. That competition has now closed, but Ruth is also giving one away  via her Instagram channel!

Pelikan M120 fountain pen review

A little bit of history  This special edition harks back half a century, apparently to a school pen originally.  It won’t be around for too long, we suspect…

How it looks  It looks distinctly vintage, which is probably the intention.  One for those who prefer understated class rather than in-your-face bling, for sure, but it does stand out from modern designs.Pelikan M120 profile

How it feels  Based on the M200 (from which it borrows its mechanicals and proportions), this is a very light pen, even when full of ink.  It still feels fairly robustly constructed, nevertheless.  This is a small pen in terms of length, which also has an unusually narrow section; whether that’s desirable is very much a matter of personal taste.

How it fills  This is fitted with Pelikan’s rightly famed piston mechanism, which shouldn’t raise any concerns.  In an emergency, you can also unscrew the nib and pour in some ink from syringe or pipette, eyedropper-style.  The barrel holds enough for everyday purposes, and includes an ink window so there’s adequate warning when you’re running low.

Pelikan-M120-ink-window

Crucially, how it writes…  Well enough, for most.  This is a gold-plated steel nib with some rather nice engraved squiggles on it, and it has a bit of ‘bounce’ as well as the usual Pelikan smoothness.  The unit we tested doesn’t always work happily with all inks, and even some of Pelikan’s own ink was a bit dry.

Pen! What is it good for?   Vintage enthusiasts, we imagine, and especially those who aren’t concerned about getting a gold nib and want something which looks distinctly different from many modern pens.M120 RuthVFM  £120 is not too bad for an unusual and well-made pen like this, we think.  It’s possible to get a piston-filling fountain pen with a gold nib for the same sort of money, it’s true, but it’s unlikely to have quite these distinctive looks.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Buy it anyway – there’s very little immediate competition, other than vintage Pelikans.Pelikan M120 writing sampleOur overall recommendation  If this floats your boat, don’t delay – it looks unlikely to be around for ever.  But if you just want a small Pelikan and would rather not pay quite so much, a standard M200 is also worth considering.

Where to get hold of one  Pelikan specials go to Pelikan specialists.  As Pure Pens lent us this test unit, naturally enough we’d suggest that as a first port of call.  We know that The Writing Desk, Cult Pens and Andy’s Pens also have M120s in too – although at the time of writing one of these retailers had already run out stock!Pelikan-M120-nibThis meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Pure Pens for lending us the M120 – they still have just a few left.

Noodler’s Ahab fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Back in the heyday of the flex nib, one that flexed as readily as a slice of soggy pasta was known as a ‘wet noodle’ (whereas non-flex piston-fillers were, of course, dry fusilli).  Then, many years later, a nice chap by the name of Nathan Tardiff started making inks designed to work well in a flex nib, and decided to claim all the enterprise as one for Noodler’s everywhere.  Well, fair enough – we’ll feature some of those inks next week.  But one thing led to another and sooner or later a few pens to accompany those inks were, surely, inevitable. There’s quite a range of these Noodler’s pens now, but the model we’ve all tried is the Moby-Dick themed Ahab.Ahab blue2How it looks  A large rounded-end pen with a clip which faintly resembles a whale floating on the sea’s surface, about to dive.  The demonstrator versions are translucent rather than transparent, and there are some marbled opaque versions available now too.

How it feels  Big, but not uncomfortably so, and the resin is usually warm to the touch. For flexing purposes the grip is about right, even if the body is perhaps a little light; all the down-force is going have come from your own muscles.Ahab writing sample blueHow it smells This is admittedly an unusual category for a United Inkdom meta-review to consider, but in this case we’d probably be ignoring the elephant in the room if we didn’t mention the Ahab’s distinctive olfactory appeal.  Actually, it’s not so much an elephant in the room as a goose – it honks.  There is just no ignoring the distinctive whiff of the vegetal resin used to make the Ahab (and several other of the Noodler’s pens), and it seems to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it things.  Ross at Pure pens has got used to it, but tells us he always knows which part of his stock-room he’s in because the Ahab draw is detectable even with his eyes shut.  Ian finds it so objectionable that he’d be embarrassed to turn up with such malodorous matter at meetings.  It’s a hard aroma to describe but imagine, if you will, a rubber sack of forest fruits that’s been left out in the sun for a couple of days.  It does fade over time, and inexplicably some of us actually rather like it.  There is also the odd distinction that, alongside the recycle-ready steel fitments, the rest of the pen is biodegradable – although why you’d want to do that to a pen we can’t imagine.  Still, it’s not a plume-perfume for everyone, it’s fair to say.

How it fills  The Ahab comes fitted with a proprietary syringe-style piston.  This is simple to use and has an impressive capacity, so it’s a good way to get started.  Once you find an ink you want to write with all the time, it’s a fairly straightforward job to convert the barrel to an ‘eye-dropper’; Pure Pens also sell the o-rings recommended to make the seal watertight, and the ink capacity which results is huge, even if – like all eye-droppers – the price to pay is the occasional ink-burp on the page.Ruth's Ahab

Crucially, how it writes…  The best reason – and honestly, probably the only reason – to reach for an Ahab is in order to try your hand at flex writing without the experiment costing you a fortune.  This it achieves quite comfortably.  The nib is semi-flex really, but it’s a good introduction to the process of generating line variation with differential pressure, and unlike exotic gold flex nibs it’s cheap enough that you can afford to give it some abuse while you’re putting it through its paces.  The results can be rather impressive, once you get used to it!  These days a lot of Ahabs are despatched with a non-flex nib included too, which is a considerate touch even if it’s a bit pointless really; if you want a non-flex nib, there are plenty of other choices out there in this price range.

Pen! What is it good for?  It’s great for trying a flex nib for the first time.  Once you’ve got the bug and started moving on to posher flex nibs, as is quite likely (be warned!), it’s good for jotting shopping lists and the like.Ahab honeyVFM  Even if it should really come with a free nose-peg, this is impressively inexpensive for what it does. Only FPR flex options really compete.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then have a look at the many flex-nibbed models available from FountainPenRevolution.  Some of those are a little ‘aromatic’ too, but starting flex the affordable way makes good sense.Ahab writing sample purpleOur overall recommendation  If you’ve always wondered what the flex fuss is all about, don’t want to spend a fortune, and aren’t too particular about your choice of cologne, go for it.

Where to get hold of one  Naturally we’d recommend heading to Pure Pens, the sole ‘proper’ UK stockist – if for some reason they don’t have the colour you’re after, they’re happy to order in more stock too.  Ebay is also a useful import source at times, but the waiting times can drag rather.Ahab purple2

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Pure Pens for lending Ruth an Ahab and selling Scribble one too.