Tag Archives: Kaweco

Nuremberg pen show report

It’s traditional for our meta-reviews to start with a little bit of history, and it’s just as well that this isn’t one of those, as Nuremberg is quite incapable of delivering history in little bits; it provides it in great big monumental slabs.  So, let’s get the architectural introductions over with; from the Sinwell Tower, a remarkable medieval survival, you can look at pre-war and post-war photographs of the city landscape then admire the rebuilding job in front of your very own eyes. The one area which nobody was in a much of a hurry to rebuild was the parade-ground used for those 1930s rallies, but thankfully some much more positive uses have been found for that space – and last weekend your dogged United Inkdom correspondent dropped-in on two of them.

First up, of course, was a visit to Kaweco, who really have their ducks in a row – and we’re not just talking pocket ink flasks there. Michael Gutberlet, head honcho himself, gave a guided tour of facilities at Thomas Mann Strasse and Max Brod Strasse (all the roads are named after liberal German-language literary figures), and this could happily have occupied most fountain pen fans for a whole day.  Seeing the assembly and dispatch operations was interesting in itself, but the highlight was inevitably Michael’s own collection of Kaweco antiques, some stretching as far back as the 1880s.  The tray below, charting the morphology of the Sport model from 1911 onwards, is a good example of the ‘design DNA’ evolving over a century.  The solid silver prototype of the Sport which may follow next was impressively heavy too!

Raiding the pen archive also helped to solve another mystery which had plagued those of us more acquainted with English-language literature, viz why the Lilliput model is missing its second letter L.  How the mistake happened is lost to history, but just visible on the original version of this model pictured below is the engraving which shows the spelling as LILIPUT – so retaining the error is at least staying true to tradition.

A short walk north through Hans Fallada Strasse (referring to an author who has only recently been translated into English – a tragic but riveting read) was the Exhibition Centre, our main destination.  Also home to Spielwarenmesse, the annual Nuremberg toy fair, for the last few years it has hosted the marvellously-named Insights-X.  This is a diverse stationery show rather than just a pen-focused event, but there was going to be plenty to see and, just as importantly, the organisers help to get a few bloggers there too.

Part of the blogger experience is a guided tour (with translator, if needed) of a number of stands for which exhibitors wanted a brief captive audience.  For the German and Austrian calligraphers (and one British scribbler) present the relevance of wares varied, with slightly more which was aimed at the children-and-schools market than we quite knew what to do with.  But let’s be honest, who can really object to being introduced to parrot knapsacks and flamingo pencils?

Some of the big names were there in force but with displays which left one wondering quite why they had bothered; Faber-Castell had a stand big enough to contain a working café but brought nothing from the ‘Graf’ range, and Pilot showed-up with the usual glut of VPs but no FA nibs (again).  However, the guided tour included a chance to visit Online, the inconveniently-named but rather prolific German fountain pen makers.  They distributed calligraphy sets to bloggers (there may be a special meta-review of those soon, if all goes according to plan) and even had another purple ink which will feature on a certain obsessive’s blog before too long…

After the guided tour, there was just time to meet up with a few more firms who will interest United Inkdom readers.  We made further introductions to the splendid Super 5, got in touch with Turkish pen company Scrikks for the first time (reviews to follow), and got a sneaky early view of Cleo Skribent’s forthcoming Optima model – which will replace its current ebonite piston-filler next year (we will try to cover that here too, if we can get our hands on a sample).

So, there are lots of pens and products which we’ll probably be reviewing over coming months, and you’ll be seeing plenty more blog items and articles flowing as a result of the trip.  The other really good thing about this sort of experience, though, is meeting fellow enthusiasts – a real delight, even with a few language challenges to overcome.  Stand by for laboured pun… Rather like Nuremberg’s castle, the pen blogging community evidently has a deep well of talent to draw from!

Kaweco Lilliput fountain pen meta-review

A little bit of history  Are you sitting comfortably? The history here is a quite a long one. When Padraig was kidnapped by pirates and taken to slavery in Ireland – prior to his subsequent visit which, in the long run, elevated him as Saint Patrick – some accounts record that his sister Lupita was carried away with him.  Her life story is obscure indeed, but somehow legends ascribed to or connected with her found their home at the edge of Lough Ennell.  What may have been an isolated area of the now-drained bog at the edge could conceivably been named in shaky Norman French as L’Isle de Lupita, but this too is conjecture; somehow, nevertheless, the name was corrupted to Lilliput.  Many centuries later the Dean of a cathedral – St.Patrick’s Cathedral, as it happens, for in our world all things are connected – was staying by the lake when he looked across and saw tiny figures, diminished by perspective, on the far side of the shore.  According to literary legend, there an idea was born; for that Dean was none other than Jonathan Swift.A little bit more history Jonathan Swift was a rapier-sharp satirist in his time (see ‘A Modest Proposal‘ for his critique of the way some governments behave towards the poor), but his best-known work these days is a rather subtler satire on tribal folly, Gulliver’s Travels.  Lemuel Gulliver’s first port of call, of course, is Lilliput, where the people are astonishingly diminutive – around six inches in height, typically.  If the fountain pen had been available at this point, a good century and a half before its invention, the proportionate writing implement for a true Lilliputian would have been about 1cm in length.  In setting out to make an exceptionally minuscule fountain pen it is greatly to the relief of all diligent scribes that Messrs Koch, Weber and Company of Nuremberg, late of Heidelberg, aspired to virtues beyond mere portability…How it looks  Oh alright, it’s still tiny – just not quite as tiny as that! This simple metal tube (well, simple in most versions, at least) is the smallest serious fountain pen currently in production.  It looks small and, at least in basic black, inconspicuous.  Unscrew the cap, screw it onto the back to extend to the pen’s full length, and it looks a bit more like the pen concept we’re all familiar with.  Then different finishes separate the subtle from the unsubtle; the plain black aluminium gives way to flashy pink and purple versions, encounters with flame-throwers turn the stainless steel version into ‘fireblue’, and the rippled finish of the ‘brass wave’ turns a basic pipe into something which looks like it just fell out of a grandfather clock.  There’s a lot of visual variety for such a small pen.  Oddly, a typographical error misses the third ‘L’ in Lilliput from the barrel imprint, but Swift’s own spelling was so haphazard that he probably wouldn’t mind too much.

How it feels  Did we mention this thing is small?  It really feels it!  For most of our reviewers, the Lilliput is ideal for a light, unobtrusive pocket pen which does a good job of taking quick notes. One of our reviewers found it too small to do anything much with, while another actually wrote an entire examination paper with one.  This is certainly a size and shape which divides opinion quite sharply.

How it fills  There is room for a small international cartridge in the barrel, and that’s all. Kaweco’s new small converter does fit into the section, but with little free space in the barrel the piston cannot be safely pulled far enough to get more than about 0.1ml drawn up, so that’s unlikely to be helpful. Thankfully, a wide range of decent tints are available in cartridge form these days, including all ten of Kaweco’s own inks, and refilling an empty cartridge from a bottle with a syringe is fairly straightforward.

Crucially, how it writes…   As ever, that depends upon the nib you choose.  The Lilliput uses the same nib as most other small-ish Kaweco fountain pens including the Sport, Student, Special and Dia, and the whole nib, feed and collar assembly is a simple screw-fit so you can swap and change to your heart’s content.  The standard steel units are usually pretty good, and if the quality consistency is perhaps not quite as stellar as that achieved by Diplomat and Faber-Castell, the enthusiastic and friendly customer service more than makes up for it; no Kaweco pen owner is left for long without a pen they can use, in our experience. The gold-coloured nibs work similarly well, while the black-painted nibs tend to run a little drier but can be coaxed back into life by refilling with a very wet ink, such as KWZ.  If you really want to go crazy and spend more on a nib than you did on the pen, you can even fit one of the excellent gold nibs – and those are indeed not cheap, but Bock gold is very reliable.

Pen! What is it good for?  For most people, this is a trusty little  stand-by pen to write quick notes with. True eccentrics (sorry, Jam) will write reams with the thing, but it’s a free world and we love the variety!

VFM  This depends upon the finish you go for, and how far it fits your writing style.  The brass wave and ‘fireblue’ versions do take considerable expertise and time to make, and are priced quite reasonably for what they are – but perhaps only represent good value if you are actually going to use them.  The more basic aluminium  versions are incontestably good value as robust but real pocket fountain pens.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…   Buy a bigger pen.  Seriously, there is very little of comparable size and quality in the current market. There are some tiny vintage pens, which you may find if you’re lucky, and some other cheap and rather less durable pocket pens from a few other manufacturers are still around, but if you want an ultra-small pocket fountain pen which will last the distance this is probably the best option.  If you like the minimalist shape of the Lilliput and just want it scaled-up for comfort in the hand, however, you might consider its larger sibling, the Brobdingnag*.

Our overall recommendation  If you have a need for a pocket pen and are determined to avoid the wretched Ballpoints of Blefuscu, Lilliput is the destination for you.  One contributor to this meta-review’s team is returning their sample as too small for their needs, but probably a good half of our bloggers have a Lilliput tucked into a pocket somewhere.  Pick up a friend’s before you buy, test-drive one at a shop, or purchase one from a dealer you can trust to take it back if it’s just too, errm, Lilliputian for you.

Where to get hold of one  Any number of fountain pen specialist sellers – in fact, nearly all of them – carry the Lilliput. However, the purple, pink and champagne versions are only available from Mostwanted Pens.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Kaweco for helping with access to several of the Lilliputs we reviewed – some of which we couldn’t let go of.

*The Brobdingnag is now marketed as the Supra, the original Swiftian soubriquet having proved a little long even for this barrel. ‘Cracking pen, though.

Kaweco fountain pen inks review

clumsydroplets

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:

Kaweco Elite fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Kaweco got the United Inkdom meta-reviews started last year with the brilliant brass version of their timeless Sport, an instant classic if ever there was one. So the temptation came upon several of us, one by one, to try out Kaweco’s ‘premium’ offering, the Elite – and although we all played with it at different points, we had sufficient comparable (and contrasting) views to make a fresh meta-review of a Kaweco a good way to start the year too.

Kaweco tell us that this design is based on the Kaweco Special of 1940, the designs for which had been kept in the company archive and then rejuvenated by Horst Gutberlet in 1996.  The modern Kaweco range also includes a pen called the Special, which is a lot slimmer and less imposing although there continue to be some shared details, such as the milled end to the barrel.  Materials are, it’s probably fair to say, available in more ready supply now than they would may have been in 1940, so the Elite is composed in a number of staged processes – but the nib and feed, being Bock, remain definitely German.

Elite capped

How it looks  Octagonal, which  is quite cool.  With the chrome cap it has a passing resemblance to the Faber-Castell Ondoro (which came later than the Elite),  although the Ondoro uses a much smaller nib.  Unlike the minuscule nib employed by most Kawecos from Lilliput to Allrounder, the Elite sports a nice big #6 which really looks the part.

How it feels  A tiny bit like a TWSBI 580, and that’s a good thing; it’s ergonomically thought-through and very comfortable to wield, as long as you leave the cap on the table – posting is possible, but it rather knocks the balance off.

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How it fills  This is a fairly standard cartridge/converter number, although in a nice touch Kaweco supply not only a a good converter, but a spring to hold it firmly in place and stop any rattling-about in the pocket.  We like those thoughtful details.

Crucially, how it writes…  As ever, much depends upon which nib you go for.  The standard Bock steel nib is perfectly decent, if not really special – competent, rather than elite.  The gold nib is 14k so has plenty of spring to it, and it feels much more luxurious  (if you like that sort of thing).

Elite review in progress

Pen! What is it good for?  This has got to be one for flashing about in the office, hasn’t it? Certain other highly-prized (and highly-priced) German brands don’t look nearly as cool…

VFM  Now this one’s a bit tougher.  With the standard steel nib, it’s a fairly expensive proposition for what is a well-made and handsome but not exactly extraordinary pen. With the gold nib, which comes at a rather inflated RRP (close to £140), the overall package would comes to over £200 – and even for a pen as lovely as this is, that’s a rather challenging proposition.  In future we think it ought to be possible – perhaps by trimming retail margins a little and switching to JoWo for the nibs – to sell the Elite with a gold nib fitted for quite a bit less than that, and we’re talking that over with Kaweco and see what can be done.

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If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  As noted above, the body does have some stylistic similarities with the Faber-Castell Ondoro, although that is fitted with a smaller nib.  Alternatively, if you just want a well-made plastic pen with a good German steel nib, you could do a lot worse than a TWSBI 580AL; the current retail price of the Elite would cover two of those plus a couple of bottles of decent ink.  If you love the looks of the Elite, want a gold nib, and can’t justify the price of the Bock, you could just pick up an alternative #6 gold JoWo from FPnibs.com – which as well as being more affordable is available in a wider range of point/tip size options.

Our overall recommendation  This is a handsome, well-made pen which looks good on the desk and does the job competently with a steel nib, although we think the recommended retail price is a getting a bit high. With a gold nib, it’s a really lovely writer, but that’s harder to obtain at the moment, so our advice would be to buy one direct from the Kaweco-run direct-selling site Mostwanted  (the one place where you can buy the Elite with a gold nib fitted, at the moment) or transplant a third-party #6 .

Steel nib close-up

Where to get hold of one  Some of the UK specialist retailers, e.g. Cult Pens and Andy’s Pens, stock the Elite, although it’s certainly harder to find than the famous Sport.  If you want the ‘official’ gold nib then Mostwanted is your only option at present, but suitable #6 alternatives are available from a number of sources.

This meta-reviews references:

The blunt end

Thanks to Kaweco for getting some test samples to us – especially the gold nib, which we couldn’t have got hold of otherwise.  Two of us liked the Elite so much we bought one!