Tag Archives: Platinum

Platinum Classic inks

A little bit of history  For anyone who’s just survived the British summer, it can be hard to believe that wasps do anything useful at all; the big ones ruin picnics and the tiny ones kill bees. But as it happens, some of those very small wasps inadvertently serve a human purpose by making nests on the surface of the sturdy oak tree – because those ‘iron galls’ in turn provide the source material for a permanent ink formula recipe used since Pliny the Elder. Pliny Senior unfortunately failed to describe the formula in sufficient detail before the eruption of Vesuvius did for him, but patient scribes have been perfecting it ever since. When it works well, it can preserve documents for millennia.  When it goes wrong and the ink gets too acidic, it can eat the writing surface – and it has form for eating fountain pens too, so it’s a brave manufacturer who ventures into this market.  But Diamine, KWZ and Rohrer and Klingner have found ways to make the recipe safe, and now Platinum have come along with no less than six shades of iron gall ink to get creative with. The United Inkdom team set out to put it to the test – said team including a chemist, a calligrapher and two historians, so there was no fear of punches being pulled.

How it looks  This changes in the first minute that it spends on the paper – it goes on quite bright, especially the Citrus and Cassis varieties, then quickly darkens as it oxidises.  None of the shades darken all the way to black, so the naming convention (Lavender Black, Forest Black, etc.) is a little misleading, but the transformation from light to dark is impressive – and rather fascinating to watch.

How it smells  Now let’s be honest, not all specialist inks are terribly pleasant to the nose . This one requires a chemical reaction to work, which you can actually see in front of your eyes, as the video below demonstrates – and as this ink is not pigment-based, it’s not technically watching paint dry.  But despite all that exciting stuff going on, there’s nothing malodorous to report.  Phew.

Crucially, how it writes…  Perfectly well! It’s perhaps just a touch drier than some ‘standard’ fountain pen inks, but a decent fountain pen can handle it with ease.  Given that this is still a permanent ink and even the new, gentler, formula has some acidity to it, a fountain pen which doesn’t dry out too easily is a wise choice (one of Platinum’s own #3776 models is a good place to start), and of course it’s worth giving it a good flush out after a few days with iron gall ink in there.  But you can pop it into the barrel of your ‘serious nibbage’ without too much fear of damage.

Ink! What is it good for?  As Nick capably demonstrates, it’s great for calligraphy.  Since it’s an iron gall ink it should be acceptable if you’re signing a marriage register, and as it’s permanent it should do for addressing the wedding invitations too (the ink is partially washable, but even if it gets rained on the text will still be legible).  Lavender Black, which seems to be the consensus pick of the bunch, could be good for one’s secret diary (you have one of those, right?). Or you could just have fun with them, like we did!VFM  These are not cheap inks, it has to be admitted; £22 will buy you a fairly respectable fountain pen these days, after all. But some of Platinum’s ‘Classic’ colours are really easy on the eye – and if you are using this for a special event, it’s not going to be that big a dent in the stationery budget.

The ink is partially washable, but the text remains legible

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  If you just need an iron gall ink and aren’t too concerned by the traditional blue-grey shade, then standard registrar’s ink will inevitably be quite a bit less expensive, and there’s plenty of that about (try Diamine). There are also other coloured iron gall inks available, usually at a lower price, from KWZ and Rohrer & Klingner.  Alternatively, if you’re a Platinum fan and just need something permanent, some of their pigment-based inks aren’t bad and their carbon ink is amongst the blackest of the black.Our overall recommendation  We think these are pretty impressive inks, and conjure up a wider and more interesting palette than iron gall formulae can usually manage. If you have a sensible use for a permanent ink and fancy something a bit different, a 60ml bottle will do the job well.  Given the significant cost our tip is to pick one or two which really take your fancy rather than going straight for the whole set.Where to get hold of some  We got ours direct from Cult Pens, and that’s a good place to start – they are the official Platinum dealers for the UK, and as it happens it’s where many of us have acquired our #3776s from too.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Cult Pens for donating the review samples.

Platinum PTL-5000 fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Those unfamiliar with British cuisine (stop sniggering at the back!) may not have come across the strange substance that is Marmite – a ‘yeast extract’, (a brewing by-product, in other words) with a pungent flavour when spread on toast which divides opinion straight down the line; people either love it or hate it.  Platinum, a Japanese brand whose attempts to bring affordable quality to the market have already met with our attention a couple of times, tried to produce a budget gold nibbed-pen, and it’s fair to say that the result is, well, a Marmite proposition.PTL

How it looks  This is built down to a price, and the impression given is that looks were not a high priority.  It’s boring and black, frankly – although those unassuming looks do mean that no-one’s likely to think there’s a gold nib worth pilfering hidden in there.

How it feels  Light and small.  Again, making a gold nib affordable was the overriding consideration so no more material has been expended on the body than the minimum required to make a functional pen.  This is something of a disappointment when you’ve picked up a Plaisir and know that Platinum can make good metal bodies on a budget too, but if you like a slender pen which doesn’t take much effort to wield it should be ideal.PTL-5000-nib

How it fills  Platinum cartridges or their sturdy converter – no problems there.

Crucially, how it writes…  Now this all depends on whether you like Marmite!  If you’re an enthusiast for all things gold in the nib department and like a bit of tooth with a just a touch of springiness, you’ll love it.  But if you’re used to the smoothness of a ‘premium’ Platinum nib and prefer nibs to be either definitely stiff or definitely flexy, you’ll possibly hate it.  There really is no in-between; Scribble likes his so much that it’s become one of this ‘everyday carry’ pens, and Ian was so unimpressed that he tried to send it back whence it came.PTL writing sample

Pen! What is it good for?  Obviously this too depends upon your stance vis-a-vis the aforementioned yeast extract, but if you like it, it’s great for jotting notes when out and about. If you don’t like it, it’s probably not a lot of use for anything in particular, to be honest.

VFM  As this was the point of the exercise, value for money is rather good; there are, let’s be fair, no other ready-to-write pens with a gold nib which can be bought new for as little as £45. Whether it presents good value to you personally depends… well, we’re back to the Marmite thing again here.Ruth reviewing the PTL

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  If you just want to experience a really good gold nib from Platinum, our advice is to save up a bit more cash and go for a #3776.  If you desire a new Japanese pen with a gold nib and can stretch the budget to just £10 more, some of Pilot’s Capless and Custom 74 models can usually be picked up for about that sum via ‘grey import’ channels (you know the ones we mean). Alternatively, if you want a really good gold nib and have a TWSBI to hand (which you surely do!), you can spend your £45 on JoWo gold replacement from FPnibs, and that will probably impress you far more than the PTL’s variable love-it-or-hate-it performance.

Our overall recommendation  We think this has been designed and finished to fit a tight budget, and while that’s a fine example of what Japanese lean production methods can achieve, the limitations of the design (and perhaps some inconsistent quality control) mean that it won’t be everyone’s dream choice. So if you can, try one before you commit to  buying it; there is just a chance, of course, that you’ll love it!PTL-close-up

Where to get hold of one  There are relatively few UK purveyors of this particular delicacy, and the only fountain pen specialist retailer we know who stocks it is Cult Pens; because of the risk of you loving it or hating it, we’d recommend a retailer with their good customer service if you do want to take the plunge.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Cult Pens for getting some review samples to us – and sharing our varied tastes in toast-topping condiments.

Platinum #3776 fountain pen review

A little bit of history  It’s Winter Solstice today, so Happy Saturnalia/Yule/etcetera to all our readers.  One of the traditions on both solstices is to climb a tall hill in order to watch the sun come up, and if you were doing this in Japan the tallest available would be Mount Fuji, standing at 3776 metres high, which seems a perfectly reasonable excuse to review the Japanese pen named after it.   They’ve been making a whole series of models named the #3776 since 1978, so it’s about time we got around to it!

There’s a nib and a half – or two and half tines, at least!

How it looks  That all depends upon what edition you opt for!  The original version had one of those sci-fi style ribbed bodies supposedly intended to avoid sweat building up on your hand as you write, but we haven’t managed to bag one of those yet.  More recent versions, labelled as part of the ‘Century’ series, have an inner slip cap to prevent the feed drying out but also have much more visible differences in the colour and transparency of the plastic (and, more recently the trim).  But all of them look professionally-executed and are certainly not going to shame a posh fountain pen collection – we’re a bit split over which looks most gorgeous, but one of the Francophone Chartres or Bourgogne numbers is probably going to claim the prize.

Chartres
Chartres in gold trim

How it feels  Not enormous, but not too small either- this is just about the right size of pen for everyday writing, for most of us.  As a mostly plastic pen it’s not too heavy, and what weight there is pulls down where you want it to, at the business end.

writing samples SF
Writing sample with Soft Fine nib

How it fills  Either Platinum’s own cartridges (also available with pigment ink, which you can use fairly safely in the Century versions), or a simple and reliable converter.

Writing with the Fine nib

Crucially, how it writes…  That all depends on which nib you aim for – and there’s quite a range.  The standard F, M and B gold nibs are all pretty good as long as your luck holds; it is not completely unknown for a scratchy one to get past quality control, but as long as you buy from a Platinum-recognised dealer replacements are usually handled swiftly.  If you have a taste for the more exotic, the SF and SM nibs are nicely springy (and offer a little bit of line variation too), and the #3776 offers what is by common consent the best Music nib there is, its three tines supplying enough ink to scribble all over the place with – or even compose that symphony you’ve been meaning to get around to if only you could find the right pen, presumably.

cap detail
The internal cap is spring-loaded to provide an airtight seal around the nib and feed.

Pen! What is it good for?  The nib and trim options are so extensive that the uses range all the way from artistic accoutrements to business-friendly ‘daily drivers’.  Despite looking positively dainty in some guises, the #3776 is quite robust and will survive the travails of popping in and out of the briefcase if you want something a bit fun at work.

Have you really not started lusting after the music nib yet?

VFM  Reasonable, given the interesting range of nibs and thoughtful execution of the cap and body.  These are not the cheapest pens out there, and declining to provide any non-gold nib options does limit the potential to provide a more affordable way in – but then again, at least one major Japanese manufacturer will try to charge you twice as much for a pen of the same quality when it comes to putting nib to paper.

writing sample Music
Are you feeling composed?

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then it may be worth a look at the #3776’s slightly bigger sibling, the President, which offers the same robust quality, even if the nib range appears more limited at present.  Or, if you like this size and just want to consider other Japanese pens, you could do a lot worse to consider the Pilot Custom 74.

Now that’s just showing off really, isn’t it?

Our overall recommendation  If you’re a fairly serious fountain pen enthusiast, your collection is arguably incomplete without one of these (although four is a bit excessive, naming no names!).  Explore the range of nib options carefully and then go for it; we’ve got seven or eight of them between us… that ought to give you a clue.

writing sample SM
Writing sample with the SM nib

Where to get hold of one  There are some decent discounts from Japanese direct sellers, but if you’re unlucky and get one of the scratchy nibs you may not have much recourse. The Platinum officially-recognised retailer in the UK is Cult Pens, and on this occasion we’d honestly advise starting your search with them.

writing samples M
Writing sample with the standard Medium nib

This meta-reviews references:

Black Diamond (a slightly translucent black) in chrome trim

Thanks to  Cult Pens for providing some of these pens at a discount (and swapping a few nibs around) to allow us to cover the full range.

Chartres CT, B nib
The Chartres body in chrome trim, with a B nib

Platinum Plaisir fountain pen review

A little bit of history By now most of us have come across or used a Platinum Preppy – it has that smooth nib and a well-earned reputation for great value for money.  There is, however, no getting away from the cheap feel that the pen has, particularly due to the printed barrel.  The Plaisir is the natural next step up, and it’s been recently updated by removing the matching coloured nibs, giving it a more professional look.Red Plaisir profile

How it looks  There is a wide choice of colours available and we were each sent a different one to take a look at.  The cap and barrel has a nice sheen to it, and the grip section is translucent allowing you to see the ink flowing through to the nib.  Whether you like this combination or not is a matter of taste, but there are definitely members of each of our households that have a keen eye on this pen.

Silver Plaisir profile

How it feels  For an inexpensive pen we all felt it was well built.  It’s a very lightweight pen with a secure seal on the cap.

Blue Plaisir profile

How it fills  This can either be used with dedicated Platinum cartridges or with a Platinum converter which needs to be purchased separately.

Platinum Plaisir nib

Crucially, how it writes…  The Plaisir is available with either a 0.5mm or 0.3mm nib. Great writing experiences were had by us all with both nib sizes.  It wrote very, very smoothly. This pen costs less than £10 … for this price we haven’t had a better writing experience.

Plaisir in action

Pen! What is it good for?  A great starter fountain pen which will give users a pleasurable experience, and an everyday workhorse for daily duties.Plaisir writing sample

VFM  Well … the question almost doesn’t need answering.  It’s fantastic value for money.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  You won’t find better for the bucks!  If it’s a little too ‘sparkly’ for your tastes you could look at the Lamy Safari range or the Faber Castell Basic, but you will have to part with a few more Pounds for these two.  It is Christmas soon,  however, and for that reason sparkle should always be welcomed!

0.3 nib

Our overall recommendation  Go for it.  Whether you are looking to buy a gift for a friend at Christmas who is starting out, or just looking for a good writing experience in a pen you wouldn’t worry too much about if it was ‘accidentally’ picked up by a colleague or family member.Champagne Plaisir& ink

Where to get hold of one  We got our models from Cult Pens, who are one of a few on-line retailers here in the UK offering this model.

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Cult Pens for providing us with samples and ink for this review.

Platinum Carbon Pen review

A little bit of history One day in the 1920s, Hungarian journalist László József Bíró was musing on the strange properties of newspaper printing ink, which could adhere to any sort of paper and dried quickly. Naturally enough, he tried putting some in a fountain pen, but it gummed up the feed and he got nowhere. So, he tinkered and tweaked and redesigned the old ink pencil with a rotating sphere applicator, and thus the ballpoint was born… and generations of children didn’t learn to write properly. Hey ho, these things happen. Now though, thanks to a bit of a breakthrough from Platinum, we know that Bíró just exercised his admirable creativity in the wrong direction, opting for mechanical engineering when chemical engineering would have done just fine. The Carbon Ink is permanent, fast-drying and writes on almost anything, and Platinum have produced a pen to go with it – which can supposedly withstand any propensity to carboniferously pigmentoid agglomerations (or ‘sticky stuff’ as we call it technically). Three of us decided to put the Carbon Pen to the test.How it looks It’s long; very, very, long. ‘Slim, too. It looks classy with its shiny black barrel and gold accents. Sat in the desk holder (an optional extra) it looks very sophisticated and is, perhaps intentionally, reminiscent of a quill. The included temporary cap, though, is an ugly hexagonal thing which is best disposed of quickly – the best thing that can be said about it is that it’s very functional.

How it feels The Carbon Pen is light and the length makes it sit nicely in the hand. It’s easy enough to hold for long periods of time.  You can often feel the nib tackling the texture of the paper too – which can be a mixed blessing, depending upon the purpose you acquire the pen for.Carbon Pen in use

How it fills It’s a proprietary cartridge/converter filler. Although designed with Platinum’s Carbon Ink in mind, get a syringe and there’s nothing to prevent you from using any ink you like.

Crucially, how it writes… We found it a little tricky to actually write with as the extremely fine and very stiff steel nib does provide a lot of ‘feedback’ – which some people like, but wasn’t so much to our tastes. It was a different matter when it came to drawing, though, as the ultra thin line it gives, using waterproof ink, is perfect for ink and watercolour sketching.Writing sample

Pen! What is it good for? The Platinum Carbon Pen is very good for drawing, but probably not so good for writing a novel. It would be useful for making notes, maybe working out some maths, or other tasks where small writing or precision is important (such as designing fonts, we’ve discovered!). Because it writes on just about anything it can also come in handy in situations where submitting to Mr. Biro’s invention would otherwise be necessary; for example, it writes on glossy wall calendars and can even handle a newspaper crossword.Carbonn doodle

VFM Oddly, the stand costs more than the pen itself – perhaps on the understanding that the pen unit can be affordably replaced if it does ‘gum up’. But to buy both together shouldn’t set you back much more than £20, and for a pen this unique (and useful) we think that’s quite decent value.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… There is not much to compete with this really, at least at this price point. Some of Platinum’s gold-nibbed fountain pens like the #3776 can handle permanent inks, but these cost ten times as much and need very thorough rinsing-through afterwards. If it’s an affordable ultra-fine nib you’re after, the Pilot Penmanship is also worth a look.Carbonara

Our overall recommendation We feel this is a pen that’s absolutely great for one purpose (sketching and drawing) but not so good for another (writing). It’s a fantastic price, though, and definitely worth considering if you’re after something a little different to add to your artistic arsenal.

Where to get hold of one Cult Pens sent us these review samples and they are one of just a few places in the UK where they can be found. They’re much more commonly available overseas.

Carbon sketching in progress

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to Cult Pens for supplying us with three test units. At the time of writing they are offering 20% off all Platinum products, making this pen even more of a bargain.