Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – Apple Green Body – M nib

4 04 2014
The summery delight of this turquoise cannot adequately be represented in a mere scan

The summery delight of this turquoise cannot adequately be represented in a mere scan

The Lamy Safari is pretty much THE classic beginner fountain pen of these modern times—nice enough, lots of options, and not too expensive. This is the pen that a lot of people get when they step up from disposables or the $15 and under category, or heck, I’m sure it’s probably just plain old what a lot of people start with (though I moved up from my beloved disposable Ink Bar to the Sailor A. S. Manhattaner’s and the Platinum Preppy and all other manner of fountain pens but I can confidently say that the Safari’s clear demonstrator version, the Lamy Vista, was my first in-store fountain pen purchase).

I am reasonably confident that this is the 2012 Limited Edition Apple Green body

I am reasonably confident that this is the 2012 Limited Edition Apple Green body

The Safari has a number of great design features, starting with the plastic body—it’s available in a wide variety of colors, from bright and ostentatious (like this green, or last year’s neon yellow) to subdued and classy (like the white or the charcoal black). It’s not a scratchproof plastic, but it is durable (I haven’t broken one yet anyway, and I don’t treat them delicately).

The iconic Lamy clip

The iconic Lamy clip

I love this clip. There is no mistaking the Lamy clip. You may spot one across the room in the hands of a total stranger and KNOW that there’s a Lamy. Then you will hiss at your dining companions “THAT DUDE’S GOT A LAMY” and your dining companions will have no idea what you’re talking about and wonder to themselves why they invite you to brunch. Note how the wide clip arms curve down around the body of the cap—helps hold it snug to the page or the pocket, while the flared end makes it easy to slip on.

Proprietary cartridges, my greatest nemesis

Proprietary cartridges, my greatest nemesis

One of the drawbacks to the Lamy line is that they require proprietary Lamy cartridges. So if you inherited several metric tons of standard international cartridges from your grandmother, this won’t be the pen to use them in. But there is at least sort of a reason for the special cartridges: they are designed to snap themselves on. Just make sure the cartridge is sticking into the grip like so, just resting there really, make sure there’s no cardboard ring on there, and then screw the rest of the body back on. It will push the cartridge down and puncture the bit that lets the ink go from cartridge to feed. That’s a nice feature for beginners (and people with poor arm strength and people who just may be lazy). No wondering (as I hope you rarely do in life) “did I push hard enough?”  You can also pay to get a Lamy converter and use the pen with bottled ink. If I were to rotate the grip in that picture 90 degrees, you’d see the little secure-posts where the converter snaps on.

This right here is the biggest reason you may not want a Lamy

This right here is the biggest reason you may not want a Lamy

If you are a normal human being, or perhaps a German schoolchild, then you will hold your writing utensils with the ultra-efficient and ergonomic ideal pliers grip. The Lamy Safari is molded with this ideal grip in mind, and if you have proper gripping technique or like to be corrected by the pen you hold, then you’ll probably love this. I do not love this. I am forever in battle against the sharp edges and my horrible overwriter lefty cavedwelling hookgrip. If you are getting a pen for someone else, consider how they grip. A rounded grip, or at least one not so sharply sculpted might serve them better depending on their style.

Comparatively speaking, the options here are endless

Comparatively speaking, the options here are endless

The stainless steel nibs are excellent beginner or workhorse nibs. They are sufficiently smooth, but not so smooth that you’re in danger of losing control (or needing to write in cursive, really fast). The nibs are easy to change out and come in extra fine, fine, medium, and broad (all of which can either be in stainless steel finish or black finish), plus three sizes of calligraphy nib (1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm). If you want to be able to try a wide range of nibs without having to get a new pen every time (though, where’s the fun in that, besides not being broke?), then the Lamy Safari is an excellent way to go—nibs are sold individually all over the place.

Buy one. Buy three. BUY EVERY COLOR EVERRRRRR

Buy one. Buy three. BUY EVERY COLOR EVERRRRRR

It’s not the perfect beginner pen for everyone, but even in spite of the things I don’t like about it I keep buying them. Those darn colors are just so irresistible. It looks like the Limited Edition 2012 Apple Green body is still in stock at Goldspot Pens at time of writing. Or you can browse through other colors at some of my other favorite online places.

 

Lamy Safari Fountain Pens at the Goulet Pen Company

Lamy Safari Fountain Pens at JetPens





Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen – Chrome

27 03 2014
Top, writing sample with Poquito #1 that did not want to cooperate. Bottom, writing sample with Poquito #2, somewhat more cooperative

Top, writing sample with Poquito #1 that did not want to cooperate. Bottom, writing sample with Poquito #2, somewhat more cooperative

I had a review all ready and done for this pen. Here’s basically the summary of that review: “the last thing you want as a fountain pen user is the indignity and embarrassment of a pen that refuses to write.” No matter what I did, the pen just would not write. The flow was terrible. It would dry out after mere hours of not being used. But the Goulet Pen Company, being awesome, when I contacted them for advice on what to do about the poorly performing Poquito went ahead and sent me another one to exchange. Now, I have a less terrible Poquito to review.

It is certainly compact

It is certainly compact

Appearance-wise, the Poquito is on winning ground, which was what originally attracted me to it. The idea was to get a serious metal-body contender for the pocket fountain pen category at a more affordable price than, say, the twice-as-expensive Liliput. The snap cap won points for convenience, and though the Chrome body picks up hand and fingerprints clear enough to convict a crime, I chose chrome over one of the painted jobs thinking it would hold up better in pockets that might also include keys and other oddments. The cap snaps nicely closed, and posts securely. So far, so good.

Here is where the unmitigated goodness ends

Here is where the unmitigated goodness ends

The writing, however, is on a little shaky ground. As I mentioned, my first Poquito wouldn’t write reliably at all. The second Poquito is doing better, though I still had some problems when I first got it—the pen seemed to dry up overnight, it would need to be scribbled around with before I’d get it writing again.

"Poquito"---Spanish for "little," likely being the general amount of ink you'll be able to coax out of this pen.

“Poquito”—Spanish for “little,” likely being the general amount of ink you’ll be able to coax out of this pen.

But it seems to be writing for now, so let’s evaluate that performance. On the whole, the flow seems a bit dry and also a bit variable. It’s not been so dry as to completely ghost out, but you can see where the ink gets thinner. The nib is neither terrible nor remarkable; it simply is.

Oh Poquito, I had such high hopes for you!

Oh Poquito, I had such high hopes for you!

There are good, reliable compact fountain pens out there, but the Poquito doesn’t top the list. I would probably recommend the too-juicy A.G Spalding & Bros. Mini Fountain Pen over the Poquito (JUST KIDDING I inked up the A.G. Spalding mini and MY GOODNESS IT IS WAY TOO JUICY). If you want a solid way to spend your money, for the same price at The Goulet Pen Company you can get two bottles of Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa Iron Gall ink, which is pretty much the most magical ink I’ve ever tried (and it will be shipped in the most secure and Fort Knoxian bubblewraptopia of fashions). Or you can take a whirl on the quality control roulette wheel and give the Poquito a try.

Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen – Chrome – at the Goulet Pen Company





Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – Black Crocodile Body

21 03 2014
Pilot/Namiki black ink cartridge

Pilot/Namiki black ink cartridge

The Pilot Metropolitan has been on my radar for a while—I’ve heard good things about it, even got to try it a few times at my local pen club meetup. Every time, I’ve thought, “What a solid pen!” and then promptly forgot to get one. So I was delighted when JetPens sent me one free of charge to try out.

High quality at this absurd price?? It's hard to believe

High quality at this absurd price?? It’s hard to believe

When you see the word “CROCODILE” on a box, you either think of Steve Irwin or you’re thinking of some kind of eccentric piece of old lady accessory fashion.

Fake crocodile on fake leather

Fake crocodile on fake leather

Thankfully, the crocodile pattern accent is totally tasteful, and nicely done—not some cheap sticker. The metal body is matte black (not the same matte black material as the Vanishing Point, so hopefully it won’t have that same problem), with an appreciable little bit of weight to it. In terms of appearance, it’s a lot like the Sheaffer VFM—an attractive, modern, minimalist black pen. Sometimes I wish I was a fancy businessperson with a briefcase. I would put this pen in my briefcase.

The downside of a streamlined body is the inevitability of a hard grip ridge

The downside of a streamlined body is the inevitability of a hard grip ridge

For once, a treacherous, precipitous ridge at the grip lines up in such a way as to completely not affect me. But that edge might be a pain if it falls on a delicate part of your grip.

Now, where do I buy other nibs for this?

Now, where do I buy other nibs for this?

The writing on the Metropolitan is really stand out. I had no trouble getting it started, and the flow is great—juicy but not too juicy. The medium nib is true to the same size medium lines laid down by the Pilot Vanishing Point.

None of my other Pilot nibs look quite like this

None of my other Pilot nibs look quite like this

I am not familiar with this style of Pilot nib (I know the cheapo nib used on the Varsity and the Petit 1 (unique in its ability to fuzz and feather on nearly any paper); the Super Quality style used on the Plumix, Penmanship, and Prera; and the gold Vanishing Point nibs). This nib is new to me, and it’s pretty great. The sweet spot is oh-so-sweet, a whisperingly smooth tactile nib skating along the page.

We have a winner

We have a winner

Pros of the Metropolitan: great writing performance, quality build, round grip, metal body, and comes in different colors and accent patterns. Cons: medium nib only (though I’d bet other steel Pilot nibs can be swapped on), proprietary cartridges (but it did come with a converter for bottled ink use). This is another great under $30 entry level fountain pen, or a great every-day-carry-around pen for the fancy collector who wants a knockabout pen that, if lost in the course of frequent daily use, wouldn’t induce a heart attack.

Thanks again to JetPens for providing this sample!

Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen at JetPens





Rotring Newton Fountain Pen

14 12 2013
I think I actually spelled the name of the ink color correctly. This might be the only time I managed that for this color...

I think I actually spelled the name of the ink color correctly. This might be the only time I managed that for this color…

This particular peculiar Rotring entered my life as a birthday present from my dearheart, who went to the local pen store asking for something I didn’t already have. Voilà—a Rotring I’d never even seen before.

I think I need to add another fake sun to the left side of my desk.

I think I need to add another fake sun to the left side of my desk.

With a bit of Googling I’ve decided that this is a Rotring Newton, the mod odd update to the very popular, hexagonal 600 series. The pen has a lot of solid metal and oblique angles going for it, and I love the finish.

You can't just have a pen, you have to gaze deeply into its very surface

You can’t just have a pen, you have to gaze deeply into its very surface

It’s not just solid black—look very closely and you see some dark twinkle to the finish. And all the silvery bits? This pen is a looker.

Untwisting and untwisted.

Untwisting and untwisted.

But beautiful as it is, this pen has some quirks to note. The biggest is how you get to the cartridge/converter side. Look up at the picture of the whole body, see the silver bit on the non-cap end? Twist it counter-clockwise like you’re retracting a tube of chapstick (go clockwise—as though advancing a chapstick—to secure it back to the body). Not what you were expecting. But then why not, why not involve some randomly strange mechanism? Quirk #2: do NOT reuse a standard international cleaned-out cartridge in this pen. I’ve read somewhere before that you need to use the special (pricey) Rotring converter in the Rotring pens or it won’t seal properly…I don’t know for sure about all that, but I know it doesn’t play well reusing a cartridge. The cartridge came loose, ink was everywhere; so I decided not to tempt fate anymore and slapped in the one Rotring converter I have. Fits perfectly. No more ink everywhere.

Modern nib decoration

Modern nib decoration

The writing is mostly wonderful—smooth without being out of control, never scratchy. But I think the nib might be currently suffering from a bit of baby’s bottom.

Is it? I can't exactly tell. The nib looks very round at the tip.

Is it? I can’t exactly tell. The nib looks very round at the tip. That’s about all I can tell

There are times, not even the span of an entire letter really, just the first stroke, where there’s no ink, right at the beginning. Then it starts up just fine. If it is a case of baby’s bottom, it’s an easy fix.

Also it comes with a neato-keen octagonal-type box

Also it came with a neato-keen octagonal-type box

Mine came from Office Supplies and More, but I haven’t seen him have any of this pen before or since. Goldspot carries them, looks like…let me know if you know of any other good retailers that stock the Newton and I’ll add a link!





Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen

19 10 2012

I guess the ghosting is appropriate for October…thanks, Waterman, for remembering the holidays.

I’ve been told before that I need to own a Waterman, but the pen stores I frequent typically didn’t carry them and no particularly attractive model was able to catch my eye, thus instigating an e-commerce fueled need-to-buy. Even when an entry model Waterman finally popped up in my local pen store, I was reluctant to get it. “What’s the deal with the Watermans?” I asked skeptically, taking one out of the box. “This is an old man pen. What would I want with one of these?”

“I’ll make you a deal.”

“Phileas? That’s an old man name.”

“I’ll make you a really great deal.”

One really great deal later, here I am with another pen that looks like I swiped it from a geriatric stockbroker.

I am clinically incapable of refraining from calling this pen “Phineas” instead of “Phileas”

The Phileas is a peculiar mix of class and annoying minor flaws. Lets start with the good: the body has a nice weight to it but isn’t too heavy, and feels pretty nicely balanced.

I keep thinking the Phileas is black until Pelikan M150 steps in the picture and says “Gentlemen please, you don’t know what black really is.”

The charcoal-colored plastic feels smooth, almost luxurious (though the words “It doesn’t feel cheap!” come to mind, I don’t think that quite conveys nearly the compliment I intend). Yes, by the way, charcoal-colored—for some reason it continues to surprise me that the pen isn’t black.

Look carefully below the big highlight on the barrel and you’ll see the light hitting the seam in the plastic

My biggest issues: the seams palpable on opposite sides of the black plastic grip—

Why the gap? I’ve heard this decoration is supposed to evoke a cigar band, but I don’t smoke cigars or pens; do cigar bands have such a gap?

—and the way the back of the gold art deco design accent doesn’t fully come together.

Good things in moderation—including art deco

Why is that? Love the design accents; irked by these big flaws.

Time to write down some old fashioned ledger entries.

The third and final flaw: all these ghost starts that proliferate particularly when I print. Taking to the problem an eye loupe and the knowledge I gleaned from sitting in on a Richard Binder nib workshop, I’ve come to suspect the culprit is butt cheeks. What do I mean by such offensive language, you ask? It’s a problem, apparently not uncommon in some fancy pens, where in the quest to make a REALLY SMOOTH pen, they go too smooth, rounding the inside edge of the slit too much, so that the end of the nib resembles a little metallic bottom. This causes the ink to want to stay where it’s narrower, instead of going to the bottom of the cheeks onto the page. Here, a diagram from Richard:

Capillary action is not your friend when you’ve got a baby’s bottom nib

Look! Look closely! The cheeks! THE CHEEEEEEKS.

Once it’s writing, everything is golden for the most part (as long as I stick to cursive). The nib is neither too wet nor too dry, and has a solidly tactile feel across the page. I detect an occasional slight resistance on such backstrokes as crossing my T’s at certain angles, which probably has something to do with the fact that the nib looks like it was aligned inside of a Salvador Dali painting.

What is going ON here? I can’t even visually process this business.

But for the most part, the loveliness of the typical writing experience is worth persevering through the ghosting and such, until I finally get around to fixing up the nib.

With a little workout we’ll firm up those cheeks and have you writing like a normal pen in no time

Waterman Phileas: definitely enjoy…whether or not that enjoyment is enough to inspire future (and or perhaps more expensive) Waterman purchases remains to be seen.

Waterman Phillyboy tallyho what what

If anyone knows a good online retailer, send me a link. Otherwise I think your best bet is to come pick one up from Office Supplies & More, my local pen store (maybe I’ll convince them to take some along to the Ohio Pen Show).





Monteverde Artista Crystal Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – Transparent Turquoise Body

21 07 2012

Say goodbye to what is physically the last page in my Behance Dot Grid journal (still have a few more reviews in there I haven’t posted yet though)

At a certain point it becomes difficult to justify buying more demonstrator-style fountain pens with iridium-point nibs—you have so many, no matter how cool this new one seems, and eventually you’d like to afford such luxuries as name brand ramen, and cereal that comes in boxes instead of bags. That’s what the wishlist is for—make sure you save it in a prominent location in the browsers of all your family and friends. I did, and now I can thank my parents for the very-happy-birthday addition of the Monteverde Artista Crystal fountain pen to my arsenal.

Not actual crystal, but you could use it to serve champagne in a pinch.

The smooth resin body has just enough weight to it to feel well-made, but not enough to weigh you down. But it will be collecting fingerprints and smudge marks worse than I collect pens. You’ve been warned.

Excellent accessory for your next Tron Legacy/steampunk costume party.

The aesthetic is unquestionably classy, and the translucent spirals of the included converter (also takes cartridges) is one of the beautiful little things that sets the Artista over the top.

The sublime loveliness of simple things.

Why a clear feed? Because WHY NOT—it’s a wonderful echo of the converter (just as the silver on the converter nicely mirrors the grip and nib). It’s different without being ostentatious.

I have at least half a dozen pens with this almost exact same style of iridium point nib—but this is the first I’ve seen with the designation.

I don’t know much about these nibs, except that I can’t really think of a time they’ve disappointed me, and this is no exception. A medium that writes well on a variety of papers, from Clairefontaine to the cheap printer paper I’m writing this on from work—and it’s neither too wet nor too dry. The only time I’ve had any ink flow problem is when combining cheap paper and extreme angles, but the problem there isn’t flow, it’s that the tip of the nib where both tines meet isn’t in physical contact with the paper.

 

Let’s write a sci-fi novel. With this pen. Starring this pen.

I’m very satisfied with this pen—it’s a great intermediate pen. Once you’ve acquired a few beginner level fountain pens, and you’re ready to fall face-first down the rabbit hole, throwing money all the way, this is a pen worth adding to your insanity collection.

Monteverde Artista Crystal Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – Transparent Turquoise Body at JetPens

 

 

 

 

 





Pilot Plumix Fountain Pen – Medium Flat Italic Nib – Black Body with Blue Ink

3 03 2011

The sketches were a bit uninspired. They were...despired. Perspired. Not even spired.

I can’t leave a big-box SuperStore without checking their pen section, and a recent prowl of Target’s pen aisle did not leave me disappointed. For the first time, physically before me in a store where arguably normal people shop, an affordable fountain pen!

Baby, for $6.37 you can take me home any day of the week (provided you have that aforementioned $6.37 plus local tax rate)

The somewhat garishly designed packaging enthusiastically proclaims in sunshine-daycare yellow, “Real Fountain Pen!” …Unlike all those fake fountain pens you’ve had to contend with, Pilot delivers a finely-crafted stick of plastic veracity and unparalleled integrity. Thank goodness Pilot’s on top of these things. And that they’re telling you about it–I would have surely mistaken this for another one of those confoundingly meddlesome fake fountain pens if it weren’t for this astute packaging.

The pen cap is a squid-head. There, now you can't unsee it.

The body of the Plumix is lightweight plastic, but seems well thought-out.

This is not to say that the design of the Squid leaves it completely clean of ink

The cap unscrews from the body (snap-on caps, especially if snapped on with the pen pointing down, encourage the ink to come out, leaving beads of ink on the nib and in the cap. Very wasteful) but posts on the end just by pushing the cap on.

The barrel unscrews from the grip and nib section, and the nib itself is easy to remove so that you can align the grip and nib to be conducive to your hand’s writing posture, a fact I did not figure out until after I’d dropped the pen from my pocket, knocking the nib loose, necessitating my fiddling with the nib.

Deliciously smooth writing on some fantastic Clairefontaine paper, done mostly when the nib was knocked loose. Still wrote!

Having never really removed a nib from a pen before, I found it a surprisingly simple task (“AUGH! UAAGH! THE METAL PART FELL OFF! OH CRAP LET’S JUST WASH EVERYTHING OFF AND HOPE IT’LL ALL GO BACK TOGETHER”), and my original problem with the angle of the nib relative to the positioning of the grip became a moot point–I could angle the nib however I wanted!

Since there isn’t much weight to the body, it’s hard to comment on the balance of the pen, but nothing feels off about the way the pen sits in the hand. Above the grip, the barrel has a slight bulge outward that fits perfectly into the web over the thenar space (thanks, The Internet; I was just going to call it “that fleshy web crook space, you know, the one between your thumb and forefinger, whatsitcalled, you know”) and then tapers off into a slender end. The barrel has these strange parabola-shaped grooves, the purpose of which I cannot discern beyond being merely decorative, and the cap has two modest little anti-roll protrusions that effectively render the cap a convenient squid-shape.

These are all small, simple touches that make a pen unique, and I appreciate them. This is what I feel so many common American pens are lacking–an appreciation of pennovation.

My first comment when I unscrewed the cap: "Where are the little balls on the end??" I did not realize the nib was italic; neither did the packaging.

Before we move on to the nib, the grip needs a little more appreciation. Note how the the bottom of the grip arches up to rest comfortably atop your finger. Carefully discern the subtly cut out concave panel–there are two of these, one for the thumb to grip, the other for the gripping finger of your choice (I rest the pen atop my ring finger, and grip with thumb and middle). The grip is entirely smooth and entirely hard plastic, but it’s comfortable. It’s a carefully designed molding of plastic where I was expecting something bare-minimum. My apologies, Pilot. The grip you designed here is an unexpected delight.

I know we've had some problems with cheap Pilot Medium fountain pen nibs before, but this, this one is different. This one has the power of SUPER QUALITY JAPAN.

The nib, I’m happy to report, is not like other cheap Pilot fountain pen nibs. Granted, I don’t really have any other Pilot italic nibs for comparison (or any italic nibs for comparison), but this one seems to put out a decent but not excessive amount of ink, and it writes so smoothly (especially on Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper) that I can’t stop writing in cursive with this pen. The mere act of cursive writing is so fun! I just keep writing nonsense even when I have nothing of substance to write. And my handwriting asymptotically approaches being pretty!

At the end of the day, this is a fun and cheap (AND REAL!!!) fountain pen that you can (provided your Target has them in stock) get with instant gratification, ripping open the package the moment your transaction is complete, and it makes writing fun. Isn’t that what a pen should really be for?

 

A pen should also be for use as a weapon in an emergency situation or a dramatic scene in a television drama.

You can’t order them online from Target, but they do have a link to find it at a Target store: Pilot Plumix Refillable Fountain Pen – Blue at Target

 

And, because I love JetPens, they get a link too:Pilot Plumix Fountain Pen – Medium Flat Italic Nib – Black Body at JetPens








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