Kaweco Skyline Sport Fountain Pen – Mint – Medium Nib

10 07 2016

Remind me to upload a scan of this sample later, rather than a picture of it

If you have a very good memory, you’ll recall that I’ve reviewed the Kaweco Sport before. Years ago, in fact. So why am I reviewing a Kaweco Sport again? Well, it’s the Skyline edition with different colors and this one has a clip and it came in a different box all the way from Australia.

It's pretty much an entirely different pen

It’s pretty much an entirely different pen

First off, a general update on the durability of the Kaweco Sport — my original survived a trip through the washing machine without damage and without coming open/putting ink all over my clothes. When the feed broke (for no apparent reason) after 5 years of service, Kaweco saw my Instagram post and got me in contact with their customer service, who sent me a new feed/nib/grip assembly. Great customer service. Very durable little pen.

Stealthy

Cool container, Kaweco

I don’t know if this is the box specific to the Skyline edition, or perhaps specific to a certain geographical distribution area, but this is a cool box. Matte black, stealthy metal tin. Much nicer than the tin my Liliput came in.

Kaweco Skyline is evolving! Kaweco Skyline has learned clip. It's super effective!

Kaweco Skyline is evolving! Kaweco Skyline has learned clip. It’s super effective!

This pen also came with a clip. When I bought my original Kaweco Sport, I could have ordered the clip separately. Maybe I will. I still can. I’m glad this one came with a clip–it’s sturdy and secure, and help makes the pen easy to find, clipped to the side of a pocket rather than lost in the bottom of a bag. It’s not a clip that will be easily or accidentally knocked off.

cool

Believe me, I tried

The color scheme is refreshing. I prefer silvery accents to gold, so this is more up my alley. And it pairs nicely with the soft mint blue. Can mint be blue?

Sufficient!

I say yes.

The Kaweco Sport is lightweight, being plastic, and pretty comfortable for a compact pen, with its round, slightly curved-in grip. The flat sides on the octagonal cap don’t dig into my hand when I’m holding the pen in my horribly abnormal grip. There is definitely a sweet spot to this nib, and for most of the handwritten version of this review, I’ve been falling off it.

Look close and witness the madness

When it’s on, it’s good stuff. Nice flowing tactile nib. But when it’s off, what a pain. My overwriting angle may be partly to blame. But I probably won’t be entirely satisfied until I’ve fiddled with this nib. Your out of the box experience may vary. Oddly enough, I seem to have little to no problem when I’m using it to jot a quick note, be it at work on a post-it, or on the back of a receipt while on the side of a mountain on a motorcycle trip. It’s just this more longform stuff that brings out the less cooperative aspects of this nib.

Here’s where I’d put a good converter, IF THEY MADE ONE

The biggest drawback to the Kaweco Sport is the lack of a good converter option. The pen takes standard international cartridges, but the body is too short for a proper converter. There’s a squeeze converter available, which doesn’t hold much ink and isn’t the most convenient thing to use, and a mini twist converter that similarly fails to get the job done.

Competitively priced entry level fountain pens, left to right: Pilot Metropolitan, Pilot Petit 1, Pilot Kakuno, Kaweco Sport Skyline, Platinum Preppy, Jinhao 599A, Muji Round Aluminum Fountain Pen, Pelikan Pelikano, Pilot Penmanship, Sailor HighAce Neo

A selection of competitively priced entry level fountain pens, left to right: Pilot Metropolitan, Pilot Petit 1, Pilot Kakuno, Kaweco Sport Skyline, Platinum Preppy, Jinhao 599A, Muji Round Aluminum Fountain Pen, Pelikan Pelikano, Pilot Penmanship, Sailor HighAce Neo. Most expensive pen in this pic: the Kaweco

The Kaweco Sport (without clip) used to cost $15 when I bought my first one, which made it a competitively priced entry level fountain pen. The higher that price goes, the harder it is for the Kaweco Sport to remain in that category. It doesn’t have much competition in the compact/pocket size entry level fountain pen front, but for how long? At least you know the money gets you something durable backed by a responsive company.

Every day carry. Or at least every other day carry

Every day carry. Or at least every other day carry

All in all, the Kaweco Sport remains a decent little fountain pen well suited to everyday carry. The Skyline colorway is a welcome addition to an enduring product line.

Kaweco Skyline Sport Fountain Pen – Mint – Medium Nib at NoteMaker

(Notemaker provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)





Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho (Rice Ear) Ink

25 06 2016

Trying out a little different format for reviewing ink. I’ve never been a fan of having to create the very detailed formulaic reviews/scientific lab reports on inks. I enjoy looking at them, but not making them

Left to my own devices, I probably would never have picked up any Iroshizuku Ina-ho ink. Maybe if I was on a quest to try all the Iroshizuku inks and 2ml samples were on sale. Shades of brown are unassuming, and do not call as much attention to themselves. But then fall comes around, and the only autumn inks I have are the same shades as those of a roaring fire. Or three colors of bright-hued flowers. Brown is necessary to distinguish the season’s colors from one another.

Fun fact: my mind decided to pronounce Ina-ho like an incredibly exaggerated Minnesotan rendition of “I know” and now I can’t undo it. Ya-noh? Eye na-ho!

Is this a brown? I suppose it is, but it has tones of greenish yellow to it. A shade of gold, perhaps? I have no concept of rice ear–as an American, the only edible ears I know are corn–but a bit of Googling shows ears of rice to be a golden-brown color, with some tints of green. An accurate color name then.

Turns out rice doesn’t grow in orange bags with “Uncle Ben’s” on the side #themoreyouknow

The biggest surprise about this ink was the unexpectedly beautiful level of shading. I love shading. Possibly my favorite ink characteristic. Ina-ho’s got it. The ink itself is an unusual color but standard enough that you might get away with it for most everyday office use that doesn’t require blue or black ink. Good to the last drop, I had no issues with flow in my Pilot Vanishing Point with architect nib.

What is the little cord for besides decoration and to match the box? What is the utility here?

The packaging of all the Iroshizuku inks is in line with the pricey nature of the ink – fancy glass bottle in a brushed-steel-looking cardboard box. The labeling on the box and the bottle corresponds to the ink color, and it’s a close but not quite match. The labeling is a smidge too warm of a brown.

Expensive but beautiful

I don’t know that I’ll keep this color inked up for the summer (as hot as it’s getting around here, it might put me too much in mind of drought-dead grass rather than a bountiful harvest). But I’m looking forward to putting this color in the rotation combination for my fall ink lineup.

Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho Ink at NoteMaker

(Notemaker provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)





Bookblock Original Customized Notebooks

2 06 2016
_O2A3415

Look at this snazzy, professional picture that Bookblock took! Of my notebook! Makes me briefly consider constructing some kind of light box for my pictures, rather than the random backgrounds of wherever I happen to be

When given the opportunity to customize a notebook with ANYTHING I WANTED….ANY ARTWORK MY IMAGINATION DESIRED…I naturally opted to slather the covers in fur children.

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Not even real camera pictures of the fur children. iPhone pictures. Photoshop-filtered iPhone pictures. The disgrace.

But perhaps I should rewind, and explain the process to create one of these notebooks. You go to the website, click the “Create Your Notebook” button, Launch the Artwork Editor (which seems to have some nice features for finagling around multiple images if desired), Submit Design, choose the color of your elastic band and ribbon book mark, choose your paper type (ruled, plain, or dot grid in 90gsm ivory; or sketch paper of 140gsm) and delivery area, and proceed to complete your order. It’s so enticingly simple that, in spite of already having my sample notebook I’ve received for free, I’ve nearly ordered an additional notebook half a dozen times now, in spite of not really needing one, not knowing what I even want to put on it, and currently trying to save money for the upcoming Triangle Pen Show.

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Once I decide what I want to put on a second notebook, then I’ll order it

I love the quality of the printed image. The notebook is a deliciously soft-touch hardcover, and the images came out beautifully. But I am concerned how that soft-touch finish will wear over time:

IMG_0464

Wear and tear

There’s already a crease in the spine. I’ve had it for about a month. Maybe the crease just seems extra visible due to the light color of my notebook. The notebook itself includes a ribbon bookmark, elastic band, and no inside pocket.

IMG_0458

My paper life was so much easier before I got into fountain pens…

Now here’s the biggest let-down: the paper. The paper comes from a company I have not reviewed before, Monsieur Notebook. Let’s take a brief detour down memory lane and I will tell you why I did not review a Monsieur Notebook.

IMG_0487

Had this not been inside the cover of my Bookblock, I would never have known…

Many years ago, when they were first coming to the US, Monsieur Notebook sent me samples of their leather notebooks asking for my feedback. The leather was wonderful and the paper was absolutely godawful for fountain pens. I told them as much, they said they were working on a version with more fountain pen friendly paper that they wanted to send me a sample of, I intended to wait until I received the potential improvement before doing a review. I never received the sample. That was 2011. Then, in 2013, I received an email from them again, as if we’d never spoken before (it was the same person, same email address both times), about the IndieGoGo campaign they were launching–they’d JUST discovered my blog and wanted to know if I was interested in trying a sample! Sure, I’ll go along with the selective amnesia. Send me a sample, since the last improved sample never made it. Surprise! This sample never made it either. Somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, countless Monsieur Notebooks have no doubt gathered to die, as I’m not the only one who seems to have encountered this phenomena. I emailed back to say I never received the sample, and have heard nothing in the years since. So here’s a mini review of all I know about the Monsieur Notebook (leather cover edition):

IMG_0571

Elastic band, or jump rope?

The paper sucks, the elastic lost all elasticity after about 3 to 4 years, and the leather is awesome but seems to be pulling away from the notebook. If you write with gel pens, ballpoints, pencils, or micron-type pens, then the paper is ok. Anything remotely water-based will fuzz and bleed horrifically, and in spite of the wonderful cover you will essentially never use the notebook again.

IMG_0462

Enough about that! This is a Bookblock review, after all.

Now, back to the Bookblock. My notebook came with plain 90gsm paper–presumably the most modern and theoretically improved paper something Monsieur Notebooks-based can offer. Gel pens, ballpoint, pencils, Pilot FriXion highlighters, a quick and gentle pass with a Faber Castell Pitt Artist brush pen, and a light wash with watercolor pen/waterbrush were fine. Water-based inks still looking…not great.

IMG_0457

Who needs to use both sides of the page anyway

We’ve got showthrough and bleedthrough, including bleedthrough with heavy gel inks like the Sakura Gelly Roll. Very fine fountain pens are almost ok, unless your sketching involves going over a line more than once or twice, then you’ve got bleedthrough. This notebook is primarily suited for pencil or ballpoint pen sketching.

Normally I’m not keen on paper that doesn’t play nice with my fountain pens. So why would I still want another one of these notebooks? I’m not sure you can beat the customization at this price. The notebook is $18, with an additional $8 shipping to the US. And the notebook customization interface is so easy to use. These would make a great gift, especially for ordinary people who don’t care about fountain pens.

IMG_0456

Like Tobi here! She doesn’t give a single flip about fountain pens, because she is a cat.

(Bookblock Original provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes. Opinions entirely my own. Monsieur Notebooks also provided that leather notebook, several years ago, at no charge, and opinions definitely my own since I never heard from them again…)





Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen

10 05 2016

Trying out a Field Notes for this here writing sample. It’s ok because it’s ballpoint

When you get an email with an offer to try “The official pen of the United States Government,” you can’t say no. That’s how you make bald eagles cry, and George Washington would not be pleased with that.

Insert partisan political joke of your choice here


These pens look like a retro throwback straight out of some non-existent idyllic past (a.k.a. the good old days). I dig the stamped-on “SKILCRAFT U.S. GOVERNMENT” label. But wow, these pens are tiny.

Granted, I’m comparing this to normal, full sized pens. Maybe it actually aspires to the compact carry category?

Makes me think about the size of a 1950s McDonald’s meal vs. now. Cheeseburgers of a rational size that look microscopic in comparison to the heaving patty towers of the modern era. I digress. This is a short, slender pen, light of weight and modest of design.

So official

The knock is a slim button, but with a strong and satisfying click. There’s a decent amount of resistance to it–when you deploy the pen, it’s a deliberate action. This! Is! Government! Business!

Does very good job attracting dust and cat hairs

Some minor quibbles – alignment. The clip doesn’t line up with the label. The metal spacer ring in the middle mostly lines up, but you can feel the slight edge line between the plastic and the metal. Psychologically, I really want the words to all be in a line, and the surface to all be impossibly smooth. 

See how none of these refills seem quite centered? That will become relevant

The refill is a bronze-bodied affair rumored to last for a mile (I don’t have paper long enough or patience sufficient enough to make over 5000 one foot long lines to test this claim). It’s no modern marvel–compared to the super smooth ballpoint kings, the Skilcraft refill is lighter in color and not as smooth. It’s good when it gets going, no blobs. There’s about half a millimeter of play laterally between the refill and the end of the barrel, the result being a soft but not unpleasant sound as you write, like a gentle tapping with each pen strike on the page. If you like tactile things, it’s a bit zen-like, your own personal write-powered white noise generator. If you crave absolute silence, then this could at times pose a problem.

Technically I have a dozen of these, but all those not pictured have migrated their way into the fabric of my life, and the reliable bottoms of my bags

This pen seems designed to be as unobtrusive as possible while still retaining usability as an everyday jotter. I doubt this would be very comfortable for a marathon note-taking session, but for quick notes such a slim pen tucks away easily to be ever-available. It’s stood up well to several months of abuse thrown in various bags without care. I find myself including one in each of my bags, in case I need a normal people pen, especially one I won’t have to worry about loaning out or losing.

Available wherever they are sold. Like Amazon, apparently. And probably other places.

A little more about Skilcraft – it’s the trade name of the National Industries for the Blind, employing those who are blind or visually impaired. Let me just link to the Tiger Pens Blog post about Skilcraft, which has a fantastic and fascinating write up about the company that makes these pens.

(Industries for the Blind, Inc. provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes. Opinions entirely my own.)





Lamy Dark Lilac Fountain Pen and Ink

2 05 2016

I could have reviewed the nib, but ive already swapped on a slightly crisp stubby italic that I ground ahead of this pen’s arrival, which gives you no insight into how it writes right out of the box

A review for the much anticipated Lamy Dark Lilac Safari doesn’t need to be long. Here it is: just buy it. Unless you hate purple, or purple murdered your parents outside a movie theater forcing you into a life of vigilante justice against purple-jacketed villains, then you can pass, but everyone else? You probably ought to get this pen, and the ink to go with it. I hate triangular grips, and I still think you should get this pen.

Heck, I might even get this pen again

Ultimately this is still a Lamy Safari, and my opinions about the Safari haven’t really changed (though it’s no longer the sole best contender for a beginner fountain pen, not since the Pilot Metropolitan hit the streets). But I will tell you what makes this particular Safari a winner among all other Safaris.

I recommend pairing this pen and ink with a Rhodia Ice pad for maximum cool factor

I don’t know if the success of the Pelikan M205 Amethyst led them to this conclusion or if Lamy came up with this one all on their own, but special edition pens can be made in colors other than green. With fantastic results! I couldn’t ask for a more perfect shade of purple.

I could ask, but no one would be able to give it to me

The entire pen is finished with the same matte texture as you’d find on the charcoal Safari. It’s a wonderful texture that doesn’t show fingerprints the way the glossy finishes do, and adds comfortable grippability to the plastic body.

I’m going to sleep now and dream of this most perfect purple

The black nib, clip, and finial seals the deal. Silver accents would have been too showy. The stealth scheme lends the pen an ineffable air of coolness.

SHEEN, BABY, SHEEN!

Lamy ink is one of my favorites for everyday use — it’s vibrant, it shades, and it’s fairly quick drying. The only downside to Lamy ink is the limited selection of colors available — or, that was the downside, prior to the arrival in the past few years of matching special edition inks. Now I have the purple I’ve wanted to exist since I first learned about Lamy inks. Bonus? The ink has a golden sheen.

This pen and its matching ink are everything I hoped for. My only problem is that they didn’t come out with it sooner.

And Tobi’s only problem is that the ink isn’t meat-flavored


I got mine from my local enabler, Crazy Alan’s Emporium. He might have some in stock if you give the store a call. Otherwise you can find this pen for however limited a time at any fine retailer where Lamys are sold, but not yet sold out. 





Noodler’s Berning Red

18 04 2016

I don’t mix politics and pens (pens are for everyone, regardless of whether our worldviews agree), nor did I have the attention span to watch the 35 minute opus YouTube video related to this ink (I’ve tried 3 times and only made it a total of 4 minutes in, but I’ve heard that “it’s a trip” – interpret that as you will), so I can’t comment thoughtfully on the political aspects of this ink. But it’s quite a memorable label, and I don’t think any other ink company has labels as fantastically strange and detailed as Noodler’s labels.

 

What does it all mean? Maybe if I could pay attention for over half an hour I would know

The big draws for me on this ink are the quick drying potential, and the red color (I still haven’t found a perfect fall red). Noodler’s Bernanke Blue is the current gold standard in my life for quick drying ink. I haven’t given it a formal review, but I can tell you when I need an ink I can count on, Bernanke Blue is what I load up. The trade-off with Bernanke Blue is that it has no shading, tends to bleed through all kinds of paper (some more than others), and is given to some fuzz and feathering. It doesn’t come out sharp. But it hits the paper dry, yet has no problems starting up even after I haven’t used it in a pen for weeks. How does Berning Red compare?

 

Well for starters Bernanke Blue is probably around 475 nm wavelength and Berning Red around 650 nm as far as visible light goes

Just as Bernanke is a strong, rich blue, Berning is a strong, vibrant red. It’s not quite firetruck red, more of a warm autumn leaf color. It also has no trouble starting up in my pens after time spent unused, and has given me no dry-outs or hard starts. Good ink flow. Most excitingly, Berning Red exhibits some shading…on Tomoe River paper. Better than nothing!

This picture is the tl;dr summary image of this post

On every other paper besides Tomoe River, Berning Red has the same less desirable characteristics as Bernanke Blue: a tendency to fuzz and feather, to bleed through the page, and just generally fail to deliver a crisp writing line. It’s not the worst, but I’m picky, and generally willing to sacrifice a few seconds drying time advantage if it means ink that will look crisp on the page. I could just use this ink on Tomoe River paper, but on that paper Berning Red loses all dry time advantage; whereas Bernanke Blue dried in about 5 seconds on TR (most paper it takes 1 second, at most 2), Berning Red took 15 seconds to dry, no better than most any other ink. On other papers, dry time for Berning Red varied from 1 second to 5 seconds, maxing out at 25 seconds on the InkJournal paper. It’s mostly a fast drying ink, except when it’s not, and definitely not as quick drying as its close relative, Bernanke Blue.

 

Shade-wise it clocks in somewhere near fall maple leaf

Your mileage will definitely vary based on what pen and paper combos you bring to this ink. If you’re looking to use it as a quick drying ink, stick to cheaper and conventional papers and probably lean toward a finer nib for a better looking line. If you want the best look out of this vigorous red, then abandon all hope of a quick dry time, and pair a broad and/or stub nib with Tomoe River paper. Ideal for lefties? Eh, it can be, with a thoughtful choice of pen and paper.

 

(Pen Boutique provided this product at no charge for review purposes)





Ink Drop Soup: Did I Mention the Instagram?

28 02 2016

  Last DC Pen Show it was brought to my attention that all the cool kids were on Instagram. I promptly went to sign up, realized someone stole my handle before I could sign up, then re-realized the person who stole it was probably me having signed up long ago and forgotten all about it. One “forgot my password” later, I was in. While the blog will remain my repository for long-form reviews, if you’re looking for frequent updates, mini opinions, lots of pics, plus the occasional cat, dog, and selfie, make sure to follow my Instagram. 

My Instagram! Penstagram! 








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