Pilot Kakuno – Fine Nib – Black Body / Light Green Cap

12 05 2015
Don't ask me how to pronounce "Kakuno." I promise you however I'm saying it is wrong.

Don’t ask me how to pronounce “Kakuno.” I promise you however I’m saying it is wrong.

I’ve had various color combinations of the Pilot Kakuno languishing on my JetPens wishlist for a while, but it took being stuck home sick in a syrupy haze of cough suppressants for me to actually decide to order one. Which I ordered from my Amazon Prime, for whatever reason.

The reason was money

The reason was money

Although I picked everything about this pen based on what option was cheapest on Amazon at the time, I like the dark grey and lime green combo. The color is fun without feeling childish. Not that there’s anything wrong with childish—this is designed to be a kid’s pen. But the design isn’t aggressively elementary school; it’s a minimalism that holds a broad appeal.

The product description is a lie. The body is grey. Not black.

The product description is a lie. The body is grey. Not black.

There’s no clip, but the Kakuno is hexagonal and the cap has an unobtrusive little nub to help discourage the pen from rolling away. The grip is shaped in a roughly triangular hexagon, with all edges (if you can even call them that) quite rounded—the guidance from the grip is subtle and comfortable. The pen itself is lightweight, yet the plastic feels reassuringly sturdy, as far as this price point goes. It’s no luxury resin, but it’s also not some cheap, fragile crap.

Adorable, or, in the right light, terrifying

Adorable, or, in the right light, terrifying

Here’s the most unavoidably adorable part: the face of the nib. Literally. A smiley. face. (unless you have one of the soft body colors; then it’s a winky face) — it’s another point of guidance for the novice fountain pen user: if the pen is smiling at you, then you’re holding it right (or at least not upside down). Maybe not everyone is confident enough in their adulthood to rock out such a happy pen on a regular basis. I’m not here to judge you. But it’s really only noticeable to others if you point the face out. Or if they stare at your hands obsessively.

For example, if your hands were on fire or something, that might draw extra attention to the vicinity of the happy nib

For example, if your hands were on fire or something, that might draw extra attention to the vicinity of the happy nib

To be on the safe side, I probably wouldn’t take this pen as my prime writer in a Serious and Professional Meeting of Important Business, but right now it’s my favorite no-worry knockabout pen. I toted it around on a trip to the mountains. I’ve thrown it in countless bags, back pockets, and cup holders. It writes reliably, neither too wet nor too dry, and the fine nib is perfect for everyday use. The performance of the nib itself was surprisingly pleasant (not sure why I was surprised, I should have known Pilot wouldn’t let me down), a sort of tactile feel on the page without any scratchiness or sharp edges.

Impulse purchase yours today!

Impulse purchase yours today!

If you’re looking for a specific color or nib size, JetPens has the full selection. If you’re looking to save a few bucks and aren’t picky, you can likely find a Kakuno on Amazon for under $10 (right now, the winning combination is a fine nib White Body Soft Blue cap with free Prime shipping, clocking in currently at $9.46).

Pilot Kakuno — medium and fine nibs in multiple colors — at JetPens

Pilot Kakuno Fine Nib Fountain Pen Black Body Light Green Cap at Amazon





Zebra V301 Fountain Pen

7 04 2015
Works as a dip pen!

Works as a dip pen!

The first time I bought a Zebra V301 Fountain Pen was July 2011. It was utter rubbish, I decided to attempt to take it apart for reasons unknown (some vague notion of fixing it, no doubt), and basically obliterated the pen beyond all hope of ever functioning.

It was 2011. Things were different then

It was 2011. Things were different then

So what would possess me to buy such a piece of crap again? Poor decision making / it was there / it was only $5 / being sick makes me impulsive

Thanks a lot, upper respiratory infection plus allergies. Like the several bags of discount candy I bought yesterday, you've once again led me astray

Thanks a lot, upper respiratory infection plus allergies. Like the several bags of discount candy I bought yesterday, you’ve once again led me astray

The Stainless STEEL Barrel (so the packaging claims) with black plastic accents makes for a simple, rugged looking pen. The cap snaps on hard (perhaps a little too hard) to close, and snaps a little more easily to post. When closed, the cap stays still. When posted, the cap spins around freely. There’s not much weight that would send it needlessly spinning around, but it’s a bit vexing.

Tubes of metal

Tubes of metal

The pen body is of a comfortable thickness, the grooving and shaping of the grip is nice, and the whole body is very lightweight. I bet it would be a nice long haul writing experience, if the pen actually wrote.

This is not how a fountain pen is supposed to work

This is not how a fountain pen is supposed to work

You know when Cruella DeVille, in 101 Dalmatians, tries to write a check and her fountain pen doesn’t work? And she shakes the pen, shouting, “Blast this pen, blast this wretched, wretched pen!” That’s me right now. Except Cruella actually got ink to come out of her pen. The V301, for the most part, operates on an entirely inkless philosophy.

I tried to find a video clip of Cruella and her pen, but all the clips I found that were NOT two minutes long consisted of Cruella blasting her pen onto other Disney characters. Fetish? I don't know. I don't want to know.

I tried to find a video clip of Cruella and her pen, but all the clips I found that were NOT two minutes long consisted of Cruella blasting her pen onto other Disney characters. Fetish? I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

I put in the ink cartridge. Nothing. Let it sit, capped, nib pointed down for a while. Nothing. Tapped it on the page. Nothing. Eventually I took the ink cartridge out, smacked that on the page, and got ink on paper. Then I dipped the tip of the fountain pen in the ink sitting at the lip of the cartridge and was able to write for a little while. It’s a shame, because the writing felt great for a cheap pen—no scratching, just a very tactile workhorse type of nib. Then the dipped ink ran out, the pen fitfully managing a few more scribbled lines and frustrated expletives before giving up entirely. The pen seemed to work best when writing with the nib upside down, though whoever finished the nib wasn’t in on that plan because the nib is very scratchy upside down. Just so we’re clear:

When you're up, you're up, and when you're down you're down, except when you're a Zebra pen you're in a perpetual existential crisis

When you’re up, you’re up, and when you’re down you’re down, except when you’re a Zebra pen you’re in a perpetual existential crisis

Metal to the sky is right side up. Feed to the sky is upside down. The pictures on JetPens agree with me. But the instructions on the back of the V301 packaging state:

Gently hold your pen with the nib facing down and properly balanced when making contact with the paper.

What do they mean, exactly, nib facing down? Is it really possible that they designed the mechanics of the feed such that the pen only works upside down?? It can’t be. How could it?!?!

Note the dot of ink spreading onto the page as I held the pen there? That did not happen with the nib facing up.

Note the dot of ink spreading onto the page as I held the pen there? That did not happen with the nib facing up.

Other gems from the packaging include:

Your new fountain pen will become a personal writing instrument as the nib of the pen adapts to your personal writing style. For this reason, we recommend that the fountain pen be used only by yourself.

No, I don’t think, if you’re using your steel nib with the appropriate pressure, short of writing with it for a hundred years it will really make that much of a difference in the shape of the nib. Other people can use your fountain pens as long as they know what they’re doing. And as long as you’re using a pen that writes.

Zebra Pen guarantees the performance of this writing instrument. If it fails to perform properly, please return it to Zebra Pen Corp. for repair or replacement.

Why would I spend more of my own money to mail Zebra this terminally dysfunctional pen? I could literally use the money it would cost to ship this pen to buy a working low end fountain pen from another company (for example, Pilot Varsity, Platinum Preppy). Zebra, you need to take this pen back to the drawing board because whatever you’ve done, it’s something very wrong. Perhaps it’s the (what seems to be) felt-like mechanism in the feed. That part is garbage. Throw it out. Re-evaluate your life choices.

Fountain pens really aren't that hard you guys

Fountain pens really aren’t that hard you guys

Bonus, this trainwreck of metal and ink takes proprietary cartridges! ZEBRA, WHY. This pen is the price-point opposite experience of the Paperchase Wonderland Cartridge Fountain Pen I found at Target. For only $4.99 plus tax, Paperchase knocked it outta the park. A near-perfect beginner fountain pen. The V301? Possibly a diabolical plan by Zebra to keep the masses from ever falling in love with fountain pens, pushing them to pursue a life only of ballpoints, gel pens, and rollerballs.

No link today because I don't want you to even think of wasting your money on this thing. Though, for the record, I got mine this time around at a Walgreen's

No link today because I don’t want you to even think of wasting your money on this thing. Though, for the record, I got mine this time around at a Walgreen’s

For five bucks, I don’t want a pen I have to mess around any with. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, it just has to write. For the second time now, this pen fails to meet the basic functioning definition of a pen.





Parker Duofold Historical Colors White Ivorine International Medium Point Fountain Pen

6 09 2014
A pen so fine deserves two of my most favorite inks, the Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa and Noodler's Apache Sunset

A pen so fine deserves two of my most favorite inks, the Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa and Noodler’s Apache Sunset

Some pens are just so terribly lovely that they make you want to cry. Even in a little cellphone picture on Twitter I could tell this was one of those pens. I tweeted the Goldspot Pens people, and they were kind enough to let me borrow this pen for a test drive.

It comes in a box, which I would rate as acceptable. The inside of the box is nicer than the outside of the box. The entirety of the box is not as nice as a top hat.

It comes in a box, which I would rate as acceptable. The inside of the box is nicer than the outside of the box. The entirety of the box is not as nice as a top hat.

I opted to give the White Ivorine a try, and it looks phenomenal with the gold plated accents. I may have said this about other pens, but this pen truly makes me wish I had a billiard room. If I had the time I’d take it up to the Biltmore Estate and demand they let me do a photo shoot.

Everything is magically comfortable

How many shades can I make White Ivorine appear to be? All of them, apparently.

One thing words and pictures can’t quite convey is how luxurious the resin feels. You pick up the pen and it’s the first thing you notice—this is different. This is nice. The grip is comfortably sculpted, the barrel that becomes the threading for the cap has its edge smoothly rounded off. The little details of design all speak of expert handling—as well they should; every Parker Duofold is finished by hand.

Or so the internet tells me. You can always believe the internet

Or so the internet tells me. You can always believe the internet

The cap posts quite high up on the pen. Personally, I like the balance of the pen with the cap unposted, but it’s not too terribly back-weighted that I couldn’t write with it posted. The Duofold logo on the top is wonderful—can I get a Duofold signet ring so I can stamp this pattern in wax? Possibly on everything from there on out?

Check your mouth. It may be hanging open, leaking drool. This is perfectly normal

Check your mouth. It may be hanging open, leaking drool. This is perfectly normal

I almost want to stare at this nib more than I want to write with it. It’s satisfying, but rather firm for a gold nib (a deliberate condition, just something I wasn’t aware of going into it). I’m not trying to downplay how it writes, because it does a good job with excellent flow, but it’s not the kind of life-changing experience that convinces you to have a first-born just so you can give it up in exchange for the chance to write with this nib. It’s good, but it’s not that good. I imagine, however, that the more you write with it, the better it will get. I’d be willing to write a mile of words with this Duofold. The feel in my hand leaves no room for complaints.

A scale of creamy-color reference. White Ivorine, Pelikan Creamweiss, and Pilot Vanishing Point White.

A scale of creamy-color reference. White Ivorine, Pelikan Creamweiss, and Pilot Vanishing Point White.

If you’re the kind of person who has Benjamins to throw down, this Parker Duofold will not disappoint. For the rest of us, now is a good a time as any to start a dollar-a-day Duofold savings fund.

 

Thanks again to Goldspot Pens for letting me try this pen!

Parker Duofold Historical Colors White Ivorine International Medium Point Fountain Pen at Goldspot Pens





Parker Vector Navy Body Fountain Pen

22 07 2014
I can't wait to get a good solid grasp of stylized drawing of my dog. I'm guessing it will look like a bunch of triangles trying to bite everything and projectile vomiting water

I can’t wait to get a good solid grasp of stylized drawing of my dog. I’m guessing it will look like a bunch of triangles trying to bite everything and projectile vomiting water

A recent ramble into my local pen store revealed that Alan had gotten his hands on some new-old stock of Parker Vector fountain pens. I wasn’t necessarily intending to buy another fountain pen, but how could I resist a good deal?

The answer is I can't resist. I think I may be in the grasp of the pen mafia.

The answer is I can’t resist. I think I may be in the grasp of the pen mafia.

By the packaging design, I was going to guess late 80s, but the markings on the cap indicate that this Parker hails from 1993. The barrel is plastic with metal accents—the grip, the bit you post the cap on, and the clip.

Do you make a Hawkeye joke, or a Green Arrow joke? NEITHER, because this pen is navy. Except on a cloudy day, when it apparently turns photogenically black.

Do you make a Hawkeye joke, or a Green Arrow joke? NEITHER, because this pen is navy. Except on a cloudy day, when it apparently turns photogenically black.

The plastic Vector is a thin, simple, everyday pen that nevertheless sneaks in some pleasing repeat design elements. I see it and I think “school pen.” There’s even a spot on top that’s got to be for either writing your initial on or for being perplexingly distracting from the dark navy/silver motif.

"F" for the grade you'd better not make when using this pen

“F,” for the grade you’d better not make when using this pen

I can’t help setting my expectations low when a fountain pen clocks in around $15, but in this case it wasn’t needed—the nib is nice! There’s definitely a sweet spot to it, moreso than some other pens I’ve picked up lately, but it’s got a wonderful tactile flow on that sweet spot. No skipping, no hard starts. That kind of reliability is exactly what you need in a school pen. The only major downside: proprietary cartridges. But these cartridges are huge! How washable is this washable blue ink? I think that will be an experiment for another day.

Man, I wish I had affiliated links of some sort. I spend enough money on Amazon Prime, they ought to throw me some kickbacks. Instead, I fuel my pen addiction with mindbending amounts of voluntary overtime. Hooray!

Man, I wish I had affiliated links of some sort. I spend enough money on Amazon Prime, they ought to throw me some kickbacks. Instead, I fuel my pen addiction with mindbending amounts of voluntary overtime. Hooray!

If the Parker Vector they put out today is as good as the Made-in-the-USA model they put out in 1993, then it’s a pen worth getting. If you live anywhere near Office Supplies & More, see if Alan has any of these left. If not, you can gamble with what’s on Amazon.

 





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








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