Zenzoi Bamboo Fountain Pen Review

I love when I hear about a new pen company that is coming on to the scene or has been established and I just learned about them. The pens come with no perceived opinion like “I know what model A is like so I bet model B will be similar and I can expect this or that”. A new brand to me has produced a nice surprise. Zenzoi recently contacted me about trying out one of their fountain pens. My visit to Zenzoi.com had my opinion positioning them as more of a gift company than a pen focused company but I tried not to pre-judge what was coming in the mail.

Mail call was in a few days. I have had an affinity to wood pens lately so I really liked the bamboo wood construction of my review sample. Here is the link to the pen on their site. The bamboo was finished nicely and the wood grain accented the overall look of the pen well. Some wood pens are over finished with shellac and varnish almost giving a slick feel. Zenzoi lets the feel and beauty of the wood come through. The gold trim had some black accents and the section was black plastic. It is an attractive pen. The other design touch I really liked were the rounded ends of the pen made out of the same bamboo wood. Usually this are plastics or metal finials.

  • Material: Bamboo Wood
  • Nib: Two Tone Genius Iridium Germany
  • Length Capped: 5 ¾”
  • Cap Length: 2 5/8”
  • Length Uncapped: 4 7/8”
  • Length Posted: 6 5/8”
  • Cap Diameter: 33/64”
  • Body Diameter: 15/32”
  • Weight: 25.9g
  • Street Price: $40

I would consider the Zenzoi on the small side of sizing. That’s really a personal preference on what one prefers but it had no bearing on the writing performance. With some plastic parts like the section this gives the pen a very light feel and at under 26g it is light. If the length and diameter suit you this could easily be an all-day writer.

Packaging

Zenzoi chose a matching bamboo wood clam shell box for the pen. The box is a great choice for a gift giving experience but other than that it adds nothing to the writing experience. Your opinion may differ as to whether it’s worth whatever amount it adds to the cost of the pen.

Cap

The cap is a snap on style with a definitive click. The clip is a tight stamped style and serves its purpose without fuss or attention needed.

Filling System

The Bamboo came with a converter similar to those I have used in other pens. It doesn’t hold a lot of ink but it does the job, is easy to clean and doesn’t leak.

Nib

The nib is a two tone affair stamped with Genius Iridium Germany. I’ll assume that means made in Germany. Quality out of the box was impressive. The out of the box writing experience was as good as any pen I have purchased. Smoothness and flow were excellent and I had no hard starts at all. I intentionally laid the pen down uncapped for a few minutes and it started right back up with no hesitation. It could easily be a daily workhorse pen.

Conclusion

This pen delivered more than I expected. At $40 you will probably have to really like the uniqueness of the Bamboo and/or the investment Zenzoi has put in the very nice packaging as a gift purchase. The nib wrote very well, it comes with a converter and I’m sure any new fountain pen user would get a positive first experience with the Bamboo as a gift.

Thanks to Zenzoi for sending this one over and when you get time go give them a look at www.zenzoi.com

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Penn State Industries Pen Kit Review

I like to make things and I like pens. Several years ago when I was spending more time in the woodshop I made some simple ballpoint pens for family members’ gifts. They came out good, though somewhat plain and the Cross style refill wasn’t to my preference.

Since then I kept looking at that wood lathe over in the corner and kept thinking I needed to make a fountain pen. So just before Christmas I received the new Penn State Industries catalog and decided to give one of their fountain pen kits a try. Penn State Industries is a popular supplier for hobbyist that cover the arts and craft scene with handmade pens to sell. The ordering process is dizzying with all the choices, pen mechanisms, finishes, tools, supplies and a huge host of pen body materials to choose from. Plus it doesn’t stop at pens, the same concept of turning raw material will let you make wine stoppers, ice cream scoops, razor handles and other gifty ideas.

The model I landed on was the Olympian at about $13. The hardware I received was a mixed bag of plastic parts and metal parts. The metal parts being substantial enough to give the final product a sense of quality. It came with a converter, an ink cartridge and what Penn State calls a German made nib. I needed a few other tools like drill bits and such so my total tab for this project was a bit more than the pen kit.

For my project the pen body was harvested from some 100+ year old barn wood from a family member’s homestead. We made some other keepsakes for the family member out of the same wood and we had a piece left over that was big enough for my fountain pen project.

You start by cutting the body material down to size. You need two pieces in the correct length for the brass tubes provided in the kit. One for the pen body and one for the cap. Drill bits are a very precise size. I chose to pick them up with the pen kit and I doubt I will ever need to replace them, or need them for anything else other than making more pens.

Next you mount the two pieces on a mandrel and load them on the lathe to begin the turning process with sharp chisels. You turn the 2 pieces down to near the diameter of the size bushings and then sand them progressively finer to reach the final size. I went down to 800 grit because that is the finest grit I had on hand.

Finishing of the wood can become a whole science in itself. I took an easy route using CA (super glue) and some automotive wax. The finish is warm wood without a lot of flash or luster. Your preferences may vary.

You need a lathe, some drill bits and a few other tools. I bought a small light duty cheapie lathe. For writing pens and the volume I plan to do this will work fine. I’m sure someone could get crafty with a drill press but either way you’ll need some tools.
The price of entry is not conducive to making a single pen. A Pilot Metropolitan is a far greater value if you look at the pure economics.

The nib appears to be decent quality. I cannot confirm a German descent but I have no reason to believe it’s not. I was disappointed in the dryness of the nib when I inked it up for the first time. I suspect, as with some other inexpensive pens, nib performance may be hit or miss. Mine needs some tuning, and yes I will probably spend more than I paid for the pen to have it tuned. Everybody does that right? What’s more disappointing to me is if I were going to give this as a gift to a non-pen person I don’t think they would enjoy the writing experience and that might persuade them to avoid fountain pens in the future. I don’t know what the solution is though when marketing a $13 kit.

With glue up and finish drying time I have about an hour invested. I like the final product. I think with practice using the chisels I could give the body more character. The cap threads are plastic but smooth. You will not mistake this pen for a Mont Blanc but even precious resin can’t match the warmth of a family member’s 100 year old homestead barn.

This was a fun exercise. I have another kit but no body material in mind. Have you ever tried it?

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The Right Pen For The Job

I think it’s normal for pen people to burn mind calories and energy picking our preferred writing instruments based on the task in front of us. Maybe a house purchase, a marriage license or some other big event garners special attention to the choice of writing instrument. For me it’s more mundane tasks such as an extended note taking session at work, my pocket EDC for the day, church on Sunday or a variety of other tasks. It’s a joy to go through my collection and maybe stumble across a pen I have not used in a while. Many times this is not a fountain pen as it’s just not practical. Recently I caught myself doing this almost unconsciously.

I am fighting some finger joint pain and that’s required a few more visits with the medical professions that I’m used to. With the turn of the new year many of said professions need new paperwork for 2017 or I’m seeing a specialist for the first time and the new patient clipboard is daunting. This week I had another one of these new patient appointments and there I was the night before going through my roller ball and gel pens.  I was probably spending a bit too much time evaluating what is going to be the best pen for the job. I mean anything had to be better than the $10 per thousand globby stick pen with the name of some drug I can’t pronounce printed on it right?.

Here were my choices and where I landed:

  • Pentel Slicci .25 – Form factor is a bit skinny to hold, further complicated by my aggravating joint. A fine enough line but a bit nail like scratchy. Pass
  • UniBall Jetstream – Not sure which tip I had but it was too bold. Pass
  • Sharpie Pen – Smooth and probably fine enough but maybe a bit wet if the forms are two sided on cheap paper. I just can’t have bleed through. The horror. Pass
  • Sakura Pigma Micron – Probably the best choice, wrote small enough, smooth and not very wet but I didn’t have a black ink version. Pass
  • UniBall Signo .5 – Smooth, always a favorite and just a quick decision on the .38 or .5. I landed on a black version of the one in the picture. Oh yes and I took a blue along as a backup. Success!

Everybody does this right?   Please say yes you have a medical forma pen.

Remember: Write something nice……

Pens For Sale

pens-for-sale-726x1024I have too many. Recently while rotating my daily carry I was going down in the number of pens I had inked up and I ran out of room for my normal storage routine.  I looked through my collection and some just never seem to make it to my carry pen case. I’m not sure why as they are all very nice writing pens. It’s time for these 6 to move on to better parents.  If you see something you like drop me an email to bob@mypenneedsink.com

USPS Priority Shipping CONUS included in the price. If you want the box I can probably dig those up but if that is a deal breaker for you send me an email and I will search for the box specifically.

1. Jinhao X750

  • Gold body color
  • Medium Steel Nib
  • Fill Style: Converter
  • $10

2. Nussbaum Nicholas

  • Gold Carmel body color
  • Medium Steel Nib
  • Fill Style: Converter
  • $30

3. Cross Apogee

  • Blue Silver body color
  • Medium Steel Danny Fudge Tuned Nib
  • Fill Style: Converter
  • $100

4. Conklin Nozac

  • Harvest Moon body color
  • Medium Steel Nib
  • Fill Style: Converter
  • $50

5. Conklin Glider SOLD

  • Tiger Eye body color
  • Fine Steel Nib
  • Fill style: Converter
  • SOLD

6. Edison Hudson SOLD

  • Green marbleized body color
  • XFine Steel – Richard Binder Tuned Nib
  • Fill Style: Converter
  • SOLD

If you see something you like drop me an email to bob@mypenneedsink.com

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Bung Box Norwegian Wood Emerald Ink Review

bung-box-vial-1-1024x457The grand prize growing up was always the big flip top lid of 64 Crayola Crayons with the sharpener in the back. Grail marking products for a 10 year old. With 64 colors to choose from I had my favorites but my personality quirk at the time didn’t allow me to use those favorite colors because I didn’t want to dull the tip or worse use them up! So I remember taking others colors and mixing them on the page to try and create the colors I liked that were sitting right next to me! I guess the concept of just buying another box was escaping me or out of the financial reach of a young lad of 10.

My Crayolas of today is fountain pen ink and as I have matured, ok just grown older, I use what I buy. I don’t buy limited edition inks as a general rule, I know my 10 year old personality would creep in and never allow me to use it. Since my quest with fountain pens started I have spent a considerable amount of time and shipping costs on sample vials looking for some key color tones that I like to write with:

  • Brown
  • Green
  • Burgundy
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Orange

I have my favorites in each color family with a couple of different blues, greens, purples and red / burgundy. Overall I have maybe 20 bottles of ink which quantity wise represents about a 10 year supply. Additionally, nothing in a long time has really jumped off the screen at me to go buy.

With a recent Vanness Pens order I got a free sample vial of Bung Box Norwegian Wood Emerald ink. My current favorite green is Diamine Delamere Green which I have been perfectly content with but I have heard good things about the Bung Box ink so I found an 80’s vintage Sheaffer that writes like a fire hose and inked up the Bung Box.

Below are some of my ink cards compared to other greens I have tried. The Bung Box is a little bit different shade but that really comes down to preference.

bungbox1IMG_1432The Bung Box ink behaved well, wrote well, shaded beautifully and even cleaned out well. At $43 I just didn’t experience that big of a difference over my current inventory. In the event I find it on deep discount or my Delamere hue gets discontinued I would consider the Bung Box but for now I will appreciate the opportunity for experiencing a great ink in a sample format. I will give it to Bung Box though for some of the coolest names in the ink biz though.

Are you a Bung Box fan?

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Lamy Multi-Pen Review

overall1I don’t think anyone sits down for a letter writing session and specifically reaches for a multi-pen. I don’t, but I can’t fault the convenience at work or on the go if you do a lot of markup or colored ink work. I owned a multi-pen when I was a young boy and still a closet stationery geek. It was the venerable Bic 4 Color Retractable.
bic
I loved that pen and guarded it with my life by only taking it out to show my buddies or for writing something special. Oh the horror if it were to run out of ink, I had no clue that I could actually buy a refill. Truth be known it probably dried up by NOT writing with it. That was 40+ years ago and they still sell it. In later years my standards for the writing experience has elevated somewhat and given the choice, a 4 color ballpoint is not my preferred. I own one other multi-pen.

AcroballA Pilot Acroball and for its intended use it’s not a bad pen. Good action and full size refills that right ok.
Now if there is a category for classy upscale multi-pens, I now own it. A Black Lamy 2000 Multifunction Pen. The Lamy 2000 line is nearly iconic in its stature as a fountain pen. The shape and design have been around unchanged for a long long time. It’s aesthetic just works and the Makrolon material is unique while being a comfortable material to handle, hold and write with. The brushed stainless steel trim gives a nice contrasting look against the black body.
overall1THE PEN:

    • 21.7 Grams
    • 7/16” Diameter
    • Length: 5 ½”
    • Brushed Makrolon resin barrel
    • Brushed stainless steel head and knock
    • Red, Black, Blue and Green D1 refills included
    • Street Price: $50

PACKAGING

Packaging is good for this price range, not much to review. If you usually discard packaging not much to change your mind on this one.

packaging1packaging2CONSTRUCTION FIT AND FINISH

Lamy’s build quality, fit and finish is known to be a consistent high quality. This one is no different, minus the clip, but more on that later. The Makrolon material is smooth with no burrs or rough areas The joint of the section and body is nearly invisible as you can see, or not see, below. Threads are smooth and start easy every time.

Section GapMakrolonREFILLS

Some multi-pens take proprietary refills. That can be good or bad. Usually that means more expensive and limited selection of color and point sizes. My Acroball takes proprietary refills and they write fairly well for a ballpoint but when they run out I would not have any extras laying around, and I’m a pen guy with way too many refills laying around. The Lamy takes the universal D1 size that are available in 80+ variations at my last count. In the Lamy you can mix and match the refills to your preference though the pen twist mechanism will always reference only blue, red and green.

RefillsTHE CLIP

clip1The clip is standard Lamy fare. Its thick shape lends itself positively to the overall aesthetics of the pen. The LAMY name is printed on the side discretely and doesn’t get in the way of the other iconic design elements of the pen showing off the great design. The clip is thick and has a good springiness for performing its main duty, namely holding it in one’s pocket or clipped to a notebook or pad. My particular example had a loose clip and my small amount of tinkering to take the pen apart did not yield any wisdom on how to tighten it up. It doesn’t affect the use of the clip or the pen at all but I found this minor defect unusual based on all the Lamy pens I have owned. I’m sure if I send it in Lamy they would make good on it.

IN USE:

Lamy has figured out how to fit 4 pens in a barrel the same size as the fountain pen. That’s a good thing as it’s comfortable to hold, incredibly lightweight and a pleasant shape proven over many years. I own a Lamy 2000 fountain pen and besides being heavier I can barely tell the difference. Deploying the writing tip of the pen is a normal pushbutton knock. To get the color you desire is a gravity exercise. Near the tail end of the pen is a 3 color ring.

Colorband1 A portion of the ring is colored in blue, red and green. Holding the pen horizontal and facing the color you want on the section up to towards the ceiling you depress the knock and you get the color facing up. You face the clip up to get black. It works ok most of the time. I am not an engineer and looking at the pen, after taking it apart, I don’t know how to do it better but to me it’s just not smooth. I think I understand what contortion each tip has to perform when you push the knock down but however clever the gravity selector is I wish for something a little smoother. That being noted I would not trade off pen thickness or weight for that smoothness so my expectation are probably unreasonable. It works, it works every time and the right color comes out of the tip so there is a fair amount of good design and technical engineering invested.

tip sticking outCONCLUSION

Thanks to The Pen Company for sending this pen over. Lamy has done a great job creating an affordable but higher end multi pen for those that have the need and enjoy the convenience of four colors in a single body. If your use is utilitarian with a pen body that looks good in a boardroom or with a client you need to impress and maybe you need it tough enough to be thrown around in a purse, pocket or EDC bag. The Lamy is probably a great choice for you.

Do deploy a multi-pen regularly?

Remember: Write something nice……

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A Few Minutes with Kaweco’s Sebastian Gutberlet

One of the great aspects of this stationery hobby is meeting people from all over the world. Most of these relationships start online and many can flourish in person. I am not a big traveler so I’m a little surprised sometimes when someone from another country finds my little spot on the internet here at MPNI. One such relationship I have enjoyed is with Kaweco Pen’s Sebastian Gutberlet. Sebastian and team have been great supporters of My Pen Needs Ink and of course they put out some great products in the industry. Probably most known for their SPORT line of pens. Recently Sebastian was kind enough to give us a little more insight into his role as a valuable contributor to the pen community. I hope you  will sit back, refill your beverage of choice and enjoy this short journey to getting to know Sebastian a little better.

MPNI: Tell us a little about the Kaweco team that many of us know through the online communities. We know you, Michael and Ingrid so tell us a little about your roles and how is the company structured?

SG: My father Michael, the CEO, Ingrid and I are only a small part of the Kaweco Team. In the office we have 7 people. In the production area we have around 20 people depending on the order volume. I am responsible for Marketing and Sales. Ingrid is one of our sales ladies and mostly takes care of our orders. Additionally she is our treasury secretary. We see the Kaweco company really as a team. Most decisions are made in the weekly team meeting via poll.

MPNI: Tell us about the history. We know some of your pen designs have been around since the 1930’s. When did Kaweco start?

SG: Kaweco started already in 1883 as the “Heidelberger dip pen factory”. About ten years later a of couple gentlemen named Koch and Weber bought the company. That was when the name Kaweco was born. The first two letters of the owners’ names and the addition company formed the “Kaweco” name. Normally it would be “Koweco” but they decided that Kaweco sounded better.

MPNI: When did you know you had a successful pen business on your hands?

SG: I was not in the company yet ( I was 9 ) when my father started to revive Kaweco in 1992. Kaweco had not been producing anything for 10 years in 1992. It was not the main business at that time. Gutberlet was selling pen parts and cosmetics for other brands. This business was really good so it was just for fun for my father because he was, and still is, a pen collector. Not only for Kaweco but also for all pen brands. Kaweco was growing step by step and my father says he realized that he had found a treasure when he made a lecture about luxury brand strategy at Staedtler a short time before they launched their premium line. He realized while preparing the lecture that the Kaweco Sport Design is outstanding like the Coca Cola bottle and the Porsche 911.

MPNI: You’re quite active, and very supportive, of the pen community. I treasure your sponsorship of MPNI. How has social media moved you or changed you as a company?

SG: The margin in the pen business is not as high as other branches. We can not compete with the marketing power of a fashion or cosmetic brand for example. Additionally we are a very small company, even in the pen business. The idea to support the bloggers and even to make our own facebook page was very late compared with other brands. There were a lot of people writing about Kaweco before and writing that they liked our products so much. When we realized that this effects our sales in a positive way we decided to do more in that direction. So far this year we have also created an Instagram account and Twitter in addition to the Facebook account. At that point I want to also say “THANK YOU” to all the bloggers and press people who support Kaweco and all the people which take their time to write about the brand.

MPNI: I’m seeing some activity with your new site, http://mostwanted-pens.com. Can you tell us about your plans and goals for that venture?

SG: The website has been online since January. There are several reasons why I founded the company. The first is that there was no retailer worldwide which sells really the complete program including all accessories and gadgets. Also the nib selection is very good. The customer can choose which nib he wants and doesn’t have to buy a pen with a steel nib and then pay extra to add a carbon black nib for example.

Another reason is that I also wanted to create something of my own. My grandfather founded the Gutberlet GmbH, my father revived Kaweco and I have now started mostwanted35 with the first step http://mostwanted-pens.com. So I follow the family tradition to create something I own and new. I want to connect all the cool brands ( not only pens ) that I know and like in one shop. This will be the mostwanted35. The first mortar and brick store will follow soon.

The third reason is that I am tired of the marketing of many brands and trade companies. Just following the quick money and not thinking in long term. For example my mobile phone contract was running for 7 years and I always paid the full old price. When I realized, I called them and said that I am a long term, loyal customer and I want a better rate. What the salesman said shocked me. He said that I have to quit the contract and to make a new one because new customers get a better rate. So I decided that I want to found a company that rewards loyal customers in the long run. So I built the Customer VIP Level. With every purchase you get a new level or you come closer to the next. For every reached level you achieve 1% discount on the complete order.

MPNI: Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how the pen community can get behind Kaweco and mostwanted-pens, besides the obvious of buying your pens!

SG: To know more about Kaweco and what’s behind us you should follow us on facebook. On the website you can also find our history. We are also working on a new history CD with better design and more information. There will be videos, pictures and so on. For mostwanted35 and mostwanted-pens there will be the first newsletter in August. We will change our shop system to a full responsive design system which is much better to inform and shop on a mobile.

MPNI: Your Classic line of pens is almost universally praised as a standard bearing pocket pen. Where does your design and engineering ideas come from?

SG: My father has a very big collection of old pens because he is a collector. We have so much inspiration there. Also we try to keep the DNA of Kaweco. Of course we have also our own ideas. I tell my father I have an idea for a design of a pen and his answer is: That’s not new, look here, Kaweco did this already in 1933. It is really hard to find something really new, which nobody has ever done. But sometimes we do it. For example with the Kaweco SUPRA. Nobody did this before or we could not find a pen with a part to unscrew and make it shorter.

MPNI: Any good insider info on what we should be on the lookout for from Kaweco coming up. Of course I would love to scoop it here on MPNI.

SG: For Kaweco there are so many ideas we have. Some retailers told me that we bring too many novelties throughout the year. And I tell them that we bring to market only half of the ideas we had because then it would be too much. This year we have already introduced: ICE Sport Black, CLASSIC Sport Red, The SUPRA, SKETCH UP Brilliant and Black, STUDENT Transparent, SPECIAL Dip pen, Mini Converter, Denim Pouches, SKETCHBOOK, German Shepard pen holder and a lot of POS Material.

Some other things coming for sure this year: Rhodium plated gold nibs, Bi-Color gold nibs in all nib sizes, SKYLINE Sport Macciato, AL Sport light blue, AC Sport Racing Orange and racing green, Orange ink and Grey ink.

At mostwanted-pens.com will be an exclusive AL Sport edition in addition to the Exclusive colors of LILIPUT which are already available. But that will be a surprise with the launch of the new shop system.

MPNI: What does Sebastian like to do when you’re not selling pens?

SG: I am producing them! In addition to pens I try to spend as much time as possible with my 2 year old son Antoine Gutberlet. He is the best thing I have ever created. He has already started drawing, so he is already into pens, too.

Big thanks to Sebastian for spending the time with us. I know many of us look forward to great new things from him and the team at Kaweco for the second half of 2016. Plus when you’re finished here go checkout , http://mostwanted-pens.com

 

Remember: Write something nice……

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Kaweco Classic Sport Ballpoint Guilloche Review

I ended up with two similar Kaweco pocket pens about the same time. A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the The Classic Sport Gel Roller in Black Chess Pattern so I won’t bore you by repeating much of what I’ve penned in the past about the Kaweco Sport line and I will spare you the duplication on my commonly written philosophy on the pocket pen genre. Most all of it was summarized in my review of the Gel Roller.

Today I want to share with you about my time with the The Classic Sport Ball Pen in Black Guilloche  Overall5 Length: 4.15″
Weight: .4 oz
Uses D1 Size Refills

APPEARANCE

The Guilloche variant features a black octagonal barrel with a subtle guilloche engraved effect and gold colored metal decal on the push button. Manufactured from ABS or sometimes called macrolon plastic, the guilloche is small, light and attractive.

Overall3 Overall4 End Cap2 Tip3Black pens are hard for me to photograph well but in the pictures I hope you can appreciate the creative design Kaweco has added to this one.

ERGONOMICS

The Guilloche is a close cousin to an Ice Sport I have carried and abused for several years. So no get familiar time was needed for me.

Where the ballpoint excels over the gel roller in my mind is speed to deploy. The knock push button is one handed and just faster than two hands needed to remove a cap.

The downside is there is no cap to post. The cap of the gel writer makes it a more comfortable pen to write with, you just can’t pull that feat off with the ballpoint design. Where the ballpoint shines is convenience. Receipts or signatures are a quick and efficient execution, unpocket, click, sign, click, repocket, done.

REFILL

Apart1The D1 refill scared me at first as there is an obvious trade off with size and ink capacity but there is a bigger variety of D1 refills than I expected. With these manufacturers producing the D1 size I’m sure you can find something you like.

    • Retro 51
    • Monteverde
    • Uniball Jetstream
    • Zebra
    • Pilot
    • Staedtler
    • Kaweco
    • Platinum
    • Ohto
    • Pentel
    • Tombow

I don’t worry about proprietary refills with the Kaweco. The Soul 1.0 that ships with the pen is worthy performer or if you prefer another here is a review I did on a wide variety of these D1 refills. I found a favorite.

CONCLUSION

The two newest Kaweco Sports to my collection are a really hard toss up on which to carry. I really like the quick deploy of the knock push button on the ballpoint but the writing comfort (posted) and Parker refill of the gel writer makes for a nicer writing experience. Either one you pick, or both, I think you will enjoy the Kaweco quality and know it’s going to work for you every time you call it to action.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Kaweco Sport Chess Gel Roller Review

Like most everyday carry items the best one is always the one you have with you. I have reviewed, carried and maintain a collection of about 30 pens that I would consider pocket size. 5 of these 30 are in the Kaweco Sport line.

Overall CappedKaweco Classic Sport Chess Gel Roller Black

The Classic Sport line is based on a design dating back to 1935. The fountain pen is probably the most popular model followed by the click ballpoint and the parker size refill gel roller I’m reviewing today. Made from ABS macrolon plastic, this pen comes in comfortably as a pocket size variant pen but when posted it’s a comfortable handling length for anything but the longest of writing sessions.

  • Length capped: 4 1/8”
  • Length uncapped: 3 15/16” with refill
  • Length posted: 5 ¼”
  • Weight with refill: 11.4 grams

APPEARANCE

Where the Ice Sport and other finishes in the Sport line would be considered a fun look, I would suggest the black CHESS version gives a slightly more upscale look to the pen. On 4 sides of the signature 8 sided cap there is a nice checkered pattern that you can see and feel in the material. I suspect it’s mainly for looks and it succeeds very well.

Overall UncappedThe cap is topped with the traditional gold cap of the Kaweco brand and sets off the rest of the pen quite nicely. At the tail of the body is a very small ridged tail piece. Nice aesthetic touch but I’m not sure if there is a functional purpose for it. The only thing I could think of is maybe to help with retention of the posted cap.

CapCONSTRUCTION

Fit and finish on the pen is top notch, as we have come to expect from Kaweco. They execute well on what can be a challenge of mass producing a nice looking and attractive designed pen for under $30.

The engineered size of the Gel Writer impressed me. The body of the pen, sans refill, is actually shorter than a parker refill. You can’t get more compact than that and still use your favorite refill!

Refill2ERGONOMICS

The Sport Gel Roller has a screw on cap that requires a small ¾ of a turn to uncap and recaps in 1 turn. The threads on the body of the pen look deceiving and I was expecting a longer twist on and twist off so there is some cool thread magic going on in the cap that I would never be able to explain. It works. The difference in rotations probably has to do with the positioning that my test just happened to choose in relation to engaging a lead thread to start the engagement. With some experimenting I could get it to full close in ¾ of a turn but in practical use a full turn is very acceptable in regards to deployment and return to pocket speed.

The section is a slight concave which helps with the finger resting and unposted the pen writes fine but for my larger hands anything more than my signature on a receipt I’ll be posting the cap. With the cap posted I find the overall length of 5 ¼” very easy to handle and comfortable for most writing tasks. The cap is a push on posting style with good retention and no wiggles.

Section

Overall Length Posted

Here it is posted next to my Karas Kustoms EDK, another standard in the EDC pen genre.Compared to Karas Kustoms EDKREFILL

Best news of the whole pen: it accepts parker style refills. What that means to the owner is probably the widest selection of refills available for any style pen. The Kaweco refill that is included with the pen is very good. I will probably leave it in there though my replacement preferences lean towards the Schmidt line. Nobody has done a better refill guide for the parker style than Ana over at The Well Appointed Desk. Check out The epic refill reference guide or there is probably a good chance if you’re reading this you already have a drawer full of old refills collected in your hunt for the perfect one for you.

CONCLUSION

The Sport Gel Writer is not the fanciest, most exotic, most expensive or technologically advanced pocket pen I own but it has quickly become an MVP for pocket wear when I’m loading up each morning for the dangers and perils of suburbia. With the parker refill, the plastic construction that is safe to other, more expensive, toys in my pocket and at $30 I don’t worry too much about it. It deploys easily, writes every time and disappears back into my pocket with ease. One can’t ask for much more from a mini pocket pen.
I know I talk a lot about pocket pens so have you come up with anything new lately?

Remember: Write something nice……

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TWSBI Eco Review

The entry level fountain pen market is not overly crowded but I would call it dominated by two pens, the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari. TWSBI has a reputation for playing a little above that entry level field but offering a true bargain in a real piston filling pen. Namely the ever improving 530/540/580/580-AL series. In July of 2015 TWSBI’s back room may have just put a bulls eye on Lamy and Pilot for the entry level market and I’m glad to report there is a solid third player in that niche field now. The Eco is a demonstrator piston filling fountain pen for under $30. I had no need for another pen and my daily rotation was humming along good but my curiosity won out so I ordered an Eco to see how well TWSBI could do for less than three ten dollar bills. The Eco has been out for several months now and it’s been reviewed by several of my blogging colleagues. My findings are similar to others but I will add my personal taste comments and preferences.

The Pen

IMG_0284TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

  • Steel Broad Nib
  • Price: $29
  • 5.5” capped
  • 4.15” uncapped
  • 6.55” Posted
  • 22.8 grams, with ink

Packaging

The packaging belies the price point for this pen. I think thatmakes it an exceptional bargain for gifting as the whole package looks more expensive than it is. Not quite to Apple’istic level of the 580 but pretty darn impressive for a $30 pen.

IMG_0327

What’s In The Box

    • Pen secured and well-presented
    • Wrenc h for disassembly / maintenance
    • Silicone for maintenance, mostly the piston seal after many flushes with flushing solution.

Overall Appearance

Overall Cap OffThere are two models of the Eco differentiated only by the color of the cap and tail. Both models (colors) of the Eco are demonstrators, love them or not. You can get a white or black cap and tail. The cap and tail have a hexagon shape that tapers into the round clear plastic body of the pen. The clip and the band at the bottom of the cap or both chrome, the clip being metal and the cap band is plastic with a chrome finish. Another nice accent is the red TWSBI logo inset in red on the very top of the cap.

The whole design is unique which does open it up for honest critique. I’m not really a demonstrator pen person but right now I have the Eco and a 580 AL inked up and I’m enjoying watching the ink slosh around, my mood varies.

IMG_0299Ergonomics

I don’t think any of the aesthetics of the pen detracts from it being a normal handling pen. Round barrel, average size with a good tapered section down to the nib. With the mostly plastic construction weight is light and I like the balance of the pen unposted. I do not post my pens so I’ll refrain from opinion on using the Eco posted. The cap does post but I have no basis for comparison of the writing experience as a poster.

Section

SectionThe section is smooth and reminiscent of other TWSBIs. I personally don’t like the ink seepage around this area where it goes into the feed but I’m told it doesn’t hurt anything and I’ve had no mishaps with it. Your annoyance factor may vary.

Cap

FinialThe hexagon shaped cap is topped with a red TWSBI logo inset. I don’t think I would call it a finial but it gives character to the pen and displays its lineage proudly as does the ECO and TWSBI printed on the chrome band at the bottom of the cap.

Clip

capThere is nothing special here but nothing wrong with it either. It’s a flat, straight design that fits with the overall design of the pen. Ramp is good so it catches well on a pocket or pen case. Tension is about average and seems adequate.

Filling System

IMG_0304The filling system is the most amazing part of the value proposition that the Eco delivers. A true piston filler that uses the majority of the pen body as an ink reservoir giving you nearly 2 ML of ink capacity. That should keep you writing a while even in broad nib mode. The piston worked smooth and is even user serviceable with the included wrench and lube. Now TWSBI has been doing the wrench and lube inclusion for years but at this price point I was surprised. Probably another note on ergonomics is the hexagonal shaped tail makes for a good grip for the piston movement.

Nib

NibI’m sure the nib is made by one of the major players, Jowo, Bock, etc. TWSBI does a nice job engraving the nib and mine was perfectly aligned out of the box with every measurement I could see with my 10x loupe.

Writing

With its well aligned nib and consistent flow the writing experience is wonderful. Not glassy smooth so you definitely interact with the paper and pen contact. I would call it smooth, with feedback, for good control but not slick. The broad I purchased is maybe a little on the smaller size of broad but I tend to like Magic Marker size lines from my broads. Wetness falls just to the wet side of the scale and I have not experienced any hard starts or skips even after a thinking session with the cap off. I have come to appreciate my pens that are solid starters and performers. Every time I put nib to paper I just want ink to be there, simple request and many more expensive pens have not delivered. Superb job here TWSBI.

Writing SampleIMG_0301Conclusion

For less than $29 . The only thing that would keep me from recommending this pen every time to a new user is the frequent reluctance of new fountain pen users to use bottled ink. I don’t blame them, I started with cartridges myself but as soon as one is ready to try bottled ink this should be your first pen. Very impressive TWSBI.

Some other reviews

Are you a TWSBI fan?

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