Atlanta Pen Show Haul Mini Reviews

I had a great show in Atlanta this year and though I didn’t really have a budget to spend going in I did have a well thought out list of things to see. I saw most of them and changed my mind on quite a few. They just didn’t speak to me and I don’t buy stuff for the sake of ownership and checking off a list. In the end I am happy with my haul.

My social acumen was better this year. I know a lot of people talk about this phenomenon, or borderline fear, but I have never had one bad experience interacting with other pen people at shows. Granted not every conversation takes off into an all night gab fast but we’re all different. I’m hoping I continue to mature in this area with the more shows I’m able to attend. This year I met some new friends and connected with others I only get to see in person at pen shows.  I was very fortunate to score a late Saturday spot for nib work by the great Mark Bacas @nibgrinder.  He does incredible work and I have a better writer because of it. Thanks Mark as always.  My only regret from the whole show is missing my good friend @gentlemenstationer. We were even in the same room together, how do we do this GS?. The loss was mine.

Below is my haul from a couple of hours on Friday and a full day on Saturday. I missed Sunday due to travel home but my wallet protested when I tried to delay departure and sneak one more round of the show floor in.  I plan to do full reviews of a some of these new treasures in the future but until then here are my first impressions:

Franklin-Christoph Notebook Covers – Starting at the top left I picked up two fabric notebook holders from Franklin Christoph. Always love their stuff and these are a nice break for me from my usual leather products. I got the pocket notebook cover and an A5 journal cover, both in Linen Brown Fabric. Also got a set of the pocket notebooks and the A5 notebook itself has a nice cover that might be a shame to cover up.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice – This is my first Robert Oster ink and I had a bit of FOMO when I saw a bottle of it. I like the blue hue and with the broad nib on the right paper the ICE portion does pop out.

Akkermann # 28 Green Ink – I have a green ink l really like but Brad and Mike talk about #28 so much that I had to try it.   This does rank as the prettiest ink bottle I have ever seen though. I so much want to put it on display.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz – Late last year I sold my one partial bottle of brown ink, Caran D’ Ache Grand Canyon.  I loved the color but the small bottle made it such a pain to refill the larger size pens that I prefer.  I never replaced it so I set out at this show to get another brown ink. The Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz landed in show bag. In hindsight I think I was more enamored with it’s status as ink of the year and there was probably something else that would have worked for less money.  Lesson learned but it’s still a very nice color and well behaved ink.

Diamine Cocoa Shimmer – I have a lot of Diamine ink and the brand has never disappointed me so I had to get their version of the glittery en-sparkled ink.  Andersons Pens had a good selection and I landed on the Cocoa Shimmer. It needs the right paper to really see it’s shimmer but when you do it’s really something. I have read different reports on what this glittery stuff will do to your pen but I will watch it closely and flush soon just in case.

Col-O-Ring – I have tracked my ink samples on index cards for several years now. I always knew the big box stores’ index cards would not perfectly depict the ink color but it has worked for comparing two similar shades.  The Col-O-Ring is a bunch of small very fountain pen friendly cards held together with a ring. I’ve only been back from Atlanta for a couple of days and I have had a lot of fun opening up all my inks and spilling big blotches on Ana’s creation. Ana Reichert of Well Appointed Desk may not have invented the idea but she did perfect it with her version.

Story Supply Pocket Notebooks – I love love love what Vito and Gabe are doing with their company, giving back to kids. Read about their goals here.  I’m always on the hunt for new pocket notebooks with fountain pen friendly paper. My quick test filling up a page says these are a home run.

Nock Co Dot Dash cards – I originally bought some of the Dot Dash index size cards to really support Nock. With the pack sitting on my desk I found myself using them for more and more little tasks until now I’m hooked on them.  I got a refill of the 3 x 5 size and picked up the new business card petite size.  I plan to use the business card size for making notes to put in the boxes of stuff I buy that shows when, where and how much for the item.

Ryan Krusac Legend #16 Fountain Pen – I wanted an all wood pen and I got a beautiful all wood pen. Ryan’s a cool guy, a talented artist and was a joy to talk with and deal with. He has several models in a variety of wood species. I liked the 16 mm diameter version of his new Legend series.  He has a slightly smaller 14 mm diameter model as well.

Kanilea Pen Company – In a short couple of years Hugh and Carol have really made an impact on the custom pen market and our community.  Their designs, company focus, packaging, conversational exchanges and everything about them carries a Hawaiian vibe.  This was a purchase I was on the fence on, for me the price of entry was stiff for an unknown brand, again, unknown to me. I read many positive reviews on their product and everyone said go see it in person.  I went to see them as my first stop when I got to the show on Friday. Hoping for the best  selection.  I can confirm the best photography cannot prepare you for what you experience in person. Within 30 seconds I fell off the aforementioned fence and knew I was going home with one. The harder part was picking which one.  Especially as they sold two others while I was standing there!  The model that took me awhile to decide on was the Kilauea.  It’s a stunning orange, grey and red swirls. Everyone I have show in to loves it and by mid Saturday all the Kilaueas they brought had been sold. I scored!

Carolina Pen Company – The now famous Jonathon Brooks @brooks_803 creates some of the most beautiful and creative use of color in resin pen blanks available today. So much so that several other custom pen manufacturers use the blank resins that Jonathon makes. He is also a very accomplished pen maker himself. I got a Charleston model fountain pen in a beautiful off-white color with some grey swirls and gold specks that you can see when you spin the pen. A very interesting finish. Jonathon also gets credit for the best line at the whole show “I own lots of women’s makeup”.  It brought the house down at the live Pen Addict podcasts.  He was referring to how he gets much of the color into his pen blank creations but you can imagine the context of the comment.

Wrap up

I brought home more than I expected to. I will need a better plan for DC or restrict my visit to fly in grab what I can in 15 minutes, hug Brad and leave.  I already look forward to next year and I might even do the weekend trader pass!  If you have a show in your area or have the means to get to one I encourage you to make all efforts to go. If you’re not a big social person that’s ok, you WILL still enjoy the show. If you like chatting with other pen nerds, count on learning something and gaining new friends in this wonderful community.

The links above are for reference only. I tried to link to the product and dealer that I bought from at the show. I would purchase from all of them again but there is no affiliation other than that. Pricing should not be assumed the lowest available.

Remember: Write something nice……

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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

Remember: Write something nice……

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Are You Going To The Atlanta Pen Show

Atlanta Pen Show Apr 21-23, 2017Is it too early to start planning for the Atlanta Pen Show ? I think not. I keep telling myself I want to make it to DC and Atlanta this year but so far Atlanta is the only sure bet. I’m getting a little better at the whole pen show social aspect after 2 years. That hesitation is totally on me, everyone at the show has always been super nice and friendly.

Atlanta Pen Show

April 21-23, 2017
Wyndham Atlanta Galleria
www.atlantapenshow.com

I have not done a lot of research so far but a growing list of what I want to see has emerged:

Ink

I’ll end up with one of these shimmering, shading, flakes of gold ink at the show. Not sure which one but my interest is up:

  • Diamine Shimmering Red Lustre – I like variations of red and Diamine has always performed well for me as a brand.
  • Robert Oster Fire & Ice – I will be surprised if I find any of this available. I think it’s been very popular
  • A new brown ink – this will be my first attempt at shopping by swatch as I have no brand allegiance or ideas.
  • J Herbin Emerald of Chivor – I know I’m months and months late to the game on this one but if it’s still available it may be this one or the Robert Oster
  • Akermann #28 Green – I have a green I really like but it seems like I hear about this one every week on the Pen Addict podcast so I’m going to give it a try.

Pens

  • Anything in real wood – Since making my first fountain pen out of a pen kit and some old barn wood I just love the feel of the wood in my hand. I also have a Faber Castell Ondoro in real wood and it’s equally soothing in hand. I’m gunning for your table Ryan Krusac.
  • Aurora Optima – I don’t own an Aurora and I’ve heard good things about them. This will definitely be a try before I buy as I have only seen them in print.
  • Sailor Pro Gear – See Akermann #28 above
  • Pilot Namiki Stella 90 – This has been on my list for a long time and honestly I don’t remember why. Maybe if I actually find one and see it in person I will remember why.
  • Kanilea Pen Company – I’m on the fence on this one. Beautiful pieces but it’s on the high side of my price point so it will really have to speak loud to me in person.
  • Scriptorium – I love working with small makers and support them when I can. I have seen some of their work and it’s very nice.
  • Faber-Castell Special Edition Pure Black e-Motion – I love everything I have of Faber-Castell. Plus every one of them have been perfect writers right out of the box. Their styles can be unconventional but their quality always rings my bell.

The links above are for reference only. I have purchased from the dealers referenced and will purchase from them again but there is no affiliation other than that. Pricing should not be assumed the lowest available.

So there I have it, If I get one of each I will come home broke and probably on a bus so the hunting and deciding should be fun.

Would love to hear any recommendations you have for me on the above or what your plans are for The Atlanta Pen Show or other shows this year?

Remember: Write something nice……

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Michael’s Pens FAT BOY Pen Review

A pen is a pretty straightforward design, a long slender tube, a stick if you will. Some are prettier than others with companies being creative by using variations on round, varying the thickness, accoutrements and of course what raw material they use. Sometimes those variations can move a pen closer to a piece of art or depending on your tastes and perspective they could venture into a novelty. Hopefully any execution of art or novelty does not impair the practicality of a pen as a writing instrument. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with a maker’s pens that jump out a little farther with the design aesthetics than what you typically see on this blog. I’ve had fun with these.

Michael Hochstetler of Michael’s Pens is a creative type when it comes to writing instruments. Since 2003 he has been building quite a design collection of his signature Fat Boy pen right here in the US. Impressive longevity when the industry of small production custom pen manufacturing is still relatively young.

Over the years, he has innovated using the basic design of a robust aircraft billet aluminum pen body, Parker size refills and German Schmidt internals. All quality parts and when you see the pen you will see the name fits, and it’s not just a pretty moniker, they are fat for a reason and I found that trait pleasant for me over my time with three models:

Red Wire High Voltage Tesla Coil

By far my favorite is the black body with 2 strands of red wire tightly wound around the body attached with stainless steel screws. The effect looks like the windings of an electric motor. The black clip is hinged where it attaches to the pen body. This is a numbered special edition model that sells for $219

Red Comet

The Comet starts with the red billet aluminum body then Michael diamond cuts four streaking comets into the barrel. The comets retain the raw aluminum look for a striking contrast. Clip is a stamped steel version that pressure clamps across the top of the pen. The Comet series comes in 4 different colors and sells for $85

Red Chopper

Laser engraved flames set the Chopper Collection collection apart and against the red I think I even feel tougher writing with it. Clip is a stamped steel version that pressure clamps across the top of the pen. The Chopper series comes in 4 different colors and sells for $85.

All of the Fat Boy pens are available in a Pencil with Eraser configuration as well.

The major outlet to find the most versions of Michael’s Fat Boy is at Fountain Pen Hospital where search results on the Fat Boy returns 84 pages! Names like Archangelo, New York, Civil War Cannons, it’s fun to browse through how many unique variations Michael has designed over the years. The Fat Boy could easily be a collector model like some people collect say Lamy Safaris or Kaweco Sports.

Michael also sent over a really cool pen stand made from a ring of ball bearings specifically for the Fat Boy. If you’re considering the Fat Boy for a gift, or your desk pen, this stand would put it over the top. These sell for $45 with 6 variations to choose from Fountain Pen Hospital.

The Pen

Material: Aircraft Grade Billet Aluminum

  • Refills: Parker Style (Comes with a Monteverde Soft Roll P15
  • Length: 5 1/8”
  • Body Diameter: 5/8″
  • Weight: 1.94 oz. (Comet Model)
  • Street Price: From $85

Packaging

Michael does a nice job on the packaging from a shipping protection standpoint and also to support his major retail outlet Fountain Pen Hospital. The shiny black box and protective outer box depicts the quality that resides inside whether being opened up across a sales counter or a customer receiving it as a shipped package.  Michael has also taken the time to design some short documentation on the pen which may not affect the writing but accurately portrays that thought and details were not spared in his design.

Overall Appearance

The Fat Boy is a big fat pen. It’s like a 300 pound linebacker vs a more conventional pen as a 300 pound 7 foot tall NBA center. The proportions are different. Not bad or unattractive, quite the opposite for my tastes. At just over 5” I would not call this a pocket pen but it’s a good length for every day writing. The big rubber treads where you grip the pen also give a big beefy look. At the tip and tail there is a large turn down in the diameter to mate up with the tip cone and the knock. A unique look.

Construction Fit & Finish

The red finish that I tried out were striking with a smooth finish and no machine marks or assembly scratches anywhere. Threads were smooth and it includes an o-ring in the tip to help with squeaks, rattles and keeping the tip tight. The wire wrapping on the Tesla Coil edition is wrapped perfectly. I catch myself starring at it wondering how he did that so precise. A well put together pen with attention to detail obvious in the design and construction

Ergonomics

Did I mention the Fat Boy is a big fat pen?. The aluminum makes it a comfortable weight for me and I happen to like big fat pens. At 5/8″ diameter It fills your hand. You feel the extra hardware on the Tesla Coil edition but there were no harsh edges that really bothered me. The weight differences between it, the Comet and the Chopper didn’t make any difference to me. The knock works splendid like most Schmidts do and the three rubber rings at the gripping section work wonderfully for a grip. I would almost call them tires more than rubber rings.

Clip

All of the clips worked well. The stamped steel wrap around clamped version of the Chopper and Comet has good tension and performs it’s intended role just fine. Here again the Tesla Coil is my favorite with the hinged and tapered clip definitely being a step up. It’s emblazoned with M I C H A E L S and the hinge adds a little bit more mechanical panache to the pen.

Refill

Great choice by Michael on the Parker style refill. He includes a Monteverde branded refill with every pen which is a really good writer but it’s simple to unscrew the writing tip end and slip in your favorite Easy Flow, 9000M or whatever you fancy. On the Tesla Coil edition he throws in an extra refill, nice touch.

Conclusion

A Fat Boy will get noticed in a room full of more ordinary pens. The aesthetic style may not be for everyone but I loved them. The large diameter and the grip was a joy to write with and the build quality was top notch so it’s a winning combination for me.

Thanks again to Michael for sending these over to try out.

You can find Michael’s pens at michaelspens.com and Fountain Pen Hospital.

Remember: Write something nice……

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The Fastest Pen in the World – Porsche Shake Pen

I’m a car guy. I don’t own a lot of cars and the most I ever owned at one time was 3 old cars with a combined Blue Book value of a new small economy sedan. Growing up it was a dream of mine to get up in the morning and be able to choose what car I wanted to drive to work from a fleet of cars I enjoy driving. Do I want to drive the Jeep, or the sedan or the sports car?

I did that for a while but the upkeep, insurance and tags became more money than the sum of enjoyment I derived from it. During those short periods I never owned a German car due to the unfounded fear that maintenance and repairs are expensive so as a side benefit of this pen hobby I now own a Porsche. Ok it’s a pen and technically a Porsche Design pen that has been billed as the fastest pen in the world. Read on to see why that marketing hype may not be that big of a stretch. Either way I can now get up in the morning and ask myself what am I going to write with today, the Edison, The Bentley, or maybe that’s Bexley, or the Porsche?

Recently my friends at The Pen Company sent me over the Porsche Design Shake Ballpoint in white resin to give it a try. I wonder about the Porsche moniker being used for anything outside of the automobile realm but here is an excerpt from the Porsche Design website.

Porsche Design is a luxury brand with a particular focus on technically inspired products. The brand was founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, whose products have stood for functional, timeless and purist design ever since. The products are designed in the Porsche Design Studio in Zell am See, Austria and sold around the world in the company’s own stores, shop-in-shops, high end de- partment stores, exclusive specialist retailers as well as the official online shop.

The Pen

  • Material: White Resin
  • Length Overall: 4 1/16”
  • Barrel Diameter: 25/64”
  • Weight: 1 oz
  • Street Price: $103 USD
  • Germany is stamped on the side of the tail piece but the website says designed in Austria

Packaging
Packaging is well done and what you would expect with a Porsche licensing. My usual disclaimer applies: I’m a box saver and this one stacks easy, but if you’re not a saver this one doesn’t give you any pause as being unusual. Enough about that.

The pen is in the box with the refill loaded and ready to write.

Construction Fit & Finish

This is a pocket size pen at just over 4” with no cap or clip. Three major parts that you see, the body made of thick resin, and two metal chrome ends. Looks like it could take a good pocket beating and stay nice looking. The White resin appears to be white all the way through so I suspect that would help with scratches. I would need a little more mileage on the pen though to positively confirm that.

Overall Appearance

This is a short attractive pen with gentle curves and a beefy mid-section. With the proportions and the curves of the chrome end pieces I can use a little imagination and see a little Porsche 911 in it, or maybe that’s just me not being able to let go of the car associations. I don’t know how they do that with some of the other products selling under the Porsche Design line but I think they played decent aesthetic homage to the brand with the pen entry.


Porsche design calls the barrel special edition white pearlized resin. It contrasts better than I thought it would as white on chrome.

The tail piece has a slight bump that works perfectly as an anti-roll device and it holds a vertical branding of PORSCHE DESIGN engraved in it. Tasteful and discrete.

Ergonomics

The girth of the pen fits my larger than average hand well, even with the short length and there is no sharp edges on the tail where it rests in the web of skin between my index finger and thumb. The length is probably at the length limit for me to call a pocket pen without a clip. A 1 ounce weight and a little bigger grip section near the tip of the pen makes this a comfortable pocket writer for me.

By far the most interesting feature of this pen is the tip retract and extend mechanism. It’s done with just a shake of the pen, or maybe I would call it a flick of the wrist. I’m a big fan of EDC pens being quick to deploy because if I’m going to carry it in my pocket it’s for quick notes on the run, emphasis on quick, while waiting in line, checking out or some other task that usually has people waiting behind me to do the same thing so I like to get done and out of the way.

The Shake Pen is unique and one handed it worked for me every time. This is where I would give props to the claim of fastest pen in the world. Even with a conventional one-handed click pen there is some finger re-positioning after deploying the tip with your thumb and then moving to a writing grip. With the Porsche Shake Pen you just flick your wrist in the direction of the pen’s writing tip and your writing tip appears. Sign your receipt, flick it again and tip is gone. Done, clean, slick. Here is a short video I did showing the shake in action.

Clip

No clip, proceed to next section.

Refill

The Shake Pen uses the venerable and widely available D1 format. There are a lot of good choices on D1 refills if you don’t like the Pelikan branded unit that came with the pen. It worked fine for me as a ballpoint.

Porsche Shake Pen ApartConclusion

My first Porsche is attractive, doesn’t need to be insured and the shake function is fun and practical. Deploy and retract worked every time that I flicked it correctly. If you’re a fan of the brand this pen could support that in a small way and would probably look good in the center console of your 911, Boxster or Buick. I liked the pen and have not rotated it out of my pocket carry yet. Thanks again to The Pen Company for sending this one over to try out.

Any connection you have with pens and cars?

Remember: Write something nice……

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Can a Pen Be Worth 10x More Than Another Pen?

Pen Value All Math is the one subject from school that I have used the most throughout my life. I was good at basic math but algebra and trigonometry, not so much. As I accurately, but naively, forecasted I have not used either of those last two in my real life. I don’t really apply a lot of math skills in supporting my hobbies but the overall price does play a role and I go by the very loose rule that more money buys higher quality and/or more exotic material.

After buying the last wrist timepiece that tickled my fancy (ok Amazon recommended buy that I bit on) I realized I paid 1/10 of what I invested in the watch now sitting right next to it on the dresser. I paused briefly and thought to myself did I get 10 times the enjoyment out of that watch over there?

In the picture above I dug through my hobby piles and found some examples of pairs that had a roughly 10x cost difference. Of these items, the watch duo is probably the easiest to pick out the 10 timer. From a practicality perspective the one on the left keeps time just as good as the one on right that costs 10x more. The one on the right certainly has more features and probably the aluminum construction and electronics cost a little more than the rubberized plastic of the Timex on the left. Quality I can’t speak to, though time may reveal a difference.

Pen Value WatchesThe pocket knife pair is a Chris Reeve Sebenza and a Cold Steel Tuff Lite. Both are very sharp, cut great and are built well enough to last through anything I will ever need to do with a knife.Pen Value KnivesYes the Chris Reeve fit and finish are better and the action is smoother. I thought later about a flashlight duo, another hobby of mine, but I think for this exercise you get my parables attempt.

Pen Value PensSince this is a pen blog I’ll focus on the pen comparison. The purple pen is a Lamy Safari, a very popular fine writer. I bought my first Safari, a different one, after reading positive recommendations that are plentiful for this model pen. I was not impressed with my first one and mistakenly assumed due to the price that a $30 fountain pen would always write like the first example I bought. Even that was not my first fountain pen disappointment before I really knew anything about sometimes finicky nibs.

The darker colored pen is a Visconti Homo Sapien that I truly love and it easily qualifies for the 10x cost factor compared to the Lamy. The material in the Visconti is some kind of million year old ancient sacred volcano lava that cures major illnesses (/hyperbole> and what Visconti calls a DreamTouch Palladium nib. I’m sure the material that makes up the Visconti costs more to harvest and process than the molded plastic and steel of the Lamy, but 10x as much?

Both of these pens are winners in my book regardless of price and will have a place in my EDC rotation for a long time. I have purchased, and subsequently sold, pens in both price ranges that just didn’t float my boat. I find that to be part of the joy of the hobby. I love how the Visconti feels in my hand, the balance, the size and the nib is the perfect balance of wetness, width and smoothness for my tastes. This second Lamy has been an equal joy to use, the shape is comfortable in my hand, the weight is different but the balance is good and the nib? Yep the perfect balance of wetness, width and smoothness for my tastes. A repeat performance every time I use it for 10x less money.

So why did I buy the Visconti? I bought the Visconti before I added this particular Lamy to my collection but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Visconti’s reputation, the uniqueness of the material, a palladium nib are some of the factors that drew my attention, my research and eventual purchase. It doesn’t write 10x better than the Lamy and I don’t think its quality is 10x better either. The Visconti had traits in a pen I had not experienced before and was willing to try them at the sale price I was able to reach. I’m very glad I took another shot at the Lamy Safari club, this one confirms to me that all the great recommendations for this pen were for a pen like this one, not the first one I owned a couple of years ago. Recurring theme: I am so glad both pens are in my collection.

My goal for this post was to give a real world example that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to thoroughly enjoy the fountain pen hobby. You may not like either of the pens discussed here but I’m sure there is a pen in all price ranges that will bring you joy using it every day.

As a last example I just spent twice the purchase cost of a pen to have the nib tuned. I made the pen myself so the purchase price was really for the kit. Total investment now is about $50 and I’ll put it up against any $50 pen I own in pure writing enjoyment. Probably not the wisest financial decision but I’m sure glad I did it.

Dr. Jonathon Dean did a much more in depth, fact based post here on a similar topic of the value of pens. If the economic side of the pen hobby really interests you I would encourage you to subscribe to Dr. Dean’s blog at peneconomics.com. He’s a lot smarter than me in this area.

Whatever the financial investment is in your pens I hope you take the opportunity today to enjoy them.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Cognitive Surplus Journal Review

I am in a comfort zone with paper. I have my brands that I like but I’m always open to try new things. Cognitive Surplus is a company that offers recycled paper journals in some really cool covers and 4 different configurations. Besides being a unique name I had not heard of them before as a force in the paper or journal space. I’m glad they found me. They were kind enough to send over a couple of their journals for me to try out. A Hypothesis and an Experiment. I love the names and they offer two other variants as well called Test and Theory. See the whole line here.

I hope you’ll stay a minute and read about my experience with these two.

Size

Both of my review samples are slight variations of the A5 size. The hard cover is a little bigger than the paper itself and the soft cover is flush with the paper measuring in at 6 ¾” x 8 7/8”.

The soft cover Experiment is 112 pages coming out to ¼” thick and the hardcover Hypothesis with 192 pages pushes out to 5/8” thick.
Price

  • $18.95 Hard cover Hypothesis
  • $10.95 Soft cover Experiment

Covers

I’m not a flashy guy and typically I don’t buy printed cover journals but I’m glad the Cognitive Surplus team jolted my norm a little bit. They have a big selection of attractive covers with a wide appeal that does not really cater specifically to a masculine or feminine style. I would have a hard time selecting just one from their selection but I will admit to an affinity to bicycles from fond memories of my youth. Nice catch here. My other cover was Crustaceans & Echinoderms with an ocean theme in a pleasant greenish blue tone. They don’t do plain and now that I have carried the Bicycle version around for a couple of days I recall some comments from others about me stepping up my fashion game a bit. Although if you’ve seen my wardrobe you would have doubts, but a cool looking journal can’t hurt.

Construction, fit and finish are excellent and I tested the advertised waterproofness on the hard cover Hypothesis. The small puddle of water I put on the cover and let sit for a minute or two wiped right off with no trace.

Binding

The Hypothesis is a classic book bound style. It’s promoted as lay flat and it lays as flat as any similarly bound journal that I have used. Don’t expect spiral notebook type lay flat with any of them.

The Experiment soft cover model is 4 groups of pages folded over then those groups looked to be glued together. This type of binding construction helps it lay flatter I’m sure. You also get a little slimmer and lighter weight journal with the soft cover if space and carry weight is a consideration.

Paper

Cool covers are nice but the paper is where any journal has to deliver for me. I like purchasing recycled products in multiple consumer product categories but writing on recycled paper usually is not pleasant with anything wetter than a ball point.

Cognitive Surplus says their product is fountain pen friendly and I would agree. They suggest, with printing on the vertical belly band packaging, For best results use a small to medium tip fountain pen. That’s a good suggestion but by no means a requirement. You can see in my writing sample everything worked very well. The only ghosting I got was from my fire hose writing broad Faber-Castell Ondoro. Some thicker paper has fallen victim to it before so I will give kudos to Cognitive Surplus for their 80 GSM choice. Common with recycled paper is the off-white color. No surprises here and the tone is pleasant enough.

An additional feature of the paper is it’s FSC-Certified. The (FSC) Forest Stewardship Council is an organization that promotes and educates in the area of maintaining sustainable forestry. There are different levels of certifications within the FSC and I applaud Cognitive Surplus for their environmental contribution.

My review samples came with college ruling with 9/32” spacing. The line printing is consistent all the way to the edges and they looks like a medium shade of a forest green. It’s pleasing to the eye and well defined. The Experiment is lined on the front and the back. The option I tried on the Hypothesis is lined on the right, blank on the left.

Writing

Cognitive Surplus has done their research and produced the best recycled paper I have ever written on. The paper they have chosen has texture and you can feel it when you write, not nib drag or friction but a tactical feel that’s different from some of the popular brands’ coated paper. I liked it, coated paper is nice for its slickness and near impenetrability but drying time almost always suffers. The drying time for the Hypothesis and Experiment, with no smudging, was at 15 seconds. I have waited minutes for coated paper.

Conclusion

Thank you Cognitive Surplus for sending me out of my comfort zone with a splash of color in a quality journal. If environmental support is a passion for you I don’t think you’ll do any better with a recycled paper product that these. If the recycled thing is not a hot button for you I would still encourage you to give these a try. A quality product, at a fair price, with a wide array of cover choices and just enough customization on the inside to help you work like you want to.

Thanks again to Cognitive Surplus, I am still enjoying my time with the Hypothesis and Experiment.

Remember: Write something nice……

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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?

Remember: Write something nice……

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TiScribe-Bolt Pen Review

The fidget factor in pens can be alluring if you write and wait or write and think a lot. Whether it’s a cheap swag click pen, a magnetic cap, those fancy Visconti cap threads or other methods, moving parts on writing instruments get our fingers’ attention. Who hasn’t been annoyed in a meeting while the person across the table incessantly plays with a loud clicker. To compete with the colleague with the click Bic there is probably no greater fidget factor than a bolt action pen. I don’t know who did it first but there are several out there and the designs are similar. I’m not overly dexterous so the form factor is not my absolute favorite but I cannot deny the fun and rarely can I resist a good bolt action pen.

The latest offering to hit the pen scene is a Kickstarter from Kelvin over at Urban Survival Gear, called the TiScribe-Bolt. Kelvin has released several good writers and based on the review sample I received the TiScribe-Bolt will fall right in line with the quality we’ve come to expect from him. The design element that sets the TiScribe Bolt apart from the rest is the the whole clip moves the slide action to extend and retract the writing tip. I wouldn’t call it a revolutionary design but we’re talking about the company that was brave enough and cool enough to make a machined pen highlight. Kelvin’s creativity is inspiring, and it’s a great pen.

The Pen

  • Material: Available in brass, copper and titanium
  • Finish: All three are available in stonewashed or polished
  • Length: 5.5”
  • Diameter Body: .375 ”
  • Weight: 27.4g
  • Price:   Early Bird pledges start at $49 (Brass) up to $74 for Titanium.

Packaging

Urban Survival Gear takes a minimal approach to the packaging. I like the thinking behind more money and effort put into the product. Kelvin uses the popular clear twist tube that serves the pen community well. This style packaging ships a lot of pens around the world safely and inexpensively. If you’re short on room or just not a box saver no big worry dropping this one in the recycle bin.

What You Get

  • TiScribe-Bolt Pen
  • Pilot G2 Refill

Construction Fit & Finish

Anything I have with the TiScribe name is high quality. The finish is good with no obvious machining marks, threads start easy and they are quiet. I love that attribute and the attention to detail. The cone is about ¾” long and it took me a minute to get a good enough grip to unscrew the pen. It’s tight and probably helped by the O-Ring. I didn’t need pliers or anything like that but this thing won’t be rattling loose. The J channel for the bolt action accommodates the clip assembly well with the machining tolerances giving a smooth action with no looseness or sloppiness. Impressive

Overall Appearance

Kelvin is offering a polished or stonewashed finish of titanium, copper or brass. The review sample I received is the polished copper and out of the package it’s beautiful. Patina sets in quickly so depending on how you feel about that order accordingly, you know it’s coming.

True to the TiScribe line of pens the Bolt has a clean utility look that is simple and attractive. Five machined grooves near the business end of the pen offer a visual breakup of the smooth body and also offer a good grip. The clip on all the pens is titanium.  The clip is stout looking but rounded enough to work with the aesthetics of the curved tapered nose cone of the pen. A nice depiction of the Urban Survival Gear’s logo is engraved in the tail end of the cap. A nice touch and if I had one nit pick of the pen I would like the angular lines of the logo to align with the clip. That’s probably more to blame on my brain wiring than a real design element.

You will recognize this as Kelvin’s work and that’s a good thing. Unique enough from other machined pens but not straying too far from convention.

Ergonomics

The TiScribe-Bolt is a comfortable writer, diameter is good and the 5 grooves give your fingers a nice resting place without any sharp edges. The copper is the heaviest of the three metals available but I found the weight and balance to be fine. Writing tip engagement and retract is an easy one handed thumb affair. Isn’t that what a bolt action pen is all about?.  Maybe not quite as fast as a boring pushbutton knock but fidget toy factor:  A+.  I found it easier than some of it’s competitors I’ve used and I think it’s because the clip is a bigger handle for my thumb to run the bolt through the J groove. A benefit I didn’t see in the pen initially but one I experienced as I spent more time with it.

Clip

Kelvin is making all the clips from titanium. I’m sure copper and brass make lousy clip material and making one clip for all models is a more efficient production model. The clip on the TiScribe-Bolt moves. That’s ok, the metal is stiff and you get a slight gap between the pen body and the end of the clip. That helps put a stiff clipped pen in your pocket or clip it into a pen loop. If you’re looking for a super strong hold on a file folder or something that’s super thin then you may want to test that fit first. In my play time I could not detect any marring of the pen body from the clip movement and I suspect there has to be some movement to get the smoothness in the bolt action.

Refill

The TiScribe-Bolt is Pilot G2 size. For an extra $10 you can get an adaptor for the Parker size. I’m fine with the G2, the Uniball Jetstream, Pilot Juice or V5. A wide choice of refills fit this size pen. Standard stuff for machined pens and thanks Kelvin for sticking with a popular standard.

Conclusion

I like the TiScribe-Bolt and Kelvin’s innovative design. Not groundbreaking writing instrument stuff but a creative twist on what is relatively new pen mechanicals, the bolt action. I applaud that in a maker. Thank you Kelvin for letting me go along for the ride.

Here is what my friend Mike Dudek had to say over at the Clicky Post on the TiScribe-Bolt

Here is the Kickstarter Campaign

Here is the Kickstarter video

Remember: Write something nice……

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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……