Posts filed under Fountain Pen

Review: Conklin Duragraph

The Numbers:
Weight: 26g
Length (capped): 140mm
Length (uncapped): 125mm
Price: USD$52 from Goldspot Pens
Body Material: Resin
Nib Material: Stainless steel
Filling Mechanism: Standard International Cartridge/Convertor
Colours: Amber, Ice Blue, Cracked Ice, Forest Green, Red Nights, Orange Nights, Purple Nights

Intro:
My thanks to Goldspot Pens for sending me the Conklin Duragraph for review.

Conklin is a true blue American fountain pen maker. It’s established in 1898 and it had been the forefront of fountain pen innovation with the Crescent Filler system back in 1897. Conklin has since been purchased by Yafa Companies.

The Duragraph was originally launched back in 1923. The current incarnation of the Duragraph comes in 7 colours. It’s available a variety of nib sizes namely fine, medium and stub. I was sent the Red Nights in F nib.

Packaging:
The Conklin Duragraph came in a sturdy blue box. It is sheathed with blue cardboard sleeve with a cut out over the Conklin logo. Once the cardboard sleeve is removed, you will find a tastefully designed box. On the outside you can see the Conklin logo as well as the stitching that outlines the box. The snap top box opens easily, and the pen is lying in the middle. Overall, I really enjoyed the look and feel of the Conklin Duragraph’s packaging.

Performance:
I was sent the Red Nights edition of the Conklin Duragraph. It’s black on the ends with a red semi-translucent crystallised finish in the middle. A silver clip, thinner top and end rings and a thicker centre ring accented the flat ended fountain pen. It’s designed to be at home in a professional setting.

The clip has a decent tension. I trust it to keep my pen secure in my pen case without problems. The centre band has the Conklin logo, crescent moons and the word “Duragraph” etched. The Conklin logo is just ever slightly off centre from the clip. I am not sure if this is standard across all the pens or it’s just mine that’s slightly off centre. It’s not a big deal, but it’s these tiny attention to detail that makes a good pen a great pen.

The cap takes a single full revolution to be uncapped. Once uncapped, you will see generous sized stainless steel two-toned nib. The grip section has a comfortable taper and flare towards the nib. The threads are smooth and doesn’t cut my hand. The pen itself is light and well balanced. The cap can be posted but I find it made the pen entirely back heavy. The Conklin Duragraph has a cartridge and converter filling system. The convertor provided is threaded, and it makes the converter that much more securely attached to the pen.

The Conklin Duragraph that was I sent is a generous and wet F nib. It writes very smoothly but I find the F writes more like an M. However the excellent writing experience more than make up for it.

Conclusion:
The Conklin Duragraph surprised me. I was expecting a serviceable pen, but it delivers more than a serviceable experience. It has a smooth and wet nib, it’s well balanced and comes with a threaded converter. It’s an attractive looking pen for a great price. For this particular price point, the Conklin Duragraph is an impressive pen.

Once again, my thanks to Goldspot Pens for sending me the Conklin Duragraph for review.

Pros:

  • Smooth nib
  • Threaded converter
  • Attractive looking
  • Affordable
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Remember it’s a threaded converter, don’t just yank it out!
  • The slightly off centre “Conklin” on the centre band.

Posted on July 27, 2018 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.

Review: Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator

The Numbers:
Weight: 25.5g
Length (capped): 149mm
Length (uncapped): 138mm
Price: USD$120 from Pen Chalet
Body Material: Plastic
Nib Material: Steel
Filling Mechanism: Eyedropper
Colours: Clear

Intro:
Jin Gi is a Taiwanese company that specialises in making OEM / white labelled stationary since 1988. Opus 88 is their private brand.

Opus 88 fountain pens had been all the rage earlier this year and when pens were available in Singapore, they were sold quickly. I was one of the lucky few who managed to get a set.

Packaging:
My Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator came in a simple box. It has a brown cardboard sleeve with the Opus 88 logo printed on it. Sliding it out, you will a black box underneath. Inside, is the pen and a glass eyedropper as well as a card with relevant information. There are foam inserts that secure the pen and the glassdropper inside the box. It’s a very functional packaging for the price I paid for this.

Performance:
First thing right out of the gate, you will notice is the size of the pen. It is huge. I’d say it is similarly sized to the Pelikan M1000. I do not personally a Pelikan M1000 but based on the measurements I found online, the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator is just slightly longer than the Pelikan M1000.

However, despite the length of the pen, the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator is a light pen. It is made of clear plastic accented with a matte black clip, giving it a classy look. Now a demonstrator pen just calls for a nice bright ink to show off the interior.

The Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator is polished to a nice glossy finish on the exterior. The cap just slightly wider than the body. The black words “OPUS 88” printed on the cap just under the clip.

It takes a full 3 revolutions to get the cap off. This isn’t something I like. 3 turns is 2 tunes too many in my book but this is just a minor pet peeve. Once the cap is off you will see a very generous space on the grip and a #6 size Jowo steel nib. The grip is smooth to the touch and tapers towards the nib, ending with a slight flare. The threads are nice and smooth. The balance of the pen tips towards the nib so it helps with keeping the nib on the paper.

Since this is an eyedropper pen, to fill you have to unscrew the nib and grip and fill the pen that way. The body of the pen holds a whooping 4ml and it will last you a good long time. But this isn’t simply an eyedropper pen, it has a small seal attached to a piston mechanism to seal the ink chamber away from the feed. That makes flying with the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator is way safer than a regular eyedropper pen. But when you are ready to use it, unscrew the knob at the end. You just need it about 2mm of space for regular use.

Then the nib, I opted for a fine nib which in hindsight is a bad choice. The steel nib writes ok, nothing special but it is dry, very dry. And pairing a dry fine nib with a 4ml ink chamber seems like a bad idea after I’ve used it for a while.

Now, comes the cleaning. I don’t usually cover cleaning but this pen has frustrated me with keeping it clean. This is a demonstrator pen so the hope is I’d use inks that do not stain. I’ve filled it with Sailor Nioi Sumire and before that Monteverde Moonstone. Both of them stained to a certain degree and it wasn’t easy to get all the ink out even though it is an eyedropper pen. There is ink clinging to the inside of the pen barrel and cap for no reason I can figure out. Washing it with an ultrasonic cleaner helped some but there are still ink stains that just won’t go. The stains only got removed by soaking it in pen flush. The pen flush worked like a miracle but I don’t want to resort to a pen flush to clean this pen every single time.

Conclusion:
Overall the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator is a value for money fountainpen but the pen is just not for me. The larger size doesn’t fit my hand well, the nib coupled with the large ink capacity is also not working well for me. The nail in the coffin for me is how hard it is to keep the pen stain free. The pen is entirely serviceable but it is just not for me.


Pros:

  • Huge ink capacity
  • Lightweight for its size
  • Takes #6 Jowo nib

Cons:

  • Stains easily, harder to wash out
  • Doesn’t fit my hand
  • Dry nib

There are affiliate links in this review. I may get a small amount of store credit if you purchase anything via the links. You are under no obligation to do so but if you would like to do something nice, do buy what you need via my links.

Posted on June 29, 2018 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.

Review: Pilot Custom 823 - Waverly Nib

Pilot Custom 823 WA-8.jpg

The Numbers:
Weight: 29g
Length (capped): 15.3cm
Length (uncapped): 13cm
Price: 30000 JPY from Tokyo Quill
Body Material: Plastic
Nib Material: 14K gold
Filling Mechanism: Vacuum
Colours: Clear, Amber and Smoke

Intro:
I’ve reviewed the Pilot Custom 823 in fine nib previously. This review is done exclusively for the Waverly nib version. It’s a fundamentally different nib and it provides a very different writing experience between the two.

My Pilot Custom 823 comes in a clear barrel with a Waverly nib. This particular combination is, as far as I can tell, exclusive to Tokyo Quill only. The waiting time for these pens can take months but it’s pretty obligation free. Just drop your name onto the waiting list, when it’s available the owner will drop you an email and a bill. If you’ve changed your mind about buying the pen, that’s fine. If you still want the pen, just pay and in two business days that pen will be in your hands.

Easy peasy.

Packaging:

The packaging isn’t anything spectacular. It’s the standard silver cardbox box on the exterior and the black plastic case inside. That’s ok though because the gem is the pen after all. Inside the plastic case, you will find the pen nestle safely between foam pieces. Buying from Tokyo Quill means you will get a paper crane and a Pilot Frixion pen with the shop name printed on the barrel.

Performance:

The cap, barrel and filling system is completely the same as any other Pilot Custom 823 pen. I went for the clear barrel because it’s always nice to see the ink sloshing around inside right?

Let’s get down to the business end of the pen - the nib.

Physically the nib looks like it has been dropped and oh no, it’s bent. But don’t worry, it’s meant to look that way. The nib shaped that way allows you can write in a variety of angles. The higher the angle you write, the thinner and less wet the nib will be. However, this doesn’t have the variety of a zoom / fude nib. It’s more like a European fine / medium kind of line width.

In general, I found the nib wet and smooth regardless of the direction and angle I pull or push the nib in. As a lefty, this nib is one of the best in terms of the smoothness. I personally really enjoyed this nib. It is totally useable for me despite the wetness of the nib. Of course the ink you fill the pen with plays a big part in the writing experience.

Pairing the wet, smooth nib with the ink capacity of the Pilot Custom 823 is a match made in heaven. My experience with my other Pilot Custom 823 with a fine nib was I barely was able to finish half the ink I fill it wait, with the WA version I was emptying my barrel so quickly.

Sure, the pen body plays a part in the overall writing experience, and the Waverly nib isn’t available in all pen bodies. Right now, the Waverly is only available in the 742, 743 and 912 models if you don’t want to get the 823 model from Tokyo Quill. Personally, I think being able to get a pen in a colour that isn’t black and silver or black and gold is worth the difference in price. That, plus you get the vacuum filling system and the larger ink capacity.

Conclusion:

If you are a lefty, you owe it to yourself to at least try the pen out. Go to a shop pen and give it a test run. It might be the nib that solves your lefty writing issues. I don’t not have much problems with regular nibs but the WA has opened up the world of boarder, wetter nibs to me. Maybe it will do the same for you.

Pros:

  • Ink capacity
  • Smooth, wet nib
  • Vacuum filling system

Cons:

  • Only available in selected models
  • Pricey

Posted on May 18, 2018 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.

Review: Visconti Homo Sapiens London Fog

The Numbers:
Weight: 39g
Length (capped): 145.9 mm
Length (uncapped): 131.3 mm
Price: MSRP USD$995
Body Material: Acryloid and 925 sterling silver trim
Nib Material: 23kt Palladium Dreamtouch nib
Filling Mechanism: Vaccumatic
Colours: Single

Intro:

My thanks to Louisa for lending me her precious, precious pen.

Visconti introduced the Homo Sapiens London Fog a few years back. It was part of a 888 piece worldwide limited edition. It is an addition to the Homo Sapiens lineup. It’s shape and look closely resembled the Homo Sapiens but the main difference is in it’s material. It’s made of acryloid which I’ve inferred to mean it’s a material that has the characteristic of both celluloid and acrylic.

Celluloid is known for its being able to produce beautiful swirls and patterns but it is quite flammable. On the other hand, acrylic is light and much safer to work with. So to have the best of both world, Visconti added super thin strips of celluloid into the acrylic and we have the acryloid material.

Packaging:
The London Fog came in a very solid packaging. It’s first sheathed in the standard cream coloured Visconti cardboard box. Inside is a glossy black box emblazoned with the Visconti logo. Pulling the lid up, you will see the pen nestled in the cream bed of what I think is faux leather.

The box is heavy and unlikely to be repurposed for anything. I appreciate the packaging especially for a pen of this price but I really could do with a smaller and lighter box. This isn’t something that only Visconti does but also Aurora, Montblanc and the list goes on.

Performance:
Starting from the top, the cap is a nice mix of pearlecent grey and deep blue swirl. It’s accented with two 925 silver rings around the cap and finished with the traditional Visconti bridge clip. The finial is furnished with the Visconti emblem. The Visconti emblem can be removed and you can have your initials or a gemstone put in as part of the Visconti My Pen System. The clip itself is spring loaded, it isn’t particularly tight.

Just below the cap is the centre band for the pen. It has the words “Homo Sapiens” etched along the centre along with the number of your limited edition piece.

There is a ink chamber just behind the nib that’s separated from the main chamber. The main chamber being the entire barrel of the London Fog. That is where ink resides when you seal the main chamber by tightening the knob down. That chamber holds quite a bit of ink.

The barrel is mostly clear with swirls of blue celluloid. The pen terminates at the knob that you will need to unscrew to allow the ink to flow into the reserve ink chamber. You will also need to unscrew the knob to retract the seal when filling the pen.

The cap is the best thing ever! It uncaps with a tiny little turn, probably about 1/5 of a turn. The Hook Safe Lock is my favourite thing about this pen. However for me it’s a little of a double-edged sword. More on that later.

The grip section is nice and contoured. It dips in the middle before flaring out near the nib to help guide your fingers to the correct holding position. Though the London Fog is a large pen it is well balanced. The cap can be posted but it is definitely not advisable. By posting the cap, the pen becomes overly long and back heavy.

The London Fog is a vacuum filler that means it holds a hell a lot of ink in its barrel. It means you have to be careful when you fill it especially in a full bottle of ink, that displaced air need to go out somewhere and it’s likely into your bottle and your full bottle of ink won’t be that full once air get pumped into it. It also means you can seal the main ink chamber off from the nib which makes it less likely to regurgitate its entire “stomach” contents into the cap.

Now the London Fog and most Visconti’s higher end pens comes with the 23kt Palladium Dreamtouch nib. This pen came with a fine nib which is my usual choice for non-Japanese fountain pens in general but the palladium nib is super wet. Even when paired a dry like the Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight blue it still writes very wet. It’s close to unusable to me. I cannot imagine how it writes if I had a wet ink in it. The palladium nib is bouncy and provides a nice cushioned writing experience.

Ok now that Hook Safe Lock system is truly fantastic but it also means the “threads” are big and chunky. My fingers tend to wrap themselves around those said threads. It’s not comfortable if you are in the midst of a long writing session. Short sessions are tolerable but for this price, I don’t think I need to tolerate anything.

Conclusion:
Thankfully, this pen doesn’t belong to me. Once I’m done with the review, it’s back to its owner it’s going. The Visconti Homo Sapiens London Fog is a beautiful pen with a wonderfully juicy nib but it is just isn’t for me. And that’s all right. THere is no reason why every pen have to work for me. However, lefties do take note of that overly juicy nib. The threads issue might just be an issue for me and my weird grip.


Pros:

  • Beautiful swirls and pearlessence
  • Huge ink capacity
  • Hook Safe Lock system
  • Juicy nib

Cons:

  • Overly juicy nib for this lefty
  • Threads of the Hook Safe Lock system painful for this lefty

Posted on March 16, 2018 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.

Review: Nakaya Negoro style "Nuno kise Hon Kataji" Arai-shu

The Numbers:
Weight: 23g
Length (capped): 134mm
Length (uncapped): 114mm
Price: USD$950
Body Material: Ebonite
Nib Material: 14K Gold
Filling Mechanism: Cartridge and converter
Colours: Various

Intro:
So, I won't lie and say this Nakaya is everything I dream about. This is my 3rd Nakaya. I placed an order for this pen way back in December 2016. I received pen in roughly late May 2017. Don't quote me on that, I am not quite sure of the timeline. Regardless it is safe to assume I waited about 6 months for the Nakaya. Not new. 6 months is a standard waiting time for a Nakaya.

I ordered the Nakaya Negoro style "Nuno kise Hon Kataji" Arai-shu version. It is a long name so henceforth you will see me refer to this pen as the Nakaya Negoro. Let's cover the standards first.

Packaging:
The Nakaya pen comes in the standard Nakaya wooden box with the pen kimono. Included is a Platinum converter as well as a box of either blue black or black cartridges.

Performance:
The Nakaya Negoro is a piccolo length. However it's girth is just slightly wider than the regular tamenuri models. I suspect this is due to the finish. See, the Negoro style is a standard piccolo but the artist would deliberately exposes the base. In a way you are buying a pre-crack pen. In a way it is a distortion of the concept of wabi-sabi since I am receiving the pen already imperfect. The “cracks” put into the finish will likely be different from pen to pen. This is the black base, red exterior finish while there is a red base, black exterior. I refer this version. It looks less like the cracks of hell opening up in my pen.

Comparing the photos on Nakaya's site and my pen, it seem it is standard to have one crack spanning the cap and the barrel, at the end of the barrel and one other crack on the opposite side of the longer crack. Inside, once uncapped, you will find similar treatment on the grip section.

Due to the cracks that needed to be added to the pen, the urushi is probably slightly thicker than usual. My regular Piccolo models fit the Dudek Block in the larger holes (5/8”) but the Nakaya Negoro couldn't fit the same the others did. It doesn't go all the way down.

Like the other Nakaya fountain pens I've reviewed, this is a cartridge and converter pen. It fits the regular Platinum converter and cartridges. That's standard for Nakaya pens after all you are buying the workmanship on the pens not the filling system. The balance is similar to the other Piccolo model I've reviewed so there is nothing new I want to add.

For this particular Nakaya, I opted for a regular M nib. I already have the SF and SM so I didn't want to get the same nib again. The M nib writes well if a little boring but it is after all a medium nib. It is kind of meant to be boring. I guess.

Here comes the problem. I was always under the impression that the Nakaya Negoro has a matte finish. This is entirely based on the picture found on Nakaya's website. I realised this is my mistake for not doing my research more carefully. Regardless, I am still disappointed. After all this isn't a cheap pen. Let this be a lesson to me and you to research a pen properly before buying. Pictures you see on one site may look one way but the same pen might look different under different lighting conditions.

Conclusion:
Overall, I am not entirely satisfied with the pen. In large part due to the difference in expectation and reality. This I accept as wholly my own fault. The M nib I choose didn't help matters. I do enjoy writing with it. It works very well for me. It is just a little meh, if you get what I mean. My intention is to get the nib grind to something more interesting when the Nakaya nibmeister next comes to Singapore.

Pros:

  • Beautiful workmanship
  • The same piccolo shape you love

Cons:

  • Buyer being stupid

Posted on February 16, 2018 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.

Review: Monteverde Aldo Domani

The Numbers:
Weight: 28g
Length (capped): 136mm
Length (uncapped): 120mm
Price: USD$32 from Pen Chalet
Body Material: Plastic exterior with metal interior
Nib Material: Stainless steel
Filling Mechanism: International cartridge and converter
Colours: Black, Blue, Red, Light Purple and Light Pink

Intro:
Monteverde is a division of YAFA pen company corporation. They make fountain pens as well as inks. This is my first experience with Monteverde fountain pens.

The Aldo Domani is obviously designed to appeal to the corporations. It looks extremely suited for corporate gifts where the company logo or name is printed or etched on the pen body.

Packaging:
It comes in the standard Monteverde packaging. A green cardboard sleeve around the snap case green box that has the Monteverde logo on it. Opening the snap case, the pen is nestled among the faux satin fabric. Inside, you can find 2 short standard international cartridges, along with papers.

Performance:
The Aldo Domani comes in a varieties of colours and I opted for the red. It is has a silver clip and centre band. The branding on the pen is subtle and minimal. The Aldo Domani has red shiny plastic sheathed over a metal interior core, that gives it a nice heft to the pen. More on that later.

The clip is leaf shaped - albeit an elongated leaf. It is stiff and not easy to slid over anything but the thinnest of paper. Frankly, it is too stiff for my liking but I don’t make it a habit to clip it over my notebooks.

The cap screws off in less than a single turn. That’s really nice so it makes for easy note taking. More on that later too. Once the cap is off, you can see the black plastic grip section and the good size stainless steel nib. The grip section is nice and long, plenty of space for your fingers to hold onto. The threads are smooth and the step was minimal. The Aldo Domani takes a standard international cartridge and converter so there are plenty of inks readily available in that format.

Ok, it’s later now.

First, the body has a metal core but the grip is plastic. This puts the balance of the fountain pen towards the back. If you have larger hands I figure this might not be too much of a problem but if you are like me with smaller hands, it might tilt the pen too much towards the back. The balance is not totally off but it is enough to notice.

Second, the ink constantly dries out in the pen. I cap the pen after using, 30 minutes later I uncap the pen to write, it hard starts. If I wait longer, like the next day, I have to prime the feed again to get the pen to write. This is a terrible flaw. It makes for a very frustrated user at the best of times.

Finally, when you get the Aldo Domani to actually write, it writes very dry. I filled it with one of the wettest ink I have, the Bungbox 4B and still there is a feedback there that isn’t entirely enjoyable. The stock nib could use some adjusting especially in terms of the wetness.

Conclusion:
Personally I cannot recommend the Monteverde Aldo Domani to anyone. It just doesn’t write well, leaving the balance issue aside. The fact that the ink just dries up in your pen when capped is a deal breaker. There are better pens at a similar price point and design out there, seek those.

Pros:

  • Corporate design
  • Multiple colours available

Cons:

  • Ink dries up when capped
  • Hard starts
  • Dry writer
Posted on January 12, 2018 and filed under Fountain Pen, review.