Posts Tagged 'Fountain Pens'

Autumn Ink Reviews

Me in leaves, long long ago...

I’ll tell you one thing that  I miss about the east coast: a real Autumn. Colorado definitely has a “transitional period” of some kind, but it’s kind of spazzy, weather-wise. Although I’m missing the golds and reds and oranges of home, the one highlight in Colorado is the bright yellow wash of Aspens in Fall.

I embraced the season instead by ordering some autumn ink samples from Pear Tree Pens. (A good excuse, right?) I can honestly say that I’ve never ordered anything from Pear Tree Pens except for their ink samples– they should play it up more. Like: I wish I could get larger-sized samples. Sometimes it’s difficult to suck anything up out of those tiny jars, especially with a larger nib.

I also wish I could get samples of the forebodingly-priced Iroshizuku inks… anybody want to split a bottle with me?

Noodler's Cayenne, Noodler's Habanero, Noodler's Apache Sunset, Rohrer & Klingner Goldgrun (with J. Herbin's Vert Olive for comparison), Noodler's Zhivago, Noodler's Burma Road Brown (V-mail series), and Rohrer & Klingner Solferino

Above, the samples are tested with two dip pens (an italic and a flex), which isn’t going to match how they’ll look in a regular fountain pen. I also got a sample of Noodler’s Bulletproof Black which is not shown above, and Vert Olive is there only for comparison.

Here’s the overview

Noodler’s Bulletproof Black. Tested in TWSBI Diamond, F nib. I’m pretty devoted to Aurora Black, but I needed a waterproof black ink and this one seems to be the standard. I can see more shading than with other black inks, but I also noticed that it’s the only ink that doesn’t feather on regular paper. I’ve used it in the office Moleskines and in my new leather-covered sketchbook with absorbent art paper, with no feathering or bleedthrough. Haven’t tested the waterproof-ness yet, so I’m planning a full review later.

Rohrer & Klingner Goldgrun. Tested in Pelikan M400, F flexible nib. I don’t know if I can say much about its behavior, because my Pelikan’s flex nib is very wet writer, which throws off the test. The color is a perfect match to the White tortoise exterior, though…

Goldgrun (top) compared to Vert Olive (bottom)

Goldgrun is much more subtle and muted than J. Herbin’s Vert Olive, which appears almost lime in comparison.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset. Tested in a Parker 45, M stub nib and Parker Vector, F nib. Ah yes, one of many ethnically-named inks which rely on our cultural stereotypes of color-associations. Juuuust sayin’. Nonetheless, word on the street is that Apache Sunset has some of the best shading around. Which is why I tested it in two pens, though I still think I’m not really highlighting its shading capacities. I wish I had a Pilot Parallel…

Drastic shading, Noodler's Apache Sunset

But you can still see the variation even in these two pens: the Vector, which is a much dryer writer, and the Parker 45 stub nib.

Noodler’s Habanero. Tested in Aurora Ipsilon, F nib. I’ve actually tried this ink before; I just wanted to compare it to Cayenne and Apache Sunset. It’s a beautiful bright orange with good wet flow and is more opaque than other oranges, like Herbin’s Orange Indien. It has excellent shading, although it’s hard to see in my Aurora’s fine nib.

Noodler’s Cayenne. For whatever reason I didn’t fill up a pen with this color! So, um, raincheck?

Noodler’s Zhivago. Tested in Lamy 2000, F nib, and Pilot 78G, B italic nib. A lot of people complained that you can barely distinguish Zhivago from plain old black, and  this is generally true for fine nibs. In my Lamy 2000 F nib, the subtle variations in shading can only be seen close up (I’m interested to try it in a dry writing fine nib, though; because the wet-writing Lamy 2000 makes many inks appear darker). However, this well-flowing ink is pretty damn smashing in my Pilot’s B italic nib. It’s like a black, but a black with character. Click on the image below to view the shading full-size. And I love  beautiful subdued colors like this one: a mossy green almost-black.

Zhivago, compared in two pens

Beautiful Neutral: Zhivago and Burma Road Brown. Notice the crazy feathering on Burma Road Brown!


Noodler’s Burma Road Brown (V-mail series). Tested in Lamy Safari, EF nib. Another lively neutral color, Burma Road Brown is a dark sandy brown, like very faded letter. With regards to ink behavior, my first impression was that, hey, this ink is, um, really different from other inks. The first clue: it actually bled through Clairefontaine paper. (Wha..?) So then I tried it on regular crappy paper, and… zero bleedthrough. And zero feathering. Even in a Moleskine. (Wha…?) …Okay, there was bleedthrough in the Moleskine. But no feathering! Which is a pretty huge accomplishment. Like Bulletproof Black, I’m going to follow this up with a full review.

Rohrer & Klingner Solferino. Tested in a Lamy Al-Star, 1.1 italic nib. And thus we move from subtle neutrals to, um, blinding neon purple. Granted, Solferino becomes slightly less vivid after it dries, but only slightly. But I’m pretty fond of this color already: it’s great for calling attention to things in my planner, and it matches Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Violet, which I think is pretty cool.



Mixing Up Summer Inks

Impending college loans have put me in a super-frugal state of mind. I haven’t bought any new inks in a while– but I have had some fun this summer mixing up remnants of the inks that I had.

The result? A veritable rainbow. Makes for very exciting writing.

Summer Inks on a Rhodia Dotpad

Survey, from top to Bottom

I. Aurora Black is a staple in my ink lineup. It’s not waterproof, which is unfortunate, but it’s just so. smooth. On the sexy end of the smooth spectrum, really.

II. I mixed this green– a combination of J. Herbin Vert Olive and Levenger Gemstone Green –for the first time in May, when I was writing a paper on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. It’s a wonderful dark olive green, professional and not too yellow.

III. This was a spastic mixing experiment, but I’m really pleased with the green-gray result, which is now in my Pelikan M400. I started with an anonymous dark blue that kind of resembled PR’s Black Magic Blue, and then added a lot of J. Herbin Vert Olive and J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune.

IV. I love J. Herbin’s Diabolo Menthe, but it’s totally impractical for writing. I added a few drops of PR’s Electric DC Blue, which darkened it to a lovely aqua blue and also made it flow better.

V. I’ve used this mix for a while to create the perfect mid-tone blue; it’s a combination of J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche and PR Electric DC Blue.

VI. I think I officially prefer to mix my own Burgundy’s, rather than buying them. I literally combined a ton of leftover samples of various blues and reds –and came up with this wonderful purply-wine color.

VII. This bright red started with Noodler’s Golden Brown, which I combined with a sample of Noodler’s Dragon’s Napalm, to which I added J. Herbin Rouge Carobier and J. Herbin Rouge Opera.

VIII. Diamine’s Poppy Red. Enough said.

IX. I wanted a good summer peach color, so I started with J. Herbin Rouille d’Ancre, and added some Diamine Poppy Red and J. Herbin Orange Indien.

The Tools of Our Culture

One of my first posts on this blog was a book review of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves To Death,” one of my top ten most influential books. The context for the review was “rurality” –a way of thinking derived from rural culture, which questions our relationship to technology and to the earth. I’ve also recently discovered Nicholas Carr, who thoughtfully critiques the internet just as Postman examined and critiqued the television. (Both highly recommended)

All of this is to say, just published an article by Trevor Butterworth that mentions both of these writers in the first paragraph (brownie points!). The topic of the article turns out to be–surprise!–fountain pens. Click on the link to read the original article (and credit to Amateur Economist for the heads-up on this article).

It’s fascinating to me how this tiny writing instrument has offered a way for people to contemplate technology and digital culture on a larger level. Writing with a fountain pen has become a metaphor for our larger fears about losing contact with the Real, Breathing World– and it offers a tangible way of reconnecting.

Nib Grinding, in Brief

…it scares the crap out of me.

But also, I have a pipe dream of apprenticing some day under a local nibmeister. Let us only hope that I don’t giggle at the term “nibmeister” in his presence.

It seems that there are less women in the pen world, similar to… well, just like most other trades (there are less women tattoo artists, less women metalsmiths…). Anyone who says feminism is over and women have achieved equality in the workplace should take a look at the stats. And well, it would rock to make some money off pen grinding/making in the long run.

But for now, I successfully turned my skipping, dry-writing Parker 45 M nib to a smooth-writing stub. Which, I think, is one step closer to being a Hot Pen Babe.

I didn’t completely get rid of its skipping problems; it requires priming every so often (sliding the converter to push the ink up the feed). But it’s a hell of a lot smoother, and more of a stub than it was before. Overall, I’m very satisfied with this little experiment…

A more recent writing sample

Combined: Blank Habana and Pelikan M400

This combination must be the personal “grail” that they talk about in the pen world: a large BLANK (!) Habana notebook by Quo Vadis, and a Pelikan M400 in (limited edition) white tortoise, with a fine flexible nib.

The Pelikan fountain pen was a joint graduation gift from four of my aunts. I don’t come from a family with a lot of disposable income, so this was a big gesture for all of them to purchase together. And when I came home from my graduation luncheon, I had a package with a large blank Habana notebook waiting for me– which I’m going to call a freebie graduation gift from the ever-generous Karen Doherty at Exaclair.

Now, before I start the, ahem, Very Official Review, I’ll give you my totally unprofessional, 100% emotional reaction:


I actually love this combination more than words can express. Okay, that’s not totally true– I’m an English major, and I do have the words to express. For example:

The large blank Habana has all the qualities that moleskine-lovers love about moleskine– a streamlined and elegant design, opens flat for writing, includes a ribbon bookmark and handy pocket inside the back cover– except for one small thing: the Habana notebook is far superior.

Here’s why:

  • The paper in the Habana is 90g “Clairefontaine” paper. (I’m not sure why “Clairefontaine” is in quotes on the label, but I think they’re just making sure we know what kind of paper is inside). It’s responsive to fountain pens and refuses to allow bleedthrough. There is some show-through, but not enough to bother me (which is saying something– usually I’m a stickler about show-through). Compare this to– well, we all know how moleskine responds to fountain pens…
  • Clairefontaine makes their own paper, which is SO rare in a globalized world. This cuts down on exploitation (both environmentally and in terms of human labor). They have an amazing documentation of their paper process: made from from sustainably managed forests (certified by PEFC), they don’t use any bleach, and they compost their factory waste? Holy crap. On the other hand, basically no one knows where moleskine paper comes from… although they have started a new line of “earth-friendly” products (a phrase that I don’t trust at all).
  • The large Habana notebook is definitely larger than the regular size moleskine– in a good way! When I used moleskine notebooks, I remember my hands would begin to cramp about halfway through, and I had to abandon any chance of good handwriting. The large Habana is definitely still slim and compact, but large enough for an artist who likes to draw and design in her notebooks.
  • The blank pages are a new thing for the Habana notebook. This was the one reason why I never purchased a Habana notebook before– because I need some blank pages to draw! And now– well, now they’re seductively blank…
  • Did I mention that it opens flat? Or has a pretty sexy color scheme? And a handy pocket? And a ribbon bookmark? Alright, I’ll just let the pictures talk from here.

Pen Review: Parker 45

I posted recently about the Parker IM, which I bought for a friend through the ebay seller lewertowski. Of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to test out a Parker for myself, so I also purchased a blue Parker 45 with a medium nib.

The Parker 45

Parker 45 in package

Interestingly, the (gold-nibbed) Parker 45 came in cheaper packaging than the steel-nibbed IM. I guess I always assume that a gold nib means higher quality overall, but that’s certainly not true. The IM came in a solid plastic case, almost like a glasses case, while the 45 came in this thinner clear plastic case. I appreciate less packaging as a general rule, but the plastic is wasteful in both pens’ packaging.

Cartridge included

So the Parker 45 includes both a converter and a cartridge, while the IM came with only a cartridge. However, the cartridge included was one of those pull-catridges, as opposed to the twist (piston converter) that I’m used to. I also have no idea what the little metal ball is for– does it help with the physics of the suction, I wonder? If anybody has an answer, I’m curious to know. In any case, I ended up purchasing two higher-quality piston converters, one for the IM and one for this pen.

The included (lower-quality) cartridge

Old converter (top) and newer converter (bottom)

So here’s the catch. I was under the impression that the standard Parker converter would fit the Parker 45 (maybe I mis-read something in the ebay description). And certainly the newer converter fits, but I don’t think it fits quite perfectly. It seems to “plug in” fairly well at the very top, but then leaves a gap between the cartridge and the body of the pen, which leads to it seeming a bit loose. I think you can see in the picture below:

That slight gap causes a "wiggly" converter

Nonetheless, the converter worked– I’ll have to switch them out in the future to see if the other converter performs any better. On to the writing experience…

Parker 45 nib

Ah, a lovely semi-hooded nib. I don’t often write with medium nibs, so this is a bit of a new experience for me. I’ve found that I have to adjust my handwriting, because otherwise a medium nib obscures all the smaller letters. Still practicing! But this nib makes for a lovely writing experience, not flexible but definitely soft enough to have some nice line variation. The medium nib almost has some stub-like qualities, with the downstrokes being wider than the cross-strokes. and it leaves a wide enough line for some lovely shading. I also found that this nib allows for a big difference between writing at a low angle and at a more upright angle (with the pen being more perpendicular to the page).

The only drawback I’ve found is that, compared to the Parker IM’s steel nib, this nib sometimes has trouble starting up at the beginning of a stroke. I can’t tell if I’m rotating the nib, or if the flow just goes dry, but it is a bit obnoxious in any case. You can see an example of this in the last picture.

Pen Review: Parker IM/Profile

So a good friend (another English major) recently lost his pen case, which had all his fountain pens, and cheapies too. It’s always a bit of a heartache when a writer loses his or her tools– I still get pretty emotional about having a journal stolen in high school. So I wanted to buy him a starter fountain pen to begin rebuilding his collection, and I found some great prices on Parker and Waterman fountain pens through the France-based ebay dealer lewertowski.

Parker IM case

The Parker IM is no longer in manufacture, but still fairly available, especially through international dealers. It comes in a charcoal plastic case, and although it doesn’t come with a converter it does include a cartridge. Instead, I bought the “luxe converter” (again, through lewertowski’s ebay store), which is definitely a high-quality converter and fits perfectly.

Soo, I kind of love the body of this pen. Although it’s plastic, it’s definitely well-made and doesn’t look or feel cheap. The “girth” (is that a technical term for fountain pens?) is fantastic for those with larger hands, or, in my case, for those with carpal tunnel who can’t grip slender pens 😦

Cap-side view

"butt-side" (definitely not a technical term) view

I love the blunt ends of the pen body. They make the whole pen feel sturdier, and I think they probably add to the weight of it as well. One benefit of this design is a pleasurable experience when posting the pen: the cap encounters some air resistance when being posted, and thus sort of slides down gently (though securely) into position.

ah yes, the nib!

The Parker IM comes with a steel nib, and I chose a fine nib. The design is very simple, with no shoulders or breather hole. Richard Binder describes it as a “long thin ‘spike’ feed,” which was later adapted into the Parker 75. I have no experience with Parker fountain pens, so I don’t know if they traditionally run wide– but this one certainly does: it writes like a Lamy medium.

As for the writer experience, this nib is super super smooth. It never had any trouble starting up right away, and didn’t skip or leave any uneven lines. I’m not sure how it would write with a dryer ink, but I filled it with Tahitian Pearl and it writes beautifully. There’s no line variation (unlike the Parker 45), but it leaves a wide enough line for some shading.

As for a summary, I’d definitely recommend this pen for someone looking for a sturdy and reliable daily writer, for someone on a low budget, or starting out with fountain pens.

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