Exceptional Exception

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Waterman Exception fountain pen is a shining example of radical and yet stylish design.  Its deep-lacquered, rounded-off, square sectioned barrel gently transforms into a more conventional round section towards the front end grip. The Exception is quite a statement piece.  It is surprisingly comfortable to hold, given the unusual profile.  The Exception comes in 2 model sizes, the standard or slim version which is extremely elegant without being over-large.  The Night and Day, and Ideal models are significantly larger and, in my opinion, the design loses some of its elegance when scaled up.

Waterman Exception Night & Day

Waterman Exception Night & Day

The nib is an 18ct unit of visually balanced size, finished in gold or with rhodium plating to match the trim of the pen.  The nibs are available in a range of sizes and styles including, stub, oblique fine, and oblique broad,  but the catch that Waterman have taken a while to concede is that, any change of nib, either by choice or to restore an injured number, require the pen to be returned to the factory for fitting and alignment.  This has proved a bit of a drawback for users and retailers alike.  If you’re looking for something that’s a bit different, please do not dismiss the Exception but be aware of its little idiosyncrasy.

Love letters with J. Herbin

August 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Having the range of J.Herbin scented fountain pen inks in stock, a customer recently asked how long the aroma lasted and would the recipient be as enamoured with the aroma as the author.  Frankly, we were slightly stumped to answer this question!

Nothing else to do but write a love letter to my darling wife (and co-director).  Using a Lamy Linea fountain pen with 1.5mm calligraphy nib loaded with J. Herbin violet scented ink, and G. Lalo Verge de France note-paper – only the best, I penned a suitably romantic note and sealed it with a loving kiss (SWALK). During the writing, the violet aroma which permeated the room was pleasant without being overpowering and the ink colour, unlike my handwriting, was good and consistent.

The completed love letter was duly sealed and sent by second class post on a Friday arriving Monday morning.  On opening, my wife fully appreciated the sentiment but with no trace of any scent.  Debate answered with sadness (DAWS)

Sheaffer Inlaid Nibs – its just a flick-up

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sheaffer is a long-established and respected brand that offers consistently good and reliable pens across the range.  At the top end of the current fountain pen range, are the Legacy Heritage and Valor series that, although of different sizes, share a common design of the iconic Sheaffer inlaid nib. The inlaid nib, with its 18ct gold is a flowing, integral part of the front-end assembly and is available in the 3 basic widths, medium, fine and broad, with 18ct gold or, 18ct gold with rhodium coating for the silver finish.

We have however, experienced some misunderstanding over a detail in the design in that, the tip of nib has a slight up-turn making the nib appear to be slightly misshapen. Please be assured that the nib is supposed to have this design detail and is part of the shape which assists the nib in achieving its characteristic flexing during writing.  

Sheaffer Legacy Heritage nib detail

Sheaffer Legacy Heritage nib detail

At PenFountain.com, we currently offer replacement front-end nib assemblies for both the Legacy Heritage and Valor from stock at our usual discounted prices. However, following a price reduction of the Valor fountain pen range by Sheaffer, it would be fair to say that, in the event of a nib requiring replacement, usually as a result of damage, the differential between the cost of a nib and a complete pen is relatively small.

Pelikan Souveran M800 Italic sampled

August 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Pelikan has launched the Souveran M800 Italic Handwriting Pen and having taken our first stock at PenFountain.com,   it has prompted the question as to what characteristics make a good italic or calligraphy nib.

The Souveran M800 is a tried and tested design of pen with beautiful balance and size but without excessive weight. The nib is classic 18ct gold with rhodium highlights and chased decoration. As would be expected of a nominal 1.5mm nib width, it draws a lot of ink and produces an adequate, without excessively wet line.

While I love my fountain pens, I am certainly no calligrapher, so please excuse the quality of the lettering used in this demonstration. Looking at the pens in our stable we have drawn comparison with my regular Lamy Studio gash pen currently fitted with a 1.5mm calligraphy nib and my Conway Stewart Silver Duro with medium italic nib.

Lamy 1.5mm calligraphy- Pelikan M800 Italic – Conway Stewart Medium Italic

Firstly, neither the Lamy nor the Pelikan gave a 1.5mm drawn line width, instead offering 1.2mm and 1.4mm respectively, with Conway Stewart’s medium italic offering a 1.1mm. A lateral line, by comparison, offered 0.4mm, 0.5mm and 0.5mm, in order. This is a purely mechanical assessment intended for information only. Other users may find that, by deft of hand, greater variation of line width may be achieved.

The Pelikan is a relatively rounded italic nib with slightly less variation in line width than I personally like. It feels ‘soft’ to write with which may prove more comfortable for writing longer passages in an italic style. At the other end of the price scale, the stainless steel Lamy nib does everything expected, with smooth performance and a slightly keener edge than the Pelikan or the Conway Stewart. The nib is suitable for use on the majority of the Lamy range offering an italic nib on pens starting from around £12.  The Conway Stewart has a stunning nib – when it performs, producing a generous wet and consistent line.  However, despite replacing the nib, the Duro refuses to offer consistent inking with periodic skips and initial line failures and, as a result, it only comes out for special occasions when my patience requires a testing! 

Of the Lamy and Pelikan offerings, it really does come down to personal taste with the sharper vertical/lateral strokes of the Lamy and the softer feel of the Pelikan.  However, if your requirement is to create a flourish on opening your fountain pen, the Pelikan is in a league of its own.  Other fountain pens worth considering for italic or oblique type nibs are the Waterman range from Carene upwards, the Parker Duofold with straight italic, oblique, and reverse oblique nib options (available to order from PenFountain.com), and the Graf von Faber Castell Guilloche range.

As always, we would recommend trying both pens in a real pen shop before buying.

Born to be wild – with a ballpoint pen

August 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

Harley Davidson is the motorcycle of choice for some bikers, many hells’ angels and one ‘Arnie’ in The Terminator.  But what pen should they use?  Well, a Harley Davidson of course.  Produced by US manufacturer Retro 51 under license from the HD factory in Milwaukee, the Harley Davidson ballpoint is a quality writing implement with a smooth twist action, brass barrel and a lacquered design drawn directly from Harley Davidsons’ product range. 

Harley Davidson Stroker ballpoint pen

Harley Davidson Stroker ballpoint pen

Why, in producing a pen to reflect such an iconic bike, does it mean that they have to put an agricultural quality refill in it?  Please don’t misunderstand.  The ballpoint refill is of an acceptable standard – if you are prepared to accept a product which hasn’t improved significantly since its launch in the late 1940s.    There’s always a balance between the service life of an oil-based ink found in a ballpoint and a liquid ink rollerball and, to be fair, it’s taken a while to develop a rollerball which can work in an uncapped, retractable pen, but there are plenty around. 

Your options are a basic G2/Parker type refill – tried, tested, cheap and blobby.  The Parker Gel refill as a direct replacement – same price as the ballpoint, writing length unknown. The Schmidt Superbowl is a rollerball refill which is a direct substitute for ballpoint refill and offers a line writing length of 600 metres.  But the best option is the the Schmidt Easyflow 9000 M.  This is another direct substitute for the G2 refill but offers a unique ink system offering the smoothness of the rollerball but, at 2800 metres,  a writing length close to a conventional ballpoint

 At PenFountain.com we are offering a free, a Schmidt Easyflow refill with each Harley Davidson Vintage Rider and Stroker ballpoint pens offering performance more in keeping with the Harley Davidson legend.

Behold the pen, behold the shop

August 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Welcome to Aladdin’s cave.  You’ve just come into a real pen shop.  You look around at the beautiful stock displayed in glass cases.  Each case, thoughtfully lit in order present its contents in the most favourable way.  Some of the pens you are familiar with.  Some new models or brands draw your attention.  You may feel intimidated by the glass barrier and reluctant to ask to hold the unfamiliar implements.  Alternatively, the shop owner notices your interest and offers to open the display and allow first contact.  You feel the weight. The balance. Observing the detail of the metalwork trim.  The soft sound of the cap being removed. The smooth twist of unscrewing the barrel to reveal the converter.  You may be lucky enough to be offered a dip to test.  You may even feel the twinge of guilt as you reach for your credit card, but it will soon pass!

What has drawn your attention to this model in the first place?  The brand?  Not seen a Conway Stewart fountain pen in the flesh before? What makes the Parker Premier range different from the Duofold?  Pen manufacturers all work away with their products, launching new models or new colours and trims in order to refresh the market, or to entice new users.  But how do they try to convince you to look into their new offerings.  The budgets are no longer available to produce high profile advertising and the web is so busy that new products are often lost in a sea of special price reductions and promotions, some of which are simply designed to shift older stock.  The only answer is a regular visit to a real pen shop.

As a shop owner, at PenFountain.com in Cranleigh, Surrey,  we have just taken delivery of the Parker Premier fountain pens and, in much the same way as you need to handle these products in order to truly appreciate their finer points, so do we.  I have to say that with the Premier, although it is quite a chunky pen, with its contemporary styling and finish, it is quite a breath of fresh air in terms of design. I am not a particular fan of Parker but this pen is quite desirable!  However,  it does need to be held in the hand to truly understand its qualities and this is not something you can do on the internet.  It  may seem strange for us to promote retailing, from somebody who sells on-line, but we believe that there is still something more fulfilling about buying a pen from a person in a shop than buying from a usually inadequate description and a fuzzy picture.  What’s more as a shop owner, we can often make recommendations based on a discussion as to what the customer is looking for and adding significant value.

A personal view of the fountain pen market is that there is an increasing number of soul-less companies stalking the web with a view to commoditising anything for a small profit.  They suck the life out of brands selling only the faster moving products and missing out on the important aspects of service and range.  As fountain pen aficionados, if you want the more interesting inks and surfaces, and nibs beyond medium, please support your local pen retailer – even if it involves a small price premium.

When a cheap pen comes good

August 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Platignum fountain pen is steeped in pen history in UK with the original brand being traced back to the early 1900s.  Like many pen brands,  Platignum has a chequered track record with its final incarnation being a budget school pen.  The rights to the brand were bought by Snopake in 2007 and resurrected into a budget range of pens sourced through both Germany and the Far East.  

Platignum Studio 5 Fountain pen

Platignum Studio 5 Fountain Pen - Excellent value

The launch was a bit haphazard with ballpoint and rollerball refills being available but no dedicated cartridges, inks or alternative or replacement nibs.  Although the company’s view was that the fountain pens would accept Euro standard cartridges, the reality was that only a limited number of ‘standard’ cartridges would fit without leakage and no convertors were available.  An on-line company has continued to offer various options in terms of cartridge and convertor but, based on the number of complaints that we have received, these were a theoretical fit rather than fully tried and tested. One of the issues is that with the Platignum pens, being sourced from 2 different manufacturers, do not have a single answer, particularly to the convertor problem. 

At PenFountain.com, we have reduced the range offer down to the attractive Studio 5 range with its 8 plain barrel colours.  Combine this with our recommended Pelikan cartridges in 8 colours and you have got a positive rainbow of quality fountain pens at a budget price.  The cherry on the top of the Pelikan Studio 5 is that we have now identified a reliable, leak-free convertor, effectively opening your pen collection up to our range of 70+ ink colours, including Diamine and J Herbin and even a low-risk pen for using Registrars’ ink.  The new convertors have been tested over a month without even the suggestion of weeping although, the convertor is quite tight and requires a gentle twist on first insertion.  

The Platignum Studio 5 weighs in at 30 grams with 12.7mm diameter and 155mm posted length for just £7.99, including a tin presentation case.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for August, 2010 at Penfountain's Blog.