November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
The Caran d’Ache Ecridor range is an established pen range from a high quality pen manufacturer. The current Ecridor is based on a design first produced in the late 1940’s featuring a brass hexagonal cross-sectioned barrel with etched design, silver plated with rhodium over-plating to maintain the deep shine of the silver. The range now has 7 engraved styles ranging from the Retro, which is based on the original pattern, through the subtle Chevron on to the latest Rotation. In addition, the extra small, XS range offers 3 styles in Retro, Chevron and Maya.
The Caran d’Ache Ecridor Rotation series has recently been introduced in the UK market and offers a bold design with blocks of short, staggered striations down each of the facets of the hexagon producing an illusion of rotational movement.
The depth of the silver adds to the optical effect creating a fascinating and wholly contemporary ‘twist’ on a traditional design. The quality of the finish is everything expected of a Caran d’Ache pen with a respectable weight (34g) and undeniable presence. The nib is the standard stainless steel unit, common to each of the Ecridor series. For some, the use of stainless steel instead of a gold nib on a pen of this value may seem a little incongruous. However, the quality of the nib is excellent and produces a writing experience on par with many gold nibs without the inherent risk of damage during day-to-day use. The Rotation fountain pen is supplied with both cartridge and convertor filling, while the ballpoint is filled using the Caran d’Ache proprietary ‘Goliath’ refill.
In addition to the silver plated models in the Caran d’Ache Ecridor range, at PenFountain.com we also offer the Maya and Chevron in the gilt, gold plated finish and the Eclat in silver decorated with Swarovski®” crystals.
The size, weight and styling of the Ecridor series makes it equally acceptable for male or female use. It is available in fountain, pen, ballpoint, pencil and rollerball formats. We hold stock of most of the Ecridor range discussed in this article in our Cranleigh shop.
November 14, 2010 § 1 Comment
This week we were offered a new range of correspondence papers. It fell into the category of ‘something we have been look at’ to sit alongside the outstanding G.Lalo Verge de France range. However, Verge de France is a laid sheet which, whilst ideal for fountain pens in terms of both bleed and show-through, the textured surface is not to everyone’s taste. New papers are easy enough to find. The complication is to find surfaces that are fountain pen friendly and offer a full suite of sizes, envelopes and accessories. The Elco James range is a 100gsm, warm white wove sheet that is fountain pen compatible and that meets the criteria being available in A4, A5, A6 correspondence cards and matching envelopes. Elco is a Swiss paper brand that has long been a associated with premium papers but, as far as we are aware, the James range is a new addition to their offering. The packaging design is disappointing in that it looks like it comes from an industrial design studio belying the quality of the product but with the saving grace of a picture of a fountain pen on the front!
The Elco James samples were presented to us and immediately the behemoth was unleashed. The Conway Stewart Silver Duro. Its medium oblique nib produces a line width of 1.3mm and delivers Herbin’s Pearle Noir as though it had been applied direct from a bucket. Its deep wet line will challenge any paper for bleed characteristics and although it’s a temperamental beast, when it works it’s a joy to write with. Testing the James samples with the Conway Stewart produced an excellent result with the meniscus of the generous ink holding good as the liquid evaporated and dried. There was no discernable bleed along the paper’s fibres to distort the lettering with spidery ink lines, and even with this weight of ink, little show-through to the reverse of the sheet. The paper has a surprisingly low bulk and, although the envelopes are produced from the same 100gsm sheet, the tissue lining performs the dual function of luxuriating the appearance and increasing the opacity extremely well.
November 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
Occasionally, we are asked for a pen with a hooded nib. The request is usually based on prior experience, either directly or through the treasured possession of a family member. While there are a few refurbished Parker 51’s around, generally there is little to offer in this style. The nearest fit would probably be the Lamy 2000 but, despite its quality and track record, this tends to be too contemporary for an enquirer despite having been originally designed in the mid-1960’s.
The question of nibs and fashion is intriguing. Personally, my experience of hooded nibs was the ubiquitous Osmiroid during my school days. Like most people, the experience of pens at school clouded opinion of fountain pens as a whole. It was only later in life that I found the joy of writing with real ink. The Osmiroid, in my hands at least, was not a positive experience recognising clearly that neither pen nor the user were quite ready for each other. As a generalisation, the hooded nib was a passing, albeit lengthy, phase. But why? Is it fashion? The pens performed admirably, had the required presence and balance, and did not attract any significant price premium and yet are now generally unavailable.
The nearest similarly styled nib is the 18ct gold inlaid type favoured by both Sheaffer and Waterman’s Carene. These offer a compromise between the hooded number and a full conventional nib. Sheaffer have been using the inlaid nib in their top-end pens for over 50 years, currently offering it in their Valor and Legacy Heritage models. In both applications they offer a very pleasant writing experience with the nib length imbuing the writing tip with an inherent flexibility rarely found in conventional nibs. The Sheaffer nib widths and ink flow are both quite generous and, particularly with the various limited editions of the Legacy Heritage, such as the Victorian and 1920’s, the presence of the pen is unquestionable. The Valor series currently offers one of the most competitive entry-level 18 carat gold nibbed pens in our range. However, under commercial pressures, the disappointment is that the range of nib styles has been restricted to the standard small medium and large.
The Waterman Carene’s inlaid nib offers a smooth, comfortable writing experience but has not capitalised on the potential flexibility of the inlaid style nib. Like almost everything fountain pen, it comes down to personal taste and the Carene is neither better nor worse than the Sheaffer; just different. Waterman have a policy of offering a comprehensive range of nibs with all of their higher-end pens with the Carene starting with extra fine through to broad, stub, and obliques.
The question is that, having lost the once ubiquitous hooded nib, is the inlaid nib likely to go the same way? I sincerely hope not. Fashion is a fickle beast but difference surely lies at the very heart of fountain pen usage? As always, we recommend trying the options in our shop, where practical.
November 11, 2010 § 2 Comments
Our retail frontage had become a little tired. 12 years of service from the carpet and a brick-built counter that had its foundations in the 1970’s. November 5th seemed like a good bet for the fireworks of re-launching the refurbished PenFountain.com retail shop.
Supported byParker-Waterman with a range of some of the finest designed pen retail displays we have seen anywhere, we have refurbished the entire shop turning it almost into a shrine for the fountain pen. There are dedicated displays to each of the major brands with a sound cross-section from each marque and, as part of our commitment to Parker-Waterman we have extended our range further into the ballpoint and pencil products as well. It has been a whirlwind which has resulted in the web site offering being left behind. Watch this space for a raft of additional products in the next few weeks.
Our press release reads: “PenFountain.com and Parker Pens wave Surrey independents’ flag.
PenFountain.com, Cranleigh’s specialist fountain pen retailer, will be formally re-opened by Louise Punter, CEO of Surrey Chambers of Commerce on Friday 5th November. The re-opening follows and extensive re-fit by owners, Bob and Susan Melvin, supported by Parker Pens in recognition of their success in the growing the brand’s sales. Louise Punter will take the opportunity to highlight the importance of Surrey’s independent retailers to the County’s overall economy and how specialisation in a niche market can be the way forwards for the small business. Ms Punter said ‘I am so pleased to be attending PenFountain.com’s re-opening. It is a great example of hard work and determination typically shown by independent retailers. People like the Melvins are crucial to our economy to ensure steady consistent growth.’
The display furniture at the centre of the re-fit is one of the first of a limited, country-wide roll-out by Parker pens with the units having been designed by French interior designer and architect, Bruno Moinard. Deborah Hunt, Parker Pens UK Marketing Manager, described Parker’s initiative, ‘We see independent specialist pen retailers as core to developing the pen business, offering a great selection across a wide price range and our new furniture is designed to make selection easier for customers.’ Miss Hunt went to say, ‘PenFountain offers the pen knowledge and will help customers choose the perfect gift, so if they need a stocking-filler or a beautiful gift for a loved one, Bob and Susan will offer a solution.’
Whilst based in leafy Cranleigh, PenFountain.com, as the name implies, not only operates in the retail sector but, with more than 60% of sales now coming on-line, it also operates globally on the internet with sales to countries as diverse as Chile, Japan, USA and Russia. However, Bob Melvin has identified that an increasing number of their retail sales are the result of customers travelling some distance, “It was always our intention to become a ‘destination shop’ and we are now seeing this ambition coming to fruition with customers travelling from as far as London and the South Coast towns. The new shop will make the journey even more worthwhile.” Bob added that PenFountain.com was proof that independents can succeed with the right business strategy.”
Our commitment to our retail frontage is testiment to the importance of buying your chosen fountain pen, ballpoint or pencil with first-hand experience. We offer our products’ statistics on www.penfountain.com but what does a 38 gram pen compared with a 32 gram pen feel like in the flesh? The only way to find out is to try one first but, at PenFountain.com, still get the benefit of internet pricing. What’s more, if you have your hands on the pen, you know you can get one from stock – no guessing!
November 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
To be honest, the Parker Premier is a pen that failed to come onto our radar until recently. However, we now have stocks and can say that it is a very desirable pen. Designed by Italian, Beatrice Fontana, whose credits include designing for Calvin Klein and Versace, the Premier is right on trend for fashionable, contemporary pen users. In our opinion, the Premier has the potential to become a classic design, following in the tracks of the legendary Duofold. At the core of the Premier is a brass barrel finished in a range of different surface coatings putting this beautiful pen in a different league to its competitors, many of which are produced from acrylic resin.
Put this potent concept into the hands of a mad professor and you come up with the Premier Special Edition Black. Silky, smooth black. Black barrel. Black trim and even black 18 carat gold nib. The method is to give the components a plating with something that sounds almost like the fictional unobtainium from Avatar. With different degrees of cover, the pen takes on the coolest ‘persona’ of any new pen we have seen in sometime.
The Parker Premier Special Edition Black fountain and rollerball pens are actually plated using ruthenium, a member of the platinum group of metals that, like rhodium, is present in rare ores found in the mining of platinum. The Black Special Edition is handmade using more than 30 assembly operations with the components hand-polished, tested and checked both during assembly and at final finishing stages. It is a fairly weighty 44 grams including cap, but feels very comfortable with its engineered balance, particularly with the cap posted. The silk-black finish of the ruthenium plating gives an unusual feel offering better grip than a polished, plated finish, but comparable to a resin pen with the feel of a true metal barrel. The 18 carat gold nib is substantial in presence but, the medium tip writes presenting a surprisingly diminutive 0.5mm line with the smoothness anticipated from a pen with such presence. We have been advised that fine and broad nibs will become available for this pen in the near future.
If anyone is interested, I want one for Christmas!