Lamy’s Gold Standard

February 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Much has been written about the superb qualities of the Lamy steel nib.  Its excellent writing characteristics, low price,  range, ease of changing and interchangeability across the range of Lamy fountain pens, sets standards unmatched by any other manufacturer.  The pens themselves are just as good from the entry-level Safari with its excellent grip, styling and practical materials, through to the Accent with its metal components and grip variations.  But, for a really wonderful writing experience, wait until the nib has enjoyed a little mileage and see how even a steel nib can be broken-in.  I have written about my Lamy Studio gash pen in an earlier blog, but having swapped nibs for a new calligraphy 1.5 to demonstrate the characteristics to a customer, the degree of edginess surprised even me.  Restoring my faithful nib to its rightful place, all was well with the world! 

 However, what happens when you want to move to the next level.  Lamy has most of the trump cards but you want the slightly softer characteristics and flexibility usually only found in a gold nib.  Enter the Lamy Studio 68.  This has the same modern styling of its brothers but  finished in matt anthracite, a warm dark grey colour with a fine lacquered finish.  The nib is a 14 carat, bi-coloured, gold unit but with styling common to the lower priced all-steel nib.  However, start writing with it and its softer side becomes immediately apparent.  It is a bit like my well-worn 1.5 calligraphy number in smoothness, but with a little extra spring. 

The Lamy Gold Nib with its family

Despite the superb characteristics of both the steel and gold nibs, the Lamy brand struggles to achieve recognition for its higher-priced models.  Although I might suggest that some of the higher-end Accents fail to live up to their price tag in the detail of their finish, the Studio 68 , in my opinion, at £110.00 must represent the best value for money for an entry-level gold nibbed fountain pen.  Unlike its gold-nibbed competitors in this price band, the Studio 68 is also available in a range of nib fittings from extra fine through to broad, oblique medium and oblique broad, but only to order.  However, unlike the Lamy steel nibs, Lamy do not recommend changing the gold nibs because of their inherent softness making them easy to distort during the removal process.   If you are considering your next move up the fountain pen hierarchy, we recommend considering the Studio 68.  It is contemporary and stylish, with high quality of finishing detail.  Although not featured on our website at present also available to order in platinum and matt palladium finishes at £230 and £110 respectively.

Privatise the Royal Mail?

February 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

We are PenFountain.com and, based in Cranleigh in the depths of Surrey, are able to offer our range of discounted pens with options of free delivery in the UK on orders over £15.00, and a flat rate of £3.49 for guaranteed next day delivery.  We can offer this for the whole of the UK.

During an entertaining ‘10 O’Clock Live’ (Channel 4, 10.00pm 6/2/11), Sir Christopher Bland, former CEO of BT, advocated the privatisation of Royal Mail citing his experience with BT, but failing to understand the monopoly that the Company had in its market, (and still has in Cranleigh) which still enables them to dominate their market.  Sir Christopher’s position was that Royal Mail should be privatised as soon as possible because it is already losing market share at a significant rate.  Apparantly, the privatised company would then be responsible for covering all the services currently offered by Royal Mail but on a more commercial footing and allowing it to compete with the existing postal and courier companies.

On the face of it it sounds perfect.  However, my business model allows me to offer flat delivery rates over the whole of the UK using Royal Mail, arranging despatch as late as 4.30pm and 12.00pm Saturdays.  If we want to use an alternative, all the courier service companies are prepared to offer competitive rates for next day parcel delivery within the core of the UK, to any business address, with prices very much dependent on regular volumes.  However, if we want to send a consignment to an exotic location such as, the Isle of Wight or Belfast, we start paying significant premiums.  Taking our notional consignment a stage further, if this is a single parcel despatched in isolation, it becomes cheaper to drive the package to deliver it yourself than ‘post’ it.  Examining Sir Christopher’s argument in more detail, we start analysing the ‘lost market share’ argument.  We believe that we will find that a significant proportion of the lost share will be found in servicing the business districts of our major cities, their hinterlands, and within the M25.  These are the profitable areas of the mail business; the easy areas to service.  If you live in the more distant corners of Scotland, even on the mainland, you will almost certainly be discriminated against by the likely cost of the proposed privatised service as being un-commercial and, by default, effectively discriminated against by on-line and mail order services as a result. 

In our opinion, for our fountain pen business it is essential to be able to offer a flat rate, competitively priced, reliable  delivery service, across the UK and its islands.  These aspects are not all readily compatible with the commercial demands of a PLC and its shareholders.  The potentially low volumes, distances, and waters to cross for some the more exotic locations will inevitably lead to discrimatory pricing.  We are not advocating a  situation where the services offered are not collectively commercially viable, but a service which, across its range breaks even.  In our opinion, this can only be managed within the public sector and therefore, support for the existing business model must be a priority for our customers and competitors alike.

This is not a politcially motivated view – both the Labour and Coalition governments have proposed this route.

Agnes B and the new Waterman Hemisphere

February 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

In addition to her couture and cosmetics ranges, French fashion designer, Agnes B has also designed for Seiko and L’Oreal, and is a patron to the French film industry.  With the re-launch of Waterman’s Hemisphere, the company commissioned Agnes to produce a special edition fountain pen and ballpoint pen.  Featuring the sweeping lines of a point d’ironie, a humorous punctuation mark created by 19th century poet Alcanter de Brahm,  produced on a deep black lacquered barrel with complementary blue roundels. The cap and trim offset the black of the barrel with the brightness of their chrome plating. This is a beautiful, ‘special edition’ for the new Waterman Hemisphere pen range. 

Waterman's Agnes B Special Edition Hemisphere

Although the Agnes B uses the new Hemisphere pen as its base, the writing experience has changed from the tried and tested Hemisphere models of the past. It is a millimetre narrower than its predecessor with the revised profile of the barrel, grip, cap and clip emphasising the narrower dimension.  The fountain pen is a couple of millimetres longer, giving the pen the visual appearance of  something a little more sleek.  The actual nib is identical to the earlier pen but the grip and central chrome plated band mean that the nibs are not interchangeable and, because of the revised profile of the grip, the writing experience of the new model is noticeably different.

Waterman Hemisphere comparison

The Agnes B Hemisphere, although no production numbers have been released, we believe that there will only be a limited quantity which, combined with the pen’s premium price, may make this delightful pen a collectors’ piece.  Perhaps a little disappointing is the lack of finer materials being used such as, rhodium plated gold nib and trim. 

At our shop, PenFountain.com in Cranleigh, we were first shown pictures of Agnes b last year and fell in love straight away.  Having seen them ‘in the flesh’ the pictures did them no justice!

More Exceptional Exception nib information

February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

As per my previous blog, the Waterman Exception fountain pen remains a shining example of radical and yet stylish design.  The Exception comes in 2 model sizes, the standard or slim version which is extremely elegant without being over-large. 

Waterman Exception Night & Day Waterman Exception Night & Day

The new information relates to the delightful 18ct gold nib which is available in a range of sizes and styles.  Previously, we have been advised that Waterman require the pen to be returned to the factory for fitting and alignment.  However, I found the requirement to return the pen to the factory for ‘alignment’ a little unconvincing.   Today, we received a customer’s Exception s back from Waterman and, wishing to confirm the fitted nib size, we could find no obvious indication on the nib or feed.  Speaking with our contacts at Waterman about the lack of info, even they had to make further enquiries!  It has emerged that the reason for the retrun to the factory is not jus for alignment but that each nib size has a dedicate feed.  The size of the nib/feed  is identified by a very small digit right at the base of the feed with a 3 being medium and a 4 being fine.  This is suggests that the Exception is even more exceptional than we realised.

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