Rhodia goes for brand extension

July 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Rhodia, the French paper and pad producer, is making significant strides in its campaign to make the brand a fashion icon on par with Moleskine.  From our trials, Rhodia papers are significantly better than the Moleskine offering in terms of their fountain pen performance in that they are less prone to line-spread, spidering and show-through.  However, Moleskine’s market penetration has left Rhodia a little way to go.

While challenging for the paper crown, Rhodia has looked to other areas to support their brand-building with the introduction of a range of personal luggage.  Stamping their black and orange house colours from their pad range onto the new laptop bags and holdalls has made them immediately recognisable and potentially, quite iconic.  Bringing their reputation for quality, presentation and performance across into the new market has been a shrewd move.

Rhodia Laptop Backback

Rhodia Laptop Backpack quality with style.

The laptop backpacks, laptop messenger bags, and holdalls are produced in a hard wearing, black brushed fabric that gives the exterior a deceptively soft feel.  The stitching is in contrasting orange thread with black leather details added as subtle highlights to the black of the fabric. Although competitively priced, the quality is good with no loose, bright orange cottons whispering all over the lush, black fabric while the webbing, handles, and zips are also tidily fitted.  Further practicality comes from the base of the bags where protective metal studs are fitted.

Opening the new bags requires a pair of sunglasses to be worn such is the intensity of the orange but we suspect this will tone-down quite quickly with use.  The interiors are fitted with an array of pockets, straps and pen loops, all of which are well thought-out.  However, unlike the Rhodia pads, we would not recommend testing for ink line-spread or show-through with the bags.

Next time you’re looking to buy a trendy, new bag for business or college, we would recommend looking at the Rhodia range to match your stationery!

Pure Black Magic

July 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Porsche Design pens have a reputation for the quality of their design and engineering.  With their creative use of materials, processes and finishes, they are, effectively, in a league of their own.  The new Porsche Design P3105 is further proof of this unique position with its immediate impact created by sheer presence.  This is an understated, ‘statement pen’.  Not garish, perhaps not even as ostentatious as its stable-mate TecFlex series pens.

Porsche Design Pure Black fountain pen with paperweight

Porsche Design Pure Black fountain pen with paperweight

The P3105 is an imposing, all-metal pen finished entirely in a silky black finish which creates the very slightest hint of a highlight along the length of it barrel and cap. Removing the screw cap provides the first indication of the engineering quality.  This is smooth. The grip is finished with a slightly rubberised finish but the eye is immediately drawn the substantial, 18 ct gold, rhodium finished, stepped nib.  The Porsche Design brand is embossed into the lustrous rhodium and once inked, writes as well as the pen’s presence would suggest.

Filling for the Porsche Design P3105 is by either cartridge or converter and is  accessed by unscrewing the slightly fluted end-cap to the barrel to reveal a cartridge cage, similar to the Pelikan Ductus assembly.  Whilst untried, the converter filling appears to be by removing the converter from the pen and filling it independently before re-locating it back into its cage assembly.  This strikes me as being a potentially messy operation and could end in tears!

Porsche Design Pure Black 18ct Gold nib
Porsche Design Pure Black 18ct Gold nib

Taking a step back, this pen is right on the money for creating an impression, particularly if you have the car to back it up.  It is 14mm in diameter and weighs-in at a very substantial  62 grams but, like its TecFlex family members, the weight is beautifully balanced. The Pure Black is also accompanied by a matching Pure Black Porsche 911 shaped paperweight.  However, if you like the concept but are looking for something a little lighter, the Pelikan Ductus is almost identical and at a lower price.

At PenFountain.com, we believe that we are one of the few dealers to actually have one of these sort-after pens in stock at present.

From Geneva with love

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Caran d’Ache pen in the hand is something to appreciate.  We’ve always been fans of this quality pen from the shores of Lake Geneva but during a recent visit to a trade event I was introduced to a real expert from the Company, Stefan Muller.  Mr Muller, has worked, with evident loving, on the production of the Caran d’Ache products for more than 40 years and is now their ambassador.

In our brief meeting, with the aid of well-travelled samples, Mr Muller explained the manufacturing process from a slightly short piece of extremely high-grade brass, through the stamping and machining processes to the blank Ecridor /Varius pen foundation.  The detail of the fine engraving for the Ecridor and hand preparation was described with further illustrative samples,  followed by a brief over-view of the plating processes, the exquisite detail of which was being saved for the grand finale of the Varius presentation.

Caran d'Ache Maya gold fountain pen

Caran d'Ache Maya gold plated fountain pen with more than 10mic of gold

The Varius range comes from the same roots as the Ecridor but the hand application of the Chinese lacquers was a revelation in the present climate of mechanisation and fast turn-round times. Each Varius pen takes several weeks of hand application of lacquers and polishing before it is even ready for its final silver or gold plating.

Caran d'Ache Varius China Blue fountain pen

Caran d'Ache Varius China Blue fountain pen

Once prepared, the plating process is fastidiously followed with more than 10 microns of high-grade precious metal, usually silver or gold.  The thickness of the plating is such that by some process, the Caran d’Ache engineers had managed to produce the gold plating for  a cigarette lighter but without the lighter! The gold was of sufficient thickness that, whilst flimsy, it was still able to withstand handling.

I enquired about the lacquer on the Leman and was advised that, whilst not Chinese lacquer, Caran d’Ache had developed a system that ensured a consistent, but still largely manually applied, lacquer around the barrel and cap brass blanks.  This is how they achieve such beautiful, deep finishes on their pens.

The care and detail employed by the production team, in my opinion, tends to be overlooked in Caran d’Ache’s literature instead, opting for the slightly vacuous fashion-lead copy.  Nothing can replace a description of the love and attention applied by the people who devote their skills to such delightful writing implements.

Mr Muller may have been preaching to the converted but the detail he put into the description of each process gave me a much deeper appreciation of why they tend to be a little more expensive than some of their competitors.  Clearly, the degree of manual intervention and personal inspection commands the price premium but this knowledge can give the user such additional satisfaction.

The rewarding side of business

July 7, 2011 § 3 Comments

At PenFountain.com we promote our retail business in Cranleigh and the surrounding towns by supplying a pen to The Challenger, a local free publication, as the prize for the best letter, poem or other piece of prose each month.  Winner in the July issue of the magazine was Wendy Strohm of Dorking with her poem, Bookham Common.

Parker Urban Premium fountain prize in The Challenger magazine

Click and scoll to the foot of The Challenger page

Wendy was delighted to receive her prize of a Parker Urban Premium Matt Black fountain pen with a leather case and kindly wrote an email of thanks – in verse, of course.

A thank you note to Bob & Susan
Now just imagine my sheer delight
At returning home from work last night
A better note I have not read
Than the Challenger email that said –
My little poem was just the best
And had beaten all the rest!
And thanks to you – a prize to be had
Oh yes, I am, extremely glad!

Thank you very much indeed

Wendy Strohm

This is the rewarding side of running a business like ours.

Parker introduces Art Deco Sonnet

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Why do pen manufacturers insist on introducing new models instead of launching them?  Not for them the conventional marketing wisdom of getting a few journos together and extolling the virtues of the new product, its marketing campaign and target audience.  No, the new product is here, hidden among the price increases and, by the way, we don’t have any stock available anyway!

In this category is a nearly missed style gem, the new Parker Sonnet Pearl and Metal range.  This has art deco styling in spades with just enough colour and chintz to make it different but not too much to make it exclusively feminine territory.   At its core is the tried and tested high-end Sonnet product with its all-metal base with decoration in lacquers, metallics and PVD.

Parker Sonnet Metal & Pearl Fountain Pen Detail

Parker Sonnet Metal & Pearl Fountain Pen Detail

On the Sonnet Pearl and Metal, the deep gloss lacquered barrel section with an iridescent mother-of-pearl finish lifts this pen out of the melee of the current white and chrome effect pens.  A broad, rose gold band punctuates the bright cleanliness of the mother of pearl and the bright, stainless cap with chased geometric patterns.

The Sonnet is a medium-sized pen with relatively light-weight.  The fountain pen is supplied with the proven 18ct rhodium plated gold nib that offers a writing experience very much in keeping with quality of the pen’s appearance.  Offering either cartridge or converter filling, the art deco Sonnet is available with a choice of 8 different nib widths.  The ball pens all use the conventional, if unexciting Parker refills.

Parker Sonnet Pearl & Metal fountain pen and ballpoint

Parker Sonnet Pearl & Metal fountain pen and ballpoint

At PenFountain.com we have recently taken the Monteverde Parker/G2 style ballpoint refills.  These use Monteverde’s Soft Touch technology on their ballpoints offering near-rollerball smoothness without the short life-expectancy or extended drying times and also offer a range of 6 colours.

The question still remains, why haven’t Parker told more people about this delightful pen range themselves?

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