Time for a digitally driven fountain pen nib?

February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

The principles of the fountain pen have been established and refined over the last 150 years. Put simply, an ink reservoir feeds ink into a delivery tube, through a series of capillary tracts, through to the tip of the nib, where contact with the writing surface causes the ink to be deposited. Although a fairly crude process by comparison to the writing technologies of today, the fountain pen, either because of its idiosyncrasies or in spite of them, remains the most rewarding way to put words onto paper for others to read.

Much has been written about the attributes of different styles of nib fabricated from almost every conceivable type of resistant material but, ultimately, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. At PenFountain, what is very clear is that the current trend towards one-size-fits-all ‘medium’ nibs is eroding the very market that the fountain pen works for.

When asked for advice about pens with alternative nibs, sizes, and formats, the conversation invariably contains the caveat ‘without spending a fortune…’, to which only one reply is currently available, Lamy.  Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my faith in Lamy’s interchangeable nib system with its low cost and reliability. However, even with its greatness, the design of the Lamy pen range can be a little too contemporarily radical for what may be described as an inherently conservative market. In an ideal world, perhaps the solution could be to put the Lamy nib system into pens of a slightly more conservative style such as, Waterman. Keep the price below £50 and you could have a commercial winner. While we’re designing the perfect commercial fountain pen, the range could possibly be extended to include some oblique nibs. We have been surprised at the number of fountain pen users requesting italic and oblique nibs and, even with Lamy’s ‘calligraphy’ pen nibs, which are technically italic, the 1.1mm nib does not offer sufficient variation between major and minor line widths and yet the 1.5mm major line width tends to suit people with larger writing. Conversely, the broad italics and obliques from the other major players tend to be neither wide enough and, being predominantly18ct gold, too expensive.

We understand the issues associated with production costs, tooling, and economies of scale but surely in the age of CNC manufacturing it would be possible to develop a digitally controlled tool to create a range of nibs that meet the fullest market requirements without prohibitive cost?

Would this be your ideal solution?  Please let us know.

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Diamine has 100 colours planned

September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

The art of fountain pen ink manufacture probably hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years or so.  It was already a ‘green’ product before the term (and even possibly the colour) was widely used.  If proof were needed of the retrospective aspect of ink production, on the Diamine inks website they acknowledge 1864 as their date of establishment and a subsequent move to a ‘state of the art’ manufacturing facility in Liverpool in 1925 but there is no suggestion of a later move from this site although they have moved production since.

Diamine fountain pen ink new colours

Diamine fountain pen ink new colours

On the positive side, Diamine produce a fabulous range of high quality inks which, with planned additions in the next 12 months, will extend to more than 100 different colours. As part of this expansion, 5 new colours have been added this summer which are: Wild Strawberry, Macassar (dark brown/black), Denim (dark blue), Meadow (rich pale green) and Eclipse (black/brown).  In keeping with our track record, we have now added these to our offering at PenFountain.com and can be viewed on our Diamine colour chart  or in our Cranleigh shop

CSI Waterman

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The victims were delivered, not in the usual body bags, but in a Jiffy bag.  They were pulled onto the bench for examination.  It was not a pretty sight.  Not 1 but 2 victims, Hemisphere front-end assemblies dismembered in places that there should not even be any joints.  The witness claimed that he had not seen any violence towards these sad examples of fountain pen-dom.  But close examination suggested otherwise. The SOCO identified similar patterns of damage but, using conventional wisdom, the only explanation could be demise by aggression.

Waterman Hemisphere fountain pen

Waterman Hemisphere - unwitting victims

The team looked for further evidence and fortunately, the witness could produce the complete pen from where the cadaverous nibs had come with a pristine nib still in situ.  Further perplexed, as a precaution before elevating the evidence to the specialist forensic laboratory, the SOCO checked for evidence of fluids in the pen.  Yes, there was fluid in the converter – ink, but not as we know it.  The converter was removed and flushed but, he noticed a gnarling on its normally clean, round mouth.

Forensic experience was required here and the evidence was bagged and despatched to the secretive clean rooms found only in the Waterman complex located just to the west of Nantes, in the West of France.  Time passed and a brief phone call requested further information about any inks and cleaning materials used.  The witness was questioned further and, under interrogation, he revealed that he had used an unnamed registrars’ ink and proudly announced that the pen had not seen any solvents, in fact it had never been cleaned-out!

The final piece of the jigsaw was in place.  The acidity of the registrars’ ink having lain in place for some 18 months without disturbance had attacked the nib assembly and converter mouth from within.  The structure of the resins used in the components had failed resulting in fracturing during assembly and use.

This is not a victimless crime but a lesson in the importance of taking precautions when using iron gall registrars’ ink, one of the oldest inks known to man.  Wash it or lose it.

The Diamine Registrars’ ink that we offer, whilst formulated for fountain pens, needs to be treated with respect in terms of its use in pens.  Damage on the scale reviewed here is very unusual and the result of unfamiliarity with the product. At PenFountain.com we advise customers of the requirement for cleanliness, both on the web page and on the ink’s  outer packaging.  However, whilst acidic, Registrars’ Ink does not represent a threat to health and is of a strength similar to that of vinegar or a cola drink.

Lamy Extra Fine Nibs discontinued

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have been advised today that Lamy are discontinuing their Extra Fine nibs in all but their high-end pens.  In effect, the superb stainless steel nib range is being reduced to fine, medium, broad, and left-handed, in the core products with 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9mm in the calligraphy type nibs. The steel nibs are renowned for their ease of changing.

The 14ct gold inlaid nib in extra fine will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.

At PenFountain.com we are disappointed to learn of this change because it was a popular nib for the finer characters used in many Asian scripts.  We will maintain stocks of the steel nibs for as long as possible.

Lamy Safari Reviewed

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Lamy Safari and its success as a school fountain pen is well-known.  But lying behind this success is a combination of design and manufacturing quality together with features that make this an attractive pen from the outset.

From picking the pen up at just 18 grams in working order, the quality of the ABS moulding is immediately noticeable.  The Lamy Safari uses the same polymer that is used in the manufacture of  Lego bricks, offering the same high quality, and durable finish.  Its round-sectioned barrel is finished with facing flat sections and an ink level window.  Whilst the grip, also round in cross-section, has 2 asymmetric flat recesses to accommodate the thumb and forefingers in an ideal position for optimum control.  The stainless steel nib, shared with the Lamy family up to around £80 pens, offers excellent writing characteristics from its range of widths from extra fine through to 1.9mm square-cut italic calligraphy style.  There is also a left-handed nib available.

Filling the Safari is by conventional, proprietary ink cartridges or by optional screw-piston pump ink converter to allow use of bottled inks.  The best thing about the Safari is that it works reliably with a smooth performance which, particularly for the uninitiated, exceeds expectation for a relatively low-budget pen.  The Safari also uses a rubber o-ring as a final seal to its click-on cap contributing to the reliability of its initial ink flow.

Lamy Safari fountain pen with cartridges

Lamy Safari fountain pen with cartridges

The detail adds to the Safari’s difference.  The ability to change the nib with minimal cost and simplicity is well-known, using the Lamy slide-on mounting system.  This offers 2 principle benefits including, replacement of a damaged nib or selection of an alternative nib width or style. The cartridge has a small reserve ink supply in the final constriction at the top of the cartridge where, when you’re down to your last drop, a little flick of the end will release the ink from its designed-in air-lock.

By the way, when you get your first Safari fountain pen, please remove the cardboard spacer from the barrel – it’s only there to prevent premature puncturing of the sealed ink cartridge before use.  You’d be surprised at how many customer have complained at not being able to get their new pens working!

The Lamy Safari is currently on Special Offer at PenFountain.com for £9.95 until 5 September.

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.

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