Porsche Design Shakepen – expensive novelty?

March 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Porsche Design Shakepen is a compact ballpoint with a unique flick-action.  Nib extension and retraction is affected by a simple, gentle flick of the wrist.  The mechanism is surprisingly reliable (although, perhaps not, considering the Porsche’s reputation!).  The mechanism operates by inertia with a bob weight that creates a surprisingly heavy pen for such a small physical size but equally gives a presence for such a diminutive pen.

The flick-pen is currently available in 2 finishes from PenFountain.com, the popular rubberised, striated finished Caoutchouc and the all-metal Twist.  Both are very practical pens offering small stature without  the clutter of a small operating mechanism often found to be difficult to operate for users with larger fingers. With typical Porsche Design attention to detail, the Shakepen features a raised branding badge on the upper section that doubles as roll-stop to prevent your pride and joy rolling off the table when not in use.

Porsche Design Shake pen

The Porsche Design Shakepen operates by a gentle flick of the wrist

The Porsche Design uses the industry standard D1 sized refills available from a number of manufacturers including Monteverde that offers to D1 in 2 line widths.

The Shakerpen is a fun pen offering a certain style and presence.  Does it represent value for money?  Porsche Design pens are a premium priced pen with style and quality to match.  The Shakerpen is effectively Porsche Design’s  entry level pen in the current line-up and, in that context, the pricing is probably about right and is certainly on par with compact pens from other luxury pen brands.

Service vs. Tumbleweed

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cranleigh, like many high streets in the current economic gloom, is extremely quiet.  The tumbleweed almost rolls down the road some afternoons.  However, Cranleigh is relatively quiet even when other high streets are heaving with shoppers preparing for a holiday. This is why the retail shop for PenFountain.com is in an ideal position.  With the majority of our sales being online, for those prepared to make the journey, we are able to offer attentive, personal service that buying a quality pen deserves.

PenFountain.com for pens at low prices

PenFountain.com, the shop to look out for!

For those who have discovered the almost therapeutic pleasure derived from pen selection, many have travelled some distance. Recently a couple came over from Woking.  This is not exactly the other end of the country excepting they came by bus requiring a change of route at Guildford just to visit the shop. 2 x buses x 2 and over an hour of travel each way.  They seemed to enjoy their excursion and think it well worthwhile.

What is waiting for those who make the pilgrimage?  A good range of pens, a selection of nibs and paper types, enthusiastic, informed opinion, and advice, with prices parallel to our online offering. Arguably, this offer could not be replicated in a bigger store elsewhere because our personal involvement cannot readily be scaled up to a busier shop. Our service is not just for the high-end pens, either.  In many ways greater satisfaction comes from helping first-time fountain pen users, particularly left-handed ones!

PenFountain.com in the Surrey countryside

Make a day of your visit to PenFountain.com

Once in Cranleigh, we can recommend a selection of excellent refreshment stations and some other interesting independent retail experiences too.  Walkers and cyclists are well catered for with open countryside all round us.  So, why not make a day of your visit to PenFountain.com?

Cross Chinese Year of the Dragon Special Edition

August 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

Every now and then one of the mainstream pen manufacturers creates a really special ‘Special Edition’ and unusually, it’s Cross this time.  Based on the Sauvage profile, the Chinese Year of the Dragon, 2012, is being celebrated with this beautiful, deep-etched, gold plated, lacquered pen.  Deep-etched through the black or translucent red lacquer to the gold beneath, the Chinese dragon drapes itself around the barrel, across the joint onto the cap with perfect alignment.  The pens are supplied in a sumptuous display case with an integral display plinth for showing-off the pen in a cabinet or in pride of place on the desk.  These pens are available in either fountain pen, rollerball or ballpoint.  However, there is limited stocks with only 800 units being made available in the UK.

Based on the Sauvage, The Chinese Year of the Dragon pen from Cross

Based on the Sauvage, The Chinese Year of the Dragon pen from Cross

The Chinese Dragon pen will be supplied with a dedicated 18ct gold nib on the fountain pen with converter and cartridge options.  The rollerball is designed using Cross’s unique Selectip rolling ball system with 2 alternative refill formats being available.  The ballpoint will use Cross’s proprietary ballpoint refill.  We believe that pricing will be at £300, £250 and £200 respectively.

Full details and final specification will be published on PenFountain.com on the pen’s release and when stock is avaialble

We understand that the Dragon Pen will be released towards the end of September 2011.   Please email your interest and we will keep you informed as to progress.  mail@penfountain.co.uk

Sonnet Surprise

August 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

The new Parker delivery arrived at PenFountain.com.  Opened, checked and oops! Ordered the wrong product code.  It’s a Parker Chiselled Carbon Sonnet fountain pen.  Haven’t seen one of these.  They appear to have slipped under the radar.  But this pen is something special.

Parker Sonnet Chiselled Carbon fountain pen and ballpoint

Parker Sonnet Chiselled Carbon fountain pen and ballpoint

We are late converts to the Sonnet, particularly the later, more creative interpretations such as the Sonnet Art Deco (Feminine Collection!).  The Chiselled Carbon Sonnet however, is everything the Art Deco represented but in a different design direction.  This is a more masculine treatment of the profile with gloss anthracite coloured PVD coating over a striated, chiselled design, interspersed with minute starburst crosses.  The finish has titanium particles in it which create a fine metallic sheen allowing the light to interact with the facets of the chiselling. The trim is nickel palladium plated while the fountain pen has an 18 ct gold nib with rhodium coating.

The 18ct gold nib is the proven Sonnet 7 series unit offering a smooth writing experience with just enough spring in the tip to add that little extra softness to the touch.  The nib is available in 8 width options from extra fine through to medium reverse oblique, although beyond the core fine, medium, and broad options, these may only be available to special order.  The ballpoint is in a corresponding style, in standard or slim versions, and uses the recently introduced Quink Flow ballpoint refill.

Together the Sonnet Chiselled Carbon fountain pen and ballpoint has proved to be quite an exciting ‘find’, one that seems to have passed-by a lot of pen enthusiasts, professional and amateur.

Monteverde refills Mont Blanc’s vacuum

April 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mont Blanc, in their re-seller selection process, has created a vacuum for customers wishing to refill their pens. Unless you happen to pass one of their authorised outlets you cannot generally get your exclusively priced pens refilled.  This has resulted in a number of disenfranchised MB owners.  We do not complain about this scenario in the PenFountain.com retail business in Cranleigh because it has enabled us to sell alternative but often comparably priced complete pens.

US based pen brand, Monteverde, has offered a range of Mont Blanc compatible refills for a number of years and now, at PenFountain.com, we have been able to source these refills ‘re-enfranchising’ the rightly disgruntled Mont Blanc owners.

Mont Blanc compatible refills from Monteverde

Mont Blanc compatible refills from Monteverde

The products offered are of a high quality and, in our opinion, may even offer an innovative advantage in that the Monteverde ballpoint refills use their trade marked Soft Roll technology. The unique writing point design allows smoother contact with the paper than conventional ballpoint pens giving a writing experience more akin to that of a rollerball but with ballpoint drying times. In addition, the ballpoint refills are available 7 different colours but at about ½ the price of the original products!  Monteverde also offers a Ceramic Gel alternative to the ballpoint refills and Mont Blanc compatible rollerball refills.

Has your pen experienced magnetron sputtering – or is it just a Cross Spire

March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

Be assured, magnetron sputtering is not a fault but a sophisticated electro-magnetic process.  It is used in an advanced surface coating system that offers a fine, high-gloss, durable finish, without filling-in even the finest detail on etched or engraved surface decoration.  Magnetron sputtering is used in the Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) process.  PVD offers the benefit of being a relatively green process with little release of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the application process compared with conventional spraying or plating techniques.

 The new Cross Spire range has been finished with PVD in 3 colours, Caviar Black, Golden Shimmer and Icy Chrome. On close inspection of each of the 3 colours, it is impossible to confirm that the chrome and gold finishes are not conventionally plated, even with the fine diamond pattern engraved surfaces.

The Cross Spire pen range in 3 PVD finishes

However, it is not the finish that grabs the attention first with the Cross Spire, but the slender barrels of each format, including the fountain pen. At just 8mm diameter, the fountain pen feels exactly the same as using a slightly weighty conventional lead pencil.  The screw-top cap is removed and posted with a corresponding male thread machined into the top end.  This functions in 2 ways, extending the length of the pen to a significant 153mm and adjusting the balance on a very light pen of just 18 grams.

The nib is quite special for such a small pen.  Visually, it looks almost out of place because of its size – a full sized-nib on a miniature pen. When compared to the Cross Apogee nib, the Spire’s nib is virtually identical across the width and even a little longer!  But this is the real deal.  18ct gold with colour coded finishes in gold and rhodium as appropriate, although, Cross seem less forthcoming about the finish on the black nib. The writing experience itself is everything that would be expected of a pen at this price point. The Spire fountain pen at full price is £155.00 (PenFountain.com price £139.50).  The first sample I tried which, to be fair, was a pre-production model, was quite generous in its inking whilst the subsequent production model sampled was a little more reticent, but quite acceptable.  The Spire also shares the same 0.5mm line width as for other medium nibs from the Cross range.  It is available with the standard fine, medium and broad nib width options.

The Cross Spire full sized nib compared with a Cross Apogee

Because of the overall dimensions of the Cross Spire, the writing experience is a little unusual with the diminutive barrel taking some getting used to.  However, for the more copious fountain pen writer, the combination of small diameter, light-weight and length may offer an exciting alternative to the more conventional pens from other manufacturers. The Spire is offered in 3 colour schemes all finished with the PVD coatings.  The black is a particularly interesting option with an all black, gloss finish including trim and nib making this diminutive pen more acceptable to a potential male market.

As may be gathered from my comments here, I am quite impressed with this latest offering from Cross.  But, this is a cartridge only pen using dedicated Cross Spire cartridges and only available in either blue, blue-black or black inks. On the mechanical side, the screw cap-posting facility is let down by the random positions of the clip when tightened, none of which line the clip with the nib.  For writers with smaller hands this is unlikely to be a problem. For larger hands, it may have the clip catching the crook of the thumb.

In summary, if you write extensively and are looking for a fountain pen that doesn’t tire your hands or, you want to use a real fountain pen with discretion, the Cross Spire is worth looking into.  But the cartridges and the clip may prove a drawback.  The Cross Spire is available from PenFountain.com, or in our Cranleigh shop, in fountain pen,  ballpoint and rollerball formats.

Help is at hand for Valentine letter writers

January 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

For romantics wanting to make a statement on Valentines Day,  penfountain.com believes it can help.  The gift of a hand-written declaration of affection, or just a thinly veiled request for a night of hot passion, as seems to be the approach of many of the greetings cards currently available, is far better expressed in traditional pen and ink.

Pens, like lovers, come in all shapes and sizes and are very personal.  The subliminal message conveyed by the pen before even being picked-up may be worth considering.  For example, ladies may consider the giving of a well-chosen writing instrument as means of indicating a wish to receive letters of love and undying affection from their beau.  The pen may be a full-bodied and masculine fountain pen with a passionate red finish, along the lines of the Cross Apogee Titian Red and of course, a corresponding flame red ink.  While if the love is unrequited, having lost their man to another, lesser soul, perhaps the ink may be offered in green – or is it blue, while the pen could be of hard chrome finish like the Cross Matt Chrome ATX

Cross Apogee Titian Red fountain pen & rollerball

While for the chaps, the ladies may be delighted with something light and feminine.  It may be in a style suggesting something with just a hint of subtle naughtiness about it.  The Caran d’Ache Ecridor Eclat!  A ballpoint pen with a brilliant sparkle from the Swarovski®”   crystals embedded in its silver plated barrel springs to mind – perhaps,  just a hint of the intensity of things to come you hope! 

The colour of the ink used for many fountain pen users is something of personal statement.  We are sure there is a full scientific explanation as the choice of colour.  As described, the colour maybe a reflection of the writer’s intention or mood at the time of writing.  Whilst the use of perfumed ink is also a possibility.  These suggest a degree of intimacy requiring the recipient to hold the note so close to their body in order to be able to detect the scent, so delicately applied? 

 Whatever your choice for your Valentine, be sure that the handwritten note by fountain pen is on its way back.  The mistakes and misspellings add to the character of the love letter and even the occasional dribble of saliva water-marking your notepaper, anticipating the impact of your prose may add something to its charm – but I wouldn’t guarantee that last bit.

Why Platignum is in the Sale

January 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

Platignum is a brand that has been steeped in fountain pens since 1919 until its demise in 1998. Presumably, based on a perceived equity remaining in the brand, Snopake bought the rights to Platignum and launched their new range of pens to the trade in 2007. 

On the surface, the range was well thought-through, with the high-end pens retailing at about £25.00 reducing down to around the £10.00 area for the lower end of the range.  The pens were of a reasonable quality having been sourced in Germany for the more expensive products and the Far East for the lower priced products.  The ballpoints and rollerballs took Platignum branded generic refills in the style of Parker, Sheaffer, and Cross, while the fountain pens accepted a nominal ‘Euro’ style cartridge.

Platignum Fountain pens No1 & No5 in orange

The pens are all manufactured using metal barrels and finished in lacquers with chrome plating, and brushed metals.  The designs range from the more conservative Series 1 and 2 through to some stylish hooded nibbed models in the mid to lower priced units largely matched with corresponding roller/ballpoint formats.

What could go wrong?  Unfortunately, the brand appears, in my opinion, to a victim of insufficient ‘joined-up-thinking’. Initially, all the pens were supplied in a universal clear plastic hang-pack suitable for supermarket display.  This was ideal for the lower priced units but by the time the customer was looking to spend in excess of £20, a higher quality of presentation was required.  While this was addressed with the supply of optional, but relatively low quality, flip cases, the transfer from the retail display packaging was still required.  On launching, there were no Platignum branded cartridges, convertors, or alternative nibs and the split sourcing of the fountain pens resulted in issues relating to the dimensions of the cartridge fit.  Unfortunately, not all ‘Euro standard’ cartridges are produced to the same ‘Euro Standard’ and whilst some fitted, others were less secure and tended to back-off, resulting in leakage in some, but not all of the range.  Recommending third-party produced convertors had the same pitfalls, while the availability of replacement nibs, even on a like-for-like basis, would have been a powerful selling point.  None of these issues is insurmountable and, with a bit of research, at PenFountain.com we recommend the Pelikan cartridges that fit the entire Platignum fountain pen range and have sourced a convertor that works without leakage.  The nibs may still be an issue.

For some reason, the majority of pen manufacturers seem to be of the opinion that it is adequate to produce a new pen or range and the retailer then has responsibility to promote and sell the product.  Platignum was no exception with only minimal promotion in the trade press.  Surely, a pound added to the cost of the pen would have maintained its competitive pricing structure and yet created a budget to allow an advertising campaign to raise the profile of the brand and enhance sales for the entire supply chain. 

Despite its inherent high quality proposition, sadly, we are in the process of discontinuing our stock of Platignum and have reduced the prices accordingly.  If you want a reasonable quality pen at a very competitive price look no further than our Platignum sale.

Caran d’Ache Carbon 3000 fountain pen review

December 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

At PenFountain.com, following a request from a customer, we recently took a Caran d’Ache Varius Carbon 3000 fountain pen into stock. In keeping with the rest of the Varius series, this pen oozed sophistication, quality and individuality.  It should be said that Varius series tend to be quite a narrow pen with substantial weight making them particularly suitable for men with smaller hands.

Caran d'Ache Varius C3000 carbon fibre decorated pen

Caran d'Ache Varius C3000 carbon fibre decorated fountain pen

On first viewing, the Carbon 3000 has a beautiful contrast between the black of the carbon fibre decoration and the bright silver plated grip and trim with Caran d’Ache’s expected rhodium over-plating. The screw cap is removed to reveal an 18 carat gold nib with rhodium over-plating.  Writing performance is everything that would be expected of a pen of this quality with the tried and tested Varius nib, itself a replication of the excellent stainless steel nibs found on the Ecridor series pens.  The medium nib produces a sweet, wet line of a little over 0.6mm in width, with the fine coming just 0.1mm less and the broad 0.2mm wider.

The carbon fibre is over-laid with a deep, clear, acrylic resin giving the barrel detail an almost 3-dimensional appearance but retaining the Caran d’Ache’s Varius’s traditional hexagonal appearance.  However, the disappointment for me is the weight of the pen.  Given the natural attributes of carbon fibre, I would like to have seen the pen a little lighter overall but not at the expense of presence. The pen is quite weighty at 35grams but only 11mm across the flats of its soft hexagonal profile. These are small criticisms and, as always, we do recommend trying before buying.

The C3000 is also available in ballpoint, rollerball and pencil formats.

We have some Varius pens in stock for viewing in our Cranleigh shop, but if you want to see something specific we can usually get stock in within a couple of days.

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