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.

Lamy’s New Limited Editions in Stock

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The eagerly awaited Special Edition coloured Lamy Safari is now available from stock at PenFountain.com. 

The Lamy Safari fountain pen is the highly respected pen manufactured from ABS resin to a design by Lamy designer, Wolfgang Fabian.  The front end grip and nib assembly is common to the Safari, the Joy and the Al-Star ranges and offers an ergonomic design for greater comfort and to assist young hands attain the correct writing grip.  Much has been written about the Lamy nibs and their unique nib mounting system that allows easy nib interchange.  However, it would be fair to say that not everyone gets on with the tri-lobal grip design, especially older writers who have less conventional gripping positions with their fountain pens!

Lamy have established quite a reputation for producing a Special Edition coloured Safari each year with the caveat that this for a limited time/production run. They are a little more reticent about revealing times or volumes presumably so that if the colour does well they can produce another batch – or am I just cynical? The Safari Special Edition for this year is a beautiful Aquamarine fountain pen with chrome trim.

Lamy Safari fountain pen Special Edition in Aquamarine blue

Lamy Safari fountain pen Special Edition in Aquamarine blue

2011 has had a wealth of surprises with the release of the Special Edition White version of their successful Joy calligraphy fountain pen.  This may be seen as ideal for wedding invitations although a little late for the forthcoming Royal event!

Lamy Joy Special Edition White calligraphy fountain pen

Lamy Joy Special Edition White calligraphy fountain pen

Both pens come with the usual selection of nibs and don’t even attract a premium price!  When ordering, don’t forget to include any cartridges and converters you may want.

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.

Pelikan Souveran M800 Italic sampled

August 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Pelikan has launched the Souveran M800 Italic Handwriting Pen and having taken our first stock at PenFountain.com,   it has prompted the question as to what characteristics make a good italic or calligraphy nib.

The Souveran M800 is a tried and tested design of pen with beautiful balance and size but without excessive weight. The nib is classic 18ct gold with rhodium highlights and chased decoration. As would be expected of a nominal 1.5mm nib width, it draws a lot of ink and produces an adequate, without excessively wet line.

While I love my fountain pens, I am certainly no calligrapher, so please excuse the quality of the lettering used in this demonstration. Looking at the pens in our stable we have drawn comparison with my regular Lamy Studio gash pen currently fitted with a 1.5mm calligraphy nib and my Conway Stewart Silver Duro with medium italic nib.

Lamy 1.5mm calligraphy- Pelikan M800 Italic – Conway Stewart Medium Italic

Firstly, neither the Lamy nor the Pelikan gave a 1.5mm drawn line width, instead offering 1.2mm and 1.4mm respectively, with Conway Stewart’s medium italic offering a 1.1mm. A lateral line, by comparison, offered 0.4mm, 0.5mm and 0.5mm, in order. This is a purely mechanical assessment intended for information only. Other users may find that, by deft of hand, greater variation of line width may be achieved.

The Pelikan is a relatively rounded italic nib with slightly less variation in line width than I personally like. It feels ‘soft’ to write with which may prove more comfortable for writing longer passages in an italic style. At the other end of the price scale, the stainless steel Lamy nib does everything expected, with smooth performance and a slightly keener edge than the Pelikan or the Conway Stewart. The nib is suitable for use on the majority of the Lamy range offering an italic nib on pens starting from around £12.  The Conway Stewart has a stunning nib – when it performs, producing a generous wet and consistent line.  However, despite replacing the nib, the Duro refuses to offer consistent inking with periodic skips and initial line failures and, as a result, it only comes out for special occasions when my patience requires a testing! 

Of the Lamy and Pelikan offerings, it really does come down to personal taste with the sharper vertical/lateral strokes of the Lamy and the softer feel of the Pelikan.  However, if your requirement is to create a flourish on opening your fountain pen, the Pelikan is in a league of its own.  Other fountain pens worth considering for italic or oblique type nibs are the Waterman range from Carene upwards, the Parker Duofold with straight italic, oblique, and reverse oblique nib options (available to order from PenFountain.com), and the Graf von Faber Castell Guilloche range.

As always, we would recommend trying both pens in a real pen shop before buying.

Why use Lamy fountain pens in School?

August 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

With thoughts due to turn to the ‘Back to School’ commercial feeding frenzy shortly, just thought we might remind mums and dads of the value of the Lamy Safari fountain pen.

1. Kids love them because of the colours and because they are pretty bullet proof.

Lamy Safari Fountain Pens - Popular for school

Technically, they are made out of ABS plastic which is the same stuff they make Lego bricks from and if you’ve trodden on one of those in bare feet you’ll know how unforgiving ABS is!
2. The cartridges are available in 7 colours. So when the little rebels want to write their homework in green, Lamy can help.
3. If 7 colours are not cool enough, convertors are pretty cheap at £2.95 and we can offer over 70 different colours at PenFountain.com.
4. Avoiding the tearful ‘I’ve dropped my pen in chemistry and the nib’s bent’ scene, Lamy nibs are available in a wide range of widths from extra fine to a 1.9mm flat calligraphy style (and left-handed) for just £4.00 and changing them couldn’t be simpler. We’ve produced a video showing you the tricks of the trade!
5. We’ve got Safaris on Special Offer for the Back to School period.

G.Lalo Verge de France Writing Pad Performance

June 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

The G.Lalo Verge de France writing pads have received many plaudits in the Fountain Pen Network and other blogs but there’s nothing like trying the products at first hand.  At our retail shop, PenFountain.com in Cranleigh, not only do we offer the opportunity to try pens before purchase, we also offer some sample papers.

G.Lalo Verge de France Ivory pad with fountain pen ink

G.Lalo Verge de France Ivory performance demonstration - front

G.Lalo Verge de France performance - rear

 The sample shown here is one of our Verge de France Ivory pads written with a Lamy Studio running a 1.5mm nib and Diamine Damson ink.  The pen writes with generous inking through this broad nib but the Verge de France, with its high quality pulp and 25% cotton content, handles the ink beautifully, without any spidering, despite its laid finish.  From the reverse, the sheet has minimal show-through and no bleeding.

It would be fair to say that the laid finish is not everybody’s taste but, in our experience, the surface does perform well with with numerous fountain pens we have tried.  The pads are available in a range of colours with matching envelopes from PenFountain.com  We endeavour to keep the colours offered in stock.

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