How do you choose your next pen?

January 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Buying a pen, particularly a fountain pen, can be a very personal experience.  The price, the style, the nib and even the presentation can be a determining factor.  At PenFountain, we are currently experiencing the Rolls Royce for a Mini price scenarios on the retail front.  A £5.00 pen in a velvet lined cardboard veneered case so that it the looks the business (but it’s a lie!).

For fountain pen users, without a doubt there are some fine ‘gems’ to be found below £10  – without the presentation case but, for collectors, these are often the little extras for selection from a pot of pens on the desk.  When it comes to buying the more serious pens, is it hearts vs. heads on price and appearance or is it all in the brand?

We are conducting a short poll – please feel free to complete the poll and comment.

PenFountain enjoys retailing at a new level

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Having opened our new concession shop in Beales department store, Worthing, we continue to learn how different the environment is from our previous individual shop.  The concession offers limited space but encourages creative thinking when it comes to finding room for new products.    

PenFountain @ Beales Store Picture
A great range of pens, nibs and inks at PenFountain @ Beales

We have also had the the privilege of being asked to provide a window display in the main shop frontage on South Street.

 PenFountain @ Beales, window South Street, Worthing

 We look forward to seeing our customers from the Worthing area.

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 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.

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?

Skipping and irregular inking

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Let’s be honest, the fountain pen, although proven technology, is still relatively crude in its operation.  The ink is held in a reservoir and, under gravity, it runs through a tube into a network of fine capillary chambers and, still using capillary action, to the writing tip of the nib where its is distributed across the nib’s contact surface with the paper.  Reliable action is dependent on a lot of quite fine variables which, in the most part, come together and produce that sublime writing experience that we all love.  Occasionally, particularly with a new pen, the experience is not as giving as we would like. This can manifest itself as anything from no ink at all to the occasional, initial skip on a down- or cross-stroke.  They are all equally frustrating at a level only normally found with recalcitrant computers!

On a new pen the first problem can be as simple as an impatient user.  On first fill, the capillaries do take time to fully flood and ensure a reliable ink flow to the nib. However, when using a new nib, once fully inked, another issue causing inconsistent flow can be that during manufacture, the smallest piece of production debris may have found its way into the capillaries and can result in irregular flow.  This can be addressed using a pressurised ink flow such as, pumping ink back and forth using a converter and a bottle of ink, or by filling the feeder-tube end of the nib with a little tepid water and gently blowing the water through the nib.

Caran d'Ache Leman nib - one of the finest made

Caran d'Ache Leman nib, in our opinion, one of the finest made, fully tested before leaving the factory

Clearly there are other factors that can influence ink flow such as ink type and paper surface.  These can be eliminated by substitution, trying alternative products to determine the effect.  The user may also find that their writing style may be part of the cause.  Particularly when using unfamiliar italic or oblique nibs, the angle of contact between nib and paper can be critical, as can the downward pressure.  If irregular inking occurs, try adjusting the relative position of nib to paper and gently increase the downward pressure.

If all else fails, contact the pen’s supplier and discuss your issues.  But, so that you don’t have the hassle of losing your pen a for a few days while it’s returned to the factory, do try the other suggestions first.

At PenFountain.com we are happy to discuss issues with your pens and, where we can, offer remedies.

Wringing out the ink

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

For many users, bottled ink is the lifeblood of their fountain pens and getting the best fill for their converter is vitally important.  To this end, there are numerous videos on You Tube of varying qualities (and degrees of condescension!) offering advice on how to get the best results.  In essence, ensure the nib is fully immersed in the ink and fill by gently lifting the plunger, either by screw thread or by slide, dependent on type.  To ensure maximum filling, push the plunger back downwards and upwards a couple of times to express any airlocks.   Hey presto!  A video script.

fountain pen ink, Lamy fountain pen ink, Pelikan Edlestein ink, Waterman fountain pen

Ink bottle design - more than just aesthetics

What is not covered on these videos is that, in addition to the quality of the ink, there are more designs of ink bottle than you can shake a nib at.  Each bottle is designed around a specific brand requirement, some of them even take into account the needs of filling a pen.   However, ink bottle design is not just about aesthetics but about practicality and useability.  Once you have drawn a significant amount of ink from the bottle, covering the nib can become a problem.  But, with a little thought in bottle design, the amount of ink it is possible to draw can vary significantly. Possibly the best design for an ink bottle is Lamy’s with its central well in the base, shown without its plastic support cover, allows the ink  to flow to the point where it is needed.  At the other end of the spectrum ( no name – no price tag)  is the cuboid glass bottle with the little dish that bearly covers a nib when full.

The choice is yours!  

Not sure?  Come to PenFountain.com in Cranleigh and have look for yourself.

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