2016 Favourites – Part 1

Here it goes for another year. I had a wonderful year of 2016, when it comes to building a better collection of fountain pens and fountain pen inks.

In general, my preference for any pen or ink did not change much. Compared to 2015, I did not aggressively expand my collection by trying a variety of models from different brands. Instead, I was mainly focusing on adding the ones that mostly meet what I prefer already, and exploring whether the other new features are worth the investment.

2016 was also an amazing year for me to get more experiences from the pen shows. The Toronto pen show was as great as usual. But last summer, the DC Supershow was a brand new experience, and a really good one. Being one of the largest pen shows in the world, the DC Supershow opened the door to a whole new world for me. The scale of the pen show and the huge varieties of pens and inks really were outstanding. I had a great time there meeting people across the globe that share the same hobby. Pen shows give the unique environment that all the pen lovers can come together to talk about what the current trend is, express their opinions on certain pens or inks, and have the chance to try out a few pens from other people’s collections.

My top 10 fountain pens for 2016:

  1. Montblanc Meisterstück Solitaire Tribute to the Mont Blanc Classique (18K, F)
  2. Montblanc Bohème Blanche (18K, F)
  3. Pelikan Souverän M805 Vibrant Blue (18K, F)
  4. Pelikan Souverän M1000 Black-Green (18K, F)
  5. Graf von Faber-Castell Intuition Platino Grenadilla (18K, F)
  6. Montblanc Meisterstück 149 (18K, M)
  7. Omas Ogiva Alba Violet (14K, F extra flessibile)
  8. Aurora Optima Mare (18K, M)
  9. Pelikan Souverän M400 Tortoiseshell-White (14K, F)
  10. Lamy 2000 Stainless Steel (14K, M)

From this list, you may be able to tell the certain characteristics of a pen that I enjoy. In general, I love piston filling fountain pens that have springy nibs. In addition, while it’s not absolutely necessary, I do appreciate it when the pen has a decent weight and size. Therefore you can see that these pens have most of the preferences matched. These are the pens that I pick up the most often. I find them not only outstanding when it comes to the writing performance, but also very appealing to the eyes. In most cases, they are quite easy to be cleaned and maintained as well.

Compared to the list from 2015, you may find that most of the pens from that list no longer show up here. It’s not that my preferences had changed significantly; it’s because during the last year, I acquired new pens that are often similar models, compared to what I had already owned, but quite improved in many areas.

The best example is the number one on the list, the Montblanc Meisterstück Solitaire Tribute to the Mont Blanc Classique. The resin version Classique Platinum Line was on the previous list, but this new one is better in almost all aspects. Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about this pen is that it accepts standard international ink cartridges only. But everything else is perfect. The 18K gold fine nib writes super smoothly without lacquered finish and the detailed engravings on the grip section make it a really beautiful pen. The extra weight from the metal construction lets the pen sit extremely comfortably in the hand.

The second place goes to the Montblanc Bohème Blanche. I love this pen pretty much for the same reason as the last one. The smooth and springy 18K gold fine nib, the beautiful white lacquered barrel and cap, and the decent weight all make this pen so wonderful. What’s also interesting is its retractable nib design. It’s not just simply a fountain pen, but also a piece of art.

The Pelikan Souverän M805 fountain pen gets the third place. For any particular pen model, I only allow one entry into the top 10. While I love all my Pelikan Souverän M800/M805 pens, the M805 Vibrant Blue is the favourite for this year. It’s hard to make a pen that will have an even prettier material. The balance between the transparency and the vibrancy is perfect.

Honourable Mentions:

These pens did not reach the top 10 of 2016. However, all of them are frequently included in my pen rotation, and each pen has very unique writing characteristics that I love.

My most favourite fountain pen releases in 2016:

  • Pelikan Souverän M805 Vibrant Blue
  • Pelikan Souverän M800 Grand Place
  • Lamy Safari Dark Lilac

My least favourite fountain pen releases in 2016:

  • Pelikan M120N Green-Black
  • Lamy Al-star Charged Green
  • Pelikan Classic M205 Blue-Marbled

This is going to be a very subjective topic, but the pens above are the ones that I consider as the best or the worst releases of 2016.

The Lamy Safari finally has a special edition in purple. The matte finish makes it even more attractive. I personally think the matte finish makes the Lamy Safari look much more refined and well made.

Both the Pelikan Souverän M805 Vibrant Blue and the M800 Grand Place were released earlier in 2016, with the Grand Place being only available in certain regions. I knew that I had to add them to my collection as soon as they were announced. Both pens do not carry the iconic design of the barrel with stripes. However, the special edition materials are very attractive. Being translucent means that I don’t have to guess how much ink is left in these piston fillers.

On the other hand, there are new release that I personally don’t enjoy too much. Interestingly, these pens also come from the same manufacturers, Lamy and Pelikan. Last year, the special edition for the Lamy Al-star was the Charged Green. It’s certainly a colour that is not commonly seen on pens and is quite special. However in my opinion it’s not an attractive colour. But perhaps for me the most disappointing releases are the Pelikan M120 Green-Black and the Pelikan Classic M205 Blue-Marbled.

The Pelikan Classic M205 Blue-Marbled is a new regular edition introduced last year. In 2016, Pelikan also released two other M205 pens, the Demonstrator Transparent Blue and the Aquamarine. Since there are already two special edition releases, I feel that having this many M205s releases within such a short period of time is a bit strange. And considering this one is only a regular edition pen and is available at any time, it does not offer enough features or specialities to make it more attractive than the other two. The pen itself is quite beautiful and I do like it. It’s only that I think the timing of the release is not right.

In addition to the M205 releases, Pelikan also introduced a special edition M120N Green-Black, which is almost the same size as the M200/M205 model. This pen has more of a vintage look and carries a nib with unique engravings. However, it looks and feels just like a M200 fountain pen, but with a price tag that is significantly higher. I think this pen shouldn’t be put with such a high price, even if it’s a special edition that is likely more attractive to the collectors than to the average users.

What are your favourite fountain pens for the year 2016? In the next post, I will share my favourite inks of the year and what I hope to get this year.

 

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Pen Review: Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla

For the list of pens currently for sale, please visit here.

 

The Faber-Castell brand and Faber-Castell pens are often talked about in the fountain pen community. However, the premium line, Graf von Faber-Castell, doesn’t seem to get enough attention as it should in my opinion. Previously I had reviewed the Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio, which is the entry point to this luxury line. Those pens are great examples of the quality and design language that the brand delivers. After having those two pens, it didn’t take me too long to purchase another fountain pen from the brand and I wished that it could be my main writer at the time. This review will focus on this pen, the Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla.

Basic Information:
Fountain Pen: Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla
Nib: 18K gold medium nib
Filling System: International cartridge/converter
Production: Regular edition

1. Packaging (10/10):

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There is nothing that I want to complain about the presentation of the pen. Similar to the Tamitio pens, the Classic model also has a small linen pen pouch provided. What’s really exciting is that the pen is presented in a beautiful and solid wood case. Inside the case, there are three slots available. Therefore it is not only pretty, but also quite practical since it can hold multiple pens together. The case is then well protected by a sturdy cardboard box. The packaging clearly shows that Graf von Faber-Castell has put a lot of thoughts into it.

2. Pen Design (8/10):

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Overall, the design of the pen is simple, but the attention to the details makes the pen really elegant. When capped, the pen has a very streamlined profile. The cap and the end piece of the barrel are platinum plated, and the grenadilla wood barrel is fluted, showing the unique and natural grain of the material, which darkens over time. Both the top of the cap and the barrel end piece have knurling on the edges, showing a nice design consistency with the fluted barrel.
The cap features a spring loaded clip, which has just the right amount of tension. Also the engravings on the cap are nice and clean.
Unscrewing the pen cap shows the slim and long metal grip section. Usually I don’t prefer metal grip sections, but I absolutely love this one. The section gradually tapers in but curves out near the end. This feature helps the fingers have a firm and comfortable grip onto the long section. It is one of the best designed grip sections in my pen collection.
The pen is fairly slim but long. With the use of materials such as wood and metal, the pen is quite heavy for its size. The cap can be posted, but posting onto the metal end piece makes the pen extremely long and back-heavy. This pen should be long enough for most people to use without posting. Also the weight distribution is already very balanced without posting.
On the other hand, while I thoroughly enjoy the appearance of the pen, there are also drawbacks. Being platinum plated, the cap and the barrel end piece are fingerprint magnets. Also another issue I found is that occasionally when I uncap the pen, the threads for the grip section and the barrel also become a bit loose. It is possibly caused by having too much friction between the grip section and the inside of the cap, so that uncapping the pen also turns the grip section slightly.

3. Filling system (7/10):

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This pen accepts both international short and long cartridges. Also it has no issue fitting an international standard converter tightly. Overall the design and execution here are definitely well done. However I cannot offer more points, because the converter filling mechanism is simple and easy to use, but relatively less elegant that other build-in filling systems, in my opinion. Also the pen does not use threaded converters. It is not absolutely necessary, but for sure adds a bit more quality and safety for the filling mechanism.

4. Nib Performance (7/10):

The 18K gold medium nib wrote a fairly wet and broad line. Personally I enjoyed how good the ink flow is, but not how thick the line is. The nib is springy and offers a tiny bit of line variation. It has a really consistent and excellent performance on less polished paper. Unfortunately, it skipped and hard started too frequently on several premium paper products. Since the nib wrote too broad already, I didn’t enjoy using it with less polished paper at all.
The pen was left out of my pen rotation for quite a while, until I brought it to the pen show to have the nib adjusted. After the adjustment, the nib now writes a wet fine line and I can easily give it a 10/10 score for the performance. With the fix, now this pen is often seen in the rotation and I enjoy trying many different inks with it.

5. Pen Cleaning and Maintenance (10/10):
The Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla fountain pen is very easy to be cleaned. One advantage of the converter filling system, is that it is easy to remove the converter and flush both the converter and the nib unit easily. Ever since I had the nib adjusted, I often keep the pen inked with all kinds of ink colours. There has never been any issue with the ink being difficult to be flushed out of the pen.
Also there isn’t much effort needed to keep this pen in good condition. Many parts of the pen are made with metal or wood, which are very durable. The wood barrel gets darker after long term use, but the appearance is still very attractive. The platinum plated parts are shiny and beautiful. However, they are also fingerprint magnets. Users may have to frequently wipe the pen clean, in order to keep its pristine look.

Summary:
Packaging: 10/10
Pen Design: 8/10
Filling System: 7/10
Nib Performance: 7/10
Pen Cleaning and Maintenance: 10/10

Total: 42/50

The Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla fountain pen carries a fairly premium price, but also comes with premium material and build quality. The design of the pen is simple and elegant. This is a pen that’s ideal both as a nice writing instrument and as a luxurious gift to anyone who would appreciate a piece of art. The nib did require some adjustments at the beginning, but the pen quickly becomes a favourite after the trip to have the nib fixed. Combined with the international standard cartridge/converter filling system, there isn’t issue carrying the pen around and using it conveniently. If you are looking for a nicely designed fountain pen that also does not need extensive protection or maintenance, and do not mind the extra premium from the brand and the choice of material, this is absolutely worth considering.

 

For the list of pens currently for sale, please visit here.

Pen Review: Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio

These pens are currently for sale.

For the list of pens currently for sale, please visit here.

The Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio collection seems to be a lineup that rarely gets talked about. However, when I started my fountain pen journey, this is one of the first few models that I got to know, and I was quickly attracted by the design of the collection. So here is my review of the Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio fountain pens.

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Basic Information:

Fountain Pens: Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio Black & Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio Rosé
Nibs: Stainless steel medium & fine nibs
Filling System: International cartridge/converter

1. Packaging (8/10):

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Both of the pens that I own did not come with the “official” box mentioned on the Graf von Faber-Castell website. Therefore I’m not able to comment much about it. However, I do have the linen bag that is provided for the collection. Personally I think it is quite a nice addition to any standard pen packagings. It looks clean and simple, and offers nice protection.

2. Pen Design (8/10):

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The profile of the Tamitio fountain pen is about average. When capped, its length is similar to pens such as the Pilot Vanishing Point and Pilot Metropolitan. The pen has a snap cap and when uncapped and not posted, it is more comparable to pens such as the Pelikan Souverän M400 and the Sailor 1911S (both also uncapped and not posted). When holding the pen, one thing that immediately distinguishes the Tamitio from the others is that it feels much heavier. This is because a large percentage of the pen body is metal. The barrel is also lacquered, which certainly adds a bit of weight. However, the pen has quite a balanced weight distribution when not posted and I find myself enjoying the extra weight. The cap snaps to post on the back of the pen. The metal bit on the back of the barrel is very short, so that posting the cap will make the pen very long. Meanwhile, since the pen has a metal cap, posting also makes the pen quite back heavy. Personally, I always use the pen not posted.

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The barrel is coated with lacquer and presented with a fluted design, which is very unique. Combined with the metal cap and the metal piece on the end of the barrel, the pen looks simple and modern. The spring-loaded clip seems to be a feature that Graf von Faber-Castell frequently uses in the pen design. And it certainly fits nicely here. The end of the clip tapers out, so that it is extremely easy to slip into any pocket and gives sufficient amount of tension.

 

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The stainless steel nib is rhodium plated. The silver colour matches well with the other metal parts of the pen. Overall, the pen has a very consistent styling and each part looks and feels well built. However, there are also details that may be a concern for some users. First since the metal pen cap is highly polished, it becomes quite a fingerprint magnet. Users who prefer the cleaner look of a pen may have to avoid this pen, or consistently wipe the cap to keep it shiny. Secondly, the pen has a very short metal grip section, so short that it barely can be considered as one. There is a small step between this section and the barrel. Based on this design, most users will have to either put the fingers on this edge or grip onto the pen barrel only. Fortunately, the edge of the barrel is extremely smooth. Personally I’m not that concerned about this design, but it certainly can discourage some users.

3. Filling System (7/10)

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The Tamitio fountain pen accepts both the international short and long cartridges and converter. Therefore your choice of ink colours is definitely not limited. This is also a very portable pen. Carrying a few cartridges for this pen can certainly make it a great travel companion. However, one concern that I have for this pen is that the converter doesn’t sit very deeply into the nib unit. It actually can be easily detached with a light pull. While I haven’t experienced any ink leakage or seen the converter falling off, I would be still cautious about it, particularly during pen cleaning, just to make sure that the converter or, more importantly, the nib unit doesn’t get loose and dropped.

4. Nib Performance (9/10)

For the Tamitio, I have both a fine nib and a medium nib. Both nibs are true to their size designations and they write right out of the box. No adjustments are needed. Both the nibs have an average flow and perhaps the most outstanding quality of them is that these nibs are super smooth. In fact even when not inked, they glide on the paper more smoothly than some other inked ones, and some of them can be much more expensive. Meanwhile, there is hardly any skipping or hard start issue. They are among the best stainless steel nibs that I own. Of course, being stainless steel nibs means that they are fairly rigid and the design of the nibs doesn’t offer any line variation. But I still think they are great nibs for daily writing.

5. Pen Cleaning and Maintenance (10/10)

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Having the international standard cartridge and converter filling system installed usually means that cleaning is not the hardest task, and this pen is certainly not an exception. The pen also does not require much extra care, other than the usual pen maintenance routine. The barrel is coated with lacquer and the finish is still in mint condition after more than a year’s use. The metal cap is quite resistant to scratches but as mentioned earlier, it can be a fingerprint magnet. For the best protection it is still best to store it in a pen case or pen pouch.

Summary:

Packaging: 8/10
Pen Design: 8/10
Filling System: 7/10
Nib Performance: 9/10
Pen Cleaning and Maintenance: 10/10

Total: 42/50

The Graf von Faber-Castell Tamitio fountain pen is a solid choice for many. It is a nice daily writer with outstanding and consistent nib performance. The snap cap and international cartridge and converter filling system help make it a great daily carry pen.
On the other hand, based on the specifications it offers, I think the price point of the pen is a bit too high, with many other pens that may be more appealing in the same price range. In this case, a lot of what you pay for is for the pen design and the build quality. Personally, every time I put them into my pen collection, I enjoy using them very much.

 

These pens are currently for sale.

For the list of pens currently for sale, please visit here.

2015 Favourites – Part 1

This is my second year coming back to use fountain pens and starting my small collection of pens and inks. It’s a year that I was able to better understand what I truly love for this hobby.

I had very limited knowledge about fountain pens before I decided to come back to the hobby. I had no idea about the huge varieties of filling systems, pen materials, nib materials, and so on. And I guess these are just the basics of any fountain pen design. At the very beginning, almost any kind of design combinations look attractive to me. As the result, I was adding pens that differ vastly into my collection. As I become more knowledgeable about fountain pens, I was able to slowly figure out what particular design directions work the best for me. Therefore I am now having a better focus on what to collect. Also as different pen companies have different designs and how their pens also do not perform in the same way, this makes my collection of pens and inks lean towards certain brands. But before talking about all those details, I think now would be a good time to start listing what my favourites are. Here are my top 10 fountain pens:

  1. Pelikan Souverän M400 Tortoiseshell-White (14K Gold, F)
  2. Pelikan Souverän M805 Stressmann (18K Gold, EF)
  3. Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla (18K Gold, M)
  4. Pelikan Souverän M600 Pink (14K Gold, F)
  5. Delta Dolcevita Oversize (14K Gold, F)
  6. Pelikan Souverän M620 Chicago (18K Gold, F)
  7. Lamy 2000 (14K Gold, F)
  8. Waterman Carène Ombres et Lumières (18K Gold, F)
  9. Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight (18K Gold, M)
  10. Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line (14K Gold, F)

By now you can probably see that I really love Pelikan and this brand is certainly the most favourite. My preference for the filling system is the piston filling mechanism, and I think Pelikan does the best job in this area. The pistons are always smooth and the barrels hold a lot of ink. While many other pen companies also offer piston filling pen options, Pelikan makes the basic pen maintenance super convenient by designing the nib units to be easily removable and swappable.

Each other pen has its own advantage. The Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla has a very smooth and springy 18K gold nib. Its trip to the nib meister turned it from an average medium nib to a wet nib that writes a bit similar to an architect’s point. The pen looks classic and sits balanced in the hand. It is just so fun to use. All the other pens in the list are also good writers and the ones from Delta, Waterman and Pilot are particularly beautiful pens. Being a smooth and reliable writer, my Lamy 2000 is rarely out of rotation. Last but not least, the Montblanc Meisterstück Classique has always been one of my favourites, since it is my first fountain pen. And of course it writes equally as well as the others, if not even better.

These pens are the ones that I love the most and use the most often. There are some honourable mentions that I want to list below. While they could not make it to the top 10, these pens are either very interesting to use, or offering great values for the money:

As for inks, below is my top 5:

  1. Montblanc Lavender Purple
  2. Sailor Jentle Souten
  3. Sailor Jentle Tokiwa-Matsu
  4. Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin
  5. Montblanc Toffee Brown

I love cool colour inks in general, except for the Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin. These inks all flow well, easy for pen maintenance and offer excellent performances on many types of paper. The best part is, they all have a decent amount of shading combining with most paper types and pens.

Once again there are some honourable mentions in each colour range. Please feel free to check out this page.

That’s it for my top 10 fountain pens and top 5 inks for 2015. In the next blog I will continue to talk about other things that made this hobby wonderful, in my opinion.

Thank you for reading!

Toronto Pen Show – 2015

The Toronto pen show is the first pen show that I have been to. While I had high expectations for it, it certainly did not disappoint. I was able to meet many wonderful people there and get quite a few things that I am glad to add to my collection.

Before the show, I made a fairly long wish list that covered from pens to inks, and from pen pouches to inkwells. It turned out that none of the items in my wish list showed up or was appealing enough. However, I found something much more interesting.

My first find is a pair of Pelikan M200 nibs. One is a regular italic nib and the other one is an architect’s point. The architect’s point is particularly fun to play with. I think the nib offers a bit more style to the writing and it didn’t take me too long to get used to it.

 

After getting the two Pelikan nibs, I continued to explore the rest of the show floor. Along the way I was able to see many pens that I have never seen in person before, which was super exciting. However, I didn’t find anything that made me want to have a closer look, until this, the Delta Dolcevita Oversize:

 

I used to think that the Delta Dolcevita medium size would be the best size for me. I quickly realized how perfect the oversize is the second that I picked it up to try.

Gold coloured trims are usually not my favourite. But with the beautiful orange resin, I think the gold trim on this pen is a good match.

After that, I got the chance to send a few of my pens to the nib meister in the show. I have a few nibs that I would now prefer a finer width, and a nib that needed tuning to fix the flow issue. I am really glad with the result. The nibs write exactly like what I wished for, and now I can enjoy these pens even more.

 

Overall, I think the Toronto pen show exceeded my expectations and I really enjoyed it. It was a good opportunity to find treasures that I won’t usually get to see in person and the best chance to meet people in this great community.