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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DC Pen Show – 2016 – Friday

Friday:
Compared to the Thursday, the Friday of the show was totally different. Friday was really when this show got started. All the three rooms were full of vendors and every table had its own treasures. When I just entered the room, I was overwhelmed, because the show was already full of people and I did not know where to start browsing. Fortunately, I kept the small notebook with me, so I was pretty sure about my priorities and started to walk the show floor.
The Friday was the day that many of the larger exhibitors started to show up, particularly larger pen shops, fountain pen manufacturers, and distributors. This would be a great opportunity to take a look at the pens and inks interested before purchasing, or find things that are less commonly found locally or even online. One item that I really wanted to get from the pen show was the Akkerman ink. The Akkerman ink bottles have a very interesting but practical design, therefore I had always wanted to have one in my ink collection. However, there are a lot of colours in the lineup and it’s not easy to pick which one to buy. That makes the pen show the perfect place to get it, because I had the chance to take a look at all the ink swabs to help make the decision. In the end I chose to purchase the akkerman #16 Oranje Boven, a vibrant orange ink.
While browsing the tables, I found that the Kobe inks were also available at the show. Similar to the Akkerman inks, the Kobe inks also have a huge lineup of different colours, and these inks sometimes are not the easiest to get. At the show, there were also posters on the table that helped show what each Kobe ink colour should look like. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss the good chance to get my first Kobe ink. I bought the #37 Island Blue.
After those purchases, I felt that I already had a wonderful start on the day. I started to get back to my main priority for the day, finding the Montblanc Meisterstück 149 that suits my preferences.
Pen shows are excellent places to look for pre-owned pens, especially the ones that are fairly popular like the Montblanc Meisterstück 149. There were a lot of Montblanc Meisterstück 149 fountain pens available, with varying prices representing different production times, nib and feed materials, and overall conditions. Having so many options available, it really surprised me. It really took me a long time to decide which one to buy. Eventually I found the one that I really like. This pen is in the near mint condition and has an excellent nib in around the medium width. The pen box was also provided, which is what I always prefer, regardless of whether it’s a brand new pen or a pre-owned one. The old style Montblanc bottled ink was also in the box. Once I saw this pen, I quickly decided to purchase it.
For the other pens on my wish list, I was also trying to see if any of them showed up at the show. There were certainly interesting finds. I always wanted an Aurora Optima in my collection. But I would love to see the pens in person before getting one, because it seems to me that this pen is on the light and short side. I had also heard that Aurora’s nibs tend to write with quite a bit of feedback. I wanted to make sure that it meets my preferences. At the pen show, there were actually quite a variety of discontinued and limited editions of the Aurora Optima. What’s even better was that those pens were quite reasonably priced, compared to the regular edition currently on the market. After spending some time looking at the different options available, I finally bought the Aurora Optima Mare. The pen is also in excellent condition and has a beautiful 18K gold medium nib. The complete packaging, including the matching bottled ink and the matching ballpoint pen, was also provided. This was really a wonderful find.
Friday was a good day to look for the pen offerings from some of the pen manufacturers at the show. For instance, both the Edison Pen Company and Franklin-Christoph were attending the show. For pen companies like these two, what you see during the pen show can be hugely different from what can be usually purchased locally or online. The Edison Pen Company had a long display stand of its Signature Line pens. There were so many different varieties of filling systems, pen materials, and pen shapes. These Signature Line pens are not available through other retailers, which only carry the Production Line pens. Meanwhile at Franklin-Christoph’s tables, there were several trays of the colour prototype pens that may be harder to be seen outside of the pen shows. There were also a plenty of pens from the particularly popular pen models or pen materials. One example at the DC pen show was the Pocket 66 model in the Antique Glass finish. And that’s the third fountain pen that I bought at the show.

What I bought at the DC pen show:

  • Akkerman #16 Oranje Boven
  • Kobe ink #37 Island Blue
  • Montblanc Meisterstück 149
  • Aurora Optima Mare
  • Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 Antique Glass

What I love about the DC pen show:
Being one of the largest pen shows in the world, the DC pen show is a wonderful event to attend. Whether you are looking for modern pens and inks or vintage ones, or just to meet old and new friends in this community, you can find them at this show. Also, whether you have a limited budget or not, there will be pens that meet your preferences. It’s the perfect opportunity to try so many different pens and inks in one place, see what other people have or look for, and maybe even spend the entire day to talk about just fountain pens. More than often I could hear great suggestions from the other pen show attendees, or get more knowledge about a certain pen model from the exhibitors. The other pen shows surely are great places to be, to enjoy and share the fountain pen hobby, the DC pen show is still one of the best shows to attend, because it’s huge and offers so much varieties to pen enthusiasts with different tastes. It’s an amazing hub for really anything fountain pen related.

What I do not love about the DC pen show:
For anyone who will be attending the show for the first time, it’s always essential to know the basic information, such as the show location and schedule. The website of a pen show certainly is the ideal place to find such information. The web page of the DC pen show certainly shows such basic information, but the organization is just messy. The viewers may have to look around a bit to find the information they are looking for. Also the pages are filled with information and news that are old or obsolete. It can be difficult to figure out what’s still relevant and whether there is any update to the show.
Another improvement that I would love to see is the Thursday of the show. I definitely enjoyed the show on the Thursday, but considering that it is one of the pre-show days and requires a higher admission fee than the regular pen show day price ($45 against $8), I would expect to see either a more complete show on this day or a more reasonable pre-show admission price. Compared to the Friday of the show, Thursday was too quiet and the number of exhibitors simply could not compete.

Summary:
This is my first time attending the DC pen show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Regardless of what your focus is within the hobby, this show has something to offer. I had a lot of fun finding the items that I wished for and meeting many great people in the community. It’s a show that I definitely will consider attending again in the future.

Pen Review: Montblanc Meisterstück Classique 90 Years

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

 

Since I restarted my fountain pen hobby, after the purchase of my first pen, the Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line, I immediately fell in love with how comfortable it is to use the pen. At that time, Montblanc was celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Meisterstück line. Therefore I decided to get one of the special edition pens released for it, the Montblanc Meisterstück Classique 90 Years. This pen shares most of the design aspects with the regular edition, which I have already reviewed. Therefore, this review is going to mainly focus on the designs that are unique to this special edition.

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Basic Information:

Fountain Pen: Montblanc Meisterstück Classique 90 Years
Nib: 14K gold medium nib
Filling System: International standard cartridge/converter
Production: Special edition

1. Packaging (7/10):

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Just like the regular editions, this pen is stored in the standard Montblanc rectangular box. What’s different is that instead of the usual cream white outer box, this pen comes with a specially designed one that celebrates the 90th anniversary of the Meisterstück. However, this is just a cardboard box. The actual pen box is still the same and I personally do not like the design of the box. Therefore I don’t think Montblanc has done much better here.

2. Pen Design (9/10):
Since this pen is in exactly the same shape as the regular edition Classique, I will not try to review the common details here. Overall, the pen is slim and light, with a comfortable balance in weight. The grip section is long and fits the hand extremely well. The pen has a traditional cigar shape and looks very clean.

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For this special edition, the first unique feature that can be quickly found is the colour of the trims. The trims are red gold plated. At the time of its release, only the platinum trim and the gold trim were available as the regular editions. Personally, I think the red gold version looks better on a black pen, compared to the yellow gold version, as the contrast doesn’t look as dramatic.

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Since then Montblanc has started offering the red gold trim as an option among the regular editions. However, the new regular edition doesn’t have the unique nib design that this pen has. The nib is in red gold and at the center of the nib, instead of the usual “4810”, there is a giant “90” for the 90th anniversary of the Meisterstück. The “4810” is moved above the breather hole and I find the design beautifully stands out. For me, this special edition nib itself already makes me want to get this pen.

3. Filling System (8/10):

This pen uses exactly the same filling system as the regular edition. In my opinion, this is one of the best execution of a cartridge/converter filling system.

4. Nib Performance (9/10):

This pen carries a 14K gold medium nib. Compared to the fine nib that I have on the other Classique, this nib has a wetter flow. Most of the inks show the colour and the shading really well with this nib.
Other than that, this nib shares similar characteristics with the fine nib. It is fairly rigid and does not have much line variation. But if anyone is just looking for a good daily writer that always writes well, this nib can be a reliable choice.

5. Pen Cleaning and Maintenance (5/10):

For this category, I’m giving this pen a very low score. However, I would like to give the full mark for pen cleaning. Just like the previously reviewed regular edition, there is no issue with thoroughly cleaning this pen and it is easy to handle.
Unfortunately, I cannot appreciate how this pen performs when it comes to maintenance. For some reason, the red gold plating on the pen wore out extremely quickly. It was already obvious to see significant discolouration on several spots, after only a very short time. This really confuses me, since I always take care of my pens extremely well. For example, I rarely post the pen cap and I never carry the pen without a quality pen pouch. I carefully compared this pen with the regular edition, which has platinum trims. There is no issue at all with the platinum trim version. In fact, none of the pens in my collection has experienced such issue, except for this one. I’m not entirely sure whether the choice of plating material plays any role in this situation. Nevertheless, this is definitely not an issue that should exist for pens at this price level.

Summary:

Packaging: 7/10
Pen Design: 9/10
Filling System: 8/10
Nib Performance: 9/10
Pen Cleaning and Maintenance: 5/10

Total: 38/50

Montblanc Meisterstück Classique 90 Years is one of the special edition pens that celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Montblanc Meisterstück line. It carries many of the classic designs of the Meisterstück Classique fountain pen and at the same time introduces new trim colour and the beautiful nib engravings to the special edition. It writes right out of the box and the nib performs all the time. The pen body fits well in the hand and the weight distribution of the pen is quite balanced, no matter whether the pen is posted or not. Based on its performance, it is the perfect daily writer. However, the pen seems to have some issues with the plating wearing out extremely quickly, which should not be expected with pens in this price range.

 

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

Pen Review: Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line

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

 

As my pen and ink collection is slowly growing, I have been thinking about writing reviews to share my experiences. Nothing else is better than to start the journey by reviewing my very first fountain pen, the Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line.

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Basic Information:

Fountain Pen: Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line
Nib: 14K gold fine nib
Filling System: International cartridge & converter

1. Packaging (6/10)

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The pen comes with the standard Montblanc packaging, which is a rectangular box with the Montblanc white start logo on the corner. The box is heavy and strong, and provides sufficient protection to the pen. However I would expect more for the price.

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First, while it may be subjective, the appearance of the packaging certainly looks classic, but sometimes I think it’s too boring. There isn’t really anything missing, but I just feel that it is a bit too simple and unexciting.

My second concern is regarding the choice of the material, and this certainly can be also subjective. It is fairly easy to pull the pen out of the box. However there is quite a noticeable amount of resistance when I try to push the pen back to it. It feels like the fabric causes too much friction, more than what’s needed to protect the pen. Maybe the material is soft enough, but the amount of tension still makes me worry that it may scratch the pen.

2. Pen Design (8/10)

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Being a member of the Meisterstück series, one of the most famous lineups from Montblanc, this pen carries the same classic styling that is present across the lineup. The pen has the traditional cigar shape and is equipped with platinum-plated trims. The trim colour contrasts well with the black resin body and the white star logo on the top of the cap. Overall, it looks very clean and streamlined.

The cap screws off and can be posted onto the barrel by friction. The pen has a balanced weight no matter whether it is posted or not. One thing to mention is that when the cap is posted, the edge of the cap sits right on my hand. With constant movement of the pen in the hand, the posted cap may eventually become loose. However I’m not very concerned about it, since I rarely post any of my pens.

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This pen comes with a two-tone 14K gold nib. The engraving on the nib is rich and fancy, but not crowded. In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful nib designs in my collection. However I think I will still leave the first place to the Pelikan Souverän series. While I always prefer to see larger nibs with beautiful engravings on them, I feel that this nib is appropriately sized considering the overall dimensions of the pen. If I really have to pick one aspect that I consider improvements can be made, then I would prefer the nib to be monotone and become entirely rhodium plated. I will really appreciate the black and silver contrast that is consistent across the entire pen.

3. Filling System (8/10)

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This pen utilizes the international standard cartridge/converter system. The barrel has enough space to hold either the long international cartridge, or two short ones placed back to back, which is quite convenient if you would like to take this pen for travel.

One converter is provided with the pen. The converter holds a decent amount of ink, which is especially sufficient for the fine nib. There is a tiny spring inside the converter that moves freely, serving as the agitator. It does make some noise, but the sounds is subtle, especially when the converter is filled with ink.

The best part of this converter is perhaps it is a screw-in type converter. The threads make sure that the converter can stay secure during transport or pen cleaning. I don’t have to worry about the nib unit falling and getting damaged. While threaded converters are not something that only Montblanc has, I still think Montblanc has the best execution for this design.

4. Nib Performance (8/10)

The 14K gold nib has an average ink flow, which makes the pen quite a suitable candidate for a daily writer. The nib is fairly rigid with only a tiny amount of spring. As the result, it barely has any line variation. This may be less than ideal for me. The nib writes right out of the box and there is hardly any hard start or skipping, except for only a few occasions that it has hard starts on certain paper type, such as the Midori TRAVELER’s Notebook insert.

5. Pen Cleaning and Maintenance (10/10)

For a pen featuring a cartridge/converter filling system, cleaning is not a difficult task. Both the nib unit and the converter can be cleaned by letting clean cold water run through. Maintenance is also not a big issue. The platinum plating holds up well so far, after more than a year of use. The resin body still looks well polished. The converter seems to be well built and replacements can be found easily. Overall it’s a pen with outstanding quality and as long as the user executes the usual pen cleaning and care, there shouldn’t be many concerns.

Summary:

Packaging: 6/10
Pen Design: 8/10
Filling System: 8/10
Nib Performance: 8/10
Pen Cleaning and Maintenance: 10/10

Total: 40/50

Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line is an excellent fountain pen with classic design. It has a small to average sized profile, but stays comfortably in the hand. Its build quality is outstanding and the finish is flawless. The nib writes well right out of the box and the performance is consistent. The cartridge/converter filling system may be a bit too simple for the price, but the design and execution is surely top-of-the-line. The pen doesn’t require anything more than the usual pen cleaning and care. It is an ideal daily writer and its classic look fits all different occasions. On the other hand, the nib is stiff and the writing experience can be “boring” sometimes. Considering the price, it may not be the one that offers the best value or the most fun.

This is my very first fountain pen. My experience with this pen has always been great, and it is definitely a solid starting point of my fountain pen hobby. What’s your first fountain pen?

 

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!