Pen Review: Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi

The Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi is currently for sale (the nib has been tuned).

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

In the fountain pen community, there are many pen models that almost everyone has heard of. Many of them are quality writers that are widely available, such as the Lamy Safari/Al-star and the Pilot Metropolitan. Some others come with a great brand awareness and often with the relatively higher price points. Those pens are frequently described as “grail pens” by many users, for instance, the Montblanc Meisterstück and Pelikan Souverän pens. As my fountain pen hobby progressed, I had several pens that I really wished to add to my collection and the Visconti Homo Sapiens is one of them. This review is going to cover the model Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi.

IMG Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi - 1

Basic Information:

Fountain Pen: Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi
Nib: 23K palladium medium nib
Filling System: Piston
Production: Regular edition

1. Packaging (10/10):

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When it comes to the presentation, Visconti definitely has the work done well. After removing the cream yellow cardboard sleeve, a dark brown leatherette box is shown. Opening the box, the base is covered with a soft leatherette cover. The pen is safely placed in the box. Overall the colour scheme is consistent and everything looks very elegant. On the left side of the pen case, there is also a tray that stores the polishing cloth and information booklet. The booklet showcases a lot of interesting Visconti pen models. Visconti certainly does not want to miss the opportunity to promote its products here.

2. Pen Design (10/10):

IMG Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi - 4
When holding the pen, users can quickly feel that the pen material is not the same as the common ones found on many other pens. It’s the basaltic lava that gives the unique feeling and excellent weight. The material is slightly hygroscopic. It absorbs the hand moisture a little bit, so that it is always comfortable to hold the pen even after a long period of time.
The cap features a spring loaded Visconti bridge shaped clip. On the barrel, there are also two rings in the silver colour. Just like the name of the pen model, all of the trims are in the steel or silver coloured tone. There are two features on the cap that I really enjoy. First, on the top of the cap, the Visconti My Pen System seems simple but looks amazing. Users can customize their pens a little bit by installing gem stones, signs, or initials to the cap top, which makes their pens really their own. The other great feature is the “Hook Safe Lock” system for capping the pen. On the pen section, there are only several large slots to hold the little studs inside the pen cap. When capping the pen, users just need to push the cap with a really light force and turn either the cap or the barrel by only a few degrees. The system ensures that the cap won’t become loose, while only requiring simple capping and uncapping operations.

IMG Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi - 5
The pen has an excellent weight balance without posting the cap. With the cap posted, the pen becomes a bit back-heavy but still having a reasonable weight distribution.
The grip section has a curved shape. Combined with the pen material, this is a grip section that is very comfortable to hold onto.

3. Filling System (4/10):
The Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi uses the piston filling system. However, I think it is either not a true piston filling system, or there are some design issues with the mechanism. Usually a good piston filling mechanism makes the pen carry a fairly large ink capacity. However, this pen carries only quite a low amount of ink, not matching with what a piston fill pen of this size should be capable of. With its nib that has a very generous flow, the ink reservoir doesn’t offer much.
Not only this pen doesn’t hold a lot of ink, but also it takes extremely long to flush the ink out of the pen. In addition, since the pen doesn’t have any ink window, users have no way to easily determine how much ink is left. It is basically the worst filling mechanism design for any fountain pen: low ink capacity, hard to clean, and no ink window.

4. Nib Performance (5/10):

IMG Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi - 2IMG Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi - 3
This pen did not write right out of the box. The 23K palladium medium nib writes smoothly and offers a bit of line variation, but only when it actually writes. Unfortunately, it had extremely severe hard start and skipping issues. Visconti’s 23K palladium nib is quite springy and writes with a generous ink flow. It can be too generous with certain inks that it looks like there is no control of the ink flow. I have cleaned the pen very thoroughly and tried all kinds of inks with it. However, the pen still either does not write, or just simply pours ink onto the paper. I had the nib adjusted a bit to solve the hard start and skipping issues. The pen now writes a lot better, but still not very enjoyable. Fountain pens of this price level should at least have a nib that writes properly.

5. Pen Cleaning and Maintenance (3/10):
When it comes to taking care of the Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi, the only thing I like is the selection of materials. The barrel is strong and very scratch resistant. However, everything beyond that is done poorly.
As mentioned before, this pen takes a long time to clean. Residual ink colours keep flowing out even after repetitive cleanings. While this just takes a bit more patience to resolve, this pen has too many other quality issues that should not happen at all considering its price point. The enamel filling on the clip is not precisely placed. This is where Visconti puts its logo and I’m surprised that Visconti doesn’t even pay enough attention to it. What’s even more unacceptable is that the metal ring on the piston knob had become loose. Among my entire pen collection, this is the only pen that has this many major quality issues.

Summary:
Packaging: 10/10
Pen Design: 10/10
Filling System: 4/10
Nib Performance: 5/10
Pen Cleaning and Maintenance: 3/10

Total: 32/50

The Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi fountain pen has an amazing look but in my experience writing with the pen, the appearance is the only thing that this pen sells. Even with that, the pen has way too many quality issues that it may not even qualify as a show piece.
The pen has a piston filling mechanism that doesn’t hold a lot of ink. It doesn’t have any ink window, so that users will find it extremely difficult to know whether it is needed to refill the pen. The nib is springy and smooth, but it barely writes consistently on any kind of paper, because of the hard start and skipping issues. The nib performance and all the other quality issues make it look like Visconti simply did not pay attention during manufacturing and skipped QC all together. Considering its price, it’s a pen that I would not purchase, unless I know for sure the pen writes well and has a good warranty coverage. It’s a pen that I absolutely cannot recommend.

 

The Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age Midi is currently for sale (the nib has been tuned).

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

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2015 Favourites – Part 2

The writing experience won’t be complete with just pens and inks. Paper plays a role as important as the other two.

Rhodia 90 gsm paper was one of the first fountain pen friendly paper products that I tried. After using the paper for a while, I started to get frustrated and feel that maybe it’s not the best for me: certain pens do not work well (skipping and hard starts) on the paper, and several inks do not look as nice as how they appear on other paper and notebooks, even the ones that are considered to be with lower quality. That’s when I started looking for more varieties of paper to try. Here is my top 5 favourite paper products:

1. Rhodia 80 gsm Dotpad

Rhodia #16 Dotpad has my go-to paper. I like its convenience and portability. The 80 gsm paper feels relatively less glossy and polished, which is friendly to nearly all of my pens and inks.

2. Tomoe River loose sheet paper

Tomoe River paper is relatively new to me. I have heard of this paper for a while already, but wasn’t interested in it, because I thought it wouldn’t be practical or useful for how I prefer to use my notebooks and notepads for daily writing. However, one day I decided to give it a try, after hearing so many times about how wonderfully it shows the sheen and has no feathering or bleed through. It is really fun to use and now I try every ink that I fill into the pen with this paper, just to see what kind of magic it has. I still don’t think that it is practical. But it’s definitely fun to use.

3. Maruman Mnemosyne notebook

I prefer the Maruman Mneymosyne notebooks for their design. This is my choice of the daily notebook, mainly for two reasons:

  • Being a wire bound notebook, it can lay flat and give enough time for the ink to dry.
  • Each page is perforated, so that when I want to quickly take some notes and remove the page, I have the option to easily do so.

4. Leuchtturm1917 notebook

The Leuchtturm1917 notebooks get a spot in the top 5 for their excellent paper quality. In comparison, the paper seems to be not as glossy as the Rhodia 80 gsm paper, and it gives more feedback. What I like about it is that many inks appear more vibrantly on this paper, such as Sailor Jentle Souten and Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue. For certain inks, there is even more sheen shown on it. Last but not least, there are so many colour options for the notebook cover! It’s always nice to have a lot of options!

5. Midori TRAVELER’s Notebook insert 001

I always carry my Midori TRAVELER’s Notebook with me. I use it for any type of writing from to-do lists to short articles. The insert 001 (lined) works well exactly for that. However, while it certainly has a big advantage, which is the convenience, it isn’t my favourite paper type, for a similar reason like the Rhodia 90 gsm paper. It can be too glossy for the pens sometimes, which is not only causing skipping or hard start issues, but also taking certain inks a lot of time to dry.

Other than the lists of pens, inks, and paper, I have another one that I think is interesting to talk about. And that is accessories. For this list, I consider anything that is related to this hobby but not being pens, inks, or paper as accessory. There are ones that I find particular useful or fun to have. And here are the top 5:

1. Bulb syringe

This is one of the best tools for fountain pens in my experience. It is so useful for cleaning cartridge converter pens. Its efficiency and effectiveness guarantee it a solid place in the top 5.

2. Fountain pen cleaning solution

I had several pens that had flow or skipping issues. I wasn’t sure if the cleaning solution could offer much help. It didn’t take long for me to absolutely believe in it. The pens’ performances got much better. It is also useful to clean the pen with it occasionally just as a regular maintenance. I am often surprised by how much ink is still trapped in the pen.

3. Visconti Dreamtouch Leather 6 Pen Holder

Among all the pen pouches that I have used, this Visconti 6 pen pouch outshines everything else. I usually carry 3 to 6 pens and this pen case offers more than sufficient. The slot reserved for each pen is spacious enough to handle any pen in my collection, even the Delta Dolcevita Oversize. It features the full protection to pens and the build quality is excellent. Small details such as using the non-metal zipper and full-length divider certainly help ensure that the pen pouch itself will not cause any damage to the pens inside.

4. Silicone grease

I do not eyedropper any of my pens, but the silicone grease still comes handy greasing my piston-fill Pelikan pens and some other converters that can be disassembled. One quick maintenance can ensure that the piston mechanism works smoothly for a long time.

5. LEGO bricks

Why do LEGO bricks appear on the list for the top 5 favourite fountain pen accessories? Building LEGO is another big hobby of mine. While having many LEGO bricks around, it’s fun to combine the two hobbies together. I started to use LEGO bricks to build pen holders and individual pen stands. It is extremely useful to store the pens being used frequently and glass dip pens. For the one that I am currently using, even a base plate is added to hold ink bottles. With the LEGO bricks, the possibilities are endless and it’s always been a great pleasure to design and build something purely based on my preferences and further improve it along the way.

Here are my favourites for 2015. What are your favourite pens, inks, paper, and accessories?

Thank you for reading!