Review: Wing Sung 618 Fountain Pen

I purchased the Wing Sung 618 via a seller on eBay for $11.90. It arrived in my mailbox roughly 14 days after payment.

The packaging for this pen is the showy Wing Sung knock off of a Lamy Safari box inside a wrap of bubble wrap and a bubble mailer. The whole thing is very secure feeling. The box arrived undamaged and the pen in excellent condition.

With any pen I buy I clean it with water and test the fill capacity. This holds roughly 1.3ml of ink, not bad but not an ink tank. The piston mechanism locks and unlocks by pulling on the blind cap and then twisting. I didn’t realize this at first and immediately unscrewed the piston from the pen body. Oops. I realized what I had done pretty quickly and looked at the listing to find some “instructions” on how to use the filling mechanism. THe instructions aren’t great but I was able to figure it out.

I’ve grown to like the locking mechanism. The piston works smoothly and easily sucks in the fill of ink. I purchased the translucent model and this includes a clear feed, so as I filled the pen the ink is visible throughout the process. Very cool.

My nib was a tad scratchy but was easily aligned and smoothed. Ink flow is great. The hooded nib is fantastic for forgetful notetaking. I can leave it uncapped on my desk for 10 minutes or so and come back and it’ll still write. I do find the section a bit too narrow and the thread to sit in a funny place. For most people this won’t be a problem, and it’s not a problem for me, it’s simply noticeable.

The cap is sturdy and screws on tightly and looks to be nearly airtight around the nib, you can see the sleeve push against the cap when tightened. The cap posts deeply but throws the balance off for my hand, but for people with larger hands this won’t be an issue. For my tiny lady hands the pen feels good unposted and is of a nice length. The clip is diminutive and the worst part of an otherwise nice pen. The arrow clip is done poorly and looks and feels cheap. While it holds onto my shirt nicely it does catch on the stitching and has torn a stitch on a favorite chambray. The clip is awful.

The look of the pen is a mash up of a variety of pens. It looks a bit like the PArker 51/21, the TWSBI 5XX series, and an assortment of others. Sometimes it feels like Wing Sung takes all the pens from other brands and mashes them together. Sometimes this works really well, and others, not so much.

This isn’t a bad pen, but it is underwhelming at $11.90. I do seem to have a  thing for hooded nibs now, especially the clear versions. Overall this pen writes really well and has a neat locking piston, but it’s just not mind blowing.

Review: Montblanc JFK Limited Edition Fountain Pen Ink

Montblanc JFK is a limited edition ink released in conjunction with a limited edition pen. It can be found in a variety of places ranging in price from $16 to $30 with an average price seems to hover around $25 for 30ml.

The ink is navy blue and doesn’t lean green or too purple. Rather it is a warm dark blue. The color is dark and has no shading that I noted in any of my use or testing. It photocopies spectacularly well. In some instances, it may be hard to tell that this is blue instead of black on the page.

I found this ink to be fabulous on all the papers I’ve tested it on, from the nice L197 and Confidant pages to the garbage paper at work. I noticed that it didn’t spread or feather on anything. There was little to no bleed through or show through on any paper. Dry time was as expected- longer on nice paper, roughly 7 seconds and shorter on lesser paper, around 5 seconds. This ink made even scratchy pens and garbage paper feel good, the lubrication and flow are fabulous.

Overall this ink is perfectly professional and looks lovely on most paper. The warm paper in a Baron Fig Confidant really works well with this ink. Most of my testing was with a fine nibbed pen but in a medium, it really looked especially wonderful. Overall if you are looking for something professional with a bit of character that works really well on a lot of different papers, this might be the right ink for you.

Review: Baron Fig Limited Edition Pencil Oracle

With most limited edition (LE) pencils I review the outside and direct you to a review of the core. Given the variability of the Baron Fig pencil’s cores in the past, I’m going to tell you about the core on this pencil.

The variability of the core of these pencils is almost legendary. The first pencil was a true HB, the second a shattered 2B, and then back to HB but with a heap of grit. The pencil maker in Portugal* can’t seem to get the pencils to be an even true HB. Most of the other LE Archers have some grit in them. I sharpened 3 of these to get a feel for the core. I picked a pencil that had a centered core and the other 2 I purposefully chose uncentered cores. I sharpened with my Classroom Friendly and the Masterpiece after. I did attempt to use the Pollux but it shattered the cores and made a mess of the centered pencil. I have no such problems with the Masterpiece.

Testing consisted of me reworking the outline of my current novel and attempting to figure out why the ending I have doesn’t work. I used a Teen Vogue composition notebook and wrote up some character studies and a loose outline of the beats of the novel. In all, I wrote probably 25 pages, many of the lines crossed out, in the comp book. I also took notes in a Field Notes Snowblind for some audio testing my cohost and I did on Sunday. I made notes in the same pocket notebook for my weekly meal prep. I also used these in my L1917 to make note of the recipes I used and to log my Kombucha observations in my Bullet Journal.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at the cores. They are a true HB but I’ve yet to encounter large pieces of grit or other unpleasantness. I grabbed a couple of other LE Archers and tested those side by side, the No. 2 and Element and found grit. The Oracle has a pleasing grab on the page as it lays down graphite. It’s not silky smooth like a Blackwing or Mitsu-Bishi or even a General’s Cedar Pointe. It grips the page. The point retention is fantastic, only need a touch up after a few pages in my comp book and after 3 in my L1917. This is a pencil that does spectacularly with rougher paper, like a Confidant or a composition book.

Despite being a true HB in hardness it is nicely dark, leaving a nice dark grey line with moderate pressure.

The packaging for the Oracle is gorgeous, as usual. The coloring is graphite grey, ash grey, and mustard yellow. The decorations seem to be inspired by playing cards and tarot cards. On each side near the dipped end is an answer, roll your pencil and whatever is up is your answer. Fun. Each side is adorned with playing card suits plus a moon and crystal ball. All this in pale ash grey on deep dark graphite grey. The pencil is matte finished and always has some shinier bits due to rubbing in the packaging during shipping.

In the past, the exterior of the Baron Fig LE Archers has always been gorgeous, but it was wrapped around uneven graphite filled with grit. This is the first time I’ve used the Archer and actually enjoyed the core. Really, the main difference is that there isn’t any grit. I don’t get these bits that leave snags and gouges in my paper. Overall I really like this version of the Archer, and I always did enjoy asking the Magic 8 Ball questions. Get yours over at Baron Fig.

Review: Artfan Dot Grid Journal Notebook

The Artfan “Dotted Bullet Grid Journal” is another Amazon offering that has frequent price fluctuations. I purchased my copy for $5.99 but I’ve seen it as high as $9.99 and as low as $4.99. There are multiple color offerings but mine is dark teal.

The Artfan has all the bells and whistles of a L1917- hard vinyl cover, 2 ribbon placemarkers, pocket, elastic, index, and numbered pages. It also arrives with a label tucked into the center of the book.

The images of the Artfan show a belly band but the book arrives in a plastic sleeve sans belly band. Which is fine so long as you aren’t planning on gifting the Artfan. The plastic envelope feels cheap.

Inside the book are 4 index pages and 124 numbered pages. A total of 128 pages. The paper is cream colored with grey dots at 5.5 mm ruling. It is thick and smooth. Most of my fountain pens and inks responded well to this paper. They felt really nice on this paper. There was enough tooth for pencil as well. It didn’t do well with brush pens but did surprisingly well with highlighters and mildliners.

The ribbon bookmarks are thin and in two colors. They are lengthy enough to be useful and are heat sealed. I quite like the color matching of the ribbons to the cover. The elastic closure is tight without being too snug. It can be stretched the traditional manner or diagonally. The vinyl cover is smooth with a bit of imprinted grain. The only logo is at the bottom center of the back cover.

Of the cheap depths of Amazon this is one of my favorites. The color is a great shade of teal, the elastic is secure and the pages are numbered. The paper is great too. If you put this into your cart and wait there will likely be a price change. It fluctuates often and will drop down to $5.99 for a day or two then bump back up and then down again.

Review: Lamy Blue-Black Ink

Lamy blue-black is a classic blue black ink. It is readily available from almost any place that sells pens- from Amazon to Goulet to brick and mortar shops. Pricing is affordable and around $13 to $15 for 50ml.

On the page it looks like a blue gray, sort of stormy sky like. It is smooth with decent flow. There is no shading in the pens I used for testing. I did not notice a sheen with any paper. I don’t think this is a highly lubricated ink, but my pens felt smooth enough. It’s not going to make a scratchy nib feel like butter, but paired with a good nib it feels nice. Dry time on all papers was good- under 7 seconds on the nicest paper.

In the drip and wipe tests this ink did poorly. The drip test left little behind- lines were barely visible and color migrated. In the wipe test it performed better but not great. This ink will not survive the washing machine.

It feels good in my L1917, Confidant, and on cheap paper at work. It did okay in my Field Notes and much better in my Story Supply Co. If you want to use it in a Moleskine with a fine nib, it’s not going to be a great choice. I found lots of bleed through in my Moleskine.

I like this ink for professional settings. It’s not exciting but it’s very professional. No one is going to stop and ask you “What ink are you using?” with this ink. Ultimately when it comes to “professional” shades that is what we’re looking for- flying under the radar.

Review: Minimalism Art Classic Notebook

This notebook pops up in every search I’ve made for dot grid notebooks and journals. At $9.95 it fits my criteria for cheap. Like many of the Amazon selling brands you can find that certain colors are less expensive than others, the chrome yellow was $9.95 though other colors are slightly more expensive. This brand has a deal where you can buy a 3-pack of these notebooks for $22.99. Which is a pretty darn good deal.

This notebook features all the bells and whistles you might associate with a classic journal- elastic, ribbon page marker, and a pocket in the back. These are all well done with the elastic being just the right size so that you can close the regular manner, use it as a bookmark, or use the Bullet Journal elastic trick (link Carroll video.) The pocket is gusseted with white satin and paper. The ribbon is generously long and heat sealed. All of this is done perfectly in my book.

The size of this notebook is narrow A5 or Moleskine A5. That is to say 5×8.3 inches.

The covers are hard. They are covered in classic vinyl that has a slightly squishy grippy feel. They aren’t as squishy as a Rhodia Webby but softer than a Moleskine. The feel is premium. The logo is minimalist and featured on the bottom of the back cover.

The binding is the classic Smythe stitching that is associated with most notebooks of this style. The combination of this flexible stitching and the cover style allows the notebook to open completely flat with little work. The notebook will also fold over on itself for writing in hand.

The cream colored paper is 100 gsm and slightly darker than a Leauchtturm1917 (L1917) but about the same shade as a Baron Fig Confidant. There are 192 pages, and they aren’t numbered. The dots are small and dark gray. They are 5 mm apart, which is a standard ruling. The dots aren’t dark enough to interfere with writing but don’t quite disappear behind the writing. What I like about this darkness of ruling is that I can write in lower light levels than with the L1917, where I find the dots too pale.

The paper performance is surprisingly great. It has just enough tooth that pencils perform really well without smudging. Gel, rollerball, and ballpoint all glide over this paper without an issue. The subtle cream color makes some colors really pop. The real stand out here is how well it responds to fountain pen inks. All the inks and nib combinations performed really well without bleed through, feathering, soak, or strikethrough. Inks with sheen show off on this paper.  The only thing to soak through was a triple application of highlighter.

Overall, this is a great deal. The combination of great paper, fun colors, and sturdiness makes this a go-to notebook one I’ll purchase again and again. The company has also released a “premium” line with slightly different branding and numbered pages. Thus far, this is the cheap notebook to beat.

Review Sailor Jentle Sky High Fountain Pen Ink

Sailor Jentle Sky High is a bright cheerful blue ink that is available in 50ml bottles for roughly $25.* the Jentle bottles have a reservoir in them to assist in filling your pen. The reservoir works really well at assisting to get every last drop of ink out of a bottle. I find the short squat bottles to be easy to use and look nice on my shelf.

I filled my Hero 616 large sized with a fine nib with this ink. My goal here is to find professional inks for work I’m limiting myself to extra fine, fine, and medium nibs. I have no doubt this ink would look fabulous in a fat broad nib. It looks great in my EF and F nibs thus far. The ink is bright cheerful blue that reminds me a lot of Pilot G2 blue or Pentel EnerGel blue. It pops off the page. The ink does tend to have a bit of a red sheen on better paper. I did not notice any shading. This is a saturated ink. Dry time is a bit slower than other inks- even on lesser paper dry time is over 7 seconds. Dry time on Field Notes** was almost instantaneous as it absorbed the ink as if I were writing onto blotter paper.

This ink is well lubricated making even a scratchy pen feel smoother. This ink feels great and looks great on all the paper I tested it on (except Field Notes.) It looks really nice on L1917, Baron Fig Confidant, Staples Stickies, and the garbage paper at work. It performed well on these too. The big stand out for lack of performance was Field Notes. The paper sucked the ink up like blotter paper and spread the line width out to ugly wide. There was plenty of show through and a touch of bleed through on the Field Notes paper. Though this was not apparent anywhere else I used the ink.

In the drip and wipe tests this ink proved to be not at all water resistant. The drips merged the ink with the paper in a large blob. Lines were not legible afterward. In the wipe test the ink lifted and smeared, leaving behind a legible line. It won’t survive the wash but it might survive a spill.

Overall I really like this ink. It is the bluest of blues. It is bright enough to pop off the page, so it could be used for editing. Is it professional? Yes. Or I think so. It is likely that this color would have given my old boss a coronary. In her mind the only professional color is black. This would have jammed her brain. To me it is in the same family as the Pilot G2 or Pentel Energel blue color- bright true royal blue.

Review: Diamine Chopin Ink

Diamine Chopin was first introduced as part of the Diamine Music boxed set. The set had ten colors of ink in 30 ml bottles. In this case, the bottles are short squat squares rather than Diamine’s usual taller rectangular 30 ml plastic or 80ml glass round shouldered bottles. When sold individually the 30 ml bottle retails for roughly $10. The set is roughly $55.

This ink is a warm blue-grey, though most will classify it as a blue-black. I notice some shading on some paper, though not on most. The ink feels great on every paper I used- even Field Notes*! The ink is well lubricated and like most Diamine inks, well behaved. The flow is great in the pens I’ve tested. Currently, I’ve got it in a Wing Sung 3118. In the layered test on Baron Fig Strategist cards I found there to be a subtle red sheen. I didn’t notice this on any other papers. Granted my testing was mostly done with fine and extra fine nibs, given my search for professional inks.

In testing this ink was very well behaved, while lines may have spread on cheaper and more absorbent paper I didn’t notice any feathering. Dry time was about 7 seconds on most paper, except on the Field Notes, where it absorbed the ink quickly. I really loved this ink in my L1917 and Confidant. It looks great and stands out on the warm papers. It tends to blend in well with photocopies, so it wouldn’t be a good blue-black for making notes while reading articles.

In the drip and wipe test the ink proved to be more water resistant than I expected. The drip definitely migrated a lot of color all over the wet area. The wipe stood up better than expected. Both had legible lines left behind. I would not expect this ink to survive the washing machine but it would likely survive a coffee dribble or spill.

This is a nice sedate but gorgeous blue grey ink. I adore it. It’s sedate enough that my old boss would have mistaken it for black and not made a snide comment about my color choice. The ink feels great on everything, even Moleskine.

Review: Pen Addict X Spoke Pen

I’ve been testing out the orange Spoke pen for the last few weeks. When I write testing, I really mean abusing. I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere. I’ve used it at work, on the bus, outside, and at home. Right now you can sign up to buy your own via Kickstarter. The kickstarter campaign ends on 20190309 (March 9th, 2019.)

It hasn’t disappointed.

The pen arrived swaddled in bubble wrap from The Pen Addict himself. The pen is lightweight but feels sturdy. The cap is the heaviest part of the pen and moved the balance when capped. The pen cannot be posted, which works well enough for me, but might be a deal breaker for some. The clip is simple and springy. It’s not tight but grips to things well. I carried this clipped to my shirt and it never once slipped or fell off. It stays where you clip it. I also carried this clipped into my leather Fodderstack XL (LFXL) and it stayed in my pocket. I dropped my LFXL and the pen stayed IN the pen slot.

The body of the pen consists of two parts- the grip and the body. The grip has rings to improve the grip rather than knurling. I’d love to see a deeply knurled version of this grip. The grooves feel good and are easy to like. I could also see some silicone or rubber o-rings slid into the grooves. In other words I see loads of potential for customization here.

The body of the pen has slots cut into the sides. They expose a sleeve inside the body of the pen. In this case that sleeve is black, but there are plans to offer additional colors and color combinations. I find that the slots offer a tactile fidget opportunity. I like the look and the feel.

The pen takes Uniball Signo DX or Uni-ball Signo UMR-1 refills. It ships with one 0.5 refill but others are available via Amazon or Jetpens. They are available in 0.28 on up. I like the 0.38 or 0.5. The 0.5 is slim but also smooth, while the 0.38 can be a bit scratchy.

Inside the body is a spring that holds the tip tight but also allows for different refill lengths. Everything in this pen is tight and it doesn’t make a noise as I write.

The cap deserves another mention here. It is held to the pen via rare earth magnets. The cap slides on smoothly and snaps in place after a certain point. I find myself fidgeting with this gain and again. Despite the pen being held into the cap with magnets I found that it never slid out while I was wearing it clipped to my shirt. It stayed perfectly in place.

Clearly, I like this pen. The orange is bright without being neon. I can find it easily in my bag or on my desk. I like the fact that it holds a refill that most pen bodies ignore. Like Brad, I’m a fan of the Uniball Signo, it’s a great pen and the UMR refills are among the best Uniball make. They are also a superior pen refill for sketching- laying down smooth even lines that dry water resistant.

Any refillable pen body is an investment. Like any investment one must decide how much of an investment they are willing to dive into. The Spoke pen is not cheap, at $60, it is on par with any other machined pen body. It is made and assembled in the US. It’s a gorgeous pen that is durable as hell. If you like the Uniball Signo DX this might be the refillable investment for you.