Review: Kaco Green Retro Fountain Pen

Kaco is a new player in the eBay cheap fountain pen market. Their pens tend to be slightly more expensive than the Jinhao and Wingsung that are more often found. The added price comes with a better presentation.

The black plastic envelope is full of foam. Shipping took longer than typical, about 21 days due to the holidays. The Retro arrives in a very sturdy translucent white case. The pen is in a stiff molded tray along with a converter and two international small cartridges.

I ordered the “green” color which is a bright light teal. The color is cheerful and pops out of the sedate tray. The plastic is injection molded and though there are no visible mold lines, you can see the injection points on both the body and the cap. They are placed in locations that make sense and are somewhat hidden.

The bright cheerful color and plastic type screams school pen. The plastic doesn’t feel cheap, it feels sturdy. The nib is a buttery smooth nail. No work needed either, it was that good out of the box. There isn’t a hint of bounce or flex here. The hooded nib keeps things moist and writing. I was able to leave this pen uncapped and open in my bullet journal for at least 15 minutes. When I picked it up to make more notes, it wrote and was back to the usual flow in seconds.

The pen fits my hand and feels good posted or unposted. The cap posts deeply and securely. The cap posts deeply enough that it still feels balanced when in use. The clip is simple- stiff springy wire with a small plastic ball at the open end. IT slides onto my shirt easily and stays put. The clip is surprisingly secure. Depending on your color the clip is an opposite color of the body. It’s a smart little pop of color.

Overall I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Kaco. The retro is a lovely school style pen that I was able to write with effortlessly. It worked well with my personal writing style and methods of bullet journaling.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered the Kaco, but I ended up pleasantly surprised and happy with my purchase. The bright pop of color is joyous and the hooded nib writes smoothly on everything I threw at it- from L1917, Baron Fig, to the cheap office paper we use at work. At $10.17 this isn’t the cheapest of the cheap pens but it has a great presentation and really just works right out of the box. I could give one of these as a gift and feel good about it.

Review: Organics Studio Nitrogen

I was gifted a sample of this ink from a friend. I should have labeled the tube when it arrived but I thought I would be able to remember who sent it. I can’t remember which of my wonderful stationery friends sent this ink.

Organic Studio inks come in 55 ml bottle for $14. The inks are super saturated and several websites suggest that you can dilute the ink with distilled water 8 parts ink to 1 part water. The saturation leads to intense amounts of sheen. The base color of this ink is a warm shade of deep blue. It doesn’t lean purple. The sheen on this ink is red and intense. On the right paper the sheen shows up on nearly every line. It sheens on lesser paper.

Surprisingly, the ink is relatively well behaved even on most of the garbage paper I’ve used at work. Flow is great and the ink is lubricated. The nib skates across the page with this ink. If left uncapped and unused for any period of time it starts hard. Dry time is slow on good paper, roughly 10 or more seconds. On garbage paper dry time is slightly better at 10 seconds or less.

The ink is not even close to water resistant. In the droplet and wipe test the saturated ink smeared all over and lifted the ink that wasn’t dribbled on. The drip test revealed that all the ink had lifted and left behind a shadow of the initial lines. This ink would not survive a trip through the washer. It barely survives the drips. A large spill would leave your page blue and your writing gone.

I really like this color, the color is professional looking though the sheen might leave some folks scratching their heads and wondering if this is blue or red? It photocopies well enough. Price is low enough that it doesn’t seem silly to use this at work.

This ink was provided to me as a gift, free of charge, with no intent from the gift giver other than a hope that I would enjoy  the ink. Any links in the review are to vendors who sell this particular ink, they are not affiliate.

Review: Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite Cartridges

This ink is a great dark blue black that is a nice cool grey. It reminds me of Payne’s Grey watercolors, which for me is a very very good thing. Payne’s Grey is a favorite convenience color of mine.

I’ve had the opportunity to use this ink in several fountain pens and it has had a smooth even flow in every pen. The ink is well lubricated and feels great on good paper and garbage paper at work. In pens with greater flow it has a red sheen, which is lovely against the deep grey shade.

Dry time seems pretty standard for inks with good flow, just under 10 seconds on good paper and around 7 seconds on lesser paper.

In the drip test the ink lifts almost immediately and spreads out. In the dribble and wipe test (meant to mimic spilling and subsequent clean up) the ink smeared and made a mess. This is not an ink that will survive the washing machine. I doubt it would survive a hot tea or coffee spill.

Overall this is a perfectly professional blue black ink that performs well on most paper. Sadly it won’t survive spills, but if being considered as an ink for work, this matters little. It’s not the cheapest ink around, but it is a solid performer for a cartridge pen. It is also available ink bottles for folks who use a converter or piston filling pen.

Review: De Atramentis Deepwater Obsession Black

I picked up a bottle of this from Jetpens well over a year ago. The 30ml bottle cost $15. The price is neither the highest or lowest I’ve ever paid for a bottle of black ink.

The ink comes in a squat  cylindrical bottle with a flair at the base and the top. The lid reminds me of Diamine’s 50ml glass bottle lids. The label for the bottles is basic looking.

The black itself is nicely dark on all the paper I’ve tried. It doesn’t grey out when I write. There is no shading to speak of though I wouldn’t call this ink saturated. The flow is even and decently lubricated even on garbage paper. The ink is well behaved even on fibery absorbent paper. The ink photocopies incredibly well.

The ink responds well to drips and spills but isn’t waterproof. With a drip and wipe a few seconds later the ink smears but leaves behind legible lines. Even with a lengthier soak the lines are still visible though significantly blurred. I did not test with detergent or with a lengthy soak, but I would not expect this ink to survive the washing machine.

The combination of it being nicely dark, well lubricated, and well behaved on a variety of garbage paper makes it my go to ink. I load most of my pens up with this first then test with other inks later. It’s a great black ink.

Review: Akkerman Binnenhof Blues

My new DayJob allows for blue or black ink* and I’m in search of inks that work well in my various pens, look good on nice as well as crap paper, and photocopies well. I’m looking for professional looking black and blue inks.

My RSVP Co-host, Lenore, sent me a package with a bunch of Akkerman ink samples and a few other inks. I’ve used a bunch of the inks for doodles and writing, but the Binnenhof Blues was a color that I hadn’t touched, until now. I filled my CaliArt Ego with the sample. I used it during my first full week at the new job. While in training I used it on the unknown paper** the main office uses for photocopies, my Baron Fig Vanguard, and my pocket notebook. The ink performed well on all papers*** with minimal feathering and bleed through.

For purposes of photos for the blog, I used the ink on a Baron Fig Strategist 3×5 card, Yoobi 3×5 card, and a Staples Stickies note. I’ve included an image from my Leachturm 1917. The dry time on good paper is slow but on copy paper, it was around 3 seconds, so not bad. I don’t do swatches but I did several layers of ink with a pen. It took 7 layers of scribbles for the ink to soak through. Though fibers lifted from the Strategist after 4 layers. On cheaper paper, it does have a tendency to bled through, though not badly. Thinner papers have some show through, but I didn’t have an issue in my L1917 or Confidant.

Performance of this ink is good on most papers. It photocopies well enough. I quite enjoyed this in my bullet journal and my work planner.

It isn’t waterproof though it does show some resistance. I did a droplet and wipe test. The wipe test showed some smearing but the lines are legible both after the wipes and droplets have dried. With the soak/droplets, the ink showed significant migration. I have no doubt that this ink would not survive the washing machine.

This isn’t a unique shade of blue. It’s been noted by many other and better reviewers that this is Diamine Saphire ink in a fancy bottle. It is a lovely shade of blue-ish purple that reminds me of most blue inks out there. If you want a sedate well behaved blue ink that doesn’t stand out- Akkerman Binnenof Blues is a great choice. Despite the fact that it is a shade of blue available in many forms- from ballpoint to gel to other brands of ink, I like it. There is something about blue-ish purple that I really enjoy. While it is obviously blue it is also warm-ish and in the right warm light could read as purple.

If you are looking for a nice, well behaved blue-purple ink this is a good choice. Maybe buy the Akkerman for the fancy bottle then refill it with Diamine?

Continued Change and Growth

2018 has been many things- for me, it has been a year of change. This blog has remained a constant in my ever-changing and evolving life. It is my touchstone. I return to it as a source of comfort, continuing self-expression and learning. I’ve been blogging so long that I cannot imagine my life without something of Comfortable Shoes Studio.

Thinking forward to 2019, I’ve been considering what I plan to do with this blog as I move forward with both my side hustle (this blog, writing, and my podcasts) and my professional life. Clearly, CSS will continue on. I’ve discussed some of my thoughts regarding reviews on RSVP and how they shape a blog. I hope that my honest reviews have helped you make informed decisions regarding your purchases and that has had a positive impact on your life.

As much as some might like to pretend that it’s just stationery, it’s not. The choices we make about stationery, the tools we use, adds to our life. When we take a mindful approach to these choices, and how we use our tools it has a positive impact on our lives. Sitting down with a pen or pencil that you love to hold and attending to how that tool feels as it glides and scrapes across a page is a deeply sensory experience, one that grounds us in the here and now. And at that moment as we allow our senses to take over and deeply feel that connection between ourselves and the page we are truly in the moment. This is at the core of mindfulness it is my belief that using this connection to our tools in a mindful manner can only add to our lives, never detract.

In the coming year, I hope to delve deeply into the affordable side of fountain pens. I’ve ordered a grouping of inexpensive pens to explore on the blog. One of the great things about the change instilled in my current DayJob is that I can safely test and explore the tools in my new surroundings. I hope to also explore more on the paper end of things. I’ve been looking at some of the notebook and journal options out there, and my hope is that I can review more notebooks and journals. My stance on ink reviews has generally been other people out there are better at them than I, but I’m hoping to expand into doing ink reviews but of specific colors and shades that I can use at work. I hope to explore these colors specifically in how they work for the DayJob.

I also hope to explore some of this tactile nature of the pens, pencils, and paper we use. What is it that causes me to like one ink over another? One paper over another? What are the specific tactile cues that I seek out? This endeavor will force me to be more mindful of my use and to also document these preferences.

This is less a roadmap but a listing of my hopes for the next year of Comfortable Shoes Studio.

(And of course I’ll be doing my yearly back to school sale composition book reviews!)

Review: Wing Sung 3008 Fountain Pen

This is another eBay purchase. I found this pen for a mere $2.60USD. I ordered the blue anodized demonstrator version. It is available in many other colors. Prices on this pen flucuates, $2.60 is the lowest price I could find, with $15 or so at the highest. After ordering I waited about 3 weeks for it to arrive from China.

It arrived in a thin plastic envelope. INside it was swaddled with copious amounts of bubble wrap. A single cut to the packing tape and it unfurled. Inside the pen was safe.

Immediately I uncapped the pen and checked out the nib and feed. I washed the pen out with clear warm water. I then inked it with De Atrementis Deepwater Black. My intent was to use this pen at work for a week or so before posting my review. (Good news: I did.)

The piston mechanism clicks into place and clicks as you start to use the mechanism, then it slides smoothly down the barrel. The pen sucks up the ink with ease. It seems to hold 2ml of ink. I did not do any rigorous testing on this, just looking at the sample container I used to hold the ink as I filled.

The nib itself is silky smooth and feels great on all the paper I used it on. I did test this extensively at work. This means I’ve tested it on all the crappy paper at work as well as Story Supply Co Morning, HP LaserJet 24lb, Staples Sustainable Harvest, Staples 20lb office copy paper, and Baron Fig Confidant paper. The pen felt smooth and perfect on all paper. The only paper that it had any drag on was the colored paper we use for particular assessments. It’s made for Staples but it is rough even with gel pens. It is terrible paper. This pen performed as well as could be expected on such an awful paper.

The cap can be posted but sticks quite tightly to the silver ring that holds the piston in place. Pulling on the cap pulls on this ring, which also seems to remove the blind cap. Dangerous. The clip is well proportioned to the cap and very sturdy. It holds to my shirt with ease. I quite enjoy the elongated coffin shape of the clip.

I was shocked at the performance of this pen. I had very low expectations given that I ordered a $2.60 piston filling fountain pen. I’d read great reviews but didn’t know if they were realistic. They were.

This is a great pen, for $2.60 you can’t beat the performance and the look. The fact that with very little work- in screwing a few bits here and there, you can disassemble the pen to its parts means you can completely clean any ink stuck inside. This also means it is a good candidate for sketching.

This is another pen design that is clearly influenced by a couple of companies- the body and look by TWSBI Diamond AL series. The nib and feed by Lamy. The end reminds me of the Pilot Prera. It takes all the elements that I like about a lot of pens and mashes them together in something that doesn’t quite makes sense but does. Overall it works for me but it leaves me scratching my head.

Review: Nock Co X One Star Leather Fodderstack XL

The leather version of the Fodderstack XL (LFXL) has all of the great attributes of the nylon version- it carries 1 or 2 pocket notebooks safely along with one or two pens. It can slide effortlessly into a back pocket or into a jacket pocket.

The form factor is a tad different than the nylon version. LEather after all is a different material that requires different handling. The LFXL is slightly wider than the original which means that it requires slightly wider pants. It also means that it won’t fit into smaller pockets, like those found in women’s pants. Le sigh. It does fit in  most of my shirt pockets. Not that I carry the LFXL in a shirt pocket, but if I did it is possible.

If you’ve used any of One Star LEather Goods products before you know that the leather they use is high quality and patinas to a deep dark caramel color. It is stunning. It’s gotten softer with use. The clips of my pens, pencils and the texture of denim has scarred up the exterior. The scars stay there too, even after I’ve polished and cleaned the leather. I like the look, it marks the LFXL as mine and only mine.

Overall the LFXL is a divine piece of leather work, perfect if you want to have a case that gets better with use and keeps your pocket notebook and PDC pen safe in your pocket. I love mine and use it daily.

Review: Parker Jotter Fountain Pen

The Parkr Jotter is a classic in the pen world. Both the ballpoint and fountain pen version has been around forever. Where the ballpoint is a timeless classic the fountain pen version is… not.

The brushed stainless steel exterior is lightweight and feels pretty nice. The section is made of cheap plastic and has visible mold lines. The pen does not come with a converter, rather 2 international small cartridges. The carts take some serious force to get them to seat properly. Until one is properly seated in the pen you get weak ink flow. As soon as the cart is in place ink flows and keeps flowing. The pen will also take an international long cartridge.

The nib out of the box was smooth and once ink began to flow, it wrote well. Here and there the pen would skip. Looking at it under a loupe I found that the tipping suffered from baby bottom. A tiny amount of work with my polishing stick solved that problem. Since then the pen has worked well in every instance.

I have found that it performs less well on rough crappy paper- the paper at work makes it feel like I’m writing on sandpaper.

The pen has a classic look- brushes stainless steel body, the classic Parker Arrow clip, and flat ends. I like how it looks but the feel is beyond cheap. The raised visible mold lines leave me feeling flat. The diminutive size makes me feel like I’m writing with a child’s pen or pocket pen. This isn’t a pen you’ll want to carry around in a pocket either. The cap takes very little force to remove and could easily fall off as you walk around.

It’s a pen you won’t mind losing or giving away. I’m entirely meh on this pen. What is really horrible is that this is often a pen people pick up because it’s readily available and it is their first introduction to fountain pens. They’d be better off buying a Wing Sung 3008 or a CaliArts Ego. There are a hundred better first pen options at a lower price point than the Parker Jotter Fountain Pen.

Review: CaliArts Ego Fountain Pen

The CaliArts Ego is available on eBay for about $10USD. The pen is available with fine and extra fine nibs. I ordered the fine nib.

The pen arrives in a bubble mailer roughly 2 weeks after ordering. Inside the mailer was a silver colored box. Within that box is a silver tin. The tin has a die-cut foam insert to hold the pen in place during shipping. Inset into the foam is a silver wrench and 2 new silicone orange o-rings.

The pen is a clear piston filling demonstrator. The feed is also clear. Upon arrival, I cleaned the feed and interior with some clean water. I did not remove the feed to do this, and I should have, the feed would not allow ink to move freely. I removed it and gave it a quick scrub with a toothbrush and warm water. After drying I installed it again and the ink has moved perfectly since.

I inked my pen with a classic ink- Diamine Chocolate. There is something about this ink that reminds me of fall and the harvest but also of gingerbread. It is a lovely ink with perfect flow and is well behaved on most papers. It is a great ink for testing a pen.

The nib out of the box was smooth and feels great on all the paper I’ve tested it on. Thus far I’ve used it on Story Supply Co Morning, HP LaserJet 24lb, Staples Sustainable Harvest, the cheap recycled garbage at work, Staples 20lb office copy paper, and Baron Fig Confidant paper. Overall the pen feels great. I was surprised it felt so good on the rough garbage work paper, which makes most pens feel terrible.

The fine nib is very fine for a fine. The feed seems to allow a decent amount of ink to flow through to the nib. It’s neither dry nor wet. It is just right, for me.

The cap cannot be posted. It connects to the blind cap and flops around until it falls off. Useless. The cap itself is fine. It screws on snugly and an o-ring prevents you from over tightening. It also keeps the cap airtight.

Let’s talk about that clip. The pen itself is pretty decent looking. SImple clean and useful. That clip is an abomination. It is too small and reminds me of one of those skinny neckties, but at the wrong proportion to the body. Yeesh. Ugly. It is snug enough and holds my pen clipped to my shirt. But it’s ugly.

Overall I like this pen. Sure the clip is ugly but it is a minor issue for a pen that works really well and with a really nice nib for $10. I like that it arrives in a nice protective foam-lined tin. Because it can be completely and relatively easily disassembled it is a contender for filling with India ink for sketching. (Don’t @ me. I know you shouldn’t.)

A final thought on this pen. It is clearly, uh, influenced, by the TWSBI Diamond and Eco pens. I’ve been told that the piston and blind cap fit the TWSBI Diamond and vice versa. The nib and feed look like Pilot nibs and feeds. This pen looks as though someone took design “cues” from both companies decided that they could make their own pen and set off to make one. Honestly they pulled it off but this could have ended badly.