Tag Archives: fountain pen

Review: J.Herbin Fountain Pen

I look at this pen as the partner to the J.Herbin refillable rollerball, which seems to have been around for awhile. There is a reason I see it as a partner and it’s hard not to compare the two, as the body and cap and even grip are nearly identical. They differ only in the writing point and the color of the J. Herbin logo on the cap. The fountain is silver gray and the rollerball sports red. Both take standard small international cartridges. An yeah, I tried to stuff a long cart in, no bueno.JHerbin Fountain

The plastic of the body and cap is not crystal clear but has a milky appearance. I suspect this is due to the type of plastic used, as the body and cap have a certain amount of flex. The grip section is a different kind of plastic which is crystal clear and hard with zero flexibility. The cap snaps on for capping with an audible and to me, satisfying, click. For posting, and you must post or the pen is too miniscule, even for my lady hands. It friction fits. I found that I had to jam it on there or it would work it’s way off.JHerbin FountainThe nib at first use/inking/ out of the display (no packaging or box) worked well. I was surprised at it’s smoothness, even with the dry J.Herbin cart I loaded up. I, of course, polished it up a bit, and frankly the nib is great for the price of $15. The nib looks to be a fine or medium, depending on what  you measure it against, I’d put it as right between the two. There are no other options, purely one size fits all on this baby.JHerbin Fountain

I’ve been using this for about a month and have just burned through my mixed cart of Noodler’s Nikita and J. Herbin Indien Orange. I’m pretty happy with the performance and expense. This pen was $15 to the rollerball’s $12 and I find this to be the better value of the two. The nib performs well for this price range and the flow is great, even with dry J.Herbin ink. All in all a good value for $15.JHerbin Fountain

This would be an excellent give for someone looking for a cheap pen to leave in the office, gift to a preteen, or teen. It would be a great beginner pen. This and a few packs of J. Herbin or Diamine inks carts and a journal would make a fantastic gift.JHerbin Fountain JHerbin Fountain

For my pen hacking readers, this is a pen that maybe up for eyedropper mod. With only 3 small, tiny, holes in the back end, this is a prime first seal-it-up pen hack. The little holes could easily be filled with a small dose of E6000 and the threads treated with silicone grease. It would hold a decent amount of ink, probably triple the amount of the little short carts. I might try this and report back.

Two Weeks with the TWSBI Eco(nomical) Fountain Pen

It’s been another week with the Eco(nomical) I’ve run it through a full fill in a variety of circumstances. I continue to enjoy the pen and it has performed incredibly well.IMG_20150726_112046I have been using mine in my Field Notes with a personal blend of ink that is dark teal in color and based on the no longer available Scribal Workshop’s Siren. The blend was to lend flow and smoothness to a nice ink color. The ink works remarkably well in Field Notes with  the EF Eco(nomical) nib. I experience minimal bleed and show through, and what does occur is not noticeable once I write on the reverse of the page. The pen and ink combo just works in my Field Notes.

The other place I’ve been using this pen is in a regular Roaring Springs made in the USA composition book.* This composition book is not a great one for fountain pens. Rather it sucks up ink and let’s it bleed through. I did 10 pages of nonstop writing and the pen just delivered ink to the page, no skips, no burps, no issues. Smooth flow all the way. Compared to my TWSBI Mini, also in EF, the Mini started to dry up around 4 pages, and eventually stopped writing and had to be primed to write again. When a paper forces the pen to deliver ink above what the feed usually delivers, and the pen keeps writing, well that is a win in my book. The Eco(nomical) kept up.

I spent a day in a hot sweaty gym watching my wife lift heavy things in a skilled manner. I kept the pen in my FodderstackXL in my back pocket while I sat on hard plastic bleachers. I sat with a good friend and while we weren’t getting up and cheering, Olympic lifting is more of a calm clapping type affair, we were moving about as we talked. Suffice it to say that this was not a gentle stress test. I’ve spent significant time at the new Dayjob and walking** around my city in warm weather. In walking in from hot humid weather to air conditioned cafes, I’ve not had many issues with burping or blobbing, in fact the issues I’ve had relate to my notebook picking up humidity from the air and allowing the ink to blur out. If I weren’t stress testing this pen, I’d honestly be using pencil due to the humidity.

All of my previous thoughts about this pen stand. It is clunky and that clip is ugly as sin, but it writes, and writes well. The only issue that I really have with the pen (other than it’s looks) is that the clip is super tight and doesn’t just slip over anything. I have to lift the clip to slide it over anything. It’ll slide onto the cover of my Field Notes or Comp book but that’s about it. It refuses to slide over fabric of any kind, from thin dress shirt material to the thick pocket of my FXL. I’ll do another update when I’ve hit around a month or so with this pen.

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A Week with the TWSBI Eco(nomical) Fountain Pen

I’m not going to go into the specific details about this pen, this has been covered by Goulet here and the video embedded below.

Compared to other pens in the same price range, such as the Lamy Safari I find this to be on the clunky side. The cap seems a little too large to me and its lines don’t flow like the TWSBI 500 series. But it reminds me of classic budget pens like the Scheaffer school pens or the NoNonsense but with a revised clip. I always liked my NoNonsense pen, and this brings that classic aesthetic into a modern piston fill pen. That is, of course, the really important thing to remember about the Eco- it’s a budget piston fill pen with a quality TWSBI piston mechanism.20150727_100122This is not to suggest that there aren’t other budget piston mechanism pens out there, there are, but they are usually around $50 or more. There are pens from China and India that piston fill for a little less, but the pistons are junk and only hold about .75 to 1ml of ink. While the TWSBI mechanism slurps up big gulps of ink smoothly and holds roughly 2ml of ink. Which is quite a large amount if you use a fine or ef nib.

One of the areas they have saved some cash is on finishing. There are visible mold marks on my Eco. They are faint but there. They are also visible on my cap. Additionally, because I’ve been stress testing mine by using it as an EDC in my Fodderstack XL it is showing some fine use scratches. This is in part I’m carrying it WITH my Metal Shop CT Twist BP in the FXL pen holder. It is getting really beaten up through rubbing with the Twist but also on the nylon of the FXL. That being said, I’ve also sat on it, tossed it into my bag and put a water bottle on top of it and generally not been careful of it.TWSBIeco TWSBIecoOf course, the toughness of this pen will be tested out by time. My stress test is just me in my particular use. I think that the FXL keeps the pen pretty secure, even if I do toss a Klean Kanteen on top of it on occasion. The cracking that occurred in the original 500 series seemed to be something that happened over time, rather than in response to trauma inflicted on the pen. So really we just have to wait a few months to see what will happen.TWSBIecoThe MSRP for the pen is $28.99 or $29. I bought mine via Amazon via TWSBI* for $32 with shipping included. TWSBI adds in the shipping to their Amazon prices, so though they state “free shipping” you are in reality paying $3. Depending on where you purchase yours, the shipping may be more, or it may be less. Though I doubt it would be much less.TWSBIecoAnyway, my nib has been really nice, with a small amount of smoothing it’s really nice. So far, I’m pretty happy with this pen. It isn’t as nice as my Mini or 530 or 540, but so far it’s been pretty tough and does the job. I certainly agree with Ed Jelley that the cap is ugly, classically so, but damn, eww. it’s not a sexy pen, but if you want to introduce someone  (or yourself) to the world of fountain pens with something with a piston fill and a nice bottle of ink, this may be the pen.

I’ve been using this pen as my on the go pen- in my pocket all the time paired with a Field Notes and my Twist bullet pencil. It does reasonably well with my particular ink (a blend of turquoise, blue, and black to make a nice dark teal) in terms of flow, bleed through, and smoothness.

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Review: Tattersall Pocket Notebook

I picked up a 2-pack of OrangeArt’s pocket sized tattersall letterpress printed notebooks at Black Ink in Harvard Square awhile back. The 2-pack was $8.50, so pretty pricey.TattersallEach notebook has a cover and pages that are letter press printed with a  tattersall pattern. Basically zigzag lines in a large grid pattern. The covers are printed in 2 colors while the interior is a nice shade of gray. The interior paper is nice, toothy enough for pencils and smooth enough for fountain pens. Fountain pens perform reasonably well on this paper, with a little show through and hardly any bleed through but for where I rested my pen a second too long. I used 3 inks in my testing, Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite, J. Herbin Lie de The, and Noodler’s Heart of Darkness.  All were in medium or fine nibbed pens that run wet. I had no feathering or widening of the lines. With the finest of pens the paper made them feel scratchy, but not bad enough to stop me from writing. Pencils performed admirably on this paper. I was able to use my soft dark Palomino Blackwing (“original”) as well as my harder lighter Mirado Black Warrior to good effect. The paper was toothy enough to pull off a decent amount of graphite but not so toothy it felt like I was writing on a cheese grater. Pretty much just right.TattersallTattersall TattersallThe book is held together with 2 standard staples. This works reasonably well. I did not subject this to a stress test as this book was my at-home journal and even there lived in a leather cover. The cover is letterpress printed in 2 colors on white. The cover paper is not much heavier than the interior pages and feels flimsy. It is the worst part of the whole book. While pretty, this cover simply isn’t going to hold up to much abuse or pulling in and out of a back pocket. This is a paper cover that necessitates a case for any use out and about.TattersallThe 40 pages take fountain pen and pencil well. This notebook has 8 less pages than other pocket notebooks that are cheaper. The ruling is also  odd. It is a gray version of the exterior printing but without the cool letterpress imprint*.  The ruling is super wide, about double the width of a Word notebook and most other ruling. It measures in at 13mm. Super wide. i was able to fit 2 lines of writing into one line. I find this annoying. the ruling is also thick about .5mm. even though it’s gray it shows up under all my writing and remains very noticeable. They are available without the ruling. If I were to buy these again I’d look for them with blank pages.Tattersall TattersallOverall these are very pretty pocket notebooks and wonderful if you use a case/cover for your books. If you use fountain pens you will be pleased with the interior paper, and likewise for pencil. They are higher priced than Field Notes or Word notebooks, but boast letterpress printed covers and interior pages. Worth it if you like letter pressed items and want something a little different from the standard fare.

Here you can see the Tattersall on top of a Field Notes Red Blooded, it's a tad smaller than the Field Notes.

Here you can see the Tattersall on top of a Field Notes Red Blooded, it’s a tad smaller than the Field Notes.

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Review: Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen

I had read a few good reviews of the Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen (V-301). The V-301 features Zebra’s typical mixture of stainless steel and black plastic barrel. At first blush it’s not a bad looking pen. The imprint is a crisp clean screen print. The black plastic is well molded and looks pretty nice. The center section, is the grip and has a waffle pattern that keeps the plastic from being slippery. Which brings me to the first detraction I’ll make of the pen. At each end of the pen the plastic is shiny but the middle section is flat. This makes sense because that waffle patterned plastic is the grip. I find it odd to mix matte and shiny plastics on the same pen.zebrafp

The pen is a nice diameter, neither too slim nor too thick. It’s a great size for gripping, even with my small hands. It is just large enough that it wouldn’t look ridiculous gripped in a big meaty paw. Without posting the pen is okay for writing but the cap is small and light enough that this pen can be posted without feeling off balance. It’s not a particularly long pen, even posted. The cap slides on and off the pen with a reassuring click. Letting you know it’s been removed or replaced. Even when you post it there is a click.zebrafp

My second issue with the pen is that the nib is diminutive when compared to the size of the pen. It’s on the ridiculous side and doesn’t look quite right. While others have reported that the pen writes well straight out of the package mine did not. It was quite scratchy. I had to get out my loupe and push and pull the tines into alignment and then I had to smooth it. Even still it’s not my favorite nib. It’s good for quick notes and such, but I wouldn’t want to take notes with it for a whole class nor would I wish to write out journal pages.zebrafp

The ink that arrives with the pen is acceptable, but nothing to write home about. It appears to take standard international cartridges. I have yet to test it with anything but the cart that came with it. I find the ink to be poorly behaved, feathering on a lot of papers and soaking through many others.zebrafp

Overall, this is a $5 pen available at places like Walgreens across the US. I think it’s a horrible introductory pen for people. I’d much rather see people get the Parker Vector* (are they still made?) or another brand of fountain pen than this one. I know that others have reported good luck with these, but I really see this as a good pen for someone willing to tweak the nib and play with the pen to get a good writing experience. I think that you have a better chance of getting a good experience with a Platinum Preppy.

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Cost of Entry

If I were new to the pen, pencil, and paper addiction and reading the top blogs right now I’d be convinced that entering into this addiction might be very very expensive. As much as I love to read about pricey pens, I know that many are out of my  reach. It seems to be a rare occurrence for an affordable pen to be flogged. A notable exception is the Pilot Metropolitan, a pen that I like very much but wasn’t overly enamored with, but still recommend for people looking for a starter pen.

Another thing that makes pencil-dom more affordable is that pencils and paper pair up more easily. I have a stack of journals and notebooks I’ve put aside because they didn’t work well with my fountain pens. Many of these are doing great with my pencils but were horrible with fountain pens. Take for instance the Martha Stewart and Avery pocket notebooks. God awful with even a dry writing fountain pen but great with a pencil. In fact with a pencil they shine. the paper doesn’t chew up the pencil, but is toothy enough to get a lot of graphite on the page without crazy smudging. I still wouldn’t recommend it as a primary pocket notebook because it’s got those nasty perforated pages, but for quick notes or short letters, it’s great.

Every time I pick up a pencil it writes. Occasionally a point will break off and I’ll have to sharpen it, but generally speaking, I get graphite on the page. That isn’t always the case with a fountain pen. Sometimes the ink will need coaxing out of the nib, sometimes it needs water to be added, or I nee dot refill it , or flush it, or something. If I’ve used a pen consistently it will write without issue, but man if you let that sucker sit for a month you are in for some work.

Of course there are exceptions to that rule. I’ve got 2 Platinum Preppy pens sitting on my desk. I haven’t touched either one in over a month. One is loaded with red ink and another with black. Both of them wrote without a skip or issue. My TWSBI 540 or Lamy Safari can’t say the same thing.

One of the reasons I’ve been reviewing pencils this summer is that for the most part, pencils are affordable. even the most expensive pencil I’ve reviewed/ purchased was $2.50. Compared to my most expensive pen at $75 that’s a bargain. Getting into pencils can be done with just a few dollars. A decent writing experience can be found for $2.50 for a dozen pencils (USA Gold Naturals) and an exceptional experience can be had for $20 a dozen (Palomino Blackwings, pick any one of the 3). I’m not suggesting that pencils are better than pens, simply that they have a lower expense for greatness.

Review: Jinhao 602 Fountain Pen

Every now and then I get a surprise in the mail. Today I got a Jinhao 602 fountain pen, a gift from Christie. She suggest I review it, so I'm being dutiful and doing so.

Pulling the pen out of the envelope I found it in a black flocked case. It felt rather heavy for it's size. The black paint is smooth, the gold colored trim is nice, even if it's gold (I prefer silver.) the grip section is oddly trimmed in brushed steel. It doesn't match the rest of the pen, even if it is comfortable. The pen is very slim measuring about 3/8th of an inch in diameter. It looks good.

 

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The nib is steel but colored gold. It is hooded so only part of it can be seen. The nib is stiff, with no flex or bounce. It produces an even fine to medium line with good ink flow. It would be great for sketching. The nib offers a little feedback but it's not scratchy

 

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The downside is that the cap does not post well, as this is a small pen it would be more comfortable if it were posted.

Overall this would be a very good pen for sketching, priced a little more than $5 you won't be heartbroken if it dies or you lose it. I was surprised at how well the pen wrote, it was remarkably smooth for $5. (Not as smooth as the Serwex Special I reviewed earlier.) Not a bad deal, head over to eB@y and search for one.

Unposted length: 4.5 inches

Posted: 6 inches Capped 5.5 inches 

Less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Cost: About $5.50 shipping included on eBay.

A good value for the money if you like thin pens with fine nibs.

Unlike the Serwex Special I reviewed a few weeks back, this is not a candidate for abusing with India inks. The hooded nib means getting the feed out of the grip for cleaning is nearly impossible. India ink will gunk up this pen and render it unusable in short order. 

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Some Observations: On Paper and Frisket

Iv'e been working on a variety of papers, settling on Canson's XL Watercolor paper, for a variety of reasons- it works well with the watercolors I'm using, it's cost is nice and it has a relatively smooth surface that my pens rather like. It's also got 2 sides, a right and a wrong, ot a front and a back; which ever way you prefer to call it, but I like the judgemental aspect of right and wrong… In this case. Any how.

One side has a little more tooth an grab to it than the other, this is the right side. The reverse side AKA WRONG is smoother. It also has less sizing… This affects a number of things- how ink and paint react with the surface. Less size means it's more absorbent.

This is good and bad.

It's bad when you use a mask. I applied a liquid frisket rather heavily to the surface of one of my paintings and the frisket grabbed to the paper so strongly it ripped when I removed it. Quite badly. It was crazy frustrating.

I went ahead with the mixed media piece anyway, knowing my paint would adhere the ripped pieces down and it would be okay, but I had to change my plans for color and other ideas for the image, and I know that the torn piece could come back to haunt me.

Additionally in my frisket/mask adventure I've found that the frisket REALLY doesn't like the spray inks. If the frisket is too thin the spray ink "leaks" through it. A total pain in the ass. So I've learned to put on one thin coat and then a heavier coat to seal it all up.

Review: Fountain Pen Revolution Pen

I stumbled upon Fountain Pen Revolution while searching for a place to find a couple of inexpensive fountain pens made in India. The FPR is a site dedicated to the sale of such pens. At the time I found his site I also found that he was running a special I took him up on his offer and scored a fountain pen for $2.50. The special is no longer running but his prices are pretty reasonable. There are pens on his site for $6 plus $3 shipping. Not bad especially when you consider the review I'm going to give on this $2.50 pen.

The pen I was sent was a gray Serwex Special 101. It reminds me of the Noodler's Nikita Nib Creeper pen. Ever since I got my first Noodler's pen I sniff my new pens, I know weird, but not. The Serwex has a slightly different odor like engine grease and garage, or what plastic toys smelled like in the early 80's,* somewhat pleasant. Unlike the Noodler's which I likened to dog crap and diesel fuel. Along the side of the clear barrel is a gold foil imprint of the company name and product name. The cap has 2 cap bands which are silver. The clip is also silver and seems to be pressed steel. The jewel, which holds the clip to the cap is black. The gray cap itself is slightly mottled with a few streaks of darker gray here and there. The barrel is tapered and has what I call a cigar shape, though small.

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Not the sexiest pen I've ever seen but looks serviceable and good knock around pen.

Taking off the cap I'm greeted by a fine gold nib with a design and the words "iridium nib" pressed into it. There is no breather hole in the nib. The nib reminds me of the Noodler's Nib Creeper nibs.** I unscrewed the section from the barrel and found a few mould edges at the end, I scraped these off with an exacto, for fear they'd come loose with use. After rinsing the barrel and nib off I loaded it up with ink. For a smaller pen it holds an impressive 3+ml of ink. I loaded 2.5ml in it with a TON of room to spare.

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I loaded mine up, eye dropper style, with my sample of Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun. Yes, I put the most expensive ink I own into a $2.50 pen. Why? I'm addicted to gray inks right now and I had a nearly full sample of this ink and wanted to use it. Plus, for the first time ever I had an ink that matched the color of the pen. Gray ink in a gray pen.

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I then proceeded to write out 2 full pages in my Exacompta journal. At first it was slightly scratchy, the feel of writing with this pen matched the feel of writing with a Noodler's Nib Creeper.The nib writes with a true fine and is rock hard, no bounce, no flex; it is friction fit into the section. It writes relatively wet and started up with a quick shake downward. I did notice that when I had some ink on the nib it seemed to blob there. After I cleaned the ink off it no longer creeped to that one spot.

At the end of the 2nd page of writing I noticed that the nib was much smoother than when I started. The flow of ink was perfect for me, slightly on the wet side (6/10) and the nib itself was smoother, and gliding over the paper. Given I was using a premium ink this was to be expected and I wonder what will happen when I put a less premium ink in it. All in all this is most likely to end up as my new gray ink sketching pen and will have a permanent spot in my drawing stable.

Given my love of cheap pens I'm going to have to say I like this pen, a lot. Yes it's cheap and will never perform as well as a $50 TWSBI 540 and it has one nib size available- fine and it's construction is okay. The real thing to think of here is how it performs, and in my opinion if you are looking for something like a Noodler's Nib Creeper or an inexpensive pen this is a good pen.

As an aside this pen is one you can COMPLETELY disassemble, meaning you can get at the innards to clean it… I have in the past abused fountain pens with India ink. This is a pen you could do that with as you can get at the feed and inside the section to scrub them with a toothbrush. Hmmm. Ideas.

The Serwex Special 101 is not in stock at FPR. They have a pen called the Serwex 77TR that looks identical to this pen EXCEPT that the clip and bands appear to be all "gold" plated. At $6 plus $3 shipping it's not a bad deal, especially if the pens write as well as this one does. You can check out the FPR on FaceBook as well. The way you order from FPR is to figure out what pens you want, make note of the name and color you want and send Kevin an email. He'll send you a total price. Then you paypal. Shipping is from India so it will take some time (3 weeks) to get to you, but the wait is worth it.

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