What’s What 11/12-11/18
Head-to-head, post-inventory thinking, and the volume turns up.
Inked Right Now
Parker Vacumatic with Diamine Blue Black
Montegrappa Venetia with Lamy Ruby
Sheaffer Craftsman with Callifolio Bosphore
Pilot Metropolitan with Platinum Carbon Black
Montegrappa Zero with Sheaffer Purple
Gone from last week: Sheaffer Tuckaway, Mabie Todd Cygnet, and Pilot Prera.
I’m not sure if I short filled the Tuckaway or what because it ran out relatively quickly. It’s not a big pen to begin with but I figured there was more ink in there than it turned out to be. When flushing the pen out it drew in less water than I expected. I’ve not used an old Sheaffer vac before so I’ll need to do some research.
I swapped the Platinum Carbon Black into a different Pilot with a different nib to get a different look. (Excessive use of different.) The performance is consistent with what the italic nib had given and I continue to be impressed with Carbon Black’s qualities.
The Vacumatic and Craftsman solider on but are running low.
The Montegrappas are in play for direct comparison as part of working to make decisions about the collection and what should be kept. I decided to try a different nib in each pen than what they originally came with.
The Zero now has the medium that came with the Ventia. I was 50/50 on the medium when first used in the Venetia. It wrote well but not consistently. It took time to get going. I wondered if the cap wasn’t providing a great seal and letting the nib dry out overnight. Using the medium nib in the Zero for a few days has been a much better experience. There is no hard starting and the flow is full on from the jump.
I installed a Franklin-Christoph steel stub in the Venetia. After filling, writing was normal and consistent with past use of that nib. The next day, however, the nib would not write in the first few strokes and flow was dry. Writing 2 or 3 sentences got the flow working better but it took wetting the nib slightly with a damp paper towel to get what I felt was the proper output from it. This pattern came up again today and my thoughts are further down the road of the cap seal being subpar. The weather is consistently colder and drier now than last month so some older pens are showing signs of small dry out overnight, but not like the Venetia. I’ll give it a few more days and try another ink. I can also use the fine nib that came with the Zero, which is on the wet side for its size. I may keep the pen in a zip pouch as well to see if that helps. If we still see hard starts through those scenarios then then I’d feel pretty confident the Venetia’s cap seal is suspect. That would be disappointing. To be continued….
New & Exciting
Getting the whole collection arranged and photographed meant taking the pens out of their various storage spaces in desk drawers. I have 45 or so pens in one drawer using a molded plastic tray like this. 15 more are kept in 5-pen wooden trays. Two different 6-pen travel cases keep certain pens together. Everything else is onesie-twosie in smaller cases or pouches. This spread made the retrieval of pens frustrating at times because I wasn’t always sure which pens were in which case. Consequently, I’ve ordered a 24-pen Girologio case to keep more pens in one place for storage. I may have slipped another pen into the shopping cart based on a highly positive review I recently read.
How to move on from pens I don’t need. I used Virtual Pen Show a few years ago and it went well. Transactions were pleasant and easy, folks were happy with the pens they bought, and I got some cash for my effort. Even with that good experience I’m not sure I want to go the online sale route with everything this time. Maybe for some but for others there’s no need to recoup anything financially. That’s not what the process is about for me now anyway. My primary goal is to get pens to a good home with folks that want them.
If I gift/give away the pens I don’t have much for online options. I’m not on any forums or groups for pens (or anything else these days). I tried a Discord server for a time a couple of years ago and, while the people were good, I ended up not liking the Discord format. I’d rather not use my personal Instagram. No one I know personally uses fountain pens other than my mom and she doesn’t need 10-12 more pens. Who or what is another audience that could make use of pens I don’t need?
Lastly, the volume is increasing. By that I mean the general pace of life and what’s happening. The holidays are the busiest time for my job. Every year seems to outdo the last and there are many long days ahead. All of that to say posting here is likely to be shorter and/or less frequent based on other priorities through the end of the year.
This is All of It
Whether driven by the approaching year’s end, changing personal sentiments, reading the Pen Addict Top 100, or a desire just to catalog for its own sake, here is every fountain pen in my possession right now. We’ll start with the two biggest pieces of the pie.
I think of these as the cheap and cheerful bunch from Pilot. Great everyday users for not much money. The Metropolitan is an all-time great pen.
12) Custom K500-SS
13) Custom Heritage 92
14) Custom (don’t know of any more specific model/trim name)
15) Custom 912
16) Custom 74
Every bit as reliable as the pens in the first group but with some upgraded writing experiences. The Decimos are true workhorses and my most used pens overall.
17) 17 (I swear that was unintentional)
25) 50 Falcon
Five 45s? Yes. You can see their significance to me here.
28) Duofold Maxima
29) Duofold International
35) Vacumatic Junior
36) Diamond Medal (not a Parker by name, but they made this pen)
Some more outstanding writers here. Vacumatics are the best looking pens anyone has ever made in my opinion.
Yeah, that’s my wheelhouse with three dozen pens between Pilot and Parker. I love Pilot’s utter reliability. I love the expanse of Parker’s history. I love that you can take pens made 50+ years ago from either brand and fill them with a cartridge you buy today. I could live solely with pens from Pilot and Parker and be entirely content.
37) Wahl Eversharp Skyline
38) Esterbrook J
39) Sheaffer Valiant Tuckaway
40) Sheaffer Craftsman
41) Sheaffer School Pen
42) Sheaffer No Nonsense
43) Sheaffer Old Timer
44) Sheaffer Targa
Sheaffer is a brand that has drawn more of my interest in the past few years. I think an old White Dot Balance with a Lifetime nib is still somewhere in my future. Maybe a Snorkel of some kind. The Skyline and J are great writers and classic designs that I would recommend everyone try at some point.
Ciao Italia, Merhaba Türkiye
45) Aurora Ipsilon
46) Aurora Optima
47) Montegrappa Venetia
48) Montegrappa Zero
49) Delta Write Balance
50) Scribo La Dotta
51) Leonardo Momento Zero
52) Kilk Orient
A colorful bunch. I must send the Optima for some nib tuning. It’s a great pen that I have let languish due to a relatively minor issue. I should pick one of the Montegrappas to keep and let the other one go. The Delta deserves a nib upgrade. Scribo and Leonardo are perfect as they sit. Will Visconti ever find its way back here? The right Homo Sapiens at the right price could make a case.
53) Schon DSGN Pocket 6
54) Franklin-Christoph 20p
55) Franklin-Christoph 45
56) Franklin-Christoph 65
57) Spoke Design Icon
58) Karas Fountain K
59) Edison Brockton
60) Newton Prospector
All pens from modern independent American makers. The interchangeability of nibs, whether it be Jowo or Bock, adds a lot of value for me. More clipless pens here than the other groups. Those aren’t my normal preference but with F-C and Schon there isn’t always a choice in that regard. I will say if Ian ever makes a full-size clipped fountain pen with a push-to-post cap I am all over it. The Prospector is something apart from the rest of my pens with unique design and artisanship.
Sailor and Platinum
61) Platinum 3776
62) Platinum Prefounte
63) Sailor Fude de Mannen
64) Platinum Desk Pen
65) Platinum Preppy
66) Sailor 1911S
67) Sailor Pro Gear Slim
68) Taccia Spectrum (Sailor-made nib)
69) Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen
Wide variety of writers in this group. Big nibs like the 3776 coarse and music nibs on the Pro Gear Slim and Taccia. Finer, more precise nibs on the Desk Pen, 1911S, Preppy and Prefounte. The Fude can do both, or something in between. It might be the most line variation bang for your buck you can get in a factory-made pen. The KoP is an absolute top of the line writer. The 1911S is a candidate to move on.
70) Kaweco Al-Sport
71-72) Kaweco Sport
73) Kaweco Perkeo
74) Kaweco Student
75) Diplomat Aero
The Sport is a pen that will always be in my collection one way or another. I’ve gone through maybe seven of them in total and these are what I have now. Among them, the red plastic is probably redundant. I like the Student a lot but its grip is more slippery than I’d like. The Aero is a great writer and the capping action is as satisfying as you’ve heard.
76) Lamy Safari
77) Lamy Vista
78) Lamy Studio
79) Lamy 2000
80) Montblanc 144R
81) Graf von Faber-Castell Guilloche
The Vista is a special pen for me. I’ve tried other Safari colors but nothing else has the same appeal as the demonstrator in this model. The matte violet version is cool but I don’t think I need to keep it any longer. The 2000 needs no explanation. I like the 144R because it’s cartridge/converter and a great writer. The Guilloche is just a few months old but I love its combination of style and performance.
82) Teranishi Guitar
83) Mabie Todd Cygnet Stylograph
Two newcomers that didn’t fit neatly in other groupings. The Guitar is a very nice pen for the money, whoever might make it. The Cygnet is a different kind of fountain pen. I wouldn’t have figured it to write as well as it does, but it works a treat.
a) Pilot E95S
b) Esterbrook JR
c) Parker Super 21
d) Cross Townsend
e) Opus 88 Picnic
These are pens I’ve had set aside because I know I won’t be keeping them. Not sure how I’ll do that (sell/trade/gift/donate) but they need to go to a place they will be used.
So, there we have it. 83 pens, plus the outgoing handful. I can take 4 right off the top. There are another 2 or 3 I could talk myself into releasing without much concern. Past that, there are several pens that should get some nib investment to provide the writing experience I want. I mentioned in the past that I should focus on getting the most out of what’s already here instead of bringing in more new faces. I haven’t done that. No reason for the inaction other than laziness. If a pen sits unused because I don’t like the nib then what’s the difference if it leaves for 2-3 months to be improved?
Now 8 years immersed in the hobby, I feel I have come into a good place of knowing what suits me and what doesn’t. I have learned to see that the initial emotional reaction to a given pen can often be incomplete or misleading. Truth bears itself out over time. Ideally, we will have the patience to get to that truth. Sometimes we don’t. Other times the truth shifts in our minds. I’ve accepted that’s okay.
I know I tend to want to try at least one example of many different pens. I would find more value in 100 distinct pens than 20 similar versions of the 5 best pens. Exposure to variety helps drive knowledge and appreciation.
What are the next areas I’m looking at?
In keeping with the ideas above, one part of me wants to see if a flagship Pelikan lights my fire. Another part of me is quite annoyed with their pricing practices and doesn’t want to bother.
Urushi and maki-e have a very strong aesthetic draw. The options seem endless, whether it’s Namiki, Nakaya, Tamenuri Studio, or another maker. Some are subtle, others very dynamic. It’s easy to feel swayed by the way such pens are talked about. There’s a lot to know regarding the different techniques. I want to spend some time wading into that pool so I have a better understanding of the what, why, and how behind them.
What do you see in the collection I’ve assembled?
My use of Italian, Turkish, and German came via Google Translate. Hopefully they make sense in the context I intended.
Fountain Pen Day 2023: Forward…to the Past
Making or wasting time, new old stuff, and has the picture become clearer?
Inked Right Now
Mabie Todd Cygnet Stylograph with Pelikan 4001 Konigsblau
Sheaffer Craftsman with Callifolio Bosphore
Pilot Prera with Platinum Carbon Black
Sheaffer Valiant Tuckaway with Sheaffer Skrip Red
Parker Vacumatic with Diamine Blue Black
Gone from whenever I last updated here: Scribo La Dotta, Parker Sonnet, Sailor KoP, and Teranishi Guitar.
I’ve spent less time thinking about pens lately and more time adjusting to a changing work schedule. Still writing with them daily but not making them a priority. I should make more time for them than I have been. The enjoyment they provide would help the overall mood. But when I spend free time without purpose and leave myself with precious few hours to do the things that need doing, I can hardly complain about the things I should have prioritized. That said, what are the reasons for the current lineup?
The Craftsman is a pen I’d been wanting to ink for a while. Having a touchdown filler would, as best I know, mark it as from the early 1950s and a later entry in the range of pens which carried that name from Sheaffer. It has an open #33 nib that writes a wet medium line. When the Scribo ran dry I wanted to use Bosphore in another pen to compare performance and thought the Craftsman could be a good choice. Surprisingly, Bosphore is not exhibiting any dry behavior in the Craftsman. There are no hard starts or flow concerns. This is different from when I used Anahuac and Gris de Payne in the Decimo.
Platinum Carbon Black came in a cartridge alongside the Platinum Desk Pen I bought a few months ago. I wanted to try the ink but not in a pen where I couldn’t fully disassemble the nib and feed for cleaning. I know Carbon Black doesn’t have a reputation for troublesome maintenance but better safe than sorry on a first-time use. The Prera had a fine italic nib already installed so after some syringe work to pull from one cartridge and fill another it was ready to write and see what Carbon Black would do. I like the ink’s performance, particularly the short dry time. It presents a shinier look on some papers but ultimately lands as a solid black. I tried the pen at work for a few days and it did well. The fine italic nib can be slightly toothy at some angles but it’s smooth and quick 90% of the time. It makes me think I should keep the Prera or a Metropolitan set up with this nib and some variety of black ink on a consistent basis.
The Vacumatic was another pen that needed some run. Diamine Blue Black is my go-to ink for it and looks amazing flowing from the broad italic nib.
You will notice those are three small-ish pens. What did I get to go with them? Something smaller still.
New & Exciting
It’s an established pattern now that I will see a certain kind of pen and become fixated on it for a while. I read up on them, see where they may be bought, put one in a shopping cart for a while, decide not to buy it, and move on to something else. So it was with Sheaffer’s conical Triumph nibs. The first time I ever saw one I thought it was odd and sort of unsightly. But when I dug in to them, I learned how important a part of Sheaffer’s history they had been and that they were widely considered to be great writers.
With that information in hand, I kept a running mental note to keep an eye out for a chance to get one. With frequent browsing of the stock at Peyton Street Pens and David Nishimura’s vintagepens.com I tried to home in on which model featuring a Triumph nib I might like.
Sheaffer’s Tuckaway pens are small, meant to tuck away unobtrusively in a vest pocket or handbag. When closed, this pen is a bit longer than a Kaweco Sport. Some Tuckaway models had clips, others didn’t. The clip on this one is tiny. It may fit over the lip of a thin shirt pocket or a few sheets of paper. I wouldn’t dare try it on anything more than that. Even if the capability as a clip may be limited it can act as a roll stop and a place to get a little extra purchase when gripping the cap to remove or replace. The filling system also caught my eye. I would probably have guessed a pen this size to be a lever or button filler but it’s a vacuum filler.
And what of the writing performance? It is as I had expected based on my reading –firm and smooth. The nib gives slightly more feedback at lower angles. The line is a controlled fine with moderate flow. I might have preferred a medium but that width doesn’t seem to appear too much on these pens. The pen is too short to use unposted for more than a few words. The posting is okay but even with the wide cap band offering support I’m careful not to push too hard. Remember that it is the better part of 80 years old.
Now that you’ve seen the Tuckaway are you ready for something older, smaller, and with a completely different writing system? Of course you are, brave reader.
After deciding on the Tuckaway I clicked around on other listings at vintagepens.com and found something interesting. This is a Mabie Todd Cygnet Stylograph. Eyedropper filled, made of hard rubber.
What is a stylograph? David Nishimura explains it well here.
Stylographic pens, often referred to as “stylos”, have a writing tip consisting of a metal tube with a fine wire inside to regulate ink flow. Modern drafting pens are of similar construction, but have tips that are square-cut (for even line width) rather than rounded (for smoother writing).
The picture above barely shows anything coming out of the tip of the pen. Let’s get in closer.
That little point at the left is the tip of a wire sitting inside of a slightly larger metal tube, which is mounted in the nose cone. It’s like a piece of lead protruding past the end of the sleeve on a mechanical pencil. The wire is coiled further down inside to provide some spring tension (I didn’t think to take a picture before filling the pen) and when you press on paper the wire recedes a bit, pushing back into the tube and letting ink flow out to the page along the tip.
David described the pen as NOS and that they wrote easily, but despite his expertise I still wondered if it would perform that way out of the box. I can tell you it did and then some. The volume of ink flow is more than I expected. This pen can put out quite a wet line for such a small point of contact. It requires almost no pressure to write and gives a smooth feel on the page. More than 90 years after its creation, the Cygnet works like it was born yesterday. There’s a wonderful quality in that.
Here you can see the Cygnet and Tuckaway relative to other small pens. The others are all modern cartridge converter models. Putting them together prompted me to ask why the older pens belonged in my collection. They are less convenient to fill and maintain than the modern pens. Aside from the aforementioned interest in certain design elements, what broader appeal do the old pens hold?
I tend to like older things. Movies, books, architecture, and cars to name some areas of more prominent interest. Why? I don’t know that there’s a ready answer. I think it is somehow rooted in the idea of something that once was done/made but no longer is. Yes, the Tuckaway and other pens like it still exist for us to own and use, but no one is making pocket size vacuum filling fountain pens with conical nibs in the present day (although maybe Ian Schon can get with Ben Walsh and cook something up).
I own 80+ pens right now. 20 or so are what I’d call old or vintage. Despite being a smaller part of total collection, those old pens feel like they hold disproportionate value compared to the rest. Why? Partly because you wouldn’t be able to replace them as easily. There is something in their design that stands out regardless of age. Beyond that, they are tools that have survived to continue doing the job they were made to do. Some part of me feels a need to hold on to those things and let them continue living.
Should I focus less on new pens and more on old models? Could I get more appreciation from prolonging the life of a 1930s Sheaffer Balance or Parker Duofold than a modern pen that may be equally as nice?
Rollerballs Revisited and Gels as Well
Back here I went over my love of the Pilot Precise V5 rollerball refill and having found a great body for it with the Ti Click EDC pen from BIGiDESIGN. Since getting that pen, I never looked for any other hosts for the V5 refill. Recently, though, I stumbled over something interesting.
Some months back I bought a Pilot Juice Up gel pen during some stationery shopping. The Juice Up is a pen I keep at a desk or some other place to use whenever I’m there rather than being an everyday carry item. Gel pens aren’t normally my thing but the Juice Up refills come in many nice colors and have solid performance. Recently, I poked around at JetPens to find another color Juice Up refill I might like. Then, on a whim, I clicked a link to show the different pens that can fit the refill. That’s how I found this…
The Pilot Metropolitan Gel Pen. I’m one of the biggest fans you’ll find of the Metropolitan fountain pen. I quite like the Cocoon mechanical pencil (the Metropolitan by another name.) But the gel pen? Never on my radar since gel pens are, at best, a distant third in my pen preference ranking. However, since I am so familiar and comfortable with the Metro this would be a great host to use the Juice Up refills. Add to cart? Yes.
Just as I had linked from the Juice Up refill to its compatible pens, I clicked a link to find all refills compatible with the Metro body. There are 154 refills at JetPens for it. 142 are gel ink, 6 are ballpoint, and 6 are rollerball. Hmmm. Which rollerballs? The Pilot Precise, naturally.
Ooof. How did I miss that connection in the past? You would think I’d dig deeper into the idea that Pilot might have something to fit the Precise refill other than the Precise RT plastic top knock body. Pilot’s catalog is only, like, a billion pieces deep after all.
That blinding moment of obliviousness now receding, I added some other items to my cart and checked out. After a few days my order arrived and it was time to see what the Metro gel pen could do.
The Metro’s included refill is a 0.7 G2 in black. Many of us have written with this at one point or another. It’s a good refill and does the job. I’d rather have something more interesting.
Along with the standard G2, I got a Juice Up 0.4 in Blue Black and an ILMILY Nuance 0.5 in Black Yellow. What’s an ILMILY Nuance? Brad Dowdy explains it at The Pen Addict better than I could. It was a wild card that I picked out of curiosity just to see what something called black yellow would look like.
You can see above that these refills are slightly different from one another. The G2 and ILMILY are essentially the same, but the Juice Up and V5 have differing shapes to the end piece holding the tip. Regardless, they all fit the Metro gel pen body. There’s a small bit of tip play with the Juice Up and V5 but no annoying rattle in my usage so far. The metal nose cone of the pen spins freely and has some play relative to the grip section, which I did not expect. Not sure if that freedom is needed to prevent binding of the varied refill shapes when the section and barrel are screwed together.
What do they look like on paper? I’m glad you asked.
My favorite color of the bunch is the Juice Up blue black. If Pilot made a V5 refill in this color it could be my number one with a bullet. The 0.4 tip makes a nice line but feels more delicate than I might like, whereas the V5 is rock solid.
The ILMILY yellow black is, well, different. In some settings it’s still close to black. In other cases, it looks brown or muddy green. I think most of the time it will stand as an outlier in the normal pallet of gel inks, but that’s coming from the perspective of pen people who pick apart color gradations and subtleties for fun. The feel of the 0.5 is quite nice, closer to the V5.
So, do any of these other refills stand a chance to replace the precious blue V5?
Afraid not. I’ve put the black yellow in my Ti Click EDC for now and the Juice Up blue black will find some time somewhere. Ultimately, the V5 reigns supreme and, housed in the Metro, it will be the everyday work pen for a while. I’ve still got fountain pens inked for use at home but this new combination is too good to let go of right now.