Pilot Iroshizuku Ama-Iro

Ama-Iro from Pilot’s Iroshizuku line is a consistently great ink. It dried super fast on every paper I wrote on in my paper tests. Across all 21 papers that I tested, the average dry time was 6.6 seconds. For several months I had Ama-Iro in a TWSBI Eco with a fine nib, and that combination made for an excellent note taking pen. I could write fast and not smudge one bit!

Ama-Iro is a sky blue/ turquoise ink that doesn’t sheen. It’s a few shades lighter than Kon-Peki, which tends to overshadow Ama-Iro in terms of popularity. Ama-Iro writes a smooth and wet line with nice shading on most papers. It’s visually similar to Lamy Turquoise and TWSBI 1791 Sky Blue. Lamy Turquoise tends to write dryer and is capable of sheening. I haven’t written with TWSBI Sky Blue in a pen, but I remember it writing well with a glass dip pen. TWSBI Sky Blue is also capable of sheening. I used to take notes with Lamy Turquoise, but it would smudge sometimes if I was writing a lot at once. I can rub the side of my hand all over a page with Ama-Iro and it won’t smudge.

Currently, I have Ama-Iro in a Kaweco Perkeo with a fine nib. It performs similarly to my Eco, except Kaweco uses nibs by Bock and TWSBI uses nibs by Jowo. The Perkeo writes a wetter line that still dries fast. I will continue to maintain that Ama-Iro is a champion among light blue inks for a very long time.

Though Ama-Iro writes wet, it doesn’t bleed on most papers when used with a finer nib. After looking at the above pictures, I noticed that this ink feathered a bit in some spots with the Eco. On super absorbent papers like Nock, Leuchtturm, and Blackwing, there was slight feathering but no bleed through to the back of the page. On Field Notes, the line is fuzzy but there’s no ghosting. There’s even some shading. With the wetter, broader line of the Perkeo, Ama-Iro doesn’t shade and ghosts on the back of the page. The line is considerably fuzzier than that of the Eco.

Big bottle and tiny bottles. It’s Pride month and there’s a stack of Greta Garbo DVD’s on my table.

It took me a while to come on to Ama-Iro. Two years ago my girlfriend bought an Iroshizuku mini set of blue inks that had Ama-Iro, Kon-Peki, and Asa-Gao. I used Kon-Peki first and liked it enough to buy a full sized bottle of it. Then, my girlfriend started using Ama-Iro more and was really enjoying it, so I decided to ink my Eco with it. Now we have full sized bottles of all three inks in that set. They all perform similarly in that they flow well and dry fast. Asa-Gao may be smoother and Kon-Peki can sheen. But, if you’re looking for a bright light blue to bring some tranquility to your writing, Ama-Iro is a solid choice.

The Pilot Deluxe Urushi

Back in March, I posted some first impressions of the Pilot Deluxe Urushi on Buy Me a Coffee. Here are some of those impressions along with the insight I’ve gained after having this pen for a few months.

The Pilot Deluxe Urushi is a slim snap cap fountain pen with an Urushi lacquered brass body. The nib is a uniquely shaped 14k gold fine. The wonderful thing about the Deluxe is that it’s an Urushi pen for under $150 USD! I ordered from Pensachi, as this pen isn’t available outside of Japan. Shipping to the United States was $20, but it came quickly even with weather delays, and was packaged with care.

This is my first Urushi pen, and I love it. The pen feels warm in my hand, even with the brass body. I wasn’t expecting the Deluxe to feel much different than my Pilot Stella, a different lacquered brass pen, but it really does. The Deluxe may not feature the breathtaking craftsmanship of a Namiki or Nakaya, but you get to try out an Urushi pen with a fantastic nib. The finial and the tail of the pen have a lovely gold jewel that catches light beautifully. While this pen is able to be posted, I haven’t posted it and don’t plan to. I suppose you could slip the cap on the back of pen very carefully, but I don’t know how the Urushi would hold up. The snap cap has a firm click. Before the pen arrived, I figured that the grip section would be blue resin to match the rest of the body, but it’s also Urushi lacquered. I’m not sure if the section will scratch over time with the snap cap, but so far there is ne’er a blemish.

The branding has a really nice texture.

I inked this pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake; I like orange and blue together. This ink flows very well and the nib feels silky on paper, it’s a joy to use this pen. While underwriting, the nib is pretty firm but I could get a little bit of line variation. This nib has a slight amount of feedback, but is still smooth enough that the pen can seem hard to control on smooth paper. The shape of the nib is unique for Pilot. It’s a combination between the beak shaped Falcon nib, and the inlaid E95s nib. Generally this nib looks the most like a Lamy nib, but with better quality control.

Clip designs. From Left: CH 912, E95s, Lucina, Legno, Custom 98, Falcon, Prera, Deluxe Urushi.

Something that I just realized while typing this is that Pilot has a really nice variety of clip shapes. There’s the Falcon clip, the sword shaped clip, the ball clip, and there’s the clip on the E95s. The clip on the Deluxe has a slight taper in the middle, with a facet that catches light well. Near the finial there’s a somewhat militaristic engraving. There’s no branding on the clip, the only branding is on the back of the cap. This is a really classy, understated pen that’s more than meets the eye. The Pilot Deluxe Urushi can be found on Pensachi for $135 USD.

Writing sample

Snap Cap Fountain Pens

snappy cappies

Snap cap fountain pens are great for taking quick notes, writing on the go and general convenience. Here I have compiled a list of ten snap cap pens, for beginners and experienced users alike, for any way you hold your pen. This isn’t a ranked top ten list because there are so many snap caps that I haven’t tried, and this list is Pilot heavy. You may notice that the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari/AL-Star/Vista are not on this list, and that’s because they are very popular starter pens that have been discussed a lot. The pens I have here are some alternatives at various price points, whether you’re looking for something different or something beyond a starter pen.

1. The Kaweco Perkeo

The Kaweco Perkeo is a great value at under 20 dollars. It comes in several fun color ways and is offered with fine or medium nibs. As of my writing this, Kaweco recently came out with new monochrome colors in pink, green, blue, and clear. This pen can take any standard international cartridge or converter, so there are many different ink options. The Perkeo is a great fountain pen for beginners because the semi-triangulated grip helps the user hold the pen in the correct way, but it works as a great pen for lefties because it’s still comfortable to hold with a different grip than the design intended. Smudging has not been an issue with this pen. These pens take long and short standard international cartridges and converters, and can fit Kaweco’s really nice piston converter. The cap on this pen has a quick hollow snap, and is easy to operate.

2. The TWSBI Go

The TWSBI Go is a quirky little pen with a unique spring loaded filling system. It retails for just under 20 dollars and comes in blue, grey and clear with nib options ranging from extra-fine to 1.1 mm stub. To fill the pen you just dip it in your ink bottle and press the button! Of the piston fillers in my collection, the Go is by far the easiest to take apart and put back together. The Go has a round grip with a pronounced edge that is comfortable to hold for lefties no matter their grip. The flow of this pen is moderately wet, but performs well with fast drying inks such as Robert Oster. The Go cap has a loud snap that’s quite firm, and can take some effort to uncap. I’ve splattered ink a few times while uncapping this pen.

3. The Pelikan Pelikano Jr.

I’m using this JetPens photo because I no longer have a Pelikano Junior.

The Pelikan Pelikano Jr. is one of the few pens on this list offered with a lefty specific nib. It has a left handed molded rubber grip that is quite comfortable to hold. Like the previous two pens on this list, this pen retails for about 20 dollars. The Pelikano Jr. is truly tailored for lefties learning to write with a fountain pen. The nib is a medium, and is ground in such a way that is especially smooth for lefty’s. The Jr. has a translucent colored body and comes in several neat colors. If you prefer a look that is more professional there is a regular Pelikano that also comes with a left handed nib. The Pelikano can take both long and short standard international ink cartridges and converters. The Pelikano cap snaps similarly to the Perkeo.

4. The Platinum Preppy

A clique of Preppies

With the best value at 5 dollars, the Platinum Preppy is a great pen to dip your toes in the fountain pen waters. It comes in a rainbow of translucent colors, with nib sizes in extra-fine, fine and medium. There is even the option for a highlighter and marker tip! The Preppy takes proprietary Platinum ink cartridges. The Preppy does take Platinum converters but they cost more than the pen itself. If you want to try bottled ink and are feeling adventurous, this pen can be easily converted into an eye dropper with an o-ring and some silicone grease. The inner cap has a seal mechanism that will keep the nib from drying out for a year. The fine and medium nibs are both very smooth and a pleasure to write with. The round grip is also comfortable to hold, no matter your grip style. The Preppy has two siblings: the Prefounte and the Plaisir, which are also snap caps under 20 dollars. The Platinum Preppy performs excellently with lubricated inks such as Monteverde, and have a low dry time. These caps have a softer snap than the the other plastic pens on this list, and the click is very pleasant.

5. The Pilot Kakuno

Mmmm aesthetic

The Pilot Kakuno is very kawaii. It comes in soft pastel colors in the U.S market and translucent demonstrator colors in the Japanese market. The nibs on the Kakuno have little faces on them to remind the user to keep the nib facing up. If you’re an over-writer, the little face will be looking at you upside down or sideways, but it’s still cute. The face that comes on the nib is based on tip size; the EF has a cheeky winky face. The cap on this pen has a clicky snap and is easy to uncap. Though this pen is designed for kids, people of all ages love the Pilot Kakuno. This pen retails for about $10 USD.

6. The Pilot Prera

A seriously satisfying snap of this cap, the Pilot Prera has a more professional look than the Kakuno. At around 40 dollars this pen is more of a step-up than the previous pens on this list, but is worth it for the smoothness of the nib. The Prera can be found on Amazon in solid colors such as ivory, grey, blue, yellow, and red. The Prera can also be found on most pen websites with a clear body and various transparently colored finial and tail. This version comes in colors such as clear red, clear navy, and clear grey.

7. The Lamy Studio

A bigger step up from the other pens on this list, the Lamy Studio caps with a short and sweet click. Equally (perhaps more) satisfying is how the pen clicks when being posted. This pen has a wide variety of special editions that range in price and materials. The Studio has a metal body with a unique propellor shaped clip, and has been released in several special edition colors. Most versions of the Studio come with a steel nib, but there are some that come with a 14k gold nib, at a higher price. The standard price is 80 dollars USD.

8. The Pilot E95s

The Pilot E95s is less snappy than the other pens on this list, but it’s still satisfying to cap and uncap. The cap slides on softly and clicks gently when hitting the stopper ring on the end of the section. It’s a classic design pocket pen, so the cap posts in order to transform this little guy into a full sized pen. The nib is an inlaid 14k that’s soft and smooth. In my experience, the medium nib is springier than the fine. From about the mid-1960s through the 1970s, the Japanese Big 3 (Platinum, Sailor, Pilot) had their own roughly identical version of this pen that can be easily found on ebay. Today, Pilot is the only brand that has this design available in a new pen. The Pilot E95s retails for $136 USD.

9. The Midori MD Fountain Pen

The Midori MD fountain pen is the newest on this list, having been released in the US earlier in 2021. This pen has a vintage design similar to a Parker 51 with a plastic/resin body and brushed metal cap. The body is cream colored to match your MD notebook, and the grip section is clear with a clear feed. The grip is matte plastic that’s subtly ribbed, and it feels nice to hold. The cap of the MD fountain pen snaps very firmly and feels sturdy. When capped, there’s no step between the body of the pen and the cap that makes for a sleek line. The firm medium nib has a unique downturn similar to a beak, and writes smoothly even at a high angle. The Midori MD fountain pen retails for $38 USD.

10. The Traveler’s Company Fountain Pen

The fountain pen is on the right, pencil on the left.

The Traveler’s Company, known for their high quality notebook systems, also makes writing instruments! Every iteration is pocket sized and brass. In 2020, Traveler’s Co released a special edition Factory Green line, pictured above. There’s a bullet pencil, fountain pen, rollerball, and ballpoint. I’m just going to discuss the fountain pen here, and it’s wonderful. Similar to the Pilot E95s, the cap slides on the back of the pen with some resistance in order to create a full sized pen. When you cap the pen, the snap is hearty with a satisfying click. I can’t speak to how well the snap mechanism holds up over time, but the material of the pen feels solid. The Traveler’s Co fountain pen comes in plain brass and Factory Green, and retails for around $70 USD.

Honorable Mention: Pilot’s Snap Cap Pocket Pens

It’s okay, there’s no milk in the bowl.

Several years ago Pilot made these wonderful snap cap pocket pens, but have discontinued them. The Stargazer is the US model, while the Stella and Legno are Japanese models. The Stargazer and Stella both have a subtly sparkly lacquered body while the Legno has an impregnated wood body. There is also a rare celluloid model called the Legance 89s. These pens feature the less common Pilot 14k #3 nib, and have a flat top design. If you prefer a traditional cigar shape there is also the even rarer Custom 98. The Custom 98 has the same #3 nib, and looks very similar to a Montblanc 144. I’m grouping all these models into one paragraph because they’re essentially the same pen with different bodies. Unfortunately they’re hard to find nowadays. They can be found with persistent hunting on eBay or a pen swap forum. The snap on these caps is so damn satisfying; it starts out soft and then finishes with a quick click. These pens are an honorable mention because they’re difficult to find at a reasonable price.

The Noodler’s Cinematic Universe: Noodler’s Lermontov

You’ve heard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now get ready for the Noodler’s Cinematic Universe (NCU). Nathan Tardif is a salty New Englander who makes inks that are as wet as a Nor’Easter and shade like a Cape Cod sunset. Tardif uses all kinds of historical and political references for his ink names and ink series, such as the Russian writers inks from a few years back. The references are so vast that Tardif has created an aura around each ink that’s filled with lore. Why does this ink have this name? Why this color? What do they know? Each ink has a story, and each story may or may not have a parallel in movies.

The first ink in the NCU is Lermontov. Lermontov is a blue-grey shading ink that is named after Mikhail Lermontov, a nineteenth century Russian romantic poet. Reading about him on Wikipedia, some of the themes from his work reminded me of Boris Lermontov, a character from the 1948 movie The Red Shoes. In this movie, there is a lot of the same shade of blue-grey that is Noodler’s Lermontov.

Mikhail Lermontov was a poet who has been said to be the greatest figure in Russian Romanticism. He only lived to be 26 years old, but had a prolific career before dying in a duel. His early works are romantic, and his later works are realist. There seems to be a theme throughout his personal life of suppressing any romantic urges out of fear of getting burned. In his working life, he also suppressed his romantic and fantastic urges in order to master his craft. Lermontov’s novel, A Hero of Our Time, has a self-destructive protagonist who keeps hurting those around him because he feels that he’s fated to act this way. As his life goes on, the protagonist grows more and more dissatisfied with his actions but hides his emotional turmoil from other people.

The Red Shoes is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, but takes place in the world of ballet. It’s about the conflict between artistic passion and the human condition. Boris Lermontov is the director of a ballet company in London whose passion and determination are so great that he doesn’t have room for emotions. He takes a ballerina named Victoria Page into his company, and wants to develop her into a prima ballerina. Here is a trailer:

Victoria is an excellent dancer who equates her desire to dance with her desire to live. Victoria proves herself as a dancer and rises through the ranks until the lead ballerina leaves to get married. Lermontov is angry and says: “You cannot have it both ways. A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Never.” When a coworker tells Lermontov that he can’t alter human nature, he retorts that you can just ignore it. The subtext here is that Lermontov is repressing his own homosexuality. His only gratification is through controlling the ballet, and controlling people. Victoria becomes lead ballerina when Lermontov begins a production of the ballet of The Red Shoes. During rehearsal for the show, Victoria falls in love with the conductor for the ballet, Julian Craster. The show is magnificent, and the story of the ballet foreshadows the rest of the movie. For a scene of Lermontov describing the story, watch this video:

The relevant dialogue starts at 0:41.

The similarities between Boris Lermontov and Mikhail Lermontov and his work seem purposeful and uncanny, but what does this have to do with ink color? Here are two swatches of Noodler’s Lermontov:

This ink shades quite a bit, from navy to blue-grey. On Tomoe River, Lermontov sinks into the paper but still shades. Even with normal writing, the show-through is pretty bad with bleed-through to the back of the page in some spots. On Rhodia with a flex nib, it feathers quite a bit. It’s a wet ink that flows well out of most pens, but won’t dry quickly.

Take a look at the above photos, then look at all these screenshots where this blue appears in The Red Shoes:

I don’t know if the blue in this movie is why Nathan Tardif made Lermontov the color that it is, but the shades are pretty darn similar. I like this ink, and this exercise helped me like it even more. If you like this movie/ink crossover, let me know.

The Desiderata Pen Co. BAMF

That’s a full sized Rubik’s cube

I’ve actually reviewed this pen before, in a post called Happy Fountain Pen Day. That post was an initial review, so this will be a more long term one after having the pen for about five months. Desiderata is a Black owned pen company based in Chicago, and they make excellent small batch fountain pens.

“A royale with cheese”

The BAMF has a large ebonite body with a glossy red ebonite grip section. The body and grip section are all one piece, except for a blind cap at the back where you can access the spring-loaded Pump Piston. The blind cap really blends in; I wasn’t sure where it was at first because the little striations in the ebonite match perfectly when the blind cap is screwed on. Unscrewing the blind cap reveals red ebonite threading, which is a nice surprise. The Pump Piston mechanism is very smooth with a titanium rod. The current webpage for this pen says that a new batch will be out in spring 2021 with an in-house screw piston rather than the spring-loaded one. As you can see in the photo above, the pen says “Bad Ass Motherfucker” on it. The engraving is really subtle, which is nice if you have kids unless they pick the pen up to look at it.

The BAMF can be ordered with a Zebra G nib, Jowo nibs from EF to 1.1mm italic, or a Nemosine 0.6mm stub. I went with the Nemosine nib, and it’s great. The stub is very round and forgiving enough that my girlfriend and I can both enjoyably write with it. I can overwrite and underwrite with it; I didn’t know stubs could be like this. Even with the fine stub, there’s still line variation. While overwriting, there is less line variation for me but still enough that my handwriting has some character. I’ve tried two different inks in this pen: Noodler’s Q’ternity and KWZ Honey. Q’ternity is a thick blue-black that writes very smoothly and dries fairly quickly. Honey is one of the few brown shading inks I’ve found that actually dry. Honey doesn’t write as smoothly as Q’ternity, but it flows very well. When capped, this pen seals up enough that there have never been any hard-starts or skips.

Nemosine nibs have a really lovely butterfly design.

While I’ve never dropped this pen, its durability is unquestionable. The smooth grip section is very comfortable while overwriting, and I really like the vintage style flare near the nib. If you’re interested in this pen, there’s a sign-up box to be notified when the new run is available. The BAMF sells for $188 USD.

The Scale of Paper Absorption: Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series of paper tests. If you would like to read them, here is Part 1 and Part 2.

A blog called Fountain Pen Love had an excellent post last year about the difference between fountain pen friendly, and fountain pen fun paper. In short, fountain pen fun paper helps make your inks look their best and make that paper more enjoyable to use. Paper like Tomoe River is fountain pen fun. Fountain pen friendly may not make your inks look their Sunday-best, but perhaps casual-Friday at the worst. Papers like Mnemosyne and Clairfontaine are fountain pen friendly.

For lefties who hook their hand and rub it all over their handwriting, fountain pen fun paper is great, but not always practical for everyday use. I started to test Tomoe River paper, but certain inks never dried, or took many minutes, so it’s hard to compare to every other paper that had been tested. Tomoe River is in a class by itself, and will be measured and averaged in minutes.

In each test I take 13 pens with varying nib sizes and wetness, along with 13 inks of different properties and wetness, and measure dry-times in seconds. I smudge sets of three lines in five second intervals until the ink is dried. Keep in mind that these tests aren’t super scientific, and that there are a lot of variables like writing angle.

Apica CD Paper:

Apica CD paper had an average dry time of 15.9 seconds. The longest dry-time was Ham #65, which dried within 5 minutes. There was no feathering and moderate show-through with darker inks. Bleed-though is a 1. Most inks had nice shading but no sheen. I’m wondering if Ham #65 took so long to dry because it’s been in that pen for several months now? Once I re-ink that pen I’ll test again to verify the results. With very mild bleed-through, nice shading, and a median dry time Apica CD is a 7 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Maruman Paper:

Maruman paper had an average dry-time of 13.46 seconds. The longest dry-time was Extra-Dimension, which dried within 30 seconds. This paper yielded crisp lines and heavy shading. Inks that are made to sheen did. Extra-Dimension, Fire & Ice, Wild Strawberry, and Pilot Blue-Black all sheened. Bleed-through is a 0, and the show-through was minor enough that I would feel comfortable writing on both sides of the page. With no bleeding, both shading and sheening, and a median to high dry-time, Maruman paper is a 9 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Kokuyo Sketch Book Paper:

Kokuyo Sketch paper also had an average dry-time of 13.46 seconds. The longest dry-times were Schrödinger and Kokeiro with 25 seconds each. Extra Dimension, Navajo Turquoise, and Golden Brown all dried 10 seconds faster on this paper than the Maruman. Corn Poppy Red, Pilot Blue-Black, and Fire & Ice all took 5 seconds longer to dry on Kokuyo paper. Ama-Iro, Wild Strawberry, Ha Ha, Ham #65, and Horizon Blue all had the same dry-times as on Maruman paper. Kokeiro almost completely dried at 15 seconds on Kokuyo, but when I moved down to the next line my writing angle changed and the nib put out more ink and therefore took longer to dry. This has happened with other inks on other papers as well, and is a factor to keep in mind when looking at these results. Bleed-through is a 1; I would not write on both sides of this paper, and some lines are fuzzy looking. There is some sheening; the only ink that sheened more on this paper compared to Maruman is Fire & Ice. With some bleed-through, light sheening and shading, and a median to high dry-time Kokuyo Sketch paper is a 7 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Kokuyo Campus Paper:

Kokuyo Campus paper had an average dry-time of 18.46 seconds. The longest dry-time was Navajo Turquoise at 45 seconds. If you look closely, you can see that my writing still smudged as I moved further down the page. Bleed-through is a 0, I would write on both sides of the page. This paper is great for both sheening and shading. Ama-Iro still dried within 5 seconds, it’s a champ. With a long dry-time, heavy shading and moderate sheening, Kokuyo Campus paper is a 9 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Yamamoto Ro-Biki Paper:

Yamamoto Ro-Biki paper had an average dry time of 11.15 seconds. Extra-Dimension and Kokeiro had the longest dry times, both drying within 20 seconds. Bleed through is a 3. There is enough bleed through on the back of the page that I wouldn’t write on both sides. Despite the bleeding, this paper still shows off shading with every ink except for Golden Brown. Golden Brown had the worst bleeding and looks staticky after drying. With a median low dry-time, shading, and moderate bleed through, Yamamoto Ro-Biki paper is a 6 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Midori Cotton Paper:

Midori Cotton paper had an average dry time of 9.61 seconds! Compare that to regular Midori that had an average dry time of 25 seconds. The longest dry time was Golden Brown at 25 seconds. Bleed through is a 0, with the gentlest show-through. There was also no feathering, beautiful shading, and sheening. This paper is such a joy to write on, and it’s hard to find a paper that has short dry times and high ink performance. With these factors in mind, Midori Cotton is a 10 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Kleid Paper:

Kleid paper had an average dry time of 15 seconds. Bleed-through is a 0, Golden Brown bled through a little bit onto the back of the page, and there was no feathering. There isn’t even any show through besides that little bit of bleed-through. The longest dry time was Extra Dimension at 25 seconds. Extra Dimension, Fire & Ice, and Navajo Turquoise all smudged as I wrote further down the page. This paper shows off shading and sheening quite well, and it feels laminated. With a median dry time, desirable ink properties, and minimal bleed-through, Kleid paper is an 8 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

Field Notes Memo Book Paper:

Field Notes memo book paper had an average dry time of 5 seconds. Every ink tested dried within 5 seconds. Bleed-through is a 4. Any broader nibs and wet inks feathered and bled onto the back of the page. All of the inks on the first page did pretty well, and I would consider them useable for writing quick notes. On the second page, all the nibs are pretty wet, and put out a lot of ink. I was surprised that Pilot Blue-Black feathered, because it’s normally so well behaved. Fire & Ice actually sheened a little bit, and Haha shaded a little bit. With the lowest dry time so far, heavy feathering and bleeding, Field Notes Memo paper is a 1 on the Scale of Paper Absorption. While this paper had a lower dry time than Molskine, the paper quality is higher and is more fountain pen friendly.

Tomoe River Paper (52 gsm):

I changed my threshold for Tomoe River paper to 30 seconds rather than 5 seconds, because this paper is so water resistant. This specific paper is over a year old, before the company changed their formula. Tomoe River Paper had an average dry time of 1.69 minutes, the longest so far. This is the most fountain pen fun paper I have; every ink looks its best. The shading and sheening is beautiful, and there is no feathering. Because this paper is so thin, there is a lot of show through, but no bleeding. Bleed through is a 0. I have had inks bleed through all the way to the next page while using a flex nib, but for the pens and inks used in this test, there was no bleeding. Tomoe River is an 11 on the Scale of Paper Absorption.

The next (and last) post in this series will be an analysis of these results, with numbers and such all in once place.

The Kaweco Sport (Fountain Pen)

The Kaweco Sport is a favorite among many fountain pen users for its small size and many color options. I’m a fan of pocket pens myself, and enjoy these little guys. The Sport line has many iterations besides the rainbow of standard plastic models; there are AL or aluminum models, carbon fiber, special acrylic, steel, and brass. You can also get the Sports in rollerballs, ballpoints, clutch pencils, and mechanical pencils. When Kaweco went under new ownership in 1994, they updated the design from a piston filler to the standard international cartridge/converter system. Vintage Sports with gold nibs and pistons can be found on eBay, and I hope to acquire one someday.

My navy sport next to a Sheaffer Balance Jr and a TWSBI Mini for size comparison.

The first Sport I owned was a clear one with a medium nib. At first it had some baby’s bottom issues, but Kaweco customer service sent me a new nib, which worked fine. Baby’s bottom is where a nib is over polished so that the inside edges of the tipping material are rounded and don’t touch, inhibiting ink flow. Later, I tried a white Sport with a fine nib, but it had flow issues and only liked very wet inks. My third Sport is navy with an extra-fine nib, and it’s just right. The navy is a lovely deep blue color with gold trimmings. I added a black clip, which compliments the navy nicely. I ordered this pen from St. Louis Art Supply over the summer. They test all fountain pens over $20 USD before sending them off, and this Sport had the best out-of-box writing experience out of all the Sports I’ve tried.

The Sports are a good starter pen for lefties with small hands, or for anyone who wants a pocket pen. These pens are designed to be posted, but my hands are small enough to use the pen unposted if I’m just writing a quick note. Posting really helps keep the pen balanced. My grip happens to fall on the threads above the grip section, which is fine with the plastic models as the threads aren’t sharp.

Sports take short standard international cartridges, or Kaweco’s slide piston converter. Kaweco also makes a tiny squeeze converter, but I’ve found that they don’t work very well and come apart easily. I’ve also found that Kaweco pens write better with non-Kaweco inks, except for their Pearl Black, which wrote great every time. Lubricated inks like Monteverde come in cartridges and seem to flow smoothly. Faber-Castell cartridges also work well. I haven’t tried Herbin or Diamine cartridges, but I know their inks work well out of the bottle.

If you don’t want to use cartridges, or are bothered by Kaweco’s converters, plastic Sports are able to be converted into eyedropper pens by applying silicone grease to the barrel threads. You can add an o-ring as well but the silicone grease works just fine.

Eyedroppering is especially nice with clear barrel models such as the clear classic, and any of the ice series. In the picture above, I’ve filled this pen with Noodlers Blue Nosed Bear. This is a super wet ink, so the fact that I was able to write with this and enjoy it means that this medium nib was a very dry writer. I’ve taken notes with my navy Sport, and it flowed well, but the design of the pen makes it impractical for start/stop applications unless you’re able to use the pen unposted. When I was first trying to write with my clear Sport that had baby’s bottom, the pen wouldn’t flow consistently when I was holding the pen at a high angle. My girlfriend tried using it while holding the pen at a lower angle and she was able to get a consistent flow. I’m not sure how common baby’s bottom is for Kaweco nibs, but it is an issue to look out for. If you’re a lefty over writer beginning their fountain pen journey with a Sport and you encounter baby’s bottom, please don’t be discouraged because there is always another nib.

Here is a writing sample from September. It’s just notes from an online IT course.

I love Kaweco as a brand, and love all of my pens from them, but the quality control on their nibs can be uneven. I once bought a double broad Kaweco nib, and it didn’t have a slit. Fortunately, all of their pens except for the Supra take the same nib, so it’s easy to swap nibs once you’ve found one that you really like. All Kaweco nibs are friction fit inside a plastic housing. On all metal sectioned models, this housing can just be screwed in and out. On all plastic sectioned models, the housing is stuck inside the section and is not able to be removed. To remove a Kaweco nib from its housing, use a rubber grip or jar opener and pull it out by holding the nib at the tapered part of the feed. Kaweco feeds are a lot more durable than (for example) TWSBI feeds, so these pens are good to practice on if you’re a beginner nib swapper. Lamys are good for practice as well, but you can’t play around with other nib brands.

Every version of the Sport will have its own writing experience, which is why the AL-Sport will have its own post. Besides the fountain pen, I’ve also tried the rollerball and the clutch pencil, which are both pleasant to use and will also have their own posts in time. You can purchase your own Sport wherever fine writing instruments are sold. The plastic models generally sell for about $25 to $30 USD.

A Lesson on Ink Hygiene

Back in December, I needed to refill a pen that had run out of ink. The ink (Diamine Wild Strawberry) had been in my pen (a Pilot Legno) for about three months. The nib had some ink dried on it, as well as the feed. I figured that since I was just refilling the pen that I didn’t need to clean it before dipping it in the ink bottle. Two months later, I would find out that I was wrong. Don’t leave dried ink on your nibs kids!

When I was making my chromatography, I decided to get out Wild Strawberry for my next strip. I shook the bottle a bit so that the ink would be mixed. I noticed some solid particles at the bottom of the bottle as well as some kind of floating mass, so I opened the bottle to smell the ink. It smelled like straight mold, but I did the chromatography anyway for some reason. I ended up throwing away the bottle, the chromatography strip, and the pen cleaning towel that the strip was drying on. I thoroughly cleaned the chopsticks, the bag clips, the glass of water, and the pen that had Wild Strawberry in it. My girlfriend and I then went though and smelled every bottle of ink that we own to see if there were any other moldy bottles, and threw away too many bottles. Besides Diamine Wild Strawberry, other effected bottles were: Diamine Polar Glow, Colorverse Extra Dimension, Organics Studio Copper Turquoise, Noodlers American Aristocracy, Lamy Benitoite, Herbin Emeraude de Chivor, and TWSBI Midnight Blue. I learned that many Noodlers Inks smell like almonds, and that all Iroshizuku inks smell like nothing and have great mold protection.

From now on, I won’t be dipping a nib into an ink bottle unless it’s been cleaned. If a piston or vacuum filler pen hasn’t been inked up for very long and it needs to be refilled, I will decant ink into a small jar and refill from there. For cartridge converter pens, I’ll fill the converter with a clean syringe. Eyedroppers are already easy to maintain, but I will pay more attention to making sure that the inside of the eyedropper bulb is clean and dry. If there’s a lot of ink left in a pen and I want to change colors or just clean the pen and put it away, I’ll dump the ink in a sample bottle or tiny jar.

This incident has helped me further appreciate pens and converters that can be easily and completely disassembled. If you stick a pencil (eraser side in) to a TWSBI cap and turn it counterclockwise, you can remove the inner cap and clean any ink out. I wish that Pilot would bring back the Con-50, because those can actually be taken apart without hassle. A Pilot nib and feed can be removed very easily after you’ve done it once. Any feed with a little indent for the nib makes it easier to remove without risk of damaging the nib. Most Pilot feeds are like this, as well as Kaweco. The Lamy nibs just slide onto the feed, but the feed needs to be reinserted just right or it gets stuck in the section.

I’ve now replaced the bottle of Wild Strawberry as well as Polar Glow. We already had a bottle of Extra Dimension that hadn’t been opened to save for later when the original bottle ran out. I feel ashamed about the pen practices (especially early on) that led to so much wasted ink, but the only thing to do is learn from any mistakes and be mindful of potential biohazards.

Fun With Chromatography

After watching some videos by Inky Rocks on YouTube, I really wanted to try doing some chromatography. Chromatography is “the separation of a mixture or solution through a medium in which the components move at different rates.” The medium in this case is water, and the mixture is fountain pen ink. There is special paper available for this on amazon and other sites where scientific equipment is sold, but I already had a bulk box of industrial grade paper towels. The special paper might yield richer results, but the paper towels work pretty darn well. I might try some tests with more absorbent bounty paper towels to see if there’s a difference.

My setup. In the foreground is Robert Oster Fire & Ice, and in the background is Diamine Wild Strawberry.

I cut up the paper towels into strips, swabbed a line of ink at the bottom with a q-tip, and let the towel soak until the ink reached the top. It’s very fun to see what your favorite inks are made of. I dipped the strips by hand at first, but then I clipped them to some plastic chopsticks with bag clips so they could rest on the rim of the glass and be able to soak for a longer period of time. Some inks yielded predictable results while some inks yielded results that blew me away. My favorites so far are Robert Oster Velvet Storm, Colorverse Mariner 4, Diamine Nutcracker, and KWZ Honey.

I was really surprised at how much purple there is in Velvet Storm, since it’s a teal-black ink. The colors separated out so distinctly, and it looks neat. With Mariner 4, the corners of the towel stuck to the side of the glass and ended up separating in a triangular shape. It looks like a purple and blue iceberg. Nutcracker yielded a very nice gradient with a thin line of black at the top. Honey might be my favorite because it looks like some kind of rock formation.

Some results that surprised me were the Sailor Ink Studio dual shading inks. 123, 162, 150, and 224 all look different out of the bottle, but separated in water look very similar. 150 has more a more vibrant pink and purple than the others, and 123 has a more vibrant teal than the others. 224 has the least vibrant results. 162 has a pretty equal amount of teal and purple.

So far only one ink has completely separated out, with a clear white space in between colors, and that’s Iroshizuku Chiku-rin. It’s like blue and yellow polarized each other. I expected there to be some green in this strip, but there isn’t any.

In science class in school, we did chromatography on paper towels with magic markers. I remember being fascinated then, and had a lot of fun making these now. If you have bottles of ink or ink samples, it’s very easy to do chromatography at home with things you might already have. All you need are some paper towels, a glass, some q-tips, and something to hold the paper towel while it soaks up the water.

The Franklin Christoph Model 25 Eclipse

How about that Harris Tweed!

When I was researching this pen, looking for reviews, I could only find ones written for the original iteration of this model. Franklin Christoph changed their design of this pen since then, so I’d like to review the Model 25 in its current, sleek form.

The Franklin Christoph Model 25 Eclipse is one of the most unique pen designs I’ve ever seen. The clip is on the body of the pen, head side, so that the nib is always facing downward when the pen is clipped to a pocket. The cap is short and seals up the nib very nicely. To post the cap, you just slip it under the clip. This makes a very satisfying click, and then an audibly satisfying click when you remove the cap. The cap threads are close to the nib and out of the way of your grip, which means that the rest of the body is one smooth surface. The clip is engraved with a diamond pattern, and the finial is engraved with the Franklin Christoph logo.

When I ordered this pen in mid-December, the color available was vintage green. This resin is slightly translucent, you can see the threads inside and a little bit of the converter. The green is warm and sophisticated, and the build quality is superb. The threads on the body are engineered so that the clip and nib are always aligned. The nib is semi-hooded and cannot be easily removed. If you want to swap out the nib, FC recommends that you send it to them. If you like to live dangerously, you can contact FC for instructions on how to remove the nib.

The Model 25 is my first Franklin Christoph pen, and it lived up to my expectations. I ordered my pen with a high performance steel fine nib. The FC website says that the high performance steel “is more like gold today than most nibs you’ll find through pen history.” This nib definitely feels different than a standard stainless steel nib, it’s delightfully smooth. When I first inked up this pen, I used a Pelikan Aquamarine cartridge. I wanted to make clean-up as easy as possible, since the nib can’t be easily removed. Unfortunately that ink is pretty dry, and the pen kept hard-starting. I took out the cartridge, cleaned the pen and inked up with TWSBI Midnight Blue. Midnight Blue is much wetter, and the Model 25 hard-started much less, but didn’t like writing in short bursts. Next, I tried Iroshizuku Kon-Peki. Kon-Peki is just right, it flows very well. I had hard-starting issues with Midnight Blue before, and wanted to see if maybe that ink would work better in a different pen, but it’s a finicky ink.

The cap thread placement that I mentioned earlier makes the Model 25 very comfortable for those who grip their pen high on the section, like me. The diameter of this pen is wide enough that my thumb doesn’t dig into my index finger while writing, which has been a problem for me with narrower pens. Overall, I really enjoy this pen and feel that it’s worth the investment for those looking to dip their toes in the Franklin Christoph waters. FC releases this pen as a special edition model periodically throughout the year, one color at a time. At this time of my writing this post, the vintage green model is sold out. The Model 25 is $155.00 USD (with a steel nib and no special grinds) on the Franklin Christoph website.

Here is a video of me writing with this pen:

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