Reverse Writing!

Tiny

My girlfriend, who is a righty, has been looking for a really fine-nibbed pen to take notes with at work on small pieces of paper. She recently got a Sailor Pro Gear Slim in fine, and a Sailor 1911S with a 21k zoom nib. She got a zoom nib so that it could eventually be ground into an extreme predator nib, which is an extra fine held normally and an architect when flipped over. We both have TWSBI minis in EF, and she always writes EF in quotes because it’s not fine enough. So last week, she decided to try and write with that pen with the nib flipped over (or reverse writing) and had a great experience!

I’ve been afraid to try reverse writing since I ruined my first fountain pen by doing that. Now that I’m more versed in the way of the fountain pen, my girlfriend encouraged me to try it again because the ink will dry faster while writing quick notes.

The photo above is a sample of both my girlfriend and I trying out some currently inked pens while reverse writing. Gold nibs ended up working well across the board, while steel nibs ended up being more finicky. The Pelikan m200 and MontBlanc Monte Rosa are both steel nibs that performed very well reversed. The m200 is normally quite broad for a fine nib, and with Noodler’s Golden Brown it’s extra wet. Reversed though, the nib is more akin to a Japanese fine. In the photo below I tried to get a close-up of the Pelikan nib. The tip is pretty ball shaped, with some raised tipping material on top. Theoretically, any nib with raised tipping material like that should work for reverse writing.

Birb

Now the MontBlanc, written in green on the sample page, is an elevated reverse experience. Both me and my girlfriend loved writing with this, it’s great.

The Monte Rosa is a vintage pen by MontBlanc, the model I have is from the late 1950s. The nib is labeled medium on the piston knob but the tip is upturned like a waverly nib. I don’t know if all MontBlanc steel nibs are like this, or if this nib was worked on at some point in its lifetime, but it writes very smoothly. Writing reversed at a high angle you’re using more of the ball at the top of the nib. So, you get a finer line without sacrificing smoothness or ink flow. Writing reverse with this pen is what I imagine writing with a kugel nib feels like. I just found out about that type of nib yesterday and I’m very excited about them.

Zoomies

Using the two zoom nibs was interesting because I didn’t know how versatile they are, or how nice 21k nibs feel. The tips are ground into a triangle shape, so the lower the angle you hold the pen, the broader the line. For me, using my zoom nib at a nearly 90 degree angle gave about a medium line. When reverse writing though, no matter what angle the writer holds the pen, they’re using the pointiest and finest part of the nib. I didn’t try reverse writing with a fude nib but I imagine it would have a similar outcome.

The finest line I was able to get was with a Pilot Custom 98 with a #3 fine nib.

I really need to polish that section ring
My two Pilot #3 fines side by side

This nib doesn’t have much tipping on top, but the nib seems slightly downturned with a round point. With this I was able to write as tiny as I can with a 0.4mm Hi-tec Maica. I also have a Pilot Legno 89s with the same size fine nib, but it writes less smoothly than the Custom 98 no matter what. I took a close-up of them side by side and I think the 98 tip is a little bit rounder and blunter. I did purchase the Custom 98 used and the Legno new, so the older nib is more worn in.

The Pilot Custom 912 with a Waverly nib gave a similar experience to the Monte Rosa but the 912 just has the upturned tip and no ball on top. This nib is fantastic anyway, and is so pleasing to write with for a lefty like me because you’re always writing at the correct position. With reverse writing, it’s like you’re using a posting nib because it ends up being downturned. You get a considerably finer line that could probably be used for writing checks.

The most surprising pen to try with this experiment was a Pilot Falcon, not the most lefty friendly pen. But, it writes really well reversed. I have it inked up with Namiki black right now, which is normally really wet out of this pen, but reversed it’s just the right amount of wetness. While overwriting normally with a Falcon I usually use light pressure so that the tines don’t catch on the paper, but reversed I haven’t had to worry about that.

The Vanishing Point Decimo was another surprise for both me and my girlfriend. This is another pen that is problematic for lefty overwriters because of the clip by the nib. Reverse writing with the Decimo was weird, and I still didn’t find it comfortable to hold.

Overall, this experiment was fun and revealing. Reverse writing doesn’t work with every pen, but Japanese gold nibs had more consistent results. I recommend trying out reverse writing with your pens if you like writing tiny and fast drying ink.

Happy Fountain Pen Day!

On this very special day for the fountain pen enthusiast I’d like to say hi and thank you to the small handful of people who’ve decided to follow this blog recently!

Today isn’t a new pen day, but last week my Desiderata BAMF came in the mail. Here are some initial thoughts, a full review will come later.

The BAMF is an all ebonite pen from the Desiderata Pen Company. This is the first handmade small batch pen I’ve purchased. The BAMF is meant to have a Zebra G dip pen nib in it, but there is the option to just have a regular fountain pen nib. I opted for a Nemosine 0.6 mm stub.

I love the engravings on Nemosine nibs.

The 0.6 mm stub nib is very nice to write with. My girlfriend and I can both write with it and the writing experience is the same. This nib can even be used while over-writing, and it’s still smooth. The tip is very round, making it much more forgiving for a lefty than a 1.1 mm stub.

The BAMF has a stealth blind cap on the back of the pen to reveal a pump piston filling mechanism. This system is very similar to a TWSBI Go, but you can’t see how much ink is in your pen. Overall, I really like the BAMF. It’s very comfortable to hold and the nib is very lefty friendly.

“Hey can you hand me that pen?” “Which one?” “The one that says ‘Bad-ass motherfucker’ on it.”

The TWSBI Go

The first fountain pen that I purchased was the TWSBI Go. I watched Brian Goulet’s videos about the Go, and how it compared to the Eco. I think I ended up purchasing the Go because it seemed simple, and it was 10$ cheaper. I ordered the smoke grey color with a medium nib.

The day before I received my Go, I got a concussion at work and ended up taking medical leave. The morning of pen arrival, I took my first trip to stationary heaven called St. Louis Art Supply. So before the Go even got delivered, I purchased a Kaweco Sport and Perkeo both with medium nibs. I included this little story to say that I then had a lot more free time to fiddle with fountain pens, and that I no longer have the two Kaweco pens, but I still have the Go.

The TWSBI Go has a spring loaded piston filling mechanism and a snap cap! It comes in smoke grey, blue and clear. This is also by far the easiest non-cartridge filler to completely disassemble. You just unscrew the barrel, then turn the piston cap clockwise to remove that. Then you slide off the spring and turn the little metal sleeve counter-clockwise to take that off. Now you can remove the piston and clean the inside of the ink chamber.

A fully disassembled clear Go.

The Go is a thick but light pen. The grip section tapers down with slight protrusions close to the nib so that your fingers don’t slip down while writing. I found that while learning to adjust my grip, this pen was still comfortable to hold. The smooth, wet nib and light weight also cause no hand fatigue. Having written with the Kaweco Perkeo and a Lamy Al-Star before this, the Go was a nice change of pace because I could hold the pen in a way that was most comfortable for me while overwriting. The Kaweco Sport also has a round section, but it’s slimmer and requires a tighter grip. The Go can be posted, and it looks a bit ridiculous, but it makes no difference in how the pen feels while writing.

I’ve tried a few different brands of ink in my Go, from Iroshizuku and Noodlers to Kyoto and Monteverde. The medium nib is pretty wet, and I’ve smudged a few times with certain inks like Noodlers Golden Brown. I know that Golden Brown is a very wet ink for flex nibs, but I love brown inks. With fast drying inks like Robert Oster, or dry in general inks like Lamy, the medium nib works great. Early on I had some burping issues, but pushing down the piston very gently to get some excess air out helps. You’ll be able to see the little bubbles come out of the opening in the feed. When the bubbles stop and it’s just ink coming out, keep your finger on the piston and slowly let it slide back into place. One thing about the Go that other TWSBI models don’t have is a little notch inside the section for the feed to sit flush in. I didn’t put the feed in correctly one time and ink spilled out.

A writing sample on Tomoe River paper, with Kyoto Kokeiro ink.

I would recommend the TWSBI Go as a beginner pen for lefties because it’s comfortable to hold while learning how to write with a fountain pen. It’s easy to take apart and fill, and the plastic is durable enough to withstand dropping. There are many great options for beginner/starter pens, but for those who want a durable and inexpensive piston filler, you can’t go wrong with the TWSBI Go. This pen retails for 20$ USD and comes in smoke grey, blue and clear.

If you would like to purchase this pen for yourself, please click here. This is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from the sale. It’s a way for you to support this blog while ordering a new pen!

The Sheaffer Balance Jr.

Nib: 14k Feather Touch #5

In my last post, I wrote about how I restored this little guy. If you’re interested in reading, please click here.

This Sheaffer Balance jr. is from about 1934. Its slender size and shape make it a nice pocket pen, and great for small hands. As you may have been able to tell by the name, this pen feels balanced. While I was researching the history of this pen, I read that the bottom of the cap below the band can develop hairline cracks from posting. I have written with this pen posted, but after reading that I’ve stopped posting. For me, the Balance is long enough to write comfortably unposted.

How I hold this pen. Unposted it’s still long to hold comfortably, even though I grip at the cap threads.

This particular Balance has a dark green celluloid body that catches the light very nicely. The nib is a 14k Feather Touch. The tines are platinum plated and springy. I’ve found that this nib feels best when using a light hand. The feed is ebonite, and flows so well. Before this pen I had a loose Feather Touch nib that I tried to put into several different modern pens, but I never got a good fit so the nib never wrote well. Now that I’ve written with a proper Feather, I enjoy it very much.

More of that sweet nib action.

The above photo is a writing sample on Apica CD paper. The ink is Organics Studio Barkley’s Blue Teal, which is safe for vintage pens. This ink flows very nicely, the only time this pen has dried up was when it ran out of ink. Like most vintage pens, the Balance is a lever filler. When you lift up the lever on the outside of the pen, a pressure bar inside compresses the latex sac and ink is drawn into the pen. These pens aren’t meant to be taken apart all the time, so it’s best to find an ink that works well and to stick with it.

The Balance writes well on all three papers that I tested it on. On smooth paper like Tomoe River, the nib glides like a feather in the air (I’ll show myself out). On the Midori and Apica, there was a bit more feedback, but not so much that writing was unpleasant. When overwriting and holding the pen vertically, the Balance is smoothest for me. Underwriting feels scratchier, and ink flow is the same as when I overwrite.

The Sheaffer engraving, as well as some hand-carved initials. The Balance models all have the patent number 78,795.

Since restoring this pen, I’ve filled it twice. Because the latex sac is small to fit in this short pen, the ink capacity is low. You also can’t know how well you filled the pen until you run out of ink. The Sheaffer Balance jr. works very well for lefty overwriters like me, as well as anyone who holds their pen at a higher angle. I found this pen on eBay for under 40 U.S. dollars unrestored, but Balances that are in better condition and restored will sell for a higher price.

Adventures in Pen Restoration: The Sheaffer Balance Jr.

About a year ago I purchased a Sheaffer Balance from the early 1930s on eBay. From the photos I knew that it would need some work, but I wanted a fixer-upper. A previous owner had carved their initials into the body and cap of the pen, but the whole body was in otherwise good vintage condition. When the pen arrived I took some pictures:

The nib really needed polishing, and I wanted to try to buff out the carved initials and shine her up. I wanted to buy a vintage pen to restore because I wanted the satisfaction of bringing a pen back from the dead. Previously I had bought a different Sheaffer model, but broke the feed because I didn’t read up on how to take apart a vintage pen. I didn’t want to mess this one up so I tried to read thoroughly about the Balance models. This particular pen is a non white dot Balance Jr. in marine green celluloid from about 1934. The nib is a 14K Feather Touch, the tip is plated with platinum and has some flex. The little breather hole in the nib is heart shaped. Here is a forum post on the history of the Balance pens. Here is another page that I read about these pens.

The Anderson Pens blog was very helpful and has an article on how to polish a pen using micro mesh. I ended up ordering all my restoration tools from them and can’t recommend their site enough! This article about pen repair don’ts from vintage pens.com was also very helpful. The Well Appointed Desk has this article about sac replacement.

After using a hairdryer on low heat to loosen any shellac that got in between where the section and body meet, I was able to take the pen apart. The ink sac had hardened and dried over time, so I picked out those pieces with these sac tweezers. After I got all the old sac out I rinsed the pen and made sure to let it dry completely before doing anything else to prevent rusting of any metal inside the pen. Then I started on polishing out the name engraving. I used a 1500 grit micro mesh pad dipped in water. I was able to mostly get the cap nice and smooth, but the body still needs work. I used 8000 grit micro mesh first, and then I used micro gloss to polish the pen to a shine.

To clean the nib I used this polishing cloth, and it works great. I was able to get all the dried ink off except for a little spot near the section. I feel very lucky that the tines aren’t splayed and are aligned.

Like a lot of vintage pens, this one is a lever filler. Inside the pen there is a pressure bar or j-bar that squeezes the sac, allowing ink to fill the sac. After I opened the pen I used a flashlight to check the pressure bar. It worked fine but I was worried that the metal might have corroded, so I resolved to get the bar out to get a better look. It took months for me to get that thing out, because I would try for a little bit and then stop for several weeks. I finally found a long pair of tweezers with a downward curved nose at an art supply store, and with those I was able to get the bar out by pushing downward and wedging it out. I ended up ordering a new pressure bar, because I didn’t want to mess with 80 year old metal. In hindsight, I wish that I had just left the original bar in because it works quite well and was already in the pen.

The original pressure bar. The new bar that’s in the pen now is a single piece of metal.

Once the new pressure bar came in the mail I made an attempt at inserting it. If you ever try to replace a pressure bar yourself, I highly recommend using a headlamp to see what you’re doing. I used my phone flashlight, but this is a two-handed operation. I got the bar in the pen and pushed it in, but it was slightly off from the lever. After trying to align the bar off and on for a few months I finally remembered that I have a headlamp. When I used it, I was able to rotate the bar with my pliers enough that it aligned with the lever. The pressure bar itself has little grooves that the teeth on the lever sit in. The bar that I bought is a simple one, and the metal is stiff compared to the original, so unfortunately I can’t compress the sac as much as if I had left the original in the pen.

Sac replacement, like any other step in the restoration process, takes patience. You can get black latex sacs or clear silicone sacs. The sacs come in several numbered sizes, so you can pick the size closest to the length of your pen and then trim it with scissors to fit. It’s important to trim the sac so that it fits flush on the section nipple.

Something that I learned late in the game is that the sac needs to be dusted with pure talc powder (not talcum), so that the pressure bar can compress the sac without friction. I purchased a different vintage pen that had been restored, but the sac hadn’t been dusted with talc powder, so the sac ended up tearing. Talcum powder will not work because the added chemicals will react with the latex and break it down. Once the sac is trimmed, I spread a little shellac on the nipple and used my fingers to try and get the sac on. After a few tries I was able to get the sac on, but I’m sure it’s much easier to use something to hold the sac open. Then the whole section needs to sit and dry for 24 hours before putting the pen back together. Now it’s time to dust the sac with talc! I did this outside with gloves and a mask on, because talc is messy and dangerous to inhale.

Once I put the pen back together I wiped off any talc that got on the section and body, and then filled the pen with ink. To do that you just lift the lever about 4 times, keeping the lever up for a few seconds each time so that more ink can flow in. I wanted to make a post just about the restoration process; a review of the pen and how it writes will be a separate post. Here is a link to the Anderson Pens repair tools page for all the supplies you might need!

Here is the pen now!
The feather touch nibs are just really pretty. It has ink on it now, but is otherwise clean besides the dried ink where it says 14K.

The Lamy 2000

When I first ordered this pen, I was nervous because a lot of reviews had mentioned a sweet spot on the nib, but I took a chance and ended up pleasantly surprised!

The Lamy 2000 is made of makrolon with a brushed metal grip section. It has a snap cap and is a piston filler. The metal section makes the pen a little bottom heavy while writing, but then the user doesn’t have to apply as much pressure with their hands. As someone who holds their pen vertically, the weight helps with ink flow. My girlfriend made a good point to me the other day about posting pens. She has small hands and generally doesn’t post because the added weight makes the pen off balance as it rests between her thumb and index finger. I also have small hands, but because the pen is resting on my middle finger (see photos below), the weight doesn’t effect balance as much. I prefer to post because length is more of a factor for me in balance and comfort. If the pen is long enough, then the weight of the pen can be distributed more evenly between my middle finger and the space between my index and thumb.

As for the nib, I have not had any issues with a sweet spot. I keep this pen inked with Lamy turquoise, and the flow is wet enough that writing is nice and smooth, but not so wet that the ink smudges as I drag my hand across the page. I’ve been using this pen to take notes for an online class because it has a snap cap, and because I don’t have ink smudging issues. Since I’ve started writing more extensively with this pen, my hand starts to hurt after writing a third of a page. I think the reason for this is that the grip section is tapered towards the nib and is smooth metal, so I find myself gripping the pen tighter than usual and end up with a cramping hand. This could also be because of the way I have my fingers oriented on the pen, with my index and thumb applying the most pressure.

I haven’t always held my pens this way, but this is how I’ve adapted my grip over the last year to be able to write legibly with a fountain pen. In school I learned to write by having my index finger controlling the pen with my thumb wrapped around it and touching my index finger.

With my adapted grip it definitely feels like I have more control over the pen. I feel like I can write neater, but my original grip is more comfortable because I wrote like that from when I was 5 all the way to 25. How do you hold your pen? Have you changed your grip over time? Please comment to let me know!

The Lamy 2000 is a very nice pen. I am still pleasantly surprised at how much I like it, but I cannot recommend it for lefty over-writers like myself because of the hand cramping issues I’ve had. Your mileage may vary as everyone holds their pen differently. This pen retails for about $150 USD and comes in black makrolon.

If you would like to purchase this pen for yourself, please click here. This is an Amazon affiliate link, if you click on it and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from the sale. It’s a way for you to support this blog directly!

PS: I will no longer be giving smudged finger ratings as it feels very arbitrary.

TWSBI Eco Special Edition Yellow

Nib: Stainless Steel Fine

Have you ever wanted a pen that was the color of yellow mustard? Well, the TWSBI special edition yellow Eco that came out this spring might be the pen for you!

This particular edition of the Eco is a very sunny yellow, perfect for spring. It is both the color of lemons and yellow mustard. Below I have the Eco pictured with my other yellow pens for comparison.

The Eco in the middle with a Platinum Procyon on the left, and a Pilot Lucina on the right.

The Eco is a wonderful starter fountain pen if you’re willing to take apart your pen and use bottled ink. It has a generous ink capacity and an easy to maintain piston filler mechanism. The packaging comes with a handy plastic wrench to remove the piston, and a tiny container of silicone grease to keep the piston from sticking over time. While there are some instructions in the box for how to take apart the Eco, I’ve found it easier to watch a Video on how to do this correctly. The TWSBI feeds are fragile, and it’s easy to bend the fins. But if you were to break a feed, TWSBI will send you a new one for the cost of shipping. After filling this pen, it’s a good idea to gently twist the piston knob up to get rid of excess air in the feed in order to prevent burping.

The fine nib on the Eco is pleasant to write with. There is a little bit of feedback, but I’ve had no flow issues with varying writing angles. I can write with this pen sitting on the couch with my legs crossed, and I can write while sitting at a desk and the ink still flows. The cap has a three-quarter turn, which makes the Eco good for taking quick notes. The cap can be posted. It feels very satisfying to push the cap over the o-ring below the piston knob. For me, this pen feels balanced both posted and un-posted. Inside the cap there is a plastic inner cap to seal off the nib; it works very well as I have never had one of these pens dry out.

Gaze upon thy squiggles and scribbles.

This pen has a round grip section, which makes it easy to get a comfortable grip without having to navigate raised bumps and edges. For those who like a molded grip, there is the Eco-T which has a slightly triangular grip section. The way that I hold a pen, my index finger rests in such a way that I prefer a round grip section.

There are a few different factors that make a fountain pen good for lefties. The nib needs to be able to handle being pushed across the page as opposed to being pulled. For side-writers and over-writers the nib needs to be able to handle writing at a vertical or near vertical angle. The nib also needs to be smooth enough so that the tines don’t catch on the page. While most fountain pens can be good for lefties, there are quite a few pens that offer very different writing experiences based on hand position. I’ve tried a pen and had it write fine and dry, and then my girlfriend who is right handed will try it, and it will write much wetter.

Overall I’ve had better luck with medium and broader nibs, but this TWSBI fine nib is great. Its line width is narrow enough that I can write small with it, and it has never felt scratchy. Some nibs feel better with different inks, but this TWSBI nib always writes well. For $30 USD, the TWSBI Eco is an excellent value. It comes in a whole rainbow of transparent and solid colors. There are five nib sizes to choose from: Extra-Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad and 1.1 mm Stub. My official rating is 5 smudged fingers out of 5. This post has been updated with a higher rating because you get a great pen for the price that will last a long time.

Pilot Custom 74

Nib: #5 14k Medium

After having this pen for one year, I can safely say that it’s one of my favorites. The first ink I tried in it was Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku, which, if you like to match pen and ink is pretty spot on. The flow is excellent, even with my high angle over-writing. The pen fits nicely in my small lady hands, and feels balanced both posted and unposted. If you are able to underwrite, the #5 nib is springy enough to add a little bit of line variation. The quality of the plastic is high, and the cap threads on quite satisfyingly. The Pilot Custom 74 is a great choice for a first gold nib pen.

The Custom 74 comes with a Con-70 converter, and with the demonstrator body it looks built in to the pen. One of my favorite features of Pilot fountain pens is that the nib and feed can be taken apart so easily to be cleaned. The Custom 74 is no exception, but occasionally ink can get in between the section and the inner feed housing. This is a minor issue and doesn’t effect the writing experience at all. While the flow of this pen is wet, it’s not so wet that I find myself smudging while writing. This pen also performs well on every paper that I’ve tried.

The Pilot Custom 74 is a great pen for lefties. At $160 USD it’s more of a next level pen, but an excellent entry into gold nibs. It’s available in teal (pictured), blue, maroon, violet, clear, orange and grey. Nib sizes range from Extra-fine to broad. My official rating is five smudged fingers out of five.

If you would like to purchase this pen, please click here. This is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. It’s a way for you to support this blog while helping to keep the content free!