Friday, 15 June 2018

New Chinese pens - rekindling an old flame?

It's been a long time since I ordered a Chinese pen.

I started out with a bunch of Chinese pens - Jinhaos and Picassos. They were fun fodder for nib grinding, and they didn't cost much, but I soon found myself tiring of them. Quite literally in some cases because of the very heavy, brass-based build.

But the Chinese pen industry has been changing and a recent post on FrankUnderwater's blog got me interested again. Two wooden pens - the Moonman M5 and the Delike Redwood - made me break into the Paypal account for the first time in a while.

I don't know what they'll feel like when they arrive. They might not feel as good in the hand as they look on the screen. The nibs might not be great (I ordered a 0.6mm and an EF fude). But they do look rather stylish. They don't seem to be outright copies of another pen manufacturer's work (there's a Faber-Castell Ondoro clone out there, but then I have the Ondoro in bog oak and orange, so I don't need a clone) and they're wood, which is a material I love.

Probably neither of them is going to replace the Waterman Man 100 briar in my heart (particularly since neither of them comes with a Waterman Ideal 18 carat nib), but I'm looking forward to a pair of parcels arriving... and of course I'll write the pens up once they arrive.

(I've also been interested by the PenBBS pens I've seen featured; there are some really quite amazing acrylics available. But then Bexley and Edison feed that lust quite nicely, and if I really want to go premium acrylic it'll be a Kanilea or Carolina Pen Company, probably, or maybe a Fred Faggionato...)

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

A ***B-I-G*** bottle of ink!

The problem with loving fountain pens is that you not only end up collecting pens - you end up collecting ink. It starts with your noticing that the local stationery store has an alternative to Parker blue-black. You can buy Waterman blue or turquoise. Then you get into purple. Then you get on the internet and you find out about Diamine, Iroshizuku, Sailor Jentle... and even vintage inks.

Then one day you're looking for fountain pens at a car boot sale and this catches your eye.

Oh. My. Goodness.

An absolutely monster bottle of Waterman ink. About half of it has been used - but there's still loads sloshing around there. And it comes with the funnel that you can screw on to the top of the bottle when you want to fill inkwells, or smaller ink bottles.

I absolutely love the form of the bottle - like a well muscled wrestler, with its broad shoulders and its ribbed waist. The packaging is rather wonderful, too, and I particularly like the typographical contrast between the solid modern style letters of 'Waterman' and the delightful handwritten effect of 'Bleu-Noir' (blue-black).

Dating pens I can do. Dating inks... is difficult. But I managed to find one site that suggests this is a 1940s logo.

Best thing of all? This bottle cost me slightly less than the local maison de la presse has 5cl bottles of modern Waterman ink selling for!

Monday, 1 January 2018

My top pens of 2017

I have had a little luck finding pens in the wild this year, as well as having spent a bit of money on new pens. Some real love affairs happened.

I should make it clear that these are not my all-time best pen selections: they're the pens which entered my collection this year and that I've really loved. Added to which I should give honorary mention to two Bexleys (Poseidon Magnum and 20th Anniversary 'lemon') and two Pelikans (m200 blue marbled with an m400 gold nib, and 950 Toledo) which have delivered real enjoyment over the year.

Pelikan Brown Tortoise m400 with broad italic nib

Because tortoise. Slightly more orangey and less varied than my vintage 400s, but still the most amazing colours; twirl the pen in your fingers and watch the highlights shimmer.

And because that nib is so juicy. I love a good stub or italic, and this nib is delightful - bouncy, wet, fat, and still gives good line variation, though it's not quite crisp enough for calligraphy. Thank you very much, Pelikan, for giving us the chance to buy a nib that's not F, M or B, and please do it again on other pens!

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 demonstrator

My first upscale Pilot, with an FM nib. In some ways this is quite a clunky looking pen, with two steps down to the piston turning knob, and a very visible inner cap. But I've grown to love it, particularly filled up with a nice wet ink. The piston works wonderfully smoothly, and the nib is juicy, and the clear plastic has the sparkle and brightness of diamonds, and it's just the most comfortable pen ever to write with. For a couple of weeks I've had it paired with another of my favourite Japanese pens, the Platinum 3776 Sai, giving me a double dose of beautiful transparency.

Aurora desk pens
Two generations of writing implements

An unexpected entry for an unexpected find - four desk pens, probably an accounting set (the inlay rings in red and blue show the colour of ink so you could have pens ready for doing double entry bookkeeping), found in an old watermill turned antique shop in the Eure valley. Beautiful matt ebonite, the 'Aurora' badge impressed on each section, fantastic nibs (though one, sadly, is broken, and it won't even work as a stub). The flared edge on the section is beautifully sharp. I really love the desk pen shape - Lamy Joy and Rotring Artpen are two of my favourites - and these little pens have delighted me.

Edacoto and unidentified red mottled hard rubber pens - French 1930s

I found the  'Mory et Cie' pen at a vide-grenier, and couldn't resist the character of the imprint, which I found out later belonged to a French shipping company. Late in the year I saw the gorgeous Edacoto at Vanves flea market, and negotiated a good discount as it was getting towards lunchtime (it's strictly a mornings-only market).

There should be a photo to come when I can actually find the Mory pen!

Since I've been living in France I have found that the Brits and Americans never really understood what red hard rubber can do. The French have wonderfully extrovert ways with this material - there are tiger stripes, Rorschach blots, vivid stormscapes, as well as ripple and bark effects.

And they do it in celluloid too! This Stylomine (fourth from top), also found at a vide-grenier, would make it into my top pens of the year... if only it had a section. I have some work on my Unimat lathe to do.
Not a bad haul for a handful of euros