Gift Guides

Ugly Sweater Retro 51 and Field Notes Workshop Companion GardeningI’m not a huge fan of holiday gift guides. On he other hand they do provide fodder for blogs that have been silent more often than they should.

The Pen Addict Podcast had their gift guide episode which I enjoyed a lot.

I think it was Ana (from The Well Appointed Desk) who mentioned splitting up a Field Notes package as a gift. I don’t know many people who would appreciate a Field Notes subscription or even a three pack, but last year I split apart a Workshop Companion Edition and gave individual books to people who would appreciate the theme.

While not a fountain pen, I agree with the recommendation of a Retro 51 as a introduction to nice pens. You can find many of the regular Retro 51 Tornados in many office and stationery stores. Goldspot Pens has a Coffee Themed Retro 51 for the coffee fanatic on your list. This is a Goldspot exclusive, but not a limited edition. Unfortunately it may not arrive before Christmas, Anderson Pens has a TeraByte Tornado for the computer geek on your list. This year’s holiday Retro 51 doesn’t do much for me but others on your list may like it and it’s probably more appropriate for year round use than the last year’s ugly sweater holiday pen (pictured above). This is a limited edition but with a relatively large run of 1,225 pens.

They also mentioned Dudek Modern Goods which I whole heartily endorse. I have several of his pen holders and wouldn’t hesitate to give one to anyone on my list that needs pen storage. Since they are hand made they aren’t a last minute gift and the website gives December 1st as the last order date to be sure of Christmas delivery.

Brad mentioned Keep Fresh, Stay Rad postcards from Princeton Architectural Press. I already bought a box, but for me not a gift. (Self gifting?) Unfortunately I already but some Connecticut themed (my home state) postcards and will run through those before I get to the these.

I don’t propose giving a fountain pen to a non-fountain pen user just because you like them and hope they will. But if you know someone that is interested in a good fountain pen, Ana matched up the Pilot Retro Pop Metropolitan with inks. She also recommends a matching Rhodiarama notebook. I think the Pilot Metropolitan is a great gift or first pen since the quality is high. I would add a recommendation to get a box of Pilot ink cartridges in case the person may not want to fiddle with bottled ink all the time or don’t want to use the colored ink. Unfortunately they are proprietary cartridges.

I often see a Lamy Safari recommended as a gift. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first fountain pen since some people don’t like the grip, plus I’ve found the nibs to be inconsistent.

Ed Jelley has published his gift guide which I would consider more traditional and, unlike the Pen Addict list, targeted to fountain pen users as the recipient.

If you’re into giving matched sets, Goulet Pens has put together 10 of them, each with a theme and a discount for the package.

Here in the U.S. the holiday shopping season kicks off in full force with tomorrows Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll be sitting home enjoying my fountain pens, rather than fighting the crowds. But if you’ll be shopping the Pen Addict, Well-Appointed Desk, Ed Jelley and Goulet Pens have good lists to get you going.

Giveaway Reminder & Happy Thanksgiving

Current giveaway entriesThere’s less than a week left to get your giveaway entry in. It’s probably too late (but maybe not) for those outside the US to get their entry in by Monday, but there’s still time for those in the US. I’ve received 27 entries so far, seven of them from outside the US.

I’ve been bad and have yet to rad any of the entries but plan to do so in the next few days. I also got some postcards and plan to send a reply back to you all. Postcards are small, but it’s more than I usually do and hopefully it’ll be a stepping stone to full blown letters.

To those of you in the US (or anywhere else that celebrates it) – Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday Notes and Links

No favorite pen and ink this week, right to the links…

Fountain Pen Review: Carolina Pen Company Charleston – The Pen Habit // A nice, conservative custom fountain pen

Review: Baron Fig Apprentice — nib & ink // I’ve never used a Baron Fig notebook. I’ve been turned off by the philosophical bent to their marketing while lacking specifics, as mentioned in this review.

Baron Fig Special Edition 2016 Confidant Planner – Inktronics // Another Baron Fig review, this time a planner.

New Tricks: Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Notebooks – From the Pen Cup // A nice looking pocket notebook, to bad I don’t need yet another pocket notebook.

Travelers Company Caravan – // A story worth reading

Currently inked – Inkstained Nib // I always enjoy seeing what people are using.

In Praise of my Completed Rhodia Notepad – A Penchant for Paper // I’m more impressed by all the pages being torn off but saved for posterity

Ipoh and Kuala Sepetang – Part 1 of 4 – Francis THEO // Be sure to check out all the sketches in the series.

Agendio: A New Planner System – The Well-Appointed Desk // I usually ignore custom planners due to their cost. I’ll be spending some time today putting together and ordering one of these.

OMAS Extra Lucens and Lucens Fountain Pen Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT – // Some nice looking vintage Italians

Forest Choice Medium Flex Notebook Review – Pens! Paper! Pencils! // No surprise that a pencil company’s notebooks aren’t fountain pen friendly.

Review: FPR Indus — Alt. Haven // Another affordable piston filler. Is it worth it? Read the review.

Montblanc has a problem — Pen Economics // A long but interesting read.

Our 2nd Anniversary! – Anderson Pens // Happy Anniversary! Who said B&M pen & stationery stores are a vanishing breed?

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links. If you’re looking for information about a specific pen or ink be sure to visit Pennquod.

Sunday Notes and Links


This week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combination is my Pilot Custom 823 with Pelikan Blue-Black ink. I’ve written most of my pens dry this month and the Pilot Custom 823 is one of the few left with ink. (For me, six is a few, especially when half of them are desk-bound). It’s one of those pens that does everything right except being a colored demonstrator which I dislike. This one fault keeps me from using it, but when I do use it I realize it’s one of the best writing pens that I have. If this pen was solid black, with rhodium trim I might never put it down.

If you missed it, I’m running a giveaway. It runs to the end of the month but getting your entry in will take time, so don’t wait too long. I expected all my readers to already have a fountain pen. I was wrong so I updated the rules to allow them to enter. If you don’t already have a fountain pen check the post for what you need to do to enter.

Some links of interest…

I say NO to Shimmertastic Inks — TooManyInks // Me too. Especially for the third & fourth reasons.

Fountain Pen Revolution Nib Shootout – Hey there! SBREBrown // Worth viewing if you’re interested in FPR pens.

Pen Review: Pelikan M205 Amethyst – The Pen Habit // A nice looking pen. Lucky for there’s enough that I don’t like so I’m not tempted.

Why I use fountain pens – inkstainednib // First post from a new pen blog. Be sure the check out the reviews that have been done.

RECAP: A VISIT TO CONID – The Pencilcase Blog // A nice behind the scenes look.

Fountain Pen Filling Systems – My Pen Needs Ink

Hiroshi’s Pilot – Crónicas Estilográficas

Review: Faber-Castell Basic leather edition — Alt. Haven

Pilot Kakuno Review — The Finer Point

Introducing: The Spreadsheet – // I found a spreadsheet didn’t work for me, but if you think it will work for you then this is a good start.

Pen Review: The Scriptorium Balladeer — The Gentleman Stationer

November Pens And Inks – An Inkophile’s Blog

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links. If you’re looking for information about a specific pen or ink be sure to visit Pennquod.

Favorite 5: Modern Fountain Pens

It’s been over 6 months so it’s time for me to update my Favorite 5 lists, starting with my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens. The rules are the same as when I lasted updated the favorite 5 modern pens list in May. First, the fountain pen has to have been used since the last list update. Second, to be a modern fountain pen it has to have been manufactured after I was born. So in my accumulation that puts the Sheaffer PFM I’s in the transition period and I classify those as vintage since they were probably manufactured before I was born. One of them could have been used to sign my birth certificate, none of the ones listed here could have.

I dropped two pens from May’s list. None of my KarasKustoms Inks have been used since May, so they’re off the list. This surprised me but it was undeniable. The Pelikan M805 Stresemann also left the list and this was a tough decision as it’s been continuously inked since I got it. My recent ink notes cover the reasons why. In short –  I just can’t get past the width of the nib. I go back and forth about getting it ground to either a truer extra fine or even a left oblique. I’m now leaning towards getting it ground and if I did it would probably return to the list.

This is a strictly personal list, I’m not claiming these are the best modern fountain pens, but they are my favorite. On to the pens…

1. Sheaffer Balance Aspen SE

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottleThe Sheaffer Balance Aspen enters its second year as my favorite fountain pen. It’s gorgeous and has a terrific nib. (I did have to have a problematic feed fixed by Mike Masuyama and the nib was tuned at the same time.) Even though it’s officially a medium nib, it’s a very thin medium. Review

2. Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo (Left Oblique nib)

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo with medium left oblique nib and Pilot Blue ink (cartridge, not the bottle shown)This is a new addition to my accumulation and debuts as my second favorite modern fountain pen. While the red bamboo isn’t really bamboo (and not called bamboo in some markets) I can get past that because the pen is gorgeous and feels comfortable in my hand. I enjoy the warm feel of the wooden Vanishing Points over the cold metal versions. The left oblique nib is perfectly suited to the grip of the Vanishing Point, at least for me.

The pen has that new pen glow and the nib benefits from being uncommon in my collection (except for some Easterbrook nibs). This helped it make the list but it’s still a solid choice. This Just In article

3. Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 not postedThe Pilot Custom 823 dropped a spot but it is a solid member of my Fav 5 list. I like the classic cigar shape which is comfortable in my hand. The rest of the design is just “meh” for me and I am getting tired of it. Even though I like brown I’m not a fan of colored demonstrators or gold trim, which pretty much describes this pen. Yet, when I use the pen I forget all that and just enjoy it. The fine nib is a Japanese (read: thin) fine with some spring to it, making it a soft touch. This provides a nearly perfect writing experience. Review

4. Edison Huron Grande

Edison Huron Grande Extra Fine Nib and R&K Blau-Schwarz LE inkThis is my only custom pen. It’s huge and hold about 5 ml of ink. It’s big and bright with a extra fine nib. It’s too big to be a regular carry, but it’s usually at my desk filled with one of my favorite inks. This Just In article

5. Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine with R&K Blau-Schwarz LEAnother new fountain pen that made the list. The Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe joined my accumulation back in July. It’s heavier than my first Pro Gear which is a plus in my book. The thin line of the extra fine nib limits the inks I can use since with my aging eyes the ink has to be dark enough for me to see. Even so, I would not change the nib.

The new pen glow helped this pen make the list. I have to admit its hold on the #5 slot is tenuous and it may be replaced by one of the runners up.

Wrapping Up

There were a couple fountain pens that were close runner ups. The Franklin-Christoph Model 20 was a strong contender, especially the one with the stub nib. The Regency Stripe beat it out because while all these are unlinked, I’m most anxious to ink up the Regency Stripe.

I have two more Sheaffer Balance IIs, either of which could have made the list. They are the same as the Aspen except for the acrylic. They all share the thin medium nib that I like.

Every time I compile this list I wonder why I have 150 fountain pens in my accumulation. If I can pick 5 I should be able to get down to a dozen or so. Nah!

Ink & Pen Notes: Kaweco Brass Sport and Kaweco Red

Kaweco Brass Sport in pen loopI put the Kaweco Red ink cartridge in my Kaweco Brass Sport way back on July 25th, so it took about 3 1/2 months to write dry. This is only the second ink for the pen since I got it.

I like the Kaweco Sport design in general. I really like the Brass Sport. The extra weight and the patina the brass is developing only serve to enhance the pen in my opinion.

The pen doesn’t get much use, even if it is in my pocket every day. Red ink seemed suitable for this pen. I usually have at least one full size pen with me so this gives me an easy to carry pen suitable for marking up other documents. It does mean the ink leaves the pen slowly.

There was a surprising lack of ink in the cap despite all the time spent bouncing around in my pocket and computer bag. I also like carrying it with my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter.

The Kaweco Brass Sport performed well, no hard starts or skipping even when it was unused for over a week. Cleaning was quick and easy, even after nearly four months with red ink in it.

The Kaweco Brass Sport will be returned to the pen case. Of my three Kaweco Sports it will probably be used the most, but it’s time for a little break.

Ink & Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance Aspen and Sailor Skrip Gray

Sheaffer Balance Aspen with Sheaffer Skrip Gray Ink BottleThe Sheaffer Balance Aspen sits solidly atop my favorite 5 modern fountain pens list. The pen has been inked up nearly every day since I got it. Well, more truthfully, every day since I had the feed problem fixed by Mike Masuyama.

Montblanc Permanent Grey is typically my ink of choice for this pen but I decided to change it up a bit this time. I picked Sheaffer Skrip Gray (the old Burgundy bottle version) back on September 19th. It did take awhile to write it dry this time.

I didn’t like the Sheaffer Skrip Gray anywhere near as much as the Montblanc Permanent Grey. I do like gray ink in general and the color of Sheaffer Gray is fine. It’s not great, it doesn’t have much character, but it’s fine. The performance varied based on the paper. It performed really well on Tomoe River paper and provided a very nice writing experience. It was less enjoyable on Doane Paper which is what I typically use. The ink seemed to provide less lubrication and the nib seemed to drag on the paper. This explains why it took so long to write dry, it wasn’t a good choice for my most common paper.

This pen also lasts longer because it’s the one fountain pen I have that I won’t carry out of the house. It’s a beautiful pen but has a reputation of being fragile. So I use it around the house. Even there I keep in in a single pen case that has hard sides.

I do plan to ink the Sheaffer Balance Aspen up again very soon but I did decide to clean it out which was fast and easy. I’m undecided on the next ink but will be one of my favorites I may return to Montblanc Permanent Gray or may switch to Montblanc Bordeaux.