Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

It’s been over a year since my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens list changed. I revisited the list six months ago but decided there weren’t any changes. In the last six months I’ve been almost all modern. Because of this, picking a favorite 5 was a bit easier since by definition (at least my definition) a favorite pen should be one that is used. So I didn’t have to decide from among my entire vintage accumulation. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.

1. Esterbrook J (any of them)

Esterbrook J with 8440 nibI moved the Esterbrook J to the top spot since it was easily the most used vintage pen these past six months. Maybe it’s a cheat since I used several barrels and many different nibs, but that’s what makes the Estie J a favorite. Now that I’ve run through all my nibs (although there are many I don’t have) maybe I can narrow it down to a favorite nib or two (or six) for the next update. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.

2. Sheaffer Balance Lifetime Oversize c1935

Sheaffer Balance Oversize - Marine GreenThis pen gets used so often because of it’s looks. The custom stub nib is a smooth writer. While the stub is far wider than my typical fine or extra fine preference my horizons are expanding and I’ve grown to love this nib. It was a coin toss between this and the Esterbrooks for the top slot. The Esterbrooks won on volume. I was surprised to see I haven’t reviewed this pen. At the very least I need to do a photo post.

3. Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I on a mirrorThis is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe mine were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. Review

4. Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931 with custom stub nib

Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931This ugly pen used to top my Fav 5 list. It’s still a smooth stub nib that I love, but I’ve used it less over the last six months. Review.

5. Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Silver Pearl with Nickel Trim

Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Pearl GreyThis was second vintage pen (an Esterbrook $1 was my first) and it’s still a favorite. I love the vintage Vacumatic finishes and this one is in pretty good shape. I haven’t used it recently but since this article jogged my memory I’ll be inking it up.

Wrapping Up

The Parker Duofold Senior c1928 (Big Red) is a sentimental favorite but it was reluctantly dropped from the list in favor of the Sheaffer PFM I. Big Red leaks a bit around the nib which has kept me from using it. But I have to admit, sentiment aside I’d have to pick the PFM over Big Red even if it didn’t leak. The other four pens were on my first Fav 5 list although they’ve swapped positions around. What’s your favorite vintage pen?

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Favorite 5: Modern Fountain Pens

It’s been over six months since my last Fav 5 modern fountain pen list so nows a good time for an update. I’ve been almost exclusively modern for the last six months so this is where I have the most change. For the record, my definition of modern is and pen that’s not vintage. In other words, any pen manufactured after I was born.

1. Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE

Sheaffer Balance II AspenThis one came out of nowhere and took the crown. The pen is beautiful and I just smile as I use it. While its medium nib wouldn’t be my normal choice my horizons are expanding. The nib and flow were tuned by Mike Masuyama so it writes as good as it looks. I’m glad I resisted the urge to have him grind it to an extra fine. Review

2. Lamy 2000

Capped Lamy 2000 on marblesAnother new addition to the list and another Mike Masuyama tuned nib. I love holding the pen and writing with it. The material has a unique look and feel. Myke voiced his opinion on this pen on a recent Pen Addict podcast and I couldn’t agree more. Every last detail of this pen contributes to a great experience. Review

3. Franklin-Christoph Model 66

Franklin-Christoph Model 66My nib on a stick and the only fountain pen to be on this list since the beginning. This fountain pen just writes and it does it well. The simple design is so comfortable. There’s a new Ice version but for me this pen must be black. The Model 66, along with R&K Blau-Schwarz ink, gives the lie to the statement that inks can’t stay in a pen for a year. This pen has gone over a year with regular use, but no cleaning and has never failed to perform. Review

4. Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 not postedThe Pilot Custom 823 drops from the top of the list but it’s just as good as it ever was. It’s been inked often but I just haven’t reached for it as much as the top 3 pens. Review

5. Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood

Pilot Vanishing Point Maple Wood 2013 Limited EditionThis has all the benefits if the Vanishing Point but the wood barrel is so much more comfortable. Plus, it’s just a tad bigger. The interchangeable nib units are a nice bonus. Review

Wrapping Up

Trimming this list to five fountain pens wasn’t easy. I ended up picking the pens I’ve been reaching for lately. If they’re favorites they should be the pens I use most. Right? I feel I should pick honorable mentions but that would defeat the purpose of the list, so add your favorites to the comments.

Sunday Notes and Links

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen on eagleI usually try to change up my fountain pen from day to day and I typically gravitate to one pen over the others. But this week I kept right on using the Karas Kustoms Ink until I wrote it dry. No other pen really had a chance to become a favorite this week, so the Karas Kustoms Ink repeats as my favorite for a second week.

So links of interest from the past week…

Pelikan Maki-e Unique Collection Auction 2014 – The Pelikan’s Perch // Beautiful but expensive fountain pens.

Scottsdale Pen Company – My Local Brick and Mortar – The Clicky Post // I wish I had one of these I could call local.

Caran d’Ache Divine Pink – Inkdependence! // The name doesn’t seem to mach the color.

Ink Review – J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune – Fountain Pen Physicist // I think I like this ink although I’m not sure why. I may have to try it.

Are you a pen person, the vocabulary version. – Leigh Reyes. My Life As a Verb. // Well, are you?

Baron Fig Apprentice Review — Modern Stationer // A new entry in the pocket notebook arena. I don’t need one but I’ll probably try one (or 1 three pack) eventually.

Maruman Mnemosyne N196 Notebook Review — The Pen Addict // I love Steno style notebooks and use one as my daily notetaker. The Doane Jotter is my standard and the Maruman may be too expensive for what I use it for. But I’ll certainly keep it in mind.

Sailor King of Pen Fountain Pen (video) – Hey there! SBREBrown // I love the look of this pen, but not the price.

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links

Sunday Notes and Links

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen uncappedMy favorite pen of the last week was the one that just arrived this week. The Karas Customs Ink with Montblanc Mystery Black is almost through its first converter fill. It’s a big pen, and while it is heavy it isn’t as heavy as its solid steel bar looks make it out to be. I still haven’t used it for longer than about 20 minutes at one time, but I haven’t felt any fatigue.

Some links I found interesting this past week…

Modern Stationer – // I’m trying to make my podcast listening less tech-centric and this looks like a good addition*

Commonplace Book Ideas – The Well-Appointed Desk // Some good journaling ideas

Take a 10 minute survey to win great Pelikan prizes! – FPGeeks // Interesting survey which doesn’t take long to fill out.

Parker Quink Blue Black ink review – Peninkcillin // I don’t see many reviews of this ink. I tried it once myself but wasn’t impressed

M201 – No, It’s Not a Typo – The Pelikan’s Perch

Kaweco ink cartridge giveaway – Pens! Paper! Pencils! // I have a rather large supply of Kaweco cartridges and enjoy the ink. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you win.

Epic ink test, R1M6 – Fountain Pen Physicist // Six months, more patience than I have.

Collectible: Peter Pan fountain pen – On Fountain Pens

Anyone for Terry’s? A short review of Cult Pens/Diamine ‘deep dark orange’ – A fool with a pen

Lamy 80 Fountain Pen Review / Lamy 80 Dolmakalem – Write to Me Often // A thinner Lamy 2000

The Basics: Cleaning A Fountain Pen With A Converter – Gourmet Pens

Doane Paper Utility Journal: Large Size — The Gentleman Stationer // I’ve always loved the paper and I’m learning to like the size. I just added a few to my stash.

Visconti Opera Master Demo Fountain Pen – Hey there! SBREBrown // A beautiful pen

The full list of links can be found at fountain pen links.

This Just In: Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen on eagle I backed the Ink fountain pen from Karas Customs last December. Like other Kickstarter projects I’ve backed, the pen was late, but it’s here now. Here are my first impressions after using the pen for an hour or two.

This is Karas Customs first fountain pen but their fourth Kickstarter pen and sixth KS project overall. I backed at the early bird level for the silver anodized aluminum fountain pen. The pen is available in a rollerball version but that was meaningless to me.

It’s been awhile since I backed the project so I had forgotten what to expect. My first reaction was “Holy @$%@, that’s big!” The pen arrived in three parts: pen body (and cap), gripping section/nib and the converter. Each part was sealed in it’s own plastic pouch. Assembly and filling instructions were included along with a discount code for an second Ink. Even though it arrived in pieces (probably because a rollerball version was available and would have had a different section). Assembly was easy and no different than most fountain pens these days. The section just screws into the barrel.

I decided to skip the pre-ink cleaning which is what I think most people will do. I immediately filled it with Montblanc Mystery Black. When I first started writing the pen felt strange. Not uncomfortable, just strange. I finally figured out the my hand didn’t like the difference between the gripping section width and the width of the barrel. I got used to it after about a page of writing and don’t notice it anymore. The threads are big and a little sharp, but the section is long enough so that my grip doesn’t rest directly on the threads.

The fine nib is made by Schmidt. Flow is good. It’s not the smoothest steel nib I have but it is smooth. A look through a loupe shows that the tines are slightly misaligned. I haven’t experienced any skipping with the pen and I wouldn’t call the nib scratchy so the misalignment isn’t significant.

The pen is big and heavy, although the pen body is not as heavy as it looks and it’s very comfortable to write with. I’ve only written a few pages so I can’t really speak to fatigue, but I don’t expect it to be a problem. The pen cap feels heavier than the body but this is an allusion created by having most of the weight in the clip. The pen body is 26 grams (with the converter and ink) and the cap is 16 grams. I don’t post my pens and this one is plenty long enough to use unposted. The cap does post but it doesn’t feel secure to me. Plus, the cap makes the pen very long and very top heavy. With much of that weight in the clip I also find it unbalanced.

Speaking of the clip, I love the look of the clip but it’s solid aluminum with no spring to it. Because of this it won’t grip the material unless its thick enough. It’s secure in the shirt pocket I have today because the material is folded over and sewn at the top. It may be less secure in the typical dress shirt pocket. There’s also no give for really thick material but in my case it does fit in a Franklin-Christoph Penvelope case which is probably the thickest material I’ll encounter.

Overall the Ink has a machined look to it which I like. It both looks and feels solidly built. The aluminum finish does collect fingerprints but they aren’t too distracting and I do have to look closely to see them.

My early bird price was $60 and at that price the Karas Customs Ink fountain pen is a terrific value. At the regular pledge price of $70 it’s still an excellent value. Brass and copper sections do cost a bit more. They still aren’t up on the Karas Customs website so the final price is unknown, but I’d say anything under $100 is a good value. The fit and finish are great and the pen feels like it will last forever.

Update: After storing the pen nib up overnight it didn’t start in the morning. I ended up having to prime the feed. Since this hasn’t been a problem with the ink in other pens I suspect there’s some manufacturing oil in the pen and a cleaning would have been better rather than jumping right in.

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen uncapped

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9788 Flexible Medium

Esterbrook #9788 nibNext up in my Esterbrook nib list is the Esterbrook #9788 Flexible Medium nib. Like all 9xxx series nibs it’s one of the nibs Esterbrook called a “Master DuraCrome Nib.” It’s osmiridium tipped. Osmiridium is what Esterbrook called the tipping material although it’s probably mostly iridium. At that time osmiridium wasn’t clearly defined and was an alloy of different metals. Iridium was one of those materials although there wasn’t any standard for the mix of metals.

Esterbrook promoted the pen as being for “shaded writing”, at least on nib charts from the 1950s. The box I have is labeled both “Flexible Medium” and “Shaded Writing.”

There is some flex in the nib, as the name implies. I’m not proficient at using flexible nibs so I’m not the best judge, so take this for what it’s worth. It’s a steel nib so there’s not a great deal of flex. The tines do spread with pressure and variation in line width is possible. Ink flow is excellent and I didn’t have any problems when flexing the nib. I also found the nib enjoyable to use normally (no flex). I’d pick it over the #9668 that I have. There’s slightly more ink flow and I like the line better. Of course, I may say the opposite with a wetter, more free flowing ink.

My particular nib has the final feed design and the Esterbrook name and nib number are engraved the length of the nib. Aesthetically I prefer this lengthwise engraving over engraving across the nib.

My particular nib was an eBay purchase and was new-old-stock (NOS) and arrived with the box. Prices seemed to have spiked since I got my nib. I found current eBay buy it now prices of $75. Anderson Pens prices the nib at $45 but it’s out of stock.

As I also said with the #9688 nib, the #9788 is a very nice medium. I’d pick the #9788 over the #9688 if price wasn’t considered. With the Esterbrook #9788 currently selling for five times the #9688 I’d be hard pressed to justify it’s purchase unless my skills with flex nibs dramatically improve. I’d also think skilled flex writers could do better with some other vintage flex pen for about the same money. So my Esterbrook #9788 Flexible Medium is a keeper, but not one I’d replace if it’s lost or damaged.

This is the last of my Esterbrook nibs, so the last nib notes. At least until I find some more. You can find all the, nibs and links to their nib notes on my Esterbrook Nibs accumulation page.

Gallery

Sunday Notes and Links

Rotring 600 Lava and Athena Sepia InkThis week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combo was the Rotring 600 Lava with Athena Sepia ink. Both are new to me. The Rotring 600 has an extremely smooth nib, so smooth I can forgive it for being a medium. The Athena Sepia ink has a nice color and puts down a line true to the nib width.

For a full list of the fountain pen related articles I read this week you can visit Fountain Pen Links. The ones I especially enjoyed are:

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age Fountain Pen Review – edjelley.com // I love the look of these pens although I prefer the silver trim of the Steel Age.

Sailor Kingdom Note Tanna Japonensis – inklode // A very nice looking green that is unfortunately only available in Japan.

Pen Shows: What To Expect, What To Do – Hey there! SBREBrown // Good video explaining what to expect when going to a pen show

Montblanc 149 Meisterstück Fountain Pen Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT // Good review of a less than ideal pen and pen purchase.

Faber-Castell Basic Fountain Pen in Carbon Fibre – East…West…Everywhere // My particular FC Basic also had a smooth nib but started leaking so it’s waiting for me to look at it.

Review: Clairefontaine ME Notebooks – The Well-Appointed Desk // I use both digital and paper, yet I’ve skipped any notebooks that try to link the two. These notebooks take a different slant on the linkage.

Doane Paper Utility Notebook Review — The Pen Addict // My favorite pocket notebooks.

Notebooking Strategies — The Gentleman Stationer // I’m still trying to figure this out. I have the work notebook, a scratchpad and recently a journal.

Heart & Soul: A Visit to Write Notepads & Co. – From the Pen Cup // A look at one notebook manufacturer.

Esterbrook J – Thepencilcaseblog // Interesting story of a first Esterbrook purchase