Review: Caran d’Ache Dunas

Capped Caran d'Ache Dunas uncapped on pen stand

I pulled the Caran d’Ache Dunas from long term storage (a.k.a. – out of sight, out of mind) so I could give it a spin and a quick review. I can’t remember the last time I used this fountain pen. That’s not due to a bad memory, it’s been years since I inked up this pen. I didn’t find it on the Caran d’Ache website and it’s not produced anymore. I did find it listed as in stock from Pen Boutique and I found some forum comments saying it was purchased this year, so it does still seem to be around at some retailers. Current prices are just under $100. Recent eBay sales ranged from $71 to $125 although those were for different finishes.

Why I Got It

I bought the pen in late 2005, about two years after I got the Caran d’Ache Ivanhoe which was my first Caran d’Ache fountain pen and one of my first really nice (read that as “expensive”) fountain pens. While it is nothing like the much more expensive Ivanhoe, I had already picked up a second Caran d’Ache (a Geneve) which was also a great writer. I had high hopes for a budget priced Caran d’Ache. At the time the pen was $68, which is only budget when considering the Caran d’Ache premium.

I also liked the red finish which was unique in my accumulation at the time. The design was just different enough to catch my eye.

What I Got

Uncapped Caran d'Ache Dunas uncapped on pen standWhile described as a high quality resin, my shiny red Dunas has a very cheap plastic feel. And yes, “shiny red” is the official color name. Despite the plastic feel the pen is solidly built.

The cap and barrel have a hexagonal shape although the barrel becomes more rounded towards the end. The shapes prevents the pen from rolling. The cap end is flattened, angled and has the Caran d’Ache logo emblazoned on it. A band around the barrel has the Caran d’Ache name engraved. It’s a nice looking design that elevates itself above the cheap feel of the pen.

It’s a snap on cap and while it seals tightly it easily rotates on the barrel when capped. The cap doesn’t post securely unless it’s pushed down hard on the barrel. Very hard which might eventually crack the cap since there’s no cap band. This isn’t a concern since I don’t post my pens. I believe the pen has Caran d’Ache’s lifetime warranty although I don’t have the original paperwork so this may not be a concern for anyone. It’s a little strange that it doesn’t post very well since the barrel is round where the cap posts.

It’s a medium steel nib and as far as I can tell, a medium nib is the only option. It may have been offered in other nib widths, but I’ve only ever seen medium and it was the only option when I bought mine. The nib is silver with the Caran d’Ache logo engraved on it along with some other ornamentation. All the furniture is also silver.

I don’t remember much about the packaging, but a converter was included. From some forum posts or reviews a converter isn’t always included.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4085″ (137.37 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.79″ (121.67 mm)
  • Length Posted: 5.9600″ (151.38 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.9150″ (23.24 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.3215″ (8.16 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below barrel): 0.395″ (9.99 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3530″ (8.96 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.46″ (11.69 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4610″ (11.71 mm)
  • Weight: 16g (no ink or converter)
  • Weight (body only): 1g (no ink or converter)

Writing With The Pen

Dunas nib closeupThe snap on cap does seal securely but the pen can still be uncapped with one hand. The clip has a little spring to it and it slides easily into and out of most of my pockets. I usually require two hands to slip the pen into my pocket since the clip is a bit stiff and sits right against the cap.

The pen is just a little small for my comfort since I generally like larger pens. It’s not what I would consider a small pen, it’s just I prefer larger pens.

The section is long enough for my grip but my thumb just touches the step between the barrel and the section. The step isn’t sharp so it’s not noticeable.

The pen is much too light for my tastes and a little on the thin side. Pens with both these attributes usually become quickly uncomfortable when I use them. This pen is no different although it did seem to last longer than most, probably because of the nib.

And what a nib it is. The medium steel nib is extremely smooth and it certainly enhances the writing experience that this pen delivers. I didn’t experience any skipping or false starts. It is a stiff nib but that’s a benefit for me.

The only problem I had was ink clinging to the converter when I stored the pen nib up for over a day. Well, the ink always clung to the converter but storing nib up seemed to get enough out of the feed to cause starting problems when I picked up the pen after a couple days.

Inks Used & Cleaning the Pen

I used Waterman Black while using the pen for this review. There’ weren’t any problems and it was easily flushed from the pen. It’s been a very long time since I previously use the pen and I have no idea what inks I used in the past. But I don’t have any memories of problems with the pen.

I did have the previously mentioned problem with the ink clinging to the converter. This was only a problem if the pen was stored nib up for a couple of days. When it was I had to help the ink saturate the feed as gravity wasn’t doing it fast enough for me.

Wrapping Up

There’s nothing fatally wrong with the Caran d’Ache Dunas fountain pen. It’s got a great, smooth nib and the design is a little different than other pens which gives the Dunas some appeal. Despite this it’s not a keeper.

The pen has a cheap feel to it even though it’s actually solidly built. But the fatal flaws, at least for me, are that it’s too small and too light.

The value of this pen is debatable. While this pen has one of the best steel nibs I’ve used, if not the best, and has a lifetime warranty, it seems far too expensive at the $90+ prices I’ve seen currently. Recent eBay sales of around $70 are more reasonable (and close to what I paid 9 years ago), but these days there are some very nice pens and nibs for about half the price. The Faber-Castell Basic has a comparable nib and sells for around $35. Even though I say the pen feels cheap (and it does) it is in fact well built, with a good fit and finish, so it will last a long time. That certainly justifies a higher price.

Even though it isn’t a keeper for me, if you have small hands (or like smallish pens) and like extremely light pens you won’t be disappointed with the Caran d’Ache Dunas.

Additional Reading

Caran d’Ache Dunas Review – The Fountain Pen Network

Gallery

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Review: KarasKustoms Ink

Four KarasKustoms InksKarasKustoms is well known in the pen community for their machined rollerball pens. They launched 3 rollerballs on Kickstarter, all of which received great reviews. I was always attracted to the machined look of the pens along with their choice of materials. Despite this, I’ve never bought one because, well, rollerball. But I was immediately attracted to their fourth pen design, the Ink, which was offered in both fountain pen and rollerball versions. I quickly backed at the early bird level for one silver anodized aluminum fountain pen.

After getting, and using, my first Ink I added another fountain pen and two rollerballs to my accumulation. An thanks to a black Friday sale at KarasKustoms (which runs through December 1st so there’s still time to get the 20% discount if you’re reading this on the day I publish this. Use coupon code “blackfriday”) I’ve ordered both another fountain pen and a rollerball. So while the pens aren’t perfect It’s obvious I like them.

The Kickstarter pen was a few months late, as I’ve come to expect from Kickstarter. The pens I ordered directly from KarasKustoms shipped quickly.

Why I Got Them

I love the industrial look of machined pens and aluminum, my raw aluminum AL Sport is a favorite. So the aluminum Kickstarter fountain pen was a no brainer. The size of the pen also seemed perfect for me. I was also intrigued by the Rollerball since it used the Schmidt P8126 refill which is my refill of choice in my Retro 51 pens. But I decided to stick with the one pen since I didn’t have any experience with KarasKustoms pens. (So unfamiliar that I spelled their name wrong when previously writing about them.)

The Kickstarter pen arrived and it included a discount code for a second pen. After a couple days of use I used the code to order a green rollerball version with a brass gripping section. The barrels, caps and gripping sections are all interchangeable so I could mix and match. To be clear, the rollerball section remains a rollerball and the fountain pen section remains a fountain pen, but they can we swapped to different barrels and the caps can also be swapped among the barrels.

The finish on the green rollerball was stunning so I wanted more. I used the Pen Addict discount code and ordered another two pens, one fountain pen and one rollerball. The rollerball was red with an aluminum section and the fountain pen was orange (but more on this later) with a copper section and a medium nib.

This weekend I ordered a blue fountain pen with a brass gripping section and a medium nib. I also ordered a black rollerball with a copper gripping section. This will give me a gripping section in each material for each pen type but not quite all the available colors. Ok, I’m a little obsessed. I’ll update this review after those pens arrive and I’ve used them a bit.

What I Got

The packaging is about as minimal as can be. The pen parts are sealed in plastic pouches which are wrapped in packing paper for protection. The only box is the shipping box. At least there’s no decision as to whether or not to save the box.

The Ink parts

The barrel, rollerball and fountain pen packaging.

The caps, barrels and sections are all interchangeable but here’s the pens as I ordered them. While I’ve yet to do it, the nibs can also be swapped between the fountain pen gripping sections. Insomnia has some nib swap instructions.

  • Silver aluminum fountain pen with an aluminum gripping section and a fine nib.
  • Green aluminum rollerball with a brass section. I ordered this one with a black ink refill.
  • Red aluminum rollerball with a aluminum gripping section. I ordered this one with a blue ink refill.
  • Orange (light orange) aluminum fountain pen with a copper gripping section and a medium nib. I ordered this pen as a orange model. What I got wasn’t what expected and appeared more gold than orange. In fact, when I checked the website after the pen arrived I saw orange was no longer an option, although gold is. I don’t remember if gold was an option when I ordered, but the photo does include a pen that is clearly bright orange along with one that seems a closer match to the pen I received. I didn’t immediately contact KarasKustoms because I really like the gold, especially with the copper section, and wanted to keep it. I don’t know if they changed the anodizing (which I’ve heard) or sent me the wrong pen. I did send a note this past weekend asking for clarification on the color and I’ll update this review when I hear back. (I heard back, and as mentioned in the comments it was confirmed the pen I got was officially orange. But I forever be calling it gold.) But if you see orange listed in the future and want bright orange  you may want to contact them before ordering. My pen looks gold in bright, direct light but does appear a light orange in indirect and subdued light. If I had to guess I got what they are now calling gold. But until I learn different I’ll call it orange in this review.

The fit was excellent in all the pens except the green rollerball with the brass section. The cap was very tight to screw off (and on). What’s confusing, at least to me, is that the green cap fits perfectly on all the other barrels and all the other caps fit perfectly on the green barrel. The green cap has smoothed out a little but remains tight on the green body. I may eventually add a little silicone grease to help things along.

Both fountain pen nibs were smooth out of the box, I mean bag. The nibs, and converter, are made by Schmidt. The nib is a #5 nib, Schmidt part number FH241. I didn’t clean either fountain pen before using it. The fine nib had some minor skipping which went away after the first cleaning. It wasn’t bad enough to cause me to flush the pen before I wrote it dry, but there must have been some residual manufacturing residue.

The steel nibs are all silver with a lot of ornamental engraving. The fine has a large “F” on it and the medium has a large “M”. The nib seems just a tad small for a pen this large, but I am partial to big nibs.

The pens are identical except for the gripping section. Well, except for the obvious fountain pen / rollerball difference. The gripping section material also changes the weight with the aluminum being lighter than the brass and copper. My aluminum rollerball section is 2 grams, the brass is 10 grams. I wasn’t forward thinking enough to weigh the fountain pen sections before inking them up so no separate weights for them.

The brass and copper sections should develop a nice patina over time. The aluminum section might not be the best choice for dipping in some of the more caustic inks. Although the inks I use should be find and I do clean off the section right after each fill.

KarasKustoms Inks ready to write

The pen is $85 with the aluminum gripping section. The brass section is $10 more and the copper is $20 more. Shipping is extra. If you missed the black Friday sale check the previously linked Pen Addict podcast for a coupon code, it may still be valid. Fountain pens and rollerballs are the same price.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4288″ (137.80 mm)
  • Length Uncapped (fountain pen): 4.9330″ (125.30 mm)
  • Length Uncapped (rollerball): 4.7965″ (121.83 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.9″ (175 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.8360″ (21.23 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.4135″ (10.50 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4130″ (10.49 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3730″ (9.47 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5785″ (14.61 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.5785″ (14.61 mm) The barrel is tapered.

The weight of each of the pens with ink and converter is…

* Orange (very light) / copper section / fountain pen: 50g w/cap, 32g w/o cap

* Red / aluminum section / rollerball: 46g w/cap, 28g w/o cap

* Green / brass section / rollerball: 52g w/cap, 36g w/o cap

* Silver / aluminum section / fountain pen: 42g, 26g w/o cap

Using The Pen

Four capped InksThe pen is big, no hiding that fact. But being made of aluminum the pen is lighter than I expected. That doesn’t mean it’s a light pen as you can see from the weights. The brass and copper gripping sections do add weight to the pen and the difference is noticeable when holding the pens. The pens are well balanced with all of the section materials.

The pen does post, although I’d be concerned the cap threads would scratch the barrel finish. I don’t post my pens so this isn’t a concern for me. The pen is certainly big enough to be used unposted. Even though the cap adds significant weight and length the pen still seems well balanced when posted. But that’s the opinion of someone who doesn’t post his pens.

The pen really isn’t a shirt pocket pen, at least in my opinion. It’s a bit bigger and heavier than I’d prefer in my shirt pocket. Plus, the rigid clip doesn’t adapt to the material it’s clipped over. It will either fit your pocket material or it won’t. In the case of my green pen, where the clip presses right against the barrel, it is difficult sliding it over even the thinnest material. The other clips can slide of of my pocket when the material is thin. On the positive side, they work well in my Franklin-Christoph Penvelope and Nock Co Lookout pen cases where the material has some stiffness to it, even if it is thick.

The cap takes a full 1 3/4 turns to remove or replace. Except for the previously mentioned green pen the threads are very smooth.

Both the fine and medium nibs were very smooth out of the bag. Both the converters have had the relatively common problem of ink clinging to it and not flowing to the feed. This has been minor and only required manual correction a couple of times. As it happens, I’ve only used Montblanc inks in the pens and they tend to be on the dry side which probably contributes to the converter/ink issue. The pen will take international cartridges but none are included with the pen and I haven’t used any. The barrel seems big enough for long cartridges.

The pen is almost perfect for my hand. My thumb and finger does touch the threads on the barrel but they don’t bother me. There’s also a step between the barrel and the gripping section but again, it doesn’t bother me. The gripping section is concave which makes it comfortable to grip. I’ve written for over an hour with both the aluminum and copper fountain pen gripping section and haven’t felt any fatigue. I do find large pens more comfortable and the weight doesn’t bother me. I find the weight makes me feel like I can control the pen without having to grip as tightly. I haven’t written with the rollerball versions for more than a few minutes at a time but they feel just as comfortable.

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen uncappedThe silver pen was the first one I received and it has begun to show some scratches from use. I like that in a silver aluminum pen and think it gives it personality. My other pens haven’t shown any wear and tear yet. I prefer to keep the colored versions scratch free so we’ll see how it goes. I don’t abuse my pens but I also don’t treat them with kid gloves either. The silver version may have spent time in my pocket with keys or bouncing around my bag. The colors have stayed in cases or pen stands.

Cleaning The Pen

It’s a cartridge/converter pen so cleaning it is easy. I haven’t tried to remove the nib for cleaning and don’t really see where that would be necessary unless the ink is allowed to dry out in the pen. The ink was quickly flushed out of the pen with a bulb syringe.

Inks Used

Montblanc Mystery Black with the fine nib. This had good flow and was easy to clean. The fine nib put down a nice dark line that was true to the nib size. This is the ink that had a little skipping but I attribute that to left over manufacturing residue since I didn’t clean the pen first.

Montblanc Permanent Black with the fine nib. This also had good flow and put down a nice dark line. I’ve yet to clean this ink from the pen but I don’t expect any problems.

Montblanc Permanent Blue with the medium nib. Again, good flow and a nice dark line true to the nib size. I’ve yet to clean this ink from the pen but I don’t expect any problems.

Wrapping Up

The pen isn’t perfect and it’s certainly not for everyone. If you like small or thin pens the Ink isn’t for you. But with four in hand and two more on the way it’s clearly a favorite of mine. The refill used attracted me to the rollerball side of the equation. It’s the same refill as my Retro 51s but in a pen I find much more comfortable to use. Another plus is the interchangeable parts so I can use the rollerball bodies with the fountain pen sections. Myke of the Pen Addict likes to mix and match caps and barrels. Me, I like consistency in my caps and barrels, but I do like variety.

Like I said, the pen isn’t perfect. My green/brass rollerball does show there are some possible inconsistencies in the manufacturing (tighter clip and threads). My ordering an orange version and getting a color closer to gold may have been a problem for some people, but I’ve grown to really like the gold (and recommend the copper section with it). Plus, the website seems to have resolved that issue since orange is no longer available to order.

At $85 the pen isn’t cheap but it is a fair value. The optional gripping section materials are also a good value. If you can use a coupon code it’s an even better value.

The KarasKustoms Ink is a keeper, both as a fountain pen and a rollerball.

Additional Reading

Inkredible? A short review of the Karas Kustoms Ink fountain pen at A Fool With A Pen

Karas Kustoms Ink Review at Modern Stationer – He also ordered the orange but received a golden pen.

Gallery

You know when I said I’ll call my pen orange in the review since it’s what I ordered. I kind of of lied. I’m calling it gold in the photos.

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.

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Review: Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona

Pelikan Piazza Navona posted on mirrorThe Pelikan Piazza Navona is one of Pelikan’s City Series Pens. Back around 2004 these pens caught my interest and I eventually added three of them to my accumulation. My tastes do change from time to time but the Piazza Navona is my current favorite.

I originally bought this pen with a factory broad nib. Since broad nibs don’t appeal to me these days I had Mike Masuyama stub the nib at the 2013 DC pen show. It seems sacrilegious to take the tipping all the way down to a fine or extra fine so I stuck with a stub to add a little character.

The Piazza Navona was built by the Roman emperor Domitian in 86 AD. The color of the pen is taken from the tan colored marble of a central fountain (Fountain of the Four Rivers) built in 1651 by Lorenzo Bernini.

The Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona was the Pelikan City Series pen released in 2005. This pen extended the series to include a “most famous places” theme rather than a city. The City Series pens were all limited editions. They weren’t numbered or promoted as limited, but once the manufacturing run was sold out that was it.

Why I got It

The pen is gorgeous and I liked the Pelikan nib from my first City Edition. At the time I enjoyed broad nibs although I wasn’t using them as a daily driver. Plus, the pen was reasonably priced.

What I Got

Pelikan Piazza Navona penI lost the box and enclosures when a broken pipe flooded a storage closet. But if memory serves it was a simple clamshell box that included a pamphlet about the inspiration for the pen.

The fountain pen is a translucent resin. This gives the pen the appearance of depth in the design and does give it a marbled look. The design is beautifully subtle. There’s no ink window but the translucence allows me to see the ink level. The nib is 18 kt. gold with rhodium plating. The broad nib was smooth out of the box. I bought the pen from Fountain Pen Hospital which doesn’t tune the nibs prior to shipping, so I received it as shipped by Pelikan.

The pen has gold trim which works well with the brown resin. The nib is two-tone gold and silver with substantial engraving. I prefer a simpler nib design but I’ve gotten used to this and never considered it gaudy.

The fountain pen is a piston converter. The piston knob, along with the section are glossy black. I’ve gotten used to this but would have preferred the piston knob match the tan resin.

Like all my Pelikans the piston is smooth and easily pulls in a lot of ink. One stroke completely fills the ink chamber. The nib can be unscrewed for cleaning or to replace with a different nib.

The Pelikan logo is on the cap jewel and is more tan than gold, which looks good. The clip is the traditional Pelikan beak shape. The gold cap band has “PELIKAN SOUVERAN GERMANY” engraved on it.

The cap is more translucent than the barrel and the resin feels thinner. The cap does feel fragile but it has held up well over the years. I don’t post my fountain pens so I can’t say if the resin would hold up with repeated posting, but the cap band would provide support.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.2445″ (133.21 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.8610″ (123.46 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.0640″ (154.02 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.5450″ (13.84 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.39″ (9.90 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4165″ (10.57 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3985″ (10.12 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5480″ (13.92 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4935″ (12.53 mm)
  • Weight: 16 grams
  • Weight (body only): 10 grams

Writing with the Pen

Pelikan Piazza Navona nibWhile the pen came to me with a broad nib that was smooth out of the box, it was both wide and boring so I had stopped using it.

Even though I hold the pen wrong for a traditional stub I had Mike Masuyama stub the nib at the 2013 Washington DC Pen Show. Because of the way I hold the pen I get thin down strokes and wide cross strokes with the stub, the opposite of what’s expected. But it works for me, I still get some nice variation.

The cap can be removed with less than one full rotation, I’d estimate a 315° turn. Even though I can remove the cap quickly, making it ideal for note taking, the nib is too wide for me to use this pen for general note taking. I typically use the Piazza Navona for longer, sit down writing sessions, such as the first draft of this review. The pen is great for these longer sessions. The pen is light and yet a good size for my hand. It’s long enough to be used unposted.

The piston filler hold enough ink for me to get through many long writing sessions. According to Pelikan the M600 line holds 1.75 ml of ink, which is over twice the ink of a short international cartridge. This is more than I would have guessed so I did some more searching and found a 1.37ml capacity listed at Pelikan’s Perch which is closer to my estimate.

The nib is smooth and the feed easily keeps up, even with fast writing. This was true even before the nib grind. I did ask for the nib to be tuned on the dry side. While I’ve become more open to wetter nibs that’s mainly for thinner nibs. I’m very happy with the way this nib writes. The original Pelikan broad nib was definitely wetter.

The threads are just above the section, which isn’t very big, so my fingers do rest on the threads. They aren’t sharp and don’t bother me at all.

The cap does post securely. Since the cap is so light the pen does remain well balanced when posted. Still, I use the pen unposted.

Inks Used

I’ve long forgotten what inks were used before 2013. But I don’t recall any problem inks.

Mike Masuyama filled the pen with an unknown blue-black for testing (I’m sure he knew the brand, but I didn’t ask). The ink wrote well and I didn’t have a reason to flush the ink.

R&K Scabiosa also spent some time in the pen. Since it’s an iron gall ink I gave the pen a short fill. The ink always seemed like it was about to skip but it never actually skipped. The pen and ink didn’t combine for a joyful writing experience. It wasn’t bad enough to flush the ink, but it won’t be back in the pen.

Graf von Faber-Castell Hazelnut Brown proved to be the perfect ink for this pen. The ink is sometimes thin on the paper but this was only apparent on Doane Paper. The blue grid lines would sometimes show through the writing, giving the appearance of skipping. But it was only the appearance. On non-grid paper the ink looks great. The same thinness that allows the grid to show through gives it some very nice shading. Plus, the ink color matches the pen.

Pelikan Piazza Navona cap jewel

Cleaning the Pen

Like any piston filler the pen is cleaned by cycling clean water through the pen. It’s tedious to work the piston for continuous fills and flushes, but it’s not hard. The nib can be unscrewed and removed to make cleaning easier although I prefer to avoid disassembly, even when it’s easy. There’s less chance of accidents this way.

Wrapping Up

The Pelikan Piazza Navona is one of my favorite pens based on looks. It’s also perfectly sized for my hand. Getting a broad nib ended up being a mistake for me. Getting it stubbed gives it some character and I enjoy using it. It’s not a nib I can use as a daily carry, but it’s great for sitting down and doing some long form writing (long compared to notes and marking up documents). So based on this the Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona Cities Edition is a keeper.

Additional Reading

I was surprised by the lack of reviews of this pen. David at JustPelikans.com (JustDaveyB.com) until recently has all the Cities Series pens and inks up the Piazza Navona often. So more photos and writing samples here.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9668 Firm Medium

Esterbrook #9668 nibI’m getting near the end of the quest through my accumulation of Esterbrook nibs. It’s time for the Esterbrook #9668 Firm Medium Nib.

Like all 9xxx series nibs it’s osmiridium tipped. Nib charts from the 1950s list the nib as being for “general writing.” It’s a basic, middle of the road nib that’s not very exciting. This one has “Esterbook” and “9668” engraved the length of the nib, with Esterbrook on top of the nib number. It’s a nice clean design which I like.

My particular nib was in a batch of nibs I bought on eBay, I didn’t have a box but did appear to be in mint condition. The nib is a nice smooth writer that puts down a wide medium line. It helps that the nib is wider than the fines so it doesn’t dig into the paper fibers. There’s good flow and no hint of skipping. While it does have “firm” in the name it doesn’t feel as nail-like as the fine nibs. I’m becoming more accepting of medium nibs and this one has a nice feel to it.

It’s a basic nib that was probably pretty popular in its time. But it is a Master DuraCrome which were more expensive, so it isn’t a bargain basement nib these days. An eBay search finds one with a $15 BIN price. Anderson Pens lists it for $20 although it is out of stock.

It’s a nice medium nib. That’s not exactly a raving endorsement from me since I prefer fines and extra fines. Despite that it’s a nice writing nib and I may find myself inking it up in the future as medium nibs seem to be growing on me. The Esterbrook #9668 Firm Medium is a keeper.

Additional Reading

9668 Nib Sample Writing – The Esterbrook Forum – The Fountain Pen Network

I didn’t notice until posting the photos that I refer the the nib as a firm fine in the writing sample. I had fine on the brain. The nib is a firm medium.

Review: Sheaffer Crest (Modern)

Sheaffer CrestI picked up this Nova Red Sheaffer Crest in late June from Anderson Pens. It’s always dangerous watching (or listening to) their podcast and following them on twitter. I forget which hooked me, podcast or twitter, but they announced some new-old-stock (NOS) Sheaffers so I went to their site to take a look. The Crest was one of two pens that caught my eye and were traded for a reasonable amount of money. The pen was even more beautiful than the photos led me to believe. I’ve had this pen inked up ever since I got it.

Why I Got It

The pen looked great in the picture. Add to that the fact that it’s a Sheaffer with a 18K gold triumph style extra fine nib.

What I Got

A NOS pen that came in the original box with a couple black Sheaffer cartridges. No converter was included. The pen takes the Sheaffer vacuum converter, not the piston converter [Updated: Carlos added in the comments that he uses the piston converter with his Crests]. I already had a couple vacuum converters but I ordered a couple more in case I want to ink up all four of my vacuum only Sheaffers at once.

The Crest name dates back to the 1930’s but this pen is Sheaffer’s reboot of the name done in the 90’s. The Nova Red pens were produced between 1996 and 1998. The Laque finish is composed of 23 layers of laque over hand decoration. All this is over a brass cap and barrel. The pen is absolutely gorgeous and the finish has a nice depth to it. The clip is 23 kt. gold plated and has the iconic Sheaffer white dot. The iconic conical Triumph style nib is 18 kt. gold and it’s a two tone nib with palladium plating. The nib does not have the upturned bend at the end of the nib which the vintage Triumph nibs have.

The cap is a screw on cap that takes just over one full revolution to loosen or tighten. The gold trim works in this case and complements the red/black finish of the pen. I generally don’t like gold trim but it often works with red and brown pens. My grip does touch the threads a bit but they aren’t sharp and they don’t bother me. But the threads are metal so if you tend to grip the pen further from the nib and are sensitive to threads they may bother you.

The cap does post securely although I don’t use this pen posted.

There’s a metal collar around the spike that the converter slides over. This gives me a nice feeling of security by preventing snapping off the spike if I’m careless.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.6110″ (142.52 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.9275″ (125.16 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.5″ (165.1 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.6590″ (16.73 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.3340″ (8.48 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.3785″ (9.61 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3620″ (9.19 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.4485″ (11.38 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4485″ (11.38 mm)
  • Weight (w/vacuum converter): 0.9 oz. (26 g)
  • Weight (body only – w/vacuum converter): 0.6 oz. (18 g)

Writing With The Pen

Sheaffer Crest uncapped on a pen standThe pen uses either Sheaffer cartridges or a vacuum converter. I’ve only used the pen with a vacuum converter. Filling the pen is easy enough. Dip the nib in ink then press and release the metal bar on the vacuum converter. Leave the pen in the ink for an additional 10 to 20 seconds to give the sac time the fill. The sac is visible behind the pressure bar so you can see how much ink is in there. The sac itself is translucent enough to be able the see the ink level. Although it’s not visible the entire length of the converter, when the ink is low you can invert the pen to check the level.

Thanks to the brass barrel the pen is heavy for its size, especially when compared to the plastic Snorkels.

The pen is thinner than I would normally buy these days but that wasn’t enough to keep me from buying the pen. That’s the only negative about the pen and it’s a subjective one. Maybe it’s because I love the pen so much, but the thinness hasn’t bothered me. The nib is very smooth and the ink flows easily with a light touch. I don’t find myself subconsciously gripping the pen tightly as I do other thin pen. It helps that the weight of the pen gives it a substantial feel without being heavy enough to make my hand tired.

The pen holds a surprising amount of ink in the nib and feed. Even when the converter appeared empty the pen wrote for a couple days which included more than 3 full pages of writing.

The nib is everything I like about Sheaffer nibs. Aesthetically I usually don’t like two-tone nibs but I make an exception for Sheaffer. I always admire the nib just a bit when I uncap the pen. But this nib has more than looks going for it. The extra fine nib wrote great out of the box. It puts down a consistent, thin line. While it depends on the ink of course, I’d consider the nib flow to be about a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. There’s never any hint of skipping and the line never begins to thin out. I haven’t had any problems with the thin nib catching on the fibers of the paper. Despite being 18 kt gold the nib is very firm thanks to the conical shape.

As I’ve already mentioned, the slimness of the pen hasn’t bothered me and I’ve written contuously for over an hour without feeling fatigued. I’ve also used the pen all day, with several extended sessions during the day, without getting fatigued.

Inks Used

Sheaffer Red bottleI’ve only used two inks and I’ve kept it in the family.

Sheaffer Red seems to be the perfect ink for this pen so it was the ink that got used the most. The bright red ink color is well suited for the pen. The only downside to the ink is that red is not a color that can be used in many cases. I’m lucky in that I can use any color I want for most of my writing so I can use this for some long form writing. The ink was problem free.

Sheaffer Peacock Blue was another ink that seemed like it should be used with this pen. The ink was probably made about the same time as the pen, although maybe a couple years later. Again, flow was excellent with no false starts or signs of skipping.

Cleaning The Pen

I always wrote the pen dry so there was never any excess ink to flush out. I removed the vacuum converter and gave feed a couple flushes with the bulb syringe followed by a couple “thermometer shakes” (mercury thermometer, not digital) into a tissue and the pen was good to go. I was always re-inking the pen so there was never a need for me to remove every last trace of ink. But I did one time and that took a bit longer before there was no trace of ink in the tissue.

I cleaned the vacuum converter separately which was relatively easy when I planned to refill. But it’s a bit more tedious to remove all traces of ink. I use a syringe to gently squirt water into the sac and then shake it to make sure the ink is off the sac in all the places I can’t see. I’m probably a bit more paranoid than I need to be when I put the converters into storage.

Wrapping Up

Not only is this Sheaffer Crest a keeper, it’s been inked up since I got it. It’s become one of my favorite fountain pens. I’ve noticed several Nova Red Sheaffer Crests on eBay for over twice what I paid. If I was to loose this pen I’d probably be willing to pay that to replace it, if I had to. I like it that much.

Additional Reading

Modern Sheaffer Crest discussion on FPN

PenHero.com article about the modern Sheaffer Crest. This article provided most of the historical information I included in this review.

SheafferTarga.com has a brief history and a Sheaffer Crest reference list.

Carlos Cal Brandão commented below and added a link to his Sheaffer Crest post. There’s some beautiful photos of the various models there so I added the link here.

Despite all the writing I did with the pen I never grabbed a writing sample photo so I included the recent Sheaffer Red writing sample photo which included this pen.

Nib Notes: Esterbrook #9556 Firm Fine

Esterbrook 9556 Firm Fine nib Next on my Esterbrook nib parade is the Esterbrook #9556 Firm Fine nib. It’s very similar to last week’s #9555 shorthand nib. The #9556 feels just slightly less smooth, although it is still very smooth. I really have to use the nibs together to notice. The difference is so minor it could be a manufacturing variation or age and the nibs could be intended to be duplicates. Although, logically the Gregg certified shorthand nib would be expected to be smoother out of the box since it’s intended to be used for shorthand. (Both nibs came to me as mint.)

The nib has “Esterbrook 9556” engraved the length of the nib on two lines which is a clean design that I like a lot. The ink flow from the nib is very good. Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun can be hard to read if the ink is thin plus it’s a fairly dry writing ink. The nib puts down a nice consistent, dark, even line even when writing fast.

Like all 9xxx nibs it’s Osmiridium tipped. So, in all likelihood the nib will outlast me.

My particular nib was an eBay purchase of a half dozen nibs giving it a nice low price. A recent search shows single nibs on eBay for $23 (BIN). It’s out of stock at Anderson Pens but they list it for $15.00.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – any nib called “Firm Fine” is OK in my book. Esterbrook also labelled this nib for “general writing” and “fine writing.” But whatever it’s called, I like the Esterbrook #9556 Firm Fine a lot and will keep the pen inked up so I can continue to enjoy the nib.

Additional Reading

Esterbrook A101 w/9556 Nib – Fountain Pen Reviews – The Fountain Pen Network