From The Pen Case: Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage with a medium stub nib and Sheaffer Peacock Blue ink bottleThe Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage has the distinction of being the most expensive fountain pen in my accumulation. It also has the dubious distinction of being my only fountain pen that has broken during normal use. This pen has done it’s best to make me hate it. So time for a review, although you’re probably guessing that it won’t end well.

Conway Stewart no longer exists, having gone out of business (for a second time) with the pieces being sold off to others. The brand will probably be resurrected for a third time. Bespoke British Pens is selling some Conway Stewart Models although it’s confusing (at least to me) as to whether they are maintaining the brand or just selling off old stock or pens made from old stock. The Marlborough Vintage is still available from them although with different branded nibs and only a cartridge/converter version.

This is my second Conway Stewart fountain pen, the first being the FPH Anniversary Edition. I liked that pen enough to spring for the more expensive Marlborough Vintage In June of 2012.

I’ll get this out early – vintage is part of the model name, it is not even close to a vintage pen. I hate it when pen companies do this.

Why I Got It

I liked my first Conway Stewart and this one was a similar size. Plus, it was ebonite which I like the feel of. Lastly, I could get it as a lever filler and I really liked the look of the woodgrain ebonite. I ordered mine with an extra fine nib (more on this later).

What I Got

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage engraved barrelThis is a limited edition fountain pen and I received number 41 of 300. I received a medium nib, rather than the extra fine that I ordered, but in my impatience I didn’t notice until after I inked it up. After some internal debate I decided to keep the medium nib. I liked the way it wrote, it wasn’t too wide, plus I had the idea of getting it stubbed.

I love the feel of the ebonite and I like the woodgrain finish. I’ll stop short of saying it reminds me of real wood but I like the black “grain” on the brown “wood”. Combined with the lever fill it give the pen a nice vintage aesthetic. The furniture is gold which isn’t my favorite choice, but as with other brown pens, it works in this case.

The ink capacity is painfully small and is my main complaint with this pen. Either the cartridge/converter or eye dropper options would provide a larger capacity. I get a little over four pages of solid writing on a 8.5“ X 11” piece of paper. For awhile I thought there might be a problem but, after further research and checking I found that this was to be expected. I just didn’t uncover it in my initial research.

The pen feels well made and has a solid fit and finish. As I mentioned, the pen is broken but it does feel well made.

Getting the wrong nib and the small ink capacity really turned me off to this pen early on. When the Long Island Pen Show rolled around the following March I brought the pen with me and had Richard Binder stub the nib. This gives the pen a little more personality and made me warm up to the pen. At the time it was one of my few stub nibs and the first in a pen I could comfortably use for longer writing sessions (even if it did need a refill midway through). I ended up being happy with my choice to stub the nib rather than tryng to get the extra fine that I ordered. I might have gotten a little more writing from each fill with the thinner extra fine nib, but it wouldn’t have been enough to turn this pen into a daily carry.

The stub nib makes the pen enjoyable to use and the small capacity means I don’t feel guilty about needing to flush the pen. I can write it dry in an evening or two.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 133.52 mm
  • Length Uncapped: 25.11 mm
  • Length Posted: 180.34 mm
  • Section Length: 19.20 mm
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 11.11 mm
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 11.39 mm
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 10.18 mm
  • Cap Diameter: 15.04 mm
  • Barrel Diameter: 13.15 mm
  • Weight: 22 g (w/ink)
  • Weight (body only): 12 g (w/ink)

Writing With The Pen

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage medium stub nib with Sheaffer Peacock Blue inkRemoving the cap takes one full rotation and then the pen is ready to write. The cap does post securely but not deeply. This makes the pen look freakishly long when it’s posted. It also feels unbalance, but that’s from someone who doesn’t post his pens when using them.

The factory medium nib was smooth and had a good flow. I never experienced any hard starts or skipping. Needless to say the nib also flowed fine after being stubbed by Mr. Binder.

The fountain pen is comfortable in my hand, being similar in size to the Pelikan M805 and a tad smaller than the Visconti Homo Sapien. The ebonite is light making this a light pen, especially when it’s not posted since nearly half the weight is in the cap. The pen is not quit perfect in my hand, but better than most. The Pelikan M805 is a little heavier (about 22g) so feels more solid which I like these days and the slightly bigger Bronze Age is a perfect size for my hand. My fingers do touch the threads just a bit when I grip the pen, but that aren’t sharp so I don’t even notice them.

I’ve never had problems with any inks although being a lever filler I pick inks I know are easy to clean out and that I will like. I tend to give the pen multiple fills of each ink, due to the small capacity, and I don’t want to be forced to flush an ink I don’t like or has problems.

This is a pen I almost always use at home and for casual writing. By that I mean when I’m concentrating on the writing, rather than taking notes, and I plan to do it for awhile. Plus, I’m willing to be interrupted should I need to refill the pen. I have taken it out and about at times and it’s one of the few pens that has drawn comments in public. The lever and wood grain finish catches people’s attention.

Cleaning The Pen

It’s a lever filler, so cleaning takes a little longer than pens more easily flushed. It’s not any harder to clean than other lever filler. The nib unit does unscrew should you want to flush the pen with a syringe but I avoided doing that and just worked the lever.

This is when the pen broke. I was cleaning the pen in order to use another ink before this review. The lever snapped during cleaning. I could feel it come loose in the pen. While I did work the lever a lot while cleaning the pen I never treated it roughly. The pen probably would have lasted longer if I removed the nib for cleaning.

Inks Used

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage with a medium stub nib and Sheaffer Peacock Blue ink bottleFor this review I used several fill of Sheaffer Peacock Blue. The nib gives the ink some nice line variation. It’s probably been my favorite ink in this pen. Although, I do have a tendency to consider anything I’m currently using a favorite.

I recently used Montblanc Leonardo Red Chalk. While I like the ink, this pen didn’t seem to do much for it and I flushed it out the first time I wrote it dry. This is the one ink which I liked less in this pen than in previous fountain pens.

I’ve also used various Waterman and Pilot Iroshizuku inks, all of which performed well. As I mentioned, for lever fillers I pick inks I already know I like and which perform well. None of them disappointed in this pen.

Wrapping Up

As I mentioned, the Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage is the most expensive fountain pen in my accumulation. From that perspective the pen was a disappointment even before the lever broke, I don’t consider it worth the money I paid. After the very rough start the pen did grow on me and I do like it. It’s a pen I would ink up for occasional use but it never really grabbed my attention.

Is it a keeper? The lever fill option was a huge mistake. The capacity is too small for me and well, the lever broke. It’ll be around until it get fixed. But assuming it wasn’t broken, I would be seriously considering selling it off to fund a future pen purchase. While I wouldn’t typically try to repair such an expensive pen myself I’ll probably consider it in this case, after some research and practice with other pens. The Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage isn’t worth pouring more money into it.

Additional Reading

Black Lever Filler reviewed on FPN

Gallery

The pen broke before the draft of this review, which I typically use as a writing sample. So the writing sample is just an index card.

From the Pen Case: Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary

Conway Stewart FPH 60th AnniversaryI decided to pull a long ignored fountain pen out of a storage case and ink it up. Rather than actually have to make a decision I just looked at my accumulation and picked the first unreviewed fountain pen. That made it my Conway Stewart Fountain Pen Hospital 60th Anniversary Limited Edition.

I can’t remember the last time I inked up this pen. Considering I’ve been consistently tracking the pens I use for the past couple of years I can confidently say it’s been a few years. I have no bad memories or experiences with the pen, it just didn’t keep my attention.

Why I Got It

I bought the pen back in late 2005. I remember considering it a good price for a Conway Stewart. Plus, I really like the brown marble acrylic. I’m less happy with all the gold trim these days, but back then I didn’t mind it much. Plus, it’s not so bad on a brown pen.

What I Got

Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary medium nib with Montblanc Toffee BrownThe Conway Stewart 60th is a mid-sized cartridge/converter fountain pen that takes standard international cartridges and converters. There’s plenty of room in the barrel for a full size cartridge and even the longest converter. I received number 47 of 60, according to the small engraving near the top of the cap. The pen is made from a nice brown marble acrylic with some nice depth to it. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of gold trim. Even the nib is a solid gold color. Speaking of the nib, it’s a medium 18 kt. gold nib. Conway Stewart Made in England is engraved on the barrel.

The pen is a good size for my hand and it’s comfortable to hold. It’s a bit heavier than my typical writer but I don’t consider it too heavy. Nearly half of its weight is in the cap and I don’t post this pen when writing.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.535″ (140.58 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.051″ (128.29 mm)
  • Length Posted: 7″ (177 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.7545″ (19.16 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.448″ (11.37 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.457″ (11.61 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.418″ (10.61 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.609″ (15.46 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4955″ (12.60 mm)
  • Weight: 42 g
  • Weight (body only): 24 g

Writing With The Pen

Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary with Montblanc Toffee Brown ink bottleThe cap takes just over one full rotation to remove and get the pen ready to write. The griping section is fairly long and my thumb barely touches the threads when I’m writing with the pen. The threads aren’t sharp so even if I held the pen higher they wouldn’t be a problem.

The medium nib puts down a nice line, not too thin and not too wide. It’s clearly a western fine although not as wide as some are these days. It’s a hefty fountain pen that feels solidly built. After writing for about 20 minutes my hand was a little fatigued.

I did have problems with the ink not wanting to leave the converter and I had to prime the feed a couple of times. It’s been so long since I’ve used the pen that I can’t remember if this was a common problem. But I picked Montblanc Toffee Brown because I knew it was a well behaved ink so I do blame the converter. That said, it’s a standard international converter so it’s a problem that can be resolved.

Overall, a pleasant albeit uninspiring writing experience.

Cleaning The Pen

It’s a cartridge/converter pen so it’s easy to clean. Yet, it took forever (well, it seemed like forever) to remove all traces of the normally easy to flush Montblanc Toffee Brown ink.

Inks Used

I used Montblanc Toffee Brown because it’s a ink I know and like. It worked well in this pen, except for the previously mentioned problems with the converter.

I have no memory of what other inks I used in the decade since I got the Conway Stewart. No ink struck me as particularly memorable for either a good or bad writing experience.

Wrapping Up

There’s lot that I like about the Fountain Pen Hospital 60th Anniversary Fountain Pen from Conway Stewart. It’s a good size, it’s comfortable and I like the looks of the acrylic. There’s a lot of gold trim which I can do without, although it does work with the brown material. That said, the fountain pen just doesn’t keep my attention. I had no qualms about using it until I wrote it dry, but I also had no qualms about returning it to the pen case when it was empty. It’s a pen that will get little future use from me and it does deserve better. So it will probably be in the next batch of pens that I sell. For me, it’s not a keeper.

Gallery

Review: Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite on a Pelle cover

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite on a Pelle cover

I don’t particularly like the term grail pen, at the very least it’s overused. But the Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite is the closest I’ve come to a grail pen. And not just because the long name is grail worthy and not because of the specific pen. But this pen was the result of considerable research, mostly while at pen shows.

The journey began a couple years ago when I became interested in the Pelikan M1000, the big boy of the Souverän line. I started looking at M1000s at pen shows and then started comparing it to the M800. Cutting to the end, I eventually decided that the M800 was the better pen choice as a daily writer for me. But even after that decision I didn’t come across a M800 that I considered worth the considerable expense. These pens are not cheap.

The M805 Stresemann is part of the regular M800 line, not a special or limited edition, although it is more expensive than other pens in the standard line. The 5 at the end of the model number indicates a M800 sized pen with silver trim, in this case the trim is palladium-plated and the nib is rhodium-plated.

Why I Got It

Having decided on the M800 I had begun to think I’d never find an M805 (I didn’t want gold trim) that I wanted. I had pretty much accepted that I would search pen shows until I found one I wanted. Then I saw the Stresemann and I knew it was the pen I was waiting for. I love the alternating black and grey (anthracite) stripes. The chrome trim and nib is perfect for me. It was gorgeous and I wanted it. I waited a bit to avoid an impulse purchase but I did pre-order it from Classic Fountain Pens. Due to that delay (or a delay in the extra fine nibs which was my choice) my pen shipped about a week after the pens began shipping. The anticipation was almost unbearable.

What I Got

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite cappedThe Pelikan M805 Stresemann is named after the foreign minister of the Weimar Republic who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1926, He was famous for his striped suits.

The anthracite striped barrel is made of cellulose acetate while the solid black pieces (section and filler knob) are made of resin (plastic). The trim is plated with palladium while the nib is 18 carat gold and rhodium plated.

While it has a conservative design that’s appropriate for any business situation it’s not a boring fountain pen. And since I’m partial to black & gray it’s a perfect color combination for me. I love the aesthetics of this pen, everything goes together perfectly. Even the nib is a single-tone silver color rather than the traditional Pelikan two-tone gold/silver nib.

While the Stresemann is pricey, it feels solidly built with a excellent fit and finish which should last for years.

I bought it from Classic Fountain Pen so that the nib would be inspected and tuned if necessary before it was sent to me. I requested that the nib be tuned with a medium ink flow while using a light pressure.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.564″ (141.32 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.0265″ (127.67 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.5″ (165.1 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.563″ (15.06 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.437″ (11.09 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4555″ (11.57 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.4215″ (10.70 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5845″ (14.84 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.53″ (13.46 mm)
  • Weight: 30 grams (with ink)
  • Weight (body only):  22 grams (with ink)

Writing With The Pen

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite extra fine nib

Since the pen was inked by John Mottishaw before it was sent I didn’t even consider washing it out before inking it up. I picked my favorite ink, Montblanc Bordeaux, for the Stresemann’s first ink. The piston worked smoothly and it was easy to get a complete fill.

The cap twists off with just under one complete turn and then the pen is ready to write. I expected more effort would be needed, so this surprised me for such a big pen and it’s one on the things I liked about the M80x. Despite the short threads the cap closes securely and I haven’t had any problems with the cap working it’s way loose while I cary the pen around.

The M805 is extremely comfortable in my hand, it’s why I picked it over the M1000. I don’t post my fountain pens but the M805 does post. When posted the pen seems a little heavy and unbalanced, but that’s the opinion of someone who doesn’t post his pens. It posts securely, but using friction, so I’d be concerned the finish would be marred over time.

There’s no ink window because the stripped barrel is translucent so it’s easy to see the ink level. Just hold the pen up so the light shines through. The stripes also shimmer a bit when they are in the light which is a nice effect.

I had extremely high expectations for this fountain pen. The first inking didn’t meet these expectations. There were a few skips, mainly when I inadvertently rotated the nib off the sweet spot. The nib seemed to have a small sweet spot. The nib was also drier than I expected. None of this was terribly bad. The requested medium flow is wetter than my typical request, yet the flow seemed dry. And the nib was smooth, just finicky about position. I wrote the pen dry in about three weeks which is fast for me, especially since this pen holds about twice as much ink as my typical pen. So I obviously liked the pen. Still, the nib felt just a little off, not quit right. The tines were perfectly aligned, so it wasn’t a problem with the nib tuning.

The great news, at least from my point of view, is that the first ink load seems to be an anomaly. I cover the inks with more detail in the next section but the short story is that the pen improved with the second (and future) fills. The skipping stopped, even with my inadvertent nib rotation. The nib also felt right and the flow was good. I suspect it was the cleaning after the first fill. It’s not like the pen had improved over time. It was a sudden change that coincided with the second fill.

Montblanc Bordeaux is back in the pen and I used it to write the draft of this review. It was no longer finicky and performed as I had originally expected.

As I said, the M805 is a perfect size for my hand so it’s extremely comfortable to write with, even for long periods of time. I never experienced and fatigue with the pen, even during long writing sessions. While the anthracite stripes are a bit boring when the pen is just sitting on my desk, they do shimmer a bit when I’m writing with the pen if the light hits it right.

It’s a wide extra fine nib, wider than I prefer in my extra fine nibs. This makes the pen more suitable for what I’d call long-form writing. Those times where I sit down at a desk or table and my primary task is writing. I also tend to write slower during these sessions which means my writing can be bigger.

The 18kt nib has a little spring to it, not anything approaching flex, but it’s not a nail. Overall, a nice feel.

Cleaning The Pen

So far, since I’ve been immediately re-inking the pen, I’ve cleaned it out by just filling and flushing the pen with water. All the inks flushed out easily. Like all Souveräns the nib can be unscrewed and removed in order to clean out the inside of the barrel. Repeated flushes takes longer than disassembly, but unless there’s a reason other than speed, I dislike taking apart a pen just to clean it. I’m paranoid I’ll break something.

Inks Used

As I mentioned, Montblanc Bordeaux was the first ink for the M805. I already mentioned the problems I had with the first fill. I gave it a second fill of Montblanc Bordeaux before writing this review. The second time around the performance of my favorite ink was as good as I expected, good flow without any skipping or hard starts.

Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwärz LE was the second load for the pen. Like the Bordeaux, it’s a favorite and number two on my list. The performance was great. The ink is wetter than the bordeaux but not too wet for me overall. It’s got a good consistent flow. I like it. A lot.

Montblanc Toffee Brown was up next, another favorite 5 ink. This was the wettest of all. I liked the ink, a nice brown, and it had good saturation thanks to the quantity. When I thought about it, I’d consider the ink too wet for my tastes in this pen. Yet, the ink went through the pen faster than the R&K Blau-Schwarz which I really liked, so I obviously liked writing with the Toffee Brown.

Wrapping Up

After a less than perfect start the Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite grew to be the pen I anticipated. Still, the nib is the most disappointing part of the pen. Yet it has grown on me. The extra fine is more like a fine in width, even a western fine. Initially I was disappointed in this but I now appreciate the nib for the fine writer it is. I just don’t think of it as a extra fine nib. The flow is great and the line is solid, I just expected thinner. (Also remember, the nib was tuned when I bought it, so I can’t vouch for the out-of-the-box experience.) I can’t speak to the other nib sizes, but based on my experience and what I’ve read, all the nib sizes run a little big.

For me the nib is too wide and wet to be an all around user. Although the ink can reduce the wetness, it’s still a wide line. But it is an excellent pen for those writing sessions where I don’t need an really thin nib.

The Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite has been inked since I got it in mid-March. It’s been in use over four months and it’s solidly in the keeper category.

Gallery

Review: Namisu Nexus Minimal Fountain Pen

Namisu Nexux Minimal with a fine nib The Namisu Nexus Minimal fountain pen was a Kickstarter campaign launched during the last days of July 2014. I backed it at the early bird level which was the lowest pledge amount. I picked the Matt Black finish (that’s the way they spelled “Matt”, but I’ll use “Matte” from now on). I debated dropping out before the deadline because they had never done a pen before and a November 2014 delivery date was clearly too aggressive. As their stretch goals kicked in the project became even more complicated since the stretch goals were really just add-ons at additional cost requiring even more management and procurement of unique products. But it was less than $40 to get it to my door (23 GBP plus shipping) so I stayed in.

I’m glad I stayed in, although the pen was in fact several months late, arriving in late February. I’ve had it inked since arrival and it’s still on its first ink. (Well, technically that’s not true but it’s true in spirit. More on that later.) The ink has lasted over two months because I just keep reaching over this pen to pick up another. When I do use it I like it since there is a lot to like about this pen.

Why I Got It

It was a nice looking pen at a reasonable price. I wanted to support an original fountain pen on Kickstarter. It’s a simple design which I like and it’s available in black which I also like.

What I Got

Namisu Nexus Minimal Matte BlackA matte black fountain pen with an aluminum body and a Bock fine nib. There’s no clip or other furniture on the pen. The pen feels very comfortable in my hand. There’s no traditional gripping section but the grooves in the pen help provide a secure grip.

I’m not sure what the aluminum barrel is coated with but it doesn’t have the cold feel of aluminum. It’s not slippery like some metal pens either. It’s very comfortable to hold.

They say the cap doesn’t post, but it does. Although the threads may scratch the barrel with repeated posting. So while it may be able to post, they may say it doesn’t because it’s not recommended. Besides, posting adds very little to the length of the pen.

The nib is a mass produced Bock nib unit. Mine is a fine nib. This isn’t necessarily bad but for me it’s the weakest part of the fountain pen. More on this in the section on writing with the pen. I suspect there’s some variation between the nibs that were used. I think they took the nibs as delivered and didn’t tune them. This is a inexpensive pen after all.

The black matte finish has held up well. I’m neither overly protective or abusive to my fountain pens. I don’t put them in my pocket with coins or keys (except a couple pens that are enhanced by this) but it will roll around a desk or table. There’s a couple blemishes that are noticeable upon close inspection. There’s no noticeable wear from me gripping the pen or cap. (I fiddle with the cap in my left hand as I write with my right.)

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.5730″ (141.56 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.3345″ (135.49 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5050″ (12.83 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (near nib): 0.5165″ (13.12 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (widest): 0.5530″ (14.04 mm)
  • Weight (with ink): 26 g
  • Weight (body only/with ink): 22 g

Writing With The Pen

Namisu Nexux Minimal fine nib with Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire ink cartridgeI did not order a converter with the pen and the supplied cartridge broke during shipment. I did have to clean the pen before use to get the ink off so this would also have removed any manufacturing residue. I picked a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge for this pen’s first ink. The ink flowed right through the pen, literally, and filled the cap. After cleaning this mess, and the pen, I picked a Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire long international ink cartridge. There weren’t any signs of leaking and the ink didn’t fill the cap.

The threads are sharp but I hold the pen well above the threads so this isn’t a problem. The pen isn’t designed to be held on the threads but if you typically hold the pen close to the nib this may bother you.

The Nexus is a wet writer. The Bock nib is a standard size for a western fine, which means it’s a bit wide for my tastes. The Edelstein ink is a little on the dry side so that helps.

I’ve had some annoying skipping with the pen. And by annoying I mean it’s frequent enough to affect the flow of my writing. A close inspection shows that the tines are slightly misaligned. Once I’m done with the review I may try aligning and smoothing the nib. I can limit the skipping if I concentrate on the pen angle and keep the nib’s very small sweet spot in contact with the paper. But I find this more fatiguing than regular writing so it doesn’t last long.

Speaking of fatigue I find the Nexus Minimal to be comfortable to write with and can go about 45 minutes before feeling any fatigue at all, but that means having to deal with the skipping.

Cleaning The Pen

The nib unit does unscrew if you want to remove it for cleaning. But I’d prefer not to and the pen is easily cleaned with just a converter or a bulb syringe to force water through.

Inks Used

As mentioned, the Diamine Prussian Blue flowed right through the pen. A second pen, my Sheaffer VFM, was loaded at the same time and didn’t have a problem. I haven’t heard of any similar problems and my second ink was fine, so this may be an isolated incident.

Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire in a long international cartridge was loaded next and is still in the pen. Flow is good, almost too good for my tastes. As I mentioned there’s a lot of skipping but I blame the nib and not the ink for this.

Wrapping Up

The Namisu Nexus Minimal fountain pen is a very nice pen. Its weakest piece is the nib, unfortunately that’s kind of crucial for a fountain pen. There’s only a couple of places to buy nibs in relatively small quantities and for a pen at this price point, so it’s hard to complain about the choice. Bock is a trusted manufacturer and I’ve no doubt many pens were delivered with aligned nibs and perform better than mine, but there’s always going to be variation in the mass produced nibs. Even a company such as TWSBI has had their own nib problems forcing them to change suppliers at one point1.

While aligning and smoothing a nib isn’t hard it isn’t something a first time fountain pen buyer wants to do with their one fountain pen. Eventually I’ll align the nib, but until then I’ll continue to pick up the pen next to the Nexus. At least until a rainy weekend when I decide to tune several pens.

With a little nib work the Namisu Nexus Minimal fountain pen is a keeper, but until the nib is fixed the Nexus Minimal won’t be inked again.

Additional Reading

Namisu Website

Kickstarter Campaign Page (now closed)

Reviewed on FPN

Gallery

 

 

  1. If I remember correctly, they changed from Bock to JoWo nibs on their Vac 700.

Review: Sheaffer VFM

Sheaffer VFM with capThe Sheaffer VFM is a strange bird. It’s the only fountain pen in the Sheaffer line that doesn’t take Sheaffer’s proprietary cartridges. It uses standard short international cartridges, and only short international cartridges. It’s too narrow for a standard converter or a long cartridge. (It might take the small Kaweco or Monteverde converters but I haven’t tried them.) Sheaffer says VFM means “Vibrant, Fun and Modern.”

The VFM is Sheaffer’s entry level fountain pen, selling for about $17 these days. I bought mine when they were a buck cheaper.

Why I Got It

I already had an order going and I decided to add a cheap modern Sheaffer to see what they were like. I’d grown to love vintage Sheaffers but I like modern Sheaffers less. My youngest Sheaffer was 10 years old. I actually got this before the Sheaffer 300 I have already reviewed.

I picked the Maximum Orange finish, expecting to get a nice bright pen.

What I Got

As I mentioned, a strange pen that takes only short international cartridges. There’s no room to carry a spare cartridge either. The pen arrived in a box with two cartridges, one black and one blue. The barrel is too narrow for Sheaffers proprietary cartridges. Usually short cartridge only pens are pocket pens and too short for anything longer. This barrel is long enough for a cartridge or converter but quickly tapers and is too narrow for anything longer.

The pen is already on the thin side, even at its widest point, to begin with so it doesn’t take much to make it too thin. The metal barrel makes this unsuitable for use as an eyedropper filler.

The orange color was more subdued than I expected, especially since it was called “Maximum Orange”. In my opinion it doesn’t live up to either “V” for vibrant or “Maximum”. It also looks like it has some texture that would help in gripping, but it doesn’t. It’s not a slippery fountain pen per se, but if your hands sweat in the summer it will be slippery.

The nib is a medium stainless steel nib that has a plain design. “Sheaffer” is engraved into the nib along with an “M” for medium, but it’s a plain engraving that lacks the stylized “S” seen in other Sheaffer nibs. The Sheaffer website lists a fine nib option but I’ve only seen mediums for sale. When I bought mine the medium was the only option, otherwise I’d have picked the fine nib.

Sheaffer is also engraved around the cap band, three times as a matter of fact. So there’s no doubt who made the pen. The trim and nib are all silver which is my preferred trim color. Sheaffer says the trim is nickel plate.

While I threw out the box before I took any pictures it was a pretty nice box, although simple. It wasn’t a blister pack and would have been suitable for wrapping as a gift.

The pen is a slip cap design and the cap does hold securely when the pen is capped. It has a simple chrome that does have the trademark Sheaffer white dot but no other designs or the split clip seen in other recent Sheaffers.

The VFM has a metal body so it does have feel like a solid pen. It’s a simple design which appeals to me although I don’t like the orange finish.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4255″ (137.81 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.7545″ (120.76 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.0240″ (153 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.9065″ (23.02 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.2970″ (7.54 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below barrel): 0.3705″ (9.40 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3380″ (8.58 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (widest near cap): 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
  • Weight (with ink cartridge): 20 g
  • Weight (body only – with ink cartridge): 20 g

Writing With The Pen

This is the type of pen which probably wouldn’t be cleaned first by most users since it’s an entry level pen. So, while I did have the pen for over a year before inking it up, I popped in a cartridge without flushing it out. The Sheaffer supplied cartridges had been separated from the pen so I picked a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge as the first ink for this pen. The ink took about 5 minutes to reach the tip of the nib, using just gravity and capillary action.

I don’t typically post my pens so take this for what it’s worth. When I first posted the cap I thought it was secure, thanks to friction. But I did write with it a bit when posted and it’s really not all that secure. It doesn’t wobble when writing but if the cap is bumped, even lightly, it does come loose. Some ink from inside the cap transferred to the barrel when posted. The pen remains well balanced when posted.

The pen is just barely long enough for me to use it unposted which is my preference and how I used this pen.

The Sheaffer VFM is thin and light which means it’s not a pen I can write with for any length of time. I tend to grip pens like this much too tightly and get fatigued or even cramps after writing about 10 minutes. This isn’t really a criticism of the design, the pen is what it is and would be perfectly suited for others. It was expected, and one reason it took me so long to ink up the pen.

I did have a couple of skips with the pen but not enough to be annoying. It was usually after a minute or two pause right after writing quickly. It’s not the smoothest steel nib but I didn’t expect it to be. It’s comparable to my Pilot Metropolitan although the Metropolitan may have a very slight edge. But they’re both inexpensive pens and the difference was so minor that a different two pens could have their positions reversed due to manufacturing differences.

I prefer extra fine nibs, especially thinner Japanese extra fines, but I didn’t find this nib too wide for me. Unfortunately the nib is a size I prefer for longer writing sessions, when I don’t need to write small, but the pen is a size I can’t use for long writing sessions. So it’s taking awhile to run through the cartridge of ink and I’ve yet to write it dry. I ended up pulling the cartridge early so I could include cleaning the pen in this review. I decided not to put it back.

Inks Used

Diamine Prussian Blue, in a cartridge, is the only ink I’ve used in this pen. Performance was good and it was easy to clean from the pen. See the next session about cleaning.

Cleaning the Pen

The pen does not come with a converter so flushing the pen could be difficult if this is your first pen. Although if this is your only fountain pen you may not be putting it on the shelf very often. So cleaning the nib under the faucet may be enough. If you have a bulb syringe or a international converter from another pen then it is easy to clean.

I used a bulb syringe and the feed was ink free with just a couple flushes.

Wrapping Up

I have more positive feelings about this pen than negative even though this pen isn’t for me (too thin and light) but if you like this size pen then that’s not a problem. The Pilot Metropolitan is usually considered the gold standard for entry level fountain pens and unless you like the look of the Sheaffer VFM more than the Metropolitan I can’t come up with a reason the pick the VFM over the Pilot. The Pilot uses a proprietary filling system but will take a converter. (The European version, called the MR, takes short international cartridges, making this moot.)

This is my second modern (meaning currently available new) Sheaffer and both performed well out of the box. I don’t think of Sheaffer as being to deliver a consistently good nib for their pens but my experience, although limited, is making me reconsider. Still, I can’t bring myself to recommend Sheaffer over Pilot as a first fountain pen.

I’m not convinced that cartridge only is a big negative in an entry level fountain pen but unfortunately for Sheaffer, this may be their entry level pen, but it’s priced to compete with more versatile fountain pens and those manufacturers have even less expensive offerings with very nice nibs but the same limited versatility. Most pens at the VFM price point seem to be converter capable, except for the ones designed as compact pocket pens. The Sheaffer VFM is long enough for a converter, just not wide enough.

The Sheaffer VFM is not a keeper for me. It’s not a bad pen, but just not for me.

Additional Reading

YouTube – SBREBrown

YouTube – Fountain Pen Shootout #39: Sheaffer VFM vs. Pilot Metropolitan – SBREBrown

The Fountain Pen Network

Gallery

Review: Sailor 1911M

Sailor 1911M posted shown on mirrorNext up for review is my Sailor 1911M in yellow with a broad nib. I had already decided the pen isn’t a keeper and sold it off. Unfortunately it came back to me with flow issues. After I confirmed the problem, but couldn’t see a cause, I pulled the nib and feed (simple friction fit) and scrubbed them clean (or more accurately, ultrasoniced them clean). I inked it up to give it a test, so I might as well review it.

The main reason I decided to sell this pen is the broad nib. Broad nibs aren’t for me so I’ve been either grinding them to something else or selling them off.

Why I Got It

I purchased the Sailor 1911M in October of 2005 from Fountain Pen Hospital. I already had a couple of full size 1911s and loved the 21kt nibs on them. The 1911M nib isn’t 21kt, it’s 14kt gold but I figured I’d give the broad nib a try. At the time I was still exploring nibs.

What I Got

The Sailor 1911M is a cartridge/converter pen using Sailor’s proprietary cartridges and converters. It’s a bright yellow pen with gold trim and black accents. I really like the look of the pen. At the time it was probably my most colorful pen. The gold cap band is engraved “SAILOR JAPAN FOUNDED 1911”.

The pen has a 14kt gold broad nib. Even though the nib is engraved “H-B” for hard broad, there’s a little spring to the nib which is a solid gold color. It’s certainly not flex. It’s less springy than my Pilot Custom 823 nib but springier than my Lamy 2000 nib. The Sailor logo and “14K” are engraved on the nib.

I don’t remember the packaging, but a converter and cartridge were certainly included.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.3030″ (134.70 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.5915″ (116.62 mm)
  • Length Posted: 5.8205″ (147.84 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.6095″ (15.48 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.3760″ (9.55 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4130″ (10.49 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3935″ (9.99 mm)
  • Cap Diameter (at cap band): 0.5820″ (14.78 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4820″ (12.24 mm)
  • Weight (w/converter and ink): 20 grams
  • Weight (w/converter and ink): 12 grams

Writing With The Pen

Sailor 1911M broad nibSailor uses a proprietary cartridge which has a larger capacity than the standard short international cartridge but seem to be about the same as the long international cartridges. The converters seem to have about the same capacity as most standard converters although I haven’t done any measurements. The opening to the feed is larger than a standard international which seems to help the flow. I’ve never had a flow problem with a Sailor pen and this is one probably one reason why that is. The broad nib also keeps plenty of ink moving during fast writing. Well, no problem until I sold the pen and it came back to me with flow problems.

Uncapping the pen takes about 1 3/4 full turns to remove the cap and get the pen ready for writing. The cap does post securely, although held in place only with friction. The cap band should help prevent cracking from repeated posting. I don’t post my pens but the pen feels well balanced when posted. This isn’t surprising since the plastic cap is very light.

The Sailor 1911M is a light pen that didn’t cause fatigue in a long writing session. It’s also has a comfortable shape and size that fits my hand well.

The broad nib is nice and smooth with a good ink flow. I consider it a wet writer although I tend to like nibs on the drier side so others may argue with the “wet” description. It’s not a gusher. Broad nibs aren’t for me so this isn’t a pen I would reach for if I wasn’t writing this review. But there’s nothing technically wrong with the nib. Even though it’s wider than I like, my Pelikan broad nibs were wider (as are many other western broad nibs), although drier. This is one of my more pleasing standard broad nibs since it’s relatively thin when compared to other broad nibs that I’ve used.

The writing sample shows that I can easily write along the narrow lines with the broad nib and still read each letter. In comparison, the Schmidt broad nib in the KarasKustoms ink turns the circular letters into blobs.

Ink likes to spread out on the nib. Not so much “nib creep” which I consider ink spreading from the slit between the tines, but ink splattered on the nib. There’s also a lot of ink splatter in the cap. It’s not dripping out o the cap, but when I posted the cap it left a drop of ink on the barrel which I had to rub off. Likewise ink has stained the threads a bit. This has been a problem with the pen since I got it and doesn’t seem related to any one ink. I embrace the creep and like a nib that looks well used so this doesn’t bother me too much.

Inks Used

Sailor 1911M with Waterman Purple bottleI used Waterman Purple when I inked the pen up for this review. Flow was good and there wasn’t any skipping. Maybe it was that the nib puts down more ink than I’m used to, but I wrote this pen dry faster than I expected which makes me wonder if ink evaporated as the pen sat around. If I had to estimate, I figure I write the equivalent of 10 full size pages with the pen. I could pause for several minutes and the nib would remain wet, so it wasn’t quick to evaporate off the nib.

I don’t remember what other inks I used in the pen. Certainly Waterman inks based on when I got the pen. I’ve never had any performance problems with any ink. Although as I already mentioned ink splatter was common among all inks.

Cleaning the Pen

The pen is easy to clean. Although the flow issue my have been due to some careless cleaning before storing the pen. It takes a couple flushes of the bulb syringe to remove traces of the ink from the feed. The nib and feed are friction fit so they can easily be removed for a thorough cleaning.

The converter also comes apart easily for cleaning. The converter does seem well made and it should hold up well after dis-assembly. I did have to disassemble it to get the Waterman Purple from around the piston. This is only abut the second time I had to dis-assemble the converter.

Almost all the stains on the threads and the ink from inside the cap did wash away although some of the stains didn’t go away until they spent some time in the ultrasonic cleaner.

Wrapping Up

The Sailor is a well built pen with the classic cigar shape. The Sailor nib is also free of complaints. Yet, the Sailor 1911M comes across as an average pen. Nothing stands out to recommend it as a “must have.” The nib is too wet for my tastes. The pen currently retails for about $156 which does seem like a fair price for the pen since it’s solidly built and has a gold nib that was smooth and aligned.

I have been regrinding some of my broad nibs since they aren’t suited to my writing style. But I won’t be doing that with the Sailor 1911M. Nothing about it stands out when compared to other fountain pens in my accumulation. After using this pen again it made me reconsider my decision to sell the pen. It’s a nice writer and there are times where I want a broad nib and this one isn’t so wide as to be unusable for me. I will probably offer the pen for sale again because it’s really not one I would pick up over others in my accumulation. So I’d have to say it’s not a keeper.

Gallery

Review: Caran d’Ache Geneve

Caran d'Ache Geneve uncapped on a mirrorI picked up the Caran d’Ache Geneve (hopefully I catch all of spell-checks attempts to turn it into Geneva, but it is Geneve, which is the French spelling of Geneva) over 10 years ago, in May 2004. It was the year I got the Caran d’Ache Ivanhoe, a considerably more expensive fountain pen. The Geneve was a great writer when I first got it and one of my better nibs at the time. The nib was smooth and not all that wide for a european medium, although not a thin as the Japanese medium nibs. The pen was’t perfect, but more on that later.

I ignored the Geneve for a few years before pulling it out again to give it a spin. Unfortunately it had all sorts of flow and skipping problems so, not knowing any better, I put it aside.

I decided to work through the unreviewed pens in my accumulation and it’s time for the Caran d’Ache Geneve so I pulled it from it’s case. There’s some corrosion or flaking on the cap threads and I figured some fell into the feed. The nib and section ended up being just friction fit so they were easy to pull. I dropped them into the ultrasonic cleaner and gave them a thorough cleaning while flushing the section and brushed the corrosion off the threads.

So now it’s time to review the pen.

Why I Got It

I like the design and the brown marble finish. The gold furniture doesn’t bother me so much because it matches the brown finish. At the time I got the pen I wasn’t paying any attention to the details such as the trim material. I purchased the pen from the now defunct Joon Stationery on a trip to NYC.

What I Got

Caran d'Ache Geneve uncapped on a pen standI don’t have any memory of the packaging. It did come with a converter and cost about $150 at the time. The pen takes international cartridges, including long cartridges, or bottled ink. The Geneve has a 18K gold medium nib that is gold in color. While the nib isn’t a complete nail there’s no flex and no real spring worth mentioning. The nib has the Caran d’Ache logo along with some other decorations.

The slanted cap jewel has the Caran d’Ache logo on it. The band around the barrel is engraved “Caran d’Ache SWISS GOLD PLATED ‘G’” and the Caran d’Ache logo is also engraved. Practically a novel for a pen band. It’s all a bit much for my tastes, but I tend to ignore it because I really like the brown marble finish.

The end of the barrel has a gold jewel that form a slight lip around the barrel. This lip is used to post the cap securely .

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4170″ (137.59 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.8830″ (124.02 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.2″ (158 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.6010″ (15.26 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.3555″ (9.02 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4200″ (10.66 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3370″ (8.55 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5270″ (13.39 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.5280″ (13.06 mm) (Barrel tapers to 7.60 mm)
  • Weight: 1.1 oz. (30 g)
  • Weight (body only): 0.7 oz. (20 g)

Writing with the Pen

Caran d'Ache Geneve nib close-upThe cap takes one full rotation to remove, but no more. The cap has always been very tight when screwed onto the barrel, it takes significant effort to unscrew it. It’s not going to work its way loose on its own. The pen posts securely thanks to a lip at the end of the barrel which the inner cap can grip. Because of this the metal threads aren’t used to grip the barrel and won’t scratch it.

I tend to hold this pen pen higher than most so my fingers are on the threads. They aren’t sharp and don’t bother me, although I’m generally very forgiving of these things. The threads are noticeable to the touch so if threads bother you it may be a problem. The gripping section is long enough if held closer to the nib.

I have fond memories of using this pen when I first got it. The nib was smooth and put down a nice consistent line. The nib isn’t a nail, but there’s no spring to speak of either. I never had any problems with the pen and for a time it was one of my favorites.

Then it was slowly replaced by newer pens with finer nibs and neglected for a few years.

As I mentioned, performance was terrible when it came out of storage and my first attempt flushing it out didn’t help. There was some flaking, possible corrosion, around the cap threads. Maybe the tight cap caused this, maybe it was actual corrosion. Some must have worked it’s way into the feed since a thorough cleaning resolved the problem.

In any event, this returned the pen to its former self. I did have some skipping problems with one ink, but the rest have been fine. Overall, the Caran d’Ache Geneve is a pleasant, although uninspiring, writing experience with a smooth nib.

Inks Used

I did have some skipping problems with a Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite ink cartridge but none with the Kaweco Red ink cartridge. Back when I was using the pen a lot I pretty much stuck to Waterman ink and didn’t experience any problems.

Cleaning the Pen

It’s a cartridge/converter so it’s easy to clean. If a bulb syringe is used to flush the pen it’s really quick. The nib and feed are friction fit so it’s easy to remove and replace. The feed does guide the nib to sit correctly but nib/feed can slide into the pen in any orientation so it’s easy to do.

Wrapping Up

My memories of the Caran d’Ache Geneve are better than the current reality thanks to nostalgia. It’s an excellent writer and it’s obvious why it was a favorite back in my early fountain pen days. But when put against the 100+ fountain pens in my current accumulation it doesn’t stand out. The corrosion or metal flecks is a problem but once it was cleaned up the pen recovered. The maintenance is easy to it’s not a real detriment for me.

But the bottom line is that although the Caran d’Ache Geneve is a very nice pen that served me well, for me it’s not a keeper, at least not after 10+ years.

Additional Reading

I couldn’t find any other Caran d’Ache Geneve reviews which surprised me a bit since it’s a nice pen. If you have a review let me know in the comments.