This Just In: Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Marietta in Tiger Red

Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Tiger RedThe stockroom section of the Franklin-Christoph website always provides fountain pens of interest. This time the new(ish) Model 20 in a new Tiger Red acrylic caught my attention so I added it to my accumulation. The listing implies that Tiger Red will be a production choice but this was the first (test?) batch. I don’t really understand why it wouldn’t just be added to the regular product page since the price is the same, so I have doubts about my interpretation that the eventual “real” version will be exactly the same.

As the “This Just In” title suggests, this pen is newly arrived and barely used. I’ve had it a couple of days and probably written with it about three or four hours in total. So this is just an initial impression. I’ll be interested to see how things change when I review the pen in a few months.

The black/red acrylic doesn’t photograph easily. The black and red are very dark in most indoor lighting, at least my indoor lighting. But on close inspection, or in good lighting there is a lot of depth to the acrylic. Even though I really like the black and red combinations I was a little hesitant based on the photographs on the Franklin-Christoph website. The Tiger Red just didn’t “pop” in the photos. I worried for nothing, I love the design. No, it’s not bright and in most lighting both the red and the black are dark. But they do stand out and there’s a lot of depth.

I ended up picking a plain old medium nib for this pen. It’s hard to pass up a Mike Masuyama nib, but the ones that were available weren’t suitable for me. I went with the medium nib with the intent to get it ground to a left oblique sometime in the future. Naturally I had to use the medium nib before getting it ground. Holy cow! I really like it. It’s very smooth with great ink flow. Yes, it’s thicker than I typically prefer so I can’t use it when I want to write small or for marking up documents.

I went with the clip-less version which does have its drawbacks, such as easily rolling off a desk. But this does make the pen very light.

The signature feature of the Model 20 (a.k.a. Marietta) is the slip cap. It slides on/off and is held in place with friction. I’m still not used to the cap yet and I’m paranoid that I will crack it. The cap acrylic seems really thin when viewed through my paranoia. Cracking is a potential problem so I uncap the pen by pushing up at the base of the cap using the same hand that’s holding the pen. Since there’s no “click” when the cap is secure I do find myself not pressing the cap down enough due to fear that I’ll push down too hard. I am getting comfortable with it.

I’ve been carrying the pen in my Fodderstack XL for a couple of days. Since there’s no clip the pen does slip out if I turn the case upside down, but this hasn’t been a problem. Pulling up by the cap has removed the cap, probably due to my hesitation in recapping the pen, so I’ve begun to push the bottom of the pen up (through the material) and then grabbing it. This makes the pen ready to write faster than removing a clipped pen.

There’s no threads to interfere with the grip so the Model 20 is comfortable to hold. The pen is also very light. It’s one of the few pens that is as comfortable (to me) whether posted or unposted. Since there’s no clip the posted cap feels like an extension to the barrel. I have posted the pen a couple if times when I couldn’t hold the cap and it would roll away if I put it down.

The Model 20 is a mid-sized pen compared to other Franklin-Christoph fountain pens. It just enters the size of what I find big enough to be comfortable, but it is comfortable. I haven’t used it for any long writing sessions yet, the longest was about 20 minutes. There was no fatigue. I was initially a little concerned that the pen is too small & light for my tastes and it would be a pen I subconsciously grip too tightly, but so far that hasn’t been a problem.

My first ink for the pen is Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red, it seemed like this pen should have a red ink. I’ve got no complaints so far, they are working well together. My initial impression of the Franklin-Christoph Model 20 “Marietta” is very positive.


As I mentioned in the article, the vibrancy of the color varies with the light. These photos were taken in natural, indirect sunlight (near a window).

This Just In: Kaweco Brass Sport

Kaweco Brass Sport in pen loop The Kaweco Brass Sport may be my last new fountain pen this year as it was the last one on my wanted list. I ordered it from JetPens about the same time as I ordered the Sailor Pro Gear, the day before I think. While JetPens shipped it promptly, the USPS gave it a tour of the US, including leaving the continent to tour Puerto Rico, and returning to the continent for delivery to me, so it didn’t arrive until last Thursday.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’d be getting one as soon as it was available. I considered taking advantage of the exchange rate and ordering from overseas. It would have been about the same cost, even with shipping, but I decided to be patient and wait for it to come to the US. JetPens had it in stock first, at least from what I could see. It was slightly cheaper than I expected, so I probably would have paid a bit more if I ordered from overseas. These metal versions are the same design as the plastic Classic Sport and have the same nibs so the additional cost, four times the cost in some cases, is not insignificant. But I find it nearly impossible to resist raw metal or machined fountain pens.

The brass is significantly heavier than the raw aluminum. According to the JetPens website it’s twice as heavy, 1.6 oz. for the brass compared to 0.8 ounces for the raw aluminum. The plastic Classic Sports are 25% the weight, at 0.4 oz. The weight is obvious and since the pen body is so short I’ll be posting it for everything except a quick note. This does make the Brass Sport one of the heaviest pens in my hand. I don’t post my KarasKustoms ink so even the heaviest of those pens is less than 1.3 oz.

Upon arrival I inked it up with the included blue cartridge. I didn’t flush it out first. I was anxious and I’m not a fan of blue ink so flushing it out for a cleaning wouldn’t have bothered me. It wrote well. I didn’t do a lot of writing with it, maybe a little over a page spread across several sessions. The extra fine nib felt smooth and the flow was good.

This was the third Kaweco Sport I had inked up which was at least one too many. I decided to move the red cartridge from my Black Stonewashed. I didn’t flush out the pen fist so I got a blue-red mix for the first few pages. It’s still not a pure red yet.

I did some longer writing sessions with this new ink. Such as the drafts for the previous ink & pen notes (Black Stonewash Sport) and this article. I did feel some fatigue after 15 minutes or so. I don’t typically use a Kaweco Sport for long writing sessions because the pen isn’t the most comfortable for me. It’s not what I’d call uncomfortable, but it’s not perfect for my hand such as the Pilot Custom 823 or Pelikan M805. Another problem is that it’s been slightly humid and I dislike air conditioning so my hand is sweating a bit, which means I have to grip the brass section tighter than usual. The weight may contribute to the fatigue but I do typically prefer more weight in a smaller pen.

In these longer sessions I began to have the vary occasional skip. I took a close look at the nib and the tines are misaligned just a bit. I’ll get around to straightening them out since this is a pen I want to keep and will probably have it inked more often than not. But it’s not so annoying than it frustrates me. Yet.

There is a converter available, and some other possible options. It’s a small converter (not standard) and I decided not to deal with the hassle. I’ve been sticking to cartridges in all my Kaweco Sports. Any short international cartridge will fit. I also don’t bother to refill cartridges either. I have plenty of cartridges to chose from at this point and I pretty much stick with a couple color families in them.

I’ve only had the pen a few days and it’s already begun to develop a patina. Plus, it’s shiny so it shows off oils from my hand. The photos were taken right after using the pen without bothering to wipe it down. So if a little grime bothers you this isn’t the pen for you.

The Desk of Lori has real review of this pen which includes many more photos and writing samples (for a fine nib).

My first impression of the Kaweco Brass Sport is positive and I don’t regret the purchase. I will need to smooth the nib which is a bummer for a pen of this price. My nib wasn’t as bad as Lori’s and it’s useable. I would have hoped (but know better) that the increased cost wasn’t just because of the material.

Kaweco Brass Sport on leather

This Just In: Sailor Professional Gear Regency Stripe

Sailor Professional Gear Regency Stripe outer boxThe Sailor Professional Gear Regency Stripe has the distinction of being on my wanted pens longer than any other fountain pen. It was just about three years ago, sometime in July 2012, when I first saw pictures of the pen. I never bought the pen for various reasons (but mostly because of the price), but I also didn’t delete the pen from the list.

I recently saw the pen in Brad’s (The Pen Addict) June carry post. Then, while catching up on Anderson Pen’s podcasts, Brian showed the pen and mentioned that Sailor was discontinuing the Regency Stripe. Yikes! It was getting some attention and it was discontinued.

The pen seemed to be still in stock at the usual places but it wasn’t on Sailor’s website. It was time to make a decision on the Regency Stripe. Obviously I decided to buy it.

I already have a Sailor fine nib in my Sailor Professional Gear Imperial Black pen and really like it but I didn’t want another fine nib. I wanted to go even slimmer and get an extra fine nib. Unfortunately the extra fine nib isn’t offered with the Regency Stripe and a fine is the thinnest offering. This meant finding one second-hand to save money was impossible. I could buy a wider nib and have Mike Masuyama grind it to an extra fine which would be close to a Sailor nib (Mike worked for Sailor). I did find one recent sale for a price where this would make sense, but nothing was available and that one sold pen was the only sale that I found when looking through past sales. So I gave in to my fear of missing out and decided to buy a new one now.

I ordered the pen from Classic Fountain Pens (John Mottishaw) so I could get it with a official Sailor extra fine nib at no additional cost or hassle. So while the pen is expensive, at least I got exactly what I wanted without any hassle.

Every time I hear about a Sailor Professional Gear (or Pro Gear) gear pen my initial reaction is to think of a big pen and a piston filler. Whenever I see a picture I also think it’s a big pen at first, unless the photo includes something to provide scale. But the brain synapses quickly trigger the memory that this is more of a normal sized pen and it’s not a piston filler (only the Realo variants are piston fillers. The proportions make it look big but the pen is a little short which creates the illusion.

This pen is heavier than most Sailor pens which seems to have contributed to its demise. The pen is made of resin but has barley corn engraved metal stripes on the barrel which add to the weight. The pen is 35 grams (all weights and measures in this post are from the CFP website) which gives it some nice heft, although it’s no where near the weight of a KarasKustoms Ink. I don’t post my pens so it’s not 35 grams when I use it, but since the cap is all resin (except for the clip) most of that 35 grams is in the barrels. (The battery in my scale is dead so I can’t weigh it myself.)

The section width is .41 inches which is a good size for me. It’s shorter than many of my pens, especially the ones I use for long writing sessions. But it is long enough for me to use comfortably without posting the cap which is my preference.

For my first ink I picked a favorite – Rohrer & Klinger Blau-Schwarz LE. A dignified ink for a dignified fountain pen. I’ve had the pen less than 24 hours and only used it to write a few pages but the ink flow is great (as expected with this ink). It’s a nice very thin line that’s true to the nib size. Flow is good so it’s easy to see and read.

I didn’t expect the extra fine nib to be so smooth. Not because I have a low opinion of Sailor nibs but because it’s so thin and nibs so thin are never buttery smooth. While this one isn’t buttery smooth there’s just a touch of feedback (which I really like) on Doane paper. There’s no feedback to speak of on Tomoe River Paper. John Mottishaw would have tuned the nib before shipping the pen so I can’t say whether this is due to his tuning or due to Sailor’s nib factory.

I’ve had the Sailor Professional gear Regency Stripe less than 24 hours but it appears to have been worth the three year wait. I haven’t had the pen long enough to know if it was worth the price and I’m less certain about that.

Photo Gallery


This Just In: Retro 51 Tornado Popper Lift-Off

Retro 51 Popper Lift-OffI’ve been able to resist the recent Retro 51 Tornado special editions, until I saw the Retro 51 Tornado Popper Lift-Off. As soon as I saw it I headed to Goldspot and ordered it. It looks like I wasn’t the only one since the virtual shelves seem to already be empty since there were only 500 made. Luckily pricing wasn’t based on demand so the pen was only $35 which is in line with other Poppers and a couple bucks less than the recent Sport themed Poppers that are still available.

Mine arrived Monday and is number 460. While the pen is undamaged, Goldspot shipped it in a padded envelope,  not a box. The Retro 51 tube was a bit crushed near the top. Not a huge deal for me since I don’t keep the packaging but something to keep in mind if you order a Retro 51 from Goldspot.

There’s not much to say about this that the pictures don’t say. It uses my favorite Rollerball refills so there’s that.

Retro 51 Lift-Off Number 460Retro 51 Lift-Off



This Just In: Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo and Left Oblique Nib

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo on my Roterfaden TaschenbegleiterWhile not the only reason, I’ve been selling off my accumulation to fund some new purchases. While I like the metal Pilot Vanishing Points the metal feels cold and impersonal. This really became apparent to me the more I used the Maple Wood Vanishing Point. So when Pilot released two more models made of wood the only question was which one I would add to my accumulation first.

The two new models are Cherry Bamboo and Black Bamboo, both have rhodium trim. Both finishes called out to me. My last addition was a dark pen, the Stresemann, so this time I decided to go with a little color and picked the Cherry Bamboo. Besides, I do like red and black together and while mostly red this does have black in it.

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo closeup

Cherry Bamboo closeup

Despite the Bamboo name the pens are made of Birch Wood. While several sites say it’s Bamboo, enough say they’re made of birch wood that I’m convinced it’s birch wood. While it could be the varnish on the Retro 51 and the dye on the VP, my Bamboo Retro 51 feels and looks a lot smoother with less wood grain than the VP.

The pen is pricey and it’s not for everyone. But it is for me and since I sold enough of my accumulation to pay for the pen I went ahead and took the plunge.

I have plenty of VP factory nibs. I sold most of my VPs as empty barrels and have five nibs for two pens, so I ordered the pen from Classic Fountain Pens. This way I could have John Mottishaw grind the factory medium nib to a left oblique. More on the nib later.

The pen is even better looking in real life than in pictures. I’m really glad I picked the Cherry Bamboo. It arrived in a Russian Nesting Doll of boxes. The outer white cardboard sleeve covered a heavy cardboard black box. Inside that was a hinged presentation box for the pen, also black. Removing the presentation box revealed the paperwork and an ink cartridge. The pen sat in a bed of thin cloth and the Pilot name is embossed on the cushioned cover. Nice, but not overboard.

While I’ve been selling off my metal Vanishing Points barrels I’ve been keeping many of the nibs. I’ve been considering getting one of the medium nibs ground to a left oblique or stub. The left oblique fits the way I hold the pen perfectly, at least my Esterbrook left obliques do. The little rotation it needs is the way I want to hold the pen normally and one reason I have a harder time with italic or even stubs.

I was slightly concerned that the clip might prevent me from holding the pen comfortably with the right angle for the nib. Because of this I had intended to have one of my medium nibs ground at a future pen show so I could test it while it was ground.

Ordering the VP without a nib wasn’t an option and another factory nib was unneeded. I spent some time comparing my Esterbrook left oblique with the way I held the Vanishing Point. I was confident it would work for me and I went for the left oblique ground by John Mottishaw.

Pilot Vanishing Point Left Oblique NibI was extremely happy when the pen arrived. The left oblique, which is about 15° in this case, seems perfect for the Vanishing Point. The clip, which can bother some people, and the nib combine to give me a near perfect writing experience.

Since I naturally grip the pen correctly for the nib I can use this pen for notes since I don’t really need to concentrate on my writing. Still, this nib is more for sit down, longer form writing sessions such as the draft to this article.

I inked it up with the included blue cartridge rather than waste the cartridge. I like Pilot ink and I usually use cartridges in the VPs, although blue is rarely my color of choice. But why waste a cartridge. I’ll probably use the converter with this nib so I can pick inks that appreciate the left oblique nib.

The nib isn’t very wide (not a complaint, it’s my preference) so the line variation is subtle. But it’s noticeable and I like it.

I’m glad to have another wood Vanishing Point and I’m very happy to have the Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo in my accumulation.

Not Crying Over Spilled Ink Thanks to eBay

Two bottles of Sheaffer Emerald Green

Two bottles of Sheaffer Emerald Green

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I flushed out my Platinum Plaisir and needed another fountain pen with green ink. I decided to return my new(ish) (to me) Jade Green Sheaffer Balance II to the rotation. It did so well with Sheaffer Emerald Green as it’s first ink I wanted to use the same ink. I wrote about the pen and ink here.

I only have a small 12ml bottle of the ink so I filled the converter with a syring since the nib is too big to fit in the bottle. Well, as bad luck and clumsiness would have it, the syringe caught the edge of the bottle and I nocked it over.

Spilled Sheaffer Emerald Green

The good new is all the ink was on my ink towel, a little soaked through to the desk but it was quickly wiped up. The bad news is I lost over half my remaining supply.

After satisfying myself that the ink was as nice as I remember I headed to eBay. I managed to find a couple bottles, caliming to be mint and unopened, at a reasonable price. So naturally I place the order.

The ink arrived Thursday and the bottles certainly appeared unopened and the ink inside seems fines, although I won’t open the bottles until I need the ink. Based on the packaging and my research the ink seems to be from the 1980s which makes it the oldest ink I have. Previously the Sheaffer red label bottles were my oldest inks.

As the ink I like goes out of production I’ve begun to use eBay for ink more and more. I picked up a bottle of Montblanc Bordeaux not too long ago. eBay is always a risk when buying things so I’ve developed my own rules for eBay ink purchases. I should point out I’ve only bought older, no longer manufactered inks.

  1. I have a maximum price of $25/bottle which includes the shipping to my door. This doesn’t mean I’ll spend $25 no matter what, but anything above $25 eliminates it from consideration. I set this price because even a seller with the best intentions can sell a bad bottle of ink, especially if it looks good but is unopened. If I had opened this ink and it was bad I would not have returned it. Externally the ink seemed fine and as described. If the seller had opened it to check the ink I would not have bought it (see rule #2). So I’m prepared to eat the cost if the ink happened to be bad. Plus I don’t actually open the bottle until I’m ready to use it.
  2. The bottle must be unopened. In the case of Emerald Green most listings were for opened bottles.
  3. Good pictures. While it’s impossible to tell the ink quality from a photo if the ink is sealed it just makes me feel better about the listing. Plus, it does confirm it is the correct ink. I see a lot of current Montblanc Reds that are listed as Montblanc Bordeaux.
  4. Plus the usual eBay considerations such as a good rating for the seller.

This particular seller still has a couple 2-bottle sets still available. I’m hoping they go soon so I don’t buy them. I do feel compelled to say that while I’m happy with my experience this is the only transaction I’ve had with the seller so you’re on your own if there’s an issue.

Do you buy ink on eBay? If so, what’s your experience been?

This Just In: A Couple Sheaffer Balance IIs

Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green and Crimson GlowBrowsing the Classic Fountain Pens ( website is both enjoyable and dangerous. The danger rose up a bit me when I was browsing about two weeks ago. There were several newly listed NOS and pre-owned post–1950 Sheaffer pens listed. Several of them caught my eye and despite my plans to enjoy the pens I already have I couldn’t stay away and after an internal struggle I broke down and ordered two of them. They arrived Monday of last week.

Sheaffer Balance II Crimson Glow on a mirror

Both pens were manufactured around the turn of the century when Sheaffer still made fountain pens in the USA. While this makes the pens sound old both pens were introduced in 1998 which does make the modern and not vintage. Like my Sheaffer Balance Aspen these have the reputation of being prone to cracks. While called “Balance” when they were released and thus the official name they are often referred to as “Balance II” because they were based on the vintage Balances.

Both pens are in mint condition. The Jade Green Balance could be NOS as it arrived with a box, papers, converter and a couple cartridges. The cartridges appear to have suffered some evaporation. The converters are the more modern piston type and not the older style aerometric converters. The Crimson Glow model Balance had only the converter but appeared mint.

Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green on a mirror

For their first ink I had no choice and used Sheaffer ink from the same era and possibly the same factory. The Sheaffer Glow got Sheaffer Skrip Peacock Blue while the Jade Green Balance was filled with Sheaffer Emerald Green. The Emerald Green was sold as calligraphy ink in 12ml bottles. Since I had several enjoyable pens inked I only gave each about half a fill.

I really like the 18K gold feather-touch nibs. I’ve said it before, while I don’t like gold trim or nibs I really like the Sheaffer nib despite the gold color in the nib. The find the two-tone nibs to be classy and reminiscent of the vintage nibs. Both are the same, medium nibs but on the thin side which is to my liking. They are comparable to my Sheaffer Balance Aspen nib which is a little wide for note taking but I really enjoy when doing regular writing.

I’ve used the pens since April 6th and have enjoyed them quit a bit. The pens fit well in my hand and the flow is good. There were occasional skips on the first stroke when I uncapped the pen but other than that they were skip free until the ink got low. Skipping returned when the ink was low, by which I mean there wasn’t any ink in the converter but there was still some in the feed. I could get about half a page after the skipping started. My Aspen does well right to the last drop but that pen was tuned by Mike Masuyama.

Despite their reputation as fragile I’m not as protective of these as I am with my Aspen. I have clipped them in my pocket to carry out and about. I also clipped them in my Nocko Lockout pen case although I’ve avoided letting that case bounce around my computer bag.

I really love the marbled acrylic that these are made of. There’s a nice depth to it. Classic Fountain Pens did have all four models in the marbleized acrylic from this line of pens but now they’re all gone, which is a good thing as I’d be tempted to return for the the remaining two.

I’m happy with both of these Sheaffer Balance IIs and glad to add them to my accumulation.