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.

This Just In: Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite

Pelikan M805 Stresemann with MB Bordeaux ink bottleThis really isn’t “just in”, I’ve had it for over a week. A glorious week! But as that statement indicates, I haven’t had the pen long enough to give a objective review. This fountain pen still has that new pen glow which is blinding me to any faults. You’ve been warned, if you buy this pen based upon what I write don’t blame me if you find faults in your pen.

I don’t really have grail pens. I’m more impulsive than contemplative and patient. Plus, the Stresemann is a new pen and part of Pelikan’s regular M800 line of pens so it wouldn’t be hard to find. All it would take is money, which can’t be ignored but it’s obtainable. Despite these two points this pen is as close to a grail pen as I’ll get, I just didn’t know it.

I’ve spent time researching Pelikan M800 and M1000 fountain pens. This was typically done at pen shows where I found that the M800 was more my type of pen so I focused on that model. While I do think gold trim and nibs look OK in some pen designs I decided I wanted silver trim for this pen. In the world of Pelikan model numbers this meant a M805 where the “5” meant silver (or rhodium) trim. I didn’t really like the looks of the current models. Too much gold and the colors were nice enough (the green more than others) but not great. Even the models with chrome trim had gold in the nib design. For a pen of this price I wanted perfection. So while I didn’t have a specific pen in mind, I kept looking at pen shows and the usual used pen markets to see if an older pen caught my attention. None did.

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite nib and cap jewelThen Pelikan announced the Stresemann and I knew it was my pen. Still, I waited a week or so since I was hesitant to buy based on only pictures which would naturally make the pen look great. But I eventually placed a pre-order with Classic Fountain Pens (John Mottishaw) for one with an extra fine nib. I considered a custom stub nib but decided to go with the extra fine as a nib I would use in any situation.

The pen arrived the same day as the Long Island Pen Show. I left the show without a pen (in part because the Streseman was my pen budget for the year) but it was still a great pen day. The nib is tuned before shipment so I can’t speak to the out-of-the-box performance of the nib for factory fresh pens but my experience with Pelikan has always been good. I asked for a medium ink flow when using a light touch. This is a little wetter than I would have asked for a year ago.

The pen arrived in a faux leather pouch in a heavy cardboard box. A nice presentation without going overboard. The pen barrel had a couple of smudges on it, something like silicone grease of manufacturing residue. This could have been due to handling when tuning the nib or from the factory. I was able to wipe these off with a microfiber cloth and medium pressure but no solvents needed.

I picked my favorite ink, Montblanc Bordeaux, for its first fill. It’s a piston filler and holds a lot of ink so I’m still on my first fill. The extra fine nib is wider than many of my other extra fines but in line with my other modern western extra fines. I am glad I didn’t pick a fine nib. See the photos for a comparison with my Sheaffer Snorkel extra fine which I had inked up.

Performance has been great but not perfect. After being stored nib up overnight the first stroke was noticeably drier than normal, although not a true skip. The pen has also skipped occasionally when I’m writing fast or at strange angle such as when taking notes on slicker paper. I haven’t had any problems at all when sitting at my desk and writing normally and with proper form.

The ink does splash drops on the nib. Some may not like this but personally I love it and it enhances the pen for me. There’s no ink inside the cap so it isn’t splashing ink around.

I absolutely love the look of this pen. Black or gray pens with rhodium (or any chrome) trim are a favorite of mine. The black and gray stripes vary their looks depending on how the light hits them. Since the black stripes are also translucent the ink level can be checked so the design is both functional and decorative. It’s not a demonstrator, just translucent enough to see the ink level.

I’ve been using the pen every day since I got it and it’s been my main pen each day. It will be awhile (one or two months minimum) before I do a full review but the main difference between this and other M80X pens are cosmetic as far as I can tell. That new pen aura has me calling the Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresseman Anthracite my favorite pen. It may or may not keep that title after extended use, but it’s certainly a keeper and for me it is worth the price.


This Just In: Nexus Minimal Fountain Pen (Kickstarter)

Nexus Minimal fountain pen with packaging

[Updated Feb 26th – see below]

I received my Kickstarter Nexus Minimal fountain pen today. I pledged at the early bird level (the lowest) and didn’t order any of the accessories, not even a converter. I was concerned about the quality of the project but I did want to support a fountain pen. By “concerned about the quality of the project” I mainly mean that their delivery date (Nov 2014) was far to aggressive considering they wouldn’t get the money until mid-September. Plus, I felt if they were successful and reached their stretch goals (they did) they would have a project that was complicated to complete with so many options.  So while it arrived several months late it wasn’t unexpected or unusual for Kickstarter.

They shipped it with the cartridge in the pen (not loaded, just in the barrel). My cartridge leaked in the pen so I had to clean it out and will let the barrel dry for a couple days so that there isn’t any moisture trapped in there. This isn’t the first pen I received with the cartridge stored in the barrel, but usually the top of the cartridge (the hard part) is near the feed, in other words it’s usually shipped upside down. Maybe the cold affected it (I’ve avoided ordering ink because it’s been so cold for so long) but there weren’t any signs of ice so it may have been punctured when being jostled in transit.

I picked the Matt Black version which doesn’t feel like cold aluminum and has a bit of a soft feel to it. The pen feels nice in my hand although I’ve yet to actually write with it. I like the feel of the material. It feels lighter than I expected although I then weighed it and found it’s 22 grams which is close to their pre-production spec of 24 grams. And I don’t trust my scale enough to say they’re wrong.

They used Bock nibs and the nib is stamped with the Bock name. I usually don’t judge a nib until I write with it, but since I couldn’t write with it yet I took a look with a loupe. The tines are just slightly misaligned. I did see one commenter complain about skipping. I don’t think they did any nib alignments so they’re at the mercy of Bock’s mass production quality control.

With the exchange rate at the time, foreign exchange fees, and shipping this fountain pen was less than $40. For that price this seems like a very nice pen, although I have to qualify that by saying I won’t be inking it up for a couple more days. Unfortunately those of you who picked the Titanium pen are still waiting for them to work out the manufacturing process.

[Feb 26th Update] I inked up the pen today before lunch. It wasn’t problem free but I haven’t heard of anyone else having similar problems and it’s not something that would go unnoticed.

Since the pen shipped with a Diamine ink cartridge, but mine was broken, I wanted to pick a Diamine ink to start with and I had a box of Diamine Prussian Blue ink cartridges. So I popped one in and set the pen nib down to allow the ink to reach the nib. A couple minutes later, when I checked the pen, I found that the cartridge had completely emptied into the cap. It appeared the ink had flowed through the feed, not leaked around the side. I inked another pen with a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge at the same time. That one didn’t have the same problem and in fact the ink took about 10 minutes to even reach the tip of the nib.

I checked back and I found that this Prussian Blue cartridge did the same thing in another pen, but in that case I blamed the pen and put it aside for review (which I’ve yet to do) because I had just taken it apart for a thorough cleaning. Interestingly, but meaningless, that was a Faber-Castell Basic which this pen reminds me of.

But back on this pen – I unscrewed the nib unit and there wasn’t any trace of ink around the threads, further leading me to figure the ink flowed right through the nib. So with the nib unit still removed I inserted a Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire ink cartridge and waited for the ink to flow. No signs of leaking and the ink took over 5 minutes to reach the nib. It’s been a couple of hours and there’s no sign of ink in the cap, although the pen has only been nib down when I’m writing. It’s either flat on my desk or nib up in my pen stand.

I haven’t  done a lot of writing with the Nexus Minimal fountain pen but my first impression are:

The nib isn’t the smoothest but it is smooth enough. I’ve certainly paid more for a pen with a worse nib. There’s some tooth on courser paper. I haven’t had any skipping on Doane Paper except when I first uncap the pen. The first stroke sometimes skips if it’s a upstroke. This doesn’t happen every time. I have the same hard starts but I also had some skipping on the slicker Rhodia paper (No. 16 Dotpad). This is typically an upstroke when starting a new word and when I was taking notes where I write a bit fast. As I mentioned the tines are slightly misaligned which may contribute to the skipping. In my case, on the upstroke the leading tine is higher than the trailing tine. The tines don’t seem that much out of alignment, but if I used Rhodia or other slick paper most of the time the skipping would be annoying enough for me to align the tines and smooth the nib sooner rather than later. With slower, deliberate writing I have less skips on even Rhodia paper. And I really do need to slow down whenever I expect other people to read my writing. But on Doane the hard starts aren’t frequent enough for me to make changes. At least not yet.

Also, I did not order the converter but a standard sized Schmidt converter fits just fine so no reason why other converters won’t fit. Standard international long cartridges also fit fine, at least the Pelikans I have do.

This Just In: KarasKustoms Ink (again)

KarasKustoms Ink Raw Aluminum and GoldTwo more KarasKustoms Inks arrived today, further feeding my obsession with them. These are two new finishes but I reviewed the Ink here. With eight fountain pen versions and three rollerballs it’s rather obvious I like them.

The new additions include a Tumbled Raw Aluminum finish. I went with a aluminum gripping section, although I can swap with any of the others. I picked a medium nib since I already had a fine nib in another aluminum section. Although I can swap nibs if I ever want to fine aluminum sections inked at once. I like the raw look of the aluminum. It’s a finish I didn’t see in the Kick Starter or on their website until very recently.

The second addition was the Gold version with a brass gripping section and a fine nib. I already had a brass section but I really like both the gold and orange finishes and the brass section is ideal for both pens. I can envision inking both pens at the same time and wanting brass sections.

I included a comparison photo showing both the my new gold pen and the older orange (which looks more gold in most light).

Also new, at least for me, was that the raw aluminum pen arrived in a actual box. It’s a simple but functional box. Even though it’s apparent in the photo, I missed the section and converter in the box and opened an empty pen.

I think this will satisfy my obsession for awhile. At least until they come out with a brighter orange finish.



These Just Ink: More KarasKustoms Ink and the Bullet Pencil – TT

KarasKustoms Ink

Black RB with brass section and Blue FP with copper section

My obsession with the KarasKustoms Ink has brought two more of them into my accumulation, one fountain pen and one rollerball. This gives me one gripping section for each material (aluminum, brass, copper) for each pen type (fountain & roller) along with one of each nib size available. Since I can mix and match to my hearts content  I’m hoping to stay satisfied. But there’s still two barrel colors available that I don’t have and their Pen Addict discount code runs through year end. I wouldn’t bet against an end of year order.

I’ll add pictures and update the review once I’ve used the pens awhile.

Bullet Pencil TT

My first bullet pencil also arrived. The Bullet Pencil TT was a Kickstarter project which I backed. The TT (Traditional Tip) is a standard bullet pencil, no stylus tip included. Like all the other Kickstarters I backed it was late, but only by a couple of months which is on time based on my Kickstarter experience.

It’s my first bullet pencil although (I also backed the Twist Bullet Pencil which should arrive soon). I’m expecting it to join my Kaweco AL Sport as a daily carry, maybe replace it.

This Just In: Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karas Customs Ink Fountain Pen uncapped

This Just In: TWSBI Classic

I just received my TWSBI Classic today and wanted to post my early impressions. Really early, I’ve only had the pen a couple hours.

In the interest of time the photos are from my phone and it’s a picture of my article draft written with the pen. I usually don’t inflict my writing on you, especially since sometimes the words in my head appear differently on paper.

It’s a thinner TWSBI than usual, there’s a comparison photo in the gallery. So here’s the initial impressions and a camera phone gallery (double-click the photos for full size).

For some reason I want to call this the “Mini”, a pen I do not have. Hopefully I caught the only slip.

While I say the ink is Diamine Ancient Copper. It’s not. That was my plan but I picked up Diamine Oxblood instead. Long day, didn’t notice until the post went up and I was proofing it.

Write-up of first impressions

Diamine Oxblood ink. Not Diamine Ancient Copper like it claims to be,