Favorite 5: Inks

It’s been over a year and a half since I last listed my Favorite 5 inks, so it’s time for an update. This was much harder than picking favorite pens, which is one reason I kept putting it off. Three of the inks from October 2013 remain on the list.

I also ended up with four Montblanc inks on this list. I would have said it’s my favorite brand overall, if I was forced to pick just one, but going into this I wouldn’t have expected it to dominate the list and I looked for inks to replace one or two of them. But I kept the list as-is since I do think these inks give me a nice spread across the spectrum of ink colors I like to use the most.

1. Montblanc Bordeaux

Photo of a bottle of Montblanc Bordeaux ink

Montblanc Bordeaux Ink

Easily my number 1 ink. This is always in one of my inked pens, at least since I decided to stop hoarding it and actually use it. I did pick up another bottle from eBay to replace one I recently finished. So now I’m back up to four bottles (minus one pen fill). Montblanc Bordeaux ink notes.

2. Rohrer and Klingner Blau-Schwarz

Photo of a Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz bottle

I’m not a fan of blue or even blue-black inks, yet this blue-black is a favorite and even moved up the list a couple of slots. Unfortunately it’s a limited edition ink. This ink is a regular in at least one of my pens. Ink Notes

3. Montblanc Permanent Grey

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottle

A new addition to my list but I’ve grown to really like this ink despite its potential for boredom. It’s a regular in my favorite modern fountain pen which has a nib that brings out the best in this ink. Despite its relatively high cost I bought a second bottle to have on hand. No review yet.

4. Montblanc Toffee Brown

Bottle of Montblanc Toffee Brown Fountain Pen InkI like brown inks and this is my current favorite. I don’t have much to add other than my Edison Menlo is my favorite choice for this ink, although mainly because it’s color coordinated. Montblanc Toffee Brown Ink Notes

5. Montblanc Irish Green

Photo of an open Montblanc Irish Green bottle

Whenever I want a true green ink I keep reaching for this bright green. Ink Notes

Wrapping Up

I obviously have a preference for Montblanc inks, despite not having any of their pens. It just turned out this way. It helps that I trust their ink for my vintage or hard to clean pens since Montblanc intends them for use it their own expensive pens.

The last two inks, Toffee Brown and Irish Green are the most likely to vanish from this list since they aren’t inks I always have inked up. But the first three inks on the list are always in a pen and were easy choices as favorites.

What are your favorite inks?


For Sale – Three Pilot Vanishing Point Barrels

These have been sold.

Time to thin the accumulation a bit. While I like Vanishing Points I really love the Maplewood and the metal VPs aren’t getting much use. So I’m selling off some of the barrels. The nib units are not included. Converters, boxes, and cartridge covers are NOT included either, just the barrel. Nib units are available from retailers such as Goulet Pens.

Shipping in the U.S. is $6 per order (any number of pens in one shipment) and includes tracking and insurance. US addresses only, no international shipping for these pens. I found that USPS has been geographically challenged on my last two international shipments and I don’t want to take the risk at this time. Sorry.

You can use the contact form on the For Sale page or email me at ray [at] fpquest.com. A firm “I want it” along with your email address and I’ll send a Paypal invoice and then will send the pen(s) within 2 days of receiving payment. I’ll also take Square Cash on request.

Pilot Vanishing Point Matte Black barrel only – This is in good condition with minor signs of wear – Sold

Pilot Vanishing Point Matte Black for salePilot Vanishing Point Chrome barrel only – In good condition with minor signs of wear – sold

Pilot Vanishing Point Chrome for salePilot Vanishing Point Gunmetal w/black trim barrel only – In good condition with minor signs of wear – Sold

Pilot Vanishing Point Gunmetal for sale

Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

It’s been just over six months since I last updated my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens. As I mentioned when I updated my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens, I have instituted a new rule – to be considered the pen must have been used since I last published my favorite five list. In this case this made picking the pens a non-event, I only used 5 vintage pens since October. I do group my Esterbrook J’s and nibs together which does reduce the overall number. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.

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

Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Pearl GreyThis moves all the way up from the fifth position six months ago. I love this particular finish, it seems I’m attracted to black and gray finishes, and even though the finish is worn through use, that merely enhances its beauty.

The nib is very nail-like but that’s what I like. It’s performance never disappoints me.

2. Esterbrook J (any of them)

Esterbrook J with 8440 nibThis is certainly my most used vintage model. It’s a rare day when at least one Esterbrook isn’t inked. I’d prefer a bigger pen but like my modern KarasKustoms Ink this pen makes the list thanks to its variety. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.

3. Esterbrook Dip-Less with #7550 nib

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

This has been inked, so to speak, since August 2014 and I use it almost every day, at least for a few words. Part of the attraction is that the pen is different. But I do enjoy writing with it. Review

4. Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I on a mirrorThis is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe my specific pens were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. The pens are identical in every way except color. Even the nib performance is identical, at least as much as I can tell. Review

5. Parker Duofold Senior c1928 “Big Red”

Parker Duofold Senior This has always been the classic fountain for me so this makes the list based strictly on emotion, and the fact that is was one of only five vintage pens I used since October. This pen has a tendency to leak a bit from the nib into the cap when being bounced around in my bag, so it tends to stick around the house. While it’s never actually leaked I also hesitate to carry it in my shirt pocket since it is one of the few vintage pens I have where I am paranoid about it leaking. Review

Wrapping Up

I was a little surprised that I only used five vintage fountain pens in the last six months. I have a couple that could have challenged these if I had used them. The Duofold certainly has the a tenuous grip on the list which is no surprise since it’s been on the list and then dropped in the past.

What’s your favorite vintage pen?

Favorite 5: Modern Pens

It’s been a little over six months since I last picked my Favorite 5 modern fountain pens. This time around I decided to impose a new rule – only fountain pens inked since my last favorite five list can be considered. Since I’m fickle with my fountain pens one of the worst things that can happen is I use it so much I get tired of it and move on simply for variety. This rule is what kept the Franklin-Christoph Model 66 from being on this list. It had been inked, on my desk, and used regularly for years. It’s still a fine pen and will be back, but it went on hiatus. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

For the record, a modern pen is anyone manufactured after I was born. So in my accumulation that puts the Sheaffer PFM I’s in the transition period and I classify those as vintage since they were probably manufactured before I was born. One of them could have been used to sign my birth certificate, none of the ones listed here could have.

1. Sheaffer Balance Aspen SE

Sheaffer Balance II AspenThis was my favorite six months ago and remains my favorite today. It’s been inked constantly for the last six months, getting an immediate refill when it went dry. The nib was tuned by Mike Masuyama which certainly helps it hold the #1 position. It’s a medium nib, which isn’t my typical point of choice, but it’s on the fine side of medium which makes it great for all but my smallest writing. Review

2. Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 not postedThe Pilot Custom 823 has the classic cigar shape that I love. It moved up from the fourth to the second position on the strength of the nib. I love the fine nib on this pen. I’m not a flex nib person but this nib has a nice spring which enhances the writing experience. It’s a large pen but light and seems custom designed for my hand. Add its large ink capacity and it defines a perfect pen for me. Here’s my review.

3. Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite capped on mirrorA new pen for me and the newest to make this list. Part of the reason it’s here is because of that new pen glow. It’s extra fine nib is almost what keeps it off the list. The nib is a little wetter/wider than I want in an extra fine nib, much wetter and as wide as the Sheaffer Aspen. If I had to pick one, this would be the fountain pen most likely to be missing from my next fav 5 list. We’ll have to see how much that new pen glow contributes to its place on the list. No review yet but I did write my initial thoughts here and here.

#4 KarasKustoms Ink

Gold fountain pen Ink with copper section

Another relatively new fountain pen for me. I didn’t have any the last time I published this list. Now I have several of them. These are excellent pens, and an excellent size for me, but they make this list because of the variety of choices. As I said, I’m fickle. These let me change up barrel colors, gripping section materials and nib sizes. I admit, if I had one of these pens it probably wouldn’t be on the list although it would be frequently used.

#5 Edison Huron Grande

Edison Huron Grande Extra Fine Nib and R&K Blau-Schwarz LE inkThis big, bright fountain pen is new to my favorite 5 list. It has an extra fine nib and I use it as a eye dropper filler so it lasts a long time. This replaced my F-C Model 66 as my desk pen for several months. It was my first, and remains my only, custom pen. No review yet but my initial impressions are here and I wrote about it with one of my favorite inks here.

Wrapping Up

I’m sure this list will be different in six months, but for now these are solidly in the top five. Pens that I have inked get an immediate bump in my opinion so it’s no surprise that the first three pens on the list are currently in my rotation.

In addition to the previously mentioned F-C Model 66 I also dropped the Vanishing Point Maplewood and the Lamy 2000 from the list even though they were used, and enjoyed, in the last six months. I look forward to inking them up again, but I wasn’t wishing for a pen to go dry so I could ink one of them up. I don’t have an KarasKustoms Ink in the rotation (well, a Ink rollerball is in my bag) but I am looking forward to inking one up as I do the Huron Grande since I do miss them.


Fountain Pen Show Season Is Here

Delta Vintage Green with Fine Nib

My first ever pen show purchase

This year’s pen show season is already well underway with Philadelphia and Arkansas, along with the Eastern Pen Show in the UK, already part of history. Although for me it begins (and may end) with the Long Island Pen Show coming March 14th and 15th. I’ve only been to four pen shows (Long Island twice, Boston and Washington DC) so I’m far from an expert, but here’s my pen show strategy.

Pre-Show Prep

  • Check the pen show’s website or Facebook page, if they exist, to see who’ll be at the show and any workshops that may be available.
  • I keep a wishlist of pens I’m interested in buying. If it’s not updated I research typical prices and what I’m willing to pay. Plus any other info about the pen such as finishes or nib sizes I’m interested in. When I was collecting Esterbrook nibs I kept a list of the ones I didn’t have along with what they were generally selling for if they became available along which which ones were on the rare side.
  • I make of a list of pens or brands I want to see even if I’m not particularly interested in purchasing one of them. For example, when considering Pelikan M800 and M1000 I took a look at several samples at a show and was able to write with one of each. This let me know that the M800 was more my type of pen, but I wasn’t ready to buy until recently.
  • Set a budget. It’s easy to go crazy at a pen show so I set a budget. This also forces me to be more careful about what I buy. I don’t want to hit my limit and then find something I really want.
  • Generally, pen shows are more vintage than modern, although Washington DC is big enough so almost all brands and models of modern pens are represented. Smaller shows, like Long Island may not have a lot of modern brands. So adjust your expectations accordingly.

Part of the pen show fun is finding and learning about new things so I certainly don’t limit myself to these lists.

Esterbrook Dollar Bandless with 9555 nib

My first ever vintage purchase was at a pen show.

Things to Bring

  • Bottled water and energy bars/snacks. Most shows (if not all) have some sort of restaurant or cafeteria at the show so this is optional but it does make it easier to stay in the show if you’re pressed for time.
  • A loupe to examine nibs.
  • A pen case to hold any pen purchases, especially used pens which may not have a case.
  • A bag or backpack to carry any purchases. Many vendors will have bags so this is optional and also depends on how much you could potentially buy.
  • A vial of water. It can be used to test vintage pens for leaks. It’s not a bad idea but I admit I’ve never used it and didn’t bring one my last show. Some vendors will allow you to dip pens. But always ask before filling with water or ink.
  • A pocket notebook and pen to make any notes.
  • Cell phone. You’ll probably already have this just because you carry it all the time. But it can be used to take pictures of things you want to remember. You might be considering a pen but decide to move on and see what else is available. Take a picture of it and the table it’s at. This can also replace your pocket notebook, but where’s the fun in that?

At the show

CS Marlborough with Binder Stub Nib

My first nibmeister visit – also at a pen show

  • If I want nib work done the first thing I do is find the nibmeister I want to do the work and get on their list. Maybe not all of them maintain a list, but the three I’ve been to at nib shows did. While it may vary by person, if all you need is a nib tuning it’s probably OK to be inked, but if it’s going to be ground to a new point it should be empty. It never hurts to bring the pen empty since they’ll have ink to test it with. Richard Binder has a pen show FAQ, while specific to him it will give you a general idea of what to expect from anyone else.
  • Either first (if I don’t look for the nibmeister) or second (if I do) I make a pass around the entire show to get a general lay of the land pen show. Unless there’s something I want and it’s rare or a really good price I won’t do any actual shopping yet.
  • Enjoy the rest my time at the show.
  • I usually buy ink and paper when I’m getting ready to leave (unless, of course, it’s a bottle of Montblanc Bordeaux for $10) so I don’t have to carry around the heavier items.

Anything suggestions or anything I missed?

Additional Reading

I wrote about my first pen show and the Washington DC show.

2014 Atlanta Pen Show – The Pen Addict

2014 Commonwealth Pen Show (Boston) – Modern Stationer

2014 Long Island Pen Show – EDJelley.com

Comments on Fountain Pen Innovation

TWSBI Vac 700 with Montblanc Burgundy Red

TWSBI Vac 700

Dr. Deans, on the Fountain Pen Economics site, recently put together a Brand Taxonomy to categorize various fountain pen companies based on their competitiveness. He classified the brands based on their “…performance in the competitive environment.” The four categories are: disruptive, innovative, competitive and uncompetitive. The article is worth reading and provides more detail on the categories, but they are pretty self-explanatory. He’s since published an additional article about the disruptive and innovative companies but I wrote the draft of this article before it was published. I’ve added a few comments based on that article but I didn’t rewrite the whole thing. Hopefully this doesn’t make the article too disjointed.

How do my personal favorites fair on the list?

Sheaffer 300 - uncapped on standI own more Sheaffers than any other fountain pen brand and it’s a sentimental favorite. Despite this my search for it started at the bottom of the list. Sure enough, it’s in the “uncompetitive” list. Unfortunately I can’t argue that it’s wrongly accused. Only two of my twenty-three Sheaffers were manufactured in the last five years. While I like the Sheaffer 300 it’s only one pen and it’s neither perfect or unique. At best if proves Sheaffer can still make a good pen if they want to. The recent Sheaffers seem to get good (but not great) reviews but the lack of a large number of reviews indicates others are as uninspired by the pens as I am.

Franklin-Christoph Model 66Franklin-Christoph is the one brand I consider wrongly classified although I do admit that it’s one of my favorite brands and I own eight of their pens. He puts it in the “competitive” category with a note that it has the potential to move to “innovative.” I’d argue that it’s already innovative. I find their designs subtly unique and they have a recognizable design aesthetic. I do admit the materials aren’t fancy but they work well with the designs. Most (maybe all, I haven’t checked) of their fountain pens come with 20 nib options and their Mike Masuyama nib options are the best value in the business. I’m not aware of any other manufacturer offering so many nib options across their pen line.

They only sell through their website (and a couple pen shows) which probably holds them back. This may be by choice since their Mike Masuyama nib option may not scale well. (They’ve recently done some special editions for individual retailers.)

Edison Huron Grande Extra Fine Nib and R&K Blau-Schwarz LE inkEdison Pens is in the “Innovative” category. Edison is two companies in one. Their custom pens (the Signature Line) puts them in the “Innovative” category, no argument from me. The available filling systems may be based upon older designs, but they are unique among modern fountain pens.

Their Production Line, sold through retailers, has some nice material and designs. The build quality is excellent. But I’d still put them in the competitive category. I don’t argue that the company isn’t innovative, but I’d like to see that innovation trickle down to the production line. Overall I’d consider Franklin-Christoph as innovative as Edison Pens, much more so when the custom pens are ignored or cost is considered.

Edison Pens, unlike Franklin-Christoph, is active in pen forums and has a community built around their pens. They do group buys every year to make a Signature Line pen available at a lower cost.

I’m not sure what I think about the two “Disruptive” companies: Noodlers and Twsbi. They are certainly disruptive although personally I’m not particularly fond of either companies’ products. Despite this there’s no doubt Twsbi has a loyal following and many people love their pens. Both companies make low cost fountain pens, especially based on the types of pens they provide. Their prices are certainly disruptive.

Both companies also suffer from some quality problems. Noodlers pens have a reputation of needing tweaking to get them to work right (although my own pens have worked fine after flushing the manufacturing residue). Twsbi has redesigned pens to resolve design weaknesses. They make up for this by having terrific customer service.

While Noodlers ink has a bad reputation among some (Bay State Blue?) they’re the only ink manufacturer I know of that makes inks which such a wide range of properties. Maybe it’s just because I noticed Noodlers first, but it didn’t seem like permanent inks were so popular until Noodlers was making them. Is there a manufacturer with so many color options?

The business philosophy between Noodlers and Twsbi couldn’t be more different. Noodlers is very much a one man show. Twsbi involves their community early in the pen design and (I assume) takes their feedback when designing a product.

I don’t know much about Visconti but the other two Innovators (Edison & Nakaya) are both relatively low volume producers. Nakayas are high priced premium hand made pens. Their innovation seems to be having a viable company that makes only high-end pens. They have a narrow focus on Urushi pens. While not as expensive as Nakaya, the innovative Edison Signature Line are hand made premium custom pens. Like I said, I don’t see the Edison Production Line pens as innovative despite owning two of them. Does this mean innovation can’t scale? Or does the price of innovation in fountain pens mean the cost forces the market to be small? Or is the cost high because the market is small?

How do your favorite pen brands rank on the list? Do you agree with their placement?

Winner of the Bad Pen Giveaway

I was a bit delayed and didn’t get a chance to draw the winner until today but it’s done and Chris Edwards is the winner of the bad pen.

Winning Number

Winning comment

Chris, please respond to my email or contact me using the contact form within 7 days so I can ship everything out to you.

There were 47 entries plus two bonus entries for previous commenters. (For those of you keeping track, the post shows 48 comments because I replied to one.) Chris had commented previously but it was the number of his original post that was drawn, not the bonus.

I was surprised at the popularity and didn’t expect so many entries. If you’re looking for “Da Book” Richard Binder is still selling them from him website for $20 which is slightly less than I’ve seen it for on eBay.

And to answer a question that was asked – the pen was born bad (I think). It was one of two I bought as new but from a clearance bin. I worked on the other one, not very successfully although it was an improvement. I decided not to try this one. Despite the gold nib, which I usually wouldn’t pick to practice on, these pens were cheap enough be practice fodder.

Good luck Chris!