Ink & Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance Aspen and Montblanc Permanent Grey

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottleI’ve written about this pen and ink combination before. It’s been in use since September 27th of last year. I simply refilled whenever the Sheaffer Balance Aspen went dry. I must be getting bored with the combo because this last fill was way back on February 28th. Over four months for one converter fill is insanely long.

During that time I did use the pen. I never had any hard starts or flow problems. I’m sure there was evaporation but it wasn’t noticeable I I did write the pen dry rather than evaporate it dry.

The Sheaffer Balance Aspen is on top of my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens list and Montblanc Permanent Gray is third on my Favorite 5 Inks list. So it’s no surprise I really love this combination, even if recent actions do indicate boredom with the combination.

The pen is extremely comfortable to write with, a perfect size for my hand. Because it had flow problems when I got it (a problem common to the initial manufacturing of this pen) the nib and feed were tuned by Mike Masuyama so the flow is great. It’s officially a medium nib but it’s more like a medium-fine nib so it’s in my comfort zone.

It’s not a pen I use for notes, marking up documents, or quick writing but when I’m using it for longer writing sessions I don’t want to stop. This usage works well with the ink which isn’t fast drying so prone to careless smudges. The nib is just wide enough to start showing off the saturation and shading of the ink. Plus, I love the look of the nib, not to mention the pen.

It is time for a break so the pen will spend some time in the pen case. I haven’t decided what to ink up to replace it. My two newest pens will be getting a lot of use so I don’t need to ink anything up right away, but I’m down to only six inked pens and that includes a dip pen.


Ink & Pen Notes: Pelikan M805 Stresemann and Montblanc Toffee Brown

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite with MB Toffee BrownI inked this pen up with Montblanc Toffee Brown as the month of May came to a close, so it lasted almost a month in a half. I’m a little surprised since I was under the impression that I did use it a lot, and while it’s a extra fine nib it’s among the widest extra fines that I have. In retrospect, the Maplewood Vanishing Point monopolized many of my days with its XXXF nib. So a month and a half is reasonable for a pen that holds so much ink.

This pen has a rather long name and I tend to shorten it. The official name is Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite.

Montblanc Toffee Brown is among my top five inks, so I like it. The ink performed great, as expected, in this pen. As I mentioned this nib is wider than I like for my extra fines. The nib and ink combine to be a rather wet flow, at least it is considering my preference for drier nibs. This tendency to flow freely means I don’t typically use this pen for my daily note taking but it is well suited for what I call regular or long form writing, such as the draft to this article. The ink was problem free in the Pelikan, no hard starts or skipping.

I’ll flushed out the MB Toffee Brown (quick and easy) and will let it dry out for a day. Then I’ll refill it with Montblanc Bordeaux. It’s my favorite ink and it was the first fill for this pen. Yet of the three inks I’ve used in the pen so far it was the worst performer. Not actually bad, but it failed to meet expectations. So I’ll give it another try so I can see if the ink and the pen just don’t get along or if I simply had the new pen blues.

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


Ink & Pen Notes – Pilot VP Maplewood w/XXXF nib and Pilot black

Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood XXXF writing sample with Pilot Black InkI wrote the Maplewood Pilot Vanishing Point dry faster than I expected, it was just over a month ago that I inked it up. These days my pens tend to stay inked longer than that. Especially considering the XXXF nib is miserly and puts down a ultra thin line so the ink lasts a long time. The Black ink cartridge is the option with the largest ink capacity for the Vanishing Point. (Although the con–20 aerometric converter can equal it if it gets a maximum fill.)

Despite the ultra fine nib this pen never had any hard starts or skipping. The Pilot black ink was dark enough to put down an easily visible line. The nib is thin so smooth is a relative term. I’m not sure any XXXF nib could be called smooth but I actually like the feed back I get from this nib and enjoy the writing experience it provides. I use the nib on a variety of paper that I encounter during the day and rarely have a problem. Some cheap or course paper can cause problems, such as fiber getting stuck in the nib, but luckily this is rare. Cheap paper doesn’t mean copy/printer paper, which this nib handles just fine.

I can use the nib in any pocket notebook no matter what the paper is since bleed and show through aren’t a problem with such a fine line. A thin line also means the ink dries quickly, so no smudging when I close the notebook right after writing the note.

While I don’t mind a little nib creep and even enjoy some ink splatter on the nib, this pen experience serious nib creep as can be seen in the photo. I noticed this when I went to swap the nib with my Cherry Bamboo VP and ended up with ink all over my fingers. (I ended up not swapping to avoid getting ink inside both pens.) This was my one complaint about this pen, although I didn’t flush out the pen because of it.

Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF nib custom grind showing Pilot black ink nib creep

Vanishing points are super easy to clean since the nib unit is removable. I used a bulb syringe to force water through to clean the inside and cleaned the ink off the outside of the nib unit in short order. There was ink inside the barrel in this case, thanks to the creep, which I cleaned with cotton swabs. I hesitate to use water or pen flush inside the VP for fear of rusting or corroding the trap door assembly. I’ll modify that policy if dried ink does eventually clogs the VPs trap door.

The functionality of the Pilot Vanishing Point is well served with this nib and ink. It’s very utilitarian and works consistently all the time. I tend to use the pen for notes, often quick one-sentence notes. With this pen and a notebook in my shirt pocket I’m less likely to reach for my phone to take quick notes since it’s faster.

I also use the pen for longer note taking sessions such as in meetings or training classes. As it happens, this combo is usually used when I’m emphasizing speed over almost everything else. My writing also happens to be generally smaller in these case, or maybe that’s because of the nib. While I do have a light touch with the nib, a trait that helps with ultra thin nibs, I sometimes find myself pressing a little harder when I’m concentrating on the subject of my notes rather than the writing itself. This nib also handles that without a problem.

I tend to not use this XXXF nib for pure writing sessions, such as the draft for blog articles or other long form writing. But I did try it out and found that it performed well and was comfortable for what turned out to be about a hour long writing session. Some of this is just because I used the VP a lot during the day and want to use a different pen. But while the line is very thin and immensely practical, it’s not very exciting.

This fountain pen, ink and nib combination is nearly perfect for what I use it for. In this case it’s less the pen barrel than the nib and ink, but I’ve grown to really prefer the wooden Vanishing Points over the metal barrels. The Maplewood is comfortable to hold and has a nice warm feel to it.

Despite being nearly perfect I decided not to immediately ink it up again. Mainly because I want to give my other pens a chance. I have two new pens due this week, one of which should be a very thin nib such as this one. While it won’t be as quick to action, it will serve much the same purpose.

I reviewed the Maplewood VP, but with medium nib, here. The nib is a custom grind from Richard Binder and has not been reviewed.


Sunday Notes and Links

Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood XXXF nibThis week’s favorite fountain pen/ink is a holdover from last week. An unassuming nib that I really like, It fits perfectly with the functionality of the Vanishing Point, at least for me. The pen won’t be back next week because I wrote it dry last night and will be cleaning it out (Pen & Ink Notes soon). I’m resisting inking it up so I can give some other pens a chance.

I have two new fountain pens due to arrive next week. Two of the remaining three pens on my “wanted list”, although the third is still just a concept (a pen that can handle my screw-in Esterbrook nibs) than a specific pen. So I better get going and write some of my current pens dry.

Some time ago I stopped including ink reviews in these Sunday Links. The sheer number made it hard to pick a favorite and there were two many to include them all. There are some sites that are mostly ink reviews, so I figured it would be good to provide a list.

As always, if you’re curious about a specific ink you can search for reviews on Pennquod. Here are some specific sites, in no particular order…



Fountain Pen Physicist has a good archive of ink reviews, especially the Epic Ink Tests. She’s since moved to The Purl Bug so subscribe to The Purl Bug for new reviews.


the desk of lori

An Inkophile’s Blog

Some additional links of interest…

Shop Visit + Haul: Choosing Keeping – All Things Stationery

A Rare Chance to Review a Pelikan Oblique nib – On Fountain Pens // Understandable, yet sad, that Pelikan no longer makes these nibs a factory option.

Review: Pilot Custom Heritage 91 — Alt. Haven

How I use my notebooks — The Finer Point

Shawn Newton Esterbrook Nib Holder – The Well-Appointed Desk // Still on my wanted list is a pen or nib holder for my Esterbrook nibs but along the lines of the larger pens that I prefer.

Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: State of the Hoard – Peaceable Writer // A nice discussion of what pens were kept and some that weren’t.

Karas Kustoms Ink Fountain Pen Review – Pens! Paper! Pencils! // Still a favorite of mine, even though I don’t have one currently inked.

Jinhao X450 Flex Hack – Calligraphy Nut

Six months in… — Fountain Pen Economics // Congratulations on the milestone.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT // I’ve always liked these pens, at least aesthetically. I assume the Pilot (Namiki) nib is as good as the ones I’ve used. I’ve never been able to get past the price, although I didn’t realize second hand models sold for such a discount off the list price.

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links. If you’re looking for information about a specific pen or ink be sure to visit Pennquod.

Fountain Pen Reality Distortion Field

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo extended nib

Fountain pen that is still emitting a strong reality distortion field

All fountain pens have a reality distortion field. Apple is rumored to have one, or at least Steve Jobs was. Maybe, I can’t confirm that. But I am 100% convinced all fountain pens have one. Not all transmit on a frequency my brain receives, but they all have one. How else can you explain my impulse to buy so many fountain pens as soon as I see them, yet once some time passes the undistorted reality is that they provided no more enjoyment than pens I’ve already accumulated?

I’ve been spending the this year trying to break through this field and I think I’m finally breaking through it.

This has allowed me to gravitate to using what I like. I’m also coming to grips with the fact that what legitimately excites the fountain pen community often isn’t what I will like or use. That community excitement certainly stregthens the reality distortion field. For example, J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor ink has the fountain pen community in a tizzy. Legitimate excitement or not, it’s not an ink that will benefit from the nibs I use or my (lack of) writing style. Yet I want it. Luckily, I’m now able to resist the urge to buy a bottle. It’s the same with soon to be released Twsbi Eco pen. Many are excited about it but I know I won’t enjoy the latest Twsbi enough for it to get any use among my accumulated pens.

Some manufacturers think the reality distortion field is based on marketing and try a little to hard. The Delta Fusion nib is an example. It sounds like such complete BS that it more than negates the reality distortion field that these nice pens generate on their own. The new Esterbrook tried to fuel their reality distortion field with nostalgia but this was such a disconnect from the actual pens that this generated a reality of hate. Note to manufacturers: A nice fountain pen generates a reality distortion field on its own, trying to create one with pure marketing can only lead to disaster.

The reality distortion field gets worse when a fountain pen joins my accumulation. Obviously if I buy a pen it’s reality distortion field is already on my wavelength and it only gets stronger once the pen is added to my accumulation. I’ve noticed this as I reviewed my pens while trying to thin out my accumulation. I look at a pen and my first reaction is along the lines of “I really like this pen, it’s a keeper.” Well duh, I did like it enough to buy it. The reality distortion field has me thinking that this is the only pen in my accumulation. Yet when I look at reality, it’s been over a year (often more) since I’ve inked it up. During that time I haven’t missed it. The reality tells me more about the pen than my distorted emotional reaction.

For example, I recently sold my Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Red pen. I love the way this pen looks, plus it’s a nice writer, I looked at it and decided I wasn’t going to sell it. Yet once I considered the reality, which is that for me Kaweco Sports are pocket pens (and therefore share space with keys, coins, cellphones, pocket lint, etc…) I realized it wasn’t a pen for me. The bright red was far too nice to take this abuse, unlike my raw aluminum version which looks better with abuse. So I always carried it in a sleeve. This sleeve added just enough hassle to using the pen so I never actually used it. The ink eventually evaporated and yet I’d only used it to write a few words. So the reality is, yes it’s a beautiful pen, but not a pen for me.

Kaweco AC Sport Carbon Red with sleeve

A strong reality distortion field but I was able to resist.

On the other hand, I inked up the Black Stonewashed Kaweco Sport to test before selling. I thought this would be an easy choice to sell. I liked it but it no longer grabbed me and I wanted to make space for a new Brass Sport. The reality distortion field kicked in as I used it and I changed my mind, at least for now. I may not get the Brass version. The Stonewashed Sport has been a carry since then and it does get used. The weight of the brass (I assume it’s heavier) and patina would make it a different pen so I still might get it. I just need to decide if three Sports makes sense in my reality. I don’t think they do so to get the Brass I’d have to be willing to part with the Black Stonewashed.

Kaweco AL Sport Black Stonewashed photo

The reality distortion field from this pen trapped me as I was testing it for sale.

One of the things that has helps me focus on, and enjoy, my current accumulation is that I’m burned out of fountain pen reviews. Both reading and writing them. Reviews no longer stregthen the reality distortion field for me. Well OK, some do, but I’ve developed more resistance.

Speaking for myself, I find that for the first one or two months that I really like all new pens, unless there’s something obviously annoying or frustrating about the pen. I tend to focus on and enjoy what I like and it overwhelms any negatives. I don’t break through the reality distortion field until about the third month and understand the true personality of the pen, good and bad. By this time I’ve also begun to understand how the fountain pen fits (or doesn’t fit) into my own usage patterns. So while I can review a pen with every intent to be objective, it will take about three months to be truly objective about what is and isn’t reality with the pen.

I never realized just how many reviews are now done using products provided free for review by a vendor until I started filtering them from my Sunday links post. I’m not religiously against review units (I include them in my Fountain Pen Links tumblr), and this is a whole different rathole, but I wanted fewer links and a way to highlight bloggers spending their own money so I started filtering out review units.

This has caused me to read fewer and fewer reviews. If it’s a pen I’ve never seen I may read it, otherwise I’ll just scan it or maybe even ignore it completely. The reality distortion field does makes it tough for me to completely ignore them. For disclosure – I have received two pens free for review and found I didn’t really like it for the reasons mentioned. While those two reviews still seem valid to me after time has passed I didn’t particularly enjoy doing them as I felt there was an artificial time deadline. So I won’t do them anymore. I think a good reviewer needs time to get beyond the surface of a pen and see if it stands the test of time. So if the review, sponsored or not, is for a relatively new pen, I now consider the reviewer to still be under the influence of the reality distortion field. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not, but thinking they are helps me be objective about the fountain pen and suppress the urge to have every fountain pen.

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite capped on mirror

The reality distortion field is finally weakening as we near 4 months together.

All these sponsored reviews being done on newly arrived fountain pens only seems to stregthen the field the pens already generate. This is good because the business and hobby grows as more people are engulfed by the field. But it did make it harder to me to step back and just enjoy the hobby and not be racked by gear lust. This doesn’t mean any of these pens are bad or that the reviews are wrong, but they can’t be read in a vacuum or by ignoring the reality of how I (or you) would use the pen.

So how will I continue to fight the reality distortion field?

Starting with last Friday’s post about how I use the Fodderstack XL I’ll be writing about the things I’ve used long enough to know they’ve earned a reason to use them. Plus they’ll have worked themselves into their unique place in my stationery life.

As I mentioned, much of what causes excitement in the fountain pen community just doesn’t work for me. So I’ll spend more time writing about my more mundane uses. It’ll be therapeutic and maybe I’ll find I’m not alone in enjoying the more boring side of fountain pens.

How do you resist the reality distortion field? Or do you not even try?

For the original written draft of this article I used a Pelikan M805 Stresemann with an extra fine nib and MB Toffee Brown ink. It was written in a Field Notes Workshop Edition. While not bad, it was a considerably less than perfect match-up for me.

Sunday Notes and Links

Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood with XXXF nib and Pilot Black cartridgesThis week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combination was picked by overwhelming use and has been here before. I was doing training this week, so I took a lot of notes. The Maplewood Pilot Vanishing Point with a XXXF nib and Pilot Black ink was perfect for this. Despite the very thin nib I’ve nearly written the pen dry.

I’ve recently become interested (obsessed?) with how people actually use their fountain pens, ink and paper. So links that fed this obsession jumped out at me. I contributed my own with how I’ve used my Nock Co. Fodderstack XL these past two months. July will have more articles along these lines, although I’ll start by stepping back to look at broader topics.

Let’s lead with a completely off-topic link. Cabel Sasser’s annual July 4th weird fireworks roundup. Always a amusing treat.

Some on-topic links of interest…
Due to the Saturday holiday this post was compiled and scheduled Friday night. Any link-worthy articles that appear on Saturday will be included next week.

Maruman Mnemosyne Imagination 180 Review — Reverenced Writing // The pad wasn’t suitable for the intended purpose but it eventually found an imaginative use.

Newton Shinobi – Clearly a Cut Above · Penucopia // A custom fountain pen used for over a year. Then two more were purchased and these included improvement , more like tweaks, over the original.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Wendy – Notebook Stories // A picture of all the journals used in just one year.

Status Symbols — Fountain Pen Economics // Several good points about things I’ve been thinking about lately, answering the question what do I really like?

Monthly Load Out: July 2015 — Gorgeous.Ink // I’ve always enjoyed seeing what people actually ink up.

Jinhao 599 fountain pen review – Peninkcillin // A year old fountain pen, a good time for a review.

June Stationery Carry — The Pen Addict // No surprise with the Nock Co. heavy carry, but as I said, I like seeing what people use. Especially when the provide the background that answers – Why?

Lamy Persona Fountain Pen – Write to Me Often // OK, not a lot of info about personal use, but it’s a pen I’ve never heard of or seen.

Pen Review: Karas Kustoms INK Fountain Pen in Raw Aluminum — the desk of lori // Lori does many ink reviews, which I don’t typically include in Sunday links. So when your done with this review browse around to see the ink reviews.

Mabie Todd Swan L205/62 | Goodwriterspens’s Blog // Beautiful

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links. If you’re looking for information about a specific pen or ink be sure to visit Pennquod.