Ink and Pen Notes: Parker Duofold Senior c.1928

Parker Duofold c.1926 FIne Nib with Aurora Black bottleWhen I reviewed my Parker Duofold Senior I said that for me it was the classic fountain pen. So when I say I love this pen I admit to sentimental bias. The pen isn’t perfect. For one thing, it doesn’t travel well. If it bounces around in my briefcase or computer bag, even in a pen case, there’s always a lot of ink splattered in the cap. So this time it was pretty much home bound. I did carry it gently in my shirt pocket a couple of times. But I admit that, unlike other vintage pens I have, I am paranoid about it leaking. For the record, it has never leaked.

The pen was inked with Aurora Black back on February 2nd, so it lasted just over a month. Aurora is a deep, dark black. It’s also a wet flowing ink, at least with this nib which is also on the wet side. I rarely use a true black ink but I do like the Aurora Black. If I’m going to use a black ink it might as well be a classic black.

This combination is a little freer flowing than I like for my everyday writing during the day. So I generally used it for longer writing sessions of paper that dries fast (i.e. not Rhodia). This was usually Doane Paper. Even though it’s an extra fine nib I ended up writing bigger than normal with this pen. Not uncomfortably larger, but not within the small lines on the Doane paper.

Cleaning this pen was a tedious pain. For a pen that won’t write anymore it takes a long time to remove all traces of ink from this pen. I got tired of flushing and shaking so I relented and held the nib in the ultrasonic cleaner for about five minutes. But I really did like the combination so this is a small price to pay and I wouldn’t think twice about using Aurora Black in this pen again.

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 –

Currently Inked – March 1, 2015

Even though I no longer flush my fountain pens and ink up replacements at the start of every month it still seems like a good time to review what I have inked. Of the 10 pens that were inked when February began five remain in the rotation, although two of these have new ink. Two pens were flushed before their time because I didn’t enjoy their broad nib. Five of the 10 were written dry, although as I said, two were re-inked.

The Esterbrook Dip-less has become a fixture on my desk, so when the inkwell went dry it was cleaned out and refilled. I had planned to stick with Sheaffer Red, but decided to go with Montblanc Corn Poppy Red which is a similar color.  I wanted a bright red and decided to change it up. For better or worse, this was a quick way to empty a $19 bottle of ink.

I needed a red ink in a pen I could carry. Sheaffer Red is an obvious choice but in my quest to use all my inks I picked Waterman Red since it hasn’t be used in a long time. But this still left me needing to pick a pen for the ink.

As is far to typical for me, I was frozen by the number of choices. My Sheaffer Crest has become my standard for red ink since it matches the Nova Red finish. But again, I wanted variety so I put it aside. To make a decision, or to avoid making one, I decided to limit my choices to pens that could have been manufactured the same year as the movie I was watching was released. The movie was Forbidden Planet so that makes the year 1956. I didn’t go so far as to figure out if my particular finish could have been made in that year. So that gave me two choices: a Sheaffer Snorkel or a Sheaffer Tip Dip. I went with the Snorkel since it had a extra fine nib and I’d be using this pen for notations and marking up documents.

In my quest to use more of my inks the Omas Turquoise was picked by I’m not a fan of blue or turquoise inks so I considered putting this in a lesser pen. But then I wouldn’t use it and I’d just flush it out before it solidified in the pen. That wouldn;t be fair to the ink so I filled my Lamy 2000 with it. Let’s see if this terrific pen can change my mind about the color. It hasn’t so far, but I am using it.

The Sheaffer VFM was purchased just over a year ago but never inked up. It’s been inked up for review. While the Nexus Minimal has just arrived and inked as soon as possible.

I started March with 11 inked fountain pens, two more than February. I’m trying to stay at a dozen inked pens or less and to write them dry before replacing it. The Duofold should be nearly empty but there’s probably still considerable ink left in the other pens. In any event, here are my inked pens. As usual the writing samples are in the same order as they appear in the photos. Except for the Esterbrook Dip-Less. You can follow the link for that one in order to see it. The writing samples are on Tomoe River Cream paper.

Fountain pens currently inked

Writing samples of curently inked pens

Esterbrook Dip-Less (#7550)Montblanc Corn Poppy Red // Namisu Nexus Minimal (fine) – Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire cartridge // Lamy 2000 (fine) – Omas Turquoise // KarasKustoms Ink [Gold] (fine)Montblanc Midnight Blue // Sheaffer VFM (medium) – Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge // Sheaffer Crest [Nova Green] (extra fine)Montblanc Irish Green //  Sheaffer Balance Aspen (medium) – Montblanc Permanent Grey // Parker Duofold (extra fine) – Aurora Black // Esterbrook J (#8440) – Pelikan Blue-Black // Edison Huron Grande (extra fine)R&K Blau-Schwarz LE // Sheaffer Snorkel (extra fine) – Waterman Red

Sunday Notes and Links

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottleThis week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combination was my Sheaffer Balance Aspen with Montblanc Permanent Grey. It’s been a pick before. It ran dry this week and I immediately re-inked it with the same ink so I didn’t have to put it aside.

My Kickstarter Nexus Minimal fountain pen arrived this week. I wrote about it when it arrived but I wasn’t able to ink it up for a couple days (for reasons I mentioned in the article). But I did ink it up in Friday and updated the post, so you can check out the update if you only read the first version.

Some links of interest…

Karas Kustoms INK Fountain Pen Review – The Passionate Penman // Always glad to see I’m not the only one who likes these pens

Barch-Payzant (freehand) lettering pens – a new old toy. – Leigh Reyes. My Life As a Verb // Unfortunately these pens don’t provide the talent to create the artwork in the photos

Review: M200 Café Crème 2015 Special Edition – The Pelikan’s Perch // This review makes me regret not pre-ordering one and makes it hard to resist ordering one now. I’m holding out for my M805 Stresemann for my Pelikan fix. Once that arrives I’ll forget all about the Cafe Creme.

Top 5 Pen Tools for Pen People – Pen Pursuit // All but one apply to fountain pens

A Pen With Personality: The Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen – From the Pen Cup // I didn’t realize these were out of production. I remember them as a fountain pen available in Staples stores many years ago.

And now to lay some science on ya!  This is the… – Fountain Pen Physicist // Not for everyone, but I haven’t seen anything like this elsewhere and I found it interesting and look for to the rest of the series.

Original Crown Mill correspondence paper – Thepencilcaseblog // I love this paper brand, especially their note cards which I bought a bunch of when they were discounted (damaged packaging, no damage to cards) at Goulet Pens.

My Top Five Pens – Fountain of Pens // I always enjoy reading about personal favorites

A Reflection on One Year of Daily Journaling – The Newsprint // Read this if you’re looking for a reason to use your pens

Vintage Pen Primer, Part I — The Gentleman Stationer // Good advice, pretty much what I did except I was motivated by fear rather rather than actual knowledge or a plan. An Estie was my first vintage pen and it was done at a pen show where I could touch and feel. I also decided to skip certain popular vintage pens once I saw them at a show and realized they weren’t for me. eBay purchases came once I knew more about the pens being sold and I then assumed they were worse then described, at least until I had experience with the seller and trusted them.

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.

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

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottleThe Sheaffer Balance Aspen SE tops my favorite 5 fountain pens list. I picked it up for a writing session today and it immediately skipped. No, not a pen problem, it had been written dry. I actually noticed yesterday but had forgotten when I picked up the pen. I wanted to use it so I immediately refilled it with the same Montblanc Permanent Grey ink. Officially it’s called Montblanc Meisterstück 90 Years Permanent Grey ink. I’ve seen the word “anniversary” thrown in there but it’s doesn’t appear on the box or bottle.

The pen’s reputation as being fragile has me keep it in it’s own personal single pen case and I rarely take it out of the house. It’s the only pen that gets such treatment. No doubt my continued use will cause some damage but I can’t bring myself to not use this pen so I’ll settle for putting it off as long as possible.

The ink is also a favorite and I bought a second and third bottle even though this is a more expensive limited edition ink. I was surprised to find that I’ve yet to publish a review of this ink. Short review: I like it a lot.

This pen has had this inked constantly since Sept 27th. I usually don’t go that long between real cleaning, usually flushing every second fill even if the ink stays the same. I was so intent on using the pen today I never even considered that. Plus, the pen has been problem free. The nib was tuned by Mike Masuyama so I’m not surprised to say it has been both hard start and skip free. It’s a Montblanc ink so I’m not overly concerned that it’s been so long between flushes although I did make a mental note to flush it the next time it goes dry.

I wouldn’t have thought a medium nib would stay inked for so long because it’s a favorite instead of staying inked because I don’t use it. But I really love this nib. 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. The nib is just wide enough to start showing off the saturation and shading of the ink.


Ink Notes: Montblanc Corn Poppy Red

Montblanc Corn Poppy Red bottleCorn Poppy Red is Montblanc’s latest addition to its regular ink line. I like red inks and I like Montblanc inks so getting a bottle was inevitable. I did manage to hold out for a couple of months since I already had plenty of red inks. But I have a bottle now.

I’ve switched up the way I’m doing this ink notes. I used this ink as a daily writer in one fountain pen, in this case a Sheaffer Crest with an extra fine nib. The rest of the writing samples were do with various Esterbrook nibs in a dip pen.

The color reminds me of Sheaffer red, it’s a nice bright true red color. There’s a little bit of line variation with wetter nibs but its a smooth, solid red in my preferred thin nibs. Wider nibs do provide a little bit of shading. There’s no noticeable feathering and the line stays consistent with the nib width. It’s a wet flowing ink with a good level of saturation.

As for being waterproof – it didn’t wash completely away but it might as well have. It’s not at all waterproof.

Dry times are pretty standard but I did have some problems with accidental smudges on slower drying paper such as Tomoe River and Rhodia. With thin nibs on my typical Doane Paper it was a more reasonable 5 seconds or so and was safely smudge free at 10 seconds. With wetter nibs or anything wider

When I first saw Montblanc Corn Poppy Red I thought of Sheaffer Red which is my current favorite red ink. It’s pretty close.

Wrapping Up

I like Montblanc Corn Poppy Red. It’s a nice vivid red that performs well, but it’s nothing special. I like Sheaffer Red just as much and a bottle is half the price (although the Montblanc bottle holds 20% more ink, it’s still about twice as expensive per ml). I’ll use the bottle, in fact I may refill my Esterbrook Inkwell with it, but when it comes time to buy a new bottle of red ink it will be Sheaffer Red and not Montblanc Corn Poppy Red.

While there’s not a lot of shading, and I think it requires a nib that’s both wet and wide, if that’s your pen and would like to see some variation you may prefer Montblanc Corn Poppy Red.

Additional Reading

INK REVIEW: Montblanc Corn Poppy Red – Pentulant

Seeing Red: Montblanc Corn Poppy Red Compared – FPGeeks

Ink Shot Review: Montblanc LE Corn Poppy Red Ink – Gourmet Pens

Photo Gallery

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.