On a not too distant Pen Addict podcast Brad mentioned that he was surprised that a recent poll that he did was so one-sided. He asked if people wrote on both sides of a page. Much of the discussion was about journals, although I don’t remember if the poll was journal-specific. Brad was surprised that both sides was an overwhelming choice. (Myke thought the wording slanted the results.) But in any event, I was surprised by Brad’s surprise. Then I thought about my notebook usage. To jump to the end, I use both sides for economical and storage reasons but will use only one side if there’s a reason not to use both sides.
Both Sides – A Long-Ingrained Habit
Long ago, when I started in corporate America I would fill every sheet on both sides and paste printouts into the pages. They were my reference books and stacked in my office (or cubicle). At that time I was good at remembering when things happened and quickly finding the right place among the stack of notebooks. My goal was to reduce the number of notebooks I needed to store, so I wrote on both sides. The economics was just a bonus.
Over time, computer records overtook paper for anything other than temporary or personal notes. For the most part, these work notes had a limited lifespan for reference (usually measured in hours, or days at most), and anything long-term would be in a computer file related to the project. I would still use every available space on the notebook. My goal here was to save money. I was using Doane Flap Jotters (steno-sized and styled notebook) rather than the notebooks in the supply closet. Plus, the paper was resistant to show-through, especially with my thin nibs, so there was no downside to using two sides.
Article Drafts – The Exception
I do handwritten drafts of all Fountain Pen Quest articles before typing them up. It was about a year ago that I stopped using both sides of the page for these write-ups. In many situations, the ink, pen, and paper combo would often result in significant show-through. Since I need to read what I write to transcribe it into a post, the show-through can often slow me down when I have to adjust the light or viewing angle to figure out what I wrote. I tend to use inexpensive notebooks (currently a sub-$1 composition book) for these article drafts. Limiting my annoyance is worth more than the fifty cents that using both sides would save me. I don’t see the point of buying better notebooks since they’ll ultimately end up in the garbage. Besides, other than show-through, these notebooks handle fountain pens rather well. Even using only one side, it’s still more economical. If pen and ink happen to align and reduce show-through then I will use both sides of the page.
Journal – Wall of Words
I use a Seven Seas Writer as my journal. These have thin Tomoe River paper, but it does a good job resisting show-through if it isn’t held up to the light. A dark piece of paper under the page I’m writing on also reduces show-through. Show-through can still be a problem in some room lighting situations, but it’s minor. I rarely re-read my journal entries, and never with the pressure of having to accurately transcribe the page.
I continue to use both sides of the page when writing in my journal.I have to admit that I enjoy seeing a wall of words across both pages when I open my journal. That’s the primary reason I do it, not the economics.
For pocket notebooks, which I use for quick notes, I use both sides of the page. But unlike the other notebooks, I have a lot of blank space on the page. Show-through isn’t a problem since there’s very little to show through. I typically move to the next page when I have a new thought, reminder, or list to write down.
Since I’m in the both sides camp, with a few exceptions, I was surprised by Brad’s surprise. I’m used to not being in sync with stationery and pen trends, but using both sides just seems like the logical, default choice.
No favorite pen this week. None of them got much use, and I spread out my usage.
My fountain pen usage was down a lot his week, mainly because I missed a couple days of journaling. This was also another week of misplaced fountain pens. Like the green Diplomat Aero and the Orange/Black Diplomat Aero of weeks past, I had no fear that the pens were permanently lost. When I went to take some photos of my new(ish) Retro 51 Lincoln fountain pen I couldn’t find it. I had left it at the office. Although it wasn’t the one I intended to leave there as a safety net. I also couldn’t find my Esterbrook Estie when I wanted to use it, but that eventually turned up in one of my desk cubbyholes. I would have said I never put pens there, but obviously I do. At least I’m not the only one, on this week’s Pen Addict podcast Brad mentioned that he misplaced four pens, although knows they’re around someplace. As far as I know, I have all my pens now. Of course, I didn’t know the others were misplaced until I went looking for them.
I finally posted a non-Trail Log article on Friday. Over the last few months I wrote some articles as an excuse to use my pens, but never went farther than the written draft. The Friday post was mostly written sometime over New Year’s weekend. The one publishing on Tuesday was some thoughts I wrote before that. So, I’ll working to get caught up on those, and get some articles published. But on the downside, I won’t get to use my pens as much as I want to.
But, continuing the trend of misplacing stuff, the notebook with my articles drafts was nowhere to be found when I went looking for it. Again, certainly not lost, it’s probably on my office desk. I may swing by there later today, so I can work on transcribing an article or two later today.
I got the in-stock notifications for the Lamy Safari Savannah and Terra fountain pens and placed my order. They haven’t shipped yet, but I expect them to ship early this week.
I ordered four fountain pens in early December. I had money left in the pen budget and flashed back to the corporate world of use it or lose it, so I placed several orders. These are three of those four fountain pens. The fourth fountain pen, a gold nibbed Diplomat Aero, was massively delayed by USPS and just recently arrived.
These fountain pens all arrived 7 to 10 days before Christmas, but I didn’t ink them up until Christmas day. On to the pens…
Sheaffer 300 Matte Green (Fine)
As much as I love the Sheaffer pen colors and designs of the last century, I find the current designs either boring or heavy on colors that I don’t like. That changed when I saw the Matte Green 300 on the Anderson Pens podcast. I had to have the pen. The real-life pen lived up to expectations set by the video.
I had another Sheaffer 300 in metallic grey with chrome trim about 6 years ago. Eventually I gave it away after consistently passing over the pen whenever I was picking a pen to ink up. Since green is my favorite color, this pen won’t get ignored.
Despite being a sub-$70 pen ($82 MSRP), the Sheaffer 300 arrives with a classy presentation. A slightly oversized clamshell box is held in a cardboard sleeve. The sleeve has a cutout so that the Sheaffer logo printed on the clamshell box can be seen. In addition to the pen, the box contains a converter, a blue cartridge, and a black cartridge. There’s also an instruction/warranty booklet. The Sheaffer 300 uses Sheaffer’s proprietary filling system.
To avoid wasting ink I’ve been trying to use any included ink for my new pens. While I do praise Sheaffer for including a choice between blue and black ink cartridges, I was swearing at them for giving me two cartridges to either use or waste. I picked the black cartridge for the pen’s first ink. The blue might end up in the trash bin, or remain in the box until it dries out.
I inked up another two pens before returning to the Sheaffer 300 to use it. The fountain pen wrote well, a nice smooth true-to-size fine steel nib. Then I noticed my left hand was covered with ink stains (I’m a righty). I couldn’t see any ink inside the cap, or extra ink on the nib or section. Then I noticed even more ink in my left hand. While hard to see on the matte green in subdued lighting, there was a coating of ink on the outside of the cap. So, I cleaned the cap under the faucet and scrubbed the ink off. While cleaning the cap, I noticed water flowing through the cap from around the clip. Since it isn’t watertight, it certainly isn’t airtight.
There’s an inner plastic cap that is held in place by a metal screw at the top of the cap. After cleaning the cap, and verifying that the cartridge is secure the pen was ready to use again. The nib and section were secure, as was the cartridge. I haven’t had a problem since. I never confirmed what the problem was, so I can only guess. Whatever it was, it hasn’t returned and the pen has been leak-free. So the problem is moot. I did inspect the Sheaffer 300 thoroughly the day it arrived, so it certainly didn’t arrive covered in ink.
Using the Sheaffer 300
The snap-on cap is easy to take off and replace. There’s a nice solid click when the pen is capped. There’s just enough resistance when removing the cap. All this gives the Sheaffer 300 a nice, solid feel. Although I don’t post my pens, this one is designed to post and does so securely. The end of the pen has a shallow lip that the inner cap snaps onto. It almost makes me wish that I did post my pens. It’s a nice attention to detail.
I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler. The Sheaffer 300 is held firmly in place by the cushion. If I forcefully push the cap into the cushion, I can uncap and use the pen with one hand. Despite this, I typically soft-cap the pen during use. The ink stays wet on the nib and doesn’t evaporate. This includes the time I walked away and left the pen soft-capped for a couple of hours.
The nib has been more prone to evaporation when I pause while writing. The ink will dry off the tip of the nib in under a minute, causing skipping on the next stroke of the nib. Skipping after a pause is a bit annoying. It’s January, and the heating has dried the air in my apartment, which has no doubt affected the pen. Even my previously problem-free pens have been drying out quicker than usual.
In my original Sheaffer 300 review, I mentioned that I found the nib too short and stubby, unlike the classic Sheaffer nibs that I love. I have the same opinion of the nib six years later. I mean stubby as in a visual sense, not the nib grind.
Speaking of the nib grind, I got a fine nib. A medium nib is also available. Both options are steel only.
The nib is a smooth writer and very enjoyable to use. I mentioned skipping after pausing a minute or more, but other than that the writing experience has been problem-free. I’m extremely happy with this Sheaffer 300. Unlike the original, now passed on grey version, this green model will get noticed and won’t be passed over.
Lamy Safari USA Independence Day (Medium)
The name is a bit unruly, so I’ll stick with calling it the Lamy Safari USA.
Based on the name I assume it came out before July 4th. An internet search turned up reviews from 2019, so this pen is at least a year-and-a-half old. Yet, it didn’t come to my attention until November or December when I saw it on a Pen Chalet sale page. I eventually picked it up at the sale price. The price dropped even further during a year-end sale, so clearly, this model wasn’t moving.
While patriotically named, and with special packaging, nothing about this pen screams “USA”. It would fit in as a patriotic purchase in any of the other 27 countries with red, white, and blue national flags.
I’ve owned many Safaris and AL-Stars over the years, but currently have only three safaris remaining, including this one. The others have a matte finish to them, making them appear less like plastic pens. The Safari USA is shiny plastic, and in my opinion, makes it look a little cheap. Still, I do like the bright colors.
The Lamy Safari USA arrived in a custom red/white/blue cardboard box, rather than the typical flimsy Lamy slotted box. While more substantial than the typical Lamy box, it is still a small, simple box without a lot of wasted space. Both easy to store and easy/cheap to ship. Some Amazon reviews mention that the buyer received the pen in the typical Lamy box, lending credence to other Amazon reviews that claim to have received a counterfeit pen.
Compared to the textured plastic of the two Safaris that I already have, the smooth, bright plastic of this pen makes it look cheaper. Although, it isn’t any different than other glossy Safaris that I’ve owned.
I bought this fountain pen with a medium nib, the only option that was available to me from Pen Chalet. It may be that this was the only nib option offered by Lamy. The pen included a blue ink cartridge for the proprietary filling system. No converter is included.
As is my current practice, I popped in the included Lamy ink cartridge. The ink had reached the nib by the time I was ready to use the pen.
I do have a supply of other Lamy nib sizes but decided to stick with the medium nib for now. I always like to use a pen before making any changes, this way I know who to blame for any out-of-the-box problems.
Using the Lamy Safari
The Lamy Safari USA is just like every other Safari that I’ve used. I find the triangular grip a natural, comfortable fit for my hand. I’ve had good out-of-the-box experiences with every Lamy I’ve owned, except for the flagship Lamy 2000, and this pen did not disappoint. It performs well and has been free of skipping and hard starts. It’s also nice and smooth.
I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler recently. The Lamy Safari stayed ready to write, even when soft-capped for a couple of hours. The pen fits securely. Although, it is not so secure that it can be uncapped without having to hold the cap in place.
While they’ve never completely pulled me in, I’ve never had any complaints about Lamy Safari fountain pens and I can understand their popularity. That said, but I wouldn’t have bought the pen if it wasn’t on sale while I was in the mood to buy a pen.
Retro 51 Lincoln (1.1mm Stub)
With Retro 51 winding down operations I decided to look into any available fountain pens. I’ve had two of their fountain pens in the past and was disappointed in them both. The first, a Double-Eight, was poorly built and quickly fell apart with normal use. The second was this same model(Review). While the build quality was better than the Double-Eight, the nib was much too wet for my tastes.
I came across some comments that Retro 51 had changed their nibs. Details, such as when they made the change, and what the changes were, were lacking but I decided to risk it and hope a current model would be better.
Against better judgment, I ordered a Retro 51 Lincoln with a 1.1mm Stub nib. A 1.1mm stub nib is not suitable for me. It’s much too wide for me. But, I’ve been trying other nib styles and have found them fun to use, if not as an everyday writer. I was already placing an order with Pen Chalet, and the only option they had available was the 1.1mm stub, so I ordered one.
The Retro 51 Lincoln fountain pen arrived in generic Retro 51 packaging. A converter and two black cartridges are included, along with an instruction pamphlet.
I removed the cartridge from the barrel and popped it into the pen. The ink made it to the nib by the time I was ready to use the pen.
I noticed a rattle in the pen as I used it. My first reflex was “poor built quality again”, but then I realized there was probably a second ink cartridge in the pen. I opened the pen and the second cartridge fell out. I was stuck in the when I took the first cartridge out.
Writing With The Retro 51 Lincoln
I don’t have much to say here. The 1.1mm stub is too wide for me, but I knew this going in. That said, I do find the nib to be true to size, with a nice even flow.
The Lincoln is not an oversize pen, but the metal barrel does give it some heft. I find heavier pens more comfortable to use for extended writing sessions. I do like the feel of the Lincoln. The gripping section is smooth plastic. I suppose this could get slick in summer, or with extended writing sessions, but I haven’t had any issues in the dry indoor air.
I have experienced some hard starts, but I blame this on the dry, indoor air more than the pen. Even usually problem-free pens have been drying out faster than normal when I pause my writing, I’ve had to keep my pauses under 1 minute. Any longer and I’ll probably get skipping on the first stroke when the nib returns to paper.
I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler with the Retro 51 Lincoln. The pen fits securely. I can unscrew the cap with one hand. I can also leave the pen soft-capped for a couple of hours and the nib stays ready.
Of these three fountain pens, the Sheaffer 300 Matte Green is my clear favorite.
The Retro 51 Lincoln has an antique brass finish that I love. I do regret my nib choice a bit. The 1.1mm stub is not an everyday nib for me, but the pen looks good enough to use every day, I’d like to carry it in my Nock Co Fodderstack XL along with its rollerball sibling. I may try a nib swap, or since it’s only a $50 pen, look for an extra-fine nibbed version.
The Lamy Safari USA will probably get the least use. I like the colors, yet as I mentioned, Safaris never seem to pull me in.
I finally gave in and acknowledged that a blue and gold fountain pen is a favorite. That would be the Sheaffer Custom Legacy with its Turk Blade nib, since I used it three straight days. Although it I was only my primary writer one of those days.
I committed sacrilege this week and bought a ballpoint pen. I wanted a small pocket pen that I could use in any situation. It also needed to be inexpensive. It’s main use would be so that I can avoid using shared, community pens. After looking around at pen retailers, some brain cells finally aligned and I went out to the Pen Addict’s Top 5 Pens page and looked under ballpoints. There was the Fisher Space Pen at #4, It’s the most pocketable pen of the bunch, and was also #1 on the Most Useful Pens list. Plus, the price was right.
Not wanting to pass up free shipping, I added a Lamy nib to the order. I need to send a pen out for nib repair and I’ve been debating sending along another pen for a new nib grind. Under consideration was getting a Lamy nib ground to a Italic. I know from experience that Italic nibs aren’t for me, but I thought it might be nice to have one. Lamy nibs are inexpensive and I could swap it around. But still, I had little confidence that I’d use the nib more than the one or two times that curiosity will get the better of me this decade. I was willing to spend $13 in order to satisfy my curiosity, which is considerably less than a custom grind. I also told myself it was really only $7 because I would have paid $6 for shipping. After all, it isn’t like JetPens has anything else I could choose from. The nib has arrived, although I haven’t put it on a pen.
Last week I mentioned that my green Diplomat Aero was misplaced. As expected, it turned up under a pile of papers on my desk. I was never a fan of the comic, but I really want to refer to this pen as the Green Arrow.
I’m down to 15 inked pens, down from last week’s 19.
Lamy 1.1mm Calligraphy (Italic) steel nib. Just the nib.
Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green with Sheaffer Emerald Green (Yellow Box)
Sheaffer Balance II Crimson Glow with Sheaffer Peacock Blue (Yellow Box)
Leonardo Officina Italiana Momento Zero Blue Green with Omas Green
Penlux Masterpiece Grande Black & White Koi with P.W. Akkerman Dutch Masters Sreenrood van Vermeer
Not exactly newly inked, but close enough. I swapped the extra-fine steel nib for the 14k gold oblique medium nib on the Lamy Safari Mango.
Liza Minnelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp – SNL – YouTube // I came across this on twitter early this week (I forget who’s tweet), it cracked me up when I first saw it years ago, and it still cracks me up today, even though it makes little sense, just Kristen Wiig being a hilarious idiot.
My fountain pen usage was down a bit this week. I skipped a day journaling and wrote less than my unofficial 1 page daily minimum on another day, although I did average over a page a day for the week. Other than the occasional note or list, that was all of my fountain pen usage.
I didn’t have a clear favorite fountain pen this week. On Saturday I used my Sheaffer Legacy with a custom blue fleck barrel, which is a pen I’ve always been conflicted about. It’s blue and gold, a lot of each, and they’r my least favorite color & trim choices. But, it’s a Sheaffer and it feels great in my hand. I had Mark Bacas turn the nib into his Blade Turk (a XXXF nib) and it’s great. I still have an aversion to calling a blue & gold pen a favorite.
As the year began I liked the idea of having a lot of fountain pens inked up. It gave me a variety of newly inked pens to choose from as the year began. I’m down to 19 inked pens and it’s beginning to cause anxiety. I have several pens I want to re-ink (Kanilea Kona Cherry, Sheaffer 300, Lamy OM gold nib, Diplomat Volute) and others that I put off inking, but want to ink up (F-C Model 66, Edison Huron Grande, etc…). I may go back to inking up a limited number of pens per week and flush them out at the end of the week. If I do that there will always be some pens that are permanently inked. A side-effect of having so many pens inked up is that I appear to have misplaced the green Diplomat Aero. I’m not concerned it’s actually lost, but it’s been so long since I last held it, that I’m not sure what pile of clutter it might be under, or what piece of furniture it may have rolled under.
The Franklin-Christoph pen roll arrived after the snow storm. I think it will work well for what I want. The canvas is heavy enough to provide good protection against most damage, except crushing. The pens slip in and out easily and the clips fit inside the slot without a need to clip over the material.
Lastly, my Dudek pen block arrived this week. I had kind of forgotten I had ordered it at the end of November. He does them in batches now, and I managed to get in on the last batch. Sign up to the mailing list if you’re interested, then hope that you’re around and see the email soon enough to respond before all the slots are filled. While I ordered this long before I misplaced the green Aero, I’m hoping this will solve that problem by giving me a compact storage solution that can be always visible on my desk. Some pens are too big to fit in the 5/8″ holes, but most do fit.
Current Reads, Watches & Listens
Listening:Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson (audiobook). No progress. Reading: I haven’t started another book yet.
Fisher of Pens Hermes – This pen doesn’t do well when it’s in dry indoor air for an extended period, so it’s been finicky. Hard starts, often after just one night of rest, are a constant annoyance. It’s certainly a dry writer, which is one reason I like it. I just need to remember to use a more forgiving ink during the winter. R&K inks seem to do better than others in the winter months, although that may just be the few that I have. In any case, the pen will get some rest.
Sheaffer 300 – This one was inked up back on Christmas. I really like this inexpensive fountain pen. If I didn’t have so many pens already inked I’d have inked this up immediately. Instead, I’ll clean it out and give it some time off.