The Esterbrook #8440 Calligraphy nib is my thinnest Esterbrook nib and one of my thinnest nibs overall. It puts down a very thin line. Because of this it needs a ink with a solid color. For some reason Pelikan Blue-Black is one of their 4001 series inks and isn’t available in the U.S. and I ordered mine from Cult Pens sometime last year.
Pelikan Blue-Black is a fairly dry writing ink which is to my preference but I was concerned since the #8440 nib is so thin, but it performed admirably.
I inked the pen up back on February 2nd so it took me awhile to run through the ink but I did finally write it dry. This nib is so thin, and also the most expensive Esterbrook nib that I have, so I find myself being a bit timid when it comes to using this nib. I pick it primarily for note taking and marking up document, not for longer writing sessions. I also avoid using the nib on course or fibrous paper. It’s especially nice on Tomoe River and Rhodia paper. I tend to concentrate more on my writing with this pen, which isn’t a bad thing, so that I don’t damage the pen.
I immediately refilled the Esterbrook J with Pelikan Blue-Black ink since it fills a nice spot in my writing arsenal, even though ink doesn’t flow through it as fast as some of my other fountain pens. [Update May 3, 2014] In this case I must have been careless filling it up and it was written dry by the weekend. This time I flushed and cleaned it out.
This week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combination this week was my Esterbrook J with a #8440 Cartography nib and Pelikan Blue-Black ink. I wrote the pen dry and immediately re-inked it. It’s not a nib I can use all day but I like the ultra thin line it puts down.
I Know It’s Over, Still I Cling… — The Pen Addict // The Atlanta Pen show included a Pen Addict gathering which includes a lot of bloggers, so there was a lot written about it. Rather than link to them all I’ll send you to the epicenter for all the links.
I just reviewed the Sheaffer VFM so this is going to be short. I inked the Sheaffer VFM up back on February 26th. I didn’t write it dry. Instead I pulled the cartridge once the review was done. It wasn’t a bad pen & ink combination, but I was always reaching past it to pick up another pen. As I mention in the review, the nib is wider than I want for taking notes and the pen is thinner than I can comfortably use for longer writing sessions.
The Diamine Prussian Blue ink flowed well from the cartridge, I didn’t have any hard starts. There was some minor skipping at times but never enough to be annoying. The nib was ready to use even after being stored nib up for a couple of days.
I never intended for these ink & pen notes to coincide with a review but I’m a completest and I can’t bring myself to skip writing this up. After all, how else will I count how many pens I ink up this year? So these photos are the same ones that appeared in the review. Not much new here.
The Sheaffer VFM is a strange bird. It’s the only fountain pen in the Sheaffer line that doesn’t take Sheaffer’s proprietary cartridges. It uses standard short international cartridges, and only short international cartridges. It’s too narrow for a standard converter or a long cartridge. (It might take the small Kaweco or Monteverde converters but I haven’t tried them.) Sheaffer says VFM means “Vibrant, Fun and Modern.”
The VFM is Sheaffer’s entry level fountain pen, selling for about $17 these days. I bought mine when they were a buck cheaper.
Why I Got It
I already had an order going and I decided to add a cheap modern Sheaffer to see what they were like. I’d grown to love vintage Sheaffers but I like modern Sheaffers less. My youngest Sheaffer was 10 years old. I actually got this before the Sheaffer 300 I have already reviewed.
I picked the Maximum Orange finish, expecting to get a nice bright pen.
What I Got
As I mentioned, a strange pen that takes only short international cartridges. There’s no room to carry a spare cartridge either. The pen arrived in a box with two cartridges, one black and one blue. The barrel is too narrow for Sheaffers proprietary cartridges. Usually short cartridge only pens are pocket pens and too short for anything longer. This barrel is long enough for a cartridge or converter but quickly tapers and is too narrow for anything longer.
The pen is already on the thin side, even at its widest point, to begin with so it doesn’t take much to make it too thin. The metal barrel makes this unsuitable for use as an eyedropper filler.
The orange color was more subdued than I expected, especially since it was called “Maximum Orange”. In my opinion it doesn’t live up to either “V” for vibrant or “Maximum”. It also looks like it has some texture that would help in gripping, but it doesn’t. It’s not a slippery fountain pen per se, but if your hands sweat in the summer it will be slippery.
The nib is a medium stainless steel nib that has a plain design. “Sheaffer” is engraved into the nib along with an “M” for medium, but it’s a plain engraving that lacks the stylized “S” seen in other Sheaffer nibs. The Sheaffer website lists a fine nib option but I’ve only seen mediums for sale. When I bought mine the medium was the only option, otherwise I’d have picked the fine nib.
Sheaffer is also engraved around the cap band, three times as a matter of fact. So there’s no doubt who made the pen. The trim and nib are all silver which is my preferred trim color. Sheaffer says the trim is nickel plate.
While I threw out the box before I took any pictures it was a pretty nice box, although simple. It wasn’t a blister pack and would have been suitable for wrapping as a gift.
The pen is a slip cap design and the cap does hold securely when the pen is capped. It has a simple chrome that does have the trademark Sheaffer white dot but no other designs or the split clip seen in other recent Sheaffers.
The VFM has a metal body so it does have feel like a solid pen. It’s a simple design which appeals to me although I don’t like the orange finish.
Barrel Diameter (widest near cap): 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
Weight (with ink cartridge): 20 g
Weight (body only – with ink cartridge): 20 g
Writing With The Pen
This is the type of pen which probably wouldn’t be cleaned first by most users since it’s an entry level pen. So, while I did have the pen for over a year before inking it up, I popped in a cartridge without flushing it out. The Sheaffer supplied cartridges had been separated from the pen so I picked a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge as the first ink for this pen. The ink took about 5 minutes to reach the tip of the nib, using just gravity and capillary action.
I don’t typically post my pens so take this for what it’s worth. When I first posted the cap I thought it was secure, thanks to friction. But I did write with it a bit when posted and it’s really not all that secure. It doesn’t wobble when writing but if the cap is bumped, even lightly, it does come loose. Some ink from inside the cap transferred to the barrel when posted. The pen remains well balanced when posted.
The pen is just barely long enough for me to use it unposted which is my preference and how I used this pen.
The Sheaffer VFM is thin and light which means it’s not a pen I can write with for any length of time. I tend to grip pens like this much too tightly and get fatigued or even cramps after writing about 10 minutes. This isn’t really a criticism of the design, the pen is what it is and would be perfectly suited for others. It was expected, and one reason it took me so long to ink up the pen.
I did have a couple of skips with the pen but not enough to be annoying. It was usually after a minute or two pause right after writing quickly. It’s not the smoothest steel nib but I didn’t expect it to be. It’s comparable to my Pilot Metropolitan although the Metropolitan may have a very slight edge. But they’re both inexpensive pens and the difference was so minor that a different two pens could have their positions reversed due to manufacturing differences.
I prefer extra fine nibs, especially thinner Japanese extra fines, but I didn’t find this nib too wide for me. Unfortunately the nib is a size I prefer for longer writing sessions, when I don’t need to write small, but the pen is a size I can’t use for long writing sessions. So it’s taking awhile to run through the cartridge of ink and I’ve yet to write it dry. I ended up pulling the cartridge early so I could include cleaning the pen in this review. I decided not to put it back.
Diamine Prussian Blue, in a cartridge, is the only ink I’ve used in this pen. Performance was good and it was easy to clean from the pen. See the next session about cleaning.
Cleaning the Pen
The pen does not come with a converter so flushing the pen could be difficult if this is your first pen. Although if this is your only fountain pen you may not be putting it on the shelf very often. So cleaning the nib under the faucet may be enough. If you have a bulb syringe or a international converter from another pen then it is easy to clean.
I used a bulb syringe and the feed was ink free with just a couple flushes.
I have more positive feelings about this pen than negative even though this pen isn’t for me (too thin and light) but if you like this size pen then that’s not a problem. The Pilot Metropolitan is usually considered the gold standard for entry level fountain pens and unless you like the look of the Sheaffer VFM more than the Metropolitan I can’t come up with a reason the pick the VFM over the Pilot. The Pilot uses a proprietary filling system but will take a converter. (The European version, called the MR, takes short international cartridges, making this moot.)
This is my second modern (meaning currently available new) Sheaffer and both performed well out of the box. I don’t think of Sheaffer as being to deliver a consistently good nib for their pens but my experience, although limited, is making me reconsider. Still, I can’t bring myself to recommend Sheaffer over Pilot as a first fountain pen.
I’m not convinced that cartridge only is a big negative in an entry level fountain pen but unfortunately for Sheaffer, this may be their entry level pen, but it’s priced to compete with more versatile fountain pens and those manufacturers have even less expensive offerings with very nice nibs but the same limited versatility. Most pens at the VFM price point seem to be converter capable, except for the ones designed as compact pocket pens. The Sheaffer VFM is long enough for a converter, just not wide enough.
The Sheaffer VFM is not a keeper for me. It’s not a bad pen, but just not for me.
This may read a lot like my previous write-up for the Crimson Glow version of this pen. No surprise there since they are the same pen except for the acrylic and I got both of them at the same time.
The Jade Green Sheaffer Balance II is new to me and the details are in my This Just In post. I was drawn to use inks made during the same time as the pen, and probably in the same city. This pen seems to call out for green ink. Luckily I had a green ink that fit the bill. This is my first time using the ink which came in a 12 ml bottle. It was sold in packages of two different colors, labeled for Calligraphy use (at least that’s how I got it). The nib was too big for the bottle so I filled the converter directly.
I’ve always wanted a jade green pen but the vintage materials had a tendency to darken or otherwise discolor. Any mint specimen would be to expensive for me. So this was a nice compromise (mint but not vintage) and I do really like the design.
The medium nib is narrower than most modern mediums nibs, at least western mediums. There’s a “M” engraved on the bottom on the section so it is a medium. It’s line is within my comfort zone. Flow was good although I did experience the occasional skip on the first stroke after uncapping the pen, just like the Crimson Glow with Peacock Blue ink.
The Emerald Green ink exhibits some line variation with this nib although not as much as the Peacock Blue did. The nib is a little wider and wetter than I like when taking notes or marking up a document so I mainly used the pen for dedicated writing sessions. Like the Crimson Glow, I really do enjoy using this pen. Part of it could be because the pen is so new, but I do think I’ll still enjoy it a year from now.
The pen was super easy to clean. There’s a spike that sticks up and into the converter or cartridge. My bulb syringe fits easily over this and all traces of ink are gone with a few flushes. It actually took me longer to clean the converter, although that was no harder than any other converter. I’m always concerned I’ll snap off that spike as several of my Sheaffers have no protection around it, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I didn’t refill the Sheaffer Balance II in Jade Green yet, but that’s because I have several other enjoyable pens already inked. It is on the short list to be inked and it will be refilled with Sheaffer Emerald Green. Emerald Green will be an ink dedicated to this pen until the bottle is empty.