It’s time for my obligatory year end post and this year I’ll pick my favorite fountain pen and fountain pen ink from among those that arrived in 2016. This is completely subjective and limited to fountain pens and ink that joined my accumulation in the past year.
I added nine pens to my accumulation in 2016. A tenth, the Edison Extended Mina group buy, came and went during the year. While a nice pen, it just didn’t connect with me. The remaining pens eligible for this selection, in the order they arrived:
One thing I notice in the above list, which I wouldn’t have predicted when the year began, is that less than half the nibs are fine or thinner. I’ve been expanding my horizons.
The selection of my favorite pen really wasn’t any contest, the Newton Pens Eastman wins hands down. It has the twin advantages of being a custom pen built for my hand and aesthetics tastes, while being fitted for my collection of Esterbrook nibs.
You could say the Eastman has a unfair advantage. If I was to limit myself to the off the shelf pens the choice would get harder. The Sailor KOP has been inked nearly constantly since I got it. It’s had six different inks run through it during the last five months. The Montblanc Ultra Black has quickly become a favorite, with it’s oblique nib and an aesthetic I like. But it’s been in my hands barely a month, so I’m still probably affected by it’s new pen distortion field. Then there’s the Aurora Optima which like more than I expected.
Any one of those three pens could be my choice as second favorite of the year. But I have to go with the Sailor KOP since I’ve had it the longest and it’s stood the test of time. Plus, it’s the one I used most recently. I’d probably have picked one of the others if it had been the most recently used rather than the KOP.
The choice of my favorite ink is a bit easier. I didn’t keep good track of all the inks that were new this year, but my favorite does stand out. Paper Plume Burgundy is the clear winner. A I mention in the ink notes – while it’s not a color match to my favorite Montblanc Bordeaux, the ink properties remind do me of it. This is especially true in my fine & extra fine nibs.
I’ve liked two other inks and expect to use them more. But I’ve only recently loaded pens with them. Montblanc Lucky Orange may finally end my search for an orange ink, assuming it does as well in my thin nibs as other Montblanc inks. The second is P.W. Akkerman #12 Mauritshuis Magenta. It’s a color I really like that’s unique among my ink accumulation.
What were your favorite new fountain pens and ink of 2016?
Cheers and happy holidays to everyone. Happy Sunday to those who don’t celebrate any holiday this time of year. Since Sunday is Christmas for me, and I’m busy the day or two before, I’m putting this together on Thursday and will schedule it for Sunday. I’ll catch up with any missed links next week.
I’ve been consistent all year and every post (except these Sunday link posts) starts life as a written draft. That ended this week when the last two Ink & Pen Notes started life electronically to save time. This, along with things being slower at work, meant I used my pens a lot less. So naturally I responded by inking up a few more and now have seven fountain pens inked up. I received the ink I mentioned last Sunday and it’s already in my pens. The Montblanc Lucky Orange is in my Sailor KOP and Monteverde Napa Burgundy is in my Pelikan M805. Both inks have made a very favorable first impression.
Pen Shows & Clubs
The US pen show season is over, with the next season kicking off in Philadelphia on January 13-15th.
So long… — The Purl Bug // (Video) This was the most depressing stationery news I’ve seen in awhile. I really enjoyed her videos and will miss them. I agree with most of the points regarding the growth of the pen community. Like many of her videos this one left me wanting something. I’ll be digging out my Hitchhiker’s Guide series and reading it again.
The Ryan Krusac Legend with its extra fine nib was another DC Pen Show purchase from August. I was surprised to see it had been unused for just over two months. This time I picked Diamine Ancient Copper as it’s ink when I inked it up back on November 7th. It was just over a month when I wrote it dry on December 12th.
Diamine Ancient Copper is a reddish brown I like a lot, but this this extra fine nib doesn’t allow the ink to shine. There’s no shading or line variation. But still, it’s a nice color and I enjoyed the ink.
Being a clip-less pen does limit my use of the Legend. It won’t stay in a shirt pocket and I’m not sure the relatively soft wood would do well in pants pockets. So it took just over a month to write the pen dry.
The Krusac Legend and Diamine Ancient Copper combined to provide a pleasant, if uninspiring, writing experience. I don’t have any complaints but I wasn’t left wanting to immediately re-ink it. In fact, the Legend is back in storage.
The Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen has become the pen I go to in order to try out new inks. The medium nib, in addition to being a great Sailor nib, is a good middle of the road size for trying out inks. Although there’s probably an exception, I expect this nib to allow a ink to shine. This time around, for it’s fifth ink, I picked Bookbinders Everglades Ratsnake. Unless you know snakes the name doesn’t give a hint to its orange color.
I picked Everglades Ratsnake as part of my continuing search for my ideal orange ink. While I liked the color well enough, the ink was a little dry, even for a guy that likes drier inks. The pen often felt like it was about to run dry. I also had to prime the feed once when using the pen, an uncommon occurrence with my Sailor pens unless they’ve been standing for an extended period of time, which wasn’t the case here.
The pen was inked from November 7th to December 15th. While this length of time would make it seem like I rarely used the pen, this wasn’t the case. The bright orange ink was good for highlights or headings in my notes, so it was used more days than it wasn’t. It just didn’t write much each day. That one time I had to prime the feed was during the rare occurrence of using it to write multiple pages and I was well into my second page.
It did well on the Tomoe River paper of my Seven Seas Writer and dried relatively fast compared to other inks on that paper. It was also used extensively on my Write Notepads wire bound notebook which I’m currently using for my work related notes. Medium nibs are always iffy on this paper but I didn’t suffer any bleed-through or show-through while using it. The ink dried quickly so I didn’t suffer any careless smudges either.
Bookbinders Everglades Ratsnake was a nice enough ink and I do like the color, but it fell far short of being the perfect orange for me and my search will continue. The Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen continues to be a favorite and it’s already been filled with a new ink, but it was just meh with this ink.
The Montblanc Meisterstück Ultra Black LeGrand was my second fountain pen day pen purchase although it didn’t arrive until the end of November. So it’s my newest fountain pen and my first Montblanc.
Despite being my favorite ink brand their pens have never interested me. Or, more accurately, the pens that did interest me were far more than I wanted to pay. The exception being either the 146 or 149 which are their classic pens. Years and years ago I bought into the view that Montblanc is an overpriced status symbol, but that changed. While fountain pen value and price is a topic for discussion I don’t view Montblanc differently than Visconti and other high-end pens.
I first viewed the Ultra Black at the Washington DC pen show in August and I liked the pen but it was more than I wanted to pay for one pen. Even back in August it was cheaper in Europe but still more than I want to pay. It stayed on my list but with Montblanc’s policy against advertising discounts it just kind of languished there and I didn’t anticipate a price drop.
Then fountain pen day came around and Appelboom was offering a 16% discount site-wide. I headed to the site to browse and started with Visconti but didn’t find anything. When I got to the Montblanc fountain pens I found them to be significantly cheaper than US prices, a bigger difference than Visconti and other brands. Add the exchange rate and FPD discount to that lower price and it was significantly less expensive. I pulled the trigger and bought one with a oblique medium nib.
Appelboom customer service was terrific. They handled the nib exchange to get me the oblique medium. This did add a couple weeks to the delivery time but saved me the hassle. I was kept informed of the progress. There wasn’t an added shipping charge and it was sent Fedex. Fedex got the pen on a Tuesday in Amsterdam and delivered it three days later on Friday, exactly three weeks after I ordered it. Not bad for free international shipping. There wasn’t any added customs charge. (I won’t claim it as fact since the official US Customs website isn’t easy to navigate, but some quick web research shows there’s no US customs duty on fountain pens valued under $800USD and this pen was well under that amount.)
Appelboom’s attention to detail was impressive. The pen was in it’s regular box but was then wrapped in additional paper. It was plain black paper, but gift wrap type paper. Naturally the warranty card was filled out. The package also contained a postcard with a Montblanc pen image, a Appelboom branded notepad, a keychain, and best of all, a package of tasty Dutch cookies (well, the packaging was in Dutch so I assume the cookies were too, they tasted like ginger snaps).
The Montblanc packaging itself, while classy, was underwhelming. I expected something more substantial. The pen was in a clamshell box with a black exterior and a white interior. The box sat inside a larger cardboard sleeve which also held the instruction/warranty book. It’s not a complaint since packaging doesn’t improve a pen, just surprising.
The pen itself seems well built. It feels solid and has a good fit and finish except for the cap threads. The threads are smooth until the very end where I have to give the cap and little extra twist to be sure it’s tight. It did come loose once when I didn’t give it this extra effort. I’ve had the pen less than a month so I can’t speak to durability. The matte black finish and ruthenium coating could be prone to wearing off or scratching, although there’s no signs of either so far.
It’s a matter of personal taste, but I do like the overall dark design of the pen, there’s a bit of contrast between the matte resin and the shiny ruthenium trim. It’s a little thing, and not unique to this pen, but I really love the look of the ink window, it’s not the standard sheet of clear plastic.
The first ink for this piston filler was obvious, Montblanc Bordeaux. Filling was easy and the piston movement was smooth. The oblique medium nib is a left oblique which fits the way I normally hold a pen, so there’s no adjustment needed. The nib is smooth and the ink flow has been problem free which I would expect from any Montblanc pen, but especially one that went in for a nib exchange.
The nib makes this a pen I’ll use for sit down writing sessions, not on-the-go note taking. I have found this nib a little less forgiving than some other pens with oblique nibs when it comes to paper and pen position. Like I said, the nib fits my natural pen grip, but if the paper isn’t perfectly flat on a solid surface it won’t make good contact and will skip. For example, if my notebook is open and I’m writing on the left side when it’s not able to lay perfectly flat there will be curve to the page or even a little cushion to the paper. I can’t really fault the pen for this, but it has resulted in occasions where picked another pen just to be safe.
The section seemed short to me at first but it’s the same size as my Pelikan M805, and many other pens. The rest of the pen is also about the same size as the M805. I’ve been using pens with longer sections lately and was acclimated to them. My fingers do touch the threads but they don’t bother me. The piston knob is metal but doesn’t adversely affect the balance for me. If I hadn’t held the pen at the DC show I would have been concerned with this, but the pen rests comfortably in my hand. I don’t post pens, but I did try this one posted. I did not like the balance when posted, it felt top heavy to me. But that’s the opinion of someone who posts very few of my pens and never ones of this size.
I’ve yet to clean the pen so I can’t comment on how hard or easy it is, although I don’t think cleaning a piston filler is ever easy. Nib removal is not an option, but that isn’t a concern to me since I dislike removing nibs just to clean a pen, even when it is possible. I’ll probably just refill it with Montblanc Bordeaux when It does go dry so it’ll be awhile before I have to deal with it.
It’s getting to be nearly a month with this pen. The nib does limit how often I use it since I find it more suitable to use it at a solid desk or table. This isn’t completely unexpected but the nib is a bit more finicky than I did expect. I often write on a lap desk (pictured in this post) and this is just unstable enough to take the pleasure out of using this pen. At a solid desk or table the Montblanc Meisterstück Ultra Black LeGrand is a joy to use.
It’s still got that new pen glow, but I’d have to say I’m happy with my first Montblanc.