Currently Inked – July 2016

Currently Inked - July 2016I’m back up to a dozen inked fountain pens. While eight pens are carry overs from June, two of those where written dry, flushed and then refilled. As I was deciding whether or not to ink up my twelfth fountain pen The Gentleman Stationer’s post about Choosing Pens for the Daily Carry showed up in my RSS feed. The entire post rings true to me, especially this part:

Needless to say, it takes a LONG time for me to work through the various pens in my rotation, and I’m getting annoyed that some of my favorites have fallen by the wayside.

He limited himself to ten fountain pens, but with a certain logic behind the choices (read the article for details). While the article makes perfect sense it didn’t stop me from inking up that twelfth pen.

New Pens or Inks

I decided to start highlighting my newly inked up pens and why I made the selection.

Sheaffer Balance II (x3)

I absolutely love the look of these three pens and the nibs are terrific. The Aspen’s nib and feed has been tuned by Mike Masuyama (it had a not uncommon flow issue when I received it) which makes me realize how good they can be. The other two aren’t quite there but I plan to remedy that next month.

These all got a matching color ink from my favorite ink brand.

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I reviewed the Sheaffer Balance Aspen and the other two are similar and I did write a This Just In post for them. The inks used are Montblanc Bordeaux (my absolute favorite), Montblanc Irish Green and Montblanc Permanent Grey. No review of the Permanent Grey even though it’s a former Fav 5 ink.

Lamy AL-Star (Green)

An early favorite of mine the Lamy Safaris (and similar AL-Stars) have been neglected. I recently returned to using them. The ink in this one is a new brand to me. Plus it’s a boutique manufacturer, and third it’s an iron gall ink. So I wanted a fountain pen that would be easy to clean and also relatively inexpensive should the unexpected happen and the ink damages the pen. As an added bonus I have a complete set of Lamy nibs and can swap them to give this ink a good workout.

Lamy AL-Star with writing sample

I’ve never reviewed the Safari/AL-Star but I’m sure a search of Pennaguod will turn up hundreds, if not thousands.

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age

This was the twelfth pen that I was debating to ink up. It would have been inked sometime during the month anyway since it’s the favorite, plus I really do need to review it finally. I continued my practice not repeating inks in this pen. The Aurora Black is an ink I’ve ignored for far too long so it was picked.

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with writing sample

No full reviews of this pen or ink yet but I did write about the Visconti soon after it arrived.

The Full List

The samples are in the same order as the pens in the photo up top.

Currently Inked Writing Samples - July 2016

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – June 29, 2016

Visconti Dreamtouch 3 pen case full with SheaffersThe Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log is a replacement of sorts for my Sunday Notes and Links. I’m hoping to make it a regular feature although I’m not willing to commit to a publication frequency.

The month of June was mostly standard fountain pen usage for me. I used the pens to take notes at work, draft my posts, and for other miscellaneous writing. As I mention below, I rarely use a non-fountain pen. It’s main competition is the computer or iPad. I did write several pens dry during the month but the ones that remain still hold a lot of ink.

I did give in and ink up my Sheaffer Balance IIs and have been using them a lot now that they have a case to protect them.

I could brag that I continue to use my Hobonichi every day. But the truth is it’s usually just a short entry in the morning. The current weather and how well I slept are standard fare.

I have been better about writing in my Seven Seas Writer most evenings although I did miss a few entries this month. For awhile I wrote at least a page a night but in the last week I’m down to about half a page. I’ve been trying to maintain the habit of writing nightly and not get too concerned about quantity. (I was never concerned about quality.)

Thought Provoking Links

The Handwritten Draft // Pete Denison

Pete Denison recently wrote about how his posts start off as handwritten drafts. This is something I’ve been doing since I started this blog as it gave me a reason to use my pens. Happily, I’ve found I like writing this way and much of my other writing also starts as a handwritten draft. Although to be honest I have to admit that I’m most consistent with this blog, I use this process for many of the reasons Pete mentions.

I generally draft all my posts in the same notebook until it’s full. It’s not dedicated to posts but this way I always know where to find them. My current notebook is a Maruman Septcouleur. I may have more than one post going at a time. I don’t leave blank pages. If a post isn’t done, I simply continue on at the next blank page if I pick it up again. Sometimes an incomplete post just fades into oblivion.

I don’t do a lot of editing when writing the draft. I may use an arrow to show a paragraph makes more sense in a different spot, but that’s about it. If I need to look something up I’m more likely to make a note about it rather than stopping and looking it up.

Once the written draft is done I transcribe it into ByWord for this blog or Ulysses for some of my other writing. I do edit and rewrite sections during this process and look up anything I made a note of. Sometimes this editing will be very extensive.

Once it’s transcribed I like to let it sit overnight but have to admit I often move right on to the next step which is reading it aloud. I find reading it aloud lets me catch more errors and I’m even more likely to catch them if I waited until the next day. This way I read the actual words rather than what my brain remembers me writing.

If I’m really conscientious I use text to speech as a final review to have the words read to me. But I admit I often skip this step in the interest of time.

This process doesn’t apply to my Sunday Notes and Links or Currently Inked posts, but every other post on this site started this way. I may hand write any blurbs or comments for the Sunday Links or Currently Inked posts but since they are so link or copy/paste heavy I rarely do.

On the surface this seems to be doubling the work but I’m not convinced that’s true since this seems to be a nice streamlined flow from start to finish. Even if it is true, I get to enjoy using my pens.

Namisu Nexus Minimal fine nib writing sample

A written draft

Fad or Function? Using what you enjoy…and makes sense // The Clicky Post

In this post Mike Dudek makes two main points. First, use what you enjoy which I agree with wholeheartedly. Second, fountain pens may not be ideal for many situation to which I say balderdash! If a fountain pen can’t be used then it’s not worth writing!

OK, a little extreme I know. I do think his first point trumps all others. If you don’t enjoy the pen, no matter what the type or what the community says, then don’t use it. If you enjoy rollerballs then use them.

In my case, my attempts to use non-fountain pens have left me wanting more. I like Retro 51 rollerballs, mainly for their look. They do write nice, thanks to the refill and I always have one with me. But it gets used more by other people (can I borrow your pen?) than by myself. I also like the idea of mechanical pencils and carried one for about a month but never used it. Likewise I still have some nice wood cased pencils sitting unused in my desk drawer.

I’m lucky in that my nib of choice is thin and I like well behaved inks. This lets me use a wide range of papers without too much trouble. Unlike Mike, I wouldn’t say “you need to use the right paper or they usually suck”. I don’t mind the Field Notes paper or even cheap copy paper. Sure, I prefer nice paper but I rarely come across paper that completely sucks.

I also admit I’m used to compromise. I’ve had a long career in technology, usually other people providing the keyboards or requiring me to switch keyboards a lot. I have my preference but other keyboards don’t make me nuts and I adjust. Likewise, I like my AeroPress coffee but office coffee has always been free and right at hand, so I dealt with it, at least as much as possible (tough at times). The same goes for inks and paper, show-through doesn’t bother me if I’m just doing notes or even the first draft of an article. With my thin nibs it’s rarely a problem for me. I’d rather use a fountain pen and live with it’s foibles than use something else. Let’s face it, it’s not like my handwriting is so good that a little show-through or feathering ruins what is otherwise perfect.

But it gets back to his first point, use what you enjoy. For me that means using a fountain pen 99% of the time.

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with Montblanc Ink Bottle

A pen and ink I really enjoy.

Top 7 Pens to Take on a Summer Outing // Anderson Pens Podcast #195

I’m way behind on my podcast listening. A few weeks ago Brian and Lisa Anderson selected their choices for summer pens. The definition of “outing” was a bit murky and could probably apply to winter outings too. I can’t argue with their choices but if I was to pick from the pens I own these are the ones I’d pick.

  1. Kaweco Brass Sport – a little pricy if I was concerned about losing it but I already carry it everyday as it is.
  2. KarasKustoms Ink – a tank of a pen. The red one would be easy to find if dropped. It’s a little heavy for a shirt pocket and the stiff clip may not hold the pen securely since summer shirts are usually thin.
  3. Lamy Safari or AL-Star – inexpensive and durable.
  4. Pilot Vanishing Point with XXXF nib There was a bit of a chuckle when Lisa picked the Vanishing Point and she showed the Cherry Bamboo. It’s more expensive than the metal bodies and more likely to be damaged since it’s wood. But it’s my favorite and would be my choice unless I was extra concerned about loss or damage.
  5. Retro 51 or KarasKustoms Ink Rollerball – for when my non-pen companions want to borrow one.

Pen Show Frictions, Part 1: retail shoppers vs traders // Vintage Pen News
Pen Show Frictions, Part 2: the Generation Gap // Vintage Pen News

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about various factions at pen shows. I especially enjoyed part 1 which approached this in a way I hadn’t seen discussed before, but immediately recognized. Without thinking to much about it at the time, I did see the two different types at pen shows. Personally, I prefer the retailer. I tended to just avoid those without prices marked (the traders). The exception being if I know a bit about the pen.

Other Links

Visconti Homo Sapiens – Florentine Hills // Calligraphy Nut

I’m having a hard time resisting this pen. I love my Bronze Age and this is gorgeous. I’m saving my pen money for the DC show which has helped me resist. I’ve also read that each of these pens is slightly different so I’d want to see it.

Art Supply Posse

Ana, from the Well-Appointed Desk, along with Heather Rivard have started a podcast about art supplies. I admit that I haven’t listened to it – I’m behind on my podcasts and this isn’t a topic I get excited about. But I suspect many others will enjoy it.

Montblanc Inks // United Inkdom

It’s from May, but it’s my favorite ink brand so here it is.

Pen Shows

The Miami Pen Show will be July 15–17.

The Washington DC Pen Show is August 4–7.

Triangle Pen Show 2016 // Inkdependence – The Triangle Pen Show has been over nearly a month, but here’s a photo heavy recap to get you in the pen show mood.

Review: Visconti Dreamtouch Leather 3 Pen Holder

Visconti Dreamtouch 3 pen case full with SheaffersI picked up the Visconti Dreamtouch Leather 3 Pen Holder a few months ago and have been enjoying it ever since. Once a year or so I order from overseas. Usually for items that aren’t available in the US, such as Pelikan Blue-Black ink. Even though it’s available in the US I added this case to the order. I’d done some research and picked this case as my solution but was holding back because of the price. The exchange rate gave me a significant savings, plus it brought me above the free shipping threshold from Cult Pens.

Rather than buying it because it’s a nice case, which it is, I bought it because it’s the one pen case I found that met my current requirements. Cases for three pens are the sweet spot for me since I often carry three pens when I’m out and about. I had been using the Nockco Sinclair but it didn’t meet my current requirements, although I’ll certainly continue to use it.

I have three Sheaffer Balance IIs that I love using, despite their medium nibs. The pens have the reputation of being fragile (and feel it), especially around the clip. Mine are still crack free and I’d like them to remain that way as long as possible. They’ve been home-bound because I’ve been afraid to take them outside the house. I love using the pens and they give me a nice trilogy of pens and ink – a grey or brown in the Aspen, red in the Crimson Glow and green in the Jade Green model. They are too nice to ignore so I wanted a way to carry them in relative safety.

I wanted something that was more rigid although it didn’t have to be a fountain pen bunker. I wouldn’t expect it to survive me sitting on it, but I wanted it to survive in my iPad bag which is my typical carry these days. I didn’t want it to cause damage if the iPad ended up on top of the pen case. It also had to protect pens from bouncing notebooks or keys. I also wanted it to hold all three pens securely without using the fragile pen clips.

The Visconti 3 Pen Case is the one I found that met my requirements, plus it does look good. I just had to get past the price, which I obviously did.

The case has a rigid bottom which keeps it from bending. This was important to me because I’m more concerned about an indirect hit putting pressure on half the case that I am about it being crushed under a large object. The top panels are also rigid although there’s a hinge between them. The sides are rigid except for the zipper which has cloth along it’s length, which doesn’t provide any support. While it’s not a fountain pen bunker it does provide good protection without requiring that the pen be clipped in place. Overall, I think the case provides very good pen protection.

The pen slot dividers run the entire length of the case and are attached to the bottom along the entire length of the case. The don’t flop around and do feel like they are also attached to the bottom side of the case. The inner lining is soft and has a felt-like feel. It doesn’t appear as if it will scratch or wear the pens at all. Unless of course some sand or other grainy particles get caught inside it.

The zipper is exposed to the inside of the case. The zipper teeth are small and fairly smooth along the inside. The zipper is metal. The position of the zipper, high relative to the pens rather than along the middle, plus the small zipper size makes me confident that it won’t scratch my pens. That said, I can’t rule out a series of unfortunate events that could cause it to scratch a pen since it is exposed. Wrapping the pens in a protective cloth, or a protective sheet along the zipper side would eliminate my concerns, but that adds a complication I decided was more of a hassle than the low risk deserved.

I used the case for a couple of months with my regular carry pens to build my confidence that it will protect my more fragile fountain pens. Then a couple weeks ago I inked up my three Sheaffer Balance IIs and moved them into their new home. I don’t have any complaints about the case and it’s protected my pens well. The Sheaffers are the few pens I have that I consider fragile, requiring special handling. I’m not about to see how much abuse they can take inside the case, but I am confident they are safe in there during my normal travels. My only concern is to make sure I don’t run the pen over the zipper as I take it in and out of the case. The cover opens wide and the zipper is easily avoided, it’s my carelessness that I worry about.

“Dreamtouch” is the name Visconti gave to their leather processing. It tends to turn me off when manufacturers give a made-up name to their process, since it’s meaningless to me. I’m more concerned about the result and the name doesn’t help determine that. That said, the leather is smooth and soft and it does appear to do a good job of resisting abuse. Scuffs have been easy to work out so far. There is some creasing where the hinged top attaches, but no signs of cracking. Being black every spec of dust is highlighted in the photos. In real life it has a much cleaner, dust-free look.

Three months of normal use isn’t exactly an endurance test, but the case has held up well. The stitching seems solid and there isn’t any sign of it coming apart. Normally I like my cases to show they’ve been used. This case has had a few scuffs which really stand out on that black leather, which I don’t like. I’ve been able to work them out with just my fingers. The zipper is another potential failure point but it seems to be holding up well.

The case fits all except my largest pen, a Edison Huron Grande. My Franklin-Christoph Model 66 just fits in the center slot, although it doesn’t fit in the side slots. Both the case and pen have an official length of 6.3″. The Model 66 does press against the top end but not enough to affect the zipper operation. It’s a bit hard to remove since friction holds it in place. I haven’t tried all of my pens but I’m confident any others will fit fine. Because the pen clip won’t hold the pen in place smaller pens may rattle around a bit but that isn’t a concern for me.

I’m very happy with the Visconti Dreamtouch Leather 3 Pen Holder and it’s been used daily since I got it. Now that I’m confident in it’s protection, my 3 Sheaffer Balance II fountain pens have claimed it as their new mobile home. I’ve enjoyed having them with me which makes the case worth the money.

Additional Reading

My Pen Needs Ink – 3 pen case review

The Pencilcase Blog – 6 Pen Case review

Ink and Pen Notes: Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon Black Ink

Platinum Carbon Pen in HolderI filled the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon Black ink (in a cartridge) back on January 26th. InCoWriMo was about to begin and I figured the waterproof ink would be perfect for addressing envelopes and postcards. As it turned out, I used this pen for nearly all my postcards. Only the first few were written with another pen/ink combo. Without knowing any better I picked coated postcards and only this pen/ink combination really worked on them. I did need to clean the nib occasionally as the coating accumulated on it.

The nib is a “superfine” although I’m pretty sure this is the same as the “extra fine” nib I also see offered. The nib is similar to my other Japanese extra fine nibs and a bit wider than some, such as my Sailor extra fine.

It’s a thin and light fountain pen, which isn’t normally to my liking. I use this pen for short writing sessions – a postcard, an envelope address, or a quick note. I have the desk stand (which costs more than this sub-$15 fountain pen) so the pen is always available for a quick note. I’ve come to appreciate having a pen on my desk that’s ready to “grab and go”, no uncapping needed.

The ink is a pigment based ink and the feed in this pen has slightly wider channels to account for the particles in the ink. Five months is probably a little long to keep this type of ink in the pen. But, I didn’t have any hard starts or skipping so I didn’t see the need for an early flushing. The pen was used frequently in February, it was used less frequently after that but still a couple times a week. The ink was easy enough to clean from the pen, but it did take a little longer than I expected. I suspect the ink had dried a bit in the feed and was coming loose as I flushed the pen.

The Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon Black ink was due for a bath by the time I wrote it dry. After it was refreshed I popped in another cartridge and the pen is back in its place on my desk.

Ink & Pen Notes: Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with Lamy Dark Lilac

Visonti Homo Sapien Bronze Age Extra Fine with Lamy Dark Lilac ink bottleI inked up the Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with Lamy Dark Lilac ink back on May 15th and refilled it once since then. It has an extra fine 23kt palladium nib that I love. The Visconti Homo Sapien is my favorite fountain and has been since I first wrote with it. I’ve been concentrating on using a variety of inks in it. While I may refill the pen with the same ink if I don’t clean it, but once it’s time for a cleaning I pick a brand new ink for the pen. The Lamy Dark Lilac is the sixth ink for this pen.

Lamy Dark Lilac is a Special Edition ink released this year. Actually, it seems to have passed to limited edition status as supplied have already started to dry up. I’ve also been using this ink in a Lamy Safari with a medium nib.

This ink and pen worked fine together, after all I did refill the pen once. But I wasn’t overly impressed with the look of the ink with this pen. It was a rather bland, dark purple on anything but the whitest paper. On the other hand, I really liked the look of this ink with the Lamy medium nib. So, a pen I love and an ink that shows promise in another pen, yet together they are rather bland. The ink performed well, no skipping or hard starts, it just didn’t pop off the page.

The Lamy Dark Lilac, while a fine ink, is not an ink that will return to the Visconti Homo Sapien. It’s still in the Safari and will remain there.

The Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age remains my favorite pen so it will be back in the rotation sooner rather than later.

Ink & Pen Notes: Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF with Pilot Black

Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF Nib with Pilot Black ink cartridgesI inked up my Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF nib way back on Mach 11th, loading it with a Pilot black ink cartridge. The nib unit started in the Cherry Bamboo barrel and then moved to the Maplewood barrel after I inked up the left oblique nib.

The XXXF nib is a custom grind done by Richard Binder a couple of years ago. The nib is extremely thin, making it stingy with ink. It’s about as smooth as such a thin nib can be. It’s great on Rhodia or Tomoe River paper but I also use it a lot on “regular” paper too. It will catch a bit on coarse or fibrous paper.

A Vanishing Point with this nib used to be a regular carry in my shirt pocket, but this became less useful to me so now the pen is just part of my regular rotation.

Pilot Black is an ink I like a lot for everyday use and it’s dark enough for this thin nib. As usual it was problem free and easy to flush from the fountain pen.

There’s not much else to say about this fountain pen and ink combination. The Pilot Vanishing Point XXXF nib combined with Pilot Black ink to provide a consistently pleasant writing experience.