Newton Pens Eastman for Esterbrook Nibs

Newton Pens Eastman with Montblanc Irish Green with ink splatter on a knight pen standUsually I do a This Just In post to give my initial impressions of a new fountain pen, then I wait several months and inks before doing a full review. This is a little in between. I received the Newton Eastman custom fountain pen in early October. But since this is a custom pen I don’t see much point in waiting months for a full review. If my opinions change over time I’ll update this post or write about it in other posts.

Officially this is a (Shawn) Newton Pens Eastman of standard length with a medium girth that takes interchangeable Esterbrook Nibs.

Shawn Newton is now a full time pen maker. He was a teacher when he started making pens. He’s always linked the pen making to his students. That currently takes the form of the Newton Pens Scholarship. Along these lines he sells postcards and notebooks along with raffling off a custom pen every month. Postcards are 2 for 1 until the end of the year so this is a good time to check them out.

Why I Got It

This pen took a long time to materialize. I have over 30 Esterbrook nibs and a handful of Esterbrook pens, mostly Model J’s. These days I find the Esterbrook pens too small and light to use for extended writing sessions. In early 2015 I decided to do something about it. I began following custom pen makers on Instagram and Twitter. This let me see the materials and design but I was still just window shopping. Finally, in March of this year I got serious.

My main concern was how the nibs would look in a larger pen. After some mock-ups with some of my existing fountain pens I decided the look would be acceptable. I was still reluctant to blaze new trails so my first approach was to Brian Grey of Edison Pens, because I had several of his pens I thought would work. But this wasn’t his type of work. He recommended Shawn Newton who was already next on my list.

While I really like many bright acrylics when I see them I find I quickly get tired of them so I decided to go with a simple design. I’d either go with a clear acrylic or a solid color ebonite.

The Ordering Process & Finalizing the Design

Shawn Newton Eastman with Esterbrook #2314F nib and Montblanc Irish Green uncappedIn late March I contacted Shawn via email and the order was finalized over a few days. All communication was via email and he was very responsive. The Shinobi was a hot item at the time and I mentioned it as one of the models I was interested in. Shawn pointed out that the flat side of the Shinobi would be problematic when lining up the different nibs. He mentioned the Eastman as a possible choice and it’s what I decided upon.

The Eastman is a perfectly round barrel and cap with flat ends. The cap closes flush with the barrel so it appears seamless. It’s a simple design that I really like. After giving it some thought and picked this model.

All Shawn’s pens come in several sizes, both in length and girth. I went with a medium girth (14 mm at the threads). This was a size I found comfortable in other pens. Shawn did mention that this might not work aesthetically with the smallish Esterbrook nibs, but I was prepared for this. He did send a photo of an Esterbrook nib along side the medium and smaller sections for comparison.

I went with the Standard size barrel (133 mm in length) which Shawn says is comparable to the Montblanc 149 or Pelikan M1000 in size.

I was already leaning towards a clear acrylic since I’d be able to see the nib in addition to the ink. The Eastman design seemed to be a perfect choice for this material. A negative was that I knew from experience that my Esterbrook nibs would inevitably splatter inside the cap which would be visible, and annoy me. I decided the positives outweighed the negatives so I went with a perfectly clear cap and barrel.

I decided to pass on any clip or other hardware. That would ruin the nice clean look of the pen. I did go with a black ebonite section. I like the feel of ebonite and the color provided a nice contrast.

My only complaint, and complaint is too strong a word, is that while Shawn let me know the pen was done I didn’t get a tracking number. This wasn’t a problem for me since delivery was to a safe PO Box, but you may need to ask for a tracking number if this matters to you, or even request a signature so it’s not left on your porch.

The lead time for the pen was about six months. The ETA was mid-October although actual arrival was early October. Payment is required at the time of order. I typically hate paying so far in advance but in this case it makes sense and is a common (if not universal) practice for custom pens.

What I Got

Shawn Newton Eastman with Esterbrook #2314F nib and Montblanc Irish Green capped

To recap, it’s a Newton Eastman in clear acrylic with a black ebonite section that takes Esterbrook nibs.

The pen arrived securely packed. It was in a cloth pen sleeve made by Liz Newton. Then that was in a metal travel mug which provided great protection for the pen and was functional afterward. I’d forgotten that he included the tumbler so it was a nice surprise. (Checking the website recently I see the mug is now optional, for an additional charge.)

Since I was supplying the Esterbrook nibs the pen arrived nib-less. Assuming my ink syringe is accurate the pen holds nearly 5 ml. of ink.

The fit and finish are perfect. The acrylic is perfectly smooth, both inside and out. There’s no real gap between the cap and barrel so it appears seamless when capped. It’s a relatively light pen that feels solid in my hand.

I attached several Esterbrook nibs upon arrival and all fit just as well as they did in my Model J’s. There is some variation among a few of my used Esterbrook pens and nibs so not every one of them fit perfectly, but the vast majority do, so I consider the section perfectly sized for an Esterbrook nib.

The Numbers

Being a custom pen, changes can be made but the specifications for my Eastman are:

  • Length Capped: 142.60 mm
  • Length Uncapped: 134.98 mm (w/ nib #2442)
  • Section Length: 19.57 mm
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 12.41 mm
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 12.99 mm
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 12.04 mm
  • Cap Diameter: 16.49 mm
  • Barrel Diameter: 16.49 mm

The pen weighs 28 grams capped and 22 grams uncapped when the barrel is about 75% full of ink.

The Experience

Newton Pens Eastman with Montblanc Irish Green ink with bottle

Upon arrival I attached an Esterbrook #8441 “Superfine” nib. I filled it with Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE ink. I picked the ink for two reasons: I love the ink and it can survive months in a pen without any adverse effects. A great ink to inaugurate a fountain pen.

It wrote great but I was a little too frugal with the silicone grease. After a week or so I noticed ink on the section. Ink was creeping along the threads between the barrel and the section. So the remaining ink went back to the bottle and I gave the pen a complete flush.

Even though it was entirely my fault I decided to get a completely fresh start and I changed everything. So I was less frugal with the silicone grease, I screwed in a Esterbrook #2314-F nib and filled the barrel with Montblanc Irish Green. The pen has been problem free for over a month.

As I was writing the draft of this review so I decided to swap the nib and screwed in a Esterbrook #2442 nib which is a left oblique fine stub nib.

The pen is large and clip-less making it a desk pen. Even if it had a clip it would be a little large for shirt pocket. The pen is perfectly round and has rolled off my desk more than once. There’s really no risk of damage to the pen but momentum keeps the ink moving until it hits the cap. Normally I like signs of use, but that splatter on such a nice clear cap annoys me. Luckily it’s only happened when I’m home and the cap is easy to clean and dry out. A roll stop may have been a good idea, although it would ruin the clean look of the pen. In practice, I’ve been keeping the pen is a leather pen sleeve which keeps it from rolling around.

The Eastman takes one complete rotation to cap or uncap. The threads are a bit finicky at times. They’ll catch a bit if the cap and section aren’t aligned to be straight. It’s more temperamental than most of my other screw-on caps but I’ve gotten the hang of it.

Newton Eastman standing on end with Montblanc Irish Green inkSometimes it’s the little things that please me. In this case it’s that each end of the pen is perfectly flat and it can easily stand on end. I like to stand the pen up and watch the ink slowly settle.

Since Esterbrook nibs are old and their condition varies I did expect some problems. The most obvious is what I already encountered, they spit ink if they are jostled around when carried (or dropped). This also happens in the Model J’s, it’s just hidden in them.

When testing the nibs I did find one or two that wouldn’t screw in properly. But these were nibs purchased with a used Esterbrook and had similar problems in official Esterbrook pens. Since I do plan to change nibs a lot I’m a little hesitant to use a nib that has any problem screwing into the section so I’ll probably pass on using some of my nibs. Especially since I plan to change nibs while the pen is inked up.

I did change the nib mid-way through the draft of this article. Removing the nib was problem free, since I don’t consider inky fingers a problem.

Cleaning the Pen

The insides of the pen and cap are polished to be completely smooth, so there’s no nooks and crannies for the ink to cling to. This makes the pen easy to clean out. While I haven’t encountered any staining it would be easy enough to get a long cotton swab inside to gently scrub any stain. Since the nib and section are removable they are easy to clean. While I don’t like removing nibs just to clean a pen this one is different. I’ll be swapping nibs anyway.

Inks Used

Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE is my favorite blue-black ink and one that’s proven it can be in a pen for many problem-free months so it was my first choice. I already mentioned the ink creeping problem and that I replaced the ink to get a fresh start. That wasn’t a problem with the ink and as expected it wrote perfectly while it was in the pen and it was easy to clean.

Montblanc Irish Green is currently in the pen. It’s been perfect with both nibs (#2314F and #2442) and there’s no signs of staining. It’s been in the pen since November 2nd and I’ve used about 1/2 a barrel.

Wrapping Up

The Newton Eastman was well worth the six month wait. I’ve written over 10 pages in this writing session and there’s not a hint of fatigue in my hand. I couldn’t say that if I used the Esterbrook Model J. Well, I did take a short break to swap the nib. I’m thrilled that I can enjoy the full range of my Esterbrook nibs whenever I want and for as long as I want.

I like the simple elegance of the design and the finish is really perfect. It’s been awhile since the pen has rolled of my desk so I don’t regret not getting a roll stop especially since it would interfere with the clean design.

Additional Reading

The Unwritten Word: Tools of the Trade: Newton Pens Eastman

Photos

These are the photos Shawn took of the finished pen, prior to shipping.

 

Review: Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe posted on eagle pen standI’ve had the Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe for just over eight months. There’s been both ups and downs, so it’s a ready for a review. The Regency Stripe first caught my attention when I saw it announced on the now defunct FPGeeks website and video podcast. I immediately added it to my want list. A not uncommon event for new fountain pens. Most soon drop off, but this one remained there for over three years. I wanted the pen but the price drove me away.

In June 2015 two things happened:

  1. Brad Dowdy (the Pen Addict) showed a picture of the pen in his carry post. No commentary beyond his identifying the pen, but that was only a matter of time. (Even worse – from my POV – I later learned he snagged one of the few I’ve ever seen on the aftermarket.)
  2. Brian Anderson, on his podcast, announce that Sailor was discontinuing the model. Although as of today I still see them listed at couple retailers so they’re not gone yet.

It was time for me to make a decision. The pen was about to get some attention, at the same time it was going away. Obviously I decided to buy one.

Why I Got It

Look at it! It’s said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Well, the Regency Stripe is beautiful in my eyes. While I wouldn’t normally go for something so shiny, this was conservative bling.

I already had a Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black so I knew I’d like the way the pen would feel in my hand. Plus, I also knew I’d like a slightly heavier version of the form factor.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black (left) and Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe (right)

What I Got

I wanted a nib even thinner than my existing Pro Gear’s fine nib. The fine nib is the thinnest factory supplied nib for this pen so I was expecting to eventually get it ground down. Then I saw that John Mottishaw (Classic Fountain Pens) would install any Sailor 21k rhodium-plated nib at no additional charge. So I got one with a Sailor extra fine nib. I had the nib tuned to provide a medium flow with a light touch.

The pen is heavier than other Pro Gear’s (and probably most Sailor pens). While I considered this a bonus, it’s my understanding this is one reason the pen didn’t sell well in Japan. By comparison the Imperial Black is about 8g lighter, both capped and uncapped.

Sailor Professional Gear Regency Stripe box contents

The contents – pen, 2 ink cartridges, polishing cloth and pamphlet

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 129.27 mm
  • Length Uncapped: 116.58 mm
  • Length Posted: 150.28 mm
  • Section Length: 16.79 mm
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 10.57 mm
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 11.63 mm
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 10.86 mm
  • Cap Diameter: 16.04 mm
  • Barrel Diameter: 13.45 mm
  • Weight: 32 g
  • Weight (body only): 24 g

The Experience

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine nib with R&K Blau-Schwarz LEI’m going to change up my typical review format. I’ll be less technical and more subjective. It’s a Sailor nib on a pricey Sailor pen that was check/tuned by John Mottishaw before sending it to me. Let’s sum up the technical review by saying the pen meets all the expectations of that previous sentence.

The pen arrived in a fairly nondescript oversize clamshell box protected by an outer cardboard box. The outside was covered with a dark brown felt-like material while there was a padded cloth interior with a Sailor logo embossed on the inside cover. I was conflicted. I don’t like pen companies wasting money on a box I’ll never use and probably toss, yet it didn’t re-enforce that this was a pricey (luxury) pen. This was especially true when I opened the box. Everything was on one level in the box. The pen was in a plastic wrapper and held in place by a strap, but everything else was loose. The polishing cloth was a nice touch. No complaints, but it didn’t re-enforce the thought that this was a justifiably expensive pen.

My spirits were lifted when I pulled the pen out of its wrapper. I had never seen the pen in real life so I was a bit concerned. The concern immediately vanished. The pen was gorgeous and everything I expected. The photos don’t do it justice. The barley corn pattern is intricate and well defined. The pen feels and looks solid. I was starting to feel better about the cost of the pen.

The pen had been tested and cleaned. I could see some water droplets in the converter, which was in the pen. I quickly inked it up with Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE ink. It’s one of my top 5 inks and I knew the dark color would work well with this thin nib. I wrote with the Regency Stripe and smiled, feeling much, much, much better about the cost of the pen. To my eyes, which are admittedly bad, this is as thin as any nibs I have calling themselves needlepoint or XXXF. I’m also surprised at how smooth this thin nib is, even on coarse paper.

I’ve developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Regency Stripe. The nib is ultra thin and firm with just a touch of spring to it. That’s what I love. The hate comes in because I have a tendency to write really fast with this pen. So fast that my already bad handwriting becomes even worse chicken scratch. Luckily I’m typing up this review within a day of writing the draft, otherwise I might not be able to decipher what I wrote in a few places. Not to mention that when I write too fast I make more grammar and spelling errors as my brain and hand gets out of sync. Of course, I can force myself to slow down so the hate can be controlled.

The thin nib also dries out quicker than most other nibs when I pause during writing, although the ink also affects this. The R & K Blau-Schwarz LE ink survives pauses of a couple minutes while the Sailor Jentle Black that’s in there now is lucky to survive a minute. This is the one characteristic of this pen that’s a strike against me using it as a daily writer. I don’t use it when I know there will be a lot of pauses which would require me to cap and uncap the pen. The cap takes nearly two complete rotations to attach or remove, although even a loosely affixed cap keeps the nib wet long enough for an extended pause.

The R&K Blau-Schwarz LE ink was a great way to introduce myself to the Regency Stripe. They combined for a great writing experience that reinforced my decision to buy the pen. I like to try different inks in my new pens and this is where things took a turn for the worse.

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine with Akkerman IG Ink BottleThe next ink was P.W. Akkerman #10 Ijzer-Galnoten which is an iron gall ink. The ink performed ok. Not great, just ok. It was a little light for the thin nib on many papers, especially with fast writing. Being an iron gall ink I flushed it out after two weeks. The cleanup made me hate the ink. I don’t like the clingy ink enough to justify the effort needed to get it out of the converter. While I didn’t blame the pen, my mood became a bit cloudy.

Next I went for the Toucan Bright Green ink. It looked dark in the bag (not bottle) and was called “bright”. It just wasn’t saturated enough for the thin nib. It survived a month in the pen but I didn’t like the experience, so I used the pen less and less over time. Eventually I flushed the ink before writing it dry.

It was time to get back to a nice dark, saturated ink that would be easy to read. I considered returning to the tried & true Blau-Schwarz but decided to keep trying new ink. The pen got a couple weeks off then I filled it with Graf Von Faber-Castell Carbon Black. I again smiled when I used the Regency Stripe. That lasted five days, at which point I noticed that the converter was leaking from the top. It was an absolute mess inside the barrel. The pen got a thorough bath inside the barrel and six weeks to dry off. I now know that leaking sailor converters, even new ones, are not as uncommon as they should be. Much of that six week break was to allow the bad reputation this pen was getting to subside a bit.

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe EF nib and Sailor Jentle Black inkWhile I intellectually knew it wasn’t a bad pen, I was begining to think it was jinxed. To hopefully eliminate the drama I picked a Sailor Jentle Black cartridge as the ink to begin 2016 in this pen. While unexciting, Sailor Jentle Black is dark enough for this thin nib, dries quick enough, and is very well behaved with a cartridge that was unlikely to leak. I was not disappointed and when the cartridge went dry I popped in another and kept on going. The flow is great, no hard starts and skipping is non-existent. The ink evaporates off the nib a little faster than I prefer but that’s my only complaint. I just have to remember to cap the pen anytime I set it down, even if I don’t tighten the cap. It survives long enough for me to pause and gather my thoughts between sentences or paragraphs. But it’s a bit tedious to use for meeting notes or online research where there could be a several minutes between anything worth noting, yet enough action to require keeping the pen in hand.

That second cartridge went dry on March 15th, the day after I used it to write the draft of this review. With 13 other pens inked at the time I decided to give the Sailor Regency Stripe a break.

The Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe is shiny and reflects light, but unless I’m someplace with direct and harsh lighting it doesn’t bother me. It’s not a pen I stop to admire while I’m using it, so it doesn’t distract me from writing. (Well, except when writing this review since I am thinking about the pen.) Occasionally a light will reflect off it and distract me. There was one time I moved seats in a coffee shop because the light over me kept reflecting off the pen as it moved. Despite this the pen hasn’t attracted any comments in public, unlike some other fountain pens. (As a side note – the more vintage looking fountain pens are the ones that usually draw comment.)

Cleaning the Pen.

It’s a cartridge/converter pen so it’s easy to flush. I did have issues cleaning the Akkerman IG ink from the converter, but it was easily flushed from the feed. This is the one ink I used the ultrasonic cleaner for the nib and feed after flushing it, just to be safe, and I didn’t notice any traces of ink in the UC water.

Inks Used.

I wrote about all the inks in the Writing Experience section. The thin Sailor extra fine nib prefers dark or saturated inks since the line is so thin. So that’s what I’ll be using in the future.

Wrapping Up.

I’m not going to try and justify the price of the Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe. I don’t think I could. It took three years to convince myself it would be worth it and I already knew I liked size the Pro Gear pens. It was FOMO (fear of missing out) that finally made me jump off the ledge and buy the pen. That said, it remains one of the few fountain pens I would buy again for the same price. I love the aesthetic of this pen. A conservative, business-like black and silver with an added flash of design provided by the barleycorn pattern. The barrel is mostly rhodium barleycorn but with enough black to avoid looking like an aluminum baseball bat.

The bottom line is that the Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe will be a regular in my rotation. It’s a keeper.

Additional Reading

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe Review — The Pen Addict

My This Just In post: This Just In: Sailor Professional Gear Regency Stripe

My Ink Notes about the pen:

Ink & Pen Notes: Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe and R&K Blau-Schwarz LE

Ink & Pen Notes: Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe with Akkerman #10 Ijzer-Galnoten

Ink & Pen Notes: Sailor Regency Stripe and Toucan Bright Green

Ink & Pen Notes: Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe with GvFC Carbon Black

Ink and Pen Notes: Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe with Sailor Jentle Black

Gallery

From The Pen Case: Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage with a medium stub nib and Sheaffer Peacock Blue ink bottleThe Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage has the distinction of being the most expensive fountain pen in my accumulation. It also has the dubious distinction of being my only fountain pen that has broken during normal use. This pen has done it’s best to make me hate it. So time for a review, although you’re probably guessing that it won’t end well.

Conway Stewart no longer exists, having gone out of business (for a second time) with the pieces being sold off to others. The brand will probably be resurrected for a third time. Bespoke British Pens is selling some Conway Stewart Models although it’s confusing (at least to me) as to whether they are maintaining the brand or just selling off old stock or pens made from old stock. The Marlborough Vintage is still available from them although with different branded nibs and only a cartridge/converter version.

This is my second Conway Stewart fountain pen, the first being the FPH Anniversary Edition. I liked that pen enough to spring for the more expensive Marlborough Vintage In June of 2012.

I’ll get this out early – vintage is part of the model name, it is not even close to a vintage pen. I hate it when pen companies do this.

Why I Got It

I liked my first Conway Stewart and this one was a similar size. Plus, it was ebonite which I like the feel of. Lastly, I could get it as a lever filler and I really liked the look of the woodgrain ebonite. I ordered mine with an extra fine nib (more on this later).

What I Got

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage engraved barrelThis is a limited edition fountain pen and I received number 41 of 300. I received a medium nib, rather than the extra fine that I ordered, but in my impatience I didn’t notice until after I inked it up. After some internal debate I decided to keep the medium nib. I liked the way it wrote, it wasn’t too wide, plus I had the idea of getting it stubbed.

I love the feel of the ebonite and I like the woodgrain finish. I’ll stop short of saying it reminds me of real wood but I like the black “grain” on the brown “wood”. Combined with the lever fill it give the pen a nice vintage aesthetic. The furniture is gold which isn’t my favorite choice, but as with other brown pens, it works in this case.

The ink capacity is painfully small and is my main complaint with this pen. Either the cartridge/converter or eye dropper options would provide a larger capacity. I get a little over four pages of solid writing on a 8.5“ X 11” piece of paper. For awhile I thought there might be a problem but, after further research and checking I found that this was to be expected. I just didn’t uncover it in my initial research.

The pen feels well made and has a solid fit and finish. As I mentioned, the pen is broken but it does feel well made.

Getting the wrong nib and the small ink capacity really turned me off to this pen early on. When the Long Island Pen Show rolled around the following March I brought the pen with me and had Richard Binder stub the nib. This gives the pen a little more personality and made me warm up to the pen. At the time it was one of my few stub nibs and the first in a pen I could comfortably use for longer writing sessions (even if it did need a refill midway through). I ended up being happy with my choice to stub the nib rather than tryng to get the extra fine that I ordered. I might have gotten a little more writing from each fill with the thinner extra fine nib, but it wouldn’t have been enough to turn this pen into a daily carry.

The stub nib makes the pen enjoyable to use and the small capacity means I don’t feel guilty about needing to flush the pen. I can write it dry in an evening or two.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 133.52 mm
  • Length Uncapped: 25.11 mm
  • Length Posted: 180.34 mm
  • Section Length: 19.20 mm
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 11.11 mm
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 11.39 mm
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 10.18 mm
  • Cap Diameter: 15.04 mm
  • Barrel Diameter: 13.15 mm
  • Weight: 22 g (w/ink)
  • Weight (body only): 12 g (w/ink)

Writing With The Pen

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage medium stub nib with Sheaffer Peacock Blue inkRemoving the cap takes one full rotation and then the pen is ready to write. The cap does post securely but not deeply. This makes the pen look freakishly long when it’s posted. It also feels unbalance, but that’s from someone who doesn’t post his pens when using them.

The factory medium nib was smooth and had a good flow. I never experienced any hard starts or skipping. Needless to say the nib also flowed fine after being stubbed by Mr. Binder.

The fountain pen is comfortable in my hand, being similar in size to the Pelikan M805 and a tad smaller than the Visconti Homo Sapien. The ebonite is light making this a light pen, especially when it’s not posted since nearly half the weight is in the cap. The pen is not quit perfect in my hand, but better than most. The Pelikan M805 is a little heavier (about 22g) so feels more solid which I like these days and the slightly bigger Bronze Age is a perfect size for my hand. My fingers do touch the threads just a bit when I grip the pen, but that aren’t sharp so I don’t even notice them.

I’ve never had problems with any inks although being a lever filler I pick inks I know are easy to clean out and that I will like. I tend to give the pen multiple fills of each ink, due to the small capacity, and I don’t want to be forced to flush an ink I don’t like or has problems.

This is a pen I almost always use at home and for casual writing. By that I mean when I’m concentrating on the writing, rather than taking notes, and I plan to do it for awhile. Plus, I’m willing to be interrupted should I need to refill the pen. I have taken it out and about at times and it’s one of the few pens that has drawn comments in public. The lever and wood grain finish catches people’s attention.

Cleaning The Pen

It’s a lever filler, so cleaning takes a little longer than pens more easily flushed. It’s not any harder to clean than other lever filler. The nib unit does unscrew should you want to flush the pen with a syringe but I avoided doing that and just worked the lever.

This is when the pen broke. I was cleaning the pen in order to use another ink before this review. The lever snapped during cleaning. I could feel it come loose in the pen. While I did work the lever a lot while cleaning the pen I never treated it roughly. The pen probably would have lasted longer if I removed the nib for cleaning.

Inks Used

Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage with a medium stub nib and Sheaffer Peacock Blue ink bottleFor this review I used several fill of Sheaffer Peacock Blue. The nib gives the ink some nice line variation. It’s probably been my favorite ink in this pen. Although, I do have a tendency to consider anything I’m currently using a favorite.

I recently used Montblanc Leonardo Red Chalk. While I like the ink, this pen didn’t seem to do much for it and I flushed it out the first time I wrote it dry. This is the one ink which I liked less in this pen than in previous fountain pens.

I’ve also used various Waterman and Pilot Iroshizuku inks, all of which performed well. As I mentioned, for lever fillers I pick inks I already know I like and which perform well. None of them disappointed in this pen.

Wrapping Up

As I mentioned, the Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage is the most expensive fountain pen in my accumulation. From that perspective the pen was a disappointment even before the lever broke, I don’t consider it worth the money I paid. After the very rough start the pen did grow on me and I do like it. It’s a pen I would ink up for occasional use but it never really grabbed my attention.

Is it a keeper? The lever fill option was a huge mistake. The capacity is too small for me and well, the lever broke. It’ll be around until it get fixed. But assuming it wasn’t broken, I would be seriously considering selling it off to fund a future pen purchase. While I wouldn’t typically try to repair such an expensive pen myself I’ll probably consider it in this case, after some research and practice with other pens. The Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage isn’t worth pouring more money into it.

Additional Reading

Black Lever Filler reviewed on FPN

Gallery

The pen broke before the draft of this review, which I typically use as a writing sample. So the writing sample is just an index card.

From the Pen Case: Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary

Conway Stewart FPH 60th AnniversaryI decided to pull a long ignored fountain pen out of a storage case and ink it up. Rather than actually have to make a decision I just looked at my accumulation and picked the first unreviewed fountain pen. That made it my Conway Stewart Fountain Pen Hospital 60th Anniversary Limited Edition.

I can’t remember the last time I inked up this pen. Considering I’ve been consistently tracking the pens I use for the past couple of years I can confidently say it’s been a few years. I have no bad memories or experiences with the pen, it just didn’t keep my attention.

Why I Got It

I bought the pen back in late 2005. I remember considering it a good price for a Conway Stewart. Plus, I really like the brown marble acrylic. I’m less happy with all the gold trim these days, but back then I didn’t mind it much. Plus, it’s not so bad on a brown pen.

What I Got

Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary medium nib with Montblanc Toffee BrownThe Conway Stewart 60th is a mid-sized cartridge/converter fountain pen that takes standard international cartridges and converters. There’s plenty of room in the barrel for a full size cartridge and even the longest converter. I received number 47 of 60, according to the small engraving near the top of the cap. The pen is made from a nice brown marble acrylic with some nice depth to it. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of gold trim. Even the nib is a solid gold color. Speaking of the nib, it’s a medium 18 kt. gold nib. Conway Stewart Made in England is engraved on the barrel.

The pen is a good size for my hand and it’s comfortable to hold. It’s a bit heavier than my typical writer but I don’t consider it too heavy. Nearly half of its weight is in the cap and I don’t post this pen when writing.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.535″ (140.58 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.051″ (128.29 mm)
  • Length Posted: 7″ (177 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.7545″ (19.16 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.448″ (11.37 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.457″ (11.61 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.418″ (10.61 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.609″ (15.46 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4955″ (12.60 mm)
  • Weight: 42 g
  • Weight (body only): 24 g

Writing With The Pen

Conway Stewart FPH 60th Anniversary with Montblanc Toffee Brown ink bottleThe cap takes just over one full rotation to remove and get the pen ready to write. The griping section is fairly long and my thumb barely touches the threads when I’m writing with the pen. The threads aren’t sharp so even if I held the pen higher they wouldn’t be a problem.

The medium nib puts down a nice line, not too thin and not too wide. It’s clearly a western fine although not as wide as some are these days. It’s a hefty fountain pen that feels solidly built. After writing for about 20 minutes my hand was a little fatigued.

I did have problems with the ink not wanting to leave the converter and I had to prime the feed a couple of times. It’s been so long since I’ve used the pen that I can’t remember if this was a common problem. But I picked Montblanc Toffee Brown because I knew it was a well behaved ink so I do blame the converter. That said, it’s a standard international converter so it’s a problem that can be resolved.

Overall, a pleasant albeit uninspiring writing experience.

Cleaning The Pen

It’s a cartridge/converter pen so it’s easy to clean. Yet, it took forever (well, it seemed like forever) to remove all traces of the normally easy to flush Montblanc Toffee Brown ink.

Inks Used

I used Montblanc Toffee Brown because it’s a ink I know and like. It worked well in this pen, except for the previously mentioned problems with the converter.

I have no memory of what other inks I used in the decade since I got the Conway Stewart. No ink struck me as particularly memorable for either a good or bad writing experience.

Wrapping Up

There’s lot that I like about the Fountain Pen Hospital 60th Anniversary Fountain Pen from Conway Stewart. It’s a good size, it’s comfortable and I like the looks of the acrylic. There’s a lot of gold trim which I can do without, although it does work with the brown material. That said, the fountain pen just doesn’t keep my attention. I had no qualms about using it until I wrote it dry, but I also had no qualms about returning it to the pen case when it was empty. It’s a pen that will get little future use from me and it does deserve better. So it will probably be in the next batch of pens that I sell. For me, it’s not a keeper.

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Review: Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite on a Pelle cover

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite on a Pelle cover

I don’t particularly like the term grail pen, at the very least it’s overused. But the Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite is the closest I’ve come to a grail pen. And not just because the long name is grail worthy and not because of the specific pen. But this pen was the result of considerable research, mostly while at pen shows.

The journey began a couple years ago when I became interested in the Pelikan M1000, the big boy of the Souverän line. I started looking at M1000s at pen shows and then started comparing it to the M800. Cutting to the end, I eventually decided that the M800 was the better pen choice as a daily writer for me. But even after that decision I didn’t come across a M800 that I considered worth the considerable expense. These pens are not cheap.

The M805 Stresemann is part of the regular M800 line, not a special or limited edition, although it is more expensive than other pens in the standard line. The 5 at the end of the model number indicates a M800 sized pen with silver trim, in this case the trim is palladium-plated and the nib is rhodium-plated.

Why I Got It

Having decided on the M800 I had begun to think I’d never find an M805 (I didn’t want gold trim) that I wanted. I had pretty much accepted that I would search pen shows until I found one I wanted. Then I saw the Stresemann and I knew it was the pen I was waiting for. I love the alternating black and grey (anthracite) stripes. The chrome trim and nib is perfect for me. It was gorgeous and I wanted it. I waited a bit to avoid an impulse purchase but I did pre-order it from Classic Fountain Pens. Due to that delay (or a delay in the extra fine nibs which was my choice) my pen shipped about a week after the pens began shipping. The anticipation was almost unbearable.

What I Got

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite cappedThe Pelikan M805 Stresemann is named after the foreign minister of the Weimar Republic who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1926, He was famous for his striped suits.

The anthracite striped barrel is made of cellulose acetate while the solid black pieces (section and filler knob) are made of resin (plastic). The trim is plated with palladium while the nib is 18 carat gold and rhodium plated.

While it has a conservative design that’s appropriate for any business situation it’s not a boring fountain pen. And since I’m partial to black & gray it’s a perfect color combination for me. I love the aesthetics of this pen, everything goes together perfectly. Even the nib is a single-tone silver color rather than the traditional Pelikan two-tone gold/silver nib.

While the Stresemann is pricey, it feels solidly built with a excellent fit and finish which should last for years.

I bought it from Classic Fountain Pen so that the nib would be inspected and tuned if necessary before it was sent to me. I requested that the nib be tuned with a medium ink flow while using a light pressure.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.564″ (141.32 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.0265″ (127.67 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.5″ (165.1 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.563″ (15.06 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.437″ (11.09 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4555″ (11.57 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.4215″ (10.70 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5845″ (14.84 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.53″ (13.46 mm)
  • Weight: 30 grams (with ink)
  • Weight (body only):  22 grams (with ink)

Writing With The Pen

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite extra fine nib

Since the pen was inked by John Mottishaw before it was sent I didn’t even consider washing it out before inking it up. I picked my favorite ink, Montblanc Bordeaux, for the Stresemann’s first ink. The piston worked smoothly and it was easy to get a complete fill.

The cap twists off with just under one complete turn and then the pen is ready to write. I expected more effort would be needed, so this surprised me for such a big pen and it’s one on the things I liked about the M80x. Despite the short threads the cap closes securely and I haven’t had any problems with the cap working it’s way loose while I cary the pen around.

The M805 is extremely comfortable in my hand, it’s why I picked it over the M1000. I don’t post my fountain pens but the M805 does post. When posted the pen seems a little heavy and unbalanced, but that’s the opinion of someone who doesn’t post his pens. It posts securely, but using friction, so I’d be concerned the finish would be marred over time.

There’s no ink window because the stripped barrel is translucent so it’s easy to see the ink level. Just hold the pen up so the light shines through. The stripes also shimmer a bit when they are in the light which is a nice effect.

I had extremely high expectations for this fountain pen. The first inking didn’t meet these expectations. There were a few skips, mainly when I inadvertently rotated the nib off the sweet spot. The nib seemed to have a small sweet spot. The nib was also drier than I expected. None of this was terribly bad. The requested medium flow is wetter than my typical request, yet the flow seemed dry. And the nib was smooth, just finicky about position. I wrote the pen dry in about three weeks which is fast for me, especially since this pen holds about twice as much ink as my typical pen. So I obviously liked the pen. Still, the nib felt just a little off, not quit right. The tines were perfectly aligned, so it wasn’t a problem with the nib tuning.

The great news, at least from my point of view, is that the first ink load seems to be an anomaly. I cover the inks with more detail in the next section but the short story is that the pen improved with the second (and future) fills. The skipping stopped, even with my inadvertent nib rotation. The nib also felt right and the flow was good. I suspect it was the cleaning after the first fill. It’s not like the pen had improved over time. It was a sudden change that coincided with the second fill.

Montblanc Bordeaux is back in the pen and I used it to write the draft of this review. It was no longer finicky and performed as I had originally expected.

As I said, the M805 is a perfect size for my hand so it’s extremely comfortable to write with, even for long periods of time. I never experienced and fatigue with the pen, even during long writing sessions. While the anthracite stripes are a bit boring when the pen is just sitting on my desk, they do shimmer a bit when I’m writing with the pen if the light hits it right.

It’s a wide extra fine nib, wider than I prefer in my extra fine nibs. This makes the pen more suitable for what I’d call long-form writing. Those times where I sit down at a desk or table and my primary task is writing. I also tend to write slower during these sessions which means my writing can be bigger.

The 18kt nib has a little spring to it, not anything approaching flex, but it’s not a nail. Overall, a nice feel.

Cleaning The Pen

So far, since I’ve been immediately re-inking the pen, I’ve cleaned it out by just filling and flushing the pen with water. All the inks flushed out easily. Like all Souveräns the nib can be unscrewed and removed in order to clean out the inside of the barrel. Repeated flushes takes longer than disassembly, but unless there’s a reason other than speed, I dislike taking apart a pen just to clean it. I’m paranoid I’ll break something.

Inks Used

As I mentioned, Montblanc Bordeaux was the first ink for the M805. I already mentioned the problems I had with the first fill. I gave it a second fill of Montblanc Bordeaux before writing this review. The second time around the performance of my favorite ink was as good as I expected, good flow without any skipping or hard starts.

Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwärz LE was the second load for the pen. Like the Bordeaux, it’s a favorite and number two on my list. The performance was great. The ink is wetter than the bordeaux but not too wet for me overall. It’s got a good consistent flow. I like it. A lot.

Montblanc Toffee Brown was up next, another favorite 5 ink. This was the wettest of all. I liked the ink, a nice brown, and it had good saturation thanks to the quantity. When I thought about it, I’d consider the ink too wet for my tastes in this pen. Yet, the ink went through the pen faster than the R&K Blau-Schwarz which I really liked, so I obviously liked writing with the Toffee Brown.

Wrapping Up

After a less than perfect start the Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite grew to be the pen I anticipated. Still, the nib is the most disappointing part of the pen. Yet it has grown on me. The extra fine is more like a fine in width, even a western fine. Initially I was disappointed in this but I now appreciate the nib for the fine writer it is. I just don’t think of it as a extra fine nib. The flow is great and the line is solid, I just expected thinner. (Also remember, the nib was tuned when I bought it, so I can’t vouch for the out-of-the-box experience.) I can’t speak to the other nib sizes, but based on my experience and what I’ve read, all the nib sizes run a little big.

For me the nib is too wide and wet to be an all around user. Although the ink can reduce the wetness, it’s still a wide line. But it is an excellent pen for those writing sessions where I don’t need an really thin nib.

The Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite has been inked since I got it in mid-March. It’s been in use over four months and it’s solidly in the keeper category.

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Review: Namisu Nexus Minimal Fountain Pen

Namisu Nexux Minimal with a fine nib The Namisu Nexus Minimal fountain pen was a Kickstarter campaign launched during the last days of July 2014. I backed it at the early bird level which was the lowest pledge amount. I picked the Matt Black finish (that’s the way they spelled “Matt”, but I’ll use “Matte” from now on). I debated dropping out before the deadline because they had never done a pen before and a November 2014 delivery date was clearly too aggressive. As their stretch goals kicked in the project became even more complicated since the stretch goals were really just add-ons at additional cost requiring even more management and procurement of unique products. But it was less than $40 to get it to my door (23 GBP plus shipping) so I stayed in.

I’m glad I stayed in, although the pen was in fact several months late, arriving in late February. I’ve had it inked since arrival and it’s still on its first ink. (Well, technically that’s not true but it’s true in spirit. More on that later.) The ink has lasted over two months because I just keep reaching over this pen to pick up another. When I do use it I like it since there is a lot to like about this pen.

Why I Got It

It was a nice looking pen at a reasonable price. I wanted to support an original fountain pen on Kickstarter. It’s a simple design which I like and it’s available in black which I also like.

What I Got

Namisu Nexus Minimal Matte BlackA matte black fountain pen with an aluminum body and a Bock fine nib. There’s no clip or other furniture on the pen. The pen feels very comfortable in my hand. There’s no traditional gripping section but the grooves in the pen help provide a secure grip.

I’m not sure what the aluminum barrel is coated with but it doesn’t have the cold feel of aluminum. It’s not slippery like some metal pens either. It’s very comfortable to hold.

They say the cap doesn’t post, but it does. Although the threads may scratch the barrel with repeated posting. So while it may be able to post, they may say it doesn’t because it’s not recommended. Besides, posting adds very little to the length of the pen.

The nib is a mass produced Bock nib unit. Mine is a fine nib. This isn’t necessarily bad but for me it’s the weakest part of the fountain pen. More on this in the section on writing with the pen. I suspect there’s some variation between the nibs that were used. I think they took the nibs as delivered and didn’t tune them. This is a inexpensive pen after all.

The black matte finish has held up well. I’m neither overly protective or abusive to my fountain pens. I don’t put them in my pocket with coins or keys (except a couple pens that are enhanced by this) but it will roll around a desk or table. There’s a couple blemishes that are noticeable upon close inspection. There’s no noticeable wear from me gripping the pen or cap. (I fiddle with the cap in my left hand as I write with my right.)

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.5730″ (141.56 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.3345″ (135.49 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5050″ (12.83 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (near nib): 0.5165″ (13.12 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (widest): 0.5530″ (14.04 mm)
  • Weight (with ink): 26 g
  • Weight (body only/with ink): 22 g

Writing With The Pen

Namisu Nexux Minimal fine nib with Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire ink cartridgeI did not order a converter with the pen and the supplied cartridge broke during shipment. I did have to clean the pen before use to get the ink off so this would also have removed any manufacturing residue. I picked a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge for this pen’s first ink. The ink flowed right through the pen, literally, and filled the cap. After cleaning this mess, and the pen, I picked a Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire long international ink cartridge. There weren’t any signs of leaking and the ink didn’t fill the cap.

The threads are sharp but I hold the pen well above the threads so this isn’t a problem. The pen isn’t designed to be held on the threads but if you typically hold the pen close to the nib this may bother you.

The Nexus is a wet writer. The Bock nib is a standard size for a western fine, which means it’s a bit wide for my tastes. The Edelstein ink is a little on the dry side so that helps.

I’ve had some annoying skipping with the pen. And by annoying I mean it’s frequent enough to affect the flow of my writing. A close inspection shows that the tines are slightly misaligned. Once I’m done with the review I may try aligning and smoothing the nib. I can limit the skipping if I concentrate on the pen angle and keep the nib’s very small sweet spot in contact with the paper. But I find this more fatiguing than regular writing so it doesn’t last long.

Speaking of fatigue I find the Nexus Minimal to be comfortable to write with and can go about 45 minutes before feeling any fatigue at all, but that means having to deal with the skipping.

Cleaning The Pen

The nib unit does unscrew if you want to remove it for cleaning. But I’d prefer not to and the pen is easily cleaned with just a converter or a bulb syringe to force water through.

Inks Used

As mentioned, the Diamine Prussian Blue flowed right through the pen. A second pen, my Sheaffer VFM, was loaded at the same time and didn’t have a problem. I haven’t heard of any similar problems and my second ink was fine, so this may be an isolated incident.

Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire in a long international cartridge was loaded next and is still in the pen. Flow is good, almost too good for my tastes. As I mentioned there’s a lot of skipping but I blame the nib and not the ink for this.

Wrapping Up

The Namisu Nexus Minimal fountain pen is a very nice pen. Its weakest piece is the nib, unfortunately that’s kind of crucial for a fountain pen. There’s only a couple of places to buy nibs in relatively small quantities and for a pen at this price point, so it’s hard to complain about the choice. Bock is a trusted manufacturer and I’ve no doubt many pens were delivered with aligned nibs and perform better than mine, but there’s always going to be variation in the mass produced nibs. Even a company such as TWSBI has had their own nib problems forcing them to change suppliers at one point1.

While aligning and smoothing a nib isn’t hard it isn’t something a first time fountain pen buyer wants to do with their one fountain pen. Eventually I’ll align the nib, but until then I’ll continue to pick up the pen next to the Nexus. At least until a rainy weekend when I decide to tune several pens.

With a little nib work the Namisu Nexus Minimal fountain pen is a keeper, but until the nib is fixed the Nexus Minimal won’t be inked again.

Additional Reading

Namisu Website

Kickstarter Campaign Page (now closed)

Reviewed on FPN

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  1. If I remember correctly, they changed from Bock to JoWo nibs on their Vac 700.

Review: Sheaffer VFM

Sheaffer VFM with capThe 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.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4255″ (137.81 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.7545″ (120.76 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.0240″ (153 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.9065″ (23.02 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.2970″ (7.54 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below barrel): 0.3705″ (9.40 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3380″ (8.58 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
  • 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.

Inks Used

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Additional Reading

YouTube – SBREBrown

YouTube – Fountain Pen Shootout #39: Sheaffer VFM vs. Pilot Metropolitan – SBREBrown

The Fountain Pen Network

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