This Just In: Aurora Optima Nero Perla

Aurora Optima Nero Perla on eagle standThe Aurora Optima Nero Perla was one of two fountain pen purchases I made on fountain pen day. Aurora fountain pens have come and gone from my want list but never climbed to the top. The Optima went back on after the recent price reductions. In a moment of weakness I finally bought one.

My interest in Aurora pens was fed by two things. The material they use often caught my attention, like many Italian pens. Plus, they make their own nibs. Those nibs have a reputation of being a bit toothy, which I may like as I don’t particularly like a perfectly smooth nib.

I picked the Nero Perla model. The barrel is white, black and grey. Mostly shades of grey. The cap finial, gripping section, and piston nob are all black resin that have a high quality feel. The trim is rhodium plated. The silver colored nib is 14K gold that is engraved with scroll work, “14K” and “585” for the gold content along with the Aurora name. I would find the engraving on the wide cap/center band a little much, except it matches the color of the pen so it fits in nicely.

The color isn’t as flashy of their others but it works for me. While flashy colors may catch my eye I find I get tired of them after awhile while I never get tired of the more subdued colors.

Aurora uses a material they call Auroloide for this pen. It’s a cellulose acetate which doesn’t have the problems of vintage cellulose nitrate, but has more color depth than modern acrylics. I really love the color depth provided by cellulose and that depth is evident in this pen. It’s also slightly translucent.

It’s a piston filler which includes a second reservoir as a reserve. I never really understood the attraction of a second reservoir and for me it’s a bit of a negative. The theory is I’ll have a reserve supply of ink so when I unexpectedly run out I can be relieved to realize there’s some hidden ink. But there is an ink window to avoid surprises and the “surprise” ink seems to be more of a mind-hack than an actual benefit. I always wonder if the complexity and space of that second reservoir actually reduces the total ink in the pen. Plus, I expect that second reservoir to make this pen harder (or at least more tedious) to clean, especially if I forget and start cleaning before emptying that second reservoir. I’ll probably stick to one ink in this pen to limit the tedium. I haven’t used the pen enough to need that second reservoir so I may be in for a pleasant surprise.

The pen is relatively short but very comfortable to write with. The section is longer than I expected which helps make the pen more comfortable. The pen is light but has enough girth to be comfortable in my hand. Sometimes light pens cause me to tighten my grip but that doesn’t happen with the Optima. I don’t typically post my pens but I find this pen comfortable whether posted or unposted and I’ve used it both ways. My longest single writing session with the Optima was about 20 minutes and there wasn’t any hit of fatigue in my hand. Writing with the pen felt natural so I didn’t have to consciously remember to loosen my grip.

Aurora Optima Auroloide Perla nib closeup front viewI picked a medium nib for this pen and I find the it to be very smooth. After reading about Aurora nibs I expected much more feedback. I don’t like nibs that are so smooth they feel like they are gliding above the paper. The Aurora medium is as smooth as any other nib I like to use. Maybe it’s because I prefer thinner nibs which by their nature provide more feedback, but I would not call this nib toothy or consider it as a candidate for smoothing.

I picked Aurora Black as the first ink for this pen. It seemed appropriate. The performance and flow have been problem free. The feed is ebonite and from what I’ve read it is heat set for each pen. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the performance certainly suggests that it is.

I’ve been using the pen as a pocket carry since my Vanishing Point went dry. A medium nib is not my first choice as a note taker, but this medium has been acceptable for all the situations it’s been in. It’s less forgiving of unfriendly paper than thinner nibs but that’s expected. It’s main attraction as a shirt pocket carry is it’s light weight, small(ish) size and secure clip.

The Aurora Optima Nero Perla is a great looking pen and a nice writer. I wouldn’t have purchased it prior to the price drop and even at the current price I’d consider it a fair value, not a great value. The pen is solidly built and a great writer, but I do really enjoy the color and material, which makes it worth the price premium.

This Just In: Pilot Vanishing Point Guilloche (2016 LE)

Pilot Vanishing Point Guilloche in BoxPilot releases a Limited Edition Vanishing Point every year, the limit being determined by the year. So this year brings 2,016 Vanishing Point Guilloche fountain pens. “Guilloche” is a ornamentation resembling braided ribbons. The pens are black with silver trim and the guilloche pattern slightly raised along the black portion of the metal barrel. It has the look of vintage chased hard rubber pens and when it was announced I had some small hope it would be rubber (or ebonite) as the initial announcement didn’t mention the material. I immediately signed up to be notified when it was available.

Of course and in stock notification isn’t the same as buying it. I ended up mulling it over for a couple days after getting the in-stock notification. The Vanishing Point clip has never bothered me but the metal bodies weren’t my favorites and I sold all but one of my metal Vanishing Points. Did I really want another one? Well obviously I did and I hoped the raised design would alleviate my distaste of the cold metal.

The Guilloche Limited Edition Vanishing Point lists for $240 although there’s the usual 20% discount from most online sellers. Despite being a limited edition I haven’t seen any out of stock notifications and two thousand pens seems like a lot, especially at this price point. I didn’t feel the need to rush the purchase, especially since the “Storm Trooper” Vanishing Point was now available in the US and would probably be more popular.

The Guilloche is only available with a medium nib, which is typical for the annual limited editions, although some retailers may offer to swap the nib unit. Mine has the stock rhodium plated 18-karat gold medium nib. Since the nibs are easily swappable I can use any of my nibs and was happy to take the medium. I prefer fines or extra fines but this medium is a nice writer and I’ve been using it since I got the pen. Plus, part of my calculation was that the standard nib would make it easier to sell if I didn’t like the pen.

For the record, I received #200 of 2016. The packaging is new and I like it more than the previous limited editions. It’s a nice design but doesn’t seem to be a huge expense for something I’ll never use again. The pen also included the new Con-40 converter which isn’t widely available here in the States.

As for the Con-40 converter – I was going to say “it sucks”, but the problem is it doesn’t suck up enough ink. The converter seems over-engineered, with three small agitator balls and a stopper to keep those balls in. When extending the plunger to expel the air in preparation to pull ink in there a full half-inch of air still in the converter where the plunger can’t reach thanks to that stopper. This leaves more air above the ink than the typical converter. I made a mess trying to get the last of the air out. A syringe would work of course but that seems to defeat the purpose of using a converter, although seems easier than repeated attempts to get the air out. Hopefully there’s a secret I’ve yet to stumble on. Here’s a thread on FP Geeks about the con-40 converter issues. Officially the con-40 holds 0.4ml of ink.

I picked Montblanc Toffee Brown as the first ink for this pen. The writing was nice a smooth, a typical quality Pilot nib. The ink didn’t last long and I didn’t want to deal with the converter so I popped in the blue cartridge that came with the pen and have been using that since. There hasn’t been any skipping or hard starts.

While the Vanishing Points are ideal for jotting quick notes on the go the medium nib doesn’t suit that purpose, at least for me. So I’ve been using the pen for longer writing sessions at my desk (or a table) and find it delightful to use. The raised Guilloche pattern gives it a nice tactile feel that eliminates the cold feeling I get from the typical metal VP. I like using it as much as my wooden Vanishing Points, although some of that may be due to the new pen glow. Some people hate the clip, I really like it. It fits naturally with my grip and provides some stability. With small or mostly hidden nibs such as this one I have a tendency to rotate the pen over time, the clip completely eliminates this.

I’ve seen some online comments that Pilot changed the internal design below the clip which has affected people who remove the VP clips. This isn’t something I’d ever do but if you do expect to remove the clip you may want to do some online research before buying the pen. The review linked below has photos.

The Guilloche pattern is subtle and very nice. Last year’s Twilight Limited Edition VP was a hit among the pen community and if memory serves, it sold out quickly. While I appreciated the looks of the Twilight, and it certainly caught my eye, I never considered a purchase. On the other hand, the Pilot Vanishing Point Guilloche 2016 Limited Edition was an easier decision once I knew the Guilloche pattern was raised. I’m very happy with the decision to buy. I like the simple design aesthetic along with the functionality provided by the raised pattern.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Additional Reading

Pilot Guilloche Vanishing Point (2016 Limited Edition) | No Pen Intended

This Just In: Fisher of Pens Hermes

Fisher of Pens Hermes - capped on pen stand

The photo doesn’t do it justice, this pen is hard to photograph.

I spent some time on Friday talking to custom pen maker Carl Fisher of Fisher of Pens. I liked his designs and had pretty much decided to save some of my pen budget for a pen order after the show. During all this time, and future passes by his table, I never noticed this pen. If I had, I would have gotten it on Friday. On Sunday Carl posted a photo of his green pens grouped together. All that green caught my attention and I headed back to his table. While the photo was of mostly bright green pens that just weren’t quit right for me, this one was tucked in the back of the photo. It’s black celluloid with an olive green web running through it. It’s called vintage web green celluloid.

I looked at the bright green ones first, after all they were bright and shiny. But then I picked up this one. It wasn’t exactly bright and shiny, but I loved the look. Naturally the material made it more expensive than the bright green acrylic pens. Plus it was an oversize pen which seems to be my preference these days. The more I looked at the celluloid pattern the more I liked it and I made sure I didn’t put it down, fearing someone else would get it. It didn’t take long for me to decide I wanted this pen. The only change was to swap a two-tone nib for a polished silver fine nib. The pen already had a silver clip.

While I call this a green pen, the base color is a deep dark black with an olive green web running through it. It’s a long pen that’s a perfect cylinder and the cap is flush with the body. The finials are black and while I didn’t ask, the finials and griping section feel like ebonite. The Fisher of Pens brand is engraved into the body. Most fountain pens have branding, although it’s usually on the clip or band. I have mixed feelings about engraving the brand into the body, especially when it’s a different color than the material. In this case the logo is white and does stand out, but it’s restrained and subtle and is also in line with the silver furniture of the pen. So I’m OK with it. I’m even beginning to convince myself that it helps highlight the darker colors of the pen. The material is hard to photograph, at least with my abilities, and I hope to get better photos when the sun returns and I can use natural light to photograph the pen.

It has a fine JoWo nib that’s nice and smooth. I picked KWZ Green #2 as the first ink for this pen. I have had a couple hard starts when the pen has been nib up for several hours, but once I start writing there’s no skipping. I can also pause for a extended period of time or put the pen down flat for an hour or more without any hard start. The ink is new to me so I can’t say how much the ink contributes to this.

It’s a cartridge/converter pen that accepts standard international cartridges and converters. I could be wrong, but I don’t think celluloid pens can be converted to eyedropper fill as the ink could degrade/discolor the celluloid. So the pen will remain a converter fill.

I don’t know what’s included with pens that are shipped, but I picked a cloth pen sleeve for the pen. There’s no box or ink cartridge. I would have thrown both out so didn’t even ask if they were available. (Many vendors don’t bring bulky boxes to the show.)

The bottom line – I am really happy with the Fisher of Pens Hermes in web green celluloid. The nib might need some tuning, but that’s minor.

Fisher of Pens Hermes - uncapped on pen stand

Fisher of Pens Hermes writing sample with KWZ Green #2 ink

This Just In: Ryan Krusac The Legend

Ryan Krusac The Legend - capped on pen standThis fountain pen was a Sunday morning purchase, and my third overall, at the 2016 Washington DC Pen Show. Sunday’s are dangerous when I still have money in my budget that’s burning a hole in my pocket, my want list goes out the door. Ryan Krusac’s latest design is The Legend (he capitalizes the “T” so I assume it’s part of the name) and liked the design more than his others so ended up getting the last one he had at the show. It’s made of black walnut burl.

I’ve always liked the look of Ryan’s wooden pens although, until now, none of them really made me want to reach for my wallet. The Legend is a nice simple wooden pen, not a lot of fancy extras. It’s a light pen when compared to his other designs and it’s clearly a fountain pen for writing.

It has an ebonite section that’s also made by Ryan. The nib is a branded Ryan Krusac nib, although I believe it’s still a JoWo nib, they’re just custom engraved with his logo. The simplicity of the nib design appeals to me and this one is an extra fine. The nib is nice and smooth, especially for an extra fine. I picked Papier Plume Burgundy as its first ink and I haven’t had any hard starts or skipping while using the pen.

The pen is relatively short, but not Kaweco Sport short, and long enough for me to use comfortably without posting. The pen is postable but I’d be concerned that the threads would scratch the barrel.

It’s a international cartridge/converter pen that came with a converter and a pen pouch (at least at the show). He may include ink cartridges or pack the pens differently if shipped through the mail.

There are other fountain pens of similar size and with similar nibs that cost much less. The price is higher than those due to the material and craftsmanship involved in making the pen. Whether or not this translates into a better writing experience depends on you (and me). I like the warmth of the wood and the ebonite when using the pen. I don’t regret the purchase at all although I do wonder if I’ll still be using it in a year or if I’ll sell it once the novelty wears off. This is what I mean about Sunday’s being dangerous. With all the pens I wanted out of the way (so I thought, but was wrong) I was more willing to take a risk. It’s hard to recommend the pen due to the price, unless the design appeals to you. It does appeal to me and it is a great writer. Still, I wouldn’t have bought it without seeing it in person and knowing exactly what it was like.

Ryan Krusac The Legend - uncapped on pen stand

Ryan Krusac The Legend writing sample with Papier Plume Burgundy

 

This Just In: Sheaffer Balance Oversize C.1934 In Gray Pearl and Red Veins

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Pearl Gray & Red Veins - capped on standMy second pen purchase at the 2016 DC Pen Show occurred Friday afternoon and gave me my vintage fix. It is a Sheaffer Balance Oversize c. 1934–1935 from Sarj Minhas.

I didn’t have any specific vintage pens in mind as I walked around the show. I like Parker Vacumatics and the Maxima is the model I can use regularly. The materials and nibs of vintage Sheaffers always draw me to them and the Balance Oversize is the model I can use regularly. These were the two most likely to draw my attention.

I view vintage pens differently than modern pens. While any new vintage would have to be a pen I could expect to use regularly, I’m unable to sell off vintage pens I know I won’t use. It feels like I’m selling a piece of history. But this made me determined to only buy one vintage pen and to make it one I knew I would use. Even though I’m a user and not a collector I wanted a pen as close to pristine as I could find and and was reliable. So even though Sarj’s pens are at the high end of the price spectrum I was willing to pay the price if I could find one.

I’ve always liked the pearl grey with red vein celluloid. This was the only Balance Oversize I saw in this material during my browsing on Friday. At least in a condition that was this good. It was also the only vintage pen I saw that I wanted. So despite the price I decided to get it. The pen is difficult to photographs as the gray in the pen changes depending on the light. This also makes it easy for the pen to mesmerize me as the color changes, often looking as different as green and red.

Since all my available inks were new to me I didn’t want to try them in a vintage sac filler, so the pen remained uninked on Friday. Then on Saturday I found some vintage (well, 1980–90’s) Sheaffer Sheaffer Peacock Blue in the yellow box/label. I had the dark red bottle version of this ink so it wasn’t entirely new to me and they would be a similar, if not identical formula. The ink seemed fine despite it’s age so I bought it and filled the pen later that day.

The pen is comfortable in my hand, as expected and the nib is great, also as expected. The nib is unlabeled but it’s approximately a fine. Writing is smooth with a good flow. It’s not a gushing writer yet the ink does noticeably pool a little bit between the nib and feed. Some ink also creeps out the heart cutout that’s above the nib slit. After writing a couple A5 pages a drop of ink did drop onto the paper while writing. Since then I’ve been more conscience of it and have dabbed the nib on a tissue if I see ink bleeding from the heart after a couple of pages. Carrying the pen around doesn’t result in any ink dripping or spatter and neither does moving the pen around normally like reaching for a paper or turning a page with pen in hand. So I won’t really call it a leak and the ink could be a contributing factor. It’s something I can live with and it won’t prevent me from taking the pen with me if I go to a coffee shop to do some writing. I wouldn’t bring it to a meeting to take notes, but I don’t use vintage pens in this situation anyway.

It’s a good performing pen and I love the material. The Sheaffer Balance Oversize in Pearl Gray/Red Veins joins my Marine Green Balance Oversize as one of my favorite vintage fountain pens, and it has a nib I’ll use more than the stub on the Marine Green.

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Pearl Gray & Red Veins - uncapped on stand

Sheaffer Balance Oversize c1935 writing sample with Sheaffer Peacock Blue (yellow label)

Exposed for the writing sample, terrible photo of pen.

This is a post about the 2016 Washington DC Pen Show. My show summary and links to other show posts are here.

This Just In: Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen

Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen - capped on standThe Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen in black with rhodium trim and a medium nib was my first fountain pen purchase of the 2016 DC Pen Show. It happened before lunch on Friday when I bought it from Anderson Pens before their table became packed with people.

The King of Pen has been on my watch list for almost a year. It moved close to the top a couple of months ago and I began researching it more aggressively. I like the size of the pen and love Sailor nibs. I have a couple of it’s smaller siblings and love them.

The KOP nib is springier than the Sailor nibs that I’m used to. I was concerned it would be mushy, like the Pelikan M1000 nib I tried in the past. While all the indications were that this would not be the case, I still had some doubts. My second concern was that this nib was only available in medium and broad (the bespoke nibs aren’t for me) which are not my preferred nib sizes. It is a Japanese medium so it wouldn’t be too wide. I could get the nib ground down but I don’t like doing that until I’ve experienced the stock nib for a little while, if only to see what it’s like. So I knew I wouldn’t have it worked on at the show.

A nice thing about the pen shows, besides the ability to see and touch the pen, is the ability to talk to people who have used the pen, or have one to try. So I left the Anderson Pens table fairly sure I would be getting the KOP but did some more exploration and consideration before I returned and bought the pen.

The King of Pen is an expensive pen, but this particular model is the “entry level” and therefore least expensive version. It also helps that I really like black & rhodium fountain pens.

I picked KWZ Gummiberry (non-IG) as the pens first ink. I was anxious to ink the pen so I was limited to the four inks I had purchased at the show. While I don’t like using a new (to me) ink in a new (to me) fountain pen, I wasn’t willing to wait. This ink seemed like a safe choice in a converter fill pen, plus I thought a wider nib would show off this ink better than my typical thin nib. I was thrilled with the combination. The KOP is a terrific writer, smooth and skip-free. In short, all my concerns about the nib vanished. I love it. I have a light touch so there’s really no spreading of the tines (not that the nib is flexible) and it’s a thin Japanese medium line.

I don’t have any experience with this ink so I can’t say how it affects my impression of the pen. It’s no surprise that this nib is wetter than my typical nib choice, but it’s not too wet for me. I expect to use this pen differently than an extra fine nib. My writing is a little bigger when I use it. If my writing speeds up the letters do close up so I need to slow down a bit. None of this is a huge difference and it’s a pleasant experience when I just want to write. Naturally the draft of this article was written with the pen.

As expected, the pen feels and looks solidly built. There’s a nice tall collar around the converter to help hold it straight and in place. There’s a cutout in the collar so the ink level can be viewed. The lettering around the capband and the anchor imprint in the cap finial are nice and crisp.

Black and silver is a pretty basic look, especially when compared to other KOP models but I like it a lot. It may be the new pen glow talking, but the Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen is a rival to my Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age as my favorite fountain pen.

Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen - uncapped on stand

Sailor Pro Gear KOP medium nib writing sample with KWZ Gummiberry ink

This is a post about the 2016 Washington DC Pen Show. My show summary and links to other show posts are here.

This Just In: Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age capI decided to get a holiday gift pen for myself, at least that’s my excuse. The Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age, with an extra fine nib, will be my eleventh new pen this year. It will be my last too, unless the Edison Group buy arrives very, very early.

This fountain pen has been on my radar for a long time. It, or it’s Silver Age sibling, have come and gone from my watch list many times. At first I dismissed the lava material as a gimmick, but I still liked the look. The pen has many causes for concern, some of which I consider a positive. In any event, this was a pen I needed to see and hold before shelling out a significant amount of money. It was back on my list and I finally got to see and hold its smaller sibling, the Midi Silver Age. (The Midi is smaller and only available in the steel trim. The Bronze Age is only available in one size, which is the same as the Maxi Steel Age.) The pen made a good impression although I wasn’t able to write with it.

As I mentioned, there are several problems, or potential problems, with this pen. Dr. Deans, the Fountain Pen Economist, who is a fan of Viscontis, including the Homo Sapien, wrote about its foibles and described it as …

…quintessentially Italian: utterly, hopelessly beautiful and deeply flawed.

Amanda, at the Purl Bug borrowed one (from a fan) and did a video review. Her concerns/dislikes don’t bother me but that’s personal preference. They are valid and should be considered before buying the pen.

I debated between silver and bronze trim. I don’t like gold trim and while bronze isn’t gold (duh!) it is gold colored when shiny. The steel was very nice and has a very classy look. I like it when a pen develops it’s own personality from use and I’ve liked the way my other bronze pens have tarnished over time. (Patina would be a nicer way of saying tarnish.) I could toss a coin to decide and not be disappointed with the result. But I picked bronze and do plan to let the it tarnish over time so won’t be polishing it. This should dull the shine which will be more to my liking.

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age EF posted with Pelikan Blue-Black on the nibMy first impression? Holy cow!!! (or other less family appropriate words) I love writing with this pen. It arrived Monday the 7th. I picked Pelikan Blue-Black as an ink to tame the wet nib and inked it up that night. I wrote it dry on Wednesday, literally on my last word of the day. Unless I need a waterproof ink, or a different color it has been the only pen I’ve used since then. When taking notes for work I use big words since they take longer to write. When I’m not taking notes I’m doodling. At night I look for things to write. I wrote the pen dry again and switched to my favorite ink – Montblanc Bordeaux.

I did have ink ooze from the section a couple days after filling, even after being wiped dry. I’ve read about hacks to stop it from happening but it doesn’t bother me and I can live with it. It’s only happened that one time so far.

The pen has a nice feel to it. I’ve heard the feel compared to ebonite. While it does feel like rubber, the ebonite pens that I’ve had have been polished and the comparison isn’t exact in my opinion. The Homo Sapien has a softer feel to it.

I like the cap threads but I’m still getting used to the squishiness of capping and uncapping the pen. It’s a solid lock, but the process makes me feel like something is broken as the cap slides off. My brain still expects that my hands should be turning the cap more. At times my brain thinks it’s a pull off cap.

I don’t like the Visconti clip design in general. I have gotten used to opening it a bit when sliding it into my pocket and can now do it smoothly. I’m wondering how long it will be before the Visconti lettering will rub off the clip. If I was the type of person who needed to shine the brass I’d be even more concerned about rubbing it off.

As for the Dreamtouch nib – I thought it was a marketing gimmick until I wrote with it. It’s not a nib I would normally consider. It’s wet and springy (not flexible). It’s not a nib begging to be flexed so I don’t feel like it’s wasted on me. I like the look of a nice large nib on a pen and this nib is huge. I was concerned about the two-tone gold on a large nib but it isn’t gaudy at all. The gold is very subdued. When I look at the nib as I’m writing the gold gives the nib an angelic glow.

The pen is heavy, 43 grams in total although the cap alone is 17 grams. The cap does post securely and this is where it gets really weird. The Homo Sapien is clearly big enough for me to use unposted, as I use all but my smallest pens. When posted it nearly 7″ long, yet I’ve been using this pen posted for everything except short notes. The balance is great and the weight hasn’t bothered me even for long writing sessions.

The filling system is a vacuum filler similar to the TWSBI Vac 700 or Pilot Custom 823. Visconti calls it a Power Filler. I was a little surprised there weren’t instructions included since it’s an uncommon filling system. (There were instructions for the polishing cloth.) Unlike my other vacuum fillers it’s not necessary to open the blind cap to allow ink flow into the section, so there is a difference.

I’ve seen the ink capacity listed as 1.5 ml but it doesn’t seem like I’m getting that much ink in a fill. I’ve been getting 10 to 12 A5 sized pages of solid writing. I’m using the same filling technique as my vacuum fillers which both get good fills. Also, there’s no ink window so it’s hard to tell when the ink is low.

To say I’m happy with the Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age is an understatement. It’s caused me to ignore my other fountain pens. It’ll be a few months before I do a full review since I need to give the giddiness time wear away.