This Just In: Pelikan M815 Metal Striped SE

When the Pelikan Souverän M815 Metal Striped Special Edition was announced in mid–2018, I was immediately drawn to it. At the time, I had the M805 Stresemann, and the two pens are very similar. I’m not a Pelikan collector, so I couldn’t justify having both pens, especially since the M815 had a street price of $680 ($850 MSRP) here in the US. I also didn’t see the point of selling the Stresemann to buy the M815 Metal Striped, so I promptly forgot about the new M815.

I ended up selling off my M805 Stresemann during my fountain pen sell-off of 2019, although it wasn’t with the intent of replacing it with the M815. In fact, the M815 had completely fallen off my radar. Then I visited the Classic Fountain Pens Website (, and their front page announced a $429 price for the M815. While that’s certainly not inexpensive, it’s less than 1/2 the MSRP and over 35% off typical retail. So, it was back on my radar.

I spent a week mulling it over and sleeping on it, then I decided to pull the trigger. Classic Fountain Pens (CFP) had the lowest price I found, including Amazon sellers. I’ve purchased fountain pens from CFP before, so they are a seller I trust, and buying from them was a no-brainer. CFP checks and tunes the nib before shipping. I asked for a light to medium ink flow using light to medium pressure.

Photo of the Pelikan M815 Metal Striped Presentation Box

The pen arrived in a unique presentation box, although nothing elaborate or expensive. The cardboard box is attractively printed with colors and a design that complements the pen. The pen floats in the box at an angle.

The pens aesthetic is one I like a lot. The palladium plating doesn’t scream bling, and complements the black resin to provide a beautiful overall look for the pen. While the Stresemann has been gone for a few months, my impression is the M815 is slightly brighter than the Stresemann, and I like it better. The overall design is one I consider standard for Pelikan M8xx fountain pens. The furniture is all palladium plated. There are two cap bands, the thicker one is engraved “Pelikan Souverän Germany.” There are another two trim rings at the piston knob. The cap is all black resin, except for the furniture. The cap finial has the Pelikan logo, and the clip is the typical beak design.

(Click any image to open gallery)

The M815 Striped Metal has a dark grey ink window above the section, which sets its design apart from the Stresemann. I worried the ink window would break up the design and bother me. The reality is that once there’s ink in the pen, especially a dark ink, the color just blends right in and I don’t notice it at all. When the pen is capped, the ink window isn’t visible at all.

The nib is rhodium-plated 18k gold with Pelikan’s standard engraving. I picked a fine nib. The nib seems a bit wide for a fine nib. Still, it is a western fine, and not too egregious. Which is unlike the factory EF nib on my earlier Stresemann, which had asperations of being a broad nib until I had it ground down to a correct extra fine size.

I picked Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black as the first ink for the pen. I like blue-blacks, and Pelikan Blue-Black is an ink I haven’t used in a long time. Somehow, I purchased a second bottle despite barely touching the original bottle of ink, so I need to use it. As expected, the piston movement was smooth, and it was easy to fill the pen.

Photo of the Pelikan M815 with a bottle of Pelikan blue-black ink

The M8xx form factor fits comfortably in my hand. The cap can be posted, but I don’t post my pens. While some people complain about fatigue with larger or heavier pens, I’m the exact opposite. The weight and size of the M815 allow me to use a loose grip and write with just the weight of the pen on the paper, no added pressure needed. For light or thin pens, my subconscious brain sends signals to grip the pen tighter, which causes fatigue. That’s a long-winded way of saying that the Pelikan M815 Striped Metal is comfortable in my hand, and it feels like I can write forever. As it is, I found myself having to get up and stretch my legs long before I needed to rest my hand. In comparison – I bought a much lighter and slightly thinner pen at the same time, and I certainly feel fatigued during the writing session.

I’m glad I added the Pelikan Souverän M815 Metal Striped Special Edition. It’s still on the first fill of ink, and it still has that new pen glow, so it’s too soon to know if it’s a Core Pen, Hanger-on, or one that should be added to the sale queue. But my initial reaction is that it will become a core pen.

This Just In: Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble

photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize grey marble on a pen stand I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating – I have a soft spot in my heart when it comes to Sheaffers, and I get weak-kneed when-ever I see a Sheaffer Balance Oversize from the 1930s. So, when this fountain pen became available from a trusted seller, it was an insta-buy, even though it was at the high end of what I was willing to pay. Who am I kidding? For a vintage Balance Oversize, I have no high end. The only question is if I can spare the money.

This is a vacuum-filler. Although I do I prefer lever-fillers since they are easier to repair. Mitigating this drawback is that this one was recently restored by Sherrell Tyree, so I’ll be worry-free for the next several years. I bought the pen from Anderson Pens, and Brian added a note about who did the restoration.

While grey may not be a popular color, I’ve always liked it, and I’m currently going through another grey phase, with many recent purchases picking gray as the color. The pen has a grey marble design, also called Grey Pearl, with good transparency. The barrel has a sharp gray pattern with some subtle color variation. The transparent areas have a ruby red color. I’m not familiar enough with these pens to know whether the ruby is original or the result of age. At least it’s uniform and looks like it could be the original color. Although my guess would be it is not, especially since in the right (or wrong) light, the edges of the grey can look brownish due to the ruby transparency beneath it. The cap has the same grey pattern, but it’s on an opaque black base rather than the transparent ruby red.

closeup photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize nib

Thats ink and reflections on the nib, it’s actually in great shape.

It has a 14K gold two-tone nib. I’m not a fan of gold-colored nibs, preferring silver, but the look of these nibs is my favorite. It’s stamped “Sheaffer’s Lifetime” along with the patent info. Any nib size identifier is buried beneath the section if it exists at all. It’s the size Sheaffer nib I love and consider a medium/fine. It’s as slim as, or thinner than, many modern western fine nibs. It’s not labeled as a Feather-Touch nib, but the flow is excellent. I need to do some research to see if the Lifetime nibs were the same as feather-touch nibs, with the Lifetime moniker being used on higher-end pens.

closeup photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize capThe pen is a white dot model, which still signified a lifetime warranty at the time the pen was sold. The clip is the hump style with a flat-topped ball. The clip and pen material dates the pen from around 1935. As mentioned, it’s a vacuum-filler, not a lever-filler. The blind-cap that controls the plunger is solid black. The plunger works smoothly, and I was able to get a proper fill with one plunge. Juggling the ink bottle while trying not to smash the nib into the bottom of the bottle made me a bit timid, which affected the amount of ink that flowed into the pen. I don’t doubt that a bottle with enough ink to cover the nib while the bottle is on a flat, stable surface would result in a completely filled pen.

I expect great things from this nib, and like all vac-fillers, the pen can be tedious to clean. I wanted an ink that would flow well and be easy to clean. Or even better, refilled with the same ink without cleaning. I picked Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE ink. It’s a smooth flowing blue-black ink that’s already proven it can be used for 18 straight problem fee months in a fountain pen. The only drawback is that I’ll soon run out of this limited edition ink.

The Balance Oversize gets along well with the ink. The flow has been perfect, with no skipping. There haven’t been any hard starts, but since I’ve used the pen every day, the nib hasn’t had the chance to dry out.

The Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble is about to be written dry. I picked the ink since it is easy to flush out of a pen. In this case, it will be a quick refill so that the pen can remain in active use. A great addition to my Sheaffer collection, which now has the distinction of being a core pen.

photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize Gray Marble with the barrel resting on the cap.

This Just In: Filling Out The Retro 51 Collection (Part II)

Photo of the packaging for the Retro 51s

(L->R) Vega, 2019 Artist Series, Flint, Flare)

After receiving the four pens in my first Retro 51 FOMO order I was reminded on how intricate the craftsmanship is, so I returned to the web to see what else was available. I ended up on the Vanness website, where they had a wide selection available. I made a quick pass and added all the pens that caught my interest into the shopping cart. Then I made a pass through the cart intending to get it down to a reasonable level. Then a made a second pass through the cart with a sharper eye and did get it down to a sensible four pens. I eliminated all the smooth metal and lacquer pens along with the pricier pens. Well, four was reasonable as far as I was concerned, so I placed the order. They arrived last weekend.

The pens are:

Photo of the Retro 51 Flare and 2019 Artist Series

Smithsonian Vega Pen: This Retro 51 is based on Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 5B Vega. The pen is a lovely bright red, accented by gold stripes. While the pen is mostly smooth, a few lines of rivets provide texture.

Artist Series 2019 Etched Copper: I’m a sucker for etched copper. It helps that I like the design of the pen. The design is by tattoo artist Katie McGowan. Like Vanness Pens, Katie is from Arkansas.

Photo of the Retro 51 Flint and Flare

Tread Collection Flint: The Tread collection is a series I was unfamiliar with until my recent explorations. The pens are acid etched with a pattern that resembles a tire tread. Well, it resembled a tire tread once the idea was in my head. The official description calls it a chain-like design.

Tread Collection Flare: This has the same pattern as the Flint, but it’s bright orange instead.

There’s also a distinctive yellow version of the Tread, but I passed on it. I did get serious consideration instead of the Flint. Taking only two of the three versions lets me claim that I have some self-control.

Photo of my four latest Retro 51 pens

There’s a couple more Retro 51s calling my name, but I only see one more in my future. The Pen Addict 2020 Kickstarter will include a Retro 51. Since I back them every year, I’ll undoubtedly end up with the pen. While I can’t rule out a new release, my Retro 51 collection is complete.


These Just In: Filling Out The Retro 51 Accumulation (Part 1)

Photo of my four newest Retro 51

(Top->Bottom) Eiffel, Rosie, Lincoln, Dino

With Retro 51 announcing that they’re winding down operations (even the best outcome has the current team moving on), FOMO took hold, and I ordered four Retro 51s to fill out my accumulation. Little did I know that this would only be Part 1. Once the pens arrived, and I saw them, I decided that I wanted some others, and four more are now working their way towards me.

Although there’s one exception in this batch, I find that I really like both the look and feel of the etched metal models. I’m not too fond of the feel of the smooth metal or lacquer models, especially for longer writing sessions. It turns to active hatred in the summer when heat and humidity are likely to make my fingers wet with perspiration.

Lincoln: This is a returning model. I had a Lincoln and sold it as a pair with the fountain pen version. This is a smooth metal pen, but I love the look of the copper and the patina it will develop. So, with a relatively low price, I caved and bought it.

Eiffel Tower: An etched metal pen with an antiqued brass colored finish. I’m a sucker for the color and love the intricate detail. The color can vary with the lighting, sometimes looking like more of a dark green than brass.

Rosie: Another etched pen, but with less intricate detail. Lines of rivets form the design, and the pen has a grayish color. For you young folks and non-Americans, it’s based on Rosie the Riveter, a cultural icon from WWII. Rosie’s image (based on a poster from that time) is on the packaging tube. Rosie is still around today – a Jeep at the office complex I work at has a Rosie spare tire cover.

Smithsonian Dino Fossil: I have the Smithsonian Corona and love it, although its general look is much like the Eiffel and several other Retro 51s that I have. The Dino is entirely different. I almost didn’t get the Dino because I didn’t really like the look based on the photos. The photos don’t do justice to the copper & ivory design. The dinosaur printing is slightly raised above the copper, so it isn’t an entirely smooth pen, although not as raised as the etched pens. I’m not a Paleontologist, but this could become a favorite Retro 51.

I usually swap the stock refill for a .6mm Schmidt (same ink, thinner tip), but I’m running low on spares, so I’ve been leaving the stock refill in some pens. Yes, I could buy more, but it seems wasteful, so I’ve been keeping the stock refill in some pens. This time around, only the Dino got a .6mm refill, I guess that makes it the favorite of the bunch.

This Just In: TWSBI Go x 2

TWSBI Go Fountain Pen - cappedTWSBI’s latest pen is called the Go which enters the sub-$20 category. I’m not a huge fan of TWSBI pens in general. I can see why people like them, but for me the quality issues I’ve experienced outweigh any cost savings. Plus, I’m not a fan of translucent pens unless they are clear. The TWSBI Go intrigued me enough to give TWSBI another go (sorry).

I had money in the PayPal account, and I haven’t bought any fountain pens this year. So, I bought two of them. I got the Smoke version with an extra fine nib. I picked a broad nob for the Sapphire model. Neither the sapphire color (a blue) or the broad nib are typical choices for me, so I put them both in the same pen. I’ll probably use it for testing new inks. While I have filled both fountain pens, I’ve only really used the extra fine TWSBI Go.

The TWSBI Go is a sub-$20 piston filler fountain pen that seems well made, although it is plastic. TWSBI has a reputation of making pens with a tendency to crack or leak. Their more recent pens have seemed to have fewer complaints (although it’s possible I just haven’t paid attention). This pen design seems to limit the opportunity for problems, although it is plastic (except for the spring and nib) and I can’t speak to durability. The nib is removable for cleaning or swapping, although I haven’t done it. I would expect frequent disassembly to eventually cause breaks or leaks. I haven’t removed the nib, and don’t plan to, so I can’t speak to how hard or easy this is.

There’s no clip, but a small roll stop is molded into to clip. The roll stop is also designed to allow a lanyard to be threaded through it. I guess a lanyard could be a thing, but not for me. It’s a small roll stop, so if the pen has any momentum it won’t stop the roll.

It is a chunky pen, which does appeal to me. The pen does post, although it’s long enough for me to comfortably use unposted. The cap is very light, so posting doesn’t affect the balance. I don’t post the pen unless I need a place to store the cap. Speaking of the cap, it’s a pressure fit cap which snaps firmly into place. There isn’t any cap band so cracking may eventually occur.

TWSBI Go Fountain Pens - springsThe spring is visible through the pen body which gives it a steampunk look. At first I was thinking this is more like a vacuum filler, but it is a piston. Rather than screwing the piston up to suck in ink, the spring raises the piston for us. So spring-loaded piston filler is an accurate description in my opinion. Filling the pen is simple. Unscrew the body to expose the piston. Immerse the nib in ink, push the piston down and then release it. While simple, I’m not sure it’s significantly easier than a screw piston. One-handed operation seems possible, although it’s risky. While the filling system is far from revolutionary, I do like different filling systems, and find this a fun addition to my accumulation.

The TWSBI Go stops short of being a pen I want to use. The extra fine Go shared my pen case with a Fisher of Pens Hermès and I always pick the Hermès over the Go unless I want a second color of ink. That said, both the extra fine and broad nibs are smooth writers and the pens written well. I still have concerns about the durability, although more because of past experience than any obvious issues. The TWSBI Go is an inexpensive pen, and if it cracks after a year of heavy use and abuse, I’d consider it money well spent and buy another.

TWSBI Go Fountain Pens - uncapped