This Just In: Kanilea Cherry Kona

Photo of the Kanilea Cherry Kona fountain pen

The newly arrived Kanilea Cherry Kona

If my memory is correct, Kanilea Pen Co. was launch at the 2016 Washington D.C. Pen Show. I remember seeing their beautiful acrylics and considered buying one of them. It took almost four years, but I did eventually buy one.

I stumbled across the Cherry Kona on their website and was considering buying one. It looked gorgeous, plus it was available much faster than a typical Kanilea web order. Then the Pen Addict podcast’s turn came up in my podcast player, and both Myke and Brad gushed about it. It was less than a couple hours later that all resistance and doubt collapsed, and I ordered one.

I did manage to screw up my order, but thanks to proactive and hands-on customer service, it all worked out without causing a delay. I wanted the “Classic Flush” profile, both because it was immediately available, and it is the design I liked best. I must have reset the order form and returned to the default “Classic” profile. The next morning I got an email asking me to confirm that’s what I really wanted. They sent the email because the Classic profile wasn’t the one available immediately. So I replied that yes, I meant to order the Classic Flush profile. I later checked the entire order and found that I had used the shipping address as the billing address, so I sent off another email to update that. Despite all this, the pen shipped out within the promised timeframe.

Hawaii is the focus of Kanilea Pen Co., and the packaging reflects that. The packaging also shows the thought and care that went into the pen. All the pen acrylics are inspired by scenes around Hawaii, and a photo postcard of the pen’s inspiration is included. This does add to the cost of the pen, but it also enhances the experience. In purely marketing terms, it gives the buyer a feeling that justifies the expense. Experience isn’t important, even though it doesn’t make the pen write better. Let’s face it, I have multiple fountain pens with similar nibs, so experience matters to me, whether it’s the writing experience or the emotional experience. It doesn’t make up for a bad fountain pen, but it enhances an already excellent fountain pen and softens the blow to the wallet.

The packaging…

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I dug through the packaging to get to the Cherry Kona fountain pen, after all, that’s what I wanted. I then spent some time admiring the acrylic. It’s gorgeous, with fantastic depth. It seems to bend and reflect light in different directions. I mentioned in the Leonardo Messenger review that the Messenger had a large translucent swath that bothered me since it provided a clear view of the converter. Not so on the Cherry Kona. I knew the converter was in there, but the little chrome that was visible looked like part of the bending and reflecting light. There’s no metal in the pen, so if the converter does bother me, I can simply eyedropper fill the pen.

I finally got around to filling the pen and ran into my first complaint. The cap requires a marathon to twist off, It takes four complete turns to uncap. This translates to six twists with my fingers each time. I don’t have to tighten it completely if I pause when writing, but it’s a bit much for my taste. I don’t recall any of my other fountain pens requiring this much effort. A minimum of a dozen finger turns each time I use the pen.

Kanilea Pen Co. Cherry Kona capped

There’s a choice of nib styles and materials. I picked a polished steel nib. There is some engraving on the nib, but no branding. I like a plain silver nib, so no complaints here. There’s also a flower medallion on the cap finial, and I picked sterling silver for that. No gold on this pen.

Finally, to the ink. I picked Sheaffer Red as the ink to inaugurate this pen. A nice bright red to match the acrylic. The fine nib is a friendly smooth writer, The nib tines and feed seem perfectly aligned (to my eye).

I’ve noticed my hand getting fatigued after writing as little as a page. This isn’t something I expected or currently understand. The pen is on the large side, although very light for its size. The gripping section is concave, so I pulled out my calipers to see if it was thinner than it appeared. At 11mm, it’s in line with my comfortable fountain pens, although that girth is on the low end of the range. I’ve been paying attention and trying to keep my grip looser than usual. This seems to help a little, but it could be a placebo.

Further confusing me is that the fatigue arrives quickly but doesn’t go to the next level, which would be pain or cramps. It’s just tired. I’ve only had a couple other pens with a concave section. A few Karas Kustoms Ink fountain pens and rollerballs, none of which caused any fatigue. I sold most but kept one and will probably ink it up for comparison. The second, an Edison Nouveau, was sold off since it was too thin and light for me, but I didn’t tie this to the concave section as it was a thin pen.

Kanilea Cherry Kona with writing sample

I’ve yet to finish the first fill of ink. Still, the writing experience has been enjoyable, despite the fatigue issues. There’s no skipping or hard starts.

The Kanilea Cherry Kona is gorgeous, no doubt about it. As I’m sure you gathered, the long uncapping effort really annoys me. It was enough to move it down to the “hangers-On” category from what I thought was a sure “Core Pen” listing. Maybe I’ll warm to it, or at least learn to ignore it, but I think it will always annoy me. The fatigue is another issue, and unless I can solve it, the pen will probably go up for sale. Running a marathon to uncap the pen while knowing my hand will feel tired after about 5 minutes will keep me from using the pen. Especially since I have many choices that I can use all day for hours at a time. If I had seen the Cherry Kona at a pen show I would have bought it, there’s nothing about it that would alert me to it being a fatiguing pen for me. I can’t even say it’s uncomfortable, because at first, it’s not. But the bottom line is that the uncapping marathon and fatigue has given me a disappointing first impression.

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – May 10, 2020

Photo of my currently inked pens

Currently inked – the lucky 13

As attested to by all my posts last week, which all started as handwritten drafts, I’m continuing to use my fountain pens. Yesterday, I finished another pocket notebook journal by not missing any entries. Last week I mentioned that I’d switch to a larger notebook. While that’s still true, I switched fro the Doane Paper Boxcar to a Field Notes Dime Novel. I came across an open Dime Novel package, so I picked it rather than breaking the seal on another three-pack.

I ended up moving my desk on Saturday. Well, more like turning it, but it still required me to empty it out then put everything back. The desk has never been neater, so I took some photos. I may publish a tour later in the week. While that was a significant effort, Saturday is also the day I put on my sweatpants (more like pajama pants) rather than regular pants. It was cold and windy when I woke up, and I had no intention of leaving my apartment, not even to take out the garbage.

After publishing my initial post about the Leonardo Messenger, some brain cells activated, and I remembered a comment by Pamelake about using decorative paper inside the barrel. While my resources are currently limited to what I already have, I did scotch tape the chrome on the converter. This dulled the shine enough so that it is no longer shiny. The color now looks close to the whiter swirls, not a beacon calling for attention. Now my only complaint is that while not shiny, it’s still a regular shape, not a swirl. But much better, in my opinion. I didn’t have any paper thin enough to fit around the converter in the barrel. Still, my tests with white paper left me believing I’d need a thin green tissue paper, and even that might not work. So, when craft stores open and I can venture out, I’ll look for something to paint over or mask the chrome. If that fails, some green tissue paper.

New Arrivals

  1. The Benu Minima with its fine nib arrived Tuesday. I’m happy with the green acrylic.
  2. My Diplomat Aero Volute LE arrived on Friday. It’s grey, and I love it. I got this one with a fine nib to distinguish it from my original orange/black Aero.


Nothing, and at the risk of becoming a liar, nothing on the horizon.

Written Dry

  1. The Namiki Sterling Dragon was written dry this past week. It was filled with Iroshizuku Shin-ryoku back on April 19th and went dry on May 5th.

Newly Inked

In line with my current practice, both new pens, the Benu Minima **and the **Diplomat Aero Volute, were inked up with the included ink cartridges. This brings me up to a lucky 13 inked fountain pens.


Fountain Pen Review: BENU Tessera Amber | Rants of The Archer // The Benu brand has caught my eye recently, and I made a purchase, as noted above. I’m still undecided as to whether or not I like the look of this particular Tessera. I suspect it looks better in real life than in photos.

Notebook Muse // Baron Fig mini hack – Weirdoforest Pens // This makes me want to pull out the few notebook covers that I have and try to find a suitable notebook. I’ve never found a cover that works for me. My favorite (meaning one that I actually use) is a simple, thin clear plastic cover.

Finding a word other than ‘collection’ | UK fountain pens Whatever the word is, this is his State of the collection: May 2020 | UK fountain pens // If you’re a reader, you know I use “accumulation”, now I associate it with river muck thanks to Anthony. But it doesn’t really matterm they’re all still “pens.”

What Is Your Ideal Line Spacing Size? – Fountain Pen Love // A very helpful resource if you want to find a comfortable line spacing for your writing.

Early thoughts on the Sheaffer Pop fountain pen. | Fountain pen blog // Good overview of a relatively inexpensive pen. Although, as mentioned in the article, there’s a lot of competition at this price point.

Currently Inked – Wonder Pens – Life Behind a Stationery Shop // Always fun to see what someone with seemingly endless selection of pens and inks uses.

Fountain Pen Friendly Paper Collection by Yamamoto Paper: A Review (Part 1 of 2) — The Pen Addict // Personally, I have little interest (beyond curiousity) in a product like this, but I can certainly see it being useful for many people. I’m happy with Doane Paper and Seven Seas (Tomeo River) products as my paper core.

[Off-Topic] Apple Magic Keyboard Review

The Apple Magic Keyboard isn’t a fountain pen (obviously), but it is a writing implement. So, not entirely off-topic. But the reality is, I got one recently, and I want to write about it. I’ve been an iPad user since the very first one, and an iPad Pro user since its initial release in 2015. I currently have the 2018 12.9″ iPad Pro (3rd Gen). I’ve used an external Bluetooth keyboard for as long as I can remember, certainly since 2015. It was only after the 2018 iPad Pro that a significant part of my writing was done on my iPad rather than my computer.

While the current situation (COVID-19 lockdowns, if you’re reading this in the distant future) has knocked my workflow for a loop, I tended to have three distinct keyboard scenarios with my iPad. The keyboard I currently use is a Keychron K2 mechanical keyboard with Gateron brown switches and double-shot PBT keycaps. It can connect with both my iPad and my laptop. It does have the ability for a third device, but I only have two paired with it. Switching between devices is easy.

While I did have a Smart Keyboard Cover with my first iPad Pro (that may not have been the exact name at that time), I never liked using it. Besides, that one was buggy, requiring two warranty replacements after complete failure. The third one had the intermittent Smart Connector problem, and I gave up on it rather than replace it. Even without all of the issues, I didn’t use it all that much. I just didn’t like the typing angle or the feel of the keyboard.

I do have a Brydge keyboard for my iPad Pro. The one without the trackpad. I liked the feel of it, although it had many of the issues I’ll mention below. Plus, it was hard to remove from the clips that held the iPad. The little rubber protectors became a pain to line up so the iPad would fit in the clips. Because I switch between keyboard use and tablet use several times a day, this became unworkable.

All this made me hesitant with the Magic Keyboard, but it did raise the iPad a little and promised easier removal.

Another item that might be important: I don’t use a case or cover of any sort on my iPad, which is my preference.

Work Office Setup

While I’m not using the office very much these days, when I was, I’d have my 16″ Macbook Pro sitting on a Nulaxy Laptop Stand. I use a Logitech MX Ergo Trackball that also connects to both the laptop and iPad. The iPad is on a simple Amazon Basics stand off to the side. I may use the keyboard and mouse to locate a reference doc, but it is rarely used. I’m more likely to pick the iPad up and use it as a tablet, with the pencil to read and markup documents.

The Apple Magic Keyboard doesn’t work at all in this scenario. It’s much easier to toggle the switch on the keyboard in front of me rather than contort my body to use the Apple keyboard. Plus, it doesn’t fit in where I like my iPad, so it’s not suitable as a stand either. I could re-arrange my desk, but to what benefit?

While removing the iPad is not difficult, it does require two hands, despite what the ads show. Yes, the base is heavy and stable, but using one hand to hold it down is needed. There may be some exact angle and force that works with one hand, but I never found it.

So, the bottom line is that the Apple Magic Keyboard is unsuitable for how my work office is set up. I can’t see me changing my workflow to accommodate it.

Home Office Setup

This setup is pretty much the same as before the lockdown. The big difference is that I’m using the iPad for typing at my desk much more than I expected. I like physical queues to help set my work mode. I considered this desk mostly analog, optimized for pens and paper. At most, the iPad would be there for reference, minimal typing. My laptop would never touch this desk.

That has changed, as I spend most of my day at the desk. I still minimize laptop use at the desk but use the iPad much more than I expected. I’m typing this post using the setup in this picture.

Photo of my home office iPad setup

I have ordered a stand to raise the laptop higher. My neck does complain a bit after an extended typing session with the current setup. Those Apple Watch stand reminders are essential since I do have to get up and stretch before those neck muscles tighten up.

As shown in the picture, I like the iPad placed away from the keyboard, and the keyboard near me. I do move the keyboard distance (closer/further) during or between typing sessions to move my muscles around. I’m still trying to figure out the best setup ergonomically. I did try the Apple Magic Keyboard and quickly determined that the typing/viewing angle that is required wasn’t suitable for me long term.

I recently found my Apple Magic Trackpad, and it became part of my home office iPad setup. Before this, the Logitech trackball would travel, now I’ll just leave it in the office.

Coffee Shops

Obviously, I haven’t been able to take the iPad to a coffee shop, but I can make some informed assumptions based on my history. This mode is where I would benefit most from the Apple Magic Keyboard. Currently, or most recently, when I could, I would often work at a coffee shop or the library for an hour or two, just to change things up. Typically I would take my laptop, since it was easier than packing the iPad, external keyboard, and a stand.

With the Apple Magic Keyboard, it’s a safe bet that I would take the iPad rather than the laptop. Since the form factor is similar and I never type long enough for it to be a problem for me.

The Apple Magic Keyboard Itself

I sent the keyboard back because it didn’t fit in with my workflow. I wasn’t surprised, since having a keyboard attached to the iPad never really worked for me. If the Apple stores had been open, I would have gone in to see it in real life. Although honestly, I may have bought one anyway to get a hands-on look. Some other impressions of the keyboard, in no particular order:

  • The keyboard is heavy, but that didn’t bother me. It uses the weight to provide stability.
  • While the keyboard does seem solidly built, I do have concerns about long term durability. The material on the top of the keyboard feels a bit like plastic, while other surfaces are like felt and will collect dirt. I also would be concerned about the ability of the magnets to keep their strength and for the hinge to remain tight. They may be durable, only time will tell.
  • I didn’t mind the size of the trackpad, although its operation annoyed me a bit. It’s a mechanical trackpad. While it’s subjective, the sound annoyed me and sounded cheap, like plastic blocks snapping into place. While the trackpad is small, I find it very usable. I intensely disliked the click, but otherwise, the trackpad worked fine.
  • Despite being heavy, I didn’t find the keyboard lapable. To be fair, I don’t like using any computer on my lap. I can use my Macbook Pro that way, but I don’t like it. The iPad with the Apple Magic Keyboard wouldn’t balance on my lap and was unusable.
  • The typing experience was enjoyable. While not as good as my mechanical keyboard, it certainly better than any iPad keyboard I’ve tried.
  • When Apple changes the iPad design, this keyboard will become obsolete. The main concern would be the location of the smart connector. There may be a way to change the design, which Apple likes to do, while still fitting on the Magic Keyboard. But, no guarantees.

Wrapping Up

I returned the Apple Magic Keyboard to Apple. It didn’t fit in with my workflow. While it was nice, the best iPad attached keyboard I’ve used, I couldn’t justify the $350 price. Especially considering that I already had a working setup that I liked. My current setup is not as portable as I’d like, but I won’t be doing a lot of traveling in the near future.

Now that I’ve had my hands on the Magic Keyboard, I’ll be able to decide if it’s suitable should my situation change. I could then get another one, although that’s not likely to happen. It’s more likely a Gen 2 version, or some accessories will make the keyboard a better fit for me. In a weird twist, the more I use the iPad for productivity, the less suitable the Apple Magic Keyboard becomes.

This Just In: Leonardo Officina Italiana Messenger

Photo - Leonard Officina Italiana Messenger in greenI’ve been seeing a lot of Leonardo Officina Italiana fountain pens as I browse various fountain pen sites. Some of those sites have had positive reviews. In general, I like the look of Italian pens. All this combined to keep the brand on my radar, so when Pen Chalet put the Leonardo Messenger on sale and had one in green, I decided to buy one.

I did so knowing that this might be a rental. The sale price, and the Pen Addict coupon code, brought the price low enough to either be a reasonable rental, or a good deal on the purchase. Why a rental (purchase, followed by a quick sale)? Because it’s a colored translucent barrel, which I don’t like. So why even try? There’s a nice swirl pattern to the acrylic, which could block the translucency enough to mask the converter inside. Plus, the design should prevent it from looking cheap.

Leonardo does limit the number of pens within each acrylic, although there are many acrylics in each line. There are 366 pens for each Messenger acrylic since there are 366 days in 2020. My particular pen is number 157.

I picked green (Verde) for my pen because, well, green. Green is easily my favorite color. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time finding that perfect green pen or ink.

When the Leonardo Messenger arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. When I opened the clamshell box, the visible part of the barrel was heavily swirled, and I couldn’t see the converter through the barrel. Plus, the acrylic looks great. Then I took the pen out of the box and looked at the entire barrel. I was disappointed to find that the other side of the barrel had a large, utterly translucent section where the converter was clearly visible. For me, the straight lines of the converter, and its reflective chrome, destroy the beauty of the acrylic. On the positive side, the pen does not look like it’s made with cheap plastic.

The translucent section is almost hidden when I’m writing with the pen. But not entirely, and I’m unable to not see it because I know its there. There’s metal inside the pen, so eyedropper filling isn’t an option.

I picked Montblanc Leonardo Red Chalk ink to inaugurate the pen. The extra-fine nib is a pleasant writer, and it’s true to the expected size of a European extra-fine nib. The pen does come with some thoughtful design choices, such as a screw-in converter. I don’t post my fountain pens and fine the longer than expected barrel to be very comfortable in my hand. The photo below compares the size to other pens.

Photo - size comparison of 12 fountain pens

Size comparison (L->R) Benu Minima, Sailor Realo, Sheaffer Balance Oversize, Sailor Balance Oversize, Diplomat Aero, Pelikian M815, Lamy Safari, Leonardo Messenger, Sailor KOP, Kanilea Cherry Kona, yStudio Classic Desk Pen

The Leonardo Officina Italania Messenger is a very nice fountain pen. That big translucent spot on the barrel may turn it into a rental for me, but that’s due to my personal tastes and isn’t a fault of the pen. The design of the acrylic is gorgeous. I’ll let it live among my other fountain pens for a while to see if I can overlook that translucent gap since I do like the overall look of the pen.

This Just In: Sailor King of Pen Royal Tangerine

Photo of the Sailor King of Pen In its boxThe Sailor King of Pen Royal Tangerine has been on my radar for a while. It was on my list of things to seek out at the pen shows I’d be attending this year. I have a King of Pen (KOP) in black, but for a pen at this price, I really want to see it in person. My other KOP was a pen show purchase for the same reason, I needed to see it to be sure. Unsurprisingly, since the Long Island Pen Show is small, I didn’t come across one. So, with additional pen shows becoming less and less likely, I went ahead and ordered one from Classic Fountain Pens (CFP). I ordered a factory medium, but to be ground to an oblique tip. Often called a left-footed oblique because the nib slants the same way as the toes on our left foot toes.

Photo of the Sailor King of Pen NibI love the way the KOP feels in my hands, likely the most comfortable pen I own. I can write with it for hours at a time. But, I’ll never have as many as I want because it’s obscenely expensive for what it is. Even the base models, like my first KOP, sell for over $700. It’s a basic resin pen. Yes, of outstanding quality and workmanship, and with a large 21kt gold nib, that’s glorious, but the price still causes me to gag a bit. The price is one reason I couldn’t justify (to myself) getting a KOP with the same medium nib that I already had. A broad nib, from experience, is not something I would use more than occasionally. These are the only two nib sizes available, which meant a nib grind would be required.

The Royal Tangerine KOP is a North American exclusive. I haven’t seen any mention of it being limited (it’s certainly not numbered), it does seem to be out of stock most places. Although it is still listed for sale, so Sailor may be planning to eventually nake another batch. I appear to have gotten the last one at CFP as it went out of stock after my order. Good timing on my part, unless I ended up not liking the pen.

The Royal Tangerine King of Pen has the classic cigar shape design. This is a nice contrast with my other KOP, which is a Pro Gear model. I have a slight preference for the Pro Gear style, but that wasn’t an option. Even if it was, I might have still gotten the cigar style (a.k.a. 1911 style) just for variety. My current trend toward variety would outweigh my aesthetic preference in this case. But like I said, it was the only option, so no decision was needed.

Photo of the Sailor King of Pen uncapped in its boxThe pen arrived relatively plain, although slightly larger than standard, Sailor branded pen box. The box is more than sturdy enough to protect the pen during shipping. It’s distinguishing feature is the wrap-around magnetic cover. Sailor uses a proprietary filling system and includes two black ink cartridges and a converter.

Photo ofeverything received with the Sailor King of Pen

My recent practice has been to avoid waste and use any included ink cartridges first. I couldn’t bring myself to do that this time, so I picked Robert Oster Signature Orange ink to inaugurate this pen. It seemed like a logical choice. Logical or not, I was happy with the choice. The pen & ink performed well together. I’ll use those cartridges eventually and won’t waste them. My black KOP and the Regency Stripe are both in the queue to be inked up and would be suitable choices.

I wrote the pen dry and put it aside to give other pens a chance. But, I soon missed it and returned it to the rotation with Montblanc Bordeaux ink.

Oblique nibs sit perfectly on the paper when I use my normal grip. I never have to adjust my grip to suit the nib, and I never have any skipping. That’s why I never pick a pen with an oblique nib as my daily writer. If I have to contort my hand, such as when dealing with the wires in a wire-bound notebook or reaching over a keyboard, the nib may not keep consistent contact with the paper. So, like all my oblique nibs, it only gets pulled out when I am sitting at a desk or table and writing on a flat notepad. It’s a delight to use In this way.

There’s not much more that I can say about the Sailor King of Pen Royal Tangerine. It’s a perfect size for me, and the 21 kt gold nib is glorious. I’m happy with the pen, if not the price. Despite being a new pen, it shot right onto my list of core pens.

Photo - size comparison of 12 fountain pens

Size comparison (L->R) Benu Minima, Sailor Realo, Sheaffer Balance Oversize, Sailor Balance Oversize, Diplomat Aero, Pelikian M815, Lamy Safari, Leonardo Messenger, Sailor KOP, Kanilea Cherry Kona, Edison Huron Grande, yStudio Classic Desk Pen