Review: Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona

Pelikan Piazza Navona posted on mirrorThe Pelikan Piazza Navona is one of Pelikan’s City Series Pens. Back around 2004 these pens caught my interest and I eventually added three of them to my accumulation. My tastes do change from time to time but the Piazza Navona is my current favorite.

I originally bought this pen with a factory broad nib. Since broad nibs don’t appeal to me these days I had Mike Masuyama stub the nib at the 2013 DC pen show. It seems sacrilegious to take the tipping all the way down to a fine or extra fine so I stuck with a stub to add a little character.

The Piazza Navona was built by the Roman emperor Domitian in 86 AD. The color of the pen is taken from the tan colored marble of a central fountain (Fountain of the Four Rivers) built in 1651 by Lorenzo Bernini.

The Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona was the Pelikan City Series pen released in 2005. This pen extended the series to include a “most famous places” theme rather than a city. The City Series pens were all limited editions. They weren’t numbered or promoted as limited, but once the manufacturing run was sold out that was it.

Why I got It

The pen is gorgeous and I liked the Pelikan nib from my first City Edition. At the time I enjoyed broad nibs although I wasn’t using them as a daily driver. Plus, the pen was reasonably priced.

What I Got

Pelikan Piazza Navona penI lost the box and enclosures when a broken pipe flooded a storage closet. But if memory serves it was a simple clamshell box that included a pamphlet about the inspiration for the pen.

The fountain pen is a translucent resin. This gives the pen the appearance of depth in the design and does give it a marbled look. The design is beautifully subtle. There’s no ink window but the translucence allows me to see the ink level. The nib is 18 kt. gold with rhodium plating. The broad nib was smooth out of the box. I bought the pen from Fountain Pen Hospital which doesn’t tune the nibs prior to shipping, so I received it as shipped by Pelikan.

The pen has gold trim which works well with the brown resin. The nib is two-tone gold and silver with substantial engraving. I prefer a simpler nib design but I’ve gotten used to this and never considered it gaudy.

The fountain pen is a piston converter. The piston knob, along with the section are glossy black. I’ve gotten used to this but would have preferred the piston knob match the tan resin.

Like all my Pelikans the piston is smooth and easily pulls in a lot of ink. One stroke completely fills the ink chamber. The nib can be unscrewed for cleaning or to replace with a different nib.

The Pelikan logo is on the cap jewel and is more tan than gold, which looks good. The clip is the traditional Pelikan beak shape. The gold cap band has “PELIKAN SOUVERAN GERMANY” engraved on it.

The cap is more translucent than the barrel and the resin feels thinner. The cap does feel fragile but it has held up well over the years. I don’t post my fountain pens so I can’t say if the resin would hold up with repeated posting, but the cap band would provide support.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.2445″ (133.21 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.8610″ (123.46 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.0640″ (154.02 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.5450″ (13.84 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.39″ (9.90 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below threads): 0.4165″ (10.57 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3985″ (10.12 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.5480″ (13.92 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.4935″ (12.53 mm)
  • Weight: 16 grams
  • Weight (body only): 10 grams

Writing with the Pen

Pelikan Piazza Navona nibWhile the pen came to me with a broad nib that was smooth out of the box, it was both wide and boring so I had stopped using it.

Even though I hold the pen wrong for a traditional stub I had Mike Masuyama stub the nib at the 2013 Washington DC Pen Show. Because of the way I hold the pen I get thin down strokes and wide cross strokes with the stub, the opposite of what’s expected. But it works for me, I still get some nice variation.

The cap can be removed with less than one full rotation, I’d estimate a 315° turn. Even though I can remove the cap quickly, making it ideal for note taking, the nib is too wide for me to use this pen for general note taking. I typically use the Piazza Navona for longer, sit down writing sessions, such as the first draft of this review. The pen is great for these longer sessions. The pen is light and yet a good size for my hand. It’s long enough to be used unposted.

The piston filler hold enough ink for me to get through many long writing sessions. According to Pelikan the M600 line holds 1.75 ml of ink, which is over twice the ink of a short international cartridge. This is more than I would have guessed so I did some more searching and found a 1.37ml capacity listed at Pelikan’s Perch which is closer to my estimate.

The nib is smooth and the feed easily keeps up, even with fast writing. This was true even before the nib grind. I did ask for the nib to be tuned on the dry side. While I’ve become more open to wetter nibs that’s mainly for thinner nibs. I’m very happy with the way this nib writes. The original Pelikan broad nib was definitely wetter.

The threads are just above the section, which isn’t very big, so my fingers do rest on the threads. They aren’t sharp and don’t bother me at all.

The cap does post securely. Since the cap is so light the pen does remain well balanced when posted. Still, I use the pen unposted.

Inks Used

I’ve long forgotten what inks were used before 2013. But I don’t recall any problem inks.

Mike Masuyama filled the pen with an unknown blue-black for testing (I’m sure he knew the brand, but I didn’t ask). The ink wrote well and I didn’t have a reason to flush the ink.

R&K Scabiosa also spent some time in the pen. Since it’s an iron gall ink I gave the pen a short fill. The ink always seemed like it was about to skip but it never actually skipped. The pen and ink didn’t combine for a joyful writing experience. It wasn’t bad enough to flush the ink, but it won’t be back in the pen.

Graf von Faber-Castell Hazelnut Brown proved to be the perfect ink for this pen. The ink is sometimes thin on the paper but this was only apparent on Doane Paper. The blue grid lines would sometimes show through the writing, giving the appearance of skipping. But it was only the appearance. On non-grid paper the ink looks great. The same thinness that allows the grid to show through gives it some very nice shading. Plus, the ink color matches the pen.

Pelikan Piazza Navona cap jewel

Cleaning the Pen

Like any piston filler the pen is cleaned by cycling clean water through the pen. It’s tedious to work the piston for continuous fills and flushes, but it’s not hard. The nib can be unscrewed and removed to make cleaning easier although I prefer to avoid disassembly, even when it’s easy. There’s less chance of accidents this way.

Wrapping Up

The Pelikan Piazza Navona is one of my favorite pens based on looks. It’s also perfectly sized for my hand. Getting a broad nib ended up being a mistake for me. Getting it stubbed gives it some character and I enjoy using it. It’s not a nib I can use as a daily carry, but it’s great for sitting down and doing some long form writing (long compared to notes and marking up documents). So based on this the Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona Cities Edition is a keeper.

Additional Reading

I was surprised by the lack of reviews of this pen. David at JustPelikans.com (JustDaveyB.com) until recently has all the Cities Series pens and inks up the Piazza Navona often. So more photos and writing samples here.

Review: Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise

Omas 360 Vintage LE uncapped on a mirrorIt has taken me a long time to write this review and it’s been a frustrating process. But eight different inks later and I think I’m ready to review the Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise.

If I was to list the thing’s I don’t want in a fountain pen they would include:
1. Blue
2. A colored demonstrator (I do like clear)
3. A flex nib (I don’t actually dislike flex, but its benefits are lost on me.)
4. A Wet Writer

So how would I describe the Omas 360 Vintage LE? It’s a blue demonstrator with a semi-flex nib that’s a wet writer. Four for four, yet it came home with me from the 2013 Washington D.C. Pen Show.

While there should be a rule against including the word “Vintage” in a pen name, in this case it makes some sense. The Omas 360 Vintage LE is based upon an older (although not really vintage) Omas pen design.

Why I Got It

Every time I walked past the Fountain Pen Hospital table at the show this pen yelled out my name and called me over. Each time I stopped to look at it, it won me over a little more. Finally, after not seeing the red version of the pen and getting a price nearly 50% off list I made it my last pen purchase of the show.

It was a medium nib and I was 99.9% sure I’d have to grind the nib down to at least a fine. A medium nib was the only choice so I considered getting it ground to a fine on Sunday. I decided against that because this pen has personality and I wanted to get to know it before I made changes.

The pen is gorgeous, even if it is blue. The piston is clearly visible but with a pattern that makes it look very cool. The piston travels smoothly and the piston knob’s triangular shape makes it easy to turn. The silver trim complements the color nicely and the silver 18K nib is huge.

I never would have bought this pen without seeing it. No picture I’ve seen does it justice.

What I Got

Omas 360 Vintage LE box contents

The pen came in a beautiful presentation box. The box is lined with a microfiber material and includes a bottle of Omas Turquoise ink. The pen is in a pen sleeve that’s the same material as the box lining. It gives the impression of elegance and quality. This is a limited edition and my pen is number 190 out of 360.

The pen itself is a large triangular shaped piston filler with a 18K gold nib. The material is blue cotton resin. Usually I consider these “… resin” names as fancy name intended to make plastic sound classy. This is not plastic (well, maybe technically on the chemical level it is, I’m no chemist). The material has beautiful depth and translucence. The pen feels rock solid and the material does not feel like plastic. The build quality is top notch.

The piston is smooth but the travel distance seems to be longer than it needs to be, reducing the ink capacity. I read elsewhere that it holds 1.2 ml. of ink. I didn’t measure, but it seems about right. The piston filling system makes it easy to get a full load of ink.

The pen has a solid black inner cap with prongs that extend down to grip the pen when it’s capped. This is downright annoying and borderline ugly. It hides that beautiful nib when it’s capped which is a crime. This is the biggest negative for the pen.

The triangular section could be a problem for some, but it fits my grip perfectly. My fingers all rest against the flat sides. It’s also a big pen, which I find more comfortable.

The medium nib was far to wet for me, and being a medium it put down far too much ink for my tastes. I decided to have Mike Masuyama grind it to a fine but left it as a wet writer with flex. This review is based upon the fine nib.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.9090″ (150.09 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 5.2090″ (132.31 mm)
  • Length Posted: 7″ (177.8 mm)
  • Section Length: 1.0480″ (26.61 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.4655″ (11.82 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below step): 0.5320″ (13.51 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.5115″ (12.99 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.6620″ (16.82 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.5955″ (15.12 mm)
  • Weight: 0.9 oz. (26 g) (with ink)
  • Weight (body only): 0.6 oz. (16 g) (with ink)

Writing with the Pen

Closeup of the inked Omas 360 Vintage LE nibThis section is based entirely on using the Omas 360 Vintage LE after Mike Masuyama ground the nib to a fine. The medium was just to much ink for my tastes.

This is a very frustrating pen to use unless it has the right ink and paper combination. I’ve used eight different inks in the pen. A couple were great on all the paper I use while a few preferred fountain pen friendly paper such as Rhodia. A couple inks were flushed since they were universally annoying. (See the section about ink used.)

The pen is light, even when posted. It’s a large pen so I don’t even consider posting. But the cap does post securely. The clip slides easily over shirt pockets or other materials. The pen is a little big for me to carry in a shirt pocket. Even if it is secure I find it annoyingly big for my shirt pocket.

As I said, ink varies greatly in this pen. The best inks are quickly emptied when writing with this pen. A full load of Pelikan Blue-Black was used up with less than two days of writing which is unheard of for me.

Because the nib is so wet I’ve found that ink splatters in cap are inevitable, especially when I carry the pen in my bag. They’re small, but they are there. Also, because of the inner cap I have to be a little careful capping the pen, if I try to cap it at an angle the nib may catch on the inner cap or the prongs that extend down to grip the pen.

One way to avoid splatters was to store the pen nib up overnight. Almost every nib would be dry the next morning, the other inks wouldn’t last another night. So there was no ink to splatter when the pen bounced around. The ink quickly reaches the nib when the pen is put nib down for writing, but it is bone dry at first and the delay is noticeable. If I store it flat on my desk the nib stays ready for 5 days, longer with some inks. (Then there are some inks which were so bad I flushed them, but the previous applies to most inks.)

Omas 360 Vintage LE uncapped on a mirorFlex nibs are lost on me so I can’t compare it to other flex nibs. I had a Namiki Falcon at one time but eventually sold it because I didn’t like the flex nib. Other reviewers call it semi-flex but say it doesn’t compare to vintage flex. For me, its a very nice springy 18K nib that’s a joy to use as long as the ink and paper are chosen well.

Because the pen is both wet and finicky I can’t use it as my daily driver even though it’s a fine nib. I do a lot of notes and document markups which just doesn’t suit this pen. The nib also dries out quickly during uncapped pauses in writing.

The big triangle section is very comfortable for me and I can write all day without any fatigue.

I found smooth paper, such as Rhodia, to be best suited for the widest variety of inks with this pen. Most (but not all) inks had minor skipping issues on Doane Paper writing pads and Doane Jotters, both of which I frequently use. These same inks also provided too much feedback for my tastes on these papers. Some inks wrote just fine on the Doane Paper and any other paper I used.

Inks Used

Omas 360 Vintage LE uncapped on a pen standOf all the inks I used, Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black was the only one that was perfect for this fountain pen. I used it on a wide variety of paper without a problem. Even though Pelikan inks are considered dry inks I found the ink to have a wet flow from the pen and put down a consistent line. I typically prefer a dry writing ink but I put that bias aside for this pen because it writes so much better with a wettish ink. So it’s not that Pelikan Blue-Black is a dry writer that makes be like it. It’s that it puts down a wet line but keeps the ink under control.

De Atramentis Sherlock Holmes (Night Blue) and Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue were both as good as the Pelikan Blue-Black. I just didn’t use them on enough paper to call them perfect, but I expect them to both perform well. They were the second and third inks that wrote smoothly on Doane Paper and any other paper I tried. The list stopped at three.)

The above three inks also had the best (longest) evaporation times, both when the pen was stored and when there was an uncapped pause in writing.

The remaining inks were all less than perfect with the pen. Some further from perfect than others.

Omas Turquoise, which came with the pen, and Sheaffer Peacock Blue wrote fine on smooth papers such as Rhodia but had minor skipping and some heavy feedback on Doane Paper (heavy = more than I would like). As I felt the feedback increasing I knew a skip was in the near future. It was surprising how closely these inks performed to each other. It must be a turquoise thing. Neither was bad or annoying enough to be flushed before I wrote the pen dry.

My favorite ink, R & K Blau-Schwarz LE didn’t fair so well with this pen. It frequently had trouble keeping the ink wet, even when stored for only a couple hours. Plus it was harder to get going once the nib became dry. This was so annoying that I flushed the ink before it was used up.

R & K Scabiosa, an iron gall ink, performed the same as R & K Blau-Schwarz and it was also flushed.

I loaded up Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite but never got to use it. When I pulled the pen out a couple days later all the ink had evaporated. Since I had a run of temperamental inks I only gave the pen half a fill. I was so shocked by this that when I notice the empty pen I jumped up to look for where the ink had leaked. Still, this does seem bizarre to me and I’ll try the ink again when I get a chance.

Cleaning the Pen

It’s a piston filler so cleaning can be a bit tedious but so far all the inks were quickly flushed from the pen. I haven’t tried, but it doesn’t appear that either the nib or piston can be easily removed for cleaning.

Wrapping Up

Despite the four reasons I should hate the Omas 360 Vintage LE, and despite its finicky taste in ink, this pen is a keeper. Not only does it look stunning, but it’s also damn comfortable to write with. It’s not a pen I can use in every situation, but even after this review I’m keeping it inked up and I’ll be writing with it frequently.

Some people may not find the triangle section comfortable. That, and the price, are the only reasons not to get this pen. The black inner cap is a negative, but not a reason to skip this pen. I was lucky and saw the Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise in person and discounted enough to be within my pen show budget.

Additional Reading

Gallery