Review: Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminum

Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminim engravingKaweco, as a brand, came to my attention about a year and a half ago mainly through the Sport. I wasn’t much into small pocket pens and I kind of viewed them as a “cheap” pen brand, and not the good definition of cheap. That opinion improved a bit overtime. Finally when I decided to research I pocket fountain pen I saw them as a quality pen maker, although mainly known for their Sport models.. While I decided on the Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket for my first pocket pen it was the custom needlepoint nib that made it the first choice. The Kaweco staid on my want list and soon after the Washington DC show I bought the Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminum fountain pen.

Why I Got It

I wanted another durable pocket pen but with a less finicky nib (than the needlepoint). I got the raw aluminum finish because I liked the machined look. The raw aluminum finish lacks any coating or protection against scratches so it will develop its own unique wear pattern which appeals to me.

Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminim nibThe extra fine nib, while still thin, would be more forgiving on ever changing paper types than the needlepoint was. At least that was my hope. The nib and feed unit is swappable, although not with the Classic or Ice Sport models.

I also wanted it to be a clip-less pen. Although I did buy the optional clip in case I changed my mind since it was cheap and didn’t require additional shipping.

What I Got

The Kaweco AL Sport in a Raw Aluminum finish and with an extra-fine steel nib. I also ordered the squeeze convertor although I’ve yet to use it. Due to the small pen size it needs a non-standard convertor.

As I mentioned I also bought the optional clip.It’s a slip on clip held on only by friction. I’d be concerned that it could easily slide off if the material it was sliding over was thick. And I’d also be concerned that it would scratch the pen as it moved. While I look forward to wear and tear on the pen I would find regular scratch patterns caused by the clip to be annoying. I want the wear and tear to be chaotic.

The pen itself is shiny silver, with a silver toned stainless steel nib and a silver cap jewel with the Kaweco logo.

Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminim postedThe pen has a screw-on cap that takes a couple short twists to cap or uncap. Or, if you’re keeping track, one complete 360° turn of the cap.

The pen came in a retro-looking tin which was a rather nice touch. It’s small and strong enough to be worth saving. It’s also suitable for holding the clip, convertor and any extra cartridges or nibs while not being used as long as the pen doesn’t need to be in there too.  The tin is inside a cardboard sleeve which is nice enough but isn’t worth saving.

The Numbers

With some wiggle room to avoid scratching the pen with the calipers.

  • Length Capped: 4.213″  (107.1 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 3.864″  (98.16 mm)
  • Length Posted: 5.030″  (127.77 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.615″  (15.62 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near threads): 0.390″  (9.92 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.380″  (9.66 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.429″  (10.91 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.508″  (12.92 mm)
  • Cap Length: 2.764″  (70.21 mm)

Using The Pen

I didn’t flush this pen on arrival. I just inserted the included Kaweco blue cartridge and screwed the section back onto the barrel. The ink was already on the nib when I went to write with it, no coaxing needed, and a good indication that flow wouldn’t be a problem.

Kaweco AL Sport Raw Aluminim cap jewelI can use the pen without posting (just barely), but this is pen is one of the few that’s more comfortable for me when posted so that’s the way I use it. It is a pocket pen designed to be posted for use. The cap posts deeply so it adds just over an inch to the length.

When I first held the pen it felt uncomfortable in my hand. I can’t really explain it but the cap diameter felt too big compared to my grip on the section. But I quickly got used to it without needing to adjust my grip at all. It may simply have been that I’m not used to posting my pens and this cap posts deeply and the cap was against my hand, not the barrel. So there was a pretty significant difference between the section and cap diameter.

Writing with the pen was surprisingly smooth. Ink flowed effortlessly and consistently from the pen. When dragged across the paper by the end of the pen the nib wrote a consistent line despite having only the weight of the pen to keep it on the paper. At $75 it’s not a cheap pen and it’s the same basic nib as the $24 Classic Sport which had lowered my expectations. Although I have recently added a Classic Sport and though use has been limited the nib/feed performance is less than the AL Sport. I figured the $50 difference was simply the pen material. But it seems the nib and feed assembly provides a better and more consistent flow. I’ve used just over half the ink in the cartridge and haven’t had any hard started or flow issues. When posted, the AL Sport has dimensions comparable to a full size pen, including the section diameter which helps contribute to the comfort.

The pen is comfortable to use, even for long writing sessions. It seems like the smooth aluminum could be a problem with sweaty or oily hands but I haven’t had a problem so far. The pen is light thanks to the aluminum and the design makes it comfortable to hold. I could put the pen down for well over 3 minutes and the nib would still be wet when I picked it up to write, no hard start or skipping. Speaking of of putting the pen down, the octagonal shape keeps the pen from rolling, even without a clip.

It’s fun (if not mesmerizing) to watch the light reflections change with the movement of the pen as I write.

Cleaning The Pen

I’m still on the first ink load so I haven’t needed to clean it. But it should be easy enough to clean with a bulb syringe to flush out the pen.

Inks

In a break with tradition I’m using up the ink cartridge that came with the pen. So the only ink used has been Kaweco Blue. As I mentioned, no complaints what so ever about performance.

Wrapping Up

I really like this raw aluminum Kaweco AL Sport as my pocket pen. The pen does have one noticeable scratch, right across the Kaweco logo. But I knew it would be subject to scratching so I can’t hold that against the pen. A coated pen would probably be more scratch resistant.

This pen has replace the Franklin-Christoph Pocket 40 as the pen always in my pocket. The Pocket 40 would be more scratch resistant but the needlepoint nib was too finicky. (But the Pocket 40 now lives on my office desk and that needlepoint nib gets a daily workout.)

I can see why the Kaweco Sport line is so popular. The smart thing to do, if you’re new to the pen, is to start with the sub $25 Classic Sport. (Do as I say, not as I do.) But I’m glad I started with this one. I did recently get a Classic Sport and while I haven’t used it enough to review, I do find the AL Sport to have a better feed, so I may have hesitated upgrading to AL if I started with the Classic. I’m glad I wasn’t smart.

Additional Reading

The Kaweco Sport models are popular pens so there’s a lot of reviews out there. Here are some of the AL Sport.

Edjelly.com reviews the Kaweco AL Sport Black Aluminum.

Mint reviews the AL Sport Raw Aluminum on FPN.

The Clicky Post reviews the AL Sport in blue.

The Pen Addict reviews the AL Sport.

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Review: Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket

Franklin Christoph Model 40 PocketGoing into the Washington DC show I had my eye on the Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket and the Mike Masuyama ground Needlepoint nib, although maybe not together. F-C offers specialty nibs ground by Mike Masuyama as a option with their pens and the price bump is extremely reasonable, in my opinion. I wanted to see both in person and try them before buying since I had specific expectations from each.

[See an update I made on Nov. 16, 2013 at the bottom.]

Why I Got It

I was looking for a pen I could carry in my pants pocket. Most of the time when I grab a pen from my shirt pocket for a quick note I prefer the thinnest nib possible since the paper varies widely and I often want to write a tiny note. I don’t always have a shirt pocket or want a pen there, so a pants pocket pen was on my list.

After trying the needlepoint at the F-C booth I found it was smoother than other XXF or needlepoints I used. It wrote great when a light touch was used. I decided to get it in this pen because I thought a needlepoint nib would be a perfect pocket carry. When I made notes in my pocket notebook I wanted a thin line, the thinner the better so I could write small. I didn’t think I’d use it much in a full size pen carried as one of the pens in my pen case. The clip-less, small pen was perfectly sized for a pants pocket.

I wasn’t too concerned about accidents or breakage as long as the pen was sturdy. I’d used eye dropper fills enough to have confidence that this wouldn’t leak if I converted it. This pen seemed sturdy. I was looking for a screw on cap which this pen has. Even if it leaks, all the seams are inside the screwed on cap which provides another barrier.

What I Got

It’s the Model 40 Pocket, in the “Smoke & Ice”, without a clip. It’s currently $134.50 with the specialty nib. With a standard nib it’s $119.50. (free worldwide shipping)

The Numbers

  • Length capped: 4.265″ (108.34 mm)
  • Length uncapped: 3.786″ (96.18 mm)
  • Length posted: 5.265″ (133.74 mm)
  • Section length: 1.071″ (27.20 mm)
  • Section diameter (near threads): 0.359″ (9.13 mm)
  • Section diameter (near nib): 0.444″ (11.28 mm)
  • Barrel diameter: 0.512″ (13.02 mm)
  • Cap diameter: 0.587″ (14.92 mm)
  • Cap length: 2.657″ (67.50 mm)

Using the Pen

While I can write a quick without posting the pen, it really does need to be posted when used. The pen may be short when not posted, but unlike other small pens the gripping section is full size. So when posted the pen is comfortable to hold. The cap posts securely although is held in place with only friction. My only concern is that it’s the threads making contact with the barrel. While they where down over time? I can’t say, only time will tell but the pen is solidly made. Will the threads scratch the pen body? They haven’t so far so I’m not concerned about this anymore.

I’ve been carrying the pen since getting it. I often forget to add it to my “daily carry” post unless I just happened to add ink at the same time, but I always have it. This review’s been a long time coming because finding a suitable ink has taken awhile and I’m still not completely satisfied. But more on this later.

I used the supplied ink cartridge for the first few days but soon converted the pen to a eyedropper fill (ED) and I’ve been using it this way since. The conversion is simple, a little silicon grease around the threads is all that’s needed. I do like the way the ink looks in the barrel and I really want to find a bright ink that also gets along with the nib but I’m still looking. There’s no convertor available since the pen is small. I don’t like the look of convertors in clear pens anyway. The frosted finish of the pen tends to blur the cartridges shape making it appear more as a bit of color rather than an ink filled piece of plastic which is a nice effect.

I carry the pen in my pants pockets. I’m in the habit of putting it in nib up but it doesn’t stay that way very long. It’s generally in the pocket that doesn’t have metal objects like keys and a pocket knife. But it may share the pocket with my cell phone. The plastic pen, which has the added benefit of rounded edges, hasn’t scratched the phone and seems unlikely to do so. The cap is secure, with just normal tightening, and hasn’t worked it’s way loose. With the exception of one ink, I haven’t had any problems with ink leaking from the nib into the cap as the pen jostles around in my pants pocket.There is some ink dots on occasion, but no worse than when I carry pens in my bag. I’m sure the needlepoint nib helps here.

The pen has never failed to write when I uncap it, even after it’s been unused for a couple days. Maybe bouncing around in my pocket keeps the nib wet.

One thing I noticed is that ink appears in the area between where the nib unit screws into the body and the top end of the nib unit. This happens even with an ink cartridge. At first I though this may lead to leaking from the pen. But the bottom of the nib unit seems to make a secure seal even though there’s no threads.

Cleaning the Pen

The pen seems more prone to staining than my other pens. While this varies by ink I almost always have to pull the pen apart so I can scrub some ink stain off (when used as a ED). What I find interesting is that the red and green inks cleaned easily, while the black inks were the worst. See the inks used section for more information.

The pen comes completely apart so cleaning is not hard. But it then means more silicone grease when re-assembling. Even with just the cartridge some ink worked it’s way below the threads and into the area surrounding the nib unit. It’s still sealed so there’s no leaking, but cleaning it out required removing the nib unit even when a cartridge was used.

While I’ve used pen flush in old gunked up pens, this is the first pen I’ve used it on to clean out a recent fill. It also has had regular visits to the ultrasonic cleaner.

[Update: See the Nov. 16 update below. I no longer use this as a eyedropper for various reasons.]

Inks

This has been an adventure. The needlepoint nib, pocket jostling, and variety of papers has made this challenging.

I wanted a bright ink so I started with Montblanc Burgundy Red. This had good flow most of the time but got a little thin when writing fast. I may go back to this ink, but I decided to move on to other options. This ink was in my pen over a week and I didn’t have any staining issues with it and there were only a couple spots in the cap.

My next choice was Sailor Jentle Epinard. This had good flow and a good line. It’s problem was some serious skipping when using a Doane Utility notebook which was my pocket notebook at the time. Now that I’m back to Field Notes this ink could return to the pen. It spent about a week in the pen and was also easy to clean and also put only a few spots in the cap.

I decided to try a black ink and picked Private Reserve Invincible Black. I thought it’s good flow from the nib but tendency to cling and not drip would be good for the pen. Boy, was I wrong. This ink was a disaster. By the third day there was a puddle of ink in the cap, the pen was well sealed so I’m sure it was from the nib. Despite only being in the pen a short time I had to scrub the ink from the pen and use some pen flush along with the ultrasonic cleaner. Never again in this pen (and maybe any other pen).

The last ink I used was Noodler’s X-Feather and this ink performed well, spending weeks in the pen. This ink performed well. A good line on all papers. This ink was in the pen over 3 weeks. While no where near as difficult as Invincible Black it did take some effort to remove some mild staining. Finally I needed some pen flush to remove a stubborn ring that had developed where the ink met the nib unit. To be honest, due to the thin ring and location this might have been left behind from the Invincible Black since it’s not noticeable at all when the pen is assembled.

Wrapping Up

The pen is higher maintenance than I expected, especially since I want to use it as an ED. I’ll still keep trying brighter inks but Noodler’s X-Feather has been the best behaved out of those I tried, although it did require some extra effort to clean. But I really want a brighter ink in the pen for the looks.

The needlepoint nib is nice. I’m not sure any needlepoint nib can be smooth, but on smooth paper or with a light touch it doesn’t dig in and is smooth. Flow is also good although as I I mentioned some specific paper and ink combos do affect flow. The needlepoint nib was a good choice for the way I use this pen. It wouldn’t have been a good choice on a pen I wanted as a daily writer.

I’m glad I tried the pen and nib before buying it rather than ordering it online. It had a different feel than I expected but by the time I put the money down I knew what I was getting and that it would fit with what I wanted from the pen. While I consider it a good value, the pen is not inexpensive and I’d have hated to have any disappointment.

I wholeheartedly recommend the pen if you want a pocket pen. It’s light but durable and the regular size gripping section makes it comfortable to write with. I have no qualms about  carrying it in my pants pocket as an ED. I haven’t done it, but I think it will survive quit nicely even with keys in the pocket although it is plastic so don’t blame me if it scratches. It’s harder to wholeheartedly recommend the needlepoint nib. If you know what to expect from a needlepoint nib then I would recommend this Mike Masuyama nib. But it is a needlepoint and needs a light touch.

[Update Nov. 16, 2013]

I’ve given up on using this as a eye dropper. It’s too difficult to clean. The inside of the pen is coarse, not smooth, to help with the “ice” appearance. This seems to give the ink more surface to cling too. This pen needs a dip in the ultrasonic after every fill in order to get the ink out. Without the ultrasonic it would need some scrubbing with a q-tip or something similar. Just flushing with water often wasn’t enough. And I’m concerned that my often typical month between cleaning could result in staining. Maybe that’s because of the staining from PR Invincible black.

While I expected the needlepoint nib to be finicky I hadn’t realized how often and varied situations I’d be using the pen. Noodler’s X-Feather is the only ink I found that works on all papers and surfaces.

So I’ll be trying out some cartridge to see if I can find a friendly ink to alleviate the cleaning hassle but if I don’t find one I like then I’ll go back to X-Feather.

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