These Just In – Year End Pens

I ordered four fountain pens in early December. I had money left in the pen budget and flashed back to the corporate world of use it or lose it, so I placed several orders. These are three of those four fountain pens. The fourth fountain pen, a gold nibbed Diplomat Aero, was massively delayed by USPS and just recently arrived.

These fountain pens all arrived 7 to 10 days before Christmas, but I didn’t ink them up until Christmas day. On to the pens…

Sheaffer 300 Matte Green (Fine)

photo of the Sheaffer 300 Green, capped on pen stand

As much as I love the Sheaffer pen colors and designs of the last century, I find the current designs either boring or heavy on colors that I don’t like. That changed when I saw the Matte Green 300 on the Anderson Pens podcast. I had to have the pen. The real-life pen lived up to expectations set by the video.

I had another Sheaffer 300 in metallic grey with chrome trim about 6 years ago. Eventually I gave it away after consistently passing over the pen whenever I was picking a pen to ink up. Since green is my favorite color, this pen won’t get ignored.

Despite being a sub-$70 pen ($82 MSRP), the Sheaffer 300 arrives with a classy presentation. A slightly oversized clamshell box is held in a cardboard sleeve. The sleeve has a cutout so that the Sheaffer logo printed on the clamshell box can be seen. In addition to the pen, the box contains a converter, a blue cartridge, and a black cartridge. There’s also an instruction/warranty booklet. The Sheaffer 300 uses Sheaffer’s proprietary filling system.

First Inking

photo of the Sheaffer 300 green, uncapped on pen stand

To avoid wasting ink I’ve been trying to use any included ink for my new pens. While I do praise Sheaffer for including a choice between blue and black ink cartridges, I was swearing at them for giving me two cartridges to either use or waste. I picked the black cartridge for the pen’s first ink. The blue might end up in the trash bin, or remain in the box until it dries out.

I inked up another two pens before returning to the Sheaffer 300 to use it. The fountain pen wrote well, a nice smooth true-to-size fine steel nib. Then I noticed my left hand was covered with ink stains (I’m a righty). I couldn’t see any ink inside the cap, or extra ink on the nib or section. Then I noticed even more ink in my left hand. While hard to see on the matte green in subdued lighting, there was a coating of ink on the outside of the cap. So, I cleaned the cap under the faucet and scrubbed the ink off. While cleaning the cap, I noticed water flowing through the cap from around the clip. Since it isn’t watertight, it certainly isn’t airtight.

There’s an inner plastic cap that is held in place by a metal screw at the top of the cap. After cleaning the cap, and verifying that the cartridge is secure the pen was ready to use again. The nib and section were secure, as was the cartridge. I haven’t had a problem since. I never confirmed what the problem was, so I can only guess. Whatever it was, it hasn’t returned and the pen has been leak-free. So the problem is moot. I did inspect the Sheaffer 300 thoroughly the day it arrived, so it certainly didn’t arrive covered in ink.

Using the Sheaffer 300

photo of a Sheaffer 300 writing sample

The snap-on cap is easy to take off and replace. There’s a nice solid click when the pen is capped. There’s just enough resistance when removing the cap. All this gives the Sheaffer 300 a nice, solid feel. Although I don’t post my pens, this one is designed to post and does so securely. The end of the pen has a shallow lip that the inner cap snaps onto. It almost makes me wish that I did post my pens. It’s a nice attention to detail.

I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler. The Sheaffer 300 is held firmly in place by the cushion. If I forcefully push the cap into the cushion, I can uncap and use the pen with one hand. Despite this, I typically soft-cap the pen during use. The ink stays wet on the nib and doesn’t evaporate. This includes the time I walked away and left the pen soft-capped for a couple of hours.

The nib has been more prone to evaporation when I pause while writing. The ink will dry off the tip of the nib in under a minute, causing skipping on the next stroke of the nib. Skipping after a pause is a bit annoying. It’s January, and the heating has dried the air in my apartment, which has no doubt affected the pen. Even my previously problem-free pens have been drying out quicker than usual.

In my original Sheaffer 300 review, I mentioned that I found the nib too short and stubby, unlike the classic Sheaffer nibs that I love. I have the same opinion of the nib six years later. I mean stubby as in a visual sense, not the nib grind.

Speaking of the nib grind, I got a fine nib. A medium nib is also available. Both options are steel only.

The nib is a smooth writer and very enjoyable to use. I mentioned skipping after pausing a minute or more, but other than that the writing experience has been problem-free. I’m extremely happy with this Sheaffer 300. Unlike the original, now passed on grey version, this green model will get noticed and won’t be passed over.

Lamy Safari USA Independence Day (Medium)

photo of the Lamy Safari USA Independence Day, capped on a pen stand

The name is a bit unruly, so I’ll stick with calling it the Lamy Safari USA.

Based on the name I assume it came out before July 4th. An internet search turned up reviews from 2019, so this pen is at least a year-and-a-half old. Yet, it didn’t come to my attention until November or December when I saw it on a Pen Chalet sale page. I eventually picked it up at the sale price. The price dropped even further during a year-end sale, so clearly, this model wasn’t moving.

While patriotically named, and with special packaging, nothing about this pen screams “USA”. It would fit in as a patriotic purchase in any of the other 27 countries with red, white, and blue national flags.

I’ve owned many Safaris and AL-Stars over the years, but currently have only three safaris remaining, including this one. The others have a matte finish to them, making them appear less like plastic pens. The Safari USA is shiny plastic, and in my opinion, makes it look a little cheap. Still, I do like the bright colors.

The Lamy Safari USA arrived in a custom red/white/blue cardboard box, rather than the typical flimsy Lamy slotted box. While more substantial than the typical Lamy box, it is still a small, simple box without a lot of wasted space. Both easy to store and easy/cheap to ship. Some Amazon reviews mention that the buyer received the pen in the typical Lamy box, lending credence to other Amazon reviews that claim to have received a counterfeit pen.

Compared to the textured plastic of the two Safaris that I already have, the smooth, bright plastic of this pen makes it look cheaper. Although, it isn’t any different than other glossy Safaris that I’ve owned.

I bought this fountain pen with a medium nib, the only option that was available to me from Pen Chalet. It may be that this was the only nib option offered by Lamy. The pen included a blue ink cartridge for the proprietary filling system. No converter is included.

First Inking

photo of the Lamy Safari USA Independence Day, uncapped on a pen stand

As is my current practice, I popped in the included Lamy ink cartridge. The ink had reached the nib by the time I was ready to use the pen.

I do have a supply of other Lamy nib sizes but decided to stick with the medium nib for now. I always like to use a pen before making any changes, this way I know who to blame for any out-of-the-box problems.

Using the Lamy Safari

photo of the Lamy Safari USA Independence Day medium nib writing sample

The Lamy Safari USA is just like every other Safari that I’ve used. I find the triangular grip a natural, comfortable fit for my hand. I’ve had good out-of-the-box experiences with every Lamy I’ve owned, except for the flagship Lamy 2000, and this pen did not disappoint. It performs well and has been free of skipping and hard starts. It’s also nice and smooth.

I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler recently. The Lamy Safari stayed ready to write, even when soft-capped for a couple of hours. The pen fits securely. Although, it is not so secure that it can be uncapped without having to hold the cap in place.

While they’ve never completely pulled me in, I’ve never had any complaints about Lamy Safari fountain pens and I can understand their popularity. That said, but I wouldn’t have bought the pen if it wasn’t on sale while I was in the mood to buy a pen.

Retro 51 Lincoln (1.1mm Stub)

photo of the Retro 51 Lincoln, capped on a pen stand

With Retro 51 winding down operations I decided to look into any available fountain pens. I’ve had two of their fountain pens in the past and was disappointed in them both. The first, a Double-Eight, was poorly built and quickly fell apart with normal use. The second was this same model(Review). While the build quality was better than the Double-Eight, the nib was much too wet for my tastes.

I came across some comments that Retro 51 had changed their nibs. Details, such as when they made the change, and what the changes were, were lacking but I decided to risk it and hope a current model would be better.

Against better judgment, I ordered a Retro 51 Lincoln with a 1.1mm Stub nib. A 1.1mm stub nib is not suitable for me. It’s much too wide for me. But, I’ve been trying other nib styles and have found them fun to use, if not as an everyday writer. I was already placing an order with Pen Chalet, and the only option they had available was the 1.1mm stub, so I ordered one.

The Retro 51 Lincoln fountain pen arrived in generic Retro 51 packaging. A converter and two black cartridges are included, along with an instruction pamphlet.

First Inking

photo of the Retro 51 Lincoln, uncapped on a pen stand

I removed the cartridge from the barrel and popped it into the pen. The ink made it to the nib by the time I was ready to use the pen.

I noticed a rattle in the pen as I used it. My first reflex was “poor build quality again”, but then I realized there was probably a second ink cartridge in the pen. I opened the pen and the second cartridge fell out. It was stuck in there when I took the first cartridge out.

Writing With The Retro 51 Lincoln

photo of the Retro 51 Lincoln writing sample

I don’t have much to say here. The 1.1mm stub is too wide for me, but I knew this going in. That said, I do find the nib to be true to size, with a nice even flow.

The Lincoln is not an oversize pen, but the metal barrel does give it some heft. I find heavier pens more comfortable to use for extended writing sessions. I do like the feel of the Lincoln. The gripping section is smooth plastic. I suppose this could get slick in summer, or with extended writing sessions, but I haven’t had any issues in the dry indoor air.

I have experienced some hard starts, but I blame this on the dry, indoor air more than the pen. Even usually problem-free pens have been drying out faster than normal when I pause my writing, I’ve had to keep my pauses under 1 minute. Any longer and I’ll probably get skipping on the first stroke when the nib returns to paper.

I’ve been using the Penwell Traveler with the Retro 51 Lincoln. The pen fits securely. I can unscrew the cap with one hand. I can also leave the pen soft-capped for a couple of hours and the nib stays ready.

Wrapping up

Of these three fountain pens, the Sheaffer 300 Matte Green is my clear favorite.

The Retro 51 Lincoln has an antique brass finish that I love. I do regret my nib choice a bit. The 1.1mm stub is not an everyday nib for me, but the pen looks good enough to use every day, I’d like to carry it in my Nock Co Fodderstack XL along with its rollerball sibling. I may try a nib swap, or since it’s only a $50 pen, look for an extra-fine nibbed version.

The Lamy Safari USA will probably get the least use. I like the colors, yet as I mentioned, Safaris never seem to pull me in.

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.

Retro 51 Accumulation

Photo of my current Retro 51 accumulation

It seems I don’t give my Retro 51 pens the attention they deserve. They are scattered around various briefcases, computer bags, desks, and other flat surfaces. They’re very much out of sight, out of mind. A couple of months ago a pen case with 5 of my Metalsmith series Retros turned up, and I had to admit I had forgotten about the pens. They aren’t listed on my pen accumulation page or in my electronic pen inventory. Retro 51 pens deserve better treatment than this.

I finally decided to inventory all my Retro 51s. This turned up one I had completely forgotten about, I went to my car to get the green lacquer Retro but found that I had replaced it with the Retro 51 Surf. The green lacquer was on a counter with a dry ink cartridge. It went dry, and I forgot about it before I got a refill.

I’ve been decluttering my apartment using the rule that if I come across something forgotten and unused for years, it needs to go away. I’m breaking this rule with the Retros, they’ll all be staying. Instead, I collected them all up and will keep them in a single pen case and track I went through my email and verified I had all the ones with a purchase record and I’m not aware of any others, so I think I have them all. That said, I had no purchase record of the Surf and did not remember it until I stumbled upon it. So there may be one or more forgotten pens still under a couch cushion. Eventually I’ll add them to my pen database, but for now having them in one case will be an improvement.

I should mention that the official name is “Retro 51 Tornado…”, but I’m dropping the Tornado.

Here’s my Retro 51 accumulation.

Starting with the pen tray, going left to right.

Retro 51 Green Lacquer: This was my very first Retro 51. I think I bought it after a discussion on an early Pen Addict podcast. I picked it because the lacquers were the least expensive model, and it’s green. This pen is historically the one I leave in the car, which is why I went there to get it. It’s my only Retro with a chipped barrel (although not visible in the photo). It is a pen that is tossed around and kept in a pocket or briefcase with keys, so the chip isn’t unexpected.

Retro 51 Montana (a.k.a. Ugly Sweater Pen): My favorite Retro 51 for a reason I can’t explain. Someone was trying to sell one for $130 on eBay, so I guess I’m not alone. (FYI: It didn’t sell.)

Retro 51 Terabyte: A limited edition from Anderson Pens. Another favorite since it’s green and has a computer theme.

Retro 51 Play Ball: This is the rollerball (recently swapped to gel) that currently travels in my Nock Co Fodderstack XL. After all, it is baseball season. I love the intricate design of the pen, based on baseball terms and phrases.

The next six pens are all part of the Vintage Metalsmith series. The series was an early obsession of mine, and I wanted them all up to a certain point. To me, the Albert and Dr. Gray may be called Vintage Metalsmith, but they don’t seem to fit into the design aesthetic of the series. They are more like Tribute or Deluxe edition pens.

My Vintage Metalsmith series pens are:

  • Roosevelt
  • Monroe: My only Retro 51 eBay purchase. I skipped this when it was released but found it on eBay for a reasonable price.
  • Jefferson
  • Franklin
  • Lincoln: I think this was my second Retro 51, although it might have been third, after the Stealth. I like the antique copper finish. The Lincoln is the pen that hooked me on the Vintage Metalsmith series. I also have the fountain pen version of this pen.
  • Betsy: This is where the Metalsmith began to veer from the original design aesthetic. I had forgotten it was part of the series until I looked it up for the inventory. I like the pen, and it usually comes out in July for obvious reasons. For non-Americans – Betsy Ross is typically credited with making the first American flag.

Retro 51 Liftoff: Space-themed pen designed to look like a rocket. I love it.

Retro 51 Apollo: A sentimental favorite. I was born days before President Kennedy’s speech to Congress proposing the goal of landing a man on the moon. The Apollo program started that same year, and I grew up watching it on the news (well, at least when they were getting close to landing on the moon) and was fascinated by it. It’s yet another attractive design that I love.

Now the pens above the tray, from top to bottom.

Retro 51 Stealth. I had to have the stealth version. The finish has held up well.

Retro 51 Tiki Kona: A bamboo pen with a Tiki head design. I like the intricate design, but on mine, the clip is slightly off center to the nose. The slight angle hides it in the photo, but I’ve seen it and can’t unsee it, so it bugs me. Like the regular bamboo pen, the Tiki Kona is slightly larger than the typical Retro 51.

Retro 51 Bamboo: I like the slightly larger girth along with the feel of the bamboo.

Retro 51 Vintage Surf: The forgotten pen. The Surf is another wooden pen that’s slightly thicker than the typical Tornado.

Retro 51 Hot Coffee: Another vendor exclusive pen, this time for Goldspot. I had to get a pen with a coffee theme.

So that’s my accumulation of 17 Retro 51 Rollerball pens. I previously linked to Mary’s post about a gel refill for the pens. I have the gel refills in three of the pens. The Play Ball has red, the Terabyte has green and the Tiki has black. The remainder all have Schmidt P8126 0.6 mm refills, rather than the original P8127 0.7mm refills. I still have the original refills and may revert to using them in some pens to be less wasteful.

Happy Fourth of July

July Fourth Retro 51s - Betsy Ross and Lift-Off

Happy Independence Day to my fellow American readers. It seems these two pens are a more appropriate carry for today than my usual fountain pen. I can probably go a whole day without using a fountain pen, especially since it’s BBQ and picnics. Although I suspect I’ll pull out a fountain pen to write a few notes to avoid withdrawal.