Turning Japanese, I Really Think So…

27 06 2020

Big day today.

All the pen connoisseurs rave about the large Japanese brands – Sailor, Platinum, Pilot…

Personally, I tend to find them a bit boring and conservative on the whole, but I take nothing away from their level of quality or engineering technique. They just didn’t seem to be for me. And they don’t come cheap either, so laying out large quantities of my only theoretically disposable income on something I don’t absolutely adore seems, well, unwise.

But today things changed.

Today I spent bigly and bought a Japanese fountain pen. And I love it.

I spent over a thousand in fact! To be exact – 1,090. OK that’s in Yen, but in Canadian money it came to $27.89 with taxes. I bought a MUJI aluminium fountain pen with a fine nib, and it is significantly better than I might have expected for that price.


Image Source: MUJI.com

It is a thing of singularly straightforward, uncluttered yet smart design. It’s a simple cylinder of brushed aluminium with a steel clip. The section is machined with a fine hatching to give a nice grip, and despite the light metal construction I actually found it sat comfortably in my hand.

The cap is unusual in that it clips positively over both the nib and when posted not over the body, but into cleverly recessed grooves. This means that when the cap is closed or when using the pen posted, there is no interruption to the smooth cylindrical design. This looks like an engineering tool as much as a modern functional pen.

It came supplied with a single standard international cartridge. Black. I’m not a big fan of cartridges so on opening the low impact packaging I immediately tried to fit a standard ink converter instead. Neither of the two “standard” converters I own fit well though. I read in several places that this pen is a little fussy and that Schmidt K2 and K5 were good options but that a Pelikan converter was the most snug fit. One is now on order from Cult Pens, but in the meantime I’ll make do with the standard cartridge.

I hedged my bets and paid 50c at the local Save-On-Foods pharmacy for a syringe and needle so I can refill the cartridge with some more interesting colours while I’m waiting for the Royal Mail and Canada Post to get around to delivering the converter.

So what else can I tell you? Well, the business end is almost certainly a Schmidt #5 iridium point steel nib. Except for the omission of the word “Schmidt”, the markings are identical to the FH241 nib unit pictured below.


Schmidt FH241 nib unit. Image Source: JetPens

It writes very smoothly and being German as opposed to Japanese it really is a Fine and not one of those Asian fine Fines. I was also pleasantly surprised to find it had a bit of flex to it. I’m not a big flex user, but it was nice to know it was there if I felt the desire to invoke it.

Early days yet, but I think I’m going to like my new pen very much indeed.



Some flex available in this straightforward nib.

But is it art? (And does it matter anyway?)

26 06 2020

So in my usual obsessive manner I’ve “turned it up to 11” with my latest interest – fountain pens. Inks, paper, the pens themselves (ancient and modern), you get the idea.
I’m self-aware enough to know it’ll pass. It’ll innevitably morph into some adjacent interest and wither untouched for a while. I know it’ll come around again though. Like a slow-turning merry-go-round. Or maybe it stays stationary, and I’m the goldfish going round. Pick your metaphor. Or your nose. However the mood takes you. Who am I to dictate your behaviour?
Anyway, not being one to waste resources, I have a small stack of used – but not yet TOO used – paper towel sheets that have been used variously to wipe nibs or deal with ink-related mishaps… not always before Mrs E spotted something awry though.
Just gazing down at them now I realised that some of them actually look quite interesting. Now I’m no Jackson Pollock, but some of them do have a certain je ne sait quois…

Girl in the Galactic Sun

22 06 2020

So I got this random email from Air Canada (who unlike Air Transat are not currently holding on to several hundred dollars of mine for a flight they didn’t take me on and won’t refund, despite it being well established consumer law). They are offering Netflix-like streaming to Aeroplan members of a a few dozen artsy films like you’d be able to watch on a seat-back were you actually able to fly somewhere with them. Canadian films, French language, First Nations, Whistler Film Festival… lots of niche stuff.

Amongst it all was a short from Heather Perluzzo called Girl in the Galactic Sun. If you’re an Aeroplan member you’ll be able to access all 10 minutes 41 seconds of it. If not, you can see the trailer on YouTube. It’s a Vancouver Film School low budget film, but it has a powerful story packed into its short runtime.

More details on IMDB, if you’re interested.

New Writing Stuff!

22 06 2020

So yesterday I continued my perpetual hunt for a reasonably priced case for my growing collection of fountain pens. As with most “niche” things, the prices asked for them typically far outweigh the value to me. Yesterday’s hunt took us to DeSerres in Burnaby. They had some interesting stuff, but it felt a bit lacklustre to be honest. The staff were very helpful though, and were only too pleased to open up sealed packages to let me examine the interior of the few cases they were stocking.

On the way out, Mrs E spotted the notebooks and though I briefly had a Rhodia notebook in my hand, I was ultimately drawn to a Fabriano EcoQua dot notebook. Actually, it’s more of a pad with tear-off pages, but they’re printed double-sided with a dot pattern and are A5, 85g/m². It was a mere CA$5, and though I had no high expectation at that price, I must say I am downright impressed so far!

No feathering or bleed through with a selection of inks and nibs, and I’m lovin’ it! At least as good a fountain pen writing experience as my recently acquired (at much more expense) Clairefontaine notebook.

EcoQua dotted notebook

Image Source: DeSerres

Basking in this new acquisition, I was further rewarded today by a long awaited package from Goulet Pens in the States. This was some LAMY Turmaline 2020 special edition ink (to match a pen I previously bought for Mrs E.) and a red Clairefontaine notebook… which I’m ever so slightly regretting now.

A quick dip in the LAMY ink with the end of a plastic chopstick to do a swab test and I was at first disappointed that it seemed the same as the LAMY Amazonite she already has. As it dried though, there’s definitely a brighter, slightly more green tint to it. Now I love it, and I’m hoping she doesn’t notice how quickly it’ll seem to evaporate…


Recent writing acquisitions – note brightness difference between Turmaline and Amazonite swabs

Elysian Fields

20 06 2020

Years ago I was gifted a fountain pen when I was asked to be a friend’s best man. Around 1991, if I recall. I knew nothing of the brand at the time, and though the nib declares itself as an M, I found it decidedly F-like, and at the time totally unsuitable to my writing style. Sadly therefore, it languished in the back of a drawer, though happily it wasn’t discarded in our move to Canada, and I recently rediscovered it.

It’s a sleek matte black élysée series 60 Dynamic, and now I know a little more about fountain pens in general I have come to respect and appreciate it a lot more. I’ve even come to realise my writing looks a lot better (not yet “good”, but better) with a nib on the F side of M, and this one now comes a close second to my Sheaffer Sagaris with its steel but smooth F nib.

So, thanks largely to the research performed and kindly shared via the Internet by N. Dean Meyer, I’ve learnt a lot more of this slimline little beauty.

Firstly, let me precis the company’s history from N. Dean Meyer’s research.

Despite the decidedly gallic name, élysée is in fact a German brand, though sadly now defunct.


Late 1920s: Jeweller Paul Dummert founded R. Dummert Co. in Pforzheim, Germany.

January, 1974: As the global economy slipped into recession, Reinhold, Paul’s son, sold the company to watchmakers Heinz Benzinger and Wolfgang Klein. They focused on writing instruments with plated finishes and sold primarily to international firms that had their own brands.

1975: A lacquered instrument line was developed, an innovation that encouraged the company to create its own brand.

1980: The brand “élysée” was registered (despite the prior registration of “Elysee” by the Pforzheim-based watch-maker owned by jewellery-maker Harer).

October, 1981: The firm R. Dummert officially presented the “élysée” brand at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That year, it introduced the 60, 70, and 80 Lines. At that time, the logo (derived from “D” for Dummert) was introduced; it persisted unchanged through until the end of the brand.

April 1, 1991: Staedtler took over 100% of the company, which was renamed élysée Schreibgeräte GmbH. Management moved from Pforzheim to Nuremberg in late 1991, and Dummert KG was dissolved in 1992.

June 30, 2000: With a falling stock market production ceased and élysée disappeared as a brand. The “lifetime” élysée warranty ceased at the end of 2002.

The 60 series, and my matte black Dynamic model in particular was in production from around 1983 to approximately 1994. It was available in matte finishes with epoxy lacquer and stainless steel in Black / Blue / Burgundy / Brown / Steel Gold Trim / Steel Chrome Trim (nib chrome plated). It has a characteristic flat 14K gold-plated steel nib, slender body, spherical top, clip attached to top, metal section threads, and a length of 136mm.

All products were designed and specified by élysée. The production of the parts was outsourced from companies like Mutschler, including stamping, lacquering, plating, nib assemblies, etc. élysée then assembled, finished and distributed.

Like my own example, I read that several owners find their 60 series pens prone to rusting on the barrel trim near the nib assembly.


My black élysée series 60 Dynamic clearly showing the top-attached clip with branding


Close-up of cap showing etched name and “modified D” logo along with top-attached clip and matte lacquered finish


Close-up of cap showing “Germany” impression. Manufactured after reunification in 1989.


Close-up of cap showing “élysée” impression on opposite side to “Germany”.


Close-up of flat gold nib, showing logo and M. Note some failing of plating around barrel trim

Source and further reading: N. Dean Meyer.

There’s also an excellent write-up at 7heDaniel.

Brigitte Baldrian

19 06 2020

So, the great gods of physics allowed me another birthday last month, and as ever my lovely offspring celebrated it in their own diverse ways. I got a new barbeque out of it, so I’m not complaining.

Second born currently resides in Vienna and the COVID-induced postal delays meant I only just received the card she’d sent today. Postmark was 19th May, so a month in transit exactly. It was actually a postcard she’d found with an anthropomorphic image of a ram in man’s clothing – King Emmerich. (She has a vaguely concerning thing about sheep, but that’s a post for another day.) A rather phallic pear is also present in the image, but that may just be my over-active imagination. The artist was new to me – Brigitte Baldrian.


König Emmerich by Brigette Baldrian: Image Source BrigitteBaldrian.com

I headed straight over to her web site and found a press release which told me a little more…

She has a studio with Harald Hackel and they focus on illustration and graphic design. Their niche is in the field of nature conservation, environmental and eco-education and they work with national parks, environmental protection organizations as well as publishers and magazines. Their work is entirely analogue, with brushes and paint – a craft that is becoming rarer today. They also produce ecologically sustainable card games, picture books and fine paper goods… like my postcard!

Their products are plastic-free and are largely made from recycled paper and exclusively in Austria, mainly the Waldviertel region.

Brigitte Baldrian is originally a biologist and trained horticulturist. Her specialty is nature and picture book illustration. Her work ranges from detailed natural motifs to playful animal cartoons. Her painting is very detailed with vivid watercolor paints on paper, as well as weatherproof works on external facades. She’s stayed connected to the Waldviertel region since childhood.

Find a little more at www.BrigitteBaldrian.com, as well as the option of buying her whimsical products.

Produkte Brigitte Baldrian 2017

Brigitte Baldrian. Image Source: BrigitteBaldrian.com

Love it or hate it

18 06 2020

I saw a typically clever Marmite ad online the other day. If you’re not familiar with Marmite, all I can suggest is you study particle physics instead. It’ll be easier to explain. The rest of us will just quietly continue…

It was making reference to the fact that the source material (spent brewer’s yeast) was currently in short supply and the larger size jars were temporarily unavailable.

It reminded me that many things are quite polarising, especially in the arts. Indeed, as I type this I’m listening to “Too much  too young” by the Specials as Mrs E looks on with undisguised distate.

The works of Roger Waters fall into this category, I found. Ex of Pink Floyd, and no doubt drawing his old age pension, he’s still producing music and touring. I’d bought tickets for my son and I to see him in Vancouver this autumn. COVID put an end to that, so we’ll see how outrageous Ticketmaster behaves when it comes to rescheduling/refunds.

Many people find his music repetitive or dirge-like, but personally I love the imagery of his lyrics. Admittedly they can be a bit self-indulgent sometimes, but I still love the imagery.

Take the lines from “4.50 AM (Go Fishing)” on “Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking”:

You adopted a fox cub
Whose mother was somebody’s coat

There’s mention of Eeyore and Pooh in the song too! Classic word-weaving.

Anyway, Spotify served up one of his later pieces from “Amused to Death”. It’s not what you’d call a light spirited album but again, I find the word pictures very evocative. Given the times we live in, I thought the lyrics for “Too much rope” particularly relevant.

Muslim or Christian, Mullah or Pope
Preacher or poet who was it wrote
Give any one species too much rope
And they’ll fuck it up

Love it. Hate it. Just don’t waste it!

Tea and Women

17 06 2020

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (Maybe)

It seems one can’t have too many fountain pens after all!

17 06 2020

My very first fountain pen was a plastic bodied Parker 45.

11 year old me thought it was soooo fancy because it had a gold, medium width nib and a stainless steel cap (more properly “Lustraloy”). To this day, it writes with a sublime smoothness, though it has suffered from the slight collapse in the section that stalks the Parker 45 due to the cap’s clutch being a little too aggressive for the plastic section’s softness. Unfortunately my handwriting could never do it justice, but I still love that pen.

My contemporaries at school often had the more modern-looking (late 70’s – all things are relative) Parker 25 with it’s all metal Flighter design.


Parker 25 Flighters (i.e. steel bodies) – unfortunately not a mating pair

Over the years I’ve come to realise that there were in fact many variations on my basic black Parker 45, and amongst them was indeed an all-metal Flighter. There’s also a Flighter with a black plastic end, but my preference had always been for “the full metal jacket”. Today, The Pen Workshop near Aylesbury, UK delivered my dream pen. Paul Baker there kindly listened to my preferences and found the perfect match. He even located a pen with a section that shows minimal caving, and managed to find me one with a fine nib. The cap has the all important “Made in England” imprint and a lack of letter stamps puts it as likely pre-1980. I think I’ll just gaze a bit longer before inking it up.


New Old Parker 25 Flighter, c1980

Pen number two started out as simply an “oh, that looks nice” moment whilst perusing for the Parker. It has a gorgeous green marbling which I ultimately found irresistible. Never having heard of the Wyvern brand previously, I did a bit of research and discovered that my parents actually used these Wyvern Perfect Pen Nº 81’s back at high school in the early ’50s, and so with little more than that connection and a desire to own a small bit of British pen history, I added it to my shopping cart at www.penworkshop.co.uk.

Wyvern is long gone now, closing its factory in 1955. Founded in Leicester, the Wyvern Pen Company was named after the mythical creature that appeared in the crest of the borough. According to Wikipedia:

A white (Argent) wyvern formed the crest of the Borough of Leicester as recorded at the heraldic visitation of Leicestershire in 1619: “A wyvern sans legs argent strewed with wounds gules, wings expanded ermine.”

Production of pens began back in the 1890s and Wyvern made several models as well as manufacturing nibs for other pen companies and promotional pens for a variety of campaigns.

The barrel still has the faint imprint of “WYVERN Perfect Pen Nº 81” despite its ~70 year age. I hope I look this good when I’m that old!


WYVERN Perfect Pen Nº 81 in green marble finish

The End

16 06 2020

The quick brown fox – dropped dead.

Just like that.

Heart attack they say. Too much jumping.

The lazy dog forgot to go to the funeral. Not much of a friend when it mattered.