Polyglots I have known…

13 05 2022

As I sit here in what was once “the play room”, I reflect on how my three wonderful offspring beat several shades of shit out of each other in this very room and in so doing learnt the finer points of tolerance and overcoming sibling rivalry. Politics as we adults call it. We were not smothering parents and largely let them find their own paths through life as long as it was unlikely to involve the Police. All three bear physical scars from some of those lessons (concussions from rugby, leg scars from careless interactions with ice skates, gaps in eyebrows due to childhood face plants), but they are amongst the finest human beings I am privileged to know.

Also – they all speak at least one other language fluently. The middle one speaks at least three in addition to English to my knowledge. Possibly four – not quite sure about the Spanish.

As I type, I can hear Mrs. E. adding Portuguese to her own repertoire via Duolingo in the other room. We joke it is in preparation for our next trip to Madeira. Last time we made do with “thank-you” and “bus-stop”. Paltry fare indeed.

Embracing other cultures and the way they speak to one another is important to the fam jam. We’ve always enjoyed travelling and learning. One of the offspring lives in Montréal, another in Salzburg, Austria, where they both speak fluently in other languages in their everyday lives.

Myself, I have a smattering of schoolboy French and German. I can remember very little of the Latin I studied though it unexpectedly emerges from my hind brain and helps when I’m reading menus in exciting unfamiliar countries. My greatest achievement is learning “thank-you” in a dozen or so countries though. Not much I admit, but it’s better than nothing, and likely more appreciated than fluently conversing about the spot price of fugu and the location of the nearest emergency hospital.

But the point of this posting is the terrible events currently occurring in Ukraine. We “cut the cord” a few months ago and no longer get broadcast TV. It works very well for us (and my wallet), but sometimes I miss the current news and sadly the Canadian news outlets (CBC – looking at you) have largely moved on and barely mention the continuing atrocities being meted out on a sovereign European state. There’s lots of ice hockey being broadcast though – got to get one’s priorities right!

But then we discovered DW (Deutsche Welle) on our Roku, and hit pay-dirt. DW is a German government funded news outlet, but it doesn’t broadcast within Germany. They offer many foreign language programmes, and our particular interest is that they do a daily 25 minute precis of the world’s news in English. It’s produced in Berlin and is Europe-centric though with a global reach. It’s similar in style to the BBC, but unlike the BBC is readily available without fees from here in Canada via our lovely Roku. Their web site even offers German language courses for free.

And the polyglots? Ah – that is the real point of my posting. Here is a German government-funded news outlet, typically hosted by American or occasionally English talking heads interviewing people from all over the world (currently about Ukraine and EU politics, gas pipelines, etc.) in English. And these interviewees all speak flawless English, frequently with complex idioms and quirky turns of phrase illustrating complete comfort with the language. Some are professional journalists or national politicians who no doubt often present in English, but others are academics, analysts or simply people impacted by the events being discussed.

I realise they would only invite people with good English skills, given the medium, but I am humbled by the number of languages many people have at their command. It is so sad that many English-speakers don’t see the need or attraction in learning other languages. There is a theory that THINKING in another language can open you up to new ideas, as your brain strings thoughts together in a slightly different way. Intriguing concept.

I am far too impatient to formally learn another language (a common excuse I’m sure), but I am grateful for the basic command I have of French and German, and am totally open to carrying around a phrase book and stumbling my way through interactions in foreign countries rather than simply “talking louder in English” until I get what I want. Saying thank-you isn’t much, but whenever I go somewhere new, it is the first thing I acquire – before even leaving the airport.

So, with that said, I’m off to see what Brent Goff has to tell me tonight, and no doubt be humbled once more by someone speaking better English than me with a slight accent.





The good and the bad… but at least they’re not ugly.

19 02 2022

Late in 2021 my family asked – as is traditional at that time of year – what I’d like for Christmas. Christmas fills 50% of the occasions (my birthday being the other) that I’m allowed to ask for pens and not cause a reflex reaction of an eyebrow (or two) being raised in some small degree of apoplexy.

It’s well known that I have “a thing” for pens in matte black – ideally with all black furniture and a black nib too. They’re colloquially called “stealth” style… or as Mrs E. calls them “oh, I see you’ve got another black pen to go with all the others”. But they are all different in their ways, as we shall see if you care to peruse further, dear reader….

So, mid-February, and Cult Pens in the UK finally received the stock to fulfill the orders they’d pre-sold in December and shipped on to the eagerly waiting QE here in Canada. I received a pair of “stealth” pens that are very different from each other indeed.

First up is a Parker IM from their achromatic range… the matte black option of course. I’ve got a soft spot for Parker, even though they are a very different company under Newell Rubbermaid. Gone are the days of elegant understated quality, and in are the money grabbing margin junkies that have bought out (or even relaunched) some of the great marques of the fountain pen world.

The neat box that the pen comes in displays the royal warrant emblems showing that both Queenie and Chaz are users of their wares, but then I recall Rentokill also displays the same, so it’s no big deal in and of itself.

Royal warrants – Parker IM packaging

Turning the box around, and I’m shocked to discover that the IM is manufactured in China, and not, as I’d naïvely assumed, Nantes, France (long gone are the Newhaven days)! I read on the great Parker history resource ParkerPens.net that production largely moved to Shanghai when the Newhaven factory closed in 2010.

Global supply chains

Now, please don’t get me wrong – I have nothing inherently against items manufactured in China: it was merely unexpected. Many western brands have either moved their manufacturing operations to China or have contracted companies already established there to provide manufacturing for them. Either sub-assemblies or entire products. Indeed my own employer, a well known American brand, produces high quality, high complexity technology, supplied to an international market, and makes it in a plant in Shanghai.

There is nothing inherently poor quality in either materials or fabrication merely because an item is manufactured in China. But the opportunity is undeniably there if a company is looking to shave some money out of the cost and increase its margins. But let us continue…

The achromatic IM was a gift suggestion, based on little other than the fact it was all black and made by Parker. I was pretty confident that it would be a middle of the road “office pen”, nothing fancy, but a good solid offering from a favourite vendor. Opening the box, I was neither shocked or amazed. It was totally adequate, secure and fuss-free – so far exactly as anticipated. Having been caught out on previous occasions, I took the precaution of lifting the bed that the pen rested on and found the anticipated proprietary Parker blue cartridge hidden there.

Initial impressions were good. The pen is – as advertised – achromatic, with a matte black finish to the metal cap and barrel and slightly more glossy black furniture. There’s a flat finial on the barrel, and a slightly domed one over the clip, which whilst being unmistakably “Parker” feels a little cheap and is a stamped arrow on a folded metal clip. It seems functional though, and there are no sharp edges to snag your clothes if you do use the clip to secure the pen.

The cap rim is also more glossy metal and is stamped with two rings and the Parker logo and name. In addition there is the manufacture-date stamp; in this case “UII”. This translates to 2021, Q2, I believe.

No longer able to contain my inquisitiveness, I popped off the plastic-lined cap, which is secure and shows no play, and found the section and nib to be a little smaller than anticipated. The nib’s quite wide at the shoulder, and the feed is broader than 5mm, but it’s generally in that #5 size range so common in smaller pens. The section is smooth plastic, but comfortable to hold and not overly slippy. It is bookended by black steel bands at both the barrel join and the nib collar, continuing the rather tasteful muted black on black design. Overall – a handsome, smallish pen. Cult Pens gives its dimensions as 137mm long capped, 117mm uncapped, 152mm posted. 12mm wide, 9.5mm at grip… and I have no reason to doubt their measurements.

Parker IM – the business end

I then unscrewed the section from the barrel. And here things began to descend a little…

This is far from a premium pen – I believe the selling price was ~CA$80 – but not cheap either. It’s only a few dollars less than the ubiquitous TWSBI Diamond 580ALR can be had for, and that’s a well regarded piston filler. However, I was utterly horrified to discover that Parker don’t supply a converter with the IM. Given that they have a proprietary size which forces you to buy their own converter at an additional cost, this felt like a simple money grab. Why not just add a few dollars to the asking price and include it? Needless to say, I’ll be syringe-filling old cartridges until I inevitably finally cave and shell out for a Parker converter at some future point.

The plastic of the section continues up to form the threaded collar for the cartridge/unsupplied converter and though there’s no external sign on the smooth section, there are clear seams on the threads and collar. I’m not sure if I’m annoyed at the lack of quality to the finish, or impressed that they seem to have completely avoided them on the visible external parts of the section.

Oddly – I’m reminded of the last house I owned in the UK. It was built in the 1930s, and when we had some rewiring done, it involved lifting up the kitchen floorboards. Underneath, where nobody would reasonably ever be expected to see, was some beautiful lattice brickwork to support the tiled area above that would originally have supported a heavy Aga-style stove. This oozed quality to me because it showed just as much attention to detail in the hidden areas where nobody would ever check, as it did in the visible areas.

Here I got the opposite vibe – this smacked of cut corners and penny pinching. The smooth section showed the technical capability to remove all manufacturing blemishes, the seamed threads demonstrated a lack of willingness to do so. Much worse though – these plastic threads screw into the metal threads of the barrel, and already there is an accumulation of white swarf from the wear on the soft plastic from the unscrewing/re-screwing of the barrel. So far, the joint remains firm and slop-free. I hope it remains so.

At the end of the day, this is not a bad pen, and it writes perfectly adequately. But it’s just not that good either! For an order of magnitude less money I have acquired the similarly styled Jinhao 95 – with frankly better build quality.

Jinhao 95: image from Amazon.ca

And also (I did tell you I had more than a few “stealth” pens!) the Jinhao 85, with a suspiciously similar Parker-esque clip.

Jinhao 85: Image source AliExpress

Then there’s the Hong Dian 517D. These are all in the ~$10 range if you buy directly from Chinese vendors such as on AliExpress and I would argue demonstrate at least as good build quality. They’re all-metal construction, come with international standard converters and nibs that are definitely on par with that offered by Parker in its IM.

Hong Dian 517D: image source AliExpress

To be clear – these are all Chinese manufactured pens (I didn’t include my Lamy Studio LX which is more expensive)… and they’re better than the Parker. So it has nothing to do with manufacturing location or manufacturing capability. In my view, at the price point Parker is commanding for the IM, it should be able to offer a much higher level of experience, whether that is as simple as including a converter or using better nibs. I am sad to say that in my view, the achromatic IM simply is just an “also ran”.

So let’s move on to something good…

A while back I treated myself to a Narwhal Schuylkill Fountain Pen in Porpita Navy. Supposedly a limited edition, but they still seem to be available. It was my first piston filler and I fell in love. I now own a few, and I love the sheer volume of ink those pens can hold. When I saw Narwhal were introducing a range of ebonite pens of a somewhat chonky girth – the Nautilus – I asked for one for Christmas. There are now several options, but initially there were two all-black models with matte black or antique brass finish. I selected the black-on-black option – the Cephalopod. (All their pen models reference sea creatures). Though I’ve enjoyed my Schuylkill, I found its F nib a little too fine for my taste and selected a medium this time around. And I love everything about it.

It’s a sizeable pen, for sure, but the ebonite is surprisingly light, without feeling flimsy or cheap. It really evokes those vintage pens from the early days of fountain pen design. The whole pen is polished to a high gloss, and it’s difficult to imagine this early plastic is essentially the same material as a car tyre!

Narwhal Cephalopod (colour photo!)

The general design attempts to evoke a somewhat victorian vibe for the Nautilus, as the name would imply. The ink view is provided by 3 port-holes, trimmed with black metal. This is matched by a similar plain black metal cap clip, a simple metal curved finial on the cap to echo the curved ebonite blind cap on the barrel and finally the metal band separating the barrel from the blind cap.

See that ink slosh around…

The rim of the cap, on the other hand, is highly decorated with wave motifs and the name NARWHAL stamped twice on it.

Decoration on the Cephalopod cap rim

The cap comes off with two full turns, for those of you who care for such details. This reveals a gorgeously decorated #6 nib, complete with the Narwhal logo. On the Cephalopod model, the nib is black, and in my case was a lovely wet writer – a joy to use.

His nibs…

Now this is not a cheap pen in absolute terms (~CA$140)… but I believe it is great value, and punches well over its weight. It arrives in a simple but elegant presentation box with a magnetic closure to the lid. It is made entirely of ebonite, which we know from experience can last 100+ years in a pen, if not overly abused. It is handsome and well-made. The nib unit can be removed for easy cleaning of the innards as well as a thorough cleaning of the nib itself. Should disaster befall the nib, it is easily replaced with any number of alternatives from Narwhal and others.

Now – this pen does not fit the same place in the usage curve as the Parker IM, but of the two, I would most heartily recommend the Narwhal. As my North American friends are wont to say “your mileage may vary”…





No Grime or Raisin

30 01 2022

I’ve been trying to use and more greatly appreciate my current fleet of fountain pens and ink, and resist buying many more this year. We’ll see how that goes…

I had ordered a couple of pens from ēnsso in California at the end of 2021, and both have now safely arrived. I blogged my initial thoughts on the diminutive XS Minimalist previously here if you’re at all interested.

A couple of weeks in, I’ve written dry the initial Kaweco Smokey Grey ink cartridge I’d christened it with. Such a lovely pencil-like neutral grey. Looking forward to finishing the packet of cartridges I bought and moving on to a full bottle (when I allow myself to buy ink again… ).

In the end though, I just couldn’t get on with the Bock M nib I’d ordered with the pen. I wasn’t sure if it was the ink or the PVD coating on the nib, but it was highly prone to hard starts/skipping at the beginning of words. I was pretty sure it was the nib, as the ink is quite wet usually and provides lovely shading as it pools in the letter forms.

The business end of the nib – the underside of the tipping – doesn’t actually have PVD on it (I guess it quickly gets worn off in use – paper can be surprisingly abrasive), but I suspected the coating on the tines was messing with the capillary action and so I swapped the nib unit out for a spare uncoated B Kaweco nib unit I had, and it wrote flawlessly from that point on (no pun intended).

To be fair – the Bock on the ēnsso comes with a very different feed to the Kaweco-supplied unit, so that is one variable I didn’t exclude from my perfunctory testing.

Coated No 5 Bock nib on ēnsso XS

This last week brought me two more toys though. Firstly was my long-awaited limited edition (200 units – 3 left at time of writing) ēnsso Italia, made from raw copper. I’ve long yearned for a pure copper pen: I’ve enjoyed the look of copper patina since I first became aware of the extreme blue copper salts found on old rooves* back in the UK. Pens tend to only gather varied shades of darker brown salts, but the almost organic nature of the staining is something I find attractive. All that said… I was actually a little disappointed to find that my brand new pen already had some smears and marks on it. OK – maybe not grimy as such, and they will be readily subsumed into the naturally acquired patina as time moves irresistibly forward, but I was just a little sad it didn’t at least start pristine.

ēnsso Italia LE in copper – note oxidation on cap

It’s generally though a thing of beauty. It’s pretty weighty at around 86g with the cap and 55g without. It is machined out of a solid block of copper with the exception of the spring steel clip which is neat, unadorned, functionally efficient and without any nasty sharp edges.

The cap and barrel have tiny micro-machining rings from the lathing, and if you rub your finger lightly along the length of the pen you can hear a slight susurration or singing, though you can’t actually feel any ridges, they’re that fine. Holding the pen to the light gives the telltale rainbow along the reflection highlights, showing micro-scale differences in the angles of reflection/refraction from the ridges left by the lathe blade.

The nib is a standard No 6 Bock unit, and though it was perfectly adequate, I found the M I’d ordered to be a bit narrow for my taste, and swapped it almost immediately for a spare Jinhao M (as used in their X750), which I’ve always found to be reliable and juicy.

The cap and section both sport the italianate frieze that gives the model its name, and unscrewing the section reveals the only branding on the collar that holds the converter.

Lip of cap, showing Italianate ornamentation
Branding on collar for converter

Both screw connections – cap to barrel and section to barrel – are machined and copper on copper, which can sometimes cause a bit of teeth jarring if you get a false start, but are robust and secure – no slop in these closures. The cap is threaded to the barrel with square cut threads which are not at all uncomfortable when writing, and close the cap in about 1½ turns, for those who care about such things. I can’t say I’ve been rough with the pen thus far, but I’ve not noticed any propensity for the cap to come loose or the section to unscrew with wanton abandon.

Now we come to my one real gripe – and it’s small (literally and figuratively), and to lessen it further, I actually anticipate it will improve with time and use…

Some pre-patina and severe transitions

I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the quality of the machining from this California based outfit. I can’t help feeling though that some of that finesse is lost by not paying a little more attention to the final result. I find the edges of the ornamentation very crisp and clean… so much so that when writing, you can’t help but notice the sharp edges of the ornamentation around the nib end of the section. Similarly the simple Star Wars-esque trench around the end of the barrel. Very stylish to look at, but just a little awkward when explored with one’s fingers. Not sharp enough to cut, but sharp enough of a transition in the surface to be uncomfortable, and likely to snag on delicate fabrics should one be carrying it in a pocket. These are not burrs or poorly finished edges – au contraire: they are such well machined transitions, they are literally razor sharp.

I actually expect, copper being a relatively soft metal, that these sharp edges will dull over time. Perhaps even hurried on their way by those users that will polish the pen regularly to try and maintain its lustre. (Not me! Bring on that patina…)

The pen is limited to an edition of 200 and I’m very glad I managed to get one by pre-ordering. My niggles really are minor and the price was astonishingly reasonable for a hand made pen. As ēnsso continue to mature, I will continue to keep an eye on their future offerings, and certainly appreciate their fresh engineering-led take on the often conservative world of fountain pen design.

So, it’s with more than a little irony that I now turn to classic designs from earlier days of fountain pens.

From the early 1900s through to art deco, it was not uncommon for pen manufacturers to offer users premium versions of their pens clad in sterling silver – often added to the basic underlying pen by a specialist silversmith. There are countless examples from such classic vendors as Waterman, Dunhill and others. The silverwork had several gaps through which the underlying pen was visible, to provide visual contrast – usually simple black hard rubber (ebonite) in those days. But good design causes echoes through time. (Though so too does bad design – looking at you, flared jeans!)

I was recently made aware of a new (at least to me) Chinese pen manufacturer… Asvine. They may or may not be associated with Hong Dian, though I confess my Chinese is not sufficiently advanced to tell. (OK, OK, I admit I can only understand/say “hello”, “I’m fine” and “thank-you”). The V169 model is a vacuum filler, which is a filling method not shared with any of my other pens and I have recently been looking for a low priced option that had received decent reviews… enter exhibit one. I admit it was ordered after 2022 began. What can I say? My abstinence is still a work in progress…

It’s a resin cap and body, covered with a brass sheath styled like a cross between those art deco designs and a 60’s lava lamp. The brass is itself plated chrome, making for an attractive silvery finish. Because of the clear resin one can entertain oneself watching the ink sloshing back and forth within the reservoir, through the many “windows”. The cap has a solid clip with a strong spring – not just the typical folded sheet metal common in cheaper pens. The section is fully metal and mine came with a No 6 M nib, not unlike the wet and smooth nibs I’ve received with several larger Jinhao pens. This is a different nib though, and has the M size marked attractively in italic on it for reference.

Asvine V169 with M nib

I was a little worried that the section might be slippery, but the slight waist-ing of the design seems to avoid this being an issue in practice. Threads are square cut and very smooth to the touch. The cap closes in 2½ turns, which some people seem to care about. The threads are resin (cap) on metal (section) and have a reassuring cinching feel as the cap closes shut. The top half of the cap has a narrower bore and this allows the section to snuggly dock with it and keep the nib from drying out. I chose a smokey grey/blue resin, but there are a couple of other colours out there to suit your mood. At 32g uncapped, 54g capped, it’s a mid weight pen, I’d say.

Branding of “Asvine” is embossed around the cap opening, and there are no uncomfortably sharp transitions even on the many holes of the sheathing.

The blind cap unscrews to become the plunger for the vacuum filler which felt positive and well made.

Along with several other metal pens in the $10+ range I’ve accumulated from China, this pen feels well designed and solidly made. I shall be keeping an eye out for other Asvine products, because if this is anything to go by, we’ll definitely be hearing more in the future.

And as for the reason to discuss raisins…

Yesterday we stopped by at Fieldstone’s bakery on the way home. They do pretty awesome cakes and make bread using traditional ingredients and methods. (i.e. they can be pretty chewy, but taste great.)

As is common in Canada, they offer a lot of sourdough options… something I’d never even heard of until I moved to the colonies, but have come to quite appreciate. Mrs E is not a fan, but was willing to give the raisin and cranberry sourdough Pugliese a try, figuring the sweet/tart fruit would offset her dislike of the vinegary/sourdough taste.

It was with some dismay then to find when we got home that we’d actually been given a garlic version of the loaf! Thankfully we’d been peckish and cut a pre-dinner slice before having committed to it for breakfast toast on Sunday. That would definitely have been an experimental pairing with marmalade!


*

Source Google: More popular now than ever. Don’t go all “you spelt roofs wrong” on me!




Small, but perfectly formed

17 01 2022

No, not Mrs E. – though the same could be said there too.

As copiously documented elsewhere on these pages, I have a thing for matte black pens. I also like unusual designs – well executed engineering, not blinged out monstrosities. I also fall foul of the marketer’s FOMO lure on occasion, but only if the price is not outrageous. Sometimes I’m disappointed (like with my Conklin LE Duraflex demonstrator, (No 200 of 898), which while operating perfectly adequately as a writing instrument is nevertheless a travesty of poor execution, with great globs and smears of glue being visible through the clear plastic).

Back in November as advert from ENSSO in California caught my eye. It was for a limited edition of their ITALIA model, made entirely in Copper. Lovely… sign me up. I’ve had a thing for copper patina ever since seeing the extreme examples on various buildings in the UK.

Only downside was that it wasn’t shipping until January. (I’m glad to report it’s on its way as I type.) Hopefully it won’t languish in the USPS system before getting handed over to Canada Post. There’s a stock photo of it here. But I’m sure you know how these things spiral out of control (you’re reading this page, after all!). You begin by looking at one thing, and end up looking at another. Before you know where you are, you’re looking at a neat looking “stealth” pocket pen for the very reasonable sum of US$35. And then there’s the discount for first time buyers, and well, you know…

Source: ENSSO

So anyway, today the ENSSO XS turned up, and it was not quite what I expected. Not in any bad way, mind – it is certainly full-on stealth… matte black section, barrel and cap. PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) Bock No 5 medium nib. Nary a photon escaping its surface…

But, well, it’s even smaller than I’d anticipated! When they say XS, they mean it! I guess I’d imagined something similar to an AL Sport. This is a machined Aluminium pen (and very well executed, I might add), and it’s tiny. This is basically the same dimensions as a Kaweco Liliput.

It came in a simple branded cardboard box with the pen, a clip, a single unbranded short cartridge (black of course) and a couple of O-rings. More about those later.

ENSSO XS

The pen is machined into a 12-faceted cylinder, with slight chamfering at the cap/barrel join to avoid any sharp edges. Both ends of the pen have a slight conical finish, perhaps a millimetre in height. The very end of the barrel has the only visible branding of ēnsso, and the entire pen is powder coated black. It feels very even and semi-industrial… perfect!

A closer look at the end of the barrel will reveal a slight recess that holds an O-ring in place… very firmly. Another O-ring is in a similar recess on the section and holds the cap in place through friction. Whether the cap is placed closed over the nib or at the back of the barrel to extend it to a full size pen, it is held surprisingly well in place, and there’s a definite engaged/not engaged transition with remarkably little slop between the two. The inside of the cap has a machined ridge/recess which makes for a very satisfying click whether the cap is being used to cover the nib or extend the barrel.

Time will tell how secure this friction fit remains, but the inclusion of two spare O-rings leaves me confident it’s a distant future me problem.

The box included a clip, and though I don’t feel the need to use it, I was impressed to see that it too was machined with the 12-sided design, and not relying on a circular clip to merely have the vertices of the cap to grip on. Given my usage habits, I do not fear this faceted pen rolling anywhere, nor do I feel the need to clip it to any pocket. Nice to know I could though.

ENSSO XS cap is designed to fit the 12-sided cap or barrel

The business end of the pen is a No 5 Bock steel nib (mine’s a medium), and is PVD coated black to match the aesthetic. The leaping mountain goat looks very sleek in all-black

No 5 PVD black Bock steel nib

The barrel takes a standard short international cartridge (I opted to christen the pen with Kaweco Smokey Grey rather than the no-name black it came with), and is not long enough to take even a Kaweco Sport converter. Nor for that matter is the similarly short Kaweco Liliput.

Comparison of ENSSO XS and Kaweco Liliput

The above photo compares the Liliput to the XS. You can see how the XS has a longer section, but shorter barrel. It is only slightly longer than the fully seated short cartridge, whereas the Liliput could at least theoretically hold a half-filled converter (though there’s little point).

In use, it’s slightly longer than the Liliput, despite being almost identical in dimensions when closed.

Kaweco AL Sport, ENSSO XS, Kaweco Liliput

The XS has the longest section of the three pocket pens I compared. In most other regards it’s similar to the Liliput, and I think it will serve as a convenient, unobtrusively carried note-taker rather than a long writing session tool. We’ll see… I’m quite adept at ignoring my most well laid plans.





What a load of…

16 01 2022

So today, via Language Nerds‘ blog, I discovered that the Flemish for “little round thing” is bolleke, used there allegedly, as a term of endearment. The original posting was on Skyparksecure.

Source: Language Nerds/Skyparksecure

The definition is backed by De Koninck, whose many fine beverages I’ve enjoyed on trips through Europe. Here they’re referring to the shape of the glass it is served in (every Belgian beer has its own glass shape to allow the beer to be enjoyed at its best).

Source: De Koninck

In Middle English, bollocks came specifically to mean testicles, likely by borrowing the generic “ball-shape” word from Flemish traders.

In more modern parlance it has come to additionally mean rubbish, or “unsubstantiated opinion that the utterer suspects as invalid”… the prior assertion of the word’s origin being just that.

As in many cases of English vernacular, it can also be used in the opposite, as a great complement, particularly when used in the context of canine genitalia. There are few complements higher than something being declared the dog’s bollocks. Oddly, though, this is originally an editorial term from newspapers, used to describe the now rarely seen opening introduction to a list “:-“.





Personal Values

15 01 2022

Don’t worry – this isn’t about COVID or anti-vaxxers. It’s about value and cost. A bit. Mainly it’s about me just typing stuff as it comes into my head. So – unfiltered naïveté mainly. (And the fun of hunting down all those rarely used characters on the keyboard).

I grew up in a less wealthy part of the UK, but I can’t say I really needed for anything. Sure, as a kid in the 70s I wanted for plenty… but I think I shared that with even the most wealthy of my cohort. And every kid before or since!

My parents did a pretty good job though, and I was fed, sheltered and watered as well as any plant. We’ll gloss over Bretford Nylons and pig’s liver (here‘s a fancy version I was never fed), and focus on the fact I am still an active, contributing member of society several decades later. Job well done, mum and dad!

But there was a practical part to my upbringing – and therefore subliminal education – that tended to appreciate “value”. This is often characterised and even caricaturised as people from Yorkshire being “tight-fisted” or at best “careful with their money”. Personally I see no fault in trying to get the best return from one’s hard-earned money. Especially as for many in the North, it was very hard earned.

But there’s a huge difference – and this wasn’t always appreciated by me at the time – between high value and low cost. Low cost items may not be high value. They may be “cheap” but poorly made, such as colouring pencils that break as soon as one looks at them too suddenly. Their value is therefore low, despite the low cost… you may well end up throwing them away and not getting much use at all.

Or, alternatively, they can be low priced simply due to the mode of manufacture and low raw materials cost. Paper tissues are incredibly low cost per sheet, but they are manufactured in the millions to be used once and discarded. Arguably discount tissues are good value, because they perform as expected despite the low price point… and arguably low expectations of any tissue. Paying 3 times more for a premium tissue doesn’t improve its effectiveness. Its value in use remains essentially the same, but its increased cost reduces its monetary value.

Similarly, many Japanese manufactured goods – say an electronic device such as a TV – can offer great value because for a given price point they may well offer superior build quality, features, or less tangible things such as warranty than other brands. That value is therefore relative to similar offerings at the price point, and not merely measured by its cost.

Value is a weird concept as one delves into it because it’s highly fluid.

Water (maybe “fluid” prompted the example) is incredibly valuable because, quite simply, without it we die! Aside from air, it’s hard to think of something with more absolute value! Yet we complain that the price of bottled water is too much in a café. The reason of course is contextual. At that moment, we’re in the café for recreational reasons (and in absolute terms reasonably well hydrated, despite any thirst we may perceive) – to enjoy a pleasant few moments with friends or perhaps to catch up on our studies and annoy other customers who can’t now sit down because we’ve taken up an entire table for 6 with our text books.

The water’s price is more likely a function of the brand label on the plastic bottle containing it. Whatever the reason, in a café, it’s unlikely to be a life-threatening situation in which the price of the water is a mortal matter. In other places, in other times, it is exactly that, and the price one is willing to pay goes way beyond any financial measure. Indeed there are countless lives that have been lost in order to attain or control even muddy, polluted water, where the alternative is the ultimate price: death.

Admittedly, an example in the extreme, but my take-away is that “good value” and “low cost” do not share a consistent relationship, and the value of an item, even at a fixed cost, may vary by situation.

So called luxury goods add a whole new twist to “value”. A peculiarly human thing, we associate value to the very concept of brand. A name, a logo, even a colour – it is amazing that simply by applying it to an article we can somehow increase its desirability (contextually) and therefore increase its perceived value. Someone in need of a bag to haul their groceries sees no additional value in a bag branded Louis Vuitton, over one branded Morrisons. Someone on the other hand who is keen to be perceived as glamorous when out and about may see huge “value” in the former, and an actual negative value in being seen with a supermarket carrier bag.

And so we come to fountain pens. A device that has moved from a workaday functional item in the 1920s to a less common or even luxury item in the 21st century.

There are those amongst us who perceive fountain pens merely as “coloured plastic sticks with ink coming out of (hopefully) one end”. Indeed – this would then apply to any number of technologies including gel pens and Biros. If you’re merely looking for something to write with – they’re all of equal value…

There are others that enjoy the history of the engineering discoveries that allows the ink to be delivered in a controlled, even manner; the chemistry in the various types of inks; the different methods of paper manufacture. Every mode of human activity has its nerds.

There are the “brand whores” who prefer Montblanc or any number of Italian brands because of the name, and irrespective of any design issues – confusing brand marketing with quality. Like those in North America who value Mercedes “because it’s posh” and are dumb-founded to find almost all taxis in Germany are Mercedes.

Each finds value through their own lens.

Then there are the pen users – and of course they may also reside in one or more of the previous arbitrary categories too. I consider myself one of these.

I enjoy writing with a fountain pen. I appreciate a nicely executed pen design. I love the way my Parker Vacumatic looks, I enjoy the history of its design… and I hate the way it writes. Not because it’s in any way defective, but I simply don’t like extra fine (EF) nibs… which is how this one was made back in the early 1940s. A thing of beauty, not inconsiderable financial value, but rarely used by myself and therefore unappreciated (unvalued) at some level.

At the other extreme, I own many sub-$20 pens that I love on all fronts and use regularly. They write well, they’re reliable, they feel solid, and I like the way they look. In the middle ground are some older Parkers, a couple of Opus 88s, Narwhal and many other new and vintage offerings. I enjoy and use all of them (even the Parker Vacumatic on occasion), but I have to admit that the lower cost ones most often offer the biggest bang for the buck.

Like the tissue, they do what is expected just as well as many higher priced offerings, and though they may not have the brand cachet of more expensive pens they often look just as good, display equally high design features and at the end of the day, lay just as bad an example of ones handwriting on the page as the most expensive Montblanc.

My most recent acquisition was a Jinhao 95, which slipped into the cart when I bought a Jinhao 9035. I have a few “types” when it comes to pens, and this one appealed to my love of stealth pens. I love the vintage green marble look as displayed on my vintage Mabie Todd, Wyvern and others. I love all-metal pens such as the Parker 25 and other Parker “Flighters”. I have an all-copper Retro 51 Tornado, for example, as well as a Kaweco Brass Sport. And then there’s the “stealth” style. These are all-black pens, ideally including the nib.

Historically of course many pens were all-black, though usually this was (still is, in fact) a high gloss black and often accompanied by chrome/silver trim or gold trim – often abbreviated to CT or GT in pen-parlance. Stealth style pens in contrast use a matte black finish to barrel, cap and section, trim that is black or no trim at all, and ideally a black PVD (physical vapour deposition) coated nib. Cheaper offerings simply paint the nib.

The Jinhao 95 I selected fit the bill perfectly, and was right at home with other pens of the style I already owned.

Jinhao 95, Lamy Studio, Hong Dian 517D

The overall finish is very similar to the black Studio LX I own, though the matte finish is ever so slightly more reflective. The metal parts are all a smoky very dark grey, including a firm, serviceable clip and “JINHAO” and “95” engraved on the cap’s lip. The cap has a plastic liner to prevent the nib drying out, and the seal is so effective that the cap makes a gunshot crack as it clips shut.

The nib is a standard Jinhao steel No 5 nib with the usual border decoration, horse and chariot logo and Jinhao F on it. As mentioned, this model comes with a black-painted nib, which is housed in a removable nib unit for ease of swapping by unscrewing. There is a slight step up to the barrel from the section, but it is smooth and inobtrusive to the grip when writing.

I inked my pen with Diamine’s Peach Punch, as obtained from the 2021 advent calendar. I find this particular ink needs a little dwell time or a wet nib to get the best from its shading capabilities, and that meant having to press a little harder with this stiff nib than I’d really like to. I have no concerns about damaging the nib, but it just makes for a less enjoyable writing experience. A wetter, more saturated ink or maybe a broader nib at some point might solve that. This totally serviceable but nail-like nib is my only (very mild) gripe.

The inner collar holding the standard converter and having the threads for the barrel to screw to is also made from the same smoky grey finished metal as the other fittings, giving a classy feel to even the hidden parts of the pen.

All fit and finish points are well executed – there’s no wobbly cap or uncertain threads. I’m sure the matte finish will not stand up unmarked to years of abuse, but then I’m not sure my much more expensive Lamy Studio’s will either! I paid around CAD$6 for this pen, delivered. (Well over $100 for the Lamy). That puts it in the price range of a disposable Pilot V-pen or an all-plastic Platinum Preppy. They are all excellent designs, built to a price, but the heft and feel of this pen is far superior to either, and is all metal. I myself prefer the look of this Jinhao, but at the end of the day, perceived value is a very personal and situational concept.





I can stop. Anytime I like.

15 01 2022

Habits come in many forms.

Some are good habits, like automatically washing your hands when you’ve been to the loo or, just as importantly – in the COVID times – as soon as you re-enter your home.

Some are bad habits, like smoking or incessantly tapping on the edge of your desk when you’re working at home (according to the lovely Mrs E.).

Some are fashionably very questionable in the 21st century.

The thing habits have in common (unless they’re the scratchy wool kind) is that they’re automatic subconscious actions or processes and very hard to unlearn. No. 3 offspring educated me to the unsupported “fact” that it’s of the order of 3 months to “unlearn” a habit. He read it on the interwebs, so it must be true.

Smokers are often heard stating some variation of “I’m not addicted – I can stop any time I want.” It’s the sufficiently wanting to that is often the crux of the issue, though even with that firmly in one’s sight, a true habit still takes much breaking and all too often is readily reacquired. The share-holders of Weight Watchers International bank on it in fact. Literally.

So – enter fountain pens. As a school kid somehow earning a local government scholarship to a grammar school (now a private school beyond the reach of many – yay capitalism), I was required to use a fountain pen. A few came and went – either through the natural rigours of teenage schooling, or occasionally from poor manufacture (looking at you Platignum… just sayin’).

As I grew older though, and entered the sixth form, I acquired a “proper” pen – a Parker 45 – and that saw me through the rest of my formal educational years including university. Being subsequently employed in the newly minted dark arts of computer programming (AKA “the 80’s” for those studying modern history) I had less and less need of an analogue writing stick.

I did occasionally reach for a disposable fountain pen – mainly for the chance to use outlandish colours like green or purple. These were still the days of sedentary Blue/Black Quink ink for fountain pens, but the wily Japanese were busily cross pollinating what they’d learnt from gel pens into more exciting alternatives (if not entirely environmentally sound ones) for fountain pens. It was literally decades before I realised one could refill/reuse a “disposable” fountain pen.

Then the years passed, as they always have. Mortgages got signed. Children got born. Continents got moved. Not in the tectonic way (though that happened a bit too), but in the BA flight 85 kind of way. Somewhere along the passage of time my wonderful father-in-law bought me a new fountain pen (Sheaffer Sagaris), which I religiously used every day for work notes.

Recently, COVID entered our vocabulary, and in a lot of tragic cases, our lives.

Working from home happened.

Profound grumpiness occurred.

A chance re-discovery of my old Parker 45 at the back of a drawer also occurred (distractions had been actively sought… even to the extent of tidying rarely visited backwaters of the newly emptied nest). This was pivotal. I now had TWO fountain pens at the same time. Two is a collection. So is more than two, it turned out. That was 18 months ago.

Today I have around 60 fountain pens. Some are relatively expensive ($250 in my case – though for some collectors that counts merely as entry level), but most are not. I do however use all of them, though obviously not all at the same time!

That many pens could consume a lot of ink, you might think. Well… let’s just say I have that covered too.

But of course if you’ve got a lot of pens and a lot of ink to go in the pens, you’d need a lot of paper to write on wouldn’t you? Well… so you’re getting the idea now why this began as a piece on addiction?

But I’m getting better. Honest I am.

I try not to buy pens now just because I like the look of them. I try and leave those for my family to get for birthdays and Christmas. But it’s not perfect. Without meaning to trivialise the situation of any reader struggling with a health-impacting addiction, I am, nevertheless still drawn to the “add to cart” button on many stationery web sites.

I try very hard to limit myself to one new pen a month, and thankfully my tastes are rarely expensive. But all-metal pens (what Parker terms “Flighter”), or all black pens (AKA “stealth”, especially if the nib itself is coated black) are a particular weakness.

In October, I read the often informative “mnmlscholar” blog, and he described a new pen he’d just acquired. This was the Jinhao 9035, a mid-sized pen made of wood. Neither stealth or metal, but… interesting! Jinhao is a Chinese brand, but I have to say that I now own several different models from their stable, and have found the ones I have acquired to be very well made and reliable. I do tend to go for their metal bodied options which may improve the leeway for higher build quality, but I also own no less than four of their 992 model which are clear plastic and just as reliable.

Whilst innocently investigating the 9035 pen on AliExpress, I discovered another new-to-me Jinhao model, the “Stealth” styled Jinhao 95. The pair of them came to a little over $12 shipped to Canada, and the compulsion was strong with me that day…

Well that was back in late October 2021, and much has happened since then. Including ordering one of a new 200 pen limited release of an all-copper Italia from Ensso, which may well be documented in a later blog post.

Source: ENSSO

Hopefully the delivery isn’t impacted by the recent train robberies in California, from whence it is coming!

Fast forward 2½ months, and on Friday the Chinese pens appeared in my post box.

Wooden Jinhao 9035 and “Stealth” Jinhao 95

To ease my (not very prominent) guilt a little then, I thought I’d share my early impressions of these newcomers to my collection. Maybe someone will find it useful, and at the very least it’s keeping me out of Mrs E’s way for a while as I write this.

Firstly the Jinhao 9035…

I opted for the walnut finish (on some sellers’ sites it’s referred to as specifically American walnut), though it does seem to be available in rosewood too. I’m no wood expert and can’t really comment, beyond a general statement that it’s a lovely colour and seems well finished with no scratches, gaping “pores” or other irritations. There’s also no evidence of what must surely have been a mechanical turning process, so kudos to the QA folks at Jinhao. It seems well smoothed, but not obviously varnished. It may have been treated with Danish oil or something, but has no obvious smell, and I fully expect it to “weather” as the grease from my fingers impact the wood over time.

As you may be able to see from the photograph above, the cap has a pretty standard Jinhao steel clip. It has a springiness strong enough to cause the ball end (formed from the plate steel) to scratch the wood underneath slightly. The clip is adorned with the company’s logo of a horse and chariot. I note that it is the right way round when the pen is held in the left hand… something I appreciate!

The lip of the cap is protected by a metallic ring, though the cap threads behind it are plastic and are part of the seal lining within the cap to prevent the nib drying out. This extends up to hide the inside fixing of the clip, which enters through a simple well-formed cut in the wooden cap. The metal lip of the cap provides a neat IKEA-style wood/chrome finish to the pen when the cap is closed and the cap extends around the barrel by a good millimetre or so giving a vaguely mushroom appearance when closed.

The business end of the pen is a standard Jinhao No. 6 steel nib, which is marked with a border pattern, their chariot logo, their brand name and a claim of being 18KGP, or 18 karat gold plated (carats are for diamonds if you were wondering).

I’m no metallurgist, so I’ll leave that one just hanging there, but I will say that I have used several of these nibs on Jinhao X750s and even bought the simple nibs to replace other No 6 nibs on Moonman, Noodler’s and Narwhal pens. I find them slightly springy, wet and generous and suit my writing well. I have yet to struggle with a single Jinhao nib – though I do tend to avoid their lower end Lamy knock-offs and most of their plastic offerings. I find these No 6 nibs particularly reliable and though I’m sure statistically there must be some duds out there, I’ve yet to get one that needed anything special before using it “out of the box”.

Though I inked up the pen with Lamy Turmaline before checking (my bad… too excited) I’m pretty sure the nib isn’t in a screw-out nib unit, and would require pulling from the section housing along with the feed. I’ll try and remember to confirm that once I dismantle it for cleaning.

The section itself is a little shy of 2cm in length and is bookended by chromed rings. It’s very similar in style and feel to the X750 section, but not the same. The metal ring at the barrel end of the section hides the join and merges with the threading on the barrel to engage the cap. The cap closes in 1¾ turns for those who are particular about those things. The metal here engages with the aforementioned plastic cap threads and gives a firm closure and no noticeable play in the cap once closed. The threads are square cut and unobtrusive when gripping the pen for writing. They also form a transition to the step-up of the barrel, which might be seen in the above photograph.

The pen comes provided with a standard Jinhao converter. Again – apologies for inking it up before checking whether the nipple is of the narrow or broader “standard”. Though both will take arbitrary International Standard cartridges, there is a little less forgiveness when using a third party converter. I believe the difference is 2.6 mm or 3.4mm. Not a lot, but enough to cause leaks with some converters. Again – I’ll try to remember to update this post when I dismantle the pen.

The collar by which the section screws to the barrel is metal and seems well made with no sharp edges. It is engraved with the brand JINHAO in capitals and model 9035 in italics. The collar is around 12mm in length and securely holds the converter in place. About 5mm of the collar are threads to engage the barrel and are finer than those holding the cap in place.

The wooden barrel itself is unlined, save for the metal insert which is threaded to receive the section and engage with the cap. It seems roomy and well finished on the inside, with no visible splinters or cracks.

All in all, the example I received seems well finished, with no rough edges or bad joints. This has been my typical experience with Jinhao, and I am amazed they can make them for the price they are sold.

I don’t post my pens, but the inner threads of the cap – even though they’re plastic – would not be kind on the wood of the barrel over time, I suspect. I briefly tried though, and the cap seems to be firmly held by the friction, if that’s your thing.

OK, so to illustrate my assertion that I can indeed stop any time I like, I’ll call that it for this post and talk about the Jinhao 95 in a separate outing to the keyboard. Until next time…





Polyamory is wrong!

9 01 2022

I just started to read The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy. She’s an American academic living in the UK (Specifically England actually) and writes from an interesting perspective. She acknowledges the often unproven or even plain wrong sentiments by many Brits that “Americanisms” are diluting the language, but gently shows examples of how in reality many examples are simply the language naturally evolving. On occasion the “Americanisms” turn out to be from Australia or New Zealand which I appreciated as they’re often ignored as places perfectly capable of generating their own variants of language (or yeast extract).

Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy. Source – Book Depository

Anyway – only just started, but I thought I’d share the following:

Polyamory is wrong!
It is either multiamory or polyphilia but mixing Greek and Latin roots?
Wrong!

More fun and games here.





Decablog

15 12 2021

WordPress tell me they’ve been hosting these humble scratchings on my behalf for a whole decade now. I’m a little taken aback by that, to be honest. It seems only a couple of weeks ago that my very good friend suggested I write a blog as a means of expressing myself and dealing with what Capote’s Ms Golightly calls the mean reds.

Gratuitous photo of VanDusen Festival of Lights 2021

We were on a business trip to Brazil at the time… my first time to South America, and where I discovered caipirinhas. And so, on 13th December 2011 I put finger to keyboard and became a blogger… whatever that meant!

My fist tentative toe-dip was called So Many Opinions, So Little Time…, and re-reading it just now I am embarrassed. Yes, by the arrogance I displayed and still share with any blogger: that someone else might actually read their musings; yes by the clumsy anti-French jibes so common of those jealous of others (especially their skill in bread baking); but most egregiously… for the typo. Yup, I misspelt “metric” 10 years ago and never noticed. Perhaps if someone had ever actually read the page in the intervening decade, I might have felt the pressure to address the issue! Now, I think it needs to remain – a testament to my total lack of sexual encounters given. But shorter.

But hey – this is therapy, so blog on I did. For a total (thus far) of 1,101 postings, or about one every 3 days. Which, considering I “dried up” from February 2018 to May 2020 isn’t that bad as a method of self expression (though often the expression was one of total confusion and denial)! I guess COVID was a factor in my 2020 rekindled interest in self-expression, but who knows? Who, for that matter, cares?

The interwebs, we are told, are kitten-powered. I loathe cats. They’re vindictive little buggers and would smother you and eat you for breakfast if they thought they could. In fact, here in BC, cougars can and occasionally do.

Cats – see? Give me a dog any day… and talking of that, here’s a gratuitous photo of my ex-dog back in Christmas 2012 when the idea of a clown being president or a return to the horrors of a global pandemic the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Spanish Flu 100 years ago seemed laughable.

If you got this far – I thank-you. It’s strangely comforting to know that there are others out there who will read almost anything, just on the off-chance they may learn something new or have an opinion changed or at least questioned. Here’s to the next decade… if we haven’t set the world on fire by then!





It’s normal, right?

27 11 2021

As I got older, and strived to get wiser, I came to realise that “normal” is a much-misused word when applied to a group of items with constantly changing characteristics.

People, say.

At best, it can only be applied to a fixed group in a set circumstance for a set period of restricted observation time. Enough philosophising – despite being left-handed, B blood type and any number of other labels that are deemed unusual (I have more than the average number of legs too – think about it…), I’m pretty content with who I am most days, and almost always at ease with my current obsession, whatever that may be.

Since COVID, I’ve rekindled my interest in fountain pens and associated accoutrements. In the before-times I had a monogamous relationship with my pen. As a school kid I had a series of Platignum offerings, most often Silverline, which true to form ended up getting broken due to the typical build quality of most British manufacturing in the 70s (looking at you TR7, as well as pretty much the entire Leyland range!)

As I progressed towards the lower sixth form (via the “Transitus” – it was that kind of school), my parents bought me a Parker 45 with a gold M nib, which I still have to this day. College saw me dabbling in many dark arts, including gel pens which I continued to use as I began my work life, before discovering disposable fountain pens (which I recently discovered needn’t be so disposable after all) in all manner of lurid colours which suited my off-beat style at the time. Strictly one at a time though…

Several years ago, my lovely father-in-law bought me a Sheaffer Sagaris with a fine nib which became my every-day work pen, never failing me once. Having previously been an M nib user (and even on the fat side of that, with the UK-made Parker 45), this F was a new experience which I struggled with at first. It became a firm (no pun intended) favourite though, and my only gripe now is a self-inflicted loose-ish cap due to my incessant popping on/off of the same. Hey – I don’t smoke. Don’t judge…

And then COVID… and everyone’s world changed. “Normal” meant nothing at all any more.

And then I saw a Parker 51 on Craigslist… which led to another, and then a Vacumatic, and then a burning need to find a replacement nib for a Parker 25 I was given years ago, and then I discovered AliExpress and the awesome upper-end offerings of Jinhao, and then… I realised it was simply too late to pull up. I was in deep and the door had shut tightly behind me. This was my new normal!

Drawers full of ink for every possibly occasion (but as Barenaked Ladies’ “Life, in a nutshell” teaches us – it’s never enough!); more fountain pens than I can shake a stick at (and I have access to pretty large sticks in BC!); newfound uses for After Eight tins (10 30ml Diamine ink bottles fit perfectly); shotgun cartridge boxes (they neatly hold 25 5ml ink samples); 35ml film storage boxes (perfectly fit 10ml J Herbin ink bottles)… you get the idea.

Nestle After Eight tin fits 10 x 30ml Diamine inks perfectly.

So here we are, well into the COVID times and I find that anywhere between 6 and 10 concurrently inked fountain pens is now totally “normal”. Oddly (for too much “normal” just isn’t well, normal), I now use a “disposable” Zebra pen for my work… though truthfully that is just a different room of the house these days. For me-time though – I currently have the following selection all inked up with lots of places to go (to completely mangle a Meatloaf song).

Current Desk Companions in a repurposed Dollar Store makeup brush tidy

  • First off, we have my latest acquisition. This is a lime green Opus 88 Picnic with a medium nib. It’s an eyedropper and at 2ml takes a healthy amount of ink. It only sports a #5 JoWo, but is a lovely smooth writer and has a bit of bounce to it. Love it! Very comfortable size in the hand. Currently inked with the last few drops of my Pure Pens Celtic Sea sample. The thing about eyedroppers is that they’ll easily accommodate an entire sample bottle, so it’s useful to use a graduated syringe to make sure you leave a little for later if you want to try it in another pen too. The Opus 88s look like piston fillers but they actually have a Japanese-style valve to close off the feed if you’re nervous about your pen “burping” if you ever get to sit in an aeroplane ever again!
  • Next in line we have a Pilot V-pen, currently with Platinum Classic Citrus Black. I’ve refilled this nominally disposable pen a couple of times now, and it’s a great option for a grab it and go choice because it’s so cheap and robust. I tend to leave iron gall inks in it for writing envelopes, though citrus Black doesn’t really work well for Canada Post. Once I write it dry I’ll likely refill it with Noodler’s Bad Belted Kingfisher, or some other more mainstream water resistant colour. I chose to “customise” it by using rubbing alcohol to clear the branding off the barrel and making it a pseudo-demonstrator.
  • Opus 88 Demonstrator with Pilot Iroshizuku Syo-ro. This has been in the line-up for a few weeks now. Another lovely Opus 88, and with a fine nib and a whopping 4ml of ink capacity, it’s taking an absolute geological age to write dry! It’s a real unit though, so make sure you try one in the flesh before you commit if you’re attracted by its undeniable good looks but have a small hand – it’s a large, if light, pen.
  • Jinhao 911 with their hooded EF nib, which at 0.38mm is a solid F in most people’s view. I bought this because of its looks. It’s like a skinny, Flighter version of Parker’s classic 51 (the original – this is a click cap. The 51A is a more literal “homage”, as the name might suggest. Their 85 model is a dead ringer for a Flighter version of the new Parker 51 at a fraction of the price, and a screw cap). It’s always been a solid performer but at less than CA$5, I feel comfortable using it with unknown quantities when it comes to inks. At the moment it has Noodler’s Ink’s Bad Belted Kingfisher in it. I recently bought this on the island during a lovely visit to Island Blue art shop. I have a few waterproof/resistant inks, but they’re all a bit funky, colour-wise. I decided it was time I strove for that “normal” again, and started to look for a blue or blue-black ink I could use for envelopes, having had a couple of letters only delivered by the near-forensic efforts of the Royal Mail. They were somehow getting drenched between my address here in a rainforest and my recipient on the wet British Isles. A wonder more letters don’t get delivered completely washed out, really! As with other Noodler’s inks I’ve tried, it feathers in anything like an M nib unless using coated paper. This 0.38mm nib is definitely on the broad side for most envelope papers I’ve tried with this ink, but it’s a nice enough colour and seems to resist the water once it’s properly dried and combined with the paper fibres. A thinner nib/better paper should be better.
  • Platinum Preppy with Platinum blue/black cartridge. This is the thinnest nib I own, except for my Vacumatic. Once the cartridge it came with is dry I think this will realistically become my Noodler’s envelope-writing pen. I bought a converter to use with it, but being only an EF/0.2mm nib (about half of Jinhao’s “EF”), this nib is taking its time to drink the cartridge dry. It tended to hard start when it had been left unused for any time at all, hence why I store it nib-down. Doesn’t have any issue otherwise. Not bad for $4.50, but very plasticky compared to the – cheaper – Jinhao’s solid build quality.
  • Lamy AL Star with Lamy blue cartridge. Another pen that’s been in rotation for a while… I think it’s because I don’t find the supplied blue ink particularly appealing, so it doesn’t get much use. It’s totally problem-free, and I do like the B nib (I love the all-matte black livery of this pen, including coated nib), and I look forward to trying it with a more interesting ink.
  • Finally, I pulled an old favourite back into circulation. This is an old Parker Vector. I think it’s called a “sport” because of the black rather than more usual silver trim. M nib. Made in the USA. Currently filled with Noodler’s Navajo Turquoise. I bought a sample about a year ago when searching for a good turquoise ink. It’s pleasant enough, but given the issues I have with other Noodler’s inks and the fact they only sell in 90ml bottles, I think I’ll stick to Sheaffer.

Since I mentioned a couple of different Opus 88 models and referred to their sizes, I thought I’d add this useful graphic I spotted on FaceBook a while ago. Please check out the Opus 88 page, if you’re a FB user – they have some awesome products, and as you may have read elsewhere in these pages, their customer service is absolutely amazing. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to Taiwan a couple of times for business and I can tell you if I ever get the chance to go back, I’ll be bringing an armful of their product home with me next time!

Original posted on FaceBook by Opus 88 and created by Dan Cincu