Posts Tagged ‘fountain pen’

bulow x450 kurve

The Bulow X450 Kurve is an affordable dressy pen that gives the bang of bling for baby bucks.

China-made, it’s become popular for its looks and accessibility. If you get a good one, you’re lucky.

The nib is a two-tone (gold and silver) 18-k gold-plated broad, and is a smooth writer.

The cap and body are green marble resin outfitted with gold hardware, that, however, has tarnished a bit over the couple of years I’ve owned it. The Kurve generally comes in plain colors (vanilla, midnight blue, claret red), while the marble finishes like this are less commonly available.

It is not a good idea to post this pen.

bulow x450 fountain pen green with gold trim

The ink used for this writing sample is Waterman Havana (yes, from an old batch before they changed the names of their inks). 

I’ve always been partial to XF and F pens because I use Moleskine notebooks with their thin, non-fountain-pen-friendly paper, but once in a while it’s satisfying to break out the broads, fill them with inks of interesting colors, and revel in swirls and curves and flourishes.

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sailor clear candy


Sailor released its colorful Clear Candy fountain pen line late last year to celebrate the company’s centennial.

It’s marketed as a student’s pen, but its price (about $19.50 at Scribe in Manila), between the Platinum Preppy ($3.30 at JetPens) and the Lamy Safari (about $25 at National Bookstore in Manila), would make it more affordable for working folks rather than students on a budget.

The pen comes in a clear acrylic box, but maybe only at Scribe in Manila, where I bought this.

The  barrel, cap, feed, and section are made of plastic, and the nib of steel, the ubiquitous rolled-under stamped metal sheet that is the modern nail and a feature of budget pens.

The parts of a Clear Candy – barrel, cap with inset star, cartridge, and steel nib in a white section. There was an older version called the AS Manhattaner’s NY Artists’ Guild fountain pen – that one had a cat. AN ADORABLE CAT.

Inking for the first time, using red J. Herbin Anniversary Ink. 

The pen came with a converter, which I find more convenient to use than a cartridge. Be careful when you open the barrel – when I did that to re-ink for the second time, I found that the converter had come unscrewed from the rest of its parts. Good thing there was very little ink left in the chamber and a horrible messy inky accident all over the papers in my office was averted.

The white section stains when the pen is inked. (This is because I use a converter.) Clean it immediately with a tissue dipped in alcohol. That’s inconvenient, but then the pen is pink, and, as we all know, pink covers over a multitude of sins. To avoid this, you could ink by dipping the converter itself into the ink bottle, rather than through the nib. (Or by using a cartridge instead.)

It was too dry a writer with the red J. Herbin Anniversary Ink. I might have the nib modded into a stub – it might write better that way.

The nib is very firm. I cannot coax the least bit of spring from it. At first it was a bit scratchy and dry and did nothing at all for my handwriting. But after some smoothening on rough cardboard, the nib has settled into a toothiness that bites well into most types of paper.

Because the nib is an F-2 fine, there aren’t any bleeding, feathering, nor show-through issues. It’ll do all right on cheap, thin paper, if that’s what you have to work with.

Experiment with different types of ink to find which level of dryness or wetness you prefer, as this pen is choosy about its ink and does better with some than with others.

Here’s a size comparison with a Nokia C-3 phone.

While it might not be to your liking at the start, I suggest you give it a breaking-in period. It’ll do as a school pen for taking notes and as an all-around daily warrior. It comes in many colors – check out the lineup at JetPens.

In Manila, the Sailor Clear Candy pen is available at Scribe, Eastwood Mall.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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pastel pink esterbrook

Ah, the age of fountain pens. While there are staunch FP users like myself keeping modern pen companies in business, my inner retronaut is drawn to the inescapable allure of the vintage, when materials were different and the nibs were better – or more interesting, at least.

This is a light pink pastel Esterbrook CH model “purse pen” from the mid-1950s. It is a “first generation” with two black jewels.

Pastel pink CH Esterbrook with a bottle of J. Herbin Vert Empire.

It’s a lever fill, with a miniscule capacity that requires frequent re-inking – not that I mind. I love playing with ink.

The plastic used for the pastel Esties was softer and prone to cracking and staining.

This pen came with a steel DuraCrome point 2668 nib, which is a “Firm Medium” for “general writing”. (Here’s a chart of Esterbrook nibs and their descriptions.) I’m not sure if the nib was modded somehow before it came to me, but it writes like an italic stub. It was scratchy so I smoothened it on an old brown kraft paper envelope.

The nib was so sharp it tore holes in the paper. 

Trying to rub out the sharpness by stroking it across rough paper. See the deeply-scored lines made by the nib.

After some effort, it writes much better.

Estie DuraCrome nibs were made without extra metal at the tip, so having less metal to wear away, I succeeded in getting it somewhat smoother, although I wore the point down at an angle instead of straight across. It works for me, anyway.

Writing sample with the smoothened nib. The Vert Empire ink mixed with existing black left unflushed from the nib and sac, so this is not a true rendering of the ink color.

Here’s another writing sample, this time with the same ink appearing in truer color. I love this nib!

There is a dark pink version of the purse Estie that I covet. Perhaps one day the universe will drop it into my lap.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed.

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nancy milford: savage beauty

Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Random House, New York: 2002)

Once in a while you stumble across a gem of a work so well-written and meticulously researched that you thank all your stars of fortune for such a book falling with serendipity into your grateful grasp.

Nancy Milford’s biography of American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay draws on previously unpublished family-preserved material – letters, photographs, drafts – to paint a realistic and highly detailed picture of her subject.

The trade paperback cover of Nancy Milford’s excellent biography of Millay. Sharing the spotlight is a Dancheron fountain pen. 

The title comes from Millay’s “Assault” (1921), portraying Beauty as a threat and menace, upsetting the usual convention of the poet paying tribute to it as a virtue.

Millay (b. 1892) was precocious, a genius; the muck of obscurity and poverty failed to conceal the blazing light of an intellectual beacon. Growing up unconventionally during the tail-end of Victorian times with a single parent (her mother, Cora, had sent her gentle but irresponsible father Henry away) and two sisters (Norma and Kathleen), “Vincent”, as she was called, entertained herself with books and writing. From her youth, her works regularly saw print in the children’s magazine St. Nicholas and in other publications; at twenty, her poem “Renascence” placed fourth in a literary contest and was included in an anthology, although many critics said her work should have won.

On the strength of the publicity of this occurrence, Vincent gained a scholarship to Vassar, and later settled into a life of writing poetry, plays, and prose. She was a free spirit, married to Eugen Boissevain until his death, but both of them openly engaged in affairs, she with lovers of both sexes. Her later life was marked by medical problems and addiction to alcohol and morphine.

Writing in 1929 to her lover, George Dillon, she begs him to visit her and Eugen at Steepletop, their home on a blueberry farm in New York state:

Sweetheart, what it means is: will you please come to visit me in my crazy, unfinished, half-finished, disorderly house, where there is a place for nothing, & nothing in its place, except the only important things in the world. – I want to show you the tiny pool we built, absurd, nothing at all, & the hut in the blueberry pasture where I wrote The King’s Henchman, I want to sit on the edge of your bed while you have your breakfast – I want to laugh with you, dress up in curtains, be incredibly silly, be incredibly happy, be like children, and I want to kiss you more than anything in the world.

Vincent lived life on her own terms, staying true to her core philosophy expressed in her “First Fig” (1918):

My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night. But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—. It gives a lovely light!

Beyond the text, the book itself is of interest as an artifact. It has a story. It is pre-loved. I bought it a couple years ago from a poet, University of the Philippines creative writing professor Chingbee (Conchitina) Cruz, when she culled her library prior to leaving for New York to take up doctoral studies.

 The half-title page of the book bears her chop – a rubber-stamped “C” in sapphire ink, ornamented with scrolls and foliage.

She must have bought it second-hand too, or received it as a gift from someone else’s library, because the inside front cover bears a dedication from “Kate” to her “Mama”.

“Kate” lives in Los Angeles now, and gives the book to her “Mama” who might be living in Pennsylvania, where the “brown-gray” landscape is a “desolation.”

Too bad the dedication is not dated, but it must have been written between the publication date, 2002, and the date I acquired it from Chingbee, perhaps in 2010 or 2011.

This pre-owned copy has an interesting dedication written on the inside front cover. Once more the Dancheron makes an appearance.

The book as text and the book as artifact: I think Vincent, who spent her life writing, would have appreciated the many ramifications of presenting the written word.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed.

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sheaffer targa matte black

Knowing that I collect fountain pens, and that my favorites ones are vintage and those that belonged to other people, my stepfather sent me one of his.

It’s a classic matte black Sheaffer Targa, circa ’80s, with the distinctive  inlaid nib design executed in 14 karat gold.

The tassies at both ends are plain black. The weight and heft are just right, and the pen remains well-balanced even when posted. This is the regular-size version, not the slim, and is comfortable to hold and write with for extended periods.

According to this source, this pen could be a “Sheaffer Targa version 4, 1003 Matte Black second edition.”

The small photo above shows the parts: barrel; nib, section, and Skrip cartridge; and cap with clip.

The elegance of its design and the quality of materials used make this a timeless pen, one for all seasons.

But its superpower lies in its nib.

Writing sample of Sheaffer Targa matte black on Kokuyo notebook, J. Herbin Lie de The ink.

On creamy Kokuyo paper, the nib glided here and there like skating on glass. There were no skips, starts, nor hiccups at any point of the writing process. If there is such a thing as a nib that “disappears” into the writing experience, becoming an extension of your hand to convey your innermost thoughts onto paper, this is it – the Sheaffer Targa inlaid nib.

 All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed for sharpness and color.

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platinum preppy pink

It’s been raining quite a lot lately, and the skies are often gray and gloomy.

When that happens, I reach for something colorful to brighten my spirits.

Today, it’s this Platinum Preppy fountain pen in perfect peekaboo pink.

 Full shot of the pink Platinum Preppy. Instagram filter: Valencia

As with most things of Japanese design, it is cute. Coming from the prestigious and respected Platinum Pen Company (est. 1919), it is reliable from the moment you snap the cartridge in.

The Preppy is an entry-level for children, students, and anyone who wants an inexpensive but well-made fountain pen. (They’re only US$ 3.30 at Jetpens!)  It comes in several different colors – black, blue, green, purple, red, yellow, and pink among them – with matching colored nibs and ink cartridges.  The nibs come in 03 Fine and 05 Medium. This one’s an 05 Medium.

 Parts of a Platinum Preppy: nib and section, cartridge, barrel, cap and clip. Instagram filter: Hefe.

There being none sold in the Philippines, I got mine at Quill and Nib in West Des Moines, Iowa, during a trip there.

Here’s a writing sample in Platinum’s cheery almost-sakura pink ink. The words and drawing are from an Internet meme.

Writing sample and closeup of a Platinum Preppy nib. 

Someday it will stop raining. Someday it will stop being gray and gloomy. Till then, here’s my pink Platinum Preppy.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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blue lamy safari italic

Going through my collection of fountain pens, I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover this bold blue Lamy Safari from a couple of years back.

The Lamy cap and barrel is made of high-quality ABS plastic with a chrome clip. It has a cartridge/converter fill system. The barrel has a cutout – that’s to see how much ink is left, which serves the same purpose of the Ink-Vue windows of 1930s Waterman pens, but in a simpler fashion.

I prefer converters to cartridges. They’re eco-friendly because they’re reusable, although carts can be refilled with a syringe. Here, I’ve dipped the Lamy’s nib into a bottle of Private Reserve.

A converter is also great for priming a clean pen because it draws ink up through the nib. Here the converter is half-full. (You can see I’m an optimist.)

Here’s a writing sample with this pen’s lovely 1.1 italic nib. The ink color is actually Tropical Blue, not Turquoise. Sorry for the typo error. The Lamy does not have spell-check.

A closer look at the nib will show the end of the nib that lays the ink down in a wider line than usual, perfect for rendering italics, calligraphy, and interesting drawings. It’s going to get a lot more use from now on.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed.

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daily art: essay-a-day

Inspired by Summer Pierre’s one-page story writing exercise, I started an essay-a-day daily art project, a diary-slash-creative non-fiction effort.

Summer’s method of using keyword flashcards to choose a topic is interesting but I’m too lazy to make flashcards. I suppose instead of flashcards that I’d have to carry around, I could flip through a book and point to a word.

For now I rely on serendipitous random happenstance of whatever floats to the surface of my mind when faced with a blank sheet of paper, though I do have a theme going on now; all the pieces start with “In [add name of city].”

Here’s my second entry in a pocket plain Moleskine.

Materials: vintage Sheaffer Agio fountain pen inked with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Derwent Coloursoft pencils.

I follow Summer’s rules of writing whatever comes first to mind and no editing. The length of the piece is constrained by the size of the page, although I’ve done a two-page piece.

I posted the picture above on Instagram and Twitter, and tweeted a link to Summer’s article. That got a retweet and a favorite from Summer herself! (Follow her on Twitter @summerpierre).

I asked if she didn’t mind that I adopted her idea.

Her reply? “@jennyortuoste of course not! I am THRILLED you took to it!”

Art is global and knows no boundaries. 

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pilot prera

In marvelous serendipity a lovely pen from a lovely friend finds its way into my hands.

She leaves a note for me in her graceful, flowing calligraphy.

Inside the box she thoughtfully provided is nestled her ivory Pilot Prera, now rehomed with me.

The Prera is short and slim, at 4.75 inches capped, 5.3 inches with the cap posted.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This Prera comes with a CON-50 screw-type converter, and can take cartridges.

I fill the Prera with pink Sailor Jentle ink. The converter doesn’t hold a lot, but it’s enough for several days’ normal use.

It’s still light enough to use even with the cap posted.

Surprise! It comes with a 1.1 italic nib. Stock nibs come in medium and fine.

I’ve always loved Japanese pens for their elegant design, craftsmanship, and reliability – no skips, blots, and start-up issues. On my wish list are a pink Prera and a demonstrator Prera with pink accents. Someday…

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danitrio cumlaude

Danitrio fountain pens are handmade from rods of Italian celluloid (cellulose acetate), hand-turned on a lathe, and polished by hand for days. It’s available in two sizes – large and small – and comes with either an 18k nib or a steel (iridium) nib. They are well-made and most collectors try to acquire at least one.

Danis are a bit pricey, and I thought I’d never own one until I learned about their Cumlaude model. It’s the basic, entry-level Dani, and since I got mine on a “group buy” with fellow members of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, I was finally able to afford one.

The pens we got were from the “close-out” Cumlaude sale, the last few stock left of this type of pen. (Dani no longer makes celluloid pens, concentrating now on urushi and maki-e from ebonite).

This is a large brown Danitrio Cumlaude, Fine nib. It also comes in blue.

Earlier Cumlaudes had markings on the cap band – “Trio Cumlaude” – and a metal section, according to Peaceable Writer. The clips of both types are marked with the brand name.

The “close-out” Cumlaudes have no metal internal parts. It has a converter fill system. I’ve heard it can be turned into an eyedropper fill, but the ink would stain the celluloid material and reduce the translucence.

When filling it for the first time, I chose J. Herbin Vert Empire and removed the converter from the barrel, in case of spills. I don’t want to stain the pen’s lovely marble-y brown body.

The large Dani is fairly fat. Although I have small hands, I got used to its size right away, as it requires less of a grip to hold on to it and manipulate it, unlike with smaller pens. It won’t exacerbate the focal dystonia in my right hand.

This is a Fine steel nib. It is a nail with very little give. Here’s a writing sample.

While the nib is smooth and buttery once it gets started, I had problems with the initial flow and with doing curves – it skips on the upstroke of a cursive “J” or “N”, and the top of “S”.  I don’t have this issue with other pens, like my equally new TWSBI, for instance. This problem was resolved when I used a different ink – Waterman, which flows well and is a “default” and safe ink for many FP users.

I find it also messy and blotty sometimes – see what happened when I unscrewed the cap the other day. I have yet to observe whether the change in ink will eliminate this particular issue.

Overall, the Danitrio Cumlaude is a handsome pen and an interesting and welcome addition to my collection.

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