Posts Tagged ‘fountain pens’

noodler’s ahab

I have a profound weakness for demonstrator (transparent) pens, so when I visited Quill and Nib at the Valley West Mall, West Des Moines, my eye was drawn to this cheerful sunny Noodler’s Ahab fountain pen.

I don’t like yellow, but this was the only color they had left that was light enough for me to see the ink inside, which is why I like demonstrators in the first place. I don’t mind the color now – it’s a change from all the transparent demonstrators I already have.

These are the parts of an Ahab – from the top, the nib and section with the breather tube for the piston-fill system; cap with steel band; piston rod; and barrel.

The filling system was new to me and at first I was unsure how to go about using it. I thought about Googling, then asking Ahab-owning friends for help. But I decided, naah, I’ll play with it.

I chose magenta De Atramentis ink that I also got at Quill and Nib. (There were so many other lovely colors but alas! I had no room for more in my small hand-carry size suitcase.)

I dipped the nib into the ink and drew up on the rod. Success! The ink flowed into the chamber and up into the breather tube as well.

I still didn’t know if this was supposed to happen, but it seemed fine so I fitted the piston rod back into the barrel for the next step.

A word on the filling system: there are excellent reviews all over the Web that I could have read first, such as Peninkcillin’s and FP Geeks’, and they are informative about all aspects of the pen.

One thing that’s great about it is that it can be converted into an eyedropper fill with an o-ring, giving a generous 6ml ink capacity.

The piston rod is quite long when fully retracted.

Even so, it fits into the barrel.

I pushed the rod back in a bit. Ink dripped out of the nib, but at the same time air was expelled, which seemed to be the right thing to happen. When I read other reviews, the advice was when filling to first push the rod in to expel air, then dip in ink and draw back to fill the chamber. Now I know.

It’s a bit of a wet writer, which is only as it should be, since the Ahab has a semi-flex nib. Flex nibs use a lot of ink and are very thirsty. They tend to railroad when not enough ink for the flex gets up into the feed.

The Ahab’s got nothing on the vintage flex nibs that I own and have reviewed on this blog, such as those by Waterman and Sheaffer, but considering that it’s a modern version in steel and not the more malleable gold is quite an achievement.

Alas, it railroaded the first time I tried it! I was disappointed and put the pen away. What did I expect after all for $19?

After a couple of weeks I took it out again, and was pleased to find that things had somehow settled in and the pen was performing much better. Look at that juicy flex action on the downstroke, and the overall width variation!

Affordable cost + flex ability + eyedropper ready = good deal!

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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waterman lady patricia

The Waterman Lady Patricia was released in 1930 following the spectacular debut of the larger Patrician line a year earlier. This model is the Ink-Vue, lever fill. They are small and dainty, perfect for lady and child hands.

This one has a 14k Ideal firm nib.

 The “Lady Pat” came in various colors and transparency patterns, such as red and the rare turquoise and moss-agate. This one is a hard-to-find Persian. Best of all, it comes with a semi-flexible nib, for that good old line variation.

A closer look shows the black celluloid section, silver cap band, and lovely marbling of the barrel and cap. The nib has a heart-shaped breather hole.

This writing sample shows the wonderful line variation such a nib can give. Take care, though, not to push it into the “danger zone” when flexing, otherwise the nib will spring.

Waterman made  ”wet noodle” nibs back in the day; alas, modern manufacturers no longer do. Something to do with the metallurgy, or some such technical matter. Look for antique and vintage pens on eBay or from fellow pen collectors, which is how I get mine.

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mondial lus stylo

This is the Mondial Lus Stylo fountain pen – tiny, yet sturdy and packs a wallop. I won it in the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines raffle holiday penmeet last year; it was donated by anthropologist Butch Palma, penmeister extraordinaire.

This is my first French fountain pen. FPs are still widely used in Europe and come in models to fit all ages and budgets.

It’s a no-nonsense pocket-size pen that is small and easy to carry, yet still long enough to use when posted. It comes with a functional steel nib that is a nail yet with a slight hint of give for that extra touch of comfort when writing for long periods. A short cartridge fits perfectly inside its transparent plastic barrel that allows you to see how much ink you have left.

Function – check. Style – check, if you like simple modern design. It’s a good budget instrument to make sure you’re never without a fountain pen in your bag.


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montblanc noblesse

Well, hello, there. What an interesting way to start the year, fountain-pen-wise – meeting a Montblanc I’ve never come across before.

This is a Montblanc Noblesse. It was available from the late ’70s to ’80s.

The pen has a slimline design popular during that period.

The Montblanc white star is on the cap, as usual. The nib of this particular pen is an 18k Fine. The gold cap band is engraved with the words “Montblanc Noblesse”.

The filling system is a converter. As you can see, this one’s pristine. Never been inked. *heartbeat*

It came with a bottle of Montblanc Emerald Green ink, a color that has been discontinued.

Filling this vintage pen for the first time is a fantastic way to start the year.

The nib is a nail without a hint of spring, writes buttery-smooth, and simply glides over paper.

This gem of a Montblanc is not mine, but I am glad to have met it and been the one to fill it and write with it for the first time. A distinct honor, I must say.

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nakaya piccolo kuro-tamenuri

A Nakaya fountain pen, no matter the price, comes beautifully packaged in a simple pauwlonia wood box with a pen wrap. It’s just one more instance of the company’s attention to detail, their commitment to giving their customers not only quality products but also a satisfying experience.

Every Nakaya fountain pen comes with a pen wrap like this one – its own kimono, if you will.

I prefer my Nakayas without clips. They have a tendency to roll on flat surfaces, but I find the sleek uninterrupted line true to the aesthetic, the finish gleaming unbroken along its length. 

The kuro-tamenuri finish is black lacquer upon red. In time, the lacquer will become more translucent, and more of the red underneath will start to show through. This pen is about four years old; its color was darker when I acquired it over two, maybe three, years ago from Leigh. 

The parts of a Piccolo: cap, barrel, nib and feed, and converter, filled with ink. See the ink bubble inside.

Writing sample with the stock flexible fine nib. There is good line variation, and I’d probably get more if I were better at calligraphy. As it is, it’s a modern nib that flexes much like vintage ones.

“Love is a Memory” is the title of an essay simmering on the stove (it’s what I had workshopped at this year’s University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop last April). Excerpts from the essay are here, here, and here.

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nakaya piccolo cigar

The Nakaya Piccolo Cigar is a triumph of understated design. It draws on the Japanese aesthetic – simple, clean, minimal. Its lines are sleek and elegant. It is a zen koan brought to life.

Nakaya calls this model the “Cigar” because it is sans clip; their model with clip is called “Writer”.

The black lacquer finish on this one gleams subtly, an inky pool that laps up light.

The Piccolo is Nakaya’s shortest size.

Uncapped, it’s just right for my hand. I try not to post the cap when using it so as not to scratch the barrel finish, though urushi wears pretty well.

The nib is, as all Nakaya nibs are, reliable from the get-go and doesn’t skip nor railroad.

The 14-k gold medium stock nib is firm with a hint of spring. It is perfect for note-taking and daily use.

This pen was rehomed from bleubug two years ago. I’d put it away for safekeeping, but lately I’ve been thinking, Life is short. Let’s use the good china – and the fountain pens.

So I took it out of hibernation and let it rock.

Nakaya Piccolo Cigar, black Wajima urushi nuri finish. It poses at the Senate of the Philippines (Senate seal in the background).

“Wajima” is the area in Japan where world-renowned lacquerware – urushi – has been produced since the 16th century. Nuri means “coating”. Nakaya Fountain Pen Company artists work with a Wajima-based company for the urushi finishes for their pens. The lacquer work is a painstaking, labor-intensive process. It takes a couple of months of expert craftsmanship to build up the urushi finish by hand on the ebonite base of a Nakaya fountain pen.

The Piccolo Cigar rests on a Pocket Moleskine on my lap. Since the pen does not have a clip, it has a tendency to roll on flat surfaces. One of these days I might get a roll stopper for it like this one. I’d like a horse or a cat.

More than a functional object, it is a work of art. It is a marvel of Japanese engineering and design. With my Nakaya, I feel I can take over the world. Or, at the very least, stylishly make notes on how to get it done.

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ink of a perfect vintage

Last holidays were fantastic for me for several reasons, one of them being the arrival of a pleasant surprise from gogirl cafe reader Gil Q. He sent a lovely bottle of Mont Blanc ink in Bordeaux, and a Ciak Ecological Journal with elastic strap.

The Mont Blanc ink bottle is itself a product of marvelous design. Shaped like a little shoe, raised ridges along one end form a no-slip grip when twisting open the plastic cap with an inlaid signature white star. The color of the ink is like the rich wine it is named for.

Mont Blanc Bordeaux ink shown here with circa 1920 Moore Manifold flex fountain pen.

The Ciak Ecological Journal is made of pre-consumer waste material inside, while the cover is made of waste leather. Handmade in Italy, it is also superbly designed – the crosswise elastic strap is less likely to slip, unlike vertically-oriented straps. In addition, a notch in the cover prevents the elastic from slipping.

The  Ciak also has a bookmark. Its binding allows it to be laid flat open.

Thank you, Gil Q, for the beautiful gifts! I promise you they’ll be put to good use.

In the gallery below are more pictures – fountain pen, ink, and journal enthusiasts, enjoy.

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sheaffer targa 1005

Meet my colleague Noy’s heirloom pen. It was given to him by his father over the holidays, when Noy asked if there was a fountain pen around he could use as a sign pen at work. His father gave him this one. Noy took it to me one morning to check out.

I was impressed by how pristine it was. There was no ink discernible on the nib or within the barrel or cap. Before inking, I flushed the nib and fill system. The water remained undiscolored. Then I realized – IT WAS UNUSED. Mint condition, save for a few rust spots on the barrel.

After some research at Penspotters, I identified the pen as a Sheaffer Targa 1005, circa 1985. I knew Rick Conner’s site would have the answer.

The clip has a white dot; both top and bottom tassies are black enamel. The cap and barrel are gold electroplate, perhaps 23k.

The nib is the typical upturned-tip associated with the Sheaffer Targa. It’s a 14k fine, but I keep comparing the Western nibs to the Japanese so to my mind this is a Japanese medium .

It uses an aerometric fill, very convenient and easy to use – just dip and squeeze until no bubbles appear.

It had feed issues and would not go even after being inked with black Parker Quink. I inserted a business card several times between nib and feed, a trick taught me by Leigh which has helped me save many a pen here and abroad, and it got going.

This handsome pen is a buttery-smooth wet writer, perfect for Noy to sign any peace treaties, declarations of independence, and attendance forms that may cross his desk.

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a collection of j. herbin inks

“La Perle des Encres” – “The Jewel of Inks”. Thus now are known the inks first created in 1700 by sailor-entrepreneur M. Herbin in his atelier in the Rue des Fosses Saint Germain in Paris. The company, known as J. Herbin, has been in existence since 1670; they began as a purveyor of fine sealing waxes.

Using inks in fountain pens and sealing wax in correspondence is an enjoyable visit to a splendid age, when the educated people of that time wrote long letters on thick paper in an elegant hand, carefully sealing them afterward with colored wax, an impression from a seal or a ring, and perhaps a kiss.

It is a marvel that we today can enjoy these same things. J. Herbin still makes fountain pen inks from natural dyes; their neutral pH is fountain-pen friendly. Here’s my latest haul of J. Herbin, from Scribe Writing Essentials in Eastwood Mall.

The packages are very chic, a designer’s dream.

The ink bottles are also beautiful, as are the labels. And the names of the inks, in French, will make you fall in love. Je t’aime.

The bottles are of glass and come with plastic caps.

There is something so very satisfying about a well-made and well-designed product.

The bottles are a special shape – the caps are set slightly back to give space for a groove that functions as a pen rest.

The bottles are works of art in themselves.

Even the bottom of the ink bottles are lovely.

These simple writing samples show how spectacular these water-based, lightfast inks are. Can you imagine using one of these colors in a pen to write a letter to someone special? Or using several colors to create a watercolor artwork?

This new year, make it a resolution to tap in your own creativity. What is it you enjoy doing – writing, drawing, singing? Express yourself through that channel, do whatever it is that makes you happy, and renew your spirit in words, color, or sound.

Photos taken with a Nikon Coolpix L21 at PICC Complex, Pasay City.

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my manila: ongpin and recto

Sometime last year I went with some penfriends to old Manila to look for NOS (new old stock) fountain pens and ink. It’s a part of the city that is the oldest, and consequently the one being consumed by inner-city decay.

Yet along its streets life thrives. Commerce is booming. There are interesting things to see – and buy. Come take a look at what we found. (Click on each picture, then click again to see full size.)

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