Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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A TWSBI Diamond 580 And The Eco

05/22/2016

After almost a year of use, it’s time to tell my TWSBI tale. Of the two on hand, the 580 beats the Eco easily. However, both are good value for money though with caveats.

Both models are piston-fillers so they start out even on that score. A visual comparison reveals no difference between the two fillers, so ink capacity will be identical. The pistons move smoothly and draw ink from a bottle easily. Filling them reminded me how well a piston in a long barrel can pull ink from a tall bottle like Noodler’s. It won’t get you to the bottom, but it will get you closer than other fillers.

The 580 comes in a variety of colors while the Eco comes in black or white. I will say the white Eco looks very appealing with a fill of aqua or turquoise ink. The black is rather common (Who doesn’t have a black fountain pen?), but looks more exciting with a fill of red or orange ink. Diamine Soft Mint is particularly attractive in it.

The Diamond 580 is a clear demonstrator model with enough metal to be a little heavy though balanced when writing without the cap. Tuck the cap on the end and it becomes overbalanced in a small to average hand. It has a very solid feel to its construction though I haven’t played darts with it to see if it is durable. It has either been in a case, on my desk or in my hand which is an easy life for a fountain pen.

The JoWo 1.1mm steel nib is smooth with decent though not copious flow. The sweet spot is a little undersized for the angle at which I write resulting in an occasional missed start to a stroke. This might be an issue peculiar to me and not a problem with the nibs since other users have not mentioned it. The line is slightly less crisp than a Lamy 1.1, so I would rate it a cursive italic. From a practical perspective, the JoWo is better for general use in part because the line is more narrow. Some italics have sharp corners that catch. Not so with this nib, which adds to its ease of use.

For months the 580 has been filled with Diamine Violet which is a very good match for the nib as well as the clear barrel. I like to twirl it in my fingers just to see the colorful ink slosh around. Sometimes it’s the little things, you know?

TWSBI pens can be a bit delicate. Before engaging in any activity other than filling, take a few minutes to read the included instructions or watch a video or two. My 580 arrived with a barrel and nib that would spin with little provocation and would not tighten. It took a day at FPN, several posts and some help from friends to figure out how to stabilize it without risking damage. The pen should have arrived ready to rock and roll. It didn’t. Since another FPNer had the same problem, you might, too.

The Eco does not write quite as smoothly as the 580. In fact the one I have is a dry writer that needs a somewhat upright hold and slight rotation to produce a consistent line. I often rotate a pen so that isn’t a disqualification for me. However, the upright angle is not comfortable so the Eco loses marks for that bit. Unfortunately, it isn’t good enough to get regular use. Perhaps a different ink will make it a better fit for my writing style.

The 580 has no flow or nib issue and has a more substantial build. It is slightly heftier in the hand and I think more attractive. The turning knob on the Eco is functional, but a bit clunky in proportion and design. That could be said of the cap as well. The 580 has a more balanced and sophisticated design. Go for that one if $60 fits your budget. If you want an inexpensive carry pen or one as a first foray into italic nibs, the Eco at under $30 might do.

So that’s my TWSBI tale of two pens.

The company has an excellent reputation for customer service, but hopefully you will never need it.

Amazon offers a variety of TWSBI models and nib sizes.

More on the 580 from The Pen Addict and a review of the Eco from Dan Smith.

 

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Staples Sugarcane Paper Ain’t What It Used To Be

04/30/2016

Why do companies have to tinker with success? My latest purchase of a Staples Sugarcane Notebook turned out to be very disappointing. The paper still comes from Egypt, but the weight and texture have changed. Now it’s just an ordinary notebook.

The newer notebook is shown in front of one purchased several years ago. The new cover’s texture is coarse and feels like a paper bag while the cover art is less aesthetic than in the past. The dark brown design looks cluttered and forced. Nothing subtle about it.

The paper is not up to the quality of the earlier editions. It does not play well with fountain pen ink producing jagged outlines and heavy bleed-through. Forget writing on the back of a page. That cuts the notebook’s usefulness by half. Even the paper texture is less smooth. Heck, I have inexpensive comp books that have better paper.

Consequently, Staples Sugarcane Notebooks have slid from highly recommended to not recommended for fountain pens. This might seem harsh, but unfortunately it is true.

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Easy-Peasy Way To Add Color To A Journal

04/28/2016

Adding a little color to a journal is easy with watercolor dots, a brush and some water. Contrast or complement with fountain pen ink for a unique twist to doodling in a journal.

American Journey is a line of watercolors from Cheap Joe’s and rumored to be produced by DaVinci. Whatever the source, it is artist quality and reasonably priced. Not long ago Joe began offering small dots of paint to get acquainted with the colors. Then last week one of the Essentials Sample Color Sets jumped into my shopping cart just to show me what I had been missing. At less than $6, it was an offer too good to refuse.

The packaging is simple but functional with a box that feels like a cardboard egg carton and a paper label that slides on easily to keep it closed. It is very portable though it lacks a mixing area. That can be overcome with a piece of Yupo trimmed to fit inside the lid. Or just allow the colors to mix together on a journal page by placing them next to each other for a variegated effect.

There is a sheet of paper inside the box with the names of the paints, characteristics, and pigment codes with enough room to paint a small sample of the color. It is printer paper so use a minimal amount of water, but it is a handy way to know which color you are grabbing.

The paint dots are small so a round brush is best for lifting color. The website claims it’s enough to make a painting. Heh, maybe a small one. However, it is enough to see the color though limited for making mixes when you consider how many you can create with a dozen colors.

Single pigment colors are preferred by most watercolorists and there are six in this set. The six multiple pigment paints are fine, but can make color mixing more complicated.

  • Aureolin lacks the brown/gray aspect of other brands of Aureolin and for me that is a plus. It’s more true yellow which is better for mixing purposes, the primary use for yellow. It is a multiple pigment paint, but the two pigments are both in the yellow family. So Aureolin behaves more like a single pigment paint.
  • Joe’s Yellow is benzimidazolone, a watercolor sold by Winsor & Newton as Winsor Yellow. It’s a good mixing color and useful as is for florals.
  • Gamboge (hue) is a double pigment color that is achieved with a single pigment in the Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton lines. At least both pigments are yellow and the combination does produce a more even color transition from orange to pale yellow than what some companies produce. I could get used to the AJ version.
  • Raw Sienna is slightly less red than many brands, but it is single pigment and makes very smooth dark to light gradients. When diluted to its palest form, it can be used for skin tones in landscapes where features are not defined.
  • Rambling Rose is made from the same pigment as Daniel Smith Quinacridone Rose and Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose. It is a versatile color that can be used in place of red and mixes well with a wide range of colors.
  • Joe’s Red is pyrrol red like Winsor Red and is closer to a true red than Rambling Rose.
  • Brown Madder (quinacridone) is similar to Transparent Red Oxide though a touch more orange.
  • Quinacridone Gold Deep is more golden than some similarly named paints. Like Raw Sienna is can be diluted to make a flesh tone for landscapes. This version is made from a yellow and a red pigment so if you add blue, it will produce gray.
  • Ultramarine Blue is exactly what it should be. It mixes well with the yellows in the set to create lovely greens or with Raw Sienna to produce gray. Try it with the reds for some lovely purples.
  • Blue Stone was reluctant to release color and never became as saturated as the other paints. It resembles Daniel Smith Lunar Blue though more green. It is not an essential color. Joe’s Blue (phthalo) or Cobalt Blue would have been better choices.
  • Royal Amethyst is a beautiful dioxazine purple and rightly called amethyst. Add yellow to make neutral and warm browns.
  • Skip’s Green is a yellow biased spring green and is a novelty color rather than an essential. I think the set would have been better served with a more useful green.

Add a #4 or #6 travel brush or a waterbrush to the Essentials Sample Set for a simple kit of basic tools to decorate your journal. Dots, dashes and doodles are all it takes.

Note: Daniel Smith offers watercolor dots on 8.5″ x 11″ sheets that aren’t nearly so portable. However, if you really want to fool around with a lot of different colors, it’s another way to go. There are three other American Journey sets, if the Essentials selection isn’t right for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pilot Kaküno Review

04/23/2016

Recently, a Pilot Kaküno found its way into a small Amazon order. For $10 and change, it was a steal of a deal. The soft blue and white are a refreshing combination for the summer ahead, but looks aren’t everything. So what else does it have going for it?

Key points:

  • clean, simple design
  • very light weight
  • no clip
  • octagonal shape keeps it from rolling on a flat surface but it has a tiny stop molded into the cap as well
  • medium-sized section is comfortable in hand
  • long enough to use without posting
  • slip cap posts securely without overbalancing
  • despite three holes in the cap and two in the barrel, ink does not dry out in the nib
  • smiley face on the nib is cheerful and a nice touch
  • comes in a variety of colors
  • workhorse nib is stainless steel and solid
  • can pop the cap off one-handed which is very convenient
  • comes with a single cartridge so purchasing a converter is essential

After a thorough search of the blue inks on hand, Diamine Mediterranean Blue emerged as the best choice to fit the summer-at-the-beach look of the pen. Some other inks that would be lovely with it are Iroshizuku syo-ro, Platinum Mixable Aqua Blue and Diamine Soft Mint. Contrarian? Diamine Peach Haze, Vermilion or Wild Strawberry would be unexpected colors for this model. Montblanc Pink Ink would be very eye-catching, too.

Unlike some entry level fountain pens, the Kaküno wrote perfectly from the get-go. It did get a water rinse before the first fill, but that’s just good practice with any new pen. The flow is perfect for the medium nib and produced some nice shading. No skipping or false starts. It isn’t butter smooth, but with a light touch it is neither scratchy nor squeaky. For an all-purpose carry anywhere pen, it writes quite well.

If you buy two, you can swap the caps for additional variety. I think a black cap on a white barrel would look very cool. But the pink and white model reminds me of cotton candy. There are many choices, but at the price point, it’s hard to go wrong.

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Speedball Elegant Writer Is A Cheap Thrill

01/15/2016

Playing with the Speedball Elegant Writer is a lot of fun. Just grab a wet brush and make it dance around the paper. The more water the better so a paper of at least 150gsm will make the best surface and yield the most satisfying results, but Midori and Tomoe River paper like it, too. Four pens for less than $10 makes this an inexpensive tool for journal decorating or mixed media art. I predict much doodling ahead.

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Leuchtturm1917 Ink And Watercolor Tests

01/12/2016

Pen friends are great! One of mine sent a Leuchtturm1917 Squared Notebook that she thought I might enjoy. She was right. The soft surface of the paper is kind to nibs as well as my hand. The pale gray grid on ivory paper is even easy on the eyes. All to the good. However, a reader mentioned that he was having trouble with bleeding so I put my dozen ink rotation to the test.

Four of the twelve inks bled and showed slightly stronger marks than the photo. Iroshizuku tsuki-yo and Diamine Merlot left dots behind on almost every paper and remained true to form here. Great colors, but disappointing performance except with the finest of nibs. Earlier in the year, I wrote pages with Sailor Tokiwa-Matsu, Pelikan Violet and Iroshizuku yu-yake without bleeding. In order to use both sides of the paper, I have to be a bit selective with using free-flowing ink in a wide nib. Not a big deal since I love the paper’s texture and the size of the notebook.

The mild Moleskine-like feathering is only visible on close inspection and is not a deterrent for my purposes. The show-through was not offensive and in line with the 80gsm paper.

The surprise was that a light wash of watercolor did not exhibit any feathering or bleeding and so little buckling that the reverse can be written on with a fountain pen. That last is impressive and very convenient for my tendency to write about all kinds of things in my journal.

The form factor, paper texture, grid size and color, make the Leuchtturm1917 Squared Notebook a worthy contender for your affection. It may not be perfect, but it’s good enough for me.

 

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Taming Paper With The Right Ink

01/08/2016

Proof positive that Noodler’s Black deserves its #1 ranking on my list of favorite inks.

The paper is Greenroom recycled from Target. Made in Taiwan, it feathers and bleeds exactly like Moleskine. However, it is inexpensive and pencils do very well on it so the composition book has a use in my work flow. No significant show-through with pencil and amazingly little with Noodler’s Black. Any wonder I always have a pen loaded with it?

Perhaps a comparison of inks that tame naughty paper is in order. Which inks would you nominate for this list?

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