Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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Review: BENU Scepter Fountain Pens

07/22/2021

The BENU Scepter has received a lot of attention and interest, and rightfully so. If you like colorful pens, these can’t be topped and sporting Schmidt nibs, they write well, too.

Fountain Pen Quest has an in depth review including measurements and a performance comparison between the Scepter II and the Grand Scepter X. I would concur except for the nibs.

The Scepter has a #5 medium nib that writes a bit wider than expected with significant flow. The Scepter Grand has a #6 fine nib that is perhaps slightly wide for a fine with just the right amount of flow to make it a pleasure to use. I usually like wider nibs, but in this case, the fine beat the medium for my purposes.

These pens are surprisingly lightweight. The only real differences between them are the patterns and the nib size. The Scepter I is red, blue and gold and the Grand Scepter IX is blue and pink. In my hand, the Grand was a little over-balanced due to the angle required to use the large nib. It is comparable in size to the nibs on the Platinum Century pens that I use daily, so the larger nib doesn’t deter me. It’s that I had to adjust to the balance between the nib and barrel for the best writing experience. The smaller nib on the Scepter just fit my hand from the first mark on the paper. It is such a personal thing that other writers might never even notice. Both nibs had a touch of feedback, but were still quite smooth.

The pens wrote well with Iroshizuku ink, but Noodler’s Eel Blue was a little too free-flowing for the Grand’s medium nib. So like all pens, it’s trial and error to find the best ink, but isn’t that part of the fun?

Given the brilliant colors of BENU pens, it was challenging to find inks that suited them without detracting from the stunning barrels. Colorverse Glistening Stars and Stripes worked well in the Scepter. The Grand eventually got filled with Iroshizuku yama-budo and the Scepter was complemented nicely by asa-gao. Both are deep colors without sheen or other special characteristics. Too little inventory here to find matches of that sort beyond the Colorverse ink.

As for the pen, it is eye-candy of the highest order. There are a number of color combinations available making it easy to find a BENU that is just right for you.

Note that the wide barrel end makes the cap too narrow for posting and that might make the pen a bit short for really large hands. The section is average sized, but I hold pens quite far from the nib so the threads fell under my fingers. With a light grip, this was not a deterrent for short writing sessions. There is no clip, but the hexagonal shape prevents rolling. On my cluttered desk, that is a definite advantage.

The BENU Scepter is an eye-catching pen that writes well and could make a worthy addition to your collection. Or do you already have one? If so, what do you think of it?

Thank you Luxury Brands USA for sending the Scepters and Colorverse ink. I am now firmly spoiled for any other colorful pen. In other words, none need apply.

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Links To Inks, Pens, and Watercolor Supplies

06/01/2021

Getting back into the swing of things after a long holiday weekend…

From the archives:

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Review: Ayush Notebooks From Federalist Pens

05/21/2021

My pens have made best friends with Ayush notebooks, a paper from India that is perfectly suited to fountain pen ink and at 100 gsm, sturdy to boot. Yes, they are delighted with this new match and so am I.

Fred from Federalist Pens sent a couple of notebooks to review, but Ayush would have received high marks regardless. What is written on the back of the 3.5 x 5.5″ spiral pocket pad isn’t hype.

The only problem I had was trying to photograph the colors accurately. The paper is not quite white, easy on the eyes and did not shift the ink color. The photo at the end of this post is more accurate. The cover is salmon for the grid format which suits the paper color nicely.

The surface has a very slight softness to it unlike the slick surface of some Japanese brands of paper. It made writing a little less tiring since the nib had no inclination to wander and it also made controlling the nib easier. Being able to write on both sides of the paper makes Ayush economical as well as resource conserving.

The grid lines are neutral and unobtrusive, and at 5 mm, useful with a variety of nib widths. Even a Conklin 1.1 mm stub put down very legible words. Lined paper is 8 mm if you prefer more space. The pads are offered with blank paper for writers like me who tend to doodle or reject the confinement of lines. A dot version is offered as well so there is a format for everyone.

The double-spiral notebooks come in A4 and A5 sizes in addition to the pocket size plus there is a sewn-signature, glue-bound journal that is 135 x 210 mm. With a little use, it should lay flat.

Ayush is good for fountain pens, attractive, and very reasonably priced. Toss a couple of notebooks into your next pen and ink order. I am always looking for ways to meet the minimum purchase requirement for free shipping and these notebooks could be a good way to do it.

Thanks, Fred, for the Ayush paper samples. It’s good stuff and my finicky pens were glad to make its acquaintance. Not a hint of misbehaving from any of them.

From the Ayush paper company:

 

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It’s National Pencil Day. What Do I Use?

03/30/2021

Do mechanical pencils count? I use them daily and have a decided need in my journal for easily amended notes. The no fuss MP writes without hesitation and requires no special care, perfect for my Traveler’s Notebook Diary.

Recently, I switched from 2B to HB lead to reduce smearing and breakage as well as downsize from 0.7 to 0.5. However, the 0.7 is easier to read so a test of HB at that size is pending. Uni Nano Dia is smooth and relatively sturdy making it my lead of choice. 

Having the right diameter, weight and balance for my hand has made the Tombow MONO graph the mechanical pencil I return to time after time. Next in line is the Zebra DelGuard 0.7. For variety, a Uni Kuru Toga and a Pilot Opt round out my rotation. Yes, I have a mechanical pencil rotation just like a fountain pen rotation. 

A Pentel Clic Eraser (ZE21T) is an essential tool with all of them considering my fickle nature and obsession with editing.

The fact that a pencil will write on any paper is very convenient. However, I still favor quality paper although writing with MPs has made it possible to use some of the lesser quality notebooks like the Moleskine that have come my way. 

Did I mention mechanical pencils are economical? Few cost more than $10 and most cost less than $7. A package of 120 leads costs about $7. Not bad, eh? It isn’t a fountain pen but it will do nicely for everyday use.

Shopping list for products mentioned. Inkophile may earn a tiny commission and I do mean tiny.

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Walmart Fails to Deliver

01/22/2021

Color me gobsmacked. (Is that really a color?) I knew it was bad out there but this situation was an eye-opener. Due to the lockdown, instead of going to a brick and mortar for a much needed scanner/printer, I shopped online, a frustrating endeavor to be sure.

After hours of research, I settled on a Canon Pixma and proceeded to look for it at a price in my budget range. Believe me it took a lot of research and time to finally come up with a printer and source. Walmart is not my usual retailer but it was the only offer that would work for me. So I placed an order on 1/12 and received an acknowledgement that included an arrival date of 1/20. Subsequent confirmations gave the same date. A UPS shipping label was generated on 1/13 and my credit card debit cleared on 1/14. All good, right? Heh. 1/20 came and went without a sign of a printer. This did not bode well. I initiated an email to the third-party seller through the Walmart site and this is the response I received:

Hrumph. So I called Walmart and after a couple of attempts, spoke to “David”. Pleasant enough guy but he told me that Walmart was not responsible though they would issue a refund that my bank is currently holding. Guess they don’t trust Walmart either.  Regardless, it’s too late for me since the good prices, discounts and product availability have evaporated. A comparable printer will cost double to triple what I paid Walmart assuming there is a model with the same specs. David also told me that the vendor, PTM, does not have an address so there is no physical location. A guy in his mom’s basement perhaps?

What really speaks ill of “PTM” is that they knew they hadn’t shipped the item but failed to notify me so the funds could be returned and I could shop elsewhere. The only reason anything happened on it today was because I initiated a query to Walmart. Apparently, Walmart does not require a follow-up from a vendor when an item has shipped so basically you are on your own. The pile of work on my desk will have to wait for a future printer sale and a windfall of cash.

The lack of concern and responsibility is mind-bogglingly stupid in any age but particularly in the age of social media. 

I won’t order from Walmart again. Far too much trouble. Whenever the lockdown ends and I can go to local merchants, Walmart and the like had better look elsewhere for buyers because I won’t be one of them. Am I alone in this? How about you? Do you expect to return to your former brick and mortar sources or has the lockdown turned you into an online shopping addict?

 

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When Just A Few Pens Will Do

08/25/2020

Recently, I cleaned all of my inked fountain pens. Yep, not a single filled pen on my desk. Can you imagine that? A Platinum #3776 Century Nice from Luxury Brands is patiently waiting for a fill but which color? It will be the only pen on my desk for the next few weeks so it wouldn’t seem right to call it a rotation unless a mechanical pencil and a uni-ball Signo 307 count.

Well, that didn’t last. I ran across some swatches and resistance was futile.

Two pens qualify as a rotation, right? So it will be the Platinum with Kyo No Oto Kokeiro and a stainless Lamy Studio with Diamine Eau De Nil.

As for the inks, Eau de Nil has average flow from the Lamy and dries fairly fast. Kokeiro flows a bit too freely from the Platinum pooling enough to dry slowly depending on the paper. No feathering with either one. All fine but the colors are why I selected them. In this case, the blue plays well against the yellow green creating a nice pair for a minimal rotation.

That will do for now. I’m already considering inks for an autumn rotation despite the current heat wave. Stipula Calamo Verde Muschiato and Iroshizuku Yu Yake look promising. They could even be added to my summer inks for a four pen rotation. Wouldn’t that be neat and simple.

Shopping List:

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Mechanical Pencils In The Spotlight

07/05/2020

Cult Pens has deemed July 5th as Mechanical Pencil Day making this a good time to review a few models beyond the ubiquitous Pentel.

Autopoint, Pentel, Ibis Sketch, Tombow MONO graph, Pilot Opt., uni Kuru Toga, Zebra DelGuard

For years, an Autopoint has been a staple in my rotation while a few uninspiring MPs accumulated in a drawer. No love for that lot. Then came the quarantine and the time to play with the unloved bunch to which I added one that is especially comfortable in my hand. Much to my surprise, I now like all of them if to varying degrees.

Just as pens and inks need to be matched for best performance and a satisfying writing experience, mechanical pencils and leads benefit from similar consideration. How could I have missed this?

Lead properties include diameter, lead darkness, smoothness, sturdiness and durability. Pen characteristics include grip, diameter, materials, lead advancement, and eraser size. Color and form are less varied than in fountain pens as MPs are more workhorse than eye-candy though there are a few pastel and neon models in addition to black, white, and red. Doesn’t that sound simple compared to the vast world of fountain pens and inks?

Best features:

uni Alpha-Gel Shaker Soft Grip – Lead advances with only a gentle shake but the mechanism broke quickly.

Pilot Opt. – Shaker advance with wide barrel.

Tombow MONO graph – Locking shaker advance with long needle tip.

Zebra DelGuard – Tip design reduces breakage to zero for me.

Uni Kuru Toga – Lead rotates producing a very uniform line.

Pentel icy – Best value and availability.

Autopoint Jumbo All-American – Very sturdy. My first one lasted 15 years.

Ibis Art Sketch – Wide 1.8mm rectangular lead.

Zebra DelGuard, uni Kuru Toga, Pilot Opt., Tombow MONO graph

Comments:

Only the Autopoint 0.9mm with HB lead stood up flawlessly to heavy-handed use.

The Zebra Delguard 0.7mm with 2B lead did very well with soft to medium pressure. With HB lead, the tip did not break easily. This pencil is a very comfortable diameter for long writing sessions.

The uni Alpha-Gel Shaker Soft Grip 0.5 HB has a gel grip and advances the lead with a gentle shake rather than having to press a button. This significantly reduces the interruption of writing flow. Uni Nano lead is less inclined to break in it. Unfortunately, the shaker mechanism broke after only two weeks of modest use.

Pilot Opt. 0.5 has the shaker mechanism so lead advances easily. It is a bit heavier than many of the other pencils with a slightly wider diameter than most and has a soft grip. The clip is far and away the easiest to use. Just push the top against the barrel and the clip opens.

Tombow MONO graph 0.5 is another pencil with a shaker advance but this one locks so the lead won’t advance if jostled in a case or pocket. The metal sheathing for the tip is very long making it especially suited to precise lines and for use with rulers. It is paired with Uni Nano Dia 4B lead for a dark line.

The Pentel Icy 0.7mm with Pentel B or HB lead is a little more prone to breakage but it is inexpensive and available everywhere.

The Uni Kuru Toga 0.5mm has a unique tip that rotates the lead so that it maintains a consistent line shape. The tip gives a little to accomplish that feat and for me worked best with a light touch. I like it best with Uni Kuru Toga 2B lead.

The Ibis Art Sketch Mechanical pencil is unique. It comes with a flat 1.8mm 2B lead that puts down a very wide line.The lead is too solid to break and very smooth.

Ibis Sketch 1.8mm lead

Conclusions:

I already own four Autopoints, so there is no need for another. If I were to purchase a second pencil from one of the other models, it would be the DelGuard 0.7mm. In addition to lead not breaking easily, the grip and balance suit my hand very well. Uni Nano Dia lead is strong and a good match for it whether HB or 2B.

The shaker pens are very convenient to use. The Tombow MONO graph with its needle point is perfect for tiny writing and fine details because the lead tip is highly visible.

As for 0.5 and 0.7mm leads, I used Kuru Toga, Pentel, and uni Nano Dia. The latter wins as it breaks less easily in the 0.5 size than the others.

At 0.9mm, the Autopoint HB lead does not break at all. For those who are heavy-handed, this lead in an Autopoint pencil might be just the thing. The line is a bit soft but that for me has been an acceptable trade-off.

The erasers are very similar in size with the Pentel and the Autopoint being somewhat larger. I rarely use them and prefer a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser when needed.

Not a day goes by that I don’t use a mechanical pencil. It is an essential tool in my kit and a bargain at the price.

Teoh review of the Uni Kuru Toga.

Product Links:

Available at Amazon from which I might receive a tiny commission should you purchase through these links.

Autopoint All American 0.9

Tombow MONO graph 0.5 pastel, neon or gunmetal

uni Kuru Toga 0.5 colors or black

Pilot Opt. 0.5

Zebra DelGuard 0.7

Pentel icy 0.7 (newer model)

Uni Alpha-Gel Shaker 0.5

Ibis Art Sketch 1.8mm

Autopoint 0.9 HB lead

Pentel 0.7 HB and B leads

Uni Kuru  Toga 0.5 2B lead

uni Nano Dia 0.5 4B and 0.7 2B leads

Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser block or stick

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