Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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If You’ve Ever Wanted To Try A Pilot Kaküno

07/28/2017

The Pilot Kaküno is one of my favorite bargain fountain pens. The white barrel with a soft blue cap is just right for a number of blue inks and looks rather sassy with orange. Pink and magenta are attractive colors for it, too. It writes well and is the most lightweight pen in my collection. That is all to the good.

While perusing Amazon for other items, I discovered the blue Kaküno has earned an Amazon’s Choice ranking and is currently listed at less that $10 for either the fine or the medium nib. I ordered mine with a three-pack of CON-50 converters though the pen comes with a cartridge that can be refilled via pipette or syringe.

Hey, what’s not to like about a nib that winks at you!

 

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Blackstone Barrier Reef Blue Ink

06/05/2017

Blackstone delivers beautiful, saturated color with its Barrier Reef Blue ink. My 30 ml bottle came from Anderson Pens and at $8.50 it was a steal.

Blackstone ink hails from Australia and is available in nalgene bottles that are incredibly sturdy. I’ve the same bottles to decant vintage inks preserving them for years. I’m interested in ink, not the packaging, so this is just right for me.

Don’t expect any water resistance. Do expect rich blue that swings from a near purple to a deep, medium blue depending on the paper. The red component can fade as the ink dries which makes it a chameleon of sorts. No feathering on good paper. There were some rough outlines on cheap copy paper, but that was only noticeable under magnification.

The Conklin Duragraph 1.1 mm nib has a juicy flow, but Barrier Reef handled it well. Lubrication is average and should suit most pens. The wide swath of ink took a few seconds to dry, but not unreasonably long. This ink might be a good match for a dry writer, but none of my pens qualify for that test.

After a month of use, I am happy with the results especially in my Quo Vadis Plan & Note. The color even received some nice compliments from family members, something rare for a blue ink and high praise indeed. That glint of red makes Blackstone Barrier Reef Blue intriguing and at the price point, a decidedly cheap thrill.

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About Pen Reviews And Reviewers

03/16/2017

Pen reviews and reviewers is a hot topic at Fountain Pen Network. There are a daunting 111 posts so far, but since I write pen reviews from time to time, it seemed worthwhile to get a fresh perspective on what folks want to know about prospective pen purchases. Whoa, did I get an earful along with confirmation you can’t please everyone or even anyone some times. How can a post about using a pen be anything other than subjective? But some folks want specs down to the millimeter, objective comparisons to other pens and more.

For the record, I have never been paid for a review. (Wish I had!) Some pens have been given to me, but most were purchased with my own funds. Most of the inks and paper mentioned have been purchases or gifts from pen friends. (Lucky me!) There have been exceptions, but that is always noted.

Since the writing experience is what intrigues me most, my posts are slanted in that direction. However, the aesthetics of a pen are well-described by images whether mine or those of a manufacturer, retailer or another reviewer. Look to those for accuracy. I do.

One caveat. Even machine-made nibs can vary. Where I have been able to write with more than one pen from a single model, the nibs are different. They aren’t identical in terms of flow and smoothness. To be sure, ink and paper play a part in the way a pen writes. But apples to apples, nibs are different. My fab nib may be a stinker for you or vice versa. So be prepared.

I do expect a fountain pen to perform reasonably well out of the box. If a nib needs tuning or the flow needs adjustment just to be useful, the manufacturer has failed. Quality control may be a lost art, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to foist on consumers worthless products. Reviewing them is unrewarding, but on occasion necessary.

So there you have it. The FPN thread continues to gather comments though it has shifted to candy bars for some of them. Heh. Really!

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About A Muji Notebook

01/15/2017

Last weekend, John reminded me how good Muji notebooks can be so I ordered a pack to test the current version. Two days later we got acquainted and immediately became fast friends.

The notebooks are made in Indonesia though Muji’s paper can come from Japan or China. The slim, 30-sheet version is in the minimalist vein with no frills, not even labels. Each notebook in the five pack has a different colored binding. It’s a nice touch that makes it easy to differentiate notebooks.

They have a thin cardboard cover that can easily be written on or decorated. The notebooks aren’t sturdy like a hardback, but they do lay totally flat.

With fountain pen ink, there is no feathering, bleed-through and only the faintest show-through. Writing on the reverse completely obscured the almost non-existent show-through. The 6 mm line spacing should work for most writers and the smooth paper suited all nibs tested. Not one pen complained. In fact the paper was so good that it improved the performance of a scratchy nib.

Thirty sheets does make the Muji quite slim. They tucked in nicely at the back of my Staples Arc notebooks which adds to the usefulness of both.

A package of five B5 Muji notebooks is less than $9 with the A5 pack of five available for less than $8 though Amazon prices can shift several times a day. The cost could change in the time it took me to hit the “Publish” button. If you like the price, grab it while you can.

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Stillman & Birn Soft Cover Sketchbooks

12/28/2016

Stillman & Birn sent a few of their soft cover Sketchbooks and I am really enjoying them. The quality of S&B paper is always excellent and the hard cover version has been in my arsenal for years. It is equally fantastic for fountain pens, watercolors or mixed media. The soft cover has proven to be an even better match for my needs in several ways.

  • The soft cover journal weighs a little less than the hardcover. It’s enough to notice a difference carried in my travel pack.
  • The pages bend back a little more easily than the hardcover and become extremely flat. No barriers to painting across a two-page spread.
  • The corners are rounded which is a nice touch.
  • The soft cover has two more sheets of that lovely paper.
  • The cover is stiff enough that I can hold the book in my lap or hand to work.
  • The cover material is less inclined to slide on my desk than the hard cover version.

The question that remains is how durable the soft cover is compared to the hard cover and whether any difference is enough to matter in everyday use. My journals tend to get pampered with duty largely at my work table. They often look pristine even after months of use and so far the Stillman & Birn soft cover looks just fine. This is where the rounded corners are of benefit since they fray less easily than squared ones. Put that down to thoughtful design.

Frankly, you can’t go wrong with Stillman & Birn paper regardless of the application. Just match your paper selection to the intended use. Either cover will do the job so it’s a matter of personal preference. Both will protect your pages and provide a serviceable platform on which to work. This is truly the good stuff and very highly recommended.

Brenda Swenson review on YouTube and a second review here. Liz Steel review.

Portrait and landscape are both available at Amazon.

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Review: Platinum Plaisir Fountain Pen

11/22/2016

The Platinum Plaisir has so much going for it, that calling it an entry-level pen is too limited. It is a fountain pen that offers excellent functionality at a reasonable price with features anyone can appreciate.

The Plaisir is a well-constructed, anodized aluminum bodied model that comes in a variety of colors. It is a medium sized pen at 142.5 mm long and 15 mm in maximum diameter. The weight is 15.4 g and should be comfortable in most hands. The cap is friction fit, but does not pop off without a little effort perhaps due to the Slip & Seal mechanism that prevents ink from drying in the nib. It is a great feature, particularly for anyone who is lackadaisical about pen use or care.

The pen comes with the same much loved, stainless nib as the Platinum Preppy. My fine nib has good flow and a little definition. It isn’t an italic, but the shape does enhance line edges.

With the smooth and luscious Platinum Carbon Black, the medium nib puts down a substantial line that is comparable to some broad nibs. The bonus is that it can be used upside down for a fine line. It isn’t quite as smooth as a pen with a true fine nib, but with the right ink on quality paper, it is perfectly serviceable. This can be especially useful for sketching or doodling. A Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook  made fast proof of that.

The section is clear revealing the ink’s color and whether the nib is running dry. It can look a bit messy, but a brilliant ink turns this into a colorful feature rather than a liability.

Some people consider the Plaisir to be a beginner’s pen. Using one revealed one of the reasons: the medium has a very large sweet spot. It can be rotated and held upright or even at a low angle and will still write well. As a gift to a newbie, the fine is worth considering as it produces a line more comparable in width to the familiar rollerball or gel pen.

The Plaisir comes in many colors, an array recently expanded with the a new release called Nova Orange. Compared to orange inks in my collection, the colors that match the barrel best are Iroshizuku yu-yake and J. Herbin Orange Indien. The metal barrel reflects light producing a variety of tones adding to the appeal of what Platinum has christened the Color of the Year for 2017. The Frosty Blue pen is well-matched to Diamine China Blue, but that’s only to give you a sense of the color. Gunmetal is a welcome change from the ubiquitous black and a neutral home for any ink. The three pens look very inviting on my desk. For a color lover having only one of these jewels may not be enough.

The pen comes with a single cartridge. If bottled ink is on the menu, a converter will be needed. Since it’s a metal pen, staining won’t be an issue. Bring on those inks that are known to misbehave and let the Plaisir tame them.

With its quality fit and finish plus variety of colors, the Platinum Plaisir is a good choice for the budget conscious whether for personal use or as a gift. It makes an attractive travel pen and, if lost, easily replaced. If you fancy carrying a loaner, the firm nib should withstand a few minutes in the grip of a heavy-handed newbie and provide a good initiation into the world of fountain pens. The more the merrier, eh?

A big thank you to Carol at Luxury Brands for the Platinum pens and Carbon Ink. It was great fun getting acquainted. The Nova Orange is good for a smile every time I see it. Yeah, I am a sucker for orange and in that I am not alone. Bet you won’t be able to keep this one in stock.

More info at Platinum Pen Co.

Where to buy:

Fine nib at Amazon

Medium nib at Amazon

Platinum converter at Amazon

Platinum Carbon Ink at Amazon

Noodler’s Black Swan in English Roses

 

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A Quo Vadis Planner for 2017

10/20/2016

Laurie Huff from Quo Vadis blog sent a 2017 Plan & Note Weekly Open Format planner for review and it’s going to fit perfectly into my journaling plans for next year.

Some details from the Quo Vadis website:

  • Sleek and compact – made for organized note keeping on-the-go
  • Open space for planning & notes
  • Week across two full pages
  • 2017 monthly planning pages
  • 12 months – January-December
  • Bound-smooth rubberized hardboard covers
  • Color binding & match elastic closure (blue, purple or rose)
  • Anno-planning for 2017 & 2018
  • White 90g paper
  • Crisp, two color print – grey & blue
  • Tear-off corner opens to week in progress
  • Bound in address book

All to the good, but this statement on the inner cover intrigued me from the first word. “Freedom to organize your day.  No boundaries. No boxes. Just Open Space.” Exactly! Use it as a planner, journal, diary or all three in the same day.

Form and fit are well-executed. Stitched binding encourages the journal to lay flat for comfortable writing. The desk sized version has a writing area of 13 x 3.5 cm for each day with 5 mm line spacing. The area for notes is the same size and located at the bottom of the right hand page. The lines and details are pale and unobtrusive. Whatever you write will be the star attraction against the soft background.

Confession time. I was reluctant to put a mark on the lovely paper. It seemed a travesty to mar its smooth surface. Consequently, the journal sat on my desk for several days before it met a pen. Ink tests showed no feathering with a couple of nearly imperceptible exceptions visible only under magnification. There was no bleed-through and virtually no show-through except with a Sharpie. (I like Sharpies but cannot figure out where to use them. Suggestions?)

The journal could use a bookmark so I added a book thong that won’t interfere with writing. Yeah, it’s girlie and dangly, but it dresses up the place.

For my purposes, the year-at-a-glance will be for birthdays and anniversaries, the monthly section for appointments and events, while the weekly pages will work as a journal. That’s just one approach. With three calendars, it can be adapted to a variety of uses.

So there you go. Fine form, excellent paper, open format. The worst thing about my Quo Vadis 2017 Plan & Note? I have to wait until the new year to put it to use!

Thanks, Laurie, for the planner and opportunity to review it.

More uses for planners at Quo Vadis blog.

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