In a few days I am heading out for a three week trip to South America. I am still keeping it relatively light by bringing just one fountain pen, a Chocolate Brown Pilot Vanishing Point with an “ItaliFine” nib by Richard Binder. The ItaliFine gives you two points on one nib, a regular fine and a 0.9mm italic. I am also bringing Hermes’ new Ebony (brown) ink cartridges. The color is exclusive to Hermes; made for use with their (Pilot-produced) Nautilus fountain pen, and luckily these cartridges are compatible with the Vanishing Point. I am carrying the Vanishing Point in a black leather Kingsley pen pouch.
My primary notebook is going to be a #12 FantasticPaper Color notebook from Germany (review to come). I have my pack list and travel checklist in a blue floral Word. Notebook and I am carrying my travel documents in a Midori Traverler’s Notebook. I have a Karas Kustoms Render K with a Pilot G2 refill in TN pen loop.
Finally, the three non-pen-related items are a Vostok Amphibian automatic watch, a 35mm Olympus XA2 camera and a Rimowa Topas Sport Trunk.
I am planning to continue posting about once a week. I have some interesting reviews coming up so please stay tuned.
Bomo Art makes some of my favorite leather bound journals and when I had the opportunity to visit their shop earlier this year in Budapest I decided to try one of their diaries/planners.
I struggle to use a diary consistently. Every year I tell myself I am going to use one to stay organized and if I am lucky, I keep it up for a few months but eventually it falls by the wayside. With this in mind I went for an A5 size half leather bound version with a weekly format.
They come in six sizes with a full or half leather binding. There are three layouts, I chose the vertical weekly layout.
You also get to chose from eight leather options, I chose dark brown, and there are numerous papers for the cover of half leather binding dairy. I chose an antique map paper.
My dairy cost about $15 USD which is a pretty reasonable price for a book of this quality.
The diaries are made by hand in Budapest with the diary contents by Diarpell of Italy.
The paper is thin but holds up very well to fountain pen ink. With such a thin page you do get some ghosting but nothing that would prevent me from writing on both sides.
The paper is ultra smooth with almost no feedback.
This diary layout was designed in 2000 and as such, it still has an address/phone number section. Apart from the address book this diary has no extras. There are no blank pages for notes nor pockets for loose papers.
The stitched binding is pretty nice. The signatures are not as small as you might find on some Japanese notebooks but the binding lays pretty flat so I have no complaints.
At the end of the day the Bomo Art is not a feature-rich diary but it’s beautiful looks and high-quality feel make up for it’s simplicity.
In writing this I realize I have yet to review any of their wonderful journals. It’s now on my to-be-reviewed list so stay tuned… they are beautiful.
The Lucens and Extra Lucens were the best quality and best looking Italian pens of the 1930s and 1940s.
Italian pens during this period were largely inspired (and in many cases copies) of American pens. The Lucens and Extra Lucens were offered with visulated barrels much like the Parker Vacumatic and Waterman Ink View. The Extra Lucens also featured an arrow nib and an arrow clip not unlike the one found on the Parker Vacumatic.
In the late 1930s Wahl Eversharp came out with the Doric, a faceted pen very similar to the Extra Lucens; there is some debate about which pen was introduced first.
The bodies were made of celluloid and all of them had a degree of transparency to them. The pens in my photos that appear black (because they are filled with ink) have black striped barrels and were originally clear but have turned into to a red color. There were a number of beautiful celluloids that these pens were produced in. The rarest and most valuable color was a grey pearl (if you Google “OMAS Extra Lucens Limited Edition” you can see a reproduction of this pen, though the original was not brown).
Both the Lucens and Extra Lucens use a stantuffo tuffante, or plunger filling system. This system is considered to be the same as the one used by the American brand Dunn, which had a patent on this system in 1920. OMAS patented their version in 1936 and for this reason we see “Brev.73725 – 1936” on the barrels of these pens.
The plunger filler eliminated the use of sacs which made for a (supposedly) more durable filling system with a larger ink capacity.
Personally, I do not like this system and I am not surprised that it was abandoned in favor of the piston filler. Filling the pen requires pulling out the plunger which draws up ink into the pen and then quickly pushing the plunger back down allowing the air to escape through a breather tube inside the barrel…if you push the plunger down too slowly all of the ink you just drew into the pen will be expelled. The filling system is relatively durable such that I feel comfortable using these pens every day. The weak points being a cork seal and breather tube.
The Lucens and Extra Lucens came in three sizes, the largest of the three measures about 14cm long capped and the midsize measures about 13cm (unfortunately I don’t have a small one to measure). The larger model is more or less the same size as the current all celluloid OMAS Paragon. The midsize is very similar in feel to a Pelikan M400 though slightly longer.
The nibs of the Lucens and Extra Lucens are quite different. The Lucens “Extra” nib with heart shape breather hole was the standard nib used on all of the OMAS Extra pens, while the Extra Lucens had a special arrow nib with a pentagon shape breather hole.
The Extra nib has longer tines than the Extra Lucens nibs creating more flexibility. The Extra Lucens nibs are soft and springing but not flexible (based on the small handful I have sampled).
During the war the Lucens and Extra Lucens pens had white metal trim and “permanio” nibs which were made of a steel alloy. These nibs, unlike Montblanc and Aurora’s wartime nibs, were not very resistant and many of them corroded.
The Extra Lucens was also offered with a bi-tone reversible arrow nib. The reverse side was stiff for carbon copies while right-side up the nib was soft like a regular OMAS nib.
These pens are very nice reliable writers that I enjoy using. I almost always have one inked up. Like most vintage Italian pens, these are relatively rare and expensive. The large size Extra Lucens are the most desirable but for me as writers I prefer to use the smaller models.
Shimmering inks have become very popular in the last year and it’s largely thanks to Stormy Grey. Stormy Grey is part of J. Herbin’s “1670” line of fountain pen inks. 1670 inks are highly saturated and the original formulation of Rouge Hematite (the first ink in the line) was infamous for clogging pens. All four inks in the 1670 line now come with this warning label:
I only use these inks in my cheaper pens and ones that are easy to disassemble and clean.
Stormy Grey contains flecks of gold that tend to settle at the bottom of the bottle and in order to draw them up the bottle must be shaken, otherwise you are left with a much more plain dark grey ink.
Stormy Grey is a very wet ink (perhaps to compensate for the gold flecks?) and this translates to bleeding and feathering on more absorbent papers. The ink worked well on Rhodia but for more porous papers, a thin nib or dry pen is going to be a better match.
I have been using this ink for several weeks now and it performed trouble free in a number of pens until I put some in my TWSBI 580 with a 1.5mm stub nib. In the TWSBI I got spotty performance; sometimes it would write just fine and other times it would choke and skip.
Apart from some gold flecks left behind, Stormy Grey cleaned out of the pens I tested nicely; this was a nice surprise for a highly saturated ink.
Objectively, Stormy Grey is not a good ink but it is attractive and interesting. I can only recommend this ink as a curiosity; it is not a serious every day ink and but putting this stuff in your pen you are risking a clog.
The Namiki Custom Impressions line of pens was produced in the late 90s and while it predates the very popular Pilot Custom 74, it is essentially the same pen with a “celluloid” body and no markings on the cap band. These pens are cellulose acetate and not the cellulose nitrate normally associated with the word “celluloid”. The difference is that the cellulose acetate feels and can often look like a more typical plastic without the depth and oily feel of real celluloid.
The Custom Impressions came in five colors: Sapphire, Medley, Ambertone, Ruby and Emerald. I have Sapphire, Medley and Ambertone. It has been suggested (and from what I can tell rightly so) that Aurora used the same green plastic as the Emerald in their Optima. I have photographed them with a couple of Optimas…I am not certain that the Ruby is the same as Aurora’s Burgundy but they are close.
I particularly like the Sapphire and Medley colors; these to me are the most unique and beautiful.
These pens came with a con-70 converter and a 14kt gold #5 nib.
There is another variation of the Custom Impressions that very closely resembles the shape of the Custom 845, but again in “celluloid” and with a #10 instead of #15 nib. This model seems to be much more scarce and considerably more expensive than the pens I am showing here.
Like the Pilot Custom 74, the Namiki Custom Impressions make excellent workhorses. The nibs are butter smooth and wonderful writers.
To my knowledge these pens were only produced in fine, medium and broad nib grades.
I also find the nibs on the Impressions to be softer than the ones on the Custom 74. It seems to me, based on a small sample of Pilot/Namiki pens, that the pens from the 90s and early 00s have softer nibs than the ones produced more recently.
I have a decent amount of experience writing with Pilot/Namiki nibs from size #5 to size #20 and while I find all of these nib sizes to be very comfortable, the #10 seems to hit the sweet spot, with the #5 feeling a bit small and the #15 and #20 feeling a bit big. If you have big hands, which I do not, you may not like the #5 nib on these pens.
The Custom Impressions are full size pens measuring just over 13.5cm long, capped and weigh approximately 22.5 grams empty (with the con-70 installed). These pens post very well and I find them comfortable to use posted and unposted.
Prices for the Custom Impressions range a bit as they do not come up for sale all that often. If you can get one for around $150-$200 (depending on condition) I think that is a fair price but keep in mind if you prefer the look of a simple black body, a Custom 74 can be had for around $90 new.
I questioned posting a review of this notebook for a number of reasons. First, I knew it would be challenging to write a review without any dreadful jokes; second, while the product is technically charitable and green it’s borderline distasteful and third, it’s actually quite disgusting. I didn’t think I would be grossed out by this notebook but I was and if you think you might be too there no harm in skipping this post. Bearing all of this in mind let’s get on with the review.
PooPooPaper (FKA: The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company) is a company that turns animal poo into paper. They started with elephant poo and expanded the line the include dung from cows, pandas, donkey, moose and horse. Their web shop actually lets you shop products by poop type.
Their products are green because they are recycled and a portion of the proceeds goes to support animal conservation efforts. The notebook came with a very long pamphlet all about their product (and yes, it’s full of poop jokes).
The paper itself is quite strange. The front feels like a paper bag and the back feels like (and sort of looks like) a paper towel in texture.
The paper is a cream color but it’s not uniformly so; you can see different sorts of fibers that stand out on the page and are a bit distracting to look at. It is also lumpy in spots; I found dead bugs and gross unidentifiable material in the paper (I chose to exclude the pictures from the post).
It’s a very absorbent but fountain pen ink tends to bleed and feather. It’s not a nice paper to write on. It’s rough and probably not safe to use with fountain pens.
The notebook measures 8″ x 7.75″ and contains 20 blank pages for $16.99. The notebook itself is nicely put together but the paper is terrible to write on and to look at. This notebook is disgusting in my opinion and if you want to help conserve wildlife there are much nicer ways to go about it.
Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks has become incredibly popular in the last couple of years thanks to its agreeable performance and excellent color palette. Despite Iroshizuku’s success Pilot still produces it’s original more affordable ink line that is simply branded as “Pilot” (or “Namiki …or “Pilot/Namiki”).
It is my understanding that these inks have a ph of over 7 making them basic and as such I would caution against putting them in a pen where ink makes direct contact with celluloid.
This line comes in bottle and cartridge formats. The cartridges only fit Pilot and Namiki pens. There are seven colors produced in the cartridge format. In bottle format I have only seen three colors: blue, black, and blue black.
Pilot Blue Black is a bit pale for my tastes but the upshot is some nice subtle shading. The ink provides some good lubrication, making it a great choice for dryer writing pens. I had no issues with bleeding or feathering. I also saw no nib creep (as is common for lubricating inks). I found that this ink was easy to clean out unlike Pilot Blue which has a tendency to stain.
Packs of 12 cartridges go for $7 and 60ml bottles go for $12. The affordable price makes Pilot Blue Black a great workhorse ink that would be appropriate for the office and general correspondence.