Mid Trip Report – Europe July 2015

Europe 2015

I am about halfway through my trip and while I haven’t been actively seeking out pens and pen related items I haven’t been able to avoid them.

While in St. Petersburg I found a nice lacquer miniature box made out of paper mache that fits a pen quite nicely.

Russian lacquer miniature pen box

Minding my own business at the Warsaw airport, I found a duty free store with some rather bold discount signs in a small section of their Montblanc display and I accidentally bought this Platinum Facet Le Grand fountain pen…oops

montblanc meisterstuck solitaire platinum plated facet legrand 146 fountain pen

Today in Budapest I came across BomoArt’s beautiful little shop.

BomoArt Budapest

There I bought some very reasonably priced notebooks as well a Le Typographe propelling pencil with built in lead sharpener.

BomoArt Leather journal

The interior is lined with a beautiful paper featuring hot air balloons.

BomoArt Leather journal

BomoArt Leather journal

I picked up a small 2016 calendar as well.   It has a leather binding and an antique map paper cover.

BomoArt Calendar

The paper is very fine…I was told that it holds fountain pen ink well.

BomoArt Calendar

I also bought four pairs of shoes (quadruple oops)…but perhaps this would be best suited for another blog.

Vass Shoes BudapestHopefully I will be able to make it through Germany and Austria without buying anything…that’s all I have for now.

 

 

 

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Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen Review

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The Nippon Art series is Namiki’s entry level line of maki-e pens.  The pens are screened and on my Flower Basket version I do not believe any of the artwork to be done by hand. It’s “Hira” or flat maki-e and it really is flat to look at. I also see no gold sprinkles which makes me question if it should actually be considered “maki-e”, which I am told translates roughly to “sprinkle picture”.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The body of the pen is plastic covered in urushi lacquer and has a gold plated clip and thin cap band.  The pen is very simple and elegant; it looks great despite the dull hira maki-e.  The section has a seam on it and I do not believe it to be painted with urushi.  The pen is signed “Kokkokai” which is not a specific artist but rather a group of artists.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen
“Kokkokai” signature

The pen is very well balanced and feels great in hand.  It weighs about 32 grams with converter and measures 5.6” long capped.  This is a full-sized and very comfortable pen despite being the smallest in Namiki’s lineup.

Namiki Yukari Royale, Namiki Nippon Art
Nippon Art pictured with a Namiki Yukari Royale

The inside of the cap has a soft fuzzy material near the lip.  This is done so that when posted the cap does not scratch the lacquer body (a very nice touch).  Like the Pilot Custom 743 , the Nippon Art’s gold nib is lighter in color than the gold trim.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The pen has a #10 size nib and despite the different decoration, I believe this nib to be the same as a standard Pilot #10 (I am going off of a appearances only, so please correct me if I am wrong).  The Namiki #20 nib is the same size as the Pilot #15 but has a different shape and breather hole.

Namiki Yukari Royale nib above the Nippon Art nib
Namiki Yukari Royale nib above the Nippon Art nib
Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen
You can see the date stamp “a405” on the side of the nib. The “a” refers to the welding machine used at the Hiratsuka and “405” refers to April 2005.

The 14kt gold medium nib is ultra smooth and soft. It’s a wet nib and I find that it is a bit wider than your average Japanese medium.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

 

Hiratsuka

The Nippon Art comes with the Pilot Con-70 vacuum fill converter.  The Con-70 holds 1.1ml of ink (more than twice as much as an average converter).  After using a good number of these Con-70s I have found that some work better than others.  I always fill them with a syringe for this reason.  I also find them more difficult to clean but the huge capacity outweighs any of these of these drawbacks.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

This is my favorite Pilot/Namiki fountain pen I have used so far…the elegant design, balance, and wonderful nib have won me over.

Namiki Nippon Art Flower Basket Fountain Pen

The retail price for these pens is a staggering $750!  That is quite a lot of money for this pen.  I paid around $200 for mine second hand.  In my opinion these pens are a good buy at around $200-$350.  Some designs are more attractive than others and some have more handiwork.

Pilot “Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen” Stationery Review

Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

This is the first and only paper product I have tried from Pilot.  The cover accurately states that this is “Super Quality Paper For Fountain Pen”.  Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

The paper is considered “semi-B5” measuring 177 x 250 mm.  Each page only has fifteen grey lines making for a rather wide 12mm rule.  The paper is not lined on both sides.Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

The pad has 30 sheets and a one blotter sheet. The paper does not bleed or feather in my tests and is quite nice to write on.  The paper is on the thinner side and it’s weight is not specified but I suspect that it is somewhere around 70-80 gsm.  Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

There is some ghosting but you can easily write on both sides.Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen"

The matching envelopes come in a pack of ten and open on the short side.  They have a paper lining.Pilot "Super Quality Paper for Fountain Pen" The paper used in the pad and the envelopes is not watermarked.  I purchased these in Japan for about $7 USD for the set and at that price they are great as every day stationery.  I have seen this paper for sale in some stores in the USA at much higher price and for me, even though this paper is excellent, it doesn’t have enough character to justify a price much beyond $10 for the set.

 

Loadout For Five Weeks In Europe

Platinum Fountain Pen, Midori Traveler's Notebook

I am heading out for a five week trip to Europe.  I am keeping it light this time.  I will be bringing my Platinum Takashimaya 60th Anniversary Daisy Fountain pen with a broad nib, OMAS pen sleeve, black Platinum Ink cartridges, Life Schöpfer notebook, Pilot Coleto Lumio, and the cover and organizer bits from a Midori Traveler’s notebook.

I have found that the Traveler’s Notebook cover is very useful for holding my reservations and a electronic tickets so I use it now without any notebooks inside.

I am planning to continue posting about once a week.  I have some interesting reviews coming up so please stay tuned.

Namiki Yukari Royale, Namiki Nippon Art

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen Review

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

Marlen is an Italian pen manufacturer that doesn’t get much attention.  They make weird pens…not sure how else to put it.  Their designs are unconventional and polarizing.  I never had much interest in them but early one morning while fighting off some jet lag I started perusing fountain pens on eBay and I came across the pen I am reviewing today, a Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong.

It was new old stock and had an 18kt gold nib for a bit over $50…I figured why not?  Some background on this odd pen.  First of all, this pen was sold in a set of seven pens (yes seven pens!) in the colors of the rainbow.  These pens were produced to celebrate the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and as such they made 97 sets in 1997.  Not surprisingly, few people bought the sets (who wants seven of the same pen?) and now today you can purchase new individual pens from the set for very cheap.

My pen is made from a beautiful red plastic and has a tapered shape that continues from the end of the barrel through to the cap.  The end of the barrel is threaded so that the cap can screw onto the back.  It’s not a brilliant look if I am honest but it’s functional.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

The cap features a solid sterling silver clip with a Greek column design.  The cap band is done in rainbow colors with sterling trim and looks a bit sloppy, the colors are not very uniform and in some spots overlaps the sterling silver.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

Unscrew the cap and you will see a small bulbous grip section and a small gold nib.  This is the only pen I have owned where the threading on the grip section is used to secure both the barrel AND the cap.  I could be wrong but this seems like a cheap shortcut.  The downside is you end up with a small grip section and nib.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

The nib is 18kt yellow gold which does not match the other metal furniture.  The nib has a column design with what to me looks like an ear of corn on top (if someone knows what it actually is please let me know).

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

The nib is unbelievably soft and springy.  The only other semi-modern pen I can think of with a nib like this is the first year of the Pelikan M600 with the mono-tone 18kt gold nib.  It’s an amazing nib.

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

Empty this pen weighs a comfortable 23 grams and measures 14cm long capped.  I found the small grip section to be comfortable enough though I found myself gripping the pen on the barrel which this pen doesn’t like.  Because of the cheap single threading when pressure is applied to the nib from the barrel the section moves slightly and clicks occasionally…this is annoying for sure.

My apologies for the poor picture I had trouble photographing the engraving.

The pen is numbered and I have number 81 of 97.  The red plastic has a bit of translucency to it and you can see on the cap there is a line where some of the color has worn away.

See that dark line going around the cap?
See that dark line going around the cap?

Marlen Rainbow Over Hong Kong Fountain Pen

So what do I think of this pen?  It’s not made very well but it has a fantastic 18kt gold nib and can be had for around $50-$80 new old stock…if you can get past the design and it’s quirks it’s not bad.

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery Review

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

Life Bank Paper is a smooth woven paper that I really like for its high quality and simplicity.  They are sold in pad of 100 sheets and packages of 20 envelopes in A4 and A5 sizes.  I purchased the A5.

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

I do not know the weight of this paper but my guess is that it is somewhere between 90 and 100 gsm based on comparisons with other papers.  The paper is thin enough that I can use a guide sheet to keep my sentences straight (something I really need help with).

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

The pad has a nice pink blotter page.  The paper handles fountain pen ink with flawless performance.

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

No bleed-through no feathering.  The paper is thin so you do get some ghosting but it’s not enough to bother me.

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

The envelopes paper lined and have a very faint unusual embossing (?)

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

Maybe it’s a watermark but it seems pressed into the paper and holding it up to the light makes it harder to see. The other strange thing is that it appears to be printed backwards as if you are to read it from the inside of the envelope but you can’t because they have a paper lining.  As a sanity check I looked at the other envelopes and they are all done this same way.

LIFE Bank Paper Stationery

The embossing or whatever it is reads “THREE DIAMONDS”; I don’t know what it refers to.  I also am not sure why they call it bank paper.  It’s a simple woven paper not something that you would use for bank notes.

…anyways I paid about $7 for the pad and $6 for the envelopes when I was in Japan.  I really wish I had bought a lot more of the pads because they cost approximately the same as an A5 Rhodia pad.  In the United States the prices I have seen are a lot higher, $20-$22 for the pad only and that price I wouldn’t bother.

UPDATE: Mystery Solved!  Thanks to Mr. Bruno Taut of Crónicas Estilográficas

I have been informed that this paper is actually manufactured by Mitsubishi, hence the watermark “THREE DIAMONDS”.  According to Mr. Taut this paper’s originates from the Mitsubishi Group’s banking activities, the most visible of these being Japan’s largest bank, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen Review

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

Mild curiosity mixed with a very good deal got the better of me and I now have a Waterman Carene.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

The Carene is one of the older pens in the Waterman lineup and features an inlaid nib like their flagship Edson pen.  Carene in French means “hull” and the literature for this pen states that the Carene is inspired by “luxury yacht design”.   The ends of this pen do bear resemblance to the bow and stern of a yacht but other than that there are no cues to signify a nautical theme.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

The pen has a metal body covered in black lacquer and weighs a hefty 33 grams.  The Carene measures 5.7″ capped and is a nicely balanced pen posted or unposted.  I did find that you have to push the cap onto the barrel with a bit of effort for it to stay posted. The real star of this pen is it’s beautiful inlaid nib.  It is solid 18kt gold with a stub point made in house by Waterman.  The nib is a nail but performs very nicely.  It is on the finer side for a stub and is quite forgiving on paper.  The downside is that you get a little bit less flare but more usability overall.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen  nib

The Carene like all modern Watermans uses a cartridge converter system.  The pens comes with a Waterman branded converter as well as a box of 6 Waterman ink cartridges.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

The build quality of the pen is excellent.  There are no flaws in any of the materials.  The section has two rubber o-rings on the threading and I found that these made it difficult to get the nib in line with the gold tail of the barrel.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

Amazon UK (no affiliation) had this pen for sale brand new for 60 GBP (approximately $90 USD) and at that price I couldn’t pass it up.  Even though this is an excellent pen by all accounts, I didn’t end up bonding with it; it’s boring.  If this pen had some personality it would be a home run.   With a street price around $220 it’s definitely a pass for me.  At $90-$100? It is a lot of pen for the money but I get more enjoyment out of pens like the TWSBI Vac 700  and the Pelikan M200 even though they are not made as well nor adorned with gold nibs.

Waterman Carene Black Sea Fountain Pen

 

Here are some other great reviews of the Waterman Carene:

(I have no affiliation with any of the sites linked below)

Pen Classics – Waterman Carene

Leigh Reyes. My Life As A Verb – Waterman Carene, now with stub