OMAS Extra Lucens and Lucens Fountain Pen Review

Top to bottom: OMAS Extra Lucens, OMAS Extra Lucens, OMAS Lucens
Top to bottom: OMAS Extra Lucens, OMAS Extra Lucens, OMAS Lucens

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.

Omas Extra Lucens -2

 

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.

Omas Extra Lucens -4

The plunger filler eliminated the use of sacs which made for a (supposedly) more durable filling system with a larger ink capacity.

Omas Extra Lucens -9

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.

Top to bottom: OMAS Extra Lucens (large), OMAS Extra Lucens (small), OMAS Lucens (small)
Top to bottom: OMAS Extra Lucens (large), OMAS Extra Lucens (midsize), OMAS Lucens (midsize)

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.

OMAS Extra nib
OMAS Extra nib
OMAS Extra Lucens nib
OMAS Extra Lucens nib

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).

Two Extra Lucens nibs
Two Extra Lucens nibs

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 ebonite feed is much like those found on current production OMAS pens
The ebonite feed is much like those found on current production OMAS pens

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.

Omas Extra Lucens -10
Writing sample with the Lucens

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.

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Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen Review

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The Aurora Afrika is the first in Aurora’s Continents series of limited edition pens. Each pen is based on Aurora’s top-of-the-line Optima, which is one of my favorite modern fountain pens. Aurora produced 7,500 Afrika fountain pens and I have acquired No. 2486.

 

Appearance

The Afrika looks like an Optima but with some key improvements. The shiny black resin section and end caps have been replaced with matte black resin. The cap ring has been improved with a deeper and more intricate engraving that provides much more contrast.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The clip is engraved with the shape of Africa and the finial is engraved with the pen’s number and features a “precious deep-black Onyx”.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

 

The body is made out of a marbled “Land of Afrika” resin that is a gorgeous orangish gold color with black swirls. This resin has a lot of depth, much more than an “Auroloide” Optima.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The large and beautiful 18kt gold nib shares the same design as the Optima and other high-end Auroras.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The design of the Optima is uniquely Aurora and while it looks like no other pen, I do have to admit that its stocky appearance has not always been my favorite. With some key enhancements the Afrika has more than just a great personality, it has a beautiful face as well.

Score: 4.5/5

 

Build Quality

Let’s start with a confession; I recently broke my Aurora Optima. The piston knob came off. I set the pen down with the piston unscrewed to attend to something else and when I came back to it I suspect that I turned it the wrong way without thinking and off it came. This is the first pen I have broken in very long time, ten years maybe. It is now on holiday in Italy for the time being.

It is possible that the glue failed but I am waiting to hear Aurora’s assessment before I make any judgements.

For all intents and purposes the Afrika is of the same build quality as the Optima. The engraving on the cap ring is the only thing that stands out to me as an improvement…the other differences I sighted in the appearance section are merely a more tasteful selection of materials and design choices.

Note the different African tribal shields.
Note the different African tribal shields.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

Even though I broke my Optima I still believe that it is one of the highest quality fountain pens money can buy. Like the Optima, the Afrika has the smoothest piston mechanism I have used and the fit and finish are flawless. Aurora makes their own nibs in-house and uses solid ebonite feeds…I don’t think there is more that I can ask for.

Score: 5/5

 

Size & Weight

The Aurora Optima first appeared in the late 1930s as a competitor to my favorite vintage pen, the OMAS Extra Lucens.

1938 OMAS Extra Lucens

One of the things that Aurora got right that almost all vintage Italian makers missed was girth. Aurora made fat pens. Anything other than the senior and oversized models from OMAS, Ancora, Montegrappa, Columbus and so on are too skinny for me to use comfortably but the medium and small Auroras are comfortable because they are fat.

The Afrika takes after the vintage Optima’s 1930s proportions. Measuring just 5.1” with a section diameter of 0.4”; that’s the same size my Nakaya Naka-ai and my OMAS Paragon which each measure almost 6” long.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen
Notice how much of the body is the section compared to the OMAS above.

The section is fat but unlike my Nakaya and OMAS the grip section is also very long which makes the Afrika (and Optima) one of the most comfortable pens on the market. The section is big enough to accommodate almost any grip style.

The Afrika is ever so slightly heavier than the Optima weighing in at 22.2 grams which still makes the Afrika a lightweight pen by any measure.

When it comes to size and weight the Optima is appropriately named….it gets everything right (as does its African sibling).

Score: 5/5

 

Performance

As I mentioned earlier, Aurora makes all of their nibs in-house and as such their nibs feel different than any other manufacturers. Aurora’s obliques, stubs and italics are sharper than any other big brands I have come across.

Aurora’s round pointed nibs have more feedback than most other quality brands as well. They are more or the less the opposite of the buttery smooth nibs Visconti is known for and as such Aurora’s nibs can be polarizing.

People love them or hate them. I for one like the feedback because it helps me slow down my cursive and really focus on properly forming my letters (don’t look at my writing sample)….if a Visconti nib is a rollerball (which slides all over the place) the Aurora is like a pencil…you feel in control.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

My Optima has a 14kt gold nib and the Afrika has an 18kt gold nib and while the design and shape are all the same I have noticed some differences using a small sampling of each. Both nibs are nails…one isn’t more flexible than the other but the 18kt nibs seem to have a finer line width than the 14kt gold ones that I have tested.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen
The ebonite feed holds a lot of ink thanks to it’s many fins.

Another great thing about these nibs is that they can be easily swapped. The nib units unscrew out of the sections just like Pelikans do and with Aurora’s wide range of exotic nibs there is a lot to chose from. I should warn you though that their nibs are expensive. Street price for the 18kt gold nibs are $420 ($440 for italics, stubs and obliques). The 14kt gold nibs are $300 ($320 for italics, stubs and obliques).

All of my Aurora pens have been flawless performers out of the box and the Afrika is no exception.

Score: 5/5

 

Filling System

The Afrika is a piston filler that holds 1.1ml of ink which is more than most converters but less than many full sized piston fountain pens. The Afrika also features Aurora’s “reserve tank” technology. When the pen runs out of ink you twist the piston knob all the way and the “reserve tank” is activated, allowing you to write for a couple more pages.

Personally I find the reserve tank annoying. It makes it difficult to clean the pen and change ink colors because with the piston fully depressed there is still water or ink left in the pen by design.

Score: 1.5/5

 

Value

Aurora recently raised their prices and the Afrika now retails for $1,075 but these pens can be found new in box on that auction site for around $350-$400. I picked up mine used for about $250 which is oddly less than you can get a used Optima for (these pens seem to be under the radar for the time being).

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The authorized dealer street price is about $860 which when compared to a Montblanc 149 doesn’t seem crazy but the 149’s $935 price is only justified by people who view it as a status symbol and that’s something the Aurora cannot offer.

Also I should point out that the Afrika is a limited edition of 7,500 pieces and even though this pen has been out for more than 5 years Aurora dealers still have brand new inventory to sell.   It seems as though Aurora made too many and is asking too much.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

Score: 3/5

 

Bottom Line

The Afrika is truly sublime and presents a tremendous value on the secondhand market.

Final Score 24/30

 

Success!!! Pen Shopping in Zürich and Milano

1938 OMAS Extra Lucens
1938-1939 OMAS Extra Lucens

Six days in and finally today I found a grail pen in Milano, a late 1930s OMAS Extra Lucens!!!

The shop:

Cartoleria Novecento

Cartoleria Novecento

 

Run by Albert and Alberta (husband and wife).  Albert spoke fluent English and could not have been more friendly.  His shop sells vintage and new fountain pens as well as stationery and other antiques.  He had some beautiful Italian rolled gold safety pens as well as a good number of vintage American pens.  He showed me many pens, including some magnificent new old stock OMAS and Namiki pens.  I saw the vintage OMAS Extra Lucens and I knew it had to be mine.  That makes two Extra Lucens from me in one month *doh!* (I might have to eat ramen for the next couple of years).  I am contemplating going back for the limited edition reproduction E.E. Ercolessi fountain pen produced by OMAS.

While in Milano I also checked out a couple of other pen stores:

The famed E.E. Ercolessi:

E.E. Ercolessi

E.E. Ercolessi only sells new pens and stationery.  The selection was generous and the staff were very friendly but the prices are pretty close to retail and ultimately not favorable when translated from Euros to USD.

The last shop I visited in Milano was Brunori:

Brunori

Run by Joseph Brunori, this small shop features a good number of Italian pens from Aurora, OMAS, Delta, Visconti and Marlen as well as pens from Montblanc, Faber-Castell, Kaweco, Lamy and Twsbi.  Joseph was kind to me despite my horrendous Italian and showed me several pens. Inside the shop he displays pens from his personal collection which included beautiful vintage American pens from Waterman and Parker.  He also had a very nice collection of vintage ink bottles.

 

In Zürich I found a few stationery/pen shops but only one that I feel is a must see:

Landolt-Arbenz

Landolt-Arbenz

This beautiful store features three floors of writing instruments and related accessories.  The basement floor features the majority of the fountain pens and stationery as well as one of the best displays of ink I have ever seen.  They had a huge selection of Abraxas ink and the discontinued versions of Sailor Jentle and Caran d’Ache inks as well as ink from many other brands, Stipula, Montblanc, Pilot, Montegrappa and others.  Landolt-Arbenz also has their own line of ink (made in Italy) and stationery.  I wanted to try their ink but decided against it as the design of the bottle was a shallow rectangular shape which is not a particularly usable design for an ink bottle.

As far as fountain pens go they had a beautiful selection of Nakayas, Caran d’Ache, and some amazing limited editions such as a Cartier Eagle which is an insane 33,000 CHF (approximately $37k USD) fountain pen!!!

The stationery at Landolt-Arbenz is beautiful but expensive. There was a wonderful A6 sized leather bound notebook that I was going to buy until I saw the 230 CHF price tag.

Next stop: Paris