Foutain pen

My Fountain Pen Day Line-Up

The fist Friday of November marks International Fountain Pen Day. This year to celebrate I have decided to share the fountain pens I am using and the paper products I use with them.

Lamy LX, Tacticle Turn Gist, Kaweco AL Sport, Kaweco Skyline Sport and the Pilot Kakuno

Lamy LX, Tacticle Turn Gist, Kaweco AL Sport, Kaweco Skyline Sport and the Pilot Kakuno

Fountain pen and ink combinations

Lamy LX in Rose Gold with a medium nib and KWZ Brown Pink - this is a new fountain pen and ink combination both bought at the London Pen Show. The rose gold colour of this pen is gorgeous and works so well with the KWZ Brown Pink ink, it's a natural pairing. Over the past few months I have been enjoying broader nib widths and the medium nib on the Lamy LX is perfect. This was I get to really see and enjoy the inks I am using.

Tactile Turn Gist with a fine nib and Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Kai - this combination is left over from my 1 week 1 pen mini series. It’s my sensible combination that I can use is almost all scenarios.

Kaweco AL Sport with a fine nib and J. Herbins Bleu Nuit - I really love my AL Sport. The grey colour is so nice in person and the Bleu Nuit seems to be the perfect ink colour for this pen. It’s a very wintery fountain pen and ink partnership.

Kaweco Skyline sport with an extra fine nib and Diamine Ancient Copper - I love the mint colour of this fountain pen, it’s possibly one of my favourites. I have this loaded with a Diamine Ancient Copper cartridge, an ink colour I have been keen to try for some time. The thing is I am not sure that this pairing works very well, therefore I don’t see this partnership lasting long.

Pilot Kaukuno with a medium nib and Pilot Iroshizuku Syo-ro - I love my Kakuno. As it’s a simple, entry level fountain pen I don’t feel too precious about it and its one that comes on the move with me. I opted for Iroshizuku Syo-ro as it’s a nice deep green for the autumnal season.

The notebooks I am using

The notebooks I am using

My current paper choices

The Soukime plain A5 slim notebook is used for blog post planning and outlining of ideas. I have this with plain paper in the dark green cover.

I have a Midori Kraft notebook that I use as a photo journal. This is crammed with photos of my son documenting the small developments he is making and the things we are doing together. This isn’t a journal I use everyday and is somewhere I can experiment with different journaling techniques.

My Rhodia staple bound ruled notebook is being used for notes for my Open University course. I am using this in my Start Bay Navigator.

I have a Clairefontaine ruled notebook for morning pages, or my version of it. This is also in my Navigator.

I am using a Field Notes Lunacy edition notebook to capture notes on the move and for some journaling on the go.

I have the English version of the Hobonichi Techo which I am currently using as a sort of bullet journaling and planning notebook.

My Midori 019 free weekly refill is being used as a small memory keeper recording snippets of my day.

Fountain pen day 2016

I have found that my fountain pen usage has swayed towards Western brands and that I have begun to enjoy a range of different nib sizes. A year ago all of my fountain pen choices would have been extra-fine or fine nibs, but this isn’t the case any more. I have tried to align my current ink colours to the time of year enjoying Autumnal tones. As usual I am using a lot of different notebooks at one time, (I plan on streamlining this a lot next year). Due to my love of fountain pens I have found and acquired a range of notebooks that have the right types of paper for fountain pens.

This year I won't be celebrating Fountain Pen day by adding to my foutain pens as I am happy with my purchases from the London Pen Show. Instead I will be enjoying some time writing and appreciating those fountain pens I own.

Tactile Turn Gist - Initial Impressions

The Tactile Turn Gist was a Kickstarter project that I backed last year. I received my finished fountain pen around three weeks ago, much longer than the proposed Jan 2016 ship date, and to be honest I had kind of forgotten all about it so it was a pleasant surprise when it arrived. I have spent a few weeks using this fountain pen and wanted to share my initial thoughts and impressions with you.

I decided to back the Gist as I had heard good things about Tactile Turn and the design of the Gist reminded me of the Lamy 2000 in style and shape. I don't own a Lamy 2000 and it has always been a fountain pen that has interested me. The Gist represented a low cost alternative and a chance to try out this style of fountain pen.

My Gist with the brass finishes

My Gist with the brass finishes

My Gist

There were lots of different barrel and finish options available during the Kickstarter project and half the battle was figuring out which one I wanted. In the end I went for the polycarbonate barrel with the brass finish. The barrel is super light, like crazy lightweight. The brass finial and grip section give this pen additional weight which it really needs. I'm really happy with my brass choice, it gives the pen a nice pop when you remove the cap and I am already seeing some tarnishing on the grip section.

One small concern I do have is around the longer term durability of the barrel. Being lightweight I could easily drop this pen accidentally or it could get knocked and I am not sure how much of a workhorse this pen is. I know polycarbonate is considered to be a strong and durable material and therefore these concerns may be unnecessary, but I am intrigued about how it holds up over time and with more use.

The rings on the grip section can be seen clearly here

The rings on the grip section can be seen clearly here

The grip section is made up of lots of small rings that give the impression that they could dig into your fingers when writing with the pen and become uncomfortable to hold. That however is not the case, they actually seem to help your grip and stops your fingers from slipping towards the nib. I presume this was a considered design aspect rather than a happy accident.

Handwritten review with the Gist on the Nock Co A5 notebook

Handwritten review with the Gist on the Nock Co A5 notebook

The Gist comes with a Bock nib. This is my first experience with a Bock nib and I have found mine writes really well. It lays ink down on the page smoothly with good ink flow straight out of the box. The one odd thing about this nib and pen partnership relates to its size. The nib looks like an oversized monster on the end of the fairly small barrelled Gist. I have almost been a little surprised each time I have used the Gist at how large the nib is. It takes a little getting used to.

Gist size comparison against the Lamy Safari, Karas Kustoms Ink and the Kaweco Skyline Sport

Gist size comparison against the Lamy Safari, Karas Kustoms Ink and the Kaweco Skyline Sport

Continuing on the theme of size, overall I have found that the Gist is verging on the small side. It's just ok but a small amount of additional length would have improved this fountain pen a lot. Uncapped and when writing the Gist is just long enough in my hand to make it comfortable to write with. It just fits into that sweet spot on your hand. When trying to write with the pen capped it messes with the weight distribution too much and ruins the writing experience a bit. Generally with my fountain pens I don’t cap them when writing anyway, so this odd feeling I get is not solely about the Gist.

All the Gist parts

All the Gist parts

Lastly the pen cap is practically as long as the body. It's huge. Again in some ways I feel this is odd in relation to the proportions of the pen, but I don’t think it hurts visually. The clip is extremely sturdy but I am not sure I could actually move it even if I wanted to, its set in place very securely. I'd break a nail trying to pry that thing away from the pen cap.

Overall impressions

The Gist is a good fountain pen for the price and writes really well. Overall I have enjoyed using it and pairing this with a lovely ink colour means I have enjoyed using it all the more. There are some things that I wish were a little different but for the price I can’t complain. I think this will be the only Gist I own, I am not tempted by other barrel and finish options unless over time some tweaks were made to the design.

A shot of the brass finial 

A shot of the brass finial 

Fountain Pens for Beginners

Fountain pens can be a daunting prospect and requires some sort of research before buying in order to figure out what you are looking for and which fountain pen will work best for you.

In this post I will look at the pros and cons of some of the best beginner fountain pens on the market. For me a beginner fountain pen should have a low entry price, be easy to acquire, pleasant to use and perhaps also look a little bit nice. Beginner fountain pens are usually the gateway drug, the pens that open us up to the world of fountain pens and get us interested in taking that next step.

The Lamy Safari, Kaweco Skyline Sport in Mint Green, Pilot MR, Pilot Kakuno and TWSBI 580 RB

The Lamy Safari, Kaweco Skyline Sport in Mint Green, Pilot MR, Pilot Kakuno and TWSBI 580 RB

Option 1 - The Lamy Safari / AL Star

Lamy is a German brand of fountain pens. They have a European nib which generally means they are a little wider than their Japanese counterparts.

I have grouped these two fountain pens together as there are a few minor differences and the prices are not too dissimilar. One has a plastic barrel, the Safari, the other an aluminium barrel, the AL Star.

Pros

  • Lots of different colour barrel options
  • Swappable nibs that are easy and affordable to replace. These also come in a huge range of sizes from EF all the way through to a 1.9mm stub nib
  • Left handed nib option available
  • Full length fountain pen
  • Easy to find both online and in stores
  • A good sized cartridge convertor meaning bottled ink use is possible

Cons

  • Moulded grip section (this may not be a con for everyone but it is a restriction hence it ends up on this side of the list)

The Lamy fountain pens have a great entry level price, the Safari costing less than £15 and the AL Star less than £25.

Option 2 - Kaweco Classic / Skyline Sport

The Kaweco Classic or Skyline Sport fountain pens are another German brand fountain pen. They are pocket fountain pens meaning they are quite a bit smaller than the other fountain pen options included in this post.

Pros

  • Pocket size means this is a great fountain pen to use if you’re on the move
  • A range of different barrel colour options
  • Nib sizes range from EF all the way up to a B nib
  • Posted this pen turns into an almost full length fountain pen

Cons

  • Changing the nibs on the Classic and Skyline Kaweco fountain pens is a bit more complicated. For the Classic Sport range you can buy a new nib and grip section for most colours. For the Skyline range not everywhere stocks the replacement parts. Therefore if you want to try a different nib size you may need to buy a whole new pen.
  • Cartridge convertor options on the Kaweco line are poor. Cartridges are the best route with the Kaweco range.

A Kaweco Classic or Skyline Sport will set you back around £20. You can easily get hold of these fountain pens from a number of different online retailers.

Option 3 - Pilot MR

The Pilot MR is a great entry level fountain pen. These fountain pens come with an aluminium barrel and as they are a Japanese brand of fountain pen, they have finer nibs. This is something to bear in mind when choosing your nib size. A fine Japanese nib will be finer than a fine German nib. On the MR I have found the M nibs are the easiest to come by, but with some digging you may be able to find a F nib.

Pros

  • A great entry into the wonderful world of Pilot fountain pens
  • Cartridge convertors are available with this pen which means that you can use cartridges or bottled ink
  • Aluminium barrel
  • Lots of different barrel options available, some simple and classic and some of the colours are a bit more fun

Cons

  • Not a wide range of nib sizes available on this fountain pen

A Pilot MR costs less than £25. For this additional outlay you are getting some higher quality materials.

Option 4 - Pilot Kakuno

The Pilot Kakuno was, I believe, intended to be a fountain pen for a real beginner, i.e. children learning to use their first fountain pen.

Pros

  • It’s fun
  • It has a smiley or winking face on the nib
  • F or M nib options available
  • It can use a convertor as well as ink cartridges
  • Very lightweight

Cons

  • It’s plastic and could be prone to breaking
  • Some of the nicer, prettier colour options are not available in Europe. I got my white barrel and yellow lid option when in the US.

For the Pilot Kakuno you will have to part with around £10 which is a fantastic price for a fountain pen.

Writing samples using each of the above fountain pens  

Writing samples using each of the above fountain pens  

Option 5 - TWSBI 580

This option is a bit more adventurous. It was the first fountain pen I bought around 4 years ago when I was getting back into stationery. I am including this in here as it’s a great fountain pen and not too pricey, but it is edging towards the next step fountain pen. There is now the TWSBI Eco fountain pen which is much more affordable, however I have not tried this pen out and wouldn’t be comfortable recommending it fully.

Pros

  • A demonstrator fountain pen means you get to see all the inner workings which is really cool
  • It’s a piston filled fountain pen which means bottled ink only, no cartridges here. With the piston filling mechanism you are getting a good amount of ink in the barrel
  • Chrome detailing
  • There is a mini version available too if you want that smaller fountain pen for on the move

Cons

  • It could be a bit of a jump for a first fountain pen and some people may find the piston filling mechanism a bit daunting.
  • A higher price in comparison to other fountain pens on this list

My TWSBI 580 cost £40, however the TWSBI Eco can be bought for less than £30.

Final thoughts

This post has become quite lengthy but hopefully it is a useful reference. I wanted to give a fairly good overview of the entry level fountain pens in the market. I love using fountain pens and use a lot of those listed here on a daily basis.

If I were to recommend one fountain pen on this list it would be the Pilot MR. I love my MR and I think it is the best starting off point. There is no moulded grip section, it’s full size, it’s a lovely Japanese Pilot nib and it’s aluminium. You get a lot of pen for your money with this fountain pen.

Platinum Balance Review

My experience with the Platinum Balance has been a journey of ups and downs. This pen was sent to me by the nice folks at Pen Chalet for the purpose of this review. I am telling you this up front, rather than at the end of my review, as they make up part of this journey.

The Platinum Balance in a clear demonstrator 

The Platinum Balance in a clear demonstrator 

Where I started

Pen Chalet sent me the Platinum Balance to review for The Finer Point some time ago. I received a clear demonstrator fountain pen which I immediately inked it up with Diamine Amazing Amethyst. Once I started using the pen I immediately had issues. I pulled out my Rhodia Dot Grid notebook that I use for testing. The nib was scratchy, and residue collected in the nib feed after minimal use. Each time I would remove it and very quickly it would come back. I tried the Balance on lots of paper variations, my Hobonichi Techo, the Leuchtturm1917 and some other less impressive papers, but I had the same experience each time. 

I contacted Pen Chalet as I thought I had a faulty nib. They immediately sent over a replacement so I could compare nibs and after some comparison testing it was evident my first Balance was faulty. The nib on the second pen wrote substantially better to the first, there was less scratching and the nib was far smoother to write with in comparison to the first. 

So onto the pen itself...

Close up of the nib

Close up of the nib

Design

Whilst I received the clear demonstrator there are alternative colour options which Pen Chalet stock in a good range of colours. The Platinum Balance clear demonstrator comes with aluminium accents and a protective white inner section within the pen cap to capture any ink leaks. The pen cap will post securely and similarly when putting the cap back on the pen you get a nice reassuring click. The body of the pen feels sturdy and tough and the smooth finish on the demonstrator is really nice in your hand. One thing I really like with the design of the Balance is the view of the ink going through the pen feed as shown in the photo below. This is not something I have noticed with other fountain pens and each time I have used the Platinum Balance I have enjoyed looking at this particular feature.

A view of the ink feed on the Balance

A view of the ink feed on the Balance

The Nitty Gritty (or The Nib)

Hand written review with the Balance 

Despite a replacement pen I still don't like the Platinum Balance nib. It feels too scratchy and does not give an enjoyable writing experience as a result. I have a fine nib, which is usually my preference and as with most Japanese brands the fine is very fine. Perhaps the Balance would perform better with a medium or a broad nib, but my experience with this pen is not great.

Side by side comparison

The Balance nib has really been bugging me and I have been stewing about the nib performance for some time. Partly because this is a mid priced fountain pen and logically it should be good. And secondly this is my first experience with Platinum and I wanted to like it. 

Platinum Balance vs TWSBI RB 580

Platinum Balance vs TWSBI RB 580

Therefore whilst trying to come to terms with this I decided to compare this pen with my regularly used TWSBI 580 RB. Both are a similar price point, both are demonstrators and both conveniently enough have the same ink (not that this part is important). The TWSBI 580 is a much better writer than the Platinum Balance. Its smoother on the page, there is no resistance when writing with the pen and most importantly I enjoy using it. If presented with the option I would pick up my TWSBI over the Platinum Balance every time. Over the course of using the Platinum Balance there hasn’t been a time when I have wanted to use it. Each time its felt more like a chore rather than something enjoyable. 

The Verdict

My negative opinion and lack of excitement about the Platinum Balance is solely to do with the nib, it has nothing to do with the pen itself. I cannot work around the scratching of the nib to find a way to enjoy using this pen. Platinum is a well know fountain pen brand and I usually like Japanese pens but for me the fit just isn't right. This won't put me off trying an alternative Platinum fountain pen in the future but I will think a lot more about my nib choice. 

I would like to thank Pen Chalet for sending me the Platinum Balance for this review.