Posts filed under Fountain Pens

Bexley Sleeve Filler Fountain Pen Review

Bexley is a brand I was familiar with in name only until my friends at Vanness Pen Shop gifted me this beautiful Bexley Sleeve Filler last year. Not only that, they added a few tweaks just for me that had me grinning from ear to ear.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Bexley has been making pens since 1993 and have an excellent reputation in the market. Their designs harken back to the heyday of fountain pens in the US in the early-to-mid 1900's. My tastes lean towards more modern styles, but seeing a pen like this makes me wonder what else I am missing.

The main feature of this pen is, of course, the filling mechanism. The rear of the pen - aka the sleeve - unscrews to reveal the filler bar and ink sac. You dip the nib into an ink bottle, give the filler bar a couple of presses to intake the ink, twist the sleeve back down, and you are ready to write. It's a very simple system that is implemented well and works perfectly. I was actually surprised at how much ink I was able to drawn in with only one or two presses.

As nice as this Bexley is, what Vanness did (without my prior knowledge or input) to make this pen special for me was really great. First off, Vanness has the ability to engrave and customize pens in their shop, so they borrowed the logo from Nock Co. and zapped it onto the end of the pen. Secondly, they had local pen maker Shawn Newton, who has worked on several of my pens, grind the broad 14k nib the pen comes with into my favorite cursive italic grind.

How awesome is that?

The pen looks cool, writes great, is personalized, and has a great story behind it. I'm so thankful to have met Lisa and Wendi from Vanness Pen at last years Atlanta Pen Show and really appreciate what they did for me with this pen.

The Arkansas Pen Show runs today and tomorrow, so if you are in the area stop by and tell them hi for me and check out their goods (which may or may not include Sailor Bung Box ink!) You can also see what else they have to offer online at Vanness1938.com.

Posted on February 27, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews, Bexley.

Pilot Custom 74 Fountain Pen Review

The main reason I keep a product wish list is to keep track of product prices and know when to pull the trigger when I see a good deal. The orange Pilot Custom 74 had been on my radar for ages, and when Pen Chalet had a good deal on them on the podcast back in November I bought it live on the show. $135 to the door made me a happy camper.

The Custom 74 lived up to every expectation I had, and then some. The decision to go with the orange barrel was an easy one. I love demonstrators, and this one is a beauty. The smoke colored section and rounded ends were a surprise too. I obviously knew it came like this, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy this feature.

As easy as the color choice was, nib selection was another thing. Medium nibs normally aren’t my first choice, but recent experience with two other Japanese M nibs led me down this path. This size may be the perfect all-around writing nib. The ink flows as the line remains sharp and clean. Start writing and you can just disappear into the flow.

The 14k nib is a beauty too. I’m a huge fan of Pilot nibs, both in the looks and performance department. This Custom 74 was perfect right out of the box. The large capacity CON-70 converter it ships with is a nice added bonus.

The best thing I can say about the Pilot Custom 74 is I already want another one. That seems to be a recurring theme with me and Pilot. The Violet barrel is now on the wish list, just waiting for another good deal.

Posted on February 16, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews, Pilot.

Sailor Young Profit: A Tale of Quality Control

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

In a perfect world, every fountain pen would be created equally and would write with flawless beauty from the very beginning. Alas, the world is far from perfect, and not every pen is perfectly tuned out of the box. It's a shame, really. Besides, the problems that new pens have out of the box are normally due to the nib and feed system that's so fascinating in the first place. It's an imperfect system, and errors occur. Luckily, they're usually not very difficult to fix.

But, on the other side of the coin, it's a hassle to ink up a new pen and have it act like a spoiled toddler on the page when first writing with it. Maybe it's just me, but I've had really sour luck with the $50-$100 range lately. The past three pens I've bought from a particular brand have been scratchy, dry, and skippy. Not only until after I did some basic tuning were they really usable. I'm glad that I could tune the pens, and I even enjoy it sometimes, but not when it's a brand new pen.

If Lamy and Kaweco (and many others) can make sub-$50 pens that write beautifully out of the box, I don't understand why others can't do the same with more expensive pens. (Lamy and Kaweco can certainly be guilty of this.) It's the age of mass production that causes the issues, I'm sure. If you buy an Edison pen, it will definitely write flawlessly from day 1, but that's because it's been hand-tuned before it's shipped out. It's unique and hand-made with care. Same goes for a Nakaya and other premium brands. Once you start mass producing something, the law of diminishing returns steps in and dictates that "good enough" quality control is a fair trade-off for selling in bulk. So it goes.

Why the rant? Well, because Sailor.

I really want to love the brand. They make some beautiful pens. My first fountain pen was a Sailor High Ace Neo, and luckily it wrote like a champ from the beginning.

Since then, I've purchased three other Sailors: the Lecoule, a Fasciner, and now a Young Profit.

Each of these pens have been imperfect writers from the beginning. In each case, the tines are too close together and/or angled poorly. Some tine adjustments and nib smoothing is all that's needed, but I think that shouldn't be a requirement for a new pen. Imagine if someone new to fountain pens purchased their first pen and had that experience! The Bic Crystal would look pretty good after that, thanks to modern engineering, etc.

They all write great now, but they still carry that bad first impression around.

The point in all this is simple. I'm just not sure that it's worth spending more than $50 or $60 on a fountain pen. In my experience, the pens that cost double that still have the same quality control issues. Only when you jump up to the next notch can you expect (mostly) to avoid the QC issues in the intro level. But $150+ purchases are more rare because of the cost barrier. With hard-hitting players like the Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari, and Kaweco Sport lines, it's hard to recommend something more expensive (apart from TWSBI because they're awesome).

Back to the Sailor Young Profit. It's actually a pretty nice pen once you get past the flaky nib! Let's take a closer look at the outside.

I grabbed a black/silver version when they first appeared at JetPens because I wasn't a fan of the gold furniture. I went with a medium nib this time — based on past experience, Sailor runs small and I wanted to try something with more line width. The medium is a great size for me. It's comparable to a German fine nib (even on the small side of fine).

The body is plastic, which is something I don't like. I have other plastic body pens that cost about the same, but the Young Profit feels a bit cheaper than those. It doesn't feel brittle, but just doesn't have a quality feel, and let's face it: how expensive a pen feels in your hand is an important aspect that speaks to the quality.

The body is fairly slim and can actually get a tad uncomfortable for me when writing for long stretches. The grip section is plastic as well and there's a small ridge at the very end of the grip where it meets the feed. None of the grip features get in the way of my grip, but we're all unique.

The nib looks very classy and has some beautiful etching that's in line with the Sailor brand. The internal parts of the pen are solid and make me feel better about the overall quality of the parts that went into the pen.

It's a pretty pen that oozes class.

As for writing, I'll describe how it writes after the tuning. Before the tuning, it was dry, skippy, and scratchy.

The nib is extremely smooth and glides across the paper. Like I said earlier, the line width is similar to a small German fine nib. The ink flow is a tad dry for my tastes, but it works just fine and can keep up with swift strokes.

There's not much feedback in the nib, even on rough paper like the Baron Fig notebook. Paper like Mnemosyne or Tomoe River feels like velvet on glass. It's really nice.

The nib behaves very well and is a pleasure to write with. The only problem I've had so far is the slim width of the grip — makes it uncomfortable after 10 minutes of use.

Not exactly your average review, but I doubt my experiences with these nibs are isolated. I'm also not sure what to do about the situation except to vote with your money. For me, fountain pens are part hobby and part utility. Sometimes you try things you don't like, but you always have your faithful tools that always get the job done and manage to bring delight to menial tasks like writing lists and thank you notes.

As for the Young Profit, I can't recommend it purely because of the lack of value it offers compared to cheaper pens on the market. The High Ace Neo is a fantastic pen that packs a ton of value. In the Young Profit's case, the price doesn't justify the means.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on February 11, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Sailor, Pen Reviews.

Nakaya Portable Cigar Ao-tamenuri Fountain Pen Review

No typed review will ever do a Nakaya justice. Neither will pictures, or handwriting samples. I've sweated over this review because, while I have reviewed a Nakaya before, this was my first Nakaya purchase. My very own. And it was worth every penny.

Let's get the specs out of the way right up front. I made my purchase from Nibs.com, choosing the Portable (barrel style) Cigar (clipless) Ao-tamenuri (finish color) as seen here. The base price is $650, with a $50 add-on for a rhodium plated nib, and another $55 to have the fine nib ground into a cursive italic. So I am $755.00 into this pen. Whoa.

If you have heard me on the podcast talk about this pen, you will know that price wasn't my main consideration in making this purchase. Yes, it is the most I have ever spent on a pen, but I had been saving for months and months before pulling the trigger. I was more concerned about being comfortable using the pen outside the comforts of my desk at home where I am less likely to break or lose it. If I am paying this much for a pen I sure as heck want to use it.

The usage part was a mental hurdle I had to overcome. The more familiar I had become with fountain pens over the years, including both usage and maintenance, the more I felt comfortable with the idea of owning a Nakaya. I was convinced I was fine with tossing it in my pocket or bag (in it's kimono, of course) and hitting the road. I'm happy to say I've found that I am willing to take my Nakaya and use it anywhere and everywhere.

A perfect example is the Fodderstack Fall Festival we held at Nock last year. We planned on doing some pen testing and a pen swap, and I made sure to bring my Portable to the event. Why? Because I love this pen so much I want to share it and let others be able to try something out they wouldn't normally be able to. It was a hit for sure, but even as I was passing it around there were people that were scared to take it from me! I'm persuasive though, and I enjoyed being able to get this pen in as many hands as possible.

I tell this story because there is an aura around Nakaya pens that they are museum pieces made to be coddled. There's nothing wrong with that, and yes, if for some reason I ever have one of the several thousand dollar models in my possession I may feel the same way. But this pen, as with any pen, is made to be used. It's a refrain you've heard a thousand times, but it's the truth.

And I use the heck out of this pen. It's probably my most used pen since I purchased it last spring (I should probably track these things), keeping it inked at all times aside from a day or two of downtime between cleanings.

The Portable barrel size fits my hand perfectly. When I first got it, it felt shockingly light, and at 22.2 grams it is, but after constant use it feels normal if that makes sense. I don't notice the weight at all. That is a big feature because my hand never gets tired when writing. My grip pressure remains light, and my strokes flow like a brush.

As I talked about in the written review below, Nakaya nibs are unlike any other nib I have used. They are smooth, with a hint of feedback. It's almost a hum-like feeling when you are writing. You hear it more than you feel it. If you have ever used a Platinum nib they are somewhat similar, which is expected as the companies are related. The cursive italic grind I had put on it is very fine with just a hint of line variation, which is perfect for my standard writing style.

I feel like I could go on and on about this pen, but at the same time I feel like I haven't said anything in this review. Nakaya's aren't about numbers or specs. Nakaya's are about feel, and about storytelling. They are different in a way that words cannot do justice. I hope I did my Nakaya Portable justice in this post, and I hope everyone can at least take one for a test drive someday. If you ever meet me in person I'll be happy to let you take mine for a spin.

Posted on February 6, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Nakaya, Pen Reviews.