Posts filed under Fountain Pens

The Nakaya Portable Cigar Spiketails (Dragonfly): A Grail Pen

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

My favorite creature on earth, next to kitties, is the dragonfly. Every summer I go on yard safaris, taking photographs of the insects that inhabit our yard. When I find a dragonfly, I feel like I have discovered gold. Nothing makes me happier than capturing dragonflies on camera.

Dragonflies are sky lions–carnivores who zip through the air like gravity doesn't matter. Not only are they incredibly beautiful, but they rid the air of pests.

I adore dragonflies, so when I saw that Classic Fountain Pens (nibs.com) had a Nakaya Portable Cigar Spiketails (Dragonfly) fountain pen in the preowned section, I went nuts. At $1,300 (used–yes, used), this was not a pen I could just buy outright. I knew I would have to part with some amazing pens in order to afford the Nakaya.

I chose to sacrifice two pens to buy my grail: an uninked Montblanc Oscar Wilde and an Omas Paragon Arco (old style). Parting with the Oscar Wilde wasn't too hard since I had never inked the pen and I hadn't bonded with it.

The Paragon was more difficult. It's such a unique and beautiful pen and I loved the nib. But, at the time, Omas hadn't gone out of business and I wasn't too attached to the Arco. Silly me.

So, I posted both pens on the classifieds at Fountain Pen Network and Fountain Pen Geeks and crossed my fingers. It took about a month to sell both pens (and I had to do several price reductions), but eventually I had enough money to buy the Dragonfly with a nib grind to boot.

What makes the Nakaya Spiketails so unique is that it is a hand-painted acrylic fountain pen. Unlike most Nakaya pens which are completely opaque, the Dragonfly is partially transparent with raised painted designs covered in semi-transparent red (Shu) Urushi lacquer.

The dragonfly wings and some of the swamp grasses are coated in gold dust and semi-transparent Urushi. In sunlight, the effect is absolutely magical.

The dragonfly design is genius, with the dragonfly's body curving gracefully along the pen and its wings encircling the cap.

The dragonfly is amazingly detailed.

The bottom of the pen portrays the swamp grasses that are the habitat of the dragonfly.

My pen came with a BB single-tone 14K nib. I had nibs.com grind the nib down to a medium italic. It writes beautifully, though I will say this isn't the smoothest nib I've received from them. I could send it back for more work, but I'm afraid this is one pen I just can't let out of my sight.

I realize some people don't understand grail pens, especially ones this expensive. "Why would you ever spend that much money on a pen?" I can't offer a reasonable explanation, because grail pens aren't reasonable. A grail pen is a pen you desire because it means something special to you. You can't justify this with logic. Ultimately, the reason one buys any grail pen is intensely personal. For me, a pen representing one of my favorite creatures on earth is meaningful to me. Also, this isn't just a pen I write with, it is a piece of exquisite art.

Posted on April 29, 2016 and filed under Fountain Pens, Nakaya, Pen Reviews.

The Art of Fountain Pen Photography

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

My two main hobbies are fountain pen collecting and photography, so naturally I love to combine the two. Often, when I post photographs to Instagram or on Pen Addict, I am asked what tools I use to create my pictures. So here's my set up and how I use it.

I own two cameras with which I do all my photography: My Olympus OMD-EM1 and my iPhone 6s. For Pen Addict, I always use my Olympus with a 60mm Olympus macro lens and a Macro Arm Light. My macro lens has settings from 1:1 to infinity, so it is quite versatile.

I can shoot crisp 1:1 macros as well as full pen shots.

Fountain Pen Taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60 mm Macro Lens

Fountain Pen Taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60 mm Macro Lens

For Instagram, Facebook, etc., I use my iPhone 6s, often with the Moment case and Moment 25mm, 10x macro lens.

In both instances, I take photos without flash (I find it to be too harsh). The only room in our house that has adequate sunlight is our Florida room, so it's my fountain pen photography studio. Unfortunately, it's also the bedroom for my four cats, which means a lot of dust and cat hair appear in my photographs.

I should probably invest in a good light box, but I prefer natural sunlight, and I find the solid background of a light box rather boring. Despite the overuse of a mosaic table I made for my husband long ago for Father's Day (it's falling apart), and despite all the cat hair I have to clone out of my photos, I like my Florida Room studio.

I try to be as creative as possible when I do pen photography. As I said, I'm not fond of bland backgrounds, even though sometimes you need a plain background to set off a pen. I prefer trying to find options that present a pen in a unique way. Here are some examples:

Almost anything can be a pen prop, from lemon slices, to kitty paws, to typewriter keys. There's no reason to limit oneself to black or white backgrounds.

Another key component of my fountain pen photography is macro shooting. There's just something special about getting a close up of an O3B nib or the scroll work on a nib or a detailed shot of a pen's texture or design.

Danitrio Soft Stub, taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60mm Macro Lens

Danitrio Soft Stub, taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60mm Macro Lens

I use both my Olympus and my iPhone for macro photography. Here are some shots of nibs taken with my Olympus and my iPhone with the Moment macro lens (I didn't edit these photos in any way):

Danitrio Macro Olympus

Danitrio Macro Olympus

Danitrio Macro iPhone

Danitrio Macro iPhone

Montblanc Macro Olympus

Montblanc Macro Olympus

Montblanc Macro iPhone

Montblanc Macro iPhone

Obviously, the Olympus takes better shots overall, but it is an expensive camera with an expensive lens attached. The iPhone 6s holds its own, and I find the Moment lens to be extraordinarily good, maintaining crispness from edge to edge. If you can't afford a DSLR or Micro 4/3 camera and a macro lens, but you have an iPhone (or Galaxy or Nexus), I highly recommend Moment lenses. They are top quality lenses with extraordinary glass.

I opted to purchase the Moment Case because I didn't want to glue the lens attachment clip to my iPhone. The advantages of the Moment Case are that it is easy to install and remove, the lenses screw on securely, the case makes the iPhone easier to hold, and the case comes with a shutter button that works just like a DSLR shutter button– press halfway to focus and all the way to shoot.

Olloclip is another brand that sells excellent macro lenses. Photojojo also offers the Iris lens set, and there's even a super-inexpensive rubber band macro lens.

What makes pen photography most enjoyable for me is being creative with shots and getting close ups of the details. You may prefer taking your pens outside and shooting them with beautiful landscapes in the background (West Texas is flat, brown, and ugly, so I don't have that option). The main thing is to experiment with equipment, lighting, and settings. Your pens are the perfect models–no tantrums, no frowns, no flyaway hair (unless you have cats). With a little creativity, some equipment, and good light, you can show off your pens in style.

Posted on April 22, 2016 and filed under Fountain Pens, Photography.

Bung Box Pilot Penmanship EF Fountain Pen Review

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

Pretty much everyone you meet has something negative to say about their own handwriting, no matter how pretty it might be. It's an extension of our personality, and some people take pride in their penmanship. Others may view it as a tool or trade, but it's one of those things that can always be improved. We never "arrive" when it comes to penmanship.

There are several ways to improve your own penmanship, and the most elemental method is simple practice. Write things over and over while slowing down and focusing on the small details of every letter. Turns out, some pens are better for this exercise than others.

That's where the Pilot Penmanship comes into play. This cheap fountain pen features an EF nib from Pilot, which is something you don't see in a lot of fountain pens from the factory. The idea behind a tiny nib is that you have no choice but to slow down and stay relaxed. If you try to press down too hard or go too fast with this pen, it will scratch the page and be uncomfortable.

While using this pen, I enter a different mindset that focuses on each letter. For one, I tend to press down more than I need to when using pens. It's an old habit from my grade school days where we learned to write with giant, ridiculous pencils. With the EF nib, you can't bear down on the nib without it sticking and scratching. What's more, since the line is so small, you have to work harder to keep the nib controlled when writing. Any mistakes are magnified when using this small nib, unlike larger nibs that cover up a lot of small mistakes.

The nib is excellent and a great value considering the sub-$10 price point. Even though the line width from this nib is a touch smaller than my 0.38mm gel pens, it's exceptionally smooth when used correctly. That, my friends, is impressive.

You can also swap this nib into both the Pilot Metropolitan and Prera. I like this grip section quite a bit. The grip is contoured to provide the "correct" finger positions. It's very similar to the Lamy grip section, but a little smaller. Like I've mentioned with Safaris and Al-Stars, if you don't use the "correct" grip, this pen might not be good for you. Besides the frustration of a pen manufacturer trying to impose a particular finger position for a pen, it's a great design that looks and feels good for me. The version I have has a nice "BunguBox" logo on the side, but that's not standard. The barrel is normally completely devoid of all branding.

The cap is comically small, but posts securely to the back of the pen. It has a couple of small red bits that stick out of the sides of the cap to prevent it from rolling around. It looks good when the cap is secured on the closed pen, but the cap looks silly on its own. Fortunately, I don't think this pen was made to win any aesthetic awards.

That being said, this is a great pen if you're looking for something that delivers an exceptionally thin line. You'd be hard pressed to find something this good that comes straight from the factory. Most of the time, you need a nib specialist to do a custom grind on a larger nib to achieve these results.

The Penmanship accepts Pilot cartridges and the CON-20 and CON-50 converters. It also comes in black and clear, so you have that choice as well. Both are a mere $8.25 on JetPens, which is hard to argue with.

Posted on April 19, 2016 and filed under Pilot, Pen Reviews, Fountain Pens.

Containing the Chaos of Pen Addiction: Pen Cases and Boxes

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

Like many people, my pen addiction began with a Lamy Safari and quickly escalated. I'm not quite sure how many pens I own right now, but everyone in my family will say, "Too many." One of the many symptoms of pen addiction is pen clutter. This is my usual method of organizing pens:

Obviously, this is not an ideal method, since it is not a method at all. Rather, the pens that I'm currently using are strewn across the living room side table. They are easily within reach, and I can choose from a variety of pen styles and colors without having to move an inch. Unfortunately, the pens are exposed to the vagaries of living room life, which includes cats skittering across the table on their way to capture a moth. Thus far, I haven't lost any pens to the cats, but the danger always looms.

Danger!

Danger!

My first attempt at pen organization was when I had fewer than ten pens. I ordered a faux crocodile, six-pen Penvelope from Franklin-Christoph.

This wonderful case managed my pens for a month or two, but I quickly outgrew it. Now the Penvelope serves as my carrying case for the favored pens I take with me to work each week.

Next, I ordered a wonderful cigar pen case from BamaPens. I love the glass top so I can see my pens while they are protected in the box. The box holds ten pens and has a lovely felt interior and a padded bottom so it doesn't scratch any surface. Just in case anyone wonders, the case has absolutely no residual cigar smell.

But, my collection kept growing because of my insatiable love for pens. I ordered another BamaPen case, hoping that this would take care of the overflow. I planned to keep my Urushi pens in this simpler, glass-free box to protect them from the sun.

The inner fabric is gorgeous, and I love the lion design on the outside. This pen box holds twelve pens horizontally.

Unfortunately, right after I bought my second BamaPen box, I went on what can only be described as a manic spending spree. I bought a ton of pens. Even with my Penvelope and my two Bama pen boxes, I didn't have a place for all of my pens. The living room side table looked like the aftermath of a tornado.

This time, I was determined to find something that could hold lots of pens. I thought about going really cheap and buying a tackle box or an art supply box. I even thought about trying to reengineer a jewelry cabinet. But I'm not crafty. I eventually found a gorgeous wooden, three drawer, thirty-six pen, display case with a glass lid, but, man, it was expensive ($240 at nibs.com). After some extensive searching I found it at Penn State Industries for $99.95.

This case is absolutely beautiful and well made. It is crafted from solid rosewood. The lid sports brass hardware and glass, allowing you to view the top drawer of pens. Another drawer sits below this one. Both slide out for viewing and can be completely removed, if you wish. A bottom drawer is independent of the other two and it also can be removed. All the pens are nestled in contoured foam.

I'd like to say that this pen case solved all my storage problems, but no. I've managed to fill it, the two BamaPen boxes, and my Penvelope. A few unlucky, stray pens sit adrift on table surfaces.

The only hope for completely containing the chaos is to sell some pens . . . or buy another pen case.

Posted on April 15, 2016 and filed under Fountain Pens, Storage.