Posts filed under Guest Post

You Think This Comes Along Every Day?

(This is a guest post by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42.)

After more than a decade of marriage it becomes more and more difficult to come up with gifts for the other person. The reasons for this are manifold. We’re lucky enough to have the financial security that we typically don’t have to use holidays as an excuse to get things we need. Replacing worn-out shoes and broken toasters are within our budget. That means we are each blessed with the opportunity to get things for each other that the other would want. The problem with that (and a nice problem it is to have) is that we already have many of the things we want. I love to cook, but over the years, I’ve acquired all the kitchen knives and pots and pans I need. My wife likes to sew, but she has a nice sewing machine already.

At this point, we’ve given up on most gift-giving holidays and instead open a nice bottle of wine, or find a babysitter and treat ourselves to an evening out. With two very busy lives and four very busy kids, the gift of TIME to be together is more precious than most “things.”

However, I am still a pen addict.

Ever since my addiction took hold, I have been trying to get my wife to enjoy pens as much as I do, sometimes with humbling results (See Pen Snobbery). I continued to hold out hope that I could find a fountain pen and ink combination that will work for my lefty life partner, and had been on the hunt for a particular pen for which I had high hopes. A Waverly nib has a slight upturn, like the tip of a ski, and I hoped this would help the pen glide through the push strokes with which so much of her penmanship has been cursed.

My search for an affordable pen with a Waverly nib had led me to one of those global trading websites, written mostly in indecipherable Japanese. (Thanks for NOTHING, Google Translate.) I was not at all confident that I was not sending my money and personal information to a hacker who could not BELIEVE his luck, but hey, sometimes that’s how it is in the fountain pen jungle.

The pen, a Pilot Custom 912, arrived just a few weeks before our 11th anniversary. I decided to break with tradition and give it to Dana on the occasion of our anniversary, a date we’d long since stopped viewing as a gift-giving opportunity. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, but I did want to give her a heads up that I’d gotten her something, as I didn’t want her to feel bad that she hadn’t had the opportunity to reciprocate.

“I’m getting you something for our anniversary,” I said. “I DO NOT want you to feel obligated in the slightest to get me anything. I just happened to find something perfect that I thought you should have.”

“What on earth did you get me?” she asked.

“I’m not going to TELL you!” I cried. “But I will say this: If you decide to get me something, make sure it’s something you’d like, too.” I realized immediately how suspicious this sounded.

“What does that mean?” she asked. “Wait – did you get me a pen?”

“No,” I lied, unconvincingly.

“You got me a pen, didn’t you? I can’t believe you got me a pen. You’re such a geek,” she said, grinning.

“Look, I will neither confirm nor deny that your gift is a pen,” I said. “All I’m saying is that if you get me something, it should be something you’ll like. You know, in case I don’t.”

That got an eye-roll.

A few weeks later, our anniversary arrived. We were at our oldest daughter’s theater camp’s Parents’ Night waiting for the performance to start when Dana presented me with a small gift bag. (I, being a doofus, had forgotten her present at work where I had had it delivered. She got it the following day.)

My hand swam through the tiny ocean of tissue paper and seized upon a metal box, about the size and shape of an Altoids tin. I pulled the box out. It did not say “Altoids,” but instead “Kaweco”!

In a flash, this particular anniversary immediately vaulted into the running for best ever. My darling, amazing, BEAUTIFUL wife had gotten me a pen! Unsolicited! This was quite a moment. Even more amazing, she got me a pen despite having a reasonable suspicion that I had gotten her a pen that might very possibly end up back with me.

I opened the box to find a Kaweco Liliput.

But not just any Liliput.

A Fireblue.

If you aren’t familiar with this pen, it’s spectacular. It’s the same compact shape and size as the aluminum and brass versions of the Liliput, perfectly proportioned for a pocket or slipped in the sleeve of a Fodderstack XL. The Fireblue version, however, is made from stainless steel: a little more durable than aluminum and a little lighter than brass. A perfect material choice.

The thing that really makes this pen stand out, though, is the finish. According to Kaweco, each pen is hand-finished by the company’s CEO with a torch. The intense flame burns away residual machining oils and impurities, creating a unique mottle of gray, blue and gold on the steel. It’s a gorgeous pen.

I was thrilled. I was also puzzled.

The Fireblue is a unique and not inexpensive pen with niche appeal, and is only available from a select number of retailers. For my non-pen addict wife to stumble across it seemed unlikely, and I knew she hadn’t heard of it before.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“I LOVE it,” I responded.

“I’m glad you like it,” she said. “It wasn’t easy to find.”

“How DID you find it?” I asked. “And how did you choose this pen specifically?”

“It wasn’t easy, but I searched and searched for a steel pen,” she said. “There aren’t many out there.”

I blinked. “Steel?”

“Of course,” she said. “Did you know the 11th anniversary is considered the steel anniversary?”

I did not know that. I did know I had married the most wonderful woman in the world.

Posted on September 8, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Guest Post, Kaweco.

Sailor Pen and Message Cigar Ink Review

(This is a guest post by Felix Jen. Felix is a fountain pen and ink enthusiast. You can find him at his blog, Inks and Pens, or at his Instagram.)

Sailor, the Japanese pen and ink manufacturer, has gotten themselves quite a reputation with their hard-to-find store-exclusive inks such as Bungbox Sapphire and Pen-and-Message inks. Sailor's Pen and Message Cigar is a brown ink with a great depth of color and a very subtle color change.

When I was first sent a sample of this ink, I didn't really know what to think about it. It seemed like a murky green in the vial that looked a bit unappealing, but once I filled a pen up with it, my opinion totally changed. The ink lays does lay down as a shade of dark green and quickly changes to a brown color as it dries. I was completely shocked as there aren't many inks that change colors so quickly.

The ink is a deep brown with some definite green undertones as well as a light blue tint. This is actually one of the nicer browns with a great deal of depth to it, unlike some inks in the color range.

A paper chromatography test of this ink confirms the presence of green and blue. The chromatography is actually all over the place, with yellow, orange, blue, green, and brown!

This review was written in a Pilot Parallel 1.5mm on HP 32lb Premium Choice Laser.

On paper, the ink behaves wonderfully. There is not a bit of feathering or bleed-through, even on the extremely wet parts of the page. There is a little bit of show-through but nothing too major. With thinner papers like Tomoe River, you can clearly see what is written on the reverse side. The ink cleans out easily from converters and does not stain, unlike some Noodler's inks.

Shading is not this ink's strong point. The ink barely has any shading, from a light brown to a darker blackish color. The dry time is a bit long, averaging at around 20 seconds on this paper and 19 seconds on Rhodia. When using finer nibs, the dry time is significantly reduced, to around 13 seconds with an Medium.

This ink's water test is also an enigma. The test was done with drops of water placed on the page for about 20 seconds then wiped away with a tissue. Strangely, much of the brown in the ink washes away but leaves a water-resistant blue-gray portion. The lines can still clearly be seen and there is barely any smearing of the brown.

Sailor Pen and Message Cigar is truly a one-of-a-kind ink with a beautiful color and outstanding behavior. You can find this ink directly from Pen and Message for 2160¥ in a 50mL bottle. They are out of stock at the time of this writing, but will be accepting "preorders" in August 2015.

Posted on August 27, 2015 and filed under Guest Post, Ink Reviews, Sailor.

Ode to a Parker Duofold

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

(This is a guest poem by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42.)

(I am no poet and I do not claim to be. I am sure that to real poets or students of poetry, there are innumerable issues with the form and content of this post. But the first time I ever wrote with my first Parker Duofold (I now have three) I was overwhelmed with how cool it felt to be using this nearly hundred-year-old pen and with how well it wrote. I wanted to write about it, but somehow my normal prose didn’t fit the feeling. In the truest sense, I was inspired to write this little poem because I couldn’t figure out any other way to talk about it. I hope you enjoy.)

O to glory in something both ancient and beautiful;
To take in hand a tool wrought by craftsmen long dead, 
Polished by hands long returned to dust!
What joy is this to shake the pall of neglect
From a thing, and put it to simple use?
Seems right with the broad world to put
To its proper purpose, to fulfill its humble aim.

Orange and black as a tiger lily, with a nib of gold,
Worn by the use and disuse of four score years,
Restored by loving hands.
A common pen, for nothing more than 
Laying ink upon paper.
As if time had but skipped from then 'til now,
A line flows forth with perfect dark wetness.

Long since passed by her modern sisters
Made en masse, better but worse.
A genocide at the tip of a ball-point.
Which sad day did the drawer close,
Casting darkness and neglect in equal measure?
When did the march of progress double-quick
Past this grizzled veteran?

Once sold as chattel to the highest bidder,
Now cherished as tool and symbol
Stringing letters into words.
What great hero or mean man 
Marked his days with this pen?
Shall something good and noble now
Flow from it into a transformed world?

Posted on May 21, 2015 and filed under Guest Post, Parker.

Pen Snobbery

(This is a guest post by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42)

Becoming a pen snob isn’t something that happens consciously. You don’t wake up one morning and decide, “Today, I shall look down my nose at those around me who use inferior writing instruments” while wearing a monocle and an ascot.

I have always been vaguely aware that some pens were better and some pens were not as good. I knew where the Uni-ball Onyx rollerballs were stashed away in the supply cabinets at work, and I knew I liked a Bic Stic better than a PaperMate WriteBros. But as the fella says, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

As I got into pens in early 2014 and the wide world of writing instruments began to reveal itself to me, I quickly and without thinking began to sort the world into good and evil. Allowing reviews and comments to influence me unduly, I decided there were good pens (gels, rollerballs, and these fountain pen thingies) and bad pens (ballpoints, boo!) There were good tip sizes (superduperfine) and bad ones (bold, yuck!) And there were good pen brands (Pilot, Uni, Lamy) and evil pen corporations that were probably fronts for genocide and stuff (Bic, Cross, and don’t-make-‘em-like-they-used-to Parker).

With all the zealotry of the recently-converted, I was quite certain of my opinions, juvenile as they were. And I was really kind of an ass about it. Luckily, I kept most of my snarky comments (“Ugh, you’re using that? Why not just pound a rock on a cave wall to see if makes a mark?”) to myself. I was a pen jerk (mostly) within the confines of my own head.

During this time of completely unjustified certainty, I thought to myself, “Self, there is no one in this world you love more than your best friend, the mother of your children, your amazing wife. But you don’t even know what’s she’s writing with. How can you truly know her if you don’t know her pens? And what if she is having a less-than-optimal writing experience? What if she’s writing with (gasp) a BAD PEN?”

So I set out to fix what I was certain was broken. I just KNEW that Dana’s pen situation was an epic and unmitigated disaster and only I could fix it. (Seriously, I can be kind of clueless.)

Dana is also the kind of person who has always been aware of the writing implements she uses. She’s a lefty, of the dreaded “hook-hand” variety, which means that for her entire literate life, she’s dragged her hand through her freshly-written words. Also, as with many lefties, she PUSHES her pen across the paper instead of PULLS. She has always needed a pen that was both super-smooth and quick-drying, a difficult combination. Had I thought for thirty seconds about these needs, I might not have stuck my foot in my mouth quite as badly as I did, as you are about to witness.

Her pen of choice when I turned the searchlight of superciliousness on her was a PaperMate Profile 1.4B. This, of course, set off all my warning flags. A PAPERMATE? With that, ugh, ENORMOUS 1.4 tip? If she’s going to use something that crappy, why doesn’t she just write with the crayons they give away with the kids’ menu at Applebee’s?

I pulled one of these awful, smelly things (note: not actually smelly) out of the pen cup in our kitchen and tried it out for myself. It certainly wasn’t the writing experience I personally was seeking. Between the (admittedly nice) rubbery grip and large tip, writing with the Profile reminded me of driving my first car, a 1987 Buick Park Avenue that was a hand-me-down from my dad. The way Detroit built suspensions in those days, you as a driver had to take it on faith that there was, in fact, a road underneath you; because you could barely see it and you sure as heck couldn’t feel it. The PaperMate Profile was like that – it was like writing on a cloud.

So I set about trying to help my poor, lost wife out of the wilderness of terrible pens. I brought home (from my stash at work), some 0.5 Zebra Sarasas, a 0.7 Uni-ball Jetstream, and a 0.5 Pilot Acroball. I also had her try a Retro 51. Wonderful pens, all. Fine representations of the best of gel, hybrid ink and liquid rollerball pens. I was sure she would love these pens as much as I did – love them so much, in fact, that she would throw her arms around me, her eyes glistening with tears of joy, overcome with gratitude for the new world of transcendent writing I had opened up to her.

She hated them all.

“Ugh, I just feel like I’m digging into the page with these,” she said as she tried first the Jetstream, and then the Acroball. “And this one smears,” she complained, inspecting the side of her left hand after trying the Retro 51.

She didn’t COMPLETELY hate the Sarasa. “This one is a little smoother than the others, but I’m still digging in,” she said. “I really don’t like any of them better than these,” holding up her PaperMate Profile. “Sorry, honey.”

So, I don’t want to overdramatize my reaction at this point. I wasn’t “devastated” or “crushed.” I wasn’t “hurt.” It’s pens, not life or death. But I was a little bummed out, and a lot thoughtful. Why didn’t she like the pens? These were the best! I loved these pens! They were MY favorites! Shouldn’t she…


Suddenly I had a Grinch moment; my pen heart grew three sizes that day. I had been trying to foist my preferences on her, but her writing needs were different than mine, and her “best” pen was almost certainly going to be different than mine.

I was humbled, but not daunted. I was going to share the pen love with my true love, but I was going to meet her where she was, not where I thought she needed to be. So I searched for pen reviews written by and for lefties, browsed retailers big and small, and ordered a new handful of pens for Dana.

Trying to meet the conflicting needs of smooth and dry, I ordered a broad-tipped Sakura Pigma, a Zebra Tapli 1.6, a Pilot G-2 1.0, and a Dong-A (snicker) Anyball 1.2. Also, given that the only mildly positive feedback from the first test session was for the Sarasa, I picked up the broad, 1.0 version.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a raised eyebrow when I came home one night with another fistful of pens. I could feel the skepticism emanating from Dana, but she is nothing if not a loving and tolerant friend. She tried them. God bless her, she tried every one.

And there was one she liked!

The Sarasa 1.0 got a second and then a third test sentence, and a pleased expression. “I like this. I’d use this,” she said.

I was, to be honest, giddy. I was so pleased that I had sought, and found, something she liked. I was also pleased that we had connected over this pen obsession that had, up until now, been very strange to her.


She never gave up the PaperMate Profiles, but she did add a rainbow of Sarasa 1.0’s to her collection. With the ice broken, I found more things she liked, including Clairefontaine bound journals, Quo Vadis planners for keeping track of the kids’ homeschooling, and Neo-Critz Transformer pen cases. In fact, she liked the Transformer so much she asked for a second one. One is filled with eyebrow tweezers and emery boards (I had NOT thought of that), and the other is home to her favorite colors of both Sarasas and Profiles.

And I, having become just a little wiser and much less opinionated, am totally okay with that.

Posted on April 14, 2015 and filed under Guest Post.