KWZ Ink - Honey: A Review

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

KWZ Ink (pronounced "kah-veh-zeh") is a new ink on my radar. I had never heard of it until I started seeing reviews for various colors of this ink. The color that really intrigued me was Honey. So, I purchased a bottle from Vanness Pens.

The ink is packaged in a nondescript white box. The bottle itself is simple as well, which speaks to the handmade manufacturing of this ink. The focus is on producing unique colors not on fancy bottles.

The first thing you notice upon opening this ink is the distinct aroma. Sometimes it smells sort of like a medicinal vanilla. Other times, perhaps because the ink's name influences your brain, it smells like honey. Regardless, it is very . . . aromatic. I contacted Vanness after opening the bottle because the strong smell concerned me. They reassured me that the smell is normal. More on the origins of the strong odor later.

The ink itself certainly reminds one of the color of honey.

It is a beautiful amber with truly excellent shading capabilities, even with fine nibs. The ink flows well – in fact, this is a rather wet ink, especially with broad nibs. The ink is not waterproof.

I've been using KWZ Honey in my Danitrio Hakkaku with a flex stub nib. As you can see, the shading is spectacular with this nib.

I also inked my Pilot Custom 832 with a medium (really more like a fine) nib. Even with this finer nib, the shading is excellent. I really love this color.

I compared it with my other brown/amber inks, and really nothing comes close except Sailor Uca Arcuata which is definitely more greenish.

But then there's the smell. This has obviously caused concern amongst customers because there are at least two threads on Fountain Pen Network about the smell (here and here). Initially, some ascribed it to Phenol which is used as a preservative in Sailor inks. But it definitely does not smell like Phenol. Eventually, the owner of KWZ wrote a response on FPN to explain the smell without giving away too many secrets of his formula.

Hello. No I do not use phenol. I will quote my answer I did send to one of the users lately regarding the smell: "In case of Iron Gall inks the strong smell is caused by gallic and tannic acids - both compounds have relatively strong odor.
Both our standard inks and Iron Gall inks use similar compounds for stabilization. Our inks contain large number of compounds which stabilize and improve them in various ways, for example preservatives, antioxidants, corrosion inhibitors, free radical scavengers and more. What has probably the strongest smell is fungicide - in case of this compound this is naturally occurring compound widely used in different branches, including medicine and cosmetics. Additives we use in our inks are approved to be used in food industry or approved for contact with humans in form of cosmetics for example.
Considering allergies - our inks in some conditions might be source of salicylic and/or benzoic acid. I'm very cautious about what I do use in ink making, and will certainly not use toxic compounds in ink making. This is for both safety of users, environment and also my health. We have to remember that concentration of preservative in ink is pretty low (less than 0,05-0,08%) while I have to handle pure substance or highly concentrated solutions while preparing ink."

KWZ Ink is made in Poland by Konrad Żurawski (according to the KWZ website). Now that the ink is becoming more popular because of the unique colors, I wonder if the owner will have to expand production. There certainly seems to be great demand. I contacted Vanness and got myself on an email list so I would be notified when they had more KWZ Honey in stock. The minute I got the email, I purchased mine because it doesn't tend to stay in stock long.

You can purchase KWZ Ink in a wide variety of colors from Vanness Pens for $12.00 per 60ml bottle. Ink samples are also available for $2.00. KWZ Iron Gall inks are a little more expensive at $14.00 per 60ml bottle.

My next bottle will probably be Brown Pink, but at $12.00 I may buy several, including the delightfully-named "Rotten Green." I think that might make an appropriate grading ink, don't you?

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Posted on August 26, 2016 and filed under KWZ, Ink Reviews.

The Pen Addict Podcast: Episode 219 - My Box Of Goodies

If I am the Pen Addict, the Myke is the Pen Gift Addict. He came to the US and went home with more loot than he did from the Atlanta Pen Show, and there was no pen show involved!

We go through his stuff, plus talk about my new Kanilea Pen and my upcoming trip to the San Francisco Pen Show.

Show Notes & Download Links

This episode of The Pen Addict is sponsored by:

Harry's: An exceptional shave at a fraction of the price. Use code PENADDICT for $5 off your first purchase.

Posted on August 25, 2016 and filed under Podcast.

The Sheaffer Balance

(Ron Gilmour is a fountain pen enthusiast, would-be calligrapher, and librarian. You can find him online at Twitter @gilmour70 and Instagram.)

One of the tragedies of history is that we can't see things with the eyes of the past. No matter how much we learn about Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, we can't hear it with the ears of the Parisian crowd who rioted at its premier in 1913. Novelty, by definition, cannot be replicated.

This is the case for the Sheaffer Balance. When we see it today, it looks like a pleasant, but perhaps nondescript fountain pen. There are no hooded nibs or bizarre filling mechanisms. But when it debuted in 1929, the Balance was revolutionary, simply because it was pointy.

Torpedo-shaped pens are something we take for granted today, but early on, almost all fountain pens were flat-tops, or the ends were slightly rounded at best. With the gracefully tapered Balance, Sheaffer brought a new sleekness to the world of fountain pens.

For all the innovation of the design, the Balance is otherwise fairly traditional. Most are lever fillers. There's nothing unusual about the nibs. The materials, while lovely, don't necessarily stand out in a lineup of vintage pens.

The Balance debuted with a long clip that featured a full ball at the end and a sort of hump in the middle. Over time, Sheaffer modified the clip to make it more streamlined. The final version of the clip, called the "radius" clip, fits the streamlined aesthetic of the Balance nicely, but the early humped clips have a quirky charm.

As a modern user of vintage pens, you can think of the Sheaffer Balance (at least the lever-filling versions) as a solid everyday user, maybe an upgrade from an Esterbrook J.

Note: Sheaffer revived the Balance line with the Balance II in the late 1990s. This article is concerned only with the original Balance.

Buying a Balance

If you're shopping for a Balance, you'll need to consider size, material, and filling system.

As with many popular vintage pen models, the Balance was made in a variety of sizes, which varied both in length and girth. The slender models are quite thin and some may find them uncomfortable, so make sure you know the dimensions of the pen before you buy.

While all of the materials used for the Balance were once attractive, some of them haven't held up well over time. Two of the three materials with which the line was launched in 1929 have aging issues. The lovely jade green often darkens unevenly, while the "pearl" parts of the "pearl and black" models have mostly turned a peanut butter tan. Early Balance models not so afflicted will not be cheap.

Happily, there are some beautiful later materials that are quite common, especially the various longitudinally striated finishes like Marine Green, Grey Pearl, And Carmine.

In 1935, Sheaffer began using its "Vacuum-Fil" system on some Balance models. This filling system works like the modern TWSBI Vac models or the Pilot Custom 823. I recommend the lever fill pens over the Vacuum-Fil models, because the former are far easier to service. Repair of Vacuum-Fil Sheaffers is considered a specialty among pen repairers, so you may have difficulty getting one fixed if it develops a problem. That said, the Vacuum-Fil version does have the advantage of a greater ink capacity and, depending on the finish, an easier method of assessing the ink level in the pen.

Prices for the Balance range widely. I once picked up a slightly battered slender black model for $25 US. For a functional, but not pristine, full-size Balance in a common material, you can expect to pay about $100-175 US. Even the rarer and oversize models of the Balance don't generally bring the high prices of, say, rarer Parker Vacumatics. The Balance seems to top out around $500 US.

Filling a Balance

In terms of filling, the lever-fill Balances are no different than any other lever-fill pen. See this article on the Esterbrook J for detailed instructions.

To fill a Vacuum-Fil Balance, first unscrew the blind cap and pull the plunger back as far as it goes. Fully immerse the nib in the ink and then push the plunger back in. Wait a few seconds. Repeat this process to get a more complete fill. See Brian Goulet's video on filling the TWSBI Vac 700 for details on filling a similar pen. When the pen is filled, don't tighten the blind cap all the way down. Leaving it open a little will allow for better air exchange as you are writing.

Cleaning a Balance

Cleaning your Balance is just a matter of drawing water into the sac (in the case of lever-fill models) or the body (in Vacuum-Fil models) and expelling it repeatedly until the water comes out clean.

In Closing

For users of vintage fountain pens, the Sheaffer Balance is a solid choice. They offer a wide variety of sizes and finishes, are readily available, and easily repaired (at least the lever fill versions). If you're new to the vintage pen world, the Balance would make a great introduction, or a step up from an Esterbrook J.

Further Reading

Posted on August 25, 2016 and filed under Sheaffer, Fountain Pens.

Kaweco Squeeze Fountain Pen Converter Review

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

Every so often, you come across a new product that looks like it will solve a problem that you've been trying to remedy for quite a while. For me, the problem was Kaweco Sport pens and the lack of any converters. Before now, my only option was to reuse old cartridges by filling them with a syringe. The Kaweco Squeeze Converter looked like a perfect solution, so I ordered a couple. After all, the squeeze converters I've used from Pilot have been great, so this should be a great new addition for my Kaweco Sports.

The premise of the squeeze converter is great, but it doesn't quite live up my idealistic hopes. First off, these converters aren't pricey. When I bought them, they were $3 a piece. For converters, that's cheap. So, take the cost into consideration when I say that this is the worst converter I've ever used, and I probably won't bother using them again after the pens run out of ink.

Every now and then, you land on a dud. The Kaweco Squeeze converter is that dud for me, but it was worth the shot to try them out. The idea is still great — and the product would be great if a couple of major design flaws were corrected.

In practice, the squeeze converter is extremely simple to operate. Simply pop it into a pen that uses international short cartridges (two different Kaweco Sports in my case), dunk the nib in ink, and squeeze the bulb to expel the air and soak up the ink. The Kaweco converter does this, but not very well.

Basically, the problems boil down to:

  • I could only ever achieve a 1/3 full converter no matter how hard I tried to expel all the air from the bulb. 1/3 of a converter is not much ink at all.
  • The floppy design (which is necessary to expel air and creation suction) means that you must be careful when handling it. If you're planning to use a syringe to fill the converter 100%, I'll be astonished if you can fit the full converter to your pen without making a mess. I sure couldn't.
  • The pens I used were never "leakers" — meaning, they never had any nib creep while the cap was on. With these converters installed, a good amount of ink ends up on the nib while the pen is being transported. For example, if I put the cap on the pen and set it down on the table, there will be spots of ink on the nib when I re-open it. I tested this several times and my only conclusion is that the floppy nature of the converter means that it bounces slightly when the pen is jarred, which causes some ink to leak out of the nib. Really uncool.
  • They're annoying to clean properly.

These converters are usable, but I wouldn't recommend them to anyone. They're messy, inefficient, and don't hold much ink at all.

That doesn't mean that all bulb converters are bad. Take the Pilot CON-20 or the converter that ships with the Pilot Metropolitan for example. Same concept, but pilot has put a metal cage around the bulb to protect it, along with a window that allows you to pump the bulb. The Pilot CON-20 costs a mere $0.30 more than the Kaweco converter, so I have a hard time believing that this design choice was related to cost on Kaweco's part.

Overall, this is a product that has potential with some design changes, but not worth your time as it stands today. Spend your $3 on some silicone grease to turn your Kaweco Sport into an eyedropper, or reuse old cartridges by filling them with a syringe instead!

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

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Posted on August 24, 2016 and filed under Kaweco, Fountain Pens.