Aurora 88 Sole Fountain Pen: 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.)

I've had my eye on the Aurora Sole (both the Optima and 88) for quite some time. In fact, I almost purchased the Optima Sole a few months ago, but couldn't decide between it and the 88. If I were to buy one, it probably would be the 88 simply because I like the shape of the pen, but the Optima Sole is just as beautiful and is certainly less expensive (if you can find one).

The Aurora 88 Sole is a limited edition of 888 pieces to celebrate Aurora's 70th anniversary of the 88 model. This limited edition pen comes with a high price tag, $895 retail, though most pen vendors sell it for a little less than that. It is currently $715 at Vanness Pens.

Made from marbled Auroloide (a cellulose acetate derivative), the pen looks as though it is lit from within. The material is absolutely stunning, especially in sunlight.

The cap finial, piston, and grip are made of black resin. The cap is encircled by Aurora's distinctive clip and a gold band inscribed with the Aurora name in cursive.

The limited edition number is engraved on the back of the cap near the finial in gold. This pen is number 242 out of 888.

Auroras come with a small ink window (about 5mm in width) that lets you keep track of how much ink is in the pen. But, if you run out, there's a reservoir with a bit more ink that will allow you to write one more page. Just unscrew the piston knob and keep writing. The piston works smoothly and draws in about 1.1ml of ink.

My favorite size nib in the Aurora line is the medium. It is smooth and stiff with just a hint of feedback typical of Aurora nibs. By "feedback" I don't mean "scratchy." Aurora nibs just have a tactile pull to them when you write. The scroll work on the nib is beautiful and that's one reason Aurora pens are among my favorite brands. Their nibs are still made in house and are outstanding.

The feed is made of ebonite and the nib size is imprinted on it.

The 88 is a cigar-style design well suited for most people. It's a medium-sized pen, measuring about 133mm capped, 128mm uncapped, and 155mm posted. Posting gives the pen more heft and length if you need that for comfortable writing. The 88 is slightly longer than the Optima, but when you compare them uncapped, the length from the tip of the nib through the grip is exactly the same. The difference in size is found in the length of the barrel.

The Aurora 88 is such a comfortable pen. The length and weight are perfect for my hand, and I love the raised lip design on the grip that keeps your fingers in place.

I think the Sole is one of the prettiest of all Aurora Auroloides. It is a bright marbled orange/yellow that simply glows. However, it should be noted that the Auroloide is translucent and the black portions of the pen show through. If you use a dark ink, that will show as well. I'm not bothered by the translucency, but some may think that the black showing through detracts from the beauty of the pen.

Pros

  • The Aurora 88 Sole is a beautiful limited edition fountain pen. Collectors will definitely want to have a pristine model for their collections, but it's too good of a writer to keep behind glass.
  • Aurora nibs are made in house and are exceptional both in design and performance.
  • I think the medium nib is the best size of Aurora nib, though I like the broad as well. It writes smoothly with just a bit of feedback.
  • The material on this pen is stunning. It is like carrying a ray of sunshine in your hand.
  • Aurora knows good pen design, and the 88 is a classic. The size is a perfect fit for most hands, and it's a piston filler (one of the most popular filling methods).

Cons

  • At $895 retail, the Aurora 88 Sole is very expensive. If you like the material but don't want to pay that much, you might be able to find a used Aurora Optima Sole for about half that price.
  • Some people may find the feedback from Aurora nibs annoying. The nibs are also very stiff, so if you prefer nibs with a bit of spring, Aurora may not be the brand for you.
  • Because the Auroloide is translucent, the black portions of the pen show through, and that might be a deal-breaker for some.

(Kenro Industries provided this product on loan to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)


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If BB8 had a fountain pen, it would be the Aurora 88 Sole.

If BB8 had a fountain pen, it would be the Aurora 88 Sole.

Posted on September 30, 2016 and filed under Aurora, Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews.

Zebra Sarasa Fujiya Scented Gel Pen Review

(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter.)

So, how are your notes smelling these days? Mine are good--really good. Zebra has come out with some new additions to their line of scented gel pens, this time in collaboration with Fujiya, maker of beloved Japanese sweets and treats. Remember, kids--don't eat your gel pens. You're going to want to. Don't.

The new scents come in two packs. The first contains a dark (nearly black) brown scented like Country Ma'am chocolate and vanilla cookies, bright orange scented like orange lollipops, pink scented like Peach Nectar drink, and yellow scented like Lemon Squash soda. The second pack is based on the popular Milky candy (note that the Milky colors here are not pastels, despite the name's similarity to the Sarasa "Milk Series" pastel gel pens), with original Milky flavor in light blue, Soft Cream (vanilla ice cream) Milky in dark blue, Strawberry Milky in a bright pinkish-red, and Matcha (green tea) Milky in bright green. (Thanks for the translation help Mel!]

It's particularly fun to mix the scents into fun, aromatic recipes, my favorite of which was the peach and green tea. The scents are sweet and definitely noticeable, but not overpowering. They do become less pronounced when the ink dries, which is quite quickly, as Sarasas are known for.

The .5 tips are a perfectly practical size--fine enough to write in small spaces, bold enough that even the bright colors are easily readable. They have the signature Sarasa quick-dry ink, though I did experience some slight smudging where I colored in solid squares (you can see it on the dark brown).

The pens themselves are the standard Sarasa Clip model, with the addition of the cute and beloved Peko-Chan mascot face on the press-point and the Fujiya product branding on the barrels. They have the ergonomic rubber grip, alligator clip, and clicky-retract that we've all come to love in the Zebra Sarasa Clip line--a fidgeter's dream pen. With the bright colors and cute branding, these editions are as much a toy as a pen--beyond the degree to which I already think of pens as toys.

The one criticism I have is that the pens are grouped by the Fujiya product type and not by color. It's perfectly logical to group them that way, but not as practical if you're looking for a pack of pens in a variety of colors. If you're shopping for variety, you're unlikely to buy a pack that is 50% blue or one with yellow/orange/pink without much contrast. These work better as expansion packs to an existing Sarasa collection than as individual packs, I feel.

But they are delicious. I mean--they smell delicious. Not for eating.

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


Enjoy reading The Pen Addict? Then consider becoming a member to receive additional weekly content, giveaways, and discounts in The Pen Addict shop. Plus, you support me and the site directly, which I am very grateful for.

Membership starts at just $5/month, with a discounted annual option available. To find out more about membership click here and join us!

Posted on September 29, 2016 and filed under Zebra, Sarasa, Gel, Pen Reviews.

The Pen Addict Podcast: Episode 224 - My Ink Smells

Myke and I discuss how the Lanier Kickstarter is progressing, how and when to sell a pen, smelly inks, and the wonderfully amazing video above.

Post-show follow up: Anne Trubek is sending me her book The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting which I will read and then schedule a date for her to appear on the podcast. I look forward to that conversation.

Show Notes & Download Links

This episode of The Pen Addict is sponsored by:

Pen Chalet: Click the ‘podcast’ link at the top of the website and enter the password ‘penaddict’ for this week’s special offer, and to get your code for 10% off.

Criquet: Get 20% off with the code PENADDICT.

Posted on September 28, 2016 and filed under Podcast.

The Sheaffer Snorkel

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

In the early 1950s, Sheaffer faced significant challenges on at least two fronts. First, there was the tremendous popularity of the Parker 51, with its sleek, modern design. Second, the ballpoint pen was making inroads, boasting ease of use with no messy dipping or filling.

Sheaffer responded with the Snorkel. Its look was clearly influenced by the 51, but with some uniquely Sheaffer elements. Best of all, it could be filled without any mess thanks to a tube that extended from the feed to suck up ink. This meant that the nib need not be submerged to fill the pen.

Most modern fountain pen users are unlikely to be put off by the alleged messiness of filling a pen, but the Snorkel's eponymous tube is unbeatable for getting those last precious drops out of an ink bottle.

Buying a Snorkel

The Snorkel is such a uniformly great pen that your choices in selecting one will be largely aesthetic. Personally, I'm a fan of the tubular "Triumph"-style nib, but Snorkels are also available with conventional nibs.

The original color range was fairly subdued, but starting in the mid-1950s the palette expanded to include colors of Fiestaware-like vibrancy. There were all-metal models (these were rarer), and very attractive "Crest" and "Clipper" models with plastic bodies and metal caps. (See David Isaacson's article for explanations of the 13(!) model names used for the Snorkel.)

For a functional, but "nothing special," Snorkel, you can expect to pay roughly $70-150 US.

Filling

For a pen that boasts the most complex filling system in the history of fountain pens, the Snorkel is surprisingly easy to fill.

Unscrew the blind cap and pull back. This will expose the metal "Touchdown" tube that surrounds the ink sac, and will also cause the snorkel tube to extend. Put the end of the snorkel tube in the ink and push the blind cap back into position. As you tighten the blind cap, the snorkel tube will retract into the feed. You're ready to write.

Cleaning

In principle, cleaning a Snorkel isn't much different from any other sac-filling pen. Just draw water up into the sac and expel it. Repeat until the water comes out clean. In practice, this is easier than cleaning a lever-filling pen, since the Snorkel's filling mechanism can be operated more quickly.

In Closing

The Snorkel is a solid pen that will not disappoint. As with all vintage Sheaffers, the nibs are excellent, though generally very firm. The relatively low cost on the secondary market and the large number of models and colors makes the pen a nice option for a collection as well as a great user.

If you like the idea of the snorkel tube, but don't like the slim body of the Snorkel, you might look at the Sheaffer PFM, a later model that uses the same filling mechanism, but has a chunkier build and a beautiful inlaid nib.

Further Reading

Brian Gray's explanation of his pneumatic filling mechanism discusses how a similar filling mechanism works and includes a helpful video.

David Isaacson's Sheaffer Snorkel Collector's Guide helps to decipher the profusion of model names for the Snorkel.

Richard Binder's extensive profile page on the Snorkel is helpful for determining the age of your Snorkel and lists many of the colors.

Richard Binder's Anatomy of a Fountain Pen III: Sheaffer's Snorkel explains the complex internal workings of the filling mechanism, with detailed diagrams.

Posted on September 28, 2016 and filed under Sheaffer, Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews.