6.26.2015

A Trio of Kaweco Sport Pens - AL Raw, Brass and Stonewashed Review



Few fountain pens come to mind that are designed with utility as the main priority. Sure, anyone can slap a conductive stylus tip to a pen and call it a multi-purpose writing instrument, but I'm talking about on-the-go convenience - the ability to slip in your pocket, throw in a bag, attach to a pen loop, and, at a moments notice, be able to pop-in a cartridge and get writing wherever, whenever.



The Kaweco Sport is based on a design that hasn't changed all that much from when it was initially conceived in 1935. It is built with convenience and portability in mind. This no-nonsense, German design has a number of variations, including the Classic, Ice, Aluminum Body, Swirling Acrylic Resin (ART Series), the new Stonewashed Aluminum and Solid Brass (also new). In short, the Sport never rests on its laurels and attempts to excite and reinvigorate this 80-year-old line of writing instruments.



The Packaging
The AL-Sport and Brass Sport pens are packaged in a little Kaweco tin box, which has a molded interior that allows for you to store up to two Kaweco Sport pens. The metal tin is sturdy and convenient to keep around to store or carry your pens around in lieu of a leather pen case. You can also store one Kaweco and a few ink cartridges to prevent running out of ink when you're out-and-about.



The Finishes
For this review, we're looking at three charming finishes - The AL Sport Raw Aluminum, the AL Sport Black Stonewashed and the Brass Sport.

From left to right : Raw Aluminum, Stonewashed, Brass
Both the Raw Aluminum and Brass Sports are polished with a reflective finish. They are said to develop a natural patina over time from wear. Every little scratch and smudge shows up on the body and barrel of the pen. For purposes of this review, I've included a AL Sport Raw Aluminum fountain pen that I've written with for at least a year and a Brass pen that is brand new. The difference is quite visible, especially in the front section, which is the most handled part of the pen. The front section has developed a "frosted" look, taking in all the oils from my fingers and saturating the once-gleaming section.


The Stonewashed Aluminum finish is essentially a black AL Sport that has been distressed or pre-worn, much like a pair of vintage denim jeans. Kaweco knows there is a charm to showing their product as already hard-worn. The textured, grittiness of the pitted black metal has a retro feel, as if it traveled the world and has seen it all.

Filling Up the Kaweco Sport

As the Sport model is a pocket-sized pen, the filling method of this pen is limited to either international sized ink cartridge or the Kaweco Squeeze converter. The drawback to either method is the small ink capacity. The Kaweco squeeze converter seems to offer the smaller amount of ink between the two. If you don't mind changing ink colors very often, then ink capacity isn't a big concern for you. For those who are looking for maximum ink capacity, eyedropper conversion is not recommended on the aluminum or brass pens.

The ink cartridge fits in as you would expect a normal ink cartridge to operate. Simply unscrew the section from the barrel, remove the ink cartridge that arrives with the pen to start, then plug in the cartridge to the front section, pushing until the cartridge pierces and snaps into place.

The squeeze converter is a tricky little device. Most fountain pen users are experienced with a twist converter that can usually fill more than 3/4 of the converter's capacity. The squeeze converter, despite repeated squeeze attempts, usually fills about halfway. At 2:10, the video demonstrates how to fill using the squeeze converter.

To operate - insert the squeeze converter into the front section like you would with the ink cartridge. Then, dip the nib and feed up to where the section starts. Squeeze the bladder of the converter evenly and fully. Imagine your fingers are like the pressure bar of a lever filler pen. You want to pinch flat and fully on the entire length of the bladder to force all the air out of the bladder. You should see bubbles appear in the ink after a good squeeze. Releasing the bladder should result in the appearance of ink to rise up at the bottom of the bladder. Squeezing about 4 or 5 times should get to the halfway point, which is "as good as it gets" with this converter.

Taking the Sports for a Spin

Now that we're inked up, let's get writing!
All three pens are fitted with the Kaweco stainless steel nib, made in Germany with an iridium tip. All Sport pens are available as an extra-fine, fine, medium and broad writing point. Goldspot offers additional replacement Kaweco nibs that are compatible for the sport. They are easily interchangeable by unscrewing them from the front section. The nib unit housing can be further disassembled by pulling the nib and feed with your thumb and forefinger.

The Brass sport has a factory fine nib. The Stonewashed has a medium. The Raw aluminum Sport has an extra-fine, but as you will see in the handwriting shots, it looks more like the factory medium. That's because I've adjusted & tuned it and you'll understand why shortly.

The nib is not my favorite steel. When I had the extra-fine initially, I experienced flow issues and a bit of scratchiness that made the Kaweco unpleasant to write with. As we experience the customer service calls in relation to these items, I can corroborate that other writers encountered the same issue. Writing with the Brass and Stonewashed, I felt the same way.

Out of the box, the Kaweco nib writes dry and has a high degree of feedback, which some may consider "scratchy." The flow isn't quite there with either the fine or medium. Knowing how I was able to tune the extra-fine to my liking, this isn't quite a big deal with me, but I know that it would effect other people's decision about this item. A below-average nib is sometimes acceptable at the $10-$40 price range, but the $80-$100 level asks for more quality right out of the gate.

I can say that, once I adjusted the extra-fine nib to provide more flow and smoothed it out, the pen has become part of my rotation quite frequently. The balance and weighty feel of the pen with the cap posted is quite pleasant. Although the pen is 4.05" (103mm) closed, the cap posts to extend the pen out to 5.20" (132mm). The 22g weight of the aluminum finishes has significant feel in the hand, but the Brass (44g) weighs as much as the both of them together. If you're really looking for a pen that has major heft, the AL Sport brass is the way to go.


A Few Choice Words

Summary :

  • Writing Quality : The stainless steel nib on the Kaweco Sport isn't the greatest right out of the box. They could use some adjusting and smoothing. Comparing it with other German stainless steel in this price point, this nib grades below average. (grade C)
  • Aesthetic Quality : Kaweco has taken a simple pen design and made it a luxury writing instrument by using new materials and techniques for each finish. The result is an item that looks great and matches with your personality and taste. (grade A)
  • Utility : Kaweco built the Sport around the idea of portability and taking your writing on-the-go with a pocket-sized profile that accepts cartridge or converter. The faceted sides prevent rolling off your desk. The optional clip is useful as well. It's hard not to include this pen as an everyday carry item (EDC). (grade A+)
  • Price : At the $80 - $100 price point, these Kaweco Sport pens are right at that sweet spot for most pen buyers who want to write with a classy fountain pen. Considering the weight in-hand, they do give the impression of being more valuable. (grade A-)

Final Grade : A
Kaweco, although it may not be well known as other German pen makers like Lamy and Pelikan, is a brand that is trying to earn its way into the hearts and minds of fountain pen enthusiasts. Building off of the uniqueness of their Sport design, these new finishes bring positive attention to their brand. Personally, I'm looking forward to see what is to come from Kaweco. Now, if they can only figure out a way to make a small converter that works better than the squeeze...

6.18.2015

New J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Emerald of Chivor



J. Herbin is said to have kept an emerald in his pocket during his voyages as a good luck charm. These precious gemstones have been treasured for centuries as protective talismans. One of the purest emerald deposits in the world, the Chivor mine was discovered in the middle of the16th century by Spanish conquistadors.

J Herbin 1670 Anniversary Emerald of Chivor with Writing Sample
Chivor emeralds were much in demand, and the emperors and royalty of India, Turkey and Persia sought the New World treasures once the gems arrived in Europe. Emeralds were enormously popular with the Mughal Court, whose emperors referred to them as “Tears of the Moon” because of their opaque transparency.

This beautiful emerald green blue ink contains gold flecks throughout, enhancing your writing with an elegance and beauty that is unmatched by other inks. Each 50ml bottle is hand dipped in sealing wax with a stamped “1670” seal on the front and individually packaged in a collector edition box.

This ink is anticipated to arrive here in the United States by August 2015. We are not putting them on the website just yet for sale, but will gladly take phone and e-mail pre-orders from existing customers if you want to be on the queue for when they become available. Call us at 800-963-7367 or message us through our website.

6.17.2015

Pilot Vanishing Point Red Cherry and Black Bamboo Fountain Pen Review

In Japanese culture, bamboo is considered to be a symbol of prosperity and hardiness. The strength of the roots is thought to keep the earth together, even in turbulent earthquakes.


In 2015, the Japanese fine writing manufacturer Pilot Pens, extended their best-selling Vanishing Point collection of retractable fountain pens by introducing the Bamboo editions in Black and Cherry. Typically, Pilot releases a new, limited edition Vanishing Point fountain pen every year that is crafted from a new and exciting finish, with only a relatively small number of pens manufactured. This edition is not the yearly limited edition you would come to expect. However, the Bamboo Vanishing Points are given some special treatments with a fancier gift box and a higher price point.



For those of you who don't know what a Pilot Vanishing Point is, and why it is a trend-setting pioneer in the fountain pen realm, the VP (for short) is a retractable fountain pen that fills by ink cartridge or converter and operates with a firm click. The design has been around since the 1960's and is also called the "Capless" outside of the United States. The pen is exceptionally engineered and is a perfect blend of convenience and elegance.

For the purpose of this review, we are focusing directly on the Bamboo finishes and will talk less about the Vanishing Point pen in general. If you love VP's and have at least a couple, you already know how awesome they are.


The Benefits of Bamboo

We've seen a number of pens made of different types of wood, few of which feature bamboo. So, we wanted to take a deeper look into what makes bamboo a good candidate for pen material.

Bamboo is more resilient than other building materials
Bamboo is able to withstand earthquake shocks and hurricane (or cyclone) force winds. Habitat for Humanity is using locally-sourced bamboo to help construct homes and shelters for earthquake victims in Nepal. If it can withstand an aftershock, maybe it will hold up to being dropped on the floor...

Bamboo is more sustainable
Anyone with Bamboo in their backyard can tell you that their growth rate is off the chart. Some species grow several feet per day. A bamboo forest can be harvested every six years whereas other hardwoods may require decades between harvests.

Bamboo is lighter
Some would imagine a wood pen would have some heft to it. Not the bamboo Vanishing Point. It is actually a few grams lighter than the standard Vanishing Point counterparts. In the construction world, bamboo's light weight means no need for heavy machinery to lift it, which saves construction costs.



But, How Will it Hold Up as a Fountain Pen?
In the process of writing this review, I wrote to Pilot to ask a few questions that came to my mind about the application of Bamboo on this pen. The texture, weight and feel of bamboo is cool, but I wondered, as I assume most people would, how this material would hold up to the rigors of everyday pen use.

I've read that bamboo is prone to splitting when using traditional construction fasteners and does not bear weight width wise, which raises some concerns about durability. Pilot explained that the pen is built with only a thin layer of bamboo and is not solid through and through. Structurally, the pen is more reliant on the existing internal construction and the bamboo only serves as a "veneer" to the body of the pen.

Bamboo's natural waxy coating does not lend itself to painting. To produce the black & cherry color, Pilot had stained the bamboo wood, then coated it with a special material (they didn't specify) that prevents fountain pen ink from staining the wood. This coating is also supposed to protect the bamboo from being affected by excess moisture (from hands & environment) or oils in your hands. To Pilot's knowledge, no issues have been reported in regards to the finish degrading.


Pilot Vanishing Point Bamboo vs. a Standard Vanishing Point

The shape and length (5.5" closed) of both Vanishing Point pens are the same, as one would expect. The lighter bamboo material does offer a very slight difference in weight, coming in at 26 grams versus the 30 grams of a standard VP (Black with gold trim, for example). The lighter weight makes the pen more convenient, especially when taken into account the click-action retractable nib.

The texture of the bamboo has the feel of wood with a matte grain. It feels quite comfortable to hold in the hand and warms as you write with it.

My fingertips enjoy commanding the pen around a sheet of paper while mostly holding onto the grain of the bamboo. Only the tip of my index finger touches the chrome section tip.


The box of the VP in Bamboo is an all-black, clamshell-type box with a ruffled, black satin interior where the pen sits upon. The Pilot logo is stamped in silver on the top-half of the box. The Namiki/Pilot Guarantee / Care & Use Guide is included in a compartment inside of the box. Under the guide booklet lays a cartridge cap and an ink cartridge. The pen itself is supplied with a converter inside of the pen.

Writing with the VP Bamboo

What? Only available in medium?

Yes, you can write with any point size of the Vanishing Point Bamboo, so long as it is medium...No, we had to change that.



The 18kt solid gold with rhodium coating (to match the silver clip and appointments) is the same that is also offered as a replacement nib to any VP that has silver trim. Despite the fact that the pens themselves will come with only the medium point installed, Goldspot is offering either Bamboo pen in the full array of nib sizes (Extra-Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad), which I had to try all of them out for the purposes of this review.

**Simply write in the Special Instructions section in your Goldspot shopping cart which nib size you would prefer (EF, F, M or B) and we will honor your request.**



Pilot's nibs run a bit thinner than their Western counterparts. So, a medium in an OMAS, lets say, is more like a Pilot broad nib. An extra-fine Aurora is equivalent to a Pilot Fine and so on. Experiencing all the Pilot nibs one after another, its noteworthy to mention that the fine and extra-fine can feel more feedback and a tad scratchy. The line width, especially on the extra-fine is exceptionally thin, better suited for those who write very small and deliberately.

The medium and broad gold nibs had a flow that was more my personal speed, allowing the quality of the ink to show nicely on the page. The ink I used? Why it's Pilot Iroshizuku, of course. Chiku-rin (Bamboo forest), to be exact. Chiku-rin is a light, greenish-yellow ink that has a nice degree of shading, which is evident more in the medium and broad nib sizes.

Pilot Vanishing Point Bamboo Cherry with Iroshizuku Chiku-rin Ink

A Few Choice Words

Summary :

  • Writing Quality : 18k Solid Gold nib with Rhodium trim write thin like you would expect for a Japanese nib. Not the smoothest right out of the box, but break-in nicely over time. Clip position can be a problem for some, which is common with any VP. (grade B+)
  • Aesthetic Quality : The natural feel and lighter weight of the bamboo is a pleasure to hold and behold visually. (grade A)
  • Utility : The Pilot VP remains to be one of the most convenient, utilitarian fountain pens due to its click-action, retractable nib mechanism. The lighter weight and resiliency of the bamboo material should be able to withstand wear and tear. (grade A+)
  • Price : Most Pilot Vanishing Point pens are listed at $175.00 retail price ($140 street price). The Pilot VP Bamboo, however, is up at $360 retail ($288 street price), double the cost of a regular Vanshing Point pen. Is the bamboo worth doubling the cost of the pen? (grade D)

Final Grade : A-
The sticker shock stings quite a bit, but this is quite a stunning pen that ought to be considered if you are a collector of Vanishing Points. Also, if you haven't jumped into owning a Pilot Capless already, if you made this one your one-and-only Vanishing Point, then you may be able to justify the extra expense.

Remember, the 18kt solid gold nib is the same nib that is on the standard VP, so the extra cost is all about the thin layer of bamboo. If it weren't for the cost, this pen would be right up there with the rest of the Pilot Vanishing point pens, which we regard very highly for their utility, durability and value.

#WriteitWednesday Dear Diary

This week, lets open up a bit. We're betting that quite a few of our followers keep a journal, or a log of events and goings on that you keep track of regularly. This week, our #WriteitWednesday challenge is to share your journal writing with the world. Take a pic of one of the pages, preferably with your pen of choice and post it on twitter or instagram with the appropriate hashtag. Be as personal and intimate as you want to. Dance like no one's watching.

Visconti Van Gogh Portrait Blu with a Rhodiarama Notebook

Share the pic of your entry on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #writeitwednesday and mention @goldspotpens to make sure we see it! You may also opt to e-mail us the picture at social@goldspot.com.

Deadline for entries will be Friday at 10:00am Eastern US Time. We will randomly select a winner on Friday at 12 Noon.

This Week's Prize



This week, our giveaway isn't a pen, its a journal. More specifically, the "Wreck This Journal" book by Keri Smith. We're giving away a free copy to someone who loves journaling and will find Keri's prompts fun and challenging.

About #WriteitWednesday

Each Wednesday, we run a new social giveaway challenge with a different giveaway prize every week. Anyone around the world with an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or E-mail account can enter. Once the entries have been collected and the deadline has passed, we randomly select one of the entries as the winner of the giveaway and send the prize accordingly.

No purchase is necessary to enter the #writeitwednesday giveaway. Those who enter the contest via social media may have their images shared by Goldspot on this blog or on Goldspot's Social media accounts. The winner will have 1 week to contact us by e-mail to claim their prize. If the prize is unclaimed, it will be used in a future giveaway.

6.15.2015

Improve Your Handwriting & Drawing Comfort 5X with the Lamy Scribble

This article was initially distributed in our weekly dip e-mail newsletter, but we decided to share it on our blog.
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I'll tell you a little story about my youth.

When I was in grade school, I would grip my No. 2 pencil so hard while practicing writing and drawing that I developed a big, painful callus on my middle finger that took years to go away once I went to writing with pens.

Fast forward 20 years, I get the feeling I'm not alone when I speak with our customers who prefer a thicker, more ergonomic pencil.

Ergonomic specialists, including UCLA, all recommend the following for pain-free writing :
  • Use the lightest hold possible while writing.
  • Use a round, not triangularly-shaped (or hexagonal), grip.
  • Use ergonomically designed, wide-barrel pens.
  • Use a rubberized or matte grip pen.
  • Avoid leaning heavily on your forearm.
  • Stretch often and take frequent breaks.
Naturally, creative minded-folks are always sketching, drawing and writing, logging hours and hours of intellectual heavy-lifting. If you don't employ an ergonomic style of writing, those same hands can develop carpal tunnel and other hand-related syndromes that cause great discomfort, prohibiting the individual from being able to create. Total bummer!

It's a good thing that Germans know a thing or two about manufacturing a ergonomically designed, durable writing instrument. Later, you'll want to thank them with big, pain-free "thumbs up!"

The LAMY Scribble is engineered to embody the "best practices" of ergonomic writing, sketching & drawing.

The Scribble Mechanical Pencil features :
Stout, light-weight body (4.75" length, 0.9oz weight).
Generously-sized, thick barrel (0.55" diameter at thickest).
Rounded profile finished in grip-happy matte black.

The 3.15mm Clutch Scribble pencil has a thick sketching lead for quick, on-the-go drawings.

The 0.7mm push-action mechanical pencil option is for more precise writing or drafting. The 0.7mm has a built-in eraser in the cap for correcting mistakes.

Both pencils have a clip that can be removed if it better suits your writing comfort. Don't worry, it won't roll off the table due to two facets that are part of the barrel design.

I told you those Germans know what they're doing!

It's never too late to correct your handwriting posture and help ease those aches and hand cramps. Make sure you have the proper tools to keep your hands healthy and pain-free.

I wanted to show you how awesome these pencils can be in-hand, so I created this video below that demonstrates how each pencil works. Compare the thickness of the 3.15mm lead versus the 0.7mm lead as I show how each tip writes.


Please check out the video and comment below on what you think about it. Even if you don't love pencils, Lamy or Germany, I'd love to hear your feedback about the video.