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 the 16th 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.

**UPDATED** October 6, 2015 - J. Herbin's Emerald of Chivor is now available in steady supply after a long-awaited release that came in late August. For tips on how to get the most enjoyment out of your bottle of sparkly, sheening ink, please read our article on Hot to Get Maximum Satisfaction from your J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Ink.

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.
-----

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. 

6.11.2015

Expecting Parker's Great Expectations New 2015 Sonnet Collection

It's been a while since we've seen something new and refreshing from the illustrious Parker Pen brand. 2015 seems to be the year that they begin to head in a new direction with the Parker Sonnet Great Expectations Special Edition.


Finally, Something "New" from Parker

The past two years have cultivated a sense of revival within the brand's aesthetic motif. During that time, the Duofold line added 3 colors based upon historical favorites like the "Big Red." Parker's IM & Urban lines added a "Vacumatic" set of colors that took its design cue from the layered, pearled striping of the Vacumatic pens initially released in the 1940's. Since the introduction of the Parker Ingenuity 5th mode in 2011, there really hasn't been anything "new" to talk about within the brand.

Until now.

The Parker Sonnet line is expanding with the "Great Expectations" Editions of contemporary design pens. The model itself is the same, reliable, balanced - yet weighted pen profile that many writers enjoy as an everyday luxury pen.

The core Sonnet line features classic color combinations - black & gold, black & silver, stainless steel and a red with gold trim. The "Premium" line of Sonnets become more adventurous with grid patterned designs, sterling silver pens, rose gold and pearl white. Parker's new Great Expectations designs seem to fit more with the higher-end, premium models, featuring some stylish, yet sophisticated designs.



The aesthetics of the pen finishes are a departure from the conservative, appearing more European in the fashionable and stylish sense. Each design combines an unconventional color or pattern with the traditional to create a contrast within the pen's appearance.

Parker Sonnet Great Expectations Lineup

Parker's preview of the line includes six finishes :

  • Sonnet Contort Purple Cisele - Plum violet cap and front section paired with an ivory pearl barrel. Cap is patterned with a rose gold grid and complimented with rose gold trim and clip.
  • Sonnet Subtle Pearl and Grey - Pearl grey cap and front section paired with an ivory barrel. Trimmed in rose gold with a rose gold Parker arrow clip.
  • Sonnet Secret Black Shell - Matte black cap and barrel with a dark ruthenium grey trims and clip. The metal front section is patterned with a herringbone engraving.
  • Sonnet Subtle Big Red - Glossy black lacquer cap, barrel and section with an anodized red cap band and trim ring toward the front section.
  • Sonnet Contort Black Cisele - Matte black barrel and cap with silver trim and grid-patterned cap design. Silver metal front section on the fountain pen and rollerball.
  • Sonnet Secret Blue Shell - Blue lacquered cap and barrel with silver trim and clip. Front section on the rollerball and fountain pen have a thatch patterned metal section.



Each pen color and design combination have a distinct look and personality unique to each style. The "Contort Cisele" styles seem to be the most high-end and distinguished.  The Black Shell and Blue Shell are more conservative, with exception to the front section of the rollerball and fountain pen. I'm drawing the conclusion that the "Secret" is in reference to the intricately engraved section that would be revealed when the cap is removed. The Subtle Pearl and Grey and Subtle Big Red utilize interesting color combinations to create an elegant and professional-looking look.



Since we have yet to receive definite information here in the States regarding this collection, some of the details may change and we may not see all six finishes here in the states. As it has happened in the Past with Parker, some pen variations were kept only to the European market. We'll update our blog when the pens are released to reflect the pens will be available to the US market. **EDIT** 10/06/2015 - All 6 finishes are available in the USA.

I know many fountain pen fans will be wondering about the nib. The nibs are crafted with 18kt solid gold that is either plated in gold, ruthenium or rose gold to match the trims of the pen. The rollerballs will use the standard Parker rollerball cartridge and the twist-ballpoint pens will use the ever-popular Parker-style ballpoint pen refill.



These designs are certainly intriguing and call for another look at the modern Parker brand. We hope that this is just the beginning and Parker returns to its roots as an innovating company that creates a fine writing instrument with mass appeal that is both affordable and durable. What do you think about these new designs? Looking forward to ordering them or seeing them in the flesh? Or do you think that this is just another re-hash of the same product?


6.10.2015

#WriteitWednesday Bottom's Up!

Sorry if you missed us last week. We had missed putting the Write it Wednesday announcement on the blog. Hopefully, you'll forgive us this week, as we share a drink together. This week's #WriteitWednesday activity is to write/draw your favorite beverage. What liquid fills your soul with contentment and utter joy?



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


Our giveaway item this week is also our Weekly Dip that is the pen featured in the Write it Wednesday photo - the Aurora Style Paprika Red Rollerball Pen. (Retail Value $85) Smooth writing, Italian made writing instruments always make great give-aways!

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.

6.08.2015

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filling Fountain Pen Review

Few pen manufacturers have the legacy of the Conklin Pen Co, established in 1898 with a prolific spokesman like Mark Twain. The renown American author sang praises for the Conklin crescent filling fountain pen, as it was rare back then that a fountain pen would actually hold it's own ink. The current-day Conklin Pen Co, based in Canoga Park, California, created a replica of this same design that was released back at the turn of the 20th Century and dubbed it, The Mark Twain Crescent Filler.

What's the Big Deal About the Crescent?

The main bullet point of this pen model is its Crescent Filling system, which features - you guessed it - a gold-plated crescent that protrudes from the side of the pen barrel. The crescent is attached to a pressure bar that is inside of the barrel. If pressed down, this pressure bar presses down on a pliable sac inside the pen and expels air (and ink, if present). Releasing the crescent will allow the elasticity of the sac to expand, sucking in ink through the nib's feed. A c-shaped locking ring is rotated around the barrel to allow for the mechanism to be used, and the prevent it from accidentally being used when writing or carrying the pen.

The filling mechanism is very old school, as most pens manufactured prior to the advent of the cartridge / converter used rubber sacs or bladders to store ink within a fountain pen. Not many pens these days are manufactured with a filling system that uses a sac. Thinking off the top of my head, the now-defunct Conway Stewart brand did offer lever fillers and Delta had made button fillers that used sacs, but none recently. Since replacing a broken converter would mean a simple purchase of a new piece, the concept of having to send a pen back for warranty service for a replacement sac seems like an outdated notion. Also, giving the buyer an option to use disposable ink cartridges also seems to be more of a modern concern. The Crescent hearkens back to the glory days of fountain pens, where the inkwell was your ONLY option.


Presentation - an Improvement Over the Conklin Coffin Box

Sticking with the dark blue and gold brand imprint & trim, the Conklin box may look very similar to its predecessors, but has changed from the rectangular box, lined with white, ruffled satin to a cream-felted interior that feels less like a coffin and more like a luxury pen box. Each pen comes with a lifetime warranty card that sets your mind at ease about the whole "I may need to send this away for an expensive sac repair in the future," anxiety. Also included is a card that explains the Crescent fill system, with step-by-step directions on how to fill the pen written on back. It's very informative and elegant-looking, so I would definitely keep all of the accoutrements that come with the pen, especially if you would ever consider selling it in the future.

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent (Left) with a Lamy AL-Star Copper Orange (Right)

The Pen

Despite being made of mostly resin, picking up the Conklin Mark Twain Crescent felt weighed in-hand at 27 grams. The thick cap band, large metal clip and the crescent pressure bar in the barrel gave the pen its decent weight. Typical to the Conklin's tradition of over-branding their merchandise, the clip, cap band, crescent and nib all have the Conklin name engraved or stamped.

The rocker-style clip is affixed to the cap by a metal piece located toward the top half of the clip piece. Pressing at the very top of the clip will open up the bottom to clip on to a shirt pocket or pen loop.

The cap band is nicely engraved with Mark Twain's signature that is rendered in black filler, along with the Conklin name.

The crescent is stamped "Conklin" on one side and "Crescent-Filler / Trade Mark" on the other. The c-shaped locking ring is made of the same resin the rest of the pen body and cap are made from. The opening of the "c" is meant to be lined up underneath the crescent arc to prepare for filling or cleaning. When filling or cleaning of the pen has been completed, I would recommend turning the c-shaped locking ring as far as you could away from the crescent to ensure there would be no accidental discharge of ink.

A neat feature about the Crescent itself, which Mark Twain enjoyed very much, was the fact that the crescent arch acted as a roll-stopper, even when the pen's cap was off. Usually, you could rely on the clip of a pen to prevent the pen from rolling off of a table. However, even with the cap removed, the Crescent filler isn't going anywhere.

The Writing Experience

The Conklin Crescent is available in a steel nib, sized Fine, Medium or 1.1mm Stub Nib. For this review, I had used the 1.1mm Stub, so we can talk about another important change for modern pen manufacturing.

A buffet of nib size choices are seldom seen these days with most pen manufacturing. Most offer a standard fine or medium and call it a day. The Great Recession may have had something to do with it, as most companies wanted to run leaner on inventory and stick only with the best-selling nib choices.

The modern Conklin Pen Company also applied survival of the fittest to their nib selection, but found that the discontinued broad had lost out against the 1.1mm stub nib.

Why?

Thank the resurgence of fountain pen writing in general over the last 5 years and its proliferation online. Today's fountain penmen / penwomen LOVE line variation. Go search on instagram for #flexnibfriday and #stubnibsunday to see perfect examples of pen lovers showing off their specialty nibs.

Conklin's 1.1mm stub gives excellent line variation, with a thick vertical stroke and a thin horizontal. I felt like it ran a bit on the dry side and certainly wasn't the smoothest steel nib, not by any stretch of the imagination. Now, that I've gotten more into tuning my pens, my mind immediately went to the thought that this pen could be absolutely perfect if I worked in opening up the flow a bit more and smoothing out the nib. However, for purposes of this review, my assumption is that the average reader does not have the experience or confidence to tackle such an adjustment, so I wouldn't make any recommendations to "void the warranty," so to speak.

The Conklin Crescent Stub nib favors a slower, controlled pace of writing. The ink (Noodler's Golden Brown), could not keep up during faster writing samples and scribbles. Printing and adding serifs to the letters' ascenders and descenders looks great with the line variation that is achieved with the stub nib.

Apart from the nib, the pen felt more controllable and less taxing on the hand when using it uncapped (5.57" closed, 6.5" cap posted). You can certainly post the cap on the backend securely, but the added weight to the backend felt a bit cumbersome. Also, the c-shaped locking ring around the barrel protrudes out from the rest of the pen body. For my hand, it rests exactly on the side of my index finger knuckle, which isn't that comfortable of a fit.

Despite having an internal filling system, it felt like the Mark Twain Crescent did not hold a tremendous amount of ink like most other bottle-fill only pens would usually be able to carry. I gave it somewhat a pass, because I was using a stub nib that laid down more ink that a standard fine or medium point would. Word of advice on filling : be sure to do at least another 2-3 squeezes when the nib is submerged in ink to obtain the maximum amount of ink in your pen.


A Few Choice Words

Summary :

  • Writing Quality : Stainless steel nib writes well enough, but doesn't "Wow." Most tinkerers would probably be able to find a way to make it sing. (grade B-)
  • Aesthetic Quality : Strong vintage appeal with many design cues that pay homage to Conklin's heritage. Gold trims and Mark Twain's signature are particularly striking. (grade A-)
  • Utility : I'm split on this issue, as the crescent is  a filling system built into the pen, but presents an issue for fitting in pen loops or cases. The c-shaped locking ring also gets in the way a bit when writing for some people's hands. (grade B)
  • Price : Normally an MSRP of $180, Goldspot is offering the Halloween, Mocha & Spearmint models at closeout for a special rate. Check the website here for the most current offerings. (grade A)


Final Grade : A-
Overall the revival was a success. I was teetering between a B+ and A-, but what set me more on the A- side was the closeout price value on the three finishes I mentioned. There are a few other versions of the Crescent Filler, including a black chased pattern with rose gold finish and a demonstrator model as well, which sell for significantly more than this line, but provide nearly the same design. The uniqueness of the crescent filling system, colorful style and the additional hand writing flair of the stub nib makes this pen an exotic add to your fountain pen collection.

6.02.2015

Free Pens, Goodie Bags and Talking Shop - Our 1st NJ Pen Club Meetup

On Memorial Day weekend, Saturday to be exact, convened the inaugural NJ Pen Club Meetup at the Hazlet Library. We had a fine turnout of enthusiastic pen-lovers and talked pens, inks and paper for a solid 3 hours on the Holiday weekend.

Part of the activities that Goldspot Pens sponsored was a giveaway raffle for a brand-new Pelikan M200 Cafe Creme fountain pen. Everyone wrote their names on little pieces of paper from their new, complimentary Rhodia pads and we picked one out of a coffee cup. Larry was our lucky winner.

Larry with his new Pelikan M200 Cafe Creme Fountain Pen
We kicked off the meet with an icebreaker where we went around the table and talked about our favorite pen currently in-hand. The collections each person came with were as diverse as the personalities that brought them. Edison, Mont Blanc, Nakaya, Pilot, Pelikan, Sailor, Delta, TWSBI and Visconti were all represented as favorites of the group.



Besides sharing our absolute favorites, when we started talking amongst each other, showing off our personal collections, it was apparent the "addiction" ran strong with this crowd. Some of us brought vintage pens, flexible nibs, pens modified by nib meisters and custom-made pens. We "oo'ed" and "ah'ed" at the meticulous handwriting and ink keeping records that some folks brought with them. A bag of ink samples was passed around for anyone who wanted to take some colors that were no longer desired by the original owner.

Tom with Goldspot (left) trying out a Vintage Pelikan 400NN with Dan

We took a survey prior to the meet to see if there were any special requests for pens that people wanted to see at the meet-up that we can bring. We filled up a Monteverde Zipper Case full of pens to try out, including a Pelikan M805 Stresemann, Conklin Crescent Filler with a Stub nib, Lamy AL-Star Copper Orange, Sailor 1911L in a Zoom nib and a Pilot Namiki Falcon. We passed around pens and tried scribbled some "quick brown foxes" on note paper to get a feel for the pens we were sampling.

Pens, Laughs and Goodies Galore

Goldspot put together goodie bags that were handed out to every attendee. Every bag included some pen-related treats from Pilot, Pelikan, InkJournal, Rhodia and ink samples to try.

As for the next meeting, the summer is upon us, which means vacation for most people. However, we're looking to squeeze another meet up in soon. Up for discussion was the focus and location of the next meet. The Hazlet Library was gracious to provide us the space for our first meeting, but a more central location within the state may be better suited for most of our attendees. We may take more of an in-depth approach to discussing nib maintenance and tuning, but are looking for someone in the area who would be more technically adept at leading a nib tuning workshop.

We may also look to link up with the Philly Pen Posse and/or the Big Apple Pen Club for a future mega-meet-up at a mutually agreed upon location.

6.01.2015

This Just In - Hot Retro 51 Summer Pen Releases

This summer, Retro 1951 is making a splash with its new editions, including a limited sterling silver pen and a special, numbered Tornado to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the company.


Vintage Metalsmith Tornado Juliet
Retro 51 has fallen in love with designs that give the feeling of antique or rustic quality. The Juliet gives the impression of a tree design with a heart and arrow going through it, as if it were scrawled by a star-crossed lover. It would be a neat idea if a couple wanted to have their initials engraved in the center of the heart.

Big Shot Blue Agave
The Retro 51 Big Shot offers a thickness and weight superior to the Tornado, while keeping the same tapered profile and function. The Blue Agave has a pleasing matte blue finish with a dimpled diamond pattern that wraps around the V-Shaped profile.

Tornado Snapper Black Cherry
Click - Click. The Snapper looks similar to the original Tornado, but the knurled crown atop the pen is click-action instead of twist. An easy flow 9000 ballpoint refill is installed for long writing sessions. The Black Cherry is a glossy, red-black color that is rich and subtle.

Tornado EXT Fountain Pen Marlin
Truly the most appropriate summer color of the bunch, the Marlin was recently released as a Tornado rollerball and now is available as a fountain pen that uses both international-sized ink cartridges or a converter for bottled ink (included). The swirling blue acrylic is deep and undulating like the open ocean. The stainless steel nib, available in medium point only, is reliable and provides a smooth, flowing line.



Big Shot Natural Titanium
Made with recreational grade Titanium, this generously-sized rollerball pen has a solid feel of metal in-hand. The silver accents are done with rhodium plating on the clip and trim.

Tornado 25th Anniversary
Numbered, but not limited, this commemorative Tornado marks the 25th year of the Retro 51 brand with an acid etched, repeating pattern of "25" that wraps around the entire barrel. The design is plated in a stonewashed pewter finish to give the material a vintage look. The clip and trims are plated in gleaming rhodium silver.

Tornado Limited Edition Sterling Silver
Retro 51 took Tornadoes to the next level with this beautiful, lined, .925 sterling silver finish barrel. These are numbered and limited to 180 pieces. Contrary to other Retro 51 pens' packaging, this special Tornado is packaged in a Piano lacquered wood gift box, complete with a polishing cloth to keep that silver finish gleaming.

As of this posting, we have all of these Summer 2015 Retro 51 styles available and in-stock. Some, including the Limited Edition Sterling Silver rollerball, will be limited in inventory, so be sure to get your order in ASAP to guarantee a piece for your collection.