Fountain Pen Friday: Q&A

I’ve ordered a couple new pens to review, but didn’t have any to do a review this week. Instead I’ve asked for questions (both serious and silly) to answer this week.

Q: What color inks are staining your fingers right now? -Brian

A: None. I’ve actually been composing on the computer this week rather than by hand. I’ve got a nice avocado colored cartridge in the Poquito that I’ve been using to journal with but have somehow avoided smearing it on my fingers.  (Update: by the end of doing the pictures for this blog entry my fingers ended up stained green, red, and brown)

Q: What do you carry when you are traveling?

A: This is always changing. I have Petit1 pens and the Penmanship in my purse right now, but when I go on longer trips I have various pen cases I take with a wide variety of pens and inks. I don’t think I’ve taken the same pens on two different trips.

Q: What does your signature look like?

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Q: When did you start using fountain pens and why?

A: I bought some Pilot Varsity disposables back when they were first offered (early 90s?)… and I hated them. It wasn’t until I got discouraged at the available ink colors when I started drafting in non-blue or black colors that I looked at fountain pens again and bought myself a Lamy All-Star… and it’s been an addiction ever since.

Q: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

A: Birch. Duh.

Q: How the hell do I pick ink? Where do I get it? -Lily

A: I pick ink based almost entirely on color, I don’t mind ending up a little smudged with ink and I don’t have good reasons to use waterproof ink so I don’t worry about ink formulas. However, that is entirely a personal preference. I’d strongly recommend if you’re just starting out to get a bunch of samples of the type of inks you’re contemplating from Gouletpens.com. Yes! Samples! They will send you a little vial of ink that will fill your average pen 2-3 times (check out their available samples here) I’ve found that the cheapest place to get standard cartridges is ebay. Proprietary cartridges and full-size bottles of ink can be bought from the same places you buy fountain pens. Amazon, Jetpens, Gouletpens and your well-stocked art departments (such as at a University Bookstore).

Q: How do I refill the pen without enacting what looked like an ink cartridge beat down in my kitchen? -Lily

A: Lots and lots of paper towels. Ok, I’m being a bit facetious, though having paper towels on hand does help. I asked for a picture of the pen mechanism in question.

2014-10-23

Ok, now cartridges are filled before they go on to a pen, but cartridges are filled while attached to the pen. I know, it didn’t make sense to me at first either. It wasn’t until I figured out you actually end up wearing a lot less ink this way that I decided to fill all my pens with the converter attached. So, with the converter attached like you see in the picture above you dip the full nib of the pen (the metal tip part) into the ink and then twist the converter to draw up the plunger inside thus creating a vacuum and filling both the pen and the converter.  Tap the pen against the inside edge of the ink bottle to get rid of extra ink, and then wipe it on rag or paper towel, screw the body of the pen back on and Bob’s your Uncle.

Q: How many octopuses are milked for ink for a single pen? Or do multiple pens make up a single inking? -@starlightgeek 

A: Well, first you have to give the octopus a cookie…

Actually, while you can write with octopus ink, I’d be pretty hesitant to put it into a fountain pen because I’d be afraid it would either cause corrosion or if it dried out in the pen it would be impossible to clean out due to mucus. However, it turns out that the original sepia ink was made from cuttlefish ink mixed with shellac.  All hail the power of Google: https://www.tonmo.com/community/pages/octopus-ink/

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/03/22/can_i_write_with_squid_ink/

Q: Does licking the nib actually help? -@starlightgeek

A: I… have no idea. I have honestly never tried. I work in a museum and the number one rule about museums is “THOU SHALT NOT LICK ANYTHING”. So it’s never occurred to me to try and I can’t imagine the ink would taste very good and might have stuff you’d rather not ingest in it.

Q: which is your favorite color ink to use in spells to summon the dead? -@starlightgeek

A: That’s a tie between Noodler’s Red-Black which is a very dark reddish color and Noodler’s Antietam which looks like dried blood.

Q: Evolution from quill to fountain pen. Pen accessories, such as blotting paper. When did they stop sanding? -@ULTRAGOTHA
A: Wow. I’m afraid that the evolution question is a little above my paygrade. I’m just an amateur fountain pen user. I imagine someone got sick and tired of constantly dipping their dip pen (which had been the metal improvement on the quill) and decided there had to be a better way. (Let’s check the internet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_pen & http://www.calibremagazine.com/node/270 seem like some pretty good quick look at the topic). I haven’t used blotting paper myself as I have plenty of paper towels and don’t own anything I’m afraid to touch with said paper towels. As for the last question there, I’m assuming you mean when did they stop sanding nibs? I understand that people still grind nibs to come up with customized writing instruments, but I think some of the sanding had to do with getting built-up india ink off of dip pens, but that’s outside my experience.
Q: Has there been any alternatives for lefties other than that wild-looking nib?
A: I am right-handed, but I do write in very small notebooks and have my own problems with smearing my own writing. So, to simulate lefty-hand-dragging directly on what you’ve just written I drew a line and followed it with a knuckle pressed to the paper.
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So there are three things that effect how much the ink smears are: paper, ink, and nib width. As you can see the post-it smears way worse than the notebook (Woot unlined). Also the wider parallel nib smears more than the others. I don’t keep fast-drying ink around, but that can also help. What really trips up lefties are flexible nibs because the design of how it is meant to work with the motion of right hand writing and so it ends up splattering ink.  However, most of your lower-priced fine-nib pens are going to work fine for lefties as long as you don’t write on super smooth paper that holds the ink on the surface longer. There are left-handed student pens (such as: http://www.jetpens.com/Pelikan-Pelikano-Junior-Fountain-Pen-P68L-Left-Handed-Nib-Blue-Body/pd/3562) but I can’t speak for their usefulness.
Q:What’s a good starter fountain pen? Why do you love them so much? What are their advantages over more plebeian pens? -@SaraEileen
A: Y’know… I think I’m going to give you a good range of stuff. I think you would really like the Petit1 not only in the fountain pen version but also in the brush pen version. I think for writing the Poquito or the Metropolitan are pretty good starter pens. A lot of people start with the Lamy Al-star but I’m not sure it’s the best starter since it does have the ergonomic grip. The reason I love fountain pens is the same reason I love nail polish, you can use so many colors! You also re-use almost everything so there’s less waste over other pens and using a converter it’s cheaper to use bottled ink over disposable pens (but really I’m in this for the colors).
Q: Also, will they bite me? I’m very concerned about this. -@SaraEileen
A: No. They will occasionally get a little ink on you but its no worse than any other kind of art medium.
Q: ‏Tell me about changing nibs. What’s up with that? I’ve only done it with Lamy. -@christieyant
A: I haven’t done it at all. I understand how to do it on the Lamy but that’s the only pen I own that has changeable nibs (that I know of).  However, I will take this opportunity to point people at the information section of Goulet Pens which actually has videos and answers most question you can ever have about how to do things. http://www.gouletpens.com/Fountain_of_Knowledge_s/1130.htm
Q: If I spill the ink from a fountain pen and it forms a puddle, should I toss a penny in it for a wish? -@nisamcp
A: It depends on if the puddle is on your floor or someone else’s and how fast you can run.
Q: Do you draw with the pens, or just write stuff?-@JeffreyPetersen
A: I doodle a bit, but I’m not much of an artist.
Q:Have you ever bested a swordsman using a pen?-@JeffreyPetersen
A: No, it ended in a draw.

Monteverde Poquito

 

 

 

 

Today’s pen is the Monteverde Poquito (Available at Goulet Pens)

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Monteverde Poquito

Christie sent me this pen thinking that I’d love it… and she was right!

Monteverde Poquito cap off
Monteverde Poquito cap off

It’s entirely metal so it feels super sturdy. There’s a stylistic point at the top of the cap that looks a little weird to my eye, but I figure it might just be in case you need to use this pen in hand to hand combat to take out an enemy with a temple shot.

Club Card shown for scale.
Club Card shown for scale.

The pen isn’t heavy but it has a really pleasing weight to it. The cap snaps on with the absolutely most satisfying click noise. It is hard not to fiddle with this pen when you carry it.

Pen in hand with cap
Pen in hand with cap

It is an adorable little pen with a metallic, almost holographic nail polish sort of color.

 

Pen in hand no cap
Pen in hand no cap

I really enjoy how Monteverde nibs write, so I find it lovely to write with.

Pen Test
Pen Test
Pen Test 2
Pen Test 2

 

The Good

  • cute!
  • nice smooth grip
  • standard cartridges
  • lovely to write with
  • sturdy with a nice weight to it
  • satisfying click noise putting cap on

The Bad

  • can’t stop fiddling with it – very tactile
  • pretty sure this is going to feel small to a lot of people who are not me
  • some converters may not fit (haven’t tried the one Christie sent with it yet, but I assume it will work eyeballing it)

Overall Grade: A

This pen hasn’t left my notebook since I put ink in it about five days ago. There’s just something about this pen that makes me want to pick it up and use it. If you like small pens I highly recommend picking this one up. (And if you don’t believe me you can go watch the video over at Goulet Pens about it http://www.inknouveau.com/2014/10/monteverde-poquito-quick-look.html)

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Bourbon Pen

My friend Brian sent me this pen because it combines fountain pens and bourbon, two of my favorite things. You can get your own at BourbonPens.com and you should totally click on that link and go drool over all of their pretty pretty pens.

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Doods, it is a wood pen with chrome accents that is made out of the wood of a bourbon barrel. In fact it comes with a certificate of authenticity and chunk of barrel wood cut into a pen rest that smells deliciously of bourbon. What, no I don’t just sit here and sniff it sometimes. That’d be crazy…

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This pen is impressive looking. I was worried that it was going to be too big for my small hands, but then I took the cap off and the actual part you hold is a very nice width.

pen posted on the back
pen posted on the back

The back of the pen has threading so you can screw the cap securely on the back, which is handy for those of you who like to do that. I’m personally not a fan, but this pen is very nicely balanced with or without the cap on the back.

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This is probably the fanciest pen I own and I feel kind of badass when I use it.

pen in the hand without cap
pen in the hand without cap

It really isn’t as big as you think it might be and the grip is really nice, plus the wood feels amazing against your hand between the thumb and forefinger.

pen in hand with cap on back.
pen in hand with cap on back.

It’s a little long with the cap posted, but not bad. Remember my hands are TINY. I should become a hand model for value meal burgers or something.

Pen Test. I totally had to use the whiskey-scented ink to christen it.
Pen Test. I totally had to use the whisky-scented ink to christen it.

The Good

  • Gorgeous
  • nice smooth grip
  • comes with converter
  • standard cartridges
  • writes nice
  • well-made
  • wood
  • comes with a bourbon barrel pen rest wood chunk

The Bad

  • it’s too nice for traveling
  • a little heavy

Overall Grade: A

This is one of my nicest pens and absolutely the fanciest pen I own. I really like touching it and using it. Plus the pen rest smells amazing. I generally store this pen on its rest in a place of honor on my desk. It looks cool even when it’s not being used.

Pen and Ink Sketch Fountain Pen

Spoiler Alert – I hate this pen.

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I genuinely thought I’d thrown this pen away. It’s by Pen and Ink, who happen to make my favorite small notebooks. Good Notebooks. Do not recommend the pens.

 

pen without cap
pen without cap

I haven’t used this pen very much and you can see the damage. This is by far the cheapest feeling pen I own.

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it comes with a “suede wrap” that… I guess you’re supposed to wrap around the pen at all times so it doesn’t come in contact with life lest it get all scratched and dinged up?

the chrome is peeling off
the chrome is peeling off
another shot of the peeling metal accent
another shot of the peeling metal accent
Detail of ridge right by nib
Detail of ridge right by nib

This is also the WORST designed pen I own. There is a raised ridge right at the end of the pen where you grip… or at least I do… IT HURTS TO WRITE WITH. The ridge digs into your fingers and makes the act of using it a horrible experience.

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It’s a fine size, but it comes apart easily, feels cheap and extremely light for its size. I know I know, I normally really LIKE light pens, but this one is just… I mean even the disposable Pilot pens feel sturdier than this thing.  It feels flimsy.

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The nib is nothing to write home about either. It feels scratchy and uneven against the paper. It has the textural feel of the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.

The Good

  • It comes with a piece of leather?
  • standard cartridge
  • comes with converter

The Bad

  • flimsy and cheap feeling
  • terrible writing experience
  • easily damaged
  • stupid ridge in gripping section of pen

Overall Grade: F – There are a ton of cheaper pens that are better made and nicer to use than this one.

 

Ohto Rook

You know when the “for size” picture features a dime the pen is going to be small. The Ohto Rook is the smallest pen I own.

It's even smaller than the Pilot Petit1
It’s even smaller than the Pilot Petit1

I bought this pen specifically because I like small pens. I’ve been hauling it around as my new purse pen and other than it tends to fall to the bottom of purse pockets, it is doing quite well for that.

Rook and Petit1 without caps
Rook and Petit1 without caps

I’d previously bought a Kweco squeeze converter and thought it might fit this pen too. Nope. This pen is too small to use even that converter.

Rook with Kaweco sport converter attached. Doesn't fit.
Rook with Kaweco sport converter attached. Doesn’t fit. Too long.

It really doesn’t have much for threads so I wouldn’t even attempt to do an eyedropper conversion on this little guy. It looks like it’s cartridges or nothing, but that’s OK. I’m using this as a travel pen.

standard cartridge attached
standard cartridge attached

The pen body is a very light aluminum and it is by far not only the smallest pen in length but in girth. It feels more like holding a pencil than a fountain pen in that fashion.

In hand with cap on back.
In hand with cap on back.

I’m not a fan of using pens with the cap on the back and this pen is no exception. It is super super tiny all by itself.

pen in hand no cap
pen in hand no cap

It’s almost too small, even for my hand. On the plus side it is even lighter than the Petit1 and being so small around I don’t seem to grip it quite as hard.

Writing test
Writing test

There’s nothing remarkable about how it writes, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. It’s a great little pen.

The Good

  • tiny
  • light
  • very narrow grip
  • standard cartridge

The Bad

  • very short without cap
  • not convertible in any way
  • easily lost
  • nothing to stop it from rolling off tables

Overall grade: B

I like it, but I don’t love it. I think the Petit1 beats it out on a practical (and cost) level, but the Rook’s narrow girth and lighter weight makes it have its own charm.

Pilot Parallel Pen 1.5mm

Some of you may remember how disappointed I was in the Scheaffer Calligraphy pens. Well, I still liked the IDEA of having a Calligraphy pen so I decided to give the Pilot Parallel a shot, as I’ve been extremely happy with Pilot pens so far. I got the 1.5mm because I want to write with it still, not just do Calligraphy.

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Here it is assembled out of the package. It comes with two ink cartridges, a squeeze converter for cleaning (though I’m sure it would work just fine), and a nib cleaner (Oh HEY I had no idea this was a thing and have just been using the edge of my paper for the same purpose. This is way better).

Pilot Parallel with items for scale
Pilot Parallel with items for scale

 

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This pen is designed to sorta resemble a dip pen and has the paint brush-style taper body. I’m not a huge fan of the look, but it works just fine. It isn’t as awkward as you might fear for being so long.

 

 

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I'm not a huge person, but it's still pretty long.
I’m not a huge person, but it’s still pretty long.

 

 

It really is quite a long pen. It is completely convertible into an eyedropper pen, though I’m not sure I’d suggest it… simply because the barrel seems to untwist slightly when I untwist the cap and I think it might occasionally leak because of this even with silicone grease.

 

nib comparison between Parallel 1.5mm and Scheaffer Fine
nib comparison between Parallel 1.5mm and Scheaffer Fine
width of line drawn with said pens. The stutter on the Parallel is user error not pen.

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The Good

  • 3 nib sizes
  • writes nice and wet, great for calligraphy (but bad for cheap paper)
  • nice smooth round grip
  • is FUN to write with

The Bad

  • Looooooooooong Pen is Long
  • requires a proprietary cartridge and converter
  • not really practical for everyday writing, but that’s not what it’s made for

Overall grade: A for Calligraphy Pen, B for occasional wanting to write all swoopy for no practical reason

 

 

Jinhao x450

Jinhao x450
Jinhao x450

I like cheap pens. I have quite a few of these Jinhao pens from China because they’re cheap. You can get them for less than $10 from Goulet Pens. But they’re fairly ubiquitous on ebay for even cheaper (new) or Amazon for more money.

items for scale
items for scale

I don’t know what to tell you. They aren’t what you’d expect. They don’t feel cheap. I don’t use them much. Not because they’re bad, they’re not. They write very very nice.

cap off
cap off

They’re REALLY sturdy pens. I… I kinda want to see what kind of materials you could shoot one through, with a crossbow. I realize that’s not a normal test of a fountain pen, but it is one of the things that goes through my mind with this pen.

it comes with a standard converter!
it comes with a standard converter!

The pens come with a standard converter included. I’ve had one of the converters not quite put together and had to fiddle with it, but it ultimately worked fine. I’m not sure I’d want to take one fully filled on a plane because I think it might be more prone to blurping ink, but I haven’t had a chance to test that.

Pen in the hand, no cap
Pen in the hand, no cap

It has an ergonomic ridged grip that’s relatively comfortable. The pen is HUGE. I don’t use these pens much because they are absolutely gigantic and heavy. If that’s your thing, you’ll LOVE these pens.

Pen in hand with cap on back. I absolutely can not write with the pen in this configuration because of the weight.
Pen in hand with cap on back. I absolutely can not write with the pen in this configuration because of the weight.

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The Good

  • cheap enough and solid enough to mess around with customization of the nib if that’s your jam
  • variety of styles
  • firm snap-on cap
  • ergonomic grip
  • well-balanced without cap
  • nice smooth writer
  • standard cartridge and converter
  • may possibly be able to be used as a crossbow bolt in a pinch

The Bad

  • huge
  • heavy
  • short cap insert leads to ink residue
  • this pen is exhausting for me to use and tires the ligaments in my hand I have the most problems with.

Overall grade: C

I like cheap pens but I have tiny hands. If you like big pens and you can not lie… these are the pens for you.

 

Fountain Pen Friday: Monteverde Artista

I haven’t been using pens as much the past couple weeks. You see, my outside chest freezer got all rusty and I needed to put rust-eating spray paint all over it. No Big Deal. Well… So, it turns out that you really shouldn’t spend the better part of an hour pressing your finger down with hard constant pressure. I originally thought the numbness was due to being covered in paint, but it turns out I (hopefully temporarily) damaged the nerve endings. It is getting better, but slowly. I’ll be buying a spray grip for any future spray painting though.

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This week’s pen is the Monteverde Artista Crystal with a medium nib (Goulet Pens, Jetpens, Amazon). This is a slightly pricier pen than previous weeks, but we’re still talking about mid $30 range. My (as always, terrible) pictures don’t do it any justice. It is a fully clear pen with chrome accents. It also comes in a number of clear colors, but I like the crystal.

Pen in pieces, freshly cleaned.
Pen in pieces, freshly cleaned.
items for scale
items for scale

The Artista has a weighted screw-on cap and uses standard cartridges and converters. The cap is designed to let you see the nib even when the cap is on. My only gripe about this is that the cap insert is very short (so as to not hide the nib and ink residue can get stuck between the insert and the cap. It’s a really nitpicky gripe and doesn’t affect the pen’s operation in any way. It just means my cap is no longer entirely clear, I have a little purple residue from inks past I’ve been unable to fully clean out.

Pen in hand cap on
Pen in hand cap on

If you like a more substantial feeling pen, just put the cap on the back and the weighted cap will oblige you.

Pen in hand no cap
Pen in hand no cap

If you’re like me and prefer a lighter pen, just omit the cap for an equally wonderful writing experience. The nib on this pen writes… just wonderfully. It isn’t exceptionally fast, but so smooth and an absolute trooper. I almost never have to fiddle with this pen.

Writing sample
Writing sample

The Good

  • very very clear
  • solid, well-made
  • gorgeous
  • writes smooth and steady
  • adjustable pen handling due to weighted cap
  • standard cartridge and converter

The Bad

  • hard grip
  • screw on cap (though the threads are high enough not to dig into my fingers)
  • short cap insert leads to ink residue

Overall grade: solid A

This is a pen that constantly comes back into my rotation and I know I can count on.

Noodler Creaper Flex

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Ooo a box

This week’s pen is the Dec 25th Creaper Flex by Noodler’s. I’ve been a huge fan of Noodler’s inks but this is my first Noodler’s pen. I bought this on sale at Goulet Pens and they don’t seem to have this particular color  at the moment but if you go check them out there are plenty of other colors.

There's a pen in the box!
There’s a pen in the box!
There's also an informative paper about the pen, how to fill it, use it, and replace its gasket.
There’s also an informative paper about the pen, how to fill it, use it, and replace its gasket.

I had read that the Creaper Flex are pretty small pens, so I was excited to get one to try out the size for my hands.

Pen in the hand.
Pen in the hand.

I can see how this might be a bit uncomfortable to use if you have larger hands as the barrel is really quite narrow, but it feels pretty good in mine.

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I can see myself using this pen quite a lot in my pen rotation. It is fairly light, feels good to write with and its narrow width makes it particularly good fit for my hand.

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This is a piston fill pen, which is filled a little differently.

To fill, you unscrew the back while it is dipped in ink.
To fill, you unscrew the back while it is dipped in ink.
Like so.
Like so.

The Good

  • comes in various styles and colors
  • replaceable parts
  • narrow barrel
  • writes nice
  • light without the cap but not flimsy feeling

The Bad

  • hard grip
  • no cartridge option
  • threads for the cap tend to dig into my finger

Overall grade: B+

I kind of want more than one of these pens because the narrow grip is really nice for me, but I wish the threads were just a bit higher up on the pen.

 

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot Metropolitan Violet Leopard
Pilot Metropolitan Violet Leopard

I think it’s pretty safe to say I like Pilot fountain pens. I even own another I haven’t written up yet. I bought the Pilot Metropolitan Violet Leopard (with a medium nib) on sale mostly on a whim (it was on sale and purple). It is available where fountain pens are sold – Goulet Pens, JetPens, Amazon.

lighter for scale
lighter for scale

 

I’m not a huge fan of leopard print, but it looks pretty much like a spot pattern ring more than a jungle pattern to me. It’s metal, very solidly built and probably strong enough to use to bust out a car window if you’re trapped in a slowly sinking vehicle in some body of water. I can’t guarantee this, but it feels sturdy enough.

Had to use two stacks of page flags because apparently my desk is not level and it kept rolling away.
Had to use two stacks of page flags because apparently my desk is not level and it kept rolling away.

I opted for a medium nib… well, because the fine nibs weren’t out yet when I bought it and I hadn’t yet tried the Pilot Penmanship. I kinda wish I’d gotten the fine nib now… but maybe I’ll just be forced to buy another in the future (oh noes!).

Pen in hand
Pen in hand

This is a really sturdy metal pen. Because of this, it feels a little heavy in my small hands. Not bad, but enough that I know using it for long periods of time will tire my hand.

Yes, this ink is scented! I am liking it more than I thought I would cause it is pretty subtle.
Yes, this ink is scented! I am liking it more than I thought I would cause it is pretty subtle.

 

The Good

  • comes in various styles and patterns
  • comes in fine and medium nibs
  • sturdy
  • very nicely made pen for price
  • writes nice
  • writes fast

The Bad

  • hard grip
  • proprietary cartridge
  • a little heavy
  • not a huge fan of the jungle pattern options
  • tends to roll without the cap when set down

Overall grade: B+