In Praise of Cheap Pens

A funny story. I had decided to try to smooth a nib. I purchased mylar and splints and mesh from Goulet. And a cheap $10 Jinhao to practise on. The pen is an outlandish inside guts of an acorn squash kind of orange. Design wise, it is actually not that bad. No, really. It has a snap cap with a funky clip design, a heavy metal body, a pretty good section and a converter that should make Pilot blush. I dutifully reviewed the YouTube videos and thus armed, proceeded to smooth the nib. And it worked. The pen writes fairly smoothly and fairly wet. No starting or skipping problems.

Emboldened, I signed up for a pen tuning class by a local nibmeister. When I showed up, I was given a pen to practise on: an inside guts acorn squash coloured Jinhao. Not kidding. To make matters worse, it wrote wonderfully without any tuning whatsoever.

As someone who struggled for nine months with a Visconti, the irony is not lost on me. Of note,  in between the two Jinhaos, I picked up a Pilot Metropolitan Retro. And it writes like a hero (once I replaced the shoddy converter included with a piston converter). My Lamys remain steadfast friends, almost best friends with their comfortable ways.


Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop Red

The world does not need one more review of this pen. It is ubiquitous. I had to get one. It cost less than $30 at Take Note. Admit it: the hot red with the hot pink band is kick butt. I appreciate the snap cap. It came with a horrible squeeze converter. Fortunately, I have a spare Pilot Con-50 Piston converter lying around (makes me shake my head: where on earth did this come from?) Also have sunk to using a syringe to fill the squeeze converter. You have to prime the nib if you do this but beats the alternative.

Turquoise Ink Test 27
This photo captures the only negative thing that can be said about the Metropolitan–that step down from the barrel to the section is just crazy.

Of course I couldn’t wait to ink it up with my new KWZ Grey Plum. I really wanted some Noodlers’ Violet but could not find it anywhere. Gummiberry was far too light. Grey Plum very much reminds me of Brown Pink. I digress. Point is, once the squeeze converter is empty, I will replace it with the twist converter.

Writes smooth and wet.

Turquoise Ink Test 25

As stated everywhere, it writes quite well. I am not even tempted to tweak it. I chose the medium nib over the fine in part because I seem to be sliding over to the broader part of the nib world and in part because I hoped to get more mileage out of my shading inks. As luck would have it, there is really no shading to the Grey Plum.

The owner of Take Note advised that Pilot may be coming out with speciality nibs for these pens in the upcoming months but she was not sure if the nibs would be sold as nib units or if you would have to buy a whole new pen. No doubt I will be in regardless of how they have to be purchased.



The Great Turquoise Ink Test

With great in quotes! This has taken me forever! I had a hoot setting it up and doing it. Photographing it not so much.

Turquoise Ink Test 28

I used 7 inks:

  1. Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku (Peacock)
  2. Kaweco Paradise Blue
  3. Edelstein Aquamarine
  4. Lamy Turquoise
  5. Iroshizuku Amo-Iro (Sky Blue–probably should not have been included)
  6. Robert Oster Bondi Blue
  7. Robert Oster Fire & Ice

The seven pens were:

  1. Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 1.1 stub with Ku-Jaku
  2. Edison Beaumont 1.1 wih Paradise Blue (cartridge syringed into a converter)
  3. Lamy Safari 1.1 with Edelstein Aquamarine
  4. Visconti Opera smooth cursive italic with Lamy Turquoise
  5. Sailor Pro-Color Fine with Amo-Iro (again, should not be in here but too late now!)
  6. Platinum 3776 Medium with Robert Oster Bondi Blue
  7. Twsbi Mini Classic 1.1 with Robert Oster Fire & Ice
Turquoise Ink Test The Pens
Left to Right: Lamy Safari; Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66; Visconti Opera; Sailor Pro-Color; Twisbi Mini Classic; Edison Beaumont; Platinum 3776

Turquoise Ink Test The Pens Uncapped

I ended up using eight papers and decided to call a halt after eight. Here they are:

  1. Tamoe River Paper:Turquoise Ink Test Tomoe River Paper
  2. Clairefontaine:Turquoise Ink Test Clairefontaine
  3. Life Noble Notebook:Turquoise Ink Test Life Noble Note
  4. Tsubame Fools Cream Section Notebook:Turquoise Ink Test Tsubame Fools Cream Paper
  5. Rhodia Dot Pad:Turquoise Ink Test Rhodia Dot Pad
  6. Mnem0syne:

    Turquoise Ink Test Mnemosyne
    A typo! or do you call it a hando? Also, a piece of fluff. Sigh. The photos are killing me!
  7. Midori MD Notebook:Turquoise Ink Test Midori MD Notebook
  8. Leuchtturm 1917:Turquoise Ink Test Leuchtturm

The only thing this test did is confirm my bias: Lamy Turquoise is the best turquoise ink hands down! Also confirms my strong dislike of the Kaweco ink. This particular colour is interesting but the ink itself is sludgy and horrible. I have used it in cartridge and extracted ink form in a number of pens and dislike it. A lot.

My Visconti made it home

Just in time for my vacation. It was delivered to work yesterday. I have not had much time to play with it. Had a Pens and Pints meet after work so got home late. Of course I have done a couple of pages but I want to give it a thorough work out before I comment. One thing I can say is that the writing it produces is amazing! Not sure if I like the nib/writing experience. But the writing is amazing. Stuck in that conundrum at the present.


And I am determined to buckle down and get some pen things done! And ink things. And paper things. Yeah, like that!

I have been thinking a lot about my pens lately in the context of where I am at now, almost a year into this craziness. So far, my enthusiasm is not waning. If anything, I seem to get a little crazier by the day. In large part that is due to experience. It takes quite awhile and a lot of writing to build up that experience. I have made a lot of mistakes out of inexperience.  I can’t feel too bad about them, there is really no other way to learn than hands on.

Once upon a time, a year ago, when I bought a new pen all I wanted to do is get home and ink it up and go. That hasn’t changed one iota. But what has changed is the flood of questions that come as I write: what is this going to do on that paper? How does this compare to that nib? What would this ink look like in it? All the while writing like mad. It would take years to answer all the questions and in the meanwhile I keep buying more pens and papers and inks so the questions get multiplied exponentially.

Lately, I have acquired a small sample of Robert Oster Inks which led to purchasing three full bottles which has led to wondering what really is the best turquoise. It is all so subjective at the end of the day but there is an underlying set of facts. The best example I can think of is OS N. I purchased a bottle of this second hand. At that time, OS had stopped producing ink. I think that they are back in business, not too sure. I wrote a bit with it and thought it was fine but it didn’t wow me out enough to give it much thought or to use it much. The other day I was rifling through one of my (umpteen) journals and an ink literally jumped off the page and hit me in the head. No, not literally, of course but it was shocking. The sheen was unbelievable. I figured out it was OS N. I saw no evidence of this when I was writing with it. The magic took place out of sight and therefore out of mind. It was really wonderful. Fast forward, everyone is agog about Fire and Ice because in part, the sheening and I just don’t really like it. Ditto (maybe) with Bondi Blue. The jury is still out. Objectively, all three inks exhibit a ton of sheen. Subjectively, I have elevated OS N on my list because of that, knocked Fire and Ice off my list because of it and am still deciding re Bondi Blue. So, the same characteristic can be appealing and off-putting.

It isn’t quite as insane as it sounds. OS N is a deep blue. And I am not a die hard blue fan so the sheening gives the blue a bit of interest for me. I am a die hard turquoise fan and find the sheening too much, gilding the lily so to speak.

I have decided to do the turquoise test which will involve cleaning a lot of pens and gathering a lot of inks and papers and going at it. My idea of an amazing first day of vacation.

Waiting for the Postman

I did it. I sent my Visconti Rembrandt off for a nib tweaking and it has been done! Waiting for it to arrive back home at this point. A little bit excited. Okay, okay, a lot excited.

I sent it to Mark Bacas (at Nibgrinder).

I have a Visconti Rembrandt Medium steel nib. I do not like this nib. I have never liked this nib. It misbehaves constantly, hard starting, skipping and the like. It has made me dislike this pen (I would prefer to dislike it for other reasons, of which there are quite a few for me but if the nib worked I believe I could broker a negotiated peace with it. As it stands, it deserves nothing but baleful stares.) Is it possible to grind this to a smooth cursive italic? I don’t care about the size of the resulting stub; in fact, the smaller the better. If it is possible, is this something you would consider doing? If not, could you tune up this woefully underperforming nib?

He was extremely responsive to my email inquiry. I did delay sending it for a bit–I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled about throwing it in the mail. And of course, the shipping cost. Ouch! Before I could turn around, I got an email from Mr. Bacas saying he had received the pen and reground it. But what made me jump up and down was he included pictures of the pre-worked pen clearly showing what was wrong with it and a video showing the post-work pen in action! I literally skipped around the kitchen when I saw it.

Mark pointed out that the two tines were not identical: one was larger and sticking out a bit.

I can’t upload the video unless I upgrade my plan which I don’t plan on doing unless I up my photography skills. Suffice it to say, it is one of the best movies I have ever watched, laughing!

I immediately reviewed my pens to see what I am going to send him next…