Shimmering inks have become very popular in the last year and it’s largely thanks to Stormy Grey. Stormy Grey is part of J. Herbin’s “1670” line of fountain pen inks. 1670 inks are highly saturated and the original formulation of Rouge Hematite (the first ink in the line) was infamous for clogging pens. All four inks in the 1670 line now come with this warning label:
I only use these inks in my cheaper pens and ones that are easy to disassemble and clean.
Stormy Grey contains flecks of gold that tend to settle at the bottom of the bottle and in order to draw them up the bottle must be shaken, otherwise you are left with a much more plain dark grey ink.
Stormy Grey is a very wet ink (perhaps to compensate for the gold flecks?) and this translates to bleeding and feathering on more absorbent papers. The ink worked well on Rhodia but for more porous papers, a thin nib or dry pen is going to be a better match.
I have been using this ink for several weeks now and it performed trouble free in a number of pens until I put some in my TWSBI 580 with a 1.5mm stub nib. In the TWSBI I got spotty performance; sometimes it would write just fine and other times it would choke and skip.
Apart from some gold flecks left behind, Stormy Grey cleaned out of the pens I tested nicely; this was a nice surprise for a highly saturated ink.
Objectively, Stormy Grey is not a good ink but it is attractive and interesting. I can only recommend this ink as a curiosity; it is not a serious every day ink and but putting this stuff in your pen you are risking a clog.
The Namiki Custom Impressions line of pens was produced in the late 90s and while it predates the very popular Pilot Custom 74, it is essentially the same pen with a “celluloid” body and no markings on the cap band. These pens are cellulose acetate and not the cellulose nitrate normally associated with the word “celluloid”. The difference is that the cellulose acetate feels and can often look like a more typical plastic without the depth and oily feel of real celluloid.
The Custom Impressions came in five colors: Sapphire, Medley, Ambertone, Ruby and Emerald. I have Sapphire, Medley and Ambertone. It has been suggested (and from what I can tell rightly so) that Aurora used the same green plastic as the Emerald in their Optima. I have photographed them with a couple of Optimas…I am not certain that the Ruby is the same as Aurora’s Burgundy but they are close.
I particularly like the Sapphire and Medley colors; these to me are the most unique and beautiful.
These pens came with a con-70 converter and a 14kt gold #5 nib.
There is another variation of the Custom Impressions that very closely resembles the shape of the Custom 845, but again in “celluloid” and with a #10 instead of #15 nib. This model seems to be much more scarce and considerably more expensive than the pens I am showing here.
Like the Pilot Custom 74, the Namiki Custom Impressions make excellent workhorses. The nibs are butter smooth and wonderful writers.
To my knowledge these pens were only produced in fine, medium and broad nib grades.
I also find the nibs on the Impressions to be softer than the ones on the Custom 74. It seems to me, based on a small sample of Pilot/Namiki pens, that the pens from the 90s and early 00s have softer nibs than the ones produced more recently.
I have a decent amount of experience writing with Pilot/Namiki nibs from size #5 to size #20 and while I find all of these nib sizes to be very comfortable, the #10 seems to hit the sweet spot, with the #5 feeling a bit small and the #15 and #20 feeling a bit big. If you have big hands, which I do not, you may not like the #5 nib on these pens.
The Custom Impressions are full size pens measuring just over 13.5cm long, capped and weigh approximately 22.5 grams empty (with the con-70 installed). These pens post very well and I find them comfortable to use posted and unposted.
Prices for the Custom Impressions range a bit as they do not come up for sale all that often. If you can get one for around $150-$200 (depending on condition) I think that is a fair price but keep in mind if you prefer the look of a simple black body, a Custom 74 can be had for around $90 new.
I questioned posting a review of this notebook for a number of reasons. First, I knew it would be challenging to write a review without any dreadful jokes; second, while the product is technically charitable and green it’s borderline distasteful and third, it’s actually quite disgusting. I didn’t think I would be grossed out by this notebook but I was and if you think you might be too there no harm in skipping this post. Bearing all of this in mind let’s get on with the review.
PooPooPaper (FKA: The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company) is a company that turns animal poo into paper. They started with elephant poo and expanded the line the include dung from cows, pandas, donkey, moose and horse. Their web shop actually lets you shop products by poop type.
Their products are green because they are recycled and a portion of the proceeds goes to support animal conservation efforts. The notebook came with a very long pamphlet all about their product (and yes, it’s full of poop jokes).
The paper itself is quite strange. The front feels like a paper bag and the back feels like (and sort of looks like) a paper towel in texture.
The paper is a cream color but it’s not uniformly so; you can see different sorts of fibers that stand out on the page and are a bit distracting to look at. It is also lumpy in spots; I found dead bugs and gross unidentifiable material in the paper (I chose to exclude the pictures from the post).
It’s a very absorbent but fountain pen ink tends to bleed and feather. It’s not a nice paper to write on. It’s rough and probably not safe to use with fountain pens.
The notebook measures 8″ x 7.75″ and contains 20 blank pages for $16.99. The notebook itself is nicely put together but the paper is terrible to write on and to look at. This notebook is disgusting in my opinion and if you want to help conserve wildlife there are much nicer ways to go about it.
Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks has become incredibly popular in the last couple of years thanks to its agreeable performance and excellent color palette. Despite Iroshizuku’s success Pilot still produces it’s original more affordable ink line that is simply branded as “Pilot” (or “Namiki …or “Pilot/Namiki”).
It is my understanding that these inks have a ph of over 7 making them basic and as such I would caution against putting them in a pen where ink makes direct contact with celluloid.
This line comes in bottle and cartridge formats. The cartridges only fit Pilot and Namiki pens. There are seven colors produced in the cartridge format. In bottle format I have only seen three colors: blue, black, and blue black.
Pilot Blue Black is a bit pale for my tastes but the upshot is some nice subtle shading. The ink provides some good lubrication, making it a great choice for dryer writing pens. I had no issues with bleeding or feathering. I also saw no nib creep (as is common for lubricating inks). I found that this ink was easy to clean out unlike Pilot Blue which has a tendency to stain.
Packs of 12 cartridges go for $7 and 60ml bottles go for $12. The affordable price makes Pilot Blue Black a great workhorse ink that would be appropriate for the office and general correspondence.
If you read this blog regularly you will know that this pen is not my typical cup of tea but as I was traversing the Warsaw airport I couldn’t help but see sale signs on a large Montblanc display. The only pen that caught my eye was the Montblanc Meisterstück Solitaire Platinum-Plated Facet 146 (or LeGrand as they now call it). I was curious to know how much it was and after seeing the price I decided to go for it.
This pen is the typical Meisterstück design but in a faceted platinum plated stainless steel body instead of the usual “precious” resin. It really is quite a stunning pen to behold and has much more of a presence than its resin sister.
The facets create a tiled pattern. You will notice that the face of the tiles are a mirrored platinum finish while the edges are brushed; this is a particularly nice touch and a testament to the craftsmanship put into this pen.
This 146 came with a medium nib which was too fat for my tastes but Montblanc has a free nib exchange program than can be utilized within six months of purchase. At the Montblanc boutique in Berlin I was able to try their tester set and found that the OB nib offered the most line variation and the next morning I picked up my pen with the OB installed. That is exceptional service.
The 146 is a full size pen fitted with an 18kt gold nib, a piston filling mechanism and a striped ink view window. The standard resin 146 has a 14kt gold nib and when compared with the 18kt version I could not tell the difference.
The nib is noticeably soft and is a very nice to use. The ink flow is on the drier side but the smooth nib conceals this quite well. I have found that lubricating inks work best with this pen.
As is obvious in all of my pictures, this pen is a fingerprint magnet. If you cannot handle finger prints and patina this 146 is a not a good choice.
This pen retails for around $1,300 and even at over 50% off I don’t feel as though the price was a home run. It’s very well made and nice to look at but to me it is not as special as say a hand turned Japanese pen or a pen made of beautiful Italian celluloid (all of which can be hand for a similar price). If you want a flashy pen with the Montblanc brand cachet then this could make sense but otherwise at anywhere near retail I say forget it.
The Yukari Royale is an oversize fountain pen similar in size and shape to a Montblanc 149. Despite it’s oversize form the Yukari Royale sits mid-pack in the Namiki line-up; there is the standard full-size Yukari and the comically enormous Emperor.
Earlier this year in Japan I tried both the Yukari Royale and the Emperor in person. I quickly ruled out the baseball-bat-sized Emperor but the Yukari Royale I struggled with for a little while. I thought “how could a pen so big and heavy be so comfortable?”; ultimately I decided not to take the risk on such an expensive pen and I bought a Platinum Izumo Yagumonuri instead.
Fast forward a few months and I was still thinking about the Yukari Royale and at the same time feeling disenchanted with the Izumo (the Izumo has a long section with a large step down that causes me discomfort in long writing sessions).
I ended up going for the Yukari Royale (thank you to Pen Chalet for making this possible).
The Yukari Royale has a large brass torpedo-shape body covered in vermilion (red) urushi lacquer (also available in black). The cap has Namiki’s (Pilot’s) ball clip and a very thin gold band at the end of the cap. The simple shape and minimal trim make for a very elegant pen.
The fit and finish of this pen is flawless. It really is perfect to the point where I genuinely question if it is in fact hand painted. Next to a Nakaya the difference is night and day. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with a Nakaya, there isn’t, a Nakaya has more of an organic beauty.
This pen weighs a hefty 45 grams but it is so well balanced in my hand that I don’t feel any fatigue from its weight. My other Namiki pens, a Nippon Art and a Yukari (non-Royale) share this same wonderful balance.
The Yukari Royale measures 5.8” capped. You can post this pen but it becomes too long for me. The grip section is about .4” in diameter which is thick but not as thick as a Montblanc 149s which measures over half an inch.
Here you can see the Royale with a variety of Pilot/Namiki pens:
The Yukari Royale is the only pen pictured above to feature an urushi painted metal section. All of the other pens (even the more expensive Yukari Nightline) have unpainted plastic sections with visible seams.
The Yukari Royale (using Pilot’s sizes) is a #20.
Interestingly, it is the same size as a Pilot #15 but with a different shape and an oblong breather hole as well as a red plastic feed.
The nib is made of 18kt gold and is quite soft. The performance is excellent. No skipping no hard starting; this pen just works. Out of all of my modern pens this is by far my favorite stock nib in my collection; it’s character is unique and lovely. Compared to my other Pilot and Namiki medium nibs which are butter smooth, the number 20 has a small amount of feedback which I love. It sort of reminds me of the feedback from an Aurora Optima nib with the softness of a Montblanc 149 nib…in other words this is a dream nib (for me at least).
With it’s large nib and feed this is a thirsty pen.
It uses a Con-70 converter that holds 1.1ml of ink and even with this large capacity I find that I run out of ink rather quickly. I also must admit that I am not as huge a fan of the Con-70 as I once was.
While it holds a lot of ink, it is the most difficult to use and the most difficult to clean converter on the market. I fill and clean mine with a blunt tip syringe.
So what about the price?
As I said earlier this is an expensive pen. The street price is $1,200 ($1,500 full retail). I get a lot of enjoyment of the Yukari Royale and while I have a lot of wonderful pens this is the only one that I have refilled six times in a row…I just don’t want to put it away and to date I haven’t yet.
Is it worth it for you? Rationalizing a pen this expensive is a fool’s errand (though I have tried in past reviews, see Nakaya Naka-ai).
The Yukari Royale is a wonderful jewel of a pen to behold.
A special thank you once again to Pen Chalet for making this review possible. If you buy a pen as nice as this you will want to purchase from a reputable authorized dealer with great customer service like Pen Chalet.
The 13X series of pens were the first Montblancs to feature a piston filling mechanism. The 136 was the senior size pen just as the 146 is today in the current Meisterstück line.
The 13X series was produced in the mid 1930s to the end of the 1940s and possibly into the early 1950s as there was a brief point when the 13X line and 14X were sold simultaneously.
There are several variations of the 136 which I won’t cover here other than to say that my version is a later model with the shorter ink window.
The differences between the 136 and the original 146 were mostly in design. The 146 had (and still has) a streamlined cigar shape where the 136 has more of a flat top.
They both had the same telescopic piston filling mechanism but if you look at the end of the barrel on a 136 you can see two knobs…the one at the very end is the regular piston filling knob you use to draw ink into the pen and the one below that is used to remove the actual piston filling mechanism…this makes repairs slightly easier.
I am quite fond of vintage Montblancs because they were very well made and have wonderful nibs. Unfortunately, these pens are expensive today, despite being mass produced. Montblanc is now very valuable luxury brand name and this has had an effect on the prices of their vintage pens.
Like most pens, the larger the size in a given series the more expensive the price and that is certainly the case here. The oversized 138 and 139 are the most valuable and the 132 is the least. A 136 in black celluloid can range from about $400-$1,000 depending on condition. Most will be in the $600-$800 range.
All piston filler Meisterstücks that I have owned are suitable for daily use; they are reliable workhorses. With the older celluloid models, however there are a couple of things to look out for: 1) The cork piston seal. If the cork dries out there will be no seal, meaning you won’t be able to draw up ink. The best thing you can do to prevent this is to use the pen regularly. Alternatively, you can store your pen with water but be advised this method is not foolproof 2) Celluloid shrinkage. Many old Meisterstücks suffer from this and sadly there is no cure. The good news is that this rarely causes functional problems. Shrinkage on the cap can cause the cap rings to come loose and you may see subtle dips and bulges on the body and cap. On my pen there is some shrinkage on the section. You can see a little bump in the middle of it.
My 136 is fitted with a beautiful OB nib.
This nib is very soft and is wonderful to write with. These nibs were hand made and most I have come across are very soft. I have seen some Meisterstücks with flex nibs but these are considered extremely rare and generally command a small fortune.
You can see that the 136 has a larger and more shapely nib compared to what is currently used on a modern 146.
The 136 has a flat “ski-slope” ebonite feed that provides a generous amount of ink to the nib.
You will notice that unlike modern Meisterstücks the cap band is English, not German, and reads “MONTBLANC MASTERPIECE”. This signifies that my 136 was an export model. There is some debate about whether pens with “MASTERPIECE” on the cap band are more or less common than those that read “MEISTERSTÜCK”. Based on what I have seen for sale on 13X and early 14X pens the cap bands in English are the most common.
The 136 weighs approximately 24 grams and measures 13cm long (or about 1.5cm shorter than the current 146). The 136 feels nice in hand and is a very comfortable size.
If you are looking for a vintage Montblanc I highly recommend a 136.
Fabriano Secolo XIII (13th Century) is a handmade 100% cotton paper that is supposedly produced using a 13th century “Fabrianese” paper making method, hence the name Secolo XIII.
This paper can be purchased from Fabriano’s US web boutique in a set of 50 sheets and 50 envelopes at a staggering (and oddly specific) price of $257.39.
Luckily I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago and passed by a Fabriano boutique which sold Secolo XIII in packages of 20 writing sheets.
In the store only the hugely expensive box set was displayed. I had to ask if it was possible to buy a smaller quantity. The shop attendant said yes and yelled some unintelligible Italian up a small stairwell behind the register and what seemed like an hour later a small package of Secolo XIII writing sheets arrived. The shop attendant insisted on counting each sheet. I told him I was in a bit of a hurry and not to worry about it. The pack was supposed to have twenty sheets. The attendant counts “twenty one”; he starts over and gets twenty one for a second time and still surprised at the result counts a third time, “twenty one”. He removed one sheet and allowed me to pay and I ran out of there.
So how is Fabriano’s top-of-the-line paper? Well let’s start with the good.
The deckled edges are much nicer and much more consistent than the Amalfi paper’s.
The paper has a unique texture. If you hold it up to the light you can see that it is a laid paper but the texture isn’t actually ribbed, it has a more sporadic mould made texture like Fabriano’s bottom-of-the-line (but still wonderful) Medioevalis. The texture is finer than Medioevalis but rougher their than mid priced paper, Minerva (review to come).
Secolo XIII only comes in an ivory color (the Amalfi looks white by comparison). It is quite an attractive looking paper.
The paper handles fountain pen ink well and like the Amalfi only the Pilot Hi Tec 1.0mm gel ink pen caused minor bleeding.
Now for the bad:
Despite having a finer texture than the Medioevalis, Secolo XIII has a good deal more feedback with my pens. It’s more resistance than I like. Cotton usually isn’t as nice to write on as wood pulp paper and this seems be the case with Secolo XIII.
The paper feels…well, like paper. It doesn’t have that special fabric-like hand that you get with Amalfi. Secolo XIII reminds me of a Southworth Resume cotton paper I have.
Secolo XIII is thick and I cannot use a ruled guide sheet underneath it.
Lastly, the price…it’s more than twice as expensive as Amalfi and I don’t understand why. Secolo XIII is beautiful looking but for a luxury paper it really isn’t that nice to write on…or touch for that matter.
Fabriano’s Minerva and Medioevalis papers are some of the nicest I have used and as such I had high expectations for Secolo XIII; ultimately I was disappointed. Not only is it the worst paper to write on in Fabriano’s correspondence line, it’s also one of the most expensive plain writing papers on the market. Secolo XIII is a hard pass for me.
Amatruda’s Amalfi paper is the most beautiful handmade paper I have used to date. It is a 100% cotton rag paper with a 100 lb weight (approximately 148 gsm). It is soft and in hand it drapes like a fabric. Needless to say this a very special paper.
Amatruda has been producing paper since 1390, making it one of the oldest paper mills in Europe. The Amalfi paper is a traditional handmade paper.
This paper comes in a various formats and colors and like most wonderful papers is annoyingly difficult to find in the United States. There are some good online retailers who sell this paper but the format and color options are quite limited.
I purchased a stationery set in the ivory color and it contains twenty A4 sheets and envelopes for $38. At this price it definitely will not be my everyday writing paper.
The sheets and envelopes have deckled edges though on the sheets I received the right edge seems to be a bit more deckled than the rest. I am not sure if this is a characteristic of the paper in general or of the batch I received.
The Amalfi Crest watermark is pressed into the paper making it much more visible than a normal watermark. It is very easy to feel with your finger but surprisingly I couldn’t feel it when writing over it. This paper is also available with an angel watermark.
Amalfi has a nice texture to it and I found it provided pleasant feedback.
The only pen that I tested that bled was the Pilot Hi Tec Point 1.0mm gel pen. None of the fountain pens I tried including the 2.4mm Pilot Parallel bled.
I experienced no ghosting and none of the gel ink from the Hi Tec Point came through to the back of the page. I was also able to clearly see my ruled guide sheet underneath this paper, a nice bonus for a thick paper.
Amalfi is my favorite paper to date but I am not happy with the formats available in the USA. I have only been able to find the writing sheets sold in sets and I am too cheap to pay for the envelopes. If anyone knows of a place that sells only the sheets please let me know.
Later this week I will be reviewing another handmade cotton paper, Fabriano’s top-of-the-line Secolo XIII and will provide a comparison to the Amalfi; it will be a battle of the handmade paper titans…
The highly anticipated TWSBI Eco is the company’s most affordable fountain pen to date at $28.99. The Eco features a clear demonstrator body with a piston filling mechanism; these attributes combined with its low price make for a very enticing pen.
The Eco is a full size pen at just under 14cm long capped. The Eco comes in only two colors white/clear and black/clear. I opted for the black.
Like most TWSBIs, the Eco’s design offers a lot to digest. The cap and piston knob are made of a faceted black plastic while the body is made of a round clear plastic allowing you to see the internal piston mechanism and the feed.
The Eco features a small stainless steel JoWo nib (the same that is used on the TWSBI Mini and Classic). For a full sized pen the nib is on the smaller side but at this price point it’s a pretty minor gripe. I ordered my pen with an extra fine nib and it is a delight to use. I was surprised how smooth it was; in fact it puts my medium nib Safari to shame.
The Eco does post but the cap doesn’t seat very far down on the body making it a bit too long. The pen feels solid in hand and overall the pen is well finished. A Lamy Safari by comparison looks a feels cheap.
The Eco is designed to be user serviceable and as such comes with silicon grease and a wrench along with directions for servicing your pen.
This is my new favorite entry level pen. To me is far better than the Lamy Safari and Kaweco Sport.