At the moment there is only one pen in Kaweco’s current line up that I truly do not like the looks of and it’s the Allrounder. Kaweco draws upon its history to recreate past pens and this works quite well most of the time.
The Allrounder comes from a 1950’s design that is “modernized” with a matte aluminum body. For me it doesn’t work. The body is swollen and plain. The more classic looking Kaweco DIA2 features the same body shape in plastic but features more embellishments that give the pen a much more elegant and polished look.
Kaweco uses the same sized Bock nib you get on a Kaweco Sport on the Allrounder and it proportionally looks too small for the body. The performance of the extra fine nib was excellent. No skipping or hard starting to speak of.
The overall construction of the Allrounder is very good. No issues in build quality.
The pen is comfortable to write with uncapped as it has a nice long grip section. With the pen posted the balance is pretty top heavy, so I wouldn’t recommend posting this pen. The Allrounder weighs approximately 32 grams and feels solid in hand. Capped the pen measures about 5.25″, 4.75″ uncapped about a bout 6.25″ posted.
The Allrounder comes with a converter and a nicer box than a basic Kaweco Sport but is it really worth its $100+ price tag? The answer for me is no. All you materially gain over the Sport is an ugly aluminum body and some cheap accessories. If Kaweco had given the Allrounder an upgraded nib or added a piston filler there would be more to talk about here.
Bottom-line: Ugly body aside, the Allrounder delivers too little to justify its $106 price tag.
Please note: this product was provided to me at no charge by Kaweco for review purposes.
Here are some great reviews of the Allrounder:
(I have no affiliations with any of the sites linked below)
The Sport is easily Kaweco’s most famous model. Its ability to expand into a full sized pen is very appealing and as such I have been using one for several years now and I love it.
The AC Sport is one of the higher end models, featuring a gorgeous aluminum and carbon fiber body. Can the AC Sport really be worth five times the price of the standard Sport? Let’s find out.
Kaweco was kind enough to send me several pens to review and the AC Sport immediately caught my eye. The red aluminum against the black carbon fiber is striking. I would have never picked this color combo but it’s fabulous.
The Kaweco Sport has a unique pocket friendly design. The cap is disproportionately large and because it is faceted it won’t roll off the desk. The small silver nib fits this pen well and the black Kaweco logo on the top of the cap is a nice touch. The carbon inside the facets though doesn’t look as clean as it could (more on this below). On the surface the AC Sport is beautiful pen.
Most Kaweco new nibs require a bit of breaking in, and after a lot of use and cleaning, I finally gave up and examined the nib under a loupe. I found that the AC’s double broad nib has a misshapen point that has been causing the pen to skip on upstrokes.
This is something that can be fixed by a nibmeister but in all honestly, I would have a hard time shelling out the dough to fix a cheap steel Bock nib. Bad nib? Check, now on the body.
It should certainly be noted that carbon fiber is an expensive and difficult material to work with, that said, I found some issues with the carbon that sits in facets of the AC. Some of the carbon pieces did not fit perfectly into their slots and I also noticed that all of the carbon pieces on the cap has some rough almost frayed edges (see below).
The fit and finish of the rest of the pen is good. It is worth mentioning that with use the red aluminum will scratch.
The black Kaweco logo on the cap isn’t the most defined and that made it a bit tricky to photograph.
The issues with the carbon are minor and forgivable for a $120 pen but for me a misshapen nib is not. This is not a cheap pen and there really should be more quality control. I flushed the pen before I used it and the water came out completely clear, normally I would expect to see a bit of ink; this is a likely indication that the pen was not tested before leaving Kaweco.
Size & Weight
The Sport’s most prominent feature is its ability to transform from a mere 4.1” capped to 5.3” posted. The AC Sport weighs in at 22.5 grams and the standard plastic bodied Sport weighs less the half of that at 10.5 grams. The AC Sport is by no means a heavy pen but it does have enough weight to feel solid in hand.
My hands are on the smaller size and I find that I can use the pen unposted without any issue though people with larger hands will definitely need to use the cap as the body measures only 4”.
The small grip section is made from aluminum and has a medium sized diameter of about 0.6”. It feels a bit constrained, as there are not a lot of choices in where you can place your fingers.
I find the AC Sport to be fairly comfortable for long writing session but those with bigger hands may not.
The nib being a double broad is buttery smooth; it feels wonderful on paper but unfortunately due to the misshapen nib it doesn’t work all that well. The nib regularly skips on upstrokes.
I also had issues with ink flow. I normally store my fountain pens nib up but for this AC Sport I found that it can take a while to get the ink flowing properly; I was able to solve this problem for the most part by storing the pen nib down.
We have arrived at the major downside of the Sport’s size, its filling system. Because the body is so short this pen only accepts short international cartridges. A converter is too long to fit.
On the plus side, the Sport accepts a standard sized cartridge which will give you lots of choice when it comes to ink, but if you love bottled ink like me, you may find your self needing a syringe to fill empty cartridges with your favorite ink.
Considering that this pen uses the exact same Bock nib as you get on the standard $23 Sport, it is hard to argue that the AC Sport is a good value at $123. For the same sort money you could have the Pilot Vanishing Point with an 18k gold nib or the excellent Pelikan M205.
Would I recommend the AC Sport? Nope…but in the spirit of full disclosure, the moment I saw the AC in person, I knew wanted it for my collection; it really looks that good. If the nib wasn’t such a disappointment, I would have gladly paid the full $123 for this pen.
Bottom Line: This fantastic looking pocket pen is ultimately let down by its high price and poor quality control.
Final Score 14/30
Please note: this product was provided to me at no charge by Kaweco for review purposes.
Here are some great reviews of the Kaweco AC Sport:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
Confession: Retro 51 is not the sort of pen company that I like. I strangely and perhaps misguidedly want an emotional attachment to my pens and this requires one of the following a) manufacturer with a romantic or storied history, b) a detailed account of how the pen is made and c) who made that pen. You get none of that with Retro 51; the company makes a few pen models with tons of designs; there is no about page and very little company info on the Retro 51 website.
The Tornado is Retro 51s most popular model and comes in many different designs; they come in lacquer, leather, various metals, and crossword designs and so on. The one I will be reviewing is the Lincoln Copper EXT version which features an antique brushed copper finish.
When I first saw this pen I immediately wanted to touch it. The antique bushed copper finish looks fanatic, similar to that of an old penny. I cannot think of another pen with a similar finish. The cap features the knurling at the top, which is the Tornado’s signature feature. The copper is brushed at an angle and is consistent on the cap and barrel. At the top (just under the knurling) and bottom of the cap is a darker bushed copper, which is bused at a slightly sharper angle. Despite its thin appearance the clip feels very strong.
Under the cap is a big stainless Schmidt nib and a matte black plastic section. I would have loved to see an ancient copper colored nib with a Retro 51 logo but at this price point it’s not a huge deal.
Overall, I like the Tornado’s appearance; it is very casual looking but in a good way. If you are looking for a pen a diplomat would use, this isn’t it.
The weight of the metal body gives the pen a nice feel in hand. The threading on the barrel is metal and the threading on the inside of the cap is plastic. The twisting the cap on isn’t the smoothest but I haven’t found it to be distracting. The section threads are poorer and don’t feel nice in use. The nib and section look to be completely unmodified Schmidt components which is an indication that they didn’t put a lot of thought (or money) into making this pen a fountain pen. The matte plastic nib section looks cheap but feels fine to the touch and has no seams that I can see. The Schmidt nib has a plastic feed and is a bit out of alignment. While there clearly isn’t much handiwork used to produce the Tornado, I cannot really fault it too much at this price point. Are the best materials used? no, and while plastic section really doesn’t belong, everything on the pen is decently made.
Size & Weight
The Tornado measures approximately 5.5″ capped, 6.5″ posted and 5″ uncapped. It weighs just under 33 grams with an empty converter. The cap weighs about about 15 grams with most of its weight at the top of the cap and unfortunately this results in a poorly balanced pen when posted. I believe that its size, uncapped, will be comfortable for most people. The cap does post nicely but I do not recommend doing so other than to jot down some quick notes.
My Tornado came with a medium point Schmidt nib and it writes quite well. The nib is smooth and the flow is ample. I have had no issues with skipping or hard starting and I have left the ink in the pen for over a month. The feed is a bit out of alignment but I found no performance issues. The grip section is big and comfortable making this pen a good candidate for long writing sessions. The nib isn’t a nail but it is stiff and like most nibs in this price range, does not have a ton of character.
The Tornado uses a converter/converter filling system. It was nice to see that a Schmidt converter was included with Tornado. I used the Schmidt converter in my tests and it works well and holds a good amount of ink for a converter but it isn’t a show piece; it is all plastic and its body isn’t as crystal clear as other convertors I have used. The plastic feed is large and was surprised by the mileage I got from dipping the pen. I can almost fill an entire A4 page before it ran out of ink.
The Tornado in Lincoln Copper costs about $50 and in the $15-75 price range it is really about looks…when you start getting up to the $100 mark some pens will have more distinctive features like gold nibs, or piston fillers and so on. Retro 51 didn’t modify the Schmidt nib and section and while that isn’t a deal breaker, it definitely does not make the $50 price tag easier to swallow. The Copper finish is unique and if you love the look I could see shelling out the dough for this pen. I definitely recommend the Lamy Al-Star/Safari or Pilot Metropolitan over the Tornado as a starter pen because they give you more value for your money and have nibs that are easy and cheap to swap.
The Tornado is a great pen but you really have to love its looks to justify the price tag. Final Score: 16.5/30
Please note: this product was provided to me at no charge by Retro 51 for review purposes.
Here are some great reviews of the Tornado:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
The Sheaffer Taranis is the first modern Sheaffer fountain pen I have used in a long time. As with the Parker 51, it has been argued that Sheaffer’s vintage fountain pens are so plentiful (and consequently affordable) because in their day they were the best in the world. Take the Sheaffer Snorkel for example, these pens had one of the most complicated filling systems which allowed the user to fill the pen without dipping the nib in ink. I know us Montblanc lovers rave about the telescopic filling system used in the 1950s and earlier but on engineering merits alone the Snorkel goes far and beyond. I bought my Snorkel dirt cheap and it performs beautifully.
Sheaffer has dubbed the Taranis “groundbreaking” so let’s see how the it measures up.
The Taranis gets its name from the Celtic god of thunder and as far as appearances go I don’t see a connection. Designed by architect Charles Debbas, the Taranis’ main feature is the patent pending grip section and semi-hooded nib. The idea behind the grip is that your fingers touch the resin parts, while the metal remains exposed such that you can see the Sheaffer name running down the section.
I like the design, however I have a few problems with the looks of the nib; viewed from the side, you can see that the nib really isn’t flush with the section which would be fine if the nib didn’t stick out so far, but it does. I think an inlaid nib would have looked better. The second issue I have (and perhaps this is just my problem and not the pen’s) is keeping the point in the correct position on the paper. I find that I am rotating the point away from its sweet spot and at quick glance it is not obvious; as a result, I find I am spending more brain cycles than normal trying to right its position.
Overall I am a fan of the tapered black resin body and the elongated clip with the classic white dot. It is a nice clean simple and balanced design. The Taranis comes in several colors; the black resin model that I am reviewing is referred to as “Stormy Night”. You can see from the pictures this pen is fingerprint prone. Score: 2.5/5
The Taranis feels high quality and for $145 (retail), it really should. The bottom of the barrel has a nice brass lining and the cap is lined with plastic. The resin body has no seams and feels quite nice to the touch. The cap clicks securely on to the barrel and requires little effort to remove. The clip when viewed from the side looks a little cheap as it is hollow and thin looking but it does feel strong and tight. I was a little disappointed when I found out that the Taranis is made in China; I do not think that this necessarily is a negative on the quality front but I do think it should be pointed out. The Taranis is on par quality-wise with the majority of its competitors. Many pens in this price range have gold nibs and I would have definitely liked to have seen that on the Taranis. Score: 3/5
Size and Weight:
The Taranis weighs approximately 35 grams which is a comfortable weight, though a bit heavier than I normally like. The pen is well balanced such that it does not cause any comfort issues for me. Being that the brass lining is only in the bottom part of the barrel the pen has about the same balance capped and uncapped which is a rare quality that I quite like. Capped the pen measures 5.5″ and uncapped about 4.75″. At its widest point the Taranis is 0.5″ thick. This is a average-sized pen very similar in size and weight to a Pilot Vanishing Point. Score: 4/5
The Taranis I tested has a steel medium point nib. The nib is quite smooth to write with but it is one of the narrowest medium nibs I have used. I would compare it to the medium on a Platinum or Sailor; the medium nib on my Pilot Vanishing Point was noticeably wider and juicier. The nib on the Taranis is definitely a nail and out of the box it had no character; as the nib broke in more, the character improved but it’s definitely not a lively or fun nib. I tried a couple of different inks in the Taranis and I found that the flow was a bit drier than I prefer but I have had no issues with skipping or hard starting. Score: 2.5/5
While a cartridge/converter filling system is not the most interesting, it is becoming my favorite as it’s the most easy to deal with on a daily basis. The Taranis uses Sheaffer’s proprietary cartridges and converters; this is a big drawback if you like to use cartridges, as you will be stuck with Sheaffer inks. On the plus side the converter that comes with the Taranis is nicely made and holds a decent amount of ink. Score: 2/5
With chrome trim the Taranis is $145 and with gold plated trim the Taranis is $195. I cannot say that this pen is a value. For $140 you can buy a Pilot Vanishing Point with an 18kt gold nib. The price for me is way to high to be compelling. There are so many great pens at this price point and by comparison the Taranis falls short. I really wanted to love this pen but sadly it just didn’t happen for me. Score: 2/5
The Taranis is a good pen with an interesting design but at this price point it just doesn’t make sense. Final Score: 16/30
Please note: this product was provided to me at no charge by Sheaffer for review purposes.
Here are some great reviews of the Sheaffer Taranis:
The Caran d’Ache Hexagonal Ecaille Chinese Lacquer fountain pen is an odd ball in my collection. I don’t like skinny pens nor do I like fingerprint prone pens and pens with metal sections….this pen is all of these things. So why do I have it you ask? It was the price. I saw this pen new old stock in a small pen shop in the Netherlands and I just couldn’t let it go.
I have decided to use a more standardized review process for nicer fountain pens with six categories and a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best and 1 being the worst).
The Hexagonal shares the same shape as the original Caran d’Ache Ecridor pencil. The combination of gold plate and red marbled Chinese lacquer are pretty dated looking but the fit and finish make this pen still beautiful in my eyes as an objet d’art. I can’t think of another pen in production today that is comparable. The Hexagonal Chinese Lacquer is still listed on Caran d’Ache’s website but if you look around you will have a hard time finding one. The rectangles carved into the grip section are a touch I quite like. I love the squarish shape of the 18kt gold nib and the lack of a breather hole. My pen is from the 90s and the more recent Hexagonals have a more traditional nib with a breather hole. This pen is a fingerprint magnet and I worry that even wiping it with a soft cloth with scratch it. Score: 3.5
Just by looking at the Hexagonal you can tell that it is of the highest quality. The “Maison de Haute Ecriture” will never disappoint you in the quality department. The gold plate is beautifully polished and the hand painted Chinese lacquer is gorgeous. Running your finger on the barrel you will notice that there is a seamless transition between the gold and lacquer; you cannot feel it at all. The rectangle shapes carved into the section are painted with lacquer. The pen both caps a posts with a crisp snap. This is an incredibly well made pen and is easily on the same quality level as S.T. Dupont and Graf von Faber-Castell. Score: 5
Size and Weight:
The Hexagonal weighs in at just under 27 grams which is neither light nor overly heavy for a normal fountain pen. The pen measures 5.25″ capped, 6″ posted and without the cap the pen measures 4.75″. At its widest point it is less than half an inch thick and the grip section measures about a quarter of an inch thick. The weight and the length of the pen are all excellent but the width makes this pen uncomfortable.
What Caran d’Ache did was made a capped version of the Ecridor pencil which has the same girth as a pencil wooden pencil. Keeping the same form factor with a capped pen means shrinking the grip section width and this is a serious problem comfort-wise. The smaller the girth, the more pressure needed to control the pen and when you consider that this pen weighs many times more than a wooden pencil the result is not brilliant.
I wrote a letter with the Hexagonal and about half way into the second page my hand was in pain and it was a struggle to continue. As a pen for quick notes you shouldn’t run into any problems but I wouldn’t recommend it for long writing sessions at all. Score: 1.5
The 18kt gold medium nib writes well and is very smooth with some light feedback. I have had no issues with skipping or hard starting. The performance of the nib has been flawless for me. It’s a pretty stiff nib so you wont see much in the way of line variation. I love nibs with character and unfortunately (like most modern nibs) the Hexagonal’s nib does not have much. Score: 3
The Hexagonal uses a cartridge or converter which is a feature I am starting to like on high-end pens. A piston filling system is more expensive to produce and holds more ink but from a cleaning perspective is much less desirable. I like to be able to change inks frequently and a cartridge or converter allows me to do just that without much hassle. I can easily go from an dark black to an ultra light orange without even giving it a second thought. With a piston fill pen I wouldn’t be able to make that change without a ton of cleaning. I use a regular Waterman converter with the Hexagonal and I have had no issues. Like the nib, the performance is good but there is nothing special to note here. Score: 3
The retail price of this pen (with the updated nib) is about $1,300 and I could never pay that for this pen. The quality is certainly there but it’s just not comfortable. I also feel as though there is no X-factor with this pen like you would have on many similarly priced pens from other manufacturers. I paid about €120 for my new old stock Hexagonal and at that price it is not a regret for me but it also isn’t a home run purchase as I rarely use it. Score: 2
Unless you love the style and can put up with the thin grip section, the Hexagonal isn’t a pen I would ever recommend. Final score : 18/30
The Pilot Vanishing Point is an extremely popular fountain pen with a click mechanism that retracts the nib. I have had mine for several years now and while it’s frequently inked it’s far from my favorite pen. To me the Vanishing Point is purely a tool; it’s reliable and can be operated with one hand for quick notes but it’s not fun to write with. My VP has a brown lacquered brass body with rhodium accents weighing in at 30.9 grams with a full converter. The VP measures just under 5.5″ long and is about half an inch thick at its widest point. The Vanishing Point is a pretty ugly pen; it’s definitely not a show piece. The VP looks the most dignified in matte black and unfortunately for me it was released well after I purchased my brown one.
The stiff 18 carat gold medium point nib has no personality but is smooth and reliable. The medium point is a bit finer than most European mediums and the flow is pretty average.
Depending on how you hold your pen the clip may be an issue because it is so close to the tip. Having a pretty standard grip it does not bother me but this pen definitely wont work for everyone. Also, I do not find the VP to be comfortable for long writing sessions as the grip area is relatively wide and the pen is quite heavy. The Vanishing Point comes with a converter, a cartridge and a metal cartridge cap (that prevents the click mechanism from crushing a plastic cartridge). The VP offers a lot of pen for the money with an average street price $140. The build quality is excellent as with all Pilot products and it has held up well quite well for me. The nib has a lot of tipping material so I may have it ground down into a stub to give this great pen some character. I recommend trying the Vanishing Point in person before purchasing.
Here are some great reviews of the Vanishing Point:
The Pilot 78G is a great looking budget fountain pen. The pen I will be reviewing has a bold nib that is actually a stub; I do not know why Pilot doesn’t offer this pen with a round tipped bold nib.
The nib writes quite well with some feedback but it is a bit dry for my taste; I may have to experiment with some different inks to find what works best with this pen.
The Pilot 78G comes with an aerometric-style converter and also accepts Pilot cartridges. It is rare for pens at this price point to come with a converter. For example, the ultra popular Lamy Safari at $35 doesn’t come with a converter; you have to pay an extra $5 to get one. Unlike the aerometric filling system found in a Parker 51 the Pilot’s doesn’t hold a lot of ink. If you plan to do a lot of writing you would be better served by using this pen with a cartridge.
The body is made of a lightweight black plastic and features a gold plated steel nib and clip. The 78G weighs in at about half an ounce which is lighter than I prefer. Capped it measures about 5.25″ and is 0.5″ wide at its widest point. The grip section is a problem, at less than a quarter inch wide I find it too skinny to be comfortable for long writing sessions. If you have larger hands or a tight grip this pen may be a bit too small for you. The body of the 78G seems to scratch quite easily but at this price point it’s not that big of a deal.
I have been using the Pilot 78G for 7 days straight now and it is great for taking notes. Compared to my Lamy Safari w/1.1mm stub, the Pilot 78G writes better, looks better and costs a fourth of the price. In short the Pilot 78G is great entry-level fountain pen that I highly recommend.
Here are some great reviews of the Pilot 78G fountain pen:
The Parker 51 (P51 for short) is one of the most famous and most revered fountain pens ever made. The P51 was produced for 30+ years starting in the 1941 and as a result there are all sorts of variations (you can even buy these pens with new bespoke bodies for $400+). I am not going to get into the history and different types of Parker 51s I am only going to talk about my Parker 51 which has been my favorite fountain pen for several years now.
My P51 is an “Aerometric” version and therefor produced in 1949 or later. “Aerometric” refers to the pens filling system which uses a clear sack impervious to the chemical effects of ink. The pen is filled by depressing the pressure bar four times. An aerometric P51 holds more ink than many larger piston filled fountain pens thanks to the efficiency of the filling system.
I purchased my P51 on a famous auction site for around $40 in original condition. The pen was thoroughly cleaned and when filled with ink wrote beautifully. The body is a nice dark green and the cap has a pinstripe design and is 12ct gold filed; I am not sure the cap is original to this pen. The nice thing about the standard size P51 is that most of the caps are interchangeable. I bought a nice silver cap as an extra for my P51.
Thanks to the hooded nib the pen can be left uncapped for a very long time and write straight away without missing a beat. I am not certain what width my nib is but I suspect its a medium. I have also dropped mine a couple of times on hard surfaces without any damage to report. The gold nib puts down a nice wet line with just the right amount of feedback, no flex to speak of.
The styling of this pen is very clean and streamlined. It doesn’t scream “fountain pen” which is nice when you are in a meeting and don’t want to draw attention to yourself. This pen is 6″ posted, 5.5″ capped and 0.5″ at its widest point. The weight of my P51 is 20.4 grams which is light weight for a fountain pen but not so light as to feel cheap.
For durability, every day usability, and writing quality nothing in my collection beats the Parker 51 fountain pen. This is a great pen and every fountain pen collector should have at least one. At some point I am going to want to buy one with a custom body from Torelli Pen (no affiliation).
The Optima is one of Aurora’s higher-end pens with a piston fill system and a 14k gold nib. My Optima has a factory oblique-double-broad (OBB) nib and a burgundy “Auroloide” (celluloid) body. The nib can be unscrewed for easy swapping. Being a piston filler this pen holds a lot of ink and even has a “reserve tank”. When the pen becomes low you simply twist the piston knob as far as it will go and this activates the special reserve tank which gives you another page or so of ink. The Optima has the smoothest piston of all the pens in my collection, it is a real joy to use.
Aurora makes all of its nibs in house and the Optima’s nib is large and beautifully decorated. This is my only OBB nib and I was surprised by how much I like it. The nib glides effortlessly across the paper without being overly toothy like my other stub and oblique pens tend to be. Aurora is famous for having nail-like nibs and the Optima’s is no exception. If you are looking for some flex this definitely isn’t for you. The nib features and ebonite feed with lots of fins. This pen has been very reliable; it doesn’t skip and starts right away even after being uncapped for 15+ minutes.
The Optima has a very nice weight and size. It’s a shorter pen at 5.9 inches capped but is thicker than normal at slightly over half an inch at the widest point making it very comfortable to hold. The Optima’s dimensions suit me very well. The celluloid body is beautiful. The flat cap and engraving on the barrel which reads “AURORA ITALIA” and “FABBRICA ITALIANA DI PENNE A SERBATOIO” gives this pen a nice vintage feel. The embellishments on the cap are nice quality but I am not in love with them. The Greek keys to my eye are not as tasteful as those found pens by OMAS and Montegrappa.
I have had this pen for about six months and it has been in my regular rotation since purchase. It’s a great workhorse. The quality and attention to detail set this pen apart.
Here are some great reviews on the Optima:
(I have no affiliation to any of the sites linked below)