Category Archives: Fountain Pens

Fountain Pen Reviews – Comprehensive reviews of fountain pens from beginner class to high-end. Each review includes sections for Appearance and Packaging, Nib and Performance, the Feel, Pros and Cons, and a Wrap-up. Each image is clickable, and you are able to enlarge it to see all the small details.

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-Tamenuri Medium Soft Nib Fountain Pen Review

Nakaya Neo Standard Fountain Pen Review

Nakaya Neo Standard
in Kuro Tamenuri Finish
Fountain Pen
Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-tamenuri Unboxing

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki
  • Review Paper: Maruman Mnemosyne B5

Specs:

  • Description:  The Nakaya Neo Standard Writer (with clip) fountain pen is one of my grail pens that I recently purchased. Hand made in Japan.
  • Nib: 14k gold, Soft-Medium nib adjusted by John Mottishaw of Nibs.com
  • Material: Ebonite with urushi lacquer in kuro tamenuri (black over deep red)
  • Filling Mechanism: Cartridge/converter system
  • Weight: ~28.8 grams filled
  • Measurements: 5.92″ closed, 7.00″ posted, 5.38″ unposted, 0.59″ barrel diameter, 0.41″ section diameter
  • Ink Capactiy: ~0.5ml
  • Price: $550 from Nibs.com

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-Tamenuri Medium Soft Nib Fountain Pen Review

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-Tamenuri Medium Soft Nib Fountain Pen Review

Well, I’m finally getting around to formally reviewing the pen after having it for about two months. Did I mention that this was my number one grail pen? Well, now I have it. Finally. I sold a bunch of other pens from my collection, and I’ve been saving up for a while. $550 isn’t an easy price to swallow, but I’m glad I finally got the pen. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with Cary of FountainPenDay.org and check out his awesome collection of Nakayas. Initially I had wanted a Piccolo or a Naka-ai, but the Neo Standard’s size and shape won me over. The pen is perfect for my hand, and the day after seeing his collection, I placed the order via phone to Nibs.com. The pen showed up a short two days later. Enjoy the review!

Appearance & Packaging:

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First, the box. The Nakaya comes in a soft Paulownia wood (thank you for the correction Mr. Calhoon!) wood box, protected by a really cool rice paper outer box. The inside of the wooden box is lined with red velvet. Held in place by a ribbon of velvet, is the pen itself, wrapped in a silk “kimono”. The presentation is simple, yet refined and definitely matches up to the price of the pen. It’s definitely different from any of the other pens I have purchased, and it’s definitely not a throwaway. I really like the presentation, so much that I keep the box out on my desk.

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-tamenuri Unboxing

The pen itself is a work of art. Its simple lines and deep red/black finish has an incredible amount of depth to it. It may seem simple at first, but it’s all in the details. There are many, many layers to the urushi lacquer, and looking closely in the right lighting you can really see how the finish builds on itself. The pen appears to be black, but at the edges, the deep red finish peaks through. Both the nib and the clip are gold,  which adds a nice visual contrast to the overall look of the pen.

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-Tamenuri Medium Soft Nib Fountain Pen Review

The nibs design is very nice as well. It’s not too complex or cluttered, and the ornamental design is visually pleasing. The heart-shaped breather hole is a nice departure from the standard circle. I absolutely love the simple, streamlined design. It’s totally understated and could easily go unnoticed by the untrained eye. I think that this may be part of why I love the pen so much.

Nib Performance & Filling System:

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-Tamenuri Medium Soft Nib Fountain Pen Review

I should always put the filling system first, but I always forget to do so. The Nakaya Neo Standard employs a cartridge/converter filling system. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I really don’t mind the C/C system at all. Many people view it as a cheaper alternative, but I don’t mind the lower ink capacity. The included converter is very high quality (as expected) and there were some Platinum brand cartridges thrown in the box, which I haven’t used. The nib is where the magic happens. I opted for a 14k gold, soft-medium nib adjusted to a flow of 8/10, with a normal writing pressure and angle. John over at Nibs.com did an amazing job with the nib.

Nakaya Neo Standard Fountain Pen Handwritten Review

The 14k soft nib is by no means a flex, but it adds a wonderful cushion to your writing, making it seem both pillowy and smooth. You can get a tiny bit of line variation, but it really just puts a lot of ink onto the page when you push the nib. The pen has a generous flow of ink that’s capable of producing some really nice shading. The line width of the Japanese medium is perfect for my handwriting. It’s not too narrow, yet wide enough to really show off the color and properties of an ink. The Nakaya Neo Standard is an absolute pleasure to write with. There’s a bit of audible feedback from the nib, which can trick you into thinking the nib is scratchy. I put some headphones on, and it’s buttery smooth. I really love the way the pen writes.

Feel:

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-tamenuri Unboxing

Feel is another category where the Nakaya blows the competition out of the water. The urushi lacquered ebonite is one of the smoothest surfaces I’ve ever touched (not kidding). It’s expertly applied, and I can honestly say I like holding the pen just as much as I do writing with it. The contour of the barrel on the Neo Standard is amazingly comfortable. I’d say it fits like a glove, but I wish I had gloves that fit my hand this well. Seriously. It’s glassy smooth, light, warms to the touch, and is very comfortable and balanced in hand.

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-Tamenuri Medium Soft Nib Fountain Pen Review

The step from the body to cap threads to grip is gradual, and doesn’t get in the way. The grip on the Neo Standard is just about an inch long, with a slight taper. It’s very comfortable, and allows for a variety of grips to be used without discomfort. The pen feels so great in hand, it’s kind of hard to believe. Watch out Lamy 2000…

Pros:

  • Attention to detail
  • Amazing soft, springy nib
  • Urushi lacquer is glassy smooth
  • Body shape is really comfortable
  • Looks awesome

Cons:

  • High barrier to entry ($$$)
  • Diminishing returns for writing performance

Conclusion:

Nakaya Neo Standard Kuro-tamenuri Unboxing

I parted with several other pens to get this one. Do I miss them? Absolutely not, the Nakaya has done a great job of filling the gap and then some. The Nakaya Neo Standard is functional art. It’s constructed and finished perfectly. There’s not a single flaw on the pen. It’s very, very comfortable to hold and I love the way the finish looks. The soft-medium 14k gold nib is super smooth, with only a hint of audible feedback. I feel like the Neo Standard was made specifically to fit my hand, it’s that good. The pen comes in at a hefty $550. At first, it was a bit hard to swallow, but with some careful planning and selling, I was able to purchase my grail pen. I mentioned in the CONS section that there may be some diminishing returns in terms of writing performance. Be on the lookout for an article regarding that in the near future. Seeing some Nakayas in person only made me need to have one even more. The pen is truly amazing, and it’s the crown jewel of my collection. I will 100% be adding another Nakaya to my collection.

Gallery:

About these ads
Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post

Lamy AL-Star Limited Edition Matte Black Photo Post

Lamy AL-Star
Limited Edition Matte Black

When I was doing the full review for the Lamy AL-Star, these pictures just didn’t fit in with the rest, but I really liked how they came out. So here they are! The background is a screen print by artist Florian Bertmer called “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and it made the perfect backdrop for the matte black Lamy. If you haven’t checked out the full review of the AL-Star, do so here!

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Matte Black Photo Post

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Related Reading:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

Lamy AL-Star
Fountain Pen

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Sailor Kiwa Guro Nano Black
  • Review Paper: Doane Writing Pad

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

Specs:

  • Description:  The aluminum cousin of the Lamy Safari
  • Nib: Steel nib, Fine, interchangeable
  • Material: Aluminum body with plastic triangular grip
  • Filling Mechanism: Proprietary cartridge/converter system
  • Weight: ~22 grams filled (Cap – 10g, Body – 12g)
  • Measurements: 6.1″ closed, 6.7″ posted, 5.2″ unposted, 0.5″ diameter
  • Ink Capactiy: ~1ml
  • Price: $50.00 US on Amazon (affiliate link)

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The Lamy AL-Star (not this matte black one I’m writing the review with) was the second fountain pen I had ever purchased. It’s surprising that it’s taken me this one to review one. The AL-Star is nearly identical to the Lamy Safari, except it’s made from aluminum. I’m definitely a huge fan of the pen (I have three of them…) so enjoy the review!

Appearance & Packaging:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

If you’re familiar with the looks and packaging of the Safari, you’re not going to be very surprised here. The AL-Star looks the same, but is ever so slightly wider in diameter than its plastic counterpart. It also has the love-it-or-hate-it signature Lamy triangular grip. Being right handed with a normal tripod grip, I find the pen to be very comfortable.

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The difference between the Safari grip and the AL-Star grip is that instead of matching the body, all of the AL-Stars have a smoky transparent grey plastic grip, regardless of the color of the pen. I think the dark plastic looks great in pretty much every body combination (the sandy metallic tan doesn’t look so great in my opinion). I absolutely love the modern design that Lamy employs throughout their entire product line, and the AL-Star is no exception.

 

Nib Performance & Filling System:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The AL-Star takes Lamy’s proprietary cartridge/converter system. For the price range ($37.00), it makes sense for the pen to have a C/C system. I’ve said it in other pen reviews, I really don’t mind the C/C system because it allows me to change inks more frequently. The AL-Star has an oval-shaped window in the body that allows you to see how much ink is left in the pen as well.

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The AL-Star takes the interchangeable steel nibs that are seen across most of Lamy’s product line. They can be hit or miss, but they’re really easy to swap out. The steel nibs aren’t bad writers at all, and are definitely in the middle of the road in terms of smoothness and flow. I like the interchangeable system, because it allows you to try new nib widths with a relatively low barrier to entry, and makes the pen very versatile as well. I found Lamy’s nib system to be hugely helpful in the beginning of my fountain pen journey. It really helped me to dial in my nib preferences without spending big money on a pen with a nib I may not be crazy about.

Feel:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The Lamy AL-Star definitely has a more premium feel than the Safari. It’s slightly heavier too. The aluminum has a nice tactile feel, and it’s nice to pick up something that’s cool to the touch (at least in the winter it is…) that warms up in your hand. The fit and finish of the AL-Star is also top notch. I used to write with my Safaris and AL-Stars posted, but lately I’ve been doing so with the cap off. The pen is definitely a bit long at 6.7″ posted, but it’s not horribly off balance should you decide to post while writing.

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

The AL-Star also has the triangular grip section as seen on the Safari. I personally find it to be comfortable, but others with non-standard grips may find it to be unbearable. The grip does enforce proper grip, and the nib is always going to be lined up properly with the page when you’re using the grip. Again, this helped me out quite a bit in the beginning of my fountain pen days. The feel of the body is nice, but the aluminum is not quite as durable as the Safari. The finish is definitely prone to showing wear, and I’ve heard stories of people denting the body of their AL-Star with abuse. I don’t mind when pens show wear, but if you baby the pen, I’m sure it will hold up just fine.

Pros:

  • Great design
  • Swappable nibs
  • Affordable price range
  • Premium feel over the Safari

Cons:

  • The grip isn’t for everyone
  • Aluminum construction doesn’t mean better durability

Conclusion:

Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen Review

I love my Lamys quite a bit, so I may be slightly biased. The AL-Star is a winner in my book. Swappable nibs make the pen very versatile. The minimalistic design and clean aesthetics really resonate with me as well. The triangular grip may not be for everyone, but it can really help out beginners develop a proper fountain pen grip. I have around 6 Safaris and 3 AL-Stars, and I’m definitely going to continue to add them to my collection. I would definitely recommend this pen to anyone.

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TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI Mini Fountain Pen in Classic Review

TWSBI Mini Classic
Fountain Pen

- Handwritten Review -

  • Review Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun
  • Review Paper: Kyokuto Cambridge 

Specs:

  • Description:  An affordable, easy-posting piston-filler from TWSBI.
  • Nib: Steel nib, Fine
  • Material: Plastic with metal accents
  • Filling Mechanism: Piston Filler
  • Weight: ~20 grams filled
  • Measurements: 4.60″ closed, 5.55″ posted, 4.25″ unposted
  • Ink Capactiy: ~2ml
  • Price: $50.00 US on Amazon (affiliate link)

Handwritten Review Scans:

Intro/About:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

Admittedly, I had written off TWSBI for a while. After a continuously cracking 540 and an inconsistent medium nibbed Vac700, I figured I’d hold off on TWSBI until they worked out some of the kinks that were widely experienced with their products. After seeing their many improvements from the 540 line to the 580 line, and the new Mini model, I had to give TWSBI another shot. The Classic color scheme (black and clear) made it that much easier to pull the trigger. Read on to see if the TWSBI Mini holds up to it’s competitors!

Appearance & Packaging:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

Unboxing a TWSBI pen is always a treat. The packaging is very “Apple-like”. It’s a white plastic base, encapsulated in clear plastic. The pen is suspended above the base on two pedestals. The plastic box is surrounded by foam and safely packed into a brown cardboard box, adorned with the red TWSBI logo in the middle. It’s really a great presentation. Onto the pen itself…The Mini is a sharp looking pen. The Classic has a black grip, cap and piston knob, with a clear barrel. It’s an awesome looking combo. My favorite part is the black grip section, that usually drives me nuts trying to keep clean on a demonstrator.

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

The Mini is small, but not too small. I love the demonstrator barrel and the black with chrome accents. The red TWSBI logo on the cap adds just a splash of color that works well with the overall aesthetic of the pen. It’s a great looking little pen, and it looks awesome loaded up with some Iroshizuku fuyu-syogun.

Nib Performance & Filling System:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

I was pretty nervous for this part of the review. My first TWSBI 540 didn’t even write out of the box, and my Vac700′s medium nib skipped more than it wrote a solid line. I’m happy to say that there are zero issues with the Mini’s fine nib. It’s a bit on the dry side, but that’s not a complaint. It’s silky smooth and lays down a nice fine line. The nib on the Mini is a little bit smaller than the 5X0 and 700 series.

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

The nib is a good size for the pen, and doesn’t come off as too small (I’m looking at you Kaweco Allrounder). It’s definitely one of the smoother steel nibs I have used. Before TWSBI entered the scene, a piston filler in a sub-$100 pen was a rarity. The piston operates smoothly and efficiently. It’s easy to get a full reservoir of ink, and it’s fun to fill too. A great nib and an awesome filling system…so far, so good.

Feel:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

The TWSBI Mini is a smaller pen (I mean, it is called the Mini), but I wouldn’t call it miniature. Unposted, it’s a bit too small to comfortably write with. The coolest part about the feel of the mini is how the pen posts. The cap actually screws onto the back of the pen, making a super secure post that doesn’t interfere with the piston knob. The screw cap greatly helps in improving the rigidity of the pen while writing. Posting the cap makes the pen an ideal width for me. Balance is great and it’s not too light or too heavy. If you are familiar with the Sailor Sapporo, you’ll be right at home with the Mini.

They’re practically identical in size, weight, and proportion when both pens are posted. My one issue with the feel of the Mini is the metal ring at the bottom of the grip, closest to the nib. The ring has a slightly sharp edge to it, and the way I grip the pen results in some discomfort over time. Choking up on the pen a bit solves the issue, but it’s not ideal for me to change my grip to use a pen. Other than the metal ring, the TWSBI Mini feels great in hand.

Pros:

  • Improved design (grip ring) prevents cracking
  • Great looks
  • Unique packaging
  • Smooth, consistent nib
  • Great value

Cons:

  • The grip’s metal ring prevents cracking, but it may be uncomfortable for some.

Conclusion:

TWSBI Mini Classic Fountain Pen Review

I would say that I am 99% happy with my TWSBI Mini. The nib is much better than the last generation of TWSBIs I’ve owned, and they have added a metal ring to the grip to prevent cracking (although it’s a bit sharp). The Mini’s great looks and feel, coupled with it’s affordable price make the Mini an awesome pen for both beginners and collectors. The Mini did a great job at changing my mind about TWSBI. The Mini is a great little pen, that I would definitely have no hesitations recommending. Good show TWSBI, good show.

Gallery:


Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review 1 - Version 2

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler
Black / Rose Gold Fountain Pen

- Handwritten Review -

Specs:

  • Description: A modern recreation of the iconic crescent filling pen from the turn of the 20th century.
  • Nib: 1.1mm steel stub
  • Filling Mechanism: Patented crescent filler
  • Weight: ~31g filled, 19g uncapped
  • Measurements: 5.6″ closed, 6.5″ posted
  • Color Options: Halloween, Mocha, Zebra, Black, Spearmint (Check them out here!)

Handwritten Review Scans:


Intro/About:

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review 2

Huge thanks to Ron at Pen Chalet for sending me a Conklin Crescent Filler over for review. The Conklin Crescent Filler is a modern remake of a vintage classic. The crescent filler is a unique hybrid lever filler that sets the pen apart from it’s modern counterparts. I opted for the 1.1mm stub nib and the black and rose gold finish.

In addition to sending over the pen, Ron is offering a 10% discount code to the readers of the blog. To receive the discount, enter the code “edjelley” in at checkout to take advantage of the offer! The code is valid until February 15th, 2014.

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Appearance & Packaging:

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review 3
The black chased finish with the rose gold accents looks great. The cap band, clip, and crescent filler button are all rose gold and they really look great against the black textured finish. The back of the pen is flat, while the cap is rounded off providing a nice visual contrast. The pen looks awesome and does a great job of staying true to its vintage counterpart. My only disappointment is how the nib looks. On the non-stub models, the nibs have a gold accented Conklin logo and a crescent-shaped breather hole. I admit, I didn’t look into it before ordering – but Id like to see the nibs all the same across the board, regardless of the size.

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review 6

The pen has some nice packaging. It comes in a rather large gift box  with a white silk-like lining, contrasting the dark blue outside of the box. While it’s nice to open and look at the first time, I wish pen manufacturers would roll the cost of extravagant packaging back into the pen. The box is large, and will take up quite a bit of room in storage, but once again, I wish that I would be paying more for the pen and less for the box.

Nib Performance & Filling System:

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review
I chose the factory 1.1mm stub nib. It’s nice and smooth, but I feel like the feed may have a bit of trouble keeping up with the flow. When I first uncap the pen and start writing, it lays down a nice wet line. As the page goes on, it seems to dry out a bit. I have only tried one ink in the pen (Stipula Verde Muschiato) and it could very well be that. I feel like the stub could be a little but more crisp though. It’s more than acceptable for a steel nib, but the $156 price tag is well into gold nib territory. I’d be happy to see a gold nib, or something better than a regular steel nib. It’s hard to hold it in high regards when it’s the same price as a Lamy 2000 and more expensive than a Vanishing Point / Namiki Falcon.

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review

The crescent filling system is really what makes the pen stand out from other modern pens. Sure there are tons of piston fillers, vacuum fillers, and cartridge/converter pens, but the crescent is something different. The same crescent filler is seen on the vintage pens by Conklin, and it still works the same way. To fill the pen, you must spin the circular “bead” until the slot in the bead is lined up with the crescent fill button. Once they’re aligned, you submerge the nib into the ink, push down the crescent, and when you release, the sac decompresses, causing a vacuum that sucks ink into the pen. It’s basically a fancy lever filler, but it works very well. The pen holds a good amount of ink and it’s very easy to fill. I suspect that cleaning the pen out may be a bit of a hassle though. If it’s anything like my vintage lever fillers (I’m thinking it will be), it might be hard to get all the ink out of the internal sac. Overall it’s fun to fill, and writing performance is decent, but there are so many other options in this price range that I much prefer.

Feel:

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review 4

The Conklin Crescent Filler is a solid feeling pen. The grip is smooth and comfortable. The chased black finish adds some nice tactile feel to the pen, which is a welcomed touch. The crescent filler itself is solidly seated in the pen, with no wiggle or give. The spring loaded clip is nice and sturdy as well. The only potential issue I could see is the position of the bead that locks the crescent filler in place. When writing, it hits just in the spot where my thumb and index finger meet. It’s not uncomfortable, but some may find it to be a bit intrusive. The pen is capable of posting, but the cap is heavy and it makes the pen too long and too back-heavy for me to comfortably write. The pen is already a good size for me without posting, so for me it’s not necessary. The chasing on the pen adds some, but not too much texture. It’s definitely in the middle of the road as far as weight goes – being 19g with some ink in it.

Pros:

  • Great vintage design
  • Crescent filler works very well
  • Nice packaging
  • Black/Rose Gold combo is awesome

Cons:

  • Price
  • Feed may have trouble keeping up with the stub nib

Conclusion:

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen Review

I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about the Conklin Crescent Filler. The stub writes well, and it looks awesome, but the value just isn’t there for me. $150 can buy a lot of pen, and the price range can get you something with a gold nib. The vintage look, feel, and filling system are all cool and I’m glad the pen is in my collection. The Conklin definitely wouldn’t be my first purchase in the $150 price range, but it’s definitely a cool pen and I’m glad to call it mine.

Thanks again to Ron over at Pen Chalet for sending this over to review, if you’re interested in buying it, check out the product page here, and don’t forget to enter the code “edjelley” at checkout for 10% off of your total order. Even though I may have had some criticisms with the pen, it’s in no way Pen Chalet’s fault – Ron was always quick to respond to emails and was very informative. I’m sure this also applies to his customer service – it was a pleasure to work with them! Note: the discount code is not just for this pen, but the whole site – they have some great stuff!

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Disclaimer: This pen was provided to me as a review unit, free of charge, by Pen Chalet. I was not compensated for this review, and this did not have any effect on my thoughts and opinions about the pen. Thank you for reading!