15 Aug 2018

my fountain pen story: how it all blew out of proportion

Today, I thought I'd share how my love for fountain pens became an obsession...

It all started when I was ten years old and in primary school. My mum bought myself and my sister a basic Parker fountain pen each - a Parker Jotter and a Parker Vector respectively. A few years later, my mum found her vintage Parker 45 with a fine nib and this was my writing tool of choice. The thinner nib was a detail I much preferred to the thicker, medium nib of my Parker Jotter. I also felt more grown up with the Parker 45 and its burgundy colour.

A few years after that, and at the age of 16, I acquired a more up to date version of the Parker 45 in Hong Kong. Though it was a fine nib, it did not write as fine as the vintage Parker 45 my mum had given me. I reverted back to this vintage Parker 45 and despite a crack in its plastic barrel, I persevered with it. Eventually, I had to retire it as it would unscrew every two or three words.

This was when I was enticed by rollerballs (Uniball Signo, I'm looking at you) and those, oh-so-attractively-minimalistic, Muji gel pens.

At the end of my first degree and at the age of 20/21, I decided I wanted to try fountain pens again. And it was then that my first Lamy Safari (in coral pink) was purchased in 2014 after over a year's deliberation.

I realised just how much I missed not having to grip a pen tightly, the relief of no hand cramp despite writing for hours and how enjoyable writing with a fountain pen really is.

And then it snowballed. If I recall correctly, a Kaweco Skyline Sport, Pilot Kakuno and a Pilot Prera were my next acquisitions. Then it got a bit more expensive - I wanted to try a piston-filler and TWSBI were a fairly new name on the block. The price also made it a perfect first piston-filler to try out.

For each major life event after that (e.g. graduation, 25th birthday), I bought myself a fountain pen I had been coveting. These fountain pens are the Pelikan Souveran M400, the Pilot Decimo in Champagne and a Sailor Yukitsubaki.

Since then, I have acquired many more fountain pens and am going to re-evaluate my collection. Some will be sold as they are not used as often as they deserve to be. My obsession has slowed down since and of late, most of the obsession has been about the ink more than the pens.

Who knows what will happen in the next chapter of my fountain pen story :)

8 Aug 2018

new ink: j. herbin 1670 cyprus caroube

As always, I'll let the pictures do the talking but look at that shimmer!

1 Aug 2018

introducing.... designed by foyles hardback notebooks

Foyles is a British brand I really respect and when I was given the chance to feature a few of their notebooks, I jumped at the chance. Foyles in Charing Cross is a store I can honestly spend hours in and not get bored. Today, we're going to take a look at a couple of notebooks that are 'designed by Foyles'.  One of the draws of these notebooks are the fact they are made in Britain.

They come in several designs and the ones featured here are a mint offering and a navy version. The hardback means they can be subjected to a bit more rough handling before they show some wear and tear. You can see that the bottom right corner already looks a bit battered but it's nice for notebooks to show some proof of being well used.

Each notebook has 224 pages of 100gsm uncoated ivory paper. They are fairly weighty but all of these features point towards them making a great gift for someone into stationery or something a bit more luxurious. They also come with a page marker through the form of a coloured ribbon.

I decided to trial out the paper with two fountain pens:

- a Pelikan M400 Souverän in an Extra Fine nib, inked with Pure Pens' Cwm Idwal ink (a new favourite!)
- Sailor Fasciner in Fine, inked with Diamine Denim

The Pelikan, though an extra fine, writes fairly broadly and you can see a moderate amount of show through to the other side of the page. There was a small amount of feathering too. I think this is all due to the fact the paper is uncoated so the ink is absorbed quickly by the paper.

Overall, these notebooks are good for someone who likes a bit of luxury and who perhaps does not use fountain pen very often. They are very well designed and would make lovely journals. Just imagine them filled and sat on the bookshelf.

NB: This pen and the inks were sent by Foyles in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the company or anyone else.

18 Jul 2018

new ink: kyoto ink kyo-no-oto no.7 hisoku

This ink was purchased out of curiosity more than anything. I'm a sucker for good packaging and the these Kyoto inks do not disappoint on that front. I chose the Hisoku shade because it looked like it would be something different to my normal blues and blacks but also because it was a limited edition colour from the brand. There isn't sheen as such but there is a bit of shading if you look closely enough. I'll let the pictures do the talking!

11 Jul 2018

what's in my bag #22: nights on-call

Night shifts are the worst: twelve and a half hours where I cover all medical patients (around 300!). I try not to eat too much during the shift but it's a delicate balance as on an empty stomach, I do get hangry! Here are the usual contents of my on-call bag:

Bag: Longchamp Le Pliage small
Contents (top left to right): a bottle of water, a pen, crackers, a snack, stethoscope, lip balm, phone charger, tissues, hand cream and boiled sweets.

I try and carry a small-ish bag when doing my nights. One that's small enough to not be in the way when walking from ward to ward but still big enough to hold as many snacks as possible. This is where my small Longchamp Le Pliage comes in handy. I have tried using a small cross-body bag but found it didn't hold enough food in (my colleagues will laugh at this as they all understand my constant hunger).

Anyway, these are the usual contents of my bag. Often, there will be a banana or two, and a clementine in there too; sometimes even a packet of nuts if I'm after a bit of luxury. It is often tempting to eat a load of rubbish but I try and stay as healthy as possible. I also get a bit ratty if I've gone for too long without food so grazing every few hours or so on fruit helps. The crackers and Soreen mini-loaf are there for contingency more than anything as they aren't as healthy as fruit or nuts.

4 Jul 2018

introducing: caran d'ache 849 fountain pen in fluorescent orange, extra fine nib

This Caran d'Ache offering is my first foray into this brand. Prior to this, I only knew of the brand as expert pencil makers so I had high hopes that this fountain pen would be extremely nice in hand. This is the Caran d'Ache 849 fountain pen and I chose to get it in a fluorescent orange colour and it is what I would call the entry level model.

It comes in a red box which feels a little cheap and you can definitely tell it is an entry level fountain pen for the brand.

The pen comes with an ink cartridge in the colour idyllic blue (which will be reviewed in due course) so you can use it as soon as it arrives. I understand it takes international converters (happy to be corrected about this as I haven't tried this yet myself). 

The pen clip covers up the brand logo and seems sturdy enough. An interesting thing about this pen is that the clip posts in such a manner where it appears to fit seamlessly with the pen body. 

As a creature of habit, I chose the extra fine nib and I have to be honest... The first pen that arrived was extremely scratchy, skipped and had hard starts. The company I bought it from replaced it with one that had a better nib. However, it seems to write with a bit of a stub and the line isn't as fine as I hoped it to be. 

The pen, when posted, is actually longer than a Lamy Safari which is pretty long itself too! However, it is an extremely light pen which appears to be built pretty well. 

Overall, there are positives and negatives about this pen but I can't help feeling underwhelmed considering how much it costs as an 'entry level' offering. The nib isn't ideal (in fact, far from it) and this part of the pen is arguably the most important... However, being as light as it is, long writing sessions are a pleasure and not uncomfortable at all.

With the majority of the other pens in my collection trumping this one, I will most likely let this one go in the near future. 

27 Jun 2018

new ink: j herbin 1670 emerald of chivor fountain pen ink - a bit late to the party

It's about time I had some other, more interesting inks in my collection and what better addition than this offering from J. Herbin. As always with these posts, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

20 Jun 2018

introducing: the pilot vanishing point decimo champagne fountain pen in a fine nib

When I graduated from medical school, it felt like a real accomplishment: so many years of hard work getting to this point, striving towards what I had wanted for years. And to commemorate this, I wanted to get something special. One option was jewellery but anything on the wrist or hands would not be allowed at work and necklaces don't go with every outfit.

The obvious choice was therefore... a pen. I bet you didn't expect any less, right?

This pen wasn't purchased until a few months' into my job because I wanted to feel like I really earned it. And as I'm doing some paid teaching of medical students, I used those funds to go towards my chosen pen. A pen I had been yearning after for years... The Pilot Decimo in champagne pink.

It really as beautiful as I had fully expected. The thinner barrel, compared to the standard Vanishing Point, makes for a pleasant writing experience. I find it is more comfortable in the hand compared to the Vanishing Point. The retractable nature of it means a cap can never be lost and if you're writing something where there may be long pauses, retracting the nib isn't as tedious as capping and uncapping.

The champagne pink colour is sophisticated and isn't overly feminine. This pen definitely feels grown up enough to represent a major landmark in my life so far. 

The nib is just... amazing. It writes a smooth, fine line with little to no feedback. Because of the slimmer barrel and fairly lightweight nature of this pen, it would be a comfortable pen to use for longer note taking sessions. However, I tend not to use it for too long and that's maybe because when it comes to things I treasure, I use them sparingly! I guess this thought will have to change.

As always, the clip location isn't for everyone but it encourages you to hold a pen in the conventional way. If you're unsure if the clip will bother you, I'd encourage you to try one of these pens out in person. Though if you did, you'd run the risk of not being able to resist taking one home with you...

Overall, this is a pen that'll always remind me of finishing medical school and starting my life as a doctor. And whether that's a good or bad thing will remain to be seen... But I'm sure this pen will always be too beautiful for me to hate. Thus, making me look back at this period of my life with a heartwarming feeling.

13 Jun 2018

pen comparison: wing sung 3008 and the TWSBI Diamond 580AL

The Wing Sung 3008 is an almost identical copy of the TWSBI 580AL Diamond. There are a few differences but these are fairly minor. These include that the grip section is clear on the Wing Sung but is a block colour in the TWSBI, then there is the TWSBI logo at the end of the cap whereas the Wing Sung one is blank and finally the nib has more engraving on the TWSBI offering.

When it comes to performance, the Wing Sung is lighter but it doesn't feel badly made either. Both are comfortable in hand and neither seem to feel evenly weighted when posted. In terms of writing experience, the Wing Sung seems to be better for longer sessions due to its slightly lighter design.

Both nibs are smooth and the Wing Sung nib is actually pretty amazing for a pen costing so little. It is  smooth, very little feedback and consistent - more than can be said for some other nibs on the market at a higher price point.

The TWSBI appears to have a higher ink capacity though I haven't formally measured the two pens to compare. Both piston mechanisms are easy to use and don't feel flimsy. The big selling point of TWSBI originally was that they offered fountain pens with a piston mechanism at an affordable price-point but I would argue that the Wing Sung is just as good an offering at a much lower cost, especially if you're new to piston fillers.

Both pens have their merits and it'll all come down to what you want. The ink capacity is similar, the design is similar and both nibs appear to write equally well. The main differentiating factor is the price difference.

6 Jun 2018

lamy safari limited editions

It all started in 2014 with the Lamy Safari in Coral Pink and since then, I've 'collected' every colour that has appealed to me. The only one I missed out on and sorely regret missing out on is the Copper Orange Al-Star. Otherwise, I'm in possession of all the colours I have wanted since 2014. Safaris and Al-Stars are inexpensive fountain pens that write well and work well for me so this is an (relatively) inexpensive hobby.

To see their individual reviews:

(I've left off the Blue Green as that was initially a limited edition but is now a part of the regular line-up.)

As bad as this will be for my future wallet, I do look forward to seeing what each year's limited edition colours are. Sometimes, I get excited and sometimes, I shrug my shoulders and go 'meh'. This year, I was half and half :)